Tough Questions Answered

A Christian Apologetics Blog
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  • Does God Reveal Things Through Dreams?

    Posted By on November 25, 2015

    In 1 Kings 3 God tells Solomon, in a dream, that He will bless him with incredible powers of wisdom and discernment. He will also give him riches and honor during his lifetime. All of these promises did come to pass, so are we to conclude that dreams are a normative means for God to communicate to Christians today?

    First, it is indisputable that God communicated to people through dreams in the Bible. Examples are Joseph, son of Jacob (Genesis 37:5–10); Joseph, the husband of Mary (Matthew 2:12–22); and Daniel (Daniel 2:1; 7:1).

    Second, there are numerous testimonies of converts to Christianity having dreams which seem to come from God. I personally have two friends who were powerfully impacted by dreams that pushed them toward faith in God. If you listen to missionaries speak about their experiences, they can recount story after story of God using dreams to bring people to faith.

    However, many of us can think of those who claim the Christian God spoke to them through dreams, but we have serious doubts. Why? Because what they claim God told them clearly contradicts what is written in the Word of God.

    This is the key to discerning whether God has spoken to you through a dream. Does what the dream told you line up with Scripture? If it does not, then you did not receive a message from God. God does not contradict Himself, so a dream, allegedly from God, cannot contradict the revealed Word of God.

    So what if your dream does not contradict Scripture? What do you do? gives good advice:

    If you have a dream and feel that perhaps God gave it to you, prayerfully examine the Word of God and make sure your dream is in agreement with Scripture. If it is, prayerfully consider what God would have you do in response to your dream (James 1:5). In Scripture, whenever anyone experienced a dream from God, God always made the meaning of the dream clear, whether directly to the person, through an angel, or through another messenger (Genesis 40:5–11; Daniel 2:45; 4:19). When God speaks to us, He makes sure His message is clearly understood.

    Commentary on 1 Kings 3 (Solomon Asks for Wisdom)

    Posted By on November 23, 2015

    The books of 1 and 2 Kings were originally a single work, but were separated into two parts when they were translated into the Greek New Testament (the Septuagint). The Septuagint also combined Samuel and Kings into a four-part history of the monarchy of Israel (First, Second, Third, Fourth Book of Kingdoms).

    The author of Kings is unknown, but most scholars believe it was finally written and edited around 550 BC during the Babylonian exile by a Judahite. The author claims to use at least three sources for his information, although there are probably additional sources he does not mention. The three sources are 1) the Book of the Annals of Solomon, 2) the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Israel, and 3) the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Judah. These books were either part of the official royal archives, or they may have been written by Hebrew prophets during the 400 year span from Solomon’s rule to the capture of Jerusalem by the Babylonians.

    The primary purpose of the author is to explain why the Jews are in exile by examining the kings who ruled Israel and Judah. Each king is evaluated based on whether they obeyed God’s commands in the Book of Deuteronomy, which is the summary of the Law given to Moses. The kings of the northern kingdom, Israel, disobeyed God so egregiously that they were overrun by the Assyrians a full 136 years before the southern kingdom of Judah was overrun by the Babylonians. Although there were a handful of kings who followed the Law, the vast majority did not, and so both Israel and Judah fell to foreign powers.

    Chapter 3 of 1 Kings begins Solomon’s official reign as king of Israel in 970 BC. In verse 1, we learn that Solomon immediately forges an alliance with Egypt, his powerful southern neighbor, by marrying the daughter of Pharaoh. He brings her to Jerusalem and puts her in temporary quarters until his building projects are completed.

    There is some debate among biblical interpreters as to whether Solomon is violating the Law with this marriage. Deuteronomy 7 prohibits marriage with Canaanite women, but Deuteronomy 21 allows for marriage of foreign (non-Canaanite women) captured in battle. It appears that Pharaoh’s daughter willingly accepted the worship of Yahweh and she is nowhere criticized by the writer for turning Solomon away from adherence to the Law.

    In verses 2-3, the writer alerts us to the fact that the Israelites are worshiping at “high places,” which are shrines set up at various elevations to conduct worship of a deity. The reason given is that there is no central worship center for the Israelites yet. At this time, the Ark of the Covenant has been moved to Jerusalem, but the rest of the tabernacle still resides at a high place called Gibeon, which is about 5 miles north of Jerusalem.

    Solomon travels to Gibeon to make sacrifices to God, probably during one of the seven annual festivals. That night, he encounters God in a vivid dream. God asks Solomon what he wants and Solomon answers that he desires a “discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong.” Why? Because he is an inexperienced king (he was about 20 years old at the time) and he is expected to govern an enormous number of people.

    Recall that a primary role of a king was to render judicial decisions in especially difficult cases where local judges were not able to settle a dispute. Years before, King David’s son Absalom undermined his authority by accusing David of neglecting his judicial role. Solomon knows he needs God’s help to do this job well.

    It is also important to note that God is the source of all wisdom, and thus Solomon will only be truly wise and discerning if he follows the commands of God, given in the Law. Solomon cannot be wise without knowing and obeying the commands of God.

    God is pleased with Solomon’s request and grants it. He will make Solomon the wisest man who ever lived. In addition, God will give Solomon those things he did not ask for: riches and honor. Solomon will also have a long life if he obeys the Law as his father David did.

