LITTLE-KNOWN FACTS ABOUT WELL-KNOWN PEOPLE
Dale Carnegie once wrote a book using the title we have
chosen for this chapter. His book included short stories about
Albert Einstein, Orville Wright, Carrie Nation, Robert Ripley,
Aimee Semple McPherson, Upton Sinclair, Walt Disney, Brigham
Young, F.W.Woolworth, and others.
In the Bible, there are persons who are well-known, yet
there are details about them which are not well-known. Joseph,
for example, who was sold by his brothers into Egyptian slavery,
is a well-known Bible character. We know about his rise from
slavery to a position of prominence in Egypt and of his noble
life. Usually we have thought of his record as spotless. Yet,
there is one point about him that is not well-known. According to
Genesis 44:5, Joseph practiced divination. Specific mention is
made of a silver cup which he used for this purpose. Just how
this was done, we are not told. We do know that divination, at
least in a later period of Hebrew history, was strongly condemned
ZEDEKIAH, KING OF JUDAH
Two unusual prophecies were given concerning Zedekiah.
Through Ezekiel, a prophecy said he would be taken "to Babylon to
the land of the Chaldeans; yet shall he not see it, though he
shall die them" (Ezekiel 12:13). Another prophecy, this one given
by Jeremiah, said he would "surely be delivered into the hand of
the king of Babylon, and shall speak with him mouth to mouth, and
his eyes shall behold his eyes" (Jer. 32:41).
According to these prophecies, Zedekiah would be delivered
into the hand of the king of Babylon, with whom he would speak
eye to eye. He would be taken into Babylon. He would not see
Babylon. He would die in Babylon. Such phrases seem almost
contradictory. But the history of what actually happened makes it
"The army of the Chaldeans pursued after the king, and over
took Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho; and all his army was
scattered from him. Then they took the king, and carried him
up unto the king of Babylon to Riblah in the land of Hamath;
where he gave judgment upon him. And the king of Babylon
slew the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes... Then he PUT OUT
THE EYES OF ZEDEKIAH; and the king of Babylon bound him in
chains, and carried him to Babylon, and put him in prison
till the day of his death" (Jer.52:4-11).
Thus Zedekiah was taken captive and did see the king of
Babylon. His eyes were then put out and he was led into Babylon
where he died. This explains the prophecies he had been given in
warning. He was indeed taken to Babylon - and died there - yet he
did not SEE it.
PETER THE FISHERMAN
Jesus told Peter, "Launch out into the deep, and let down
your nets for a draught" (Luke 5:4). Notice that the word "nets"
is plural. Peter explained that they had fished all night in
those waters and had taken nothing. "Nevertheless", he said, "at
thy word I will let down the net" (verse 5). Notice that Peter
used the singular - "net." This is not what Jesus said!
It ended up that Peter and the others "inclosed a great multitude
of fishes: and their net brake." Had Peter followed the
instructions of Jesus more carefully, had he used "nets" and not
just a "net", certain problems would have been avoided. Of
course, the overall point of this incident was to illustrate how
these men would, through Christ, become fishers of men. But this
passage also shows how it is possible to pass over certain
details in our study of the Bible - in this case, failing to see
a contrast that becomes apparent once we notice the word "nets"
used by Jesus and the word "net" in Peter's reply.
After the resurrection of Christ, Peter was again involved
in a fishing incident. After following the instructions of Jesus,
he caught "an hundred and fifty and three" large fish (John
21:11). Then follows the noted passage in which Jesus asked
Peter: "Lovest thou me more than these?" - more than these 153
Because John recorded an exact number regarding these fish -
153 (not "about" 153) - some have felt this number must have a
deeper meaning, an idea which has given rise to quite a bit of
speculation. I present the following "solutions" only because
they may be of general interest to the reader:
Some believe there were 153 nations at the time. When Jesus
asked Peter if he loved him more than these 153 fish, he was then
told to feed his lambs. He was to preach the gospel. Since the
gospel was to go to all nations, the 153 fish are understood as a
type of the nations to which the gospel was to go. That there
were exactly this number of nations at the time, however, is
In his commentary on Ezekiel 47:6-12, Jerome wrote that
Greek zoologists had recorded 153 different kinds of fish, thus
the 153 fish represented men of all types, or nations, who were
to receive the gospel. But the number is not proved. The source
quoted by Jerome (as it has come down to us at least) is 157.
Pliny spoke of 104 varieties of fish.
