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Old Testament Interpretation XIX

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Question #1:

Dear Robert,

Please explain why the plural for God (Theos) in the Greek Bible is not used.

For example:

a) Hebrew
God (Elohim - 430 plural), Lord (Jahweh - 3068 singular)

b) God (Theos - 2316 singular), Lord (Kurios - 2962 singular)

Why the question. It came through discussion over the usage of Hashem (The Name) by many Christians ones they become involved with Judaism. Deuteronomy 28:58 is showcased as the reason. I believe that the emphasis should not be on 'name, but rather on what the command was, given by the Lord God.

Your feedback will be appreciated.

In our Saviour,

Response #1:

Greek and Hebrew are different languages, and the writers of the New Testament were not enjoined by the Holy Spirit to twist the Greek in directions it wouldn't easily go just because of Hebrew (this is just one example of that).

In Hebrew, 'Elohiym is a plural of 'El, which latter word is also used for "God" in poetry, the Psalms in particular. When the plural is used, most often it is used of God, being both a plural of majesty but also an actual plural stressing the three persons of God (such as "let US make man in OUR image" in Gen.1:26); naturally, this last feature was largely veiled during the Old Testament (cf. 1Pet.1:10-12).

Sometimes, however, 'Elohiym is used to refer to pagan gods in the plural. Greek avoids that particular ambiguity by not doing what you ask about here, namely, never using the Greek word for God, theos, in the plural, theoi, to refer to "God" but always "gods".

Notice that English has gone this same root. We never refer to God in the plural; the plural always refers to pagan gods (just as in Greek).

I do agree with you that people can get too far "into the weeds" on such matters; we are commanded to avoid that (e.g., 2Tim.2:14).

Here's a link for further reference: Hebrew Names for God

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #2:

 Hi Bob,

Your RSS feed hasn't worked for a couple of weeks. I don't know if that was your intention or not but I rather relied on that for an easy link to the week's post. Not that it's much bother otherwise.

Also, 2 Samuel 17:28 "Brought beds, and basons, and earthen vessels, and wheat, and barley, and flour, and parched corn, and beans, and lentils, and parched pulse,"

I may not understand, but I thought "corn" meant grains in general. So "parched" may work. However parched lentils and pulse suggests otherwise.

What should I understand from this?

As a side note: I generally use three ancient grains common in Israel and Egypt at the time. Much more satisfying than modern monkeyed wheat. Khorasan, a close relative to Durham, which I'm told was the basic wheat in Egypt, is my preferred for making fresh pasta. There is much, much to learn from the Bible. All of the examples have a practical application aside from the spiritual.

I'm in my periodic read-through of the entire Bible. It's like I never read it. I'm learning so much more than I ever understood before. I don't have enough time left to understand even half of it.

Stay well and safe.

In our Lord,

Response #2:

Thanks for the heads-up on the RSS. I believe it's fixed now (please do let me know).

On 2nd Samuel 17:28, the KJV (rightly) has both "corn" and "pulse" in italics, meaning that those words do not occur in the Hebrew but were supplied by the KJV translators as "what was meant" so as to make the translation smoother. In Hebrew, we instead have the word qoliy, "parched", occurring twice. The best commentators of the era – when commentaries which were of any use were being written – disagree about this. Driver thinks the second occurrence is a copiest's error (and it is true that the Septuagint, the Peshitta, and at least one Old Latin codex omit the second occurrence). Keil and Delitzsch, however, defend the reading on the grounds that not only parched "corn" (wheat or barley mainly) and parched "pulse" (beans, lentils et al.) were commonly in use as preserved, ready-to-eat foodstuffs.

I happen to believe that K&D and KJV are correct. In both cases, the "parched" follows a string of foodstuffs that belong to their own category. I would translate: "wheat, barley and meal: parched; beans, lentils: parched" – already roasted as a kind of ancient world K-rations or MREs for use in this military campaign.

Alternatively, we could also understand that this means "both roasted and not roasted", but I prefer the other way of seeing it on account of the military situation and the pressing need for "food now" which would last in a combat situation (cf. 2Sam.17:29).

Yes, I always am enlightened reading scripture in whatever language. There is always more to learn about the truth.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #3:

Bob, thank you. I never thought of the preservation aspect but it makes perfect sense. The military aspect was also important through that era as I understand the times. (And I never connected the two verses 28 & 29!) You've added a new dimension to my understanding. Your description and understanding suggests drying more than roasting. which also makes sense. (I have my favorite zucchini dried and ready to eat after a couple of years and it's still good; dried in a dehydrator rather than parched if parched then means the same as today.)

Thank you. Of course, I'm now wondering how they preserved their more perishable food stuffs though I can think of nothing in scripture that describes that. It also adds a new dimension to Joseph's stockpiling of food through the seven year drought. We have a tendency to think of ancient people as primitive. I think rather they were quite sophisticated in using what they had available. I wish more was known.

Thanks again.

Yours in our Lord Jesus,

Response #3:

The verb from which this word ("parched") is derived has to do with fire and roasting, so some sort of parching is probably meant (in this situation, they probably would not have wanted to wait around for the time it took for natural drying, moreover).

I have no doubt that there is much we don't know about their processes. The Bible gives us the truth but is not a complete source of cultural and technological detail – yet most of what we know for certain even in these areas is indeed gleaned from scripture.

As a Classicist by trade, I have always been amazed that on the one hand we know an awful lot about the past in terms of some things (preserved literature, for example, even though it is only a fraction of what once existed), but in terms of basic questions of cultural literacy we often know very little. For instance, I've only found one place where laughing is described in terms of the sound it makes (indeed, "ha, ha, ha", but only one locus: in Euripides); mostly in Greek they say "I laugh!" along with similar expressions. And while everyone knows about (or think they do) about "thumbs up / thumbs down", there is only one ancient reference (in Juvenal) where it actually says, "give them the thumb" (verso pollice, lit. "thumb have been turned") which could mean, in context, mercy or condemnation (probably the latter), up or down . . . or sideways. So not at all surprising that there are many cultural unknowns in ancient Israel where we have the Bible but very little else to go on.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #4:

Hi Bob!

A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children's children: and the wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just.
Proverbs 13:22 KJV

Hope you are doing well.

What does the above verse mean on the wealth of the sinner stored up for the just.
Thanks Bob

Response #4:

Proverbs 13:22 is a not unprecedented biblical sentiment, namely, that while the sinful rich hurry about, storing up wealth, they have no idea who is going to get it (Prov.28:8); often, God works things out so that this wealth falls to the lot of the righteous poor:

Though he heaps up silver like dust and clothes like piles of clay, what he lays up the righteous will wear, and the innocent will divide his silver.
Job 27:16-17 NIV

To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God.
Ecclesiastes 2:26a NIV

Surely every man walks about as a phantom;
Surely they make an uproar for nothing;
He amasses riches and does not know who will gather them.
Psalm 39:6 NASB95

This is part and parcel of the folly of pursuing wealth instead of pursuing God and His truth – because, after all, wealth cannot avert death (or the judgment that follows it).

(7) Surely, no one can redeem a man [from God's hand], no one can pay a ransom to God for him. (8) For the redemption price of a life is too precious for Him to relent forever, (9) that one should live on forever, and not see corruption.
Psalm 49:7-9

But man, though he be rich, will not live forever. He will come to his end like the animals do.
Psalm 49:12

(26) What point is there for a man to come to possess the entire world, if he should then come to lose his life? Or what can a man pay to regain his life? (27) For the Son of Man is going to come with His angels in the glory of His Father, and then He will repay every man in his own coin.
Matthew 16:26-27

(7) We have brought nothing into this world – and are not able to take anything out of it. (8) So if we have daily sustenance and coverings for our bodies, we will be content with these. (9) Those who want to get rich fall into temptations, traps, and many senseless and harmful lusts – the kind which swamp men['s hearts] to their destruction and damnation. (10) For the love of money is a root [cause] of all evils – [and it is] in the pursuit of which [love of money that] some have wandered away from the faith (i.e., become apostates) and have pierced themselves through with many pains.
1st Timothy 6:7-10

Doing well here – hope the same is true for you, my friend!