    Now that God has officially blessed Solomon’s reign, Solomon returns to Jerusalem and hosts a feast with sacrifices before the Ark of the Covenant. His rule is off to a great start!

    To prove to his readers that God truly blessed Solomon with supernatural wisdom, the author of 1 Kings, in verses 16-28, relates the most famous example of Solomon’s discernment at work. Two prostitutes, who live in the same house, each bear a child within 3 days of each other. One prostitute carelessly smothers her child while she sleeps. When she discovers what she’s done, she takes her dead baby and swaps it for the live baby who belongs to the other sleeping prostitute.

    The next morning, the woman wakes with a dead baby beside her, but upon closer inspection she realizes it’s not her child at all. She figures out that the other prostitute has stolen her child to replace the one she lost. Of course, both women claim that the other is lying and that the live baby truly belongs to each of them. How can Solomon possibly decide who the mother of the living baby is?

    Solomon’s solution is to announce that he will cut the baby in half with a sword so that each woman can have half a baby, the only “fair” solution. At this point, one woman speaks up and pleads for Solomon to give the baby to the other woman instead of killing him. The other woman tells Solomon to go ahead and kill the baby so that neither woman will have him. Solomon rightly discerns that the true mother must be the first woman who offered to give the baby up.

    Verse 28 summarizes the reaction of the nation to Solomon’s ruling: “When all Israel heard the verdict the king had given, they held the king in awe, because they saw that he had wisdom from God to administer justice.”

    Does the Bible Teach that Abortion Is Wrong?

    Posted By on November 13, 2015

    Abortion is the intentional taking of the life of a child who is still living in the womb of her mother. Does the Bible have anything to say about this procedure? Even though abortion is not explicitly mentioned, there are basic principles taught in the Bible that lead us to conclude that abortion is immoral.

    Here is the simplest form of the pro-life argument:

    Premise 1: Intentionally killing an innocent human being is always morally wrong.

    Premise 2: Abortion is the intentional killing of an innocent human being (except when the child’s death is not desired but results from saving the mother’s life).

    Conclusion: Therefore, abortion is morally wrong (except as noted above).

    Biblical support of premise 1 is found in Exodus 20:13: “You shall not murder.” This is a blanket ban on the killing of all innocent human life. But why does God consider the killing of innocent human life to be wrong at all? Why are humans special?

    Genesis 9:6 explains: “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God He made man.” Only human beings are made in the image of God. Images of gods in the ancient world were supposed to symbolize and represent, in a very real way, the presence of the deity. Therefore, to kill an image-bearer was to kill that god’s representative, which was symbolic of killing the god himself. Whenever we kill an innocent human being, we are, in a symbolic sense, killing God.

    The abortion proponent may argue, though, that the unborn human embryo or fetus is not a human being, and can therefore be killed. Biologically, we know this is false because once the sperm fertilizes the egg at conception, human life begins. There is simply no dispute about this among scientists.

    The biblical writers seem to also have the same understanding, even though they did not comprehend the biological details that we do today. For example, Psalm 139:13-16 affirms that God is intimately involved in the development of the human embryo and fetus in the mother’s womb. “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” There is no hint in the Bible that human life begins only at birth, which is what the abortion proponent would need to prove his case.

    Since the two premises of the argument above are true, the conclusion of the argument, that abortion is morally wrong, necessarily follows.

    Commentary on Psalms 51 and 139 (Psalms of David)

    Posted By on November 11, 2015

    Psalm 51 is traditionally thought to be David’s lamentations for his sins against Bathsheba and Uriah. As the psalm begins, David asks for God’s forgiveness. Why God? Because even though David sinned against Bathsheba, Uriah, and others, it is God whom he has grieved the most. When we sin, we sin first and foremost against God.

    David acknowledges that God is a righteous judge and he also affirms that he has inherited a sinful nature. From his very conception he was sinful, thus affirming the doctrine of original sin, where the sinful nature of Adam and Eve has been passed down to all of their descendants.

    David continues, in the psalm, to plead for God to purify him. This purification is not trivial, as Donald Williams and Lloyd Ogilvie, in Psalms 1–72, The Preacher’s Commentary Series explain.

    The verb for ‘purge’ is intensive here, meaning ‘un-sin’ me, purify me from uncleanness. The word is commonly used in describing the cleansing of a leper’s house. Hyssop is also used to sprinkle blood in the rite of purification (Lev. 14:52). Similarly, hyssop was the agent used in spreading the blood of the Passover lamb on the lintels and doorposts of the Hebrew households in Egypt before the plague of death (Ex. 12:22). Underlying the purging of verse 7, then, is the concept of sacrificial blood. As we pray for purification, the leprosy of sin is removed.

    David begs God to take away his guilt and to turn His face from David’s sins. David is concerned that God will take away His Spirit from David, just as He did with Saul. If only God will renew David in His eyes, David promises to evangelize and teach non-believers the ways of God.