Some believe that Christ called not only one group of
"seventy" to preach the gospel during his earthly ministry, but
two groups of seventy - "seventy other" (Lk.10:1). If, according
to this theory, there were two sets of seventy, this would make
140. Add to this the 12 apostles, plus Jesus Christ, the apostle
of our profession (Hebrews 3:1) and we have a total of 153!
Cyril of Alexandria broke the number down as follows: 100
equals the fullness of the Gentiles, 50 the remnant of Israel,
and the three, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Augustine gave a mathematical approach. He pointed out that
153 is the total of all numbers from 1 through 17, then gave
various theories regarding the number 17.
Another view is based on the numerical value of the name
Simon, which is 76, and that of "ichthys," fish, which is 77.
Added together, these numbers total 153.
My personal opinion is that these theories prove nothing one
way or the other. While it is not impossible that there was some
special meaning regarding the exact number of fish, 153, it is
also possible that this verse simply records the number of fish
caught by Peter.
We have all heard the story of Jonah and his experience with
"a great fish." Repeatedly the scriptures use the word "down" in
describing his path of disobedience. He was a prophet who lived
in Gathhepher (2 Kings 14:23-25) and was called to go to Nineveh.
Nineveh, we know, was the capital of Assyria. The Assyrians were
the enemies of Israel. With the extreme religious differences,
national differences, and political differences that existed
between the two countries, we can understand why Jonah did not
want to go to Nineveh. But why - as we are told in the story - in
his attempt to flee from the presence of the Lord, did he want to
go to Tarshish?
I used to wonder about this. Then one day I was reading
about King Solomon and the ships he sent to Tarshish. "For the
king's ships went to Tarshish with the servants of Huram: every
three years came the ships of Tarshish bringing gold, and silver,
ivory and apes, and peacocks" (2 Chron.9:21). The exports for
which Tarshish was known were gold, silver, ivory, apes, and
peacocks! Granted, we are sermonizing a bit hem, but consider
Tarshish was a land of gold and silver, a land of riches and
wealth. Here, he might become wealthy. How many today have been
ruined because they became obsessed with a love for silver and
gold! Like the children of Israel, they have danced around a
golden calf, worshipping GOLD instead of GOD. Judas betrayed the
Lord for thirty pieces of silver. Many examples could be given
from the scriptures and history. Many, like Jonah, are fleeing
from God's presence for the silver and gold of this world. How
much better to be like Peter who said: "Silver and gold have I
none," but he had the power to heal the sick beggar in the name
Tarshish was also a land of ivory. This might typify luxury.
Luxury can be a blessing; but not at the expense of missing God's
call! Ivory might be a type of rulership. King Solomon once made
a throne of ivory (1 Kings 10:18). In religious circles today,
some will shun God's call or compromise to gain a position of
leadership. But there is no such thing as a big "I" and a little
"u" in God's program.
Tarshish was a land of apes and peacocks. The ape could be a
type of that which is unclean, counterfeit, and vulgar. The
peacock is recognized as a symbol of pride. Pride is not of God.
The middle letter in pride is "I". Pride, no doubt, was a
definite part of Jonah's downward path.
Jonah, we notice, did not say he would not go anywhere. No,
he would go - but he went the wrong direction. Many today,
likewise, reject God's will for their lives and flee, as it were,
to a land of silver, gold, ivory, apes, and peacocks! They want
Christianity without Christ, a crown without a cross, promises
without commandments. They have a form of godliness, but deny the
We are told that Jonah went down to Joppa (Jonah 1:3).
Peter, centuries later, also went to Joppa. When Peter was there,
he stayed with "Simon a tanner, whose house was by the sea side"
(Acts 10:61). Jonah was also by the sea side in Joppa, for it was
here that he boarded a ship. In location, then, they may have
been very close to the same spot. Everything else, however, is
Jonah went to Joppa to FLEE from God; Peter was in Joppa
SEEKING God. The one went DOWN into a boat; the other went UP to
the housetop. The one FELL asleep: the other FELL into a trance
and received revelations from God. The one REBELLED at a
missionary call; the other RECEIVED a missionary call - and that
call changed the course of the world!
We have heard people say: "We knew we were in the will of
God - everything went smoothly, there were no problems of any
kind!" Well, this does not necessarily indicate one is in the
will of God. The apostle Paul was in the will of God and yet
things did not always go smoothly for him! On the other hand,
just because people have trouble does not indicate they are in
the will of God, either. In Jonah's case, his trouble was the
result of disobedience!
A terrific storm came up at see. The sailors began to pray
to their gods, but to no avail. The shipmaster awakened Jonah and
told him to pray to his God. But the storm continued. Then they
cast lots [compare the word "lottery"] and the lot fell upon
Jonah. With all of his mistakes, yet we can see real character in
this man Jonah. He admitted the trouble was his fault and was
willing even to lay down his life for others.
