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Old Testament Interpretation VIII

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Question #1:

Hi Bob,

The second commandments commands us not to make any image of God. How do I read Bible passages that describe God in terms of images, like the passage in Daniel that visually describe the Ancient of Days?

This may seem extremely nitpicky, but if I cannot follow God's will on the Law, which is clear, unambiguous revelation, how can I follow his will on mundane things in life that are extremely ambiguous?

Response #1:

Many versions have "carved image" or "graven image" for the word pesel, which is a reference to the cult-idol statues which were placed in sanctuary of every pagan temple (and to which R.C. statues of Jesus, Mary and the saints correspond); "likeness" (temunah) is equally concrete in meaning (cf. Deut.4:16; 4:23; 4:25; Num.12:8). Daniel was a prophet and was directed by the Holy Spirit to relate precisely what he saw – so this is in no way creating an idol (far from it).

As I have written about this before, the ten commandments are well-known but frequently misunderstood. The first three all deal with the issue of the importance of sanctifying God and making a distinction between Him and all that is profane in this world in whatever we think, say and do – as we pray daily, "Hallowed be thy Name (person)!" The first commandment deals with how we think about Him (the most important place to commence this divergence of behavior regarding what is holy and what is not); the second deals the necessity of guarding the sanctity of how we act/behave towards Him, not treating Him as pagans do their "gods", as if He could be represented by an image when no one has seen Him, as if He were something/someone to be falsely portrayed, as if He dwelt in a "fancy house" of our making; the third deals with how we should speak of Him, that is, not in any sort of blasphemous way but always respecting Him in our words.

If we take the essence of what these three first commandments teach us to heart, we will think, speak and act about our God in a holy and sanctified way, just as He is holy and sanctified in every way. In so doing, we will give a good witness to others of how we feel about Him (holding Him in love, reverence and godly fear), and thus indicate to them just how special our God – who is the only God – truly is. That is what Israel was supposed to do, after all, as "the light to the nations" (Is.49:6). And in doing so we will help ourselves keep the right attitude towards the One we are supposed to love with "all our mind and might and hearts and life".

What these commandments are not (though they are often taken as being) are very legalistic and technical regulations designed to produce equally legalistic and "nit-picky" behavior wherein we appear to honor God in our rote behavior but really our heart is far from Him; when that begins to happen, all sorts of nonsensical codicils and false interpretations are added to these wonderful commandments which are meant to serve the higher, spiritual purpose:

And the Lord said, "Because this people approaches [Me only] with their mouths, and honors Me [only] with their lips, but their heart is far from Me, and because their fear of Me [consists only in] the commandment[s] of men taught [by tradition], therefore, behold, I am about to deal awesomely with this people in a most awesome way, so that the wisdom of the wise will perish, and the discernment of the discerning will be hidden [from them]".
Isaiah 29:13-14

No ambiguity in that.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #2:

I think I figured it out.

The second commandment isn't about visual representations of God per se, but rather about us dictating to God how we represent him.

Response #2:

Nice – and more pithy than my answer!

Question #3:

The carved fish and Leviticus http://biblehub.com/exodus/20-4.htm

I really do think this is an example of grace, but I am curious as to how it came about despite Exodus and all its cross references. I'm even more surprised that Jesus was mentioned within this symbol. Could this be another rebellion against Judaism?

Response #3:

Good to make your acquaintance.

Sorry, but I'm not sure what you are referring to. I don't find the word "fish" occurring in the book of Leviticus anywhere. Can you help me out with a reference?

For information about the (extra-biblical) Ichthys symbol and acronym, please see the link.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #4:

In the waters below? If that's not the sea and lakes , then I don't what I really refers to. See link for Bible passage (Ex.20:4). Rebellion could be a reason a fish was chosen. Accepting Christ and grace as opposed to old testament law? The ten are definitely a should do, but not law.

Response #4:

This prohibition refers to the practice of pagan idolatry of making cult images of gods after all manner of creatures (e.g., the Philistine god "Dagan" was apparently in the image of a fish). It has nothing to do with the Ichthys symbol

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #5:

Really? That's awesome news. What about pictures of angels and Jesus? I've actually prohibited myself from imagining Jesus, simply because I don't know what he looks like. I'm guessing it's the same for land creatures as well.