    David knows that his crimes merit the death penalty, according to the Law. If God will show him mercy, David will sing of His righteousness and publicly praise Him. David also knows that God wants a truly repentant and broken heart from David. David’s sacrifices mean nothing to God otherwise. Once David is restored, he asks that the nation of Israel also be restored so that she can once again give God the sacrifices He deserves. Allen Ross, in The Bible Knowledge Commentary (Old Testament:), summarizes Psalm 51:

    The message of this psalm is that the vilest offender among God’s people can appeal to God for forgiveness, for moral restoration, and for the resumption of a joyful life of fellowship and service, if he comes with a broken spirit and bases his appeal on God’s compassion and grace.

    Psalm 139 is a psalm of personal thanksgiving by David. In particular, David meditates on God’s omniscience and omnipresence. These two divine attributes lead David to understand God’s intimacy with His creation.

    In verses 1-6, David affirms that God knows his every thought and his every action. In fact, God knows what David will say even before he says it. There is nothing about David that God does not know.

    Is there anywhere David can go to avoid the all-seeing gaze of God? Is there any place he can travel to avoid intimacy with God? The answer given in verses 7-12 is “no.” Whether David is in heaven (the world above the surface of the earth) or hell (the world below the surface of the earth), God is there. Even if David flees to ends of the earth, God is there. Whether David is in darkness or light, God is with him. There is literally no place David can be where God is not holding David in His hand.

    How does God know so much about David? Not only is He omniscient, but He created David in the womb. The embryonic David, in his mother’s womb, was skillfully woven together by God’s hand. He was involved with every detail of David’s growth in his mother’s womb. Going beyond the womb, every one of David’s days on earth were written ahead of time by God. There is nothing in David’s life that catches God by surprise.

    In verses 17-18, David expresses wonder at God’s thoughts, and then abruptly, in verses 19-22, spells out his hatred for those opposing God. All those who speak against God, who take His name in vain, David hates with a “perfect hatred.” Donald Williams and Lloyd Ogilvie describe David’s hatred:

    David’s strong reaction is not against ‘sinners.’ He is not a self-righteous judge who will not stain himself with this world. His reaction is against those who revile God’s name, who are His enemies (v. 20). It is those who hate God and rise up against Him that incur his wrath. And why is this so? Because the God who is so exquisitely described in verses 1–18 deserves our praise and worship. To withhold this is to deserve both human and divine wrath.

    Finally, David invites God to test his own heart and mind to see if David is wicked in any way. He is willing to submit himself to God’s scrutiny. Williams and Ogilvie beautifully summarize the intimacy with each of us that God desires:

    He formed us in the womb. He knows our frame. He sees our embryo. He fashions our days. He knows our thoughts. He hears our words. He knows when we sit down and when we stand up. He protects us. His hand is upon us. He who inhabits all things is near to us. We cannot escape His presence. In the light He sees us. In the dark He sees us. We are the continual object of His thoughts. He searches us. He changes us. Here is true intimacy, and if we can allow God to become intimate with us, we can establish a growing intimacy with each other. Secure in His presence and His love, we can risk opening up. We can even risk rejection, because we are held in His hand (v. 10).

    Does God Hide His Face from Us?

    Posted By on November 9, 2015

    In Psalm 27, David begs the Lord to not hide His face from him. In the context of the psalm, it appears that David is being attacked by his enemies, he has been praying to God to deliver him from these enemies, but God has not yet answered his prayers. Thus, to David, God is hiding His face. What are we to make of this? Goes God really hide from us?

    Christian blogger Josh Fults has written an insightful article on this topic. First, Fults reminds us what God’s relationship was with mankind at the beginning:

    We must remember, when God created mankind he walked among them. Instead of a game of hide and seek, we find in Genesis that God ‘walked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day.’ So apparently, at the onset of creation, man and God enjoyed fellowship in a direct sense. Then sin entered the world, and who is it that we find hiding? God doesn’t hide. God doesn’t remove Himself. Instead we see Adam and Eve have made the decision to hide. It was man that hid initially and broke this extremely intimate connection between God and humanity.

    Sin, then, has a direct bearing on God’s relationship with us. We cannot possibly answer the question of whether God is hiding without remembering this crucial point. In a fallen world, evil, pain, and suffering are regular occurrences. We certainly see David suffering many times in his life.

    However, just because God is not saving us from all this pain and suffering as soon as we pray about it does not mean that He is hiding from us. This simply does not follow. In fact, David comes to realize this as well. At the end of Psalm 27, he states, “I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.”

    But if God is not always answering our prayers in the ways we want our prayers answered, then how is He communicating with us? Fults answers this question:

    God reveals Himself expressively in His written word. ‘Beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself’ (Luke 24:27). God also revealed Himself explicitly to mankind through Jesus Christ. ‘And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth’ (John 1:14). We also see God make Himself known through nature.  ‘For His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what He has made. As a result, people are without excuse’ (Romans 1:20). We also see that God communicates through His Spirit to us if we are willing to hear. ‘He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever. He is the Spirit of truth’ (John 14:16-17).The Spirit of God draws us to Himself. We also find that believers in Christ also reveal God to those around them, as we see in Acts 1:8 that Christians ‘will be My witnesses.’

    So God does indeed reveal Himself in many different ways to us. Although we may feel like He is hiding from us, we must realize that it is sin, ultimately, that causes this feeling. Once we are in Heaven with God, we will never have this feeling again.

