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Q&A on August 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: There are references to “sons of God” in Job 1:6 and in Genesis 6:2. Is the Hebrew original the same? How about our understanding of who is being referred to? Answer

Q: In 2 Chronicles 10:11, I had taken literally the “scorpions” Rehoboam promised to scourge the people with, until I read the Contemporary English Version that refers to “whips with pieces of sharp metal”. A whip with metal certainly could be a “scorpion”, I suppose. And, weren’t the scourges used on Christ similarly described as whips with metal imbedded? Answer

Q: I found the speech of Eliphaz in Job 22 to be very odd. If these people are Job’s friends, surely they would know more about his life and activities. Why would they now accuse him of things he cannot have done, since we have God’s approval of Job in the earliest chapters? Answer

Q: Is the King James version of Job 5:1 (“Call now, if there be any that will answer thee; and to which of the saints wilt thou turn?”) the best reading of the original? I didn't think invoking the “saints” was an Old Testament thing. Answer

Q: In the Biblog post for August 20, 2006, you said the 30 days Esther referred to in 4:11 was unrelated to the time periods in chapter 2. I don’t understand trying to relate it to chapter 2; what am I missing? All I get out of it is that, queen or not, she is seen when the king chooses to see her. (And, he has plenty of other amusements, even if she is “loved above all others” [2:17].) Or, he may have been busy, since you say he was organizing a conquest of Greece. Answer

Q: Regarding Esther 1 and the deposing of Queen Vashti, I seem to remember being told that Persian queens were kept in seclusion, even as women are introduced only to family members in strict Muslim households now. (Vashti was giving a feast for the women in the women’s quarters, according to 1:9.) I think I was told that for Vashti to be displayed before the drunken crowd was to reduce her to the level of a “dancing girl”. Is it possible, as I recall being told, that Vashti said “No” to avoid being shamed; that the so-called “wise men”, anticipating a royal striptease, were vengeful when she balked; and that Xerxes must have thought better of it when he became sober (Vashti kept her head!) but couldn’t really do anything since his “advisors” had baited him into an irrevocable law? All this, of course, was used to bring Esther to power, so human motivations are perhaps irrelevant. Answer

Q: In the August 17, 2006 Biblog post you explained the three groups of returnees from exile, led by Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah, respectively, with 70 years between the first and second and a dozen or so years between the second and third. Are we to conclude then that the earliest returnees had not done much about Jerusalem, although that was their mandate when they were allowed to go back? Answer

Q: In reading verses such as 2 Chronicles 3:3-4 about the building of the Temple, I wondered a few things. By my calculations, the temple was about 90'x30', three times as long as it was wide? The porch was 120 cubits high? Sounds a little “high rise”, doesn’t it? Did very many people besides the priests actually use the gold-plated space? The sacrifices, burning on altars, would have to be done in the open courtyard, surely. And there was a separate court for women, and another one for Gentiles, no? Answer

Q: In the background information for August’s readings, as for July’s, you refer to David and Solomon as “types” of Jesus. What is meant by a “type” of Jesus? Answer


Q: In the background information for August’s readings, as for July’s, you refer to David and Solomon as “types” of Jesus. What is meant by a “type” of Jesus?
A: A “type” is a historical person, item, or event that gives a picture of something that, at the time, lies in the future. We would say that the Holy Spirit led the holy writers who recorded the historical facts to intend to show things that they might not yet have fully understood. Something’s being a type does not minimize its own reality. David and Solomon, in this case, were obviously real people, but aspects of their lives and offices nevertheless pointed forward to Christ, Whom we would call the “antitype” or fulfillment of their prophetic type. (Not everyone agrees that David and Solomon are types of Christ, however, although most would admit their kingly office is “typical” and that David and Solomon at least “prefigure” Christ.) There is usually one point of comparison between a type and its greater and nobler antitype, and some interpreters will even limit themselves to things that are expressly called a type by Holy Scripture, for of them we can be sure. Biblical examples of types are the Most Holy Place (Hebrews 9:3, 8, 12, 25) and the office of the High Priest (Hebrews 9:6, 7, 11, 12). Most Old Testament types point to Christ’s saving work, which is not a surprise since Christ and His saving work are the center of all of Holy Writ. Back to Top

