Forgiven or Passed Over? Part 4

As I continue to study nâśâʼ[1] and ʽâbar in Exodus 20:7 – Deuteronomy 4:26 I’ll begin with an aside.  The first occurrence of nâśâʼ in this section translated pardon was an angel who will not pardon [Israel’s] transgressions.  A table contrasting two mentions of an angel follows.

The Forty Day Covenant

After the Golden Calf

The Lord said to Moses, “Go up from here, you and the people whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, to the land I promised on oath to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’

Exodus 33:1 (NET)

“I am going to send an angel before you…

Exodus 23:20a (NET)

I will send an angel before you…

Exodus 33:2a (NET)

…to protect you as you journey and to bring you into the place that I have prepared.  Take heed because of him, and obey his voice; do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgressions, for my name is in him.  But if you diligently obey him and do all that I command, then I will be an enemy to your enemies, and I will be an adversary to your adversaries.

Exodus 23:20b-22 (NET)

For my angel will go before you and bring you to the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, and I will destroy them completely.

Exodus 23:23 (NET)

…and I will drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite.

Exodus 33:2b (NET)

Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey.  But I will not go up among you, for you are a stiff-necked people, and I might destroy you on the way.”

Exodus 33:3 (NET)

When the people heard this troubling word they mourned; no one put on his ornaments.  For the Lord had said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites, ‘You are a stiff-necked people.  If I went up among you for a moment, I might destroy you.  Now take off your ornaments, that I may know what I should do to you.’”  So the Israelites stripped off their ornaments by Mount Horeb.

Exodus 33:4-6 (NET)

It’s worth noting that the angel’s function—to protect—and the warning—Take heed—were both forms of shâmar in Hebrew.  The former (לשמרך) was translated φυλάξῃ (a form of φυλάσσω) in the SeptuagintIf anyone hears my words but does not keep (φυλάξῃ, a form of φυλάσσω) them, Jesus said, I do not judge that person.  For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.[2]  The latter (השמר) was translated πρόσεχε (a form of προσέχω) in the SeptuagintUntil I come, Paul wrote Timothy, give attention (πρόσεχε, a form of προσέχω) to the public reading of scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.[3]

The Hebrew word translated obey in obey his voice was shâmaʽ (ושמע; See Table below) which was translated εἰσάκουε (a form of εἰσακούω) in the Septuagint.  But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard (εἰσηκούσθη, another form of εἰσακούω), and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son; you will name him John.[4]  The Hebrew word translated rebel in do not rebel was mârar (תמר) which was translated ἀπείθει (a form of ἀπειθέω) in the Septuagint.  He who believes (πιστεύων, a form of πιστεύω) in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe (ἀπειθῶν, another form of ἀπειθέω) the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.[5]

And finally pardon was nâśâʼ (ישׁא) in Hebrew which was translated ὑποστείληταί (a form of ὑποστέλλω) in the Septuagint.  You know that I did not hold back (ὑπεστειλάμην, another form of ὑποστέλλω) from proclaiming to you anything that would be helpful,[6] Paul declared to the Ephesian elders.  But here the translators of the Septuagint took a different turn since they didn’t even translate peshaʽ (לפשעכם; transgressions): “For he shall not hold you in undue awe, for my name is upon him.”[7]  It makes me wonder if they were trying to put a better spin on for he will not pardon (or, bear) your transgressions for Greek consumption.

The clause detailing the angel’s purpose—to protect you as you journey[8]—was missing from the restatement of the covenant after the golden calf incident, yet for forty years in the wilderness yehôvâh[9] cared and provided for them.  So why don’t I consider that all of the missing elements of the covenant should be assumed in the later restatement?

I’m no lawyer but I did spend several years calculating and writing the conditions that went into my employer’s boilerplate contracts.  It seems pretty apparent to me that when yehôvâh did not destroy Israel and make a great nation of Moses, when He accepted Moses’ description of that act as evil, then both parties had abrogated the covenant and the contract became null and void.  Care and provision for Israel became a matter of grace, no longer stipulated by contract, by law.

What is clearly missing from the restatement of the covenant is the contractual language: But if you diligently obey him and do all that I command, then I will be an enemy to your enemies, and I will be an adversary to your adversaries.  For my angel will go before you and bring you to the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, and I will destroy them completely.[10]  This was replaced by a simple unilateral statement: I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite.[11]

I hesitate to call this grace (though it may qualify as election) since yehôvâh called it dread (Deuteronomy 32:26, 27 Tanakh):

I thought I would make an end of them, I would make their memory cease from among men; Were it not that I dreaded (gûr, אגור) the enemy’s provocation, lest their adversaries should misdeem, lest they should say: Our hand is exalted, and not HaShem hath wrought all this.

Accepting that the clauses missing from the restatement of the covenant are truly missing helps me to track the transition from [Sin] (chaṭṭâʼâh, חטאת; Septuagint: ἥμαρτες, a form of ἁμαρτάνω) desires (teshûqâh, תשוקתו) to dominate you, but you must subdue (mâshal, תמשל) it,[12] to Paul’s declaration to believers in Galatia (Galatians 2:20, 21 NET):

I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.  So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  I do not set aside God’s grace, because if righteousness could come through the law, then Christ died for nothing!

Who would have thought that the way to subdue or rule over sin was to die to it (Romans 6:8-11 NET)?

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.  We know that since Christ has been raised from the dead, he is never going to die again; death no longer has mastery over him.  For the death he died, he died to sin once for all, but the life he lives, he lives to God.  So you too consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Who would have thought that the way to subdue or rule over sin was to die to the law (Romans 7:4-6 NET)?

So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you could be joined to another, to the one who was raised from the dead, to bear fruit to God.  For when we were in the flesh, the sinful desires, aroused by the law, were active in the members of our body to bear fruit for death.  But now we have been released from the law, because we have died to what controlled us, so that we may serve in the new life of the Spirit and not under the old written code.

Viewed from this perspective the worship of the golden calf and yehôvâh’s restatement of the covenant follows the pattern of Paul’s explanation to believers in Rome (Romans 5:20, 21 NET):

Now the law came in so that the transgression may increase, but where sin increased, grace multiplied all the more, so that just as sin reigned in death, so also grace will reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Why would anyone want transgression to increase?  This is scandalous to the religious mind.  But Jesus taught a Pharisee (Luke 7:40-47 NET):

“Simon, I have something to say to you.”  He replied, “Say it, Teacher.”  “A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed him five hundred silver coins, and the other fifty.  When they could not pay, he canceled the debts of both.  Now which of them will love him more?”  Simon answered, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.”  Jesus said to him, “You have judged rightly.”  Then, turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman?  I entered your house.  You gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.  You gave me no kiss of greeting, but from the time I entered she has not stopped kissing my feet.  You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with perfumed oil.  Therefore I tell you, her sins, which were many, are forgiven, thus she loved much; but the one who is forgiven little loves little.”

Ultimately, this love from God Himself subdues and rules over sin (Romans 13:8-10 NET):

Owe no one anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.  For the commandments, “Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not covet,” (and if there is any other commandment) are summed up in this, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Love does no wrong to a neighbor.  Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Jesus warned (Matthew 5:17-20 NET):

“Do not think that I have come to abolish (καταλῦσαι, a form of καταλύω) the law or the prophets.  I have not come to abolish (καταλῦσαι, a form of καταλύω) these things but to fulfill them.  I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth pass away not the smallest letter or stroke of a letter will pass from the law until everything takes place.  So anyone who breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever obeys them and teaches others to do so will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.  For I tell you, unless your righteousness goes beyond that of the experts in the law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

After explaining that the law came in so that the transgression may increase, but where sin increased, grace multiplied all the more, Paul continued (Romans 6:1-4 NET):

What shall we say then?  Are we to remain in sin so that grace may increase?  Absolutely not!  How can we who died to sin still live in it?  Or do you not know that as many as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  Therefore we have been buried with him through baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may live a new life.

In other words, believers can say with Paul: We have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer we who live, but Christ lives in us.  So the life we now live in the body, we live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved us and gave himself for us.  We do not set aside God’s grace, because if righteousness could come through the law, then Christ died for nothing!

For we too were once foolish, disobedient, misled, enslaved to various passions and desires, spending our lives in evil and envy, hateful and hating one another.  But “when the kindness of God our Savior and his love for mankind appeared, he saved us not by works of righteousness that we have done but on the basis of his mercy, through the washing of the new birth and the renewing (ἀνακαινώσεως , a form of ἀνακαίνωσις) of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us in full measure through Jesus Christ our Savior.  And so, since we have been justified by his grace, we become heirs with the confident expectation of eternal life.”[13]

For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.  For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.[14]  This is the salvation believers in Philippi were enjoined to continue working out (Philippians 2:12-18 NET):

So then, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed (ὑπηκούσατε, a form of ὑπακούω), not only in my presence but even more in my absence, continue working out your salvation with awe and reverence, for the one bringing forth in you both the desire and the effort – for the sake of his good pleasure – is God.  Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God without blemish though you live in a crooked and perverse society, in which you shine as lights in the world by holding on to the word of life so that on the day of Christ I will have a reason to boast that I did not run in vain nor labor in vain.  But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice together with all of you.  And in the same way you also should be glad and rejoice together with me.

It is much better news than the Septuagint’s translation of Exodus 23:21b: “For he shall not hold you in undue awe, for my name is upon him.”  A table of the translations of shâmaʽ in the KJV, NET and Septuagint from Genesis through Exodus 23:22 follows.

