Pentateuch

Index
Lecture 1: Old Testament Theology.
Lecture 2: Creation and all was good!
Lecture 3: A world gone wrong as sin enters!
Lecture 4: A New Beginning (Genesis 5-11) – Genealogies in Genesis.
Lecture 5: The Patriarchs
Lecture 6: The Exodus
Lecture 7: The Covenant at Sinai
Lecture 8: Book of Leviticus
Lecture 9: The Book of Leviticus continued
Lecture 10:The Wanderings: The Book Numbers
Lecture 11:Hear, O’ Israel: The Book Deuteronomy
Lecture 12:The Books of Moses and the New Testament

Lecture 1

Lecture Outcomes:

  1. What is Old Testament theology?
  2. Why should we study the Old Testament?
  3. The Books of Moses in context
  4. What is the Pentateuch?
  5.  

Key Verses:

25And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24:25-27).

1In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Gen 1:1).

Visuals:

The TANAK/Overview of Old Testament

13min

Information
Quotations mainly and extensively from https://www.gotquestions.org/

Old Testament theology is the study of what God has revealed about Himself in the Old Testament. The system of Old Testament theology takes the various truths that the Old Testament books teach us about God and presents them in an organized fashion. God’s revelation of Himself begins in Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” The presupposition of God and His creative work is something that all believers accept by faith and is emphasized throughout Scripture from Genesis to Revelation.

Old Testament theology is a rich and rewarding study of what God revealed of Himself, His character, His attributes, etc., in the Old Testament. The Old Testament focuses primarily on God’s relationship with the Jews, starting with His call of Abraham in Genesis 12. He chose Israel and covenanted with them for the purpose of relaying His message to the world and ultimately bringing the Messiah to save us from our sin. Through His relationship with the Jews, God blessed the entire world (Genesis 12:3). The Old Testament chronicles God’s progressive revelation of Himself, specifically to His chosen people but also to those of Gentile heritage, in order that we might learn who He is and His plan in the world. Into the very heart of the Old Testament is woven the idea of a covenant between God and man: the first was made with Adam and others with Noah, Abraham, the nation of Israel, and David.

Old Testament theology is foundational to our understanding of God and His purposes in the world. The seeds of the doctrines of substitutionary atonement, salvation, election, holiness, mercy, judgment, and forgiveness are all found in the Old Testament. A study of Old Testament theology includes a look at theology proper, anthropology, and eschatology, among other vital subjects.

There are many reasons to study the Old Testament. For one, the Old Testament lays the foundation for the teachings and events found in the New Testament. The Bible is a progressive revelation. If you skip the first half of any good book and try to finish it, you will have a hard time understanding the characters, the plot, and the ending. In the same way, the New Testament is only completely understood when we see its foundation of the events, characters, laws, sacrificial system, covenants, and promises of the Old Testament.

If we only had the New Testament, we would come to the Gospels and not know why the Jews were looking for a Messiah (a Savior King). We would not understand why this Messiah was coming (see Isaiah 53), and we would not have been able to identify Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah through the many detailed prophecies that were given concerning Him [e.g., His birth place (Micah 5:2), His manner of death (Psalm 22, especially verses 1, 7–8, 14–18; 69:21), His resurrection (Psalm 16:10), and many more details of His ministry (Isaiah 9:2; 52:13)].

A study of the Old Testament is also important for understanding the Jewish customs mentioned in passing in the New Testament. We would not understand the way the Pharisees had perverted God’s law by adding their own traditions to it, or why Jesus was so upset as He cleansed the temple courtyard, or where Jesus got the words He used in His many replies to adversaries.

The Old Testament records numerous detailed prophecies that could only have come true if the Bible is God’s Word, not man’s (e.g., Daniel 7 and the following chapters). Daniel’s prophecies give specific details about the rise and fall of nations. These prophecies are so accurate, in fact, that sceptics choose to believe they were written after the fact.

We should study the Old Testament because of the countless lessons it contains for us. By observing the lives of the characters of the Old Testament, we find guidance for our own lives. We are exhorted to trust God no matter what (Daniel 3). We learn to stand firm in our convictions (Daniel 1) and to await the reward of faithfulness (Daniel 6). We learn it is best to confess sin early and sincerely instead of shifting blame (1 Samuel 15). We learn not to toy with sin, because it will find us out (Judges 13—16). We learn that our sin has consequences not only for ourselves but for our loved ones (Genesis 3) and, conversely, that our good behavior has rewards for us and those around us (Exodus 20:5–6).

A study of the Old Testament also helps us understand prophecy. The Old Testament contains many promises that God will yet fulfill for the Jewish nation. The Old Testament reveals such things as the length of the Tribulation, how Christ’s future 1,000-year reign fulfills His promises to the Jews, and how the conclusion of the Bible ties up the loose ends that were unraveled in the beginning of time.

In summary, the Old Testament allows us to learn how to love and serve God, and it reveals more about God’s character. It shows through repeatedly fulfilled prophecy why the Bible is unique among holy books—it alone is able to demonstrate that it is what it claims to be: the inspired Word of God. In short, if you have not yet ventured into the pages of the Old Testament, you are missing much that God has available for you.

The Pentateuch is the first five books of the Bible that conservative Bible scholars believe were mostly written by Moses. Even though the books of the Pentateuch themselves do not clearly identify the author, there are many passages that attribute them to Moses or as being his words (Exodus 17:14, 24:4–7;Numbers 33:1–2; Deuteronomy 31:9–22). While there are some verses in the Pentateuch that would appear to have been added by someone later than Moses, for example, Deuteronomy 34:5–8, which describes the death and burial of Moses, most if not all scholars attribute the majority of these books to Moses. Even if Joshua or someone else actually wrote the original manuscripts, the teaching and revelation can be traced from God through Moses.

No matter who actually wrote the words that make up the books of the Pentateuch, the author of those words was God through His prophet Moses, and the inspiration of these five books of the Bible is still true. One of the most important evidences for Moses being the author of the Pentateuch is that Jesus Himself refers this section of the Old Testament as the “Law of Moses” (Luke 24:44).

The word Pentateuch comes from a combination of the Greek word penta, meaning “five” and teuchos, which can be translated “scroll.” Therefore, it simply refers to the five scrolls that make up the first of three divisions of the Jewish canon. The name Pentateuch can be traced at least as far back as AD 200, when Tertullian referred to the first five books of the Bible by that name. Also known as the Torah, which is the Hebrew word meaning “Law,” these five books of the Bible are Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.

Jews generally divided the Old Testament into three different sections, The Law, The Prophets, and The Writings (TaNaK). The Law or Torah consists of the first five books of Scripture that contain the historical background of creation and God’s choosing of Abraham and the Jewish nation as His chosen people. They also contain the instructions and law given to Israel at Mount Sinai. Scripture refers to these five books by various names. In Joshua 1:7 they said to be the “law (Torah) which Moses My servant commanded you” and “the law of Moses” in 1 Kings 2:3.

The five books of the Bible that make up the Pentateuch are the beginning of God’s progressive revelation to man. In Genesis we find the beginning of creation, the fall of man, the promise of redemption, the beginning of human civilization, and the beginning of God’s covenant relationship with His chosen nation, Israel.

Following Genesis we have Exodus, which records God’s deliverance of His covenant people from the bondage of slavery and the preparation for their possession of the Promised Land that He had set aside for them. Exodus records the deliverance of Israel from Egypt after 400 years of slavery as promised by God to Abraham (Genesis 15:13). In it we find the covenant God makes with Israel at Mount Sinai, instructions for building the tabernacle, the giving of the Ten Commandments, and other instructions on how Israel was to worship God.

Leviticus follows Exodus and expands on the instructions for how a covenant people (Israel) were to worship God and govern themselves. It lays forth the requirements of the sacrificial system that would allow God to overlook the sins of His people until the perfect and ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ would provide redemption and completely atone for the sins of all of God’s elect.

Following Leviticus is Numbers, which covers key events during the 40 years that Israel wandered in the wilderness as well as additional instructions for worshiping God and living as His covenant people. The last of the five books that make up the Pentateuch is Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy is sometimes referred to as the “second law” or “repetition of the law.” It records the final words of Moses before the nation of Israel crosses over into the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 1:1). In Deuteronomy we find God’s Law and standards that were given to Israel at Mount Sinai repeated and expounded upon by Moses. As Israel was to move into a new chapter of their history as God’s chosen nation, Moses is reminding them not only of God’s commandments and their responsibilities but of the blessings that would be theirs by obeying God and the curses that would come from disobedience.

The five books that make up the Pentateuch are generally considered to be historical books because they record historical events. While they are often called the Torah or the Law, in reality they contain much more than laws. They provide an overview to God’s plan of redemption and provide a backdrop to everything in Scripture that would follow. Like all of the Old Testament, the promises, types, and prophecies contained in the first five books of Scripture have their ultimate fulfillment in the person and work of Jesus Christ. They provide the important historical background needed to set the stage for the coming Kinsmen Redeemer.

Resources:
1-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ALsluAKBZ-c&list=PLH0Szn1yYNeeVFodkI9J_WEATHQCwRZ0u.
2-https://www.gotquestions.org/
3-https://biblehub.com/

Lecture 2

Lecture Outcomes:

  • Show on a map where the events of Genesis 1-11 occurred; and
  • Defend the Biblical concept of creation when challenged by a sceptic.

Key Verse:

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Genesis 1:1-2

3And God said….

Visuals:

Creation

2min

Old Testament book of Genesis

8min

Origins: Creation not Confusion

27min

Information

Quotations mainly and extensively from https://www.gotquestions.org/

Ex nihilo is Latin for “from nothing.” The term creation ex nihilo refers to God creating everything from nothing. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1). Prior to that moment, there was nothing. God didn’t make the universe from pre-existing building blocks. He started from scratch.

The Bible never expressly states that God made everything from nothing, but it is implied. In Hebrews 11:3 we read, “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” Scholars take this to mean that the universe came into existence by divine command and was not assembled from pre-existing matter or energy. Things that are visible do not owe their existence to anything visible.

Humans can be very creative, but we cannot create ex nihilo. Strictly speaking, we cannot create; we can only synthesize. We require materials from which to build something. God is not so constrained. This is difficult for us to comprehend because of a fundamental law of physics that we are all familiar with. The “first law of science” states that matter (the stuff the universe is made of) cannot be created or destroyed. Matter can be converted from solid to liquid to gas to plasma and back again; atoms can be combined into molecules and split into their component parts; but matter cannot be created from nothing or completely destroyed. And so this idea that God created everything from nothing is not natural to us. It’s not natural at all—it’s supernatural.

The term creation ex nihilo refers to the supernatural event that was the beginning of the universe. It was the moment that God created something (everything) from nothing.

Recommended Resource: The Case for a Creator by Lee Strobel

“What is the biblical Creation story?”

Answer:
The basic creation story is found in Genesis 1 and 2, with the account of what happened in the Garden of Eden in chapter 3. Genesis 1 begins before the existence of anything except God Himself. God’s revelation of Himself and His will for mankind is the beginning of the creation story. In this beginning, God created everything in the universe (Genesis 1:1). This includes all the heavenly bodies (including every star and planet), as well as everything on the earth. While the triune nature of God is not explicit in the Genesis account, God does reveal an “us” within the Godhead (Genesis 1:26). The Spirit is active in creation (Genesis 1:2) as is Christ (John 1:1–3; Colossians 1:15–17).

In the six days of creation, God formed light, the universe, and the earth (day 1); the sky and the atmosphere (day 2); dry land and all plant life (day 3); the stars and heavenly bodies, including the sun and moon (day 4); birds and water creatures (day 5); and all the land animals and man (day 6). Mankind is special above all other creatures because he bears the image of God (Genesis 1:27) and has the responsibility to steward and subdue the earth (verse 28). All of creation was completed in six days in all its vast array and wondrous beauty. God announced that His creation was “very good” (verse 31). Genesis 2 sees the ending of God’s creative work and gives a more detailed account of the creation of man.

The seventh day is marked by God’s resting. The rest does not suggest that God was tired; rather, His “rest” was simply a cessation of work. God was done, and the universe was just as He wanted it to be. God’s six days of work, followed by a day of no work, establishes a pattern of taking one day in seven for rest and sets the number of days in the week still in use today. The keeping of the Sabbath later became a distinguishing mark of God’s chosen people (Exodus 20:8–11.)

Genesis 2 takes a closer look at the creation of man. This passage is not a second creation account, nor is it contradictory to Genesis 1. Genesis 2 simply takes a step away from a linear report to refocus the reader on God’s unique work concerning man. God formed man from the dust of the earth He had previously created. After forming man’s body, God breathed life—a soul—into him. The fact that God chose to form man this way shows His great care in this process. God next placed the first man, Adam, in a special place, the Garden of Eden. Eden was beautiful and bountiful. Adam had almost everything he needed, including food and productive work. However, God was not done with man.

God helped Adam to see his need for a mate by having him review all the other creatures and naming them (Genesis 2:19–20). At the end of the naming process, Adam understood what he lacked. God caused Adam to sleep and then formed Eve with as much care as He had formed Adam (verses 21–22). Eve was made from Adam’s rib. When God brought Eve to Adam, the man immediately understood that she was special. She was his counterpart, his complement, and flesh of his flesh (verse 23).

God made both Adam and Eve in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). The Bible’s creation account establishes the family as the basic building block of society (Genesis 1:24; cf. Matthew 19:5–6). As a God-ordained institution, marriage is to be only between one man and one woman.

Adam and Eve were created in a state of innocence (Genesis 1:25) and had not committed any sin. They enjoyed communion with God in Eden and the freedom to eat of whatever trees of the garden they wished, except for one (Genesis 2:16–17). Part of their relationship with God was the inclusion of one simple rule: Adam and Eve were forbidden to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:17).

At some point Eve was tempted by the serpent to eat from the forbidden tree, which she did. Adam also ate and joined his wife in disobedience (Genesis 3:1–6). When Adam and Eve sinned against God, they lost their innocence and their nature was corrupted (Genesis 3:7–12). Sin brought consequences. The process of death began immediately. God cursed the serpent to crawl forever on the ground and be hated by men (verses 14–15). God punished Eve to pain in childbirth and conflict with her husband (verse 16), and He punished Adam with toil and hardship in his labors (verses 17–19). And Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden and denied access to the tree of life (Genesis 3:22–24).

In His great mercy, God also covered Adam and Eve’s shame (Genesis 3:21) and gave them a message of hope in the promise of a Redeemer. The Bible’s first mention of the coming Messiah is found in Genesis 3:15, often called the protoevangelium. The Seed of the woman would come to crush the head of the Serpent, at the cost of being bruised Himself. So, an integral part of the creation story is a prediction of Jesus’ death on the cross and His triumph over Satan and the curse.

Recommended Resource: Battle for the Beginning: Creation, Evolution, and the Bible by John MacArthur

Resource sites:
1-https://www.youtube.com/
2-https://www.gotquestions.org/
3-https://biblehub.com/

Lecture 3

Lecture Outcomes:
Quotations mainly and extensively from https://www.gotquestions.org/

A World Gone Wrong (Gen. 3-4)

After reading this lecture, you should be able to:

  • Understand the origins and consequences of sin; and
  • Explain the promise of the Messiah as He is presented in Genesis 3

Key Verse:

15The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. 16And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eatof it you shall surely die.” Genesis 2:15-17

Visuals:

Paul Washer

How Wicked is Our Sin?
4mins

Ravi Zacharias: What is SIN?
4mins

Information:
Quotations mainly and extensively from https://www.gotquestions.org/

“Is the Adam and Eve story to be understood literally?”

Answer:
Let us assume for a moment that the Adam and Eve story is not to be understood literally. What would be the result? Would Christianity remain essentially the same with a non-literal understanding of the story of Adam and Eve? No!. In fact, it would have serious implications for virtually every tenet and doctrine of the Christian faith. If Adam was not a real man, then sin did not enter the world through one man as Romans 5:12 states. How, then, did sin enter world? Further, if the New Testament is wrong about how sin entered the world, what else is it wrong about? If Romans 5:12 is wrong, how do we know that the entirety of Romans 5:8–15 is not wrong? If the story of Adam and Eve is not to be taken literally—if they did not really exist—then there was no one to rebel, there was no fall into sin. Satan, the great deceiver, would like nothing better than for people to believe that the Bible should not be taken literally and that the story of the fall of man is a myth. Why? Because once we start denying parts of the Bible, we lose our trust in the Bible. Why should we believe anything God’s Word says if we cannot trust everything that it says?

Jesus taught that God created one man and one woman (Mark 10:6) and mentions Abel, a son of Adam and Eve in Luke 11:51. Was Jesus wrong in His beliefs? Or did Jesus know there were no literal Adam and Eve and He was simply accommodating His teaching to the beliefs of the people (i.e., lying)? If Jesus is wrong in His beliefs, He is not God. If Jesus is intentionally deceiving people, He is sinning and therefore cannot be the Savior (1 Peter 1:19).

That is why this is such a serious issue. To deny the literalness of Adam and Eve is to place oneself in opposition to Jesus and the apostle Paul. If one has the audacity to claim he is right and Jesus and Paul are wrong, then Jesus is a sinner, not God and not the Savior; the apostle Paul is a false prophet; and the Bible is not inspired, inerrant, or trustworthy.

The Bible clearly presents Adam and Eve as literal people who existed in a literal Garden of Eden. They literally rebelled against God, they literally believed Satan’s lie, and they were literally cast out of the Garden (Genesis 3:24). They had literal children, all of whom inherited the sin nature, and that nature was passed down to succeeding generations to this very day. Fortunately, God promised a literal Savior to redeem us from that sin nature (Genesis 3:15). That Savior is Jesus Christ, called the “last Adam” (1 Corinthians 15:45), who died on a literal cross and literally rose again. Those who believe in Christ will have literal salvation and spend eternity in a literal heaven.

Christians who deny the story of Adam and Eve essentially deny their own faith. Rejecting the literal interpretation of the Bible’s historical narratives is a slippery slope. If Adam and Eve did not exist, then were Cain and Abel not real? Did Seth exist, and did he father a godly line that led all the way to Abraham and eventually to Jesus Himself? Where in Luke’s genealogy (Luke 3:23–38) do the names stop referring to literal people and start referring to mythical characters? To dismiss Adam and Eve as non-literal is to deny the accuracy of Luke’s gospel, cast aspersions on Moses’ record, and remove the foundation of the rest of the Bible.

God’s Word claims to be true (Psalm 119:160). Jesus Christ declared God’s Word to be truth (John 17:17). All of God’s Word is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16-17). These declarations include the biblical account of Adam and Eve.

Recommended Resource: Did Adam and Eve Really Exist? Who They Were and Why You Should Care by C. John Collins

Question: “What is the definition of sin?”

Answer:
Sin is described in the Bible as transgression of the law of God (1 John 3:4) and rebellion against God (Deuteronomy 9:7; Joshua 1:18). Sin had its beginning with Lucifer, probably the most beautiful and powerful of the angels. Not content with his position, he desired to be higher than God, and that was his downfall, the beginning of sin (Isaiah 14:12-15). Renamed Satan, he brought sin to the human race in the Garden of Eden, where he tempted Adam and Eve with the same enticement, “you shall be like God.” Genesis 3 describes Adam and Eve’s rebellion against God and against His command. Since that time, sin has been passed down through all the generations of mankind and we, Adam’s descendants, have inherited sin from him. Romans 5:12 tells us that through Adam sin entered the world, and so death was passed on to all men because “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

Through Adam, the inherent inclination to sin entered the human race, and human beings became sinners by nature. When Adam sinned, his inner nature was transformed by his sin of rebellion, bringing to him spiritual death and depravity which would be passed on to all who came after him. We are sinners not because we sin; rather, we sin because we are sinners. This passed-on depravity is known as inherited sin. Just as we inherit physical characteristics from our parents, we inherit our sinful natures from Adam. King David lamented this condition of fallen human nature in Psalm 51:5: “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”

Another type of sin is known as imputed sin. Used in both financial and legal settings, the Greek word translated “imputed” means “to take something that belongs to someone and credit it to another’s account.” Before the Law of Moses was given, sin was not imputed to man, although men were still sinners because of inherited sin. After the Law was given, sins committed in violation of the Law were imputed (accounted) to them (Romans 5:13). Even before transgressions of the law were imputed to men, the ultimate penalty for sin (death) continued to reign (Romans 5:14). All humans, from Adam to Moses, were subject to death, not because of their sinful acts against the Mosaic Law (which they did not have), but because of their own inherited sinful nature. After Moses, humans were subject to death both because of inherited sin from Adam and imputed sin from violating the laws of God.

God used the principle of imputation to benefit mankind when He imputed the sin of believers to the account of Jesus Christ, who paid the penalty for that sin—death—on the cross. Imputing our sin to Jesus, God treated Him as if He were a sinner, though He was not, and had Him die for the sins of the entire world (1 John 2:2). It is important to understand that sin was imputed to Him, but He did not inherit it from Adam. He bore the penalty for sin, but He never became a sinner. His pure and perfect nature was untouched by sin. He was treated as though He were guilty of all the sins ever committed by the human race, even though He committed none. In exchange, God imputed the righteousness of Christ to believers and credited our accounts with His righteousness, just as He had credited our sins to Christ’s account (2 Corinthians 5:21).

A third type of sin is personal sin, that which is committed every day by every human being. Because we have inherited a sin nature from Adam, we commit individual, personal sins, everything from seemingly innocent untruths to murder. Those who have not placed their faith in Jesus Christ must pay the penalty for these personal sins, as well as inherited and imputed sin. However, believers have been freed from the eternal penalty of sin—hell and spiritual death—but now we also have the power to resist sinning. Now we can choose whether or not to commit personal sins because we have the power to resist sin through the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, sanctifying and convicting us of our sins when we do commit them (Romans 8:9-11). Once we confess our personal sins to God and ask forgiveness for them, we are restored to perfect fellowship and communion with Him. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

We are all three times condemned due to inherited sin, imputed sin, and personal sin. The only just penalty for this sin is death (Romans 6:23), not just physical death but eternal death (Revelation 20:11-15). Thankfully, inherited sin, imputed sin, and personal sin have all been crucified on the cross of Jesus, and now by faith in Jesus Christ as the Saviour “we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7).

Recommended Resource:
Basic Theology by Charles Ryrie

“What is the sin nature?”

Answer:
The sin nature is that aspect in man that makes him rebellious against God. When we speak of the sin nature, we refer to the fact that we have a natural inclination to sin; given the choice to do God’s will or our own, we will naturally choose to do our own thing.

Proof of the sin nature abounds. No one has to teach a child to lie or be selfish; rather, we go to great lengths to teach children to tell the truth and put others first. Sinful behaviour comes naturally. The news is filled with tragic examples of mankind acting badly. Wherever people are, there is trouble. Charles Spurgeon said, “As the salt flavours every drop in the Atlantic, so does sin affect every atom of our nature. It is so sadly there, so abundantly there, that if you cannot detect it, you are deceived.”

The Bible explains the reason for the trouble. Humanity is sinful, not just in theory or in practice but by nature. Sin is part of the very fiber of our being. The Bible speaks of “sinful flesh” in Romans 8:3. It’s our “earthly nature” that produces the list of sins in Colossians 3:5. And Romans 6:6 speaks of “the body ruled by sin.” The flesh-and-blood existence we lead on this earth is shaped by our sinful, corrupt nature.

The sin nature is universal in humanity. All of us have a sinful nature, and it affects every part of us. This is the doctrine of total depravity, and it is biblical. All of us have gone astray (Isaiah 53:6). Paul admits that “the trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin” (Romans 7:14). Paul was in his “sinful nature a slave to the law of sin” (Romans 7:25). Solomon concurs: “Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, / no one who does what is right and never sins” (Ecclesiastes 7:20). The apostle John perhaps puts it most bluntly: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).

Even children have a sin nature. David rues the fact that he was born with sin already at work within him: “Surely I was sinful at birth, / sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5). Elsewhere, David states, “Even from birth the wicked go astray; / from the womb they are wayward, spreading lies” (Psalm 58:3).

Where did the sin nature come from? Scripture says that God created humans good and without a sinful nature: “God created man in His own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). However, Genesis 3 records the disobedience of Adam and Eve. By that one action, sin entered into their nature. They were immediately stricken with a sense of shame and unfitness, and they hid from God’s presence (Genesis 3:8). When they had children, Adam’s image and likeness was passed along to his offspring (Genesis 5:3). The sin nature manifested itself early in the genealogy: the very first child born to Adam and Eve, Cain, became the very first murderer (Genesis 4:8).

From generation to generation, the sin nature was passed down to all of humanity: “Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). This verse also presents the unsettling truth that the sin nature leads inexorably to death (see also Romans 6:23 and Ephesians 2:1).

Other consequences of the sin nature are hostility toward God and ignorance of His truth. Paul says, “The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:7–8). Also, “the person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:14).

There is only one Person in the history of the world who did not have a sin nature: Jesus Christ. His virgin birth allowed Him to enter our world while bypassing the curse passed down from Adam. Jesus then lived a sinless life of absolute perfection. He was “the Holy and Righteous One” (Acts 3:14) who “had no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21). This allowed Jesus to be sacrificed on the cross as our perfect substitute, “a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:19). John Calvin puts it in perspective: “For certainly, Christ is much more powerful to save than Adam was to ruin.”

It is through Christ that we are born again. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). When we are born of Adam, we inherit his sin nature; but when we are born again in Christ, we inherit a new nature: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

We don’t lose our sin nature once we receive Christ. The Bible says that sin remains in us and that a struggle with that old nature will continue as long as we are in this world. Paul bemoaned his own personal struggle in Romans 7:15–25. But we have help in the battle—divine help. The Spirit of God takes up residence in each believer and supplies the power we need to overcome the pull of the sin nature within us. “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God” (1 John 3:9). God’s ultimate plan for us is total sanctification when we see Christ (1 Thessalonians 3:13; 1 John 3:2).

Through His finished work on the cross, Jesus satisfied God’s wrath against sin and provided believers with victory over their sin nature: “‘He himself bore our sins’ in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24). In His resurrection, Jesus offers life to everyone bound by corrupt flesh. Those who are born again now have this command: “Count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11).

Recommended Resource: Basic Theology by Charles Ryrie

“Where did sin come from?”

Answer:
God did not create sin, but He created beings with free will who have the ability to sin. This includes Satan, fallen angels (demons), and humans. To be clear, sin is a falling short of God’s standards. Sin is not an entity or a thing that “exists”; it has no independent being. Rather, sin is a lack of something, a failure to fully obey God’s law and live up to His glory (Romans 3:23).

When He created the universe and our world, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1:31; cf. 1 Timothy 4:4). This “very good” creation included humanity and the angel that would later become known as Satan. At this point, no humans or angels had yet sinned, but they had the potential to do so. God did not create any being sinful, yet a group of angels rebelled against God in heaven and became sinful.

Satan’s fall from heaven is symbolically described in Isaiah 14:12–14 and Ezekiel 28:12–19. An angel named Lucifer wanted to “ascend to the heavens” and be “above the stars of God” (Isaiah 14:13). Verse 14 adds he desired to make himself “like the Most High.” God judged Lucifer by removing him from God’s ongoing presence (Isaiah 14:15). That fallen angel is now known as Satan (“adversary”) or the devil (“slanderer”).

In Ezekiel, we find Satan was created as a perfect, wise, and beautiful angel (Ezekiel 28:14). But then Satan rebelled: “You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you” (verse 15). That’s when the situation changed. Scripture hints at the reason Satan chose to sin: “Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor” (verse 17; cf. 1 Timothy 3:6). Satan’s fall took place at some point before he came as a serpent to tempt Eve in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3. After being thrown to the earth (Ezekiel 28:17), Satan tempted humanity to sin, and he has continued that practice ever since (see Matthew 4:1–11).

Since Adam’s sin, humans have inherited Adam’s spiritual corruption and have been born with a sin nature. We are naturally inclined to sin (Romans 6 – 7; James 1:13–15). But in Christ Jesus we can be forgiven of our sins. “God made [Jesus] who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). We receive forgiveness from the eternal penalty of sin when we put our faith in Jesus. We also receive freedom from slavery to sin and can learn, by yielding to the Holy Spirit, to live righteously. This process of acting less like Adam and more like Christ is called sanctification.

Some have wondered why God created beings who could sin. Why didn’t He create angels and humans without the ability to sin? The alternative would be to create beings unable to choose right and wrong. But, in that case, angels and humans would be like robots, unable to truly show love and affection to the Lord. God could either make sin impossible, or He could make beings free to choose, but He could not logically do both. Without an ability to choose, no being can have a meaningful relationship with God. There would never be a meaningful experience of His mercy and love, His justice and righteousness. The fullness of God’s nature and glory would not be on display.

The existence of sin is negative (Romans 6:23), but it is not the end of the story. Satan will ultimately be defeated. His end has been declared, and his evil will not continue forever (Revelation 20:7–10). Through faith in Jesus Christ, we can receive forgiveness of sins and restored fellowship with God (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8–9). This relationship provides eternal life as well as abundant life through our connection with the Lord (John 10:10). Jesus conquers sin and death and brings us to a fullness of relationship with God we can only begin to imagine (1 Corinthians 15:50–58; Revelation 21 – 22).

Recommended Resource: Basic Theology by Charles Ryrie

What is original sin?”

Answer:
The term original sin refers to Adam’s sin of disobedience in eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil and its effects upon the rest of the human race. Original sin can be defined as “the moral corruption we possess as a consequence of Adam’s sin, resulting in a sinful disposition manifesting itself in habitually sinful behavior.” The doctrine of original sin focuses particularly on its effect on our internal nature and our standing before God. There are three main views that deal with that effect:

Pelagianism: This view says that Adam’s sin had no effect upon the souls of his descendants other than that he provided a sinful example. Adam’s example has influenced those who followed him to also sin. But, according to this view, man has the ability to stop sinning if he simply chooses to. Pelagianism runs contrary to a number of passages that indicate man is hopelessly enslaved by his sins (apart from God’s intervention) and that his good works are “dead” or worthless in meriting God’s favor (Ephesians 2:1–2; Matthew 15:18–19; Romans 7:23; Hebrews 6:1; 9:14).

Arminianism: Arminians believe Adam’s original sin has resulted in the rest of mankind inheriting a corrupt, sinful nature, which causes us to sin in the same way that a cat’s nature causes it to meow—it comes naturally. According to this view, man cannot stop sinning on his own; God’s supernatural, enabling grace, called prevenient grace, in conjunction with the gospel, allows that person to choose to exercise faith in Christ. The teaching of prevenient grace is not explicitly found in Scripture.

Calvinism: The Calvinistic doctrine of original sin states that Adam’s sin has resulted not only in our having a sin nature, but also in our incurring guilt before God for which we deserve punishment. Being conceived with original sin upon us (Psalm 51:5) results in our inheriting a sin nature so wicked that Jeremiah 17:9 describes the human heart as “deceitful above all things and beyond cure.” Not only was Adam found guilty because he sinned, but his sin was imputed to us, making us guilty and deserving of his punishment (death) as well (Romans 5:12, 19). There are two views as to why Adam’s sin should be imputed to us. The first view states that the human race was within Adam in seed form; thus, when Adam sinned, we sinned in him. This is similar to the biblical teaching that Levi (a descendant of Abraham) paid tithes to Melchizedek in Abraham (Genesis 14:20; Hebrews 7:4–9), even though Levi was not born until hundreds of years later. The other main view is that Adam served as our representative, and so, when he sinned, we were found guilty as well.

Both the Arminian and Calvinistic views teach original sin and see individuals as unable to overcome sin apart from the power of the Holy Spirit. Most all Calvinists also teach imputed sin; some Arminians deny imputation of sin, and others believe that Christ’s death has negated the effects of imputation.

The fact of original sin means that we cannot please God on our own. No matter how many “good deeds” we do, we still commit sin, and we still have the problem of a corrupt nature within. We must have Christ; we must be born again (John 3:3). God deals with the effects of original sin in our hearts through the process of sanctification. As John Piper puts it, “The problem of our moral defilement and habitual sinning is solved by his purifying us by the work of Spirit” (“Adam, Christ, and Justification: Part IV,” preached 8/20/2000).

Recommended Resource: Basic Theology by Charles Ryrie

“Did we all inherit sin from Adam and Eve?”

Answer:
Yes!, all people inherited sin from Adam and Eve, specifically from Adam. Sin is described in the Bible as transgression of the law of God (1 John 3:4) and rebellion against God (Deuteronomy 9:7; Joshua 1:18). Genesis 3 describes Adam and Eve’s rebellion against God and His command. Because of Adam and Eve’s disobedience, sin has been an “inheritance” for all of their descendants. Romans 5:12 tells us that, through Adam, sin entered the world and so death was passed on to all men because all have sinned. This passed-on sin is known as inherited sin. Just as we inherit physical characteristics from our parents, we inherit our sinful nature from Adam.

Adam and Eve were made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27; 9:6). However, we are also in the image and likeness of Adam (Genesis 5:3). When Adam fell into sin, the result was every one of his descendants also being “infected” with sin. David lamented this fact in one of his Psalms: “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5). This does not mean that his mother bore him illegitimately; rather, his mother had inherited a sin nature from her parents, and they from their parents, and so on. David inherited sin from his parents, just as we all do. Even if we live the best life possible, we are still sinners as a result of inherited sin.

Being born sinners results in the fact that we all sin. Notice the progression in Romans 5:12: sin entered the world through Adam, death follows sin, death comes to all people, all people sin because they inherit sin from Adam. Because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), we need a perfect, sinless sacrifice to wash away our sin, something we are powerless to do on our own. Thankfully, Jesus Christ is the Savior from sin! Our sin has been crucified on the cross of Jesus, and now “in Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7). God, in His infinite wisdom, has provided the remedy for the sin we inherit, and that remedy is available to everyone: “Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you” (Acts 13:38).

Recommended Resource: Basic Theology by Charles Ryrie

“Does Genesis chapter 1 mean literal 24-hour days?”

Answer:
In our opinion, examination of the Hebrew word for “day” and the context in which it appears in Genesis will lead to the conclusion that “day” means a literal, 24-hour period of time.

The Hebrew word yom translated into the English “day” can mean more than one thing. It can refer to the 24-hour period of time that it takes for the earth to rotate on its axis (e.g., “there are 24 hours in a day”). It can refer to the period of daylight between dawn and dusk (e.g., “it gets pretty hot during the day but it cools down a bit at night”). And it can refer to an unspecified period of time (e.g., “back in my grandfather’s day . . .”). It is used to refer to a 24-hour period in Genesis 7:11. It is used to refer to the period of daylight between dawn and dusk in Genesis 1:16. And it is used to refer to an unspecified period of time in Genesis 2:4. So, what does yom mean in Genesis 1:5–2:2 when used in conjunction with ordinal numbers (i.e., the first day, the second day, the third day, the fourth day, the fifth day, the sixth day, and the seventh day)? Are these 24-hour periods or something else? Could yom as it is used here mean an unspecified period of time?

We can determine how yom should be interpreted in Genesis 1:5–2:2 by comparing that context to the word’s usage elsewhere in Scripture. The Hebrew word yom is used 2,301 times in the Old Testament. Outside of Genesis 1, yom plus a number (used 410 times) almost always indicates an ordinary day, i.e., a 24-hour period. There are a few instances where yom and a number do not imply a literal, 24-hour day. The words evening and morning together (38 times) most often indicate an ordinary day. The exact construction of evening, then morning, along with yom is only seen outside of Genesis 1 in one verse. This is Daniel 8:26, which clearly implies a long period of time.

All in all, the context in which the word yom is used in Genesis 1:5–2:2, describing each day as “the evening and the morning,” seems to suggest that the author of Genesis meant 24-hour periods. This was the standard interpretation of the days of Genesis 1:5–2:2 for most of Christian history. At the same time, there were early church fathers, such as Augustine, who noted that the vague nature of the “days” of Genesis could well suggest a non-literal interpretation.

Then, in the 1800s, a paradigm shift occurred within the scientific community. This was mostly driven by hostility to religion and an effort to re-interpret observations in ways contrary to the Bible. This caused a rift in the scientific community. One side claimed that only atheism, as well as specific ideas such as an old earth and naturalistic evolution, was compatible with science. The other side, in response, attempted to denounce atheism and any possible old-earth interpretations.

The truth is that both young-earth and old-earth interpretations rely upon certain assumptions. Sincere believers debate the meaning of yom in the creation account because a case can be made on both sides. This does not diminish the importance of what Genesis teaches, regardless of whether or not a person accepts young-earth creationism.

For instance, according to Exodus 20:9–11, God used the six creation days of Genesis as a model for man’s workweek: work six days, rest one. Apparently, He had us in mind even before He made us (on the sixth day) and wanted to provide an example for us to follow. Certainly God could have used six discrete 24-hour days. And He could have created everything using a process of long time periods. Our view, based on our interpretation of the Bible, is that six literal days is the most likely interpretation of the Genesis account.

Recommended Resource: The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate by John H. Walto

Resource sites:
1-https://www.youtube.com/
2-https://www.gotquestions.org/
3-https://biblehub.com/

Lecture 4

A New Beginning (Genesis 5-11) – Genealogies in Genesis

Information:
Quotations mainly and extensively from https://www.gotquestions.org/


After reading through this study unit, you should be able to:

  • Recognise God’s redemptive grace through the lives of Noah and his family;
  • Explain the origins of language and culture

Key Verse:

17Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch. When he built a city, he called the name of the city after the name of his son, Enoch. 18To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad fathered Mehujael, and Mehujael fathered Methushael, and Methushael fathered Lamech. Genesis 4:17ff

These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God. Genesis 6:9

Why Read Boring Bible Genealogies?

2mins

Genealogies in the Bible – A look at genealogies in the Bible by Dr. Allen Ross

7mins

The Ark | The Reality of Noah’s Ark

26min

John Piper – The Tower of Babel

5mins

Information:
Quotations mainly and extensively from https://www.gotquestions.org/

“What is the relevance of the genealogies in the Bible?”

Answer:
The Bible contains multiple genealogical records. Many of us either skim these sections or skip them altogether, finding them largely irrelevant and perhaps even boring. However, they are part of Scripture, and, since all Scripture is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16), they must bear some significance. There must be something we can learn from these lists.

First, the genealogies help substantiate the Bible’s historical accuracy. These lists confirm the physical existence of the characters in the Bible. By knowing family histories, we understand that the Bible is far from a mere story or a parable for how we should live our lives. It is authentic, historical truth. An actual man named Adam had actual descendants (and, therefore, his actual sin has actual consequences).

The genealogies also confirm prophecy. The Messiah was prophesied to come from the line of David (Isaiah 11:1). By recording His lineage in Scripture, God confirms that Jesus was descended from David (see Matthew 1:1-17 and Luke 3:23-38). The genealogy is yet another attestation of Jesus Christ’s fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies.

The lists also demonstrate the detail-oriented nature of God and His interest in individuals. God did not see Israel vaguely, as a nebulous group of people; He saw with specificity, with precision and detail. There is nothing detached about the genealogies. They show a God involved. The inspired Word mentions people by name. Real people, with real histories and real futures. God cares about each person and the details of his or her life (Matthew 10:27-31; Psalm 139).

Finally, we can learn from various people listed in the genealogies. Some of the lists contain narrative portions that give us glimpses into the lives of the people. For instance, the prayer of Jabez is found within a genealogy (1 Chronicles 4:9-10). From this, we learn about God’s character and the nature of prayer. Other genealogies reveal that Ruth and Rahab are in the Messianic line (Ruth 4:21-22; Matthew 1:5). We see that God values the lives of these individuals, even though they were Gentiles and not part of His covenant people.

While genealogies may at first glance appear irrelevant, they hold an important place in Scripture. Genealogies bolster the historicity of Scripture, confirm prophecy, and provide insight into the character of God and the lives of His people.

Recommended Resource: God the Son Incarnate: The Doctrine of Christ by Stephen Wellum
https://www.gotquestions.org/Bible-genealogies.html.

“What was the purpose of the flood in the time of Noah?”

Answer:
Genesis 6 gives the sad account of the state of humanity prior to the worldwide flood during the days of Noah. Genesis 6:5 states, “The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.” The level of sin and corruption among the human population was staggering: people thought about doing evil “all the time.” For the strong and healthy individual, an evil lifestyle would have ramifications evidenced by disease and death. But the weak or unhealthy (babies, children, women, and the disabled) would have been immediately put in harm’s way by the evil actions of others.

In addition, “The sons of God saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose” (Genesis 6:2). In the Hebrew language, these “sons of God” were “bene elohim.” This term is usually applied to angels (see Job 1:6). Genesis seems to be stating that, somehow, there was a physical union between angels and human women. The unnatural offspring of this union were the “Nephilim” (Genesis 6:4). The word Nephilim is directly transliterated from the Hebrew. The ancient root of the word implies a “fall.” Whatever the word actually means (in some versions of the Bible it is translated as “giants”), Scripture describes the Nephilim as “the heroes of old, men of renown.” Some theologians believe that God could simply not allow this corrupt offspring to exist on the earth, and that was part of the reason for the flood.

What can be understood without question is that the world that was then, the world of Noah, was incredibly corrupt and perverted. Genesis 6:6 tells us that “the LORD regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.” The Lord’s “regret” is unlike ours. Creating mankind in the image of God was not a “mistake” on the part of the Lord. The Hebrew word nahem can also be translated “grieved.” The depraved actions of mankind grieved God in His most holy heart.

God responded to man’s sin in a holy and righteous manner, but also in a way that salvaged mankind. “So the LORD said, ‘I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.’ But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD” (Genesis 6:7–8). Yes, all people on earth died except the eight people who were found righteous in the eyes of God: Noah, Noah’s wife, and Noah’s three sons and their wives. Scripture indicates that Noah testified to the world about the coming flood for 120 years. The people who perished in the flood died because they refused to acknowledge God or seek His forgiveness. Noah, on the other hand, is described as righteous, blameless, and obedient in that he “walked with God” (Genesis 6:9).

Noah and his family became our ancestors. None of us descend from the Nephilim or the unrighteous line of Cain (since Noah descended from Seth). The polluted, unrighteous population of the world of Noah disappeared from the earth. Mankind was salvaged, and from the line of righteous Noah came the Son of Man, Jesus Christ our Lord, who died to save those who call upon His name.

Recommended Resource: The Genesis Flood: The Biblical Record and Its Scientific Implications, 50th Anniversary Edition by Morris & Whitcomb

What similarities are there between the Gilgamesh flood account and the biblical flood account?”

Answer:
There are many similarities between the Gilgamesh flood account and the biblical flood account (Genesis 6—8), beginning most importantly with God choosing a righteous man to build an ark because of an impending great flood. In both accounts, samples from all species of animals were to be on the ark, and birds were used after the rains to determine if flood waters had subsided anywhere to reveal dry land. There are other similarities between the Gilgamesh flood account and the biblical flood account.

One major point of clear agreement is that a global flooding disaster occurred in ancient times. Portions of the Gilgamesh account (Chaldean Flood Tablets) have been found dating back to 2000 BC or earlier. Tablets containing the full story, however, date to approximately 650 BC, or well after the Genesis account (c. 1450—1410 BC). These Chaldean tablets, from the city of Ur (modern-day southern Iraq), describe how the Babylonian God Ea decided to end all life except for the ark dwellers with a great flood. Ea, believed by the Babylonians to be the god who created the earth, selected Ut-Napishtim (or Utnapishtim) to construct a six-story square ark.

During the mid-nineteenth century, this complete “Epic of Gilgamesh” (from 650 BC) was unearthed in some ruins at Nineveh’s great library, and the depth and breadth of similarities and differences became evident. Here is a more extensive listing of the similarities and differences:

• God (or several gods in the Gilgamesh account) decided to destroy humankind because of its wickedness and sinfulness (Genesis 6:5–7).

• A righteous man (Genesis 6:9) was directed to build an ark to save a limited and select group of people and all species of animals (Noah received his orders directly from God, Utnapishtim from a dream).

• Both arks were huge, although their shapes differed. Noah’s was rectangular; Utnapishtim’s was square.

• Both arks had a single door and at least one window.

• A great rain covered the land and mountains with water, although some water emerged from beneath the earth in the biblical account (Genesis 7:11).

• The Noahic flood was the result of a storm lasting 40 days and nights (Genesis 7:12), while the Gilgamesh storm was much shorter: “Six days and seven nights / came the wind and flood, the storm flattening the land” (from Tablet XI, trans. by Maureen G. Kovacs)

• Birds were released to find land (a raven and three doves in the biblical account, Genesis 8:6–12; a dove, swallow, and raven in the other).

• After the rains ceased, both arks came to rest on a mountain, Noah’s on Ararat (Genesis 8:4); Utnapishtim’s on Nisir. These mountains are about 300 miles apart.

• Sacrifices were offered after the flood (Genesis 8:20).

• God was (or gods were) pleased by the sacrifices (Genesis 8:21), and Noah and Utnapishtim received blessings. Noah’s blessing was to populate the earth and have dominion over all animals (Genesis 9:1–3); Utnapishtim’s was eternal life.

• God (or the many gods) promised not to destroy humankind again (Genesis 8:21–22).

Perhaps most interesting is how the stories remain consistent over time. Although the complete Epic of Gilgamesh was discovered in the mid-nineteenth century, much earlier segments (before the writing of Genesis) have been discovered and dated. Yet most significant is the greater fidelity of the Hebrew account. This is attributed to the importance of Jewish oral tradition and the possibility that some of the story was recorded by Noah or from his time, which would make the Hebrew account precede the Babylonian version.

Some scholars hypothesize the Hebrews borrowed the Babylonian account, but no conclusive proof has been offered to support this. Based on the many and varied differences and details within these stories, it seems unlikely that the biblical version depended upon an existing Sumerian source. Further, given the Jews’ reputation for passing down information scrupulously from one generation to another and maintaining a consistent reporting of events, Genesis is viewed by many as far more historical than the Epic of Gilgamesh, which is regarded as mythological because of its numerous gods and their interrelationships and intrigues in deciding the fate of humankind.

Certainly, for those who believe the Bible is God’s Word, it is sensible to conclude He chose to preserve the true account in the Bible through the oral traditions of His chosen people. By God’s providence, His people kept this account pure and consistent over the centuries until Moses ultimately recorded it in the Book of Genesis. The Epic of Gilgamesh is believed to contain accounts which have been altered and embellished over the years by people not following the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Recommended Resource: The Genesis Flood: The Biblical Record and Its Scientific Implications, 50th Anniversary Edition by Morris & Whitcomb

What happened at the Tower of Babel?”

Answer:
The Tower of Babel is described in Genesis 11:1-9. After the Flood, God commanded humanity to “increase in number and fill the earth” (Genesis 9:1). Humanity decided to do the exact opposite, “Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth’” (Genesis 11:4). Humanity decided to build a great city and all congregate there. They decided to build a gigantic tower as a symbol of their power, to make a name for themselves (Genesis 11:4). This tower is remembered as the Tower of Babel.

In response, God confused the languages of humanity so that they could no longer communicate with each other (Genesis 11:7). The result was that people congregated with other people who spoke the same language, and then went together and settled in other parts of the world (Genesis 11:8-9). God confused the languages at the Tower of Babel to enforce His command for humanity to spread throughout the entire world.

Some Bible teachers also believe that God created the different ethnicities of humanity at the Tower of Babel. This is possible, but it is not taught in the biblical text. On the origin of the ethnicities, please read our article – https://www.gotquestions.org/different-races.html. It seems more likely that the different ethnicities existed prior to the Tower of Babel and that God confused the languages at least partially based on the different ethnicities. From the Tower of Babel, humanity divided based on language (and possibly ethnicity) and settled in various parts of the world.

Genesis 10:5, 20 and 31 describe Noah’s descendants spreading out over the earth “by their clans and languages, in their territories and nations.” How is this possible since God did not confuse the languages until the Tower of Babel in Genesis chapter 11? Genesis 10 lists the descendants of Noah’s three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. It lists their descendants for several generations. With the long life spans of that time (see Genesis 11:10-25), the genealogies in Genesis 10 likely cover several hundreds of years. The Tower of Babel account, told in Genesis 11:1-9, is a “flashback” to the point in Genesis 10 when the languages were confused. Genesis 10 tells us of different languages. Genesis 11 tells us how the different languages originated.

Recommended Resource: Bible Answers for Almost all Your Questions by Elmer Towns

What is the origin of the different races?”

Answer:
The Bible does not explicitly give us the origin of the different “races” or skin colors in humanity. In actuality, there is only one race—the human race. Within the human race is diversity in skin color and other physical characteristics. Some speculate that when God confused the languages at the tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9), He also created racial diversity. It is possible that God made genetic changes to humanity to better enable people to survive in different ecologies, such as the darker skin of Africans being better equipped genetically to survive the excessive heat in Africa. According to this view, God confused the languages, causing humanity to segregate linguistically, and then created genetic racial differences based on where each racial group would eventually settle. While possible, there is no explicit biblical basis for this view. The races/skin colors of humanity are nowhere mentioned in connection with the tower of Babel.

At the Tower of Babel, when the different languages came into existence, groups that spoke one language moved away with others of the same language. In doing so, the gene pool for a specific group shrank dramatically as the group no longer had the entire human population to mix with. Closer inbreeding took place, and in time certain features were emphasized in these different groups (all of which were present as a possibility in the genetic code). As further inbreeding occurred through the generations, the gene pool grew smaller and smaller, to the point that people of one language family all had the same or similar features.

Another explanation is that Adam and Eve possessed the genes to produce black, brown, and white offspring (and everything else in between). This would be similar to how a mixed-race couple sometimes has children that vary in color. Since God obviously desired humanity to be diverse in appearance, it makes sense that God would have given Adam and Eve the ability to produce children of different skin tones. Later, the only survivors of the flood were Noah and his wife, Noah’s three sons and their wives—eight people in all (Genesis 7:13). Perhaps Noah’s daughters-in-law were of different races. It is also possible that Noah’s wife was of a different race than Noah. Maybe all eight of them were of mixed race, which would mean they possessed the genetics to produce children of different races. Whatever the explanation, the most important aspect of this question is that we are all the same race, all created by the same God, all created for the same purpose—to glorify Him.

Recommended Resource: Bible Answers for Almost all Your Questions by Elmer Towns

Why were genealogies so important to Israel?”

Answer:
Family lists and genealogies are a prominent part of 1 and 2 Chronicles and other Old Testament books. These genealogies were obviously important to Israel, and the Jews kept meticulous records.

One reason family history was important to Israel is that it proved one’s identity as a Jew, a partaker of the blessings of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and part of the people chosen by God. If a person was not a Jew, he or she could not truly be a Jewish citizen and participate in all of the aspects of Jewish life and culture.

Family history was also important due to where one lived. Each of the Jewish tribes had received a land inheritance in Israel. For a person to inherit land in a particular tribal area required evidence that he was descended from that particular tribe.

Genealogies were essential to proving whether a Jewish male could serve in the Levitical priesthood. Priests could only be from the tribe of Levi and descendants of Aaron, the brother of Moses. If a man could not prove this connection, he was unable to serve as a priest.

A family’s history could also show an affiliation with people of significance. Today, people delight in finding proof that their ancestors are famous people, such as John Adams or Wyatt Earp. In the same way, a Jew descended from someone like Moses or Gideon was considered to possess a significant blessing.

Genealogies emphasized the importance of the family unit in Jewish culture. Traditional Jewish culture emphasized marriage between a man and a woman who were responsible for raising children and continuing the legacy of their family with the next generation. The Jews took seriously their responsibility to continue the line that would bring honor to the family name.

Finally, the genealogies of the Jews were important in tracing the line of the Messiah. The Old Testament made it clear that the Messiah would be the Son of David (see Matthew 22:42), so records of family history were vital. Matthew and Luke both include genealogies of Jesus in their Gospels to show Jesus’ connection to David. Matthew’s Gospel, written for Jews, traces Jesus’ genealogy to Abraham. Luke’s Gospel, written for Gentiles, traces Jesus’ genealogy all the way back to Adam.

Recommended Resource: 1 & 2 Chronicles, NIV Application Commentary by Andrew Hill

“Is there an error in the counting of the 14 generations in Matthew chapter 1?”

Answer:
Matthew’s genealogy traces the ancestors of Joseph, the legal father of Jesus. The structure of the genealogy descends from father to son, beginning with Abraham. Additionally, Matthew divides the genealogy into three groups of fourteen generations, separated by important historic points (Matthew 1:17). Matthew abridged the genealogy by omitting some names that appear in earlier records. Some speculate that the abridged arrangement was intended to aid in memorization. Genealogical abridgement has lots of biblical precedent.

The wording of Matthew 1:17 has caused some to suggest that David’s name is included in both the first and second grouping of generations. Notice, “So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, from David until the captivity in Babylon are fourteen generations…” The writer does not express his intent to reveal 42 generations from Abraham to Jesus, but rather three segments of Jewish history, each comprised of 14 generations. It is plausible that David’s name being mentioned twice (v 17) indicates his inclusion in both the first and second groupings. If so, then the first begins with Abraham and ends with David, 14 generations; the second begins with David and ends with Josiah, 14 generations; and the third begins with Jeconiah and ends with Jesus, 14 generations.

In the listing of Jesus’ forefathers, there is a name missing. Excluded from the list is Jehoiakim (a.k.a. Eliakim), who was Josiah’s son and Jeconiah’s father (1 Chronicles 3:15-16). The reason for his exclusion may be that he was a puppet king, given his rule by the Pharaoh of Egypt. The first phase of the captivity of Judah by Babylon began at the end of Jehoiakim’s reign, prior to his son Jeconiah coming into power. Thus, the 3 groupings of 14 generations would include: 1. Abraham to David; 2. Solomon to Jehoiakim (he is not mentioned, but was among the first to be carried off into Babylon); 3. Jeconiah to Jesus.

There may be other possible explanations for the existence of only 41 names in the genealogy of Matthew 1, even though verse 17 speaks of three groupings of 14. Regardless, these two suffice to demonstrate that there is not a contradiction. Many commentators believe that the divisions of 14 generations is simply a literary structure by Matthew not intended to set forth a strict biological lineage. God did not arrange Israel’s history so nicely that there were exactly 14 biological generations between these three crucial moments in salvation history. One suggestion is that in 1 Chronicles 1–2 there are 14 generations listed between Abraham and David and from that Matthew structured the rest of the genealogy according to the number 14.

