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Q&A on June Readings

Note: The questions alone (with a link to their answers) are listed above the line in the opposite order that they were received, which means the most recent questions are at the top of the page. Below the line, questions and answers are given in the readings' order of the verses that prompted the question.

Q: In 1 Samuel 9:7-9 are there different words in the original for “seer” and “prophet”? Answer

Q: What does Psalm 22:30 mean, “A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation” (KJV)? Answer

Q: Jephthah had an expensive lesson in not making careless oaths! But, the story in Judges 11:30-40 bothers me. Here is an acceptance of a human sacrifice (with no redeeming value that I can see) and no substitute as in the case of Isaac. “Only a girl”, but in this case an only child, so she must have been valued more than average for the time. Meanwhile the Israelites were condemned for the sacrifices of children to Molech, as indeed they should have been. But, that leads to a further thought of the children who are sacrificed to convenience in this generation. Answer

Q: In reading Judges 8 and 12, I wondered why Ephraim was so eager to “be invited to the war” after the fact, in both cases, and, in the case of chapter 12, provoked a conflict with other Israelites! Answer

Q: In reading Psalm 15:5, I had some questions about usury. I was always told it meant “excessive interest” or some of the extortionate businesses among the poor. But, I remember being told that in early days some Missouri pastors/teachers spoke against lending at interest, at any rate. Of course, I’m told they also spoke against lightning rods, so what does one believe? Answer

Q: In reading Joshua 12-16, I had some questions about Caleb. I found it interesting that Joshua was “old and stricken in years” (13:1) while Caleb is as good as ever, apparently (14:6-11). I suppose Joshua may have been a lot older when they went to spy out the land; I don’t remember if anything was said then. Also, is Caleb not an Israelite? (There are so many names, I lose track.) His not being an Israelite would be an interesting thing, because he is a believer in God and gets an inheritance in Israel with an extended family, apparently, because his brother’s son wins a city and Caleb’s daughter.Answer

Q: Joshua’s account of the sun standing still (Joshua 10:13) refers to another account of the event, one in the Book of Jasher. An internet search turned up a number of websites that refer to the book, including one site that may pose a computer threat. The Mormons seem to be quite enthusiastic about the book, but what do we know for sure about it? Answer

Q: In Judges 4:19, what’s the significance of Jael giving Sisera milk when he asked her for water? Answer

Q: Does Acts 18:22 refer to Paul’s visit to Jerusalem? Because, if it doesn’t, he would appear to be in no hurry to get there! (Various visits of some duration follow this verse.) Answer

Q: To which feast in Jerusalem is Acts 18:20-21 referring? Did the Jewish Christians still observe some of the Temple celebrations? Answer

Q: Acts 18:18 says before Paul left Cenchrea for Syria he did something with his hair because of a vow he had taken. I have seen the Hasidim on the streets of New York; for Old Testament reasons they do not cut their hair or beards, as I understand it. Apparently Paul’s case is referring to some kind of exception. Several translations (BibleGateway.com) say Paul “cut his hair” but the CEV says “he had his head shaved” and I wondered where they got it. Answer

Q: In your June 30, 2006 post regarding 1 Samuel 25:39-44 you commented that in Abigail God provided a replacement wife for Michal, whom Saul gave away. David had more than a few wives, didn’t he! At this point he had two, but he also got Michal back later. Considering the Deuteronomy thing, it does seem like there was (is?) one set of rules for the men and another for the women. Or maybe royalty was allowed exceptions? Answer

Q: Saul’s angry comment to Jonathan in 1 Samuel 20:30 sounds vaguely similar to a modern-day expression (at least in the NASB version)! Am I to assume this is where that phrase originated? Answer

Q: 1 Samuel 16:14 says after the Spirit of the Lord departed Saul “an evil spirit from the Lord” tormented him, and verse 23 refers to the evil spirit as “from God”. Would God send an evil spirit? Or, is this what happens when the Spirit of God leaves Saul (or anyone)? Answer

Q: In Ruth 4, what was the risk to the man’s own inheritance (to either man, although it isn’t mentioned of Boaz)? The idea was to provide an heir to Naomi’s (husband’s) property, wasn’t it (as well as “social security” for the women)? Answer

Q: Weren’t the Israelites supposed to drive out the local residents entirely? “Did not” is plain disobedience then; “could not” (Judges 1:19) in the light of all the other seemingly impossible cities captured almost sounds like faith is wavering. Is there a better answer? Keeping the inhabitants and their idols around made falling away too easy! Answer

Q: I thought Judges 1:11-15 sounded very familiar. We read this same account in Joshua 15:15-19. Why is this repeated in Judges? Is there some significance to this account that I am missing? Answer

Q: Was the statement in Joshua 24:19 said so that they/we might never become overconfident in thinking that we serve and worship God enough and that any service and worship to God that they/we might do is only with the help of the Holy Spirit? Our own worship and service could never be worthy? But they did not “know” of the Holy Spirit yet, did they? This statement just seems very disheartening to hear. Answer

Q: I was going over all those town and village names in Joshua 13-21 pretty quickly, but when I realized there were some faulty claims about Jerusalem in The Da Vinci Code, I decided to read this section of Joshua again. Was Jerusalem a boundary town? Answer