Q: In reading verses such as 2 Chronicles 3:3-4 about the building of the Temple, I wondered a few things. By my calculations, the temple was about 90'x30', three times as long as it was wide? The porch was 120 cubits high? Sounds a little “high rise”, doesn’t it? Did very many people besides the priests actually use the gold-plated space? The sacrifices, burning on altars, would have to be done in the open courtyard, surely. And there was a separate court for women, and another one for Gentiles, no?
A: The Temple was roughly twice the size of the portable Tabernacle that the Israelites had used in the desert. Your math for the basic dimensions of the Temple is correct. The Most Holy Place (also called the Holy of Holies) had a square floor plan (about 9 meters by 9 meters). The Holy Place was twice as long (18 meters by the same 9-meter width). The whole interior space was by that same measure about 13.5 meters high. The Hebrew manuscripts have the porch being 120 cubits high, but the Greek translation and other manuscripts changed that to 20 cubits, making the porch 10 cubits lower than the main roof line, which is more like what you would expect. One commentator simply says the Hebrew text is corrupt, and he perhaps rightly points out that a structure of 120 cubits would have been called a tower and not a portico. The only time anyone went into the Most Holy Place was when the high priest went in on the Day of Atonement to sprinkle the blood of the atoning sacrifice on the mercy seat of the Ark. Other designated priests would go into the Holy Place to keep the incense and lampstands burning and to change the showbread. Other than that, the sacrificial burning was done in the courtyard, and, you are right, there were various other outer courts, including one that was likely open to everyone, which is probably where Jesus and His followers did the teaching we read of in places such as Acts 2:46. Back to Top

Q: In 2 Chronicles 10:11, I had taken literally the “scorpions” Rehoboam promised to scourge the people with, until I read the Contemporary English Version that refers to “whips with pieces of sharp metal”. A whip with metal certainly could be a “scorpion”, I suppose. And, weren’t the scourges used on Christ similarly described as whips with metal imbedded?
A: My generally-reliable commentary says the reference in 2 Chronicles 10:11 is to “whips with barbed points like the point of a scorpion’s sting.” Jesus prophesied about His own scourging (for example, Matthew 20:19; Mark 10:34; Luke 18:33) and the scourging of his followers (for example, Matthew 10:17; 23:34). Indeed, Jesus was scourged (Matthew 27:26; Mark 15:15; John 19:1), and there are also New Testament references to “scourging” in John 2:15; Acts 22:24; and Hebrews 11:36. Not all the Greek words behind the English the KJV uses are the same, however, nor were all scourges the same. Regardless of the Greek word used, the synagogue scourge apparently consisted of a strap of calf or ox leather divided into four thongs, and the Roman scourge likewise as leather divided, in this case into three thongs reportedly with interwoven bone and bits of metal. One other note: one source I consulted suggested that Pilate had Jesus scourged to evoke pity; be that as it may, the Jewish leaders apparently weren’t in the pitying mood! Back to Top

Q: In the August 17, 2006 Biblog post you explained the three groups of returnees from exile, led by Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah, respectively, with 70 years between the first and second and a dozen or so years between the second and third. Are we to conclude then that the earliest returnees had not done much about Jerusalem, although that was their mandate when they were allowed to go back?
A: Perhaps prompted by Daniel, Cyrus king of Persia decreed a temple for the Lord be built in Jerusalem, and he sent people back, under Zerubbabel’s leadership, charged with that task (Ezra 1-3). Opposition to the reconstruction led to an official halt in the process for a while (Ezra 4), until Darius king of Persia re-ordered its completion (Ezra 5-6). (I know it is confusing, but the kings of Persia later came to call themselves kings of Babylon.) The spiritual leader Ezra came some 50-60 years after the Temple was completed and carried out religious reform (Ezra 7-10), while the secular leader Nehemiah came charged to rebuild the wall and set its gates (Nehemiah 2). Nehemiah’s reaction to the state of affairs in Judah and Jerusalem, described in Nehemiah 1, does seem to suggest he thought things would be better by that time, but I would not say that the people had neglected their mandate, given what their mandates were. Although under Nehemiah’s leadership an effort was made to add to Jerusalem’s population, people were already living in Jerusalem, just not as many as might live there given the city’s size (see Nehemiah 7:4-5 and 11:1-2). We should remember the level of devastation the city experienced and the poverty of the people who lived there before the returns, which were heavily subsidized by the Persian leaders, especially Nehemiah’s return and his rebuilding of the city’s wall and houses. Back to Top

