Methodology for the Mirror-Reading of The Elohist Source - Abraham Cycle

image: Wikimedia commons (  link  ). 

image: Wikimedia commons (link). 

The Abraham Cycle is primarily concerned with resolving issues between the Israelites and the descendents of Abimelech.  If you’d like a less technical overview, please check out my podcast episode on the Abraham Cycle. If you’re not familiar with the Elohist Source and it’s cycles, be sure to check out that podcast as well.

Argumentation

Please note that the argumentation below is that of the opposing narrative that the Elohist was addressing and is opposed to the Elohist narrative itself.

Color Code:
Black: These statements are mirrors or echoes
Blue: These statements are an inferred cause/effect of a mirror/echo or connects two mirrors/echoes
Green: These statement have no corresponding mirrors or echoes but have supporting (e.g. alternates, denials) statements that imply them.
Orange: Words within a statement that could be variations of the opposing narrative

Italics are causal connectors (e.g. “because”)
[Brackets] are replacements for pronouns or changing tense for better flow.

For more information about mirrors, echoes, supporting categories and my methodology, please visit this post.

Aspect #1: Who was Isaac’s father?

1. Abraham did not love Isaac
2. because Abraham was not the father of Isaac
3. because Abimelech was the father of Isaac
4. because Abimelech took Sarah
5. and because Sarah was not married to Abraham
6. because Sarah was married to Abimelech
7. and because Abraham said Sarah was his sister
8. and because Sarah did not bear a son to Abraham

Aspect #2: Did Abraham have more that one son?

1. Abraham had more than one son
2. because Hagar’s son was Abraham’s
3. Therefore [Hagar's] son shall inherit along with Isaac
4. because the two young men with Abraham were his sons

Aspect #3: Did Abraham sacrifice Isaac?

1. Abraham sacrificed Isaac
2. Which we know because two young men were with Abraham when he sacrificed Isaac
3. Who were there because Isaac did not carry the wood and the knife himself

Aspect #4: How should the Israelites treat the descendants of Abimelech?   
Angle #1: Israelite view  

1. Abraham's posterity were dealing with Abimelech's posterity falsely & not treating them loyally
2. because [Abimelech did not deal] loyally with [Abraham]
3. because Abimelech had seized Abraham's well

Angle #2: Abimelech Descendant’s view       

1. Abimelech did not seize Abraham's well
2. because Abraham did not dig the well

Aspect #5: Was Abraham native to Gerar? 

1. Abraham was an alien in Gerar

Aspect #6: Did Abraham serve Elohim while in Gerar/Beersheba?

1. Abraham did not [serve] God (Elohim)

Commentary

Aspect #1: Who was Isaac’s father?

  1. Elohim declares that Abraham loves Isaac.  Also, Abraham made a great feast the day that Isaac was weaned - not something Abraham would have done is he didn’t love Isaac.
  2. The reason that Abraham didn’t love Isaac was because he wasn’t his father.  The Elohist counters with with the most frequent counter-argument in this cycle: 11 instances and 5 variations. Isaac is repeatedly referred to as Abraham’s son throughout the narrative.  Also, Abraham and Isaac repeatedly refer to each other as father and son in dialogue.
  3. The only other character in the narrative that could have been proposed as the father is Abimelech, who would have had the opportunity to impregnate Sarah as noted in #4.
  4. The Elohist doesn’t deny that Sarah was with Abimelech.  However, the word “took” could be an echo but more likely it is an alternate to the opposing narrative which was claiming that Sarah was married to Abimelech without such forceful language.
  5. The Elohist repeatedly mentions that Sarah is Abraham’s wife.
  6. There may have been two separate opposing narratives regarding whether Abraham was married to Sarah.  The first saying that Abraham only married Sarah later in life, after she was married to Abimelech (and thus the father of Isaac) and the second saying that he was never married to Sarah for the reason noted in #7.
  7. This is this the second of two possible opposing narratives (the other noted in #6) and it said that Abraham couldn’t ever have been married to Sarah because she was his sister but took care of her (and Isaac) after she was widowed.
  8. Sarah is repeatedly described as bearing Isaac to Abraham.  In 2 instances, it highlights that she bore him during Abraham’s old age, thus countering the idea that Sarah bore Isaac before she was married to Abraham as noted in #6. Also countering that idea that Abraham wasn’t around when Isaac was young is the statement of Isaac’s weaning (see #1).

Implications:
Why does it matter who was Isaac’s father?  The descendants of Abimelech who seemed to have migrated to Israel (see Aspects #4 and #5), wanted to be treated as blood relatives and not aliens in the land.  More speculatively, the descendants of Abimelech may have been making a power play for the kingship.  Given that the kingly line of Jeroboam was not yet well established (see the Joseph Cycle), if the descendants of Abimelech could argue that they were blood relatives of the Israelites and that they were descendant from a king, they could try to lay claim to the kingship in Israel. 

Aspect #2: Did Abraham have more that one son?

  1. Elohim declares that Isaac is Abraham’s only son.
  2. Hagar’s son is one possible candidate for being Abraham’s son.  The Elohist does not mention the name of the son.  Referring to Hagar as a “slave woman” further delegitimizes Hagar’s son as a potential heir.
  3. If Hagar’s son is Abraham’s then he should inherit along with Isaac.
  4. Although speculative, the two young men could have also been argued to be Abraham’s sons. This could also be the reason why they are anonymous, since naming them would have given their descendents an excuse to claim they were sons of Abraham.

Implications:
If Abraham had other son’s then they would have a claim to part of the inheritance and would be entitled to be allotted part of the land.

Aspect #3: Did Abraham sacrifice Isaac?

  1. There are those that believe the Elohist source implies that Abraham sacrificed Isaac.  However, that would be antithetical to the overall message that the Elohist was trying to make.  The Elohist is trying to prove that Isaac is Abraham’s son because of his descendents.  If the Elohist implied that Abraham had killed Isaac, it would defeat the purpose of promoting his descendants.
  2. The Elohist is sure to point out that Abraham and Isaac went to the site of the sacrifice alone. Yes, the two young men went most of the way with them but they didn’t see what transpired with Isaac.  The Elohist cannot say that Isaac returned with Abraham, because the two young men were witnesses that he did not return.  So the Elohist is caught between a rock and a hard place by omitting anything about Abraham sacrificing Isaac and not being able to show him not returning with Abraham.  Isaac’s fate is left ambiguous either by design or by it being edited out of the narrative at a later date.  In #3, it seems to indicate an older Isaac that could have theoretically traveled to a different destination after the sacrifice incident and could explain why Isaac did not return with Abraham.
  3. Isaac carrying the wood and the knife himself would bolster the idea in #2 that there were no witnesses to what transpired since the two young men would not be needed to carry the items.  This could also indicate that Isaac was older since he was able to carry the items.

Implications:
If Abraham did sacrifice Isaac, then the Israelites are descendants of someone else. This line of argumentation would be of interest to aliens who had migrated to Israel and wanted to be seen as blood relatives with a common ancestor.

Aspect #4: How should the Israelites treat the descendants of Abimelech?  

Angle #1: Israelite view

  1. If the descendants of Abimelech were aliens in the land (for whatever reason, usually war or famine), they would have been vulnerable to being treated unfairly, including having wells that they dug seized by the Israelites.
  2. The Elohist does not argue that Abraham’s well had not been seized but rather it was Abimelech's servants and that he had no knowledge of it.
  3. The Israelites could have been using the narrative that Abimelech seized Abraham’s well as justification for treating Abimelech’s descendants poorly and seizing their wells.