Q: Can you sort out the “them” and “him” in Joshua 7:25 KJV? I gather all his family got stoned, burned, and buried with Achan? That seems a little hard on the ones who may not even have known he did it. I suppose the operative word is “obedience”, because the Israelites were allowed to plunder the very next city! Answer

Q: I guess Psalm 7:14’s “travail” followed by “conceived” and “brought forth” is parallelism? If not, it’s out of order. Answer

Q: So was Paul never tried in front of Caesar? Does Paul's story pick up again in another book of the Bible? Was Paul not held in prison since Acts 28:30 states he was “in his own rented quarters and welcoming all who came to him”? Answer

Q: After reading Acts 19:1-7 I wondered if all the people that John the Baptist baptized, or anyone else that was baptized before the Holy Spirit was given, had to be re-baptized so they would receive the Holy Spirit? Answer

Q: Regarding Acts 16:3, how would the Jews have known if a particular person, such as Timothy whose mother was Jewish and father was Greek, was circumcised or not? That something like that would help further the spread of the Gospel seems kind of odd. I would only imagine that knowing if a person was circumcised or not was not outwardly noticeable to the general public unless the person was naked. And, I can only imagine that circumcision as an adult would be quite traumatic. Answer

Q: Acts 16:3 says Paul circumcised Timothy because the Jews knew Timothy’s father was a Greek. Didn’t Jewish descent pass through the mother? If Timothy was a Gentile, why was he circumcised? Paul spent quite some time proving that Gentiles need not be circumcised to be Christians. Answer


Q: Acts 16:3 says Paul circumcised Timothy because the Jews knew Timothy’s father was a Greek. Didn’t Jewish descent pass through the mother? If Timothy was a Gentile, why was he circumcised? Paul spent quite some time proving that Gentiles need not be circumcised to be Christians.
A: The matter of whether Jewish descent was technically traced through father or mother does not seem to be the deciding factor in Acts 16:3: Jews would have regarded Timothy as a Gentile because he was the uncircumcised son of a Greek man, and Gentiles would have regarded him as Jewish because he was brought up in his mother’s religion (2 Timothy 1:5; 3:14-15), though now that religion was Christianity. Rather, the deciding factor seems to be Paul doing what was in that case best for the spread of the Gospel, as he did on other occasions, such as that described in Acts 21:26. Timothy’s lack of circumcision would have been an offense to the Jewish unbelievers in the area who perhaps had long been scandalized by Timothy’s parents’ mixed marriage (forbidden by such passages as Deuteronomy 7:3; Exodus 34:16; and Ezra 10:2, but not strictly followed outside of Israel); his lack of circumcision would have not only closed doors to Timothy and his work but also to Paul and Silas and their work. (Incidentally, one commentator says Timothy’s “circumcision” would have been a surgical procedure only and not a religious rite, and another adds that it was not done by Paul himself but by some “competent Jewish Christian”.) You might recall the principle St. Paul gave in 1 Corinthians 9:19 and explained in 9:20 this way: “unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law” (KJV). That principle applied as long as Christian freedom was not in play. For example, when Jewish believers demanded the Gentile Titus be circumcised to keep the Jewish law and to obtain salvation, Paul refused to do it (see Galatians 2:3).
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Q: Regarding Acts 16:3, how would the Jews have known if a particular person, such as Timothy whose mother was Jewish and father was Greek, was circumcised or not? That something like that would help further the spread of the Gospel seems kind of odd. I would only imagine that knowing if a person was circumcised or not was not outwardly noticeable to the general public unless the person was naked. And, I can only imagine that circumcision as an adult would be quite traumatic.
A: You’ve asked a good question! The first thing that comes to my mind, especially since St. Luke refers to people knowing Timothy’s parentage, is that people in the Jewish community would have remembered whether or not there was a rite of circumcision for Timothy eight days after he was born, just as you and I might remember whether or not children we know and care about were ever baptized. (Although, what one commentator called “a minor surgical operation … and not a religious rite” in this case would not help the Jews know Timothy was circumcised as an adult.) Another possibility is that Paul and those traveling with him might have been asked about Timothy’s background, and, with his being circumcised, all could testify honestly that he was a Jew in that sense. Finally, there is the way of finding out whether he was circumcised to which you referred, and it is possible that in a public bath or some other place people would have seen for themselves whether or not Timothy was circumcised. The New Testament is replete with examples that make it clear how “zealous” the Jews were for the law. And, as for the trauma of adult circumcision, I am inclined to agree with you, despite the commentator’s comment that the procedure was “minor” and with what surely was some form of anesthesia; I will also tell you to watch our future readings for other adult circumcisions and what they suggest about its trauma! Back to Top

Q: Acts 18:18 says before Paul left Cenchrea for Syria he did something with his hair because of a vow he had taken. I have seen the Hasidim on the streets of New York; for Old Testament reasons they do not cut their hair or beards, as I understand it. Apparently Paul’s case is referring to some kind of exception. Several translations (BibleGateway.com) say Paul “cut his hair” but the CEV says “he had his head shaved” and I wondered where they got it.
A: The Greek of the passage in Acts could refer to Aquila doing something with his hair, and, in fact, commentators differ as to which of them the passage refers, in part based on Latin versions which specifically refer to Aquila. The reference is perhaps more likely to Paul, and in this case the CEV may well have the sense of it right. While Hasidic Jews do not shave their face in keeping with their understanding of an Old Testament provision, Paul probably had taken a temporary vow to be a Nazirite (Numbers 6:1-21), the end of which vow was marked by the shaving of the head. Such vows are said to have been taken in thanksgiving for deliverance from grave dangers, and the events of Acts 18:12-17 could qualify as such, I suppose. Back to Top

