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)?

Condemnation or Judgment? – Part 16

Paul wrote believers in Colossae (Colossians 3:1-6 NET):

Therefore, if you have been raised with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Keep thinking about things above, not things on the earth, for you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ (who is your life) appears, then you too will be revealed in glory with him.  So put to death whatever in your nature belongs to the earth: sexual immorality, impurity, shameful passion, evil desire, and greed which is idolatry.  Because of these things the wrath of God is coming on the sons of disobedience.

A note (4) at the end of this passage in the NET reads:

The words ἐπὶ τοὺς υἱοὺς τῆς ἀπειθείας (…“on the sons of disobedience”) are lacking in Ì46 [correct symbol won’t display] B b sa, but are found in א A C D F G H I Ψ 075 0278 33 1739 1881 Ï lat sy bo. The words are omitted by several English translations (NASB, NIV, ESV, TNIV). This textual problem is quite difficult to resolve. On the one hand, the parallel account in Eph 5:6 has these words, thus providing scribes a motive for adding them here. On the other hand, the reading without the words may be too hard: The ἐν οἷς (en hois) of v. 7 seems to have no antecedent without υἱούς already in the text, although it could possibly be construed as neuter referring to the vice list in v. 5. Further, although the witness of B is especially important, there are other places in which B and Ì46 [ditto above] share errant readings of omission. Nevertheless, the strength of the internal evidence against the longer reading is at least sufficient to cause doubt here. The decision to retain the words in the text is less than certain.

Whether the words sons of disobedience were original or not is immaterial to me.  I’m more concerned with δι᾿ ἃ ἔρχεται ἡ ὀργὴ τοῦ θεοῦ (“Because of these things the wrath of God is coming”).  First, ἔρχεται (a form of ἔρχομαι) is present tense; appears or shows itself might be a better translation.  Though because is a possible translation of δι᾿[1] (a form of διά), through would be more common (verse 17) and more in line with Paul’s teaching in the opening of Romans, the wrath of Godrevealed from heaven.  So I would translate it, “through these (e.g., sexual immorality, impurity, shameful passion, evil desire, and greed which is idolatry) the wrath of God appears” or “shows itself.”  In other words, these are the evidence or symptoms of the depraved, unapproved, reprobate or debased mind to which God gave those over who did not like to retain God in their knowledge.[2]

God’s wrath was to give them over to a depraved mind, to do what should not be done.[3]  Paul enumerated what should not be done for believers in Rome (Romans 1:29-32 NET):

They are filled with every kind of unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, malice.  They are rife with envy, murder, strife, deceit, hostility.  They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, contrivers of all sorts of evil, disobedient to parents, senseless, covenant-breakers, heartless, ruthless.  Although they fully know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but also approve of those who practice them.

A young mother put it this way on Facebook:

Parent shaming.  Judging.  Close mindedness.  Mass murders.  Hate on Nationalities.  Hate on skin colors.  Hate on LGBT’s.  Hate on parenting.  Hate.  I can honestly say I’m worried to bring my children up in the type of society we’ve become.  What will it take to change?  Will it get better before it gets worse?  I have to believe there’s more love in this world than hate.  Incredibly saddening that my happy, loving boys will one day learn the world is so ugly and destructive.

Even if sons of disobedience wasn’t original I don’t see why ἐν οἷς or ἐν τούτοις are “too hard” of a reading.  Paul’s contrast was to the lives the Colossians lived before they died and [their] life [was] hidden with Christ in God, not to some mysterious others called the sons of disobedience.  Even Ephesians reads διὰ ταῦτα γὰρ ἔρχεται ἡ ὀργὴ τοῦ θεοῦ ἐπὶ τοὺς υἱοὺς τῆς ἀπειθείας (for because of these things God’s wrath comes on the sons of disobedience[4]).  But again διὰ could be through, ταῦτα refers back to the person who is immoral, impure, or greedy[5] (probably immorality, impurity or greed) and ἔρχεται is present tense, appears or shows itself.