The purpose of a genealogy is to document the proof of ancestry from the origin of the line to the person under discussion. Every individual need not be included, but only those necessary to establish descending relationship. The author may legitimately abridge a genealogy to establish a point or to make it simpler. Matthew is correct in the factual material for his purpose, which is to document the ancestry of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, from Abraham.

Recommended Resource: Matthew, New American Commentary by Craig Blomberg

How Do I Deal with the Genealogies?

Preacher’s Toolkit

July 20, 2018  |  Scott Slayton

In a culture accustomed to an endless stream of entertainment, a sermon on a genealogy surely must rank alongside a root canal or a trip to the DMV on the last day of the month. Even many mature saints skip these passages in their Bible reading or become discouraged trying to read them, so it’s unlikely a pastor will create excitement by announcing that next week’s sermon will be on a roster of names.

Pastors, as we preach through the Scriptures, we must reaffirm our conviction in the inspiration of it all. Since even a list of names, has been breathed out by God, we can be sure these passages show us the character of God, reveal the work of Christ, and build us up to follow him.

Three Questions

The first responsibility for every preacher is discovering the author’s intent. We know the biblical authors, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote using their own distinct vocabularies, backgrounds, and experiences to make their points. The surest way to grasp the author’s main point is to approach the text with questions. By asking good questions, we examine details, drill below the surface, and discover clues that reveal the author’s message.

There are three specific questions we can ask to get at the heart of the genealogies—so that we preach the gospel and build up God’s people through them.

1. How does it fit within the author’s narrative?

The first priority is to see how the author uses the genealogy. He may use it as a way to contrast two family lines, as in the families of Cain and Seth in Genesis 4 and 5. Cain’s line begins and ends with a murderer. His family ultimately ends with the flood. But Seth’s line leads to Noah, a righteous recipient of grace who preserves humanity through obedience.

We should also see what kind of genealogy we’re dealing with, since different kinds make different points. In Genesis 10, the author traces Noah’s descendants by naming each son, the sons of these sons, the sons of their sons, and so on. This “Table of Nations” goes all the way to Terah, the father of Abram. Grasping the difference in genealogies gives us a glimpse into the author’s intent.

2. How does it fulfil the promises of God?

When you’ve been reading the Bible for years, you can forget just how audacious many of its promises are. God takes a childless old man with a barren old wife and tells him he will father a great nation. With the benefit of knowing the end of the story, we marvel at Abraham’s lack of faith in trying to procure a descendant through Hagar and lying about Sarah being his sister. Yet if put ourselves in Abraham’s shoes, we realize how crazy this promise is. So we should read the later genealogies in Genesis and Numbers with amazement.

The list of people who came with Jacob to Egypt (Gen. 46:8–27) shows that, in just a couple of generations, the Lord expanded Abraham’s family in a way that seemed impossible back in Genesis 18. The numbering of God’s people during the wilderness wanderings shows that while they aren’t as innumerable as the stars in the sky yet, God has made Abraham a great nation and isn’t done fulfilling this promise to him and his descendants (Num. 1–4.)

The genealogy of Matthew 1 links the birth of Christ to both Abraham and David. That the genealogy moves from Abraham to David to the return from exile is no accident. Matthew begins with Abraham, whom God promised would bless all peoples of the earth, and then ends with Christ’s command to make disciples of all nations. And by mentioning David early in the genealogy, Matthew signals that Jesus is the long-awaited King who will sit on the throne forever.

3. What glimmers of grace do we see in it?

When we read the genealogies, we shouldn’t be surprised to see God keep his promises. This is what he does. The genealogies also reveal God displaying his grace in ways a first-century reader would find surprising.

The genealogy in Matthew 1, for example, displays God’s grace in unexpected places. It mentions four women: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba, whom he refers to as “the wife of Uriah.” We could trace God’s shocking grace in all four, but let’s focus on Rahab and Ruth. Compare these women—both born outside Abraham’s line—with the women Matthew could have included. He doesn’t mention Sarah or Rebekah, who both play important roles in the Genesis narrative. Instead, we see Rahab, the prostitute from Jericho who’d heard how God miraculously delivered Israel from Egypt. She hid the spies and stealthily sent them out of the city (Josh. 2). Then he focuses on Ruth, the Moabite widow who shows faithfulness to her widowed mother-in-law and receives the blessing of redemption through Boaz.

In both instances, we see God show grace to outsiders with shady backgrounds. Joshua identifies Rahab by her notorious vocation, and Ruth descends from a people who owe their origin to drunkenness, deception, and incest. That these two women with ethnic origins outside of Israel should be singled out in the genealogy of the Lord Jesus shows God’s far-reaching grace in welcoming outsiders into his family.

Don’t Neglect Them

The genealogies challenge every Bible reader and every expositor, but they also yield the fruit of a greater grasp of the biblical narrative, a greater confidence in the promises of God, and a greater appreciation for the grace of God. Like all other Scripture, the genealogies bear the stamp of divine inspiration and equip us for good works.

We just have to develop the eyes to see it.

Lecture 5

The Patriarchs

Information:
Quotations mainly and extensively from https://www.gotquestions.org/

After completing this study unit, you should be able to:

  • Recount the events and key themes in the lives of the patriarchs;
  • Understand the meaning of faith; and
  • Explain the sovereignty of God.

Key Verses:

1Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Genesis 12:1-3 ESV.

15And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven 16and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, 18and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”
Genesis 22:15-18ESV

Overview: Genesis Ch. 12-50

8mins

Old Testament Overview: The Patriarchs

7 mins

Biblical Covenants of God

8mins   

From the beginning, God’s purpose for man is to rule and enjoy Him forever. Understanding the covenants of God is the key to understanding these purposes and for understanding history (past, present, and future)

Suzerain-vassal treaty

What does the Bible teach about covenant? Is a covenant like a contract or does the Bible define covenant as something different? The Bible reveals that God has ordered his relationship to Israel and the Church through suzerain-vassal treaty forms that are what the Bible calls a covenant.

DrJohn Stevenson

History & the Bible 06: The Patriarchs

48min

A study in Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. This is part of a larger series on Ancient History: A Framework for the Bible. Go to http://johnstevenson.net/ for further videos in this series.

The Time of the Patriarchs (Genesis 12-50)

“Who are the biblical patriarchs?”

Answer:
The biblical patriarchs are the line of men God used to establish the nation of Israel. Perhaps the most well-known of the biblical patriarchs is Abraham, because from him all Israelites are descended. God made a covenant with him, promising that Abraham would be “the father of many nations” (Genesis 17:4). In fact, God changed Abram’s name to Abraham, which means “father of a multitude.”

Abraham: God approached Abraham (then “Abram”) and promised to make his descendants a great nation (Genesis 12:2) in the land of Canaan. Following God’s instruction, Abram took his extended family to Canaan, and they lived there as nomads. Despite God’s promise, Abram’s wife, Sarai, remained barren. In desperation, she gave Abram her handmaiden, Hagar, as a concubine. Hagar gave birth to Ishmael, thought to be the forefather of Arabs. Despite Sarah’s doubts, she soon gave birth to Isaac (Genesis 21:2). In her jealousy for her son’s inheritance, Sarah forced Hagar and Ishmael to the wilderness. When Sarah died, Abraham married Keturah and had six more sons, although the line of biblical patriarchy ran through Isaac.

Isaac: Isaac began as a man of great faith, trusting his father when God told Abraham to sacrifice him (Genesis 22) and trusting his father’s servant to choose Rebekah as a wife for him (Genesis 24). When his wife was pregnant with twins, however, and was told the older (Esau) would serve the younger (Jacob), Isaac rebelled and attempted to favor the older anyway. But God’s plan was for Jacob to be next in the line of patriarchs, which is exactly what happened.

Jacob: When Rebekah realized she was pregnant with twins, God told her the older would serve the younger (Genesis 25:23). Jacob was barely younger, as he came out holding his brother Esau’s heal. Esau went on to marry, giving Isaac and Rebekah grief (Genesis 26:35) and became the father the Edomites (Genesis 36:9), who gave the nation of Israel grief. Jacob knew of the prophecy given to Rebekah, but didn’t trust God to fulfill it in His time. With prompting from Rebekah, Jacob (whose name means “supplanter”) tricked Isaac out of the inheritance of the firstborn (Genesis 27) and then promptly ran away to Rebekah’s brother, Laban. When Jacob fell in love with Laban’s younger daughter, Rachel, Laban proved to be a match for his nephew and had him work for seven years, then married him to his older daughter, Leah. Jacob had to work another seven years for Rachel. Because Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah, God comforted Leah by allowing her to conceive and bear sons.

Rachel gave her handmaiden to Jacob, resulting in more sons. Leah countered with her handmaiden, Rachel finally got pregnant, and Jacob wound up with twelve sons and a daughter. Before reconciling with Esau, Jacob wrestled with the pre-incarnate Christ, who changed his name to Israel (“he who strives with God”; Genesis 32:24-28). The nation took the name, Israel, from the man who fathered the nation.

Jacob’s sons: Each of Jacob’s sons became the patriarch of a tribe of Israel. As Jacob lay dying, he blessed each son (Genesis 49), mirroring his own inheritance by placing Joseph’s younger son, Ephraim, over the older Manasseh (Genesis 48:14).The sons of Jacob and the heads of the tribes of Israel were Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Zebulon, Issachar, Dan, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Benjamin, and Joseph’s sons Ephraim and Manasseh.

Recommended Resource: Bible Answers for Almost all Your Questions by Elmer Towns

“Who was Abraham in the Bible?”

Answer:
Aside from Moses, no Old Testament character is mentioned more in the New Testament than Abraham. James refers to Abraham as “God’s friend” (James 2:23), a title used of no one else in Scripture. Believers in all generations are called the “children of Abraham” (Galatians 3:7). Abraham’s importance and impact in redemptive history are clearly seen in Scripture.

The life of Abraham takes up a good portion of the Genesis narrative from his first mention in Genesis 11:26 all the way to his death in Genesis 25:8. Although we know much about Abraham’s life, we know little about his birth and early life. When we first meet Abraham, he is already 75 years old. Genesis 11:28 records that Abraham’s father, Terah, lived in Ur, an influential city in southern Mesopotamia situated on the Euphrates River about halfway between the head of the Persian Gulf and the modern-day city of Baghdad. We also learn that Terah took his family and set off for the land of Canaan but instead settled in the city of Haran in northern Mesopotamia (on the trade route from ancient Babylonia about halfway between Nineveh and Damascus).

Abraham’s story really turns interesting at the start of Genesis 12. In the first three verses, we see the call of Abraham by God:

“The LORD had said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you’” (Genesis 12:1-3).

God calls Abraham out from his home in Haran and tells him to go to a land that He will show to him. God also makes three promises to Abraham: 1) The promise of a land of his own; 2) the promise to be made into a great nation; and 3) the promise of blessing. These promises form the basis for what will later be called the Abrahamic Covenant (established in Genesis 15 and ratified in Genesis 17). What really makes Abraham special is that he obeyed God. Genesis 12:4 records that, after God called Abraham, he went “as the LORD had told him.” The author of Hebrews uses Abraham as an example of faith several times, and refers specifically to this impressive act: “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going” (Hebrews 11:8).

How many of us would leave behind everything that is familiar to us and just go without knowing our destination? The concept of family meant everything to a person living in the time of Abraham. In that time, family units were strongly knit; it was unusual for family members to live hundreds of miles apart from each other. In addition, we’re not told anything about the religious life of Abraham and his family prior to his calling. The people of Ur and Haran worshipped the ancient Babylonian pantheon of gods, in particular the moon god, Sin, so God called Abraham out of a pagan culture. Abraham knew and recognized the call of Yahweh, the LORD, and obeyed willingly, not hesitantly.

Another example of Abraham’s life of faith is seen in the birth of his son, Isaac. Abraham and Sarah were childless (a real source of shame in that culture), yet God promised that Abraham would have a son (Genesis 15:4). This son would be the heir of Abraham’s vast fortune with which God blessed him, and, more importantly, he would be the heir of promise and the continuation of the godly line of Seth. Abraham believed the promise of God, and that faith is credited to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6). God reiterates His promise to Abraham in Genesis 17, and his faith is rewarded in Genesis 21 with the birth of Isaac.

Abraham’s faith would be tested regarding his son, Isaac. In Genesis 22, God commands Abraham to sacrifice Isaac on the top of Mount Moriah. We don’t know how Abraham reacted internally to this command. All we see is Abraham faithfully obeying the God who was his shield (Genesis 15:1) and who had been extraordinarily gracious and good to him up to this point. As with the earlier command to leave his home and family, Abraham obeyed (Genesis 22:3). We know the story ends with God holding back Abraham from sacrificing Isaac, but imagine how Abraham must have felt. He had been waiting decades for a son of his own, and the God who promised this child to him was about to take him away. The point is that Abraham’s faith in God was greater than his love for his son, and he trusted that even if he sacrificed Isaac, God was able to bring him back from the dead (Hebrews 11:17-19).

To be sure, Abraham had his moments of failure and sin (as we all do), and the Bible doesn’t shrink from relating them. We know of at least two occasions in which Abraham lied regarding his relationship to Sarah in order to protect himself in potentially hostile lands (Genesis 12:10-20; 20:1-18). In both these incidents, God protects and blesses Abraham despite his lack of faith. We also know that the frustration of not having a child wore on Abraham and Sarah. Sarah suggested Abraham have a child with Sarah’s servant, Hagar, on her behalf; Abraham agreed (Genesis 16:1-15). The birth of Ishmael not only demonstrates the futility of Abraham’s folly and lack of faith but also the grace of God (in allowing the birth to take place and even blessing Ishmael). Interestingly, Abraham and Sarah were called Abram and Sarai at that time. But when Ishmael was thirteen years old, God gave Abram a new name along with the covenant of circumcision and a renewed promise to give him a son through Sarai, to whom God also gave a new name (Genesis 17). Abram, meaning “high father,” became Abraham, “father of a multitude.” Indeed, Abraham had many physical descendants, and all who put their faith in God through Jesus are also counted as spiritual heirs of Abraham (Galatians 3:29). The “Father of the Faithful” had his moments of doubt and disbelief, yet he is still exalted among men as an example of the faithful life.

One obvious lesson to draw from Abraham’s life is that we are to live a life of faith. Abraham could take his son Isaac up to Mount Moriah because he knew God was faithful to keep His promises. Abraham’s faith wasn’t a blind faith; his faith was a settled assurance and trust in the One who had proved Himself faithful and true. If we were to look back on our own lives, we would see the hand of God’s providence all over it. God doesn’t have to visit us accompanied by angels or speak from burning bushes or part the sea waters to be active in our lives. God is superintending and orchestrating the events of our lives. Sometimes it may not seem that way, but Abraham’s life is evidence that God’s presence in our lives is real. Even Abraham’s failures demonstrate that God, while not protecting us from the consequences of our sin, graciously works His will in us and through us; nothing we do will thwart His plan.

Abraham’s life also shows us the blessing of simple obedience. When asked to leave his family, Abraham left. When asked to sacrifice Isaac, Abraham “rose up early the next morning” to do so. From what we can discern from the biblical narrative, there was no hesitation in Abraham’s obedience. Abraham, like most of us, may have agonized over these decisions, but, when it was time to act, he acted. When we discern a true call from God or we read His instructions in His Word, we must act. Obedience is not optional when God commands something.

We also see from Abraham what it looks like to have an active relationship with God. While Abraham was quick to obey, he did not shy away from asking God questions. Abraham believed that God would give him and Sarah a son, but did wonder at how it could be (Genesis 17:17–23). In Genesis 18 we read the account of Abraham interceding for Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham affirmed that God was holy and just and could not fathom Him destroying the righteous with sinners. He asked God to spare the sinful cities for the sake of fifty righteous and continued to work the number down until ten. Ultimately there were not ten righteous men in Sodom, but God did spare Abraham’s nephew Lot and his family (Genesis 19). It is interesting that God revealed His plans to Abraham before destroying the cities and that He was not taken aback by Abraham’s questions. Abraham’s example here shows us what it looks like to interact with God regarding His plans, intercede for others, trust God’s justice, and submit to His will.

Abraham’s lapses of faith, particularly in regards to the situation with Hagar and Ishmael, show us the folly of trying to take matters into our own hands. God had promised a son to Abraham and Sarah, but, in their impatience, their plan to provide an heir to Abraham backfired. First, conflict between Sarah and Hagar arose, and later on conflict between Ishmael and Isaac. Ishmael’s descendants ended up becoming bitter enemies of the people of God, as we later learn in the Old Testament narrative, and so it continues to this day in the conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbors. We cannot fulfill the will of God in our own strength; our efforts ultimately end up creating more problems than they solve. This lesson has wide-ranging applications in our lives. If God has promised to do something, we must be faithful and patient and wait for Him to accomplish it in His own timing.

Theologically speaking, Abraham’s life is a living example of the doctrine of sola fide, justification by faith alone. Twice the apostle Paul uses Abraham as an example of this crucial doctrine. In Romans, the entire fourth chapter is devoted to illustrating justification by faith through the life of Abraham. A similar argument is made in the book of Galatians, where Paul shows from Abraham’s life that the Gentiles are heirs with the Jews to the blessings of Abraham through faith (Galatians 3:6-9, 14, 16, 18, 29). This goes back to Genesis 15:6, “Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” Abraham’s faith in the promises of God was sufficient for God to declare him righteous in His sight, thereby proving the principle of Romans 3:28. Abraham did nothing to earn justification. His trust in God was enough.

We see in this the workings of God’s grace very early in the Old Testament. The gospel didn’t start with the life and death of Jesus but goes all the way back to Genesis. In Genesis 3:15, God made a promise that the “seed of the woman” would crush the head of the serpent. Theologians believe this is the first mention of the gospel in the Bible. The rest of the Old Testament chronicles the outworking of the gospel of God’s grace through the line of promise beginning with Seth (Genesis 4:26). The calling of Abraham was just another piece in the story of redemption. Paul tells us that the gospel was preached beforehand to Abraham when God told him “all nations will be blessed through you” (Galatians 3:8).

Another thing we learn from Abraham’s life is that faith is not hereditary. In Matthew 3:9, Luke 3:8, and John 8:39, we learn that it is not enough to be physically descended from Abraham to be saved. The application for us is that it is not enough to be raised in a Christian home; we do not enter into fellowship with God or gain entry into heaven based on someone else’s faith. God is not obligated to save us simply because we have an impeccable Christian pedigree. Paul uses Abraham to illustrate this in Romans 9, where he says not all who descended from Abraham were elected unto salvation (Romans 9:7). God sovereignly chooses those who will receive salvation, but that salvation comes through the same faith that Abraham exercised in his life.

Finally, we see that James uses the life of Abraham as an illustration that faith without works is dead (James 2:21). The example he uses is the story of Abraham and Isaac on Mount Moriah. Mere assent to the truths of the gospel is not enough to save. Faith must result in good works of obedience that show a living faith. The faith that was enough to justify Abraham and count him as righteous in God’s eyes (Genesis 15) was the very same faith that moved him into action as he obeyed God’s command to sacrifice his son Isaac. Abraham was justified by his faith, and his faith was proved by his works.

In the final analysis, we see that Abraham was an exemplary individual, not so much in his piety or perfect life (he had his shortcomings, as we saw), but because his life illustrates so many truths of the Christian life. God called Abraham out of the millions of people on the earth to be the object of His blessings. God used Abraham to play a pivotal role in the outworking of the story of redemption, culminating in the birth of Jesus. Abraham is a living example of faith and hope in the promises of God (Hebrews 11:8–10). Our lives should be so lived that, when we reach the end of our days, our faith, like Abraham’s, will remain as an enduring legacy to others.

Recommended Resource: Abraham: One Nomad’s Amazing Journey of Faith by Charles Swindoll

“Who was Sarah in the Bible?”

Answer:
Sarai began her life in the pagan world of Ur, in the land of the Chaldees, which was located in the area now known as Iraq. She was the half-sister, as well as the wife, of Abram, who would be called Abraham. Sarai and Abram had the same father but different mothers, according to Genesis 20:12. In those days, genetics were purer than they are today, and intermarriage was not detrimental to the offspring of unions between relatives. Also, since people tended to spend their lives clustered together in family units, it was the natural course to choose mates from within their own tribes and families.

When Abram encountered the living God for the first time, he believed Him (Genesis 12:1–4; 15:6) and followed after Him, obeying His command to leave his home to go to a place he had never heard about, much less seen. Sarai went with him.

Their journey brought them to the area called Harran (Genesis 11:31). Abram’s father, Terah, passed away in this city, and Abram, Sarai, and their nephew Lot and their retinue continued their journey, allowing God to lead and guide them. With no housing and no modern conveniences, the journey must have been very difficult for all, especially for the women. During their journey, there was a famine in the land, prompting Abram and Sarai to go to Egypt (Genesis 12:10). When they did, Abram feared that the Egyptians would kill him because Sarai was beautiful and they would want her as a wife. So he asked Sarai to tell everyone that she was Abram’s sister—which was technically true but also meant to deceive. Sarai was taken into Pharaoh’s house, and Abram was treated well because of her. But God afflicted Pharaoh’s house, and the couple’s lie was revealed. Pharaoh returned Sarai to Abram and sent them on their way (Genesis 12). Sarai and Abram came back to the land now known as Israel. They had acquired many possessions and a great deal of wealth in their travels, so Lot and Abram agreed to split up in order that the massive herds of cattle would have adequate ground for grazing (Genesis 13:9).

Sarai was barren, an issue of personal distress as well as cultural shame. Abram was worried that he would have no heir. But God gave Abram a vision in which He promised him a son and that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky (Genesis 15). God also promised Abraham’s offspring the land of Canaan. The problem was that Sarai remained childless. Ten years after God had made His promise to Abram, Sarai, following cultural norms, suggested that Abram have a child with her servant, Hagar. The child born of that union would be counted as Sarai’s. Abram agreed, and Hagar conceived a son—Ishmael. But Hagar began to look at Sarai with contempt, and Sarai began to treat Hagar harshly, so much so that Hagar ran away. God met Hagar in the desert and encouraged her to return to Abram and Sarai, which she did (Genesis 16).

Thirteen years after Ishmael was born, God reaffirmed His covenant with Abram, this time giving him the sign of circumcision as well as changing his name. Abram, meaning “high father,” became Abraham, meaning “father of a multitude.” God also changed Sarai’s name, meaning “my princess,” to Sarah, meaning “mother of nations.” God told Abraham that He would give him a son through Sarah. This son—Isaac—would be the one with whom God would establish His covenant. God would bless Ishmael as well, but Isaac was the son of promise through whom the nations would be blessed (Genesis 17). Isaac means “he laughs.” Abraham laughed that, at 100 years old, he could have a son with Sarah, who was 90 years old and had been barren her entire life. Sarah, too, laughed at the prospect (Genesis 18:9–15).

Shortly after God promised Abraham and Sarah a son, He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, but He rescued Abraham’s nephew Lot (Genesis 19). Abraham and Sarah journeyed toward the Negeb and sojourned in Gerar (Genesis 20:1). Abraham again asked Sarah to lie about her identity, and the king of Gerar took Sarah to be his wife. But God protected Sarah, through whom Isaac would be born. King Abimelech had no relations with her. God warned Abimelech in a dream, and the king not only sacrificed to God in repentance, but he gave gifts to Abraham and Sarah and allowed them to dwell in the land (Genesis 20).

God remained faithful to His promise to give Abraham and Sarah a son. They named him Isaac, and “Sarah said, ‘God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.’ And she added, ‘Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age'” (Genesis 21:6–7). Though she may have previously laughed in disbelief and secrecy, now Sarah laughed with joy and wanted her situation to be known. God had been faithful to His promise and blessed her.

Unfortunately, the tension between Sarah and Hagar remained. When Isaac was weaned, Abraham held a feast. But Ishmael, Hagar’s son, was mocking Isaac. Sarah told Abraham to get rid of Hagar and Ishmael and that Ishmael should never share the inheritance with Isaac. Abraham was distressed at this, but God told him to do what Sarah said and that his descendants would be numbered through Isaac. Abraham sent Hagar and Ishmael away, and God provided for their needs (Genesis 21:8–21). It was after this that God tested Abraham by asking him to sacrifice Isaac. Abraham was willing to give up his son, trusting that God would somehow still remain true to His promise (Genesis 22; Hebrews 11:17–19).

Sarah was a simple, beautiful (Genesis 12:11), and very human woman; she made mistakes, just like we all do. She stepped ahead of God and tried to handle His business on her own by foolishly sending her handmaid, Hagar, to Abraham to bring forth the child God had promised. In so doing, she ignited a feud that has lasted for 4,000 years (Genesis 16:3). She laughed in unbelief when, at 90 years old, she heard an angel tell Abraham that she would become pregnant (Genesis 18:12), but she gave birth to the promised child and lived another 30 years, dying at the age of 127 (Genesis 23:1).

Hebrews 11:11 uses Sarah as an example of faith: “And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise.”

First Peter 3:5–6 uses Sarah as an example of a holy woman who hoped in God and who adorned herself by submitting to her husband. Sarah willingly left her home and stepped out into the unknown to follow Abraham, as he followed the directions of a God with whom she was unfamiliar at the time. She endured much to try to provide an heir for her husband and to keep her husband safe in dangerous lands. In the end, she had faith enough to believe that she and her husband, at the ages of 90 and 100, would produce the promised heir, Isaac. Although she lived in a world of danger and confusion, Sarah stood firm in her commitment to her husband and to God, and her commitment was rewarded with blessing.

Recommended Resource: The Great Lives from God’s Word Series by Chuck Swindoll

“Who was Lot in the Bible?”

Answer:
Lot was the grandson of Terah, son of Haran, and nephew of Abram (Abraham). He was likely born in Ur of the Chaldeans. Lot’s father Haran died unexpectedly, and so Lot was taken in by the rest of his family.

At some point, possibly soon after Haran’s death, Lot’s grandfather Terah decided to relocate his entire family to Canaan. They ended up settling in Harran instead. After Terah’s death the Lord spoke to Abram and told him to resume the journey to Canaan, promising to make him into a great nation (Genesis 12:1–3). Abram set out on this journey, and Lot went with him.

When they came to Bethel, Abram’s and Lot’s sheepherders quarreled because there was not enough land to support the amount of livestock each man owned. So Abram presented an offer to Lot: they would part company, and Lot could have first pick of the land he would occupy (Genesis 13:8–9). Lot chose the land near the Jordan River, as it was rich and lush. Abram took other land, and Lot left his uncle and settled his family near the sinful city of Sodom (verse 12).

The consequences of Lot’s selfish choice soon caught up with him. Five kings in the area (the kings of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboyim, and Bela) were subjects of King Kedorlaomer, and they rose up against him (Genesis 14:4). But Kedorlaomer gathered his allies and defeated the rebelling kings. The victors seized all the goods in the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, and they took Lot and his family as part of the plunder (verse 12). When Abram heard of this, he and his fighting men attacked Kedorlaomer’s army at night and won. He recovered Lot and his family, as well as all the goods the army had taken from Sodom and Gomorrah (verse 16). Afterward, Lot returned to Sodom.

But Lot’s hardships did not end there. Sodom was very wicked, and, although Lot was counted as a righteous man (2 Peter 2:7–8), he allowed his family to become entrenched in the city and its culture. God resolved to utterly destroy Sodom and Gomorrah and the other cities of the plain for their great sin, but in His grace He sent two angels to Sodom to rescue Lot and his family from the fate of the city. As Lot sat in the gateway of the city, he saw the two angels and, mistaking them for regular men, invited them to stay at his house (Genesis 19:1–2). The angels told Lot they would spend the night in the town square, but Lot insisted strongly, knowing how dangerous the people of the city were. The angels accepted the invitation, and Lot prepared a meal for them and provided a place for them to sleep.

Before the angels settled in for the night, a crowd of men from all over the city gathered outside of Lot’s house. They demanded access to Lot’s guests in order to have homosexual relations with them (Genesis 19:4–5). We can see the effect the city had upon Lot here, for, in an effort to protect the men under his roof, Lot offered his two daughters instead (verse 8). But the crowd wanted the men, and they tried to break into Lot’s house. The two angels quickly pulled Lot inside, shut the door, and struck the men outside with blindness. They ordered Lot to gather up his family and leave immediately, for they were going to utterly destroy the city and everyone in it (verses 12–13).

Lot spoke with his sons-in-law, but they refused to leave, considering Lot’s warning about impending judgment to be a joke (Genesis 19:14). When the time of destruction drew near, Lot was still hesitating, and the angels had to physically drag Lot, his wife, and his two daughters out of the city (verse 16). They urged Lot to go to the mountains, but Lot requested leave to run to the nearby town of Zoar instead (verses 17–20). The Lord granted this request and vowed to spare that city for Lot’s sake. As they fled, Lot’s wife looked back at Sodom. Because she loved Sodom and desired it, the Lord turned her into a pillar of salt (verse 26; see also Luke 17:30–33).

After the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot was afraid to stay in Zoar. So he settled in the mountains with his daughters. He was destitute—he had lost everything when Sodom was destroyed—and so the family lived in a cave (Genesis 19:30). It was here that Lot’s daughters devised a disturbing plan to continue the family line: they would get Lot so drunk that he didn’t know what was happening and then sleep with him (verses 31–32). Both women became pregnant and had sons named Moab and Ben-Ammi. These two boys would become the father of the Moabites and the Ammonites (verses 37–38). Many years later, when the Israelites were on their way to the Promised Land, the Lord ordered His people to preserve the Moabites and the Ammonites on Lot’s behalf (Deuteronomy 2:9, 19).

Much of Lot’s life is a picture of the consequences of greed and the negative influence of a sinful environment. Lot knew God, but he chose to live among people who would lead his family into sin and complacency. But Lot’s story is also an illustration of God’s great mercy—in spite of Lot’s poor choices, God saved him and his daughters from a violent end in Sodom and preserved his line throughout the ages.

Recommended Resource: Abraham: One Nomad’s Amazing Journey of Faith by Charles Swindoll

“Who was Isaac in the Bible?”

Answer:
The name Isaac, which means “he laughs,” was derived from his parents’ reaction when God told Abraham that he, at 100 years old, and his wife Sarah, at the age of 90, would have a son (Genesis 17:17; 18:12). Isaac was Abraham’s second son; his first, Ishmael, was by Sarah’s maidservant, Hagar, as a result of Sarah’s impatience to give Abraham a family (Genesis 16:1-2). As soon as Isaac was weaned, Sarah insisted that Abraham send Hagar and her son away, ensuring the family inheritance would go to Isaac (Genesis 21:3-12).

Many years later, Isaac was taken by his father up a mountain where Abraham, in obedience to God, prepared to sacrifice him (Genesis 22:1-14). Abraham, Isaac, and two of Abraham’s servants loaded up donkeys and made a three-day journey to Mount Moriah. Leaving his servants behind, Abraham and Isaac carried up the wood, knife, and materials for the fire, saying they would worship and then return. Curious, Isaac asked about the location of the lamb for the offering. Abraham told Isaac that God Himself would provide the lamb. Abraham proceeded to build the altar and tie up Isaac to lay atop it. The Bible gives no indication that Isaac resisted. As Abraham prepared to kill Isaac, an angel stopped him. Abraham then saw a ram in a thicket and offered it instead. There is an interesting analogy in this account that mirrors God giving up His only Son, Jesus, to be sacrificed. God did indeed provide the Lamb—literally for Abraham and Isaac then and figuratively for all of humanity willing to accept the sacrifice of Jesus (John 1:29; Hebrews 10).

Sarah died when Isaac was in his late thirties. After her death, Abraham sent one of his servants to find a wife for Isaac from their clan, as Abraham was determined his son should not have a Canaanite for a wife (Genesis 24:1-51). Abraham’s servant prayed to have success in finding a suitable wife, and God directed his quest. When he was forty, Isaac married his cousin Rebekah (Genesis 25:20). The Bible tells us that “he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death” (Genesis 24:67).

At age sixty, Isaac became the father of twins—Jacob and Esau. While Isaac favored his elder son, Esau, Rebekah’s favorite was Jacob. This caused great rivalry within the family and led to Jacob, the younger son, receiving the inheritance and his father’s blessing that should have gone to Esau, the older son, after Isaac and Esau were deceived by Rebekah and Jacob. Isaac became aware of the deceit but could not revoke his blessing on Jacob (Genesis 27). Rebekah learned of Esau’s plan to kill Jacob after Isaac’s death and convinced Isaac to send Jacob to her brother Laban to find a wife among her relatives. Isaac again blessed Jacob before sending him on his way, praying that God would give Jacob the blessing given to Abraham.

Abraham died when Isaac was about seventy-five and left everything to him (Genesis 25:5). Though Ishmael had been sent away when Isaac was weaned, both Isaac and Ishmael buried Abraham (Genesis 25:9). The Bible does not talk specifically about their relationship, and the descendants of Ishmael and those of Isaac have historically been enemies; animosity remains to this day. But it is interesting to note that the two men apparently united in mourning their father.

When there was a famine in the land, God appeared to Isaac and told him not to go to Egypt but to remain in the land. God promised to be with Isaac and bless him and give the land to Isaac’s descendants. God reaffirmed the covenant He had made with Abraham, saying that He would make his descendants as numerous as the stars and bless all the nations of the earth through them (Genesis 26:1–6).

Isaac remained in the land of Canaan. But, similar to what his father had done years before his birth, in fear, Isaac presented Rebekah as his sister rather than his wife (Genesis 26:7–11). But, just as God had protected Sarah, He also protected Rebekah. God blessed Isaac with bountiful crops and wealth, so much so that the Philistines became jealous and stopped up the water wells Abraham had dug. The Philistine king asked Isaac to move, and Isaac complied, moving from place to place digging new wells when his enemies quarreled with him over the water. The Philistine king soon recognized that Isaac had been blessed by God and made a treaty of peace between them (Genesis 26:26–31).

Isaac died at the age of 180 and was buried by both his sons. God affirmed His covenant with Isaac’s son, Jacob, whom He renamed Israel.

Though much of Isaac’s story is narrative without many readily applicable lessons to our lives, we do see in Isaac a heart surrendered to God’s will. For example, he was obedient to Abraham and Sarah and apparently trusting of their guidance. He obeyed when God told him to remain in the land despite the famine and the attacks of his enemies. When Isaac discovered that he had been deceived by his son Jacob, he accepted and submitted to what he recognized as God’s will, in spite of it being completely against the accepted tradition at the time. Just as Isaac discovered, we, too, must remember that God’s ways are not our ways or His thoughts the same as ours (Isaiah 55:8). Isaac’s story also demonstrates God’s faithfulness to His promises—He had made a covenant with Abraham and would continue to uphold it with Isaac and with Isaac’s son Jacob.

Though there are no great achievements to speak of concerning Isaac’s life, it was Isaac whom God chose to continue the covenant line, the same line that would produce the Messiah, Jesus. And for many generations the Jewish nation described their God as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Indeed, there are several passages of Scripture where God describes Himself in the same manner (e.g., Exodus 3:6). Isaac is listed with the other patriarchs and has a place in God’s kingdom (Luke 13:28). And there is no greater honor we can hope to achieve.

Recommended Resource: The Great Lives from God’s Word Series by Chuck Swindoll

“Why did God command Abraham to sacrifice Isaac?”

Answer:
Abraham had obeyed God many times in his walk with Him, but no test could have been more severe than the one in Genesis 22. God commanded, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering” (Genesis 22:2a).

This was an astounding command because Isaac was the son of promise. God had promised several times that from Abraham’s own body would come a nation as multitudinous as the stars in heaven (Genesis 12:2–3; 15:4–5). Later, Abraham was specifically told that the promise would be through Isaac (Genesis 21:12).

How did Abraham respond to God’s command to sacrifice Isaac? With immediate obedience; early the next morning, Abraham started on his journey with two servants, a donkey and his beloved son Isaac, with firewood for the offering. His unquestioning obedience to God’s confusing command gave God the glory He deserves and is an example to us of how to glorify God. When we obey as Abraham did, trusting that God’s plan is best, we exalt His attributes and praise Him. Abraham’s obedience in the face of this crushing command extolled God’s sovereign love, His trustworthiness, and His goodness, and it provided an example for us to follow. His faith in the God he had come to know and love placed Abraham in the pantheon of faithful heroes in Hebrews 11.

Abraham’s faith was such that, even if he had sacrificed Isaac, he believed the Lord would keep His word and raise Isaac from the dead (Hebrews 11:17–19). God uses Abraham’s faith as an example of the type of faith required for salvation. Genesis 15:6 says, “Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” This truth is the basis of the Christian faith, as reiterated in Romans 4:3 and James 2:23. The righteousness that was credited to Abraham is the same righteousness credited to us when we receive by faith the sacrifice God provided for our sins—Jesus Christ. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

The Old Testament story of Abraham is the basis of the New Testament teaching of the atonement, the sacrificial offering of the Lord Jesus on the cross for the sin of mankind. Jesus said, many centuries later, “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad” (John 8:56). The following are some of the parallels between the two biblical accounts:

• “Take your son, your only son, Isaac” (v. 2); “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…” (John 3:16).

• “Go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there…” (v. 2); it is believed that this area is where the city of Jerusalem was built many years later, where Jesus was crucified outside its city walls (Hebrews 13:12).

• “Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering” (v. 2); “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3).

• “Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac” (v. 6); Jesus, “carrying his own cross. . .” (John 19:17).

• “But where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” (v. 7); John said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

• Isaac, the son, acted in obedience to his father in becoming the sacrifice (v. 9); Jesus prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39).

• Resurrection – Isaac (figuratively) and Jesus in reality: “By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, ‘It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.’ Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death” (Hebrews 11:17–19); Jesus “was buried, and . . . was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:4).

Recommended Resource: Abraham: One Nomad’s Amazing Journey of Faith by Charles Swindoll

“Who was Rebekah in the Bible?”

Answer:
Rebekah in the Bible was the wife of Isaac and mother of Jacob and Esau. We first meet Rebekah in Genesis 24:15, where she is identified as “the daughter of Bethuel son of Milkah, who was the wife of Abraham’s brother Nahor.” This would have made Rebekah a great-niece to Abraham and second cousin to Isaac.

Abraham had been looking for a wife for his son, Isaac, but he was unwilling for Isaac to marry a Canaanite—Abraham and his family were living in Canaan at the time. So Abraham sent his servant to his own kinsmen, to the city of Nahor, to find a wife for Isaac. The servant came to a well and prayed that God would give him success in this mission. Specifically, he prayed that whichever young woman provided water for him and his camels would be God’s choice to be Isaac’s wife. As the servant was praying, along came a beautiful young virgin named Rebekah, who not only gave the servant a drink but also watered his camels, providing the sign to Abraham’s servant that she was the appointed bride (Genesis 24:10–28).

Everything was settled peaceably between Abraham’s servant and Rebekah’s father—and her brother, Laban—and the servant took Rebekah back to Isaac. Isaac and Rebekah were married (Genesis 24:67), but for many years Rebekah could not have children. Isaac prayed for his wife; the Lord answered his prayer, and Rebekah became pregnant (Genesis 25:21). Rebekah became the mother of Jacob and Esau, the first twins mentioned in the Bible (Genesis 25:22–24). From these twins came two conflicted nations.

God gave Rebekah a prophecy during her pregnancy. She had noticed that the twins were struggling against one another in her womb, and she asked the Lord why they were fighting. The Lord told her that two nations were in her womb and that those nations would be at odds with one another (Genesis 25:22–23). This prophecy came true. Jacob, whose name was later changed to Israel (Genesis 32:28), became the father of the twelve tribes of Israel. Esau became the father of the Edomites, who warred against Israel for ages and were finally wiped out (Obadiah 1:1–21).

Esau was born first, and he was Isaac’s favorite son (Genesis 25:28). The younger Jacob was Rebekah’s favorite. As the firstborn, Esau was due the birthright, but Rebekah helped Jacob deceive Isaac so that the blessing would fall to the younger son instead of to the elder (Genesis 27:1–40).

When Esau discovered Jacob and Rebekah’s deceit, he planned to kill Jacob. Rebekah devised a plan to help save her favorite son, but it again involved deceiving her husband, Isaac. Rebekah made up an excuse to send Jacob to her brother, Laban, to look for a wife for himself (Genesis 27:41–46). Deceit was apparently a family trait.

Rebekah’s marriage to Isaac was the result of God’s providence, her pregnancy was an answer to prayer, and the lives of her sons fulfilled prophecy. Rebekah’s choice to lie and deceive her husband is an example of how wrongdoing in human beings does not thwart the plans of God and how God can ultimately bring about His will, through His mercy and wisdom, despite our sin (see Genesis 50:20).

Recommended Resource: The Great Lives from God’s Word Series by Chuck Swindoll

“Who was Jacob in the Bible?”

Answer:
Jacob’s life began with a struggle. As a twin in the womb with Esau, he jostled for position and was born grasping his brother’s heel. Jacob’s name is translated as “he deceives” (Genesis 25:26). When his mother, Rebekah, asked God during her pregnancy what was happening to her, God told her that there were two nations within her womb who would become divided. One would be stronger than the other, and the older would serve the younger (Genesis 25:23).

Jacob and Esau grew up together living a nomadic life. Esau became a fine hunter and loved to be out in the countryside while Jacob “was content to stay at home among the tents” (Genesis 25:27). Esau, being a hunter, was his father’s favorite as Isaac loved the wild game Esau brought home, while Jacob was favored by his mother (Genesis 25:28). This destructive favoritism would follow the family into the next generation, most notably with Jacob’s son Joseph. Such was Jacob’s favoritism for Joseph that it caused great resentment among his brothers and nearly cost Joseph his life.

When Isaac was old and his eyesight faded, he thought he was near to his death and made arrangements with Esau to pass on to him the blessings due to the firstborn son (Genesis 27:1-4). On hearing this, Rebekah devised a plan to deceive Isaac into blessing Jacob instead. Thus, Jacob received his father’s blessing in Esau’s place. Esau vowed he would kill Jacob for this as soon as the period of mourning for his father’s death ended (Genesis 27:41). As it turned out, his father did not die for about another twenty years (Genesis 35:27–29).

However, Rebekah became aware of Esau’s plan and warned Jacob. Rebekah also told Isaac that Jacob should find himself a wife from among his own people, so Isaac sent Jacob to his uncle Laban who lived in their ancestral home of Haran (Genesis 27:43). During Jacob’s journey, he had a dream of a ladder to heaven with God at the top and angels ascending and descending. This imagery is mirrored in Jesus’ words to His disciple Nathanael (John 1:51). God gave Jacob the assurance of His presence and reiterated His promise to Abraham (Genesis 28:13-15). As a result of this experience, Jacob renamed the place “Bethel,” meaning “house of God,” and he vowed to serve God.

After Jacob settled in Haran, Laban offered him payment for the work he had been doing as a shepherd looking after his flocks. Jacob offered to work for Laban for seven years in return for Laban’s daughter Rachel, whom he loved deeply. However, Jacob was to discover that his uncle Laban could be just as much a deceiver as he had been. On Jacob’s wedding night, Laban substituted his older daughter, Leah, for Rachel (Genesis 29:23-25). However, Laban agreed to give Jacob Rachel as well, provided Jacob finish the wedding week with Leah before taking Rachel as a wife, and then work another seven years for him. Jacob agreed to this plan. While both women remained Jacob’s wives, Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah (Genesis 29:30), a source of continued family strife.

While Rachel remained barren, Leah gave birth to Jacob’s firstborn son, Reuben. Then followed the birth of eleven more sons from Leah, Rachel, and their two handmaidens. These sons would be the progenitors of the twelve tribes of Israel. After the birth of Joseph, Rachel’s first child and Jacob’s eleventh, Jacob asked Laban to send him back to his homeland. Laban asked Jacob to remain, telling him to name his wages. Jacob requested only the specked and spotted sheep and goats from all Laban’s flocks that he tended, to make flocks of his own. It is unclear how or why it worked, but Jacob put striped branches in front of the flocks when they mated, and it resulted in specked and spotted offspring that he could claim for himself. Jacob did this only with the strong animals so that his flocks grew strong while Laban had weak flocks (Genesis 30:31–43). Jacob recognized that Laban and Laban’s sons’ attitude toward him had changed. It was then that God commanded Jacob to return to the land of his fathers accompanied by His promise, “And I will be with you” (Genesis 31:3). Jacob left Haran, taking with him his wives and children and all the vast flocks he had accumulated. When Laban learned that Jacob left, he pursued him. But God told Laban in a dream to “be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad” (Genesis 31:24). Laban did ask Jacob why he’d left secretly and spoke of his power to harm Jacob were it not for God’s warning. He also accused Jacob of stealing his household idols. Continuing the legacy of deception, Rachel who had taken the idols unbeknownst to Jacob, concealed them from her father during his search. Laban and Jacob eventually parted company after swearing an oath not to invade one another’s lands.

Next Jacob had to face his brother, Esau. Though twenty years had passed since they had last seen each other, the memory of Esau’s threat to kill Jacob had never left him (Genesis 32:11). Jacob sent messengers ahead of him with gifts, instructing them to tell Esau that he was following after. The messengers returned to Jacob, telling him that Esau was coming to meet him along with four hundred men. Afraid that Esau was coming to destroy him, Jacob divided his family into two groups, hoping at least one group could escape attack. Jacob prayed for God to save him, reminding God that He had sent Jacob back to the land of Abraham and had promised to make him prosper and his descendants numerous (Genesis 32:9–12). Jacob selected more gifts for Esau, which he sent ahead with servants in waves, hoping to pacify Esau. That night he sent his wives and sons away from him as well. While alone, in the middle of the night and afraid for his life, Jacob wrestled with a man who he later learned was God (Genesis 32:22-31). The man touched Jacob’s hip, putting it out of socket, but at daybreak Jacob still refused to let the man go. He asked for a blessing and was told, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome” (Genesis 32:28). Jacob asked the man his name and then understood that He was God. Jacob named the place Peniel, recognizing that He had seen God and yet God had spared his life. This wrestling match and name change marked a new beginning for Jacob.

The reunion with Esau was not the attack he had feared: “Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept” (Genesis 33:4). Esau offered to accompany Jacob the rest of the way. Jacob refused, citing the size of his family. Jacob also refused Esau’s offer to leave some of his men with the group. It seems that Jacob did not fully trust his brother Esau, and so, instead of meeting Esau in Seir, Jacob took his family another route where they finally purchased a plot of land and settled in El Elohe Israel or “Mighty is the God of Israel.” Though he had been given a new name, Jacob the deceiver was still wary of others who might be trying to deceive him. Here we see that the mind of those who plot to deceive is always suspicious of the motives of others and can never fully be at rest.

Genesis 34 records the rape of Jacob’s only daughter, Dinah, and the revenge her brothers Simeon and Levi carried out on the rapist’s entire community. Once again, we see how the deviousness of the parents is passed on to the children in the deceitful way they overcame their enemy. Jacob was angry with his sons and, in obedience to God’s guidance, moved his family back to Bethel (Genesis 35:1) where God reappeared to Jacob and confirmed His blessing (Genesis 35:9-13). In Jacob’s meeting with God, he received the promise that kings and many nations would come from him and that the land God had promised his forefathers would be his inheritance (Genesis 35:11-12).

Jacob and his family later moved from Bethel to Eder. On the way, Rachel gave birth to her second son, Jacob’s twelfth—Benjamin. Rachel died in childbirth. Jacob was reunited with his father, Isaac, in Mamre. When his father died, both Jacob and Esau buried him.

Similar to his mother, Jacob also had favorites. Rachel was his favorite wife, and her children—Joseph and Benjamin—were his favorite sons. In fact, Joseph was so favored that his brothers became jealous and sold him into slavery. But God was with Joseph, and he eventually fared well in Egypt and rescued his family, Jacob included, from famine. Jacob died in Egypt and was embalmed at Joseph’s request (Genesis 49:29—50:3). Joseph and his brothers took Jacob’s body back to Canaan to be buried alongside Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, and Leah. Prior to his death, Jacob had blessed his twelve sons and requested to be buried in the cave that Abraham had bought for burial. Jacob had also blessed Joseph’s two sons, giving the blessing of the firstborn to the younger son. Unlike his father who had been deceived into giving the blessing of the firstborn to Jacob, Jacob crossed his hands to purposefully give the uncustomary blessing.

The similarities in the lives of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are striking. In their stories we see the importance of family and the influence of example. Themes like deceit, favoritism, family strife, unexpected blessing, reconciliation, and faith flow through the narratives. Mostly, we see that God is faithful to His promises. He chooses to accomplish His kingdom purposes through sinful people who are willing to believe Him. He can make those sinful people new—giving Abram the name Abraham, Jacob the name Israel, and making those who believe in Jesus Christ new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). Though our sinful patterns might still plague us, in Christ we find forgiveness for our sins as well as power to overcome. We are invited to participate in God’s work in the world. We have new names and can trust the promises of the God who proves Himself faithful time and time again.

Jacob’s name, “deceiver,” does seem to characterize much of Jacob’s life. But he was also Israel, one to whom God made promises to which He remained faithful. God appeared to Jacob, and Jacob believed God’s promises. Despite Jacob’s faults, God chose him to be the leader of a great nation that still bears his name today. But for this, it is unlikely that we would know much about Jacob, who appears to be in the middle of events while the key players are those around him. There is no great wisdom or bravery in Jacob to speak of, and we are tempted to see him as little more than God’s passive instrument. If we are tempted to think that, because we aren’t in the spotlight performing great acts for God, we are unimportant to Him, then we should consider the life of Jacob and know that, in spite of our failings, God can and will still use us in His plan.

Recommended Resource: The Great Lives from God’s Word Series by Chuck Swindoll

“What was the story of Jacob and Esau?”

Answer:
Jacob and Esau were the sons of Isaac and Rebekah and the first twins mentioned in the Bible. Even before they were born, they were struggling together in the womb of their mother. Their prenatal striving foreshadowed later conflict (Genesis 25:21-26).

The twins grew up very different. Jacob was “a quiet man, staying among the tents” and his mother’s favorite. Esau was “a skillful hunter, a man of the open country” and his father’s favorite. One day, Esau returned from hunting and desired some of the lentil stew that Jacob was cooking. Jacob offered to give his brother some stew in exchange for his birthright—the special honor that Esau possessed as the older son, which gave him the right to a double portion of his father’s inheritance. Esau put his temporary, physical needs over his God-given blessing and sold his birthright to Jacob (Genesis 25:27-34).

When the time came for Isaac to bestow his blessing on his sons, Jacob and his mother contrived to deceive Isaac into blessing Jacob in Esau’s place. When Esau found that his blessing had been given to Jacob, he threatened to kill his brother, and Jacob fled (Genesis 27:1 – 28:7). Years later, Jacob and Esau met and were reconciled (Genesis 33).

Both Jacob and Esau were fathers of nations. God changed Jacob’s name to Israel (Genesis 32:28), and he became the father of the 12 tribes of Israel. Esau’s descendants were the Edomites (Genesis 36). Edom was a nation that plagued Israel in later years and was finally judged by God (Obadiah 1:1-21).

In the New Testament, Esau’s choice to sell his birthright is used as an example of ungodliness—a “godless” person who will put physical desires over spiritual blessings (Hebrews 12:15-17). By his negative example, Esau teaches us to hold fast to what is truly important, even if it means denying the appetites of the flesh. Both Old and New Testaments use the story of Jacob and Esau to illustrate God’s calling and election. God chose the younger Jacob to carry on the Abrahamic Covenant, while Esau was providentially excluded from the Messianic line (Malachi 1:2-3; Romans 9:11-14).

Recommended Resource: Genesis – NIV Application Commentary by John Walton

“Why did God love Jacob and hate Esau (Malachi 1:3; Romans 9:13)?”

Answer:
Malachi 1:2-3 declares, “‘I have loved you,’” says the LORD. But you ask, ‘How have you loved us?’ ‘Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?’ the LORD says. ‘Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his mountains into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals.’” Malachi 1:3 is quoted in Romans 9:10-13, “Not only that, but Rebekah’s children had one and the same father, our father Isaac. Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls—she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger.’ Just as it is written: ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’” Why did God love Jacob and hate Esau? If God is love (1 John 4:8), how could He hate anyone?

When studying the Bible, it is critically important to always study the context of a particular Bible verse or passage. In these instances, the prophet Malachi and the apostle Paul are using the name “Esau” to refer to the Edomites, who were the descendants of Esau. Isaac and Rebekah had two sons, Esau and Jacob. God chose Jacob (whom He later renamed “Israel”) to be the father of His chosen people, the Israelites. God rejected Esau (who was also called “Edom”) and did not choose him to be the father of His chosen people. Esau and his descendants, the Edomites, were in many ways blessed by God (Genesis 33:9; Genesis chapter 36).

So, considering the context, God loving Jacob and hating Esau has nothing to do with the human emotions of love and hate. It has everything to do with God choosing one man and his descendants and rejecting another man and his descendants. God chose Abraham out of all the men in the world. The Bible very well could say, “Abraham I loved, and every other man I hated.” God chose Abraham’s son Isaac instead of Abraham’s son Ishmael. The Bible very well could say, “Isaac I loved, and Ishmael I hated.” Romans chapter 9 makes it abundantly clear that loving Jacob and hating Esau was entirely related to which of them God chose. Hundreds of years after Jacob and Esau had died, the Israelites and Edomites became bitter enemies. The Edomites often aided Israel’s enemies in attacks on Israel. Esau’s descendants brought God’s curse upon themselves. Genesis 27:29 tells Israel, “May nations serve you and peoples bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may the sons of your mother bow down to you. May those who curse you be cursed and those who bless you be blessed.”

Recommended Resource: Bible Answers for Almost all Your Questions by Elmer Towns

“Why is the birthright so emphasized in the Bible?”

Answer:
The birthright is emphasized in the Bible because it honored the rights or privileges of the family’s firstborn son. After the father died, or in the father’s absence, the firstborn son assumed the father’s authority and responsibilities. However, the Bible also shows that the father could rescind the birthright and pass it on to a younger son. A good example of this is the case of Jacob and his twelve sons. Reuben was the eldest, but the birthright was given to Joseph’s sons. Even then, Jacob blessed the younger son, Ephraim, above the elder, Manasseh (Genesis 37:19-22; Genesis 49:1-4; Genesis 49:22-26).

