ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES
Does the rabbit really chew its cud?
Leviticus 11:5 refers to the sapan (or Hyrax syriacus) as an unclean animal (e.g., unfit for sacrifice or human consumption) because "though it chews cud, it does not divide the hoof" (NASB). Clean animals had to do both to be eligible for food. The question at issue is the chewing of the cud. Did (or does) the sapan (translated "coney" in KJV and "rock badger" in NASB) really "chew the cud" (Heb. ma'aleh gerah, lit., "raising up what has been swallowed")? Similarly in Leviticus 11:6 the same statement is made about the 'ar-nebet ("rabbit," "hare"). Does the hare ruminate? The answer to both statements must be in the negative so far as the acutal digestive process is concerned. True ruminants normally have four stomachs, and that which has been worked over in these stomachs is regurgitated into the mouth when it is ready to be chewed again.
In this technical sense neither the hyrax nor the hare can be called ruminants, but they do give the appearance of chewing their cud in the same way ruminants do. So convincing is this appearance that even Linnaeus at first classed them as ruminants, even though the four-stomach apparatus was lacking. But we need to remember that this list of forbidden animals was intended to be a practical guide for the ordinary Israelite as he was out in the wilds looking for food. He might well conclude from the sideways movement of the jaws that these animals ruminated like the larger cattle; and since they fed on the same kind of grass and herbs, they might well be eligible for human consumption. Thus it was necessary to point out that they did not have hooves at all and therefore could not meet the requirements for clean food.
G.S. Cansdale gives this interesting information concerning the habits of the 'arnebet:
Hares, like rabbits, are now known to practice "refection": at certain times of day, when the hare is resting, it passes droppings of different texture, which it at once eats. Thus the hare appears to be chewing without taking fresh greens into its mouth. On its first passage through the gut, indigestible vegetable matter is acted on by bacteria and can be better assimilated the second time through. Almost the same principle is involved as in chewing the cud ("Hare," in Tenney, Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia, 3:33).
How could leprosy affect clothing (Lev. 13:47-59) or
house walls (Lev. 14:33-57)?
What is commonly known today as "leprosy" is usually equated with Hansen's disease. But the Hebrew term sa-ra'at is a far more general term for any kind of noticeable or disfiguring skin disease. Many of the types described in Leviticus 13:2-42 show symptoms unknown to Hansen's disease, such as patches of white skin and areas of infection on the scalp. Verse 6 refers to a type of skin disease that is known, in some cases at least, to show spontaneous improvement within a week (which is never true of Hansen's disease). Verses 7-8 seem to refer to a phagedenic ulcer; v. 24 to an infection in a burned area of the skin. Verse 30 refers to a scaly skin or scalp, strongly suggestive of psoriasis.
From the above data we may legitimately conclude that sara'at does not refer to any single type of skin disease (although Naaman's illness was quite certainly akin to Hansen's disease [2 Kings 5], likewise the affliction Uzziah was stricken with in the temple [2 Kings 15:5; 2 Chron. 26:19-20]); rather, it is a broadly descriptive term covering all kinds of disfiguring diseases of the skin or scalp.
As for Leviticus 13: 47, 59, these verses speak of sara'at on a garment or any piece of clothing. Obviously this cannot be the same as a skin disease afflicting the human skin. But a fungus or mold that attacks a fabric of cloth or leather or fur bears a surface resemblance to that which afflicts the skin. Because of its tendency to spread on contact and because of its highly disfiguring effect, this kind of sara'at had to be sequestered, to see whether it was something that could be washed away completely and permanently by a thorough scrubbing or laundering process. If these measures proved unavailing, the fabric in question was to be destroyed by fire.
As for Leviticus 14: 33-57, the type of sara'at that afflicts the wall of a home seems to have been a kind of fungus, bacteria, or mold that occasionally appears on adobe walls, or even on wood, when the humidity is abnormally high and long sustained at temperatures that promote the spread of mold. Since the fungus could spread quite rapidly, mar the appearance of the entire room, and was possibly promotive of other kinds of pollution and disease, it was necessary to deal with it as soon as it was detected. The afflicted areas of the wall were to be thoroughly scrubbed, scraped, and scoured, to see whether the mold could be eliminated and killed by these measures. Where mold had penetrated an individual brick or a particular patch in the wall, it was to be pried out and discarded completely, to keep the adjacent bricks from contamination. But if these drastic methods proved to be unavailing, then the entire house was to be destroyed.
There was always a suitable waiting period before a house was destroyed, generally of a week or two, at the end of which a confirmatory inspection was to be made by a priest. The same was true of "leprosy" on clothing or on the human skin. Inspections were to be made at the end of the first week or two in order to see whether the infection had been halted or whether it was continuing to spread. In all three cases or types of leprosy (sara'at), a ceremony or rite of purification was required, which is described in some detail in Leviticus 13-14.
[IN THE MID-1960s A HOUSE WHERE A FAMILY LIVED WHO ATTENDED THE SAME CHURCH AS MYSELF [THE THEN RADIO CHURCH OF GOD] GOT SOME KIND OF SICKNESS THAT INFECTED THE OLDEST GIRL, 14 YEARS OF AGE. IT WAS SERIOUS; SHE WAS ADMITTED TO THE HOSPITAL. IT WAS LIFE OR DEATH FOR HER. OUR MINISTER AT THE TIME, ASKED ME TO GO VISIT HER AND MAKE IT PLAIN TO HER WHAT A SERIOUS ILLNESS SHE HAD. I WILL ALWAYS REMEMBER THE FACIAL EXPRESSION OF THE NURSE AS SHE CAME OUT PASSING ME, AS I WAS ENTERING THE ROOM. THE BEAUTIFUL YOUNG LADY TOOK WHAT I SAID AS BRAVELY AND CONTENT WITH WHAT GOD’S WILL WOULD BE. A WONDERFUL EXAMPLE OF CONTENTED FAITH. SHE DIED THE NEXT DAY. I WOULD NOT BE SURPRISED TO SEE HER IN THE FIRST RESURRECTION - Keith Hunt]
Who is the scapegoat of Leviticus 16? Or what does it represent?
Leviticus 16 sets forth the procedure to be followed on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), the tenth day of Tishri (usually late in September) each year. There were to be two goats set aside for this ceremony, one for a sin offering (hattat-h) and the other for a burnt offering ('olah). The former of the two was to be sacrificed on the altar, according to the usual requirement for sin offerings. But the latter was chosen by lot to be a live sacrifice, called '"za’zel, a term that perhaps should be vocalized as 'ez ‘azel ("a goat of departure"). (It should be understood that the Old Testament was originally written with consonants only; vowel points were not added until about A.D. 800. In the case of proper names or obsolete technical terms, there was always a chance for a bit of confusion in the oral tradition concerning the vowels.) The Septuagint follows this latter reading, translating the Hebrew into the Greek as chimaros apopompaios ("the goat to be sent away").
The high priest was to lay his hands on the head of this goat, confess over him the sins of the nation Israel, and then send him away into the wilderness, symbolically carrying away all the guilt of Israel with him (Lev. 16:21). The tradition that the scapegoat was a name for a desert demon was of much later origin and quite out of keeping with the redemptive principles taught in the Torah. It is therefore altogether mistaken to suppose that the scapegoat represented Satan himself, for neither Satan nor his demons are ever suggested in Scripture as carrying out any atoning functions on behalf of mankind—as such an interpretation would imply.
On the contrary, each sacrificial animal referred to in the Mosaic Law symbolized some aspect of Christ's atoning work. The goat of the sin offering represented the substitution of Christ's blameless life for the guilty life of the condemned sinner. In the case of the scapegoat, the removal of sin from the presence of God is set forth. As the Father laid the sins of believers on the Son on the cross (Isa. 53:6) so that they might be removed far away, so the 'ez ‘azel, on whom all the iniquities of Israel were symbolically laid by Aaron, carried them away into the wilderness to be remembered against them no more.
[TOTALLY WRONG IS THEIR EXPLANATION FOR THE GOAT SENT AWAY. IT DOES REPRESENT SATAN! SATAN HAS A PART IN ALL SINS, HE WAS THE FIRST TO SIN IN ALL CREATION. IT IS ONLY JUST THAT ONE DAY HE BEAR THE SINS OF ALL SIN, AS BEING THE ORIGINATOR OF SIN, AND AS HAVING A WORK THAT IS FULLY SINFUL. IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH ANY “ATONING FUNCTION” IT WAS A CEREMONY THAT TELLS ALL MANKIND THAT SATAN WILL BE JUSTLY PUNISHED AS THE ORIGINATOR OF SIN, AND JUSTLY PUNISHED FOR HIS PART IN THE SINS OF MANKIND. THIS SECTION CLEARLY STATES ONLY ONE GOAT WAS “FOR THE LORD” NOT BOTH - Keith Hunt]
How trustworthy are statistical numbers given in the
Book of Numbers and in the Old Testament generally?
Some scholars have questioned the credibility of the numbers recorded in the two censuses of Numbers (chaps. 1 -4 and 26). The arid conditions of the Sinai desert would hardly permit the survival of such a large host as 600,000 adult males, plus their wives and children, for a period of forty years. If, therefore, these statistics concerning the number of fighting men connected with each of the Twelve Tribes are to be accepted as having any historical basis whatever, we must then somehow reduce the total to a much smaller number than 2 million people or more and achieve an approximation within the limits of historical likelihood. Writers like G. Mendenhall (JBL 77 : 52-66), John Bright (History of Israel [Philadelphia: Westminster, 1959], p. 144), and R.E.D. Clark (Journal of the Transactions of the Victoria Institute 87 : 82ff.) suggest reading the word for "thousand" as merely clan." R.K. Harrison (Old Testament Introduction, p. 633), despite his generally conservative stance, surrenders the historical accuracy of these figures, suggesting that they have only a relative value as to the comparative size of the various tribes.
The word for "thousand" is the Hebrew 'elep, which may have some original connection with the word for "bull." Although there is no clear occurrence of 'elep with the meaning "family" or "clan to be found in all the Hebrew Scriptures (so Brown-Driver-Briggs, Lexicon, pp. 48-49), yet the related noun 'allup mean? "chief," "commander of a thousand troops"; and there are some other passages that could be using the plural in the sense of a subdivision of a tribe (cf. Koehler-Baumgartner, Lexicon, p. 57). This is a most tenuous basis on which to erect a theory allowing for reduction; but if in these census chapters of Numbers one could render 'alapim as "family complex" or "clan," then perhaps the total number of Israelite men-at-arms could be lowered to about 30,000. This would involve a much smaller number of mouths to feed and bodies to sustain during the many years of desert wandering. So goes the argument.
