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Old Testament Interpretation XI

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Question #1:


Thanks for your site and ALL the great knowledge of the word of God that you, in your given wisdom, explain for clarity and full comprehension.

I have been very much attracted and motivated to study 2da Chronicles 7:14, as the simple and eternal grace of God for salvation, basically, the gospel in essence.

But, I have been intrigued by the portion…"and seek my face"…. and what exactly that means in ALL its context.

Would you be kind, and one day put a full study in this regard? The book of Psalms is full of this same! I am getting to my own conclusions, but will love to see a deep study on this mandate!

Thanks, and God bless you and your inspiration! That God keeps his will on you for the Glory of the Father and our Savior Jesus!

Response #1:

Good to make your acquaintance, and thanks much for your positive comments.

Just as we prefer "face to face" contact with those we care about, this was certainly also the case in the ancient world:

By the humility and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you—I, Paul, who am “timid” when face to face with you, but “bold” toward you when away!
2nd Corinthians 10:1 NIV

I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.
2nd John 1:12 NIV

As to your question, the "face" is the most expressive part of the human being and one can "read" things in a person's face that might not be obvious from mere verbal or written communication. As I say in CT 2B when discussing the faces of the cherubs:

Of all human features, the face is at once one of the most memorable and expressive, making it a most effective means for the type of symbolic representation discussed above. Although their bodies resemble human form (Ezek.1:5), the four faces of the cherubim are unique, and stand symbolically for the various aspects of our Lord's earthly ministry just described. In this way, the faces of the cherubim reflect the glory of the Son of God instead of their own glory, just as, ideally, the world should see the face of Christ in us, His servants, when we walk as He commanded us to do (2Cor.3:18; cf. Matt.16:24; Jn.13:15; 1Cor.11:1; 2Cor.2:15; Gal.4:19; Eph.5:1; 1Thes.1:6; 1Pet.2:21).

I also find this in scripture:

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God's glory displayed in the face of Christ.
2nd Corinthians 4:6 NIV

This is a very important verse to understanding your passage because it reminds us that Christ is "the face of God", the revealed Person of the Trinity. "Seeing the face of God", while not possible literally in Old Testament times except in few rare cases of Christophany (see the link), was spiritually possible just as it is today. Just like Moses did, we can actually come to "see the One who is invisible" through the truth of the Word of God if we persevere in seeking Him through the truth, and Christ is the Living Word of God (Rev.19:3), the very Truth itself (Jn.14:6).

For [Moses] grew strong by seeing the One who cannot be seen (i.e., by keeping his mind's eye on the invisible Jesus Christ).
Hebrews 11:27

Hope this helps – please do feel free to write me back.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior, the One whose face we seek (Ps.27:8).

Bob Luginbill

Question #2:

Hi Bob,

The second meeting of my Bible Study is tomorrow night. We decided to go through the ten commandments, dealing with such things as kill vs. murder, situations in which disobeying parents is allowable, exceptions for lying to enemies, etc. (The harder interpretive matters).

In going through the Hebrew of the first commandment, I didn't know quite what to make of the phrase עַל־פָּנָֽיַַ.

Most English versions translate as "before me," as opposed to the more literal "before my face." I understand this part. I'm just a little bit fuzzy on exactly what this means. Here is what I have so far:

The tricky bit of this commandment is the phrase ʿal-pānāya. Most versions translate it as “before me,” which is OK, but a bit misleading, since it doesn’t unambiguously get across the exclusivity, and leaves out the fact that this phrase literally means “before my face.” This commandment is not saying it is alright for us to have other gods, as long as they aren’t before Yaweh.

A good place start getting into the interpretation is here. The meanings “before” or “above” are not relational for this Hebrew preposition (as English allows), but positional only.

I understand this verse as essentially saying this: “you shall not have other gods in my presence.”

The link above argues against the interpretation of viewing the "before" as relational (i.e., "before" as "valued higher"). It seems convincing enough, but does go against most of what I have read on this over the years.

What exactly does "before me" mean in this verse? Does it mean "in my presence"? Or is the link above wrong in stating that the prepositional cannot be relational as opposed to positional?

In Christ,
p.s. I just remembered that I also wanted to ask you about the reasonableness of the argument presented in the question, viz. This verse says “you shall not have other gods in my presence/sight.” Since we are all continually in the presence/sight of God because he is omniscient and omnipresent, this verse is synonymous with “you shall not have other gods… period.”

Response #2:

None of the translations is bad, but I think you have correctly noticed that there is a visceral aspect to עַל-פָּנֵי / 'al-panay which treating the phrase as a simple preposition one fails to convey. Hebrew does this with prepositions occasionally using them to suggest hostility or confrontation, sometimes also including the word פָּנִים / paniym (Gen.10:9, "against the Lord"), sometimes without it (Is.3:8). Similar uses of עַל-פָּנֵי / 'al-panay may be found at Job 1:11, 6:28; 21:31; Ps.21:13; Ezek.32:10; Nah.2:2. So you are right that the phrase means something like "in direct confrontation with Me", or, a bit more colloquially, "right in My face!" That is something that certainly ought to get our attention (which "before Me" may fail to do adequately) – especially when we consider the judgment that befell Israel so often for failing to pay attention to this first and very important command.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #3:

Hello again Dr Luginbill, I pray you are well.