Q: To which feast in Jerusalem is Acts 18:20-21 referring? Did the Jewish Christians still observe some of the Temple celebrations?
A: The KJV of Acts 18:21 indeed does refer to an upcoming feast Paul wanted to keep in Jerusalem, however those words are not included in all manuscripts of the book of Acts. Rather, they are thought to be added to the original version of this verse. There are similar statements in Acts 20:16 and in some manuscripts of Acts 19:1. Nevertheless, the addition may give the reason for Paul’s somewhat hasty departure. Since shipping apparently did not resume until March, the feast was probably Passover. That Paul would have kept the feast as a Jew seems unlikely, however, but his celebrating it something in the way we mark Holy Week is not out of the question. At least one commentator says Paul found out the condition of the Jerusalem church and thus soon after was arranging a collection for it. Back to Top

Q: Does Acts 18:22 refer to Paul’s visit to Jerusalem? Because, if it doesn’t, he would appear to be in no hurry to get there! (Various visits of some duration follow this verse.)
A: Yes, Paul sailed from Ephesus to Caesarea and from there “went up” to Jerusalem, some 2,500 feet above sea level. From there he “went down” to Syrian Antioch (as in Acts 18:18). When we look at our maps, we might say “up” to Syrian Antioch, since it is north of Jerusalem, but “down” is correct in terms of the literal elevations of the cities. The Bible consistently speaks of the going up to and coming down from Jerusalem also in an ethical sense. Back to Top

Q: After reading Acts 19:1-7 I wondered if all the people that John the Baptist baptized, or anyone else that was baptized before the Holy Spirit was given, had to be re-baptized so they would receive the Holy Spirit?
A: As I indicated in the June 3, 2006 Biblog post, “some of the events in the Divinely-inspired record, like this one, defy easy explanations.” Whether taught by Apollos or whoever taught him or for some other reason, these twelve “disciples” had some deficiencies or doubts that prompted Paul to baptize them. We don’t know whether John the Baptizer, his disciples, or someone else had baptized them (one commentator says the expressions used indicate it was not John but his disciples). Nor do we have to say that they did not have the Holy Spirit in any sense before Paul baptized them. (For example, the Holy Spirit was active in the Old Testament before He was “given” in the events of our Lord’s life and those following and it would seem to be possible to have the Holy Spirit without being able to articulate knowledge of Him or know He’d been given.) This account of a “rebaptism” is the only one in the Bible, and that we don’t hear of anyone else needing such a “rebaptism” would suggest not everyone John had baptized, surely including some of the apostles themselves, needed such a subsequent baptism. The laying on of hands that followed in verse 6 may be connected with the special manifestation of the Spirit that followed in verse 6 and enabled them to serve as an apostolic and missionary core of the Ephesian church. Put another way, the Holy Spirit may have been given in one form in the Baptism itself and in another form with the laying on of hands. With the end of the apostolic age seems to have come the end of the miraculous manifestations of the Spirit such as tongues, healings, and the like. We understand today that the Holy Spirit is given for faith in Baptisms of water and the Word and that the Holy Spirit is given for the pastoral office in the laying on of hands at ordinations. We don’t need to worry so much about John’s Baptism, since no one is running around today having been baptized by John, and hopefully no one is running around having been baptized by anyone claiming to be his disciple or baptizing in John’s name. (See further here.) Back to Top

Q: So was Paul never tried in front of Caesar? Does Paul's story pick up again in another book of the Bible? Was Paul not held in prison since Acts 28:30 states he was “in his own rented quarters and welcoming all who came to him”?
A: Yes, at the end of Acts Paul seems to have been living under house arrest in his own rented home (see also Acts 28:16), although some suggest he had a soldier chained to him at all times (though his references to “bonds” in such passages as Ephesians 6:20 need not be taken so literally). Although there may have been a trial in Rome and acquittal in keeping with the findings of the other officials investigating the matter in earlier chapters, we really don’t know for sure whether or not Paul was ever tried in front of Caesar. Luke may have transmitted Acts before Paul was tried and released, or telling of Paul’s release and subsequent activity may have seemed unnecessary to fulfill Luke's purpose in writing Acts. (If Paul had died at the end of the two years, Luke surely would have said so.) You’ve read what the Divinely-inspired Acts tells us, and it is the only historical book in the New Testament. There is evidence in Paul’s letters, however, that provide some clues what happened to Paul after the end of Acts’ narrative. For example, there are indications in the Captivity Letters (see more about them in the April 18, 2006 Biblog post) that Paul expected to be released (Philippians 2:24; Philemon 22), and we have evidence that he returned to Asia Minor, Crete, and Greece, as we discussed when reading the Pastoral Epistles (see the April 27, 2006 Biblog post). In addition to Paul’s visiting those places, tradition also indicates his so-called fourth missionary journey included Spain, and there is no evidence to the contrary. Another possible reason why Paul was released this time is that the Jews may have defaulted on their case against him after some sort of two-year statute of limitations (remember from Acts 28:21 that the Jews in Rome knew nothing of the charges against him). Regardless, Paul was “imprisoned” in Rome again later and is believed to have been martyred there at that time. Back to Top