    Commentary on Psalms 23, 27 (Psalms of David)

    Posted By on November 6, 2015

    The Book of Psalms is a collection of five sets of books that were combined into a single biblical book. The psalms are primarily praises and prayers for temple worship or personal devotion.

    The 150 psalms were composed over a period of about 1000 years, starting in the time of Moses (1400 BC) and stretching all the way to the Babylonian exile (586 BC). It seems that the Israelites were collecting and organizing individual psalms from the beginning of their organization as a nation.

    Many of the psalms are anonymous, although all but 34 have superscripts that indicate authorship.  Of all the Psalms, at least 73 are attributed to David. Other authors are Asaph (Ps 50; 73– 83), the sons of Korah (42– 49; 84– 85; 87– 88), Moses (90), Solomon (127), Heman (88) and Ethan (89).

    Psalm 23 may be the most famous of all the psalms, given that it is regularly quoted by non-Christians and non-Jews alike. Although it is brief, it has comforted millions of people for thousands of years.

    Psalm 23 can be broken into two parts: God’s provision (verses 1-3) and God’s protection (verses 4-6). In verse 1, David compares God to a shepherd, a very common metaphor for God used both in the Old and New Testaments. Donald Williams and Lloyd Ogilvie explain, in Psalms 1–72, The Preacher’s Commentary Series:

    In Psalm 80:1 God is addressed: ‘Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, You who lead Joseph like a flock’ (see Gen. 49:24; Ezek. 34:11ff.). Israel’s kings are also called shepherds. After denouncing the unfaithful shepherds of His people, God promises, ‘I will set up shepherds over them who will feed them; and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, nor shall they be lacking’ (Jer. 23:4; cf. Ezek. 34:2). And Jesus identifies Himself as the ‘good shepherd,’ the Messianic King (John 10:11). His goodness is in His giving His life for the sheep.

    A shepherd provides everything a sheep needs, and that is exactly how David sees God. A sheep needs rest, as do human beings, and God provides that rest when He makes us “lie down in green pastures.”

    Sheep, like humans, also need food and drink, and God provides that as well when He leads us “beside quiet waters.” Our souls likewise need restoration, not just our bodies, and God provides that restoration. Once our souls are restored and transformed, God “guides [us] in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” Our restored souls do the work of God’s kingdom as representatives of the King of kings. Every good and loving deed we do is for God, our loving shepherd.

    Williams and Ogilvie expand on Jesus’ role as our shepherd:

    As our good shepherd, Jesus provides us with rest, food, and water. When we come to Him we enter His ‘Sabbath rest’ or salvation (Heb. 4:1–11). He feeds us with Himself because He is the bread which has come down from heaven. As Jesus tells the multitudes, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst’ (John 6:35). Then Jesus gives us His Spirit to quench our thirst. Again He promises, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’ (John 7:37–38). John comments, ‘But this He spoke concerning the Spirit’ (John 7:39).

    David also recognizes that God protects. In verse 4 we see that even though we are threatened with pain, suffering, and even death in this world, God is always with us. The destiny of a child of God is sealed, so there is no reason to fear. The rod and staff of a shepherd are used to protect a sheep from danger, and God will likewise protect His sheep.

    Verse 5 then shifts the metaphor from shepherd to host. God celebrates David’s life with a banquet of food and drink, and in front of David’s very enemies. David is also anointed with oil, a sign of God’s blessing.

    In verse 6, David affirms that God’s love and blessing on his life will continue throughout his life. Not only that, but David will live in God’s presence (His house) forever.

    We now move to Psalm 27, another psalm of David. Verses 1-3 describe why David has no fear when his enemies attack him. David, during his life, was faced with attacks from King Saul, the Philistines, the Ammonites, the Amalekites, and even his own son. Each time, his life was in peril, so how could he possibly survive the repeated stress? Verse 1 answers the question.

    God is David’s light, salvation, and stronghold. Salvation, in this sense, denotes being saved from physical death, although Christians may rightly apply the term to eternal salvation. Light refers to God’s holiness, but also to His bestowal of understanding on David. David is able to see his circumstances through God’s eyes, and not merely his own.

    Williams and Ogilvie remind us of the importance of our reliance on God:

    Faith or fear—these are our ultimate options. Either we can know the living God as our ‘light,’ ‘salvation,’ and ‘strength,’ or we are condemned to anguish as we move toward our final hour. The atheist philosopher Bertrand Russell put it, ‘The older I get, the more nervous I become.’ In contrast, two weeks before his death, Pope John XXIII said, ‘My bags are packed. I’m ready to go.’

    In verses 4-6, David reveals what is most important to him: 1) to dwell in the house of the LORD, 2) to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD, and 3) to seek him in his temple. At the time David likely wrote this psalm, there was a tabernacle set up in Jerusalem which housed the Ark of the Covenant, the place where God promised to meet Israel on earth. Of course, the tabernacle was only meant to be a representation of God’s real home in heaven. In either case, David’s single biggest desire is to be where God is. David knows that if he is where God is, then David will be kept safe and will triumph over his enemies.