Why people had to remove their shoes in Gods presence?

Response #3:

Always good to hear from you – and thanks for your prayers!

The only incidence of this in the Bible of which I am aware was when our Lord spoke to Moses from the burning bush (Ex.3:5). This was a unique event in many ways. The bush represented the cross and our Lord's being judged for our sins, and this happened on Mt. Sinai which mountain represents the Law which in turn represents sin and God's judgment upon sin absent a Savior (cf. Gal.4:24-25). Furthermore, it is not "God's presence" per se which produces the command; rather, Moses is told that the "ground" itself is "sanctified" (as representing the cross) so that the dirty shoes of shepherd being removed represent the removal of sin through Christ's sacrifice. This particular symbolism is not repeated (the closest thing we have elsewhere is our Lord's washing of the disciples' feet which likewise represents the removal of sin by the grace of His effort/spiritual death, specifically forgiveness of believers who have "already had a bath": Jn.13:3-17). When priests enter the temple, even the holy of holies on the Day of Atonement, while there is ritual cleansing, there is no requirement to remove their shoes, nor do we find this command given elsewhere when the Lord appears (in Christophany/Theophany). So this was a unique incident with unique symbolism.

Question #4:

Sorry, Just to add another example to my second question, in Joshua 5:15, the commander of the LORD's army also requested the removal of sandals in his presence. Any insight would be appreciated.


Response #4:

I had forgotten about this one. What I would say is that Joshua is now the "new Moses", and that Israel is on the threshold of the land having just been circumcised at Gilgal. So I would suggest that the symbolism is largely the same; Jericho (where this took place) in many ways represented the evil of the land and the Canaanites who dwelt there and for that reason had its walls miraculously destroyed by the Lord after the famous seven-fold encirclement; everything within it was cursed/dedicated to the Lord (as Achan and the rest of Israel found out to their great harm); and the city was never to be rebuilt (with a curse on whoever did so which was in the event fulfilled). Also, once again, it is the ground which has been hallowed and it is the association with sin removed symbolically by the removal of the dirty shoes which causes it to be "set apart" in the presence of our Lord (a Christophany) who would die for our sins. Significantly, however, while the first instance speaks of the first advent and the cross, here we have our Lord appearing as a mighty warrior (representing the second advent). So just as there are two instances of water coming from the Rock but with this same difference in symbolism (which Moses disregarded to his great harm), so it is with these two Christophanies which involve the representative of the people removing his sandals: the first time in respect for the sacrifice of the Savior; the second time in respect for the conquering Messiah.

Thanks for reminding me about this!

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #5:

Hi Bob,

Before Noah, the gospel was present in a very visible way to nearly all of humanity on the Earth:

"So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.”
(Genesis 3:24)

Anybody during those days could go see the flaming sword and the way to the tree of life. That was as clear and empirical of a reminder as we could get of the need for our salvation.


Response #5:

Good observation!

Question #6:

And on that point, one thing I noticed about the New Testament too is the overwhelming amount of mercy God shows to those who are genuinely (that is, not in an intellectually dishonest way) skeptical about the gospel.

"Be merciful to those who doubt”
(Jude 1:22)

"If anyone says, 'I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. [John acknowledges that it is harder to love God than other people, because we can’t observe God.]”
(1 John 4:20)

"Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
(John 20:29)

If people needed empirical evidence or experience to believe in eternal life, then God does in fact provide. He always has.

Response #6:

God does indeed provide everything we need to believe – the world itself is proof of Him and what He is like (Rom.1:18-32).  Even more amazing and worthy of respect, even by unbelievers, is the fact of His provision of a way of salvation at His own cost through the sacrifice of His own dear Son our Lord Jesus.

But with you there is forgiveness,
that you may be feared.
Psalm 134:4 ESV

Happy Thanksgiving!

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #7:

He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me.
Psalm 18:17 NIV

Much of David’s life I can relate to. I have had enemies who are far above me in skill attack, and yet God has rescued me from every one.

Response #7:

David is wonderful role model for us all.

Despite setbacks, whether from forces beyond his control or from problems of his own making, he kept on pushing forward spiritually and he never let anything quench his deep love for the Lord. A good lesson for us all indeed!

In our dear Lord Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #8:

Hello, I have run into a quandary. The way I read the Tabernacle design in Exodus, and considering how often the priests were supposed to burn incense on it, combined with their restrictions on how often they could enter the Most Holy of Holies, it makes sense to me that the Golden Altar of Incense should be in the Holy Place, separated from the Ark of the Covenant by the curtain.

But Hebrews 9:4-5 appears to place the Altar of Incense behind the curtain, in with the Ark. Help! How do I understand this apparent contradiction?

Thank you, and God bless you for all you do!

Response #8:

Hebrews 9:4 says that the holy of holies "had" the altar – which I take to mean not "behind the veil" but "right next to the veil so as to be associated closely with the inner sanctum"; as you say, otherwise it would not have been possible to tend to the altar of incense with the frequency demanded by the Law (and Zechariah, John the baptist's father, certainly did tend it: Lk.1:9).