Response #5:

That's an interesting question. We are given information about our Lord in the gospels, Acts and Revelation. We can certainly respond to that in our hearts. Drawing pictures of Him or making statues or movies of Him, however, is certainly not authorized by scripture and in my opinion it's a bad idea. Even if this does not directly violate the commandments (questionable), it is unhelpful because 1) it will not be correct by definition since we haven't actually seen Him (cf. 1Pet.1:8), and 2) such representations in movies or art tend to make people focus on the physical representation – that is what sticks in their minds – rather than on the truth about Him we can know from the Bible. It's all about spiritual growth in the end.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #6:

And thanks for clearing that idols thing up. Also is it possible to idolise anything that isn't a carving of some false god. Is there an explicit biblical mention of it? I actually smashed up my expensive computer because I was under the impression it was an idol, because it was distracting me from God. The internet blogs seem to think so, and nothing spoils a gift from God like pronouncing it an idol! The only mention I know of to hand is "those who make there stomach their God". I'd like to think this as simply forgetting to walk with Jesus, as well as believing him to be the son of God and messiah. Shouldn't the idol worship be left to worshipers of false gods?
As in the sin of idolatry.

Another correction... Is idolatry to a modern Christian forgetting to walk with Jesus, whilst still believing him to the son of god and savior?

Like being caught up in a loving marriage but forgetting to be "as Christian as possible". Hence the marriage becomes an idol, and suddenly by enjoying the marriage that god gave you, your not walking with Jesus! Loving the lord with everything you have is tiresome, but loving his gifts is a way of loving him, because Paul says we are in him (quotes it and agrees with it) and god is all around us acts 17 - 28! Actually never mind I think I'm getting too pantheistic. I almost thought that loving gods creation and hence god for creating it didn't require we stop and think about it, before we are acknowledged for not taking it for granted. I should rest and thank god for the view. Thanks Robert +1 to my prayers tonight

Response #6:

Idolatry in the first instance is preferring another god to the one, true God, our Lord. It is true that we can act in idolatrous ways without actually engaging in paganism, and scripture confirms that greed is a form of this (Col.3:5; Eph.5:5). While it is true that an unnatural fixation upon anything sinful to the exclusion of God can be seen as idolatrous, it is dangerous to back-interpret from that so as to consider something one enjoys (which may or may not be sinful) and feels that he/she is "enjoying too much" (for whatever reason) as an actual "idol". That is not the case, especially if the "thing" is something good which God has given as a blessing (as in a good marriage). It is prudent to be wary of all "once and for all" solutions which have to do with destroying things (like books or computers or a wine cellar). Anything can get our attention too much, but it needs to be understood that we, not the thing, are the problem; that is to say, it's not the "idol" (or similar), but the "idolater" (us) that is the problem. No amount of housecleaning and house clearing will change us, no amount of iconoclasm with change us, and no one-shot emotional reaction or action is going to have any lasting spiritual impact (as you no doubt found out from destroying your computer). What we need to focus more on is God. That is to say, if we are truly growing spiritually, reading our Bibles and, critically, availing ourselves of a good Bible-teaching ministry so as to take in and grow by the truth, we will naturally be walking closer with Christ day by day and, if we persevere long enough, will get to the point where we see the world for what it is and the things of the world for what they are, loving Him with all our hearts and merely using the things of the world in service to Him in the course of Christian walk. Exalting Him in our hearts through attention to the Word of God which perfectly reflects the mind of Christ who is the Word of God incarnate is the way to cleanse ourselves of inappropriate attention to things which are not worthy of our esteem.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #7:

Hello Professor,

I want to make sure I'm not seeing contradictions with these scriptures:

Genesis 32:30 [cf. John 1:18 & 1st John 4:12].

Thank you in advance for your wise counsel in this matter.


Response #7:

There is seeing God and there is seeing God. Moses, we know, wanted to see "His glory", but was told "You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live" (Ex.33:20), and yet he was allowed to see the Lord as He passed by (Ex.33:22-23); and yet soon thereafter we are told "Now the Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord" (Ex.34:5); and also we had seen earlier that Moses and Aaron and his two sons and the elders of Israel "saw the God of Israel" on the mountain, yet He did not slay them and they ate and drank in His presence there (Ex.24:9-11).

Just as there is glory and glory, so there is seeing God and seeing God. That is to say, no one can stand before Him in a natural body, behold His undiminished and unveiled deity in full and live (so no man alive has ever done so), but there have been numerous times in scripture when the Lord has given Himself to been seen in a more limited way, in a vision or in a Christophany or Theophany – these are very rare occurrences in terms of the history of the human race, but we do find them throughout scripture from Genesis (to Adam and Eve) to Revelation (chapters 1-5 in particular).

There is no contradiction.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #8:

Hi Bob,

Belated Merry Christmas!

This is a different kind of question, from our usual conversation, but I cannot get anyone to challenge it? Would you give it a try?

If I understand the biblical scriptures correctly, some believe that God instituted the Sabbath rest at the end of the sixth day of creation. Here we have mankind, God's human creation, now in a position to participate in the Creator's rest. Man and God, together, on the seventh day.

When Moses journeyed up Mt. Sinai (with the seventy), Moses stayed with The Lord for 40 days & nights, without food or water (or without eating and drinking) during this period. Here is where the 10 commandments were written by the finger of God.