Q: I guess Psalm 7:14’s “travail” followed by “conceived” and “brought forth” is parallelism? If not, it’s out of order.
A: The two expressions, “travail” (or “is pregnant” NIV) and then “conceived” and “brought forth” (or "gives birth to" NIV) can be said to be parallel, or we might say the second expression explains the first. The first is more of a general statement, since the Hebrew verb chabal can mean both "to be" and "to become" pregnant. The second divides the thought into two parts: conceiving and bearing. Not to be overlooked, as we have noted, are the objects of the verbs, in one translation: evil, mischief, and lies. Back to Top

Q: Can you sort out the “them” and “him” in Joshua 7:25 KJV? I gather all his family got stoned, burned, and buried with Achan? That seems a little hard on the ones who may not even have known he did it. I suppose the operative word is “obedience”, because the Israelites were allowed to plunder the very next city!
A: I agree that the KJV and ASV are a little harder to understand, though they are more faithful to the Hebrew text (compare the NIV and NASB, which smooth out the difficulty in two different ways, although at least the NASB gives some indication of what the text actually says). Not to confuse the matter more, but what you can’t see in the English is that the “thou” and “thee” are second person masculine singular, referring to Achan alone. Nevertheless, your take on the verse is correct: Achan, his family, and his possessions were stoned, burned, and buried, and the key does seem to be listening to and doing what the Lord says. Joshua 7 does not specifically say whether Achan’s family was aware of what he did, but commentators say that Achan could hardly have buried the stolen items in his tent without his family knowing. Moreover, the stipulation in Deuteronomy 24:16 about not putting children to death for their fathers’ sins seems to pertain to ordinary criminals, and Achan’s crime is more on the scale of towns that fall away to idolatry (see Deuteronomy 13:16-17 and how things under the ban are closely connected with that crime). Joshua 7:25 lists Achan separately as the chief offender, as verse 26 says they covered “him” with a memorial marker and the valley bore the epithet “Achor”, another form of Achan’s name. Back to Top

Q: Joshua’s account of the sun standing still (Joshua 10:13) refers to another account of the event, one in the Book of Jasher. An internet search turned up a number of websites that refer to the book, including one site that may pose a computer threat. The Mormons seem to be quite enthusiastic about the book, but what do we know for sure about it?
A: We know for sure that the Hebrew expression Sefer haYashar translated in the KJV as “Book of Jasher” (sometimes “Book of Jashar” or more literally “Book of the Upright” or “of the Just” or “Righteous”) is mentioned in both Joshua 10:13 and 2 Samuel 1:18 as a source or record of events from Israel’s history. Scholars are not completely sure what the book was, whether a collection of poetry or of state records, including written agreements and other public statements or decrees. Some think at least parts of Joshua 10:12-15 are quoted from the book. We certainly have no need to deny that there were written sources on which the Divinely-inspired authors of books such as Joshua drew, especially as a number of others are mentioned. Other than the Biblical references to this particular source, however, there is no reliable trace of the book. A document was apparently published in 1751 claiming to be an English translation of the lost work, but it was soon declared to be an hoax. Even the translator of the 1887 “translation” popularized by the Mormons admits of “doubtful parts”. (The so-called translations are reportedly different documents, but I’m not aware the Hebrew originals for either are “available”.) The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints reportedly has never taken an official stand on the book, but Joseph Smith apparently quoted from it, and writers out there today stand by at least parts of the Mormon’s English version as dating back to Old Testament times. I’m not completely sure, but there seems to be some Mormon attempt to claim that its Book of Jasher lends credence to the idea of new revelations, if not even corroborating actual details found in other so-called “modern revelations”. I think people who go for such other revelations are in some way not content with what Holy Scripture reveals, and we should not go chasing after other revelations with them, for, if the other revelations were needed for our salvation, then the Holy Spirit would have preserved them not only for our use but for the use of all believers through the ages, as He has with the books of the Bible.
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Q: In reading Joshua 12-16, I had some questions about Caleb. I found it interesting that Joshua was “old and stricken in years” (13:1) while Caleb is as good as ever, apparently (14:6-11). I suppose Joshua may have been a lot older when they went to spy out the land; I don’t remember if anything was said then. Also, is Caleb not an Israelite? (There are so many names, I lose track.) His not being an Israelite would be an interesting thing, because he is a believer in God and gets an inheritance in Israel with an extended family, apparently, because his brother’s son wins a city and Caleb’s daughter.
A: The comment in Joshua 13:1 about Joshua’s age and approaching death may have been more to explain the reason for God’s command than to make him sound like he was decrepit in comparison to Caleb. Joshua was thought to have been between 90 and 100 years old, when, according to Joshua 14:10, Caleb was 85. I’m not exactly sure from where that age range for Joshua comes; he is mentioned first, I think, in Exodus 17:9, but at no place is his age really given. Numbers 13 tells of the sending of the spies, and there we read that Caleb was the son of Jephunneh and of the tribe of Judah, while Joshua was the sun of Nun and of the tribe of Ephraim. Jephunneh is indeed described in Joshua 14:6 as a “Kenezite”, but that is not a reference to the Kenizzite tribe of Canaan (as in Genesis 15:19) but to the family of the descendent of Hezron, Perez, and Judah named “Kenaz” (1 Chronicles 2:5, 18, 25; and see 1 Chronicles 4:15 for how the name is repeated in the family [perhaps also Joshua 15:17]). Joshua and Caleb were the only two of the twelve spies (one from each tribe) to give an honest report and encourage the people to be faithful. The other ten spies were struck by a plague and died on account of their bad report and its inciting the people to rebel against the Lord (Numbers 14). Not family lines but faithfulness decided who entered the Promised Land then and now. Moses’s specific promise to Caleb may be in view in Deuteronomy 1:36, although at least one commentator says that God must have given a special promise to Caleb in addition to what is mentioned in the accounts we have. Land given Caleb obviously would be his to give to his own descendants. Back to Top