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #5:

Hi Robert, long time. Hope you're well my friend.

I know you read the Old Testament in the original Hebrew and I would like to know what you're thoughts are on Job. Is it the oldest book in the Bible? And what are your thoughts on this quote?

Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.
Job 42:6 KJV

Job's reply to God's final speech is longer than his first and more complicated. The usual view is that he admits to being wrong to challenge God and now repents "in dust and ashes" (42:6), but the Hebrew is difficult, and an alternative understanding is that Job says he was wrong to repent and mourn and does not retract any of his arguments. In the concluding part of the frame narrative God restores and increases his prosperity, indicating that the divine policy on retributive justice remains unchanged.

Response #5:

Good to hear from you, my friend.

On this "interpretation" of Job 42:6, it certainly doesn't hold the least bit of water. What would this person do with, e.g., the preceding verses, especially Job 42:3?

"Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.'
Job 42:3b NKJV

And why would the Lord then commend Job for stubbornly refusing to relent after being so vigorously rebuked by Him?

The Hebrew in Job is difficult, but not impenetrable. In the verse in question, there is no doubt whatsoever that Job says "and I repent in dust and ashes". I don't see any other way to read the Hebrew here. The lead verb to this, 'amas, does have multiple meanings, one of which is "reject", but that is a transitive verb (i.e., you reject "something"), and there is no direct object expressed here. As 'amas equally means "I despise" (also transitive), we are left to supply what is to be rejected/despised. This is felt to be so obvious that the "myself" is left out. Certainly, if Job despised and rejected God, that would have been said – but that would violate the whole content of the book and the verse and the local context 180 degrees.

There are no end of misinterpretations of scripture, many of them willful with mal-intent.

The book of Job was probably written by Solomon under divine inspiration. So it is by far not the oldest book of the Bible. The events probably did occur much before Solomon's time, but not before Moses and the exodus (see the link).

Keeping you in my prayers, my friend.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #6:

I was reading Psalms 69 as part of my Bible reading. And in the NT it puts 'zeal for your house' as applying to the Lord. But the Psalmist talks about his sins just before saying that. And I don't see a transition to someone else speaking. And right before that sin confession it has the 'hating without cause' part that is also applied to the Lord. Can you explain?

For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up; and the reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me.
Psalm 69:9 KJV

Response #6:

This is a fairly typical feature of Hebrew poetry, namely, that it has prophetic references which are often only parts of a discourse. That is to say, this one verse clearly looks forward to our Lord, but He is not the one who is writing the Psalm. The psalmist (David here) is writing for himself, but under the guidance of the Spirit is also given to write the verse you ask about, Psalm 69:9 (and I would include the prior two verses as well) as applying also to our Lord, the Messiah, by way of prophecy.

When this is the case, it is often affirmed to be so in the New Testament (as is the case here).

And his disciples remembered that it was written, "The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up."
John 2:17 KJV

For more on prophecy see the links:

Biblical Prophecies about the Messiah

Prophets, Prophecy, and False Prophets

Hermeneutic Issues

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #7:

Hi Dr. Luginbill,

I've been reading over some progressive dispensationalist theology, and I'm wondering if you hold the Davidic Covenant to be partially fulfilled. So, is Jesus currently ruling as the "Davidic" king but just in heaven, or do you think the fulfillment hasn't come about yet at all. It's obvious that he's ruling as king and that we are a part of his kingdom, but I guess I'm asking if you view the Davidic Covenant to have a progressive fulfillment (he's ruling as the "Davidic" king now but will have an even greater presence as king in the Millennium?

In Christ,

Response #7:

What is a covenant? That is the place to start (see the link). You probably are aware that when it comes to "dispensations", I am of the opinion that evangelical theology ("Scofield theology") has made some major mistakes in the way they view oikonomia (the biblical word often translated "dispensation"); same holds true with covenants ("Covenant theology"). God makes "agreements" with believers (promises to them) throughout the Bible, promises to do things for us solemnly affirmed – but these do not all have the same meaning and are not all on the same level . . . and they most definitely don't dovetail perfectly with "dispensations" or completely define what is going on in a particular period of biblical history in God's plan.

To be succinct, we need to let the Bible dictate what we think about these matters and resist buying into concocted theologies that then use these terms – and the value they give them – to back-interpret the Bible.

(1) God, from antiquity having communicated to our fathers in the prophets at many times and in many ways, (2) has in these last days communicated to us in a Son, [the One] whom He has appointed heir of all things, [the One] through whom He created the universe. (3) He is the [very] shining forth of [the Father's] glory, the precise image of His essence, the One who sustains the universe by His mighty Word . . .
Hebrews 1:1-3a

In other words, this is all about Jesus Christ, not covenants. Jesus Christ and our salvation through Him is THE "agreement" God has made with mankind: He blesses us with salvation through faith in Christ for all who accept that agreement – through faith. The New Covenant is the expression of the plan of God for salvation openly; the Old Covenant was the anticipation of salvation through the shadows of the Law, and the incorporation of believers into the Church on the basis of credit, so to speak, before the sacrifice of Christ:

(23) For all sin and fall short of God's glory, (24) [but we are all] justified without cost by His grace through the redemption (lit., "ransoming" from sin) which is in Christ Jesus. (25) God made Him a means of atonement [achieved] by His blood [and claimed] through faith, to give proof of His justice in leaving unpunished in divine forbearance [all] previously committed sins, (26) so as to prove His justice at this present time, namely, so that He would be [shown to be] just [in this] and [justified] in justifying the one who has faith in Jesus.
Romans 3:23-26

Other covenants and dispensations are divine proffers of blessing and times of specific administration of blessings respectively. Of course they all have to do with Christ and salvation because everything does, but they don't really rise to the same level as salvation itself and the provision of it in the New Covenant (and the anticipation of that provision in the Old).

Just like all "agreements" made by God for us, the Davidic covenant is a formal, solemn promise (e.g., 2Sam.7:8-16; 2Chron.13:5; Ps.89:3) – a promise to bless David by bringing the Messiah into the world through his line. And we all know that this has already happened. In terms of other aspects of the promises God made to David in this regard, the Messiah has not yet begun to rule but is seated at the right hand of the Father, "until I make thine enemies thy footstool" (Ps.110:1 KJV).

We all know the above, so I guess I could have begun and ended there. However, intellectual developments like "covenant theology" want to parse these things out, argue about them, draw unwarranted conclusions from them, and present them in a light which makes a believer more confused about the clear sense of scripture than when he began listening.

Having some facility with "traditional theology" of this sort is not a bad thing, but do be careful with it: it never produces edification and can lead into gross error.

See the links:

Covenants (in SR 5)

Covenants I

Covenants II

Covenants III

Covenants IV

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #8:

I was remembering after I emailed you that many churches are okay with women and pants now. I suppose I just see dresses when I went almost all the time I forgot that. But thanks for listening/reading my long emails about clothes and responding.

I hope you are well, and you family is well, and you feel close to the Lord. I really do look forward to all of this being over. I notice I have a tendency to whine and feel resentment and things I shouldn't a bit. Guess I could use that Thankfulness song I showed you awhile back and some Bible reading and study.

Response #8:

You do need to take care of yourself.

Good point about some churches not being "that way" so much, but as you mention there is this general attitude of legalism abroad.

We all have a tendency to whine from time to time. But if we are moving forward spiritually we'll be in a good place with the Lord and always be quickly moving back to gratitude as you are doing.

Yes, to have this all "over" would be good!

To every endeavor I see an end, but your decree is all-encompassing.
Psalm 119:96

The perfect plan of God set forth by decree cannot be changed in the slightest, and that should be great encouragement to us all.

Nothing can stop the Lord from returning. Nothing can stop the resurrection from happening. Nothing can keep us out of New Jerusalem with all its eternal blessings – except our own folly.

So let us "endeavor" to keep up our good walk with and work for Jesus Christ, in sure and certain hope of resurrection, reward and life eternal soon to come.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #9:

Hi Bob,

Can you tell me why Saul's sin got him expelled as king whereas David had Uriah killed and committed adultery with Bathsheba and was blessed (aside from losing his son.) Was it because his lineage would be our Lord's incarnation? Or because Saul disobeyed a direct command?