There are some fatal difficulties, however, that render this theory quite untenable. In the first place, it always happens that after the number of 'lapim is cited, it is followed by the number of me'ot ("hundreds") as the next lower unit; and then it is followed by the decades and digits in descending order. Thus the first record given is that of the adult males of the tribe of Reuben (Num. 1:21): sissah we' arba'im 'elep wah ames me'ot (lit., "six and forty thousand and five hundreds"). This being the case, there is no way that 'elap in this total figure could have meant 46 clans (or families) and 500. Clearly the figure intended is 46,500. That such was the intention of the Hebrew author is rendered absolutely certain by the total of the "ransom money" raised from the male population of Israel according to Exodus 38:25: "100 talents and 1,775 shekels." Each man was to contribute half a shekel; there were 3000 shekels to the talent. Therefore, 100 talents and 1,775 shekels comes out to exactly 603,550 half-shekels (representing the same number of males, according to Num. 2:32). This total is confirmed by Exodus 12:37: "about 600,000 men on foot." Hence there has been no error in translation, nor any demonstrable garbling in transmission.
The objection that the natural resources of the Sinai desert could never have supported two million people or more for a period of forty years' wandering is absolutely valid. But it completely overlooks what the Pentateuch makes abundantly clear: Israel did not receive its food and drink from the ordinary natural resources of the Sinai terrain. This multitude was said to have been supplied in a miraculous way with manna from the sky and water from the cloven rock, all during the journey through the wilderness. The God who led the Israelites in the pillar of cloud was the one who supplied them with their nourishment by way of a supernatural intervention on their behalf. Apart from this, 30,000 would have perished of hunger and thirst in that wilderness just as quickly as 600,000; and it is quite futile to sidestep the factor of miracle by a mere reduction in numbers.
What we are dealing with here is the possibility of miracle. Miracles are recorded from the first chapter of the Bible to the last. Apart from the supreme miracle of God the Son becoming incarnate as Jesus of Nazareth, there is no gospel to preach or cross of Calvary to believe in. In fact, there is little point in bothering with the Bible at all, for its presuppositions are miraculous from start to finish. If all these miraculous events never really took place, then the Bible is too untrustworthy to be believed; it is only another sample of human speculation. No valid objection can be raised, therefore, on the ground that a biblical episode is miraculous in nature; and any line of argument or reinterpretation that presupposes the impossibility of miracle is a mere exercise in futility.
The credibility of a Hebrew host in excess of two million souls has been called in question by some authorities on the ground of the remarkably low number of firstborn sons as recorded in Numbers 3:42-43: "So Moses numbered all the first-born among the sons of Israel, just as the Lord had commanded him; and all the first-born males by the number of names from a month old and upward, for their numbered men were 22,273" (NASB). Quite obviously there must have been a far greater number of firstborn sons in Moses' congregation, numbering as it did over 600,000 men. But this apparent difficulty disappears when the setting of this incident is carefully examined.
It was apparently in the second year of the wilderness journey (cf. Num. 1:1), after the census of the Twelve Tribes and the tribe of Levi had been completed, that the Lord ordered Moses to number all the firsborn of the non-Levites and determine how many more of them there were than the number of the Levites themselves. The purpose of this was to compute how large a ransom offering should be contributed to the Lord's work, to compensate for the fact that the Levites totaled a little less than 10 percent of the total male population of Israel. Since there were 22,000 Levites (Num. 3:39) but 22,273 firstborn non-Levites (v.43), this meant that an offering of 22,273 times five shekels had to be raised for the excess number of non-Levites. (This is actually the origin of the so-called temple tax, which is still observed by worldwide Jewry today.)
Delitzsch (Keil and Delitzsch, Pentateuch, 3:9-13) points out that this requirement only applied to those babies born after the start of the Exodus; it was never intended to be retroactive. Well, then, out of a total of 603,550 males, there would within a year or so be a total of about 19,000 new marriages. If some of these allowed for two gestation periods, the probable number of births for male babies would be 22,000 or a few more. This agrees very well with the exact figure given of 22,273.
Another basis for postulating a small population among the Hebrews in Goshen is the record in Exodus 1:15, that two midwives were sufficient to handle all the obstetrical cases within the community. This observation is quite valid. Far more than two mid-wives would be necessary to care for a population of over two million. But surely this fact would have been just as obvious to an eighth-century B.C. author (like the putative "Elohist") as it is to us. Two midwives would have hardly been able to care for even 30,000 males plus wives and children. Quite obviously Shiphrah and Puah served as administrative superintendents over the obstetrical guild for the entire Hebrew community. It is hardly conceivable that the entire corps of midwives would have reported personally to the king himself; on the contrary, the king maintained control of their activities through approved overseers. This is quite in keeping with what we know of the highly bureaucratic structure of the ancient Egyptian government. Their documents refer to overseers (the Egyptian term was imy-r, "he who is in the mouth" of his employer or overlord) for nearly every craft, profession, or skill known to Egyptian society. They were all responsible to report to and take orders from the government of the district in which they served. This makes the argument based on the small number of midwives completely invalid.
Another difficulty that has been proposed against the credibility of a congregation of over two million is derived from the amount of time necessary for so large a multitude to progress from point to point in their journey as they are said to have done according to the Pentateuchal narrative. How, for example, could such a large horde of people get across the Red Sea (or "Sea of Reeds," as the Hebrew puts it) so quickly as Exodus 14:21-24 seems to suggest? The parching east wind partially dried up the sea bed (after the waters had been miraculously removed to some distance above and below their point of crossing) for an entire night (v.21); and only after that, it would seem, did the Israelites make their way across.
It may have been by the fourth watch (i.e., 3:00 to 6:00 a.m.) of the following day that the Egyptian chariots began their crossing in pursuit of them. This means that the Hebrew host had barely twenty-four hours to make the passage. This would seem to be quite impossible if they had to keep to a paved highway of any sort as they made their advance. But in this situation there could have been no roads or highways at all (for what point would there be for a street leading into the waters of a sea?); and they had to proceed across directly over unpaved terrain from wherever they happened to be located in their overnight camp. Their maneuver would be just like that of an army advancing to do battle with an enemy host: their front line may have stretched out for two or three miles as they moved together simultaneously, livestock included. Hence there would have been very little time lost through waiting in line. The whole multitude simply moved ahead like one enormous army advancing against an enemy battle line. If this was the way it was done, then there is no time problem to deal with.
The same observation applies to the day-by-day journeys of the Israelites during the forty years' wandering. If they had been packed up close together in one long column when they camped down for the night, then it would have taken several hours for their rearmost detachments to get moving after the journey had began for the vanguard. But we know from Numbers 2:3-31 that they camped down in the formation of a square, with three tribes to the east of the tabernacle, three to the south, three to the west, and three to the north. Thus they were distributed like a huge expeditionary force, with center, two wings, a vanguard, and a rearguard. When armies engaged each other in battle, they did not require much time before they engaged their front lines in hand-to-hand combat. They did not look around for paved roads but simply proceeded across the broken, rough terrain (if they had to) with their ranks carefully preserved in line. There were virtually no paved highways to be found in the Sinai (apart from the King's Highway, perhaps), and such as there were would only be used for wheeled vehicles—of which the Israelites had very few indeed, If, then, they began to move simultaneously after the signal trumpet was blown at the start of the day's march, they could very easily cover ten miles or more without overdriving the young of the livestock. They had no need to wait in line for their turn to move.
Considerable skepticism has been voiced by rationalist scholarship in regard to the historicity of such large armies as are referred to in subsequent periods of Israel's history. For example, at the Battle of Mareshah (2 Chron. 14:8-12), King Asa ofJudah is said to have faced Zerah the Ethiopian with 580,000 troops against the invader's host of 1,000,000. Or again, back in David's time the Ten Tribes had 800,000 men at arms and Judah 500,000—which made up a total of 1,300,000 for the standing army and the militia in the early tenth century B.C. King Pekah of Israel slew 120,000 Judean troops in a single engagement and led off 200,000 more as captives, back in the reign of King Ahaz (2 Chron. 28:6-8). Modern scholars tend to cast doubt on these large numbers, feeling that the Chronicler especially was given to frequent exaggeration in his zeal to glorify Israel's past.
In answer to these charges of statistical unreliability, we make the following observations.
1. The ancient author, living within a few hundred years of the events he describes—or else even writing as a contemporary—is far more likely to be in secure possession of the facts than a modern skeptic who is separated from the event by three thousand years or more.
2. Modern criteria of likelihood or unlikelihood, if founded on the assumption that the unusual never happens, are virtually useless. If history teaches us anything, it teaches us that most of the major events of the past took place because the unlikely and unusual actually occurred.
3. Deductions based on recent observation and experience may lead to completely false results. It is unwarranted to assume from the climatic conditions that have prevailed in the Holy Land since A.D. 500 that the land was never more fertile nor could not have supported a large population in earlier times. The archaeological and geological evidence seems to indicate that the precipitation rates have fluctuated quite markedly since the third millennium B.C. The weather diary kept by Claudius Ptolemaeus in Alexandria, Egypt, during the first century A.D. shows that in his time the summer drought was shorter than at present, with much greater thunderstorm activity and more of the north wind prevalent during the winter than at present (cf. Denis Baly, Geography of the Bible, rev. ed. [New York: Harper, 1974], pp. 66-67). The indications are that dry, hot conditions prevailed from 4500 to 3500 B.C.; cooler, damper weather prevailed from 3500 to 2300; followed by 300 years of drought (as witness Abraham's sojourn in Egypt). A better rainfall ensued from 2000 onward, though increased human activity has obscured the evidence for the real extent of the fluctuation from one century to another (ibid., p. 68). But such variables as these make it quite likely that the frequent description of fifteenth century Canaan as a "land flowing with milk and honey" points to an appreciably higher precipitation level in Moses' time than was true back in Abraham's time. The more fertile and productive the arable land became, the larger a population it could sustain. 4. Other ancient sources attest to the use of very large armies when military projects of special magnitude were under way. The Egyptian records are of little help in this connection, for apart from the Sixth-Dynasty inscription of Uni (Pritch-ard, ANET, p. 228), which states that King Pepi I sent into Asia an expeditionary force consisting of "many ten-thousands," the Pharaohs contended themselves with lists of prisoners taken from the enemy. Even Thutmose III in his account of the Battle of Megiddo (ca. 1468 B.C.) neglects to mention the size of the armies involved (ibid., p. 235). The same is true of Ramses II in his self-laudatory report of the stalemate Battle of Kadesh, in which he halted the southward advance of the Hittites; he simply refers to three separate army divisions that are involved in the conflict (ibid., pp. 255-56). As for the Assyrian records, the Assyrian kings never seem to refer to the size of their own armed forces but pretty largely confine themselves to the number of enemy slain or prisoners taken. In his account of the Battle of Kar-kar, however, which he fought with Benhadad and Ahab in 853, Shal-maneser III states that Adadizri (as he calk Benhadad) had 20,000 infantry, 1,200 cavalry, and 1,200 chariots; Ahab had 10,000 foot soldiers and 2000 chariots; the king of Hamath contributed 10,000 infantry, 700 cavalry, and 700 chariots (ibid., pp. 278-79). There were besides various smaller contingents from nine other kings arrayed against the Assyrians at Karkar; Shalmaneser claims to have killed 14,000 of them and to have chased the rest away. In another engagement he states that he slew 20,900 of "Hadaezer's" warriors (ibid., p. 280). Sennacherib in his 701 campaign against Hezekiah and his Philistine allies claims to have deported 200,150 prisoners taken from forty-six walled cities of Judah and taken them off as prisoners to Assyria (ibid., p. 288). His father, Sargon II, took 27,290 captives from Samaria back in 721 (ibid., p. 285). There are no figures at all given for the Persian troops in the Behistun Rock inscription of Darius I (ca. 495 B.C.).