Form of shâmaʽ Reference KJV NET Septuagint
שמע Genesis 16:11 …because the LORD hath heard thy affliction. …for the Lord has heard your painful groans. ἐπήκουσεν, a form of ἐπακούω
Genesis 21:12 hearken unto her voice… Do all that Sarah is telling you… ἄκουε, a form of ἀκούω
Genesis 21:17 …for God hath heard the voice of the lad… …for God has heard the boy’s voice… ἐπακήκοεν, another form of ἐπακούω
Genesis 24:52 …when Abraham’s servant heard their words… When Abraham’s servant heard their words… ἀκοῦσαι, another form of ἀκούω
Genesis 26:5 Because that Abraham obeyed my voice… …this will come to pass because Abraham obeyed[15] me… ὑπήκουσεν, a form of ὑπακούω
Genesis 27:8 obey my voice according to that which I command thee. do exactly what I tell you! ἄκουσόν, another form of ἀκούω
Genesis 27:13 …only obey my voice… Just obey me! ὑπάκουσον, another form of ὑπακούω
Genesis 27:43 Now therefore, my son, obey my voice… Now then, my son, do what I say. ἄκουσόν, another form of ἀκούω
Genesis 29:33 Because the LORD hath heard that I was hated… Because the Lord heard that I was unloved… ἤκουσεν, another form of ἀκούω
Genesis 30:6 …and hath also heard my voice… He has responded to my prayer… ἐπήκουσεν, a form of ἐπακούω
Genesis 34:5 And Jacob heard that he had defiled Dinah… When Jacob heard that Shechem had violated his daughter… ἤκουσεν, another form of ἀκούω
Genesis 39:10 …that he hearkened not unto her… …he did not respond to her invitation… ὑπήκουσεν, a form of ὑπακούω
Genesis 42:21 …and we would not hear …but we refused to listen. εἰσηκούσαμεν a form of εἰσακούω
Genesis 42:23 …they knew not that Joseph understood them… …they did not know that Joseph could understand them… ἀκούει, another form of ἀκούω
Exodus 7:13 …that he hearkened not unto them… …and he did not listen to them… εἰσήκουσεν, another form of εἰσακούω
Exodus 7:22 …neither did he hearken unto them… …and he refused to listen to Moses and Aaron…
Exodus 8:15 …and hearkened not unto them… …and did not listen to them…
Exodus 8:19 …and he hearkened not unto them… …and he did not listen to them…
Exodus 9:12 …and he hearkened not unto them… …and he did not listen to them…
Exodus 16:9 …for he hath heard your murmurings. …because he has heard your murmurings. εἰσακήκοεν, another form of εἰσακούω
Exodus 18:19 Hearken now unto my voice… Now listen to me… ἄκουσόν, another form of ἀκούω
Exodus 22:23 I will surely hear their cry… I will surely hear their cry… ἀκοῇ, a form of ἀκοή
Exodus 23:22 But if thou shalt indeed obey… But if you diligently obey him…
ושמע Exodus 23:21 Beware of him, and obey his voice… Take heed because of him, and obey his voice… εἰσάκουε, another form of εἰσακούω
ישמע Exodus 6:30 …and how shall Pharaoh hearken unto me? …why should Pharaoh listen to me? εἰσακούσεταί, another form of εἰσακούω
Exodus 7:4 But Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you… Pharaoh will not listen to you.
Exodus 11:9 Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you… Pharaoh will not listen to you…
Exodus 19:9 …that the people may hear when I speak… …so that the people may hear when I speak… ἀκούσῃ, another form of ἀκούω
Exodus 23:13 …neither let it be heard out of thy mouth. do not let them be heard on your lips. ἀκουσθῇ, another form of ἀκούω
וישמע Genesis 14:14 And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive… When Abram heard that his nephew had been taken captive… ἀκούσας, another form of ἀκούω
Genesis 16:2 And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai. Abram did what Sarai told him. ὑπήκουσεν, a form of ὑπακούω
Genesis 21:17 And God heard the voice of the lad… But God heard the boy’s voice. εἰσήκουσεν, another form of εἰσακούω
Genesis 23:16 And Abraham hearkened unto Ephron… So Abraham agreed to Ephron’s price… ἤκουσεν, another form of ἀκούω
Genesis 28:7 And that Jacob obeyed his father and his mother… Jacob obeyed his father and mother…
Genesis 30:17 And God hearkened unto Leah… God paid attention to Leah… ἐπήκουσεν, a form of ἐπακούω
Genesis 30:22 and God hearkened to her… He paid attention to her…
Genesis 31:1 And he heard the words of Laban’s sons… Jacob heard that Laban’s sons were complaining… ἤκουσεν, another form of ἀκούω
Genesis 35:22 and Israel heard it. and Israel heard about it.
Genesis 37:21 And Reuben heard it… When Reuben heard this… ἀκούσας, another form of ἀκούω
Genesis 45:2 and the house of Pharaoh heard. and Pharaoh’s household heard about it. ἀκουστὸν, a form of ἀκουστός
Exodus 2:15 Now when Pharaoh heard this thing… When Pharaoh heard about this event… ἤκουσεν, another form of ἀκούω
Exodus 2:24 And God heard their groaning… God heard their groaning… εἰσήκουσεν, another form of εἰσακούω
Exodus 18:1 heard of all that God had done for Moses… heard about all that God had done for Moses… ἤκουσεν, another form of ἀκούω
Exodus 18:24 So Moses hearkened to the voice of his father in law… Moses listened to his father-in-law…
שמעו Genesis 37:6 Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed: Listen to this dream I had: ἀκούσατε, another form of ἀκούω
Genesis 43:25 they heard that they should eat bread… they had heard that they were to have a meal… ἤκουσαν, another form of ἀκούω
Exodus 6:9 …but they hearkened not unto Moses… …but they did not listen to him… εἰσήκουσαν, another form of εἰσακούω
Exodus 6:12 …the children of Israel have not hearkened unto me… If the Israelites did not listen to me…
Exodus 15:14 The people shall hear, and be afraid… The nations will hear and tremble… ἤκουσαν, another form of ἀκούω
Exodus 16:20 they hearkened not unto Moses… But they did not listen to Moses… εἰσήκουσαν, another form of εἰσακούω
וישמעו Genesis 3:8 And they heard the voice… Then the man and his wife heard the sound… ἤκουσαν, another form of ἀκούω
Genesis 34:24 And unto Hamor and unto Shechem his son hearkened all… …the men who assembled at the city gate agreed εἰσήκουσαν, another form of εἰσακούω
Genesis 37:27 And his brethren were content. His brothers agreed. ἤκουσαν, another form of ἀκούω
Genesis 45:2 Not translated …the Egyptians heard it…
Exodus 4:31 and when they heard that the LORD… When they heard that the Lord… Not Translated
ושמעו Genesis 49:2 Gather yourselves together, and hear, ye sons of Jacob… Assemble and listen, you sons of Jacob… ἀκούσατε, another form of ἀκούω
and hearken unto Israel your father. listen to Israel, your father.
Exodus 3:18 And they shall hearken to thy voice: The elders will listen to you… εἰσακούσονταί, another form of εἰσακούω
ישמעו Genesis 11:7 …they may not understand one another’s speech. …they won’t be able to understand each other. ἀκούσωσιν, another form of ἀκούω
Exodus 4:1 …nor hearken unto my voice: …or pay attention to me… εἰσακούσωσιν, another form of εἰσακούω
Exodus 4:8 …neither hearken to the voice of the first sign… …or pay attention to the former sign…
שמען Genesis 4:23 Hear my voice… Listen to me! ἀκούσατέ, another form of ἀκούω
ישמעון Exodus 4:9 …neither hearken unto thy voice… …or listen to you… εἰσακούσωσιν, another form of εἰσακούω
שמעת Genesis 3:17 Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife… Because you obeyed your wife… ἤκουσας, another form of ἀκούω
Genesis 18:10 And Sarah heard it in the tent door… Now Sarah was listening at the entrance… ἤκουσεν, another form of ἀκούω
Genesis 22:18 …because thou hast obeyed my voice. Because you have obeyed me… ὑπήκουσας, another form of ὑπακούω
Genesis 27:5 And Rebekah heard[16] Now Rebekah had been listening ἤκουσεν, another form of ἀκούω
Exodus 7:16 …hitherto thou wouldest not hear. But until now you have not listened. εἰσήκουσας, another form of εἰσακούω
ושמעתי Exodus 22:27 that I will hear; for I am gracious. I will hear, for I am gracious. εἰσακούσομαι, another form of εἰσακούω
שמעתם Genesis 42:22 and ye would not hear? but you wouldn’t listen? εἰσηκούσατέ, another form of εἰσακούω
שמעתי Genesis 3:10 I heard thy voice in the garden… I heard you moving about in the orchard… ἤκουσα, another form of ἀκούω
Genesis 21:26 …neither yet heard I of it, but to day. I did not hear about it until today.
Genesis 27:6 Behold, I heard thy father… Look, I overheard your father…
Genesis 37:17 …for I heard them say… …for I heard them say…
Genesis 41:15 …and I have heard say of thee… But I have heard about you… ἀκήκοα, another form of ἀκούω
Genesis 42:2 I have heard that there is corn in Egypt: I hear that there is grain in Egypt.
Exodus 3:7 and have heard their cry… I have heard their cry…
Exodus 6:5 And I have also heard the groaning of the children of… I have also heard the groaning of the Israelites… εἰσήκουσα, another form of ἐπακούω
Exodus 16:12 I have heard the murmurings… I have heard the murmurings… εἰσακήκοα, another form of εἰσακούω
שמעתיך Genesis 17:20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: As for Ishmael, I have heard you. ἐπήκουσά, another form of ἐπακούω
שמעני Genesis 23:11 hear me… Hear me out. ἄκουσόν, another form of ἀκούω
Genesis 23:13 I pray thee, hear me: Hear me, if you will.
Genesis 23:15 My Lord, hearken unto me: Hear me, my lord. ἀκήκοα, another form of ἀκούω
ישמעני Exodus 6:12 …how then shall Pharaoh hear me… …then how will Pharaoh listen to me… εἰσακούσεταί, another form of ἐπακούω
שמענו Genesis 23:6 Hear us, my Lord: thou art a mighty prince… Listen, sir, you are a mighty prince… ἄκουσον, another form of ἀκούω
שמעוני Genesis 23:8 hear me… then hear me out. ἀκούσατέ, another form of ἀκούω
שמוע Exodus 15:26 If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God… If you will diligently obey the Lord your God… ἀκοῇ, a form of ἀκοή
Exodus 19:5 Not translated …if you will diligently listen to me…
השמע Genesis 21:6 …so that all that hear will laugh… Everyone who hears about this will laugh… ἀκούσῃ, another form of ἀκούω
נשמע Genesis 45:16 And the fame thereof was heard in Pharaoh’s house… Now it was reported in the household of Pharaoh… διεβοήθη, a form of διαβοάω
ונשמעה Exodus 20:19 Speak thou with us, and we will hear You speak to us and we will listen Not Translated
כשמע Genesis 27:34 And when Esau heard the words of his father… When Esau heard his father’s words… ἤκουσεν, another form of ἀκούω
Genesis 29:13 when Laban heard the tidings of Jacob… When Laban heard this news about Jacob…
Genesis 39:19 when his master heard the words of his wife… When his master heard his wife say…
Exodus 16:8 …for that the LORD heareth your murmurings… …because the Lord has heard your murmurings… εἰσακοῦσαι, another form of εἰσακούω
כשמעו Genesis 39:15 when he heard that I lifted up my voice… When he heard me raise my voice… ἀκοῦσαι, another form of ἀκούω
Exodus 16:7 for that he heareth your murmurings… because he has heard your murmurings… εἰσακοῦσαι, another form of εἰσακούω
כשמעם Genesis 34:7 when they heard it: when they heard the news. ἤκουσαν, another form of ἀκούω
וכשמעו Genesis 24:30 and when he heard the words of Rebekah his sister, saying… and heard his sister Rebekah say… ἤκουσεν, another form of ἀκούω
תשמע Genesis 41:15 …that thou canst understand a dream… Not translated ἀκούσαντά, another form of ἀκούω
Exodus 15:26 If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God… If you will diligently obey the Lord your God… ἀκούσῃς, another form of ἀκούω
Exodus 23:22 But if thou shalt indeed obey But if you diligently obey him… ἀκούσητε, another form of ἀκούω
תשמעו Genesis 34:17 But if ye will not hearken unto us… But if you do not agree to our terms… εἰσακούσητε, another form of εἰσακούω
Exodus 19:5 …if ye will obey my voice… …if you will diligently listen to me… ἀκούσητε, another form of ἀκούω
אשמע Exodus 5:2 Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice… Who is the Lord that I should obey him… εἰσακούσομαι, another form of εἰσακούω
Exodus 22:23 …I will surely hear their cry… …I will surely hear their cry…

[1] I used the second spelling (nâsâh) offered in Strong’s Concordance in the tables and in a previous essay, which confused me when I linked to the Hebrew dictionary.