Also, should I understand a connection between David going up mount Olivet crying. our Lord's Olivet prophecy and His standing on the mount at His return?

Sorry to take so much of your time. Thinking about Revelation's Babylon and the nonsense going on today, I finally broke open Strong's and looked up Babylon. Turns out it means "confusion" according to Strong's. If that's actually the meaning, given the milieu today, it fits that the US is Babylon at the end.

Is there further meaning in revelation. I'm somewhat skeptical of making decisions based on Strong's.

This is not a burning question, so put this off until you have time.

Yours in our Lord,

Response #9:

It's always a great pleasure to hear from you, my friend!

It is the case that Babylon derives from the Hebrew root balal, meaning "to mingle/confuse", and the connection is made quite clear in the account of the tower of Babel where the Lord "confused" the unified language of the time and created nations thereby to avoid any more such "one world" schemes – until antichrist, that is.

Breaking down barriers set up by God, basic law and order, gender, marriage, nationalism and other essentials for human survival is the ultimate confusion, and mystery Babylon of the Tribulation will be the prime example of moving in that direction, but the end will come before ultimate confusion is achieved.

"As you saw iron mixed with ceramic clay, they will mingle with the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay."
Daniel 2:43 NKJV

As to your first question set, David went across the Kidron valley to escape Absalom, but scripture says that the people were crying, not David (2Sam.15:23); he had to have his wits about him to manage things properly so as to preserve his kingdom and his life and those of the people with him.

Why did David not lose the kingdom? He repented of his sin and was forgiven (2Sam.12:13; Ps.32:1-6; Ps.51:1ff.). David was also massively disciplined for his sins (prophesied to him at 2Sam.12:10-12; 12:14).

Saul, on the other hand, repeatedly disdained God's will in matters that were not just personal (not to say that David's sins were not mammoth and gave the enemy a chance to slander Israel) but had to do with governing Israel according to that will.

God knows the hearts of all. He knows who is repentant and who is not. Saul was a believer but he wasn't willing to follow God with his whole heart; David was imperfect and he did sin – dramatically – but he also loved the Lord with his whole heart and accomplished many wonderful spiritual victories as a result (despite this notable spiritual defeat).

"And when He had removed [Saul], He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, 'I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will' ".
Acts 13:22 NKJV

We all fail and fall, but those who rise back up by trusting the Lord have a chance to keep moving forward to the glory of God.

For though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again, but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes.
Proverbs 24:16 NIV

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #10:

Hi Bob,

I never thought of Mystery Babylon that way but it makes perfect sense. Thank you.

In 2 Samuel 15:30. I read:

And David went up by the ascent of mount Olivet, and wept as he went up, and had his head covered, and he went barefoot: and all the people that was with him covered every man his head, and they went up, weeping as they went up.

My curiosity was the possible connection with David taking refuge on the mount (an improbable place to hide,) the Olivet prophecy of end times and the second advent.

Yours in Jesus,

Response #10:

Right, the "people who were with him" were crying; scripture makes that distinction deliberately no doubt.

I don't think that he was looking for refuge on the Mt. of Olives; the whole plan was to get out of the Jerusalem area to a farther place of refuge as quickly as possible. Being up on that bare mountain would be worse than being enclosed in Jerusalem where at least there would be provisions. Being besieged in a city is to be trapped but to have a defense; being besieged on a mountain top is a hopeless situation.

At the second advent, the Lord will alight on the Mt. of Olives and it will split in two; those within Jerusalem, the part not yet captured by antichrist, will then flee in the same direction as David and company did – but in their case it will not require and ascent because of this miraculous deliverance, making a path directly through the mountain to aid the flight – so there is a parallel.

Hope you are doing well, my friend. I am keeping you in my prayers.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #11:

Hi Bob,

Please clarify. In Leviticus 19:27, is this referring to no hair cutting or beard trimming or is this a prohibition of pagan customs?

Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard.
Leviticus 19:27

Response #11:

It's the latter (i.e., prohibiting pagan behavior) rather than the former.

Notice that the preceding verse is prohibiting demonic soothsaying and that the verse following prohibits worship of the dead and cutting oneself (something that pagan prophets regularly did: e.g., 1Ki.18:28; Zech.13:6). So this verse is of a piece with the context: believing Israel should have nothing whatsoever with any pagan and idolatrous practices (nor should we today).

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #12:

Hi Bob,

Thank you for clearing that up. (That eases my conscience:)

I wonder how our high priests of the Church of Science corresponds to the soothsayers, sorcerers and prophets of the Israelites' time? It'll probably take me a couple of weeks to flatten the curve and achieve herd intelligence.

I've mostly written off the current milieu. Things seem to have degenerated beyond what I could have imagined. I only stick my head out once a week or thereabouts.

Yours in our Lord,

Response #12:

No need for qualms about getting your hair cut:

Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.
1st Corinthians 11:14-15 KJV

The difference between science and religion (which are supposed to be naturally antagonistic) does seem to have mostly evaporated as nowadays the two have found common ground in joint political aims, with religion not caring about true "religion" (the truth of Christianity) and science not caring about actual facts – when they get in the way of their zeal for political outcomes.

I don't think it will take antichrist too long to flatten out any curves in that growing unity of purpose.

Keeping my head down here as much as possible too!

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #13:

Grace to you,

Reading in the site from questions and your responses. I found a good one , one that I get questioned a lot also. The once saved always saved. I printed your response worth keeping near for instant use. When I see the phrase "true believer", I see a steady faithful person, in action, no questions. When a person or believer lacks faith, becomes weak in faith so does their action. If it becomes to the point of apostasy I mean dead spiritually, that's sad and thin ice. But they were once saved, yes, but became dead, no faith, no action. In fact turned to a world view or a false doctrine, other than a Christ doctrine.

One example I use is Lot's wife. She was under the grace of God under His protection, until, apostasy. When she turn from faith, and disobeyed. Yes, at the very last moment while under grace, she was turned to salt. I try to stress the fact of importance of what Jesus bent over backwards to teach about the end times, do not be deceived.

Look what happened to Lot's wife at that last moment.

Thank you,

Response #13:

It's a good and important perspective.

FYI, however, Lot's wife was never a believer, and her attachment to Sodom demonstrates this. Lot was the only believer in Sodom . . . which is why Abraham's "negotiation" with the Lord failed (see the link; and cf. Jer.5:1).

While it's true that many believers do fall away (Lk.8:13), and more will do so in the Tribulation (i.e., the Great Apostasy; link), it's also the case that there are a lot of "cultural Christians" out there who, by association and presentation, may appear to be believers but actually are not.

During the soon-to-come Tribulation, the battle lines will be very clearly drawn as never before between those who take antichrist's mark and worship him and those – including all "true believers" who refuse to do so no matter what.

And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.
Revelation 12:11 NKJV

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #14:

Dr. Luginbill,


First, I'm still a little confused about the connection of naming his son Jezreel and then the prophecy of Jehu's destruction in the valley of Jezreel. Is there a connection between the two Jezreel references in v.4?

Otherwise, I think I get what you're saying. It's obvious that the LORD didn't and hasn't restored them yet, so there definitely is an end times application to Jezreel.


Response #14:

It may seem strange to us, but the Lord telling a prophet to name his children thus and so as a sign and a reminder to all who listened to his prophecies is not unique to this situation (and that is exactly what's going on in Hosea 1:4 as well):

The LORD said to me, “Take a large scroll and write on it with an ordinary pen: Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz.” So I called in Uriah the priest and Zechariah son of Jeberekiah as reliable witnesses for me. Then I made love to the prophetess, and she conceived and gave birth to a son. And the LORD said to me, “Name him Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz. For before the boy knows how to say ‘My father’ or ‘My mother,’ the wealth of Damascus and the plunder of Samaria will be carried off by the king of Assyria.”
Isaiah 8:1-4 NIV

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #15:

I wanted to ask you, do we have any idea when the Old Testament was completed? Also, do you think it is safe to say that major revelations, prophets/ prophecies, miracles and wonders ceased or highly dwindled during the intertestamental period (time between the testaments)? I'm writing a paper on the sign gifts and how they were more prevalent during specific trends and time periods throughout all of church history (beginning with Adam). I would imagine the few hundred years before Jesus saw little or no new major revelations/information from God or any prophets during this time. Do you think this is accurate, or do we just not know?