In addition to assuming the leadership role in the family, the recipient of the birthright inherited twice that received by the other sons. In cases where a husband might have more than one wife, the birthright always went to the firstborn son of the father and could not be awarded to the son of a favorite wife without proper justification (Deuteronomy 21:15-17) or if the firstborn son’s mother was a concubine or a slave (Genesis 21:9-13; Judges 11:1-2).

The birthright of a king’s firstborn son included his succession to the throne (2 Chronicles 21:1-3). King Rehoboam of Judah violated this tradition by passing the birthright to Abijah, his favorite son. However, to avoid trouble with the older sons, the king paid them off (2 Chronicles 11:18-23).

As New Testament Christians, we have an inherited “birthright” status through Jesus Christ as the firstborn Son of God (Romans 8:29; Colossians 1:15; Revelation 1:5). As God’s only begotten Son, Jesus received the kingdom from His Father and is Lord of all (Acts 2:36; Philippians 2:9-11; Revelation 19:16). Christ promises to share with us His kingdom and inheritance (Romans 4:13; Galatians 3:29; Ephesians 1:18; Hebrews 11:16).

Christians are warned not to imitate Esau who, on impulse, gave away his birthright for a bowl of stew (Hebrews 12:16-17; Genesis 25:19-34). Because of his foolishness, Esau lost his birthright and the blessings of his father (Genesis 27). The lesson for us is to respect what is holy. We should never throw away what is important, godly, or honorable for the sake of temporary pleasure.

Our focus is to remain on Jesus, the appointed heir of all things (Hebrews 1:2; Psalm 2:7-8; Matthew 28:18). And we, through His grace and our faith in Him, are counted as joint heirs (Romans 8:17; Galatians 3:29; Titus 3:7).

Recommended Resource: Bible Answers for Almost all Your Questions by Elmer Towns

“What is the difference between a blessing and a birthright (Genesis 25)?”

Answer:
When twins Jacob and Esau were born, Esau came first, technically making him the firstborn. As the firstborn son, Esau automatically held the “birthright.” A birthright was an honor given to the firstborn, bestowing “head of household” status and the right to inherit his father’s estate. The son with the birthright would receive a double portion of whatever was passed down (see Deuteronomy 21:17). Yet, even before the twins were born, the Lord predicted that Esau would serve Jacob (Genesis 25:23).

Later in Genesis 25, Esau sold his birthright, giving it up for a meal because he was hungry. “Thus Esau despised his birthright” (Genesis 25:29-35). When the time came for Isaac to bless his sons, Jacob deceived his father into giving him Esau’s blessing instead (Genesis 27).

A blessing could be given regardless of birthright. However, a greater blessing was given to the one who held the birthright. After Jacob’s deception, Esau complained that “he took my birthright, and now he’s taken my blessing!” (Genesis 27:36). Esau begged his father for some type of blessing to be given to him, and he did receive a secondary, inferior blessing (verses 38-40).

An interesting parallel took place later in the life of Jacob. Jacob’s son Joseph had two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh. Manasseh was the elder son and should have had the birthright. But when Jacob bestowed his blessing upon his grandsons, he crossed his hands, much to Joseph’s surprise, placing his right hand on the younger son. In this way, Ephraim, the younger son, received the greater blessing (Genesis 48).

In Genesis 49, Jacob gave blessings to each of his 12 sons. Reuben, the firstborn, had forfeited his birthright due to an egregious sin (verse 4). The birthright was instead given to Joseph’s sons (1 Chronicles 5:1). All of Jacob’s sons received some sort of blessing.

While a birthright belonged to the firstborn son, anyone could receive a blessing. In the time of the patriarchs, such blessings acted as a “last will and testament” and were highly prized as a means of revealing God’s will.

Recommended Resource: Genesis – NIV Application Commentary by John Walton

“How many sons did Abraham have?”

Answer:
All total, Abraham had eight sons.

Abraham’s first son was Ishmael through Hagar, his wife’s Egyptian maid (Genesis 16:1–4).

Abraham’s second son was Isaac through Sarah, his wife (Genesis 21:1–3). Isaac was the son God had promised Abraham (Genesis 15:4–5).

After Sarah died, Abraham had six sons through Keturah, another concubine: Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah (Genesis 25:1, 6). Keturah’s sons became the fathers of Arabian tribes living east of Israel.

Some people claim that the Bible makes an error in regards to the number of Abraham’s sons. In Genesis 22:2, God speaks to Abraham after the birth of Ishmael, referring to Isaac as “your son, your only son, whom you love.” Then Hebrews 11:17 identifies Isaac as Abraham’s “one and only son.” And Galatians 4:22 mentions only Isaac and Ishmael: “It is written that Abraham had two sons.” How could Abraham be said to have an “only son” and “two sons,” when in reality he had eight sons?

There is no true contradiction in the above passages. Isaac was the only son who was promised to Abraham and through whom Abraham would become the father of many nations (Genesis 12:1–3; 17:1–8; 21:12). Also, Isaac was the only son of Sarah and Abraham—Sarah being specifically mentioned in the prophecies of Genesis 17:16–21 and 18:10. In addition, Isaac is the only son born in an official marriage: Hagar and Keturah were both concubines. While God blessed the concubines’ sons for Abraham’s sake, those sons had no part in the inheritance. Isaac was the one and only rightful heir to the promise (Genesis 15:4–5; 25:5).

Genesis 22:2 and Hebrews 11:17 both refer to Isaac as Abraham’s “only son” because those passages concern God’s promise and covenant. Since Abraham’s other seven sons are not part of the covenant, they are irrelevant to the issue and not mentioned as sons. Abraham had other sons, but only one son of promise.

The main theme in Galatians is justification by faith, apart from the Law. Galatians 4:22 mentions only two sons, Isaac and Ishmael, in an allegory to highlight the contrast between the old covenant of law and the new covenant of grace. The former leads to bondage while the latter to freedom and life. Paul’s reasoning is as follows: Ishmael was the son of Hagar, a slave, and thus symbolizes bondage and slavery to the Law. Ishmael was the product of a human effort to bring about God’s blessing; Ishmael equals the works of the Law. Isaac was born to the free woman, Sarah, and thus symbolizes freedom and life. Isaac was born in God’s time, according to God’s promise, without the scheming or interference of man; Isaac equals the gift of grace. This passage in Galatians 4 is meant to teach a spiritual lesson (verse 24), not to give a detailed account of Abraham’s life and how many actual sons he had. Mentioning the other six sons would not have served any meaningful purpose in Paul’s allegory.

Spiritually speaking, Abraham has many, many sons. The Bible points to the faith of Abraham (Genesis 15:6) and states that “those who have faith are children of Abraham” (Galatians 3:7; cf. verse 9). Those who exercise the same faith that Abraham had are showing themselves to be like him, spiritually, and so can be rightly called his “children.” All who trust in Christ, as Zacchaeus did, become true sons of Abraham (Luke 19:9). “The promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring . . . to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all” (Romans 4:16).

Recommended Resource: Genesis – NIV Application Commentary by John Walton

“What is the story of Sarah and Hagar?”

Answer:
Sarah was the wife of Abraham. Hagar was the servant of Sarah. God had promised Abraham many descendants, but, ten years after the promise, Sarah was still unable to have children, and they were both on the verge of becoming too old to have children at all. Sarah chose to give her servant Hagar to Abraham, in accordance with the custom of the day, so that Sarah could have a child through her (Genesis 16:2).

Hagar conceived, and Sarah despised her. Sarah began to deal harshly with her, and Hagar fled to the desert to escape the resentment of her mistress. The angel of the Lord met Hagar in the wilderness, commanding her to return to Abraham and Sarah. The angel relayed a promise from God: “I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for multitude” (Genesis 16:10). The angel also predicted Ishmael’s name and character (Genesis 16:11-12).

Later, God fulfilled His promise to Abraham and Sarah. Sarah gave birth to a son named Isaac (Genesis 21). Hagar’s son Ishmael would have been about 14 years old at the time of Isaac’s birth. Abraham sent Hagar and Ishmael away after Isaac was weaned (around age 2 or 3, making Ishmael approximately 16), according to God’s command. At that time, God repeated His promise that Ishmael would father a great nation. Hagar was in the desert and near death when the angel of God called to her, saying, “What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Up! Lift up the boy, and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make him into a great nation” (Genesis 21:17-18).

Ishmael and his mother lived in the wilderness of Paran, where he became an expert with a bow and later took an Egyptian wife (Genesis 21:20-21). He is seen once again in Scripture when he returned to help bury his father Abraham (Genesis 25:7-10).

Ishmael, the son of a bondservant, became the father of 12 sons who were called princes. He lived to 137 years of age. Sarah died at the age of 127 in Hebron, where she was buried (Genesis 23:1-2).

Many observations can be made regarding the story of Sarah and Hagar. First, God can and often does work through ways that appear unlikely from a human perspective. Abraham miraculously became a father at age 86 and again at age 99. Isaac’s mother, Sarah, was barren. God’s promise to Abraham did not depend on human strength, and with God nothing is impossible (Luke 1:37). God used a seemingly impossible situation to make Abraham the father of the Jewish people, just as He had predicted.

It is clear from this story that God works despite misguided human effort. Sarah had no business offering her servant to Abraham, and Abraham had no business sleeping with Hagar. And Sarah was wrong to mistreat her servant as she did. Yet God worked through these situations. Hagar was blessed, and Abraham and Sarah were still the recipients of the promise. God’s mercy is great, and His sovereign will is accomplished regardless of human frailty.

This unlikely family story is one readers would expect to end badly. Yet God kept His promise; Isaac became the son of promise through whom the tribes of Israel would arise. Hagar’s son, Ishmael, also became a great leader. Regardless of how a situation looks from a human perspective, God continues to work both to accomplish His will and to fulfill His promises.

In Galatians 4, Paul uses the story of Sarah and Hagar to illustrate the results of two different covenants: the New Covenant, based on grace; and the Old Covenant, based on the Law. In Paul’s analogy, believers in Christ are like the child born of Sarah—free, the result of God’s promise. Those who try to earn their salvation by their own works are like the child born of Hagar—a slave, the result of human effort.

Recommended Resource: Genesis – NIV Application Commentary by John Walton

“Why did Abraham banish Ishmael (Genesis 21:14)?”

Answer:
“Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, laughing. So she said to Abraham, ‘Cast out this slave woman with her son, for the son of this slave woman shall not be heir with my son Isaac’” (Genesis 21:10).

Abraham was not happy with Sarah’s response (Genesis 21:11). He cared about Sarah, but he did not share her view that Hagar and Ishmael should be sent away. Ishmael was his own son, after all.

Then God spoke to Abraham on this issue: “Be not displeased because of the boy and because of your slave woman. Whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for through Isaac shall your offspring be named. And I will make a nation of the son of the slave woman also, because he is your offspring’” (Genesis 21:12-13). God’s promise to make another nation from Ishmael began to be fulfilled when Ishmael had twelve sons who presided over twelve tribes (Genesis 25:16).

Abraham obeyed the Lord. “So Abraham rose early in the morning and took bread and a skin of water and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away” (Genesis 21:14). As far as we know, Abraham did not see Ishmael again. Ishmael appears later at Abraham’s burial (Genesis 25:9).

Sending away Hagar and Ishmael may seem cruel from our perspective, but the Bible records both Abraham’s concern and God’s command. Abraham expressed compassion for his son, but he also demonstrated obedience when God required something different from what Abraham personally desired. In doing so, Abraham models a humility that still applies today.

God calls us to obedience, and that requires us to be willing to give up personal desires in order to follow Him. Those who love the Lord know that the Lord’s will is what matters most. Abraham obeyed God and was known as a friend of God (James 2:23). His faith followed God’s will, even in difficult times.

Recommended Resource: Genesis – NIV Application Commentary by John Walton

“Why did God command Abraham to sacrifice Isaac?”

Answer:
Abraham had obeyed God many times in his walk with Him, but no test could have been more severe than the one in Genesis 22. God commanded, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering” (Genesis 22:2a).

This was an astounding command because Isaac was the son of promise. God had promised several times that from Abraham’s own body would come a nation as multitudinous as the stars in heaven (Genesis 12:2–3; 15:4–5). Later, Abraham was specifically told that the promise would be through Isaac (Genesis 21:12).

How did Abraham respond to God’s command to sacrifice Isaac? With immediate obedience; early the next morning, Abraham started on his journey with two servants, a donkey and his beloved son Isaac, with firewood for the offering. His unquestioning obedience to God’s confusing command gave God the glory He deserves and is an example to us of how to glorify God. When we obey as Abraham did, trusting that God’s plan is best, we exalt His attributes and praise Him. Abraham’s obedience in the face of this crushing command extolled God’s sovereign love, His trustworthiness, and His goodness, and it provided an example for us to follow. His faith in the God he had come to know and love placed Abraham in the pantheon of faithful heroes in Hebrews 11.

Abraham’s faith was such that, even if he had sacrificed Isaac, he believed the Lord would keep His word and raise Isaac from the dead (Hebrews 11:17–19). God uses Abraham’s faith as an example of the type of faith required for salvation. Genesis 15:6 says, “Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” This truth is the basis of the Christian faith, as reiterated in Romans 4:3 and James 2:23. The righteousness that was credited to Abraham is the same righteousness credited to us when we receive by faith the sacrifice God provided for our sins—Jesus Christ. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

The Old Testament story of Abraham is the basis of the New Testament teaching of the atonement, the sacrificial offering of the Lord Jesus on the cross for the sin of mankind. Jesus said, many centuries later, “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad” (John 8:56). The following are some of the parallels between the two biblical accounts:

• “Take your son, your only son, Isaac” (v. 2); “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…” (John 3:16).

• “Go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there…” (v. 2); it is believed that this area is where the city of Jerusalem was built many years later, where Jesus was crucified outside its city walls (Hebrews 13:12).

• “Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering” (v. 2); “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3).

• “Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac” (v. 6); Jesus, “carrying his own cross. . .” (John 19:17).

• “But where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” (v. 7); John said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

• Isaac, the son, acted in obedience to his father in becoming the sacrifice (v. 9); Jesus prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39).

• Resurrection – Isaac (figuratively) and Jesus in reality: “By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, ‘It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.’ Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death” (Hebrews 11:17–19); Jesus “was buried, and . . . was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:4).

Recommended Resource: Abraham: One Nomad’s Amazing Journey of Faith by Charles Swindoll

“What was the Old Covenant?”

Answer:
The Old Covenant was a conditional or bilateral agreement that God made with the Israelites. The Old Covenant was in effect during the dispensation of the Law. It is “old” in comparison to the New Covenant, promised by Jeremiah the prophet (Jeremiah 31:31, 33) and made effective by the death of the Lord Jesus (Luke 22:20). In the Old Covenant, the Israelites were required to obey God and keep the Law, and in return He protected and blessed them (Deuteronomy 30:15–18; 1 Samuel 12:14–15). In the New Covenant, things change and God becomes the proactive and unconditional source of salvation and blessing. In the New Covenant, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

The author of Hebrews details some of the differences between the Old Covenant and the New. The Old Covenant required repeated, daily sacrifices of animals as a reminder of the people’s sin. But “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4). Under the New Covenant, “we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (verse 10), ending the need for animal sacrifices. “Where [sins and lawless acts] have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary” (verse 18).

Under the Old Covenant, only the high priest could enter the Most Holy Place where God’s presence dwelt—and that only once a year. But under the New Covenant, Jesus is our High Priest (Hebrews 10:21), “we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus” (verse 19), and we can “draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings” (verse 22).

The Old Covenant was a set of “external regulations applying until the time of the new order” (Hebrews 9:10). Upon Jesus’ death and resurrection, the external regulations gave way to an internal change of heart (see Galatians 6:15). The Old Covenant was fulfilled in Christ (Matthew 5:17). “The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves” (Hebrews 10:1). “The reality . . . is found in Christ” (Colossians 2:17). The New Covenant involves a superior ministry (of Christ), is “established on better promises,” and is, in fact, “superior to the old [covenant]” (Hebrews 8:6).

Even while the Old Covenant stood, God had planned the New Covenant. The two work together to show people their need for God and then to fulfill that need. The Old Covenant required people to please God, but no one can measure up to perfection, and the Old Covenant resulted in a string of failures. “Through the law we become conscious of our sin” (Romans 3:20). The Old Covenant established our guilt before God and our need for a Savior. The Old Covenant was never intended to save us; in fact, “the old written covenant ends in death; but under the new covenant, the Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:6, NLT).

In the Old Covenant, God also established that the way to atone for sin is through the shedding of blood (Hebrews 9:22). That is why during the Last Supper on the night of His arrest, Jesus passed the cup to the disciples and told them, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you” (Luke 22:20). When Jesus was crucified, His blood provided for the forgiveness of the sins of the whole world—the basis of the New Covenant. “By calling this covenant ‘new,’ he has made the first one obsolete” (Hebrews 8:13). Salvation is now a free gift for any who will believe in Christ and trust that His blood takes away their guilt before God (John 3:16–17).

One purpose of the Old Covenant was to make it absolutely clear that no man is righteous before God and that no one can save himself (Romans 3:10–11, 20). Before the New Covenant came, we were “held in custody under the law” (Galatians 3:23). God’s people were stuck in the Old Covenant, relying on a sacrificial system that looked forward to the coming of Christ and justification by faith (verse 24). “But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son . . . born under the law to redeem those under the law” (Galatians 4:4–5). When the Son of God died on the cross, God “canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:14).

The ultimate purpose of the Old Covenant was to point people to Christ: “The law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian” (Galatians 3:24–25). One truth that must not be missed is that we are no longer under the Old Covenant. Many false teachers today call on people to keep the Law, or at least part of it, as a means to please God. Christians must stand firm in the grace that God has given us and reject such legalism. “In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith” (verse 26).

Recommended Resource: The Moody Handbook of Theology by Paul Enns

“What is the New Covenant?”

Answer:
The New Covenant (or New Testament) is the promise that God makes with humanity that He will forgive sin and restore fellowship with those whose hearts are turned toward Him. Jesus Christ is the mediator of the New Covenant, and His death on the cross is the basis of the promise (Luke 22:20). The New Covenant was predicted while the Old Covenant was still in effect—the prophets Moses, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel all allude to the New Covenant.

The Old Covenant that God had established with His people required strict obedience to the Mosaic Law. Because the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), the Law required that Israel perform daily sacrifices in order to atone for sin. But Moses, through whom God established the Old Covenant, also anticipated the New Covenant. In one of his final addresses to the nation of Israel, Moses looks forward to a time when Israel would be given “a heart to understand” (Deuteronomy 29:4, ESV). Moses predicts that Israel would fail in keeping the Old Covenant (verses 22–28), but he then sees a time of restoration (30:1–5). At that time, Moses says, “The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live” (verse 6). The New Covenant involves a total change of heart so that God’s people are naturally pleasing to Him.

The prophet Jeremiah also predicted the New Covenant. “‘The day will come,’ says the Lord, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. . . . But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,’ says the Lord. ‘I will put my law in their minds, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people’” (Jeremiah 31:31, 33). Jesus Christ came to fulfill the Law of Moses (Matthew 5:17) and to establish the New Covenant between God and His people. The Old Covenant was written in stone, but the New Covenant is written on our hearts. Entering the New Covenant is made possible only by faith in Christ, who shed His blood to take away the sins of the world (John 1:29). Luke 22:20 relates how Jesus, at the Last Supper, takes the cup and says, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (ESV).

The New Covenant is also mentioned in Ezekiel 36:26–27, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” Ezekiel lists several aspects of the New Covenant here: a new heart, a new spirit, the indwelling Holy Spirit, and true holiness. The Mosaic Law could provide none of these things (see Romans 3:20).

The New Covenant was originally given to Israel and includes a promise of fruitfulness, blessing, and a peaceful existence in the Promised Land. In Ezekiel 36:28–30 God says, “Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God. . . . I will call for the grain and make it plentiful and will not bring famine upon you. I will increase the fruit of the trees and the crops of the field, so that you will no longer suffer disgrace among the nations because of famine.” Deuteronomy 30:1–5 contains similar promises related to Israel under the New Covenant. After the resurrection of Christ, Gentiles were brought into the blessing of the New Covenant, too (Acts 10; Ephesians 2:13–14). The fulfillment of the New Covenant will be seen in two places: on earth, during the Millennial Kingdom; and in heaven, for all eternity.

We are no longer under the Law but under grace (Romans 6:14–15). The Old Covenant has served its purpose, and it has been replaced by “a better covenant” (Hebrews 7:22). “In fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises” (Hebrews 8:6).

Under the New Covenant, we are given the opportunity to receive salvation as a free gift (Ephesians 2:8–9). Our responsibility is to exercise faith in Christ, the One who fulfilled the Law on our behalf and brought an end to the Law’s sacrifices through His own sacrificial death. Through the life-giving Holy Spirit who lives in all believers (Romans 8:9–11), we share in the inheritance of Christ and enjoy a permanent, unbroken relationship with God (Hebrews 9:15).

Recommended Resource: The Moody Handbook of Theology by Paul Enns

“What was a blood covenant (Genesis 15:9-21)?”

Answer:
The scene would look quite ominous to modern-day observers—five bloody animal carcasses on the ground, three of them split in half, with the halves separated a short distance from each other. But in Abraham’s time it would not have been so menacing. The arrangement of divided animal carcasses would have been instantly recognized as the set-up for making a type of blood covenant.

When God called Abraham out of his hometown and away from all things familiar, He gave Abraham some promises. A covenant is a kind of promise, a contract, a binding agreement between two parties. The fifteenth chapter of Genesis reiterates the covenant God had made with Abraham at his calling. Except this time, God graciously reassures His promise with a visual of His presence. He asks Abraham to find and kill a heifer, a ram, a goat, a dove, and a pigeon. Then, Abraham was to cut them in half (except the birds) and lay the pieces in two rows, leaving a path through the center (Genesis 15:9-10).

In ancient Near Eastern royal land grant treaties, this type of ritual was done to “seal” the promises made. Through this blood covenant, God was confirming primarily three promises He had made to Abraham: the promise of heirs, of land, and of blessings (Genesis 12:2-3). A blood covenant communicated a self-maledictory oath. The parties involved would walk the path between the slaughtered animals so to say, “May this be done to me if I do not keep my oath.” Jeremiah 34:18-19 also speaks about this type of oath-making.

However, there was an important difference in the blood oath that God made with Abraham in Genesis 15. When the evening came, God appeared in the form of a “smoking fire pot and flaming torch [that] passed between the pieces” (Genesis 15:17). But Abraham had fallen “into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him” (verse 12). Thus, God alone passed through the pieces of dead animals, and the covenant was sealed by God alone. Nothing depended on Abraham. Everything depended on God, who promised to be faithful to His covenant. “When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself” (Hebrews 6:13-18). Abraham and his descendants could trust, count on, and believe in everything God promised.

This specific blood covenant is also known as the Abrahamic Covenant. The blood involved in this covenant, as with any blood covenant, signifies the life from which the blood comes (Leviticus 17:11).

The Mosaic Covenant was also a blood covenant in that it required blood to be sprinkled on the tabernacle, “the scroll and all the people” (Hebrews 9:19-21). “In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22). In the Mosaic Covenant, the blood of animals served as a covering, or atonement, for the sins of the people. The animal’s life was given in place of the sinner’s life. In the Abrahamic Covenant, God, in essence, was declaring He would give His life if His promises were broken. There could be no greater encouragement to believers, since God is eternal and can no more break an oath than He can die.

All of these things were only “copies,” or “shadows,” of the better covenant to come (Hebrews 9:23). The lives of animals could never remove sin; the life of an animal is not a sufficient substitute for a human life (Hebrews 10:4). The blood of bulls and goats was a temporary appeasement until the final, ultimate blood covenant was made by Jesus Christ Himself – the God Man (Hebrews 9:24-28). The New Covenant was in His blood (Luke 22:20).

The shadows became realities in Christ, who fulfilled all of the Old Testament blood covenants with His own blood. Christians can be confident that the gift of eternal life that God gives through Jesus is the true promise to people of faith. As the apostle Paul explains, the covenant was established with Abraham and his “Seed”—singular. Paul interprets this as the singular person of Christ (Galatians 3:15-16). Therefore, all who are “in Christ” are spiritual heirs of the promises made to Abraham (Galatians 3:29).

To put it simply, a blood covenant is a promise made by God that He will choose a people for Himself and bless them. The covenant was originally for Abraham’s physical descendants but was later extended, spiritually, to all those who, like Abraham, believe God (Galatians 3:7; cf. Genesis 15:6). God’s promise of eternal blessing is given only on the basis of faith in the saving blood of His Son, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 9:12).

Recommended Resource: God the Son Incarnate: The Doctrine of Christ by Stephen Wellum

“Why did Abraham bargain with God in regard to Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18)?”

Answer:
When God revealed His plan to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah due to the wickedness of those cities, Abraham asked God to spare the people. In fact, Abraham engaged in a lengthy conversation to mediate for the cities.

First, Abraham wanted God to spare the righteous people who lived in Sodom and Gomorrah. He asked, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” (Genesis 18:23-25).

Second, Abraham’s nephew Lot lived in Sodom. God did spare Lot and his two daughters, perhaps as a direct result of Abraham’s request. Genesis 19:29 states, “So it was that, when God destroyed the cities of the valley, God remembered Abraham and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow when he overthrew the cities in which Lot had lived.” Abraham certainly wanted to see his own extended family protected from God’s judgment.

Third, Abraham had compassion for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. While he understood God’s judgment of sin, Abraham asked God to spare the city even if there could be found as few as ten righteous people (Genesis 18:32). God agreed to spare the city for the sake of ten righteous people. Apparently, fewer than ten righteous were found, since God did destroy the cities, sparing only Lot and his two daughters. (God also planned to rescue Lot’s wife, but she died when she disobeyed God and turned back to look at the city as it was being destroyed.)

Abraham’s compassion for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah reveals the heart of a man who cared greatly for others, including those who did not follow God. In fact, the angelic visitors who visited Lot were threatened by men of Sodom who desired to have sex with them. Though Sodom’s citizens were wicked, Abraham did not wish to see their destruction.

Like Abraham, we are called to have great compassion for others, including those whose lives do not follow God’s ways. Also, we must ultimately accept God’s judgments, even when His decisions are not our desired choices.

Abraham’s request for these cities to be spared was denied. God sometimes says “no” to our requests, too, even when we pray with good intentions. The Lord may have other plans that we do not understand, yet which are part of His perfect will.

Finally, consider how God did answer Abraham’s request by rescuing Lot and his daughters. Although Abraham’s mediatory work did not result in the sparing of the cities, it did bring about the salvation of Abraham’s nephew. Abraham’s prayers on behalf of others were important, just as our prayers are today.

Recommended Resource: Genesis – NIV Application Commentary by John Walton

“What was the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah?”

Answer:
The biblical account of Sodom and Gomorrah is recorded in Genesis chapters 18-19. Genesis chapter 18 records the Lord and two angels coming to speak with Abraham. The Lord informed Abraham that “the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous” (Genesis 18:20). Verses 22-33 record Abraham pleading with the Lord to have mercy on Sodom and Gomorrah because Abraham’s nephew, Lot, and his family lived in Sodom.

Genesis chapter 19 records the two angels, disguised as human men, visiting Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot met the angels in the city square and urged them to stay at his house. The angels agreed. The Bible then informs us, “Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom — both young and old — surrounded the house. They called to Lot, ‘Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them'” (Genesis 19:4–5). The angels then proceed to blind all the men of Sodom and Gomorrah and urge Lot and his family to flee from the cities to escape the wrath that God was about to deliver. Lot and his family flee the city, and then “the LORD rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah — from the LORD out of the heavens. Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, including all those living in the cities…” (Genesis 19:24).

In light of the passage, the most common response to the question “What was the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah?” is that it was homosexuality. That is how the term “sodomy” came to be used to refer to anal sex between two men, whether consensual or forced. Clearly, homosexuality was part of why God destroyed the two cities. The men of Sodom and Gomorrah wanted to perform homosexual gang rape on the two angels (who were disguised as men). At the same time, it is not biblical to say that homosexuality was the exclusive reason why God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were definitely not exclusive in terms of the sins in which they indulged.

Ezekiel 16:49-50 declares, “Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me…” The Hebrew word translated “detestable” refers to something that is morally disgusting and is the exact same word used in Leviticus 18:22 that refers to homosexuality as an “abomination.” Similarly, Jude 7 declares, “…Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion.” So, again, while homosexuality was not the only sin in which the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah indulged, it does appear to be the primary reason for the destruction of the cities.

Those who attempt to explain away the biblical condemnations of homosexuality claim that the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was inhospitality. The men of Sodom and Gomorrah were certainly being inhospitable. There is probably nothing more inhospitable than homosexual gang rape. But to say God completely destroyed two cities and all their inhabitants for being inhospitable clearly misses the point. While Sodom and Gomorrah were guilty of many other horrendous sins, homosexuality was the principle reason God poured fiery sulfur on the cities, completely destroying them and all of their inhabitants. To this day, the area where Sodom and Gomorrah were located remains a desolate wasteland. Sodom and Gomorrah serve as a powerful example of how God feels about sin in general, and homosexuality specifically.

Recommended Resource: What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality? by Kevin DeYoung and 101 Frequently Asked Questions About Homosexuality by Mike Haley

Lecture 6

Information:
Quotations mainly and extensively from https://www.gotquestions.org/

The Exodus (Exodus 1-19)

After completing this study unit, you should be able to:

  • Understand the historical and geographical context behind the Exodus; and
  • Explain the eight major themes of the book of Exodus.
  • Answer the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ claim that Jehovah is the real name for God; and
  • Defend the reality of, and God’s sovereign hand in, the ten plagues.

Key Verse:
14God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” 15God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations. Ex 3:14-15

Overview: Exodus Ch. 1 -18.   6min

Overview video on Exodus 1-18, which breaks down the literary design of the book and its flow of thought. In Exodus, God rescues the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and confronts the evil and injustice of Pharaoh.

The Book of Exodus – Part 1 of 2. 6min

The first part of Exodus recounts how Abraham’s family ends up enslaved in Egypt. God raises up a deliverer to confront the evil of Pharaoh and to liberate the Israelites. From Egypt, they set out into the wilderness on the way to Mt. Sinai.

Exodus: a Quick Overview | Whiteboard Bible Study.

Exodus is the second book of the Bible, and it tells the story of how God rescued Israel from Egypt to make them his special people. 10mins

The Law. 6 mins

“Exodus” is derived from its name in the Septuagint (LXX), Exodus, meaning “departure” (Exo. 19:1). It’s a very apt name because it recounts that central and formative event in Israel’s history, the “de-parture from Egypt” (1:1-15:21). In the Hebrew Bible the book is known from its first two words we’ēlleh šemôth, “these are the names” (often just šemôth, “Names”).

Chapter 5: Exodus

Key Terms

  • Decalogue – the Ten Commandments
  • Documentary Hypothesis: an approach to the authorship of the Pentateuch associated with source criticism that understands the five books as a patchwork composition of four (or more) literary documents
  • divine oracle formula: introductory statement indicating direct speech from God to a human agent
  • Enlightenment: a philosophical movement of the eighteenth century marked by rejection of traditional social, religious, and political ideas and emphasizing rationalism and scientific methods (equated with modernism)
  • Exodus – the event in which Yahweh rescued Israel from slavery in Egypt.
  • miracle: divine intervention in human affairs, either in the superseding of natural law or in the intensification and timing of natural events
  • Passover: a feast of unleavened bread that signifies the haste with which Israel left Egypt; the Passover event occurred when Yahweh’s messenger brought death to the firstborn of all those who did not have blood from a sacrificial lamb smeared on their doorposts
  • ten plagues: supernatural events that Yahweh used to display his power to the Egyptians and convince them to free Israel

Key Ideas

  • Yahweh is supreme over pagan deities.
  • The exodus is a redemptive event for ancient Israel.
  • The Mosaic law is a religious and social charter for Israel.
  • The presence of God is symbolized in the tabernacle.

Chapter Summary

Exodus continues the narrative of Israel’s early history in Egypt and follows the story of the Israelites up to their formation into a nation at Sinai. The real hero of the story is not Moses, but Yahweh, who keeps his promises to Abraham. The exodus from Egypt is the primary redemptive event of the OT.

Tradition attributes the book of Exodus to Moses; modern scholars grant varying degrees

of responsibility to Moses as writer, but most acknowledge Moses as the source of the material found in Exodus. Those who accept the Documentary Hypothesis attribute the final redaction of the book to a priestly writer during or after the exile. The authors of this text argue that the material in Exodus primarily originated with Moses, but that he did not compile the book into its present form.

The historical period narrated by Exodus spans approximately eighty-five years. However, scholars have struggled to determine the approximate date of the exodus, primarily because only two Egyptian pharaohs ruled for more than forty years (the duration of Moses’ exile in the wilderness). The argument for an early or late date rests primarily on one’s interpretation of the numbers recorded in the Bible, as well as extrabiblical historical and archeological information.

Geographical considerations further complicate our understanding of the exodus as we try to reconstruct the route taken by the Israelites. The authors of this text prefer the traditional southern route, which most convincingly accommodates the biblical and geographical information. 14

Exodus explains how the Israelites came to be enslaved in Egypt and were later delivered; reveals the character of God, who keeps his promises to the patriarchs and adopts Israel as his covenant people; and instructs the Israelites in how to maintain their covenant relationship with Yahweh.

The book of Exodus divides into the narratives of Israel in Egypt, their journey through the wilderness, and their sojourn at Sinai. Throughout Exodus, God progressively reveals more of his person and character to Abraham’s offspring and establishes his presence in their midst.

Media Resources/Websites

  • 3-D Bible Project: The plugin Cortona must be used to view the virtual model of the tabernacle on this site.

http://www3.telus.net/public/kstam/en/default.htm

Author: Moses was the author of the Book of Exodus (Exodus 17:14; 24:4-7; 34:27).

Date of Writing: The Book of Exodus was written between 1440 and 1400 B.C.

Purpose of Writing: The word “exodus” means departure. In God’s timing, the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt marked the end of a period of oppression for Abraham’s descendants (Genesis 15:13), and the beginning of the fulfillment of the covenant promise to Abraham that his descendants would not only live in the Promised Land, but would also multiply and become a great nation (Genesis 12:1-3, 7). The purpose of the book may be expressed as tracing the rapid growth of Jacob’s descendants from Egypt to the establishment of the theocratic nation in their Promised Land.

Key Verses:

Exodus 1:8, “Then a new king, who did not know about Joseph, came to power in Egypt.”

Exodus 2:24-25, “God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.”

Exodus 12:27, “‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the LORD, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.’ Then the people bowed down and worshiped.”

Exodus 20:2-3, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.”

Brief Summary: Exodus begins where Genesis leaves off as God deals with His chosen people, the Jews. It traces the events from the time Israel entered Egypt as guests of Joseph, who was powerful in Egypt, until they were eventually delivered from the cruel bondage of slavery into which they had been brought by “…a new king…which knew not Joseph” (Exodus 1:8).

Chapters 1-14 describe the conditions of oppression of the Jews under Pharaoh, the rise of Moses as their deliverer, the plagues God brought upon Egypt for the refusal of their leader to submit to Him, and the departure from Egypt. God’s sovereign and powerful hand is seen in the miracles of the plagues—ending with the plague of death of the firstborn and the institution of the first Passover—the deliverance of the Israelites, the parting of the Red Sea, and the destruction of the Egyptian army.

The middle portion of Exodus is dedicated to the wandering in the wilderness and the miraculous provision by God for His people. But even though He gave them bread from heaven, sweet water from bitter, water from a rock, victory over those who would destroy them, His Law written on tablets of stone by His own hand, and His presence in the form of pillars of fire and cloud, the people continually grumbled and rebelled against Him.

The last third of the book describes the construction of the Ark of the Covenant and the plan for the Tabernacle with its various sacrifices, altars, furniture, ceremonies, and forms of worship.

Foreshadowings: The numerous sacrifices required of the Israelites were a picture of the ultimate sacrifice, the Passover Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. The night of the last plague on Egypt, an unblemished lamb was killed and its blood applied to the doorposts of the houses of God’s people, protecting them from the angel of death. This foreshadowed Jesus, the Lamb of God without spot or blemish (1 Peter 1:19), whose blood applied to us ensures eternal life. Among the symbolic presentations of Christ in the book of Exodus is the story of the water from the rock in Exodus 17:6. Just as Moses struck the rock to provide life-giving water for the people to drink, so did God strike the Rock of our salvation, crucifying Him for our sin, and from the Rock came the gift of living water (John 4:10). The provision of manna in the wilderness is a perfect picture of Christ, the Bread of Life (John 6:48), provided by God to give us life.

Practical Application: The Mosaic Law was given in part to show mankind that they were incapable of keeping it. We are unable to please God by law-keeping; therefore, Paul exhorts us to “put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified” (Galatians 2:16).

God’s provision for the Israelites, from deliverance from captivity to the manna and quail in the wilderness, are clear indications of His gracious provision for His people. God has promised to supply all our needs. “God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful” (1 Corinthians 1:9).

We are to trust in the Lord, for He can deliver us from anything. But God does not allow sin to go unpunished forever. As a result, we can trust Him in His retribution and justice. When God removes us from a bad situation, we should not seek to go back. When God makes demands of us, He expects us to comply, but at the same time He provides grace and mercy because He knows that, on our own, we will not be able to fully obey.

Recommended Resource: Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers Holman Old Testament Commentary by Glen Martin.
Exodus NIV Application Commentary by Peter Enns

The Global Message of Exodus

The Continued Story of Redemptive History

The book of Exodus continues the story of the redemptive history that God began in the book of Genesis. The original purpose of Exodus was to help the people of Israel understand their identity as God’s special people, and to learn about their covenant obligations to him. They were to see themselves as God’s “firstborn son” (Ex. 4:22–23) and as a “kingdom of priests” (19:5–6), called to bring God’s blessings to the nations. Exodus describes how the Lord delivered Israel from Egyptian oppression (chs. 1–15), brought her into covenant relationship with himself at Mount Sinai (chs. 16–24), and came to dwell in her midst in the tabernacle (chs. 25–40).

The Meaning of the Exodus

God’s main purpose in delivering the people of Israel out of Egyptian oppression was so that he “might dwell among” them (Ex. 29:46). To understand why God desired to dwell in Israel’s midst, we must consider the book of Exodus within the larger framework of redemptive history. The Creator-King’s original intention was that he might dwell among his people, who would be a flourishing human community in a paradise-kingdom beginning in Eden and spreading throughout the whole world (see “The Global Message of Genesis”). The book of Revelation shows that these original creation intentions remain God’s purpose for his people, and his purpose will be fulfilled at the end of history (Revelation 21–22). In those last two chapters of the Bible, as in the Bible’s first two chapters, we see God dwelling with his people. In the book of Exodus we see this as well, as Israel learns about their covenant relationship with God, and as he dwells among them through the tabernacle.

The narrator of Exodus clearly states that the reason why God established the Mosaic covenant with Israel at Sinai was to carry forward his purpose as expressed within the earlier covenant with Abraham (Ex. 2:24; 3:6, 15, 16; 6:2–8). God’s promises to Abraham in Genesis 12:1–3 function as his solution to the problem of the human sin and rebellion that we read about in Genesis 3–11. In Exodus, God advances his solution to the fall by establishing Israel as a theocracy (a nation governed directly by God). Through the Mosaic covenant, Israel becomes the initial fulfillment and next stage of the promise that in Abraham’s lineage all the families of the earth would be blessed (Gen. 12:3).

God’s “Firstborn Son”

In Exodus 4:22–23, God announced to Pharaoh that Israel was “my firstborn son.” In the worldview of ancient Egypt, the firstborn son of a king would inherit the throne and would be under obligation to manifest the rule of the supreme deity of his father upon earth. Pharaoh thought of himself as the son and appointed representative of the supreme god of Egypt, and he believed that his own firstborn son would inherit this role.

Israel became the Lord’s adopted firstborn son, and so was under obligation to manifest the Lord’s rule upon earth. The original calling of humanity to be God’s image-bearers, his appointed representatives, who establish and extend God’s heavenly rule upon the earth, is now to be carried forward through the chosen people of Israel. Although Israel largely failed in this mission, Jesus ultimately suffers the punishment deserved by God’s people and secures the success of this mission through God’s new people, the church (Matt. 28:18–20).

Universal Themes in Exodus

The main theme of Exodus is the Lord’s self-revelation in faithfulness, grace, and power, especially in supremacy over the false gods of the world.

The faithful God. Exodus 3:10–15 is the revelation of the personal name of God, YHWH, which is rendered in most Bibles with small capital letters, as “the Lord.” The name is connected to the Hebrew verb “to be,” and its meaning becomes clear throughout Exodus. First, the Lord is the God who “will be” with his chosen people to enable them to fulfill their God-given task (Ex. 3:12). Second, the Lord is the God “who will be who he is” (see 3:14). God will be what he has always been. He is the unchanging, self-consistent God. He will be faithful forever to his own character and covenant commitments. Third, the Lord is the God who “will be” sufficient in his people’s moment of crisis (3:14b). God is faithful and powerful enough to carry through on his promise to deliver his people from Pharaoh and the gods of Egypt.

The gracious God. In Exodus 34:5–7, the Lord further unveils the essence of his character and the significance of his name to Moses, who had asked to see God’s glory (Ex. 33:18). The context is crucial, for Exodus 32–34 concerns Israel’s golden calf rebellion. It is in the midst of this crisis that God reveals that he is “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin” (34:6–7). Because of Israel’s idolatry, the mission to rescue the world nearly collapses as God’s people forsake him. Yet due to his grace and covenant love, the mission to bless the whole world (Gen. 12:1–3) continues to advance. The golden calf incident, however, has revealed that Israel, the one through whom worldwide blessing was to come, is herself part of the problem. God’s own people have evil hearts (Ex. 32:9–10, 22; 33:5; 34:9).

The all-powerful God. In the exodus deliverance from Pharaoh, the Lord reveals himself as the only true God and king of the earth (Ex. 9:16; 15:11, 14–15, 18). In his victory over the world’s most powerful nation, the Lord demonstrates that its most powerful “gods” were not gods at all (12:12; 15:11). The book of Exodus shows that the God of Abraham is the only true God of all the earth.

The Global Message of Exodus for Today

Nations, political power, and oppression. Israel’s exodus from Egypt must be understood as the unique event that it was within the history of redemption. It would be wrong, therefore, to interpret the book of Exodus as declaring that God’s primary purpose is to liberate all oppressed people from political or economic enslavement. If we read Exodus in this way, we may begin to see the church’s primary mission as working to bring about political freedom and social justice. This is certainly a worthy and important goal, and Exodus does demonstrate vividly that God’s ear is drawn to the groaning of the oppressed (Ex. 2:23–24). God is compassionate and cares for the widow, the fatherless, and the poor (22:21–27), and the church is called to do likewise. Yet this is not the main message of Exodus. The church’s primary mission is the proclamation and living out of the gospel of Christ—for the fundamental problem plaguing humanity is not political oppression but its root cause, the evil human heart. And this fundamental problem is cured only in the work of Christ in dying and rising again. In doing all of this, Jesus accomplished a greater and final exodus deliverance for all who will put their trust in him.

The sojourner and the resident alien. In a time when economic crises, wars, and natural disasters compel individuals and whole peoples to flee their homelands and seek security in foreign countries, the issue of the resident alien has become acute throughout the entire global village. In Exodus, God commands Israel not to oppress the sojourner. He reminds his people of their own historic experience as oppressed sojourners in Egypt (Ex. 22:21; 23:9). While the book of Exodus is not a manual for dealing with the issue of illegal or unwanted immigration, the book certainly teaches that solutions must be sought with justice and compassion. And above all, global Christians must remember that they are resident aliens on earth and, most fundamentally, citizens of heaven (Phil. 3:20; 1 Pet. 1:1; 2:11).

“Why did God speak to Moses out of the burning bush?”

Answer:
The story of God speaking to Moses out of the burning bush is found in Exodus 3:1—4:23. Through this remarkable event, Moses encounters God on Mount Horeb, and God reveals Himself (Deuteronomy 33:16; Mark 12:26). The burning bush as described in Exodus 3:2 is a theophany, the appearance of God in a form that is visible to man. The bush itself was most likely some kind of bramble or thorn bush, and the fire burning the bush was in the form of the angel of the Lord who “appeared to him [Moses] in flames of fire” (Exodus 3:2).

This is the first time the Bible uses the word “holy” with reference to God (verse 5). At the burning bush God revealed His holiness in a way it had never been revealed before. Moses was so awed by this experience that later when he wrote his famous victory hymn, he made sure to mention this divine attribute of God’s holiness: “Who among the gods is like you, O LORD? Who is like you—majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?” (Exodus 15:11)

There are several reasons why God revealed Himself to Moses out of the burning bush. First, God reveals Himself as a fire in that it is an image of His holiness. All through the Bible, fire is used as a picture of the purifying and refining quality of God’s holiness. This is further evidenced when God commands Moses to remove his sandals “for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Here God was emphasizing to Moses the gap between the divine and the human. God is transcendent in His holiness, so Moses was not allowed to come close to Him.

Holiness involves separation. God’s holiness means that He is set apart from everything He has made. Holiness is not simply His righteousness (although that is part of it), but also His otherness. It is the distinction between the Creator and the creature, the infinite distance between God’s deity and our humanity. God says, “I am God, and not man—the Holy One among you” (Hosea 11:9). His people respond by saying, “There is no one holy like the LORD” (1 Samuel 2:2).

Second, God revealed Himself to Moses out of the burning bush as an image of His glory. Though this theophany was frightening (Exodus 3:6; Deuteronomy 4:24), its purpose was to manifest the sheer majesty of God and to stand as a visible reminder to Moses and his people during the dark times ahead. For it would be soon that God would manifest His holiness and glory to the entire nation of Israel. As Moses and the children of Israel soon learned, His glory is like a consuming fire, a pillar of fire that radiates light, a light so brilliant that no man can approach it (Exodus 24:17; 1 Timothy 6:16).

Then we see that God was also concerned for the suffering of His people Israel (Exodus 3:7-8). In fact, this was the first time God had ever called Israel “my people.” Under the oppressive bondage of Egypt, they had no hope but God, and they could do nothing but cry out to Him. God heard them and was now going to meet their need by delivering them from their enslavement and suffering (Psalm 40:17; Isaiah 41:10; Jeremiah 1:8). Though God has revealed Himself as one who lives in unapproachable light (1 Timothy 6:16), the burning bush symbolized His intent not to consume or destroy His people, but to be their savior, to lead them out of bondage in Egypt and into the Promised Land.

Additionally, God gave Moses His own personal name: “God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: “I AM has sent me to you”’” (Exodus 3:14). There are several reasons why God did this. The Egyptians had many gods by many different names. Moses wanted to know God’s name so the Hebrew people would know exactly who had sent him to them. God called Himself I AM, a name which describes His eternal power and unchangeable character. “I AM THAT I AM,” declares God to be self-existent, without beginning, without end. This is also expressed in the term “Yahweh,” meaning “I Am the One Who Is.” It is the most significant name for God in the Old Testament.

By identifying Himself as “I AM,” God is declaring that He always exists in the immediate now. He isn’t bound by time like we are. There was never a time when God wasn’t. He has no fixed point when He was born or brought into being. He has no beginning or end. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last (Revelation 22:13).

Today, the only way for us to come into the presence of a holy God is to become holy ourselves. This is why God sent Jesus to be our Savior. He is our holiness (1 Corinthians 1:30). We could never keep God’s Law, but Jesus kept it for us with perfect holiness. When Jesus died on the cross He took away all of our unholiness, exchanging His righteousness for our unrighteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). When we believe in Him, God accepts us as holy—as holy as Jesus Himself:

The grace that God has shown through the cross enables us to approach the Holy One—not as Moses did, hiding his face in fear, but by faith, trusting and believing in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Recommended Resource: Bible Answers for Almost all Your Questions by Elmer Towns

“What is the meaning of I AM WHO I AM in Exodus 3:14?”

Answer:
God appeared to Moses in the burning bush and told him to go to Egypt to lead the Israelites out of slavery. In response, Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” (Exodus 3:13).

God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you’” (Exodus 3:14).

The phrase translated “I am who I am” in Hebrew is ehyeh asher ehyeh. The word ehyeh is the first person common singular of the verb to be. It would be used in any number of normal situations: “I am watching the sheep,” “I am walking on the road,” or “I am his father.” However, when used as a stand-alone description, I AM is the ultimate statement of self-sufficiency, self-existence, and immediate presence. God’s existence is not contingent upon anyone else. His plans are not contingent upon any circumstances. He promises that He will be what He will be; that is, He will be the eternally constant God. He stands, ever-present and unchangeable, completely sufficient in Himself to do what He wills to do and to accomplish what He wills to accomplish.

When God identified Himself as I AM WHO I AM, He stated that, no matter when or where, He is there. It is similar to the New Testament expression in Revelation 1:8, “‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.’” This is true of Him for all time, but it would have been especially appropriate for a message in Moses’ day to a people in slavery and who could see no way out. I AM was promising to free them, and they could count on Him!

Moses and Aaron delivered the message to Pharaoh: “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the wilderness.’” Pharaoh replied, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD and I will not let Israel go” (Exodus 5:1–2).

Pharaoh stood in opposition to the LORD. Pharaoh was not willing to concede that there was a power higher than himself. He was not willing to yield his plans to the One who was all-powerful and all-sufficient. In essence, Pharaoh was saying “I am who I am, and therefore I will not yield to another.” This seems to be the besetting sin of humanity. God is “The Great I AM,” but we continually want to be our own “I AM.” We make plans and determine that we will fulfill them no matter what. Even evidence to the contrary does not readily convince us of our weakness and contingency.

One of Frank Sinatra’s signature songs was “I Did It My Way.” The final lines of the song, written by Paul Anka, express a common refrain of mankind:

For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught
To say the things he truly feels
And not the words of one who kneels
The record shows I took the blows
And did it my way.

Likewise, the final stanza of the poem “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley expresses much the same sentiment:

It matters not how strait the gate,
   How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
   I am the captain of my soul.

God is the only One who can accurately describe Himself as “I AM.” Jesus claimed the title I AM for Himself in John 8:58. For the rest of us, “I am” is a false claim to self-sufficiency. We are not eternally constant or ever-present. Our only hope is to abandon claims of our own sovereignty and sufficiency and cast ourselves upon the mercy of I AM.

Recommended Resource: Exodus NIV Application Commentary by Peter Enns

“What does the Bible mean when it refers to holy ground?”

Answer:
The phrase “holy ground” is found only twice in the Bible, once in the Old Testament and once in the New. God Himself first identified the area in which He met with Moses on Mount Horeb (Sinai) as holy ground. It was there that God commanded Moses to go to Pharaoh and demand that he let the people go from bondage to Egypt. At the moment Moses came upon the burning bush out of which God spoke to him, God gave him two commands: don’t come near and take off your sandals. Both commands were to impress upon Moses that he was standing on holy ground (Exodus 3:5). Joshua 5:15 describes a similar incident, but the phrase “holy ground” is not used.

It was not that the actual ground on which Moses stood was holy; rather, it was the presence of the holy God that made it holy. The direction to Moses to remove his shoes was in conformity with what was well known to Moses, for, having been brought up in Egypt, he would have known that the Egyptian priests observed the custom in their temples. Today it is observed in all Eastern countries where the people take off their shoes or sandals before entering mosques and synagogues as a confession of personal defilement and conscious unworthiness to stand in the presence of unspotted holiness. Moses responds by not only removing his shoes, but also by hiding his face, a sign that he understood he was in the presence of the glory of the divine Majesty and was conscious of his own sinfulness and unworthiness. In fact, Moses was so aware of God’s holiness that he was afraid to look at Him (Exodus 3:6).

In the New Testament, the event described in Exodus is reiterated by Stephen as he was preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ before the Sanhedrin. He recounted the history of the Jews and their dealings with the God of their forefathers (Acts 6—7). He reminded them of the incident of the holy ground on which Moses stood and spoke to God (Acts 7:33). The holy ground was rendered sacred by the presence of God, who is the very essence of holiness. The lesson for us is that we should enter the sanctuary, the place set apart for divine worship, with reverence in our hearts. Solemn awe and deep seriousness are appropriate for coming into the place set apart for the worship of God, for wherever the Lord is constitutes holy ground.

Recommended Resource: Bible Answers for Almost all Your Questions by Elmer Towns

“Why was God going to kill Moses in Exodus 4:24-26?”

Answer:
God was going to kill Moses because of sin. The sin of Moses in Exodus 4:24-26 is not stated explicitly, but the surrounding events give substantial clues as to the nature of Moses’ transgression. God had instructed his messenger to warn pharaoh to free Israel or pharaoh would lose his firstborn son (Exodus 4:21-24). Moses had been specially groomed by God for eighty years for this mission, and now the time for action had come.

Moses was to lead his people out of Egypt and to be an example to pharaoh’s house, to the nation of Egypt, and to all the nations that heard of those happenings (Exodus 18:10-11; Joshua 2:10-11). Accordingly, Moses’ personal life had to be in order before he could direct the spiritual lives of the Hebrew people. It seems that Moses had neglected to administer the sacred rite of circumcision, the act that symbolized the Almighty’s covenant with His chosen people.

Perhaps this was the result of pressure from his surrogate Midianite tribe. It is also possible that he was persuaded by Zipporah not to circumcise his son, since she apparently found the practice revolting (4:25). This would explain her violent outburst; she felt that she had saved her husband from death by shedding the blood of her son. Whatever the cause, Moses’ outstanding sin made him unfit to serve as a spiritual leader, and the situation had to be rectified before he could carry out his mission effectively. Indeed, as soon as Zipporah performed the act, the Lord “let him go.” In summary, God was going to kill Moses because Moses was supposed to teach the Israelites God’s Law, yet Moses was not obeying God’s Law himself.

Recommended Resource: Bible Answers for Almost all Your Questions by Elmer Towns

“Why was Pharaoh so resistant to Moses’ pleas to ‘let my people go’?”