Understanding this to be what Hebrews 9:4 means makes sense from another perspective as well: the incense is meant to rise to the presence of the Lord – which is represented by the ark and the glory; so it would have made sense if the altar was positioned directly before the curtain . . . and hence was considered by some to be a part, so to speak, of the inner sanctum (as Paul sees things and expresses them in Hebrews; compare Rev.8:3-5). The incense represents the "sweet savor" of the cross (cf. 2Cor.2:15), and it is only through the sacrifice of Christ that anyone can enter into the presence of the Father – so the offering of incense must come before entering through the veil (of heaven) to appear before Him.

For a representation of all this see the link: "The Earthly Tabernacle and the Heavenly Temple"

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #9:

In one your email responses to a person asking about "Double judgment" you stated that Genesis 6:3 is one of these situations, that God gave mankind 120 years for building the Ark and to repent, and also that the 120 years was the maximum length of mans life.

Question: When did this shortened life span begin, because according to the genealogies, there were at least twelve people who lived much longer.

Maybe I am mis-understanding the second prophecy of judgment?

Response #9:

I don't believe I've ever proposed any general theory / doctrine of "double judgment". The great flood did have a double application of judgment because it wiped out almost all of the human race AND through the massive changes to the earth that ensued resulted in human life spans being greatly reduced. In this case, the "double judgment" corresponds to the "double fulfillment" of the prophecy of 120 years.

On the 120 years, that represents a normal extreme which God is free to overstep whenever and however He wishes, but the principle is clearly valid. Just as when Moses says that the human life span is 70 years or 80 "if by reason of strength", we can also see that this is likewise a solid, general principle, even though a great number of people live longer (Moses and Aaron certainly did), and many others not as long as this median.

Question #10:

Hello Professor, I'm a little confused about the A.D. and B.C. dates. When does B.C. begin and end? V/r

Response #10:

This is a humanly devised system to keep track of time and understand looking backward. B.C. only stops (or ends), moving backward from 1 B.C., at Genesis 1:2. One starts the "count backwards" at 1 B.C. That is the dividing point. Going forward from 1 B.C. the next year is 1 A.D. (we are now 2017 years later in early 2018); there is no "year zero" (so 2 B.C. > 1 B.C. > 1 A.D. > 2 A.D. etc. is the sequence).

Our Lord was probably born in 2 B.C., so the calendar we use is pretty close to its intended function is splitting the two eras based on His birth (closer at any rater than most people who worry about such things imagine); but it is not spot on (see the link). Here are a couple of paragraphs I've posted about this to the site:

The calendar we now use is not as ancient as some people think. Our Christo-centric calendar was established by Dionysius Exiguus ca. 525 A.D. at the behest of Pope John I. Dionysius did a pretty good job, but he was off on the birth of Christ by a year (the most likely date for our Savior's entrance into the world being 2 B.C.). There is no year "zero", of course, so 1 B.C. is directly followed by 1 A. D. During medieval times, most of Europe was of course Christian in terms of its government, and Christianity was the established state religion (going back to Constantine and the Roman Empire). So this calendar was developed not for the Muslim world, nor for the far east, nor for the as yet undiscovered areas of the globe. It was a Christian calendar for Christian states, all of whom owed some allegiance at this point to the growing power of the papacy.

Before the change, Europe had a notoriously "challenged" system of figuring dating. Every city had its own system in the ancient world before Rome came to dominate the entire Mediterranean littoral. For comparing dates between cities, mostly the Olympiad system was used, but there are many noted confusions here (ancient historians deal with these chronological difficulties all the time), not least of which is having to narrow things down within a four year period. With the ascendancy of Rome, the Roman system of A.U.C. became preferred, that is, dating from the traditional (mythical) year of the founding of Rome (753 B.C. in our system). The later change to a calendar based upon the birth of Christ was, I suppose, inevitable once Christianity became centralized and once the power of the established church at Rome became dominant after the fall of the Western portion of the empire. The one advantage this calendar does have is that with the dominance of western culture for so many centuries we now have a system which most of the world uses and understands. Given the great deal of confusion over these matters in the ancient world, that is perhaps not so terrible a development, even if the date is off – and even if the calendar is tagged to the birth of Christ when of course it is His death for us on the cross followed by the resurrection that is the truth pivotal date in God's "history of the world".

Question #11:

In Proverbs 8:17 the Hebrew for "early" is just that early in youth, "earnestly" or "diligently" are stretching the meaning.

Proverbs 8:17 (KJV) "I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me"

Revelation 2:10 "..be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee a crown of life".

If Revelation 2:10 rules out the crown of life being given to those who don't meet the condition of being faithful unto death, so must Proverbs 8:17 rule out salvation for those who break the condition of seeking the Lord early.

Response #11:

The Hebrew verb shachar means "to get up early in the morning to do something" and hence means to do something with enthusiasm. So in the KJV's rendering both "seek" and "early" are part of the same verb; it never has the meaning of doing something "in one's youth". You are free to search for a parallel, but none exists.