Response #15:

It is generally agreed that the last three books of the Old Testament (in our English order), Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi (along with Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther) are all post-exilic, that is, that they were written after the return of the remnant to Judea and Jerusalem from Babylon, about time of the building of the second temple or shortly thereafter (i.e., 5th century B.C.); this is also the view that I hold. A good OT "introduction" (a specific genre of scholarly literature) will give more info (here's a link on that: Recommended Surveys of the Old and New Testaments).

There is virtually no biblical mention of the nearly five and a half centuries between the period mentioned above and the gospels (one not too helpful exception: Jn.2:20). A good secular treatment, multi-volumes, is Schόrer's History of the Jewish People in the Time of Christ (link to online copy at Internet Archive).

So while we perhaps cannot say definitively that there were no "sign gifts" given during that time, it's certainly not recorded in scripture (and I don't remember any secular mentions either; the legend about Hanukkah being a possible exception: the oil for the menorah is said to have lasted miraculously long).

Keeping you in my prayers.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #16:

Reading the Unger on Isaiah 28:9-10

Not sure if Unger is actually resolving the context here...

Response #16:

Unger is FAR from perfect. He's just better and more useful than 99% of other commentaries on the Old Testament – meaning that I occasionally find something useful in him (as opposed never finding anything helpful which is the case with the vast majority of commentaries, especially anything published after WWII).

“Whom will he teach knowledge?
And whom will he make to understand the message?
Those just weaned from milk?
Those just drawn from the breasts?
For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept,
Line upon line, line upon line,
Here a little, there a little.
For with stammering lips and another tongue
He will speak to this people,
To whom He said, “This is the rest with which
You may cause the weary to rest,”
And, “This is the refreshing”;
Yet they would not hear.
But the word of the LORD was to them,
“Precept upon precept, precept upon precept,
Line upon line, line upon line,
Here a little, there a little,”
That they might go and fall backward, and be broken
And snared and caught."
Isaiah 28:9-13 NKJV

Isaiah 28:9-10 is a much discussed passage, so it's not surprising that Unger wants to present both sides. That is sometimes appropriate for a commentator when, as in this case, there are two points of view.  Here we have  God's meaning and that of the mockers (which is why the phrase "Precept upon precept, precept upon precept, Line upon line, line upon line, Here a little, there a little" is repeated twice). The mockers use the language to ridicule, but it turns out that this is the only path for such people to be saved, namely, to get to the rudiments of the truth and begin to learn.

Here's what I've written about this previously:

This passage is a complaint and an accusation by the Lord through the hand of Isaiah against the apostasy of the Northern Kingdom (which was soon to be obliterated at the hands of the Assyrians for their rebellion and idolatry). God had of course given them every chance, earnestly sending out His message to them, but their response was to ridicule it - the Hebrew wording of their response (qav ve qav, qav ve qav, tsav ve tsav, tsav ve tsav etc.) is very sing-songy and has a clear quality of mockery (akin to "we played the pipes, you didn't dance; we played the dirge, you didn't mourn; Lk.7:32). The messages to the North were no doubt simplistic - but they had to be for people so far from God, so deep into apostasy, spiritual children, barely weaned. But instead of gratitude for His concern, instead of thanks and response to His earnest call for them to turn and enter His rest, they mocked Him, mocked His message (it's an old story, isn't it?). And so now they will reap what they have so imprudently sown, and the Word of God will really be just gibberish to them (qav ve qav, qav ve qav, tsav ve tsav, tsav ve tsav etc.), like parables which are not understood (cf. Matt.13:10-15). For this message did in fact turn out to be pointless for them - NOT because of any deficiency on the part of the Lord, who went the extra mile and gave them every chance, but because of their own self-hardened hearts, bent upon ignoring Him and pursuing the vanities of their own minds and their own lusts instead, with never a clean place to be found at the table of their hearts.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #17:

Genesis 32:9-10 KJV
[10] I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast shewed unto thy servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands.

(for with my staff I passed over this Jordan)

Does Jacob also parted the Jordan river with a staff like Moses, Elijah and Elisha?

Thanks for your thoughts Sir.

Response #17:

Good to hear from you, my friend.

It's an interesting question and you provide good parallels, but I don't find any indication in the text that the waters parted for Jacob or his servants, family and flocks. Angels did meet him on his return (Gen.32:1), and of course he did wrestle with the Angel of the Lord before crossing himself, so it was a spiritually significant moment.

Like Jacob, we all bump into obstacles; sometimes the Lord parts the waters, and sometimes He wants us to wade through them – but He helps us either way.

And, like Jacob, we all sometimes wrestle with the Lord, reluctant to cross. After the Lord "touches and lames us" in such cases, it would be good if we all, like Jacob, held onto Him thereafter for dear life, awaiting His blessing. See the links:

Wrestling with the Angel of God

Old Testament Interpretation III

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #18:

Hello--I was wondering if you could look at Ps. 33:9 for me and tell me what Hebrew word is used for "came to be". Does it mean it suddenly came into existence, or came into existence from something else already in existence? Or is there no way to tell either way from the verb?

Thanks and have a blessed Easter and stay healthy and safe!

Response #18:

This is the verb "to be", hayah. It's in standard narrative sequence (i.e., following a waw consecutive). So nothing special here at all. But it is the same verb as in Genesis chapter one:

And God said, Let there be (<hayah) light: and there was (<hayah) light.
Genesis 1:3 KJV

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #19:

Thanks. I figured as much, but wanted to be sure. So, it means came to be, i.e. into existence...?

Response #19:

That's correct.

Question #20:

i Bob,

And while everyone knows about (or think they do)... That seems to describe most everything today. I almost wish I were young again but knowing what I know now. I would enjoy taking your classes.

On a side note, some forms of pasta have been reputed to the Romans. Farfalle or bow tie pasta is one and a flat disk shaped pasta is another though I can't remember the name. Arabs supposedly also ate a form of pasta. I'm curious about the relationship of pasta to unleavened bread of the Israelites. There's nothing in scripture that I can think of that even hints at that.

What our friend said in #14 is spot on as far as I've been able to learn. All I would add is adding bromelain to quercetin apparently increases anti-viral and immunity. Zinc is apparently necessary to get the nutrients into the cells. Vitamin D supplements with vitamin K would be good, too.

Interesting post this week. Thank you.

It occurs to me that sexual morality in the ancient world was substantially different than today though we seem to be headed to the worst of the pagan side. As I thought about Boaz taking Ruth to wife, I wondered about the actual application at the time. The Lord railed at the wanton sexual immorality rampant in the ancient world (I've seen photos of the mosaics unearthed in the Pompeian bathhouse that are no different than modern porn as I remember.) What is unclear is: was this a real marriage or a one time event until a child was born? If the child died and Ruth married another, would that have been considered adultery?

In our Lord,

Response #20:

The Romans did have pasta but nothing like today – they didn't have tomatoes (a new world delight), so there was no spaghetti sauce. They had something like lasagna noodles which they broke up into soup like crackers. Nothing in scripture indicating anything of the sort in ancient Israel before Roman times.

In terms of morality, there's nothing to defend about contemporary culture. One might say that things were somewhat different (not better or worse) in antiquity, primarily because of the religious aspect of porneia in pagan religion, but I have suggested (in Peter #39, among other places) that antichrist's soon to come religion will revive the worst of pagan practices in this regard.

On Ruth, I'm not sure what it is about that marriage that seems out of kilter to you. An older man marrying a younger widow is not unheard of in our day. The property rights issue is a different story inasmuch as in ancient Israel there was supposed to be a continuation of the family on the land of inheritance with any sales or transfers for whatever reason reverting to the family line in the year of Jubilee. Of course, Israel failed to follow these rules as with all the others. This incident you ask about occurred very early on after the entrance into the land (Boaz' grandfather was one of the leaders of Judah when the people were numbered before entering the land: Num.1:7).