Q: Regarding Esther 1 and the deposing of Queen Vashti, I seem to remember being told that Persian queens were kept in seclusion, even as women are introduced only to family members in strict Muslim households now. (Vashti was giving a feast for the women in the women’s quarters, according to 1:9.) I think I was told that for Vashti to be displayed before the drunken crowd was to reduce her to the level of a “dancing girl”. Is it possible, as I recall being told, that Vashti said “No” to avoid being shamed; that the so-called “wise men”, anticipating a royal striptease, were vengeful when she balked; and that Xerxes must have thought better of it when he became sober (Vashti kept her head!) but couldn’t really do anything since his “advisors” had baited him into an irrevocable law? All this, of course, was used to bring Esther to power, so human motivations are perhaps irrelevant.
A: You and your Bible class or sermon source may well know more about the whole context than I do. I do know that this big event in the third year of Xerxes’ reign was in advance of his eventually unsuccessful naval invasion of Greece, after which the Greek historian Herodotus reports Xerxes sought escape in his harem, which lines up with the passage of time in 2:1 and Esther’s selection in the seventh year of his reign. (Don’t get me started on what was essentially a remarriage after divorce, and a mixed “marriage” at that.) I also know at least one more modern scholar says reference to a request for a “striptease” is “probably somewhat inaccurate or anachronistic”, but the same scholar nevertheless continues, “Vashti is supposed to display herself to the assembly, and, understandably, she is less than eager to oblige.” Other than that, I’m generally inclined to stick to the text and take it at face value. We are not told why Vashti did not comply with Xerxes’ request. (I’m by no means suggesting that Xerxes’ request was appropriate, but I am reminded of the Large Catechism’s statement regarding children obeying their parents by word and deed, even when the parents “go too far” [LC I:110-111]. One commentator does say, “she did not choose to stake her dignity as a queen and a wife before his inebriated guests”.) The text says the sentence against the queen was to keep wives from despising their husbands and treating them the same way. I think 2:1 could be taken to have some favorable regret in it, but Xerxes doesn’t act on it. (Earlier decrees about the construction of the temple were changed, as was the order about killing the Jews, but those were not said to be written “in the laws of Persia and Media, which cannot be repealed”. The irrevocability may have been to prevent her vengeance upon a return to power, and the advisors whose jobs or lives might have been at stake if she returned are apparently quick to suggest Xerxes direct his affection toward a different queen.) In the end, as you say, the original human motivations pale in comparison to God’s using the circumstances for the good of saving His people. Back to Top

Q: In the Biblog post for August 20, 2006, you said the 30 days Esther referred to in 4:11 was unrelated to the time periods in chapter 2. I don’t understand trying to relate it to chapter 2; what am I missing? All I get out of it is that, queen or not, she is seen when the king chooses to see her. (And, he has plenty of other amusements, even if she is “loved above all others” [2:17].) Or, he may have been busy, since you say he was organizing a conquest of Greece.
A: When I first read Esther’s statement that “more than 30 days have passed”, I was trying to figure out how that was significant. And, I anticipated, wrongly perhaps, that other people might do what I initially did and try to relate it to the only periods of time that had been mentioned in the book up to that point, which were back in chapter 2. You really aren’t missing anything and, in fact, read it quite correctly. The king apparently had tried to conquer Greece in the time between chapters 1 and 2 but failed, and, as I mentioned, reportedly escaped to his harem, which apparently was well supplied. (Not every commentator agrees a long passage of time came precisely at that point, and its taking one year from a virgin’s entrance into the harem before she could go before the king might account for at least some of the four years between Vashti’s deposition and Esther’s elevation.) I hadn’t noticed it before, but the “virgins” coming into the harem from the public are entrusted to the care of one eunuch before going in to the king, and the “concubines” coming out from the king are entrusted to the care of another eunuch in a different part of the harem. (Some of the words used to refer to the women before their night with the king can also mean “concubine”, but the word used afterwards never means “virgin”.) We are not told if during the 30 days the king had tired of Esther and was taking other virgins or spending time with his other concubines. Where previously I may have wanted to fault Esther for being a part of Xerxes’ polygynous relationship—and one outside her faith—at least one commentator points to 2:8 and says neither Esther nor Mordecai would have had a say in the matter (the same commentator likens it to David taking Bathsheba in 2 Samuel 11:4). Back to Top