Q: I was going over all those town and village names in Joshua 13-21 pretty quickly, but when I realized there were some faulty claims about Jerusalem in The Da Vinci Code, I decided to read this section of Joshua again. Was Jerusalem a boundary town?
A: Jerusalem (also known as “Salem” and “Jebus” or “the Jebusite city”) was assigned to the tribe of Benjamin (Joshua 18:28), although it served as a landmark for the northern boundary of tribe of Judah’s territory (Joshua 15:8). In the time of Joshua, Judah tried to take the city but could not and lived with the Jebusites (Joshua 15:63). In the time of the Judges, the tribe of Judah did take it and burned it (Judges 1:8), although the tribe did not permanently control the city. Also in the time of Judges, the tribe of Benjamin failed to take the city and lived with the Jebusites as well (Judges 1:21; confer 19:11-12). The city was finally permanently controlled by Israel when David took it, as narrated in 2 Samuel 5:6-7. Israel’s first king, Saul, was of the tribe of Benjamin, and Israel’s second king, David, was of the tribe of Judah. There was tension between the two men and their respective tribes, but David’s taking Jerusalem and making it his capital, renaming it “the city of David”, is said to have helped unite the kingdom without subordinating one tribe to the other. Despite what The Da Vinci Code claims, such a union did not take Jesus of Judah’s tribe marrying Mary Magdalene of Benjamin’s tribe, assuming Mary Magdalene even was of Benjamin’s tribe. Even Holy Blood, Holy Grail, one of the sources for The Da Vinci Code, admits there is no evidence Mary Magdalene was of the tribe of Benjamin, especially since Mary’s hometown of Magdala was in northern Israel and the tribe of Benjamin’s territory was in central Israel. Back to Top

Q: Was the statement in Joshua 24:19 said so that they/we might never become overconfident in thinking that we serve and worship God enough and that any service and worship to God that they/we might do is only with the help of the Holy Spirit? Our own worship and service could never be worthy? But they did not “know” of the Holy Spirit yet, did they? This statement just seems very disheartening to hear.
A: Though we are not specifically told, we can gather that the Lord had Joshua make the statement to the people of Israel and record it for successive generations for the reasons you said and maybe others: so that they and we might not take such vows lightly, solidly and seriously convert from idols, might not become overconfident, and realize they and we can only serve God in repentance and faith brought about by divine grace. Yes, our own worship and service apart from faith can never be worthy: “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6 KJV). The Holy Spirit had been there in the beginning (Genesis 1:2, for example), and we know that where faith is created the Holy Spirit is present and active. You are also right that by itself the statement is disheartening, but the statement was not by itself and should not be taken by itself. The people themselves had just given a summary of all God had done, and God’s actions always come first in the covenant and bring about our response. The Ten Commandments are not so much commands of things we should not do but statements of things that we will do because of what God has done and is doing through us. Back to Top

Q: I thought Judges 1:11-15 sounded very familiar. We read this same account in Joshua 15:15-19. Why is this repeated in Judges? Is there some significance to this account that I am missing?
A: To be perfectly honest, I had not originally noticed the repetition. There are slight differences between the two, but nothing substantive is different (there are no contradictions). Beyond noting that the purpose of the account in each of the two places is different, I’m not sure we can say much with certainty, though that doesn’t stop some from speculating. Commentator P. E. Kretzmann of nearly a century ago in the LCMS says the account is repeated “to make the zeal of Caleb, the unselfishness of Othniel, and the prudence of Achsah points of instruction” (Old Testament, 1:404). There does also seem to be some indication that Achsah was the best one to make the request of Caleb and that Othniel was wise to let her make that request. Another commentator suggests that’s the most important thing to notice from the account’s repetition. Back to Top

Q: Weren’t the Israelites supposed to drive out the local residents entirely? “Did not” is plain disobedience then; “could not” (Judges 1:19) in the light of all the other seemingly impossible cities captured almost sounds like faith is wavering. Is there a better answer? Keeping the inhabitants and their idols around made falling away too easy!
A: You are right in that the Israelites were supposed to completely drive out the local residents in order to have less of a temptation to fall into idolatry. Joshua 1:21’s “did not” (KJV, ASV, NASB) states the reality, and even “failed to” (NIV) is not completely clear on whether or not they actually attempted it. There definitely was some miraculous capturing of cities, and so the faith of the people does seem to be the issue here: they were intimidated by the iron-studded chariots and likely did not even go up to attempt to take the plains. I do not think the Hebrew text should be read as if the people attempted to take the plains but that, even with God’s help, the chariots were too much for them. Also do not misunderstand as if God’s success depends on our faith. By the way, later, when Israel had chariots of its own, their use was seen as a lack of trust in God. Back to Top