Answer:
The first Bible’s mention of Pharaoh’s resistance was a prediction by God Himself, when He spoke with Moses in the wilderness: “I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless a mighty hand compels him” (Exodus 3:19). Soon after that prediction, the Lord said to Moses, “I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go” (Exodus 4:21). From the burning bush, God spoke of two reasons for Pharaoh’s resistance to Moses: the king’s own stubbornness and a supernatural hardening of the king’s heart after Pharaoh exercised his own defiance toward God.

In those ancient days, the Pharaoh was considered a god, and his every word was law. There was no one who could stand against Pharaoh, so the Lord used him to demonstrate His own superior power. The Lord’s plan to use plagues and miracles to free the nation of Israel was not conceived in reaction to Pharaoh’s rebellion. God is never reactive; He is always proactive. He had orchestrated the back-and-forth with Pharaoh and the exodus from the very beginning (see Isaiah 46:10). Four hundred years prior to the exodus, Joseph prophesied on his deathbed that God would lead His people out of Egypt to the Promised Land, and he made his relatives promise to carry his bones with them when they went (Genesis 50:24–25).

Seen as a symbol of the world’s ungodly system, Egypt represents the enemies of the Lord (cf. Ezekiel 29:1–6). God used Pharaoh’s hardheartedness to showcase His own glory and to show the world His supremacy over all the kings of the earth (Psalm 2:10–11; Ezekiel 20:9; 36:22).

Exodus 5 begins with God’s representatives, Moses and Aaron, saying to Pharaoh, “Let my people go.” Pharaoh’s first response indicates where his heart was and why it would take tragedy to humble him. In verse 2, he says, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, and moreover, I will not let Israel go.” That same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters to withhold straw from the Hebrew slaves, forcing the children of Israel to gather straw for themselves while maintaining the same quota of bricks that they must make: “You shall by no means reduce it, for they are idle. Therefore they cry, ‘Let us go and offer sacrifice to our God.’ Let heavier work be laid on the men that they may labor at it and pay no regard to lying words’” (Exodus 5:6–8).

In Exodus chapters 4–14, there are twenty references to Pharaoh’s resistance to Moses’ message. The cause attributed to the king’s hardness of heart is evenly split: ten times, the Bible says that Pharaoh hardened his own heart, and ten times the Bible says that God hardened his heart. The balance suggests that Pharaoh was responsible for his own actions, and, at the same time, God was using Pharaoh’s rebellion to bring greater glory to Himself. Paul uses this account to emphasize the sovereignty of God in the affairs of men: “Scripture says to Pharaoh: ‘I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.’ Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden” (Romans 9:17–18, quoting Exodus 9:16).

The hardness of Pharaoh’s heart was evident from the first, and God used that defiance to demonstrate the Lord’s power over him and over all the gods of Egypt. Because of the continuation of miraculous signs, many Egyptians witnessed the reality of Israel’s God. And because of the miracles they saw, many came to believe and joined Israel in leaving Egypt (Exodus 12:38). The supernatural hardening of Pharaoh’s heart in no way mitigates Pharaoh’s own culpability; rather, it demonstrates the grace and mercy of the Lord who does not desire anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9).
Recommended Resource: Exodus NIV Application Commentary by Peter Enns

“Who was the Pharaoh of the Exodus?”

Answer:
The name most commonly associated with the Pharaoh of the Exodus is Ramses (often spelled as Ramesses or Rameses). This is the name used in movies such as The Ten Commandments, The Prince of Egypt, and Exodus: Gods and Kings. While this connection may be common in pop culture, the Bible doesn’t give an explicit name for this ruler. Determining exactly who the Pharaoh of the Exodus was isn’t something answerable using Scripture alone.

An additional difficulty in naming the Pharaoh of the Exodus is that Egyptian history is erratic and notoriously unreliable. Archaeologists note that Egyptian records often overlap, contradict each other’s dates, and leave out major historical events. This is especially true if the events are unflattering to the reigning Pharaoh. Determining the time period when Jewish slaves would have been held in Egypt, then, becomes trickier than simply comparing Egyptian records to non-Egyptian records. In order to harmonize the book of Exodus, Egyptian history, and secular archaeology, one has to be open-minded about potential dates for the events recorded in all three sources.

Given that flexibility, there is at least one strong possibility for the Pharaoh of Exodus: Neferhotep I, Pharaoh of the 13th Dynasty. Consider the following historical facts:

Neferhotep’s dynasty began because his predecessor, Amenemhat III, had no surviving sons and his daughter, Sobekneferu, was childless. This would explain why, in Exodus 2, Pharaoh’s house takes in an apparently orphaned Hebrew child. Sobekneferu could have been the Egyptian princess who drew Moses out of the Nile and named him.

Neferhotep I presided over Egypt during an era of profound chaos, described in the Ipuwer Papyrus: “Plague stalks through the land and blood is everywhere. . . . Nay, but the river is blood . . . gates, columns and walls are consumed with fire . . . the son of the high-born man is no longer to be recognized. . . . The stranger people from outside are come into Egypt. . . . Nay, but corn has perished everywhere.” Few monuments from the period survive.

Neferhotep was not succeeded by his son Wahneferhotep but rather by his brother Sobkhotpe IV. This fits with the story of the biblical Pharaoh, who lost a son to the final plague of Egypt, the death of the firstborn (Exodus 12:29).

There is no surviving mummy of Neferhotep. The lack of remains is to be expected if Neferhotep was among those swept away during the crossing of the Red Sea (Exodus 14).

Other historical tidbits about the era of Neferhotep I overlap with the biblical story of Exodus. These include evidence of a slave town, Kahun, which appears to have been hastily abandoned, as Scripture describes. Staves shaped like snakes have been found, dated to this same time period, echoing the tricks of the Pharaoh’s magicians (Exodus 7). Shortly after Neferhotep’s reign, Egypt was overrun by the Hyskos, an unlikely event unless the nation was profoundly weakened.

Unfortunately, the realities of ancient Egyptian history make it all but impossible to say for certain which Pharaoh is described in the book of Exodus. It may even have been a Pharaoh whose memory has been completely obliterated by time and forgotten by history. That anonymity could even be a deliberate punishment, another reminder that supposedly divine rulers are nothing compared to the one true God. At the very least, available evidence supports the biblical Exodus as a real, historical event.

Recommended Resource: Exodus NIV Application Commentary by Peter Enns

“What was the meaning and purpose of the ten plagues of Egypt?”

Answer:
The Ten Plagues of Egypt—also known as the Ten Plagues, the Plagues of Egypt, or the Biblical Plagues—are described in Exodus 7—12. The plagues were ten disasters sent upon Egypt by God to convince Pharaoh to free the Israelite slaves from the bondage and oppression they had endured in Egypt for 400 years. When God sent Moses to deliver the children of Israel from bondage in Egypt, He promised to show His wonders as confirmation of Moses’ authority (Exodus 3:20). This confirmation was to serve at least two purposes: to show the Israelites that the God of their fathers was alive and worthy of their worship and to show the Egyptians that their gods were nothing.

The Israelites had been enslaved in Egypt for about 400 years and in that time had lost faith in the God of their fathers. They believed He existed and worshiped Him, but they doubted that He could, or would, break the yoke of their bondage. The Egyptians, like many pagan cultures, worshiped a wide variety of nature-gods and attributed to their powers the natural phenomena they saw in the world around them. There was a god of the sun, of the river, of childbirth, of crops, etc. Events like the annual flooding of the Nile, which fertilized their croplands, were evidences of their gods’ powers and good will. When Moses approached Pharaoh, demanding that he let the people go, Pharaoh responded by saying, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go” (Exodus 5:2). Thus began the challenge to show whose God was more powerful.

The first plague, turning the Nile to blood, was a judgment against Apis, the god of the Nile, Isis, goddess of the Nile, and Khnum, guardian of the Nile. The Nile was also believed to be the bloodstream of Osiris, who was reborn each year when the river flooded. The river, which formed the basis of daily life and the national economy, was devastated, as millions of fish died in the river and the water was unusable. Pharaoh was told, “By this you will know that I am the LORD” (Exodus 7:17).

The second plague, bringing frogs from the Nile, was a judgment against Heqet, the frog-headed goddess of birth. Frogs were thought to be sacred and not to be killed. God had the frogs invade every part of the homes of the Egyptians, and when the frogs died, their stinking bodies were heaped up in offensive piles all through the land (Exodus 8:13–14).

The third plague, gnats, was a judgment on Set, the god of the desert. Unlike the previous plagues, the magicians were unable to duplicate this one and declared to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God” (Exodus 8:19).

The fourth plague, flies, was a judgment on Uatchit, the fly god. In this plague, God clearly distinguished between the Israelites and the Egyptians, as no swarms of flies bothered the areas where the Israelites lived (Exodus 8:21–24).

The fifth plague, the death of livestock, was a judgment on the goddess Hathor and the god Apis, who were both depicted as cattle. As with the previous plague, God protected His people from the plague, while the cattle of the Egyptians died. God was steadily destroying the economy of Egypt, while showing His ability to protect and provide for those who obeyed Him. Pharaoh even sent investigators (Exodus 9:7) to find out if the Israelites were suffering along with the Egyptians, but the result was a hardening of his heart against the Israelites.

The sixth plague, boils, was a judgment against several gods over health and disease (Sekhmet, Sunu, and Isis). This time, the Bible says that the magicians “could not stand before Moses because of the boils.” Clearly, these religious leaders were powerless against the God of Israel.

Before God sent the last three plagues, Pharaoh was given a special message from God. These plagues would be more severe than the others, and they were designed to convince Pharaoh and all the people “that there is none like me in all the earth” (Exodus 9:14). Pharaoh was even told that he was placed in his position by God, so that God could show His power and declare His name through all the earth (Exodus 9:16). As an example of His grace, God warned Pharaoh to gather whatever cattle and crops remained from the previous plagues and shelter them from the coming storm. Some of Pharaoh’s servants heeded the warning (Exodus 9:20), while others did not. The seventh plague, hail, attacked Nut, the sky goddess; Osiris, the crop fertility god; and Set, the storm god. This hail was unlike any that had been seen before. It was accompanied by a fire which ran along the ground, and everything left out in the open was devastated by the hail and fire. Again, the children of Israel were miraculously protected, and no hail damaged anything in their lands.

Before God brought the next plague, He told Moses that the Israelites would be able to tell their children of the things they had seen God do in Egypt and how it showed them God’s power. The eighth plague, locusts, again focused on Nut, Osiris, and Set. The later crops, wheat and rye, which had survived the hail, were now devoured by the swarms of locusts. There would be no harvest in Egypt that year.

The ninth plague, darkness, was aimed at the sun god, Re, who was symbolized by Pharaoh himself. For three days, the land of Egypt was smothered with an unearthly darkness, but the homes of the Israelites had light.

The tenth and last plague, the death of the firstborn males, was a judgment on Isis, the protector of children. In this plague, God was teaching the Israelites a deep spiritual lesson that pointed to Christ. Unlike the other plagues, which the Israelites survived by virtue of their identity as God’s people, this plague required an act of faith by them. God commanded each family to take an unblemished male lamb and kill it. The blood of the lamb was to be smeared on the top and sides of their doorways, and the lamb was to be roasted and eaten that night. Any family that did not follow God’s instructions would suffer in the last plague. God described how He would send the death angel through the land of Egypt, with orders to slay the firstborn male in every household, whether human or animal. The only protection was the blood of the lamb on the door. When the angel saw the blood, he would pass over that house and leave it untouched (Exodus 12:23). This is where the term Passover comes from. Passover is a memorial of that night in ancient Egypt when God delivered His people from bondage. First Corinthians 5:7 teaches that Jesus became our Passover when He died to deliver us from the bondage of sin. While the Israelites found God’s protection in their homes, every other home in the land of Egypt experienced God’s wrath as their loved ones died. This grievous event caused Pharaoh to finally release the Israelites.

By the time the Israelites left Egypt, they had a clear picture of God’s power, God’s protection, and God’s plan for them. For those who were willing to believe, they had convincing evidence that they served the true and living God. Sadly, many still failed to believe, which led to other trials and lessons by God. The result for the Egyptians and the other ancient people of the region was a dread of the God of Israel. Even after the tenth plague, Pharaoh once again hardened his heart and sent his chariots after the Israelites. When God opened a way through the Red Sea for the Israelites, then drowned all of Pharaoh’s armies there, the power of Egypt was crushed, and the fear of God spread through the surrounding nations (Joshua 2:9–11). This was the very purpose that God had declared at the beginning. We can still look back on these events today to confirm our faith in, and our fear of, this true and living God, the Judge of all the earth.

Recommended Resource: Bible Answers for Almost all Your Questions by Elmer Towns

“What are the Ten Commandments? What is the Decalogue?”

Answer:
The Ten Commandments (also known as the Decalogue) are ten laws in the Bible that God gave to the nation of Israel shortly after the exodus from Egypt. The Ten Commandments are essentially a summary of the 613 commandments contained in the Old Testament Law. The first four commandments deal with our relationship with God. The last six commandments deal with our relationships with one another. The Ten Commandments are recorded in the Bible in Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21 and are as follows:

1) “You shall have no other gods before me.” This command is against worshiping any god other than the one true God. All other gods are false gods.

2) “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” This command is against making an idol, a visible representation of God. There is no image we can create that can accurately portray God. To make an idol to represent God is to worship a false god.

3) “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses His name.” This is a command against taking the name of the Lord in vain. We are not to treat God’s name lightly. We are to show reverence to God by only mentioning Him in respectful and honoring ways.

4) “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” This is a command to set aside the Sabbath (Saturday, the last day of the week) as a day of rest dedicated to the Lord.

5) “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.” This is a command to always treat one’s parents with honor and respect.

6) “You shall not murder.” This is a command against the premeditated murder of another human being.

7) “You shall not commit adultery.” This is a command against having sexual relations with anyone other than one’s spouse.

8) “You shall not steal.” This is a command against taking anything that is not one’s own, without the permission of the person to whom it belongs.

9) “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.” This is a command prohibiting testifying against another person falsely. It is essentially a command against lying.

10) “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” This is a command against desiring anything that is not one’s own. Coveting can lead to breaking one of the commandments listed above: murder, adultery, and theft. If it is wrong to do something, it is wrong to desire to do that same something.

Many people mistakenly look at the Ten Commandments as a set of rules that, if followed, will guarantee entrance into heaven after death. In contrast, the purpose of the Ten Commandments is to force people to realize that they cannot perfectly obey the Law (Romans 7:7-11), and are therefore in need of God’s mercy and grace. Despite the claims of the rich young ruler in Matthew 19:16, no one can perfectly obey the Ten Commandments (Ecclesiastes 7:20). The Ten Commandments demonstrate that we have all sinned (Romans 3:23) and are therefore in need of God’s mercy and grace, available only through faith in Jesus Christ.

Recommended Resource: The Ten Commandments: Ethics for the Twenty-first Century by Mark F. Rooker

“What are the 613 commandments in the Old Testament Law?”

Answer:
The number 613 is often cited as the number of commandments in the Old Testament Law; however, there is no verse in the Bible that gives 613 as the correct enumeration. There are other counts as well. There is no universal agreement among Jews or Christians that there are exactly 613 laws given by God through Moses.

In any calculation of the number of commandments in the Mosaic Law, complications arise. For example, if a command occurs in Exodus and is then repeated in Deuteronomy, does that count as one commandment or two? Further, some commandments can be understood as clarifications of other commandments rather than additional commandments.

There is some debate as to who first came up with 613 as the number of commandments. The Talmud points to Rabbi Simlai in the 3rd century AD as the originator. However, there is no record of Rabbi Simlai listing all 613 commandments. The most commonly accepted breakdown was done by Maimonides in the 12th century AD. Maimonides further divided the 613 commandments into positive, “do this” commandments, numbering 248, and negative, “do not do this” commandments, numbering 365.

Biblically speaking, whether or not 613 is the correct count is not that important. The purpose of the Law was to point us to Christ. Galatians 3:24 says, “Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (NKJV). No one can perfectly obey all the commandments, no matter how many or few there are (Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:23). In fact, no one can even perfectly obey the Ten Commandments. The Law makes our sinfulness evident (Romans 7:7). God gave the Law to define sin and demonstrate our need for a Savior. Jesus is the only one who has perfectly obeyed the Law. Through His life, death, and resurrection, He fulfilled all of God’s righteous commands (Matthew 5:17–18).

For more information on how faith in Jesus saves us from the condemnation of the Law, please read our article “What does it mean that Jesus saves?

“Why is ‘You shall have no other gods before me’ in the Ten Commandments?”

Answer:
The Mosaic Law is built upon the Ten Commandments, and the law was built upon the first commandment: “I am the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me” (Deuteronomy 5:6-7 NKJV). Here we see not only God’s prohibition against idolatry, but His reasons for that prohibition. It was the Lord God who had the power to bring His people out of bondage in Egypt. He alone cared enough for them to choose them to be His own, and He alone delivered and protected them. For all this, He declares that He alone deserves to be worshiped and reverenced. No idol made of wood or stone is God. Idols are deaf, dumb, blind, and powerless (Isaiah 44:18).

Paul’s letter to the Romans indicates the worship of things in creation themselves—not just their images—is wrong in the eyes of God (Romans 1:25). Paul also warns the Colossians against worshiping other supernatural beings: “Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize” (Colossians 2:18a). Jesus expanded the definition of “other gods” to include concepts in addition to images, living things and other supernatural beings. In Matthew 6:24, He warns against the worship of material things. “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money”. The Greek word mammonas, translated here as “money,” does not mean the money in one’s pockets. It is the personification of wealth or money (especially wealth gained through greediness), the love of which, in modern terminology, is “materialism.” The dangers of worshiping material things are clearly outlined in the story of the rich young ruler (Matthew 19:16-26) who turned away from Christ because he could not part with his wealth.

Samson (Judges 14–16), even though he was set apart for God as a Nazirite, worshiped another god that was much closer than the rich man was to his wealth. Samson’s god was himself, and his pride and self-worship led to his downfall. He was so confident in his own abilities that he believed he no longer needed God, and in the end—despite being beaten, blinded, and humiliated—Samson neither repented nor learned that his way was not God’s way. He was more concerned with revenge and his eyesight than with God’s plan for His chosen people. He served himself and his priorities, making them his idols.

Those who worship “other gods” will ultimately face the same fate as the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel where they were challenged by Elijah the prophet to a duel. Elijah and the prophets of Baal offered sacrifices to their respective deities, but they did not burn the sacrifices. The god who responded to their entreaties and took their sacrifice would be declared the one true God for all Israel. The prophets of Baal started early and prayed and pleaded with Baal to burn their sacrifice. Meanwhile, Elijah taunted them. “Shout louder…Surely he is a god. Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened” (1 Kings 18:27). In the end, the prophets of Baal were all killed by the Israelites after the one true God demonstrated His power, burning up the offering, the water, the wood, the stones, and the soil at the altar.

Our God is never busy, asleep, traveling, or distracted. Paul describes the sovereignty of God: “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands as if He needed anything, because He Himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. …Therefore, since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the Divine Being is like gold or silver or stone – an image made by man’s design and skill” (Acts 17:24-25, 29). God commands us not to serve other gods because there are no other gods except the ones we make ourselves. David describes what awaits the person who puts God ahead of all else: “Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods” (Psalm 40:4).

Recommended Resource: The Law of Perfect Freedom: Relating to God and Others through the Ten Commandments by Michael Horton

“What is the definition of idolatry?”

Answer:
The definition of idolatry, according to Webster, is “the worship of idols or excessive devotion to, or reverence for some person or thing.” An idol is anything that replaces the one, true God. The most prevalent form of idolatry in Bible times was the worship of images that were thought to embody the various pagan deities.

From the beginning, God’s covenant with Israel was based on exclusive worship of Him alone (Exodus 20:3; Deuteronomy 5:7). The Israelites were not even to mention the names of false gods (Exodus 23:13) because to do so would acknowledge their existence and give credence to their power and influence over the people. Israel was forbidden to intermarry with other cultures who embraced false gods, because God knew this would lead to compromise. The book of Hosea uses the imagery of adultery to describe Israel’s continual chasing after other gods, like an unfaithful wife chases after other men. The history of Israel is a sad chronicle of idol worship, punishment, restoration and forgiveness, followed by a return to idolatry. The books of 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, and 1 & 2 Chronicles reveal this destructive pattern. The Old Testament prophets endlessly prophesied dire consequences for Israel if they continued in their idolatry. Mostly, they were ignored until it was too late and God’s wrath against idol-worship was poured out on the nation. But ours is a merciful God, and He never failed to forgive and restore them when they repented and sought His forgiveness.

In reality, idols are impotent blocks of stone or wood, and their power exists only in the minds of the worshipers. The idol of the god Dagon was twice knocked to the floor by God to show the Philistines just who was God and who wasn’t (1 Samuel 5:1-5). The “contest” between God and His prophet Elijah and the 450 prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel is a dramatic example of the power of the true God and the impotence of false gods (1 Kings 18:19-40). The testimony of Scripture is that God alone is worthy of worship. Idol worship robs God of the glory that is rightfully His, and that is something He will not tolerate (Isaiah 42:8).

Even today there are religions that bow before statues and icons, a practice forbidden by God’s Word. The significance God places upon it is reflected in the fact that the first of the Ten Commandments refers to idolatry: “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me” (Exodus 20:3-5).

Idolatry extends beyond the worship of idols and images and false gods. Our modern idols are many and varied. Even for those who do not bow physically before a statue, idolatry is a matter of the heart—pride, self-centeredness, greed, gluttony, a love for possessions and ultimately rebellion against God. Is it any wonder that God hates it?

Recommended Resource: No Gods But God: Confronting Our Modern-Day Idolatry by Dennis Newkirk

“What is a graven image?”

Answer:
The phrase “graven image” comes from the King James Version and is first found in Exodus 20:4 in the second of the Ten Commandments. The Hebrew word translated “graven image” means literally “an idol.” A graven image is an image carved out of stone, wood, or metal. It could be a statue of a person or animal, or a relief carving in a wall or pole. It is differentiated from a molten image, which is melted metal poured into a cast. Abstract Asherah poles, carved wooden Ba’als covered in gold leaf, and etchings of gods accompanying Egyptian hieroglyphics are all graven images.

The progression of idolatry in a pagan religion generally starts with the acknowledgement of a power that controls natural forces. The presence of the force is then thought to indwell an object, like a stone, or a place, like a mountain. The next step is altering a naturally occurring object, like a standing stone, a deliberately planted tree, or a carved Asherah pole and asking the force to indwell it. When the idolatrous culture has had time to contemplate the personality of the god, they then make corresponding physical images—a statue that looks like a woman or a relief carving that looks like an animal. Graven images can be either of the last two steps.

The spiritual progression is similar. People start with wanting something (Ephesians 5:5; Colossians 3:5), often children or prosperity or good crops. They observe the circumstances (which some acknowledge are God-ordained, and others think are independent) that lead to these things and begin to ascribe to the causal forces human characteristics—thus creating gods. Places are set aside to commune with these false gods. For convenience sake, smaller items, thought to hold the power or the communication line of the gods, are brought into homes. Before long, the people are ensnared by the compulsion to give homage to a thing of their own definition instead of to the God of the universe.

The second commandment, recorded in Exodus 20:4–5, reads, “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them.” Likely, this refers back to the first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before Me,” and specifically forbids the creation of idols. But it is equally dangerous to create an image of God Himself. God has given us reminders enough of His power and glory (Romans 1:20) without man attempting to use created things to represent the Creator.

Functionally, there is no difference between a “graven” image (Deuteronomy 4:16) and a “molten” image (Exodus 34:17). Both are man’s attempt to define and confine the power of God who works over creation. Both are the result of greed and covetousness, along with the fear that God does not have the worshipers’ best interests at heart. Graven images, whether an idol, a crystal, or a charm, are attempts to limit the power of God and reduce it to a small package that we can control. As with any kind of worship, the object of adoration inevitably controls us.

Recommended Resource: Basic Theology by Charles Ryrie

Lecture 7

Information:
Quotations mainly and extensively from https://www.gotquestions.org/

The Covenant at Sinai (Exodus 20-40)

Key verses:

1And God spoke all these words, saying,

2“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

3“You shall have no other gods beforea me.4“You shall not make for yourself a carved image,

A Survey of the Old Testament Instructor’s Manual

What are the Ten Commandments?

Tabernacle of Moses

Exodus 32. The Golden Calf Incident

A Survey of the Old Testament Instructor’s Manual

“What are the Ten Commandments? What is the Decalogue?”

Answer:
The Ten Commandments (also known as the Decalogue) are ten laws in the Bible that God gave to the nation of Israel shortly after the exodus from Egypt. The Ten Commandments are essentially a summary of the 613 commandments contained in the Old Testament Law. The first four commandments deal with our relationship with God. The last six commandments deal with our relationships with one another. The Ten Commandments are recorded in the Bible in Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21 and are as follows:

1) “You shall have no other gods before me.” This command is against worshiping any god other than the one true God. All other gods are false gods.

2) “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” This command is against making an idol, a visible representation of God. There is no image we can create that can accurately portray God. To make an idol to represent God is to worship a false god.

3) “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses His name.” This is a command against taking the name of the Lord in vain. We are not to treat God’s name lightly. We are to show reverence to God by only mentioning Him in respectful and honoring ways.

4) “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” This is a command to set aside the Sabbath (Saturday, the last day of the week) as a day of rest dedicated to the Lord.

5) “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.” This is a command to always treat one’s parents with honor and respect.

6) “You shall not murder.” This is a command against the premeditated murder of another human being.

7) “You shall not commit adultery.” This is a command against having sexual relations with anyone other than one’s spouse.

8) “You shall not steal.” This is a command against taking anything that is not one’s own, without the permission of the person to whom it belongs.

9) “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.” This is a command prohibiting testifying against another person falsely. It is essentially a command against lying.

10) “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” This is a command against desiring anything that is not one’s own. Coveting can lead to breaking one of the commandments listed above: murder, adultery, and theft. If it is wrong to do something, it is wrong to desire to do that same something.

Many people mistakenly look at the Ten Commandments as a set of rules that, if followed, will guarantee entrance into heaven after death. In contrast, the purpose of the Ten Commandments is to force people to realize that they cannot perfectly obey the Law (Romans 7:7-11), and are therefore in need of God’s mercy and grace. Despite the claims of the rich young ruler in Matthew 19:16, no one can perfectly obey the Ten Commandments (Ecclesiastes 7:20). The Ten Commandments demonstrate that we have all sinned (Romans 3:23) and are therefore in need of God’s mercy and grace, available only through faith in Jesus Christ.

Recommended Resource: The Ten Commandments: Ethics for the Twenty-first Century by Mark F. Rooker

“What is the purpose of the Mosaic Law?”

Answer:
The Mosaic Law was given specifically to the nation of Israel (Exodus 19; Leviticus 26:46; Romans 9:4). It was made up of three parts: the Ten Commandments, the ordinances, and the worship system, which included the priesthood, the tabernacle, the offerings, and the festivals (Exodus 20—40; Leviticus 1—7; 23). The purpose of the Mosaic Law was to accomplish the following:

(1) Reveal the holy character of the eternal God to the nation of Israel (Leviticus 19:2; 20:7–8).

(2) Set apart the nation of Israel as distinct from all the other nations (Exodus 19:5).

(3) Reveal the sinfulness of man (cf. Galatians 3:19). Although the Law was good and holy (Romans 7:12), it did not provide salvation for the nation of Israel. “No one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin” (Romans 3:20; cf. Acts 13:38–39).

(4) Provide forgiveness through the sacrifice/offerings (Leviticus 1—7) for the people who had faith in the Lord in the nation of Israel.

(5) Provide a way of worship for the community of faith through the yearly feasts (Leviticus 23).

(6) Provide God’s direction for the physical and spiritual health of the nation (Exodus 21—23; Deuteronomy 6:4–19; Psalm 119:97–104).

(7) Cause people, after Christ came, to see that they couldn’t keep the Law but needed to accept Christ as personal Savior, for He had fulfilled the Law in His life and paid the penalty for our breaking it in His death, burial, and bodily resurrection (Galatians 3:24; Romans 10:4). The believer in Christ has the very righteousness of the Law fulfilled in him as he obeys the Holy Spirit who lives within him (Romans 8:4).

The purpose of the Mosaic Law raises these questions: “Are you trusting in yourself to keep all the Ten Commandments all the time (which you can’t do)?” OR “Have you made the choice to accept Jesus as your Savior, realizing that He has fulfilled all the commandments all the time for you, even paying your penalty for breaking them?” The choice is yours.

Recommended Resource: The End of the Law: Mosaic Covenant in Pauline Theology by Jason Meyer

“What should Christians learn from the Mosaic Law?”

Answer:
The Mosaic Law takes up a large portion of the Old Testament and was of vital importance to the Hebrews of old. Even though we who are in Christ are no longer under the Law (Galatians 5:18), there is much we can learn from this part of God’s Word. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful” (2 Timothy 3:16).

The Mosaic Law reveals God’s holiness. “The law of the LORD is perfect” (Psalm 19:7) because it is given by a perfect God. The stone tablets Moses received were “inscribed by the finger of God” (Exodus 31:18; Deuteronomy 9:10). The Law clearly reveals God’s standard for His people living in a fallen world. The behavior it demands is righteousness in action. “The law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good” (Romans 7:12; cf. Nehemiah 9:13). God’s desire is for that holiness to be reflected in His people (Leviticus 19:2; 1 Peter 1:16).

The Mosaic Law defines sin and exposes its heinous nature. “Through the law we become conscious of our sin” (Romans 3:20). With the giving of the Ten Commandments, God once and for all codified morality. Ever since Sinai, there can be no question of God’s opinion of adultery, murder, theft, etc.—they are wrong. And the severe penalties that befell transgressors underscore the serious nature of sin as rebellion against God. In defining sin and setting a divine standard, the Law indirectly discloses our need for a Savior.

The Mosaic Law confirms our need to be separate from sin. Many of the Law’s regulations were aimed at making Israel distinct from the surrounding nations. Not only was their worship different, but they had different farming practices, a different diet, different clothing—they even had a different way of growing their beards (Leviticus 19:27). Truly, the Hebrews were set apart from the rest of the world. God’s people today are still to be set apart—not in the same ways as the children of Israel—but morally, ethically, and spiritually. We are in the world but not of it (John 15:19; 17:14, 16). We are to let our light shine (Matthew 5:14–16).

The Mosaic Law shows how God’s plan unfolds gradually and progressively. The progressive nature of God’s revelation is alluded to in passages such as Acts 14:16 and Acts 17:30. As has been noted, the Law brought clarity and definiteness to the meaning of sin, and the precision of the commandments allowed us to easily identify infractions. But the Law itself was meant to be temporary. It was, in fact, “our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:24). Christ is the One who fulfilled the righteous requirement of the Law on our behalf (Matthew 5:17). In taking the Law’s curse upon Himself, Christ brought an end to the curse and instituted the New Covenant (Galatians 3:13; Luke 22:20).

The Mosaic Law expounds on God’s two most basic commands. Everything in the Law can be boiled down to two commands. The primary one is found in Deuteronomy 6:5, “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” The secondary, related command is in Leviticus 19:18, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus ranked these commandments as number one and number two and said they were the quintessence of the entirety of God’s Law (Matthew 22:36–40).

The Mosaic Law predicts that God will not forsake His children. There were blessings promised to Israel for keeping the Law and curses for breaking it (Deuteronomy 30). God predicted, through His prophet Moses, that Israel would be disobedient and spurn the Law (Deuteronomy 32:21–22). Yet, in His great mercy, God promised to “vindicate his people” (Deuteronomy 32:36) and “make atonement for his land and people” (verse 43).

The Mosaic Law establishes the principle of sowing and reaping. The Old Covenant was conditional; God promised to bless Israel in the Promised Land only if they adhered to the Law. “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse—the blessing if you obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today; the curse if you disobey the commands of the Lord your God and turn from the way that I command you today” (Deuteronomy 11:26–28). The underlying principle of reaping what one sows is a natural law and one repeated in the New Testament (Galatians 6:7).

The Mosaic Law demonstrates the value of an intercessor between God and man. The whole concept of the Levitical priesthood was based on the need for an intercessor between man and God. Only the priests could enter the tabernacle, and only the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies—and that only once a year with the blood of a sacrifice. Even then, there were special requirements placed on the priests concerning their behavior, physical appearance, clothing, and ceremonial cleansing. The point was that God is holy, and we are not. We need a go-between, and God is the One who chooses the mediator. Under the Mosaic system, the intercessor was a son of Aaron (Numbers 3:3); under the New Covenant, the Intercessor is the Son of God (1 Timothy 2:5).

The Mosaic Law shows the efficacy of a substitutionary sacrifice. The Law graphically depicts God’s requirement of the blood of an innocent sacrifice to atone for the sins of the guilty. As the author of Hebrews says, “The law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22). The burning carcass on the altar was a vivid reminder that the consequence of sin is death (Romans 6:23a). Without such a substitute, the wrath of God would fall on the transgressor. The Law allowed for an animal sacrifice to be a propitiation for sin, and the Law called the sacrifice “a pleasing aroma” to the Lord (Numbers 28:6).

The Mosaic Law provides many pictures of Christ and His redemption. Every lamb that was offered under the Old Testament Law was a foreshadowing of the Lamb of God and His sacrifice on the cross (see John 1:29; Hebrews 7:27). Every priestly duty heralded the work of Christ on our behalf. The lampstand in the temple prefigured the Light of the World (John 9:5). The table of showbread was a picture of the Bread of Life (John 6:35). The veil separating the two compartments of the tabernacle was a symbol of Christ’s body, destined to be torn to provide access to the very presence of God (Luke 23:45; Hebrews 10:20). In fact, the entire sanctuary built under Moses’ superintendence was filled with “copies of the heavenly things” (Hebrews 9:23).

Christians today can benefit much from a study of the Mosaic Law. We understand that the Law was not meant for the church, and we are responsible to “correctly handle the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). But, properly understood, the Law remains “our tutor to lead us to Christ” (Galatians 3:24, NAS). Once we come to Christ, we find He “is the culmination of the law . . . for everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4).

Recommended Resource: The End of the Law: Mosaic Covenant in Pauline Theology by Jason Meyer

“What is the difference between laws, commands, commandments, decrees, and statutes?”

Answer:
In Deuteronomy 6:1-–3 we read of laws, commands, commandments, decrees, and statutes: “Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the rules—that the LORD your God commanded me to teach you” (HCSB, verse 1, emphasis added). Other translations use words like decrees or laws. All these are part of God’s Law, with some slight distinctions.

A look at the various Hebrew words used helps highlight some of the differences:

“Commandments” in verses 1 and 2 (mitzvah): This is the general Hebrew term for “commandment” and usually refers to the comprehensive list of laws or body of laws given by the Lord in the Books of Moses. This is also the Hebrew term often used when the Lord spoke directly in the Old Testament.

“Statutes” (choq): According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary, this word means “statute, prescription, rule, law, regulation” and can refer to laws of nature (Job 28:26; Jeremiah 5:22; 31:35–36) or what is allocated, rationed, or apportioned to someone (Genesis 47:22; Exodus 29:28).

“Rules” (mishpat): A judicial verdict or formal decree. In the Law of Moses, some of the legal types of rules would fall under this category.

“Statutes/Commands” in verse 2 (chuqqah): Chuqqah has a more specific meaning than choq, according to Vine’s dictionary. It refers to a particular law related to a festival or ritual, such as Passover (Exodus 12:14), the Days of Unleavened Bread (Exodus 12:17), or the Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:41).

All four of these Hebrew words are used throughout the writings of Moses to refer to commands from God to be obeyed by God’s people. Distinctions are sometimes made regarding one word from the other, yet the overall principle is one of obedience to all that the Lord commands, whether it’s a general command, a prescribed law, a legal verdict, or a religious festival or ritual.

Recommended Resource: Deuteronomy, Holman Old Testament Commentary by Doug McIntosh

“What is the difference between the ceremonial law, the moral law, and the judicial law in the Old Testament?”

Answer:
The law of God given to Moses is a comprehensive set of guidelines to ensure that the Israelites’ behavior reflected their status as God’s chosen people. It encompasses moral behavior, their position as a godly example to other nations, and systematic procedures for acknowledging God’s holiness and mankind’s sinfulness. In an attempt to better understand the purpose of these laws, Jews and Christians categorize them. This has led to the distinction between moral law, ceremonial law, and judicial law.

Moral Law
The moral laws, or mishpatim, relate to justice and judgment and are often translated as “ordinances.” Mishpatim are said to be based on God’s holy nature. As such, the ordinances are holy, just, and unchanging. Their purpose is to promote the welfare of those who obey. The value of the laws is considered obvious by reason and common sense. The moral law encompasses regulations on justice, respect, and sexual conduct, and includes the Ten Commandments. It also includes penalties for failure to obey the ordinances. Moral law does not point people to Christ; it merely illuminates the fallen state of all mankind.

Modern Protestants are divided over the applicability of mishpatim in the church age. Some believe that Jesus’ assertion that the law will remain in effect until the earth passes away (Matthew 5:18) means that believers are still bound to it. Others, however, understand that Jesus fulfilled this requirement (Matthew 5:17), and that we are instead under the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2), which is thought to be “love God and love others” (Matthew 22:36-40). Although many of the moral laws in the Old Testament give excellent examples as to how to love God and love others, and freedom from the law is not license to sin (Romans 6:15), we are not specifically bound by mishpatim.

Ceremonial Law
The ceremonial laws are called hukkim or chuqqah in Hebrew, which literally means “custom of the nation”; the words are often translated as “statutes.” These laws seem to focus the adherent’s attention on God. They include instructions on regaining right standing with God (e.g., sacrifices and other ceremonies regarding “uncleanness”), remembrances of God’s work in Israel (e.g., feasts and festivals), specific regulations meant to distinguish Israelites from their pagan neighbors (e.g., dietary and clothing restrictions), and signs that point to the coming Messiah (e.g., the Sabbath, circumcision, Passover, and the redemption of the firstborn). Some Jews believe that the ceremonial law is not fixed. They hold that, as societies evolve, so do God’s expectations of how His followers should relate to Him. This view is not indicated in the Bible.

Christians are not bound by ceremonial law. Since the church is not the nation of Israel, memorial festivals, such as the Feast of Weeks and Passover, do not apply. Galatians 3:23-25 explains that since Jesus has come, Christians are not required to sacrifice or circumcise. There is still debate in Protestant churches over the applicability of the Sabbath. Some say that its inclusion in the Ten Commandments gives it the weight of moral law. Others quote Colossians 2:16-17 and Romans 14:5 to explain that Jesus has fulfilled the Sabbath and become our Sabbath rest. As Romans 14:5 says, “Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.” The applicability of the Old Testament law in the life of a Christian has always related to its usefulness in loving God and others. If someone feels observing the Sabbath aids him in this, he is free to observe it.

Judicial/Civil Law
The Westminster Confession adds the category of judicial or civil law. These laws were specifically given for the culture and place of the Israelites and encompass all of the moral law except the Ten Commandments. This includes everything from murder to restitution for a man gored by an ox and the responsibility of the man who dug a pit to rescue his neighbor’s trapped donkey (Exodus 21:12-36). Since the Jews saw no difference between their God-ordained morality and their cultural responsibilities, this category is used by Christians far more than by Jewish scholars.

The division of the Jewish law into different categories is a human construct designed to better understand the nature of God and define which laws church-age Christians are still required to follow. Many believe the ceremonial law is not applicable, but we are bound by the Ten Commandments. All the law is useful for instruction (2 Timothy 3:16), and nothing in the Bible indicates that God intended a distinction of categories. Christians are not under the law (Romans 10:4). Jesus fulfilled the law, thus abolishing the difference between Jew and Gentile “so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross…” (Ephesians 2:15-16).

Recommended Resource: The End of the Law: Mosaic Covenant in Pauline Theology by Jason Meyer

“Are the Ten Commandments repeated in the New Testament?”

Answer:
Nine of the Ten Commandments found in Exodus 20:1–17 are repeated in the New Testament numerous times in different ways. For example, in giving a summary of our moral responsibilities to one another, Jesus repeats four of the Ten Commandments to the young ruler in Mark 10:17–19. The only commandment not repeated in the New Testament is the fourth one, the one about Sabbath-keeping.

Paul references the Decalogue a number of times in his epistles. Sometimes, he is explicit in reciting some of the commandments, as he does in Romans 13:9. Other times, he references them implicitly, like in 1 Timothy 1:8–10: “But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers [5th and 6th commandments], for murderers [6th commandment] and immoral men and homosexuals [7th commandment] and kidnappers [8th commandment] and liars and perjurers [9th commandment], and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching” (NASB).

Here are the Ten Commandments and where they are found in the New Testament:

1) Do not worship any other gods (1 Corinthians 8:6; 1 Timothy 2:5)

2) Do not make idols (1 John 5:21)

3) Do not misuse the name of the LORD (1 Timothy 6:1)

4) Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. (There are many references to the Sabbath day in the New Testament, including the assumption that Jews under the law in the time of Christ would be observing the Sabbath. But there is no direct or indirect command for believers in the church age to observe the Sabbath as a day of rest or of worship. In fact, Colossians 2:16 releases the believer from the Sabbath rule. Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath, has become for us our Sabbath rest, according to Hebrews 4:1–11.)

5) Honor your father and your mother (Ephesians 6:1–2)

6) Do not murder (Romans 13:9; 1 Peter 4:15)

7) Do not commit adultery (1 Corinthians 6:9–10)

8) Do not steal (Ephesians 4:28)

9) Do not give false testimony (Revelation 21:8)

10) Do not covet (Colossians 3:5)

The Ten Commandments help unbelievers in any age recognize their imperfections. Because it summarizes the moral content of God’s law, the Decalogue can be used as a mirror to show people their sin. The commandments reflect the unchanging character of God, so they—like God—are eternal, timeless, universally applicable, and immutable.

Some Christians believe the Ten Commandments are not binding upon believers today. For example, in his book Irresistible: Reclaiming the New that Jesus Unleashed for the World, Andy Stanley says, “The Ten Commandments have no authority over you. None. To be clear: Thou shalt not obey the Ten Commandments” (p. 136). Such thinking is likely not caused by an antinomian mindset, but instead stems from the principle that Christians are not under the law but under grace (Romans 6:14). While it is true that Christ fulfilled the law on our behalf (see Matthew 5:17), the New Testament is clear that believers should not violate God’s moral law because of their standing in grace (Romans 6:15).

New Testament believers are freed from the bondage of sin, which allows them to freely live out the Ten Commandments, summarized by Christ this way: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:36–40, NASB).

Recommended Resource: The Ten Commandments: Ethics for the Twenty-first Century by Mark F. Rooker

“What should we learn from the golden calf incident in Exodus 32?”

Answer:
The story of the golden calf is found in Exodus 32:1–6. The children of Israel had been in bondage in Egypt for over two hundred years. God called Moses, the deliverer, and told him that He had heard their cries and was about to deliver them (Exodus 3:6–8). During their time in Egypt, the Israelites had apparently begun to doubt the existence of the God their fathers worshiped because Moses anticipated some hard questions from them (Exodus 3:13). To help Moses prove the existence and power of God, he was given a number of miraculous signs to help the Israelites believe. After all of these miracles were done, including the ten plagues on the Egyptians, the Israelites came out of Egypt with a renewed belief in the God of their fathers. They passed through the Red Sea on dry land, while the Egyptian army was drowned, and they were brought to the mountain of God to receive His laws.

The people of the Middle East were very religious, but they also worshiped many gods. The ten plagues God brought on the Egyptians were judgments against specific gods they worshiped and showed that the Lord was greater than all of them. Even Moses’ father-in-law Jethro, who was the priest of Midian and a worshiper of the true God, was impacted by the religious pluralism of the people around him. When Moses and the people arrived at Mount Sinai, and Jethro heard of all God’s works, he replied, “Now I know that the LORD is greater than all gods, because in this affair they dealt arrogantly with the people” (Exodus 18:11). When God gave His laws to the Israelites, He began by addressing this religious pluralism. “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me” (Exodus 20:2–5).

While Moses was up on the mountain receiving God’s laws, the people were getting anxious down on the plain. Moses spent forty days (Exodus 24:18) up on the mountain with God, and by the end of that time, the people were beginning to think Moses had died or left them. The people urged Aaron, their temporary leader, to make gods for them to follow. Since they were accustomed to having visual representations of gods, this was the natural (but sinful) result of their thinking. Aaron took their gold earrings, which they had brought from Egypt, and melted them down to make a golden idol. The idol he crafted for them was a calf, but Aaron maintained the name of the Lord in connection with it (Exodus 32:5). He was merging the pagan practices they were familiar with and the worship of the God they were just beginning to be re-acquainted with. Aaron called the people together and told them that the golden calf was the god who delivered them from Egypt. The people offered sacrifices and then engaged in pagan rituals, including orgies (Exodus 32:25) to worship this new god.

Why did Aaron do this? Scripture doesn’t give us the full answer, but we can put certain clues together and get a fairly good picture. First, the people’s long familiarity with idol worship would incline them to follow that method in the absence of clear direction otherwise. It is likely that the people had not yet received the commands against idol worship, since Moses was yet to come down with the tablets of the law. Second, they were already in the habit of merging their beliefs with those of the people around them, a practice that would continue to plague them throughout the kingdom years. Third, Aaron was faced with an unruly crowd that placed a demand on him. The solution of making an idol and calling it by God’s name seemed fairly reasonable.

Why did he choose a calf/bull? His lame excuse to Moses—“It just came out of the fire like this!” Exodus 32:24)—was just a feeble attempt to dodge blame. He fashioned it with a graving tool (Exodus 32:4) and took great care to form it that way. Some have tried to show that the bull represented one of the gods of Egypt, but that doesn’t fit the text, because Aaron called a feast to the Lord (Yahweh) and said that it was the god(s) which brought them out of the land of Egypt. The bull was a symbol of strength and fertility, and the people were already familiar with bull gods from Egypt. Bulls were also typical animals of sacrifice, so to use their image as a symbol of the god being worshiped was a natural connection. Aaron’s bull was a mixture of the powerful God who delivered the people through mighty works and the pagan methods of worship that were borrowed from the people around them.

Even though there are reasonable explanations for why Aaron and the people began to worship the golden calf, those explanations do not excuse the sin. God certainly held the people accountable for their corruption (Exodus 32:7–10) and was ready to destroy them for their sin. Moses’ personal intercession on behalf of his people saved them. Moses indicated that Aaron at least should have known that his actions were sinful (Exodus 32:21) and didn’t let him off the hook. As with any other sin, the punishment is death, and the only proper response is repentance. Moses called for those who were on the Lord’s side to come stand with him (Exodus 32:26). The Levites stood with him and were commanded to go through the camp and kill anyone who persisted in the idolatry. Three thousand men were killed that day. The next day, Moses went up and confessed the people’s sins before God, asking for His forgiveness. God declared that the guilty ones would yet pay with their own deaths and be blotted out of His book. These were the same ones who, on the verge of entering the Promised Land, would deny God’s promises and be sent into the wilderness to die for their sins. Their children would be the ones to receive God’s promised blessings.

Their experiences are a lesson to us today. Even though we might justify our actions through reason or logic, if we are violating God’s clear commands, we are sinning against Him, and He will hold us accountable for those sins. God is not to be worshiped with images, because any image we make will draw more attention to the work of our hands than the God who made all things. Also, there is no way we can ever fully represent the holiness and awesomeness of God through an image. To attempt to do so will always fall short. On top of this, God is a spirit (John 4:24), and we cannot form an image of a spirit. We worship God by believing His Word, obeying it, and declaring His greatness to others.

Recommended Resource: Exodus NIV Application Commentary by Peter Enns

“What is the definition of idolatry?”

Answer:
The definition of idolatry, according to Webster, is “the worship of idols or excessive devotion to, or reverence for some person or thing.” An idol is anything that replaces the one, true God. The most prevalent form of idolatry in Bible times was the worship of images that were thought to embody the various pagan deities.

From the beginning, God’s covenant with Israel was based on exclusive worship of Him alone (Exodus 20:3; Deuteronomy 5:7). The Israelites were not even to mention the names of false gods (Exodus 23:13) because to do so would acknowledge their existence and give credence to their power and influence over the people. Israel was forbidden to intermarry with other cultures who embraced false gods, because God knew this would lead to compromise. The book of Hosea uses the imagery of adultery to describe Israel’s continual chasing after other gods, like an unfaithful wife chases after other men. The history of Israel is a sad chronicle of idol worship, punishment, restoration and forgiveness, followed by a return to idolatry. The books of 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, and 1 & 2 Chronicles reveal this destructive pattern. The Old Testament prophets endlessly prophesied dire consequences for Israel if they continued in their idolatry. Mostly, they were ignored until it was too late and God’s wrath against idol-worship was poured out on the nation. But ours is a merciful God, and He never failed to forgive and restore them when they repented and sought His forgiveness.

In reality, idols are impotent blocks of stone or wood, and their power exists only in the minds of the worshipers. The idol of the god Dagon was twice knocked to the floor by God to show the Philistines just who was God and who wasn’t (1 Samuel 5:1-5). The “contest” between God and His prophet Elijah and the 450 prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel is a dramatic example of the power of the true God and the impotence of false gods (1 Kings 18:19-40). The testimony of Scripture is that God alone is worthy of worship. Idol worship robs God of the glory that is rightfully His, and that is something He will not tolerate (Isaiah 42:8).

Even today there are religions that bow before statues and icons, a practice forbidden by God’s Word. The significance God places upon it is reflected in the fact that the first of the Ten Commandments refers to idolatry: “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me” (Exodus 20:3-5).

Idolatry extends beyond the worship of idols and images and false gods. Our modern idols are many and varied. Even for those who do not bow physically before a statue, idolatry is a matter of the heart—pride, self-centeredness, greed, gluttony, a love for possessions and ultimately rebellion against God. Is it any wonder that God hates it?

Recommended Resource: No Gods But God: Confronting Our Modern-Day Idolatry by Dennis Newkirk

“What sort of pagan revelry did the Israelites indulge in (Exodus 32:6)?”

Answer:
In Exodus 32 Moses returns from talking with the Lord on the mountain and finds that the Israelites have turned to sinful actions. Verse 6 says, “The people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.” What exactly was this “revelry” that followed the Israelites’ feast?

The context helps identify the main actions that offended the Lord. First, verse 4 notes that the people gave offerings to a golden calf. They had already broken the first of the Ten Commandments before Moses had even returned to them! And verse 6 mentions that feasting and drinking were part of the festivities.

Second, Moses had identified the noise emanating from the camp as “the sound of singing” (Exodus 32:18). In their pagan revelries, the people of Israel were singing songs of adoration to the golden calf. In the not-so-distant past, they had been singing praise to the Lord after He led them safely through the Red Sea (Exodus 15). Now their tune had changed.

Third, the people of Israel danced as part of their celebration of the golden calf. Verse 19 says, “When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain.” Dancing per se is not noted as wrong, but dancing in celebration of an idol made Moses (and God) angry.

Fourth, there was an unrestrained attitude of partying around the golden calf. Verse 25 presents the shameful truth: “The people were running wild . . . Aaron had let them get out of control and so [they became] a laughingstock to their enemies.” Details of their behavior are not given, but their actions were unruly, uncivilized, and ungodly.

In turning to a graven image, the people had turned away from the Lord (see Deuteronomy 9:16). Even though the golden calf had been billed as the god they had been following all along (Exodus 32:4), the True God cannot be reduced to imagery. The Lord will not share His glory with another (Isaiah 42:8). That is why God judged the people of Israel at the foot of Mount Sinai.

Recommended Resource: God the Son Incarnate: The Doctrine of Christ by Stephen Wellum

“What was the tabernacle of Moses?”

Answer:
The tabernacle of Moses was the temporary place of worship that the Israelites built according to God’s specifications while wandering the desert and used until King Solomon built a temple. The word tabernacle is a translation of the Hebrew mishkan, which means “dwelling-place.” The Feast of Tabernacles commemorates this time of wandering before the Israelites entered the land of Canaan.

The overall shape of the tabernacle of Moses followed traditional structures of the time. It consisted of an outer court, approximately seventy-five feet wide by one hundred and fifty feet long, with a fifteen-foot by forty-five-foot structure in the back (Exodus 27:9–19). The court walls consisted of linen curtains attached by bronze hooks to a series of pillars. The pillars were supported on the bottom by bronze sockets and possibly held in place with rope that attached to bronze rings. The gate, always facing east, was about thirty feet of blue, purple, and scarlet woven into a curtain of linen. The altar of burnt offering and the bronze laver that the priests purified themselves in sat in the courtyard.

The actual tabernacle of Moses sat in the back of the courtyard (Exodus 26). The sides and back were made of gold-covered acacia boards, about twenty-eight inches wide and fifteen feet high. Each board had two tenons, projections, which fit into silver sockets. Gold rings held five bars that ran the length of the boards, holding them tight. The east side was comprised of five pillars covered with a screen similar to that for the courtyard.

The tent was divided into two rooms: the Holy Place, where the table of showbread, the golden lampstand, and the altar of incense sat; and the Holy of Holies, where the Ark of the Covenant was placed. The rooms were separated by a veil, similar to the entry screen, embroidered with cherubim and hung from four gold-covered acacia posts by gold clasps.

The exact shape of the tabernacle of Moses is unclear. It may have been a room with a slant-sided cover, somewhat like a rain fly. We do know it was covered in layers: fine linen, a fabric made of goat’s hair, a covering of rams’ skins, and a final layer of an undetermined, waterproof hide. The linen covered the entire tent, the panels connected by latching loops into gold clasps. The curtain of goat’s hair was connected with bronze clasps and hung over the sides and back of the structure.

Although the tabernacle was heavy and had many parts, it was surprisingly portable. Priests carried the Ark and the altars on their shoulders, but the rest fit in ox-drawn carts.

The purpose of the tabernacle of Moses was to provide a place where the people could properly worship God. Priests sacrificed animals on the altar in the outer court. The bread of the presence, the continually burning lampstand, and the offering of incense were all in the Holy Place. And once a year, the high priest would enter the Holy of Holies as part of the ceremony of the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16). At no other time was anyone to enter the Holy of Holies, as the presence of God dwelt with the Ark of the Covenant. When Jesus was crucified, the veil between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies in the temple ripped from top to bottom (Matthew 27:51). Just as He fulfilled for all time the sacrificial requirements, He ushered us into the presence of God.