The men rowed hard. But it was not until Jonah was thrown
overboard that the waters became calm. When this happened, "the
men feared the Lord exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the
Lord" (Jonah 1:16). It is not unusual to read about sacrifices
being offered in the Old Testament. But this sacrifice was unique
because it is the only sacrifice mentioned in the Bible which was
offered on a boat!
Now we are told that the Lord had prepared a great fish to
swallow Jonah. Underneath are the everlasting arms! Jonah had
quite an experience, but then so did the fish. I can imagine
after the fish "vomited out Jonah upon the dry land" that it
headed back to deeper water and said: "Wheeee! if there's
anything that makes me sick to my stomach, it's a backslidden
preacher! I wonder what denomination he's with?"
This time Jonah obeyed the Lord's commission and went to
Nineveh. His message was right to the point: "Forty days", he
cried, "and Nineveh shall be overthrown." But what happened? "The
people of Nineveh believed God." They began to fast. The king
called the city to repentance. And to show God they meant
business, they not only put sackcloth on themselves, they even
put it on their animals. Imagine a goat or dog walking around
Nineveh wearing sackcloth! "And God saw their works, that they
turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he
had said he would do unto them; and he did it not" (Jonah 3:10).
Then Jonah got his feelings hurt. God had made him look like
a false prophet - he felt. "And the Lord God prepared a gourd and
made it come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his
head, to deliver him from his grief" (Jonah 4:6). Jonah made this
plant his tent, its thick branches and large leaves making an
ample shelter for him. What kind of plant was this? Not that it
makes any difference, but it is generally believed by Biblical
scholars that it was the tree from which castor oil is obtained.
JOSHUA AND JERICHO
We have all heard of Joshua and the battle of Jericho. But
the words of Joshua when the city was destroyed are not so well-
known: "Cursed be the man before the Lord, that riseth up and
buildeth this city Jericho: he shall lay the foundation thereof
in his firstborn, and in his youngest son shall he set up the
gates of it" (Joshua 6:26).
Over 500 years later these words found fulfillment in the
days of Ahab. "In his days did Hiel the Bethelite build Jericho:
he laid the foundation thereof in Abiram his firstborn, and set
up the gates thereof in his youngest son Segub, according to the
word of the Lord which he spake by Joshua" (1 Kings 16:34).
Some think the words "he shall lay the foundation thereof in
his firstborn, and in his youngest son shall he set up the gates
of it", were to convey the idea of great delay, that the
rebuilding of Jericho would be accompanied with enough problems
so that it would take a good portion of one's life. If the
foundation would be laid at the time a man's first child was
born, his youngest (and last) son would be born before the walls
would be completed and ready for gates to be set up to them. This
would give the passage a proverbial meaning, showing that all the
years the builder would be capable of procreating children - so
would he face hindrances and delays in rebuilding Jericho.
Another view is that Hiel may have actually sacrificed his
children in the walls, supposing this would guarantee their
strength! We cannot say with certainty that this was the case,
but some archaeologists hold this view and we do know that this
custom was performed at various times and places.
In Japan when a great wall was to be built, a slave would
offer himself as a part of the foundation. In Siam when a new
city gate was being built, officers would seize several persons
and bury them under it as "guardian angels." At one place in
Africa a boy and girl used to be buried alive before the great
gate of a city to make it secure. In Europe, the Picts are said
to have bathed their foundation stones in human blood, especially
in building forts or castles. Legend has it that a child was
walled into the castle of Liebenstein. Another legend has it that
the wall of Copenhagen sank as fast as it was built. So they took
an innocent little girl and walled her in. Music was played to
hide her screams and the wall was built - and stood fast from
If Hiel held the superstitious belief that walls would be
secure because of human sacrifices, we can see why he may have
taken drastic measures, especially with the walls of Jericho. He
no doubt knew the history of how those walls came tumbling down
centuries before in the days of Joshua.
ELIJAH - DID HE GO TO HEAVEN?
One day at a location near Jericho (2 Kings 2:15) the
prophet Elijah was suddenly taken up from the earth. The Bible
does not say it was in a chariot of fire that he was taken up.
What the Bible actually says it this: "And it came to pass, as
they [Elijah and Elishal went on, and talked] that, behold, there
appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them
both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven"
(2 Kings 2:11).