Q: There are references to “sons of God” in Job 1:6 and in Genesis 6:2. Is the Hebrew original the same? How about our understanding of who is being referred to?
A: The Hebrew original is the same (both passages use the expression ben ’elohiym, which is properly translated as “sons of God”), but our understanding of to whom reference is made differs. The Hebrew word ben (remember “Benjamin” or “son of the right hand) is not only used to refer to human parents’ male offspring but also for other children, descendants, or people or items belonging to a specified category or group. This previously posted Q&A mentions that commentators think the “sons of God” in Job 1:6 and 2:1 are angels, and this previously posted Q&A mentions that the “sons of God” in Genesis 6:2 were probably human believers. Angelic beings are also apparently referred to in with the Hebrew word ben in Psalm 29:1. By the way, there apparently was an article by the Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Gibbs discussing Bible translations in the November 1998 edition of The Lutheran Witness in which Dr. Gibbs points out that The Living Bible paraphrase wrongly interprets the Genesis 6:2 reference as “beings from the spirit world”. Back to Top

Q: Is the King James version of Job 5:1 (“Call now, if there be any that will answer thee; and to which of the saints wilt thou turn?”) the best reading of the original? I didn't think invoking the “saints” was an Old Testament thing.
A: Job’s friend Eliphaz, who is speaking in 5:1, refers to someone else who might plead, mediate, or arbitrate Job’s case before God in the heavenly courtroom where Satan is accusing him. Eliphaz uses the Hebrew word qadowsh (“holy”) that is translated here either as “saints” (KJV) or “holy ones” (ASV, NIV, NASB). Since we usually think of “saints” as those believers (living in the world or with the Lord) who have been made holy by the blood of Christ, “saints” may not be the best translation in this verse. In this verse commentators suggest the “holy ones” are the angels, as is the case with the “sons of God” in 1:6 and 2:1. Invoking the “saints” (plural) is neither an Old Testament thing nor a Biblical thing, no matter how the word is translated, if we think of angels or believers, here or in heaven. However, there is a Holy One Whom we can invoke that does serve the role of Intercessor and Mediator, which is what Eliphaz thinks Job is seeking, and to what Job himself refers later, as we see as we continue to read the book. Jesus Christ is our sole Intercessor and Mediator, and Scripture tells of demons and disciples confessing Him as “the Holy One” (see Mark 1:24 and Luke 4:34 and John 6:69, respectively). Back to Top

Q: I found the speech of Eliphaz in Job 22 to be very odd. If these people are Job’s friends, surely they would know more about his life and activities. Why would they now accuse him of things he cannot have done, since we have God’s approval of Job in the earliest chapters?
A: You’ve touched on an important matter in Job, one I don’t think I so fully appreciated until this time through the book. The book of Job does not tell us just how close of friends Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar were, but presumably they do know enough of Job’s life and activities to know that what Job claims is true: that he is not openly wicked and trusts in God for forgiveness. However, they seem to be accusing him of some other sin, of which presumably they are unaware, that in their scheme of things would justify God’s afflicting Job. You and I can think of our own friends, even those who know us better than most, and how there are surely “secret sins” of which they are unaware and for which we surely deserve temporal and eternal punishment. So, that Job’s friends are insufficiently informed is not really all that surprising. The friends’ comments do seem odd to us better informed readers, especially if we lose sight of the fact that we know things they do not. We readers know of God’s approval of Job from the earliest chapters, but neither Job nor his friends are privy to the events of the heavenly courtroom in Job’s case, just as we and our friends are not privy to the events of the heavenly courtroom in our own cases. Our ignorance of the events in our own cases applies the book’s central point to our lives: like Job, we should not think God is angry with us when seemingly bad things happen to us for reasons we do not fully understand. Like Job, we must stick to the “whisper” of revelation (26:14 ASV, NIV; "little a portion" KJV; "faint a word" NASB), which tells us both that God is favorably disposed to us on account of Jesus’ suffering and death and that God uses afflictions for our good. Back to Top

 


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