[2] John 12:47 (NIV)

[3] 1 Timothy 4:13 (NET)

[4] Luke 1:13 (NET)

[5] John 3:36 (NKJV)

[6] Acts 20:20a (NET)

[7] Exodus 23:21b (NETS)  The Tanakh reads: for he will not pardon your transgression; for My name is in him.

[8] I won’t argue that the angel’s purpose was to keep believing Israelites within the covenant, though I considered it.

[9] In these essays I’ve used several names for the Hebrew יהוה.  Admittedly, I was being catty when I used Jehovah to obliquely reference the undercurrent in religious thought that Jesus died to save us from an evil god.  I abandoned the name Yahweh for reasons akin to the genetic fallacy: I learned Yahweh from Nietzsche.  He was not only an atheist but a philologist as well.  I settled on yehôvâh because it was in Strong’s Concordance, the same source I’ve used for all the other Hebrew words addressed in these essays.  Subsequently I’ve come across an argument favoring Yahweh on YAHWEH’S restoration ministry online in an article titled “The Yehovah Deception: Reinventing a Misnomer.”

The most succinct form of their argument reads: “As confirmed by the Jewish Talmud, hundreds of years before the birth of Yahshua the Messiah the Jews stopped pronouncing the divine Name and began concealing it by reading the vowel points from Adonai into the Tetragrammaton.  The motivation behind this practice was not from irreverence but through a strong veneration for the Name.  They were afraid that if it were pronounced, someone might misuse or blaspheme the Name.  Part of this hesitation doubtless arose from their time in Babylon.  While their reasoning was admirable, it is against the clear teachings of Scripture.”

I find that argument plausible and discouraging.  My own working hypothesis concerning the Masoretes was that they were generally honorable when dealing with the words of Scripture but may have shaded the meaning of certain Hebrew words a bit to defend Jewish religion from Christian scholarship.  As a working hypothesis it limited the search field to points of contention.  The idea that they may be the heirs of those who deliberately corrupted the name of God with vowels from a different word offers no limit to the mischief they may have perpetrated on words of lesser importance.  If true, a searchable list of Hebrew homographs is no mere convenience but an absolute necessity for Old Testament study.  Creating such a list is well beyond my abilities.

My only purpose in using yehôvâh is to remind myself that Lord is not the word used in Scripture.  I was taught from the pulpit that it is disrespectful to call Jesus by name, that Paul called Him Lord, though now I think that was Paul’s way of designating Him yehôvâh (Isaiah 45:18-23; Romans 14:10-12; Philippians 2:5-11; John 5:22, 23).  So for the time being I’ll continue using yehôvâh since I definitely don’t believe the name of God is a magical incantation that must be pronounced correctly for the magic to work.

[10] Exodus 23:22, 23 (NET)

[11] Exodus 33:2 (NET)

[12] Genesis 4:7b (NET)  Here, the Tanakh presents the subduing of sin as a comforting possibility rather than an imperative: …and unto thee is its desire, but thou mayest rule over it (Genesis 4:7b Tanakh).  The Septuagint comforted Cain that he would once again rule over Abel (if he offered the appropriate sacrifice): “Be still, his recourse is to you, and you will rule over him” (Genesis 4:7b NETS).

[13] Titus 3:3-7 (NET)

[14] Romans 10:10, 11 (KJV)

[15] So then faith comes by hearing (ἀκοῆς, a form of ἀκοή), and hearing (ἀκοὴ, another form of ἀκοή) by the word of God (Romans 10:17 NKJV).  No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws (ἑλκύσῃ, a form of ἑλκύω) him (John 6:44a NET)…  And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw (ἑλκύσω, another form of ἑλκύω) all people to myself.

[16] For it is not those who hear (ἀκροαταὶ, a form of ἀκροατής) the law who are righteous before God, but those who do the law will be declared righteous (Romans 2:13 NET).  This is an interesting example.  Relative to Isaac’s word Rebekah was a hearer only because she did everything in her power to deceive her husband and change the outcome of his word.  But was she hearing/obeying yehôvâh (Genesis 25:21-26) instead?  Was her deception necessary?  Would we be reading the history of Esau/Israel rather than Jacob/Israel without it?  Or would yehôvâh have chosen (Malachi 1:1-5) Jacob even if Isaac had blessed Esau as he intended (Romans 9:10-18)?  Was Rebekah’s deception righteous?  Or might her faith have been counted as righteousness (Romans 4:1-5)?

Romans, Part 84

For I tell you, Paul continued writing to believers in Rome, that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of God’s truth to confirm the promises made to the fathers, and thus the Gentiles glorify God for his mercy.[1]  These are two seemingly independent clauses joined by the conjunction δὲ, “but, moreover, and.”  Any of these would be easier to understand than and thus, indicating that the second clause is logically dependent upon the first.  But rather than reject it I’m inclined to slow down and consider it very carefully.

The translators acknowledge the difficulty in a footnote (6): “There are two major syntactical alternatives which are both awkward: (1) One could make ‘glorify’ dependent on ‘Christ has become a minister’ and coordinate with ‘to confirm’ and the result would be rendered ‘Christ has become a minister of circumcision to confirm the promises…and so that the Gentiles might glorify God.’ (2) One could make ‘glorify’ dependent on ‘I tell you’ and coordinate with ‘Christ has become a minister’ and the result would be rendered ‘I tell you that Christ has become a minister of circumcision…and that the Gentiles glorify God.’ The second rendering is preferred.”

I began with a survey of the promises made to the fathers (πατέρων, a form of πατήρ):

…the promises made to the fathers… (τὰς ἐπαγγελίας τῶν πατέρων)

Abram Genesis 12:1-3, 7; 13:14-17; 15:1-7, 18-20; 17:1-8[2]
Abraham Genesis 17:18-21; 18:10-14, 17-19, 26-32; 21:12-13; 22:15-18
Isaac Genesis 26:2-5, 24
Jacob/Israel Genesis 28:13-15; 31:3; 35:9-12; 46:2-4

Some of the promises were personal and came to pass in the father’s own lifetime.  But look, the word of the Lord came to [Abram]: [Eliezer of Damascus] will not be your heir, but instead a son who comes from your own body will be your heir.”[3]   Is anything impossible for the Lord? He said to Abraham.  I will return to you when the season comes round again and Sarah will have a son.[4]  The Lord said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your fathers and to your relatives.  I will be with you.”[5]  The promises made to all three concerned the land, their descendants and a singular descendant.

The Lord’s angel called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, “‘I solemnly swear by my own name,’ decrees the Lord, ‘that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will indeed bless you, and I will greatly multiply your descendants (zeraʽ, זרעך; Septuagint: σπέρμα, singular) so that they will be as countless as the stars in the sky or the grains of sand on the seashore. Your descendants (zeraʽ, זרעך; Septuagint: σπέρμα, singular) will take possession (yârash, וירש; Septuagint: κληρονομήσει, a form of κληρονομέω, 3rd person singular) of the strongholds of their enemies.  Because you have obeyed me, all the nations of the earth will pronounce blessings on one another using the name of your descendants (zeraʽ, בזרעך; Septuagint: σπέρματί, singular).’”[6]

“This word,” [zeraʽ, זרעך] C. John Collins wrote, “in the singular can refer to offspring, either in a collective sense or as a specific descendant (much as the English word ‘offspring’).”[7]  I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore, is an example of the singular in a “collective sense.”  [Desmond] “Alexander argues,” Mr Collins continued, “that the second and third instances of ‘offspring’ are used for a specific offspring.”[8]  Given that, and without any academic credentials to defend, I wonder about some of the other promises.  The Lord (yehôvâh, יהוה) appeared to Isaac and said (Genesis 26:2-5 NET):

“Do not go down to Egypt; settle down in the land that I will point out to you.  Stay in this land.  Then I will be with you and will bless you, for I will give all these lands to you and to your descendants (zeraʽ, ולזרעך; Septuagint: σπέρματί, singular), and I will fulfill the solemn promise I made to your father Abraham.  I will multiply your descendants (zeraʽ, זרעך; Septuagint: σπέρμα, singular) so they will be as numerous as the stars in the sky, and I will give them (zeraʽ, לזרעך; Septuagint: σπέρματί, singular) all these lands.  All the nations of the earth will pronounce blessings on one another using the name of your descendants (zeraʽ, בזרעך; Septuagint: σπέρματί, singular).  All this will come to pass because Abraham obeyed me and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.”

Did yehôvâh promise that, All the nations of the earth will pronounce blessings on one another using the name of [Isaac, Esau and Jacob]…because Abraham obeyed Him?  The Tanakh is considerably more circumspect in translation: and by thy seed shall all the nations of the earth bless themselves; because that Abraham hearkened to My voice, and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.  To Jacob yehôvâh said (Genesis 28:13-15 NET):

“I am the Lord (yehôvâh, יהוה), the God of your grandfather Abraham and the God of your father Isaac.  I will give you and your descendants (zeraʽ, ולזרעך; Septuagint: σπέρματί, singular) the ground you are lying on.  Your descendants (zeraʽ, זרעך; Septuagint: σπέρμα, singular) will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west, east, north, and south.  All the families of the earth will pronounce blessings on one another using your name and that of your descendants (zeraʽ, ובזרעך; Septuagint: σπέρματί, singular).  I am with you!  I will protect you wherever you go and will bring you back to this land.  I will not leave you until I have done what I promised you!”

Did yehôvâh promise that, All the families of the earth will pronounce blessings on one another using the name Israel?  Again, the Tanakh is more circumspect in translation: And in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.  Why would Gentiles translate the Scripture this way?  Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his descendant, Paul wrote believers in Galatia.  Scripture does not say, “and to the descendants,” referring to many, but “and to your descendant,” referring to one, who is Christ.[9]

Why would contemporary Gentiles, the primary beneficiaries of these particular promises, change yehôvâh’s promises? and [Jesus Christ] shall possess the gate of his enemies; and in [Jesus Christ] shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because [Abraham] hast hearkened to [His] voice.[10]  And, by [Jesus Christ] shall all the nations of the earth bless themselves; because that Abraham hearkened to [His] voice, and kept [His] charge, [His] commandments, [His] statutes, and [His] laws.[11]  And in [Israel] and in [Jesus Christ] shall all the families of the earth be blessed.[12]

And since I’ve gone down this rabbit hole I might as well complete the set: all the families of the earth will bless one another by your name[13]  [i.e., Abram], where the Tanakh reads: in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.  It seems absurd to continue to defend one word thus.  But I didn’t start down this path trusting the translators of the NET.  What I called an inclination is a leading I have learned to trust following Jesus through the Scripture.  Still, I doubt this is what Paul had in mind. 