Angle #2: Abimelech Descendant’s view

  1. On the other side of the argument, Abimelech’s descendants may have been saying that Abimelech didn’t seize Abraham’s well because it wasn’t Abraham’s and he wasn’t the one that dug it.
  2. The Elohist responds to #1 by making it clear that Abraham was indeed the one who dug the well.

Implications:
The Elohist is trying to manage two sides of an argument here.  He is trying to keep the peace between the Israelites and Abimelech’s descendants. He appeases both sides by saying that Abimelech’s descendants should be treated fairly and by saying that Abraham dug the well.

Aspect #5: Was Abraham native to Gerar?

  1. This could address a couple of issues: First, it could be imploring the Israelites to treat aliens (the descendants of Abimelech) well because Abraham was an alien and Abimelech treated him well (related to Aspect #4). Second, this could be countering the idea that Abraham was native to Gerar and thus related to those who had migrated from there.

Implications:
The Elohist once again is trying to manage both sides by arguing for the Israelites to treat the descendants of Abimelech well, but at the same time, severing any blood ties or common ancestry with them.

Aspect #6: Did Abraham serve Elohim while in Gerar/Beersheba?

  1. Abraham feared and prayed to Elohim according to the Elohist.  Those mirrors along with some denials make it clear that Abraham was faithful to Elohim while in an alien land.  The sacrifice of Isaac also demonstrates this faithfulness by showing that Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son to Elohim and his only son at that.

Implications:
If the descendants of Abimelech had migrated to Israel, they likely brought their god(s) with them and would naturally entice the Israelites to worship them, encouraging them to do so with stories of how Abraham worshiped them when he was in their land.

Biblical References

The spreadsheet embedded below is a list of verses used to compose the argumentation above.  You can also view the spreadsheet here.  For further information about how these statements were categorized, please visit this post.

Titus And The "Biblical" Case That God's A Liar

False teachers were telling the early Church that the gentiles couldn't be God's people.  He had declared that He was against them. If God were to include the gentiles in the Church now, then God would be a liar...and they had the Scriptures to prove it.

This is part of a series on mirror-reading the books of the Bible.  You can view all posts in the series here.  They are only cursory mirror-readings, and although I give evidence for their validity, further research is desired for support.

Mirror-Reading Titus Gives Us A Greater Understanding

One of the Biblical text that the false teachers used to "prove" that God would not accept the gentiles was Isaiah 28:16:

Therefore thus says the Lord Yahweh, "Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone of a sure foundation... "

The context there is that God had declared to the leadership in Jerusalem at that time, that they should repent, or else God would destroy the city and exile them. The leadership in Jerusalem responded by trying to make alliances to avoid God’s judgment. However, God says that His word, what He has declared, is like a cornerstone and cannot be avoided.

The false teachers said that there was no salvation for the Gentiles on earth and God had declared it in the Scriptures. If He changed his mind now, that would make Him a liar.  Here's another verse in Isaiah that show that once God made up His mind, there was no turning it back.

Isaiah 14:26-27
This is the plan that is determined for the whole earth. This is the hand that is stretched out over all the nations. For Yahweh of Armies has planned, and who can stop it? His hand is stretched out, and who can turn it back?

Since God had said that He would destroy the Gentile nations, He cannot change his mind and save them now.

How Paul Proved That God Was Not A Liar

When Paul writes Titus, he addresses the "Lying God" issue:

Titus 1:1-2
 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began

Paul alludes to the "cornerstone" in Isaiah to make the same point in Ephesians.

Ephesians 2:20
being built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief cornerstone;

The New Testament makes clear that the inclusion of the Gentiles was the plan from the very beginning and that God did not change His mind, thereby making Him not a liar.

Ephesians 1:4 (see also 1 Peter 1:20, John 17:24, and Revelation 13:8)
even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love

Paul states later in Titus that God's grace is for all people...including the Gentiles:

Titus 2:11
 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people,

What Do You Think?

What do you think of this mirror-reading of Titus?  Was Paul trying prove that God was not a liar for the inclusion of the Gentiles?  What other situations do you think Titus was responding to?

Header Image PHOTO CREDIT: Alan Cleaver cropped from original



Obadiah: Would Edom Avoid God's Judgement?

5748356313_811514816d_o.jpg

After the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem, the kingdom of Edom was sitting pretty.  They had remained unscathed during a very tumultuous time.  Would they continue in prosperity and avoid God's wrath?

Mirror-Reading Obadiah Gives Us A Better Understanding

As the shortest book in the Bible, Obadiah doesn't give us much material to work with.  Weighing in at only 21 verses, we can only gain some basic information from mirror-reading. 

When the Babylonians had conquered Jerusalem, the Edomites had taken advantage of the situation, scavenging on the remains of the southern kingdom of Judah. The Jews started to wonder if the kingdom of Edom was just too strong for God to deal with or perhaps felt He had to reason to punish the Edomites.  The kingdom of Edom had 4 great strengths:  allies, well fortified cities, wealth and wisdom. Obadiah responds by showing how these strengths are no match for God, and to let the Jewish people know that Edom wouldn't fly under the radar forever.

How Obadiah Showed That Edom Would Get What They Had Coming To Them.

Edomite cities were naturally well fortified because of the rocky terrain in which they inhabited.  But these fortifications would be no match for God:

Obadiah 3-4
The pride of your heart has deceived you,
    you who live in the clefts of the rock,
    in your lofty dwelling,
who say in your heart,
    “Who will bring me down to the ground?”
Though you soar aloft like the eagle,
    though your nest is set among the stars,
    from there I will bring you down,

declares the Lord.

Next, Obadiah explained that God would destroy them so completely that they would have no wealth left:

Obadiah 5-6
If thieves came to you,
    if plunderers came by night—
    how you have been destroyed!—
    would they not steal only enough for themselves?
If grape gatherers came to you,
    would they not leave gleanings?
How Esau has been pillaged,
    his treasures sought out!

And the allies of the Edomites would turn against them:

Obadiah 7
All your allies have driven you to your border;
    those at peace with you have deceived you;
they have prevailed against you;
    those who eat your bread have set a trap beneath you—
    you have no understanding.

Finally, God would rid them of their wisdom:

Obadiah 8-9
Will I not on that day, declares the Lord,
    destroy the wise men out of Edom,
    and understanding out of Mount Esau?
And your mighty men shall be dismayed, O Teman,
    so that every man from Mount Esau will be cut off by slaughter.

Obadiah also let the Jewish people know that God had good reason to bring destruction on Edom:

Obadiah 10-15
Because of the violence done to your brother Jacob,
    shame shall cover you,
    and you shall be cut off forever.
 On the day that you stood aloof,
    on the day that strangers carried off his wealth
and foreigners entered his gates
    and cast lots for Jerusalem,
    you were like one of them.
But do not gloat over the day of your brother
    in the day of his misfortune;
do not rejoice over the people of Judah
    in the day of their ruin;
do not boast
    in the day of distress.
Do not enter the gate of my people
    in the day of their calamity;
do not gloat over his disaster
    in the day of his calamity;
do not loot his wealth
    in the day of his calamity.
Do not stand at the crossroads
    to cut off his fugitives;
do not hand over his survivors
    in the day of distress.
For the day of the Lord is near upon all the nations.
As you have done, it shall be done to you;
    your deeds shall return on your own head.

In the end, the Jewish people would be restored and will rule over the kingdom of Edom:

Obadiah 21
Saviors shall go up to Mount Zion
    to rule Mount Esau,
    and the kingdom shall be the Lord's.
Header Image PHOTO CREDIT: Seetheholyland.net cropped from original

Haggai: Was The Temple Proof That God Was No Longer With Them?

