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Frequently Asked Questions - Old Testament

FAQs - Old Testament

Your research has been done before by a bishop called Ussher, and he also arrived at the same date for creation you arrived at - about 4000 BC. However, this chronology assumes that there are no gaps or overlaps. Creation scientists and theologians (e.g. Morris and Whitcomb) now agree that this assumption is incorrect.

In biblical language, the word "son of" may mean "descendant of" (e.g. Matthew 1:1), and "begat" may mean "ancestor of". A comparison of the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1:1-17 with the same records found in Samuel, Kings and Chronicles shows that some generations have been left out (e.g. Matthew 1:11 - "Josias begat Jechonias and his brethren" - leaves out Jehoiakim, who was the father of Jechonias cf. 1 Chron 3:15-17). (e.g. 2 - In Matthew 1:8 - three names have been omitted between Joram and Uzziah: Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah). The purpose of these genealogies is simply to trace the lineage of a person particularly through certain key persons in his lineage.

Other examples of ‘gaps’: Exodus 2:1,2 gives the impression that Moses was the firstborn son of the Levite man and woman. But we realise later on that he was the third child, after Aaron and Miriam.

Since there are gaps in the genealogies of the Bible, the date of creation would be pushed earlier than 4000 BC. Comparisons with archaeological findings and records have led many Bible scholars (conservative ones) to estimate a date of 10,000 B.C.

You may be interested to compare Luke 3:36,37 with Genesis 11:11-14. Luke has an addition person "Cainan" between Arphaxad and Salah. He is missing from Genesis 11. Hence, there must be gaps in Gen 11.

I think that the best view to take is that ‘sons of God’ here refer to the godly line which consisted of the descendants of Seth. The daughters of men refer to the ungodly line, who consisted of the descendants of Cain. In the previous two chapters you would notice that there are distinctions between these two lines. Enoch who was from Seth’s line, walked with God. By contrast, Lamech, from Cain’s line (Gen 4:23), was a bigamist and a murderer.

It is clear from 6:3 that a new situation arose that caused sin to increase in the world and caused God to decide to punish the world with a flood. This background favours the view that the problem that sparked the increase of sin was compromise by the godly line through intermarriages with the ungodly line.

You are right in saying that the term ‘Sons of God’ though used for angels in other Bible passages, cannot be referring to angels here, because angels do not marry and begat children (Mark 12:25). In addition since this event became the cause for judging the world of mankind, not the angels, ‘sons of God’ here does not refer to angels. If they were angels, what should follow is a description of God’s judgment on these fallen angels.

The view that it refers to a human ungodly line helps to explain why Israel was given such great warnings against intermarriage with ungodly nations.

What Abraham did was wrong and he admitted in in Genesis 20:11-13. And what Abimelech did was also wrong as he had taken Sarah against her will. Thus Abimelech was punished and had to make restitution to Abraham (v.14-16). Though it is not stated in the text, Abraham probably confessed his sin of lying to God and offered sacrifices.

As for Jacob, at the time that he deceived his father, he did not know God yet in a personal manner. His life was ruled by his own selfish desires. As a result, he had to face the consequences of his own sins. By deceiving his father, he had stolen his brother’s blessings. This incurred his brother’s wrath against Jacob, leading to his having to leave home. But God was gracious to reveal Himself to Jacob after this. Through this, and subsequent events, Jacob was gradually changed from his selfish ways to become a god-fearing man.

God does not favour people because they do the wrong things, but despite the fact that they do them. His favour alone enables them to change and do the right things.

Not necessarily so, because Balaam’s ass was also able to talk (Numbers 22:28-30) and that took place long after the Fall. In the case of Balaam’s ass, it spoke only for a brief period because God supernaturally used it to rebuke Balaam. It spoke no more after that and there has never been any record of an ass talking since then. The same thing probably happened in the Garden of Eden, but this time it was Satan who opened the mouth of that serpent to enable it to speak.

The identification of that particular serpent with Satan is found in Revelation 12:9. This does not mean that all serpents are agents of Satan. Christ was pre-figured by a brass serpent that God commanded Moses to make (John 3:14).

Sarai was wrong to obey Abram in this instance because it is morally wrong to tell a lie. As a result of her sin, she was taken away from her husband against her will, and nearly made part of Pharaoh’s harem (Genesis 12:15). Hence she suffered the consequences of her wrong submission to her husband, as much as Abram suffered the consequences of his own sin.