The crown of life is given to those who not only attain spiritual maturity but who also walk closely with the Lord in this life, passing serious testing (of the sort one will encounter during the Tribulation; see the link and cf. also Jas.1:12). This requires great faithfulness to attain, even to point of death (another Tribulation reference inasmuch as martyrdom will claim one third of the true Church during that time; see the link: "The Great Persecution").

Question #12:

On 2nd Chronicles 7:14, my NIV Study bible stated that 7:13-15 is only unique to Chronicles. I don't see how that can be. I believe it has a dual application.

Response #12:

What the NIV SB means is that this part of Solomon's prayer (which occurs ALSO at 1Ki.9:1-9) is unique to 2nd Chronicles. I certainly agree that the principle applies widely.

Question #13:

Hello Professor,

Also I will sell your sons and your daughters into the hand of the sons of Judah, and they will sell them to the Sabeans, to a distant nation,” for the Lord has spoken.
Joel 3:8 (NASB)

How should this verse be understood? The context points to the eschatological fulfilment at the Second Advent of our Lord, so I’m not sure how we should take the mention of the Sabeans.

You also carried along Sikkuth your king and Kiyyun, your images, the star of your gods which you made for yourselves. 27 Therefore, I will make you go into exile beyond Damascus,” says the Lord, whose name is the God of hosts.
Amos 5:26-27 (NASB)

I would appreciate your clarification of these two verses. As you know, they have really exercised the exegetes. I have read Keil and Delitzsch’s lengthy note and they strongly oppose the reading used by Steven in Acts. What is your take? How should the verse read and how should it be interpreted?

In the grace of our Lord,

Response #13:

On the Sabaeans, this is a prophetic analogy. Just as the destination will not necessarily be Yemen, so the device may not be literal selling into literal slavery. This was a dire fate at time of writing so we have to take that as the main point the passage is communicating. The idea is that just as antichrist and company have abused the Jewish people, so they will receive just recompense – worse than being sold into slavery to some distant place at the time of writing. This principle aligns precisely with what we know from scripture elsewhere about the second advent:

Since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed.
2nd Thessalonians 1:6-10 NKJV

Here are a couple of links on Amos 5:26-27 – it's true that these deal with mostly with "the star" controversy, but in the course of these discussions most of the passage has been treated, so please have a look; I'd certainly be happy to answer any specific questions:

Again, the star

The city of David and the star

Is the star of Acts 7:43 the star of David?

The Star of David and Acts 7:43

Thanks for all your prayers for us all!

Question #14:

With regard to Sabeans - what I still don't understand is when the selling of those surviving from Babylon will take place - since the verse seems to be referring to the second Advent, I'm not sure how would this then occur?

I will now be doing the reading on Amos 5:26-27 and will write back if needed.

In the grace of our Lord,

Response #14:

Here is something already posted, "sell them to the Sabeans"; from CT 3B:

Tyre's selling of Jews as slaves foreshadows antichrist's persecutions inasmuch as this sin is specifically said to be judged on the day of the Lord (Joel 3:4-8; Amos 1:9-10).

So you are correct that there is – as in common in OT prophecy – a double application here (see the link: "The "Day of the Lord" Paradigm"), a near contemporary judgment on historical Tyre looking forward to future Babylon's surviving minions being sold (Tyre being a type of mystery Babylon); the Sabaeans lived "at the end of the world" or near about from the ancient Israelite perspective; "north pole" is a modern equivalent (though in the other direction). So this punishment is severe – and a "righteous repayment for the trouble they caused you" (2Thes.1:6).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #15:

One more thing, can you please explain Psalms 68:17. V/r

Response #15:

The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels: the Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the holy place.
Psalm 68:17 KJV

The psalms are poetry and thus the diction is often poetic; in other words, the way things are said in poetry is not the same way that we say things in prose – true in the ancient world and true today in poetic passages in English. So for example in the previous verse (Ps.68:16) where hills are described as having emotions such as envy, clearly this is poetic language to describe the awe and majesty of the mountain of God in comparison (which motivates the envy of the other mountains).

The "host of the Lord", all of the angelic forces loyal to the Son of God, are innumerable (to us), and they have no need of chariots. But the number 10,000 is often used in poetry to mean "beyond numbering", so that twice that number is all the more astoundingly numerous (n.b., in Greek, 10K is a "myriad", and we use that word in English transliteration for an innumerable amount as well).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #16:

Hi Bob,

"Sing to the LORD a new song, Sing His praise from the end of the earth! [I am issuing this command to sing to] you who go down to the sea, and all that is in it. [I am also issuing this command to sing to] you islands, and those who dwell on them.”
(Isaiah 42:10)

The “sea” in the Old Testament is almost always a code for “hell” (cf. your link). So...

Response #16:

I think here this is part of Isaiah's (divinely inspired) poetic way of saying "everyone", since he continues as you quote with those on the coasts and islands, and in the next verse moves inland to the deserts and mountains: all are to praise the Lord, wherever they live and wherever they roam. And they and we shall do so on that glorious day when He returns to us! Marana tha!

In Jesus our dear Savior and our coming King,

Bob L.

Question #17:

"So on that day Achish gave him Ziklag, and it has belonged to the kings of Judah ever since."
(1 Samuel 27:6)

This seems to suggest that whoever wrote this section did so after the split of the Kingdom of Israel.