Keeping you in my prayers, my friend.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #21:

Hi Bob,

As far as Ruth and Boaz, it didn't strike me as out of kilter as much as confusing. The main question was: was it a real marriage as we used to understand the meaning or a short term relationship until a child was born?

Thanks for the info on pasta.

In our Lord,

Response #21:

Seems like an actual marriage to me from everything in scripture. It's true that their methods of contracting them were different from ours (but they seem to have worked better for the long haul in the main).

And let's not forget that Ruth is in the line of the Messiah. Her son, Obed was David's grandfather (Matt.1:5-6) – so this union was "of God" in every way.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #22:

Hi Bob,

Edging ever closer to the full ministry launch here. I have some questions stemming from one of the things I'm working on as initial content.

The wider piece argues that the Rahab mentioned in the genealogy of Christ in Matthew is in fact the prostitute mentioned in Joshua. The bit I would like to ask about, however, is mostly discussing the women in the genealogy at a higher level -- focusing on God's grace. Here's the section.


Some of the writing herein contains what amounts to passing judgment upon the actions of Old Testament believers. Of course, being human, they made their fair share of mistakes, and we should not shy away from calling things as they are. On the other hand, a certain degree of caution is probably proper, as we are obviously not God, nor do we have so much room to talk ourselves, also having feet of clay.

I'm happy to hear any feedback about how I am using these highlighted things generally, but specifically, the questions would be like:

1) The situation with Judah and Tamar

Judah should have given Tamar to his third son, as promised. He did wrong there in not doing such.

Did Tamar do wrong in dressing up to seduce Judah? I would think so, right? Like, this would not be considered the truly optimal path to having her grievances addressed, in an ideal world? Or is this somehow her "acting in faith"?

And Judah propositioning her thinking that she was a prostitute -- that would also be a bad thing on his part?

How is Tamar "redeemed" like the other three women?

2) Bathsheba's role in the adultery

That Bathsheba is compared by Nathan to an ewe lamb is good evidence that the problems here lie basically entirely on David's shoulders, right?

3) Jacob's treatment of Leah

It is appropriate for us to find fault with Jacob for the way he treated Leah, right?

4) Jacob's deceit to get the blessing

Also not really a positive thing, right? At least he recognized the importance of the blessing, but the deceit is still negative, I would think?

5) Abraham's treatment of Hagar and Ishmael

Abraham did, by his past choices, get himself into a rather no-win situation. But we would be right to think that he treated Hagar and Ishmael perhaps overly harshly to appease his wife? Or should I not use this as an example of a fault of a man in the genealogy? (I suppose I could also point out Abraham lying about Sarah's identity).

6) Tamar again: Do you think the inferences I make re: Tamar being cast aside are valid?

Of the situations of the four women, Tamar is the one I am least sure of -- whether she acted immorally, or was justified in some way.

For the thematic purpose of the women's inclusion to be consistent, she must be included as an example of God's great grace, right? So... how?

Prayers appreciated on the ministry front. Two steps forward and one step back, I tell you. I really am closer now, however. I really want to finally get the ball rolling formally.

We finished our study of Peripateology yesterday -- Week 74. Rather startling to think that things started all the way back in December 2019.

How go things at the University?

Your friend in Christ,

Response #22:

Re the patriarchs: "they made their fair share of mistakes, and we should not shy away from calling things as they are. On the other hand, a certain degree of caution is probably proper, as we are obviously not God, nor do we have so much room to talk ourselves, also having feet of clay." That is exactly the right departure point. Everything after that is interpretation.

Specifics: One thing to note about the patriarchs and their contemporaries, is that we are given very limited information. Jacob must have had a very close relationship with the Lord, for example, but we don't see him concentrating on the truth on those lonely nights of vigil in the desert, watching over Laban's flocks, as he must have done. We only have scripture's assessments overall (and of course we are given to see his feet of clay for the sake of the narrative).

I think the same sort of thing applies to Judah and Tamar. It would seem that they were believers – and that means a great deal in a time and place where almost no one else was.

As I often say, bad decisions and bad actions lead to situations where there is no absolutely Simon-pure course of action left. David shouldn't have left the desert to go to Gath and Ziklag, so when called upon to accompany Abimelech, all he could do was lie – it seems. Judah should have brought his sons Er and Onan up better, teaching about the Lord and His ways – and probably also done a better job with his own spiritual growth. So all these actors are acting from "positions of weakness". What they show me is that we need NOT to get into such situations through failing to grow and progress (or through falling into sin) in the first place.

As to Tamar, well, Judah did give Onan to her so this was clearly the custom (later validated in the levirate regulations of the Law), and when Onan was put to death by the Lord, Tamar did have every right to expect that Judah would do "the right thing" again – which he did not.

Producing progeny was "the thing" at this time as we know from Abraham's experience, so for a woman to be wrongly shut out of that prime purpose was criminal. Did she do right? She was in an impossible situation, so I'm not going to weigh in on that. Judah failed to teach his children, failed to intervene when they did wrong, and failed to continue with the custom he accepted as correct as he had begun to do out of lack of faith – and also with an apparent lack of intention to make sure his youngest grew up spiritually solid. So there wasn't much else Tamar could do. Regardless of what we think about it (just because one person is mostly in the wrong doesn't mean that the other is not at all in the wrong), she is in the line of the Messiah as a result – no small thing! And thus she must have been a believer – just like Judah of course.

Bathsheba is clearly nowhere near as culpable as David, if she is culpable at all. But I wonder what she was doing up on her roof disrobed and bathing while David was walking around on his roof. This could have been an accident, but wasn't the roof always visible from the palace roof? Was David the only one to ever stroll around on it? Did he do this more than once and at set times? Also, when she was "invited" to the palace, we don't hear anything about struggle or resistance. This doesn't mean that David does not incur by far the lion's share of the blame (no pun intended) – but it also doesn't mean that Bathsheba was 100% innocent. She was a human being. And again, "just because one person is mostly in the wrong doesn't mean that the other is not at all in the wrong". This shows me that we all have to be careful at all times and avoid giving others any opportunity for sin just as we need to stay away from it ourselves. They were both believers, of course, and both in the line of the Messiah, David preeminently so. David should never have been in Jerusalem (he should have been campaigning with the army "at the time when kings go forth to war") and Bathsheba should never have been on the roof. Both put themselves in positions of vulnerability and suffered as a result.

As to Jacob and Leah, yet another example of mistakes leading to other mistakes. Jacob let himself get carried away with anticipation of his marriage, allowed himself to be made to get drunk, and opened himself up to deceit as a result. No question that Laban had the greater guilt, but still, we see that this situation led to trouble as a result. We know only the bare outlines of the relationship between these parties. We are told that Leah was "not loved" and we know that husbands are responsible to "love their wives". Perhaps Jacob harbored resentment against Leah. After all, she went along with the deceit. On her wedding night, she didn't say, "Wait! I'm Leah!" Laban did worse, but still. And again, "just because one person is mostly in the wrong doesn't mean that the other is not at all in the wrong". So no one is innocent here. They were people with sin natures, so what do we expect? What all this tells me again is that when we make a small mistake it may lead to bigger and worse ones and put us in situations of weakness from which it is nearly impossible to "do right" going forward without compromise.

As to the blessing of Jacob, God had promised that the elder would serve the younger, so when Isaac decided to overlook the little fact of the will of God, he put the whole family and the whole line of descent into jeopardy – since Esau was also an unbeliever. That is no small mistake. When it comes to life and death matters, deceit, lying, is not the same thing as lying for selfish and self-serving reasons. If a Ukrainian soldier were captured and the Russians asked him whether or not his commander was in such and such a place, it would be dead wrong for him to say, "As a believer in Jesus Christ, I cannot lie – yes he is!" Jacob supplanted Esau by the will of God as prophesied. There are times when we can't just say, "well, God will take care of it" without doing what is necessary with what He has given us. Rachel, knowing her husband better than us, decided that this was just such a time. She was by all biblical accounts a exceptionally wonderful and righteous woman, so I'm not willing to second guess her. And they were all believers, we cannot forget, and all in the line of the Messiah. No small thing.