My Question: Since the Sabbath Day (24 earth hours) had been established by God in the beginning of man's existence, did Moses rest with God, according to the time clock given to mankind (evening & morning, a day) on the seventh day Sabbath (perpetual) when he was in the presence of God. OR did they both rest in Christ on the Sabbath day? (40 divided by 7 earthly Sabbaths = 5.71 weeks) OR is a day with the Lord, like a continuous Sabbath moment in time?

We read ( Mark 2:23-27) the Sabbath was made for Man and not man for the sabbath, but did God lead Moses, by example in sabbath rest?

Your insight would be helpful.

Response #8:

Good to hear from you, my friend.

Moses did "keep the Sabbath" in the Jewish sense of things (see for example Num.15:32-36); but it is certainly also possible to say that Moses, one of the greatest believers of all time, also kept a day by day moment by moment Sabbath of rest and trust in the Lord just as believers today are to do (Heb.4:9-11; see the link). After all, the rituals of the Law all relate to underlying, fundamental truths upon which they are based. Israel was to follow the details of the Law and yet not neglect the "weightier things" the Law represented (Matt.23:33).

He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?
Micah 6:8 NKJV

The problem with the "this generation/type" of Israel which existed in Jesus day and is still the rule today among those of the physical seed of Abraham (though there is of course always a "remnant according to grace") is that while the rituals of the Law are sometimes adhered to in greater or lesser degree (but nowhere near close to what is required even among the most diligent observers; cf. Jas.2:10), the spiritual realities of the Law which it is meant to represent have been entirely neglected – to the point of unbelief. This "Moses did not do".

I hope I've understood your question correctly (feel free to write back).

Here's hoping and more importantly praying that 2017 will be a very blessed and happy year for you and your family and for us all!

Your friend in Jesus Christ our Savior,

Bob L.

Question #9:

Thank you, Bob, for your answer. I have received different answers from various people.

But, in plain English, I am asking did God keep the (His) Sabbath rest earth day, by example,
to teach Moses to keep the (His) Sabbath rest earth day during the 40 days/nights, when on the mountain?

The 4th commandment - Remember, the Sabbath 7th day (24 hr period, evening and morning) to keep it holy.

In other words, was the Sabbath 'rest' a state of mind (or being), not just a physical 24 hr day
(evening and morning, a day).

Response #9:

If I'm reading this correctly, yes, as I said, in addition to symbolic Sabbath day legal rites, I'm sure Moses was resting in the Lord at all times – or at least more than most, being the great believer he was. As he says in the first verse of the 90th Psalm, "Lord, thou hast been our dwelling (i.e., "resting") place in all generations" (KJV). From the experiential point of view (as opposed to our position in Christ and the Father which all believers possess whether or not they are keeping this Sabbath), "dwelling in the Lord" is the same as "abiding in Me" (Jn.15:4) and the same as keeping the daily Sabbath rest (Heb.4:9) – just as Paul explains in Hebrews chapters three and four.

Hope this answers your question. Do feel free to write back.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #10:

Hi Bob,

What portions of the Pentateuch did Moses get from God and when? I previously believed that all of the Pentateuch was revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai, but another Christian disputed this and said that some parts (such as the golden calf incident and the murmuring in the desert) were revealed later at the Tabernacle. So how did Moses acquire the Pentateuch?


Response #10:

Moses apparently met with the Lord on many occasions (e.g., Ex.33:9-11; 34:34-35). The children of Israel were, because of their rash behavior, made to wander in the wilderness for forty years. The advantage of this for us is that Moses had more than enough time to receive the entire Pentateuch and write it down himself – all of it (the only part having been done by someone else being the very end of Deuteronomy describing Moses' death).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #11:

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

My wife was reading the Book of Ezekiel in Chapter 33 and came to this verse 11, and asked the following question:

11 "Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?’"

She asked the following question: Why does the translation say when God is speaking to Ezekiel: "Say the them, 'As surely as I live". She did not see this as phrase "As I live" to be correct. She stated, and I agree, that He is the Everlasting God who always existed, He has no beginning nor end.

Would it not be better stated this way: "Say to them, "The One who is the Eternally Existing One, or the One who has always existed, declares the Sovereign Lord....."?

What does the actual Hebrew state?

Thanks for your help.