Recommended Resource: Bible Answers for Almost all Your Questions by Elmer Towns

Lecture 8

Book of Leviticus

Information:
Quotations mainly and extensively from https://www.gotquestions.org/

Key Verses:

Leviticus 1:4, “He is to lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him.”

Leviticus 17:11, “For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.”

Leviticus 19:18, “‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.”

A Survey of the Old Testament Instructor’s Manual

Overview: Leviticus

Leviticus: A Quick Overview | Whiteboard Bible Study

A Survey of the Old Testament Instructor’s Manual

The name, Leviticus, is the Latin form of the Greek name of the book which means “about Levites” or “that which pertains to the Levites”. The Levites were the tribe from whom the priests were drawn and were involved with worship. This title is applicable because the book is about worship and fit-ness for worship. The Hebrew name is “wayyiqra”, taken from the first Hebrew word of the book, “And He (the LORD) called”. This title rightly highlights God’s authority and initiative in issuing rules for acceptable worship.

Please be sure to be able to explain the following clearly

1 -Holiness

2 – Sin and Sacrifice

  • Sacrifice and Atonement
  • Sacrifice and the Meaning of Blood
  • Strange fire – a tragic lesson

Book of Leviticus


Author: Moses was the author of the Book of Leviticus.

Date of Writing: The Book of Leviticus was written between 1440 and 1400 B.C.

Purpose of Writing: Because the Israelites had been held captive in Egypt for 400 years, the concept of God had been distorted by the polytheistic, pagan Egyptians. The purpose of Leviticus is to provide instruction and laws to guide a sinful, yet redeemed people in their relationship with a holy God. There is an emphasis in Leviticus on the need for personal holiness in response to a holy God. Sin must be atoned for through the offering of proper sacrifices (chapters 8-10). Other topics covered in the book are diets (clean and unclean foods), childbirth, and diseases which are carefully regulated (chapters 11-15). Chapter 16 describes the Day of Atonement when an annual sacrifice is made for the cumulative sin of the people. Furthermore, the people of God are to be circumspect in their personal, moral, and social living, in contrast to the then-current practices of the heathen roundabout them (chapters 17-22).

Key Verses:

Leviticus 1:4, “He is to lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him.”

Leviticus 17:11, “For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.”

Leviticus 19:18, “‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.”

Brief Summary: Chapters 1–7 outline the offerings required of both the laity and the priesthood. Chapters 8–10 describe the consecration of Aaron and his sons to the priesthood. Chapters 11–16 are the prescriptions for various types of uncleanness. The final 10 chapters are God’s guidelines to His people for practical holiness. Various feasts were instituted in the people’s worship of God, convened and practiced according to God’s laws. Blessings or curses would accompany either the keeping or neglect of God’s commandments (chapter 26). Vows to the Lord are covered in chapter 27.

The primary theme of Leviticus is holiness. God’s demand for holiness in His people is based on His own holy nature. A corresponding theme is that of atonement. Holiness must be maintained before God, and holiness can only be attained through a proper atonement.

Foreshadowings: Much of the ritualistic practices of worship picture in many ways the person and work of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Hebrews 10 tells us that the Mosaic Law is “only a shadow of the good things that are coming” by which is meant that the daily sacrifices offered by the priests for the sin of the people were a representation of the ultimate Sacrifice—Jesus Christ, whose sacrifice would be once for all time for those who would believe in Him. The holiness imparted temporarily by the Law would one day be replaced by the absolute attainment of holiness when Christians exchanged their sin for the righteousness of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Practical Application: God takes His holiness very seriously, and so should we. The trend in the postmodern church is to create God in our own image, giving Him the attributes we would like Him to have instead of the ones His Word describes. God’s utter holiness, His transcendent splendor, and His “unapproachable light” (1 Timothy 6:16) are foreign concepts to many Christians. We are called to walk in the Light and to put away the darkness in our lives so that we may be pleasing in His sight. A holy God cannot tolerate blatant, unashamed sin in His people and His holiness requires Him to punish it. We dare not be flippant in our attitudes toward sin or God’s loathing of it, nor should we make light of it in any way.

Praise the Lord that because of Jesus’ death on our behalf, we no longer have to offer animal sacrifices. Leviticus is all about substitution. The death of the animals was a substitute penalty for those who have sinned. In the same way, but infinitely better, the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross was the substitute for our sins. Now we can stand before a God of utter holiness without fear because He sees in us the righteousness of Christ.

Recommended Resource: Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers Holman Old Testament Commentary by Glen Martin.
Leviticus & Numbers: The NIV Application Commentary by Roy Gane.
Leviticus, New International Commentary on the Old Testament by Gordon Wenham

“What was the purpose of the Levitical Law?”

Answer:
There is often confusion about the role of the Old Testament Law and how it relates to Christians today. Some say the Levitical laws were just for the Jewish people, while others say they apply to everyone who would worship God. Some think they teach a different way of salvation than the New Testament, and some even think they represent a different God than the loving, merciful one revealed in the New Testament. What is the Levitical Law, and what was its purpose?

First, let’s clarify some terms. The Levites were the descendants of Levi, one of Jacob’s twelve sons. Moses was of the tribe of Levi, and when God delivered the Law to him on Mount Sinai, He marked the Levites as the tribe responsible for the primary religious duties in the nation. They were made priests, singers, and caretakers in the worship of God. In calling it the Levitical Law, we acknowledge that God revealed the Law through Moses, a Levite, and that God appointed the Levites as the religious leaders of Israel. The same Law is sometimes called “Mosaic” because it was given through Moses, and it is also referred to as the “Old Covenant,” because it is part of God’s promise to Abraham and his descendants.

To discover God’s purpose in the Law, we must first look at its inception, and the things God said to Moses about it. When Moses and the people arrived at Mount Sinai, God said, “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:5–6). The first mention of the Law to the nation was as a covenant—a legal agreement between God and the people He chose. The Israelites were required to obey it fully if they were to receive its benefits.

God began His introduction to the Law with the Ten Commandments, but the entire Law encompasses 613 commandments, as detailed in the rest of the books of Moses. Jesus summarized the Law as having two emphases: love for God and love for neighbors (Matthew 22:37–39). These emphases can be easily seen in the Ten Commandments: the first four commands focus on our relation to God, and the remainder focus on interpersonal relations. If we think that is the whole purpose of the Law, though, we miss an important element. Many of the individual commands give detailed instruction on how God was to be worshiped and how the people were to live their lives. As we will see, it is in those fine details that love was either shown or withheld.

For hundreds of years, the Israelites lived under the Levitical Law, sometimes obeying it but more often failing to follow God’s commands. Much of Old Testament history deals with the punishments Israel received for their disobedience. When Jesus Christ came, He said that He did not “come to abolish the Law or the Prophets . . . but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17). In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus took the Law to a higher level, applying it to the thoughts and intents of the heart. This perspective significantly diminishes our ability to keep the Law.

The apostle Paul gives us insight into God’s purpose for the Law in his letter to the Galatians. In Galatians 3:10 he says, “All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.’” The fine details show up again—if we don’t keep every command perfectly, we are condemned (see James 2:10). In Galatians 3:19, Paul asks, “What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come.” What does that mean? Verse 24 clarifies: “The law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.” The Law pointed out our sinfulness, proved our inability to keep our end of the covenant, made us prisoners in our guilt, and showed our need of a Savior. The purpose of the Law is also revealed in Romans 3:19–20 as producing a consciousness of sin and holding the world “accountable to God.” Paul even goes so far as to say he would not have known what sin was except by the Law (Romans 7:7).

The Levitical Law did its job well, pointing out the sinfulness of mankind and condemning us for it. But, as powerful as it was in that regard, it was powerless in another way. Hebrews 7:18–19 tells us that the old Law was set aside “because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect).” The Law had no way of changing our sinful nature. We needed something better to accomplish that. In fact, Hebrews goes on to say that the Law was “only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never . . . make perfect those who draw near to worship” (Hebrews 10:1).

God’s desire has always been to have fellowship with mankind, but our sin prevented that. He gave the Law to set a standard of holiness—and, at the same time, to show that we could never meet that standard on our own. That’s why Jesus Christ had to come—to fulfill all the righteous requirements of the Law on our behalf, and then to take the punishment of violating that Law, also on our behalf. Paul wrote in Galatians 2:16 that we are not justified “by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.” When we receive God’s forgiveness through our confession of faith in Jesus’ sacrificial death, the Law is fulfilled for us, and “there is no longer any sacrifice for sin” (Hebrews 10:18). The Law’s condemnation does not fall on us, because “the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2).

Recommended Resource: The End of the Law: Mosaic Covenant in Pauline Theology by Jason Meyer

“What is the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur)?”

Answer:
The Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23:27-28), also known as Yom Kippur, was the most solemn holy day of all the Israelite feasts and festivals, occurring once a year on the tenth day of Tishri, the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar. On that day, the high priest was to perform elaborate rituals to atone for the sins of the people. Described in Leviticus 16:1-34, the atonement ritual began with Aaron, or subsequent high priests of Israel, coming into the holy of holies. The solemnity of the day was underscored by God telling Moses to warn Aaron not to come into the Most Holy Place whenever he felt like it; he could only come on this special day once a year, lest he die (v.2). This was not a ceremony to be taken lightly, and the people were to understand that atonement for sin was to be done God’s way.

Before entering the tabernacle, Aaron was to bathe and put on special garments (v. 4), then sacrifice a bull for a sin offering for himself and his family (v. 6, 11). The blood of the bull was to be sprinkled on the ark of the covenant. Then Aaron was to bring two goats, one to be sacrificed “because of the uncleanness and rebellion of the Israelites, whatever their sins have been” (v. 16), and its blood was sprinkled on the ark of the covenant. The other goat was used as a scapegoat. Aaron placed his hands on its head, confessed over it the rebellion and wickedness of the Israelites, and sent the goat out with an appointed man who released it into the wilderness (v. 21). The goat carried on itself all the sins of the people, which were forgiven for another year (v. 30).

The symbolic significance of the ritual, particularly to Christians, is seen first in the washing and cleansing of the high priest, the man who released the goat, and the man who took the sacrificed animals outside the camp to burn the carcasses (v. 4, 24, 26, 28). Israelite washing ceremonies were required often throughout the Old Testament and symbolized the need for mankind to be cleansed of sin. But it wasn’t until Jesus came to make the “once for all” sacrifice that the need for cleansing ceremonies ceased (Hebrews 7:27). The blood of bulls and goats could only atone for sins if the ritual was continually done year after year, while Christ’s sacrifice was sufficient for all the sins of all who would ever believe in Him. When His sacrifice was made, He declared, “It is finished” (John 19:30). He then sat down at the right hand of God, and no further sacrifice was ever needed (Hebrews 10:1-12).

The sufficiency and completeness of the sacrifice of Christ is also seen in the two goats. The blood of the first goat was sprinkled on the ark, ritually appeasing the wrath of God for another year. The second goat removed the sins of the people into the wilderness where they were forgotten and no longer clung to the people. Sin is both propitiated and expiated God’s way—only by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Propitiation is the act of appeasing the wrath of God, while expiation is the act of atoning for sin and removing it from the sinner. Both together are achieved eternally by Christ. When He sacrificed Himself on the cross, He appeased God’s wrath against sin, taking that wrath upon Himself: “Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!” (Romans 5:9). The removal of sin by the second goat was a living parable of the promise that God would remove our transgressions from us as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12) and that He would remember them no more (Hebrews 8:12; 10:17). Jews today still celebrate the annual Day of Atonement, which falls on different days each year in September-October, traditionally observing this holy day with a 25-hour period of fasting and intensive prayer. Jews also often spend most of the day in synagogue services.

Recommended Resource: Our Father Abraham: Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith by Marvin Wilson

“How did the Israelites deny themselves in Leviticus 23:27?”

Answer:
Leviticus 23:27 reads, “The tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. Hold a sacred assembly and deny yourselves, and present a food offering to the LORD.” So, on Yom Kippur, the nation of Israel were to “deny” themselves as part of the sacred observance.

The Hebrew phrase here can literally be translated “you shall humble your souls.” The same command is found in Leviticus 16:29, and it has traditionally been understood as a reference to fasting or not eating for this day. The “denial” may have involved more than food, however. In the Mishnah, an ancient collection of Jewish traditions, the Day of Atonement forbade food and drink, bathing, using oil to moisten the skin, wearing sandals, and sexual relations.

In modern Judaism, the Day of Atonement takes places on the tenth day of the seventh month on the Jewish calendar and is considered one of two major fasts (the other is Tisha B’Av). There are five minor fast days, as well, for a total of seven fasts in the modern Jewish tradition. However, the Day of Atonement is the only day the Old Testament commanded a fast (or a humbling of the soul).

Leviticus 23:28–32 offers additional insight regarding how the Jews denied themselves on the Day of Atonement: “Do not do any work on that day, because it is the Day of Atonement, when atonement is made for you before the Lord your God. Those who do not deny themselves on that day must be cut off from their people. I will destroy from among their people anyone who does any work on that day. You shall do no work at all. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live. It is a day of sabbath rest for you, and you must deny yourselves. From the evening of the ninth day of the month until the following evening you are to observe your sabbath.”

Here we find an emphasis on 1) not performing work of any kind, 2) making atonement, and 3) being “cut off” for disobeying this command. This command was an ongoing one; every Day of Atonement was to be a day of fasting and rest. The Day of Atonement was also the one day per year the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies.

Numbers 29:7–11 gives additional instructions for the Day of Atonement: “On the tenth day of this seventh month hold a sacred assembly. You must deny yourselves and do no work. Present as an aroma pleasing to the Lord a burnt offering of one young bull, one ram and seven male lambs a year old, all without defect. With the bull offer a grain offering of three-tenths of an ephah of the finest flour mixed with oil; with the ram, two-tenths; and with each of the seven lambs, one-tenth. Include one male goat as a sin offering, in addition to the sin offering for atonement and the regular burnt offering with its grain offering, and their drink offerings.”

This Day of Atonement was the high holy day of the year, considered the Sabbath of Sabbaths, since no work would take place on that day. To humble one’s soul likely included both fasting from food and from work, allowing God’s people to focus on worship to the Lord through the sacrificial offerings and the atonement of sin.

Recommended Resource: A Biblical Theology of the Old Testament edited by Roy Zuck

“What were the various sacrifices in the Old Testament?”

Answer:
There are five main types of sacrifices, or offerings, in the Old Testament. The burnt offering (Leviticus 1; 6:8–13; 8:18-21; 16:24), the grain offering (Leviticus 2; 6:14–23), the peace offering (Leviticus 3; 7:11–34), the sin offering (Leviticus 4; 5:1–13; 6:24–30; 8:14–17; 16:3–22), and the trespass offering (Leviticus 5:14–19; 6:1–7; 7:1–6). Each of these sacrifices involved certain elements, either animal or fruit of the field, and had a specific purpose. Most were split into two or three portions—God’s portion, the portion for the Levites or priests, and, if there was a third, a portion kept by the person offering the sacrifice. The sacrifices can be broadly categorized as either voluntary or mandatory offerings.

Voluntary Sacrifices

There were three voluntary offerings. The first was the burnt offering, a voluntary act of worship to express devotion or commitment to God. It was also used as an atonement for unintentional sin. The elements of the burnt offering were a bull, a bird, or a ram without blemish. The meat and bones and organs of the animal were to be totally burnt, and this was God’s portion. The animal’s hide was given to the Levites, who could later sell it to earn money for themselves.

The second voluntary offering was the grain offering, in which the fruit of the field was offered in the form of a cake or baked bread made of grain, fine flour, and oil and salt. The grain offering was one of the sacrifices accompanied by a drink offering of one-quarter hin (about a quart) of wine, which was poured into the fire on the altar (Numbers 15:4–5). The purpose of the grain offering was to express thanksgiving in recognition of God’s provision and unmerited goodwill toward the person making the sacrifice. The priests were given a portion of this offering, but it had to be eaten within the court of the tabernacle.

The third voluntary offering was the peace offering, which consisted of any unblemished animal from the worshiper’s herd, and/or various grains or breads. This was a sacrifice of thanksgiving and fellowship followed by a shared meal. The high priest was given the breast of the animal; the officiating priest was given the right foreleg. These pieces of the offering were called the “wave offering” and the “heave offering” because they were waved or lifted over the altar during the ceremony. The fat, kidneys, and lobe of the liver were given to God (burnt), and the remainder of the animal was for the participants to eat, symbolizing God’s provision. The vow offering, thanksgiving offering, and freewill offering mentioned in the Old Testament were all peace offerings.

Mandatory Sacrifices

There were two mandatory sacrifices in the Old Testament Law. The first was the sin offering. The purpose of the sin offering was to atone for sin and cleanse from defilement. There were five possible elements of a sin sacrifice—a young bull, a male goat, a female goat, a dove/pigeon, or 1/10 ephah of fine flour. The type of animal depended on the identity and financial situation of the giver. A female goat was the sin offering for the common person, fine flour was the sacrifice of the very poor, a young bull was offered for the high priest and the congregation as a whole, and so on. These sacrifices each had specific instructions for what to do with the blood of the animal during the ceremony. The fatty portions and lobe of the liver and kidneys were given to God (burnt); the rest of the animal was either totally burned on the altar and the ashes thrown outside the camp (in atoning for the high priest and congregation), or eaten within the tabernacle court.

The other mandatory sacrifice was the trespass offering, and this sacrifice was exclusively a ram. The trespass offering was given as atonement for unintentional sins that required reimbursement to an offended party, and also as a cleansing from defiling sins or physical maladies. Again, the fat portions, kidneys, and liver were offered to God, and the remainder of the ram had to be eaten inside the court of the tabernacle.

The sacrifices in the Old Testament pointed forward to the perfect and final sacrifice of Christ. As with the rest of the Law, the sacrifices were “a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ” (Colossians 2:17). Christians today recognize Christ’s atoning death on the cross as the only needed sacrifice for sin, offered once for all (Hebrews 10:1–10). His death opened the “holy place” for us (Hebrews 10:19–22) so that we can freely enter God’s presence and offer our “sacrifice of praise” (Hebrews 13:15; cf. 9:11–28; 4:14—5:10).

Recommended Resource: A Biblical Theology of the Old Testament edited by Roy Zuck

“What is a sin offering?”

Answer:
A sin offering was a sacrifice, made according to the Mosaic Law, which provided atonement for sin. The Hebrew phrase for “sin offering” literally means “fault offering.” The sin offering was made for sins committed in ignorance, or unintentional sins. The ritualistic method of the sin offering and the animal to be offered varied depending on the status of the sinner. For example, a high priest who sinned unintentionally would offer a young bull. A king or a prince would offer a young male goat. People in the private sector would sacrifice a young female goat or lamb, unless they were too poor, in which case they were only required to offer two turtledoves or pigeons. Full details of the sin offering and the requirements associated with it are enumerated in Leviticus 4 and Numbers 15.

Again, the sin offering was sacrificed when a person sinned unintentionally by breaking one of the Lord’s commandments and later realized his guilt (Leviticus 4:27). Sin offerings were also part of the ceremonies on the Day of Atonement, as the high priest made two sin offerings: a bull for himself and a young male goat for the congregation (Leviticus 16:11, 15). In a sin offering, the live animal was brought to the altar, and the sinner was required to lay his hand on the head of the animal (Leviticus 4:29). Then the animal was killed, at which point the priest would take some of the blood and put it on the horns of the altar (verse 30). In some cases, some of the blood was also sprinkled inside the tabernacle (verses 6 and 17). Then all the rest of the blood was poured at the base of the altar (verse 34). The fat of the sin offering was removed and burned on the altar. In some cases, the body of the animal was burned outside the camp (verse 12); in other cases, the meat of the sin offering could be eaten by the priests. “In this way the priest will make atonement for them for the sin they have committed, and they will be forgiven” (verse 35).

The sin offering was a poignant picture of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for the sins of the world. He was a “lamb without blemish” (1 Peter 1:19; cf. Leviticus 4:32) whose precious blood was spilled after being publicly slain. Jesus was crucified outside the city of Jerusalem, just as the sin offering was to be burnt outside the camp (Hebrews 13:12; cf. Leviticus 4:12). Just as the sacrificial lamb makes atonement for unintentional sins, Jesus’ blood made atonement for the sin of any person who realizes his guilt before God and asks for that atonement to be applied to him (John 3:16; Ephesians 1:7). “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22).

Every person has broken the Law of God in one way or another, whether we realize it or not. Humanity is sinful, and we are all guilty before God (Romans 3:23). It must have been painful for sinners under the Mosaic Law to slaughter an innocent animal when they knew they were the ones who had done wrong. In the same way, it is painful for us to admit our guilt and to know that the innocent and holy Son of God took the punishment for our sin. But this salvation God has provided, and it is the only way. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Praise the Lord that sin offerings are no longer required, because we have been redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:19).

Recommended Resource: A Biblical Theology of the Old Testament edited by Roy Zuck

“Why did the sacrificial system require a blood sacrifice?”

Answer:
The whole of the Old Testament, every book, points toward the Great Sacrifice that was to come—that of Jesus’ sacrificial giving of His own life on our behalf. Leviticus 17:11 is the Old Testament’s central statement about the significance of blood in the sacrificial system. God, speaking to Moses, declares: “For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.”

A “sacrifice” is defined as the offering up of something precious for a cause or a reason. Making atonement is satisfying someone or something for an offense committed. The Leviticus verse can be read more clearly now: God said, “I have given it to you (the creature’s life, which is in its blood) to make atonement for yourselves (covering the offense you have committed against Me).” In other words, those who are covered by the blood sacrifice are set free from the consequences of sin.

Of course, the Israelites did not know of Jesus per se, or how He would die on their behalf and then rise again, but they did believe God would be sending them a Savior. All of the many, many blood sacrifices seen throughout the Old Testament were foreshadowing the true, once-for-all-time sacrifice to come so that the Israelites would never forget that, without the blood, there is no forgiveness. This shedding of blood is a substitutionary act. Therefore, the last clause of Leviticus 17:11 could be read either “the blood ‘makes atonement’ at the cost of the life” (i.e., the animal’s life) or “makes atonement in the place of the life” (i.e., the sinner’s life, with Jesus Christ being the One giving life through His shed blood).

Hebrews 9:11-18 confirms the symbolism of blood as life and applies Leviticus 17:11 to the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. Verse 12 states clearly that the Old Testament blood sacrifices were temporary and only atoned for sin partially and for a short time, hence the need to repeat the sacrifices yearly. But when Christ entered the Most Holy Place, He did so to offer His own blood once for all time, making future sacrifices unnecessary. This is what Jesus meant by His dying words on the cross: “It is finished” (John 19:30). Never again would the blood of bulls and goats cleanse men from their sin. Only by accepting Jesus’ blood, shed on the cross for the remission of sins, can we stand before God covered in the righteousness of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Recommended Resource: God the Son Incarnate: The Doctrine of Christ by Stephen Wellum

“What is a burnt offering?”

Answer:
The burnt offering is one of the oldest and most common offerings in history. It’s entirely possible that Abel’s offering in Genesis 4:4 was a burnt offering, although the first recorded instance is in Genesis 8:20 when Noah offers burnt offerings after the flood. God ordered Abraham to offer his son, Isaac, in a burnt offering in Genesis 22, and then provided a ram as a replacement. After suffering through nine of the ten plagues, Pharaoh decided to let the people go from bondage in Egypt, but his refusal to allow the Israelites to take their livestock with them in order to offer burnt offerings brought about the final plague that led to the Israelites’ delivery (Exodus 10:24-29).

The Hebrew word for “burnt offering” actually means to “ascend,“ literally to “go up in smoke.” The smoke from the sacrifice ascended to God, “a soothing aroma to the LORD” (Leviticus 1:9). Technically, any offering burned over an altar was a burnt offering, but in more specific terms, a burnt offering was the complete destruction of the animal (except for the hide) in an effort to renew the relationship between Holy God and sinful man. With the development of the law, God gave the Israelites specific instructions as to the types of burnt offerings and what they symbolized.

Leviticus 1 and 6:8-13 describe the traditional burnt offering. The Israelites brought a bull, sheep, or goat, a male with no defect, and killed it at the entrance to the tabernacle. The animal’s blood was drained, and the priest sprinkled blood around the altar. The animal was skinned and cut it into pieces, the intestines and legs washed, and the priest burned the pieces over the altar all night. The priest received the skin as a fee for his help. A turtledove or pigeon could also be sacrificed, although they weren’t skinned.

A person could give a burnt offering at any time. It was a sacrifice of general atonement—an acknowledgement of the sin nature and a request for renewed relationship with God. God also set times for the priests to give a burnt offering for the benefit of the Israelites as a whole, although the animals required for each sacrifice varied:

Every morning and evening (Exodus 29:38-42; Numbers 28:2)
Each Sabbath (Numbers 28:9-10)
The beginning of each month (Numbers 28:11)
At Passover (Numbers 28:19)
With the new grain/firstfruits offering at the Feast of Weeks (Numbers 28:27)
At the Feast of Trumpets/Rosh Hashanah (Numbers 29:1)
At the new moon (Numbers 29:6)

The ultimate fulfillment of the burnt offering is in Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. His physical life was completely consumed, He ascended to God, and His covering (that is, His garment) was distributed to those who officiated over His sacrifice (Matthew 27:35). But most importantly, His sacrifice, once for all time, atoned for our sins and restored our relationship with God.

Recommended Resource: A Biblical Theology of the Old Testament edited by Roy Zuck

“Why was the fire in the altar to burn continuously (Leviticus 6:13)?”

Answer:
Leviticus mentions several times that the fire in the altar was to burn continuously. God wanted a perpetual fire there, and He must have had a reason for it.

Before the giving of the Law, God appeared to Moses “in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up” (Exodus 3:2). God chose the appearance of a continuous fire when calling Moses to lead the people out of Egypt to a new land. Later, when God was leading the Israelites out of Egypt, He appeared as a pillar of fire at night (Exodus 13:21–22).

Then came the Law. Outside the tabernacle, the fire for the burnt offering was commanded to be kept burning; never was it to be extinguished. Leviticus 6:13 instructs, “The fire must be kept burning on the altar continuously; it must not go out.” This is mentioned three times in this chapter (verses 9, 12, and 13).

One reason the ongoing fire was so important is that it was started directly by God: “Fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the fat portions on the altar. And when all the people saw it, they shouted for joy and fell facedown” (Leviticus 9:24). The fire on the altar, therefore, served as a constant reminder of God’s power. It was a gift from heaven. No other source of fire was acceptable to God (see Numbers 3:4).

This fire also represented God’s presence. “God is a consuming fire” (Deuteronomy 4:24). The Shekinah glory was visible in the fire at the altar of burnt offering. This ongoing presence of God reminded the Israelites that salvation is of the Lord. The atonement made at the burnt offering could only be made through Him.

In the New Testament, John the Baptist predicted that the Messiah would baptize with the Spirit and with fire (Matthew 3:11; Luke 3:16). Fire served as a sign of judgment and refining, but it also reminds us of the Holy Spirit’s coming at Pentecost in the form of “tongues of fire” (Acts 2:3).

The continuously burning, divine fire at the altar of burnt offering helped remind the Israelites of the reality of God’s presence and of their need for God. The sacred fire endured throughout the 40 years in the desert and likely beyond that, as tabernacle worship continued until the time of King Solomon and the building of the Jewish temple. When the temple was dedicated, God once again lit the fire on the altar (2 Chronicles 7:1).

Recommended Resource: Leviticus, New International Commentary on the Old Testament by Gordon Wenham

“Who were Nadab and Abihu?”

Answer:
Nadab and Abihu were the oldest and second oldest sons of Aaron, the brother of Moses and first high priest of Israel. Their relation to Aaron is mentioned in Numbers 3:2–3 as two of Aaron’s four sons: “The names of the sons of Aaron were Nadab the firstborn and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. Those were the names of Aaron’s sons, the anointed priests, who were ordained to serve as priests.”

Exodus 24 includes Nadab and Abihu as two of the leaders of Israel who came before the Lord. They were given the special privilege of seeing a vision of God: “Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of lapis lazuli, as bright blue as the sky. But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank” (Exodus 24:9–11).

Nadab and Abihu are best known, however, for offering “unauthorized fire” (or “strange fire,” KJV) before the Lord in the tabernacle and dying as a result. Leviticus 10:1–2 shares this sobering account, stating, “Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, contrary to his command. So fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD.”

Why did God put Nadab and Abihu to death? Leviticus 10:3 offers the explanation: “Moses then said to Aaron, ‘This is what the Lord spoke of when he said: ‘“Among those who approach me I will be proved holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored.”’” Those who served as priests before the Lord were required to serve Him honorably. If they did not, the consequence was death. In the case of Aaron’s sons, they dishonored the Lord by disobeying His command to only use fire from the brazen altar in the tabernacle (see Leviticus 16:12). The “unauthorized fire” they offered was taken from another source.

A similar penalty can be found when David and the Israelites attempted to move the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem from Kiriath Jearim (1 Chronicles 13:1–10). When the ark started to fall over, a man reached out and touched the ark to catch it, and he was immediately struck dead. Why? He was not one of the Levites God had authorized to serve in this sacred, reserved role (Deuteronomy 31:25; 1 Chronicles 15:2).

It may be difficult to understand such strict views regarding ceremony in our time, but these ways were part of how God revealed Himself as holy to the people of Israel. With the coming of Jesus, we find a fulfillment of the Law (Matthew 5:16) and the curtain of the temple torn in two, offering direct access to God through Jesus Christ (Hebrews 10:20). God continues to reign in perfect holiness, and all who come to Him through Christ are made part of “a royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9).

Recommended Resource: Bible Answers for Almost all Your Questions by Elmer Towns

“What is the meaning of the strange fire in Leviticus 10:1?”

Answer:
In order to understand the phrase “strange fire,” we must review the story in Leviticus in which it appears. The first tabernacle had been erected, and Aaron was doing a lot of sacrificing per God’s instructions (Leviticus 8—9). One day, two of Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, came along and offered incense with “strange fire.” The Hebrew word translated “strange” means “unauthorized, foreign, or profane.” God not only rejected their sacrifice; He found it so offensive that He consumed the two men with fire.

After Nadab and Abihu were killed, Moses explained to Aaron why God had done such a harsh thing: “This is what the LORD spoke of when he said: ‘Among those who approach me I will show myself holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored’” (Leviticus 10:3). The exact nature of the profane fire isn’t known, but, since it was the fire that was unauthorized, it could be that Nadab and Abihu were burning the incense with fire of their own making rather than taking fire from the altar, as specified in Leviticus 16:12. Or it could have been that the two men came into the tabernacle drunk and therefore could not remember what was a violation and what was not (Leviticus 10:8–9). Whatever it was the men did to render the offering profane, it was a sign of their disregard for the utter holiness of God and the need to honor and obey Him in solemn and holy fear. Their carelessness and irreverence were their downfall.

In judging Nadab and Abihu for their strange fire, God was making a point to all the other priests who would serve in His tabernacle—and later, in His temple—and to us, as well. Since this was the first time sacrifices were being offered on the altar and Israel was getting to know the living God better, when Aaron’s sons were disobedient and profane, God displayed His displeasure in no uncertain terms. God was not going to allow the disobedience of Aaron’s sons to set a precedent for future disregard of His Law. A similar story occurs in Acts 5:1–11, during the time of the early church. A husband and wife lie to Peter about some land given to the church, and they are judged with physical death because of their lie. As Peter puts it, “You have not lied just to human beings but to God” (Acts 5:4).

God knows our hearts. He knows what we truly believe and our attitude toward Him. We cannot offer to Him proud “sacrifices” that are unworthy of Him. He seeks those who come to Him in humility, ready to sacrifice their pride and lay before Him humble and contrite hearts grieving for sin (Psalm 51:17). Certainly, there is grace and forgiveness and plenty of “second chances” for those who belong to Him. But God wants us to know that He is serious when it comes to His honor and glory. If there is willful disobedience in the life of a believer, then God disciplines us out of His great love for us (Hebrews 12:7–11). If such disobedience continues, God will take harsher measures until we understand how we are disappointing Him. If we continue in our disobedience even after that, then God has every right to remove us from this earth (see 1 Corinthians 11:29–30).

Recommended Resource: Leviticus, New International Commentary on the Old Testament by Gordon Wenham

“What is the meaning of Azazel / the scapegoat?”

Answer:
“Azazel” or “the scapegoat” is mentioned in Leviticus 16 as part of God’s instructions to the Israelites regarding the Day of Atonement. On this day, the high priest would first offer a sacrifice for his sins and those of his household; then he would perform sacrifices for the nation. “From the Israelite community [the high priest was instructed] to take two male goats for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering” (v. 5). The priest brought the animals before the Lord and cast lots between the two goats – one to be a sacrifice and the other to be the scapegoat. The first goat was slaughtered for the sins of the people and its blood used to cleanse the Most Holy Place, the tent of meeting and the altar (v. 20). After the cleansing, the live goat was brought to the high priest. Laying his hands on the scapegoat, the high priest was to “confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites – all their sins – and put them on the goat’s head. He shall send the goat away into the wilderness in the care of someone appointed for the task. The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a remote place; and the man shall release it in the wilderness” (vv. 21-22). Symbolically, the scapegoat took on the sins of the Israelites and removed them (v. 10). For Christians, this is a foreshadowing of Christ.

Christ is the complete atonement for our sins. In many ways, He embodies each aspect of the Day of Atonement. We are told that He is our great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14). He is also the “Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world” (Revelation 13:8) as a sacrifice for our sins. And He is our scapegoat. Second Corinthians 5:21 says, “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” Our sins were laid on Christ – He bore our sins just as the scapegoat bore the sins of the Israelites. Isaiah 53:6 prophesies Christ’s acceptance of the sin burden: “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” After the sins were laid on the scapegoat, it was considered unclean and driven into the wilderness. In essence, the goat was cast out. The same happened to Jesus. He was crucified outside of the city. “He was despised and rejected by men … He poured out His life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:3a, 12). Jesus embodied what the scapegoat represented – the removal of sins from the perpetrators.

Truly, the Old Testament rituals carry a depth and richness that only God could create. The Day of Atonement foreshadowed the ultimate atonement Christ provides. No longer do we need to sacrifice animals to cover our sins, nor do we need to impute our sins to a scapegoat to have them carried away. Jesus has been sacrificed and “scapegoated” for us. Our sins have been atoned for and removed. “The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming – not the realities themselves,” we are told in Hebrews 10:1. “For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. … Those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. … We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:3-4, 10).

As a side note, the name “Azazel” shows up in some Jewish mythology. While there are different versions in the Book of Enoch, the Book of the Giants, and other pseudepigraphal books, the story is essentially that Azazel was the name of one of the fallen angels who sinned in Genesis chapter 6. As a curse on his sin, Azazel was forced to take the form of a goat-like demon. This myth is not supported by the Bible and is not compatible with what the Bible says about Azazel or the scapegoat.

Recommended Resource: Our Father Abraham: Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith by Marvin Wilson

“What is the difference between the ceremonial law, the moral law, and the judicial law in the Old Testament?”

Answer:
The law of God given to Moses is a comprehensive set of guidelines to ensure that the Israelites’ behavior reflected their status as God’s chosen people. It encompasses moral behavior, their position as a godly example to other nations, and systematic procedures for acknowledging God’s holiness and mankind’s sinfulness. In an attempt to better understand the purpose of these laws, Jews and Christians categorize them. This has led to the distinction between moral law, ceremonial law, and judicial law.

Moral Law
The moral laws, or mishpatim, relate to justice and judgment and are often translated as “ordinances.” Mishpatim are said to be based on God’s holy nature. As such, the ordinances are holy, just, and unchanging. Their purpose is to promote the welfare of those who obey. The value of the laws is considered obvious by reason and common sense. The moral law encompasses regulations on justice, respect, and sexual conduct, and includes the Ten Commandments. It also includes penalties for failure to obey the ordinances. Moral law does not point people to Christ; it merely illuminates the fallen state of all mankind.

Modern Protestants are divided over the applicability of mishpatim in the church age. Some believe that Jesus’ assertion that the law will remain in effect until the earth passes away (Matthew 5:18) means that believers are still bound to it. Others, however, understand that Jesus fulfilled this requirement (Matthew 5:17), and that we are instead under the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2), which is thought to be “love God and love others” (Matthew 22:36-40). Although many of the moral laws in the Old Testament give excellent examples as to how to love God and love others, and freedom from the law is not license to sin (Romans 6:15), we are not specifically bound by mishpatim.

Ceremonial Law
The ceremonial laws are called hukkim or chuqqah in Hebrew, which literally means “custom of the nation”; the words are often translated as “statutes.” These laws seem to focus the adherent’s attention on God. They include instructions on regaining right standing with God (e.g., sacrifices and other ceremonies regarding “uncleanness”), remembrances of God’s work in Israel (e.g., feasts and festivals), specific regulations meant to distinguish Israelites from their pagan neighbors (e.g., dietary and clothing restrictions), and signs that point to the coming Messiah (e.g., the Sabbath, circumcision, Passover, and the redemption of the firstborn). Some Jews believe that the ceremonial law is not fixed. They hold that, as societies evolve, so do God’s expectations of how His followers should relate to Him. This view is not indicated in the Bible.

Christians are not bound by ceremonial law. Since the church is not the nation of Israel, memorial festivals, such as the Feast of Weeks and Passover, do not apply. Galatians 3:23-25 explains that since Jesus has come, Christians are not required to sacrifice or circumcise. There is still debate in Protestant churches over the applicability of the Sabbath. Some say that its inclusion in the Ten Commandments gives it the weight of moral law. Others quote Colossians 2:16-17 and Romans 14:5 to explain that Jesus has fulfilled the Sabbath and become our Sabbath rest. As Romans 14:5 says, “Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.” The applicability of the Old Testament law in the life of a Christian has always related to its usefulness in loving God and others. If someone feels observing the Sabbath aids him in this, he is free to observe it.

Judicial/Civil Law
The Westminster Confession adds the category of judicial or civil law. These laws were specifically given for the culture and place of the Israelites and encompass all of the moral law except the Ten Commandments. This includes everything from murder to restitution for a man gored by an ox and the responsibility of the man who dug a pit to rescue his neighbor’s trapped donkey (Exodus 21:12-36). Since the Jews saw no difference between their God-ordained morality and their cultural responsibilities, this category is used by Christians far more than by Jewish scholars.

The division of the Jewish law into different categories is a human construct designed to better understand the nature of God and define which laws church-age Christians are still required to follow. Many believe the ceremonial law is not applicable, but we are bound by the Ten Commandments. All the law is useful for instruction (2 Timothy 3:16), and nothing in the Bible indicates that God intended a distinction of categories. Christians are not under the law (Romans 10:4). Jesus fulfilled the law, thus abolishing the difference between Jew and Gentile “so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross…” (Ephesians 2:15-16).

Recommended Resource: The End of the Law: Mosaic Covenant in Pauline Theology by Jason Meyer

“Why did God require animal sacrifices in the Old Testament?”

Answer:
God required animal sacrifices to provide a temporary covering of sins and to foreshadow the perfect and complete sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Leviticus 4:35, 5:10). Animal sacrifice is an important theme found throughout Scripture because “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22). When Adam and Eve sinned, animals were killed by God to provide clothing for them (Genesis 3:21). Cain and Abel brought sacrifices to the Lord. Cain’s was unacceptable because he brought fruit, while Abel’s was acceptable because it was the “firstborn of his flock” (Genesis 4:4-5). After the flood receded, Noah sacrificed animals to God (Genesis 8:20-21).

God commanded the nation of Israel to perform numerous sacrifices according to certain procedures prescribed by God. First, the animal had to be spotless. Second, the person offering the sacrifice had to identify with the animal. Third, the person offering the animal had to inflict death upon it. When done in faith, this sacrifice provided a temporary covering of sins. Another sacrifice called for on the Day of Atonement, described in Leviticus 16, demonstrates forgiveness and the removal of sin. The high priest was to take two male goats for a sin offering. One of the goats was sacrificed as a sin offering for the people of Israel (Leviticus 16:15), while the other goat was released into the wilderness (Leviticus 16:20-22). The sin offering provided forgiveness, while the other goat provided the removal of sin.

Why, then, do we no longer offer animal sacrifices today? Animal sacrifices have ended because Jesus Christ was the ultimate and perfect sacrifice. John the Baptist recognized this when he saw Jesus coming to be baptized and said, “Look, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). You may be asking yourself, why animals? What did they do wrong? That is the point—since the animals did no wrong, they died in place of the one performing the sacrifice. Jesus Christ also did no wrong but willingly gave Himself to die for the sins of mankind (1 Timothy 2:6). Jesus Christ took our sin upon Himself and died in our place. As 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “God made him [Jesus] who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Through faith in what Jesus Christ accomplished on the cross, we can receive forgiveness.

In summation, animal sacrifices were commanded by God so that the individual could experience forgiveness of sin. The animal served as a substitute—that is, the animal died in place of the sinner, but only temporarily, which is why the sacrifices needed to be offered over and over. Animal sacrifices have stopped with Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ was the ultimate sacrificial substitute once for all time (Hebrews 7:27) and is now the only mediator between God and humanity (1 Timothy 2:5). Animal sacrifices foreshadowed Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf. The only basis on which an animal sacrifice could provide forgiveness of sins is Christ who would sacrifice Himself for our sins, providing the forgiveness that animal sacrifices could only illustrate and foreshadow.

Recommended Resource: A Biblical Theology of the Old Testament edited by Roy Zuck

“What were the Urim and Thummim?”

Answer:
The Urim (“lights”) and Thummim (“perfections”) were gemstones that were carried by the high priest of Israel on the ephod / priestly garments. They were used by the high priest to determine God’s will in some situations. Some propose that God would cause the Urim and Thummim to light up in varying patterns to reveal His decision. Others propose that the Urim and Thummim were kept in a pouch and were engraved with symbols identifying yes / no and true / false.

It is unclear whether the Urim and Thummim were on, by, or in the high priest’s ephod. No one knows the precise nature of the Urim and Thummim or exactly how they were used. The Bible simply does not give us enough information. References to the Urim and Thummim are rare in the Bible. They are first mentioned in the description of the breastplate of judgment (Exodus 28:30; Leviticus 8:8). When Joshua succeeded Moses as leader over Israel, he was to receive answers from God by means of the Urim through Eleazar the high priest (Numbers 27:21). The Urim and Thummim are next mentioned in Moses’ dying blessing upon Levi (Deuteronomy 33:8). The following Scriptures likely also speak of the Urim and Thummim: Joshua 7:14-18; 1 Samuel 14:37-45; and 2 Samuel 21:1.

Recommended Resource: The Quest Study Bible

Lecture 9

Information:
Quotations mainly and extensively from https://www.gotquestions.org/ unless otherwise stated.

The Book Leviticus continued

In this lesson we’ll look at the rest of the book of Leviticus by concentrating on three very important issues in the lives of the people of Israel and their relationship towards God, which indeed have great implications for us today; namely worship, the importance of the blood, and the making of vows. Where the previous chapters dealt with the religious practices – sacrifices, the priests and the Tabernacle—this chapter deals with the everyday life of the Israelite. The theme of Leviticus 17 being primarily about blood and the regulations for both the Levites and the people of Israel.

10If anyone from the house of Israel or a foreigner living among them eats any blood, I will set My face against that person and cut him off from among his people. 11For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make an atonement for your souls upon the altar, since it is the lifeblood that makes atonement. 12Therefore I say to the Israelites, ‘None of you may eat blood, nor may any foreigner living among you eat blood.’…Leviticus 17:11ff

…53So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of Man, you have no life in you. 54Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55For My flesh is real food, and My blood is real drink.…John 6:53-55.

Overview: Leviticus

Watch our overview video on the book of Leviticus, which breaks down the literary design of the book and its flow of thought. In Leviticus, Israel’s holy God invites them to live in His presence despite their sin, through a series of rituals and sacred institutions.

Why God Required a Blood Sacrifice

RC Sproul

R.C. Sproul – Why is the Atonement Necessary? (Sermon Jam)

The Message Of The Blood Of Jesus – Dr. Charles Stanley

“What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”

“Why did the sacrificial system require a blood sacrifice?”

Answer:
The whole of the Old Testament, every book, points toward the Great Sacrifice that was to come—that of Jesus’ sacrificial giving of His own life on our behalf. Leviticus 17:11 is the Old Testament’s central statement about the significance of blood in the sacrificial system. God, speaking to Moses, declares: “For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.”

A “sacrifice” is defined as the offering up of something precious for a cause or a reason. Making atonement is satisfying someone or something for an offense committed. The Leviticus verse can be read more clearly now: God said, “I have given it to you (the creature’s life, which is in its blood) to make atonement for yourselves (covering the offense you have committed against Me).” In other words, those who are covered by the blood sacrifice are set free from the consequences of sin.

Of course, the Israelites did not know of Jesus per se, or how He would die on their behalf and then rise again, but they did believe God would be sending them a Savior. All of the many, many blood sacrifices seen throughout the Old Testament were foreshadowing the true, once-for-all-time sacrifice to come so that the Israelites would never forget that, without the blood, there is no forgiveness. This shedding of blood is a substitutionary act. Therefore, the last clause of Leviticus 17:11 could be read either “the blood ‘makes atonement’ at the cost of the life” (i.e., the animal’s life) or “makes atonement in the place of the life” (i.e., the sinner’s life, with Jesus Christ being the One giving life through His shed blood).

Hebrews 9:11-18 confirms the symbolism of blood as life and applies Leviticus 17:11 to the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. Verse 12 states clearly that the Old Testament blood sacrifices were temporary and only atoned for sin partially and for a short time, hence the need to repeat the sacrifices yearly. But when Christ entered the Most Holy Place, He did so to offer His own blood once for all time, making future sacrifices unnecessary. This is what Jesus meant by His dying words on the cross: “It is finished” (John 19:30). Never again would the blood of bulls and goats cleanse men from their sin. Only by accepting Jesus’ blood, shed on the cross for the remission of sins, can we stand before God covered in the righteousness of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Recommended Resource: God the Son Incarnate: The Doctrine of Christ by Stephen Wellum

“What was the significance of the sprinkling of blood?”

Answer:
In Exodus 24 we read of Moses sprinkling blood as an important part of a ceremony commanded by God. The context shares part of the reason for this ritual:

[Moses] got up early the next morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain and set up twelve stone pillars representing the twelve tribes of Israel. Then he sent young Israelite men, and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as fellowship offerings to the Lord. Moses took half of the blood and put it in bowls, and the other half he splashed against the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, “We will do everything the Lord has said; we will obey.”

Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, “This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.”
(verses 4–8)

The twelve stone pillars represented the twelve tribes of Israel. Animal sacrifices were made to the Lord, with half the blood thrown on the altar and half kept in bowls. Moses then read the Book of the Covenant to the people, and the people pledged their obedience.

After these actions, Moses sprinkled the blood from the bowls on or toward the congregation of people. This blood represented the sealing of a covenant or promise to the people of Israel. Because blood represents life (see Leviticus 17:14), its sprinkling on the congregation represented a vital commitment between God and His people.

This act would have connected with other uses of blood in Scripture as well. Abraham, the father of the people of Israel, used animal sacrifice. He also was the first to begin the covenant of circumcision, which was used as a sign of the covenant with the Lord (Genesis 15:11).

In the New Testament, Jesus Christ spoke of blood during the Last Supper. In sharing a final meal with His followers, He said the wine represented His blood that would be poured out for us (Luke 22:20). His blood was the seal of the new covenant of grace (1 Corinthians 11:25). His death on the cross was the perfect sacrifice on behalf of the sins of humanity and served as a fulfillment of the ritual sacrifices of the Old Testament.

Today, Christians no longer offer animal sacrifices involving blood, but instead have atonement through faith in Jesus Christ. He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6) and the source of salvation (Acts 4:12). Through faith in Jesus Christ, any person can have everlasting life (John 3:16). “Jesus [is] the mediator of a new covenant, and . . . the sprinkled blood” (Hebrews 12:24).

Recommended Resource: God the Son Incarnate: The Doctrine of Christ by Stephen Wellum

“Why did God require animal sacrifices in the Old Testament?”

Answer:
God required animal sacrifices to provide a temporary covering of sins and to foreshadow the perfect and complete sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Leviticus 4:35, 5:10). Animal sacrifice is an important theme found throughout Scripture because “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22). When Adam and Eve sinned, animals were killed by God to provide clothing for them (Genesis 3:21). Cain and Abel brought sacrifices to the Lord. Cain’s was unacceptable because he brought fruit, while Abel’s was acceptable because it was the “firstborn of his flock” (Genesis 4:4-5). After the flood receded, Noah sacrificed animals to God (Genesis 8:20-21).

God commanded the nation of Israel to perform numerous sacrifices according to certain procedures prescribed by God. First, the animal had to be spotless. Second, the person offering the sacrifice had to identify with the animal. Third, the person offering the animal had to inflict death upon it. When done in faith, this sacrifice provided a temporary covering of sins. Another sacrifice called for on the Day of Atonement, described in Leviticus 16, demonstrates forgiveness and the removal of sin. The high priest was to take two male goats for a sin offering. One of the goats was sacrificed as a sin offering for the people of Israel (Leviticus 16:15), while the other goat was released into the wilderness (Leviticus 16:20-22). The sin offering provided forgiveness, while the other goat provided the removal of sin.

Why, then, do we no longer offer animal sacrifices today? Animal sacrifices have ended because Jesus Christ was the ultimate and perfect sacrifice. John the Baptist recognized this when he saw Jesus coming to be baptized and said, “Look, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). You may be asking yourself, why animals? What did they do wrong? That is the point—since the animals did no wrong, they died in place of the one performing the sacrifice. Jesus Christ also did no wrong but willingly gave Himself to die for the sins of mankind (1 Timothy 2:6). Jesus Christ took our sin upon Himself and died in our place. As 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “God made him [Jesus] who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Through faith in what Jesus Christ accomplished on the cross, we can receive forgiveness.

In summation, animal sacrifices were commanded by God so that the individual could experience forgiveness of sin. The animal served as a substitute—that is, the animal died in place of the sinner, but only temporarily, which is why the sacrifices needed to be offered over and over. Animal sacrifices have stopped with Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ was the ultimate sacrificial substitute once for all time (Hebrews 7:27) and is now the only mediator between God and humanity (1 Timothy 2:5). Animal sacrifices foreshadowed Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf. The only basis on which an animal sacrifice could provide forgiveness of sins is Christ who would sacrifice Himself for our sins, providing the forgiveness that animal sacrifices could only illustrate and foreshadow.

Recommended Resource: A Biblical Theology of the Old Testament edited by Roy Zuck

“What is the meaning of the blood of Christ?”

Answer:
The phrase “blood of Christ” is used several times in the New Testament and is the expression of the sacrificial death and full atoning work of Jesus on our behalf. References to the Savior’s blood include the reality that He literally bled on the cross, but more significantly that He bled and died for sinners. The blood of Christ has the power to atone for an infinite number of sins committed by an infinite number of people throughout the ages, and all whose faith rests in that blood will be saved.

The reality of the blood of Christ as the means of atonement for sin has its origin in the Mosaic Law. Once a year, the priest was to make an offering of the blood of animals on the altar of the temple for the sins of the people. “In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22). But this was a blood offering that was limited in its effectiveness, which is why it had to be offered again and again. This was a foreshadowing of the “once for all” sacrifice which Jesus offered on the cross (Hebrews 7:27). Once that sacrifice was made, there was no longer a need for the blood of bulls and goats.

The blood of Christ is the basis of the New Covenant. On the night before He went to the cross, Jesus offered the cup of wine to His disciples and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you” (Luke 22:20). The pouring of the wine in the cup symbolized the blood of Christ which would be poured out for all who would ever believe in Him. When He shed His blood on the cross, He did away with the Old Covenant requirement for the continual sacrifices of animals. Their blood was not sufficient to cover the sins of the people, except on a temporary basis, because sin against a holy and infinite God requires a holy and infinite sacrifice. “But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:3). While the blood of bulls and goats were a “reminder” of sin, “the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:19) paid in full the debt of sin we owe to God, and we need no further sacrifices for sin. Jesus said, “It is finished” as He was dying, and He meant just that—the entire work of redemption was completed forever, “having obtained eternal redemption” for us (Hebrews 9:12).

Not only does the blood of Christ redeem believers from sin and eternal punishment, but “His blood will make our consciences pure from useless acts so we may serve the living God” (Hebrews 9:14 NCV). This means that not only are we now free from having to offer sacrifices which are “useless” to obtain salvation, but we are free from having to rely on worthless and unproductive works of the flesh to please God. Because the blood of Christ has redeemed us, we are now new creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), and by His blood we are freed from sin to serve the living God, to glorify Him, and to enjoy Him forever.

Recommended Resource: God the Son Incarnate: The Doctrine of Christ by Stephen Wellum

Lecture 10

Information:
Quotations mainly and extensively from https://www.gotquestions.org/ unless otherwise stated.

The Wanderings: The Book Numbers

In this lesson we will consider the faithfulness of Yahweh despite the failures of the people of Israel as they wandered in the Wilderness for forty years following their disobedience and faithlessness at Kadesh Barnea. In doing this we will consider both the positive and negative theological themes that are evident in the book.

THE BOOK OF NUMBERS

The Book Of Numbers

Overview: Numbers

The Book of Numbers

Numbers: a Quick Overview | Whiteboard Bible Study

Book of Numbers


Author: Moses was the author of the Book of Numbers.

Date of Writing: The Book of Numbers was written between 1440 and 1400 B.C.

Purpose of Writing: The message of the Book of Numbers, is universal and timeless. It reminds believers of the spiritual warfare in which they are engaged, for Numbers is the book of the service and walk of God’s people. The Book of Numbers essentially bridges the gap between the Israelites receiving the Law (Exodus and Leviticus) and preparing them to enter the Promised Land (Deuteronomy and Joshua).

Key Verses:

Numbers 6:24-26, “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.”

Numbers 12:6-8, “When a prophet of the LORD is among you, I reveal myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams. But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house. With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?”