Look, your house is left to you desolate!” Jesus had said to the circumcised. “For I tell you, you will not see me from now until you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!’”[14]  “Look, your house is forsaken!  And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!’”[15]  It would be difficult for one who did not believe that Jesus is yehôvâh to understand how He has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of God’s truth to confirm the promises made to Abram/Abraham, Isaac and Jacob/Israel.

The Lord (yehôvâh, יהוה) appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants (zeraʽ, לזרעך; Septuagint: σπέρματί, singular) I will give this land.”[16]  Isolated as this promise is I’m inclined to hear לזרעך as both, “in a collective sense” and “as a specific descendant.”  The idea that yehôvâh promised to give this land to yehôvâh come to earth in human flesh as Jesus the Messiah is admittedly unintelligible.  But the idea that yehôvâh promised Abram that one of his descendents, to whom the land was given, is yehôvâh come to earth in human flesh as Jesus the Messiah is powerful indeed.  Jesus is ever worthy, ever producing the fruit of the kingdom of God.  At a moment when the rest of the descendants of Israel were about to lose the vineyard as they would lose the kingdom of God Jesus has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of God’s truth to confirm the promises made to Abram/Abraham, Isaac and Jacob/Israel.

After Lot had departed, the Lord said to Abram, “Look from the place where you stand to the north, south, east, and west.  I will give all the land that you see to you and your descendants (zeraʽ, ולזרעך; Septuagint: σπέρματί, singular) forever.  And I will make your descendants (zeraʽ, זרעך; Septuagint: σπέρμα, singular) like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone is able to count the dust of the earth, then your descendants (zeraʽ, זרעך; Septuagint: σπέρμα, singular) also can be counted.  Get up and walk throughout the land, for I will give it to you.”[17]  That day the Lord made a covenant with Abram: “To your descendants (zeraʽ, לזרעך; Septuagint: σπέρματί, singular) I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates River – the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites, and Jebusites.”[18]  And finally (Genesis 17:8 NET):

I will give the whole land of Canaan – the land where you are now residing – to you and your descendants (zeraʽ, ולזרעך; Septuagint: σπέρματί, singular) after you as a permanent possession.  I will be their (Septuagint: αὐτοῖς, plural) God.”

“So how did it come about,” Manfred Davidmann asked rhetorically, “that the Jewish people were expelled twice from the country God promised them with their grip on the country weakening at the present time?  Without a shadow of a doubt the Jewish people lost the country in the past because they did not fulfil their part of the bargain, because they broke the terms of the Covenant…In the language of religion, the land of Israel does not belong to anyone other than God.  Those who live in it may use and benefit from the land but only as long as they follow God’s laws.”[19]

Mr. Davidmann might have taught my Sunday school class.  The “Torah states a scientific law, the Social Cause-and-effect Relationship {1}, which is that the consequences of keeping or not keeping the Torah laws are inescapable, that what happens to one is in the end the inevitable result of one’s own behaviour…this is a scientific law which was defined and stated using the language of religion to get the message across to listeners in such a way that they could understand at least the effects of this ’cause-and-effect relationship’.”  He may have raised a few eyebrows with the adjective scientific but all in all I think my elders would have gone along with him.  I have a few comments about Mr. Davidmann’s abbreviated version of the law:

The essential social provisions of Torah law are clear and to the point.  This is what the Torah lays down as a matter of law {1}:

  1. The community has to provide (‘lend’) money to those who need it, free of interest.
  2. All such loans, if outstanding, are to be cancelled every seventh year.
  3. The country’s wealth, and this applies particularly to productive capital such as land, belongs equally to all and needs to be shared out.
  4. Inhabitants are also entitled to have a sabbatical year every seventh year. During this sabbatical year they are entitled to be freed from work at the expense of the community.

Every person is entitled as a matter of right to social security.  This means that people are entitled to be supported by the community not only when they fall on hard times but also to maintain their independence as independent breadwinners for their families.  For example, the community has to provide backup funds to those who need them and they have to be provided as and when required.

To prevent people being exploited through their need these funds have to be provided without charging interest and such ‘loans’ are cancelled every seventh year if the borrower has been unable to repay them.

It is the inhabitants who keep the social laws, who keep Torah law, who are entitled to these rights.

As for item #4 there is a qualitative and substantive difference between farmers trusting yehôvâh enough to let their lands go fallow one year in seven and an angry mob demanding their “rights” to a year’s vacation at “community” expense.  Aside from that federal, state and municipal governments in the United States of America provide most of these welfare benefits in spirit if not to the letter of the law.  But none of this is sufficient to fulfill the law.  It was the so-called moral law ignored by Mr. Davidmann that prescribed the death penalty for so many offenses, for the letter kills quite literally.

So here I am, one of the believing Gentiles [who] glorify God for his mercy (ἐλέους, a form of ἔλεος).  And this, because the righteousness of God which fulfills the law does not depend on human desire or exertion, but on God who shows mercy (ἐλεῶντος, a form of ἐλεέω).[20]  No one can come to me, Jesus said, unless the Father who sent me draws him.[21]  So then, God has mercy (ἐλεεῖ, another form of ἐλεέω) on whom he chooses to have mercy, and he hardens whom he chooses to harden.[22]  And what if he is willing to make known the wealth of his glory on the objects of mercy (ἐλέους, a form of ἔλεος) that he has prepared beforehand for glory – even us, whom he has called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?[23]

By that mercy I have been called to faith in Jesus Christ, forgiven of my sins, born from above, filled continuously with the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control of his Holy Spirit.  This only I want to learn from you, Paul wrote teetering believers in Galatia: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?  Are you so foolish?  Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?  Have you suffered so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain?[24]  It would be treasonous for me to turn back now and pretend that I might fulfill the law by obeying it, whether in part or in total.

So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous, and good.[25]  Through the law comes the knowledge of sin.  But now apart from the law the righteousness of God (which is attested by the law and the prophets) has been disclosed – namely, the righteousness of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who believe.[26]  I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.  So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  I do not set aside God’s grace, because if righteousness could come through the law, then Christ died for nothing![27]

I’ll return to this in another essay.

Romans, Part 85

[1] Romans 15:8, 9a (NET)

[2] This is an interesting article I stumbled across searching for confirmation that σπέρμα, σπέρματί and σπέρματός are singular.  http://www.lionelwindsor.net/2010/03/16/the-singular-seed-of-galatians-316/

[3] Genesis 15:4 (NET)

[4] Genesis 18:14 (NET)

[5] Genesis 31:3 (NET)

[6] Genesis 22:15-18 (NET)

[7] C. John Collins, “GALATIANS 3:16: WHAT KIND OF EXEGETE WAS PAUL?” Tyndale Bulletin 54.1 (2003), p. 84

[8] Ibid., p. 85

[9] Galatians 3:16 (NET)

[10] Genesis 22:17b, 18 (Tanakh)

[11] Genesis 26:4b, 5 (Tanakh)

[12] Genesis 28:14b (Tanakh)

[13] Genesis 12:3b (NET)

[14] Matthew 23:38, 39 (NET)

[15] Luke 13:35 (NET)

[16] Genesis 12:7a (NET)

[17] Genesis 13:14-17 (NET)

[18] Genesis 15:18-21 (NET)

[19] http://www.solhaam.org/articles/land.html

[20] Romans 9:16 (NET)

[21] John 6:44a (NET)

[22] Romans 9:18 (NET)

[23] Romans 9:23, 24 (NET)

[24] Galatians 3:2-4 (NKJV)

[25] Romans 7:12 (NET)

[26] Romans 3:20b-22 (NET)

[27] Galatians 2:20, 21 (NET)

Romans, Part 78

And do this because we know the time[1]  The words because we know are a way the NET translators translated the Greek word εἰδότες (a form of εἴδω; also, 2 Corinthians 5:11).  They translated it because youknow (Matthew 22:29; Mark 12:24; 1 Peter 5:9), when you didknow (Galatians 4:8), and we know (1 Thessalonians 1:4).  More often than not εἰδότες occurs in the New Testament as εἰδότες ὅτι; because is a legitimate translation of ὅτι.

Greek

NET

References

εἰδότες ὅτι because they knew that Luke 8:53
εἰδότες ὅτι because they knew John 21:12
εἰδότες ὅτι knowing that Romans 5:3; 1 Corinthians 15:58
εἰδότες ὅτι we know that Romans 6:9; 2 Corinthians 5:6; Galatians 2:16
εἰδότες ὅτι because we know that 2 Corinthians 1:7
εἰδότες ὅτι because we know 2 Corinthians 4:14
εἰδότες ὅτι because you know that Ephesians 6:8; Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 3:24; Colossians 4:1; James 3:1
εἰδότες ὅτι because they know that Philippians 1:16
εἰδότες ὅτι you know that 1 Peter 1:18

So I question the wisdom of translating εἰδότες “as a causal adverbial participle” (NET note 11), adding because when ὅτι is not present.  But I question even more the wisdom of translating nothing, no Greek word at all, as do (NET note 10).  That one word shifts the focus of the text from the phenomenal revelation that love is the fulfillment of the law[2] to a list of works that I must do.  The verse continues, [because (ὅτι)] it is already the hour for us to awake from sleep.[3]

The word translated us is ὑμᾶςyou.  So Paul was very direct:  And this, he wrote highlighting and accentuating that love is the fulfillment of the law, knowing the time, because it is already the hour for you to awake from sleep… and one extraneous word turned my attention from God reconciling the world to himself in Christ, from the power of his resurrection, from the fruit of his Holy Spirit to my own puny efforts to do rules, to love like God in my own strength.

I’m not angry with the NET translators, I’m grateful.  Their footnotes, revealing their thought processes, have disabused me of my notion that Bible translators are something more than human beings doing the best they can—given their beliefs.  I didn’t even read the NET back when I had most of my difficulties.  I read the NASB and then the NIV.

NASB

NIV

Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now [a] salvation is nearer to us than when we believed.

Romans 13:11

And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.