So I would understand it more like, “For through these [immoral, impure or greedy persons, or immorality, impurity or greed] the wrath of God shows itself upon the sons of disobedience.”  The sons of disobedience are no longer a mystery.  The Greek word translated disobedience is ἀπειθείας (a form of ἀπείθεια).  God has consigned all people to disobedience (ἀπείθειαν, another form of ἀπείθεια) so that he may show mercy to them all.  The sons of disobedience are old humans, they have not been born from above: Therefore do not be partakers with them, for you were at one time darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Walk as children of the light[6]  Paul made this same contrast between the old human (παλαιὸν ἄνθρωπον) and the new (νέον, a form of νέος) for the Colossians (3:7-11 NET):

You also lived your lives in this way at one time, when you used to live among them (ἐν τούτοις; literally “in these”).  But now, put off all such things as anger, rage, malice, slander, abusive language from your mouth.  Do not lie to one another since you have put off the old (παλαιὸν, a form of παλαιός) man (ἄνθρωπον, a form of ἄνθρωπος) with its practices and have been clothed with the new man that is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of the one who created it.  Here there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all and in all.

I think the Bible has been translated by those who expect most people to spend eternity in the lake of fire.  I don’t intend to dispute that view.  On the contrary, the idea I’m experimenting with here is that all old humans are condemned to spend eternity in the lake of fire.  How many new humans spend eternity with Jesus and his Father?  That depends on God’s mercy—I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion[7]—up to and including all—For God has consigned all people to disobedience so that he may show mercy to them all.[8]

I’m a long way, however, from accepting Universalism, demanding that He save all.  Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,[9] was a perfect opportunity to specify few, many or all.  Neither Paul nor the Holy Spirit chose to do so.  Enter through the narrow gate, Jesus said, because the gate is wide and the way is spacious that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.  But the gate is narrow and the way is difficult (τεθλιμμένη, a form of θλίβω) that leads to life, and there are few who find it.[10]  In the past I took this to mean that ultimately relatively few will be saved.  Now I think differently.

Since yehôvâh informed Cain, you must subdue [sin],[11] and Moses commanded Israel to choose life,[12] salvation was determined by the desire, or willingness, of human beings, whosoever will.  The result, there are few who find it, is what Jesus became human to change.  Someone asked Him directly, “Lord, will only a few be saved?”  Speaking in real time before his crucifixion and resurrection, He said, “Exert every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able (ἰσχύσουσιν, a form of ἰσχύω) to.  Once the head of the house gets up and shuts the door, then you will stand outside and start to knock on the door and beg him, ‘Lord, let us in!’  But he will answer you, ‘I don’t know where you come from.’” [13]  I tell you the solemn truth, Jesus also said, I am the door for the sheep.[14]  As I considered both of these together I wondered what door the head of the house gets up and shuts.

Surely, it was not Jesus but whosoever will.  The most immediate reason why the many could not enter was the shut door, but a survey of the word ἰσχύω suggests they were not good enough,[15] not strong enough,[16] not healthy enough,[17] not vigilant enough[18] and they would not endure long enough[19] in their own strength.  And so Jesus became the door.  No one can come to me, He said, unless the Father who sent me draws him[20]  And I, Jesus promised, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.[21]

I’ve written elsewhere what I think about the Greek words translated draws and draw relative to “Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling.”  And I don’t think much of the old human’s free will in any sense beyond contingent choices.   I certainly don’t think it is sacrosanct to God.  It wasn’t sacrosanct when He gave old humans over in the desires of their hearts to impurity,[22] to dishonorable passions,[23] and to a depraved mind.[24]  Why should it be sacrosanct when one is born from above, not born by human parents or by human desire or a husband’s decision, but by God?[25]

Nor can I embrace patristic universalism.  I can’t believe in a purgatorial hell.  In fact, I think the Old Testament narrates how God has gone out of his way to demonstrate over and over again that the best that is ever achieved by punishment, or by the fear of punishment, is hypocrisy.  Jesus said (John 3:5-7, 10 NET):

I tell you the solemn truth, unless a person is born of water and spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.  What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.  Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must all be born from above.’…Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you don’t understand these things?