Q: In Judges 4:19, what’s the significance of Jael giving Sisera milk when he asked her for water?
A: Jael was practicing the usual form of hospitality, giving him something to drink and a place to rest, even if its substance went completely against the nature of genuine hospitality. Milk was certainly a better drink than the water for which he asked, and Deborah’s and Barak’s song in Judges 5:25 draws attention to the milk and mentions that it was curdled. The curdling could just mean that the milk was good, superior milk, perhaps approaching yogurt or butter. A later Jewish historian said the milk had turned sour, and a commentator supposes that the sour milk intoxicated him, but other commentators reject such speculation. I think we can safely say that the milk is significant because Jael wanted Sisera to feel secure in her tent so that she could kill him, and that she did so with simple domestic items should not escape our notice. By the way, Jael’s name means “mountain goat”, and the milk Jael gave Sisera most likely was goat’s milk. Back to Top

Q: In reading Psalm 15:5, I had some questions about usury. I was always told it meant “excessive interest” or some of the extortionate businesses among the poor. But, I remember being told that in early days some Missouri pastors/teachers spoke against lending at interest, at any rate. Of course, I’m told they also spoke against lightning rods, so what does one believe?
A: The Hebrew word used for “usury” in Psalm 15:5, neshek, comes from the verb meaning “to bite”, chiefly of snakes in the literal sense, and its origin may help us get an idea for what is figuratively in view. Somewhat recent study suggests passages such as Leviticus 25:35-54 and Deuteronomy 23:19-20 do not forbid any and all interest from one Israelite to another. Rather, in part from a comparison with codes of the surrounding countries, the claim is made that the type of interest prohibited is that interest that came when the loan was due and might involve the slavery of the borrower, in addition to the initial interest taken off the disbursement of the loan. Scholars advocating this understanding point out that God’s Word commands decent treatment of the enslaved borrower, something the codes of the other countries did not command. Excessive increases in repayment of debts most likely originally applied to whatever was borrowed; cash for money as we know it was reportedly not in use until the seventh century B.C. Consideration of such passages as Exodus 22:25-27 may lead us to think of usury as interest charged to the poorest of the poor, to whom the Israelites were supposed to give from their own God-given surplus. One commentator says of the person described in Psalm 15:5, “Whether it be as a loan or as a gift, he gives without conditions”. As for Lutherans in America, I wasn’t around in the early days of the Missouri Synod, but it wouldn’t surprise me if there were some who prohibited lending at any rate, as they used to prohibit such things as dancing and any and all life insurance. As I write this I can’t locate my copy of the relatively early Missouri Synod book The Borderland Between Right and Wrong, but I would expect there could be some discussion of usury in it. The only reference to usury that I find in John Fritz’s 1932 Pastoral Theology: A Handbook of Scriptural Principles comes in the discussion of communicants not to be admitted to the Sacrament: “Any one engaged in an unlawful or ungodly occupation, as that of actors, sorcerers, spiritualists, fortune-tellers, keepers of brothels, bootleggers, dispensers of forbidden drugs, abortionists, usurers, etc., must be suspended from the Sacrament until he forsakes such occupation” (p.152). That may raise more questions than it answers! (There are somewhat similar comments in C.F.W. Walther’s Pastoral Theology but also without a clear definition of what “usury” is.) Neither the 1943 nor 1991 editions of the Synod’s explanation to the Small Catechism mention usury under the Seventh Commandment. Back to Top

Q: In reading Judges 8 and 12, I wondered why Ephraim was so eager to “be invited to the war” after the fact, in both cases, and, in the case of chapter 12, provoked a conflict with other Israelites!
A: In the case of Gideon and the Ephraimites in Judges 8:1-3, we know that Gideon was of the tribe of Manasseh (Judges 6:15), the descendants of one of Joseph’s sons, whose brother was Ephraim. (Manasseh, you may recall, had territory on both sides of the Jordan River, while Ephraim’s territory was smaller and limited to the west side of the Jordan, although generally secure by its central location.) The Lord had Gideon reduce the size of the fighting force (Judges 7:1-8), so Gideon hardly could have sought out additional forces from other tribes when he went up against some of the Midianites, although there is some speculation that he did not call on them in order to not appear as if he were taking leadership. The Ephraimites were said to be striving for leadership of the people (if not also the spoils of war), and Gideon’s self-effacing soft answer to them about their greater glory certainly turned away their wrath (Proverbs 15:1), at least at that time (perhaps only to be rekindled with their pride and vanity later). In the case of Jephthah and his battle with the Ammonites, Jephthah had a debatable lineage and fought with men gathered from Gilead, presumably located on the east side of the Jordan in Gad’s territory. Jephthah at least claimed (Judges 12:2) to have sought out the help of the Ephraimites to no avail (more than one commentator suggests the call for help was not previously mentioned in Judges 11 precisely because it was without effect, or, as another suggests, Jephthah may be referring to requests for help before he assumed leadership). When Jephthah’s diplomacy with the ill-tempered Ephraimites regarding the matter failed, he was forced to defend himself against them (Judges 12:3). Jephthah clearly clearly fought with the power of the Holy Spirit (Judges 11:29, something Jephthah tries to point out the Ephraimites in 12:3), and the Ephraimites were arguably in the wrong in this case. Back to Top