Things hadn't gone well for the Jews who had returned from the Babylonian exile and had begun rebuilding the Temple.  They began to wonder if God was no longer with them, but Haggai let's them know the real reasons why rebuilding the Temple had been such a struggle.

This is part of a series on mirror-reading the books of the Bible.  You can view all posts in the series here.  They are only cursory mirror-readings and, although I give evidence for their validity, further research is desired for support.

Mirror-Reading The Book Of Haggai Gives Us A Greater Understanding

The Temple stood partially built, but enthusiasm began to wane as obstacles arose.  Perhaps God was no longer with them.  They had, after all, broken His covenant before the exile, and a new covenant had not been formed.  Perhaps He was no longer their God. If He was still their God, wouldn't He make the new Temple more glorious than the 1st?  It didn't appear that way.  Also, when they had returned to the land to rebuild the Temple, a famine had come upon them.  Surely that was not a good sign.  Maybe they should worship some of the pagan fertility gods.

Even if they did rebuild the Temple, it would be vulnerable to attack, since the walls of Jerusalem had yet to be rebuilt.  No sense filling it with gold and silver if it would just get looted by surrounding enemies.  Could they really trust a God that wasn't able to defeat the Babylonian army anyway?  Perhaps He wasn't the strong war God that they were looking for.  

3 Ways That Haggai Showed How God Was Still with Them

Haggai responds to all of the criticisms that were being leveled against God and His Temple.  First, he reassures them that God was still there God.  His covenant with them still stood even though they had broken it.

Haggai 1:13
Then Haggai, the messenger of the Lord, spoke to the people with the Lord's message, “I am with you, declares the Lord.”
Haggai 2:4
Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, declares the Lord. Be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the Lord. Work, for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts,
Haggai 2:5
according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not.

Second, Haggai let's them know the real reason why there had been a famine.  It was not because they had moved back into the land, but that they had delayed rebuilding the Temple. 

Haggai 1:9-10
You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the Lord of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house. Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce.

Haggai points out that the famine ended as soon as they started to rebuild it.

Haggai 2:19 (see also 2:15 and 2:18)
Is the seed yet in the barn? Indeed, the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree have yielded nothing. But from this day on I will bless you.”

Finally Haggai addresses the issue of whether God was strong when it came to military matters:

Haggai 2:22
and to overthrow the throne of kingdoms. I am about to destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the nations, and overthrow the chariots and their riders. And the horses and their riders shall go down, every one by the sword of his brother.

Haggai also refers to God as "Lord of hosts" (see 1:9, 2:4, 2:8, 2:9, 2:11, and 2:18) which is another way of saying "Lord of armies". There would also be no need to fear any looting of the gold and silver that might be in the Temple as God lays claim to it.

Haggai 2:8
The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the Lord of hosts.

He also reassured them that He was with them by saying that the new Temple would be glorious, even more so than the first one:

Haggai 2:9
The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the Lord of hosts.’”

What Do You Think?

What do you think of this mirror-reading of Haggai?  Was Haggai trying to reassure the Jews in this way?  What other situations do you think Haggai was responding to?

 

 

Are There Hidden Prophecies In Ephesians?

Two prophetic words that lay hidden in Ephesians were part of the battleground between Paul and the false teachers.

This is part of a series on mirror-reading the books of the Bible.  You can view all posts in the series here.  They are only cursory mirror-readings and, although I give evidence for their validity, further research is desired for support.

Mirror-Reading Ephesians Gives Us A Better Understanding

False teachers in Ephesus were teaching that the apostles had laid a nice, foundational teaching, but they didn't know the whole story.  Prophetic words had been spoken by prophets in the Church, and the false teachers had been using them to support their teachings.  They said the apostles didn't have prophetic revelation like the prophets did.  Paul responds to the false teachers and quotes some of the prophetic words in order to correctly interpret them.

How Paul Corrects The False Teachers And Interprets The Prophetic Words

Paul uses the conjunction "and" to put the apostles and prophets on the same level.  Speaking of the Church, he points out that it had been built on the foundational teachings of the apostles and prophets.  The prophets were not adding to the foundation, and they both taught the same thing: Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 2:20
being built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief cornerstone;

Paul also points out that God not only gave revelation to the prophets, but to the apostles as well.

Ephesians 3:5
which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit;

Paul specifically refers to himself as receiving revelation.

Ephesians 3:3
how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly.

Does Paul Misquote the Bible?

In chapter 4, Paul writes a quote:

Ephesians 4:8
Therefore he says, “When he ascended on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.”

This sounds very close to Psalm 68:18 but is slightly off.  Some assume that Paul misquotes the Psalm.  Others argue that he was quoting a different version.  However, New Testament writers usually write something such as “According to the Scriptures” or “According to the Prophet Isaiah” when quoting the Old Testament.  We don't find that in 4:8.  Since the context points to issues with the prophetic, I believe Paul is quoting one of the prophets in the Church at that time.

The false teachers were saying that someone other than Christ had ascended on high, and that someone other than Christ had given gifts.  Paul responds:

Ephesians 4:9-10
(In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)

Again, he puts apostles and prophets on the same level but also expands the list to other offices:

Ephesians 4:11-12
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,

We find another prophetic word in chapter 5:

Ephesians 5:14b
Therefore he says, “Awake, you who sleep, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

The false teachers in Ephesus were misinterpreting the prophetic word by saying that Christ would only be their Lord after they died - Lord of the dead, so to speak.  New Testament writers respond to this elsewhere by calling Christ, Lord of the living and the dead.  

Paul spins the prophetic word in different direction by saying:

Ephesians 5:13-14
 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,
“Awake, O sleeper,
    and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

Paul may have been responding to the "Lord of the dead" aspect in chapter 2, by saying that they were already dead:

Ephesians 2:1
You were made alive when you were dead in transgressions and sins,
Ephesians 2:5
even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by favor you have been saved)

What Do You Think?

What do you think of this mirror-reading of Ephesians?  Are the quotes that Paul writes really prophetic words?  What other situations do you think Paul was responding to in Ephesians?

Header Image PHOTO CREDIT: Vladimer Shioshvili derivative of original

Romans: Should Jews Be Included In The Church?

Paul had spent most of his Christian career trying to convince others that the Gentiles should be included in the Church.  By the time he writes Romans, the tables had started to turn.

Mirror-Reading Romans Gives Us A Greater Understanding

Far away from the land of Judea and in the epicenter of a Gentile empire, the Roman Gentile Christians began to see the Jews as inferior.  False teachers were saying that in order to accept the Gentiles, God had rejected the Jews.  Salvation was no longer available to them because they had rejected Christ.  Paul responds against this false teaching his letter to the Romans.

How Paul Proved That Jews Could Be Part Of The Church

Paul wastes no time addressing the issue and states in the first chapter that salvation is available to the Jews.

Romans 1:16
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

Even though they had rejected Him, God still makes salvation available to the Jews.

Romans 3:1-4a
Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means!

Paul makes clear that he wants the Jews to be saved and then lists their qualities in relation to God:

Romans 9:3-5
For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.  They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

Paul plainly states that he wants them to be saved

Romans 10:1
Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.

God has not rejected the Jews

Romans 11:1-2a
I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew.

Even though Paul was sent to the Gentiles, he hoped that one of the byproducts of his ministry would be to make the Jews jealous and provoke them to be saved. He continues that even though the Jews had been broken off from the people of God, God could still bring them back in. And that the Gentiles should not be arrogant about their position with God because God could break them off too.