Response #17:

Actually, it could also have been written during Solomon's reign. The Hebrew says "until this day" which is less evocative of multiple generations than the English "ever since".

Question #18:

I'm sorry but I'm not sure what you mean by the last sentence.

Response #18:

- "ever since" seems to me (and apparently also did to you) to imply many generations – suggesting that the books of Samuel may have been written much later than a high view of inspiration would indicate.

- "until this day" actually only anchors the comment to the time of writing, whenever that was (which could have been during Solomon's day), and can't be extrapolated to necessarily mean "many generations into the future".  Translations can often be misleading in all manner of unanticipated ways.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #19:

Thanks for your help. I am not sure I agree that all the Theophanies in the OT were the pre-incarnate Jesus, but I have heard that theory before. However, I don't see how Moses could have seen God literally face to face without being consumed like a dry piece of paper!

I have a quick question for you: the New Testament Apocrypha--does any of them date back to the 1st century and contemporaneous with the Gospels, for instance? I have seen a list of them here on Wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Testament_apocrypha

Unless I missed it, it doesn't say what centuries they range from, without looking up the individual books. I know the Gospel of Thomas is Gnostic and can date anywhere from 110 AD to 150 AD or so, and the Gospel of James is around mid second century. But is any of the NT Apocrypha 1st century? I don't see how they could be since they all seem to BUILD upon the New Testament books, especially the Gospels. Which were late mid to late 1st century correct? A Mormon on CARM says that this Christian poster is "ignorant" about church history and claims that some these stories/narratives/books (the NT Apocrypha) were written at the same time as the Gospels. Also were ALL of them Gnostic, or just some of them?

Here is what the Mormon wrote:

Oh, you really need to learn some of the history of the Christian church. Those books/stories/narratives were written AT THE SAME TIME the gospels were, and some were written earlier, and to dismiss them all as 'gnostic' is an incredibly ignorant thing to say.

Thanks for your help. Hope you and yours are well.

Response #19:

On Christophanies, John 12:41 indisputable makes Isaiah 6:1ff. a Christophany (see the link: "The Trinity in the Old Testament" in BB1).

On the NT, I wouldn't use the word Apocrypha since that is reserved for the select group of writings associated with the Old Testament which were accepted into the R.C. canon at the council of Trent in the sixteenth century. The term usually used for similar type false and non-canonical writings (which of course the Apocrypha is as well) is "pseudepigrapha". In terms of their dating, it is all speculation, and in my estimation while secular scholars of the 19th century was quick to put the actual gospels late (before irrefutable evidence to the contrary surfaced early in the last century) such individuals contrariwise (still) tend to put anything false far earlier than actually warranted. In most cases what we have are much later mss. of all such writings, so it's all a matter of speculation. We would have to consider individual works, but we can say that while the actual gospels are all first century writings, I know of no serious evidence that would place any pseudepigraphal works anywhere near that early – and some are modern fabrications entirely (e.g., the "book of Jasher"; see the link).

Your point about the derivative nature of this non-canonical literature is a very good one. As to Gnosticism, that is a somewhat vague categorization . . . but it certainly can't be used as evidence or proof for or against anything.

Question #20:

Dear Bob,

I'm currently reading Psalms and, unlike times before, I'm struck with the amount of praying for the destruction of enemies and the unrighteous. That reminded me of Matthew 18 and forgiveness 70 times 7 which is followed by a parable in which the master when asked by the servant for forgiveness forgave the debt. That seemed to confirm our sins are forgiven if we confess.

Given that, my understanding is we are under no obligation to forgive until asked and then we are to forgive – just like the Father forgives. If not asked, then no obligation to forgive is required, even though we may forgive in spite of that. (Or that praying that the Lord "corrects" the offender is wrong.)

In summary: if asked, we forgive. Otherwise no obligation required.

Have I understood this correctly or am I off in the weeds again?

As an aside, is there any reliable information about the music of ancient Israel? Is there an actual meter in the Hebrew of the Psalms?

Yours in Jesus Christ,

Response #20:

When it comes to our relations with other people, it is true that we are not required to go running after those who abuse us and are unrepentant, and telling them we forgive them. We SHOULD forgive them from the heart, but that also doesn't mean that we are obliged to continue close relations with them – in many cases that would be most imprudent. However, I wouldn't use the imprecatory Psalms as a model – we are supposed to forgive; David (e.g.) was writing under divine inspiration (we are not). Here is something recently written, posted at the link:

Imprecatory psalms are part of the Word of God. So if anyone is being directed by the Holy Spirit to curse someone, they should do it. That is not happening today anymore than speaking in tongues is. But it is a blessing to have them, because in every case we see (usually David) handing the problem over to the Lord, letting Him deal with the trouble-maker rather than taking vengeance into his own hands. Instead of complaining about such psalms as somehow un-befitting, naysayers should follow this example of putting all issues where they / we have been wronged into the Lord's hands.