On Abraham and Hagar, "Abraham did, by his past choices, get himself into a rather no-win situation" is exactly correct. We need to remember that decisions, especially important ones, have consequences. Sins are forgiven when we confess. God does not always turn natural consequences on their heads for us, however (i.e., if we grossly overeat we will be forgiven when we confess but will likely not be spared the heartburn). We can see from the narrative that Abraham was not perfect (as scripture affirms: Is.43:27). But again, we aren't always given to see their faith except from their actions.

Genesis 15:6 is an important exception where we are told that Abraham "believed" and that this was counted as "righteousness" for him – as it is for us as well. We have no idea of all the victories of faith he and the other patriarchs won over the many days and months and years about which scripture is silent. We see some, but not all (more in the case of Abraham because undoubtedly these were some of the more outstanding ones). We do know that they were believers who endured with faith all the way to the end (cf. Heb.11:1ff.), and we endeavor to do the same.

When we look at the lives of biblical personalities who were believers, we need to remember that if narratives were written about our own lives that only focused on the notable events, there would be many "feet of clay" moments, and perhaps without any specific focus on some of the good things we did, then we would come off looking pretty miserable. So as you began, humility in interpretation is advisable when it comes to weighing in on the lives of our fellow believers – who will stand with us before the Lord on "that day" – even as we are also responsible as pastor-teachers to "tell it like it is" as interpretation is empowered in us by the Spirit.

We can also learn from all this that "daily life" can easily dominate everything – as it often seems to in the case of biblical personalities – to the near exclusion of spiritual things. But on the other side in eternity, the problems of this life will no longer have any meaning, and only what we've done through Christ and for Christ will matter. Same was true of them. They persevered and in some cases became exceptional, in spite of "daily life". We should make it our purpose to do likewise – even if we occasionally stumble in spectacular fashion as many of them did.

Good news about the proximity of the "launch"!

[re: U of L - prayers appreciated for an increase in Greek and Latin enrollments for this coming fall semester].

Keeping you in my prayers, my friend.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #23:

Hi Bob,

Sorry for the delay here. Things have just been busy.

I think I've got the gist of it then. But if you wouldn't mind going another round here, I have always struggled to parse out from the historical accounts the difference between what our forebears actually did from what they "should have" done. As in what God would have wanted them to do.

I think a lot of it is because I grew up in Sunday School and so have some baggage therein that I should probably squint at more closely.

For example, I always thought Jacob was "sly" by nature (in a somewhat connotatively-negative sense -- in the sense of being a shifty-eyed, opportunistic person) on account of the deception he and Rebecca pulled, but if I read you correctly, that is like dead wrong. In fact, what they did would then be godly, and Isaac was in the wrong for even being willing to give anything to Esau, an unbeliever not favored in God's prophecy.

I know you argue in BB4A (link) that Mary Magdalene and Mary of Bethany (the sister of Martha and Lazarus) are one and the same person, rather than trying to paint the latter as distanced from the "sinful woman" of Luke 7 (who can be identified -- albeit not completely uncontroversially -- as Mary Magdalene). I think I was always taught as a child that the latter was a separate person from Mary Magdalene.

Basically, my "read" on many parties from the Bible is clouded by what I grew up hearing about them, and I think that is probably a very bad thing on the whole. So in the pursuit of resetting the needle more towards what the Bible actually says, inasmuch as we can determine from scripture what would be right and wrong in the given circumstances, can we talk through some of these events and talk about what "would have" been right, and therefore, where parties could have done better?

From the perspective of each individual:

1. Judah and Tamar


Er and Onan were not only not exemplary, but were wicked enough that God actually put them to death. That certainly doesn't reflect well upon Judah's raising of them, although of course parents are not completely responsible for the actions of their children. But then again, he didn't step in to intervene when they did wrong (which might have been able to save them from the hand of God's judgement).

Judah had Onan marry Tamar after Er, which was proper according to the custom of the day (to raise up children). This was the right thing for him to do.

Judah shut Tamar out after Onan was slain by the Lord, rather than giving her to Shelah. This demonstrates two things: 1) If he were truly willing to ensure Shelah would not be likewise slain by the Lord (as he was worried about), the proper action would seem to be to ensure he grew up righteously, rather than exiling Tamar. So that doesn't reflect very well. 2) Regardless of what he thought and worried about, it was still the appropriate thing to do according to custom and practice. Him not doing so was therefore an abrogation of responsibility, and very harmful to Tamar.

Regardless of Tamar's intent, Judah propositioned her and slept with her as if she were a prostitute. If it had not been Tamar but a real prostitute (as he thought), that would still be completely wrong, yes? (This would make what he said in Genesis 38:24 rich with irony too -- oh yes, let's put the daughter-in-law accused of prostitution to death for being a prostitute... says the man who sleeps with prostitutes)


She married Er (or rather, was gone out and found as a wife for Er), who ended up wicked in the Lord's sight. We don't know how much agency she had in this, but if she chose to do this (and knew of his spiritual state beforehand), it might possibly reflect poorly upon her. We can't say much from this, probably.

That leaves Tamar's dressing up. It seems clear from context that she dressed like a shrine prostitute (Genesis 38:15, 21), and it seems quite unlikely that that could be a coincidence (i.e., not intentional).

It is clear that Judah recognized that what she had done was explicitly tied to the raising up of heirs, per Genesis 38:26 -- the very thing he had denied her improperly. So are we to take it that what she did was "reasonably justified" given that she had no other recourse? At least, while perhaps she wasn't perfect, we can shoot down people who want to make her out to be some sort of evil temptress for seducing Judah -- as if it is all the woman's fault, right?

Another thing I am curious about: how was Tamar provided for after this? Did Judah provide for her and her sons in his own house hereafter even though "he did not sleep with her again" (Genesis 38:26)? (In fact, doesn't that note actually imply such -- otherwise why would saying such be necessary?). Or would she have raised them in her own father's house?

2. David and Bathsheba


Should have been out on the battlefield with his men, not in Jerusalem
Obviously should not have coveted another man's wife and had him murdered so that he could possess her


Inasmuch as she knew her roof was always visible from the palace roof, and intentionally bathed when she knew David would see, well then that does not make her blameless. But we don't have any direct evidence in scripture that this was anything other than an accident either, right? So how do we know these things?
We have no evidence of her protesting at David taking her into the palace.

I confess that I am a bit skeptical of the "but she didn't protest!" idea, because, well, David is the king, right? I guess she should have resisted even so, even if saying no would incur the wrath of the king. Because what God thinks is more important than what the king thinks. But putting too much blame on her there would still seem to me to be misguided.

3. Jacob and Leah


Should not have let himself get drunk out of anticipation, and open himself up to Laban's deception.
Despite being deceived in marriage, should not have been continually cold to Leah thereafter, as husbands are called to love their wives.


Should not have gone along with the deception. But then again, in much the same way it is somewhat understandable why Bathsheba might have reservations about crossing the king, it is not hard to see how she might not want to cross her father.


Yeah... he doesn't come off looking too good in general.

4. Jacob and Rebecca deceiving Isaac for the blessing

For what it's worth, I was always taught that this situation was a negative example not a positive one. "Good children don't lie and deceive their parents -- you too be a good child now." Same deal with Jacob trying to get Esau to sell him the birthright for food -- people say that this shows Jacob is cunning and opportunistic (negative things).

This one is one I want to hash out. It seems like lots of people have all sorts of opinions about what parties "should have" done in this situation. For example, plenty of judgements made on this page: https://www.christianity.com/wiki/bible/was-rebekah-a-good-mother-to-jacob-and-esau.html

The author there seems to think Rebecca did not act in faith here, but should have waited on God's power alone to fulfill the prophecy of the older serving the younger.
They also say Jacob should have opposed Rebecca's plan of deception on moral grounds, rather than acting out of self-interest and listening to his mother. "Wrong is wrong" or something along those lines
They even go so far as to make deception out to be some sort of inherited trait among the line of the Patriarchs

Obviously, this example is on the extreme end and abounds with false teaching, but they quote people such as Spurgeon (not that he's much to write home about, but still, that's an older source saying the same things re: "cunning" and such, so teaching along these lines has been around for a while).