As for the Greek historians, Herodotus (Historia 7) states that when Xerxes, king of Persia, reviewed his troops for the invasion of Greece, "the whole land army together was found to amount to 1,700,000 men." This total was arrived at by marshaling 10,000 soldiers at a time, until all the men had been counted. The naval forces included 1,207 triremes, with specified contingents from Egypt, Cyprus, Phoenicia, and many other maritime areas. As for the battle contingents involved in the campaigns of Alexander the Great, the largest conflict in which he was engaged was probably the Battle of Gaugamela in 331 b.c Arrian estimated the infantry of Darius III at about 1,000,000, plus 40,000 cavalry. Alexander defeated him with only 40,000 infantry and 7000 cavaliers (Charles Anthon, A Classical Dictionary, Containing an Account of the Principal Proper Names Mentioned in Ancient Authors [New York: Harper & Bros., 1871], p. 107).
From these records we learn that even the army of Zerah the Ethiopian was by no means incredible in size for a major invasion force (cf. 2 Chron. 14:9). From the number of prisoners deported by the Assyrians, we gather that there was a rather high population level maintained in Palestine during the eighth and seventh centuries B.C. It is therefore a mistake to draw inferences from archaeological remains —as some scholars have done—that indicate a comparatively sparse population for the Near East during this period. One very interesting discovery from the recent excavations at Ebla includes a set of cuneiform tablets (published by G. Pettinato and P. Matthiae, in "Aspetti Amministrativie Topografici di Ebla nel III Millennio Av. Cr.," Rivista degli Studi Orientali 50 : 1-30), one of which lists the superintendents and prefects of the four major divisions of the capital city itself back in 2400 B.C. From these data the estimated population of Ebla was about 260,000 (cf. Heinrich von Siebenthal, Die koniglichen Tontafelarchive von Tell Mardikh-Ebla n.38, trans, into French by Suzanne Ruckstuhl, and appears as app. 4 in G. Archer, Introduction a I'Ancien Testament, Edition Emmaus [Switzerland: St. -Legier, 1978], pp. 570-85; cf. also G. Pettinato, "The Royal Archives of Tell Mardikh-Ebla," Biblical Archeologist 39 [2, 1976]: 44-52). This renders quite credible the implied population of Nineveh in Jonah's day: "120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left" (Jonah 4:11)—i.e., infants and toddlers. This would indicate a total of nearly 1,000,000 inhabitants in Greater Nineveh alone.
All these ancient references to high population seem to remove any firm base for the skepticism of modern critics who question the accuracy of the figures given in the Old Testament. At the same time it is noteworthy that the Hebrew historical accounts seem to be almost unique among the extant literature of the ancient Near East in giving the numbers of soldiers involved in the various invasions and battles therein recorded. It goes without saying that it is rather difficult to make a well-documented comparison between Israelite and non-Israelite accounts of numbers involved in warfare or in national censuses when there are virtually no comparable accounts that have yet come to light from pagan sources from the same period.
[THE ISRAELITES LEFT EGYPT WITH “HERDS” AND “CATTLE”—— MANNA FOR BREAD; OTHER TRIBES OF PEOPLE THEY BOUGHT FROM; AND SO WITH THE MIRACLES OF MANNA AND WATER, THE MULTITUDE OF AT LEAST TWO MILLION WOULD HAVE SURVIVED FOR 40 YEARS IN THE “WILDERNESS” - AND AS POINTED OUT THE CLIMATE COULD HAVE BEEN QUITE DIFFERENT FOR THOSE 40 YEARS, ANOTHER MIRACLE FROM GOD, AS FLOCKS AND HERDS HAVE NEED OF FOOD ALSO - Keith Hunt]
Did the Levites enter their service in the sanctuary at the
age of thirty (Num. 4:3), twenty-five (Num. 8:24), or
twenty (Ezra 3:8)?
Numbers 4:3 states quite explicitly, "From thirty years and upward, even to fifty years old, [are] all [the Levites] who enter the service to do the work in the tent of meeting" (NASB). Eligibility for full service in assisting the priests in the transportation and upkeep of the furniture and holy vessels of the tabernacle was restricted to those who were at least thirty years of age.
In Numbers 8:24, however, it is stated in connection with their service at the sanctuary: "This is what applies to the Levites: from twenty-five years old and upward they shall enter to perform service in the work of the tent of meeting" (NASB). Jamieson (Jamieson-Fausett-Brown, Commentary, ad loc.) suggests: "They entered on their work in their twenty-fifth year as pupils and probationers, under the superintendence and direction of their senior brethren; and at thirty they were admitted to the full discharge of their official functions." This inference, drawn from a careful comparison of the two passages, seems to be altogether reasonable. It furnishes an analogy to the training period through which candidates for the gospel ministry are expected to pass before they receive full ordination, with the right to baptize or perform wedding ceremonies and the like.
For five years the younger Levites had an opportunity to observe the procedures and guiding principles followed by those engaged in full Levitical responsibility—the proper method of moving the lampstand, the table of showbread, the two altars, and so on— and the proper disposition of the bowls and jars, the spoons and snuffers, the holy oil and the water of purification, and all the rest. There were also chores related to the upkeep of the tabernacle grounds and the service to the worshipers who came to sacrifice at the altar. Apparently young Samuel, even as a lad much younger than twenty-five, was involved in such duties, with particular responsibilities as Eli's house-boy (1 Sam. 3:1). In other words, there were many different types and grades of service to be cared for by underage Levites, even before they were old enough to enter their apprenticeship at the age of twenty-five.
As for the Levites referred to in Ezra 3:8, two factors need to be carefully noted. The first is that in both Ezra 2:40 and Nehemiah 7:43 the number of Levites involved in the return from Babylon was only 74. There was a substantially larger number of gatekeepers and temple servants, and the priests who joined in the return to Jerusalem numbered 4,289 (Ezra 2:36-39). Therefore the Levites were in short supply, and it would have been appropriate to involve even the younger men (between twenty and twenty-five years of age) in order to provide an adequate number of Levitical overseers for the builders who were engaged in restoring the temple.
The second factor to note is that these Levites were not really engaged in the ministry of sacrifice and worship; they were only concerned with the building project as advisers or foremen. There was no sanctuary as yet in which they could officiate; so the question of being younger than twenty-five would hardly be raised at all. Thus there is no real discrepancy or contradiction in regard to the three age-limits given in the passage cited above, for each deals with a different level of authority.
How could God punish the Israelites for eating the quail
He had miraculously provided as their food (Num.
If we read the whole account of Numbers 11 carefully, we can understand why God was so highly displeased with the Hebrew malcontents who were tired of His daily supply of manna and longed for meat and vegetables in their diet (vv.4-9). Moses himself was so disgusted at their complaining ingratitude that he was ready to resign from his responsibility of leadership. God thereupon encouraged him to delegate leadership to a supporting team of seventy godly elders, and then He told them how He would deal with their rebellious discontent. He would give them what they were asking for, thus bringing them to see how foolish they were to despise the good and sufficient food He had apportioned them in favor of that which they chose for themselves. As Psalm 106:15 recalls the episode: "He gave them their request, but sent a wasting disease among them [or, 'leanness into their soul']" (NASB). In other words, in order to teach them a much-needed lesson, God saw fit to give the discontented rabble exactly what they asked for—rather than that which would be best for them.
The result was that an enormous flight of quail were blown into the encampment at a height of two cubits (about three feet) above the surface of the ground (v.31). (The preposition 'al before "the surface of the ground" should be rendered "above," as NIV correctly renders it, rather than "on.") Flying at that low level, forced down by the strong wind, it was easy for the Israelites to bat them down with sticks and catch as many quail as they wanted—even to the amount of ten homers (about sixty bushels). But, of course, such a huge number of dead birds would speedily begin to rot in that hot desert, despite the people's best efforts to convert them into dried meat that could be preserved indefinitely by parching them under the sun (v.32). There is little wonder that they began to suffer from food poisoning and disease as soon as they began chewing this unaccustomed food. In the end a great many of them died of plague and had to be buried right there in the desolate wilderness, at Qibrbt Hatfvah, "The Graves of Greed.""
How can Numbers 12:3, with its emphasis on Moses'
humility, be an authentic comment from Moses' own
Apart from Deuteronomy 34 (which must have been an obituary written
after Moses' death), no passage in the Pentateuch has been more frequently cited as an evidence of non-Mosaic authorship than this verse. After the challenge to Moses' unique authority as God's spokesman (recorded in Num. 12:1-2), the humility statement occurs in v.3: "Now the man Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth." Unquestionably the first impression made by this judgment on the great leader's character is that it was contributed as a biographical note made by some admirer who knew him well, rather than by Moses concerning himself. M.G. Kyle ("Moses," International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [Grand Rapids: Eerd-mans, 1939], p. 2090) tends to favor this explanation; even Jamieson (Jam-ieson-Fausset-Brown, ad loc.) allows for the possibility of its insertion here by some later prophet. But he also cites the parallel of Paul in 2 Corinthians 11:5; 12:11-12, where the apostle is compelled by the insolence and contempt of his detractors to emphasize the distinguishing excellence of his own character.
Likewise Elmer Smick (Wycliffe Bible Commentary, p. 129) allows for the possibility that this comment may have been contributed by a "divinely inspired shoter ([Num.] 11:16)." Yet he points out that this chapter "teaches that the prophet had so intimate a relationship with God that he could speak the truth objectively, as it was revealed to him, even when it regarded his own nature."