Q: Jephthah had an expensive lesson in not making careless oaths! But, the story in Judges 11:30-40 bothers me. Here is an acceptance of a human sacrifice (with no redeeming value that I can see) and no substitute as in the case of Isaac. “Only a girl”, but in this case an only child, so she must have been valued more than average for the time. Meanwhile the Israelites were condemned for the sacrifices of children to Molech, as indeed they should have been. But, that leads to a further thought of the children who are sacrificed to convenience in this generation.
A: To be sure, Jephthah’s lesson in not making careless oaths was expensive, no matter how one determines the vow to have been kept, for the vow meant the end of the father’s line. I think the account in Judges 11:30-40 certainly is most easily understood as if Jephthah sacrificed his daughter as a human sacrifice, and that is how the account was generally understood into the middle ages and even after, including by none other than Dr. Luther. Yet, you are not the first to raise the objections that you raised, and no doubt for some of those same reasons medieval rabbis began to explain that Jephthah did not make a human sacrifice of his daughter but instead dedicated her to life-long virginity and service at the Sanctuary (in our reading we have seen other women in this type of service; see Exodus 13:1-2; 33:8; Numbers 18:15; 1 Samuel 2:22). I can direct you to a lengthy treatment of this matter if you like, but the daughter’s being sacrificed as a burnt offering does seem highly unlikely. The spiritual understanding of the sacrifice is expressed by at least one generally conservative Missouri Synod commentator I consulted. Not until the divided kingdom, well after the period of the judges, is there any indication of the Israelites sacrificing their children as their neighbors did to Molech. As for your application to our present times, unborn children are indeed sacrificed to the god of “self”, and the courts that are supposed to stand up in defense of these children, least able to otherwise defend themselves, have only encouraged men and women in that regard. A popular song says, “Only in America we kill the unborn to make ends meet”, but sadly the tragedy of abortion is a global problem and one that both has been with us in one form or another for millennia and is unlikely to go away until Christ comes again. Back to Top

Q: In Ruth 4, what was the risk to the man’s own inheritance (to either man, although it isn’t mentioned of Boaz)? The idea was to provide an heir to Naomi’s (husband’s) property, wasn’t it (as well as “social security” for the women)?
A: There is a great deal of scholarly speculation and explanation about what is going on, but there is little need to read into the text more than is there. In Ruth 4:6 the nearer-kinsman says he is concerned about endangering his own estate. A usual explanation is that, if the nearer-kinsman married Ruth and had a son with her but no other heir, then the nearer-kinsman’s own property would transfer to the family of Elimelech, Naomi’s husband. Another explanation is that redeeming the property would cost the nearer-kinsman money from his estate up until the year of Jubilee, at which point it was supposed to revert back to the original family anyway (see Leviticus 25:23 and verses following). So, especially if he was not rich (see the “cannot” in 4:6), he would be spending money he didn’t really have to acquire property he wouldn’t get to keep. Yes, that’s what the family obligation required, and he was unwilling to do it, whereas Boaz was, and thus the intended contrast between the two. Genesis 38:9 indicates Onan had somewhat of a similar fear in the case of his brother Er’s wife, Tamar, who, as I previously noted, stands in the family line of Boaz. Commentators rightly point out that Boaz may have faced a similar risk if the circumstances were those described above, although admittedly we do not know whether Boaz or the nearer-kinsman had another wife or other children. The narrative in Ruth certainly indicates that the nearer-kinsman was interested in obtaining the land (4:4), although not in fulfilling the duty to Ruth, Mahlon, Naomi, and Elimilech—a point made clear by Boaz’s clarification in 4:5 and the man’s resulting response to that clarification in 4:6. (All those scholars who go to great lengths to explain “why” the nearer-kinsman wouldn’t redeem the land and Ruth really miss the point.) The main idea behind the whole procedure is to keep the land in the family, but the primary way to do that was to provide the family an heir and, as you say, also to provide for the women in the process. Back to Top

Q: What does Psalm 22:30 mean, “A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation” (KJV)?
A: Let’s take the two halves of the verse separately. The first half is translated by the NIV and NASB as “Posterity will serve him”, and “posterity” is a fair figurative meaning for the word that has the literal meaning “seed”. We understand the first half-verse to mean that all of some genealogical descendants will serve the Lord. With psalm half-verses usually being parallel, we might expect some sort of similar statement in the second half-verse. I suppose the KJV could be understood to say that the seed (or “posterity”) becomes a “generation” for the Lord, presumably all believers of all times. In the case of this verse, however, I think the second half-verse is explaining the first half-verse, either giving the why or the how. The ASV translates the second half, “It shall be told of the Lord unto the next generation”; the NASB is similar, as is the NIV, “future generations will be told about the Lord”. So, I think we can understand that posterity serves the Lord either because it has been told about the Lord or by telling yet another generation about the Lord. One commentator sees verses 29-31 as mentioning three generations: the fathers who turn to the Lord (v.29), the coming generation (v.31), and the people yet unborn (v.32, who will be told about the Lord by the coming generation of v.31). In this view, the “seed” or “posterity” breaks down into both the future generation and the people yet unborn. I’m not sure the distinctions are that precise. The bottom line, however, is that the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ is proclaimed and generations of sinners who receive that righteousness in faith are saved and good works are produced from them as a result. Back to Top