One clear instance where we can see that God holds the wife accountable for a sin she committed as a result of submitting to her husband’s command is Sapphira, the wife of Ananias (Acts 5:1-10). Like Abram, Ananias told his wife to tell a lie. Sapphira obeyed her husband, and as a result of this she was struck dead like her husband. Her submission did not save nor protect her from bearing the full awful consequences of her lie.

In the case of Sarai and Abram, God could have easily and rightfully allowed them both to suffer the consequences of their own sins. The fact that He intervened by stopping Pharaoh from marrying Sarai, does not mean that He honoured their actions. It was only by God’s undeserved grace and mercy that Sarai was saved, and that Abram was spared from losing his wife.

Therefore, whenever a person who has authority over us commands us to do something that is morally wrong we should not carry out the command. We should never think that only the authority will bear the blame for the wrongdoing and that we are absolved from blame because all we did was to submit. The image of God that He has given us is able to tell right from wrong (although it is now corrupted by sin), and He requires us to use that ability well and not just submit ourselves blindly to any authority. God has also given us His Word and He expects us to apply it.

This applies to government authority (Acts 4:19, 5:29), parental authority (Ephesians 6:1) and the husband’s authority (Ephesians 5:22; Colossians 3:18). To obey a human authority more than God’s authority is to break the first commandment, "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me." (Exodus 20:3)

Exodus 4:21 – “And the LORD said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go.” (also in 7:3)

The hardening here refers to a condition of being unreasonably obstinate, unyielding and resistant against God. In all there are 10 places where the “hardening” of Pharaoh’s heart is ascribed to God (4:21; 7:3; 9:12; 10:1, 20, 27; 11:10; 14:4, 8, 17). This seems to indicate that Pharaoh had no choice in the matter and thus he cannot be blamed for what he did.

But it must be stated that Pharaoh hardened his own heart in another 10 passages (7:13, 14, 22; 8:15, 19, 32; 9:7, 34, 35; 13:15) and that he alone was the agent of the hardening in the first sign* and in all the first 5 plagues (his period of grace). Not until the 6th plague was it stated that God actually hardened Pharaoh’s heart (9:12) and even after that, Pharaoh still continued to harden his own heart after the 7th plague. He had therefore reached the point of no return after the first 5 plagues, and after that God ensured that Pharaoh would receive the judgment he deserved by hardening his heart.

Hence in Exodus 4:21 and 7:3, God, being all knowing, was predicting what He would do to Pharaoh’s heart from the 6th plague onward, in response to Pharaoh’s act of hardening his own heart first.

(*The translation of Exodus 7:13, which records Pharaoh’s response to the first sign, as “And he hardened Pharaoh’s heart…” is inaccurate. A better translation is “And Pharaoh’s heart became hard…”)

Whenever God chooses to harden a person’s heart, it is done in response to the person’s own rebellion and sin. And it is designed to bring the person’s own judgment on him. Hence God’s hardening is always consistent with His justice. The hardening of Pharaoh’s heart can be related to the principle laid down in Romans 1:18-28, that God deals with those who reject the revelation of Himself in nature and history (and in Pharaoh’s case also in miracles) is to abandon them to still greater excess of sin and its consequences.

Another example: Genesis 15:16 – “But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.” This describes the people of Canaan who continued to commit sins of idolatry, moral perversion, etc. until the time that God brought Israel to Canaan, when their sins would be full and they would have exceeded their period of grace and be ripe for God’s judgment.

Joshua 11:19-20 tells us how the judgment finally came on them – “There was not a city that made peace with the children of Israel, save the Hivites the inhabitants of Gibeon: all other they took in battle. For it was of the LORD to harden their hearts, that they should come against Israel in battle, that he might destroy them utterly, and that they might have no favour, but that he might destroy them, as the LORD commanded Moses.”  Instead of trying to make peace with the Israelites (knowing what God had done for them) all the Canaanite cities except for Gibeon chose to make war with them. This was because God had judicially hardened their hearts against making peace, so that they would rush headlong to their own deserved destruction.

Exodus 4:24-26 – “And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the LORD met him, and sought to kill him. Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, Surely a bloody husband art thou to me. So he let him go: then she said, A bloody husband thou art, because of the circumcision.”