Haley (Alleged Discrepancies, p. 248) makes this observation:
Moses, under the impulse of the Holy Spirit, was writing history "objectively." Hence he speaks as freely of himself as he would of any other person. It is also to be observed that he records his own faults and sins with the same fidelity and impartiality. It is remarked by Calmet: "As he praises himself here without pride, so he will blame himself elsewhere with humility." The objectionable words were inserted to explain why it was that Moses took no steps to vindicate himself, and why, consequently, the Lord so promptly intervened.
It certainly must be conceded that in other ancient autobiographies where the author speaks of himself in the third person, self-evaluations occur that seem to be rather surprising; for they stand in contrast to the author's usual references to his own character. Thus in Julius Caesar's "Civil War" (The Alexandrian War 75), he speaks of his own discomfiture at the unexpected attack of the troops of Pharnaces in Pontus, saying: "Caesar was startled by this incredible rashness—or self-confidence. He was caught off guard and unprepared; he was simultaneously calling the troops away from the fortification work [which they had been engaged in], ordering them to arm, deploying the legions and forming the battle-line." In other words, Caesar had misjudged the enemy and therefore had been caught "flat-footed," as it were. Ordinarily Caesar presents himself as a paragon of foresightedness and a master strategist; so this derogatory comment about himself comes as a real surprise.
So far as Numbers 12:3 is concerned, it should be observed that Moses' failure to speak in his own defense, even when put under great pressure by Aaron and Miriam to lose his temper, calls for special explanation. That explanation is found in his complete deliverance from pride and his thoroughgoing commitment of himself to the Lord God as his vindicator and protector. Any other leader in his position would surely have faced them with a withering reply, but Moses turned the matter completely over to God. We really need the information contained in v.3 in order to make sense of his amazing meekness in this situation. Therefore it seems rather unlikely that v.3 could have been a later interpolation, when it actually furnishes a key to the understanding of the whole episode that introduces it.
Did the mission of the twelve spies start from Paran
(Num. 13:3) or from Kadesh Barnea (Num. 20:1)?
Both statements are true. The Wilderness of Paran extends from the port of Eloth (Eilat) on the Gulf of Aqabah in a north-northeast direction across the Nahal Paran and Har Ramon (cf. Baly, Bible Geography, p. 34) to include the site of Kadesh Barnea, which lies on the same latitude as Punon (ibid., p. 95). The spies therefore set out from Kadesh, which is located in the Wilderness of Paran (cf. Num. 13:26: "in the wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh").
How could Moses be said to have given Hoshea the
name Joshua in Numbers 13:16 when he has already
been referred to as "Joshua" in Exodus 17:9 and 24:13?
There is no difficulty here, for the final composition of Exodus by Moses undoubtedly occurred toward the end of the forty years' wandering. Even though Joshua may not have acquired the name from Moses until later in the journey from Egypt to Canaan, nevertheless in retrospect it would have been only natural to refer to Joshua by the name he bore at the time Exodus was composed by Moses. It should be added that Yehosua' ("Jehovah is salvation") is virtually the same name as Hose"' ("salvation"), both being derived from the root yasa'.
How could the Israelite spies describe Canaan as a land
that devours its inhabitants (Num. 13:32) if indeed it
was a fertile land of milk and honey (Num. 13)?
It would be an obvious misinterpretation to take the expression in Numbers 13:32, which describes Canaan as "a land that devours its inhabitants," as implying that it was a poverty-stricken land that could not adequately support its population. In this context it can only mean that its lush fertility (enjoying a higher rate of precipitation than it has had in recent centuries) rendered it so desirable to aggressively competing nations and tribes as to make it a center of bloody strife. As rival claimants battled one another for possession of this desirable terrain, they suffered many casualties through warfare. There is no contradiction here whatsoever. The description of Canaan as a land flowing with milk and honey occurs at least thirteen times in the Pentateuch, as well as in Joshua, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. There is absolutely no basis for interpreting the metaphor of Numbers 13:32 as relating to poverty or starvation.
If nearly the whole adult generation of Israel died during
the forty years' wandering, why is not that whole region
full of their graves (Num. 14:34-35)?
Under the nomadic conditions of the wilderness journey, with a constant shifting from one site to another, there is no way that sturdy or well-constructed graves could have been made as the adult generation passed away. Shallow burials beneath the surface of the sand or gravel would have failed to preserve any of the skeletons for a very long period, even though they might have escaped disburbance by carrion-eating wild animals (which is doubtful). No excavations conducted anywhere in the world have ever exhumed identifiable burials of this type, and in the nature of the case it would be very surprising if they did. The failure to uncover shallow, unprotected burials of this sort therefore constitutes no evidence whatever against the historical accuracy of the account that all the adults involved in the rebellion at Kadesh Barnea passed away before the crossing of the Jordan under Joshua—except, of course, for Caleb and Joshua himself.
Did the Israelites under Moses pass "beyond" Edom
(Num. 20:14-21; Deut. 2:8) or did they actually pass
"through" it (Deut. 2:4-7)
Apparently both statements are true, as one would expect in view of the fact that both of these prepositions are used in one and the same passage. Deuteronomy 2:4 says, "And command the people, saying, 'You will pass through [or, 'pass through in'; Heb. 'obe rim bige bul] the territory of your brothers the sons of Esau who live in Seir; and they will be afraid of you" (NASB). The next two verses go on to explain that God will not permit the Hebrews to conquer any of Edom's territory since He originally bestowed it on Esau as a permanent possession. But they are to purchase food and water from the Edomites, along with the permission to march up through the international route known as the King's Highway, which passed through the midst of the Edomite domain.
The response of the king of Edom was in the negative, and he even drew up his troops to oppose their using the highway itself through his land. Numbers 20:21 then states, "Thus Edom refused to allow Israel to pass through his territory; so Israel turned away from him" (NASB). Moses later recalls this, saying, "So we passed beyond our brothers the sons of Esau, who live in Seir, away from the Arabah road [i.e., the King's Highway], away from Elath and from Ezion-geber" (Deut. 2:8, NASB). Therefore we are to understand that the northward line of march led along the eastern border of Edom to the border of Moab (a territory Israel was also forbidden by God to pass through forcibly, since it had been granted to the posterity of Lot, Moab's ancestor).
In what sense, then, did Israel pass through in the territory of Edom (as Deut. 2:4 said they would)? It was in the sense that they were inside the borders at the time they parleyed with the Edomite government. They may even have purchased some food and water from some of the local inhabitants before their government ruled against the Hebrews' using the King's Highway to go northward to Moab and the Plains of Shittim. They therefore did not force the issue—even though their army could have easily overwhelmed the Edomite armed forces. They refrained from passing up the highway and instead veered to the east and went up by the eastern border (in all probability), along the rugged, unpaved terrain of the Syrian desert.
If Israel's army was really so large, how could the
Edomites have turned them back or the Canaanites
have given them such difficulty in the conquest of the
land (Num. 20:14-21; Josh. 7)?
According to Numbers 26 the Israelite armed forces totaled 601,730, which certainly would have exceeded the number of troops that Edom could have marshaled to oppose them. But Numbers 20:14-21 says absolutely nothing about an armed clash between these forces; so it is evident that Moses and his host turned away from Edom simply because the Edomites refused to give them permission to march through their land on their way northward to Moab and the east bank of the Jordan. Verse 21 says, "Thus Edom refused to allow Israel to pass through his territory; so Israel turned away from him" (NASB). The Hebrews evidently respected the right of the Edomites (who were distantly related to them through Abraham) to refuse them passage if they so insisted.
As for the conquest of Canaan, the only setback Israel experienced was when the defenders of Ai repulsed an Israelite expeditionary force of no more than 3000 (Josh. 7:4). They had 36 casualties—hardly a major military defeat! Every other armed conflict was attended by complete success. No country was ever more easily conquered than Canaan, so far as Joshua's troops were concerned. As for the ability of the land to support such large numbers of inhabitants as are indicated by the record in Joshua, it should be remembered that modern conditions are no reliable yardstick of population potential of ancient lands. In our own century large and beautiful Roman cities have been discovered under the sands of North Africa in areas that are now totally deserted, owing to a lowering of the precipitation rate. The soil of Israel today is remarkably fertile in most of its valleys, slopes, and plains, once it has adequate irrigation. Baly (Bible Geography, p. 67) reports Alan Crown's research as indicating that drought conditions recurred in Palestine between 2300 and 2000 B.C, but that there was "perhaps somewhat more assured rainfall than now just after 2000." Baly (p. 68) concludes his climatic study with these words:
Unfortunately, after 2000 B.C. the evidences for climatic fluctuation are increasingly obscured by human activity in the country, but we must certainly beware, and beware emphatically, of assuming that the climate figures given in this book [for the last century or so] can be used unchanged for the patriarchal period, the time of the monarchy, the New Testament, or any subsequent era. That would mean that the Palestinian climate had remained static for 4000 years, and this we can say with confidence is impossible.
The likelihood of a higher rainfall during the second millennium B.C. in the area of Syria-Palestine makes it quite feasible for that territory to have supported a large population, capable of fielding large armies and of supporting the Hebrew population there after the conquest. The present population of Israel is considerably in excess of the figures given for biblical times; so there should be little credence given to skepticism along these lines. Furthermore, the recent discoveries at the Syrian city of Ebla at the conclusion of the third millennium indicate quite conclusively that the population of that one city was at least 260,000 (cf. K.A. Kitchen, the Bible in Its World [Downers Grove, 111.: Intervarsity, 1977], pp. 390).
We read in Numbers 22:17-23 that the prophet Balaam
informed the messengers of King Balak of Moab that he
could never do (or say) anything contrary to the
command of Yahweh his God; but why then did the
Lord send His angel to kill him (Num. 22:33)?
God sent His angel with a very stern warning to Balaam not to speak what Balak wanted him to say (namely, a curse against the host of Israel) but only the true message of God, a pronouncement of blessing on the covenant nation of Jacob. The encounter with the self-seeking prophet at the narrow mountain road was intended as a frightening reminder that Balaam was never to speak any other message than that which Yahweh was about to reveal to him in the presence of the Moabites and the Midianites. Because of his corrupt motive in going to Balak afterward, despite his earlier refusal to come to Balak at all (Num. 22:13), Balaam was guilty of yearning to comply with the king's request rather than God's desire, just for the sake of the earthly riches and honor the wicked monarch had promised him as a bribe to disobey God.
To be sure, the Lord had finally given Balaam grudging permission to go down to Moab, on the condition that he would faithfully repeat the true message of God in the presence of Balak and the Moabites (v.20). But because of the fierce struggle between duty and greed that went on in Balaam's soul as he responded to the king's invitation, Yahweh had to remind him very sternly that his failure to carry out his commission from God with complete faithfulness would result in his instant death. Hence the dramatic scene at the mountain pass occurred, where God used the donkey as His mouthpiece to rebuke the stubborn prophet and warn him of his mortal danger.