Your friend,

Response #11:

This phrase occurs sixteen times in Ezekiel, once in Zephaniah. Interestingly, when Paul quotes Isaiah 43:23 at Romans 14:11, he writes, "As I live, says the Lord" (using the Ezekiel formula) rather than "I have sworn by Myself" – which is what the Hebrew of Isaiah 43:23 has and also what the Septuagint reads. What this means is that we have confirmation of the fact that "As I live" is an asseverative formula, that is, a formula for swearing an oath. God is life, so by saying "as I live" we have a firm declaration that what is said next will come true. The idea is, "if X is true" (and it certainly is), "then I affirm that Y will be true as well". Human beings swear so as to give others confidence that what they are about to say is true (that is the purpose of doing so in courtrooms, e.g.), but of course everything God says is true by definition. Why, then, was the use of this formula in Ezekiel in particular necessary? Perhaps because of the low spiritual state of those who received the message:

For they have not listened to my words,” declares the LORD, “words that I sent to them again and again by my servants the prophets. And you exiles (i.e., Ezekiel's audience) have not listened either,” declares the LORD.
Jeremiah 29:19 NIV

So this is an oath, and it is meant to give an extra measure of credence to what is said, with the fact that it is necessary to say being a further indication of the spiritual weakness of the audience. That is not always the case, however, for we also find this in scripture:

When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, saying, “I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.” And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised. People swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument. Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged.
Hebrews 6:13-18 NIV

Hope this is helpful.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #12:

Can you explain this verse?

"Behold, all you who kindle a fire,
who equip yourselves with burning torches!
Walk by the light of your fire,
and by the torches that you have kindled!
This you have from my hand:
you shall lie down in torment." (Isaiah 50:11)

Response #12:

Those addressed here in Isaiah 50:11 are, instead of turning to the Lord for light (truth) as instructed in the previous verse (Is.50:10), substituting a self-made form of pseudo-light (lies). Since they have rejected the Lord and His truth (the gospel as presented in relying on Him for deliverance in the prior verse, fearing the Lord and trusting in His Servant, the Messiah), they are told to go ahead and navigate instead by the lies they have accepted and/or concocted – but the result will be condemnation ("lying down in torment"). Thus the truth of the gospel has always been clearly presented for those who have ears to hear.

Yours in the Light of the world, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #13:

Hi Bob,

A Prophecy Against the Philistines

A lot of Isaiah is eschatological. Could you help explain (Is. 14:28-32) insofar as it relates to eschatology?

Response #13:

As in Daniel where strictly near-term prophecy is mixed in with eschatological prophecy (and sometimes combined with it according to the "Day of the Lord Paradigm"; see the link), so it is in Isaiah. I don't see this passage as being eschatological but rather strictly a near term prophecy which was fulfilled by the historical Babylonian empire – which is the viper from the serpent's root (Assyria) mentioned here.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #14:

Regarding Genesis 6:3 you wrote: "Verse three suggests a double judgment of the most extreme severity. In a mere 120 years (brief by the extended life spans of the time), God would all but bring the human race to an end. And for the progeny of those who would survive in the postdiluvian world to come, the longevity Man had previously experienced (nearly a millennium in some cases) would be reduced to a scant 120 years, and this would be a maximum norm scarcely ever approached, and only rarely exceeded."

I'm not clear about this - how do we know that the verse speaks of a double judgment? On what basis do we know that this judgment entails both of these applications?

Response #14:

Double fulfillment of prophecies is very common in scripture. For example, Immanuel was both a contemporary child of Isaiah whose name was symbolic of the future and of course also most importantly the Son of God who would come into the world to save us from our sins. So when we are told by the Lord in Genesis 6:3 "My Spirit will not strive with Man forever in their sinful manner of life – for this [is the way of] flesh. Therefore his days shall be 120 years", it is not obvious at first whether this refers to humanity going forward, meaning that in place of the nearly 1,000 year life spans we see before the flood there will now be a much shorter upper limit on human life (with few exceptions), or whether this refers to the end of most of mankind on earth at that time 120 years hence (with the exception of the remnant). We see from what happens after this prophecy is given that both things are true: the flood happens 120 years later, and after the flood 120 years is the extremity of human life.

Question #15:

Hello Robert, I pray that all is well with you. Here I go again, are the following verses Prophetic Shortenings or is Isaiah 7:14 speaking of Isaiah’s son born to him and the Prophetess, and looking forward to Matthew 1:23? Isaiah 8:8 who is this O Immanuel?

Robert, have thought about streaming a live class Facebook has live video? Your class room/Ministry would be huge…

In Christ

Response #15:

Good to hear from you, my friend. I hope things are going better for you (keeping you in prayer).

Isaiah 7:14 is a prophecy, ultimately fulfilled with the miraculous conception and virgin birth of Christ; Matthew 1:22 confirms this, just before quoting Isaiah 7:14 in the next verse. However, there is a typological, prior fulfillment in the (normal) birth of Isaiah's son: the near-term situation followed the familiar pattern of Israel rejecting the Lord (and Judah being disinterested in His Word) with judgment resulting – just as would happen with the rejection of the Messiah (which was followed in a few years by the destruction of Jerusalem). Prophecies often have more than one fulfillment (see the link), comprising both a short-term and a farther term meaning; in the latter case, this is usually where the prophecy is "completely fulfilled" (as in Matt.1:23). In other cases, the final fulfillment is often eschatological (and there the "Day of the Lord Paradigm" is usually at work; see the link).