Romans 13:11

The NIV has no footnote here.  My NASB fell apart years ago, but it has the telltale italics.  Do in italics didn’t alert my Bible-believing heart to dig deeper, not like a footnote did (10): “Grk ‘and this,’ probably referring to the command to love (13:8-10); hence, ‘do’ is implied from the previous verses.”  Unless, of course, one believes that Paul and the Holy Spirit intended to accentuate the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise, as it pertains to the law, through faith rather than works (Matthew 5:17-20 NET):

Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets.  I have not come to abolish these things but to fulfill them.  I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth pass away not the smallest letter or stroke of a letter will pass from the law until everything takes place.  So anyone who breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever obeys them and teaches others to do so will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.  For I tell you, unless your righteousness goes beyond that of the experts in the law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, Paul wrote believers in Rome, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believedThe night has advanced toward dawn; the day is near.  So then we must lay aside the works of darkness, and put on the weapons of light.  Let us live decently as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in discord and jealousy.[4]

The Greek word translated darkness is σκότους (a form of σκότος).  Paul wrote believers in Ephesus, for you were at one time darkness (σκότος), but now you are light in the Lord.  Walk as children of the light – for the fruit (καρπὸς) of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness, and truth – trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.  Do not participate in the unfruitful (ἀκάρποις, a form of ἄκαρπος) deeds of darkness (σκότους, a form of σκότος), but rather expose them.  For the things they do in secret are shameful even to mention.  But all things being exposed by the light are made evident.  For everything made evident is light, and for this reason it says: “Awake, O sleeper!  Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you!”[5]

To the Romans Paul stressed carousing and drunkenness…sexual immorality and sensuality…discord and jealousy as works of darkness.  The list stressed in Ephesians included sexual immorality, impurity of any kind, or greedvulgar speech, foolish talk, or coarse jesting.[6]  But I don’t think I’m stretching his words at all to include 1) attempts to be righteous by obeying rules in one’s own strength, or 2) attempts to share credit for the fruit of the Spirit, among the unfruitful deeds of darkness.  For ignoring the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking instead to establish their own righteousness, they did not submit to God’s righteousness,[7] Paul summed up the righteousness of the Pharisees.  He wrote believers in Philippi, that I may gain Christ, and be found in him, not because I have my own righteousness derived from the law, but because I have the righteousness that comes by way of Christ’s faithfulness – a righteousness from God that is in fact based on Christ’s faithfulness.[8]

The Greek work translated light in the phrase weapons of light is φωτός (a form of φῶς).  Jesus is the light (John 1:6-9 NET):

A man came, sent from God, whose name was John.  He came as a witness to testify about the light (φωτός, a form of φῶς), so that everyone might believe through him.  He himself was not the light (φῶς), but he came to testify about the light (φωτός, a form of φῶς).  The true light (φῶς), who gives light (φωτίζει, a form of φωτίζω) to everyone, was coming into the world.

Instead, put on (ἐνδύσασθε, a form of ἐνδύω) the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh to arouse its desires,[9] Paul concluded.  Here the new human is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ (Galatians 2:20, 21 NET):

I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.  So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  I do not set aside God’s grace, because if righteousness could come through the law, then Christ died for nothing!

I’ll conclude this essay by quoting from four commentaries.  My purpose is to show the decline in enthusiasm for the power of God’s love as a function of time.  First, Matthew Henry (1662-1714):

Love intends and designs no ill to any body, is utterly against the doing of that which may turn to the prejudice, offence, or grief of any. It worketh no ill that is, it prohibits the working of any ill: more is implied than is expressed it not only worketh no ill, but it worketh all the good that may be, deviseth liberal things. For it is a sin not only to devise evil against thy neighbour, but to withhold good from those to whom it is due both are forbidden together, Proverbs 3:27-29. This proves that love is the fulfilling of the law, answers all the end of it for what else is that but to restrain us from evil-doing, and to constrain us to well-doing? Love is a living active principle of obedience to the whole law. The whole law is written in the heart, if the law of love be there.

Second, John Gill (1697-1771):

therefore love is the fulfilling of the law: so far as a man loves his neighbour, he acts agreeably to the law, and the particular precepts of it above mentioned: what the apostle says of love to the neighbour, the Jews frequently say of love to God; “he that loveth God (they sayF4) מקיים עשר אמירן, “hath fulfilled the decalogue”, both above and below.  And againF5, “there is no service like the love of God, R. Abba saith it is כללא דאורייתא, “the sum of the law”; for the ten words of the law הכא אתכלילו, “are herein comprehended”, or “fulfilled”:’ and elsewhereF6 they observe, “that כל התורה כלולה באהבה, “the whole law is comprehended”, or fulfilled “in love”.’

Third, Albert Barnes (1798-1870):

Therefore … – “Because” love does no harm to another, it is “therefore” the fulfilling of the Law, implying that all that the Law requires is to “love” others.

Is the fulfilling – Is the “completion,” or meets the requirements of the Law. The Law of God on this “head,” or in regard to our duty to our neighbor, requires us to do justice toward him, to observe truth, etc. “All” this will be met by “love;” and if people truly “loved” others, all the demands of the Law would be satisfied.

Of the law – Of the Law of Moses, but particularly the Ten Commandments.

Fourth, the Pulpit Commentary (1884):

From specific admonitions on this subject, the apostle passes naturally to the principle which, in these regards as well as others, should inspire all our dealings with our fellow-men. Owe no man anything, but to love one another: for he that loveth another (literally, the other, meaning the same as his neighbour) hath fulfilled law. νόμον here is anarthrous, denoting law in general, not the Mosaic Law in particular, though the instances of transgression that follow are from the Decalogue. The idea of the passage is but a carrying out of our Lord’s saying, Matthew 22:39, Matthew 22:40. We find it also in Galatians 5:14 more shortly expressed. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended (or, summed up) in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour; therefore love is the fulfilling of law.

No one mentioned the fruit of the Spirit directly, that this is God’s love rather than ours.  But from Matthew Henry’s “more is implied than is expressed [love] not only worketh no ill, but it worketh all the good that may be” to the Pulpit Commentary’s assessment that love is a “principle which…should inspire all our dealings with our fellow-men,” confidence in the love that God has in us took a nose dive in about two centuries.  Listen to John (1 John 4:16, 17 NET):

And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has in (ἐν) us.  God is love, and the one who resides in love resides in God, and God resides in him.  By this [e.g., God’s residence, his possession of us through the Holy Spirit] love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment, because just as Jesus is, so also are we in this world.

Romans, Part 79

[1] Romans 13:11a (NET)

[2] Romans 13:10 (NET)

[3] Romans 13:11b (NET)

[4] Romans 13:11b-13 (NIV)

[5] Ephesians 5:8-14 (NET)

[6] Ephesians 5:3, 4 (NET)

[7] Romans 10:3 (NET)

[8] Philippians 3:8b, 9 (NET)

[9] Romans 13:14 (NET)

Romans, Part 65

I’m still considering Rejoice in hope, endure in suffering, persist in prayer[1] as a description of love rather than as rules to obey.  I’m focusing now on the aftermath of the death of the Levite’s concubine.  The tribes of Israel sent men throughout the tribe of Benjamin, saying, “How could such a wicked thing take place?  Now, hand over the good-for-nothings (belı̂yaʽal, בליעל) in Gibeah so we can execute them and purge Israel of wickedness.”[2]

On the surface of it this sounds like a thoughtful and lawful way to proceed.  But I note that the Levite had not called the perpetrators of the crime in Gibeah good-for-nothings (KJV: children of Belial) but baʽal.[3]  Perhaps baʽal in this context communicated children of belı̂yaʽal to the Levite’s contemporaries, but I suspect that it carried a more technical legal weight in this particular accusation (Deuteronomy 13:12-18 NET).

Suppose you should hear in one of your cities, which the Lord your God is giving you as a place to live, that some evil (belı̂yaʽal, בליעל; KJV: children of Belial) people have departed from among you to entice the inhabitants of their cities, saying, “Let’s go and serve other gods” (whom you have not known before).  You must investigate thoroughly and inquire carefully.  If it is indeed true that such a disgraceful thing is being done among you, you must by all means slaughter the inhabitants of that city with the sword; annihilate with the sword everyone in it, as well as the livestock.  You must gather all of its plunder into the middle of the plaza and burn the city and all its plunder as a whole burnt offering to the Lord your God. It will be an abandoned ruin forever – it must never be rebuilt again.  You must not take for yourself anything that has been placed under judgment.  Then the Lord will relent from his intense anger, show you compassion, have mercy on you, and multiply you as he promised your ancestors.  Thus you must obey the Lord your God, keeping all his commandments that I am giving you today and doing what is right before him.

Not only that, but purge Israel of wickedness was a familiar theme from the law.

Reference NET Hebrew Septuagint
Deuteronomy 13:5 purge out evil from within ובערת הרע מקרבך ἀφανιεῖς τὸν πονηρὸν ἐξ ὑμῶν αὐτῶν
Deuteronomy 17:7 purge evil from among you ובערת הרע מקרבך ף ἐξαρεῖς τὸν πονηρὸν ἐξ ὑμῶν αὐτῶν
Deuteronomy 17:12 purge evil from Israel ובערת הרע מישׁראל ἐξαρεῖς τὸν πονηρὸν ἐξ Ισραηλ
Deuteronomy 19:13 purge out the blood of the innocent from Israel ובערת דם הנקי מישׁראל καθαριεῖς τὸ αἷμα τὸ ἀναίτιον ἐξ Ισραηλ
Deuteronomy 19:19 purge[4] evil from among you ובערת הרע מקרבך ἐξαρεῖς τὸν πονηρὸν ἐξ ὑμῶν αὐτῶν
Deuteronomy 21:9 purge out the guilt of innocent blood from among you תבער הדם הנקי מקרבך כי ἐξαρεῖς τὸ αἷμα τὸ ἀναίτιον ἐξ ὑμῶν αὐτῶν
Deuteronomy 21:21 purge out wickedness from among you ובערת הרע מקרבך ἐξαρεῖς τὸν πονηρὸν ἐξ ὑμῶν αὐτῶν
Deuteronomy 22:21 purge evil from among you ובערת הרע מקרבך ס ἐξαρεῖς τὸν πονηρὸν ἐξ ὑμῶν αὐτῶν
Deuteronomy 22:22 purge evil from Israel ובערת הרע מישׁראל ס ἐξαρεῖς τὸν πονηρὸν ἐξ Ισραηλ
Deuteronomy 22:24 purge evil from among you ובערת הרע מקרבך ס ἐξαρεῖς τὸν πονηρὸν ἐξ ὑμῶν αὐτῶν
Deuteronomy 24:7 purge evil from among you ובערת הרע מקרבך ἐξαρεῖς τὸν πονηρὸν ἐξ ὑμῶν αὐτῶν
Judges 20:13 purge Israel of wickedness ונבערה [5]רעה מישׁראל ἐκκαθαριοῦμεν πονηρίαν ἀπὸ Ισραηλ

I went to bed meditating on these details with a line from Quentin Tarantino’sKill Bill, Volume 1” flitting around in my memory: “When fortune smiles on something as violent and ugly as revenge, it seems proof like no other that not only does God exist, you’re doing his will.”[6]  I awoke the next morning with the fresh insight that yehôvâh had this law (Deuteronomy 13:12-18) at his disposal throughout the period covered by the book of Judges.