    In verses 7-12, David shifts to a direct conversation with God. He is obviously in trouble and he is frustrated that God is not immediately saving him from his trouble. David wonders why it seems like God is not answering him, why it seems like God is hiding his face from David, why it seems like God is angry with Him, why it seems like God is rejecting him.

    David reminds God that he desires to be led by God and that he desires to know the ways of God. It would not be right for God to turn David over to his enemies, when they are unjustly attacking David. David deserves God’s provision because he loves God, whereas his enemies are false witnesses.

    In verses 13-14, though, David reminds himself and his readers that even though God does not appear to be helping him right at that moment, he is confident that He will. He will see God’s blessings while he is still alive, but he must wait for God.

    Commentary on 1 Chronicles 28-29 (Death of David)

    Posted By on November 4, 2015

    1 and 2 Chronicles were originally a single work that was separated into two books when it was translated into the Greek Septuagint. The Chronicles was written to the Jewish people after they returned from Babylonian exile in the 6th century BC.  Jewish tradition holds that Ezra was the author of Chronicles, but scholars are divided on the issue.

    The book starts with genealogies stretching from Adam to the twelve sons of Jacob, to David, all the way to the exiles of Judah. It then records the accomplishments of King David and King Solomon, and lastly records the deeds of the kings of Judah after Solomon’s death. The book ends with Judah’s capture by the Babylonians and her subsequent exile, but the last couple paragraphs of 2 Chronicles skip ahead 70 years to the decree of Cyrus the Persian to allow the Jews to return to their homeland, and there the book ends. The most likely date for the book’s creation was some time after 400 BC, 150 years or so after the return from exile.

    The author of the Chronicles used some non-biblical sources to compose his sweeping history, but it seems clear that he also had the following biblical books in front of him when he wrote Chronicles: the Pentateuch, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, Psalms, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Lamentations.

    The purposes of the author are at least three-fold. First, the exilic community needed to be reminded of its national origins, going all the way back to the dawn of mankind. Second, the Israelites needed to be reminded of their national unity under the great kings David and Solomon. Third, the Israelites needed to be reminded of the primacy of the Torah, received by Moses, and along with the Torah, the importance of proper temple worship mediated by the Levite priests.

    Chapters 28-29 of 1 Chronicles record three important events: 1) David’s instructions to Solomon to build the temple, 2) Solomon’s anointing as king, and 3) David’s death. Verses 1-11 in chapter 28 get us started.

    David, an old man now, summons all of the leadership of Israel to hear his final commands. We are immediately reminded of both Moses and Joshua speaking before their deaths to the leaders of Israel. David first explains that he wanted to build the temple for God, but God would not allow him because David was a warrior and had shed blood. Instead of David, God chose Solomon to build His house. Of all of David’s sons, Solomon would be the next king and he would have the honor of building the temple.

    David then charges the leaders of Israel to “follow all the commands of the LORD your God, that you may possess this good land and pass it on as an inheritance to your descendants forever.” He turns to Solomon and instructs him to “acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind.” There are consequences for Solomon’s actions toward God. “If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever.”

    God will bless Solomon and Israel if they obey his commands (especially building the temple), but He will curse them if they do not follow His commands. This has been the consistent message from God to the people of Israel ever since they left the slavery of Egypt, and it is still His consistent message to us today.

    Note also that David warns Solomon, “The LORD searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts.” God is omniscient, or all-knowing. Neither Solomon nor anyone else can hide what they are thinking from God, as he sees everything with perfect clarity.

    In verse 11, David gives Solomon detailed plans on how to build the temple, plans that are described more fully in verses 12-19. David tells the assembled crowd that these plans were inspired by God, so that there is no doubt that they should be followed to the letter. The temple is to be a continuation of the tabernacle, and so we see many parallels between David’s plans and the plans given to Moses in the Book of Exodus.

    In chapter 29, verses 1-9, David announces the treasure he has donated to the temple building campaign and implores the leaders of Israel to likewise donate, so that Solomon has everything he needs to finish the divinely appointed construction project. The leadership responded with an outpouring of generosity and all Israel rejoiced.

    In verses 10-13, David spontaneously praises God with a beautiful prayer. In this prayer he refers to God’s timelessness, omnipotence, beauty and majesty, sovereignty, and generosity. David thanks God, essentially, for being God! David realizes that literally nothing good is given to him or Israel without it coming from God. Of special note is that verse 11 was appropriated by the early Christian church as a doxology appended to the Lord’s Prayer: “Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory.”

    David’s prayer continues in verses 14-19. He acknowledges that everything donated to build the temple comes from God in the first place. David knows that God can see the sincerity that accompanied the donations of the people of Israel. Their motives were pure. David then asks that God “keep this desire in the hearts of your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to you.” Regarding Solomon, David asks God to “give my son Solomon the wholehearted devotion to keep your commands, requirements and decrees and to do everything to build the palatial structure for which I have provided.”

    The next day David hosts a tremendous festival for the Lord, including sacrifices, eating and drinking, and the coronation of Solomon. It is likely that David and Solomon were co-regents for a time, until David eventually died. This was a common move by kings who wanted to ensure that their chosen successors were firmly established before the king’s death. Solomon’s rule begins with rich blessings from God and the full allegiance of the leaders of Israel.