J.W. Hanson painted the early universalist church fathers as elitists in his book Universalism, the Prevailing Doctrine of the Christian Church During Its First Five Hundred Years (p. 56):

Some of the fathers who had achieved a faith in Universalism, were influenced by the mischievous notion that it was to be held esoterically, cherished in secret, or only communicated to the chosen few,–withheld from the multitude, who would not appreciate it, and even that the opposite error would, with some sinners, be more beneficial than the truth….Origen said that “all that might be said on this theme is not expedient to explain now, or to all.  For the mass need no further teaching on account of those who hardly through the fear of aeonian punishment restrain their recklessness.”

I’m not oblivious to Origen’s concern, though it seems to me that someone who would return to sin because God is merciful really hasn’t finished with sin yet.  And I consider myself the rankest of the rank and file.  On the other hand Mr. Hanson characterized many of the patristic fathers as liars whenever they taught endless punishment (p. 59):

There can be no doubt that many of the fathers threatened severer penalties than they believed would be visited on sinners, impelled to utter them because they considered them to be more salutary with the masses than the truth itself. So that we may believe that some of the patristic writers who seem to teach endless punishment did not believe it. Others, we know, who accepted universal restoration employed, for the sake of deterring sinners, threats that are inconsistent, literally interpreted, with that doctrine.

I began this second round considering condemnation or judgment after I read John F. Walvoord’s commentary on Revelation 20 online (Revelation 20:11, 12 NET).

Then I saw a large white throne and the one who was seated on it; the earth and the heaven fled from his presence, and no place was found for them.  And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne.  Then books were opened, and another book was opened – the book of life.  So the dead were judged (ἐκρίθησαν, a form of κρίνω) by what was written in the books, according to their deeds.

I’m not aware of ἐκρίθησαν translated condemned in any English Bible, but that is what Mr. Walvoord took it to mean: “Their standing posture means that they are now about to be sentenced.”  John’s vision continued (Revelation 20:13-15 NET):

The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and Death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each one was judged (ἐκρίθησαν, a form of κρίνω) according to his deeds.  Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire.  This is the second death – the lake of fire.  If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, that person was thrown into the lake of fire.

Mr. Walvoord wrote, “The summary judgment is pronounced in verse 14 that ‘death and hell were cast into the lake of fire.’  In a word, this means that all who died physically and were in Hades, the intermediate state, are here found unworthy and cast into the lake of fire.”

I was shocked that the doctrine I’ve heard my whole life was based on a rationalist assumption that death and hell, or Death and Hades, were not entities that might be thrown into the lake of fire but merely euphemisms for “all who died physically and were in Hades.”  And this in an essay where literal was used 35 times, literally 12 times and literalness twice, mostly relative to the thousand years, but it was a consistent theme of Mr. Walvoord’s argument.  He wrote for example:

[Barnes] further holds that Revelation 20 should not be taken literally, and interposes the words “as if” before the judgment and resurrection of 20:4 as well as with the binding of Satan. This would seem to be adding to the book, so strongly forbidden in 22:18.

But Mr. Walvoord’s understanding of Revelation 20:13-15 presents us with the following rewrite:

Revelation 20:14, 15 NET

Revelation 20:14, 15 John F. Walvoord

Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire.  This is the second death – the lake of fire.  If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, that person was thrown into the lake of fire. Then the dead that were in Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire.  This is the second death – the lake of fire.  No one’s name was found written in the book of life, so they were all thrown into the lake of fire.

Mr Walvoord concluded, without a Scripture quotation or any fear of contradiction:

If the point of view be adopted that the book of life was originally the book of all living from which have been expunged the names of those who departed from life on earth without salvation, it presents a sad picture of a blank space where their names could have been written for all eternity as the objects of divine grace. Though they are judged by their works, it is evident that their destiny is determined primarily by their lack of spiritual life. When the fact is contemplated that Jesus Christ in His death reconciled the world to Himself (2 Cor. 5:19) and that He died for the reprobate as well as for the elect, it is all the more poignant that these now raised from the dead are cast into the lake of fire. Their ultimate destiny of eternal punishment is not, in the last analysis, because God wished it but because they would not come to God for the grace which He freely offered.