The ‘him’ that the Lord sought to kill was Moses. Moses became very ill and almost died while staying at the inn. This is why it was Zipporah had to perform the circumcision, and not Moses.

O.T. Allis explains: “This incident is best understood as indicating that Moses had failed to circumcise the baby [Eliezer] before leaving home.  This may have been due partly to haste and preoccupation with the mission which had been given him.  But it was more probably due to Zipporah’s objection to the performance of the rite.  Whether she had objected in the case of Gershom, we do not know.  Here at the inn, when she realized that Moses’ life was in danger and apparently felt that she was responsible, she performed the rite herself, but evidently with great reluctance (as is shown by her words, twice repeated, “You are a bridegroom of blood to me”).  Whatever the reason, Moses had sinned in failing to perform the covenant rite which was required of every Israelite under penalty of death (Genesis 17:13,14) The incident caused Zipporah to return with the children to Midian.  She did not rejoin him until he later returned with the Israelites to Horeb (18:1-6)

Since 35 centuries have passed since the plagues took place, the land of Egypt has already recovered long ago from their adverse impact. Thus, the current conditions in Egypt do not manifest any effects of the plagues at all. However there are other indications from Egyptian history and archaeology that the plagues had an impact on Egypt.

According to Egyptian records, the Pharoah of the Exodus, Amenhotep II, had a son who became Pharoah, but it was not his eldest son.  The question is, What became of his eldest son?  Could he have been the son that died in the tenth plague?

Egyptian history records a noticeable decline in conquest and trade after the reign of Amenhotep II. Perhaps the losses sustained through the plagues and through the destruction of 600 war chariots in the Red Sea meant that it would take some years to rebuild the army so that Egypt could embark on conquest again. The decline in trade indicates an economically depressed period, and this would be expected if Egypt had nothing left to trade after the plagues had destroyed everything.

The next Pharoah, Amenhotep III (1410 – 1377 B.C.) had his hands full with a rising discontent within Egypt, a turmoil related to the ascendancy of one god or the other.  His son, Amenhotep IV (1377-1358 B.C.) settled the matter by originating a monotheistic religion which revolutionized Egyptian theology and also made an indelible political impact.  He called this new god, Aton. Since each of the 10 plagues symbolised the defeat of an Egyptian god, the Egyptians would naturally lose confidence in them after the plagues, and be willing to accept changes to their religion.

Exodus 11:5 – “And all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sitteth upon his throne, even unto the firstborn of the maidservant that is behind the mill; and all the firstborn of beasts.”

The word ‘firstborn’ in these verses refer only to the first male offspring, because of the following reasons:

a.  The purpose of the 10th plague was stated in Exodus 4:22,23 – “And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD, Israel is my son, even my firstborn: And I say unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me: and if thou refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son, even thy firstborn.”

b. Only males could be used as the Passover lamb to protect the home. Exodus 12:5 – “Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats.”

c. The Hebrew word for firstborn used in these verses is ‘bekor’ which is masculine in gender. The feminine form of the word is ‘bekiyrah’ which is used only in Genesis 19:31-37 for the firstborn daughter of Lot, in Genesis 29:26 for Leah, the firstborn daughter of Laban, and in 1 Samuel 14:49 for Merab, the firstborn daughter of Saul.

d. Because the firstborn of Israel were saved, the Israelites were to devote their firstborn to the Lord. However, only the males were thus devoted and redeemed: Exodus 13:15 – “And it came to pass, when Pharaoh would hardly let us go, that the LORD slew all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man, and the firstborn of beast: therefore I sacrifice to the LORD all that openeth the matrix, being males; but all the firstborn of my children I redeem.” (see also Exodus 34:20; Numbers 3:43-45)

This implies that Egyptian families that had no male children suffered no deaths in the 10th plague! But why were only the firstborn sons targeted in the 10th plague? This is due to the fact that the firstborn son was considered to be the father’s ‘beginning of strength.’ (Genesis 49:3; Psalm 78:51; 105:36) The firstborn son inherited a double portion of his father’s estate (Deuteronomy 21:16,17) while the other sons received a single portion each.

Daughters received no portion. However in cases where a man had no sons but daughters, his daughters would inherit equal portions of their father’s estate. (Numbers 27:7,8).

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

September 17 & 24 - Living for Christ

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20