Romans 11:13-24
Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches.
But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear.  For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree.

The Jews were not the enemies of the Gentiles and should be included in the Church through Christ.

Romans 11:28
As regards the gospel, they are enemies for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers.

What Do You Think?

What do you think of this mirror-reading of Romans?  @@Was Paul trying to counter the idea that Jews couldn't be part of the Church?@@  What other situations do you think Paul was responding to in Romans?

Header Image PHOTO CREDIT: Moyan Brenn cropped from original



Was Nahum's Prophecy Trying To Boost Jerusalem's Economy?

After the failed siege of Jerusalem by the Assyrians, the Jews still feared their return, and Jerusalem suffered because of it.  Nahum's prophecy would potentially give the economy in Jerusalem a boost.

Mirror-Reading The Book of Nahum Gives Us A Greater Understanding

The Assyrian army had conquered the northern kingdom of Israel (Did you know that?).  The southern kingdom was next on the chopping block, but after suffering losses foretold by the prophet Isaiah, they withdrew to the Assyrian capital, Nineveh.  However, the Jews were nervous about them returning.  The Assyrians had regained their footing and went on to conquer Thebes, a well fortified Egyptian city. Was Jerusalem next?

The Jews were supposed to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem three times a year to celebrate their feasts and pay their tithes.  This would have been a huge boost to the Jerusalem economy as the pilgrims would have been required to spend money while there.  However, a looming invasion would make any pilgrim hesitant of making the journey.  No Jew wanted to find themselves in the middle of a conflict or trapped inside the walls of Jerusalem if the Assyrian army arrived.   The pilgrimages made everyone vulnerable. and no one wanted to get caught with their pants down, so to speak.

How Nahum's Prophecy Tried To Boost The Economy In Jerusalem

Nahum's primary objective was to convince the Jews that the Assyrians would not invade again so that they'll feel comfortable making the pilgrimage to Jerusalem.  Nahum makes it clear:

Nahum 1:9
What do you plot against the Lord?
    He will make a complete end;
    trouble will not rise up a second time.
Nahum 1:15 (LEB)
Look! On the mountains!
    The feet of the one who brings good tidings,
        the one who proclaims peace!
Celebrate a festival, O Judah,
    Fulfill your vows!
For he will not invade you again;

    the wicked one is cut off completely!”

Nahum predicts the destruction of Nineveh, but in the mind of many at that time, it may have seemed unlikely.  Nineveh was well fortified, not only with walls, but with water too.  It sat on the banks of the Tigris river, and it also had canals on the other side that could act as moats.  On the side with no canals, they could simply flood with water.  There was also a river that ran through the city that would provide it with fresh drinking water if it came under siege.  All of this water provided a formidable defense that would not make life easy for an would-be invader.

Fortress Nineveh

Nahum responds by pointing out that the Egyptian city of Thebes was well fortified and had a natural water defense also, yet the Assyrians were still able to conquer it.  If Thebes could be conquered, so could Nineveh.

Nahum 3:8
Are you better than Thebes
    that sat by the Nile,
with water around her,
    her rampart a sea,
    and water her wall?

Nahum projects God's power over water early in his prophecy:

Nahum 1:4
He rebukes the sea and makes it dry;
    he dries up all the rivers;

Bashan and Carmel wither;
    the bloom of Lebanon withers.

The aftermath of Nineveh's destruction is described as lacking water:

Nahum 2:8
Nineveh is like a pool
    whose waters run away.
“Halt! Halt!” they cry,
    but none turns back.

However, most fascinating is the method of how Nineveh would be conquered:

Nahum 1:8
But with an overflowing flood
he will make a complete end of the adversaries,
    and will pursue his enemies into darkness.

One ancient account describes Nineveh being conquered because the Tigris river overflowed and flooded the city, causing the walls to falter.  The very thing that was supposed to make Nineveh formidable was actually it's downfall. Nahum describes it this way:

Nahum 2:6
The river gates are opened;
    the palace melts away;

So overall, Nahum makes a solid case that the Assyrians are not a threat and hopes the Jews will make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem and inject the city with much needed capital.

What Do You Think?

What do you think of this mirror-reading of Nahum?  Was Nahum addressing a financial need of Jerusalem?  What other situations do you think Nahum was responding to?

Header Image PHOTO CREDIT: Portable Antiquities Scheme cropped from original

Gospel of Mark: Was Jesus A Rogue Son?

Jesus out of control? A conflict between the Father and the Son? Who's idea was it to save the world anyway? Mark addresses the situation in his Gospel.

This is part of a series on mirror-reading the books of the Bible.  You can view all posts in the series here.  They are only cursory mirror-readings, and although I give evidence for their validity, further research is desired for support.

Mirror-Reading the Gospel Of Mark Gives Us A Greater Understanding

False teachers were arguing that, yes, Jesus did provide salvation for the Gentiles, but that was not God's plan.  Jesus was not loved by God and God disapproved of him.  Jesus was a son that had gone rogue, and saving the Gentiles was not God the Father's will. Mark responds to this false teaching in the Gospel of Mark.

How Mark Proved That Jesus Had Not Gone Rogue

Mark points out twice that Jesus is not just God the Father's son, but His beloved son.  There was no schism between the two, and God the Father was pleased with Jesus.

Mark 1:11
And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
Mark 9:7
And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.”

Secondly, when it came to the whole idea of dying on the cross for the sins of the world (including the Gentiles), Mark is sure to point out that it was, in fact, God the Father's will.

Mark 14:36
And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

What Do You Think?

What do you think of this mirror-reading of Gospel of Mark?  @@Was Mark trying counter the idea that there was a schism between the Father and the Son?@@  What other situations do you think Mark was responding to?

Header Image PHOTO CREDIT: Mindaugas Danys cropped from original

Ecclesiastes: Trying To Achieve The Perfect Life?

There was an ancient philosophy that taught how to achieve the perfect life.  The "Teacher" in Ecclesiastes responds to this philosophy.

This is part of a series on mirror-reading the books of the Bible.  You can view all posts in the series here.  They are only cursory mirror-readings and, although I give evidence for their validity, further research is desired for support.

Mirror-Reading The Book Of Ecclesiastes Gives Us A Greater Understanding

From the numerous references to youth and how to deal with the king, we can infer that the Book of Ecclesiastes was aimed at young courtiers who interacted with the king on occasion.  These courtiers had embraced, or were at least exploring, a philosophy that held that one could achieve a perfect life, perhaps even avoiding death.  This was achieved by going to extremes, either of wisdom and righteousness or folly and wickedness.  The results of this philosophy had caused them to become greedy, envious and oppressive of the poor.  They also tended to be argumentative to achieve what they wanted, spewing words at the king and even at God. The "Teacher" in Ecclesiastes teaches to counter this philosophy.

Six Points That The "Teacher" Uses To Shut Down The So Called Perfect Life Philosophy

1. The Teacher already tried the philosophy and it didn't work

The "Teacher" also called "Preacher" in some Bible translations, or "Koheleth" in the Hebrew, was also a king.  If anyone was able to go to the extremes, it would be him.  The pursuit of wisdom was upheld and encouraged in the wisdom literature of the Bible, but folly is never shown as something to be pursued.  However, the Teacher pursues both extremes because the author of Ecclesiastes is not responding to Biblical wisdom teachings but the so called "perfect life philosophy". 