What about the dead in the sea?  I think we can accept that the sea is not an entity that might be thrown into the lake of fire.  I would assume that the names of some, up to and including all, were written in the book of life.  Mr. Walvoord changed the subject:

A special problem is introduced by the resurrection of those who were cast into the sea with the presumption that their bodies have disintegrated and have been scattered over a wide area geographically. The special mention of the sea is occasioned by the fact that resurrection usually implies resurrection from the grave. The resurrection of the dead from the sea merely reaffirms that all the dead will be raised regardless of the condition of their bodies.

I would assume though Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire, the names of some of their dead, up to and including all, were written in the book of life.  The idea I’m experimenting with is that the new humans born of God are spared while the old humans, in a one for one correspondence, are judged according to their deeds and thrown into the lake of fire.  And this, because the names in the book of life are not written there by some who came “to God for the grace which He freely offered” but by the mercy of God (Romans 9:15, 16 NET):

I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.  So then, it does not depend on human desire or exertion [e.g., “whosoever will”], but on God who shows mercy.

Back to Romans, Part 54

Back to Sowing to the Flesh, Part 2

[1] Enter through (διὰ) the narrow gate, because the gate is wide and the way is spacious that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through (δι᾿, another form of διὰ) it (Matthew 7:13 NET).

[2] Romans 1:28 (NKJV)

[3] Romans 1:28b (NET)

[4] Ephesians 5:6b (NET)

[5] Ephesians 5:5b (NET)

[6] Ephesians 5:7, 8 (NET)

[7] Romans 9:15 (NET)

[8] Romans 11:32 (NET)

[9] 1 Timothy 1:15b (NET)

[10] Matthew 7:13, 14 (NET)

[11] Genesis 4:7b (NET)

[12] Deuteronomy 30:19 (NET)

[13] Luke 13:23-25 (NET)

[14] John 10:7 (NET)

[15] It is no longer good (ἰσχύει, another form of ἰσχύω) for anything except to be thrown out and trampled on by people (Matthew 5:13b NET).

[16] No one was strong enough (ἴσχυεν, another form of ἰσχύω) to subdue him (Mark 5:4b NET).

[17] Those who are healthy (ἰσχύοντες, another form of ἰσχύω) don’t need a physician… (Matthew 9:12b NET)

[18] Couldn’t (ἴσχυσας, another form of ἰσχύω) you stay awake for one hour? (Mark 14:37b NET)

[19] I am able (ἰσχύω) to do all things through the one who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13 NET).

[20] John 6:44a (NET)

[21] John 12:32 (NET)

[22] Romans 1:24 (NET)

[23] Romans 1:26 (NET)

[24] Romans 1:28 (NET)

[25] John 1:13 (NET)

Condemnation or Judgment? Part 7

The third assumption I found in Richard Wayne Garganta’s attempt to eliminate “hell talk” from the Bible was: 3) Punishment is not merely consequential but effectual in purging or purifying sin.  I’ve selected a quote from “Bible Threatenings Explained[1] that led me to consider this assumption as a major precursor of his views on hell:

What God is determined to destroy in the sinner is that which makes him a sinner.  Christ said He came to utterly destroy evil –  the works of the devil.  He said he came to save the world, not to destroy men.  God proceeds towards the wayward as a good parent must, to eradicate the evil by punishment.

While I must agree that God has proceeded “to eradicate the evil by punishment,” I am not convinced that He believes, or the Bible teaches, that punishment is the method that will “destroy in the sinner…that which makes him a sinner” or “utterly destroy evil.”