    Finally, in verses 26-30, the death of the greatest king of Israel, David, is reported. The writer informs us that David “ruled over Israel forty years—seven in Hebron and thirty-three in Jerusalem. He died at a good old age, having enjoyed long life, wealth and honor.”

    J. A. Thompson, in 1, 2 Chronicles: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture (The New American Commentary) concludes:

    The Chronicler presents not one but two great kings as the ideal for Israel. The one was David, the warrior-king, who subdued the enemies of the people of God and established a secure domain. He was now passing, and the other, Solomon, was taking his place. Solomon was a man of peace who would build up the prosperity of the nation. These two things together—victory over enemies and a reign of peace—are both essential. For Christian readers these two ideals are fulfilled in the one man, Jesus Christ. He conquers all his foes but at the same time establishes a reign of peace for his own people. In this the tandem of David and Solomon are a type of Christ.

    Is There Extrabiblical Evidence for the Existence of David?

    Posted By on November 2, 2015

    Skeptical scholars have long argued that David’s existence is doubtful because there was no archaeological evidence of his rule or his alleged dynasty. From roughly 850 BC onward, there have been many discoveries confirming the kings of Israel and Judah listed in the Bible, but pre-850 BC evidence has been almost nonexistent.

    However, in 1993 and 1994, fragments of an Aramaic monument were discovered in Tel Dan, Israel that changed everything. Walt Kaiser and Duane Garrett provide details of this finding in the NIV Archaeological Study Bible: An Illustrated Walk Through Biblical History and Culture:

    Although only a fraction of the original inscription was recovered, the preserved portion alludes to eight Biblical kings. Based on the names recorded in the document, it can be dated to around 841 B.C. Even though his name is missing, it appears that Hazael, king of Aram from approximately 842– 800 B.C., commissioned the stela (or stele) to commemorate his defeat of Joram and Ahaziah at Ramoth Gilead (2Ki 8: 28– 29). . . . Hazael is mentioned in the records of Shalmaneser III, king of Assyria from approximately 858– 824 B.C., and his name is inscribed on objects taken as booty by the Assyrians.

    The initial lines of the inscription mention ‘my father,’ possibly a reference to Ben-Hadad II, Hazael’s predecessor. The names of Joram and Ahab can be restored in the phrase ‘[I killed Jo] ram son of [Ahab] king of Israel,’ where the brackets indicate [gaps] in the original text. Joram was king of Israel from approximately 852 to 841 B.C., while Ahab ruled from approximately 874 to 853 B.C. This is followed by the statement ‘and [I] killed [Ahaz]iahu son of [Jehoram kin]g of the House of David.’

    Why is this so important? Kaiser and Garrett continue:

    The most remarkable aspect of the Tel Dan Stele is the phrase ‘House of David,’ providing extrabiblical evidence for the existence of David. This is important because some recent scholars have denied the existence of the united kingdom under David and Solomon, treating David as a character more of legend than of reality. This inscription demonstrates that ancient kings recognized the Davidic dynasty over Jerusalem and by implication validates the historicity of David himself. Some scholars have tried to avoid this implication by arguing for an alternative translation for ‘House of David,’ claiming that the words refer to some place or to a god rather than to King David. Few are persuaded by these protests, and the inscription is widely recognized to be an extrabiblical witness to the dynasty of David.

    K. A. Kitchen, in his book On the Reliability of the Old Testament, mentions two other pieces of evidence. Once the Tel Dan stela was discovered,

    As often happens, one discovery can lead to others. Equally convincingly, Lemaire was subsequently able to show that bt-[d]wd is to be read in line 31 of the famous stela of Mesha king of Moab, dating to about the same period. This links the “House of David” (= Judah) with an occupation of part of southern Moab (around Horonen), corresponding to Israel’s penetration in the north under Omri and his dynasty. So we have David mentioned twice in retrospect, some six generations after his death.

    Kitchen writes,

    Nor is this all, it seems. After his victory over Rehoboam and Jeroboam in 926/925, Shoshenq I of Egypt had engraved at Karnak a long list of Palestinian place-names. Some of these are now destroyed, and thus lost to us; many can be readily identified with known places in Israel, Judah, the Negev, and a few in western Transjordan. But quite a few have remained obscure. Among these, in a group of names clearly located by association in the Negev/south Judah area, is ‘the heights of Dwt.

    Kitchen argues that Dwt should be translated as “David,” which means that “this would give us a place-name that commemorated David in the Negev barely fifty years after his death, within living memory of the man.”

    Commentary on 2 Samuel 13-18 (Absalom’s Rebellion)

    Posted By on October 30, 2015

    Chapter 13 begins with an ominous declaration: Amnon loves Tamar. Amnon is David’s firstborn son and heir to David’s throne. His mother is Ahinoam. Tamar is the daughter of David and Maacah. Maacah and David also have a son named Absalom, so Absalom and Tamar are brother and sister. Tamar is Amnon’s half-sister.

    Amnon wants to have sexual relations with Tamar, but she is still a virgin and yet to be married. In addition, the Law specifically prohibits sex/marriage between half brothers and sisters. Amnon, however, doesn’t care about the Law and wants Tamar anyway.