The Israelites did evil (raʽ, הרע) in the Lord’s (yehôvâh, יהוה) sight.  They forgot the Lord (yehôvâh, יהוה) their God (ʼĕlôhı̂ym, אלהיהם) and worshiped the Baals (baʽal, הבעלים) and the Asherahs.[7]  They had become the children of Belial by definition.  The Lord (yehôvâh, יהוה) was furious with Israel,[8] but he did not invoke this law.  He turned them over to King Cushan-Rishathaim of Aram-Naharaim[9] instead.  They were Cushan-Rishathaim’s subjects for eight years.[10]  And I was reminded of Moses’ intercession with yehôvâh.

When the first forty day covenant ended yehôvâh had Israel dead to rights.  They had despised that covenant,[11] but yehôvâh intended to honor it: Whoever sacrifices to a god other than the Lord (yehôvâh, ליהוה) alone must be utterly destroyed.[12] 

So now, leave me alone, He said to Moses, so that my anger can burn against them and I can destroy them, and I will make from you a great nation.[13]

Turn from your burning anger, Moses interceded, and relent (nâcham, והנחם) of this evil (raʽ, הרעה) against your people.[14] 

Then the Lord (yehôvâh, יהוה) relented (nâcham, וינחם) over the evil (raʽ, הרעה) that he had said he would do to his people,[15] though they had made themselves children of Belial.  The prophet Samuel, the last of the judges, defined children of Belial as those who knew not yehôvâh: Now the sons of Eli [the priest] were sons of Belial (belı̂yaʽal,בליעל ); they knew (yâdaʽ ידעו) not the LORD (yehôvâh).[16]

Do not become partners with those who do not believe, Paul wrote the Corinthians, for what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship does light have with darkness?  And what agreement does Christ have with Beliar (Βελιάρ, a form of Βελίαλ)?  Or what does a believer share in common with an unbeliever?  And what mutual agreement does the temple of God have with idols?  For we are the temple of the living God, just as God said,I will live in them and will walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”  Thereforecome out from their midst, and be separate,” says the Lord,and touch no unclean thing, and I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters,” says the All-Powerful Lord.[17] 

When the Israelites cried out for help to the Lord (yehôvâh, יהוה), the passage in Judges continued, he (yehôvâh, יהוה) raised up a deliverer for the Israelites who rescued them.  His name was Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother.  The Lord’s (yehôvâh, יהוה) spirit empowered him and he led (shâphaṭ, וישפט) Israel.[18]

I feel more than a little awkward about it, but I’ll quote from a website on Satanism, not to establish some identity for Belial.  The witch I worked for in school told me with a straight face that he worshiped Celtic Baal but did not believe that Celtic Baal existed in any other sense than as a personification of natural forces.  Though he would cringe at being compared to a Satanist (he perceived Satanism as a Christian heresy), I think one would find the same range from true believers to those who only believe in personifications of natural forces among Satanists.  I quote the following merely to hear Belial as what Paul called the flesh, speaking honestly, audaciously and uncensored by law or religion.

Belial is the carnal side of man, the lust, sex, pleasure and therefore the principal drives that make living worthwhile. People derive all the principal emotions of the higher ego from Belial: Pride comes from self control and suppression of the Belial, strength, pleasure and independence come from embracing it. Belial is the Master of the Earth, the force that holds Humankind by its balls, any security or stability are results of lessons learnt from dealing with this Crown Prince.

Belial is the champion of simply being human, for the flesh, the material and the carnal. In essence, a reverence for Belial affirms how “good” the flesh/humanity is. Unrestrained by law or morality; lawless; immoral; dissolute; lewd; lascivious, Unrestrained; uncurbed; uncontrolled; unruly; riotous; ungovernable; wanton; profligate; dissolute; lax; loose; sensual; impure; unchaste; lascivious; immoral, dissolute indulgence in sensual pleasure.[19]

We salt this flesh with law and spread religious jelly on it to alter its flavor somewhat, but can’t change its essence.  Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must all be born from above,’[20] yehôvâh in human flesh as Jesus said.  And Paul wrote to believers in Rome (Romans 6:3-7 NET): 

Or do you not know that as many as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  Therefore we have been buried with him through baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may live a new life.

For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be united in the likeness of his resurrection.  We know that our old man was crucified with him so that the body of sin would no longer dominate us, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.  (For someone who has died has been freed from sin.)

And again, Paul wrote to believers in Galatia (Galatians 2:20, 21 NET):

I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.  So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  I do not set aside God’s grace, because if righteousness could come through the law, then Christ died for nothing!

The essence of Wiccan morality (as well as many American teenagers, among others) is stated, “as long as you aren’t harming anyone, do as you wish.”  But when we do as we wish in our flesh, we children of Belial, we inevitably and without fail do harm to someone.  And that brought me back to the Kill Bill quotation: “When fortune smiles on something as violent and ugly as revenge, it seems proof like no other that not only does God exist, you’re doing his will.”

These lines, spoken by a character known as the Bride in Volume 1 (aka Black Mamba), was played and partially created by Uma Thurman.  The Bride was a former member of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, a kind of Manson family with style, not political revolutionaries but contract killers.  We’re deep in Belial territory here, and the god to which the Bride referred (and personified for two films) was δίκη—Vengeance.  Here is an exchange between Black Mamba (the Bride) and Copperhead (Vivica A. Fox) from Kill Bill, Volume 1:

Black Mamba: I’m not gonna murder you in front of your [four-year-old] child, okay?

Copperhead: That’s being more rational than Bill led me to believe you were capable of.

Black Mamba: It’s mercy, compassion and forgiveness I lack—not rationality.

Copperhead: Look, I know I fucked you over.  I fucked you over bad.  I wish to God I hadn’t, but I did.  You have every right to want to get even.

Black Mamba (chuckling): No, to get even, even Stephen, I would have to kill you, go up to Nikki’s room, kill her, then wait for your husband to come home and kill him.  That’d be even, Vernita.  That’d be about square.

Copperhead: Look, if I could go back in a machine, I would.  But I can’t.  All I can tell you is that I’m a different person now.

Black Mamba: Oh, great.  I don’t care.

Copperhead: Be that as it may, I know I don’t deserve your mercy or your forgiveness.  However, I beseech you for both on behalf of my daughter.

Black Mamba: Bitch, you can stop right there.  Just because I have no wish to murder you before the eyes of your daughter does not mean parading her around in front of me is gonna inspire sympathy.  You and I have unfinished business.  And not a goddam fucking thing you’ve done in the subsequent four years, including getting knocked up, is gonna change that.

It hit home hard since I had thought that yehôvâh/Jesus was δίκη, and had mistaken his patience and mercy for proof of his nonexistence when I turned to atheismThe word of the Lord (yehôvâh, יהוה) came to[21] Ezekiel (Ezekiel 18:21-29 NET):

“But if the wicked person turns from all the sin he has committed and observes all my statutes and does what is just and right, he will surely live; he will not die.  None of the sins he has committed will be held against him; because of the righteousness he has done, he will live.  Do I actually delight in the death of the wicked, declares the sovereign (ʼădônây, אדני) Lord (yehôvih, יהוה)?  Do I not prefer that he turn from his wicked conduct and live?

“But if a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and practices wrongdoing according to all the abominable practices the wicked carry out, will he live?  All his righteous acts will not be remembered; because of the unfaithful acts he has done and the sin he has committed, he will die.

“Yet you say, ‘The Lord’s (ʼădônây, אדני) conduct is unjust!’  Hear, O house of Israel: Is my conduct unjust?  Is it not your conduct that is unjust?  When a righteous person turns back from his righteousness and practices wrongdoing, he will die for it; because of the wrongdoing he has done, he will die.  When a wicked person turns from the wickedness he has committed and does what is just and right, he will preserve his life.  Because he considered and turned from all the sins he had done, he will surely live; he will not die.  Yet the house of Israel says, ‘The Lord’s (ʼădônây, אדני) conduct is unjust!’  Is my conduct unjust, O house of Israel?  Is it not your conduct that is unjust?

This exercise altered my superficial observation that the brotherhood acted thoughtfully and lawfully.  I began to see four hundred thousand armed men, as likely as not to be sons of Belial themselves, rushing in where yehôvâh had not tread.

But the Benjaminites refused to listen to their Israelite brothers.  The Benjaminites came from their cities and assembled at Gibeah to make war against the Israelites.[22]

Why?  Was it because the Benjaminites wholeheartedly supported the children of Belial’s right to know any strange man who wandered into town or to gang-rape young women?  Or was it because their Israelite brothers came at them in battle array, four hundred thousand strong, armed with an implacable law that condemned them already?

Romans, Part 66

Back to Romans, Part 68

[1] Romans 12:12 (NET)

[2] Judges 20:12, 13a (NET)

[3] Judges 20:5 (NET)

[4] NET note 37: “Heb ‘you will burn out’ (בִּעַרְתָּ, bi’arta). Like a cancer, unavenged sin would infect the whole community. It must, therefore, be excised by the purging out of its perpetrators who, presumably, remained unrepentant (cf. Deut 13:6; 17:7, 12; 21:21; 22:21-22, 24; 24:7).”

[5] I thought this was a typo since רעה has he ה at the end rather than at the beginning (הרע) like the other occurrences, but the letters are in the same order in the Hebrew OT online at ericlevy.com

[6] “Kill Bill, Volume 1”

[7] Judges 3:7 (NET)

[8] Judges 3:8a (NET)

[9] Judges 3:8b (NET) Also: Judges 3:12; 4:1-2; 6:1; 10:6-7; 13:1 (NET)

[10] Judges 3:8c (NET)

[11] Exodus 32:1-6 (NET)

[12] Exodus 22:20 (NET)

[13] Exodus 32:10 (NET)

[14] Exodus 32:12b (NET)

[15] Exodus 32:14 (NET)

[16] 1 Samuel 2:12 (KJV)

[17] 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 (NET)

[18] Judges 3:9, 10a (NET)

[19]Belial, the Northern Crown Prince of Satanism

[20] John 3:7 (NET)

[21] Ezekiel 18:1 (NET)

[22] Judges 20:13b, 14 (NET)

Fear – Numbers, Part 5

The Hebrew word yârê does not occur in the story of the waters of Meribah (either time).  Still, it seemed important to me to study the story I alluded to earlier.  I want to compare and contrast the two stories.  The first in Exodus involves Moses and the parents who left Egypt while the second in Numbers involves Moses with their children, some of whom were not yet born at the time of the first incident forty years earlier.

Exodus

Numbers

The whole community of the Israelites traveled on their journey from the Desert of Sin according to the Lord’s instruction, and they pitched camp in Rephidim.

Exodus 17:1a (NET)

Then the entire community of Israel entered the wilderness of Zin in the first month, and the people stayed in Kadesh.