On your other question, between my full time job, this ministry, and my other "life responsibilities", I don't have much free time. If and when I do, there are many other things I'd like to get to with Ichthys first (plenty of writing to do). I always imagined that ministry would be face to face, but the Lord has worked it out differently. One never knows what tomorrow will bring, however, so thanks much for your kind comment. I always do also like to point out that my good friend and fellow seminarian of the past, Pastor-Teacher Curtis Omo, does have a web-video ministry which I highly recommend: Bible Academy (at the link).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #16:

Thank you, Robert

Isaiah 8:8, is Isaiah speaking in an expression when he said “ O Immanuel” as if to say thank you God, and is this Christ ?

Response #16:

You're very welcome. Along the same lines, this "Immanuel" is both Isaiah's son who represents the Messiah and also prophetically the Messiah Himself. For this prophecy of invasion is both a near term prediction which came true soon thereafter – when the Assyrian army invaded Israel and destroyed that nation, then invaded Judah but was destroyed by the Angel of the Lord (our Savior in Christophany; link) – and a far term prophecy of Armageddon when analogously the armies of antichrist will likewise sweep through the land of Israel with much attendant destruction but be will also be completely destroyed by our returning Lord Himself. So this is a very clear example of "the Day of the Lord paradigm" where a near term event is compared to that more famous final event, with "Immanuel" uniquely playing the pivotal role in both parts of the prophecy, near and far (see link).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #17:


I appreciate you so very much and thank you for the work you do in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior.

Response #17:

You're very welcome (Ps.115:1).

Feel free to write any time.

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #18:

Hi Robert -

Greeting from Los Angeles again. I thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, and I have another one for you whenever you get a chance. Isaiah 23:13 seems to have very different meanings in some of the various translations. AKJV implies that Assyria founded Babylon, while others (NIV, etc) interpret the verse more along the lines of Assyria having destroyed Babylon (which seems to be the accepted view). Could you let me know your opinion of what the actual translation is?


Response #18:

Good to hear from you as always, my friend!

As to your question, the "problem" revolves around how to translate the Hebrew verb yasadh. It is true that it often can mean "to found", but it also means "to appoint". Since Assyria appoints / renders Babylon as fit only "for desert creatures", an appointment for destruction is what is meant. That can be seen from the rest of the verse where destruction is clearly in view and also from the context where the Lord is using the destruction of Babylon (not its foundation) as a warning for Tyre. This is also, in fact, what happened in history, namely, Assyria conquering Babylon (before the Neo-Babylonian empire returned the favor). Finally, this warning to Tyre and also the reference to Babylon is in addition prophetic, looking forward to the destruction of the eschatological "mystery" Babylon of the Tribulation (which is sometimes also represented by Tyre as is the case here; see the link). So this is one of those many OT passages which employs double-prophecy with both a near and far term (i.e., eschatological) fulfillment.

Wishing you and your family a very merry Christmas and a blessed 2017!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #19:

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

I hope you had a great trip wherever you went over the New Year, and that this New Year will be healthy and richly bless for all that you do for the Kingdom of God.

You have certainly helped me in my studies of the Word of God, and I thank God for your ministry, I have also been praying for you as well that God will give you excellent health so that you may continue His work on earth for His glory.

Since the New Year began for my wife and I, we start reading the Bible through again, and I came upon this question. I have read this particular verse many times, but this time a question popped into my head.

Genesis Chapter 11:6. Orthodox Jewish translation.

" 6 And Hashem said, See, the Am is echad and they have all one language; and this they begin to do; and now nothing will be impossible for them, which they have proposed to do".

The ISR (Institute for Scriptural Research) translation says:

"6And יהוה said, “Look, they are one people and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do! And now, they are not going to be withheld from doing whatever they plan to do."

Yet another translation (NASB) says:

"6The LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them. "

I am not quite sure that what this verse is telling us, for me anyway, is not easily translated, due to the word "impossible". Knowing that mankind does have limitations, and that he cannot do everything especially when in comes to fulfilling his purpose as this verse says. I am aware that God is saying this, but I don't understand what He means by it.

Can you please give me your advice on this.

As always,

Your friend,

Response #19:

Good to hear from you, my friend. I wish you and yours a good year as well. Thanks much for your kind words.