Is not the mention of Agag in Numbers 24:7
anachronistic, in view of his contemporaneity with King
Saul in the eleventh century (1 Sam. 15:8)?
It is rather questionable whether "Agag" was a personal name at all; it may well have been a royal title among the Amalekites, somewhat similar to "Pharaoh" among the Egyptians or "Caesar" among the Romans (although, of course, the latter was originally the proper name of Gaius Julius Caesar). It has been found as a name (or title?) in Phoenician inscriptions (cf. Corpus Inscriptionum Semiticarum I. 3196) in a location and time far removed from the southern desert Midianites who were wiped out by Saul's army. But even if it was a royal name that appeared in the royal family of that branch of the Midianite nation, this is no more remarkable than the recurrence of Jeroboam as the name of a king of Israel who reigned from 793 to 753 rather than the original Jeroboam who began the northern kingdom back in 931. There is a similar recurrence of royal names in Phoenicia (with two or more kings named "Hiram" or "Ahiram"), in Syria (with at least two Benhadads), in Gerar of Philistia (with at least two Abimelechs), and in Egypt (where there were three Pharaohs named Senwosret and four named Amenemhet in the Twelfth Dynasty alone, and in the Eighteenth there were four named Thutmose and four named Amenhotep). Although no written records have survived from the Midianite culture, we may safely assume that they too followed the custom of using a favored name repeatedly in successive generations.
How many died in the plague of the apostasy of Baal-peor?
Numbers 25:9 indicates that as a divine judgment on the Baal worshipers of Baal-peor, no less than twenty-four thousand died of plague. Some have supposed that 1 Corinthians 10:8 refers to the same episode, which gives the number of the dead as only twenty-three thousand. But this is an unfounded objection, for 1 Corinthians 10:8 does not refer to the incident at Baal-peor (Num. 25:1-8) at all; rather, it refers to the plague that followed the apostasy of the golden calf. This is clear from the previous verse (v.7): "And do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: 'The people sat down to eat and drink, and stood up to play'" (NASB). Since this is a direct quotation from Exodus 32:6, the identification is beyond dispute.
Interestingly enough, Exodus 32:3 does not give the number of those that perished in that plague of the golden calf; it simply says, "Then the Lord smote the people, because of what they did with the calf which Aaron had made" (NASB). Not until this New Testament passage (1 Cor. 10:8) do we find out how many died in that plague, namely twenty-three thousand. There is no contradiction at all, just two different episodes!
Is there any record of the tribe of Dan to show where they eventually settled?
At the time of the second census, as recorded in Numbers 26:42, the military population of the tribe of Dan came to the very considerable figure of 64,400 (v.43). To these was allotted a rather restricted territory between the western border of Judah and the shore of the Mediterranean, including the northern part of Philistia (Josh. 19: 40-46). This particular region, however, was very fertile and enjoyed good precipitation and might well have yielded enough crops to support this populous tribe. But for some reason the Danites failed to match the Philistines in determination and military prowess; and despite the heroism of Samson, their finest warrior, they became vassals to them in a few generations after Joshua's conquest.
Partly for this reason, the Danites became so restricted in their economic and political growth that some of the more enterprising of the younger men decided to form an expeditionary force and seek new land to settle outside the territory originally occupied by the Twelve Tribes. We cannot exactly date the time of this migration, which is detailed for us in Judges 18; but we know that only 600 men were involved in this operation.
After the Danite search committee had surveyed the entire land all the way up to southern Phoenicia (modern Lebanon), they chose the prosperous and peaceful city of Laish as the most attractive prospect for settlement. The armed troops thereupon proceeded through Kiriath-Jearim in Judah and went to the hill country of Ephraim, where they abducted a Levite who was serving as household priest to Micah, an Ephraimite. They also made off with Micah's silver ephod, to serve as their cult image in the worship of Yahweh (though this was contrary to the second commandment), and attacked the unsuspecting Laishites in a surprise assault. Having taken possession of the city, they renamed it Dan. This Dan became the northernmost outpost of the Twelve Tribes, and as such was featured in the common phrase "from Dan to Beersheba."
After the secession of the Ten Tribes from the dynasty of David (931 B.C.), the founding king of the northern kingdom, Jeroboam I, took care to establish an official temple there, complete with the image of a golden calf (1 Kings 12:30). But this northern colony of the tribe of Dan probably remained much smaller in population than that of those living next to Philistia, in the territory originally allotted to them by Joshua. There was no question of a migration on the part of the whole tribe; it was a modest-sized colony that undertook the conquest of Laish up near the territory of Sidon and Tyre.
How can the total destruction of Midian in Numbers 31
be morally justified?
Numbers 31 narrates the total destruction of the Midianites who had conspired to seduce the Israelites to fornication and idolatry at the incident of Baal-peor (Num. 25:1-9). The resultant plague against the Israelites on that occasion mounted to a total of twenty-four thousand and a serious alienation with God. The heinousness of their crime against the Lord's people and the threat of future allurement to apostasy made the Midianites ripe for judgment. Chapter 31 tells us very plainly that it was the Lord Yahweh Himself who commanded this punitive action; it did not originate with Moses or his men. They were commanded to "execute the Lord's vengeance on Midian" (v.3, NASB) by sending against them an army of twelve thousand warriors, one thousand from each tribe, under the leadership of Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron (v.6).
The attack was so successful that without a single casualty (v.49) the Israelites defeated and killed all five kings of the Midianites and all their men as well. Balaam, the unfaithful prophet of God from Beor, had been the instigator of the apostasy of Baal-peor; so he also was killed. The married women and all the younger women who had been sexually active were likewise put to death (vv.15-18), after Moses had given special orders to do so. Only the young girls and virgins had their lives spared, and they were taken as servants into the Israelite households. A stated percentage of the Midianite livestock was devoted to the Lord and the service of the tabernacle. Of the gold ornaments taken from the enemy, 16,750 shekels were also given to the Lord's service. Thus the entire affair was concluded and the baneful effects of fraternization with degenerate pagans became a thing of the past—all but the unhappy memory and the solemn warning against yielding to the seduction of Canaanite idolatry.
Was this action morally justified? Those who wish to argue that it was cruel and uncalled for will have to argue with God, for He commanded it. But it seems quite apparent in the light of all the circumstances and the background of this crisis that the integrity of the entire nation was at stake. Had the threat to Israel's existence as a covenant nation been dealt with any less severely, it is extremely doubtful that Israel would have been able to conquer Canaan at all, or claim the Land of Promise as a sacred trust from God. The massacre was as regrettable as a radical surgery performed on the ailing body of a cancer victim. If his life is to be preserved, the diseased portion must be completely cut away. (Further discussion concerning this whole problem of extermination will be found in connection with Joshua 6: 21—“Was Joshua justified in exterminating the population of Jericho?")
Does Numbers 35: 30 make it wrong to condemn a murderer to death on mere circumstantial evidence?
Numbers 35:30 says, "If anyone kills a person, the murderer shall be put to death at the evidence of witnesses, but no person shall be put to death on the testimony of one witness" (NASB). Similarly we read in Deuteronomy 17:6: "On the evidence of two witnesses or three witnesses, he who is to die shall be put to death; he shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness" (NASB).
If the term "witness" ('ed) means only an eyewitness of the crime while it was actually being committed, this would seem to restrict the imposition of the death penalty to those comparatively rare instances where the murderer committed homicide in full view of the public. This might mean that less than 10 percent of the cases of the violations of the sixth commandment could lawfully be brought to trial and result in the achievement of justice. Yet the real thrust of the laws against first-degree murder was that the murderer should surely be brought to trial and executed. Nothing less than "life for life" was allowed under the Torah (cf. Exod. 21:23; Deut. 19:21).
[THE DEATH SENTENCE FOR MURDER WAS ON THE BOOKS SO TO SPEAK; AS WAS OTHER SINS; BUT THEY COULD BE PUT ASIDE UPON REAL DEEP REPENTANCE—— DAVID WAS NOT PUT TO DEATH FOR ADULTERY, OR FOR PUTTING BATHSHEBA’S HUSBAND ON THE FRONT LINE IN BATTLE, SO HE WOULD BE VERY LIKELY KILLED, AS HE WAS - Keith HUNT]
Although some other legal systems (such as the Hittite Code) allowed for the payment of blood-money as an alternative to the death penalty, this was expressly forbidden by the law of God. Numbers 35:31 states: "Moreover, you shall not take ransom for the life of a murderer who is guilty of death, but he shall surely be put to death" (NASB). Verse 33 goes on to say, "So you shall not pollute the land in which you are; for blood pollutes the land and no expiation can be made for the land for the blood that is shed on it, except by the blood of him who shed it" (NASB). The seriousness of an unsolved murder for the welfare of the district in which it occurred was such that Deuteronomy 21 required a solemn inquest to be held when it could not immediately be discovered who was guilty of the crime. Verses 3-8 specify:
And it shall be that the city which is nearest to the slain man, that is, the elders of that city, shall take a heifer of the herd,... and the elders of that city shall bring that heifer down to a valley with running water,... and shall break the heifer's neck there in the valley. Then the priests, the sons of Levi, shall come near. And all the elders of that city which is nearest to the slain man shall wash their hands over the heifer whose neck was broken in the valley; and they shall answer and say, "Our hands have not shed this blood, nor did our eyes see it. Forgive Thy people Israel whom Thou hast redeemed, O Lord, and do not place the guilt of innocent blood in the midst of Thy people Israel." And the bloodguiltiness shall be forgiven them.
This passage makes it clear that murder was a very heinous offense in the eyes of God, rather than a crime to be so lightly regarded as to be punishable perhaps one time out of ten (on the technicality that two men had not actually seen the killer strike the blow).
There is a far wider implication that results from this restrictive interpretation: the two-witnesses requirement applies not only to homicide cases but to any other crime for which a suspect could be brought to trial. Deuteronomy 19:15 says, "A single witness shall not rise up against a man on account of any iniquity or any sin which he has committed; on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confimed" (NASB). This two-witnesses rule therefore applies to theft, fraud, adultery (which is seldom performed in public view), embezzlement, or any other offense for which a man might be subject to criminal process. Every criminal guilty of any of these offenses would therefore get off scot-free if he had taken the prudent measure of committing his crime where two people did not happen to be watching him. It is safe to say that neither ancient Israel nor any other system of jurisprudence known to man could effectively function under such a restriction as that.