Before the flood the Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind had become great on the earth.  Every inclination of the thoughts of their minds was only evil all the time.  The Lord regretted that he had made humankind on the earth, and he was highly offended.  So the Lord said, “I will wipe humankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth – everything from humankind to animals, including creatures that move on the ground and birds of the air, for I regret that I have made them.”[2]  The earth was ruined in the sight of God; the earth was filled with violence.  God saw the earth, and indeed it was ruined, for all living creatures on the earth were sinful.[3]

Death by drowning is a kind of ultimate punishment.  I suppose it was effective for a time at purging wickedness, evil, violence and sinfulness from the earth, until Noah cursed Canaan for Ham’s witness(?)—Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father’s nakedness[4]—gossip(?)—Ham told his two brothers who were outside[5]—mockery, maybe?  Let’s be frank, wasn’t it Ham’s revelation of the frayed dirty edges of Noah’s righteousness that angered Noah?  Hadn’t Noah exposed himself, literally in a drunken stupor and figuratively when he cursed Ham’s son?  I should probably say figuratively in a drunken stupor and literally when he cursed Canaan, to keep the metaphor and reality straight.

My difficulty with Mr. Garganta’s third assumption is more personal and idiosyncratic to the path of righteousness I’m on than the others.  As the Holy Spirit convinced me that the Bible as a book of rules would never satisfy my God-given hunger and thirst for righteousness I needed a new understanding of Paul’s assurance: Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work.[6]  One fruitful way of viewing the Bible is as a narrative of the tidal movement from human responsibility to God’s grace.

The highwater mark of human responsibility The highwater mark of God’s grace
Is it not true, God asked the murderer Cain, that if you do what is right, you will be fine?  But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at the door.  It desires to dominate you, but you must subdue it.

Genesis 4:7 (NET)

I have been crucified with Christ, wrote the murderer Saul transformed as Paul the Apostle, 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.

Galatians 2:20 (NET)

Cain killed his brother in a jealous rage.  If it weren’t so tragic, the image of God telling this murderer to subdue the sin that desires to dominate him is laughable. Saul tried to cover his motives with law and religion, but Paul eventually recognized it as the very same jealous rage.[7]

I don’t get the impression that Cain expected God to bless that jealous rage as righteousness.  Saul did, superficially at least.  Something in Jesus’ words must have rung true somewhere deep within Saul, since we have the writings of Paul the Apostle, and not Saul the blind Inquisitor who withstood the “temptation” of the “demon” disguised as an angel of light on the road to Damascus.  Saul the blind Inquisitor was crucified with Christ there, or later in the desert.[8]  Paul himself related this death to baptism: 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.[9]

I will suggest that the most distance covered from human responsibility to the grace of God in the shortest amount of time is most evident in the two covenants[10] separated by forty days[11] and the incident with the golden calf.[12]  But I don’t think I would ever have recognized that movement apart from Paul’s writings and the Holy Spirit’s leading and guidance.  Here I want to consider that movement as revealed in the writings of the prophet Hosea and relate it to the assumption that punishment is/was effective at purging or purifying sin rather than merely a consequence of that sin.

[The people of the northern kingdom of Israel] consult their wooden idols, the Lord spoke through Hosea, and their diviner’s staff answers with an oracle.  The wind of prostitution (zânûn) blows them astray; they commit spiritual (tachath) adultery (zânâh) against their God.  They sacrifice (zâbach) on the mountaintops, and burn offerings on the hills; they sacrifice under (tachath) oak, poplar, and terebinth, because their shade is so pleasant.  As a result, your daughters have become cult prostitutes (zânâh), and your daughters-in-law commit adultery (nâʼaph).  I will not punish (pâqad) your daughters when they commit prostitution (zânâh), nor your daughters-in-law when they commit adultery (nâʼaph).  For the men consort with harlots (zânâh), they sacrifice (zâbach) with temple prostitutes (qedêshâh).[13]

Ephraim [another name for the northern kingdom of Israel] has attached himself to idols, the Lord continued.  Do not go near him!  They consume their alcohol, then engage in cult prostitution (zânâh); they dearly love their shameful (qâlôn) behavior.[14]  I assume that this was πορνεία (that zâbach was used facetiously, they offered sexual intercourse to God under shade trees with qedêshâh).  And I assume that this was essentially what was going on in the church at Pergamum:  But I have a few things against you, Jesus said: You have some people there who follow the teaching of Balaam, who instructed Balak to put a stumbling block before the people of Israel so they would eat food sacrificed to idols and commit sexual immorality (πορνεῦσαι, a form of πορνεύω).[15]  It is clearly what was going on with the Moabite women after Balaam prophesied for, rather than against, Israel (Numbers 25:1-3 NET):

When Israel lived in Shittim, the people began to commit sexual immorality (zânâh) with the daughters of Moab.  These women invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods; then the people ate and bowed down to their gods.  When Israel joined themselves to Baal-peor, the anger of the Lord flared up against Israel.