As to your question, mostly this is a cultural difference. We live in a "scientific" age with a "scientifically precise" mindset and ethos – or so we think. Therefore when such statements are made we are immediately offended, absent qualification. But with qualification, we will accept anything. Example: the statement, "I know everything about American history" will immediately meet challenge and opposition – how can that be true? Whereas, "I know pretty much everything there is to know about American history" will usually get by without much comment, especially if the person in question is a known expert in the field, and "I know American history pretty well" will not even raise an eyebrow. However, in semantic terms it is doubtful if there is really much difference between the three statements . . . except from the way we view things culturally. All three proclaim a strong knowledge of American history, and everyone understands that no one knows everything. But in our day and age we get exercised about this sort of thing much more than was the case in the ancient world and in Hebrew culture in particular; not because they were "stupid" (far from it), but because no one thought it necessary to throw in a qualifier (like, "mostly" or "pretty much" or "for the most part") – such qualification was taken for granted without being overtly stated (analogously, compare the frequent ellipsis of the direct object in ancient languages which drives modern readers crazy: we need an "it" even if only an "it" to make sense of things in such cases).

And, after all, what difference really do a few qualifying words make? But culturally speaking we just can't seem to help ourselves. If the Lord had said "nearly impossible" or "almost anything", you wouldn't be asking this question. It seems "a big deal" to us, but in point of fact there's not really an iota's worth of difference between the two things. This is often seen in such uses of the Hebrew word col, the word for "all", the very word we have here. The Hebrew actually says "All (col) which they plan to do will not be withheld from them". We from our scientific perspective think we are being more accurate, but really we are only applying a different standard of necessary inaccuracy. The example I often use is of a child drinking a glass of milk. If a Hebrew child left a half inch in the bottom and said "I drank it all, momma!", the ancient Israelites would have no problem with this, but we, in our scientific self-righteousness would no doubt say, "wait a minute! There's at least half an inch left!" If the child then tipped up the glass and drank down the half inch, we would be satisfied. But is that really drinking it "all"? Examine the glass. Now, as the film sinks down to the bottom, joining the 1/64th of an inch of milk which didn't make it into the child's mouth is another 1/64th of an inch of milk for a total of a full 1/32nd of an inch of milk! Is that really, literally, and completely "all"? We would huff and puff and say "close enough" – which is not qualitatively different from what the Hebrews did, merely making use of a different quantitative standard. Is ours better or more accurate? I don't think so. Both are technically/literally "wrong"; both are culturally accurate. If we protest that our standard is closer to the truth, it could be riposted that ours is also more stingy, more legalistic, less generous, and less merciful – and, depending upon what we are applying the "all" to, that is at least just as true.

This is an important principle of hermeneutics because it affects the interpretation of numerous biblical passages. What does it mean here in Genesis 11:6? Of course human beings are limited. Of course, even with our great technological advances there are things we cannot do. Everyone ought to know that (a Hebrew would say). But consider, even with the confusion of language over time humanity has nevertheless managed to get to the place where, absent God's prevention of it (as at the tower of Babel), we could destroy the entire human race in a nuclear cataclysm with no trouble at all; and culturally we are in the process of destroying it spiritually; and during the Tribulation, the new tower of Babel scenario, "unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved" (Matt.24:22 NASB). "Close enough", I would say.

This "near enough" ability to destroy ourselves was certainly the case at Babel, because a one-world government based upon a unified, anti-God religion, would have destroyed all faith and all people of faith from the world after the flood in very short order (in a precisely parallel fashion to what the Nephilim operation of the devil before the flood had almost done). Both satanic operations would have easily succeeded absent divine intervention of a miraculous sort. Close enough.

So if it helps, we can expand the translation of this problem passage in the following way:

And since they have actually begun to accomplish this thing, in the future they will not be restrained from anything [anything, that is, which will be spiritually fatal to the whole human race] which they have contrived to do.
Genesis 11:6

So I suppose the biggest difference between our point of view on these matters and the ancient point of view is that they "take it for granted" that there is qualification present whereas we need to have it spelled out for us in great and gruesome detail in order to "get it". You tell me who's "smarter".

Here's a link where this entire situation is discussed in great detail:

In SR 5: Satan's postdiluvian attack on human freedom (the Tower of Babel)

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #20:

"After Ahab’s death, Moab rebelled against Israel." (2 Kings 1:1)

Was Moab a protectorate of Israel at this time in history? To rebel against implies that they did not have total sovereignty.

Response #20:

Yes, I believe so. Reconstructing the precise relationships between all of these countries is difficult, based upon the limited evidence. Think of the Balkans from about the mid 17th to mid 20th centuries.

In Jesus Christ our Lord,

Bob L.

Question #21:

"Your warriors, Teman, will be terrified, and everyone in Esau’s mountains will be cut down in the slaughter."
Obadiah 1:9

Who does "Teman" refer to?