How then are we to understand this requirement for two or more witnesses in the prosecution of an accused suspect? The answer is found in a study of the actual usage of the term 'ed ("witness") as employed in the Hebrew Scriptures. In Leviticus 5:1 we read, "Now if a person sins, after he hears a public adjuration to testify, when he is a witness, whether he has seen or otherwise known, if he does not tell it, then he will bear his guilt" (NASB). This verse clearly establishes that there are two kinds of witnesses who may offer testimony in a criminal process: those who have seen the crime actually being committed, and those who, though not eyewitnesses, have seen some evidence relative to the identity of the offender. One who has found a written death-threat, for example, or who has heard the accused express a desire or intention to kill, rob, or rape the victim, would be acceptable as a witness within this definition of 'ed (one who has pertinent knowledge concerning the crime, even though he has not actually seen it being committed).
A slightly different use of 'ed is found in the law of responsibility for a missing animal that has been entrusted to the care of another, as in Exodus 22:13: "If it is all torn to pieces [i.e., by some predatory beast], let him bring it as evidence ['ed]; he shall not make restitution for what has been torn to pieces" (NASB). Here then the lacerated corpse of the sheep or donkey, or whatever it may have been, will serve as a "witness" to the fact that the animal was killed without any fault on the part of the caretaker. Yet that corpse could hardly be described as an eyewitness! Similarly, also, documents or memorial stones may serve as a witness ('ed)—such as the gal-'ed that Jacob and Laban erected at the spot where Laban had overtaken his fleeing son-in-law, and they had finally come to a covenant agreement toward each other (Gen. 31:46-19). Both gal-'ed (which gave rise to the name of "Gilead" for the whole region) and Laban's Aramaic equivalent, ye gar sah aduta’, signified "stone-pile of witness." Yet in these lifeless stones we can hardly find a visual observer.
Along the same line are references to written documents, which serve as a "witness" ('ed, or its feminine form, 'edah) to the contract or covenant into which the contractual parties have entered. Thus Joshua 24:25-26 quotes Joshua himself as referring to the stone (or stela) that he had erected at Shechem, on which the words of their covenant commitment to Yahweh had been inscribed; he says of it in v.27: "Behold, this stone shall be for a witness against us, for it has heard all the words of the Lord which he spoke to us; thus it shall be for a witness against you, lest you deny your God" (NASB). The inscribed stela was certainly not an eyewitness (even though it is poetically represented as an auditor to the ceremony), but rather it served as a document in evidence.
We conclude, therefore, that concrete objects and written documents may be entered into evidence before a court hearing as valid testimony in any kind of a criminal process, whether or not a capital offense is involved. This falls more or less in line with the different types of evidence received in criminal cases even in our modern courts, and so there is no contravention of bibical principles in allowing such testimony, even though only one actual eyewitness may be found, or none at all. Each witness called to the stand is asked to testify only of matters within his personal observation and experience, and this satisfies the specifications of an ed in a perfectly adequate fashion according to actual biblical usage. (For further discussion see article on John 8: 11).
[BUT ASIDE FROM ALL THIS TECHNICAL EMPLOYMENT, THE FACT IS THERE COULD BE EXCEPTIONS TO THE BASIC OVERALL RULE OF LAWS IN ISRAEL; DAVID IS A CLEAR EXAMPLE; HE WAS SHOWN MERCY FROM DEATH BY HIS DEEP REPENTANCE IN COMMITTING ADULTERY WITH BATHSHEBA (AS SHE WAS ALSO SHOWN MERCY), AND WAS GIVEN OTHER PUNISHMENT FOR HIS SINS IN THIS PART OF HIS LIFE - Keith Hunt]
How could the exact words of God in the Ten
Commandments (Exod. 20:2-17) be altered in any way
by Moses in Deuteronomy 5:6-21?
It should be understood that the purpose of Deuteronomy was to furnish a selective paraphrase of the law of God revealed to Moses in the earlier three books: Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. It was not intended to be a word-for-word repetition of the text of those books but rather a homiletical, hortatory application of their teaching to the new generation that had reached their majority during the forty years of the wilderness wandering. Those precepts and aspects of the law that would be most useful for the non-Levitical congregation were culled out and set before them in a hard-hitting yet encouraging fashion so that they would be ideologically prepared for the conquest and occupation of Canaan. Consequently it would be quite exceptional for the identical words to occur on a given subject, as between Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. There are variations in phraseology, but never in sense or essential teaching, as between those two books (or between Deuteronomy and Leviticus or Numbers, for that matter).
In the case of the Decalogue, it was only to be expected that the wording of Exodus 20 should be very closely followed by Deuteronomy 5, since this was originally a text directly composed by God Himself. However, it should be remembered that Moses was free to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit as he omitted or inserted a clause or two in the Deuteronomic restatement. While it is true that Moses quoted the Decalogue as being the very words of God ("He said" [Deut. 5:5]), this committed him only to insertions that quoted from God's own revealed word, whether in Exodus 20 or elsewhere in the book. Thus, in connection with the Sabbath commandment (v. 14), he omits mention of the Creation in six days as a basis for the sanction (contained in Exod. 20:11), but adds at the end of this commandment (Deut. 5:15) the words of Exodus 13:3: "Remember this day in which you went out from Egypt, from the house of slavery; for by a powerful hand the lord brought you out from this place." Those words also had been spoken by divine inspiration and authority, and they furnished Moses' people with an additional ground for showing kindness and consideration for the servile class in their society. The Lord had shown them great love and kindness when they had been a nation of slaves down in Egypt. It may not be quite clear as to the reason for omitting the Creation days basis for the Sabbath sanction; but the failure to include it constitutes no actual discrepancy—any more than pertains to quotations we may discuss, taken from the text appearing in some other book, but streamlined by the use of a succession of dots when we are leaving out a few of the words in the original passage.
As for the variation in word order occurring in the tenth commandment ("house" is mentioned before "wife" in Exod. 20:17, but "wife" before "house" in Deut. 5:21), the words and the meaning are both the same, despite the slight difference in sequence. There is also a different Hebrew word for "covet" used before "house" in Deuteronomy 5:21 (tit'awweh instead of tahmod), but the meaning is virtually identical as between the two verbs; and the variation may simply have furnished a variant for the sake of a more agreeable style than that employed by Exodus 20:17 (lo' tahmod). That would certainly conform to the specifically homiletical purpose underlying the last book of the Pentateuch.
Just where did Aaron die? Deuteronomy 10:6 says that
it was at Moserah, but Numbers 20:28; 33:38 say it was
at the top of Mount Hor.
Deuteronomy 10:6 contains a parenthetical statement in the midst of Moses' reminiscences about events near Mount Sinai, which goes as follows: "Now the sons of Israel set out from Beeroth Bene-jaakan to Moserah. There Aaron died and there he was buried and Eleazar his son ministered as priest in his place" (NASB). But Numbers 20:28 relates how Moses and Eleazar accompanied Aaron to the summit of Mount Hor, where he passed away. This is confirmed by Numbers 33:38: "Then Aaron the priest went up to Mount Hor at the command of the lord, and died there, in the fortieth year after the sons of Israel had come from the land of Egypt" (NASB).
In all probability Moserah was the name of the district in which Mount Hor was located (so P.A. Verhoef in Tenney, Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia, 4:279), just as Horeb was the name of the mountain complex in which the mountain known as Sinai was situated. There has been no archaeological investigation in the vincinity of Jebel Madurah that might give us additional information concerning the limits of the Moserah district; but it is fair to assume that the one ancient source that does mention it (namely, the Pentateuch) was well aware of its location, and that it placed it in the vicinity of Mount Hor.
Mount Nebo was alleged by Josephus (Antiquities 4.4.7) to be the same as Jebel Neby Harun, a mountain forty-eight hundred feet high, overlooking Petra. But since it was located in the middle of Edom rather than at its border, and since it is somewhat too rugged to ascend without special equipment, and too lofty for its summit to be easily observed from below, it is rather unlikely that this traditional identification is the correct one.
Stephen Barabas (in Tenney, Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia, 3:201) suggests Jebel Madurah as a more likely site for Aaron's death, for it lies northeast of Kadesh on the northwest border of Edom; and its summit can be observed by watchers standing at its base, as Numbers 20:27 specifies. But whether or not this is the correct identification, it is quite unwarrantable to assume that the Pentateuch erred in placing Hor in the district of Moserah.
What is the Old Testament teaching on the use of
intoxicating liquor? Deuteronomy 14:26 seems to
permit the purchase and use of wine and strong drink;
29:40). Yet Leviticus 10:8-9 contains a stern warning
believers (Prov. 20:1; 23:29-35), except perhaps for
those who are sickly and near death (31:4-7).
The Old Testament abounds with warning examples of the misuse of wine and the very grave dangers it holds in store for those who drink it. When Noah first discovered the intoxicating effects of grape juice (Gen. 9:20-21), he made a fool of himself and met with derision on the part of his son Ham. The daughters of Lot plied him with wine until he became so befuddled that he committed incest with them unawares during nighttime. Immoderate use of wine became a national evil in the northern kingdom and led to its moral depravity and loss of spiritual understanding. Isaiah graphically described the revolting excesses and degrading addiction of those who drank to excess (Isa. 28:1-8). Proverbs 20 and 23 describe most vividly the depraving bestiality and folly of those who give themselves over to liquor for the purpose of intoxication. In a figurative sense also, Psalms 60:3; 75:8; Jeremiah 13:12-14; 25: 15-18 speak of wine as a bitter and terrible potion for experiencing the wrath of God, visiting judgment on the wicked and ungodly. Quite in the spirit of these Old Testament passages, we read in Revelation 14:10, "He also [i.e., the worshiper of the beast] will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is unmixed in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone" (NASB mg.).
As pointed out in the question, according to Leviticus 10:8-11, no priest was allowed to enter into the tabernacle or temple to perform divine service if he had partaken of wine. (It was probably because Aaron's two older sons, Nadab and Abihu, had been drinking that they brought unhallowed fire to light the incense of the golden altar and therefore lost their lives.) It is thus made clear that priests who drank were thereby prevented from carrying out their ministry of teaching the people the distinction between what was holy and what was profane.
This has implications for the New Testament priesthood of all believers (1 Peter 2:9) and suggests that they may be seriously handicapped in carrying on the work of soulwinning if they personally indulge in the use of alcohol. By doing so, they may cause millions of fellow citizens to stumble who have become enslaved to this degrading practice and are looking for some way out of their bondage. These are scarcely apt to take seriously the Christian witness of one who has not rid himself of "everything that hinders" (Heb. 12:1), especially when he starts speaking about the victorious life of faith.
It is clear that in the days of Christ and the apostles, wine was served as a table beverage at meals and used in communion services. At that time distilled liquor was as yet unknown, and there was no organized liquor industry dedicated to making every man, woman, and child addicted to their profit-making vice (as is true today), with attendant increase in crime and highway fatalities resulting from drunken driving. It is also very clear that the New Testament itself lays down a principle that makes it very difficult for a conscientious believer to carry on the use of liquor even on a temperate scale. That principle is found in Romans 14:21: "It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing where by thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak." Verse 22 goes on to say, "Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in the thing which he alloweth."