Numbers 20:1a (NET)

Miriam died and was buried there.

Numbers 20:1b (NET)

Now there was no water for the people to drink.  So the people contended with Moses, and they said…

Exodus 17:1b, 2a (NET)

And there was no water for the community, and so they gathered themselves together against Moses and Aaron.  The people contended with Moses, saying…

Numbers 20:2, 3a (NET)

So far the stories are quite similar, except that Moses’ sister Miriam died in the later story.

Exodus

Numbers

“Give us water to drink!”  Moses said to them, “Why do you contend with me?  Why do you test the Lord?”

Exodus 17:2b (NET)

But the people were very thirsty there for water, and they murmured against Moses and said, “Why in the world did you bring us up out of Egypt – to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst?”

Exodus 17:3 (NET)

“If only we had died when our brothers died before the Lord!  Why have you brought up the Lord’s community into this wilderness?  So that we and our cattle should die here?  Why have you brought us up from Egypt only to bring us to this dreadful place?  It is no place for grain, or figs, or vines, or pomegranates; nor is there any water to drink!”

Numbers 20:3b-5 (NET)

In the later story Moses had learned apparently not to argue with a mob.  I think it’s also worth noting that the parents in the former story murmured against Moses.  They had some respect for him, maybe even some fear of the Lord, though I can see it is clearly arguable whether that fear entailed any reverence: How long must I bear with this evil congregation, the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, that murmurs against me?  I have heard the complaints of the Israelites that they murmured against me.[1]

The children, however, grew up hearing their parents’ complaints more openly.  To them these complaints were simply facts.  They saw no reason to murmur facts.  They declared them openly: If only we had died when our brothers died before the Lord!  Why have you brought up the Lord’s community into this wilderness?  So that we and our cattle should die here? 

Apparently, the fact that the Lord gave them water from the rock through Moses did not get as much play in the tents of the Exodus as did the complaints against Moses (or against the Lord, as He clearly took it).  At least that fact did not make as indelible an impression on the children.  And Egypt, a place of slavery most had never seen or known, had become a fairy land of myth by comparison: Why have you brought us up from Egypt only to bring us to this dreadful place?  It is no place for grain, or figs, or vines, or pomegranates; nor is there any water to drink!

Exodus

Numbers

Then Moses cried out to the Lord, “What will I do with this people? – a little more and they will stone me!”

Exodus 17:4 (NET)

So Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the entrance to the tent of meeting.  They then threw themselves down with their faces to the ground, and the glory of the Lord appeared to them.

Numbers 20:6 (NET)

In the first story Moses sounded distressed, fearful even for his own life.  Forty years later both Moses and Aaron have been here and done this before.

Exodus

Numbers

The Lord said to Moses, “Go over before the people; take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand your staff with which you struck the Nile and go.  I will be standing before you there on the rock in Horeb, and you will strike the rock, and water will come out of it so that the people may drink.”

Exodus 17:5, 6a (NET)

Then the Lord spoke to Moses: “Take the staff and assemble the community, you and Aaron your brother, and then speak to the rock before their eyes.  It will pour forth its water, and you will bring water out of the rock for them, and so you will give the community and their beasts water to drink.”

Numbers 20:7, 8 (NET)

In the earlier story the Lord gave Moses a bit of theater to perform.  It was reminiscent of the first plague in Egypt (Exodus 7:15-18 NET):

“Go to Pharaoh in the morning [the Lord said to Moses] when he goes out to the water.  Position yourself to meet him by the edge of the Nile, and take in your hand the staff that was turned into a snake.  Tell him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has sent me to you to say, “Release my people, that they may serve me in the desert!”  But until now you have not listened.  Thus says the Lord: “By this you will know that I am the Lord: I am going to strike the water of the Nile with the staff that is in my hand, and it will be turned into blood.  Fish in the Nile will die, the Nile will stink, and the Egyptians will be unable to drink water from the Nile.”’”

He instructed Moses to take the same staff, strike the rock as he struck the Nile, and potable water rather than blood would pour forth from it.

In the later story the Lord gave Moses a different bit of theater to perform.  This time he should speak to the rock rather than strike it with his staff.  The children believed the harsh words they learned from their parents.  Speaking to a rock is a futile enterprise ordinarily, but God would intervene here and water would pour forth from the rock as Moses spoke to it.

Exodus

Numbers

And Moses did so in plain view of the elders of Israel.

Exodus 17:6b (NET)

So Moses took the staff from before the Lord, just as he commanded him.  Then Moses and Aaron gathered the community together in front of the rock, and he said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring water out of this rock for you?”  Then Moses raised his hand, and struck the rock twice with his staff.  And water came out abundantly. So the community drank, and their beasts drank too.

Numbers 20:9-11 (NET)

The earlier story ends much like the incident at the Nile: Mosesdid so, just as the Lord had commanded.[2]  The later story is more nuanced.  Moses took the staff just as he commanded him.  He and Aaron gathered the people as the Lord commanded them.  But instead of speaking to the rock they spoke to the people (Numbers 20:10b NET):

Listen, you rebels, must we bring water out of this rock for you?

Moses’ words conveyed an attitude toward the people’s thirst.  I’m leaving aside for the moment any conjecture whether he actually believed it was the Lord’s attitude or simply went rogue.  But the Lord demonstrated that it was not an attitude He wanted conveyed.

Exodus

Numbers

Then the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust me enough to show me as holy before the Israelites, therefore you will not bring this community into the land I have given them.”

Numbers 20:12 (NET)

Aaron’s inclusion here makes me suspect that he was still speaking on Moses’ behalf.[3]  Both stories conclude in a similar manner.

Exodus

Numbers

He called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the contending of the Israelites and because of their testing the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

Exodus 17:7 (NET)

These are the waters of Meribah, because the Israelites contended with the Lord, and his holiness was maintained among them.

Numbers 20:13 (NET)

What holiness was maintained by the Lord’s promise to remove Moses and Aaron from their places of leadership before the people entered the promised land?  Jesus stated it explicitly (Matthew 6:31, 32 NET):

So then, don’t worry saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’  For the unconverted pursue these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.

With all of this laid out for me so plainly and beautifully, I still find myself murmuring and wondering, who can possibly please this God?  But the point is well-taken, my bad attitude notwithstanding (Romans 8:8, 9a NET):

Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.  You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you.

Only God can please God.  I have been crucified with Christ, Paul wrote, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.  So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  I do not set aside God’s grace, because if righteousness could come through the law, then Christ died for nothing![4]

The final occurrence of yârêʼ in Numbers is: And the Lord said to Moses, “Do not fear (yârêʼ) him [King Og of Bashan], for I have delivered him and all his people and his land into your hand.  You will do to him what you did to King Sihon of the Amorites, who lived in Heshbon.”[5]

I have no idea why Moses might have feared King Og of Bashan who marched out with all his forces to face Israel.[6]  I find it hard to believe that Og’s stature[7] alarmed Moses at this late date.  Aaron had died (or was executed) on Mount Hor.  Moses would die (or be executed) soon.  He seems to me like a man with absolute freedom, with nothing left to lose.  And I don’t know why God thought Moses feared Og.

The rabbis who translated the Septuagint chose φοβηθῇς here.  The only occurrence of φοβηθῇς in this form in the New Testament is (Matthew 1:19, 20 NET):

Because Joseph, her husband to be, was a righteous man, and because he did not want to disgrace her, he intended to divorce her privately.  When he had contemplated this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid (φοβηθῇς) to take Mary as your wife, because the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”

Joseph’s fear here was a moral scruple.  I would certainly like to think that Moses’ fear was of the same kind.  So they defeated Og, his sons, and all his people, until there were no survivors, and they possessed his land.[8]

Fear – Deuteronomy, Part 1

[1] Numbers 14:27 (NET)

[2] Exodus 7:20a (NET)

[3] Exodus 4:14-16 (NET)

[4] Galatians 2:20, 21 (NET)

[5] Numbers 21:34 (NET)

[6] Numbers 21:33b (NET)

[7] Deuteronomy 3:11 (NET) – Only King Og of Bashan was left of the remaining Rephaites. (It is noteworthy that his sarcophagus was made of iron.  Does it not, indeed, still remain in Rabbath of the Ammonites?  It is thirteen and a half feet long and six feet wide according to standard measure.)

[8] Numbers 21:35 (NET)

Saving Demons, Part 1

If senseless[1] Gentiles, chosen for salvation to make Israel jealous, reject the righteousness that comes by way of Christ’s faithfulness – a righteousness from God that is in fact based on Christ’s faithfulness to pursue their own righteousness derived[2] from a select subset of the law and their own religious rules, will that open Christ’s salvation to demons and fallen angels?

On the surface of it the question seems absurd to me, too speculative, though I appreciate the symmetry of the pattern.  My problem, however, is that I remember when I believed that Paul’s “commandment”— So you too consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus[3]—was a pious fiction, a mind game based on the flimsiest of pretexts: Or do you not know that as many as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?[4]

Now, of course, I believe that Paul’s “commandment” was a carefully wrought conclusion based on a solid truth.  And so I believe that I, too, have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.  So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  I do not set aside God’s grace, because if righteousness could come through the law, then Christ died for nothing![5]  Furthermore, I now believe that this death facilitates forgiveness and the new resurrected (eternal) life by creating the distinction between me (the new man born of the Spirit) and the sin in my flesh (Romans 7:14-20 NET).

For we know that the law is spiritual – but I am unspiritual, sold into slavery to sin.  For I don’t understand what I am doing.  For I do not do what I want – instead, I do what I hate.  But if I do what I don’t want, I agree that the law is good.  But now it is no longer me doing it, but sin that lives in me.  For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh.  For I want to do the good, but I cannot do it.  For I do not do the good I want, but I do the very evil   (κακὸν, a form of κακόςI do not want!  Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer me doing it but sin that lives in me.

As John the Apostle wrote, We know that everyone fathered by God does not sin, but God protects the one he has fathered, and the evil one (πονηρὸς, a form of πονηρός) cannot touch him.[6]  That experience prompts me to keep an open mind and a running account as touch points come up.  One of the first things that came to mind was Jesus’ response to the religious leaders’ charge that He blasphemed by claiming to be the Son of God: Is it not written in your law, I said, you are gods?[7]

When I wrote about it before[8] I focused on verses in Exodus where the Holy Spirit called human judges elohim.[9]  But Jesus apparently quoted Psalm 82:6 as well.  The note in the NET reads: “The problem in this verse concerns the meaning of Jesus’ quotation from Ps 82:6. It is important to look at the OT context: The whole line reads ‘I say, you are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you.’ Jesus will pick up on the term ‘sons of the Most High’ in 10:36, where he refers to himself as the Son of God. The psalm was understood in rabbinic circles as an attack on unjust judges who, though they have been given the title ‘gods’ because of their quasi-divine function of exercising judgment, are just as mortal as other men. What is the argument here? It is often thought to be as follows: If it was an OT practice to refer to men like the judges as gods, and not blasphemy, why did the Jewish authorities object when this term was applied to Jesus? This really doesn’t seem to fit the context, however, since if that were the case Jesus would not be making any claim for ‘divinity’ for himself over and above any other human being – and therefore he would not be subject to the charge of blasphemy. Rather, this is evidently a case of arguing from the lesser to the greater, a common form of rabbinic argument. The reason the OT judges could be called gods is because they were vehicles of the word of God (cf. 10:35). But granting that premise, Jesus deserves much more than they to be called God. He is the Word incarnate, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world to save the world (10:36). In light of the prologue to the Gospel of John, it seems this interpretation would have been most natural for the author. If it is permissible to call men “gods” because they were the vehicles of the word of God, how much more permissible is it to use the word ‘God’ of him who is the Word of God?”