Q: In 1 Samuel 9:7-9 are there different words in the original for “seer” and “prophet”?
A: Yes, the Hebrew word for “seer”, ro’eh, and the Hebrew word for “prophet”, nabiy’, are different words, coming from different roots for “seeing” and “prophesying”. The two arguably emphasize different aspects of the same thing: subjectively seeing the vision or future and objectively making it known. You might also notice that earlier in the passage to which you refer there is a third expression being used to refer to the same person: “man of God” (see also “servant of the Lord” as in 1 Kings 14:18 and “messenger of the Lord” as in Malachi 1:1). The parenthetical note in 1 Samuel 9:9, regardless of its punctuation, apparently is indicating that at the time of Saul the word “seer” was more popular than the word “prophet” and that at the time Samuel was written “prophet” was more popular than “seer”, although both were likely in use at both times. (For simultaneous use of the two words, see Isaiah 30:10, for example.) There is yet another Hebrew word for “seer”, hozeh, which is also used equivalently with ro’eh and nabiy’ (see all three used in 1 Chronicles 29:29). Back to Top

Q: 1 Samuel 16:14 says after the Spirit of the Lord departed Saul “an evil spirit from the Lord” tormented him, and verse 23 refers to the evil spirit as “from God”. Would God send an evil spirit? Or, is this what happens when the Spirit of God leaves Saul (or anyone)?
A: 1 Samuel 16:15 is another place where this particular evil spirit is said to come from God, but this spirit is never called the Spirit of the Lord or of God, as we think of the Holy Spirit. On the basis of these and such similar statements in Scripture as Judges 9:23, 1 Kings 22:19-23, Job 1:12, 2:6 and a comparison between 2 Samuel 24:1 and 1 Chronicles 21:1, the notes in my study Bible rightly say that “evil spirits are subject to God’s control and operate only within divinely determined boundaries”. The Job passages and the comparison between 2 Samuel 24:1 and 1 Chronicles 21:1 are especially interesting, as they indicate that God allows Satan and other evil spirits to serve His purposes; even if God does not actively “send” them, He passively allows them to go. I also am reminded of the saying “nature abhors a vacuum” and of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 12:43-45 and Luke 11:24-26 about an evil spirit that has left a person coming back and, finding the house unoccupied, inviting seven more wicked spirits to go back with it so that the resulting condition is worse than before the evil spirit left. I think it would be fair to say that when the Holy Spirit leaves anyone the opportunity arises for an evil spirit to enter, although the reverse process is more desirable. Baptismal rites, such as those of Martin Luther, used to include exorcisms that helped make clear the connection between the evil spirit’s leaving and the Holy Spirit’s coming with such statements as “Depart thou unclean spirit and give room to the Holy Spirit” (the 1523 “Order of Baptism”, AE 53:96, confer the 1526 “Order of Baptism Newly Revised”, AE 53:107). Back to Top

Q: Saul’s angry comment to Jonathan in 1 Samuel 20:30 sounds vaguely similar to a modern-day expression (at least in the NASB version)! Am I to assume this is where that phrase originated?
A: Saul’s comment to Jonathan criticizes Jonathan’s mother as “perverse and rebellious” (NIV), and in so doing criticizes Jonathan all the more. That use of the phrase is certainly similar to the use of a modern-day expression intended to refer to a nasty or rude man, although the modern-day expression can also be used as an exclamation. In both the more ancient and more contemporary examples the negative connotation about the man’s mother makes reference to sexual perversion, but I find no explicit statement that the contemporary one goes back to the ancient one. By the way, the Oxford English Dictionary gives the earliest English use of the contemporary one as Of Arthour & of Merlin, circa 1330. Back to Top

Q: In your June 30th post regarding 1 Samuel 25:39-44 you commented that in Abigail God provided a replacement wife for Michal, whom Saul gave away. David had more than a few wives, didn’t he! At this point he had two, but he also got Michal back later. Considering the Deuteronomy thing, it does seem like there was (is?) one set of rules for the men and another for the women. Or maybe royalty was allowed exceptions?
A: The chart “David’s Family Tree” in my study Bible lists seven wives of David. Though we are never told when David took Ahinoam of Jezreel as his wife, she is sometimes regarded as his first, although the “also” in 1 Samuel 25:43 is also sometimes taken as a reference to Michal, as might be suggested by the contrast in 25:44. I don’t want to give away the story, but, yes, David does at least in some sense get back Michal (2 Samuel 3), who later has a bout with pride and gets humbled (2 Samuel 6). Abigail is either his second or third “wife”, but David at least doesn’t appear to be counting, although he should have been, for under normal circumstances the law called for a man to have one wife and a woman one husband. While the Levitical or levirate marriages might give a man a second woman, such exceptions proved the rule and were not to become the rule. There were all sorts of practical reasons for kings to take multiple wives, but royalty was under no special spiritual dispensation, especially in light of Deuteronomy 17:17. David certainly broke that stipulation, although he did not suffer the named consequence as much as did his son Solomon, who broke it more egregiously (see 1 Kings 11:1-4, and yet remember how well Solomon is regarded, for example, in the New Testament). Michal, and to some extent Paltiel, her “second husband”, are both tragic figures of a sort. She loved David and helped him escape, but then she was given to another man only to be returned to her rightful husband and be childless. Back to Top

 


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