Response #21:

This is the Hebrew word for "south" and refers also to Edom (just as "Esau's mountains" does), which was, in general terms, mostly south of Israel. It is typical of poetry to find ways to avoid using the most common name for people/places and to vary the references. Incidentally, "Yemen" is the same word/root (and Yemeni's in Hebrew are "Temani" – know in modern day Israel for their highly challenged driving "skills").

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #22:

Hi Bob,

What is a Tishbite?

"Now Elijah the Tishbite, [from Tishbe in Gilead], said to Ahab, “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.”

Response #22:

It's a much disputed passage. The Masoretic Text vocalization, "from the sojourners of Gilead," is doubtful unless we assume (as I do; see below) that this is essentially what "Tishbite" means as well, because the chances of the two words not being directly related are minimal. So either we have to do here with a gentilic ("Elijah the Tishbite of the Gilead Tishbites"), or a locative ("Elijah the Tishbite of from Tishbe in Gilead"), or an occupational use ("Elijah the 'sojourner' of the Gilead sojourners"). The last will have the benefit of requiring no adjustment of the vocalization of the MT, and it is my preference, especially since there is no known "Thisbe" in the Bible, a place which is only "known" from extra-biblical speculation based upon this very passage.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #23:

Hi Bob,

1st Kings 20:35ff. – what does this passage mean? The story the prophet gives about guarding the man seems to come out of nowhere, and I don't know why he brings it up to the king of Israel (Ahab?)

Response #23:

The subterfuge is of the Lord and is engaged in in order to convict Ahab out of his own mouth for letting the Syrian king live when he finds himself giving judgment over a completely parallel case (Lk.19:22; cf. Matt.12:36; Jude 1:15).

In Jesus Christ our dear lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #24:

What is the meaning of this fable in 2 Kings 14?

"A thistle in Lebanon sent a message to a cedar in Lebanon, ‘Give your daughter to my son in marriage.’ Then a wild beast in Lebanon came along and trampled the thistle underfoot." (2 Kings 14:9)

Response #24:

This is a report, verified by the Spirit, of the message that Jehoash king of Israel sent to Amaziah king of Judah after the later had defeated the Edomites. It's meaning is explained in the very next verse: just because Amaziah was victorious over a relatively weaker opponent was no grounds for over-estimation of his ability so as to place Judah at risk in crossing swords with Israel – and it turned out that the advice was good, though unheeded.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #25:

I'm sorry Bob, but I don't think that your explanation is helping me understand the passage better. Who does Edom correspond to in the fable? And what does "give your daughter to my son in marriage" has to do with the curb-stomp battle Amaziah just experienced?

Response #25:

I'll have another go then. First, it's important to note that these are the actual words of Jehoash, a person who was probably not even a believer and who was certainly not speaking words of the Spirit. So the fact that his analogy is inexact is nothing to be held against the Bible et al. (nor would it be fruitful to look for some "deeper meaning"). The main point of the analogy is as mentioned explained in the next verse, to wit, that Amaziah should not be so full of himself because of his victory over Edom that he also thinks he can take on Israel. This is what Amaziah was in the process of doing (2Ki.14:8), and as the sequel shows it was indeed a miscalculation just as Jehoash had predicted. So even if we feel that Jehoash's story has details that don't make sense to us, the explanation he provided certainly left no doubt about the meaning. If I were to provide an expanded interpretation of the story, one which gives Jehoash the benefit of the doubt in terms of cogency, it would go something like this:

"I am a cedar tree in comparison to you who are a lowly thistle. Should a thistle make demands of a cedar? That would be like the lowliest of knaves demanding the king form a marriage alliance with him! And how ridiculous too since, just like a thistle, any chance occurrence might bring it to an end, even just a wild animal walking about. That would not happen to a cedar such as I. So consider your situation well, thistle. You are easily destroyed and might be undone even by accident. Comparing yourself and your kingdom to me and mine is therefore utter foolishness borne of arrogance based upon a small victory over a minor territory."

As I say, this is overly generous to Jehoash's story-telling abilities, but we certainly get the gist, and the explanation he provides leaves us in no doubt at all about the overall meaning.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #26:

Hi Bob,

In classical writings, the word translated as "sardius" is broad enough to refer to the semiprecious stone or to ruby. I am inclined that the gatestone of Judah in Isaiah 54:12 is actually ruby, because ruby is a more valuable and striking stone than mere sardius.