Telling the Lord precisely how to handle things is a bad idea of course (so we should stay away from asking for X to happen to person Y), but having it in the psalms is wonderful because we see therein that God does take care of the evil-doers who attack us, and that their end is slippery and destructive, just as David calls for in the Spirit, just as we can have confidence will be the case for us for all those evil-doers who are used by Satan to attack us. Knowing and appreciating this from the scriptures, we can be mentally and emotionally more at ease when we face such things. So these are blessed psalms to have – except for humanists (who are no doubt not saved). See also the link: "Imprecatory passages". I agree with you on the note. Unger is skirting around the answer; he just needed to take it a step or two deeper.

As to Hebrew music, the only evidence we have is what may be found in the Bible and conjectured therefrom. As to meter, Hebrew poetry (the Psalms, for example, but much of the prophets as well) is in "meter", but I put that in parentheses because it is very much different from the Greek system of metrics adopted by the Romans and then coming into English verse (iambic, to cite one well known type). Nowadays, of course, poetry in English is extremely flexible and not bound by traditional metrical conventions. That is a better parallel for Hebrew poetry which also defies any sort of strict analysis (though many have tried). The best that can be said is that Hebrew poetry often follows the pattern of "sense rhyme" where in A is described by B or contrasted to it (you may have seen this called AABB or ABBA or whatever variation the analyst thinks he/she has found). More to the point, poetic diction is different than that of prose in all languages I have ever studied, using different vocabulary and different modes of expression. That is the important thing to note in biblical studies because it means that the language in most of Isaiah, for example, is more metaphorical and less bound by the grammar of prose than would otherwise be the case. This is all a bit hard to understand without actually reading Hebrew, but clear to see if anyone has ever read e.g., Genesis, and then read the Psalms.

Wishing you a blessed 2018 in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior!

Bob L.

Question #21:

Hi Bob,

According to the “new” NIV, Psalm 42 and 43 are combined in some Hebrew manuscripts. Should I care?


Response #21:

Neither verse nor chapter divisions are inspired, so it doesn't make any difference, spiritually speaking.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #22:

Hi Bob,

In the case of the historical books (Genesis, Esther, etc.), chapter divisions do not matter, because they were all meant to be read as one whole. But the Book of Psalms is different, because each psalm was meant to be read by itself. So whether Psalm 42 and 43 are one psalm does affect interpretation.


Response #22:

Theoretically, I suppose. But having noticed as anyone would the clear connection between these adjacent Psalms, I couldn't point to any difference in interpretation that I would make if they were or if they weren't meant to be taken as one.

Question #23:

Psalm 49:5-9 (NASB)
5 Why should I fear in days of adversity,
When the iniquity of my foes surrounds me,
6 Even those who trust in their wealth
And boast in the abundance of their riches?
7 No man can by any means redeem his brother
Or give to God a ransom for him—
8 For the redemption of his soul is costly,
And he should cease trying forever—
9 That he should live on eternally,
That he should not undergo decay.

I'm not clear about this transition – the Psalmist speaks of the folly of trusting in riches, but then says “No man can by any means redeem his brother” - why does he refer to “his brother” rather than to the rich one himself? According to Pulpit commentary, the text is suspect:

Verse 7. - None of them can by any means redeem his brother. The text is suspected. If we read אַך for אָה, with Ewald and Professor Cheyne, the right translation will be, Nevertheless, no man can by any means redeem himself. With all his boasting, the rich man cannot effect his own redemption; nor, however great his wealth, can he give to God a ransom for him; i.e. for himself. "Brother" is not used in the Psalms in the sense of "fellow-man," but only in the literal sense of close blood, relation (Psalm 35:14; Psalm 50:20).

Psalms 49:7

אָח לֹא־פָדה יִפְדֶּה אִיש לֹא־יִתֵּ לֵאלֹהִים כָּפְרֹֽו׃

How should the text read in verse 7?

Unger takes the first part of verse 7 (8 in the Hebrew text) as referring to the brother, but the second - to the man himself who is the subject here.

Response #23:

I think "brother" is being used in the sense of "another" here (cf. e.g., Ex.37:9): only God can redeem a life and only through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. So it's pointless to go looking for a human redeemer. I don't think the textual emendation is necessary; this strikes me as a little overly-pedantic when the text makes perfectly good sense as is, especially considering that this is poetry. The LXX is not worth much, but it is also reading "brother / 'ach", so that makes the textual change even more dubious.

Question #24:

Psalm 51:3-4 (NASB)
3 For I know my transgressions,
And my sin is ever before me.
4 Against You, You only, I have sinned
And done what is evil in Your sight,
So that You are justified when You speak
And blameless when You judge.

I’m still thinking of this verse here, as the לְמַעַן clause isn’t entirely clear to me. You previously wrote about this clause that it depends on David’s confession of sins:

In my view the clause depends upon what David says in the previous verses, namely, his confession of his sins. To expand the translation: "[I am confessing my sins in this way] so that you may be justified . . .".