Numbers 14:30-34, “Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun. As for your children that you said would be taken as plunder, I will bring them in to enjoy the land you have rejected. But you — your bodies will fall in this desert. Your children will be shepherds here for forty years, suffering for your unfaithfulness, until the last of your bodies lies in the desert. For forty years — one year for each of the forty days you explored the land — you will suffer for your sins and know what it is like to have me against you.'”

Brief Summary: Most of the events of the Book of Numbers take place in the wilderness, primarily between the second and fortieth years of the wandering of the Israelites. The first 25 chapters of the book chronicle the experiences of the first generation of Israel in the wilderness, while the rest of the book describes the experiences of the second generation. The theme of obedience and rebellion followed by repentance and blessing runs through the entire book, as well as the entire Old Testament.

The theme of the holiness of God is continued from the book of Leviticus into the book of Numbers, which reveals God’s instruction and preparation of His people to enter the Promised Land of Canaan. The importance of the Book of Numbers is indicated by its being referred to in the New Testament many times. The Holy Spirit called special attention to Numbers in 1 Corinthians 10:1-12. The words “all these things happened to them for examples” refers to the sin of the Israelites and God’s displeasure with them.

In Romans 11:22, Paul speaks about the “goodness and severity of God.” That, in a nutshell, is the message of Numbers. The severity of God is seen in the death of the rebellious generation in the wilderness, those who never entered the Promised Land. The goodness of God is realized in the new generation. God protected, preserved, and provided for these people until they possessed the land. This reminds us of the justice and love of God, which are always in sovereign harmony.

Foreshadowings: God’s demand for holiness in His people is completely and finally satisfied in Jesus Christ, who came to fulfill the law on our behalf (Matthew 5:17). The concept of the promised Messiah pervades the book. The story in chapter 19 of the sacrifice of the red heifer “without defect or blemish” prefigures Christ, the Lamb of God without spot or blemish who was sacrificed for our sins. The image of the bronze snake lifted up on the pole to provide physical healing (chapter 21) also prefigures the lifting up of Christ, either upon the cross, or in the ministry of the Word, that whoever looks to Him by faith may have spiritual healing.

In chapter 24, Balaam’s fourth oracle speaks of the star and the scepter who is to rise out of Jacob. Here is a prophecy of Christ who is called the “morning star” in Revelation 22:16 for His glory, brightness, and splendor, and for the light that comes by Him. He may also be called a scepter, that is, a scepter bearer, because of his royalty. He not only has the name of a king, but has a kingdom, and rules with a scepter of grace, mercy, and righteousness.

Practical Application: A major theological theme developed in the New Testament from Numbers is that sin and unbelief, especially rebellion, reap the judgment of God. First Corinthians specifically says—and Hebrews 3:7-4:13 strongly implies—that these events were written as examples for believers to observe and avoid. We are not to “set our hearts on evil things” (v. 6), or be sexually immoral (v. 8), or put God to the test (v. 9) or gripe and complain (v. 10).

Just as the Israelites wandered in the wilderness 40 years because of their rebellion, so too does God sometimes allow us to wander away from Him and suffer loneliness and lack of blessings when we rebel against Him. But God is faithful and just, and just as He restored the Israelites to their rightful place in His heart, He will always restore Christians to the place of blessing and intimate fellowship with Him if we repent and return to Him (1 John 1:9).

Recommended Resource: Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers Holman Old Testament Commentary by Glen Martin
Leviticus & Numbers: The NIV Application Commentary by Roy Gane

“Why did God order a census in the book of Numbers?”

Answer:
There are a couple possible reasons to explain why God ordered a census of the people of Israel in the book of Numbers. God could have commanded the census to reveal His power in redeeming such a large number of people or to list those who were able to serve in war (Numbers 1:3).

The stated purpose of the Israeli census, according to Numbers 1:3, concerned war preparations. This would explain why women were not included in the census and males under twenty were not counted. The census did not leave out women and young people due to anything related to their social status but rather due to their military ineligibility.

Numbers 1:45–46 provide a summary of the census: “All the Israelites twenty years old or more who were able to serve in Israel’s army were counted according to their families. The total number was 603,550.” This count included men from every tribe except that of Levi (verse 47). Interestingly, the tribe of Judah ranked as the largest tribe with 74,600 men (verse 27), noting its importance in the early history of Israel. Judah would be the tribe that remained faithful longer than the rest of Israel and the tribe from which Jesus would arise.

The Levites, who were not counted in the census, were chosen as the priestly tribe. They bore the responsibility for the things of God’s tabernacle and the offerings. Numbers 1:49–50 notes, “You must not count the tribe of Levi or include them in the census of the other Israelites. Instead, appoint the Levites to be in charge of the tabernacle of the covenant law—over all its furnishings and everything belonging to it. They are to carry the tabernacle and all its furnishings; they are to take care of it and encamp around it.”

Finally, a word about the other suggested reason for this census can be helpful. The view that the census was intended to emphasize the power of God in rescuing such a large number of people from Egypt is also valid. God led an entire nation of people through the wilderness, keeping His covenant with Abraham. However, the clearly stated purpose of the census in Numbers 1 was related to military eligibility, an issue that the books of Numbers and Deuteronomy would later emphasize.

Recommended Resource: Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers Holman Old Testament Commentary by Glen Martin

“Are the numbers in the Bible accurate? In Numbers 1:45–46, how could Israel have an army this size?”

Answer:
Critics often argue that the numbers in the Bible are not literal or are impossible to accept. In the book of Numbers, for example, a census indicated that men twenty years old or older formed an army of more than 603,000 (Numbers 1:46). Would it have been possible for Israel to have an army of this size during their sojourn in the wilderness?

The Bible claims to be God’s Word and therefore perfect (2 Timothy 3:16–17). That would indicate that the original communication of the biblical text is accurate. Further, studies from textual criticism related to the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament reveal an extremely high level of textual integrity, indicating that what was originally written is what we have in our Bible today.

However, there remain some legitimate reasons to discuss some of the Bible’s numbers. The main issue is the differences in the numbers recorded in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) and the Septuagint (a Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible made between the third and first centuries BC). Some of these differences create uncertainty about the number in the original text, but the census in Numbers 1 is not really in dispute. Rather, the question at hand relates to whether or not Israel could muster an army of that size.

In answering this question, several factors can be considered. During the time of Joseph, the family of Jacob (numbering more than seventy people) moved to Egypt. For four hundred years, their descendants lived in Goshen, an area of northern Egypt. The Bible teaches that the people “multiplied greatly” during those centuries and “became so numerous that the land was filled with them” (Exodus 1:7). The Egyptian pharaoh was so concerned that he attempted to reduce the slave numbers by pressuring the midwives to kill the Hebrews’ newborn sons (Exodus 1:8, 15). No exact numbers are given, but if the king was worried the Hebrew population could soon outnumber the Egyptians’, then there is strong reason to believe a vast number of Jewish people lived in the region at the time of the Exodus.

Estimates based on the size of the census in Numbers 1, which only included men twenty and older, are that the total number of Hebrews could have exceeded two million people. While this is indeed a large number, two factors should be kept in mind: 1) the Hebrews’ population was growing quickly, and 2) Hebrew families (as with other people of the time) generally had many children per household. If each generation averaged six children, for example, a growth from seventy people to two million people in four hundred years is not impossible or unreasonable.

Recommended Resource: Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers Holman Old Testament Commentary by Glen Martin

“What is the difference between the ceremonial law, the moral law, and the judicial law in the Old Testament?”

Answer:
The law of God given to Moses is a comprehensive set of guidelines to ensure that the Israelites’ behavior reflected their status as God’s chosen people. It encompasses moral behavior, their position as a godly example to other nations, and systematic procedures for acknowledging God’s holiness and mankind’s sinfulness. In an attempt to better understand the purpose of these laws, Jews and Christians categorize them. This has led to the distinction between moral law, ceremonial law, and judicial law.

Moral Law
The moral laws, or mishpatim, relate to justice and judgment and are often translated as “ordinances.” Mishpatim are said to be based on God’s holy nature. As such, the ordinances are holy, just, and unchanging. Their purpose is to promote the welfare of those who obey. The value of the laws is considered obvious by reason and common sense. The moral law encompasses regulations on justice, respect, and sexual conduct, and includes the Ten Commandments. It also includes penalties for failure to obey the ordinances. Moral law does not point people to Christ; it merely illuminates the fallen state of all mankind.

Modern Protestants are divided over the applicability of mishpatim in the church age. Some believe that Jesus’ assertion that the law will remain in effect until the earth passes away (Matthew 5:18) means that believers are still bound to it. Others, however, understand that Jesus fulfilled this requirement (Matthew 5:17), and that we are instead under the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2), which is thought to be “love God and love others” (Matthew 22:36-40). Although many of the moral laws in the Old Testament give excellent examples as to how to love God and love others, and freedom from the law is not license to sin (Romans 6:15), we are not specifically bound by mishpatim.

Ceremonial Law
The ceremonial laws are called hukkim or chuqqah in Hebrew, which literally means “custom of the nation”; the words are often translated as “statutes.” These laws seem to focus the adherent’s attention on God. They include instructions on regaining right standing with God (e.g., sacrifices and other ceremonies regarding “uncleanness”), remembrances of God’s work in Israel (e.g., feasts and festivals), specific regulations meant to distinguish Israelites from their pagan neighbors (e.g., dietary and clothing restrictions), and signs that point to the coming Messiah (e.g., the Sabbath, circumcision, Passover, and the redemption of the firstborn). Some Jews believe that the ceremonial law is not fixed. They hold that, as societies evolve, so do God’s expectations of how His followers should relate to Him. This view is not indicated in the Bible.

Christians are not bound by ceremonial law. Since the church is not the nation of Israel, memorial festivals, such as the Feast of Weeks and Passover, do not apply. Galatians 3:23-25 explains that since Jesus has come, Christians are not required to sacrifice or circumcise. There is still debate in Protestant churches over the applicability of the Sabbath. Some say that its inclusion in the Ten Commandments gives it the weight of moral law. Others quote Colossians 2:16-17 and Romans 14:5 to explain that Jesus has fulfilled the Sabbath and become our Sabbath rest. As Romans 14:5 says, “Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.” The applicability of the Old Testament law in the life of a Christian has always related to its usefulness in loving God and others. If someone feels observing the Sabbath aids him in this, he is free to observe it.

Judicial/Civil Law
The Westminster Confession adds the category of judicial or civil law. These laws were specifically given for the culture and place of the Israelites and encompass all of the moral law except the Ten Commandments. This includes everything from murder to restitution for a man gored by an ox and the responsibility of the man who dug a pit to rescue his neighbor’s trapped donkey (Exodus 21:12-36). Since the Jews saw no difference between their God-ordained morality and their cultural responsibilities, this category is used by Christians far more than by Jewish scholars.

The division of the Jewish law into different categories is a human construct designed to better understand the nature of God and define which laws church-age Christians are still required to follow. Many believe the ceremonial law is not applicable, but we are bound by the Ten Commandments. All the law is useful for instruction (2 Timothy 3:16), and nothing in the Bible indicates that God intended a distinction of categories. Christians are not under the law (Romans 10:4). Jesus fulfilled the law, thus abolishing the difference between Jew and Gentile “so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross…” (Ephesians 2:15-16).

Recommended Resource: The End of the Law: Mosaic Covenant in Pauline Theology by Jason Meyer

“Why did God restrict the age that a priest could serve (Numbers 8:24–26)?”

Answer:
Numbers 8:24–26 commands, “This applies to the Levites: Men twenty-five years old or more shall come to take part in the work at the tent of meeting, but at the age of fifty, they must retire from their regular service and work no longer. They may assist their brothers in performing their duties at the tent of meeting, but they themselves must not do the work. This, then, is how you are to assign the responsibilities of the Levites.” God regulated the priestly office and limited the age of priests to 25 to 50 years. Anyone younger or older was not eligible to serve.

The Bible gives no specific purpose of this age limit. However, since Hebrew men were eligible for military involvement at the age of 20 (Numbers 1:1–3), it should be expected that the age of eligibility for priests would be at least that old. In fact, King David later reduced the age for entering priestly service from 25 to 20 in 1 Chronicles 23:27.

At the other end of the spectrum, ending service at 50 years was probably intended to limit priestly service to those with the physical strength to serve. In addition to needing stamina for an all-day job, Jewish priests would often need the strength to help move large livestock (sheep, goats, cattle) as part of their involvement in the tabernacle. Factoring in the shorter lifespan of men of that time, the age of 50 was probably a reasonable limit for full-time service in a job that required significant physical labor.

Verse 26 does not completely forbid the service of men 50 and over. Rather, God said that “they may assist,” as long as they were not doing the work themselves. Those over 50 could serve as assistants or in advisory roles.

The rules limiting priestly service to ages 25—50 were likely designed to ensure the men were old enough to have a certain level of maturity and strong and healthy enough to perform the necessary physical labor. Priests 50 and over were not excluded completely from service but were limited to less physically demanding tasks.

Recommended Resource: Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers Holman Old Testament Commentary by Glen Martin

“What is the story of Joshua and Caleb in the Bible?”

Answer:
Joshua and Caleb are two Israelite men whose stories offer an example of faithful commitment to the Lord. Both men came out of Egypt with the Israelites through the Red Sea and into the wilderness. Joshua and Caleb were selected along with ten other men to explore the Promised Land and give a report to Moses and the people.

After a 40-day exploration of Canaan, the explorers reported, “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there” (Numbers 13:27–28). This report frightened the people (Numbers 13:31–33).

Caleb had a different attitude from the other spies. Verse 30 records, “Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, ‘We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.’” When the people complained that they could not go up to conquer the land, both Caleb and Joshua responded strongly: “Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh . . . tore their clothes and said to the entire Israelite assembly, ‘The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them’” (Numbers 14:6–9).

God judged the people of Israel by making them wait 40 years to enter the land. He also promised that every person 20 years old or older would die in the wilderness and would not see the land with two exceptions—Caleb and Joshua. Why? “Because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it” (Numbers 14:24; see also verse 30). Verse 38 adds, “Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun.”

This promise came true. After the death of Moses 40 years later, Joshua led the people across the Jordan River into the Promised Land. Caleb received an inheritance in the Promised Land in his old age (Joshua 14).

The faithfulness of Joshua and Caleb teaches us that we are to stand for God even when others will not. When we do, God may choose to bless us in ways that will extend for generations to come.

Recommended Resource: Battle Ready -Joshua and Caleb by Steve Farrar

“What was the significance of the rebellion of Korah?”

Answer:
The story of the rebellion of Korah is recorded in Numbers 16. The rebellion of Korah demonstrates the grim consequences of usurping the authority of God and of those whom He has chosen to be leaders of His people.

Korah was the oldest son of Izhar, who was the son of Kothath of the tribe of Levi. Korah, then, was of the same tribe as Moses and Aaron. He led a rebellion against Moses and Aaron, accusing them of exalting themselves above the congregation of the Lord (Numbers 16:1-3). Korah was not alone in his charge. He gathered 250 other men to challenge Moses’ authority as well: “You have gone too far! The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is with them. Why then do you set yourselves above the Lord’s assembly?” (Numbers 16:3).

Obviously, Korah thought that he could do a better job leading the people than Moses was doing. But by leading this revolt against God’s divinely appointed leaders, Korah was actually revolting against God (Numbers 16:11). Moses proposed a test to prove the source of his authority. Korah and his followers did not pass the test, and God opened up the earth and swallowed the rebels, their families, and all their possessions. Furthermore, “fire came out from the LORD” and consumed the other 250 men who were party to Korah’s rebellion. The rest of the Israelites were terrified and fled (Numbers 16:31-35).

The following day, instead of being convinced that God had vindicated Moses and Aaron, the congregation began complaining that they had “killed the LORD’s people.” For this act of rebellion, God threatened to destroy the whole congregation and sent a plague among them. However, Moses and Aaron interceded for the rebels and averted a complete catastrophe. In the end, 14,700 Israelites had died (Numbers 16:41-50).

Some 1,500 years later, Jude records a strong warning about such men who come into the church as false teachers, arrogating to themselves the authority of God and His Word: “Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion” (Jude 1:11, emphasis added). The characteristics of false teachers within the church include pride, selfishness, jealousy, greed, lust for power, and disregard for the will of God. Just like Korah, today’s false teachers disregard God’s plan and are insubordinate to God’s appointed authorities. Their end will be the same as Korah’s. Thus the warning: “Woe to them!”

To lead His people Israel, God had selected men of His own choosing. God had no interest in holding a popularity contest, collecting résumés, or letting someone appoint himself to the position of prophet, priest, or leader. Korah’s problem was not that he was unqualified, humanly speaking, for the position, but that he was arrogant, stiff-necked, and self-promoting. Korah, attempting to install himself as the leader, ironically claims that Moses “set [himself] above the LORD’s assembly.” It’s a classic case of the guilty person accusing someone else of his own misdeed. But God did not call Korah; He called Moses (Exodus 3-4). God calls whom He chooses and equips them for service.

God’s true leaders, the elders and pastors of the church who shepherd the flock with humility and care, have an accurate understanding of the Scriptures (see Malachi 3:18; Romans 12:2; Ephesians 5:10-11). Such men submit themselves in humble adoration of Christ and His lordship (see Matthew 16:16; Colossians 2:9; 1 Timothy 3:16). They recognize the truth of Jesus’ proclamation, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Most importantly, the true leaders of the church are called by God to their office. False teachers, on the other hand, are “wolves in sheep’s clothing” (Matthew 7:15; cf. Acts 20:29) who choose the fate of Korah over the life of Christ.

Recommended Resource: Bible Answers for Almost all Your Questions by Elmer Towns

“Why was Israel cursed with forty years of wilderness wandering?”

Answer:
“Wilderness wandering” refers to the plight of the Israelites due to their disobedience and unbelief. Nearly 3,500 years ago, the Lord delivered His people from Egyptian bondage as described in Exodus, chapters 1–12. They were to take possession of the land God had promised their forefathers, a land “flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:8). Prior to entry, however, they became convinced they could not oust the current inhabitants of the land, even though God told them they could. Their lack of belief in God’s word and promises brought forth the wrath of God. He cursed them with forty years of wilderness wandering until the unbelieving generation died off, never stepping foot in the Promised Land.

A seven-year famine was responsible for God’s chosen people ending up in Egypt. Initially, they flourished under the leadership of Joseph, number two in charge of the country after Pharaoh. “Then a new king, who did not know about Joseph, came to power in Egypt” (Exodus 1:8), and soon, “the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites” (Exodus 1:12). For the next several centuries the Israelites were enslaved by the Egyptians who “worked them ruthlessly” (Exodus 1:13). Eventually, God heard their cries (Exodus 2:23-25) and sent Moses and Aaron to rescue them. After enduring the last of the ten plagues—the death of the firstborn males—Pharaoh finally agreed to release the Israelites.

Upon their arrival at Kadesh Barnea, which bordered the Promised Land of Canaan, they sent out twelve spies to survey the land and its people (Numbers 13:18-25). They returned after forty days of exploration. Ten of the spies had a bad report: “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are…All the people we saw were of great size…We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes” (Numbers 13:31-33). Only Joshua and Caleb dissented (Numbers 14:6-7). Believing the report of the ten doubters, the people lost heart and rebelled. They “raised their voices and wept aloud,” grumbling against Moses and Aaron, saying, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert! Why is the LORD bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword” (Numbers 14:1-2, emphasis added).

Then the Lord said to Moses, “How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the miraculous signs I have performed among them? I will strike them down with a plague and destroy them” (Numbers 14:11). However, Moses once again interceded for his people and turned away the wrath of God (Numbers 14:13-20). Although God did forgive them, He decided that “not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it” (Numbers 14:23). Rather, they would suffer by wandering in the wilderness for forty years, one year for each of the forty days they explored the land (Numbers 14:34). Furthermore, God would give them what they asked for: “I will do the very things I heard you say: In this desert your bodies will fall, every one of you twenty years old or more” (Numbers 14:28-29). Additionally, the ten men who had given the bad report were struck down and died of a plague before the Lord (Numbers 14:37). Only Joshua and Caleb survived, the two faithful spies who believed God’s promise to give the land over to them.

God had promised them victory. The land He commanded them to go in and take was already theirs; they simply had to trust and obey, but this they did not do. God will never lead us where His grace cannot provide for us or His power cannot protect us. Indeed, the Israelites had seen the powerful hand of God at work during the plagues and miracles of the Exodus. Yet, like many people, they walked by sight and not by faith, and their unbelief displeased God. “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). Their failure to believe in God’s word kept them from entering the Promised Land. This truth has never changed.

Recommended Resource: Bible Answers for Almost all Your Questions by Elmer Towns

“Why is a bronze serpent used to save the Israelites in Numbers 21:8-9?”

Answer:
Throughout the wilderness wanderings of the Israelites, God was constantly teaching them things about Himself and about their own sinfulness. He brought them into the wilderness, to the same mountain where He revealed Himself to Moses, so that He could instruct them in what He required of them. Shortly after the amazing events at Mt. Sinai, God brought them to the border of the Promised Land, but when the people heard the reports from the spies, their faith failed. They said that God could not overcome the giants in the land. As a result of this unbelief, God sent them into the wilderness to wander until that generation died out (Numbers 14:28-34).

In Numbers 21, the people again got discouraged, and in their unbelief they murmured against Moses for bringing them into the wilderness. They had already forgotten that it was their own sin that caused them to be there, and they tried to blame Moses for it. As a judgment against the people for their sin, God sent poisonous serpents into the camp, and people began to die. This showed the people that they were the ones in sin, and they came to Moses to confess that sin and ask for God’s mercy. When Moses prayed for the people, God instructed him to make a bronze serpent and put it on a pole so the people could be healed (Numbers 21:5-7).

God was teaching the people something about faith. It is totally illogical to think that looking at a bronze image could heal anyone from snakebite, but that is exactly what God told them to do. It took an act of faith in God’s plan for anyone to be healed, and the serpent on the stick was a reminder of their sin which brought about their suffering. There is no connection between this serpent and the serpent which Satan spoke through in the Garden of Eden. This serpent was symbolic of the serpents God used to chastise the people for their unbelief.

A couple of additional lessons are taught in the Bible regarding this bronze serpent. The people did get healed when they looked at the serpent, and the image was kept for many years. Many years later, when the Israelites were in the Promised Land, the serpent became an object of worship (2 Kings 18:4). This shows how easy it is for us to take the things of God and twist them into idolatry. We must never worship the tools or the people God chooses to use, but always bring the honor and glory to God alone.

The next reference we find in the Bible to this serpent is in John 3:14. Jesus indicated that this bronze serpent was a foreshadowing of Him. The serpent, a symbol of sin and judgment, was lifted up from the earth and put on a tree, which was a symbol of a curse (Galatians 3:13). The serpent lifted up and cursed symbolized Jesus, who takes away sin from everyone who would look to Him in faith, just like the Israelites had to look to the upraised symbol in the wilderness. Paul is reminding the Galatians that Jesus became a curse for us, although He was blameless and sinless—the spotless Lamb of God. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Recommended Resource: Bible Answers for Almost all Your Questions by Elmer Towns

“Why was Moses not allowed to enter the Promised Land?”

Answer:
Moses is hailed as the leader of the Exodus, the one through whom God delivered His people from Egyptian slavery. To Moses God entrusted the Law. Jesus demonstrated that Moses foreshadowed His own work as the Messiah (John 3:14–15). Moses is listed in Hebrews 11 as exemplary of faith. In Deuteronomy 34 we read that God Himself buried Moses. We are also told that, “since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face. . . . For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel” (Deuteronomy 34:10, 12). Yet Moses, for all of his blessings, was not allowed to enter the Promised Land. Why not?

In Deuteronomy 32:51–52 God gives the reason that Moses was not permitted to enter the Promised Land: “This is because . . . you broke faith with me in the presence of the Israelites at the waters of Meribah Kadesh in the Desert of Zin and because you did not uphold my holiness among the Israelites. Therefore, you will see the land only from a distance; you will not enter the land I am giving to the people of Israel.” God was true to His promise. He showed Moses the Promised Land, but did not let him enter in.

The incident at the waters of Meribah Kadesh is recorded in Numbers 20. Nearing the end of their forty years of wandering, the Israelites came to the Desert of Zin. There was no water, and the community turned against Moses and Aaron. Moses and Aaron went to the tent of meeting and prostrated themselves before God. God told Moses and Aaron to gather the assembly and speak to the rock. Water would come forth. Moses took the staff and gathered the men. Then, seemingly in anger, Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” Then Moses struck the rock twice with his staff (Numbers 20:10–11). Water came from the rock, as God had promised. But God immediately told Moses and Aaron that, because they failed to trust Him enough to honor Him as holy, they would not bring the children of Israel into the Promised Land (verse 12).

The punishment may seem harsh to us, but, when we look closely at Moses’ actions, we see several mistakes. Most obviously, Moses disobeyed a direct command from God. God had commanded Moses to speak to the rock. Instead, Moses struck the rock with his staff. Earlier, when God had brought water from a rock, He instructed Moses to strike it with a staff (Exodus 17). But God’s instructions were different here. God wanted Moses to trust Him, especially after they had been in such close relationship for so many years. Moses didn’t need to use force; he simply needed to obey God and know that God would be true to His promise.

Also, Moses took the credit for bringing forth the water. He asks the people gathered at the rock, “Must we bring you water out of this rock?” (Numbers 20:10, emphasis added). Moses seemed to be taking credit for the miracle himself (and Aaron), instead of attributing it to God. Moses did this publicly. God could not let it go unpunished and expect the Israelites to understand His holiness.

The water-giving rock is used as a symbol of Christ in 1 Corinthians 10:4. The rock was struck in Exodus 17:6, just like Christ was crucified once (Hebrews 7:27). Moses’ speaking to the rock in Numbers 20 could have been meant as a picture of prayer. Jesus was “struck” once, and He continues to provide living water to those who pray in faith to Him. When Moses angrily struck the rock, he destroyed the biblical typology and, in effect, crucified Christ again.

Moses’ punishment for disobedience, pride, and the misrepresentation of Christ’s sacrifice was steep; he was barred from entering the Promised Land (Numbers 20:12). Yet we do not see Moses complain about his punishment. Instead, he continues to faithfully lead the people and honor God.

In His holiness, God is also compassionate. He invited Moses up to Mount Nebo where He showed His beloved prophet the Promised Land before his death. Deuteronomy 34:4–5 records, “Then the Lord said to him, ‘This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, “I will give it to your descendants.” I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.’ And Moses the servant of the Lord died there in Moab, as the Lord had said.” Moses’ failure at the rock did not negate or break his relationship with God. God continued to use the prophet and continued to love him with tenderness.

Recommended Resource: Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers Holman Old Testament Commentary by Glen Martin.
Leviticus & Numbers: The NIV Application Commentary by Roy Gane

“Who was Balaam in the Bible?”

Answer:
Balaam was a wicked prophet in the Bible and is noteworthy because, although he was a wicked prophet, he was not a false prophet. That is, Balaam did hear from God, and God did give him some true prophecies to speak. However, Balaam’s heart was not right with God, and eventually he showed his true colors by betraying Israel and leading them astray.

In Numbers 22—24, we find the story about Balaam and the king of Moab, a man called Balak. King Balak wanted to weaken the children of Israel, who on their way to Canaan had moved in on his territory. Balak sent to Balaam, who lived in Mesopotamia along the Euphrates River (Numbers 22:5), and asked him to curse Israel in exchange for a reward. Balaam was apparently willing to do this but said he needed God’s permission (verse 8). Balaam, of course, had no power, in himself, to curse Israel, but, if God were willing to curse Israel, Balaam would be rewarded through Balak. God told Balaam, “You must not put a curse on those people, because they are blessed” (verse 12). King Balak then sent “other officials, more numerous and more distinguished than the first” (verse 16), promising a handsome reward. This time God said, “Go with them, but do only what I tell you” (verse 20).

The next morning, Balaam saddled his donkey and left for Moab (Numbers 22:21). God sent an angel to oppose Balaam on the way. The donkey Balaam was riding could see the angel, but Balaam could not, and when the donkey three times moved to avoid the angel, Balaam was angry and beat the animal. “Then the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth” (verse 28), and it rebuked the prophet for the beatings. “Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with his sword drawn” (verse 31). The angel told Balaam that he certainly would have killed Balaam had not the donkey spared his life. Ironically, a dumb beast had more wisdom than God’s prophet. The angel then repeated to Balaam the instruction that he was only to speak what God told him to speak concerning the Hebrews (verses 33–35).

In Moab, King Balak took the prophet Balaam up to a high place called Bamoth Baal and told him to curse the Israelites (Numbers 22:41). Balaam first offered fourteen sacrifices on seven altars and met with the Lord (Numbers 23:1–5). He then declared the message God gave him: a blessing on Israel: “How can I curse / those whom God has not cursed? / How can I denounce / those whom the Lord has not denounced?” (verse 8).

King Balak was upset that Balaam had pronounced a blessing on Israel rather than a curse, but he had him try again, this time from the top of Pisgah (Numbers 23:14). Balaam sacrificed another fourteen animals and met with the Lord. When he faced Israel, Balaam again spoke a blessing: “I have received a command to bless; / he has blessed, and I cannot change it” (verse 20).

King Balak told Balaam that, if he was going to keep blessing Israel, it was better for him to just shut up (Numbers 23:25). But the king decided to try one more time, taking Balaam to the top of Peor, overlooking the wasteland (verse 28). Again, Balaam offered fourteen animals on seven newly built altars (verse 29). Then “the Spirit of God came on him and he spoke his message” (Numbers 24:2–3). The third message was not what the Moabite king wanted to hear: “How beautiful are your tents, Jacob, / your dwelling places, Israel!” (verse 5).

Balaam’s three prophecies of blessing on Israel infuriated the king of Moab, who told the prophet to go back home with no reward: “Now leave at once and go home! I said I would reward you handsomely, but the Lord has kept you from being rewarded” (Numbers 24:11). Before he left, Balaam reminded the king that he had said from the very beginning he could only say what God told him to say. Then he gave the king four more prophecies, gratis. In the fourth prophecy, Balaam foretold of the Messiah: “A star will come out of Jacob; / a scepter will rise out of Israel. / He will crush the foreheads of Moab, / the skulls of all the people of Sheth” (verse 17). Balaam’s seven prophecies were seven blessings on God’s people; it was God’s enemies who were cursed.

However, later on Balaam figured out a way to get his reward from Balak. Balaam advised the Moabites on how to entice the people of Israel with prostitutes and idolatry. He could not curse Israel directly, so he came up with a plan for Israel to bring a curse upon themselves. Balak followed Balaam’s advice, and Israel fell into sin, worshiping Baal of Peor and committing fornication with Midianite women. For this God plagued them, and 24,000 men died (Numbers 25:1–9; Deuteronomy 23:3–6).

Balaam’s name and story became infamous, and he is referred to several times in the New Testament. Peter compares false teachers to Balaam, “who loved the wages of wickedness” (2 Peter 2:15). Jude echoes this sentiment, associating Balaam with the selling of one’s soul for financial gain (Jude 1:11). Finally, Jesus speaks of Balaam when He warns the church in Pergamum of their sin: “There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality” (Revelation 2:14). Satan’s tactics haven’t changed all that much. If he cannot curse God’s people directly, he will try the back-door approach, and idolatry and sexual immorality are his go-to temptations.

“Did Balaam’s donkey really talk to him?”

Answer:
The story of Balaam and his talking donkey is found in Numbers 22. Balaam was a pagan prophet who practiced divination and other magic arts, led Israel into apostasy, and was identified as a greedy, unscrupulous man by Peter and Jude (2 Peter 2:15 –16; Jude 1:11). Fearing the encroaching Israelites, King Balak of Moab sent for Balaam and enlisted his aid in repelling the Israelites by cursing them. The Lord spoke to Balaam and told him to refuse to go to Balak, although the Lord relented under the condition that Balaam would speak only His words. So Balaam saddled his donkey and went with the princes of Moab back to Balak.

But knowing Balaam’s heart, the Lord’s anger burned against Balaam for what He knew was Balaam’s rebelliousness, and He sent an angel with a drawn sword to bar his way. Although Balaam couldn’t see the angel, his donkey could, and she tried to discontinue the journey by going off the path, crushing Balaam’s foot against the wall and lying down on the path. Angered by her behavior, Balaam used his staff to beat the donkey three times. Then in Numbers 22:28, we learn that “the LORD opened the donkey’s mouth, and she said to Balaam, ‘What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?’” Then Balaam and the donkey proceeded to have a conversation about the situation, with Balaam angrily berating the donkey, after which the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes to see the angel and understand why his journey was stopped.

There is no doubt that Balaam’s donkey spoke to him. The question that arises is whether the donkey was suddenly given the power of speech, which would also mean she was given the power to reason because she answered Balaam’s questions, asked some of her own, and carried on a rational conversation. While it is certainly possible that God granted human powers to the donkey, it’s more likely that He opened her mouth and spoke through her. The angel that barred his way is identified as the angel of the Lord, likely a manifestation of the presence of God Himself (Genesis 16:9-16; Exodus 3:1-6). After the donkey “spoke” to Balaam, and Balaam’s eyes were opened, the angel proceeded to ask the identical questions that came from the mouth of the donkey, further evidence that God, not the donkey, was actually speaking both times. This is reiterated by Peter, who identifies the donkey as “a beast without speech” and who “spoke with a man’s voice” (2 Peter 2:16). Whatever the method, the donkey was able to speak by a miraculous working of God’s power.

Why was Balaam not shocked into silence by the donkey speaking to him? Surely, it must have come as a surprise to him, and under normal circumstances, the obvious reaction would be for him to at least ask how she came to be speaking. The Bible doesn’t tell us why he didn’t find it odd to be addressed by a donkey, but we do know something about his state of mind. First, he was in rebellion against the Lord, going to Balak for his own purposes and not those of the Lord. Second, the donkey’s refusal to continue down the path enraged him so that he beat her out of anger because she had mocked him and made a fool of him. Anger has a way of curtailing rational thought, and perhaps he was so intent on exerting his dominance over the animal that he lost the ability to think clearly. It wasn’t until the angel opened Balaam’s eyes to see reality that he relented in his anger against the donkey, listened to the angel, and repented. Verse 38 tells us that Balaam went to Balak and told the king, “I must speak only what God puts in my mouth,” which just goes to show that God can use anyone, even a donkey and a rebellious prophet, to do His will and speak His truth.

Recommended Resource: Bible Answers for Almost all Your Questions by Elmer Towns

“How can Jesus be God, when Numbers 23:19 says that God is not a man or a son of man?”

Answer:
Some claim that the Old Testament proves that Jesus cannot be God because of Numbers 23:19a, which says, “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent” (KJV). The reasoning is that, if God is not a man, then the Christian claim that Jesus, a man, is God is false. Just as troublesome is the fact that Jesus repeatedly calls Himself the “Son of Man” in the gospels (e.g., Mark 14:21).

The Old Testament does indeed teach that God is not a human being, not only in Numbers 23:19 but also in 1 Samuel 15:29 and Hosea 11:9. However, the New Testament shows us that Jesus made claims to be God—and at the same time He calls Himself the “Son of Man,” a title that proclaims His humanity. With all this being true, how can we prove that Jesus is God?

Jesus claimed to be both the Son of God and the Son of Man. There are no tricks here. He said that He is God, and He said that He is (at the same time) human. No one had ever said such a thing before. It was strange then, and it is strange now—strange enough for a new term, the hypostatic union. No one will ever fully understand the union of Christ’s divine and human natures, no matter how much we talk about it, define it, or typify it. Therefore, “proof” cannot be obtained. We either believe Jesus, or we do not.

It is critical to understand at this point that the Bible is true in detail and in toto—both the Old and New Testaments. So, when Jesus began teaching new things, the old things did not become untrue; they became unveiled. Remember what He said about the Law: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17). All of Jesus’ new revelations work exactly the same way. The old knowledge was shadowy, and, as the Light of the world, Jesus dispelled the shadows (see Colossians 2:16–17). This process is not destructive of the old knowledge—it is instructive, as Philip’s encounter with the Ethiopian shows (Acts 8:30–35).

We must also consider what the Old Testament is really saying about God when it says He is not a human being. The point being made in Numbers 23:19, 1 Samuel 15:29, and Hosea 11:9 is that God does not lie. He is not fickle. His emotions do not change His eternal purposes. This is unlike fallen humanity, who cannot see the big picture, who often breaks promises, and whose feelings often cloud discernment. In other words, the statements that God is not a man are contrasting one aspect of God’s nature with a corresponding part of man’s. Saying, “God is not a man,” has nothing to do with whether or not God can ever exist in the flesh.

The Old Testament references to God being unlike man do not apply to Jesus’ particular type of humanity. All they are telling us is that God is not a man as we think of men. It’s a contrast, not a restriction. There is nothing that logically prevents God from becoming a man in a whole new way—in fact, redemption requires this, and redemption was God’s plan from before the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8). Thus, it can be said that God knew He would become a man before Numbers 23:19 was even penned!

If we consider the Old Testament in isolation (which is the Jewish perspective), we shall not likely “prove” that Jesus Christ was man, God, Messiah, and Savior—although the indicators are all there (see Isaiah 53, for example). Christians see the foreshadowing of the God-man in the Old Testament because the New Testament revelation helps interpret the Old Testament references (e.g., Matthew 2:15; cf. Hosea 11:1). This brings up an important fact regarding biblical interpretation: God reveals His truth progressively, over time. He has unfolded His purposes sequentially and as needed over the millennia.

For example, Adam and Eve in their innocence had no need to know about redemption, but after they sinned, then the time was appropriate, and God laid it out for them in Genesis 3:15. That bit of revelation was given at a point in time, but its full meaning did not become clear until after Christ came in the flesh—and as the authors of the New Testament were writing under inspiration. We understand now that Genesis 3:15 points directly to Jesus’ atoning death—and this revelation is necessary for us today. But that information was not necessary for Adam and Eve. Their pre-fall ignorance, couched as it was in innocence, was appropriate for them.

In like manner God revealed His will progressively to His people in the Old Testament Scriptures, and those people were responsible to behave in obedience according to where they were on revelation’s timeline. Today, Christians are responsible for all of God’s Word, because we live in a time when it is complete. Additionally, believers have the indwelling Holy Spirit, so there are no excuses for not acknowledging Jesus Christ as God.

Since revelation is progressive, a person’s response to God depends on where he is on the timeline. An Old Testament Jew would have no concept of the God-man, although clues (such as Psalm 110:1) were present. But John the Baptist’s prophecies, followed by Jesus’ miracles, were further revelation. In fact, Jesus’ miracles were signs to prove who He is: “Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God” (John 20:30–31). People today still need to respond in faith to Jesus’ miracles. Those who do not are spiritually blind.

To summarize, God’s statements that He is not a man and Jesus’ statements that He is the Son of God coexist as true; they are not in conflict. Revelation is progressive, and Old Testament concepts are more fully developed in the New Testament. Finally, God always had it in mind that the Son would become flesh and dwell among men, so God never “changed His mind” about becoming a man.

Recommended Resource: God the Son Incarnate: The Doctrine of Christ by Stephen Wellum

“Why did God command the Israelites to completely destroy the Midianites in Numbers 31:17?”

Answer:
Understanding and applying passages from the exodus and conquest of Canaan can be challenging. The passages about putting certain inhabitants to death are among the most difficult. Among those is Numbers 31.

God told Moses, “Take vengeance on the Midianites for the Israelites” (Numbers 31:1). The Israelites obediently armed themselves and attacked the Midianites, killing the men (verse 7). Also, “the Israelites captured the Midianite women and children and took all the Midianite herds, flocks and goods as plunder” (verse 9). When the troops returned to Moses, he was angry that they had not fully carried out the Lord’s vengeance (verse 14; cf. verse 3). The Midianite women were those who had caused Israel to sin at Baal Peor (see Numbers 25). So Moses commanded that the women be killed, and also “kill all the boys” (Numbers 31:17).

When we look at the command to kill the male Midianite children, there are two perspectives we might take. One is the more understandably temporal. During the timeframe in question, tribal warfare was rampant. It was highly likely that the male Midianite children would grow up and seek revenge for their fathers and grandfathers against Israel. Avenging the death of one’s father is a commonly accepted necessity in every culture and even in popular fiction—it’s what motivates Hamlet in Shakespeare’s classic play and what energizes Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride.

Further, the utterly disgusting depravity in which these Midianite boys had been raised is well documented. Regular behaviors among the Midianites included child sacrifice, cult prostitution, and bestiality. The divine prohibition of these acts was codified, and the acts were known to the Israelites (Leviticus 18:21, 23–24). Male inhabitants carrying on the lineage of this culture would have been a perennial problem for Israel.

The other perspective we should consider is the divine. Now, we cannot know the mind of God or comprehend the depths of His wisdom (Isaiah 55:8–9). But we can know that, given the depravity of the Midianites, God’s command to kill the Midianite boys might have been an act of divine mercy. In His perfect knowledge—including His knowledge of what would happen in the lives of those young Midianites, had they lived—it’s possible that God brought them to Himself before they had the opportunity of choosing to reject Him. It is highly possible that, had these males grown to maturity, they would have embraced the wanton rebellion and idolatry of their fathers. From God’s perspective, it may have been better for them to die at a young age than to endure a life of depravity and the attending temporal (and eternal) consequences.

In all this, we must remember that God is goodness. He is not simply a good moral agent like humans are commanded to be; He is not beholden to or measured by a standard outside of Himself. We cannot look at God’s actions as being in any moral category like human actions. God is not a man (Numbers 23:19). The very nature of God is such that He cannot do evil. “The LORD is righteous in all his ways” (Psalm 145:17). This is the point by which we must reconcile passages such as Numbers 31:17 with the likes of John 3:16.

Moreover, a major mistake we sometimes make is to think that our lives are our own. We are creatures, not the Creator. We could not exist for one moment without God’s willing our existence (Hebrews 1:3; Acts 17:28). We should not think that God owes us anything, be it a long life, a life free of suffering, or anything else. God desires our ultimate good, which is everlasting union with Him (2 Peter 3:8–10). Our ultimate good may not be realized in a long life or one devoid of pain and suffering. As strange as it may sound, the ultimate good of the Midianite males may not have come about without their being killed by the Israelites in warfare. This is “brass tacks” and gets to the root of whether one thinks that man was made in the image of God or whether one makes a god in the image of man.

It is difficult to discuss these topics rationally because emotions often take over, and proclamations of “the innocence of children” grow loud. We sometimes hear things like “I could never believe in a God like that.” We are correct in the visceral reaction to children suffering and dying. At the same time, we must differentiate the cause and circumstance of the young Midianites’ deaths from current situations. Suffering today is not brought about by God’s people taking possession of their promised land against a morally depraved and militant people group.

Also, we are profoundly incorrect when we start embracing notions like “if I were God, I certainly would not have done that.” God does not see human events as we do; He sees them as only God can. Thus, we have no basis by which to say that God would not have a humanly understandable, morally sufficient reason for commanding the death of children during the conquest of Canaan.

Recommended Resource: Show Them No Mercy: 4 Views on God and Canaanite Genocide

“What does Numbers 32:23 mean when it says, ‘Be sure your sin will find you out’?”

Answer:
Numbers 32:23 says, “Be sure your sin will find you out” (KJV). This is a curious-sounding caution, especially if read in isolation. So we’ll review its context, especially the entire chapter of Numbers 32, then see what else the Bible has to say on the topic of our sin being “found out.”

The statement “be sure your sin will find you out” is set in the completion of the exodus of Israel from Egypt. After wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, the tribes of Israel were finally preparing to cross the Jordan River into the Promised Land. Military-age men from all twelve tribes were required to help each tribe conquer its assigned territory, a task that would involve much time and hardship.

Before the Israelites crossed over the Jordan, the tribes of Gad and Reuben let it be known that they liked it right where they were, east of the Jordan. The land there was ideal for raising cattle (Numbers 32:1), and the leaders of those tribes approached Moses for permission to settle on the east side, rather than in Canaan. Moses at first said “no”: “Should your fellow Israelites go to war while you sit here?” (verse 6). He then accused them of failing to desire to enter the Promised Land, as the previous generation had done: “This is what your fathers did” (verse 8). And he reminded them that it was this very sin that caused the Lord’s anger to burn against them for 40 years, and he warned them that they risked bringing destruction on the whole nation all over again (verses 13–15).

But Gad and Reuben had a different intention, as they explained. They asked Moses if they could leave their flocks and families behind in settlements while the men armed themselves and went to war in Canaan. After their assurances that they were not abandoning their fellow Israelites, Moses agreed to their request. He told them they must fight until the land was subdued, and only then could they return to their property east of the Jordan. Moses then added the warning: “But if you fail to do this, you will be sinning against the Lord; and you may be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23).

When Moses said, “Be sure your sin will find you out,” he did not mean, “Everyone will find out about your sin.” If the trans-Jordan tribes failed to keep their promise, it would be a sin against the Lord and the whole nation, and their sin would be obvious to all. Rather, Moses’ warning that they could be sure their sin will find them out hints at the strange-but-true nature of sin.

In several places in the Bible, sin is described in terms that make it seem as if it were a living being with a mind and will of its own. God poetically warns Cain that “sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it” (Genesis 4:7). James explains how, figuratively speaking, people “are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:14–15). Paul, in Romans 7:14–25, describes sin as though it were a being living within him, enslaving him against his will and making him do what he himself hates and condemns: “It is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it” (verse 20).

In the statement “be sure your sin will find you out” is revealed the mystery of sin. The nature of sin is such that, whether or not others discover your sin, your sin will “discover you.” You cannot run from the consequences. Sin carries within itself the power to pay the sinner back, and sin’s payback is hell. Don’t even think about toying with sin. It cannot be tamed, outrun, or shaken off. No matter how safe you think you are, if you are a sinner, your sin will find you out.

Moses’ warning to the tribes of Israel, “be sure your sin will find you out,” is echoed by Paul: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life” (Galatians 6:7–8). The only way to escape sin’s consequences is to be forgiven of your sin by faith in the blood of Christ (Revelation 1:5; cf. Exodus 12:13).

Recommended Resource: Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers Holman Old Testament Commentary by Glen Martin

Information:
Quotations mainly and extensively from https://www.gotquestions.org/ unless otherwise stated.

Lecture 11

Hear, O’ Israel: The Book Deuteronomy.

In this lesson we will end our journey through the Wilderness as we consider the second giving of the Law on the banks of the Jordan River in the final days of Moses’ life. We’ll look at the most im-portant prayer in the life of a Jew, the Sh’ma, and learn from how God dealt with the nation of Israel in the past and see its importance for today.

Overview: Deuteronomy

The Book of Deuteronomy

Why Should Christians Study Deuteronomy?

Deuteronomy: a Quick Overview | Whiteboard Bible Study

What Is the Book of Deuteronomy All About?

Introduction to Deuteronomy – DrJohnStevenson

Book of Deuteronomy


Author: Moses wrote the Book of Deuteronomy, which is in fact a collection of his sermons to Israel just before they crossed the Jordan. “These are the words which Moses spoke” (1:1). Someone else (Joshua, perhaps) may have written the last chapter.

Date of Writing: These sermons were given during the 40-day period prior to Israel’s entering the Promised Land. The first sermon was delivered on the 1st day of the 11th month (1:3), and the Israelites crossed the Jordan 70 days later, on the 10th day of the 1st month (Joshua 4:19). Subtract 30 days of mourning after Moses’ death (Deuteronomy 34:8), and we’re left with 40 days. The year was 1406 B.C.

Purpose of Writing: A new generation of Israelites was about to enter the Promised Land. This multitude had not experienced the miracle at the Red Sea or heard the law given at Sinai, and they were about to enter a new land with many dangers and temptations. The book of Deuteronomy was given to remind them of God’s law and God’s power.

Key Verses:

“Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give you.” (Deuteronomy 4:2)

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-7)

“He said to them, ‘Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day, so that you may command your children to obey carefully all the words of this law. They are not just idle words for you—they are your life. By them you will live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess.” (Deuteronomy 32:46-47)

Brief Summary: The Israelites are commanded to remember four things: God’s faithfulness, God’s holiness, God’s blessings, and God’s warnings. The first three chapters recap the trip from Egypt to their current location, Moab. Chapter 4 is a call to obedience, to be faithful to the God Who was faithful to them.

Chapters 5 through 26 are a repetition of the law. The Ten Commandments, the laws concerning sacrifices and specials days, and the rest of the law are given to the new generation. Blessings are promised to those who obey (5:29; 6:17-19; 11:13-15), and famine is promised to those who break the law (11:16-17).

The theme of blessing and cursing is continued in chapters 27-30. This portion of the book ends with a clear choice set before Israel: “I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing.” God’s desire for His people is found in what He recommends: “choose life” (30:19).

In the final chapters, Moses encourages the people; commissions his replacement, Joshua; records a song; and gives a final blessing to each of the tribes of Israel. Chapter 34 relates the circumstances of Moses’ death. He climbed Mt. Pisgah, where the Lord showed him the Promised Land that he could not enter. At 120 years old, but still with good eyesight and the strength of youth, Moses died in the presence of the Lord. The book of Deuteronomy ends with a short obituary on this great prophet.

Foreshadowings: Many New Testament themes are present in the Book of Deuteronomy. The foremost among them is the necessity of keeping perfectly the Mosaic Law and the impossibility of doing so. The endless sacrifices necessary to atone for the sins of the people—who continually transgressed the Law—would find their fulfillment in the final “once for all” sacrifice of Christ (Hebrews 10:10). Because of His atoning work on the cross, we would need no further sacrifices for sin.

God’s choosing of the Israelites as His special people foreshadows His choosing of those who would believe in Christ (1 Peter 2:9). In Deuteronomy 18:15-19, Moses prophesies of another prophet—the ultimate Prophet to come who is the Messiah. Like Moses, He would receive and preach divine revelation and He would lead His people (John 6:14; 7:40).

Practical Application: The book of Deuteronomy underscores the importance of God’s Word. It is a vital part of our lives. Although we are no longer under the Old Testament law, we are still responsible to submit to the will of God in our lives. Simple obedience brings blessing, and sin has its own consequences.

None of us is “above the law.” Even Moses, the leader and prophet chosen by God, was required to obey. The reason that he was not allowed to enter the Promised Land was that he disobeyed the Lord’s clear command (Numbers 20:13).

During the time of His testing in the wilderness, Jesus quoted from the book of Deuteronomy three times (Matthew 4). In so doing, Jesus illustrated for us the necessity of hiding God’s Word in our hearts that we might not sin against Him (Psalm 119:11).

As Israel remembered God’s faithfulness, so should we. The crossing of the Red Sea, the holy presence at Sinai, and the blessing of manna in the desert should be an encouragement to us as well. A great way to keep going forward is to take some time to look back and see what God has done.

We also have a beautiful picture in Deuteronomy of a loving God Who desires a relationship with His children. The Lord names love as the reason that He brought Israel out of Egypt “with a mighty hand” and redeemed them (Deuteronomy 7:7-9). What a wonderful thing to be free from the bondage of sin and loved by an all-powerful God!

Recommended Resource: Deuteronomy, Holman Old Testament Commentary by Doug McIntosh.
Deuteronomy, New International Commentary on the Old Testament by Peter Craigie.
Deuteronomy, New American Commentary by Eugene Merrill

Book of Deuteronomy Explained

https://www.bible-studys.org/Bible%20Books/Deuteronomy/Book%20of%20Deuteronomy%20Explained.html

Deuteronomy is one of the most significant books in the Old Testament. Judging from the number of quotations or citations of Deuteronomy in the New Testament, its influence has been extremely great. According to the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament, Deuteronomy is quoted or cited 195 times in the New Testament, exceeded only by references to Psalms, Isaiah, Genesis, and Exodus, in that order. Based on the number of manuscripts of the individual Old Testament books found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, Deuteronomy was one of the five most influential works at Qumran (thus far there are 27 manuscripts of Psalms, 24 of Deuteronomy, 18 of Isaiah and 15 each of Genesis and Exodus). Three times Jesus found strength in Deuteronomy to turn back Satan’s tempting (Matt. 4:1-11; compare Deut. 6:13, 16; 8:3). When asked which commandment was greatest (Matt. 22:36-37), He quoted (Deuteronomy 6:5) in reply. The entire Bible is the story of covenant. (We affirm that central focus every time we refer to “Old Testament” and “New Testament”, which really mean “Old Covenant” and “New Covenant”). In Deuteronomy, Moses was led by the Spirit of God to do something new and wonderful to express this covenant: he followed a pattern of international discourse between nations. We know about these treaty forms today, especially from Hittite examples. In this case, the Lord was viewed in the place of a great king; the people were viewed in the place of vassal states.

Deuteronomy therefore contains an introduction to the covenant (1:1-5), historical background (1:6 – 4:3), covenant requirements (4:44 – 26:19), and curses and blessings (27:1 – 30:20). The final four chapters (31-34), are not part of the covenant formula but contain final matters associated with the end of Moses’ leadership of Israel. Almost all of Deuteronomy is a series of sermons by Moses, not always chronological, and sometimes repetitious and overlapping. But overall, the book presents a clear, deeply heartfelt appeal to the new generation of Israelites to agree to acknowledge the Lord as their God, along with instruction in how to do so.

What it means | God’s Love Restated

The themes of Deuteronomy are foundational to the entire message of the Old Testament:

Covenant: The Book of Deuteronomy restates God’s love for Israel, the history of His provision for them, the benefits or blessings of walking in covenant with God, and the consequences for disobeying the stipulations of the covenant (see the summary in 28:1-68). Christians today live in a New Covenant relationship with God, based on the blood of Christ, a covenant written on the heart rather than on tables of stone (Jer. 31:33-34).

Choice: Throughout the history of God’s relationship with humanity, choice has been integral. God chose Abraham and His descendants (10:15), and He appeals to Israel to choose Him in return (30:19). God clearly outlines the implications of choosing Him or not, so that, to borrow the apostle Paul’s words “[We] are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20).

Love: It is easy to overlook the love that flows through the mechanics of covenant stipulations. Twenty-five times in Deuteronomy, love (both divine and human), is mentioned as the basis and evidence of God’s relationship with Israel (7:7-13; 10:12-15; 30:16-20).