There is some question about the word heaven here. There are
three heavens mentioned in the Bible (2 Cor.12:2) which are
usually explained in the following manner: the first heaven is
the atmosphere, where the birds fly; the second is the
stratosphere, where the stars are; the third is the throne of
God. We see the first heaven by day, the second by night, and the
third by faith. Into which heaven was Elijah taken by a
It is commonly believed that Elijah was taken clear up into
the third heaven, to the very throne of God. But according to
John 3:13, "No man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came
down from heaven" - Jesus Christ himself. On the basis of this
verse, some believe that the whirlwind actually took Elijah up
into the atmospheric heaven and to another location on earth.
If we look into the context, we see that the sons of the
prophets knew that Elijah was to be taken away (2 Kings 2:3).
Elijah said he would be "taken away" from Elisha (verse 9). This
had been revealed. But the idea that he would be taken to heaven,
as we think of heaven as the throne of God, is not even hinted
at. Instead, after he was "taken away", the sons of the prophets
went out looking for him. They searched for three days, even
though Elisha had told them their efforts would be in vain
In support of the belief that Elijah was caught away to
another location on earth, is the fact that several years after
he was taken away, King Jehoram received a letter from him! There
are some difficulties in figuring the exact chronology involved,
but for our present purpose, we will simply say the letter was
written and received after Elijah's whirlwind experience. Figures
on how long after vary from two years to ten or more. A note in
Josephus says four years, while the Jewish Encyclopedia has it
figured at seven years.
Regardless of how many years later it was, "there came a
writing to him (Jehoram) from Elijah the prophet, saying..."
(2 Chron.21:12). The wickedness of Jehoram (sometimes spelled
Joram), for which he was rebuked in the letter, happened after
Elijah was taken away, yet the letter speaks of these things as
past, and the judgment to come upon him as future. So the idea
that Elijah wrote the letter before he was taken away, as some
believe, seems very improbable.
If, however, Elijah had been caught away to another location
on earth - even though in God's purpose his whereabouts was
unrevealed - this would explain most logically the letter sent to
Jehoram. Some copies of Josephus come right out and offer this
explanation: "For he was yet upon earth" (Antiquities of the
Jews, 9, 5:2).
If, then, Elijah was still somewhere on earth when he wrote
this letter, did he later die? A marginal note (found in some
editions of the Bible) concerning Elijah's letter says this:
"...which was writ before his death", meaning, evidently,
the death of Elijah. There is a traditional site of Elijah's tomb
near a tributary of the Jordan River. Harper's Bible Dictionary
(p.760), which lists various feasts and fasts of the Jewish
calendar, says the tenth day of the second month Ziv was a "fast
to commemorate the death of Elijah."
It should be pointed out, however, that among the Jews there
were many who believed the other way. These accepted the idea
that Elijah was assumed into heaven or was, as a glorified
individual, still present at times on earth. When some thought
Jesus, on the cross, had called far Elijah, they said: "Let us
see whether Elias [Elijah] will come to save him" (Matt.
27:47-49). It hardly seems they believed Elijah would be raised
from the dead in order to do this.
When Jesus performed so many miracles, the various opinions
which were being expressed were that "John was risen from the
dead" or that "Elias [Elijah] had appeared", or that "one of the
old prophets was risen again" (Lk.9:7,8). The implication is that
John (who had been beheaded) and the prophets would have to be
raised from the dead in order to fit this role. But of Elijah, it
was said, he would only have to "appear".
Was Elijah taken by a whirlwind into the heaven of God's
throne? Unless we allow for an exception, John 3:13, "No man hath
ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven", seems
conclusive. It is an interesting subject, but whichever viewpoint
we accept regarding Elijah, an element of mystery remains.. But
if all the details are not known, why should this worry us?
(But as I point out in a study of mine, the NT makes it very
clear that Jesus was the FIRSTBORN - He has Preeminence in all
things, including death into immortal life - hence it is certain
that Elijah did die and did NOT go to God's heavenly throne, and
was not made immortal - Keith Hunt).
Many things are not explained. Joseph, the husband of Mary,
is mentioned during the childhood of Jesus. But he is never
mentioned again after Jesus was age 12. We assume he died, for
Jesus (when he was dying) asked John to watch after his mother.
But the details are not given. W e are not told in the scriptures
what Jesus did from the time he was 12 until he was about 30
years of age. These are called the 18 silent years. Theories have
been written. We can speculate. But the Bible leaves the subject
silent. What became of the robe of Christ, we do not know, but
this has served as the basis for a novel and a motion picture,
The Robe. The scriptures do not reveal a date for the second
coming of Christ, even though men have repeatedly attempted to
establish dates for this event. God not only reveals, he also
conceals things. This is his business. He has told us enough!
TO BE CONTINUED