Ecclesiastes 1:16-17 (see also 2:9)
I said in my heart, “I have acquired great wisdom, surpassing all who were over Jerusalem before me, and my heart has had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.” And I applied my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is but a striving after wind.

This gives rise to one of the most bizarre passages when compared to the rest of the Bible:

Ecclesiastes 7:16-18
Be not overly righteous, and do not make yourself too wise. Why should you destroy yourself? Be not overly wicked, neither be a fool. Why should you die before your time? It is good that you should take hold of this, and from that withhold not your hand, for the one who fears God shall come out from both of them.

"Don't be too righteous" sounds odd but makes more sense when one realizes that the Teacher is responding to a philosophy that was promoting extremes in order to achieve a perfect life.

So the young courtiers are encouraged to not bother pursuing the philosophy because the Teacher already pursued both extremes, and concludes that it is a "chasing after the wind"

Ecclesiastes 2:12
So I turned to consider wisdom and madness and folly. For what can the man do who comes after the king? Only what has already been done.


2. God controls the good times and the bad times and they can't be changed

@@The Teacher explains that God sets the "times" and they can't be changed by extreme wisdom or folly@@.

Ecclesiastes 3:14-15
I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away.

What will be, will be and there is nothing the young courtiers could do about it.

Ecclesiastes 1:9
What has been is what will be,
    and what has been done is what will be done,
    and there is nothing new under the sun.

The young courtiers had been trying to make their paths straight by eliminating all the bad times, but the Teacher responds:

Ecclesiastes 7:13 (see also 1:15)
Consider the work of God:
    who can make straight what he has made crooked?

But God ordains all the times, both good and bad:

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
Ecclesiastes 3:17
 I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work.


3. They can't know the future

Although there are plenty of examples of prophets of God foretelling the future, the young courtiers thought they could foretell the future with wisdom.  The Teacher said that's impossible.

Ecclesiastes 3:11
He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.
Ecclesiastes 6:12
For who knows what is good for man while he lives the few days of his vain life, which he passes like a shadow? For who can tell man what will be after him under the sun?
Ecclesiastes 8:17
then I saw all the work of God, that man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. However much man may toil in seeking, he will not find it out. Even though a wise man claims to know, he cannot find it out.
Ecclesiastes 7:14
In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.
Ecclesiastes 11:3-6
If the clouds are full of rain,
    they empty themselves on the earth,
and if a tree falls to the south or to the north,
    in the place where the tree falls, there it will lie.
He who observes the wind will not sow,
    and he who regards the clouds will not reap.
As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything.
In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good.
Ecclesiastes 9:11
Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all.

Although all of the times were planned by God, they would not be able to figure out what the plan was, so that "time and chance" happened to them all.

4. Shut your mouth

The Teachers also addresses the issue of being argumentative in order to achieve their desires:

Ecclesiastes 5:2
Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few.
Ecclesiastes 6:10
Whatever has come to be has already been named, and it is known what man is, and that he is not able to dispute with one stronger than he.
Ecclesiastes 10:14
A fool multiplies words,
    though no man knows what is to be,
    and who can tell him what will be after him?
Ecclesiastes 6:11
The more words, the more vanity, and what is the advantage to man?

5. They will die eventually

All of their wisdom and folly would not be able to save them from death.  

Ecclesiastes 9:1-3
But all this I laid to heart, examining it all, how the righteous and the wise and their deeds are in the hand of God. Whether it is love or hate, man does not know; both are before him. It is the same for all, since the same event happens to the righteous and the wicked, to the good and the evil, to the clean and the unclean, to him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As the good one is, so is the sinner, and he who swears is as he who shuns an oath. This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that the same event happens to all. Also, the hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead.
Ecclesiastes 7:2
It is better to go to the house of mourning
    than to go to the house of feasting,
for this is the end of all mankind,
    and the living will lay it to heart.
Ecclesiastes 8:8
No man has power to retain the spirit, or power over the day of death. There is no discharge from war, nor will wickedness deliver those who are given to it.
Ecclesiastes 9:10
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.

6. Enjoy life

After destroying the philosophy that the young courtiers were pursuing, the Teacher gives guidance on how they then should live:

Ecclesiastes 2:24
There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God,
Ecclesiastes 5:18
Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot.
Ecclesiastes 5:19
Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God.
Ecclesiastes 3:22
So I saw that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for that is his lot. Who can bring him to see what will be after him?
Ecclesiastes 8:15
And I commend joy, for man has nothing better under the sun but to eat and drink and be joyful, for this will go with him in his toil through the days of his life that God has given him under the sun.

Herding the Courtiers

@@The narrator of Ecclesiastes echoes the Teacher and warns the young courtiers not to go to extremes@@.

Ecclesiastes 12:11-12
The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd.  My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.

Goads and nails were used by shepherds to keep the sheep from straying.  Likewise, the narrator uses the terms to describe the words of the Teacher to keep the young courtiers from straying into extremes.

What Do You Think?

What do you think of this mirror-reading of Ecclesiastes?  Was the Teacher addressing young courtiers trying to achieve the perfect life?  What other situations do you think Ecclesiastes was responding to?

 

2 Thessalonians: Can You Have Christ Without God?

Persecution and an alarming rumor had the Thessalonians drawing a false distinction.  Paul steps in to bring it all back together.

This is part of a series on mirror-reading the books of the Bible.  You can view all posts in the series here.  They are only cursory mirror-readings and, although I give evidence for their validity, further research is desired for support.

Mirror-Reading 2nd Thessalonians Gives Us A Greater Understanding

The Thessalonians had been experiencing persecution.  On top of that, they had heard that Christ had already returned.  This led to the idea that God only favored some of those who believed in Christ - only the ones who were chosen - and they were not chosen since they were being persecuted.  They thought that only some churches were churches of God and that other churches did not have His favor (grace).

How Paul Showed The Thessalonians All Was Good With God AND Christ.

Paul addresses the issue by using the conjunction "and" which connects both God and Christ.  Paul sometimes used conjunctions to correct false teachings. In doing this, he shows how those in Christ also have God's favor.

2 Thessalonians 1:1-2
Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Thessalonians 1:12
so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17
Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.
2 Thessalonians 3:5
May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.

Paul assures that they are chosen by God:

2 Thessalonians 2:13-14
But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Secondly, Paul corrects the misconception that Christ had already returned:

2 Thessalonians 2:2
not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.

And that he boast about their persecutions in the churches "of God":

2 Thessalonians 1:4
Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring.

Paul even uses the conjunction "and" in the negative sense. Those who will suffer God's wrath will not know God or Christ:

2 Thessalonians 1:8
 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.

He makes it clear that ALL in Christ will be saved:

2 Thessalonians 1:10 (see also 2:12, 3:16 and 3:18)
when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.

What Do You Think?

What do you think of this mirror-reading of 2 Thessalonians?  @@Was Paul trying correct a false distinction between the churches of God and the churches of Christ@@?  What other situations do you think 2 Thessalonians was responding to?

Header Image PHOTO CREDIT: midiman cropped from original

Book of Enoch: Was Enoch In Cahoots With The Fallen Angels?

enoch.jpg

By reconstructing the problem that the Book of Enoch was responding to, we can see that Enoch had gotten a bad reputation. 

This is part of a series on mirror-reading the books of the Bible.  You can view all posts in the series here.  They are only cursory mirror-readings and, although I give evidence for their validity, further research is desired for support.

I don't normally mirror-read extra-Biblical books but since the Book of Enoch is quoted in Jude and alluded to in 2 Peter and possibly elsewhere in the New Testament, I thought it would be beneficial to have a look at it. 