But based on what you say, we should instead look at things in the following way:


Should not have disregarded God to begin with.
Should not have disrespected his birthright by selling it for mere food (Genesis 25:29-34). From scripture itself, we have it that this shows his disregard for it.


Should not have even deigned to give Esau -- an unbeliever -- the birthright
Given Esau's priorities and lack of focus on the truth, he should not have loved Esau over Jacob (Genesis 25:28).


Acted in a godly way to ensure the birthright came to the right person -- not arbitrarily, but because Jacob valued God but Esau didn't


Acted in a godly way to ensure the birthright came to the right person -- not arbitrarily, but because Jacob valued God but Esau didn't
Same deal with setting up the trade of stew for Esau's birthright in Genesis 25. He didn't do this out of his craftiness or sinister motives (or at least not entirely out of self-interest, even if there was some there), but because Esau truly didn't properly value it

Several other wrinkles:

1) Do we know if Isaac knew about the prophecy of Genesis 25:23, or did Rebecca just keep it to herself? How about Jacob -- would he be aware of this? If Isaac didn't know, wouldn't that make him less culpable? But if he did know...
2) Do we know if Rebecca's favoring of Jacob (Genesis 25:28) is for the proper spiritual reasons rather than something improper, as in Isaac favoring Esau for the food he brings him?

I just want to make sure I am understanding you properly, as it is rewriting my understanding of the character of these people.

5. Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar


Should have trusted the promise of God rather than coming up with "operation Hagar"
Should not have subsequently treated Hagar (and Ishmael) harshly out of jealousy


Should have trusted the promise of God rather than giving in to the plan of his wife
Should not have allowed Sarah's overly harsh treatment of Hagar and Ishmael (?)


Did she do right/wrong in any of this?

At a high level, do we know whether Hagar and Ishmael were believers?

7. Does being in the line of Christ inherently say something about the character of these people?

One last thing I'm curious on. You say that we know that these people were believers, and that that means a great deal given the times and places they lived.

Is it proper for us to make an argument somewhat like this:

1) These people are in the line of Christ
2) Therefore they were believers (even in the absence of more direct evidence regarding such), and probably not terrible ones at that?

Is that why we can make the above statement with full certainty and confidence? And why, despite some of these "daily life" things being focused on in the narrative, we can be confident that these people had a close walk with the Lord -- as in Jacob must have communed with God on those lonely nights as a shepherd? Is that why we can argue with confidence that he did?

Thanks for bearing with me.

Your brother in Christ,

Response #23:

Busy here too!

On Jacob, he has a personality and personality traits which might be characterized in that way (i.e., "sly"). The interpretive question is, in any individual case, is he doing what is right or wrong – or something in between? In the case of the blessing, let's not forget that what he did he did entirely under the direction of his mother who was technically still in authority over him to at least some degree since he was still living at home.

"I think I was always taught as a child that the latter was a separate person from Mary Magdalene." That is the standard interpretation, so it wouldn't surprise me, but as you note, I believe it is wrong (link.). Mary Magdalene, a.k.a. Mary of Bethany, sister of Martha was a truly exceptional woman (see the link); that is why she received the honorific name "Magdalene" which means "strong tower [of faith]" (cf. Matt.26:13; Mk.14:9).

Re: "I think that is probably a very bad thing on the whole", we all start from somewhere. Knowing something is better than knowing nothing; as a teacher of the Bible, you learn every day as you study the Word and – one hopes – refine, correct, deepen your knowledge of the truth.

Judah: 1) This is what I think, but we are reading between the lines of course.

2) "This was the right thing for him to do." This is what he DID do, and probably because of custom. There was no Law of Moses yet, so we can't say, I think, that he would have been wrong NOT to do it. But having done it once, he certainly set the precedent so that determining not to do it again – especially lying about his intentions to Tamar – seems wrong to me.

3) There's no defending Judah's liaison with a prostitute. It wasn't illegal in that time, nor was there any specific biblical law against it since there was no Bible yet. But it does seem to me a good example of Romans 5:13, "For [even] before the Law [was handed down], there was [indeed] sin in the world, but, when there was no Law, sin was not being taken into account [by us as it was after the Law]." And of course it was rank hypocrisy for him to order Tamar burned. The fact that he relented when that hypocrisy was revealed. When he says, "She is more righteous than I, inasmuch as I did not give her to my son Shelah" (Gen.38:26), we see him also admitting his prior guilt. All this, and the fact that he had no further relations with her show that he was indeed a man of conscience, a man of God, even if far from perfect.

4) On Tamar, the father-in-law was now her authority. When you say, she was " 'reasonably justified' given that she had no other recourse", I think that is close to the mark – although I would avoid saying it this way. Judah said, "She is more righteous than I" and that seems to me to be the biblical pronouncement. None of us is "righteous" absent having God's righteousness. But Judah admits that Tamar had grounds for what she did. Afterwards, though they had no relations, I am sure that Judah took care of her and his offspring. He was responsible to do so both as father in law and now as father.

David and Bathsheba: It is what it is. I'm not justifying David in any way. And I'm not saying that Bathsheba was anything like as wrong as David. Could it have been an accident? Could he have forced her to come to the palace and violently raped her? There's nothing in the narrative to suggest that this is exactly the way it happened. Wasn't the fact that he was king and handsome and powerful a combination that was coercive so as to mitigate any sort of acquiescence on Bathsheba's part? That is certainly true. But mitigating circumstances do not equal 100% innocence. They're usually brought in when that is not the case. I wasn't there. It just seems to me that even today a woman disrobing – or partially so – where she can (and more to the point probably will be seen) is not the stuff of absolute innocence. Again, we're reading between the lines. Scripture doesn't directly blame Bathsheba at all. If there is a ratio of accountability here it is 1000 to one against David. But as teachers of the Bible we have to put all the cards on the table, even if – and often especially if – it may offend people.

Jacob and Leah: This is how I see things. The only other thing to mention is that I do see Leah as "in it" more than some of these other examples. She clearly wanted to be married and this was her chance. It didn't seem to matter to her that her sister was being disadvantaged by her complicity. It's hard for me to accept that if she had stood up to her father, that it would have been either wrong or dangerous to do so.

Jacob and Rebecca deceiving Isaac for the blessing: As I often say, when people do wrong or questionable things, it puts them often into situations where further action is compromised, even if they wish to be Simon-pure at that point. My bottom line here is that Rebecca was doing what she thought was necessary and right, and I'm in no position to criticize her. Everything else we know about her suggest that she was an exceptionally good, noble and godly person – one of the best of the best of that entire group of patriarchs and their spouses. This incident would be the only mark against her – if it is that. She knew the prophecy, God's will. Hard for me to even come up with a workable scenario where everyone didn't know it. She knew the boys, that one was godly and one was not, just as the prophecy foretold. She knew her husband too – and she knew that he was about to pronounce his blessing on Esau. If she hadn't acted, he would have done so, as far as she knew.

This brings up a bigger question about trusting God versus acting. Sometimes we act because we DO trust God. If He has given us the means to act, then we should think twice about not acting when acting is necessary. Like the old joke about the man who refused several rescue helicopters on the roof of his flooded house and then drowned because he was "waiting for God to save me", there is a point of ridiculousness that believers should never want to get close to. When we are given the command to "flee Babylon", we best get up and get moving using whatever means are at hand, and not wait for the chariot of God to "swing low" and deliver us. Rebecca had NO time. Under the circumstances, saying to herself, "well, I guess this is God's will" or "maybe He will do something" strikes me as an abnegation of responsibility. The prophecy was given to her (Gen.25:22-23). Jacob was her son and the prophecy was about him. She knew that her stubborn husband's mind was made up. If she had not acted . . . Sure, we can always say, "she should have trusted God!". But she did trust God. She knew that the one blessed would be blessed. So she had great faith in God. What if Noah had not built the ark? True, God told him to do it; but God told Rebecca that Jacob would be the one blessed too. I don't have a smoking gun, but I admire her. She is the hero of the story. The others just play their parts.

