Old Testament

Hard Evidence for a Supernatural Book, Part 3: Too Many Cooks

Read the series.

And so we come to the evidence: objective evidence that the Bible is, um, unnatural, extraordinary, not like any other books. I’d suggest two lines of such evidence; we’ll look at the first one today, and a related topic later in the week. Next week, we’ll get to Door Number 2.

Door Number 1. Writing a book is hard. Just getting the facts right is hard enough (more about that next time); but doing it artfully, in a way that pleases the attentive reader, is really, really hard. Literary critics delight themselves in finding such artful devices in serious literature—for example, in noting how Willa Cather uses the imagery of wilting flowers to foreshadow the crumbling of the protagonist in the short story “Paul’s Case,” or how Dickens contrasts polar extremes in A Tale of Two Cities, or how an episode of Seinfeld weaves together a seemingly impossible number of storylines so they all come to resolution at the last moment: in one episode George, pretending to be a marine biologist to impress his girlfriend, pulls Kramer’s golf ball from the blowhole of a beached whale. (OK, that last one was ridiculous, and involves stretching the definition of literature almost to the breaking point. But give me some slack; I’m making a point here.)

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Short Review: Commentary on 1 & 2 Kings by David Schreiner & Lee Compson

Review of David B. Schreiner & Lee Compson, 1 & 2 Kings: A Commentary for Biblical Preaching and Teaching, Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2022, hdbk, 315 pages. 

This commentary on the books of First and Second Kings combines exposition with homiletics. This way of doing things was popular in the 19th century (think Lange or the Pulpit Commentaries). As with many of these commentaries, the homiletic portions are often of little use (ironically, one of the best of the bunch is Bahr’s exposition of 1 & 2 Kings in Lange’s Commentary).

I’m going to say something about the homiletic portions here and then concentrate on the exposition. After the usual orienting pages, the volume begins with roughly twenty pages of overview of preaching passages from 1 & 2 Kings (13-31). These have enough content to be helpful for a preacher to consider without being too lengthy. Mercifully, no preaching outlines are supplied here, although they are given under the “Preaching and Teaching Strategies” throughout the book.

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Archaeologists find evidence that ancient Egyptians, Arameans, Assyrians, Babylonians waged war against Israel and Judah

"The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found proof in 21 different archaeological sites. From the army of Hazael destroying ancient Israeli cities to the Edomites decimating parts of Southern Judah, the team found evidence of dozens of Biblical military events." - Relevant

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Heaven Was Listening

Hannah presenting her son Samuel to the priest Eli, Gerbrand van den Eeckhout, ca. 1665

The nation was desperate for leadership.

His improbable but swift ascent to fill the vacuum was as dramatic as it was unlikely. Humanly speaking, it was propelled solely at the behest of a praying mother.

Outside of her influence, the rest of his family’s situation was, to say the least, dysfunctional. In fact, the lessons that he learned there, as well as what he saw in his only other spiritual mentor, may have factored into the shortcomings that were evident in his own family later in life—the only ailments that hampered a career which otherwise succeeded all reasonable expectations.

At a young age, he gained fame as an itinerant teacher and authoritative speaker. Soon he rose to national prominence, and became a counselor to kings.

Though hard to believe, it really seems that it was the faith and prayer of his godly mother that gave him the spiritual impetus to carry out a lifetime of service—even though she had him at home for only, perhaps, three years before he was taken off to begin an accelerated maturity process. Away from home, raised by strangers, but called by God, adulthood came early for this young man, and exceptional was a word that many could easily have used to describe him at a similarly youthful age.

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‘Written for Our Learning’

This Hebrew Bible, on display in the Lutherhaus in Wittenberg, Germany, belonged to Johann Agricola. According to the placard, "Luther owns the same edition."

I wish I could say that I that I was one of those smart kids who always loved history. Yet, in one sense, I guess that I did—although perhaps without realizing it.

I was always enthralled with old black-and-white television shows that whisked me to an earlier time that seemed both simpler and, yet, exhilarating. I found many aspects of the past fascinating. I was particularly mesmerized by the Middle Ages—especially as they set the stage for the dawn of the Reformation.

Put a dry history book in front of me, though, and I would have been entirely unenthused—unless, perhaps, it was a volume about the history of sports.

I did love Bible history, though, as well. I remember that in my middle years in Lutheran grade school my teacher would begin the day by reading an extended passage of Scripture. When he got to the books of 1 and 2 Samuel, I recall listening as though I were following on a horse behind King David. I even scribbled the words “David stories” next to those books in the table of contents of an old Bible.

I had outstanding history teachers and classes in high school and Bible college, and that’s when a formal love of history really began to click for me.

But it was in seminary that I began to think purposely and deeply about the historical nature and background of the Bible. Unlike other religious books, the Scriptures are built upon history in such a way that if Biblical history were not true, then the Bible itself would be invalidated (see, for example, 1 Cor. 10:1-11).

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​​​​​​​Worship Then and Now

Worshiping God is fundamental to God’s people. He wants the redeemed of all ages to honor and serve Him with reverence and joy. Unfortunately, worship is one of the most controversial subjects in churches today. Instead of worship uniting the church, “worship wars” have scarred denominations and fragmented the church. These types of disputes are nothing new. The fault lines of worship controversies have marred nearly every turning point in church history.

In this article I would like to compare the worship between Israel and the church. I hope that by drawing hermeneutical and theological distinctions between the Old and New Testaments, we might better understand the true nature of worship and God’s expectations for the church.

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There Are No Lost Tribes

Dead Sea, 2019

Paul the Apostle was from the tribe of Benjamin. In Luke 2:36a, we read about a widow named Anna who prophesied about the infant Jesus. “There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher.” The priests were from the tribe of Levi. The largest of all the tribes, however, was the tribe of Judah. We see these particular tribes mentioned in the New Testament (obviously excluding Revelation 7, where all the tribes are mentioned except Dan).

This raises a question: Were the “lost tribes” of Israel really lost? Or just depleted? The Old Testament answers this question, I believe.

Many Bible students do not realize the constant interaction between the faithful Jews from North Israel with Judah (what once would have been “Southern Israel”). Jerusalem was the capitol of Judah, and the location of Mount Zion, upon which the Temple was built. The word “Jew” is derived from the tribe, “Judah.”

Judah and Israel were a single united nation under King Saul. This unity was experienced for most of David’s reign, and all of Solomon’s reign. The united nation was known as “Israel,” for the twelve tribes had all descended from a man named “Israel” (whose former name was Jacob).

The nation split after Solomon’s death into Judah (the south, where Jerusalem was) and the north, which included the bulk of the nation. The northern divisions retained the name “Israel.”

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Ancient Near Eastern Religion and the Old Testament (Part 2)

Read Part 1.

Morality, Forgiveness, and the Afterlife

Though ancient Near Eastern religions carefully defined cultic requirements, they did not always give the same attention and emphasis to moral requirements. Both the Mesopotamians and also the Egyptians believed in the concepts of justice and truth. But tradition rather than revelation largely defined these concepts, and they were usually defined more in terms of social virtue than in terms of personal holiness.24 Indeed, the gods themselves were often guilty of gross vice and immorality.25 Consequently, people’s view of morality was distorted, and they would determine their standing with the gods primarily on the basis of cultic performance,26 divination,27 or enlightenment.28 In light of their inadequate view of the nature and necessity of holiness, their confessions of sin never rose to the level of contrition found in King David’s fifty-first psalm.29

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