There are several sections to the Book of Enoch that seem to have been written at different times. For this post, I'll be focusing on the section referred to as "The Book of Watchers", specifically chapters 6-16.

Mirror-Reading The Book of Enoch Gives Us A Greater Understanding

The Watchers are often thought of as fallen angels, but only some of them fell and actually, they didn't really fall.  They came down out of heaven by their own choice, although they weren't supposed to.  They hooked up with some human women and got them pregnant and their children became giants and caused all sorts of problems.

Centuries later the people in ancient Israel were still dealing with issues that they thought stemmed from these Watchers.  The giants were gone but they thought the Watchers were still on earth causing trouble.  The Israelites knew that the prophet Enoch was intertwined with the story of the Watchers, but they didn't know the whole story and this was causing some problems for Enoch's reputation.

Some Israelites had heard of, or perhaps even read, a petition written by Enoch.  The petition asked that God forgive the Watchers that had come down to earth. The petition didn't say what God's response was, so the people just assumed that God had forgiven them since it seemed like they were still having trouble with the Watchers.

@@What kind of prophet would petition to have the Watchers forgiven?@@  He must have been an evil one!  

3 Ways The Author Of The Book Of Enoch Restored Enoch's Reputation

1. Enoch described as a righteous scribe

The writer of the Book of Enoch is sure to describe Enoch as righteous. Not only that, but that Enoch was also a scribe.  That was his job.  Just because he wrote something didn't mean that he endorsed it. He worked with the Watchers, both good and bad.  

Enoch 12:3-4
And I, Enoch was blessing the Lord of majesty and the King of the ages, and lo! the Watchers called me--Enoch the scribe--and said to me: 'Enoch, thou scribe of righteousness, go, declare to the Watchers of the heaven who have left the high heaven, the holy eternal place, and have defiled themselves with women, and have done as the children of earth do, and have taken unto themselves wives: "Ye have wrought great destruction on the earth:
Enoch 14:1
The book of the words of righteousness, and of the reprimand of the eternal Watchers in accordance with the command of the Holy Great One in that vision.
Enoch 15:1-2
And He answered and said to me, and I heard His voice: 'Fear not, Enoch, thou righteous man and scribe of righteousness: approach hither and hear my voice. 2. And go, say to the Watchers of heaven, who have sent thee to intercede for them: "You should intercede" for men, and not men for you:


2. The Petition was not granted

God did not forgive the Watchers on earth, and the author of the Book of Enoch points out in several places that the petition that Enoch wrote was thoroughly rejected.

Enoch 10:10
And no request that they (i.e. their fathers) make of thee shall be granted unto their fathers on their behalf; for they hope to live an eternal life, and that each one of them will live five hundred years.'
Enoch 12:5-6
And ye shall have no peace nor forgiveness of sin: and inasmuch as they delight themselves in their children, The murder of their beloved ones shall they see, and over the destruction of their children shall they lament, and shall make supplication unto eternity, but mercy and peace shall ye not attain."'
Enoch 13:1-10
And Enoch went and said: 'Azâzêl, thou shalt have no peace: a severe sentence has gone forth against thee to put thee in bonds: And thou shalt not have toleration nor request granted to thee, because of the unrighteousness which thou hast taught, and because of all the works of godlessness and unrighteousness and sin which thou hast shown to men.' Then I went and spoke to them all together, and they were all afraid, and fear and trembling seized them. And they besought me to draw up a petition for them that they might find forgiveness, and to read their petition in the presence of the Lord of heaven. For from thenceforward they could not speak (with Him) nor lift up their eyes to heaven for shame of their sins for which they had been condemned. Then I wrote out their petition, and the prayer in regard to their spirits and their deeds individually and in regard to their requests that they should have forgiveness and length 〈of days〉. And I went off and sat down at the waters of Dan, in the land of Dan, to the south of the west of Hermon: I read their petition till I fell asleep. And behold a dream came to me, and visions fell down upon me, and I saw visions of chastisement, and a voice came bidding (me) I to tell it to the sons of heaven, and reprimand them. And when I awaked, I came unto them, and they were all sitting gathered together, weeping in ’Abelsjâîl, which is between Lebanon and Sênêsêr, with their faces covered. And I recounted before them all the visions which I had seen in sleep, and I began to speak the words of righteousness, and to reprimand the heavenly Watchers.
Enoch 14:3-4
As He has created and given to man the power of understanding the word of wisdom, so hath He created me also and given me the power of reprimanding the Watchers, the children of heaven. I wrote out your petition, and in my vision it appeared thus, that your petition will not be granted unto you throughout all the days of eternity, and that judgement has been finally passed upon you: yea (your petition) will not be granted unto you.
Enoch 14:7
And your petition on their behalf shall not be granted, nor yet on your own: even though you weep and pray and speak all the words contained in the writing which I have written.
Enoch 16:4
Say to them therefore: "You have no peace."'


3. The Watchers were no longer free to cause trouble

After Enoch's petition was rejected, God took steps to restrain the Watchers that had caused trouble so that they could no longer cause trouble on the earth - ever. However, the disembodied spirits of their giant offspring could and did cause trouble.

Enoch 10:12
And when their sons have slain one another, and they have seen the destruction of their beloved ones, bind them fast for seventy generations in the valleys of the earth, till the day of their judgement and of their consummation, till the judgement that is for ever and ever is consummated.
Enoch 14:5
And from henceforth you shall not ascend into heaven unto all eternity, and in bonds of the earth the decree has gone forth to bind you for all the days of the world.
Enoch 15:8-11
And now, the giants, who are produced from the spirits and flesh, shall be called evil spirits upon the earth, and on the earth shall be their dwelling. Evil spirits have proceeded from their bodies; because they are born from men, and from the holy Watchers is their beginning and primal origin; they shall be evil spirits on earth, and evil spirits shall they be called. As for the spirits of heaven, in heaven shall be their dwelling, but as for the spirits of the earth which were born upon the earth, on the earth shall be their dwelling. And the spirits of the giants afflict, oppress, destroy, attack, do battle, and work destruction on the earth, and cause trouble: they take no food, but nevertheless hunger and thirst, and cause offenses. And these spirits shall rise up against the children of men and against the women, because they have proceeded from them.

What Do You Think?

What do you think of this mirror-reading of the Book of Enoch?  Was the author of the Book of Enoch trying to restore Enoch's reputation?  What other situations do you think the Book of Enoch was responding to?

Header Image PHOTO CREDIT: Felipe Gabaldón cropped from original

1 Thessalonians: Why Did They Despise Prophecies?

The Thessalonians were afraid that God was going to drop the hammer on them.  Paul drop-kicks that false teaching!

This is part of a series on mirror-reading the books of the Bible.  You can view all posts in the series here.  They are only cursory mirror-readings and, although I give evidence for their validity, further research is desired for support.

Mirror-Reading 1 Thessalonians Gives Us A Greater Understanding

False teachers came to the Thessalonian Church and shared some Old Testament prophecies with them.  Those prophecies sounded like God was going to destroy the Gentiles when the Messiah came. This was a problem, since the Thessalonians were Gentiles.  Naturally, the Thessalonians didn't care for those prophecies. One might even say they "despised them".  Fortunately, the apostle Paul responded to the false teaching and let the Thessalonians know they were not in danger of God's wrath.

How Paul Showed The Thessalonians Why They Didn't Need To Despise Prophecies Any Longer

Paul states plainly that they will not be under God's wrath:

1 Thessalonians 1:10
and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.
1 Thessalonians 5:9
For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,

Paul also takes some swipes at the false teachers.  They had been using the Old Testament prophets to try to Judaize the Thessalonians, but Paul points out that they were the type of people who had killed the Old Testament prophets they were quoting!