I agree with all of the bullet points except the ones about Jacob. The stew incident only served to show Esau's disdain for his birthright. It was not Jacob's finest hour in my opinion. In the deception of Isaac, he's merely playing his part.

On Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar, again, I mostly agree with the bullet points. Hagar doesn't come off looking too well in much of any of this (she did as told but was clearly eager to do so) – except when she appears to pray to the Lord in her distress (Gen.21:16 vs. Gen.21:17). I would venture that she may have been a believer, but not Ishmael.

"Does being in the line of Christ inherently say something about the character of these people?" We can say with assurance that it is no accident. We can also say, I think, that it is a great honor, one that is not given to unbelievers. It seems to me in looking over the lives of all of these individuals – as far as we are given to see them from scripture – that they are, generally speaking, godly folk despite all the warts and blemishes. And there is a lesson in that. They lived real lives with real pressures, but they persevered in their faith in spite of all. Just what we should do – even though we are also far from perfect. We don't know all the details of their walk with the Lord, but I do believe we must conclude that they were not only believers but men and women of perseverance, just as we should be also.

For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.
Romans 9:3-5 NKJV

Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers.
Romans 11:28 NKJV

All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.
Hebrews 11:13 NKJV

As it says at Romans 15:4, "everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope" (NIV). So we are to draw encouragement and guidance from these reports, seeing the faithfulness of God throughout and the perseverance of the family of God through all those dark days despite all manner of opposition and difficult, complicated circumstances – which sounds a lot like us, come to think about it.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #24:

Hi Bob,

1) On Jacob's "slyness"

So, to put things in my own words, it is not entirely unfair to get such an impression of Jacob. But just because this is so does not mean Jacob was not generally a godly person or great believer, or indeed that every action he took that has elements of being self-serving/opportunistic was entirely bad (even if they were not always entirely good either).

Is it similar to how we might admire Peter while at the same time acknowledging that he acted rather rashly at times? (Also simultaneously emphasizing that we too all have our own flaws)?

2) Tamar specifically

Our friend and I had an interesting conversation sparked from some of the materials from my emails here (not arguing, just exploring). We delved somewhat more into the circumstances of David and Bathsheba, for example. It's nice to be able to talk things through seriously with other believers (and fellow teachers), so I enjoyed it.

In that conversation, he believed that no matter what, Tamar should not have dressed in the same manner as a prostitute and slept with her father-in-law, regardless of the extenuating circumstances.

Our conversation trended along the lines that while extenuating circumstances can certainly explain why some paths might appear more or less attractive or understandable, they never change the lines of what is and is not sin. (A bit below in your response, you say something similar: "mitigating circumstances do not equal 100% innocence").

I have tended towards curiosity here too: why can't we be black and white in saying that her intentionally dressing up in the manner she did and sleeping with Judah was sin on Tamar's part? Not that Tamar was a completely terrible person -- obviously, the Biblical text itself presents her as more righteous in her actions than Judah in the circumstances.

But as you say, just because one party may be more at fault does not mean that the other is completely pure.

And under the Law later, sleeping with one's father-in-law would be a step beyond general illicit sexual contact, right? And this was unquestionably sex outside of marriage.

So why not present it as definitely sinful in our teaching, even if understandable (much in the same way we might view Bathsheba going along with David's overtures rather than protesting)? I'm just a bit puzzled at the wording here seeming to be along the lines of it not being our place to judge Tamar. Maybe I'm completely misreading you?

3) "Spirit of the law" type interpretation only gets you so far

In said conversation we also brought up such things as Jesus correcting a false, hypocritical view of Sabbath-observance.

It seems to me like we can't push this very far, though -- this doesn't support the point of view that God breaks or re-interprets His own rules situationally. That is, healing on the Sabbath, rescuing a lost animal on the Sabbath, and picking grain here and there on the Sabbath as one walks along is still a far cry from plowing a whole field on the Sabbath, for example. So it's not like Jesus went and did the exact opposite to completely invalidate the Law. (Of course not).

One idea we tried on was considering if it might be appropriate to uniformly say "what is right is that which God said is right in any given circumstance", regardless of systems of rules (even those coming from God). So we have the lying midwives of Exodus 1, and also Rahab lying to protect the spies in Joshua 2, right alongside Proverbs 6:16-19:

16 There are six things the Lord hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
17 haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
18 a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
19 a false witness who pours out lies
and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.

It seems to me like lying is actually not directly called sinful anywhere in scripture. Cf. the full context above -- right after the declaration that God hates a lying tongue, we then also have in that list "a false witness who pours out lies".

Deception is a crucial part of warfare, for example. But, bearing false witness against your neighbor in a court is different. The latter can be universally wrong, and this doesn't present interpretive difficulties or mean that we have to adopt any position of "God bends the rules based on circumstances" = we determine rightness and wrongness only based on what God thinks of a particular situation, rather than there being universal moral rules that He does not contradict. He set them up, after all.

Apropos to the present discussion of Tamar, all this means that God wouldn't "work through" sex outside of marriage (or "redeem it" due to circumstances, or whatever) such that it would somehow not be at all sinful for Tamar do do what she did (namely, dress up like a prostitute and sleep with her father-in-law), right? Or is this train of logic flawed in some place?

In Christ,

Response #24:

On Jacob, I'm in complete agreement. For example, when he made use of that stratagem to get all the sheep to produce the offspring that would fall to him, he did have cause, but it was also devious (and of course it only "worked" because God made it work: Gen.31:1–13; and we find out later that Laban kept changing the rules anyway).

On Tamar, I think it's dangerous to interpret these historical events outside of the time and place and circumstances in which they occurred. I also think that it's a mistake to be overly judgmental about people we don't know and cultural circumstance with which we're not intimately accustomed (like missionaries in the 19th century trying to put clothes on Pacific islanders). These narratives are given to us for our instruction, but benefit us in a lot more subtle way than simply "this person was right / that person was wrong". Sometimes that conclusion is obvious enough, but often we are treading on dangerous ground when we draw such conclusions since it is hard enough to take into account the totality of the circumstances we're being told about, let alone what we've not been told.

In all such cases, mostly we are told "what happened". Sometimes we are given what amounts to scriptural commentary when one of the persons involved says something that clearly seems to be in the Spirit. That is how I take Judah's comment: "She has been more righteous than I, because I did not give her to Shelah my son" (Gen.38:26 NKJV). Judah acknowledges his relative lack of "rightness" for not giving Shelah to Tamar and Tamar's relative superiority of "rightness" in doing what she did to rectify the wrong. So I don't see how we can say that Tamar was totally in the wrong – even though we would certainly not recommend anything like this. This was a different time with different customs and some things were – and are – more important than others. Depriving someone of their progeny was in many ways the ultimate sin – and foregoing it the ultimate sacrifice:

Unjustly condemned,
he was led away.
No one cared that he died without descendants,
that his life was cut short in midstream.
But he was struck down
for the rebellion of my people.
Isaiah 53:8 NLT

On the Law, I would be loathe to lob up a universal principle of interpretation – apart from noting that it is all pointing to the Messiah, one way or another. Blessedly, Christ has now fulfilled the Law and so we are no longer under it. So I'm always reluctant to spend a lot of time worrying about this issue. We know that everything our Lord did was righteous. The examples cited are easy enough to explain. So I don't think we have to look to make a rule.

"Lying" depends upon whom a person is speaking with. It was never considered a sin to deceive enemies who were bent on harm and destruction as the passages you supply affirm. It's only in fundamentalism and hyper-legalism that people have wrung their hands about "what to do" if Jews are hiding in the basement and the Nazis come and ask about it. The biblical answer is very clear: be as deceitful as possible since in such cases doing so is godly. Some links:


Lies in war and peace

Is it ever justifiable to tell a lie?

Is it ever Justifiable to Tell a Lie (part 2)?

In Jesus,

Bob L.

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