The “Children of God” called it flirty fishing.[16]

I also assume this kind of πορνεία was practiced in the church at Thyatira:  You tolerate that woman Jezebel, Jesus said, who calls herself a prophetess, and by her teaching deceives my servants to commit sexual immorality (πορνεῦσαι, a form of πορνεύω) and to eat food sacrificed to idols.  I have given her time to repent, but she is not willing to repent of her sexual immorality (πορνείας, a form of πορνεία).  Look!  I am throwing her onto a bed of violent illness, and those who commit adultery (μοιχεύοντας, a form of μοιχεύω) with her into terrible suffering, unless they repent of her deeds.  Furthermore, I will strike her followers with a deadly disease, and then all the churches will know that I am the one who searches minds and hearts.  I will repay each one of you what your deeds deserve.[17]

This is essentially the same punishment He brought upon Israel when they joined themselves to Baal-peorThose that died in the plague were 24,000[18]—unless plague here is a euphemism for the men arrested and hanged[19] (not to mention skewered[20]).  But to the northern kingdom of Israel, He said, I will be like a lion to Ephraim, like a young lion to the house of Judah.  I myself will tear them to pieces, then I will carry them off, and no one will be able to rescue them!  Then I will return again to my lair until they have suffered their punishment (ʼâsham).[21]  Then they will seek me; in their distress they will earnestly seek me.[22]

He continued to prophesy what Israel would say after they were punished (Hosea 6:1-3 NET):

Come on!  Let’s return to the Lord!  He himself has torn us to pieces, but he will heal us!  He has injured us, but he will bandage our wounds!  He will restore us in a very short time; he will heal us in a little while, so that we may live in his presence.  So let us acknowledge him!  Let us seek to acknowledge the Lord!  He will come to our rescue as certainly as the appearance of the dawn, as certainly as the winter rain comes, as certainly as the spring rain that waters the land.

If I stopped here punishment would appear to be overwhelmingly effective at purging or purifying evil.  The Lord didn’t stop here so neither will I (Hosea 6:4 NET):

What am I going to do with you, O Ephraim?  What am I going to do with you, O Judah?  For your faithfulness is as fleeting as the morning mist; it disappears as quickly as dawn’s dew!

There is a refrain in Deuteronomy: In this way you must purge (bâʽar) out evil from within.[23]  In this way you will purge (bâʽar) evil from among you.[24]  …in this way you will purge (bâʽar) evil from Israel.[25]  …in this way you will purge (bâʽar) evil from among you.[26]  All refer to capital punishment, stoning primarily.  If that is all that Mr. Garganta meant by his assertion that “God proceeds…to eradicate the evil by punishment,” I concede the point.  But it seems clear that the survivors of punishment of lesser consequence than death, or those who merely fear punishment, are encouraged to hypocrisy by such punishment and fear.  They become actors, not poets or doers of the law.  They are devoid of the love that fulfills the law.  The Lord’s judgment was swift and severe (Hosea 6:5 NET):

Therefore, I will certainly cut you into pieces at the hands of the prophets; I will certainly kill you in fulfillment of my oracles of judgment; for my judgment will come forth like the light of the dawn.

The time of judgment is about to arrive, the Lord promised through Hosea.  The time of retribution is imminent!  Let Israel know!  The prophet is considered a fool – the inspired man is viewed as a madman – because of the multitude of your sins and your intense animosity.[27]  And it happened to them as He promised.  But there is still hope for them (Hosea 11:8, 9 NET):

How can I give you up, O Ephraim?  How can I surrender you, O Israel?  How can I treat you like Admah?  How can I make you like Zeboiim?  I have had a change of heart!  All my tender compassions are aroused!  I cannot carry out my fierce anger!  I cannot totally destroy Ephraim!  Because I am God, and not man – the Holy One among you – I will not come in wrath!