1 Thessalonians 2:15
 who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind

Then Paul turns the tables and says that God's wrath had come on the false teachers!

1 Thessalonians 2:16
by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved—so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them at last!

One of the Old Testament passages that the false teachers were likely using is found in Isaiah, were he describes how God will wear His armor when destroying the Gentiles.

Isaiah 59:17
 “He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head; and he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a mantle.”

However, Paul encourages the Thessalonians to put on the armor that was originally intended to destroy them!

1 Thessalonians 5:8
But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.

Finally, this leads Paul to let the Thessalonians know they have no reason to despise those Old Testament prophecies that the false teachers were using against them:

1 Thessalonians 5:20
Do not despise prophecies,

Many assume that the prophecies being despised were ones given by the prophets in the Church at that time.  If the prophecies that Paul was referring to were those type of prophecies, then we would expect to find Paul dealing with that issue in the letter, much like he did in 1 Corinthians 13. However, we do not find any evidence of this. We do however, find plenty of references to the Day of the Lord, which is referenced numerous time in Old Testament prophecies.  It was the day that the Thessalonians had feared would bring God's wrath on them, but Paul shows that day, which is the 2nd coming of Christ, is nothing to fear.

1 Thessalonians 2:19 (see also 3:13, 4:15-16, 5:2 and 5:23)
For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you?.

What Do You Think?

What do you think of this mirror-reading of 1 Thessalonians?  Was Paul trying to assure the Thessalonians that they would not experience God's wrath during the Day of the Lord?  What other situations do you think 1 Thessalonians was responding to?

 

 

Is There A Hidden Message In Habakkuk?

When the Babylonian army was steaming towards Jerusalem, Habakkuk levels some harsh words against the impending invaders, but hidden in those words is a warning to the Jews.

This is part of a series on mirror-reading the books of the Bible.  You can view all posts in the series here.  They are only cursory mirror-readings and, although I give evidence for their validity, further research is desired for support.

Mirror-Reading The Book of Habakkuk Gives Us A Greater Understanding

The Babylonian army had become the deadliest military force on earth.  They were obliterating ancient near east cities like it was going out of style and they were heading towards Jerusalem. The Assyrian army had laid siege to Jerusalem years before but Yahweh had saved the day then, sending the Assyrians away, never to return.  This time though, God had made no promises to save them, and the future looked bleak. With a dire outlook, there were temptations for those in Jerusalem and perhaps others in Judah.  Habakkuk addresses all of the issues they faced in a clever, even poetic way.

6 Hidden Messages In Habakkuk

Habakkuk fires five "woes" at Babylon.  The metaphors in them are clearly directed at the powerful empire. However, the principles in those "woes" are also subtly directed at the temptations facing the Jews.

1. Take care of your debt

An impending siege of a city would wreak havoc on the credit system.  Why pay back your creditors if you'll be given a clean slate after Jerusalem falls?  Habakkuk addresses the issue:

Habakkuk 2:6-7
Shall not all these take up their taunt against him, with scoffing and riddles for him, and say,
“Woe to him who heaps up what is not his own—
    for how long?—
    and loads himself with pledges!”
Will not your debtors suddenly arise,
    and those awake who will make you tremble?
    Then you will be spoil for them.

The statement is directed at the Babylon because they were taking cities that weren't theirs.  However, it also applied to the Jew who was thinking about gaming the credit system.

2. Don't make a deal with the enemy to save your own hide

The Jews may have been tempted to sell out their countrymen to avoid calamity in a potential siege.  Habakkuk responds:

Habakkuk 2:9-12
“Woe to him who gets evil gain for his house,
    to set his nest on high,
    to be safe from the reach of harm!
You have devised shame for your house
    by cutting off many peoples;
    you have forfeited your life.
For the stone will cry out from the wall,
    and the beam from the woodwork respond.
“Woe to him who builds a town with blood
    and founds a city on iniquity!
Habakkuk 2:15
“Woe to him who makes his neighbors drink—
    you pour out your wrath and make them drunk,
    in order to gaze at their nakedness!

Again, this is pointed at Babylon as they smashed neighboring cities, but it would also make an Jew think twice about cutting a deal with the Babylonians.

3. Don't worship other gods.

If God can't protect His people from the Babylonians, maybe they should worship other gods.

Habakkuk 2:19-20
Woe to him who says to a wooden thing, Awake;
    to a silent stone, Arise!
Can this teach?
Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver,
    and there is no breath at all in it.
But the Lord is in his holy temple;
    let all the earth keep silence before him.”

It's a little ambiguous.  Is it a slam against the Babylonian gods or is it a exhortation to keep the Jews from worshiping them?

4. Jewish leadership will be judged.

Other statements in Habakkuk are ambiguous as well.  Are the verses below talking about the corrupt leadership in Jerusalem or the Babylonian army that is to surround it?  My answer is both.

Habakkuk 1:4
So the law is paralyzed,
    and justice never goes forth.
For the wicked surround the righteous;
    so justice goes forth perverted.
Habakkuk 1:12-13
Are you not from everlasting,
    O Lord my God, my Holy One?
    We shall not die.
O Lord, you have ordained them as a judgment,
    and you, O Rock, have established them for reproof.
You who are of purer eyes than to see evil
    and cannot look at wrong,
why do you idly look at traitors
    and remain silent when the wicked swallows up
    the man more righteous than he?

5. The righteous shall live by faith

Perhaps the most recognized verse in Habakkuk was made famous by it's allegorical use in the New Testament.

Habakkuk 2:4
“Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him,
    but the righteous shall live by his faith.

We are used to thinking of that phrase in terms of having faith in Christ.  However, in Habakkuk's time, this refers to being loyal to God and by extension, Jerusalem.  Any soldier thinking about going AWOL is contrasted with Habakkuk's actions:

Habakkuk 2:1
I will take my stand at my watchpost
    and station myself on the tower,
and look out to see what he will say to me,
    and what I will answer concerning my complaint.

6. God will save you even in defeat

Many of those in Jerusalem would be thinking about abandoning ship, but even though Habakkuk's message assured the Jews that Babylon would pay for it's sin, it also was adamant about the Jews not taking advantage of the situation.  The righteous were to refrain from doing anything to save themselves. God would save them, even if Jerusalem fell.  Habakkuk makes it clear in chapter 3:

Habakkuk 3:16
I hear, and my body trembles;
    my lips quiver at the sound;
rottenness enters into my bones;
    my legs tremble beneath me.
Yet I will quietly wait for the day of trouble
    to come upon people who invade us.
Habakkuk 3:18
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
    I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

What Do You Think?

What do you think of this mirror-reading of Habakkuk?  Is Habakkuk speaking to both the Babylonians and the Jews?  What other situations do you think Habakkuk was responding to?

Header Image PHOTO CREDIT: Wayne Noffsinger cropped from orginal



Book of Jude: Quelling A Slave Rebellion?

By reconstructing the situation that Jude was responding to, we can see the conflict that was happening between slaves and their masters in the Church.

This is part of a series on mirror-reading the books of the Bible.  You can view all posts in the series here.  They are only cursory mirror-readings and, although I give evidence for their validity, further research is desired for support.

Mirror-Reading The Book of Jude Can Give Us A Better Understanding.