And this certainly is an interpretation that makes sense here. But I have two further questions here:

a) Commentators seem to have a difficulty in deciding whether this clause relates to the purpose or consequence. Some say it’s the former and cannot be the latter, some say the opposite. It seems that either could work here. The former (purpose), because all our sin eventually contributes to God showing Himself as righteous in His judgment. The latter (consequence) – to prevent the conclusion that some may draw that sin glorifies God (i.e., that David committed the sin that God may be just), others explain that the consequence of David’s sin. Gill’s Exposition of the entire Bible:

this was the event and consequence of it: God, by taking notice of it, resenting it, and reproving for it, appeared to be a righteous Being, and of purer eyes than to behold sin with pleasure; see Exodus 9:27.

b) This issue brings us to the other question – whether לְמַעַן refers to David’s confession of sin or to the sin itself?

c) Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges gives the following potential explanation:

We might regard that as depending upon Psalm 51:3-4 a taken together, and introducing the object of the Psalmist’s confession. ‘I confess my sin, that thou mayest be justified in pronouncing sentence upon me.’ The sinner’s confession and self-condemnation is a justification of God’s sentence upon sin, just as, conversely, the sinner’s self-justification is a challenge and impugnment of God’s justice (Joshua 7:19; Job 40:8; 1 John 1:10).

The problem I see here is that God’s justification doesn’t depend on our confession – He is just regardless of whether we confess our sin or not. We could interpret the words in the sense that God is “declared righteous” rather than “proved righteous”, but I’m not sure if this is linguistically legitimate here.

d) Explanation number 3 in the same commentary, which rejects the distinction between purpose and consequence, also seems to make some valid points:

Probably however we are meant to understand that man’s sin brings out into a clearer light the justice and holiness of God, Who pronounces sentence upon it. The Psalmist flings himself at the footstool of the Divine Justice. The consequence of his sin, and therefore in a sense its purpose (for nothing is independent of the sovereign Will of God), is to enhance before men the justice and holiness of God, the absolutely Righteous and Pure. “The Biblical writers … drew no sharp accurate line between events as the consequence of the Divine order, and events as following from the Divine purpose. To them all was ordained and designed of God. Even sin itself in all its manifestations, though the whole guilt of it rested with man, did not flow uncontrolled, but only in channels hewn for it by God, and to subserve His purposes.… We must not expect that the Hebrew mind … altogether averse from philosophical speculation, should have exactly defined for itself the distinction between an action viewed as the consequence, and the same action viewed as the end, of another action. The mind which holds the simple fundamental truth that all is of God, may also hold, almost as a matter of course, that all is designed of God” (Bishop Perowne). In this connexion passages such as 2 Samuel 24:1; Isaiah 6:10; Isaiah 63:17; Jdg 9:23; 1 Samuel 16:14; 1 Samuel 18:10; 1 Samuel 19:9; 1 Kings 22:21, require careful consideration. Such a view is obviously liable to misconstruction, as though, if sin is in any sense treated as part of the divine purpose, and redounding to God’s glory, it must cease to be sinful, and there must be an end of human responsibility. But the O.T. firmly maintains the truth of man’s responsibility: and St Paul, in applying the words of this verse to the course of Israel’s history (Romans 3:4) rebuts as the suggestion of an unhealthy conscience the notion that God is responsible for sin which He overrules to His glory.

e) Having read and considered all the above, the conclusions I would draw at this stage would be:

1. I wouldn’t distinguish between the purpose and consequence here, this essentially amounts to the same thing when we consider God’s sovereignty. Simply, David’s sin brings about a result and this is expressed with לְמַעַן.

2. I would be more inclined to take לְמַעַן as referring to David committing sin, rather than confessing it. This is because:

a) Such an interpretation seems to me to be more directly linked to Hebrew here, where לְמַעַן is preceded by David says “Against you only I sinned and did evil in your eyes, so that”, rather than “I confess my sin and the evil I did, so that...”.

Psalms 51:4 KJV
Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that (לְמַעַן) thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.

b) It avoids the problem of our confession of sin being necessary for God to be considered righteous.

3. The verse could thus be taken to mean that David’s sine and the evil he committed against God show God’s righteousness in His words and in his actions of discipline – our sin vindicates God’s justice, which is displayed in righteous discipline in case of believers. So an interpretive translation based on these conclusions would go:

Psalms 51:4
Against You, You only, I have sinned
And done what is evil in Your sight,
So that You are declared just/shown to be just when You speak [judgment against me]
And blameless when You judge [me in your perfectly righteous discipline].

I know it’s a long question, but let me know your thoughts on these things and the conclusion I’ve drawn here.

Response #24:

You have it exactly right. Good job in sifting through the confused "scholarship" on this question. Hebrew lema'an often generates result rather than purpose. Something I've written about another passage:

. . . in Biblical Hebrew, there is really no such thing as a completely distinct "result clause", that is, no way to say (so that modern English speakers/translators can see it clearly) "so that ... [something] will/did actually happen". But as many contemporary students of BH have begun to see (cf. especially J. Wash Watts, A Survey of Syntax in the Hebrew Old Testament, pp.129-130; pace BDB's lexicon, in loco lema'an - the introductory conjunction here), purpose constructions in Hebrew often "work better" if seen as essentially result constructions instead (i.e., sometimes they actually are equivalent result constructions).

Question #25:

Dr. Bob,

The Lord has had me reading and re-reading the Psalms everyday for many years. I use them every morning to draw close to God, to praise and to pray. Then I re-write each one as a personal prayer to Jesus, and pray that. (Bonhoeffer's little treatise on the Psalms inspired me to do this.) It has transformed my relationship with the Lord.