Faithfulness: The faithfulness of God and the faithfulness of Moses illustrate the best of divine and human love. God is a God of promises kept (2 Peter 1:4). Indeed, it was the promises of God to the patriarchs that caused Him to be longsuffering toward Israel and finally bring them to the Promised Land (7:7-9).

Title: The English title “Deuteronomy” comes from the Greek Septuagint (LXX) mistranslation of “copy of this law” (in 17:18), as “second law”, which was rendered Deuteronomium in the Latin version (Vulgate). The Hebrew title of the book is translated “These are the words”, from the first two Hebrew words of the book. The Hebrew title is a better description of the book since it is not a “second law”, but rather the record of Moses’ words of explanation concerning the law. Deuteronomy completes the five-part literary unit called the Pentateuch.

Deuteronomy is also a treasure chest of theological concepts that have influenced the religious thought and life of ancient Israel, Jews, and Christians down through the ages. These concepts include:

1.  The concept of creed; Deuteronomy 6:4-5 is the “creed” of Israel, known as the Shema (“Hear”). The words were to be upon the hearts of the Israelites, who were to teach them diligently to their children. The words were to be bound “for a sign” on the hand and “as frontlets” between the eyes. They were to be written on the doorposts of the house and on the gates. Jesus took the words of 6:5 as the first and greatest commandment (Matt. 22:37).

2.  The concept of the God “who acts” permeates the book. The historical acts of Yahweh became a basic part of the book’s viewpoint, particularly as these acts relate to the claims Yahweh makes on the Israelites, both at the moment and after they entered the Land of Promise. Moses reminds them of “what the LORD did because of Baal-peor” (4:3), which is to instruct future behavior in the Promised Land (verse 5).

3.  The “election” of Israel is based in the call of Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3; 15:1-6), where God’s promise is directed to the “seed” or descendants of Abraham. The word most often used to set forth the doctrine of election in the Old Testament is the verb (bachar), “to choose”. It occurs quite frequently in Deuteronomy (30 times).

4.  Another major thought is that of the “covenantrelationship”. A people redeemed from slavery and bound to their God by a covenant needed some guidelines for a happy life in fellowship with God and with one another The Sinai covenant was cast in the shape of an ancient Near Eastern treaty that listed obligations laid on the vassal (Israel), by the great King (Yahweh). These were the natural consequence of the King’s protection and care for His vassal.

5.  Another concept, that of “sin”, is expressed in Deuteronomy in a unique way, in that it is seen against the background of the covenant relationship. The redemptive act by which the Lord brought the Israelites out of Egypt is mentioned in connection with the commandments (6:20-25). The obligation of the Israelites to keep and do His ordinances stemmed from the fact that they were chosen to be His possession (7:6). When they entered the land, they were to remember these facts and keep His commandments (8:1-10). However, they were in danger of forgetting this relationship and turning to other gods (verses 11-18), for which they would “surely perish” (verse 19). Loving God and keeping His commandments are set side by side (11:13), and blessing in the land is to follow from such obedience (verses 8-12). Disobedience would bring the withholding of blessing.

Historical Setting: Like Leviticus, Deuteronomy contains much legal detail, but with an emphasis to the people rather than the priests. As Moses called the second generation of Israel to trust the Lord, and be obedient to His covenant made at Horeb (Sinai), he illustrated his point with references to Israel’s past history. He reminded Israel of her rebellion against the Lord at Horeb (9:7 – 10:1), and at Kadesh (1:26-46), which brought devastating consequences. He also reminded her of the Lord’s faithfulness in giving victory over her enemies (2:24 – 3:11; 29:2, 7-8). Most importantly, Moses called the people to take the land that God had promised by oath to their forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (1:8; 6:10; 9:5; 29:13; 30:20; 34:4; compare Gen. 15:18-21; 26:3-5; 35:12). Moses not only looked back, he also looked ahead and saw that Israel’s future failure to obey God would lead to her being scattered among the nations before the fulfillment of His oath to the patriarchs would be completed (4:25-31; 29:22 – 30:10; 31:26-29).

The book of Deuteronomy, along with Psalms and Isaiah, reveals much about the attributes of God. Thus, it is directly quoted over 40 times in the New Testament (exceeded only by Psalms and Isaiah), with many more allusions to its content. Deuteronomy reveals that the Lord is the only God (4:39; 6:4), and that He is jealous (4:24), faithful (7:9), loving (7:13), merciful (4:31), yet angered by sin (6:15). This is the God who called Israel to Himself. Over 250 times, Moses repeated the phrase, “the Lord your God” to Israel. Israel was called to obey (28:2), fear (10:12), and serve (10:12), her God by walking in His ways and keeping His commandments (10:12-13). By obeying Him, the people of Israel would receive His blessings (28:1-14). Obedience and the pursuit of personal holiness is always based upon the character of God. Because of who He is, His people are to be holy (compare 7:6-11; 8:6, 11, 18; 10:12, 16-17; 11:13; 13:3-4; 14:1-2).

For 38 years after they had refused to enter Canaan, the Israelites remained in the wilderness of Paran and at Kadesh-barnea, until the old generation died off. Then they resumed their journey by a long detour around Edom. Finally, they were encamped in Moab, awaiting final instructions to go over and possess the land God had promised to their fathers. It was a most exciting and momentous occasion.

According to the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses took this occasion to deliver three addresses to the people of Israel, all of them farewell addresses, because he had been told that he could not enter the land with the people. The substance of the addresses is found in Deuteronomy, with the first being delivered “on this side Jordan, in the land of Moab” (1:5). The second one, if the words of 4:44-49 are intended as a heading for the second portion and not as a summary of the first, was given “on this side Jordan, in the valley over against Beth-peor, in the land of Sihon king of the Amorites” (4:46). The third was simply “in the land of Moab” (29:1). Quite possibly the same location is intended for all three messages.

Authorship: Moses has been traditionally recognized as the author of Deuteronomy, since the book itself testifies that Moses wrote it (1:1, 5; 31:9, 22, 24). Both the Old Testament (1 Kings 2:3; 8:53; 2 Kings 14:6; 18:12), and the New Testament (Acts 3:22-23; Rom. 10:19), support the claim of Mosaic authorship. While (Deut. 32:48 – 34:12), was added after Moses’ death (probably by Joshua), the rest of the book came from Moses’ hand just before his death in 1405 B.C. The majority of the book is comprised of farewell speeches that the 120 year old Moses gave to Israel, beginning on the first day of the 11th month of the 40th year after the Exodus from Egypt (1:3). These speeches can be dated Jan. – Feb., 1405 B.C. In the last few weeks of Moses’ life, he committed these speeches to writing and gave them to the priests and elders for the coming generations of Israel (31:9, 24-26).

On conservative presuppositions, a very strong case for the Mosaic authorship of Deuteronomy can be established. By the test of agreement with known historical conditions, and by careful literary analysis, it is possible to demonstrate the only pre-Davidic period can successfully be reconciled with the data of the Hebrew text. In fact, the unity and authenticity of the book as a Mosaic product are confirmed by the remarkable conformity of its structure of that of the suzerainty (overlordship) type of covenant or treaty in its classic, mid-second millennium B.C. form. Actually (Deuteronomy 31:9 and 24), state that Moses wrote, as well as spoke, “the words of this law”. Joshua, or some theocratic officer, in all likelihood, completed the document by recording Moses’ death (chapter 34), and probably Moses’ witness song (chapter 34), and testament (chapter 33).

Background and Setting: Like Leviticus, Deuteronomy does not advance historically, but takes place entirely in one location over about one month of time (compare Deut. 1:3 and 34:8 with Joshua 5:6-12). Israel was encamped in the central rift valley to the east of the Jordan River (Deut. 1:1). This location was referred to in (Num. 36:13), as “the plains of Moab”, an area north of the Arnon River across the Jordan River from Jericho. It had been almost 40 years since the Israelites had exited Egypt.

The book of Deuteronomy concentrates on events that took place in the final weeks of Moses’ life. The major event was the verbal communication of divine revelation from Moses to the people of Israel (1:1 – 30:20; 31:30 – 32:47; 33:1-29). The only other events recorded were:

1.   Moses’ recording the law in a book and his commissioning of Joshua as the new leader (31:1-29);

2.   Moses’ viewing of the land of Canaan from Mt. Nebo (32:48-52; 34:1-4); and

3.   His death (34:5-12).

The original recipients of Deuteronomy, both in its verbal and written presentations, were the second generation of the nation of Israel. All of that generation from 40 to 60 years of age (except Joshua and Caleb, who were older), had been born and reared in the wilderness. Together, they comprised the generation that was on the verge of conquering the land of Canaan under Joshua, 40 years after they had left Egypt (1:34-39).

Deuteronomy: The First Torah

Before the Five Books of Moses were compiled as a complete work, evidence from Deuteronomy as well as from Joshua and Kings shows that Deuteronomy itself was known as “the Torah.”

Dr. David Glatt-Gilad

Deuteronomy: The First Torah

Torah scrolls in a Synagogue. Montreal (Canada) credit. Genevieve Afriat CC

Introduction

The Book of Deuteronomy/Devarim (literally “words”) is constructed as a series of addresses that Moses delivers to the Israelites in Transjordan shortly before his death.

Moses’ speeches encompass nearly all the material in the book:

  • Retrospective narrative material alongside hortatory exhortations (chapters 1–11).
  • Legal material followed by the attendant blessings and curses for observing or neglecting these commandments (chapters 12–28).
  • The description and ramifications of a nationwide covenant assembly (chapters 29–30).
  • Two poetic texts addressed to the nation (chapters 32–33).

Deuteronomy is known in rabbinic literature as “mishneh torah” (see Deut 17:18) in the sense of a repetition of the Torah (thus also the meaning of the Greek name Deuteronomion)—and this appears to be its function in the current, redacted Torah.[1] Yet Deuteronomy’s original function can hardly be understood as a mere repetition or even an exposition of laws that appear in the other books of the Pentateuch because it is its own, independent book. So many laws that appear in Deuteronomy are new, having no parallel in other parts of the Torah (e.g., the law of the king, the law of the captive woman, and many, many others) so it cannot be construed as a repetition of the Torah.

Thus, when Deuteronomy 1:5 states: “On the other side of the Jordan, in the land of Moab, Moses began to clearly set forth this torah[2] (הואיל משה באר את התורה הזאת), which torah does the verse refer to, which Moses is about to expound?

The Term “Torah” in Genesis through Numbers

Before approaching Deuteronomy, two points are worth noting. First, the most basic meaning of the term torah is “teaching” or “instruction,” from the same root as moreh/morah (see Jer 18:18; Mal 2:6–7; Prov 4:2). Second, elsewhere in the Pentateuch (outside of Deuteronomy), the term torah is mostly used with reference to a limited set of prescriptions related to a particular sacrifice or ritual. This is its sense, e.g. in Leviticus 6:2, “the torah of the burnt offering,” or in Leviticus 14:2 “the torah for cleansing a leper.”

Numbers 19:2 and 31:21 both use the term “chukkat hatorah” (“statute of the law”) with reference to purification rituals, either of a person who has had contact with a corpse or of vessels. The plural torot is also used as a synonym for commandments in general (thus Genesis 26:5).[3]

The Term “Torah” in Deuteronomy

Nowhere else in the Pentateuch outside of Deuteronomy does the term torah refer to an extended written legal document. This latter meaning seems to be unique to Deuteronomy itself.[4] Even as conservative a commentator as Malbim recognizes that the reference to “this torah” in Deut 1:5 is to the set of laws beginning in Deuteronomy chapter 12,[5] i.e. to the section of the book that modern scholars refer to as the Deuteronomic code, and not to the entire Torah, namely Genesis-Deuteronomy.

Malbim, like Ramban before him, insists that the laws in Deuteronomy were all made known by God to Moses at Sinai, but were only made public by Moses shortly before his death—in other words, these laws were part of the larger Torah, even if the term torah in Deuteronomy refers only to a portion of the Torah. For modern critical scholars, this is an unacceptable proposition, amongst other reasons, since Deuteronomy diverges from laws found elsewhere in the Pentateuch. (Compare, for example, Deut 12:20–24 and Lev 17:1–4 on the permissibility of consuming meat outside of a sacrificial context.) It is untenable that the Deuteronomic laws were given in conjunction with the very laws that they contradict.

In any event, it is eminently clear that the term torah within Deuteronomy is entirely self-referential.[6] This does not mean that other torot—some of which were also incorporated into our Torah—were not circulating at the time of Deuteronomy’s composition. For the author of Deuteronomy, however, these were not authoritative works.

Examples of Torah in Deuteronomy

Introducing the Decalogue (and what follows) as Torah – Deut 4:44–“This is the torah which Moses set before the children of Israel”[7]–serves to formally introduce Deuteronomy’s version of the Decalogue, which follows closely thereafter at the beginning of chapter 5.[8]

The King’s Torah – According to Deut 17:18, the future king is required to make a written “copy of this torah[9] (משנה התורה הזאת), once again referring to the book, or perhaps the law collection within which the law of the king itself appears.

Torah Inscribed on Stone – Having completed the rehearsal of the Deuteronomic law collection at the end of chapter 26, Moses instructs that it be inscribed on large plastered stones following the people’s crossing over into Cisjordan – “You shall inscribe upon them all the words of this torah when you cross over to enter the land (Deut 27:3).[10] The entire Torah would have been much too large to inscribe, and thus this law refers to Deuteronomy or some form or section of that book. Strikingly, a rabbinic source understands this law as referring to the book of Deuteronomy.[11]

A Torah Scroll for Priests – Eventually, Moses too inscribes a copy of “this torah” and gives it over to the priests for safekeeping, enjoining them to read from “this torah” publicly every seven years (Deut 31:9–11). Here too rabbinic opinion correctly perceived that this phrase refers to (sections of) the book of Deuteronomy.[12]

Curses to Encourage Compliance to the Torah – Included in this written torah are the treaty curses appearing in chapter 28 (Deut 29:19–20), which are themselves intended to encourage compliance with “all the words of this torah that are written in this book” (Deut 28:58).[13] Deuteronomy is thus the only part of the Pentateuch which repeatedly calls for or narrates its being committed to writing as a self-contained unit (cf. also Deut 6:9; 11:20).[14]

References to the (Deuteronomic) Torah in Joshua and Kings

According to the commonly accepted scholarly position, the editing of the Former Prophets in general and the books of Joshua and Kings in particular, was undertaken by circles who were heavily influenced by Deuteronomy, its style, and its outlook; that is why scholars call the books Deuteronomy-Kings the Deuteronomistic History. This is based on similarities of style and ideology in these books. Furthermore, the few references in Joshua and Kings to the torah of Moses appear in contexts that either echo the terminology of Deuteronomy or correspond with prescriptions that are unique to Deuteronomy. In other words, in Joshua and Kings the word torah refers to Deuteronomy, and not to the entire Torah.

The first such instance is at the beginning of the Book of Joshua, where a few aspects of God’s initial charge to Joshua following Moses’s death closely parallel texts in Deuteronomy.

Deuteronomistic Borders – God’s declaration to Joshua that the Israelites will conquer the maximal borders of the promised land (Josh 1:3–5) closely echoes Deut 11:24–25.

Be Strong and Courageous – God’s call to Joshua to be strong and courageous (חזק ואמץ; Josh 1:6) follows the diction of Deut 31:7.

“Do not Stray from it Right or Left” – As part of this exhortation, God tells Joshua to faithfully observe “all the torah that Moses my servant commanded you.” This is augmented by the command “do not stray from it right or left” and the beneficial result “so that you will succeed wherever you go” (Josh 1:7).[15] The latter two phrases are taken straight out of Deuteronomy (17:11 and 28:14 for לא תסור ימין ושמאל and 29:8 for למען תשכיל). This suggests that the torah of Moses mentioned in this context also refers to Deuteronomy.

Observe Torah and Be Successful – The same can be said regarding David’s deathbed charge to Solomon. David encourages his successor to follow in God’s ways and to observe all the commandments “as written in the torah of Moses so that you will succeed in all that you do” (1 Kings 2:3).[16] The parallel with Deut 29:8 is very precise.

Citing Moses’ Torah in Joshua and Kings

Other texts in Joshua and Kings specifically cite passages from Deuteronomy when emphasizing that something was done in accordance with that which is written in the book of Moses’s torah (ככתוב בספר תורת משה – Josh 8:31 and 2 Kings 14:6). Again, it is significant that only Deuteronomy, and not texts that now form the first four books of the Torah, is cited in these cases.

Joshua Makes an Altar as per Deuteronomy’s Specifications, Inscribes and Reads Moses’ Torah, and Performs the Blessings and Curses Ceremony

Joshua 8:30–35 narrates how Joshua erected an altar on Mt. Ebal that was made of “unhewn stone upon which no iron had been wielded” and offered on it whole and well-being sacrifices – a clear citation of Deut 27:5–6.

Furthermore, Joshua inscribes a copy of Moses’s torah (משנה תורת משה) on stones and oversees the blessing and curse ceremony, as envisioned by Deut 27:2–3, 11–13. Again, as stated above, this is difficult to picture if referring to the Torah as a whole and not just Deuteronomy or the Deuteronomic Law Collection. Finally, Joshua reads all the words of the torah, the blessings along with the curses, as they are written in the torah book – an evident reference to some form of Deut 27:15–26 and Deut 28.[17]

Amaziah’s Adherence to a law in Deuteronomy

According to Kings, in the monarchic period, King Amaziah of Judah eliminated the assassins of his father Jehoash, but refrained from killing their children. The Deuteronomistic historian describes Amaziah’s policy as being in accordance with what is written in the book of Moses’s torah (2 Kings 14:6 citing Deut 24:16).

מלכים ב יד:ווְאֶת בְּנֵ֥י הַמַּכִּ֖ים לֹ֣א הֵמִ֑ית כַּכָּת֣וּב בְּסֵ֣פֶר תּֽוֹרַת־מֹ֠שֶׁה אֲשֶׁר צִוָּ֨ה יְ-הֹוָ֜ה לֵאמֹ֗ר לֹא יוּמְת֨וּ אָב֤וֹת עַל בָּנִים֙ וּבָנִים֙ לֹא יוּמְת֣וּ עַל אָב֔וֹת כִּ֛י אִם אִ֥ישׁ בְּחֶטְא֖וֹ ימות יוּמָֽת:

But he did not put to death the children of the assassins, in accordance with what is written in the Book of the Teaching of Moses, where Yhwh commanded, “Parents shall not be put to death for children, nor children be put to death for parents; a person shall be put to death only for his own crime.” (2 Kings 14:6)

דברים כד:טזלֹֽא יוּמְת֤וּ אָבוֹת֙ עַל בָּנִ֔ים וּבָנִ֖ים לֹא יוּמְת֣וּ עַל אָב֑וֹת אִ֥ישׁ בְּחֶטְא֖וֹ יוּמָֽתוּ:

Parents shall not be put to death for children, nor children be put to death for parents: a person shall be put to death only for his own crime. (Deut 24:16)

Josiah Finds the Torah (Deuteronomy?)

Most famously, King Josiah is greatly distressed upon hearing the words of the long-lost “book of the torah” (2 Kings 22:11),[18] and following a consultation with the prophetess Huldah, calls a national assembly at which he and the people commit themselves to fulfilling all the terms of the covenant written in that book (2 Kings 23:3). Inasmuch as some of the most salient features of Josiah’s subsequent cultic reform relate to precepts that are unique to Deuteronomy,[19] it is no wonder that commentators and scholars from medieval times to the present have identified the torah scroll referred to in the Josiah story with Deuteronomy, or at least some early form of it.[20]

Conclusion: The Torah in Deuteronomy is Deuteronomy

We have thus seen that Deuteronomy and the literature most influenced by it understood “the torah of Moses” to refer to none other than Deuteronomy itself.[21] This is not to say that other parts of what eventually came to be the complete Pentateuch did not exist prior to or alongside Deuteronomy—but these were not known to, or at least not seen as authoritative by, the authors of Joshua and Kings. Evidence of quotation and citation in the Deuteronomistic History suggests that they certainly were not combined together into a five-part Torah when the Deuteronomistic History was written—otherwise, how can we explain why only Deuteronomy is referred to?[22]

To the extent that Deuteronomy exhibits a certain overlap with other Pentateuchal passages, Deuteronomy should not be seen as mere repetition of the first four books of the Bible, or even as an attempt by Deuteronomy to clarify these books. Rather, Deuteronomy’s purpose when referencing other Pentateuchal legal and narrative passages should be understood as an attempt to modify, or even radically (if subtly) transform, its earlier or contemporary sources.[23] It does so in a self-contained torah: (an early form of) the book of Deuteronomy.

An Afterthought

Ironically, Deuteronomy, which makes so many changes to other Pentateuchal material, is itself greatly concerned about not being changed or altered in any way:

דברים ד:בלֹ֣א תֹסִ֗פוּ עַל הַדָּבָר֙ אֲשֶׁ֤ר אָנֹכִי֙ מְצַוֶּ֣ה אֶתְכֶ֔ם וְלֹ֥א תִגְרְע֖וּ מִמֶּ֑נּוּ לִשְׁמֹ֗ר אֶת מִצְוֹת֙ יְ-הֹוָ֣ה אֱ-לֹֽהֵיכֶ֔ם אֲשֶׁ֥ר אָנֹכִ֖י מְצַוֶּ֥ה אֶתְכֶֽם:

Deut 4:2 You shall not add anything to what I command you or take anything away from it, but keep the commandments of Yhwh your God that I enjoin upon you.

דברים יג:אאֵ֣ת כָּל הַדָּבָ֗ר אֲשֶׁ֤ר אָנֹכִי֙ מְצַוֶּ֣ה אֶתְכֶ֔ם אֹת֥וֹ תִשְׁמְר֖וּ לַעֲשׂ֑וֹת לֹא תֹסֵ֣ף עָלָ֔יו וְלֹ֥א תִגְרַ֖ע מִמֶּֽנּוּ:

Deut 13:1 Be careful to observe only that which I enjoin upon you: neither add to it nor take away from it.

Dr. David Glatt-Gilad is a senior lecturer in the Department of Bible, Archaeology, and the Ancient Near East at Ben-Gurion University. He holds a Ph.D. in Bible from the University of Pennsylvania.

“What is Deuteronomistic History?”

Answer:
Deuteronomistic History is the name given to the group of books known as the “Former Prophets” in the Hebrew Bible (Joshua, Judges, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, and 2 Kings) as well as the book of Deuteronomy. Proponents see the Deuteronomistic History as originally a single work composed during the exilic period. The Deuteronomistic History theory holds that, rather than being recorded at the times of the events themselves, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, and the books of Samuel and Kings were compiled later to explain why, in light of Israel’s covenant with God, it appeared that God had forsaken Israel, allowing their defeat by the Assyrians and the Babylonians. The Deuteronomistic History is seen as an extension of the theology of Deuteronomy—especially the blessings and curses of chapter 28.

Old Testament scholar Martin Noth of the University of Bonn is the name most often associated with the Deuteronomistic History theory, which arose in the first half of the 20th century. Noth considered the book of Deuteronomy to be an introduction to the books of history, rather than a summary of the preceding books of law. He viewed Deuteronomy as having less in common with the first four books of the Bible, in terms of literary style and theological theme, than with the books that followed. Those who have expounded on Noth’s theory thus speak of a Tetrateuch instead of a Pentateuch.

Some aspects of the Deuteronomistic History theory are feasible. For example, there is nothing in the biblical text that would prohibit the “Former Prophets” from being the single work of a single author. Nor is there much of a problem with the exilic date of the work or the perspective of the work, which demonstrates the grace of God as He gave repeated warnings to the monarchs who stubbornly continued in their idolatry. Although there were a few kings who attempted reform in the southern kingdom of Judah, the overwhelming disposition of the kings after David was to forget the commands of God. The writer or writers of the “Former Prophets” would naturally have had a particular perspective and theological agenda governing the production of their work, under the superintending inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The books in question do not claim to be eyewitness accounts, and the author(s) refer to source materials that could be consulted at the time of writing (e.g., the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Israel, mentioned in 1 Kings 14:19).

Conservative scholars generally reject the idea that the “Former Prophets” are the work of a single author due to stylistic differences among the individual books. Since Scripture does not designate the author(s) of the “Former Prophets,” both a single author and multiple authors are within the realm of possibility. Also, conservative scholars usually date the works in question a little earlier, closer to the time that the events actually happened. Since Scripture never makes a claim as to the dates of these books’ composition, one’s opinion on the dates that they were written is not an issue of inerrancy or inspiration. The exception may be Deuteronomy, which actually claims to be substantially the work of Moses (Deuteronomy 31:9). Jesus also affirmed Mosaic authorship of Deuteronomy in Matthew 19:8.

Whether the books of Joshua through Kings were written or edited by a single individual at a later, exilic date or whether they were written by various individuals closer to the times the events recorded happened, there is no objection to referring to Deuteronomy and the “Former Prophets” as Deuteronomistic History as they do share a similar perspective.

Recommended Resource: Inspiration and Authority of the Bible by Benjamin Warfield

“Did God give Israel the Promised Land for all time (Deuteronomy 4:40)?”

Answer:
In Deuteronomy 4:40 the Lord gave the Israelites this command: “Keep his decrees and commands, which I am giving you today, so that it may go well with you and your children after you and that you may live long in the land the Lord your God gives you for all time.” Does this mean God gave Israel the Promised Land in perpetuity?

This passage contains a conditional offer. Israel would have the Promised Land as they kept God’s “decrees and commands.” The Israelites had to obey God’s statutes in order to remain in the land. History reveals that the Israelites often disobeyed, resulting in temporary times of exile from their land.

However, the end of this passage notes that God is giving Israel the Promised Land “for all time.” The Hebrew phrase translated “for all time” is a general statement, likely in reference to God’s original promise of a land to Abraham in Genesis 12.

There are both a conditional and unconditional aspect to God’s promise. God offered blessings within the Promised Land conditionally, related to the Israelites’ obedience. Yet God also made an unconditional vow that Israel would have the Promised Land “for all time.”

How long is “for all time”? In the book of Revelation, we see Israel as a central focus. In the end times, Israel faces many difficulties, yet that tribulation concludes with the Messiah reigning from His throne in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel. The book concludes with a new heaven, new earth, and new Jerusalem. The promise of Deuteronomy 4:40 is a far-seeing promise, extending to the end of this world’s existence and even into the time of the new earth.

Many other passages of Scripture support the fact that Israel will possess the Promised Land forever. For example, God spoke to Isaac in Genesis 26:3, saying, “Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you. For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham.” The Lord also spoke to Jacob in Genesis 28:13–14 with similar words: “There above it stood the Lord, and he said: ‘I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.’” See also Psalm 132:14; Isaiah 14;1; and Zechariah 2:3–5, 10–13.

Some have suggested that, because of God’s promises to Israel concerning the Promised Land, Christians should support the modern nation of Israel without reservation. Christians have many reasons to support the people of Israel, but this does not mean Christians must agree with every political decision made by the modern Israeli government. Instead, the focus is on God’s spiritual restoration of Israel (Romans 11:26) and the enduring promise to His chosen people.

Recommended Resource: Deuteronomy, Holman Old Testament Commentary by Doug McIntosh

“What does it mean that the LORD is one (Deuteronomy 6:4)?”

Answer:
The opening of the Shema (or the “Saying”), a central teaching in Judaism, says that the Lord is one: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4).

Most English Bibles include a footnote to express alternative translations, as this is a difficult passage among Hebrew scholars. Options include “The LORD our God is one Lord,” “The LORD is our God, the LORD is one,” and “The LORD is our God, the LORD alone.” In all the options, the focus is on the idea of one God. The doctrine of one God was a stark contrast to the theologies of the cultures surrounding the Israelites. Other religious systems, including that of the Egyptians, served a wide variety of gods and goddesses. The worship of only one God made the faith of the Hebrews unique in the ancient world.

Exodus 20 gives the Ten Commandments. It also begins with an emphasis of God as one: “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). God revealed Himself as the one God to worship. There could be no other.

The origin of monotheism was not Deuteronomy 6:4, however. The opening words of the Bible are “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). Only one God was before all things and created all things. This same one God was the One who spoke with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2—3), saved the world through Noah (Genesis 6—8), and promised Abraham that all nations would be blessed through him (Genesis 12). Israel was always taught that the Lord God was the one God; the Jews were to reject all idols and deny all other gods.

If the Lord is one, how are we to understand the Trinity? Though the word Trinity is not found in the Bible, the concept certainly is. The Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit are each referred to as God and are attributed qualities that only God has. For example, Jesus was in the beginning with God (John 1:1), and all creation was made through Him (Colossians 1:16–17). The Holy Spirit is listed with Father and Son as “the name” believers are to be baptized into (Matthew 28:19–20) and was referred to as God by Peter in Acts 5:3–4. The teaching of a Triune God is unique to Christianity and affirms Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as one God in three Persons.

Christians believe that God is one yet is also triune. We know God through faith in Jesus Christ (John 14:6), and the Holy Spirit works within us to help us live for God each day.

Recommended Resource: What Do Jews Believe?: The Spiritual Foundations of Judaism by David Ariel

“How can Jesus be God if Deuteronomy 6:4 says that God is one?”

Answer:
Deuteronomy 6:4 states, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” The New Testament carries this theme forward (1 Corinthians 8:4; Galatians 3:20; 1 Timothy 2:5). Yet Christianity teaches Jesus is God. How can these two seemingly contradictory views co-exist?

First, it is crucial to understand what Deuteronomy 6:4 means when it says, “LORD is one.” The Hebrew word translated “one” in Deuteronomy 6:4 is echad. It means “unity,” not “singularity.” It is also used in Genesis 2:24 in referring to a husband and wife being “one” flesh. A husband and wife are not one as in a singular being. Rather, they are in unity with each other. There is a Hebrew word that means “absolute singularity,” yachid, but it is never used in the Hebrew Scriptures in reference to God.

With that said, it is important to affirm the biblical teaching of one God. From the very first words of Scripture, we are told there is only one God who created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1). The controversy is not whether there is only one God versus two gods. The discussion is how Christians understand Jesus as this one true God. Christians believe that the Bible presents one God who exists in three Persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The doctrine of the Trinity does not contradict Deuteronomy 6:4. As was said above, the Hebrew word echad means “unity,” not “singularity.” Christians believe the Persons of the Trinity are united in the Godhead.

In Matthew 28:19, Jesus commands His followers to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” He refers to all three Persons functioning as the same God. Another occasion that shows all three Persons of the Trinity operating at the same time is the baptism of Jesus. Luke 3:21–22 reads, “When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’” God the Father speaks from the sky to Jesus who is on earth while the Spirit comes down from the sky upon Jesus. We see the same three Persons equated in Paul’s benediction to the Corinthian church (2 Corinthians 13:14).

Each Person of the Trinity is clearly referred to as God. In addition to the Father being called God, Jesus is referred to as God in John 1:1; 14; Romans 9:5; Colossians 2:9; Hebrews 1:8–9; and 1 John 5:20. The Holy Spirit is also referred to as God in Acts 5:3–4 and 1 Corinthians 3:16.

Some argue that God cannot have a Son. Although God did not give birth to a Son as humans understand birth, God chose the Father/Son relationship to help us understand the inner workings of the Trinity. The Son and Spirit, together with the Father, have existed from eternity past. There is perfect eternal fellowship within the Trinity among all three. God exists in both perfect unity and community.

The presentation of Jesus as God was a difficult teaching for the Jews to accept during the time of Jesus. However, the resurrection of Jesus provided the full evidence that He is both fully human and fully divine. Jesus is the Messiah predicted in the Old Testament who is equal with the Father: “I and the Father are one”” (John 10:30).

Recommended Resource: God the Son Incarnate: The Doctrine of Christ by Stephen Wellum

“What is the difference between laws, commands, commandments, decrees, and statutes?”

Answer:
In Deuteronomy 6:1-–3 we read of laws, commands, commandments, decrees, and statutes: “Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the rules—that the LORD your God commanded me to teach you” (HCSB, verse 1, emphasis added). Other translations use words like decrees or laws. All these are part of God’s Law, with some slight distinctions.

A look at the various Hebrew words used helps highlight some of the differences:

“Commandments” in verses 1 and 2 (mitzvah): This is the general Hebrew term for “commandment” and usually refers to the comprehensive list of laws or body of laws given by the Lord in the Books of Moses. This is also the Hebrew term often used when the Lord spoke directly in the Old Testament.

“Statutes” (choq): According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary, this word means “statute, prescription, rule, law, regulation” and can refer to laws of nature (Job 28:26; Jeremiah 5:22; 31:35–36) or what is allocated, rationed, or apportioned to someone (Genesis 47:22; Exodus 29:28).

“Rules” (mishpat): A judicial verdict or formal decree. In the Law of Moses, some of the legal types of rules would fall under this category.

“Statutes/Commands” in verse 2 (chuqqah): Chuqqah has a more specific meaning than choq, according to Vine’s dictionary. It refers to a particular law related to a festival or ritual, such as Passover (Exodus 12:14), the Days of Unleavened Bread (Exodus 12:17), or the Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:41).

All four of these Hebrew words are used throughout the writings of Moses to refer to commands from God to be obeyed by God’s people. Distinctions are sometimes made regarding one word from the other, yet the overall principle is one of obedience to all that the Lord commands, whether it’s a general command, a prescribed law, a legal verdict, or a religious festival or ritual.

Recommended Resource: Deuteronomy, Holman Old Testament Commentary by Doug McIntosh

“What is the difference between the ceremonial law, the moral law, and the judicial law in the Old Testament?”

Answer:
The law of God given to Moses is a comprehensive set of guidelines to ensure that the Israelites’ behavior reflected their status as God’s chosen people. It encompasses moral behavior, their position as a godly example to other nations, and systematic procedures for acknowledging God’s holiness and mankind’s sinfulness. In an attempt to better understand the purpose of these laws, Jews and Christians categorize them. This has led to the distinction between moral law, ceremonial law, and judicial law.

Moral Law
The moral laws, or mishpatim, relate to justice and judgment and are often translated as “ordinances.” Mishpatim are said to be based on God’s holy nature. As such, the ordinances are holy, just, and unchanging. Their purpose is to promote the welfare of those who obey. The value of the laws is considered obvious by reason and common sense. The moral law encompasses regulations on justice, respect, and sexual conduct, and includes the Ten Commandments. It also includes penalties for failure to obey the ordinances. Moral law does not point people to Christ; it merely illuminates the fallen state of all mankind.

Modern Protestants are divided over the applicability of mishpatim in the church age. Some believe that Jesus’ assertion that the law will remain in effect until the earth passes away (Matthew 5:18) means that believers are still bound to it. Others, however, understand that Jesus fulfilled this requirement (Matthew 5:17), and that we are instead under the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2), which is thought to be “love God and love others” (Matthew 22:36-40). Although many of the moral laws in the Old Testament give excellent examples as to how to love God and love others, and freedom from the law is not license to sin (Romans 6:15), we are not specifically bound by mishpatim.

Ceremonial Law
The ceremonial laws are called hukkim or chuqqah in Hebrew, which literally means “custom of the nation”; the words are often translated as “statutes.” These laws seem to focus the adherent’s attention on God. They include instructions on regaining right standing with God (e.g., sacrifices and other ceremonies regarding “uncleanness”), remembrances of God’s work in Israel (e.g., feasts and festivals), specific regulations meant to distinguish Israelites from their pagan neighbors (e.g., dietary and clothing restrictions), and signs that point to the coming Messiah (e.g., the Sabbath, circumcision, Passover, and the redemption of the firstborn). Some Jews believe that the ceremonial law is not fixed. They hold that, as societies evolve, so do God’s expectations of how His followers should relate to Him. This view is not indicated in the Bible.

Christians are not bound by ceremonial law. Since the church is not the nation of Israel, memorial festivals, such as the Feast of Weeks and Passover, do not apply. Galatians 3:23-25 explains that since Jesus has come, Christians are not required to sacrifice or circumcise. There is still debate in Protestant churches over the applicability of the Sabbath. Some say that its inclusion in the Ten Commandments gives it the weight of moral law. Others quote Colossians 2:16-17 and Romans 14:5 to explain that Jesus has fulfilled the Sabbath and become our Sabbath rest. As Romans 14:5 says, “Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.” The applicability of the Old Testament law in the life of a Christian has always related to its usefulness in loving God and others. If someone feels observing the Sabbath aids him in this, he is free to observe it.

Judicial/Civil Law
The Westminster Confession adds the category of judicial or civil law. These laws were specifically given for the culture and place of the Israelites and encompass all of the moral law except the Ten Commandments. This includes everything from murder to restitution for a man gored by an ox and the responsibility of the man who dug a pit to rescue his neighbor’s trapped donkey (Exodus 21:12-36). Since the Jews saw no difference between their God-ordained morality and their cultural responsibilities, this category is used by Christians far more than by Jewish scholars.

The division of the Jewish law into different categories is a human construct designed to better understand the nature of God and define which laws church-age Christians are still required to follow. Many believe the ceremonial law is not applicable, but we are bound by the Ten Commandments. All the law is useful for instruction (2 Timothy 3:16), and nothing in the Bible indicates that God intended a distinction of categories. Christians are not under the law (Romans 10:4). Jesus fulfilled the law, thus abolishing the difference between Jew and Gentile “so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross…” (Ephesians 2:15-16).

Recommended Resource: The End of the Law: Mosaic Covenant in Pauline Theology by Jason Meyer

“How could the laws of God be written on doorframes, gates, and foreheads?”

Answer:
In Deuteronomy 6:8–9 the Lord speaks of His laws, saying, “Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” A related passage says, “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 11:18–20). Write them on the doorframes, tie them on your hands, and bind them on your foreheads. Were the Jewish people to take these commands literally?

Doors and Gates: The Jewish tradition of placing a mezuzah on the doorpost is based on this passage of Scripture. The mezuzah (the Hebrew word for “doorpost”) is a small piece of parchment usually containing this line from Deuteronomy 6:4: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” An extra-biblical Jewish tradition requires that these words be written by an approved Jewish scribe called a sofer stam. The parchment is folded or rolled, placed in a small case, and attached to the right side of the doorway of a home at shoulder height. Tradition dictates that it be placed within 30 days of moving into a new home.

Foreheads/Hands: Since ancient times, Jews have practiced the tradition of using phylacteries (also called “tefillin”). Phylacteries are small leather boxes that contain portions of the Law of Moses. The boxes are strapped to the wrist and to a sort of headband so that one literally carries the laws of God over his eyes and on his hands. Jesus mentions this practice in Matthew 23:5: “They make their phylacteries wide.”

Despite the literal application of these verses by traditional Jews, many Old Testament scholars believe the commands were meant to be figurative. Exodus 13:9 and 16 also suggest God was using figurative language to emphasize the importance of obeying His laws. Later prophets argued that the emphasis of the Law was on matters of the heart rather than external ritual. Micah, for example, noted, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).

In summary, many Jews have taken the concept of putting God’s laws on doors, hands, and head literally, yet the emphasis in these passages is on the importance of the Law. The Law of the Lord is perfect, according to Psalm 19:7. Psalm 1 emphasizes the importance of meditating upon God’s Word both day and night. We should never forget it; it should be a part of our daily lives. The Word belongs in our hearts, not just on our foreheads.

Recommended Resource: Deuteronomy, Holman Old Testament Commentary by Doug McIntosh

“What does it mean that God is a consuming fire?”

Answer:
God is first identified as a “consuming fire” in Deuteronomy 4:24 and 9:3. The writer to the Hebrews reiterates, warning the Hebrews to worship God with reverence and awe “for our God is a consuming fire.” There is nothing mysterious about the Hebrew and Greek words translated “consuming fire.” They mean exactly that—a fire that utterly consumes or destroys. How, then, can a loving and merciful God also be a consuming fire that utterly destroys?

In both Deuteronomy passages in which God is called a consuming fire, Moses is speaking first to warn the Israelites against idolatry (Deuteronomy 4:23-25) because God is a “jealous God” and will not share His glory with worthless idols. Idolatry provokes Him to a righteous anger which is justified when His holiness is disrespected. In Deuteronomy 9:3, Moses again refers to God as a consuming (or devouring) fire who would go ahead of the Israelites into the Promised Land, destroying and subduing their enemies before them. Here again we see God’s wrath against those who oppose Him depicted as fire that utterly consumes and destroys anything in His path.

There are several incidents in which God’s wrath, judgment, holiness or power are displayed by fire from heaven. Aaron’s sons Abihu and Nadab were destroyed by fire when they offered a profane sacrifice, “strange fire,” in the tabernacle, a sign of their disregard for the utter holiness of God and the need to honor Him in solemn and holy fear. The confrontation between Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel is another example of consuming fire from God. The prophets of Baal called upon their god all day long to rain fire from heaven to no avail. Then Elijah built an altar of stones, dug a ditch around it, put the sacrifice on the top of wood and called for water to be poured over his sacrifice three times. Elijah called upon God, and God sent fire down from heaven, completely consuming the sacrifice, the wood, and the stones and licked up the water in the ditch. Then His anger turned against the false prophets, and they were all killed. When prophesying the destruction of the Assyrians, who resisted the true and living God and warred against His people, Isaiah refers to the tongue of the Lord as a consuming fire and His “arm coming down with raging anger and consuming fire” (Isaiah 30:27-30).

God’s holiness is the reason for His being a consuming fire, and it burns up anything unholy. The holiness of God is that part of His nature that most separates Him from sinful man. The godless, Isaiah writes, tremble before Him: “Who of us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who of us can dwell with everlasting burning?” Isaiah answers this by saying that only the righteous can withstand the consuming fire of God’s wrath against sin, because sin is an offense to God’s holiness. But Isaiah also assures us that no amount of our own righteousness is sufficient (Isaiah 64:6).

Fortunately, God has provided the righteousness we need by sending Jesus Christ to die on the cross for the sins of all who would ever believe in Him. In that one act, Christ mitigates God’s wrath, exchanging His perfect righteousness for our sin. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). All the wrath of God was poured out on Jesus, so that those who belong to Him would not have to suffer the same fate as the Assyrians. “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31), but we need not fear the consuming fire of God’s wrath if we are covered by the purifying blood of Christ.

Recommended Resource: Knowing God by J.I. Packer

“What are the Ten Commandments? What is the Decalogue?”

Answer:
The Ten Commandments (also known as the Decalogue) are ten laws in the Bible that God gave to the nation of Israel shortly after the exodus from Egypt. The Ten Commandments are essentially a summary of the 613 commandments contained in the Old Testament Law. The first four commandments deal with our relationship with God. The last six commandments deal with our relationships with one another. The Ten Commandments are recorded in the Bible in Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21 and are as follows:

1) “You shall have no other gods before me.” This command is against worshiping any god other than the one true God. All other gods are false gods.

2) “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” This command is against making an idol, a visible representation of God. There is no image we can create that can accurately portray God. To make an idol to represent God is to worship a false god.

3) “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses His name.” This is a command against taking the name of the Lord in vain. We are not to treat God’s name lightly. We are to show reverence to God by only mentioning Him in respectful and honoring ways.

4) “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” This is a command to set aside the Sabbath (Saturday, the last day of the week) as a day of rest dedicated to the Lord.

5) “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.” This is a command to always treat one’s parents with honor and respect.

6) “You shall not murder.” This is a command against the premeditated murder of another human being.

7) “You shall not commit adultery.” This is a command against having sexual relations with anyone other than one’s spouse.

8) “You shall not steal.” This is a command against taking anything that is not one’s own, without the permission of the person to whom it belongs.

9) “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.” This is a command prohibiting testifying against another person falsely. It is essentially a command against lying.

10) “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” This is a command against desiring anything that is not one’s own. Coveting can lead to breaking one of the commandments listed above: murder, adultery, and theft. If it is wrong to do something, it is wrong to desire to do that same something.

Many people mistakenly look at the Ten Commandments as a set of rules that, if followed, will guarantee entrance into heaven after death. In contrast, the purpose of the Ten Commandments is to force people to realize that they cannot perfectly obey the Law (Romans 7:7-11), and are therefore in need of God’s mercy and grace. Despite the claims of the rich young ruler in Matthew 19:16, no one can perfectly obey the Ten Commandments (Ecclesiastes 7:20). The Ten Commandments demonstrate that we have all sinned (Romans 3:23) and are therefore in need of God’s mercy and grace, available only through faith in Jesus Christ.

Recommended Resource: The Ten Commandments: Ethics for the Twenty-first Century by Mark F. Rooker

“Why is ‘You shall have no other gods before me’ in the Ten Commandments?”

Answer:
The Mosaic Law is built upon the Ten Commandments, and the law was built upon the first commandment: “I am the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me” (Deuteronomy 5:6-7 NKJV). Here we see not only God’s prohibition against idolatry, but His reasons for that prohibition. It was the Lord God who had the power to bring His people out of bondage in Egypt. He alone cared enough for them to choose them to be His own, and He alone delivered and protected them. For all this, He declares that He alone deserves to be worshiped and reverenced. No idol made of wood or stone is God. Idols are deaf, dumb, blind, and powerless (Isaiah 44:18).

Paul’s letter to the Romans indicates the worship of things in creation themselves—not just their images—is wrong in the eyes of God (Romans 1:25). Paul also warns the Colossians against worshiping other supernatural beings: “Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize” (Colossians 2:18a). Jesus expanded the definition of “other gods” to include concepts in addition to images, living things and other supernatural beings. In Matthew 6:24, He warns against the worship of material things. “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money”. The Greek word mammonas, translated here as “money,” does not mean the money in one’s pockets. It is the personification of wealth or money (especially wealth gained through greediness), the love of which, in modern terminology, is “materialism.” The dangers of worshiping material things are clearly outlined in the story of the rich young ruler (Matthew 19:16-26) who turned away from Christ because he could not part with his wealth.

Samson (Judges 14–16), even though he was set apart for God as a Nazirite, worshiped another god that was much closer than the rich man was to his wealth. Samson’s god was himself, and his pride and self-worship led to his downfall. He was so confident in his own abilities that he believed he no longer needed God, and in the end—despite being beaten, blinded, and humiliated—Samson neither repented nor learned that his way was not God’s way. He was more concerned with revenge and his eyesight than with God’s plan for His chosen people. He served himself and his priorities, making them his idols.

Those who worship “other gods” will ultimately face the same fate as the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel where they were challenged by Elijah the prophet to a duel. Elijah and the prophets of Baal offered sacrifices to their respective deities, but they did not burn the sacrifices. The god who responded to their entreaties and took their sacrifice would be declared the one true God for all Israel. The prophets of Baal started early and prayed and pleaded with Baal to burn their sacrifice. Meanwhile, Elijah taunted them. “Shout louder…Surely he is a god. Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened” (1 Kings 18:27). In the end, the prophets of Baal were all killed by the Israelites after the one true God demonstrated His power, burning up the offering, the water, the wood, the stones, and the soil at the altar.

Our God is never busy, asleep, traveling, or distracted. Paul describes the sovereignty of God: “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands as if He needed anything, because He Himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. …Therefore, since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the Divine Being is like gold or silver or stone – an image made by man’s design and skill” (Acts 17:24-25, 29). God commands us not to serve other gods because there are no other gods except the ones we make ourselves. David describes what awaits the person who puts God ahead of all else: “Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods” (Psalm 40:4).

Recommended Resource: The Law of Perfect Freedom: Relating to God and Others through the Ten Commandments by Michael Horton

“What is the definition of idolatry?”

Answer:
The definition of idolatry, according to Webster, is “the worship of idols or excessive devotion to, or reverence for some person or thing.” An idol is anything that replaces the one, true God. The most prevalent form of idolatry in Bible times was the worship of images that were thought to embody the various pagan deities.

From the beginning, God’s covenant with Israel was based on exclusive worship of Him alone (Exodus 20:3; Deuteronomy 5:7). The Israelites were not even to mention the names of false gods (Exodus 23:13) because to do so would acknowledge their existence and give credence to their power and influence over the people. Israel was forbidden to intermarry with other cultures who embraced false gods, because God knew this would lead to compromise. The book of Hosea uses the imagery of adultery to describe Israel’s continual chasing after other gods, like an unfaithful wife chases after other men. The history of Israel is a sad chronicle of idol worship, punishment, restoration and forgiveness, followed by a return to idolatry. The books of 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, and 1 & 2 Chronicles reveal this destructive pattern. The Old Testament prophets endlessly prophesied dire consequences for Israel if they continued in their idolatry. Mostly, they were ignored until it was too late and God’s wrath against idol-worship was poured out on the nation. But ours is a merciful God, and He never failed to forgive and restore them when they repented and sought His forgiveness.

In reality, idols are impotent blocks of stone or wood, and their power exists only in the minds of the worshipers. The idol of the god Dagon was twice knocked to the floor by God to show the Philistines just who was God and who wasn’t (1 Samuel 5:1-5). The “contest” between God and His prophet Elijah and the 450 prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel is a dramatic example of the power of the true God and the impotence of false gods (1 Kings 18:19-40). The testimony of Scripture is that God alone is worthy of worship. Idol worship robs God of the glory that is rightfully His, and that is something He will not tolerate (Isaiah 42:8).

Even today there are religions that bow before statues and icons, a practice forbidden by God’s Word. The significance God places upon it is reflected in the fact that the first of the Ten Commandments refers to idolatry: “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me” (Exodus 20:3-5).

Idolatry extends beyond the worship of idols and images and false gods. Our modern idols are many and varied. Even for those who do not bow physically before a statue, idolatry is a matter of the heart—pride, self-centeredness, greed, gluttony, a love for possessions and ultimately rebellion against God. Is it any wonder that God hates it?

Recommended Resource: No Gods But God: Confronting Our Modern-Day Idolatry by Dennis Newkirk

“What does it mean to take the Lord’s name in vain?”

Answer:
Although many people believe taking the Lord’s name in vain refers to using the Lord’s name as a swear word, there is much more involved with a vain use of God’s name. To understand the severity of taking the Lord’s name in vain, we must first see the Lord’s name from His perspective as outlined in Scripture. The God of Israel was known by many names and titles, but the concept embodied in God’s name plays an important and unique role in the Bible. God’s nature and attributes, the totality of His being, and especially His glory are reflected in His name (Psalm 8:1). Psalm 111:9 tells us His name is “holy and awesome,” and the Lord’s prayer begins by addressing God with the phrase “hallowed be your name” (Matthew 6:9), an indication that a reverence for God and His name should be foremost in our prayers. Too often we barge into God’s presence with presumptuous “to-do lists” for Him, without being mindful of His holiness, His awesomeness, and the vast chasm that separates our nature from His. That we are even allowed to come before His throne is due only to His gracious, merciful love for His own (Hebrews 4:16). We must never take that grace for granted.

Because of the greatness of the name of God, any use of God’s name that brings dishonor on Him or on His character is taking His name in vain. The third of the Ten Commandments forbids taking or using the Lord’s name in an irreverent manner because that would indicate a lack of respect for God Himself. A person who misuses God’s name will not be held “guiltless” by the Lord (Exodus 20:7). In the Old Testament, bringing dishonor on God’s name was done by failing to perform an oath or vow taken in His name (Leviticus 19:12). The man who used God’s name to legitimize his oath, and then broke his promise, would indicate his lack of reverence for God as well as a lack of fear of His holy retribution. It was essentially the same as denying God’s existence. For believers, however, there is no need to use God’s name to legitimize an oath as we are not to take oaths in the first place, letting our “yes be yes” and our “no be no” (Matthew 5:33-37).

There is a larger sense in which people today take the Lord’s name in vain. Those who name the name of Christ, who pray in His name, and who take His name as part of their identity, but who deliberately and continually disobey His commands, are taking His name in vain. Jesus Christ has been given the name above all names, at which every knee shall bow (Philippians 2:9-10), and when we take the name “Christian” upon ourselves, we must do so with an understanding of all that signifies. If we profess to be Christians, but act, think, and speak in a worldly or profane manner, we take His name in vain. When we misrepresent Christ, either intentionally or through ignorance of the Christian faith as proclaimed in Scripture, we take the Lord’s name in vain. When we say we love Him, but do not do what He commands (Luke 6:46), we take His name in vain and are possibly identifying ourselves to be among those to whom Christ will say, “I never knew you. Away from me” in the day of judgment (Matthew 7:21-23).

The name of the Lord is holy, as He is holy. The name of the Lord is a representation of His glory, His majesty, and His supreme deity. We are to esteem and honor His name as we revere and glorify God Himself. To do any less is to take His name in vain.

Recommended Resource: The Ten Commandments: Ethics for the Twenty-first Century by Mark F. Rooker

“What day is the Sabbath, Saturday or Sunday? Do Christians have to observe the Sabbath day?”

Answer:
It is often claimed that “God instituted the Sabbath in Eden” because of the connection between the Sabbath and creation in Exodus 20:11. Although God’s rest on the seventh day (Genesis 2:3) did foreshadow a future Sabbath law, there is no biblical record of the Sabbath before the children of Israel left the land of Egypt. Nowhere in Scripture is there any hint that Sabbath-keeping was practiced from Adam to Moses.

The Word of God makes it quite clear that Sabbath observance was a special sign between God and Israel: “The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant. It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he abstained from work and rested” (Exodus 31:16–17).

In Deuteronomy 5, Moses restates the Ten Commandments to the next generation of Israelites. Here, after commanding Sabbath observance in verses 12–14, Moses gives the reason the Sabbath was given to the nation Israel: “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day” (Deuteronomy 5:15).

God’s intent for giving the Sabbath to Israel was not that they would remember creation, but that they would remember their Egyptian slavery and the Lord’s deliverance. Note the requirements for Sabbath-keeping: A person placed under that Sabbath law could not leave his home on the Sabbath (Exodus 16:29), he could not build a fire (Exodus 35:3), and he could not cause anyone else to work (Deuteronomy 5:14). A person breaking the Sabbath law was to be put to death (Exodus 31:15; Numbers 15:32–35).