False teachers had infiltrated the Church and they taught that Jesus had set the slaves free - literally.  The slaves began rejecting the authority of their masters because Jesus had leveled the playing field and they didn't have to be slaves anymore.  The masters were none too happy about this and began passing judgment on the slaves.  Jude steps in to settle the conflict.

How Jude Responded To The Master/Slave Conflict

Jude 1
Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James, To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ:

"Servant" also translated "slave" is common in New Testament writings as Jude, Paul and others put themselves on par with the slaves.  This would have gotten the attention of the slaves and their masters.

The masters were upset that the slaves were denying them but Jude takes the phrase and uses it of the false teachers and their relationship with Jesus:

Jude 4
For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

The 2nd chapter of 2 Peter has several parallels to Jude and Peter seems to be addressing a similar situation in his letter:

2 Peter 2:1
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.

Peter points out that they offer the slaves freedom but they are spiritually slaves themselves:

2 Peter 2:19
They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.

The false teachers despised authority because they saw Jesus as the great equalizer of the "holy ones".  Many New Testament writers worked hard to teach that Gentiles could be "holy ones" just like the Jews, but the false teachers took that to mean that contracts of servant-hood could be broken. They applied this principles, not just to slaves/masters but also angels/humans:

Jude 8
Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones.
2 Peter 2:10
and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority. Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones,

@@Korah's rebellion is a great example of this equalizing of the holy ones.@@  A similar situation had happened in the Book of Numbers:

Numbers 16:3
They assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron and said to them, “You have gone too far! For all in the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?”

Technically they were right in that God said he would make them a holy nation.  So they were all holy.  However, that did not mean Moses didn't have a position of authority.  That's why Jude mentions it:

Jude 11
Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam's error and perished in Korah's rebellion.

Jude and Peter speak of angels who did not behave properly.  The principles that they teach could also be applied to the slave masters and how they should respond to the slave rebellion.  The slave masters were pronouncing judgements against the slaves.

Jude 6
And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day—
Jude 9
But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.”
2 Peter 2:11
whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord.

It's interesting that Peter uses the word translated "escape" 3 times in 2 Peter. Could he have runaway slaves in mind here and is importing a term for a word play?

2 Peter 2:20 (see also 1:4 and 2:18)
For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.
 

What Do You Think?

What do you think of this mirror-reading of Jude?  @@Was Jude trying to resolve a conflict between slaves and their masters?@@  What other situations do you think Jude was responding to?

Header Image PHOTO CREDIT: Dennis Jarvis cropped from original

Did Israel Almost Split Into 3 Kingdoms?

Political turmoil was brewing as two kingly lines prepare for a head on collision.  The author of 1&2 Samuel brings it back from the brink of civil war.

This is part of a series on mirror-reading the books of the Bible.  You can view all posts in the series here.  They are only cursory mirror-readings and, although I give evidence for their validity, further research is desired for support.

Mirror-Reading 1 & 2 Samuel Can Give Us A Better Understanding.

In order to understand 1 & 2 Samuel, you have to know the situation the author, we'll call him "Sam", was dealing with.  

Sam had a problem.  After King Solomon, the kingdom of Israel had split into two kingdoms (Did you know that?). The northern kingdom (called Israel) and the southern kingdom (called Judah). The only tribes in the Southern kingdom were Judah and Benjamin. The kings that reigned over Southern kingdom were from the line of David.  David was from the tribe of Judah.  However, there was one other king that reigned over all of Israel before David. His named is Saul. Guess what tribe he was from.  That's right, Benjamin!

The tribe of Benjamin started to rethink this whole Davidic line of kings.  David and Solomon were great and all but since then, it's been a mixed bag as far as Davidic kings go.  Perhaps a descendant of Saul should be on the throne instead.  After all, Saul was God's first choice, right? And that violent David probably stole the thrown from him anyway. If that hadn't happened, maybe the kingdom wouldn't have split in the first place! @@A rift was forming between the tribes of Judah and Benjamin.@@

How 1 & 2 Samuel Saved The Southern Kingdom From Falling Apart

So Sam wrote a book (originally 1 & 2 Samuel was one book, not two) and he made sure to address the situation that had the potential to rip the Southern kingdom apart.  Here are the main points that Sam wrote about regarding those issues:

1. God wanted David to be King and had rejected Saul

Sam made sure to point out that Saul was rejected by God as king:

1 Samuel 15:11
 “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me and has not performed my commandments.” And Samuel was angry, and he cried to the LORD all night.
1 Samuel 15:36
And Samuel said to Saul, “I will not return with you. For you have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you from being king over Israel.

Any Benjaminite that wanted to play the God card to get the line of Saul back on the throne would be shut down.

2. David did not steal the throne

David had opportunities to kill Saul but did not. So why accuse David of stealing the throne when David clearly had no desire to steal it?

When Saul had to take a dump in a cave, David could have easily killed him. David's men wanted him to do it but peer pressure is no match for him:

1 Samuel 24:6-7
 He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord's anointed, to put out my hand against him, seeing he is the Lord's anointed.” So David persuaded his men with these words and did not permit them to attack Saul. And Saul rose up and left the cave and went on his way.

The verse above not only shows that David was pro-Saul, but gives a warning to those who would try to kill the other king(or his sons) that was the Lord's anointed - a.k.a. David.

Later, David sneaks into Saul's camp at night and finds Saul sleeping.  Again, David is encouraged to kill him but he refuses.  

1 Samuel 26:10-11
But David said to Abishai, “Do not destroy him, for who can put out his hand against the Lord's anointed and be guiltless?”  And David said, “As the Lord lives, the Lord will strike him, or his day will come to die, or he will go down into battle and perish.  The Lord forbid that I should put out my hand against the Lord's anointed.

Yeah, so you definitely don't want to harm the Lord's anointed (hint, hint to the Benjaminites).

Furthermore, David killed the guy that killed Saul.

2 Samuel 1:14-16
 David said to him, “How is it you were not afraid to put out your hand to destroy the Lord's anointed?”  Then David called one of the young men and said, “Go, execute him.” And he struck him down so that he died.  And David said to him, “Your blood be on your head, for your own mouth has testified against you, saying, ‘I have killed the Lord's anointed.’”

So overall, Sam makes David look like a pretty great guy when it comes to Saul.

3. God wanted David to be king.

Sam also stresses that God wanted David to be king.

1 Samuel 13:14
But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.”
1 Samuel 16:12-13
And he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy and had beautiful eyes and was handsome. And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him, for this is he.” Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day forward. And Samuel rose up and went to Ramah.

But wait!

Those who were loyal to the Davidic line had a solution to this kingly dispute too.  Just kill the descendants of Saul! Problem solved!

Sam doesn't like that either, since it would also likely lead to civil war.

Enter Jonathon.

Friends...forever

@@David and Saul's son, Jonathan, are portrayed as best buds, but there's a purpose behind that portrayal.@@  Sam wants to make sure the Davidic loyalists know that harming Jonathan's descendants is a big no-no.

1 Samuel 18:3
Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul.
1 Samuel 20:15
and do not cut off your steadfast love from my house forever, when the Lord cuts off every one of the enemies of David from the face of the earth.”

Sam is sure to point out that David was faithful to that agreement when he found Jonathan's crippled son and treated him kindly.

2 Samuel 9:7
And David said to him, “Do not fear, for I will show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan, and I will restore to you all the land of Saul your father, and you shall eat at my table always.”

What Do You Think?

What do you think of this mirror-reading of 1 & 2 Samuel?  Do you think the situation I described above is true?  What other situations do you think "Sam" was responding to?

Header Image PHOTO CREDIT: Borya derivative of original