    Jonadab, Amnon’s cousin, suggests a plan for Amnon to be alone with Tamar. He is to pretend he is sick and request that Tamar come to his house to prepare food for him. When Tamar prepares bread for him, he orders everyone else out of the house. When she is alone with Tamar in his bedroom, he asks her to have sex with him.

    Tamar, as a woman who knows the Law, refuses his advances. She knows that sex between brother and sister is forbidden, and she also knows that if she loses her virginity to Amnon, she will likely never marry. Her only option is to tell Amnon that he should petition King David to allow them to marry. Amnon is not interested in marriage, so he rapes her.

    Once the deed is done, he kicks her out of his house and refuses, again, to marry her. In fact, verse 15 says that he hates her after they had sex more than he loved her before they had sex. We know, for sure, that Amnon simply lusted after her. There was no love involved.

    Tamar tears her ornamented robe, which marked as her one of the virgin daughters of the king. There is no hiding what was done, as Tamar publicly mourns the loss of her virginity. Her full brother Absalom finds out what happened and takes her into his home. No man will want to marry her now. Absalom hates Amnon for what he has done, but he never tells him. David also finds out what happened and he is furious, but he does nothing about it.

    Dale Ralph Davis, in 2 Samuel: Out of Every Adversity (Focus on the Bible Commentaries), faults David for his inaction:

    It should have led to a righteous result. His anger should have led to justice. Amnon should have been punished and Tamar exonerated. Instead Amnon is not held accountable, Tamar receives no redress, and Absalom is handed a plausible excuse for revenge. David heard. He was very angry. And he did nothing.

    Two years later, Absalom hosts a party at a place called Baal Hazor centered on the shearing of his sheep. He requests that David join him for the festivities, but David declines. Since David will not come, Absalom requests that Amnon come in his place, since the firstborn could represent his father. David agrees.

    In verse 28, Absalom instructs his men to kill Amnon once he’s drunk, and this is exactly what they do. After two years of plotting revenge, Absalom acts and kills his half-brother, the heir to the throne.

    Absalom flees to his maternal grandfather’s home in Geshur. He stays there for three years until David finally summons him to come back to Jerusalem. When he returns to Jerusalem, David refuses to see him for 2 more years. At the prompting of his trusted general Joab, David allows Absalom to come before him and they are reconciled. It had been 5 years since the murder of Amnon.

    Not content with his circumstances, and perhaps still angry at his father for not punishing Amnon himself, Absalom begins to build a political following in Israel. He acquires a chariot with horses (the transportation favored by Canaanite royalty) and an entourage of 50 soldiers that would run ahead of the chariot. These are the trappings of royalty and power which support the image he wants to convey to the people of Israel.

    Robert Bergen, in 1, 2 Samuel: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture (The New American Commentary)also notes:

    The biblical narratives stretching from Exodus through this point in 2 Samuel are surprisingly negative in their portrayal of horses and chariots. The texts consistently depict only enemies of the Lord and his covenant people as having them. The Egyptians (cf. Exod 14:9–15:21; Deut 11:4; Josh 24:6), northern Canaanites (Josh 11:4–9; Judg 4:15; 5:19–22), and Arameans (8:4; 10:18) all used them unsuccessfully in battle against Israel. Thus, when Absalom linked them with himself, he was joining his ambitions with symbols of hostility against the Lord and Israel, and with ultimate failure.

    Absalom also intercepts numerous Israelites at the gate of Jerusalem who are seeking judicial rulings from David. He lies to them, saying that David is not fulfilling his role as judge in Israel. Absalom suggests that he is perfectly willing to serve in this capacity. He also flatters the supplicants by always agreeing that their case is just.

    After 4 years of Absalom’s campaigning at the gate, he is ready to make his move. He asks David for permission to travel to Hebron to make a sacrifice to God for allowing him to come back to Jerusalem from exile. David agrees to his request. Why did Absalom really want to go to Hebron? Robert Bergen explains:

    At Hebron Absalom found himself twenty miles away from his father and protected by strong walls. From this relatively safe base of operations Absalom moved quickly to usurp David’s throne. He prepared for the public phase of his plot by sending secret messengers throughout the tribes of Israel (v. 10) to make a coordinated proclamation throughout the land. Once in place, they were to await ‘the sound of trumpets’ and then announce simultaneously that ‘Absalom is king in Hebron.’ Implicit in this proclamation was a call to arms for those who supported Absalom in his efforts.

    Absalom also brings along 200 men from David’s administration to Hebron, letting them think they are guests at his sacrifice. This was a brilliant move by Absalom, depriving his father of 200 of his friends and advisors during the impending crisis. They would be forced to help Absalom or be killed. While in Hebron, Absalom also sends for one of David’s top advisors, Ahithophel. Recall that Ahithophel is the grandfather of Bathsheba, the woman who David seduced. It is quite possible that Ahithophel still harbors a hatred for David for what he did to Bathsheba and Uriah.

    If there was any question whether Absalom would succeed in his coup, David receives a messenger in Jerusalem who gives him the horrible news: “The hearts of the men of Israel are with Absalom.”