An examination of New Testament passages shows us four important points: 1) Whenever Christ appears in His resurrected form and the day is mentioned, it is always the first day of the week (Matthew 28:1, 9, 10; Mark 16:9; Luke 24:1, 13, 15; John 20:19, 26). 2) The only times the Sabbath is mentioned from Acts through Revelation, the occasion is Jewish evangelism, and the setting is usually a synagogue (Acts chapters 13–18). Paul wrote, “To the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews” (1 Corinthians 9:20). Paul did not go to the synagogue to fellowship with and edify the saints, but to convict and save the lost. 3) After Paul states, “From now on I will go to the Gentiles” (Acts 18:6), the Sabbath is never again mentioned. And 4) Instead of suggesting adherence to the Sabbath day, the remainder of the New Testament implies the opposite (including the one exception to point 3, above, found in Colossians 2:16).

Looking more closely at point 4 above will reveal that there is no obligation for the New Testament believer to keep the Sabbath, and will also show that the idea of a Sunday “Christian Sabbath” is also unscriptural. As discussed above, there is one time the Sabbath is mentioned after Paul began to focus on the Gentiles, “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ” (Colossians 2:16–17). The Jewish Sabbath was abolished at the cross where Christ “canceled the written code, with its regulations” (Colossians 2:14).

This idea is repeated more than once in the New Testament: “One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord” (Romans 14:5–6a). “But now that you know God — or rather are known by God — how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? You are observing special days and months and seasons and years” (Galatians 4:9–10).

But some claim that a mandate by Constantine in A.D. 321 “changed” the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday. On what day did the early church meet for worship? Scripture never mentions any Sabbath (Saturday) gatherings by believers for fellowship or worship. However, there are clear passages that mention the first day of the week. For instance, Acts 20:7 states that “on the first day of the week we came together to break bread.” In 1 Corinthians 16:2 Paul urges the Corinthian believers “on the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income.” Since Paul designates this offering as “service” in 2 Corinthians 9:12, this collection must have been linked with the Sunday worship service of the Christian assembly. Historically Sunday, not Saturday, was the normal meeting day for Christians in the church, and its practice dates back to the first century.

The Sabbath was given to Israel, not the church. The Sabbath is still Saturday, not Sunday, and has never been changed. But the Sabbath is part of the Old Testament Law, and Christians are free from the bondage of the Law (Galatians 4:1-26; Romans 6:14). Sabbath keeping is not required of the Christian—be it Saturday or Sunday. The first day of the week, Sunday, the Lord’s Day (Revelation 1:10) celebrates the New Creation, with Christ as our resurrected Head. We are not obligated to follow the Mosaic Sabbath—resting, but are now free to follow the risen Christ—serving. The Apostle Paul said that each individual Christian should decide whether to observe a Sabbath rest, “One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind” (Romans 14:5). We are to worship God every day, not just on Saturday or Sunday.

Recommended Resource: The End of the Law: Mosaic Covenant in Pauline Theology by Jason Meyer

“What does the Bible mean by ‘an eye for an eye’?”

Answer:
The concept of “an eye for eye,” sometimes called jus talionis or lex talionis, is part of the Mosaic Law used in the Israelites’ justice system. The principle is that the punishment must fit the crime and there should be a just penalty for evil actions: “If there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise” (Exodus 21:23–25). Justice should be equitable; excessive harshness and excessive leniency should be avoided.

We have no indication that the law of “an eye for an eye” was followed literally; there is never a biblical account of an Israelite being maimed as a result of this law. Also, before this particular law was given, God had already established a judicial system to hear cases and determine penalties (Exodus 18:13–26)—a system that would be unnecessary if God had intended a literal “eye for an eye” penalty. Although capital crimes were repaid with execution in ancient Israel, on the basis of multiple witnesses (Deuteronomy 17:6), most other crimes were repaid with payment in goods—if you injured a man’s hand so that he could not work, you compensated that man for his lost wages.

Besides Exodus 21, the law of “an eye for an eye” is mentioned twice in the Old Testament (Leviticus 24:20; Deuteronomy 19:21). Each time, the phrase is used in the context of a case being judged before a civil authority such as a judge. “An eye for an eye” was thus intended to be a guiding principle for lawgivers and judges; it was never to be used to justify vigilantism or settling grievances personally.

In the New Testament, it seems the Pharisees and scribes had taken the “eye for an eye” principle and applied it to everyday personal relationships. They taught that seeking personal revenge was acceptable. If someone punched you, you could punch him back; if someone insulted you, he was fair game for your insults. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day ignored the judicial basis of the giving of that law.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus counters the common teaching of personal retaliation: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you . . .” (Matthew 5:38–39). Jesus then proceeds to reveal God’s heart concerning interpersonal relationships: “Do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you” (Matthew 5:39–42).

In giving this “new” command, Jesus is not nullifying the Old Testament law (Matthew 5:17). Rather, He is separating the responsibility of the government (to punish evildoers justly) from the responsibility we all have on a personal level before God to love our enemies. We should not seek retribution for personal slights. We are to ignore personal insults (the meaning of “turn the other cheek”). Christians are to be willing to give more of their material goods, time, and labor than required, even if the demands upon us are unjust. We should loan to those who want to borrow, love our enemies, and pray for those who persecute us (verses 43–48). Enforcing “an eye for an eye” is the magistrate’s job; forgiving our enemies is ours. We see this played out today every time a victim stands up in court to publicly forgive a convicted criminal—the forgiveness is personal and real, but the judge still justly demands that the sentence be carried out.

Jesus’ limiting of the “eye for an eye” principle in no way prohibits self-defense or the forceful protection of the innocent from harm. The actions of duly appointed agents of the government, such as police officers and the military, to protect citizens and preserve the peace are not in question. Jesus’ command to turn the other cheek applies to personal relationships, not judicial policy. The principle of “an eye for an eye” is meant as a judicial policy, not as a rule for interpersonal relationships. The believer in Christ is guided by Jesus’ words to forgive. The Christian is radically different from those who follow the natural inclination to respond in kind.

Recommended Resource: The End of the Law: Mosaic Covenant in Pauline Theology by Jason Meyer

“Why is there a curse associated with hanging on a tree?”

Answer:
Deuteronomy 21:22–23 teaches that there was a divine curse placed on a hanged person: “And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. You shall not defile your land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance” (ESV).

For most capital offenses covered by Jewish Law, stoning was the form of punishment. On some occasions the dead body would be hung in public as a deterrent to further crime. This law made it illegal to do so overnight (Leviticus 18:24–27; Numbers 35:3–34).

The apostle Paul referred to this law in relationship to Jesus and His death on the cross. In Galatians 3:13 we read, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’” (ESV). Jesus was cursed for us, hanging on the cross as a substitute for our sins. The law in the Mosaic economy was a foreshadowing of the redemption of man.

Another interesting detail is that the cross of Christ was sometimes referred to in Jewish contexts as a “tree.” Acts 5:30 states, “The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree” (ESV). Acts 10:39 says, “They put him to death by hanging him on a tree” (ESV). See also Acts 13:29.

The concept of cursing and blessing in association with a tree is found in the larger narrative of Scripture. In Genesis 3 Eve and then Adam eat fruit from a tree from which they were forbidden to eat. In Revelation 22:14 the eternal state includes those who eat from the tree of life. A tree was involved in the entry of sin into humanity (through the tree in the Garden), the answer to sin for humanity (through the cross), and the ultimate removal of sin in eternity (through the tree of life).

Under the Mosaic Law, those who were hanged on a tree were cursed. The law made it illegal to leave the body hanging overnight. This law applied to Jesus, who was executed on a tree, although He had done no wrong. Jesus’ dead body was removed from the cross on the same day of His death and was buried. Jesus took the curse of sin upon Himself to redeem us from sin.

Recommended Resource: Deuteronomy, Holman Old Testament Commentary by Doug McIntosh

“What is the Song of Moses (Deuteronomy 32:1–43)?”

Answer:
There are at least three songs that Moses wrote. One was sung after the crossing of the Red Sea (Exodus 15), one is recorded in Psalm 90, and the other was written in the last days of Moses’ life, in Deuteronomy 32.

As his time on earth drew to a close, Moses tied up several loose ends in his ministry, following God’s instructions in setting everything in order. God told Moses to write a song, commonly called “The Song of Moses,” and teach it to the people (Deuteronomy 31:19, 30). The Lord then commissioned Joshua, Moses’ replacement (verse 23). Finally, Moses wrote down the entire Law as he had received it from God (verse 24) and gave it to the Levites to keep with the ark of the covenant (verse 25).

God required the Israelites to learn the Song of Moses in anticipation of their future apostasy in the Promised Land. God knew that, despite His blessings, Israel would turn their backs on Him and follow other gods, bringing divine judgment. When that happened, the song they had learned generations previous would “be a witness . . . against them. . . . When many disasters and calamities come on them, this song will testify against them” (Deuteronomy 31:19, 21). The Song of Moses had both a prophetic purpose (it predicted the nation’s falling away) and a didactic purpose (it taught the faithfulness of God and the consequences of sin).

The song that Moses recited to the people takes up the better part of chapter 32. Deuteronomy 32:44 says that Joshua aided Moses in the recitation of this inspired song. The same day that Israel learned the Song of Moses, God directed Moses to climb Mt. Nebo, where Moses would be laid to rest (verses 48–50).

The song begins with a universal call to listen, followed by praise of the just, faithful, and upright God (Deuteronomy 32:1–4). In contrast to God’s faithfulness is Israel’s unfaithfulness (verses 5–6). The song proceeds to recite the history of Israel from their time of bondage in Egypt, through their wilderness wanderings, to their established place in the Promised Land (verses 7–14). The Song of Moses then becomes prophetic: Israel’s future ingratitude and idolatry are predicted, as are the judgments of God for their sin (verses 15–31). Then God promises to avenge Israel against their (and His) enemies, showing compassion on His people (verses 32–42). The song ends on a joyful note, as God’s punishment is past, righteousness is restored, and the land of Israel cleansed (verse 43).

A major theme of the Song of Moses is God’s faithfulness. He is called “the Rock” four times in the song (Deuteronomy 32:15, 18, 30–31). Even as God’s people are chasing whims and trusting feeble gods, God remains their steadfast, unchanging Source of Salvation.

The last words of the Song of Moses are a promise that God will “make atonement for his land and people” (Deuteronomy 32:43). This is a significant promise, because the atonement for God’s people is none other than the sacrifice of God’s own Son, Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:20).

Recommended Resource: Deuteronomy, Holman Old Testament Commentary by Doug McIntosh

“How did Moses write Deuteronomy if it records his death?”

Answer:
Most of the book of Deuteronomy is comprised of “farewell speeches” that Moses gave to the children of Israel before they entered the Promised Land. Prior to his death, Moses transcribed his collection of speeches and “gave it to the Levitical priests, who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and to all the elders of Israel” (Deuteronomy 31:9). Moses is identified in the book of Deuteronomy as the author (Deuteronomy 31:9, 24), and Jesus often quoted from Deuteronomy, confirming Mosaic authorship (Matthew 19:8, citing Deuteronomy 24:1–4). However, the final chapter of Deuteronomy prompts the question at hand: who wrote Deuteronomy 34, since that is the record of Moses’ death?

God had told Moses that he would not be able to lead the children of Israel into the Promised Land because of his prior disobedience (Numbers 20:12) and that he would die in Moab. Deuteronomy 34 relates how Moses was allowed to view Canaan from afar before he died (Deuteronomy 34:1–6). After the death of Moses, the leadership of Israel fell to Joshua (Deuteronomy 31:7, 14; Numbers 27:18–23).

Beyond reasonable question, Moses wrote Deuteronomy very near the end of his life. It is likely that Joshua, as Moses’ successor as leader of Israel, wrote the account of Moses’ death. Other theories include Ezra as the author of Deuteronomy 34 or the seventy elders who served under Moses (see Exodus 24:9).

Recommended Resource: Deuteronomy, Holman Old Testament Commentary by Doug McIntosh

Lecture 12

Information:
Quotations mainly and extensively from https://www.gotquestions.org/ unless otherwise stated.

The Books of Moses and the New Testament

In this lesson we will end our journey by looking at the New Testament connection to the Pentateuch, particularly by looking at how Jesus is the fulfilment of Moses’ prophecy of a prophet greater than he who would come, and how the New Testament writers recognised the authority and teachings of the Old Testament. We’ll then finish off by summarising the key connections between the Pentateuch and the New Testament.

Messiah

How Do We Know Jesus Is the Messiah? // Ask Pastor John with D.A. Carson

Paul washer: Sermon Jam: Jesus is the Messiah

Dr. Steve Lawson: where to find Jesus in the Old Testament.

Steven Lawson: Beginning with Moses: Christ in All the Scriptures

“What does Messiah mean?”

Answer:
Messiah comes from the Hebrew word mashiach and means “anointed one” or “chosen one.” The Greek equivalent is the word Christos or, in English, Christ. The name “Jesus Christ” is the same as “Jesus the Messiah.” In biblical times, anointing someone with oil was a sign that God was consecrating or setting apart that person for a particular role. Thus, an “anointed one” was someone with a special, God-ordained purpose.

In the Old Testament, people were anointed for the positions of prophet, priest, and king. God told Elijah to anoint Elisha to succeed him as Israel’s prophet (1 Kings 19:16). Aaron was anointed as the first high priest of Israel (Leviticus 8:12). Samuel anointed both Saul and David as kings of Israel (1 Samuel 10:1; 16:13). All of these men held “anointed” positions. But the Old Testament predicted a coming Deliverer, chosen by God to redeem Israel (Isaiah 42:1; 61:1–3). This Deliverer the Jews called the Messiah.

Jesus of Nazareth was and is the prophesied Messiah (Luke 4:17–21; John 4:25–26). Throughout the New Testament, we see proof that Jesus is the Chosen One: “These [miracles] are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31). We also hear testimonies that Jesus is “the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). The ultimate evidence that Jesus is indeed the promised Messiah, the Anointed One, is His resurrection from the dead. Acts 10:39–43 is an eyewitness testimony to His resurrection and the fact that “he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead.”

Jesus fulfills the role of Prophet, Priest, and King, which is further evidence to His being the Messiah. He is a prophet, because He embodied and preached the Word of God (see John 1:1–18; 14:24; and Luke 24:19); a priest, because His death atones for our sins and reconciles us to the Father (see Hebrews 2:17; 4:14); and a king, because after His resurrection God gave all authority to Him (see John 18:36; Ephesians 1:20–23; and Revelation 19:16).

The Jews of Jesus’ day expected the Messiah to redeem Israel by overthrowing the rule of the Romans and establishing an earthly kingdom (see Acts 1:6). It wasn’t until after Jesus’ resurrection that His disciples finally began to understand what the prophecies in the Old Testament really meant the Messiah would do (see Luke 24:25–27). The Messiah was “anointed” first to deliver His people spiritually; that is, to redeem them from sin (John 8:31–36). He accomplished this salvation through His death and resurrection (John 12:32; John 3:16). Later, Jesus the Messiah will deliver His people from their physical enemies, when He sets up His Kingdom on the earth (see Isaiah 9:1–7).

Recommended Resource: God the Son Incarnate: The Doctrine of Christ by Stephen Wellum

“What does Christ mean?”

Answer:
To the surprise of some, “Christ” is not Jesus’ last name (surname). “Christ” comes from the Greek word Christos, meaning “anointed one” or “chosen one.” This is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word Mashiach, or “Messiah.” “Jesus” is the Lord’s human name given to Mary by the angel Gabriel (Luke 1:31). “Christ” is His title, signifying Jesus was sent from God to be a King and Deliverer (see Daniel 9:25; Isaiah 32:1). “Jesus Christ” means “Jesus the Messiah” or “Jesus the Anointed One.”

In ancient Israel, when someone was given a position of authority, oil was poured on his head to signify his being set apart for God’s service (e.g., 1 Samuel 10:1). Kings, priests, and prophets were anointed in such fashion. Anointing was a symbolic act to indicate God’s choosing (e.g., 1 Samuel 24:6). Although the literal meaning of anointed refers to the application of oil, it can also refer to one’s consecration by God, even if literal oil is not used (Hebrews 1:9).

There are hundreds of prophetic passages in the Old Testament that refer to a coming Messiah who would deliver His people (e.g., Isaiah 61:1; Daniel 9:26). Ancient Israel thought their Messiah would come with military might to deliver them from decades of captivity to earthly kings and pagan nations. But the New Testament reveals a much better deliverance provided by Jesus the Messiah—a deliverance from the power and penalty of sin (Luke 4:18; Romans 6:23).

The Bible says Jesus was anointed with oil on two separate occasions by two different women (Matthew 26:6–7; Luke 7:37–38), but the most significant anointing came by way of the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:38). Jesus’ title of “Christ” means He is God’s Anointed One, the One who fulfills the Old Testament prophecies, the Chosen Savior who came to rescue sinners (1 Timothy 1:15), and the King of kings who is coming back again to set up His Kingdom on earth (Zechariah 14:9).

Recommended Resource: God the Son Incarnate: The Doctrine of Christ by Stephen Wellum

“Is Jesus the Messiah?”

Answer:
Jesus is called the Messiah in Matthew 1:16. In fact, every time someone says, “Jesus Christ,” he is referring to Jesus as the Messiah, since Christ means “Messiah” or “Anointed One.” The Old Testament predicts the Messiah, and the New Testament reveals the Messiah to be Jesus of Nazareth.

There are several things that the Jewish people who anticipated the Messiah expected Him to be, based on Old Testament prophecies. The Messiah would be a Hebrew man (Isaiah 9:6) born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2) of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14), a prophet akin to Moses (Deuteronomy 18:18), a priest in the order of Melchizedek (Psalm 110:4), a king (Isaiah 11:1–4), and the Son of David (Matthew 22:42) who suffered before entering His glory (Isaiah 53). Jesus met each of these messianic requirements.

Jesus fulfilled the requirements of the Messiah in that He was a Hebrew of the tribe of Judah (Luke 3:30), and He was born in Bethlehem (Luke 2:4–7) to a virgin (Luke 1:26–27).

Another proof that Jesus was the Messiah is the fact that He was a prophet like Moses. Both Moses and Jesus were prophets “whom the LORD knew face to face” (Deuteronomy 34:10; cf. John 8:38). But Jesus is an even greater prophet than Moses in that, while Moses delivered Israel from slavery, Jesus frees us from the bondage of death and sin. Unlike Moses, Jesus didn’t just represent God—He is God (John 10:30). Jesus doesn’t just lead us to the Promised Land; He takes us up to heaven for eternity (John 14:1–3). For these and many more reasons, Jesus is a prophet greater than Moses.

The Messiah was to have priestly duties; Jesus was not a Levite, and only Levites were allowed to be priests. So how could Jesus qualify? Jesus is a priest in the order of Melchizedek (Genesis 14; Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 6:20). Melchizedek predated the Jewish temple, and his very name means “King of Righteousness.” Melchizedek was also called the “King of Salem,” which means “King of Peace” (Hebrews 7:2). Melchizedek blessed Abraham (the greater blesses the lesser, Hebrews 7:7), and Abraham gave Melchizedek a tithe. Thus, as a priest in the order of Melchizedek, Jesus is greater than Abraham (see John 8:58) and the Levitical priesthood. He is a heavenly priest who offered a sacrifice that removes sin permanently, not just temporarily covers it.

Jesus must also be a king in order to be the Messiah. Jesus was from Judah, the kingly tribe. When Jesus was born, wise men from the East came looking for the King of the Jews (Matthew 2:1–2). Jesus taught that He would one day sit on a glorious throne (Matthew 19:28; 25:31). Many people in Israel saw Jesus as their long-awaited king and expected Him to set up His rule immediately (Luke 19:11), although Jesus’ kingdom is currently not of this world (John 18:36). At the end of Jesus’ life, during His trial before Pilate, Jesus did not defend Himself except to answer affirmatively when Pilate asked if He was the King of the Jews (Mark 15:2).

Another way Jesus fits the Old Testament description of the Messiah is that He was the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53. On the cross Jesus was “despised” and “held . . . in low esteem” (Isaiah 53:3). He was “pierced” (verse 5) and “oppressed and afflicted” (verse 7). He died with thieves yet was buried in a rich man’s tomb (verse 9; cf. Mark 15:27; Matthew 27:57–60). After His suffering and death, Jesus the Messiah was resurrected (Isaiah 53:11; cf. 1 Corinthians 15:4) and glorified (Isaiah 53:12). Isaiah 53 is one of the clearest prophecies identifying Jesus as the Messiah; it is the very passage that the Ethiopian eunuch was reading when Philip met him and explained to him about Jesus (Acts 8:26–35).

There are other ways in which Jesus is shown to be the Messiah. Each of the feasts of the Lord in the Old Testament is related to and fulfilled by Jesus. When Jesus came the first time, He was our Passover Lamb (John 1:29), our Unleavened Bread (John 6:35), and our First Fruits (1 Corinthians 15:20). The pouring out of Christ’s Spirit happened at Pentecost (Acts 2:1–4). When Jesus the Messiah returns, we will hear the shout of the archangel and the trumpet of God. It is no coincidence that the first fall festival day is Yom Teruah, the Feast of Trumpets. After Jesus returns, He will judge the earth. This is the fulfillment of the next fall festival, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Then Jesus will set up His millennial kingdom and reign from the throne of David for 1,000 years; that will complete the final fall festival, Sukkot or the Feast of Tabernacles, when God dwells with us.

To those of us who believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior, the proof that He is the Jewish Messiah seems overwhelming. How is it that, generally speaking, the Jews do not accept Jesus as their Messiah? Both Isaiah and Jesus prophesied a spiritual blindness upon Israel as a judgment for their lack of faith (Isaiah 6:9–10; Matthew 13:13–15). Also, most of the Jews of Jesus’ time were looking for a political and cultural savior, not a Savior from sin. They wanted Jesus to throw off the yoke of Rome and establish Zion as the capital of the world (see Acts 1:6). They could not see how the meek and lowly Jesus could possibly do that.

The story of Joseph provides an interesting parallel to the Jews’ missing their Messiah. Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers, and after many ups and downs he was made prime minister of all of Egypt. When a famine hit both Egypt and Israel, Joseph’s brothers traveled to Egypt to get food, and they met with Joseph—but they did not recognize him. Their own brother, standing right in front of them, yet they were oblivious. They did not recognize Joseph for a very simple reason: he did not look as they expected him to look. Joseph was dressed as an Egyptian; he spoke as an Egyptian; he lived as an Egyptian. The thought that he might be their long-lost brother never crossed their minds—Joseph was a Hebrew shepherd, after all, not Egyptian royalty. In a similar way, most Jewish people did not (and do not) recognize Jesus as their Messiah. They were looking for an earthly king, not the ruler of a spiritual kingdom. (Many rabbis interpret the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53 as the Jewish people who have suffered at the hands of the world.) Their blindness was so great that no amount of miracles made a difference (Matthew 11:20).

Still, there were many in Jesus’ day who saw the truth about Jesus. The Bethlehem shepherds saw (Luke 2:16–17). Simeon in the temple saw (verse 34). Anna saw and “spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem” (verse 38). Peter and the other disciples saw (Matthew 16:16). May many more continue to see that Jesus is the Messiah, the One who fulfills the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17).

Recommended Resource: The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Updated Edition by Alfred Edersheim

“Where do the Hebrew Scriptures prophesy the death and resurrection of the Messiah?”

Answer:
Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, the promise of a Messiah is clearly given. These messianic prophecies were made hundreds, sometimes thousands of years before Jesus Christ was born, and clearly Jesus Christ is the only person who has ever walked this earth to fulfill them. In fact, from Genesis to Malachi, there are over 300 specific prophecies detailing the coming of this Anointed One. In addition to prophecies detailing His virgin birth, His birth in Bethlehem, His birth from the tribe of Judah, His lineage from King David, His sinless life, and His atoning work for the sins of His people,the death and resurrection of the Jewish Messiah was, likewise, well documented in the Hebrew prophetic Scriptures long before the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ occurred in history.

Of the best-known prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures concerning the death of Messiah, Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 certainly stand out. Psalm 22 is especially amazing since it predicted numerous separate elements about Jesus’ crucifixion a thousand years before Jesus was crucified. Here are some examples. Messiah will have His hands and His feet “pierced” through (Psalm 22:16; John 20:25). The Messiah’s bones will not be broken (a person’s legs were usually broken after being crucified to speed up their death) (Psalm 22:17; John 19:33). Men will cast lots for Messiah’s clothing (Psalm 22:18; Matthew 27:35).

Isaiah 53, the classic messianic prophecy known as the “Suffering Servant” prophecy, also details the death of Messiah for the sins of His people. More than 700 years before Jesus was even born, Isaiah provides details of His life and death. The Messiah will be rejected (Isaiah 53:3; Luke 13:34). The Messiah will be killed as a vicarious sacrifice for the sins of His people (Isaiah 53:5–9; 2 Corinthians 5:21). The Messiah will be silent in front of His accusers (Isaiah 53:7; 1 Peter 2:23). The Messiah will be buried with the rich (Isaiah 53:9; Matthew 27:57–60). The Messiah will be with criminals in His death (Isaiah 53:12; Mark 15:27).

In addition to the death of the Jewish Messiah, His resurrection from the dead is also foretold. The clearest and best known of the resurrection prophecies is the one penned by Israel’s King David in Psalm 16:10, also written a millennium before the birth of Jesus: “For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.”

On the Jewish feast day of Shavuot (Weeks or Pentecost), when Peter preached the first gospel sermon, he boldly asserted that God had raised Jesus the Jewish Messiah from the dead (Acts 2:24). He then explained that God had performed this miraculous deed in fulfillment of David’s prophecy in Psalm 16. In fact, Peter quoted the words of David in detail as contained in Psalm 16:8–11. Some years later, Paul did the same thing when he spoke to the Jewish community in Antioch. Like Peter, Paul declared that God had raised Messiah Jesus from the dead in fulfillment of Psalm 16:10 (Acts 13:33–35).

The resurrection of the Messiah is strongly implied in another Davidic psalm. Again, this is Psalm 22. In verses 19–21, the suffering Savior prays for deliverance “from the lion’s mouth” (a metaphor for Satan). This desperate prayer is then followed immediately in verses 22–24 by a hymn of praise in which the Messiah thanks God for hearing His prayer and delivering Him. The resurrection of the Messiah is clearly implied between the ending of the prayer in verse 21 and the beginning of the praise song in verse 22.

And back again to Isaiah 53: after prophesying that the Suffering Servant of God would suffer for the sins of His people, the prophet says He would then be “cut off out of the land of the living.” But Isaiah then states that He (Messiah) “will see His offspring” and that God the Father will “prolong His days” (Isaiah 53:5, 8, 10). Isaiah proceeds to reaffirm the promise of the resurrection in different words: “As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see light and be satisfied” (Isaiah 53:11).

Every aspect of the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah had been prophesied in the Hebrew Scriptures long before the events ever unfolded in the timeline of human history. No wonder that Jesus the Messiah would say to the Jewish religious leaders of His day, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me” (John 5:39).

Recommended Resource: God the Son Incarnate: The Doctrine of Christ by Stephen Wellum

“In what ways was Moses like Jesus?”

Answer:
In one of Moses’ final speeches, he gave this messianic prophecy: “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him” (Deuteronomy 18:15). The prophet whom Moses foretells bears these qualities: He will be raised up by God, He will come from among the Israelites, He will be like Moses, and He will be worthy of being heard and obeyed. The prophet who fulfills these words is Jesus Christ, the prophet like Moses.

On the banks of the Jordan River, the Jews questioned John the Baptist about who he was and why he was baptizing. Their question “Are you the Prophet?” (John 1:21) shows that they were looking for the fulfillment of Moses’ prophecy. John plainly informed them that he was not the Prophet but pointed them to the One who was: “Among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie” (verses 26–27). John’s description of the Messiah as one “among you” recalls Moses’ prediction that God would raise up the Prophet “from among you” in Deuteronomy 18:15. The very next day, John specifically identifies Jesus as the One they were waiting for (John 1:29–31).

In his sermon at the temple, Peter affirms that Jesus is the prophet like Moses (Acts 3:22, quoting Deuteronomy 18:15). Stephen, addressing the Sanhedrin in Acts 7:37, also quotes Moses and applies the prophecy to Jesus Christ.

Jesus is like Moses in several ways. Moses was both a prophet and a lawgiver, and Jesus is, too. Jesus was widely recognized as a prophet who spoke the Word of God (Matthew 21:46), and He gave commandments for His followers to obey (John 13:34; 15:12, 17; Galatians 6:2). Both Moses and Jesus mediated a covenant between God and men—Moses the Old Covenant (Exodus 34:27; Acts 7:44), and Jesus the New (Luke 22:20; Hebrews 9:15). Both Moses and Jesus were born during perilous times, and both narrowly escaped a king bent on murdering babies (Exodus 1:22 and Matthew 2:16–18). Both Moses and Jesus had a connection to Egypt (Exodus 2:1–4 and Matthew 2:13–14). Moses was the (adopted) son of a king (Exodus 2:10), and Jesus is the Son of the Most High (Luke 1:32). Moses spent forty years as a shepherd (Exodus 3:1), and Jesus is the Good Shepherd (John 10:11, 14). Both Moses and Jesus were known for their meekness (Numbers 12:3 and Matthew 11:29).

Moses and Jesus were alike in that they both led God’s people out of captivity. With great power, Moses led the Israelites out of physical bondage and slavery in Egypt, and Jesus, with even greater power, led God’s elect out of spiritual bondage and slavery to sin. Moses stood before Pharaoh and said, “’Let my people go” (Exodus 5:1). Jesus came “to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and . . . to set the oppressed free” (Luke 4:18). “In Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life has set you free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2).

Moses was also like Jesus in that he performed miracles—not all prophets did. Several of the miracles of Moses bear a resemblance to Jesus’ miracles, most notably the provision of bread in the wilderness (Exodus 16:35), which is comparable to Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000 (John 6:1–13). In fact, after Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes, the people’s thoughts ran immediately to Moses’ prophecy: “After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, ‘Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world’” (John 6:14).

Another way that Moses was like Jesus is that he held intimate conversations with God: “The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend” (Exodus 33:11). Jesus also had a special relationship to God: “No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son” (Matthew 11:27); “The Father knows me and I know the Father” (John 10:15). When Moses stood in God’s presence, his face shone with a heavenly glory and had to be covered with a veil (Exodus 34:29–35), and this reminds us of Jesus’ transfiguration, when “His face shone like the sun” (Matthew 17:2).

Another important way that Moses was like Jesus is that he constantly interceded for his people. When the Israelites sinned, Moses was always standing by, ready to petition God on their behalf and plead for their forgiveness. After the blatant idolatry at the foot of Mt. Sinai involving the golden calf, Moses interceded twice for the people (Exodus 32:11–13, 30–32), and his intercession was needed at other times, too (e.g., Numbers 11:2; 12:13; 21:7). Moses’ intercession was temporary, but our Lord’s is everlasting. “If anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One” (1 John 2:1). Jesus is right now “at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us” (Romans 8:34). Jesus “always lives to intercede” for us (Hebrews 7:25).

Not only was Moses an intercessor for God’s people but, like Jesus, he was willing to die for them. In Exodus 32:32, Moses offers his life in exchange for sinners. “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends,” Jesus said (John 15:13), and Jesus proved His love when He “laid down his life for us” (1 John 3:16; cf. John 10:15).

Recommended Resource: Moses: A Man of Selfless Dedication by Chuck Swindoll

“Why do most Jews reject Jesus as the Messiah?”

Answer:
The Jews rejected Jesus because He failed, in their eyes, to do what they expected their Messiah to do—destroy evil and all their enemies and establish an eternal kingdom with Israel as the preeminent nation in the world. The prophecies in Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22 describe a suffering Messiah who would be persecuted and killed, but the Jews chose to focus instead on those prophecies that discuss His glorious victories, not His crucifixion.

The commentaries in the Talmud, written before the onset of Christianity, clearly discuss the Messianic prophecies of Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22 and puzzle over how these would be fulfilled with the glorious setting up of the kingdom of the Messiah. After the church used these prophecies to prove the claims of Christ, the Jews took the position that the prophecies did not refer to the Messiah, but to Israel or some other person.

The Jews believed that the Messiah, the prophet which Moses spoke about, would come and deliver them from Roman bondage and set up a kingdom where they would be the rulers. Two of the disciples, James and John, even asked to sit at Jesus’ right and left in His kingdom when He came into His glory. The people of Jerusalem also thought He would deliver them. They shouted praises to God for the mighty works they had seen Jesus do and called out, “Hosanna, save us,” when He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey (Matthew 21:9). They treated Him like a conquering king. Then, when He allowed Himself to be arrested, tried, and crucified on a cursed cross, the people stopped believing that He was the promised prophet. They rejected their Messiah (Matthew 27:22).

Note that Paul tells the church that the spiritual blindness of Israel is a “mystery” that had not previously been revealed (Romans chapters 9–11). For thousands of years, Israel had been the one nation that looked to God while the Gentile nations generally rejected the light and chose to live in spiritual darkness. Israel and her inspired prophets revealed monotheism—one God who was personally interested in mankind’s destiny of heaven or hell, the path to salvation, the written Word with the Ten Commandments. Yet Israel rejected her prophesied Messiah, and the promises of the kingdom of heaven were postponed. A veil of spiritual blindness fell upon the eyes of the Jews, who previously were the most spiritually discerning people. As Paul explained, this hardening on the part of Israel led to the blessing of the Gentiles who would believe in Jesus and accept Him as Lord and Savior.

Two thousand years after He came to the nation of Israel as their Messiah, Christ is still (for the most part) rejected by the Jews. Many Jews today (some say at least half of all living Jews) identify themselves as Jewish but prefer to remain “secular.” They identify with no particular Jewish movement and have no understanding or affiliation with any Jewish biblical roots. The concept of Messiah as expressed in the Hebrew Scriptures or Judaism’s “13 Principles of Faith” is foreign to most Jews today.

But one concept is generally held as universal: Jews must have nothing to do with Jesus! Most Jews today perceive the last 2,000 years of historical Jewish persecution to be at the hands of so-called “Christians.” From the Crusades, to the Inquisition, to the pogroms in Europe, to Hitler’s Holocaust—Jews ultimately believe that they are being held responsible for the death of Jesus Christ and are being persecuted for that reason. They, therefore, reject Him today.

The good news is that many Jews are turning to Christ today. The God of Israel has always been faithful to keep a “remnant” of believing Jews to Himself. In the United States alone, some estimates say that there are over 100,000 Jewish believers in Jesus, and the numbers are growing all the time.

Recommended Resource: Faith of Israel, 2d ed.: A Theological Survey of the Old Testament by William Dumbrell

“How can I identify messianic prophecies in the Old Testament?”

Answer:
By some counts, there are over 300 messianic prophecies in the Old Testament. That’s why in the New Testament we often find statements like this: “These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled” (John 19:36). Some messianic prophecies in the Old Testament are fairly straightforward; others are more indirect. Here are some pointers on identifying prophecies of the Messiah:

Study the Word. This should go without saying, but, in understanding the Bible, there’s no substitute for actually reading the Bible and prayerfully seeking wisdom from on high (James 1:5). Some messianic prophecies in the Old Testament are clearly identified as such by the prophets who wrote them. The word Messiah means “Anointed One” or “Chosen One,” and those titles are found in several prophecies. Daniel 9:25–26 is an important prophecy about the Messiah’s death. Psalm 2:2 also refers to the Lord’s Anointed.

Of course, context is always important when we interpret Scripture. Not every mention of an “anointed one” in the Old Testament is a reference to the promised Messiah. King Cyrus of Persia is called God’s anointed one in Isaiah 45:1, and so is King Saul in 1 Samuel 24:10; both those kings were chosen by God for special work, which is the underlying meaning of being “anointed.”

David’s references to God’s anointed one in Psalm 132 are an example of how the title can have a dual meaning. David prays, “For the sake of your servant David, do not reject your anointed one” (Psalm 132:10). Here, David makes reference to himself twice, calling himself God’s “servant” and God’s “anointed one”—David had been literally anointed by the prophet Samuel to be king (1 Samuel 16:13). But the word David uses is the Hebrew word for “Messiah,” and Psalm 132:10 can easily be applied to Jesus Christ in the New Testament. What makes this passage even more fascinating is that, immediately following the mention of David as the anointed one, Psalm 132 starts talking about the Messiah: one of David’s descendants will rule from the throne (Psalm 132:11), and David’s dynasty will be unending (verse 12). Then, a twist: the Lord Himself will rule from Zion forever (verses 13–14); as King, the Lord will bring abundance, salvation, and joy (verses 15–16); this King who comes from David will have divine strength, and all His enemies will be defeated (verses 17–18). Verse 17 contains another mention of God’s “anointed one.” Put all this together with the fact that the Messiah was commonly referred to as “the Son of David” (see Matthew 22:42), and Psalm 132 is clearly a messianic prophecy. David, God’s anointed one, was promised that an even greater Anointed One would sit on the throne of Zion forever.

Learn the various titles of the Messiah. Some messianic prophecies in the Old Testament use different names for the Messiah. For example, Isaiah 42:1 speaks of the Messiah as the “Servant” of the Lord. The prophecy of Numbers 24:17 calls the Messiah the “Star” that comes from Judah. In Isaiah 11:1, the Messiah is a “Branch” that bears much fruit. Often, the Messiah is presented in the Old Testament as a king who will rule in righteousness (see Isaiah 9:6–7; 32:1; Jeremiah 23:5; Zechariah 9:9).

Compare Scripture with Scripture. Some messianic prophecies in the Old Testament are identified by New Testament writers. Matthew is especially helpful in linking Old Testament prophecies to their fulfillment in the life of Christ. Jesus’ birth is the fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14 (cp. Matthew 1:18–23). Jesus’ flight to Egypt turns out to be the fulfillment of an indirect prophecy in Hosea 11:1 (cp. Matthew 2:15). Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem is linked to Zechariah 9:9 (cp. Matthew 21:1–5). Jesus’ death on the cross fulfilled many Old Testament prophecies, including Psalm 34:20 and Zechariah 12:10 (cp. John 19:31–37).

At times Jesus quoted a messianic prophecy and applied it to Himself. In the synagogue in Nazareth, Jesus read a messianic passage from Isaiah 61 and said, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). Just before His arrest, Jesus quotes Zechariah 13:7, stating that prophecy is about to be fulfilled (Matthew 26:31). He also quotes Isaiah 53:12 (in Luke 22:37), and when we study the whole of Isaiah 53, we discover that much of that chapter corresponds directly to Jesus’ passion. When Jesus quotes an Old Testament passage and says that He is the fulfillment of it, we know for sure that passage was messianic.

Sometimes Jesus’ allusion to a passage clues us in that we’re dealing with a messianic prophecy. For example, on the cross Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). As it turns out, those are the exact words of Psalm 22:1. When we turn to Psalm 22, we find many details of the crucifixion: the mocking Jesus endured (Psalm 22:7; cp. Matthew 27:38–44), Jesus’ thirst (Psalm 22:14; cp. John 19:28), the piercing of His hands and feet (Psalm 22:16; cp. John 20:20), and the casting of lots for His garment (Psalm 22:18; cp. Luke 23:34). Jesus’ agonized cry serves as a signpost pointing us to a treasure trove of messianic prophecies in the Psalms.

Look for themes, similar circumstances, and matching details. Some messianic prophecies in the Old Testament take the form of types. The Old Testament sacrifices are definite types of the Messiah who would shed His blood for our sin. The temple’s lampstand, altar of incense, and table of showbread are also clear types of Christ’s light, intercession, and provision.

Joseph’s dreams of his family bowing down to him in Genesis 37 came true, even though Joseph’s brothers hated him. The rejection and eventual exaltation of Joseph can be seen as foreshadowing the rejection of Christ and His exaltation to the right hand of God. In the same way, Boaz’s actions in the book of Ruth can be viewed as an indirect prophecy of the work of Christ on our behalf. The life of Joshua, so full of faith and victory, can also be seen as a precursor to Christ—especially when we consider that Joshua and Jesus are both forms of the same Hebrew name, Yeshua. Viewing the stories of Joseph, Boaz, and Joshua as messianic “prophecies” requires a certain amount of inference, but it is not a misuse of Scripture to acknowledge parallels exist. Jesus Himself used elements of the story of Jonah as a prophecy of His resurrection (Luke 11:29–30).

Messianic prophecies deal with some aspect of the Messiah’s nature, ministry, or associations. For example, Genesis 3:15 predicts a serpent-crushing Savior who will be the “seed of the woman.” This prophecy suggests the virgin birth as well as Christ’s victory over Satan. Jeremiah 31:15 predicts Herod’s massacre of the children in Bethlehem (see Matthew 2:16–18). And Isaiah 35:5–6 prophesies that the Messiah would heal the blind, lame, and mute (cp. Luke 7:22).

On the road to Emmaus, Jesus told two of His disciples, “Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms” (Luke 24:44). The whole Old Testament—Law, Prophets, and Writings—contains messianic prophecies. And all of those prophecies “must” be fulfilled. The study of prophecies and their fulfillment is really the study of God’s faithfulness. In particular, the messianic prophecies reveal God’s faithfulness in saving His people. Such a study is infinitely rewarding.

Recommended Resource: God the Son Incarnate: The Doctrine of Christ by Stephen Wellum

“What is the Mishnah? What is a midrash?”

Answer:
The Mishnah is the oral law in Judaism, as opposed to the written Torah, or the Mosaic Law. The Mishnah was collected and committed to writing about AD 200 and forms part of the Talmud. A particular teaching within the Mishnah is called a midrash.

Orthodox Judaism believes that Moses received the Torah (the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) from God and that he wrote down everything God spoke to him. However, they also believe that God gave Moses explanations and examples of how to interpret the Law that Moses did not write down. These unwritten explanations are known in Judaism as the Oral Torah. The Oral Torah was supposedly passed down from Moses to Joshua and then to the rabbis until the advent of Christianity when it was finally written down as the legal authority called halahka (“the walk”). The two main sections of the Oral Torah are the Mishnah and the Gemara.

The Mishnah (משנה, “repetition”) essentially records the debates of the post-temple sages from AD 70—200 (called the Tannaim) and is considered the first major work of “Rabbinical Judaism.” It is composed of six orders (sedarim), arranged topically:

Zeraim (“seeds”) – discussions concerning prayer, diet, and agricultural laws
Moed (“festival”) – discussions about holidays
Nashim (“women”) – discussions about women and family life
Nezikin (“damages”) – discussions about damages and compensation in civil law
Kodashim (“holy things”) – discussions regarding sacrifices, offerings, dedications, and other temple-related matters
Tohorot (“purities”) – discussions regarding the purity of vessels, foods, dwellings, and people

After the Mishnah was published, it was studied exhaustively by generations of rabbis in both Babylonia and Israel. From AD 200—500, additional commentaries on the Mishnah were compiled and put together as the Gemara. Actually, there are two different versions of the Gemara, one compiled by scholars in Israel (c. AD 400) and the other by the scholars of Babylonia (c. AD 500). Together, the Mishnah and the Gemara form the Talmud. Since there are two different Gemaras, there are two different Talmuds: the Babylonian Talmud and the Jerusalem (or Palestinian) Talmud. The Talmud can be thought of as rabbinical commentaries on the Hebrew Scriptures, just like there are commentaries written on the Bible from a Christian perspective.

In Judaism the Talmud is just as important as the Hebrew Bible. It is used to explain the laws that may not be clear in Scripture. For example, Deuteronomy 21:18–21 is the law governing the punishment of a rebellious son. But what behaviors make a son “rebellious”? The Scripture only mentions gluttony and drunkenness. Are there other behaviors that would be classified as rebellious? What if only one parent thinks the son rebellious? How old does a son have to be to be held accountable for his rebellion? There are many questions that are not directly addressed in the Law, and so the rabbis turn to the Oral Law. The midrash on Deuteronomy 21:18–21 states that both parents must consider the son rebellious for him to be presented to the elders for judgment. The Talmud also states that in order to be considered rebellious the son must be old enough to grow a beard.

A second type of writings in the Talmud is called the Aggadah (also spelled Haggadah). Aggadah are not considered law (halakha) but literature that consists of wisdom and teachings, stories, and parables. The Aggadah are sometimes used with halakha to teach a principle or make a legal point.

For example, one Aggadah tells the story of baby Moses being held by Pharaoh at a banquet. As baby Moses is sitting in Pharaoh’s lap, he reaches up, removes Pharaoh’s crown, and places it on his own head. Pharaoh’s advisers tell him that it is a sign that Moses will one day usurp the king’s authority and that he should kill the baby. But Pharaoh’s daughter, insisting that the baby is innocent, offers a test. She tells her father to place the baby on the ground with both the crown and some hot coals. If the baby Moses takes the crown, he is guilty; but if he takes the hot coals, he is innocent. The Aggadah goes on to say that an angel pushed Moses’ hand to the coals. Moses then burned his mouth with the coal, and that is why Moses was “slow of speech and tongue” as an adult (Exodus 4:10).

There are many Aggadah in the Talmud that are prophetic about the Messiah. One such is the story of the White Ram. It is said that God created a pure White Ram in the Garden of Eden and told him to wait there until God called for him. The White Ram waited until Abraham agreed to sacrifice his son of promise, Isaac. When God stopped the sacrifice of Isaac, God brought the White Ram to be substituted for Isaac. The White Ram, created before the foundations of the earth, was slain, and this anecdote presents a picture of our Messiah as the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world (1 Peter 1:20; Ephesians 1:4; Revelation 13:8). The White Ram willingly laid down his life for Isaac. Also, the ram’s two horns were made into shofars (trumpets). According to Aggadic tradition, one shofar sounded when God announced Himself to Moses (Exodus 19:19), and the other horn will sound at the coming of the Messiah (see 1 Thessalonians 4:16).

Different sects of Judaism have different views on the Talmud. The Orthodox sect holds that the Oral Law or Talmud is just as inspired as the Bible, but Conservative and Reform Jewish sects do not. Reform and Conservative sects believe they can interpret the Talmud as written by rabbis but are not necessarily required to follow it. Karaite Jews do not follow the Talmud or rabbinic teachings at all but only the Hebrew Bible.

While Christians can certainly study the Talmud for background information, we should not take it as inspired Scripture.

Recommended Resource: Our Father Abraham: Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith by Marvin Wilson

“What is the Jewish Targum?”

Answer:
The Targum (plural, Targumim) is an Aramaic paraphrase/explanation/interpretation of the Hebrew text of the Jewish Scriptures provided by the rabbis in the course of teaching. These paraphrases or explanations were not meant to carry equal authority with the Word of God, and it was normally forbidden to record them in writing, just to make sure that no one would equate them with the written Word of God. However, this rule was not always obeyed, and a good many were written down. In some circles, certain of the targumim were considered authoritative. Various rabbis whose targumim were recorded had followers who accepted their explanations as authoritative, and, in some cases, they put them on par with the Word of God. It is against this backdrop that Christ conducted His ministry and often clashed with various sects who “let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions” (Mark 7:8).

Jesus gave a specific example of the Jews of His day esteeming the Targum over the Word of God: “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God)—then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that” (Mark 7:9–13).

The Targum is useful today to help the modern interpreter understand how certain groups or even a large portion of the population understood a certain passage. In some cases where the meaning of a passage is unclear, we may be able to better understand what the passage intends to say if we can understand the logic of the Targum in question.

There is a caution here for modern Christians. There are some modern paraphrases of the Bible such as The Living Bible or The Message, which some Christians read and study as if those books were the Word of God. These works are NOT translations of the Bible, but paraphrases. They may be helpful in understanding Scripture, much like the Targum is, but they should not be used in place of Scripture. At best, such paraphrases should be supplemental materials.

Likewise, some Christians may accept the interpretations of a certain Bible teacher or pastor as if those interpretations were the inspired Word of God. While the church today is blessed with some wise and faithful teachers, every teaching must be evaluated on the basis of God’s Word. A teacher’s authority only extends as far as his teaching is an accurate presentation of the Word. We should never follow any teacher to the extent that his or her words are put on par with Scripture.

D. A. Carson, in his devotional book For the Love of God, offers thoughts on various passages of Scripture as is common in devotional books. However, Carson plainly states that his purpose is “to provide edifying comments and reflections on some part of the designated text, and thus to encourage readers to reflect further on the biblical passages they are reading. . . . If you must skip something, skip this book and read the Bible instead.” This is the proper perspective.

Recommended Resource: Our Father Abraham: Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith by Marvin Wilson

“Is Jesus in the Old Testament?”

Answer:
Jesus shows up often in the Old Testament—not by that name, and not in the same form as we see Him in the New Testament, but He is there nonetheless. The theme of the entire Bible is Christ.

Jesus Himself confirmed the fact that He is in the Old Testament. In John 5:46 He explained to some religious leaders who had challenged Him that the Old Testament was talking about Him: “If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me.” According to Jesus, God’s work with man since time began all pointed to Him. Another time when Jesus showed that He is in the Old Testament was on the day of His resurrection. Jesus was walking with two of His disciples, and “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). Earlier, before His crucifixion, Jesus had pointed to Isaiah 53:12 and said, “It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’ and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment” (Luke 22:37).

By some counts, more than 300 Old Testament prophecies point to Jesus Christ and were fulfilled by Him in His life on earth. These include prophecies about His unique birth (Isaiah 7:14), His earthly ministry (Isaiah 61:1), and even the way He would die (Psalm 22). Jesus shocked the religious establishment when He stood up in the synagogue of Nazareth and read from Isaiah 61, concluding with this commentary: “This scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing today” (Luke 4:18–21).

Another way that Jesus is in the Old Testament is in the form of Christophanies—pre-incarnate appearances of the Son of God. The Old Testament uses the term angel of the Lord interchangeably with the Lord in reference to these visitations. One Christophany is found in Genesis 18:1–33 when the Lord appeared to Abram in human form. Such tangible encounters with deity are scattered throughout the Old Testament (Genesis 16:7–14; 22:11–18; Judges 5:23; 2 Kings 19:35; Daniel 3:25).

But there are even deeper ways that Jesus is found in the Old Testament. These are seen in what we call “types.” A type is a person or thing in the Old Testament that foreshadows a person or thing in the New. For example, Moses can be seen as a type of Christ. Like Jesus, Moses’ birth was significant, he confronted the evil powers of the day, and he led his people to freedom through a miraculous deliverance. The life of Joseph is another that can be seen as typical of the life of Christ.

Many Old Testament historical events double as symbols of what God would do in the future, through Christ. For example, God called Abraham to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice. Abraham uttered these prophetic words in response to Isaac’s question about a lamb: “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son” (Genesis 22:8). God did provide a ram in Isaac’s place, symbolizing what He would do thousands of years later on that very mountain when His own Son was offered as a sacrifice in our place (Matthew 27:33). Events surrounding the sacrifice of Isaac thus serve as a type of the sacrifice of Christ.

Jesus referred to another event in Israel’s history as a foreshadowing of His crucifixion. In the wilderness, the people following Moses had sinned, and God sent serpents among them to bite them. The people were dying, and they appealed to Moses for help. God told Moses to make a bronze serpent and place it on a pole. All those who looked to it would be healed (Numbers 21:4–19). Jesus alluded to this incident in John 3:14–15: “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life in him.”

God’s design for the tabernacle is another way that Jesus is in the Old Testament. The altar in the courtyard symbolizes the need for Jesus’ sacrifice to atone for our sin. The laver shows Jesus as providing the water of life (John 4:14). Inside the Holy Place, the lampstand is suggestive of Jesus as the light of the world (John 9:5). The table of showbread is Jesus as the bread of life (John 6:35). In the altar of incense is seen Jesus as our heavenly intercessor, continually offering prayers for us (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25). According to Hebrews 10:20, the veil before the ark of the covenant is a picture of Jesus’ human flesh.

The Son of God is not just in the New Testament; Jesus is in the Old Testament, too. Jesus is God’s promised Messiah. From the virgin birth in Bethlehem (Isaiah 7:14; Luke 1:35; Micah 5:2), through the sojourn to Egypt (Hosea 11:1; Matthew 2:14–15), to His ministry of healing and hope (Genesis 3:15; 1 John 3:8), all the way through His resurrection (Psalm 16:9–11; Acts 2:31), Jesus Christ is the theme of both Old and New Testaments. It could be said that Jesus is the reason for the Bible. He is the Living Word. The entire Bible is a beacon that points us to God’s offer of reconciliation, the hope of forgiveness and eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Recommended Resource: God the Son Incarnate: The Doctrine of Christ by Stephen Wellum

“What is Messianic Judaism?”

Answer:
Messianic Judaism is the term given to the belief system of Jewish people who believe and have accepted Yeshua (the Hebrew name for Jesus) of Nazareth as the promised Messiah of the Hebrew Scriptures. These Jewish people do not stop being Jewish, but they continue to remain strong in their Jewish identity, lifestyle and culture, while following Yeshua as He is revealed in the Brit Chadashah, the New Covenant. Many Messianic Jews refer to themselves as “completed Jews,” since they believe that their faith in the God of Israel has been “completed” or fulfilled in Yeshua.

In reality, Messianic Judaism began 2,000 years ago. Yeshua Himself was an observant Jew, most of the apostles and writers of the New Covenant were Jewish, and the vast majority of the early believers in Yeshua were also Jewish (see Acts chapter 2).

Traditional rabbinical Judaism today does not believe that Yeshua is the Jewish Messiah. Observant Jews are still waiting faithfully in accordance with the Rambam’s (Rabbi Moses Maimonides, 1134-1204) “Thirteen Principles of Jewish Faith,” which states in Principle 12, “I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the Messiah. However long it takes, I will await His coming every day.” Most secular Jews do not believe in the physical coming of a personal Messiah, but some still look forward to a general Messianic concept or Messianic Age.

Today, it is estimated that there are over 350,000 Messianic Jews in the world, and the numbers are growing all the time. Messianic synagogues have also become very popular, and recent estimates number more than 200 congregations in the U.S. There are also many Messianic congregations in Israel and around the world.

Messianic Jews continue to celebrate the Jewish festivals and feast days as prescribed in the Hebrew Scriptures (i.e., Feast of Weeks, Feast of Tabernacles, etc.), but their observances are meant to demonstrate how Yeshua has already fulfilled these Holy Days. Most Messianic Jews, if they celebrate Easter, remove the pagan influences and celebrate only what is given in the Bible—viz., the Passover. Jews who now follow Yeshua the Messiah understand that everything given in the Old Covenant was a “mere shadow” of the better things to come in the New.

Recommended Resource: Faith of Israel, 2d ed.: A Theological Survey of the Old Testament by William Dumbrell

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