Response #26:

The Hebrew word with which sardion is conjoined is אדם `odhem; the word translated "ruby" in most places in the OT in most versions is פְּנִינִֽים pininiym (Job 28:18; Prov.3:15, etc.) – but whether these are even rubies is only conjectural (the word is often also translated "pearls"). Occasionally כַּדְכֹּד cadchod is translated as "ruby", but this is also a conjecture. Rubies are not native to the middle east, and it is doubtful that in the time of the exodus, when the gemstone order was established on the high priest's breastplate, that anyone even knew what a ruby was (that is, the stone-which-today-we-call-a-ruby). The last I heard, no one has ever found one in any ancient excavation of the area. It is true that the NIV, for example, uses "ruby" for אדם `odhem at Exodus 28:17, but that is anachronistic. Finally, whatever we think of these things from an earthly perspective, I feel safe in saying that the New Jerusalem will be beautiful beyond understanding, and that the choice of gemstones will be perfect, and that whatever "rank" a particular stone may have today in our eyes will be of no concern in the transformed new heavens and new earth. Nowadays, after all, the diamond is the "top" gemstone – but it figures nowhere in the divine eternal economy.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #27:

This doesn't settle the issue for me, because the Israelite could have still acquired rubies by trading. After all, silk isn't native to the near East, but Romans did wear silk.

Response #27:

Yes, but a possibility is not evidence. The silk trade to which you refer began over a thousand years later than the time of writing of the Pentateuch. So the absence of evidence for any trade in rubies at this early date is, while not decisive, stronger reason to doubt it than a mere possibility that it theoretically could have existed.

In any case, the decisive thing is the use of the words in the OT and NT and in the Greek language generally. I've spent a lot time hunting these things down and can tell definitively that while it may not be possible to say that no one in the 15th century B.C. in Sinai had "never seen a ruby" (although that is virtually certain), it is absolutely irrefutable, in my view, that this is not what the word אדם `odhem refers to.

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #28:

Hi Bob,

"The earth, from which food comes, is transformed below as by fire." (Job 28:7)

Sounds like the geological/rock cycle.

Response #28:

This is talking about mining, specifically, using fire to break up rock in the absence of explosives (cf. vv.1-6).

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #29:

Is this chapter part of Job's speech, or is it an interlude inserted by Solomon?

Response #29:

I am aware that scholars like to play this game, particularly with the Bible. The only evidence we have about the book of Job is the book of Job itself, so all such source criticism can by definition never breach the bounds of the entirely theoretical. What I will say is that the only way Solomon could have known what Job said at all is through the Holy Spirit – in the same way that the only way Moses knew all the things he writes about in the book of Genesis was through being informed directly by God. Since we know that this book, Job, is divinely inspired (e.g., it's quoted or alluded to dozens of times in the NT), and that therefore the words are all God's words, just how much was given to Solomon and in what manner is to my mind largely a moot point. The words are all the inspired words of God . . . so that they are true (the main point that concerns me).

It is a beautiful chapter and stirring analogy too, isn't it? Even more so in Hebrew.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #30:

Yes it is. I've been reading it again and again as it helps relieve the bitterness of my heart.

Response #30:

Holding onto our joy in the Lord can be difficult in times of sorrow and disappointment, but it is even more important then than when things are going well.

Delight yourself also in the Lord,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.
Psalm 37:4 NKJV

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!
Philippians 4:4 NKJV

In Jesus who is our joy forever,

Bob L.

Question #31:

Hi Bob,

Eliphaz was one of the ignoble characters in Job, but some of the things he says do seem applicable for instruction. Do you think so? I have this passage in mind:

"From six calamities he will rescue you;
in seven no harm will touch you.
In famine he will deliver you from death,
and in battle from the stroke of the sword." (Job 5:18-19)

Response #31:

Indeed, everything in the book of Job said by way of teaching is correct, even the words of Eliphaz. For example, Paul quotes Eliphaz from this same chapter at 1st Corinthians 3:19 (quoting Job 5:13), and there are other examples of quotes and illusions from the false comforters. The problem was not that these three men – and also Elihu – were wrong in their pronouncements of the truth. They were not. They were wrong in their application of the truth; they assumed Job was getting the just desserts of a sinner when in fact he was being complimented by the Lord in being allowed to be tested to such an extreme degree with undeserved suffering.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #32:

The crown of the wise is their riches,
But the foolishness of fools is folly.
Proverbs 14:24 NKJV

What does Proverbs 14:24 mean? Is it saying that the wisdom is wealth for the wise, or that the wise, if they receive favor from God, are gifted with wealth?

Response #32:

The former rather than the latter, I think. Consider the second half of the verse where folly is the "wages" received. Hebrew poetry of this sort more often than not is parallel in construction in such couplets – not a hard and fast rule but a good guide (as here). That is to say, just as the success of those who are wise demonstrates their wisdom, so also the folly fools produce is a demonstration of their inherent foolishness.

Question #33:

Thank you. This has been really bothering me, especially in the USA where the poor are viewed as failed millionaires as opposed to a heavily-exploited class having the skin ripped off of them.

Response #33:

"Blessed are the poor . . . in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
Matthew 5:3 KJV


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