In other words, the basic issue at stake is the law of love toward the weaker brother, and whether we as ambassadors of Christ are so concerned about souls that we are willing to forgo personal "rights" in order to win alcoholics and near-alcoholics to Christ. If we really care about the souls of men, and if we are really in business for Christ rather than for ourselves, then there seems (to this writer, at least) to be no alternative to total abstinence—not as a matter of legalism, but rather as a matter of love.
[TOTAL ABSTINENCE IS NOT TAUGHT IN GOD’S WORD; YOU ARE TO REFRAIN FROM DRINKING ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES IF SO DOING WILL OFFEND A WEAK BROTHER OR SISTER, WHICH OBVIOUSLY MEANS THE WEAK BROTHER/SISTER IS IN YOUR PRESENCE. THE TEACHING OF THE NEW TESTAMENT IS NOT TO DRINK ALCOHOLIC DRINKS IN THE COMPANY OF “WEAK” BRETHREN AS THEY COULD BE OFFENDED. WHERE THERE ARE NO “WEAK” BRETHREN ON THIS ISSUE, YOU HAVE FREEDOM TO INDULGE, AS IN THE PRIVACY OF YOUR OWN HOME WITH NO “WEAK” PERSONS AROUND— BUT ALSO THE NEW TESTAMENT IS VERY CLEAR ON “ALL THINGS DONE IN MODERATION” AND “NO DRUNKARD (PRACTICING AS A WAY OF LIFE) SHALL INHERIT THE KINGDOM OF GOD.” THEN AGAIN YOU HAVE THE FREEDOM IN GOD, TO NOT DRINK ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES AT ALL. I HAVE FULL IN-DEPTH STUDIES ON THE QUESTION OF CHRISTIANS AND ALCOHOL ON THIS WEBSITE - Keith Hunt]
Are there not a number of contradictions between the
laws of Deuteronomy and the earlier legal material
found in Exodus? Compare Exodus 21:26 with
Deuteronomy 15:12-18 and Exodus 23: 10-11 with
The two sets of passages contain no contradiction whatever, so far as this writer can see (on the basis of his own legal training). In Exodus 21:26 it is laid down as a ruling that any slaveowner who strikes a male or female servant in such a way as to blind an eye must free that slave by way of compensation. In Deuteronomy 15:12-18 it is provided that after six years of service a Hebrew slave must be set free, and in addition he must be well provided with enough equipment to become self-supporting. These are two different grounds for manumission, but they do not in the slightest contradict each other.
Exodus 23:10-11 relates to the requirement that, after six continuous years of cultivation, plowed acreage is to be left fallow during the seventh or sabbatical year, and that which grows on it without cultivation is to be left to the poor or else to wild animals. Deuteronomy 15:1-11 has nothing to do with the cultivation of land but relates to the remission of debts (se mittah) at the end of seven years. It also contains a promise that there will be no poor in the land of Israel after the conquest and settlement by the Hebrews—provided only they will keep the Lord's commandments (both concerning the sabbatical year and concerning the other main guidelines for stewardship of the land as provided in the Mosaic Law). There is therefore no contradiction at all between these provisions.
For readers who may be interested in this general subject of allegedly conflicting laws in the Mosaic Code, we recommend the work of the British legal expert Harold M. Wiener, who in his "Essays on Pentateuchal Criticism" (1909) and "Pentateuchal Studies" (1912) (cited in R.K. Harrison Old Testament Introduction, p. 30) showed that there was no proven case of conflict between any of the pairs of laws that had been cited by Documentarian critics as proof of multiple authorship of the Torah. It is instructive to note that if a similar methodology were applied to the Code of Hammurabi (inscribed on a single diorite stela in Babylon ca. 1750 B.C.), a similar claim might be advanced. Kitchen (Ancient Orient, p. 134) remarks:
Thus, it is easy to group social laws and cult-regulations into small collections on the basis of their content or form and postulate their gradual accretion in the present books [i.e., of the Pentateuch], with the practical elimination of Moses. One may do this equally to the Hammurapi laws (on content), and postulate there a hypothetical process of accretion of laws into groups of themes prior to conflation in Hammurapi's so-called "code." But this does not eliminate Hammurapi from "authorship" of his "code." His laws are known from a monument of his own time in his own name; therefore, any accretions of laws in his collection occurred before his work.... Furthermore, there are apparent contradictions or discrepancies in the Hammurapi "code" that are "no less glaring than those which serve as the basis of analyzing strata in the Bible" (M. Green-berg, Yehezkel Kavfmann Jubilee Volume, 1960, p. 6). These obviously have no bearing on the historical fact of Hammurapi [sic] having incorporated them in his collection. (See also Kitchen, Ancient Orient, p. 148.)
How can Deuteronomy 15:4—''There shall be no poor
among you"—be reconciled with Deuteronomy 15:11
—"For the poor will never cease to be in the land"?
Taken out of context, the promise "There shall be no poor among you" is indeed contradicted by vv. 11-12 and by the subsequent experience of Israel. With Deuteronomy 15:11 in mind ("The poor will never cease to be in the land," NASB), our Lord Jesus Christ affirmed, in connection with the generosity of Mary in anointing His feet with costly perfume, "For the poor you have with you always; but you do not always have Me" (Matt. 26:11, NASB). But as we take the passage in context, it turns out to be a merely theoretical possibility conditioned on full and consistent obedience to God's law.
The KJV translates vv. 4-5 thus: "Save when there shall be no poor among you; for the Lord shall greatly bless thee in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.... only if thou carefully hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe to do all these commandments." The ASV amends this slightly to read: "Howbeit there shall be no poor with thee; (for Jehovah will surely bless thee in the land).... if only thou diligently hearken unto the voice of Jehovah thy God, to observe to do all this commandment." The KJV’s "Save when" and the ASV’s "Howbeit" are different ways of handling the Hebrew 'epes ki, with which v.4 begins. The lexicons tend to favor "howbeit" or "notwithstanding" (Koehler-Baumgartner, Lexicon, p. 78); Brown-Driver-Briggs (Lexicon, p. 87) defines this phrase as save that howbeit (qualifying a preceding statement). Gesenius-Buhl (Hebrdisches und aramaisches Handworterbuch, p. 60) give "nur, doss, aber, jedoch" (i.e., "only that," "but," "nevertheless"); Zorell (F. Zorell and L. Semkowski, edd., Lexicon Hebraicum et Aramaicum Veteris Testa-menti [Rome, 1940], ad loc.) gives "tantum (est adnotandum) quod, = ceterum, utique, sed" (which means "yet [it is to be noted] that; = moreover, in any case, but").
Perhaps the best choice among these near-synonyms is "However," which is the equivalent appearing both in the NASB and the NIV, both of which begin v.5 with "if only you listen obediently."
The foregoing analysis makes it quite clear that the Lord is not predicting that there will be no poor, among Israel, regardless of how the Israelites may break their promises of obedience to His laws and the obligations of brotherly kindness under their covenant with Yahweh. What v.4 is saying is that perfect and consistent obedience to the holy standards laid down by God will make possible a society free from poverty. Verse 5 is quite emphatic in the expression of the condition of total and sincere obedience that must be met. It begins with raq 'im, "only if." The particle raq means "only," "altogether," "surely." At the beginning of a sentence (observes Brown-Driver-Briggs, Lexicon, p. 956b), it adds a limitation on something previously expressed. In this particular passage it means "provided only."
In v.11 we find a true prediction: "For the poor will never cease to be in the land; therefore ... you shall freely open your hand to your brother, to your needy and poor in your land" (NASB). In other words, there is no real expectation that the Israelites will long or consistently maintain biblical standards of holiness, fairness, consideration, and love among themselves; and the poverty-free state envisioned in v.4 is merely a theoretical possibility.
[NO POOR - IT IS ONLY A POSSIBILITY IF ISRAEL WOULD CONSISTENTLY FOLLOW AND OBEY ALL THE LAWS OF GOD. OF COURSE THIS IS TRUE FOR ONLY HABITUALLY AS A WAY OF LIFE, FOLLOWING GOD’S LAWS, COULD A NATION NOT HAVE ANY POOR. AND ISRAEL NEVER IN ITS HISTORY, YESTERDAY AND TODAY, HAS EVER LIVED FULLY IN OBEDIENCE TO THE LAWS AND COMMANDMENTS AND STATUTES OF GOD; SO AS JESUS SAID “THE POOR YOU SHALL HAVE ALWAYS WITH YOU” - JESUS KNEW NO NATION ON EARTH WOULD EVER FULFIL ALL THE LAWS AND COMMANDMENTS OF GOD SO PERFECTLY THAT IT WOULD NOT HAVE SOME POOR AMONG ITS POPULATION - Keith Hunt]
Is Deuteronomy 22:5—"The woman shall not wear that
which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put
on a woman's garment"—applicable today?
The word ke li (translated "what pertains to") is a rather imprecise word. Sometimes it means "vessel" or "container"; sometimes "implement," "equipment"; sometimes "weapon" or even "adornment." It is apparently only in this context that it refers to clothing (ke li is any kind of manufactured product); although conceivably it might refer to adornments or jewelry. The word for garment in the second part of the verse is simlah, which primarily means mantle or cloak, but then becomes more loosely applied to clothing of almost any kind that covers the body.
The basic principle here is that each of the two sexes is to appreciate and honor the dignity of its own sex rather than to adopt the appearance or role of the opposite sex. If a man is thankful to God that he was created a male and the woman that she was a female, then they should be happy to dress the part of a man or a woman, as the case may be, rather than imitating the costume of another.
[AND OF COURSE THAT CAN VARY IN ANY COUNTRY - THE OUTWARD DRESS AT JESUS’ TIME WAS A LOOSE FITTING CLOAK TYPE GARMENT FOR BOTH SEXES. BUT THERE WAS NO DOUBT SOME DIFFERENCES IN SOME WAYS BETWEEN MAN AND WOMAN. THE TEACHING IS BEING CONTENT WITH BEING A MAN OR WOMAN AS MEN OR WOMEN WOULD LOOK IN ANY PARTICULAR COUNTRY WITHIN THEIR FATION OF CLOTHES - Keith Hunt]
Deuteronomy 22:5 completely excludes transvestism or any kind of impersonation of the opposite sex. Probably the practice of sex perversion and homosexuality, particularly in connection with pagan worship of fertility gods, accentuated the need of such a provision. Whether it implies God's disapproval of men's styles that resemble a woman's style of clothing (e.g., the Scottish kilt) or of women's clothing that resembles the costume of a man is another question. It is probably safe to say, for example, that most men would be quite reluctant to put on a pair of woman's slacks, even though they do superficially resemble men's trousers. Their style and cut are significantly different.