    Since there is not enough time to comment on all the events of chapters 15-17, here is a brief synopsis. David flees Jerusalem with his family, officials, and a small army of soldiers. He leaves behind 10 concubines to tend to operation of the royal palace while he is gone. He also leaves behind spies to inform him of Absalom’s plans.

    Absalom moves into David’s palace and has sexual relations with the 10 concubines on the roof of the palace to publicly declare himself as king of Israel. After consulting two advisors, Ahithophel and Hushai (a spy for David), he gathers a large military force and leads them to kill David and defeat his army, who have crossed over to the east side of the Jordan River. David’s spies warn him of Absalom’s plans.

    At the beginning of chapter 18, David divides his army into 3 groups, each commanded by one of his generals. The plan is to fight Absalom in the surrounding forests, where David’s forces will have a military advantage. David wants to go to battle, but his generals convince to stay behind. Before they leave, David commands the soldiers to be gentle with Absalom if they capture him. David, evidently, wants to be reconciled with him again.

    In verses 6-8, we learn that David’s army defeats Absalom’s army. Some 20,000 soldiers die. Absalom’s fate is described in verses 9-15. As he is riding his mule, he gets stuck in low-hanging tree branches and is left hanging from the tree, still alive. Some of David’s soldiers spot him and tell Joab, David’s top general.

    Joab asks the soldiers why they didn’t kill Absalom and they cite David’s instructions to be gentle with him. Joab takes matters into his own hands and he kills Absalom himself by plunging three javelins into him.  Thus ends the rebellion of David’s son Absalom.

    What can we learn from this whole sordid affair? First, God’s prophetic words always come true. The prophet Nathan warned David that blood would not leave his house, and that a family member would sleep with his wives, thus rebelling against David. All of this came to pass with Absalom.

    Second, the sins of parents are passed on to their children. Just as David illicitly slept with Bathsheba, Amnon had illicit relations with Tamar. Just as David has Uriah murdered, Absalom had Amnon murdered.

    Third, note that Absalom never consulted God or his prophets. He only sought advice from men, none of whom had a word from God. This behavior mirrored that of the kings of the Canaanite nations. What a contrast with David! Robert Bergan draws out the contrast:

    At every crux in his life, David sought the word of the Lord, either through an Aaronic priest (1 Sam 23:1–6; 2 Sam 5:19, 23) or a prophet (7:3–17). Absalom’s pursuit of and compliance with human counsel brought about the hasty end of his regime. David’s pursuit of and obedience to divine revelation brought him only success and dynastic blessings. By providing contrasting narrative portraits of these two Davidic kings, the author writes a prescription for the success of all future leaders in Israel: seek the word of the Lord through its authorized mediators and obey it.

    Fourth, Absalom’s death carries theological significance. Bergen writes:

    The words used by the soldier to report Absalom’s condition are of great theological and thematic significance: ‘Absalom was hanging [Hb., tālûy] in an oak tree.’ The word translated ‘hanging’ here is used only once in the Torah (Deut 21:23) to declare that ‘anyone who is hung [tālûy] on a tree is under God’s curse.’ Absalom had rebelled against divine law by rebelling against his father (cf. Exod 20:12; Deut 5:16; 21:18–21) and sleeping with members of David’s harem (Lev 20:11). Absalom had the massive armies of Israel fighting to protect him, and he was personally equipped with a fast means of escape not afforded other soldiers—a mule. Nevertheless, in spite of these seemingly insurmountable advantages, Absalom could not escape God’s judgment. The Lord had declared in the Torah that one who dishonored his father was cursed (Deut 27:16) and likewise that one who slept with his father’s wife was cursed (Deut 27:20)—Absalom, of course, had done both. Although no army had been able to catch Absalom and punish him, God himself had sent a curse against him that simultaneously caught and punished the rebel. The fearful judgments of the Torah had proven credible: the Lord had upheld his law.

    How Is Science Like Checkers?

    Posted By on October 28, 2015

    Philosopher Ed Feser recently introduced another useful analogy to explain why scientism, the idea that the scientific method is the only way to gain true knowledge of reality, is false. Feser writes:

    Think of it this way: you can’t find out why checkers boards exist by looking at the rules of checkers themselves, which concern only what goes on within the game. The rules tell you how each piece moves, how the game is won, and so forth. But why are the pieces governed by these rules, specifically, rather than others? Why do any checkers boards exist at all in the first place? No scrutiny of the rules can answer those questions. It is impossible to answer them, or indeed even to understand the questions, unless you take a vantage point from outside the game and its rules.

    How does checkers compare to science?

    Similarly, what science uncovers are, in effect, the “rules” that govern the “game” that is the natural world. Its domain of study is what is internal to the natural order of things. It presupposes that there is such an order, just as the rules of checkers presuppose that there are such things as checkers boards and game pieces. For that very reason, though, science has nothing to say about why there is any natural order or laws in the first place, any more than the rules of checkers tell you why there are any checkers boards or checkers rules in the first place.

    If science cannot, in principle, answer these questions, how do we answer questions about why there is any natural order or laws in the first place?

    To answer those questions, or even to understand them properly, you must take an intellectual vantage point from outside the world and its laws, and thus outside of science. You need to look to philosophical argument, which goes deeper than anything mere physics can uncover.


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