The psalm itself reads (Psalm 82 NET):

God (elohim)[10] stands in the assembly of El; in the midst of the gods (elohim) he renders judgment.  He says, “How long will you make unjust legal decisions and show favoritism to the wicked?  (Selah)  Defend the cause of the poor and the fatherless!  Vindicate the oppressed and suffering!  Rescue the poor and needy!  Deliver them from the power of the wicked!  They neither know nor understand.  They stumble around in the dark, while all the foundations of the earth crumble.  I thought,[11] ‘You are gods (elohim); all of you are sons of the Most High.’  Yet you will die like mortals; you will fall like all the other rulers.”  Rise up, O God (elohim), and execute judgment on the earth!  For you own all the nations.

And the note in the NET on gods reads: “The present translation assumes that the Hebrew term אֱלֹהִים (’elohim, ‘gods’) here refers to the pagan gods who supposedly comprise El’s assembly according to Canaanite religion. Those who reject the polemical view of the psalm prefer to see the referent as human judges or rulers (אֱלֹהִים sometimes refers to officials appointed by God, see Exod 21:6; 22:8-9; Ps 45:6) or as angelic beings (אֱלֹהִים sometimes refers to angelic beings, see Gen 3:5; Ps 8:5).”

In the prophetic Song of Moses we read: They made him jealous with other gods,[12] they enraged him with abhorrent idols.  They sacrificed to demons, not God,[13] to gods (elohim) they had not known; to new gods[14] who had recently come along, gods your ancestors[15] had not known about.[16]  And Paul wrote: I mean that what the pagans sacrifice is to demons and not to God.[17]  So I can side with the unbelievers Jesus addressed and believe that Psalm 82 was about Israel’s judges, or I can take the psalm at face value and believe that it was the pagan gods who made unjust legal decisions and showed favoritism to the wicked.

If God meant to save these demons, these rebellious angels, these fallen sons of the Most High, the first step would be that they die like mortals so they could be resurrected to a new life:  And the Lord God said, “Now that the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil, he must not be allowed to stretch out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever”[18] (e.g., immortality corrupted by sin).

On the other hand the letter to the Hebrews reads: Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, he likewise shared in their humanity, so that through death he could destroy the one who holds the power of death (that is, the devil), and set free those who were held in slavery all their lives by their fear of death.  For surely his concern (ἐπιλαμβάνεται, a form of ἐπιλαμβάνομαι)[19] is not for angels, but he is concerned (ἐπιλαμβάνεται, a form of ἐπιλαμβάνομαι) for Abraham’s descendants.[20]  Once again death played a pivotal role but God’s ἐπιλαμβάνεται (taking hold to rescue) might be limited to human beings here.  Of course when I turn that around and say, “Hebrews 2:16 limits God’s mercy to human beings,” I feel more like Gollum,[21] saying, “It’s mine! My precious,” than an obedient follower of Jesus, who commanded, Freely you received, freely give.[22]

Saving Demons, Part 2

Back to Romans, Part 43


[3] Romans 6:11 (NET)

[4] Romans 6:3 (NET)

[5] Galatians 2:20, 21 (NET)

[6] 1 John 5:18 (NET)

[7] John 10:34 (NET)

[11] NET note: “Heb ‘said.’”

[16] Deuteronomy 32:16, 17 (NET)

[17] 1 Corinthians 10:20a (NET)

[18] Genesis 3:22 (NET)

[20] Hebrews 2:14-16 (NET)

[21] In “The Lord of the Rings” movies Sauron’s ring of power gave Gollum a corrupt immortality, dead in [his] transgressions and sins (Ephesians 2:1 NET).

[22] Matthew 10:8b (NET)

Romans, Part 25

What shall we say then? Paul continued.  Are we to remain (ἐπιμένωμεν, a form of ἐπιμένω)[1] in sin so that grace (χάρις)[2] may increase (πλεονάσῃ, a form of πλεονάζω)?[3]  This is a reasonable question considering what Paul wrote earlier: Now the law (νόμος)[4] came in so that the transgression (παράπτωμα)[5] may increase (πλεονάσῃ, a form of πλεονάζω), but where sin (ἁμαρτία) increased (ἐπλεόνασεν, another form of πλεονάζω), grace multiplied (ὑπερεπερίσσευσεν, a form of ὑπερπερισσεύω)[6] all the more…[7]  If grace rose to meet the challenge posed by the law (increased transgression and a superabundance of sin), is remaining or continuing in sin the new way of grace?

Absolutely not! Paul continued.  How can we who died (ἀπεθάνομεν, a form of ἀποθνήσκω)[8] to sin still live in it?[9]  Death still has a value and necessity to it, just not the value and necessity I learned in science, history or government classes in school.  Or do you not know (ἀγνοεῖτε, a form of ἀγνοέω)[10] that as many as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death (θάνατον, a form of θάνατος)?[11]  I spent some time calling Paul, and by extension Jesus who called him, a liar over this, because I didn’t find anything in myself at first that I recognized as dead to sin.  I didn’t get anywhere until I turned around and was willing to believe.

Therefore we have been buried with him through baptism into death (θάνατον, a form of θάνατος), in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead (νεκρῶν, a form of νεκρός)[12] through the glory of the Father, so we too may live a new life.[13]  So I see the first value of this death, perhaps even a necessity.  Then Paul made a couple of comparisons of the believer’s relationship to Christ’s death and resurrection.

Christ’s death

Christ’s resurrection

For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death…

Romans 6:5a (NET)

…we will certainly also be united in the likeness of his resurrection.

Romans 6:5b (NET)

The word translated united in Romans 6:5a above is σύμφυτοι (a form of σύμφυτος).[14]  It is only used once in the Bible, but is a compound of σύν[15] (a primary preposition denoting union) and φύω[16] (to germinate or grow).  I am reminded of Jesus when He was told that Greeks wanted to see him (John 12:23-28 NET).

Jesus replied, “The time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.  I tell you the solemn truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains by itself alone (μόνος).[17]  But if it dies, it produces much grain (καρπὸν, a form of καρπός;[18] literally “fruit”).  The one who loves his life destroys it, and the one who hates his life in this world guards it for eternal life.  If anyone wants to serve me, he must follow me, and where I am, my servant will be too.  If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.  Now my soul is greatly distressed.  And what should I say? ‘Father, deliver me from this hour’?  No, but for this very reason I have come to this hour.  Father, glorify your name.”

These are encouraging words to follow Jesus in this death, where following is simply believing.  For what can a kernel of wheat buried in the dirt do, but believe?  It doesn’t know how to germinate or grow.  We know (γινώσκοντες, a form of γινώσκω)[19] that our old man was crucified with him so that the body of sin would no longer dominate us, Paul continued, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.  (For someone who has died [ἀποθανὼν, another form of ἀποθνήσκω] has been freed from sin.)[20]  Here is a second value for this death, and perhaps even a necessity.  But I only knew this at first by faith.  This particular kernel of wheat buried in the dirt was still walking around, still working,[21] that is to say still doing some (perhaps many) of the sinful things he did before he was a dead kernel of wheat buried in the dirt.

Christ’s death

Christ’s resurrection

Now if we died (ἀπεθάνομεν, a form of ἀποθνήσκω) with Christ…

Romans 6:8a (NET)

…we believe (πιστεύομεν, a form of πιστεύω)[22] that we will also live with him.

Romans 6:8b (NET)

We know (εἰδότες, a form of εἴδω),[23] Paul continued, that since Christ has been raised from the dead (νεκρῶν, a form of νεκρός), he is never going to die (ἀποθνῄσκει, another form of ἀποθνήσκω) again; death (θάνατος) no longer has mastery (κυριεύει, a form of κυριεύω)[24] over him.  For the death he died (ἀπέθανεν, another form of ἀποθνήσκω), he died (ἀπέθανεν, another form of ἀποθνήσκω) to sin once for all, but the life he lives, he lives to God.[25]  I could see that in regard to Jesus.  So you too consider (λογίζεσθε, a form of λογίζομαι)[26] yourselves dead (νεκροὺς, another form of νεκρός) to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.[27]

This for me is where Romans becomes a how-to book, how to experience the credited righteousness of God apart from the law,[28] namely, the righteousness of God through the faithfulness (πίστεως, a form of πίστις)[29] of Jesus Christ for all who believe (πιστεύοντας, another form of πιστεύω).[30]  Step #1 is to believe something, not entirely unexpected if one remembers that this is the righteousness of God…revealed in the gospel from faith (πίστεως, a form of πίστις) to faith (πίστιν, another form of πίστις), just as it is written,The righteous by faith (πίστεως, a form of πίστις) will live.”[31]  So no matter how I appear to others, or how I appear to myself, I consider (reason, count, credit) myself dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.  As Paul said (Galatians 2:20, 21 NET):

I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.  So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness (πίστει, another form of πίστις) of the Son of God, who loved (ἀγαπήσαντος, a form of ἀγαπάω)[32] me and gave (παραδόντος, a form of παραδίδωμι)[33] himself for me.  I do not set aside (ἀθετῶ, a form of ἀθετέω)[34] God’s grace (χάριν, a form of χάρις), because if righteousness could come through the law (νόμου, another form of νόμος), then Christ died (ἀπέθανεν, another form of ἀποθνήσκω) for nothing!

 Romans, Part 26

Back to Romans, Part 27

Back to You Must Be Gentle, Part 1

Back to Romans, Part 30

Back to Romans, Part 31

Back to Romans, Part 34

Back to Romans, Part 36

Back to Romans, Part 42

Back to Saving Demons, Part 1

Back to Condemnation or Judgment? – Part 12


[3] Romans 6:1 (NET)

[7] Romans 5:20 (NET)

[9] Romans 6:2 (NET)

[11] Romans 6:3 (NET)

[13] Romans 6:4 (NET)

[20] Romans 6:6, 7 (NET)

[25] Romans 6:9, 10 (NET)

[27] Romans 6:11 (NET)

[30] Romans 3:22 (NET)

[31] Romans 1:17 (NET)