[THIS IS NOT ALWAYS THE CASE THROUGH. I HAVE A FEW FANCY WESTERN SHIRTS THAT WERE MADE IN THE MIND OF THE MAKERS, FOR WOMEN (THE BUTTON FASTENERS ARE OPPOSITE TO A MAN’S WESTERN SHIRT) BUT IN WEARING IT NO ONE WOULD KNOW, UNLESS YOUR A FATION DESIGNER WITH EYES OF AN EAGLE. SOME JEANS COULD PROBABLY BE WORN BY EITHER MEN OR WOMEN THOUGH SOME ARE IN THEIR FINISH DESIGNED FOR WOMEN (DECORATIVE BEEDS ETC. FOR WOMEN). THE KILT CAN BE FOR BOTH MEN AND WOMEN, AS THE OUTER FLOWING CLOAK TYPE GARMENT FOR MEN AND WOMEN IN SOME ARAB COUNTRIES, LOOK SIMILAR FOR MEN AND WOMEN. THE TEACHING IS A MAN SHOULD BE HAPPY AS A MAN, THE WOMAN AS A WOMAN; NEITHER SHOULD BE WANTING TO BE THE OTHER, OR IN SOME DRESS STYLES IN OUR AGE TODAY, WANTING TO WEAR WHAT IS OBVIOUSLY FOR ONE OR THE OTHER; A MAN SHOULD NOT DESIRE TO WEAR A BRA FOR EXAMPLE - Keith Hunt]
The specific range of styles worn by each sex tends to differ somewhat from one decade to another, and so it is impractical to lay down any hard and fast rule beyond the simple principle enunciated above. Yet it is a very important matter to God, since the verse ends with the solemn words "for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God." It is therefore very questionable whether this particular provision of the Mosaic Law is to be relegated to the status of mere ritual matters, to be done away with by the emancipation of the New Testament believers from the yoke of the Old Testament legal code. Proper dress and modest clothing are certainly stressed in the New Testament as important for a convincing Christian testimony before the world (cf. 1 Tim. 2:9), and the dedicated believer is to dress to please the Lord rather than himself.
[THE OVERALL TEACHING IS A MAN SHOULD BE HAPPY AS A MAN; THE WOMAN AS A WOMAN; CROSS-DRESSING THAT IS HAVING A MIND-SET TO LOOK LIKE THE SEX YOU ARE NOT BY BIRTH, SHOULD NOT BE DONE. SO THE SO-CALLED “TRANSGENDER” LIFE-STYLE IS A SIN AND NOT TO BE PRACTICED IN GOD’S SOCIETY - Keith Hunt]
Aren't the Mosaic instructions concerning divorce in
Deuteronomy 24:1 -4 at variance with the teaching of
Jesus (Mark 10:2-12) and Paul (1 Cor. 7:10-16)?
Deuteronomy 24:1-4 does not actually bestow any divine approval or blessing on divorce as such. It simply recognizes that divorce was practiced in Israelite society and seeks to mitigate the hardship and injustice accruing to the wife when her husband, displeased with her for some reason, decides to put her away and send her back to her parents. The ASV renders v.l thus: "When a man taketh a wife, and marrieth her, then it shall be, if she find no favor in his eyes, because he hath found some unseemly thing in her, that he shall write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house." The NASB modifies the translation so as to eliminate the prescriptive thrust of the passage, rendering it: "When a man takes a wife... and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her [we katab lah can be so rendered, instead of in a prescriptive way as it is in KJV and ASV] a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out from his house," leaving the sentence to continue on through vv.2-4, rather than stopping at the end of v.1. Whichever way the verse is construed, it indicates that the husband must put the divorce certificate in his wife's hand as he sends her away. This had the effect of surrendering all his rights to the dowry that she had brought into the marriage. Otherwise he might wrongfully appropriate the dowry property as his own, falsely alleging that she had voluntarily left him for an indefinitely long visit at her parents' home and that no real divorce had taken place.
When this passage was mentioned to Jesus in Mark 10:2-12 (and in the parallel account in Matt. 19:1-9), He explained to the Pharisees who questioned Him, "Because of your hardness of heart he [Moses] wrote you this commandment" (NASB). He then discussed Genesis 2:24 with this closing comment: "and the two shall become one flesh; consequently they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate" (vv.8-9, NASB). He then went on to specify (following Matthew's fuller report of the wording): "And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for [sexual] immorality, and marries another commits adultery" (Matt. 19:9, NASB). In other words, it was never God's intention or desire for divorce to occur after a true and lawful marriage— unless the relationship was broken up by an adulterous union with a third party. The pre-Christian practice of divorce was therefore in that class of offenses that were permitted for a time because of the "hardness of men's hearts" but which would be done away with (along with polygamy and slavery) by those who belonged to the kingdom of God. Under the new covenant these concessions to selfishness and unkindness would be abolished; and the true, original purpose of God would be exalted in the godly walk of believers who look to Christ Himself as their model.
In the sense that what Deuteronomy 24 permitted was no longer to be allowed in the New Testament age, there was a very definite change. But the Deuteronomy provision was to be recognized as a merely temporary measure, not really corresponding to God's ideal and purpose in marriage, and destined for abrogation in the new age ushered in by the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
As for 1 Corinthians 7:10-16, it is more than doubtful that this deals with true divorce. See the article discussing this passage, entitled: "Does 1 Corinthians 7:10-16 authorize divorce for desertion?"
[I HAVE COVERED THE WHOLE QUESTION ABOUT DIVORCE AND RE-MARRIAGE IN MY IN-DEPTH STUDY CALLED “DIVORCE AND RE-MARRIAGE” ON THIS WEBSITE - Keith Hunt]
Deuteronomy 24:16 says that children will not be killed
for the sins of the fathers. Yet 2 Samuel 12:15-18 shows
that the baby born to David and Bathsheba died
because of their sin. Later, in 2 Samuel 21:5-9, Saul's
seven grandchildren were put to death because of his
sin, in order to bring the three-year famine to an end.
How do we reconcile these?
Deuteronomy 24:16 lays down a general principle that human courts and human governments are not to impute to children or grandchildren the guilt of their parents or forebears when they themselves have not become implicated in the crime committed. It is clearly recognized in Scripture that each person stands on his own record before God. If one is personally guilty of unbelief or wickedness and fails to repent and trust in God's mercy through the blood shed on the altar, that person will die for his own sin—not for that of his father. But if the child is upright and a true believer, he is justified before God; yet he cannot be justified on the basis of his father's righteousness if he himself rejects the grace of God (Jer. 31:29-30; Ezek. 18:1-20). On at least one occasion it is mentioned in the history of Judah that after the assassination of King Joash, his son Amaziah punished only his assassins themselves, sparing their children (2 Kings 14:6).
Although this legal principle of dealing with each person according to his deeds is firmly laid down in Scripture, it is also made clear that God retained for Himself the responsibility of ultimate judgment in the matter of capital crime. In the case of the child conceived by Bathsheba of David when she was married to Uriah, the loss of that baby (in that Old Testament setting) was a judgment visited on the guilty parents for their gross sin (which actually merited the death penalty under Lev. 20:10). It is by no means suggested that the child was suffering punishment for his parents' sin but that they were being punished by his death.
In the case of King Saul's grandchildren, no ordinary crime was involved. It was a matter of national guilt on a level that affected Israel as a whole. We are not given any information as to the time or the circumstances of Saul's massacre of the Gibeonites, but we are told that it was a grave breach of a covenant entered into back in the days of Joshua and enacted in the name of Yahweh (Josh. 9:3-15). All the nation was bound by this oath for all the days to come, even though it had been obtained under false pretenses. Therefore when Saul, as head of the Israelite government, committed this atrocity against the innocent Gibeonites, God saw to it that this covenant violation did not go unpunished. He sent a plague to decimate the population of all Israel, until the demands of justice could be met. God had delayed this visitation until it would do the least possible damage to the security of the nation, that is, until after the surrounding nations had been defeated and subdued to the rule of King David.
However, the high mortality resulting from the famine compelled David to inquire of the Lord what was the reason for this new calamity. God's answer came to him: "It is for Saul and his bloody house, because he put the Gibeonites to death" (2 Sam. 21:1, NASB). Saul himself and his sons had already fallen in battlee, slain by the Philistines at the battle of Mount Gilboa; but the full measure of his guilt had yet to be paid for. This vengeance had to be visited on seven descendants of that king, for seven was a number symbolizing the complete work of God. Israel had to learn by this solemn object lesson that their covenants with foreign nations, sworn to in the name of Yahweh, had to be observed at all costs.
Under special circumstances, then, the general rule of safeguarding children against punishment for the sins of their parents was subject to exceptions, so far as God's administration of justice was concerned. In each of the above cases it is fair to conclude that if the children involved had been permitted to live out a normal lifespan, they would have chosen to follow in the evil example of their forebears and thus occasioned much suffering and woe to others. Only God could know that for a certainty, however, for only He can foreknow the potential of each new soul. For man to inflict such preventive penalty without express permission from God (as in the case of Joshua and the population of Jericho) would be the height of injustice and presumption.
How could Moses have written the first five books of the
Bible when the fifth book, Deuteronomy, reports his
burial in an unknown grave?
Obviously Moses did not write in advance the account of his own death. Deuteronomy 34 is an obituary written by a friend and contemporary, possibly Joshua the son of Nun (v.9). Under the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, then, Joshua possibly appended an appropriate record of the death and burial of his revered master and framed the eloquent praise with which the book closes.
What inference may we draw from this? Does the insertion of an obituary in the final work of any author imply that he was not truly the author of the main text of that book? Before me lies a copy of Roland de Vaux's excellent volume Archaeology and the Dead Sea Scrolls. This is a revised English edition of the Schweich Lectures he delivered at Oxford in 1959, published by Oxford University in 1973. On page vi is a brief foreword signed by Kathleen Kenyon, which opens with the following words: "It is sad that Roland de Vaux did not live to see the translation of his Schweich Lectures appear." This, then, is a kind of obituary notice that is added to the main text of the book. In other terminal works produced by famous authors, the obituary appears as the last chapter in the book. Often that obituary is not signed.
So it is with Deuteronomy, the final work composed by Moses under the inspiration of God. Just as no responsible student of literature would think of impugning the authenticity of de Vaux's volume simply because of the obituary inserted by Kenyon, so doubts should not be raised as to the genuineness of the Mosaic authorship of Deuteronomy 1-33—or indeed of any of the books of the Pentateuch— simply on the ground of the obituary contained in chapter 34.