How do I know which psalms here written by David. Some have no attributed author. And although at the end of psalm 72 it says: "This ends the Psalms of David," more are included afterwards beginning in Psalm 108.

I just want to know which ones were written by King David. I have looked online and it says he wrote 75. Is it Psalms 1-72, 108- 110?

Where do I find a list?

I do not read Hebrew nor Greek, like you. (Wish that I could.) Therefore, I cannot discern when the words "God" and "Lord" refer to the Father or to the Son. Can you help?

Thank you,

Response #25:

Good to make your acquaintance.

To take the last part first, since both the Father and the Son (and the Spirit) are Lord and God, this is something that even in the New Testament has to be gleaned from the context; that is more so the case in the Old Testament where the Trinity, though present of course, is veiled (in keeping with the presentation of truth through shadows until the coming of the Messiah Himself).

As to which Psalms are written by David, that we can only tell from scriptural attribution. We know that some Psalms were written by others because they say so (Asaph, Heman, Solomon, Moses, for example), and it also seems clear that many of the higher numbered and unnamed Psalms are of a later date (but not all). The Psalms appear to have been collected and organized by Solomon (that is my belief), but he was working with the collection left to him by his father.

As you probably know, the Psalms are traditionally divided into five books, and at the end of the second book, at Psalm 72:20, a psalm by Solomon, it says "The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended", indicating to me that Solomon received the first two books or at least the psalms therein, organized them and added a capstone psalm (#72) to complete that collection, then over his life collected and organized the other three books – which contain a number of other of David's psalms: 86, 101, 103, 108-110, 124, 131-133 (all of these being songs "of ascent" indicating that they are placed into the collection here for that reason with other such psalms), 138-145. But without a direct attribution – or some other direct evidence (i.e., we would know that Psalm 18 was David's even without the introduction in the book of Psalms because it occurs with the attribution in 2nd Samuel 22:1), we can only speculate about by whom the unnamed psalms were written.

In addition to the psalms listed above as by David, for the reasons given above I can't agree with what you found online that 1-72 all belong to David. Psalm 3 is the first one for which he claims authorship. He claims 3-9, 11-32, 34-41 in book one; in book two: 42 (not 43 – but 43 seems to be a continuation to 42 – but it might have been added later); 44 is the first psalm attributed to someone else, the sons of Korah, who give us 44-49; 50 is by Asaph, 51-65 by David; 66-67 anonymous; 68-70 by David, 71 anonymous, and 72 by Solomon. If David arranged the first two books except for Solomon's capstone, it would make sense that he appreciated good the work of others – if/as inspired and led by the Spirit.

Thanks for your testimony on this. I love the Psalms and read them in English and in Hebrew with greater frequency that anything else in the OT. It's a good part of the Word to focus on (not to the exclusion of all else, it goes without saying).

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #26:


Thank you so much for your thorough and insightful comments on my letter to you. They were extremely helpful. I hope that we can be friends. Your writing that I found online yesterday were very educational. I write books and teach the Bible, mostly to the poor, homeless, and afflicted at various churches, because they just feed them without sharing the Word. I am received very well. The Lord anoints me when I share with them. I can feel the same love for them as our Good Shepherd.

This is my intent: To write a book of prayers based on each Psalm. Perhaps like you, I read each Psalm slowly and pray as I do. I then rewrite each psalm into a personal prayer and keep them in a small book with me at all times to read throughout the day. This has been a tremendous boost to my daily walk with Jesus. – I want to publish this book to help other Christians, as they have helped me.

I am an itinerant preacher/teacher of the Bible. I have studied at several Christian colleges and schools over my 68 years, and have pastored at several churches along the way. I have never been the lead pastor. My ministry is my daily work: I help US military and veterans and their families. I am not a veteran; but, the Lord has directed most of my life to serving them since the Vietnam war.

I am called to evangelize by good deeds. I help many thousands of US veterans to sustain themselves and their families (HirePatriots.com). And I create business for veterans to start so that they can help me to employ other US veterans at good wages. I let them all know that I do this as a servant of Jesus Christ. Almost everyone the Lord leads me to help responds joyfully.

In the world's eyes I am poor. But in my heart and soul I am rich with the love, peace and joy of God's Holy Spirit. My wife and I live as unsponsored missionaries. Our newest ministry we are launching this month takes us to every H.S. and college campus. It is called Employers on Campus. The Lord will bring to me others across the nation to participate in this as a full time job or as a business owner. (Most of them will be born again Christians. That is what the Lord does.) We will find a way to preach the gospel on public campuses by using this as an door opener. -- Please pray for our success.

At your service,

Response #26:

You're most welcome.

In my observation and experience, all the comrades from seminary and all else I know who are truly doing something for Jesus Christ of which I would personally approve are "financially challenged" – but so was Paul (e.g.).

Thanks for sharing your encouraging testimony. Please feel free to write me back anytime, and keep up the good work for the kingdom – in that there is great reward that isn't just temporary.

Wishing you and your family a blessed new year in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.


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