This sounds like grace, God’s unilateral decision, not something effected in any way by the punishment of death the inhabitants of the northern kingdom of Israel suffered.  It seems to me then that the failure of punishment to purge wickedness, evil, violence and sinfulness in the living is part of the justification for God’s unilateral grace: Let God be proven true, and every human being shown up as a liar, just as it is written:so that you will be justified in your words and will prevail when you are judged.”[28]

 

 

 

As I worked on this essay my daughter suffered a stroke.  That is definitely things not going my way.  When I had the chance to consider if God was punishing her, me, or us for something, praying that her sins have more to do with me and mine than hers, making no real sense, just a jumble of thoughts…take it out on me not her…the Holy Spirit brought Scripture to my mind:  Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”  Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.”[29]

I don’t take Him to mean that this man and his parents lived lives of sinless perfection.  I don’t even take Him to mean necessarily that the parents’ sins in this case had no causal relationship to their son’s blindness.  I take Him to mean that He wanted his disciples to concern themselves with the revelation of the works of God rather than establishing blame.

[1] http://richardwaynegarganta.com/Bible%20Threatenings%20Explained.htm#1

[2] Genesis 6:5-7 (NET)

[3] Genesis 6:11, 12 (NET)

[4] Genesis 9:22a (NET)

[5] Genesis 9:22b (NET)

[6] 2 Timothy 3:16, 17 (NET)

[7] Acts 9:1; 26:9-11; Romans 10:19; 11:11, 14; 1 Timothy 1:13 In the past I was a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a violent man (ISVNT).  The NET translators chose arrogant for ὑβριστήν, but acknowledged in a note that they might have chosen violent or cruel.

[8] Galatians 1:17 (NET)

[9] Romans 6:3, 4 (NET)

[10] http://www.religiousmind.net/2013/10/31/the-two-covenants/  The second “covenant,” however, is much more like a unilateral declaration, a promise, than a contract between two parties.  Why then was the law given?  It was added because of transgressions, until the arrival of the descendant [Jesus the Son of God] to whom the promise had been made.  It was administered through angels by an intermediary.  Now an intermediary is not for one party alone, but God is one [Father and Son].  Is the law therefore opposed to the promises of God?  Absolutely not!  For if a law had been given that was able to give life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law.  But the scripture imprisoned everything and everyone under sin so that the promise could be given – because of the faithfulness of Jesus Christ – to those who believe.  Galatians 3:19-22 (NET)

[11] Exodus 24:18 (NET)

[12] Exodus 32 (NET)

[13] Hosea 4:12-14a (NET)

[14] Hosea 4:17, 18 (NET)

[15] Revelation 2:14 (NET)

[16] http://www.xfamily.org/index.php/Flirty_Fishing

[17] Revelation 2:20-23 (NET)

[18] Numbers 25:9 (NET)

[19] Numbers 25:4, 5 (NET)

[20] Numbers 25:6-8 (NET)

[21] NET note: “The verb יֶאְשְׁמוּ (ye’shemu, Qal imperfect 3rd person masculine plural from אָשַׁם, ’asham, ‘to be guilty’) means ‘to bear their punishment’ (Ps 34:22-23; Prov 30:10; Isa 24:6; Jer 2:3; Hos 5:15; 10:2; 14:1; Zech 11:5; Ezek 6:6; BDB 79 s.v. אָשַׁם 3). Many English versions translate this as ‘admit their guilt’ (NIV, NLT) or ‘acknowledge their guilt’ (NASB, NRSV), but cf. NAB ‘pay for their guilt’ and TEV ‘have suffered enough for their sins.’”

[22] Hosea 5:14, 15 (NET)

[23] Deuteronomy 13:5 (NET)

[24] Deuteronomy 17:7; 22:21 (NET)

[25] Deuteronomy 22:22 (NET)

[26] Deuteronomy 22:24 (NET)

[27] Hosea 9:7 (NET)

[28] Romans 3:4 (NET)

[29] John 9:2, 3 (NKJV)