The Bible doesn’t reveal how Sarah (Sarai) reached when she learned that Abram wanted her to be his wife (see Gen 11:29). We’re also not told how she handled the fact that she was barren (see 11:30), though we could probably imagine how devastating this realization was.Continue reading WOMEN OF THE BIBLE (SARAH)
Magic is typically forbidden to Israel for a number of reasons: (1) Magic is human encroachment into the divine realm. (2) Magic is used to manipulate deity. (3) Magic involves relying on a power other than Yahweh. If that is the reason, a sanctioned prophet would be able to bypass all three; his office already enters the divine realm, and the power comes from Yahweh, even though the prophet appears to have some autonomy in using it. The prophets are called to wield divine authority at some level.Continue reading PRACTICE OF MAGIC
Little is known about the Israelite view of malevolent spirits, popularly called “demons” in contemporary usage. In contemporary usage. In addition to the Hebrew word shed, translate “false gods” in Ps 106:37, the OT has a Hebrew word sair, translated in the NIV as “goat idols” (Lev 17:7: 2 Chron 11:15: see the NIV text note on Lev 17:7). Some suggest that the use of sair also refers to demons in Isa 13:21; 34:14 (NIV “wild goats). This Hebrew word refers to an actual goat in Gen 37:31 and frequently in texts prescribing a goat for sacrifice (e.g., Lev 4:23; Nu 7:16).Continue reading DEMONS IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
Joanna is mentioned by name only twice in the New Testament. Both occurrences are in the Gospel of Luke.Continue reading WOMEN OF THE BIBLE (JOANNA “GRATEFUL AND GENEROUS”)
One of Isaiah’s favorite themes was that the pagan gods of his time were powerless, while Yahweh, the supreme God of the Israelites, was all-powerful. Here the prophet portrayed two gods of the Assyrians and Babylonians as so weak and helpless that they had to be carried around by oxen and horses.Continue reading BIBLE CUSTOMS & CURIOSITIES (HELPLESS PAGAN GODS)
Characteristic and action that comes from the very nature of God. On the human level it is best described as one’s consideration of the condition and needs of his fellowman. It is an essential disposition of a covenant people, especially Israel and the church. In the OT God’sContinue reading DEFINITION OF THE DAY (MERCY PT1)
Physical or material image or form representing a reality or being considered divine and thus an object of worship. In the Bible various terms are used to refer to idols or idolatry: “image,” either graven (carved) or cast, “statue,” “abomination.” Both Testaments condemn idols, but with idols the OT expresses more concern than the NT, probably reflecting the fact that the threat of idolatry was more pronounced for the people of the OT.Continue reading DEFINITON OF THE DAY (IDOL)
When Isaac became concerned about the neighborhood Canaanite girls stealing the heart of his youngest son, Jacob, he instructed Jacob to leave home: “Marry one of the daughters of Laban, your mother’s brother” (Gen 28:2). So Jacob packed up and headed for Paddan-aram (his mom’s hometown).
It was an emotional trip-leaving his parents, striking out on his own. On the way, Jacob stopped at Luz to get some shut-eye. During the night Yahweh himself appeared to Jacob in a dream, reiterating the promises he’d given years grandfather Abraham. It was a good sign.
An Jacob neared his destination, he came to a well. Some local shepherds there were in the process of telling Jacob all about Laban when a gorgeous shepherdess-Laban’s daughter Rachel-showed up with her flock. When happened next was like a scene from a romantic comedy. Jacob jumped up, watered Rachel’s thirsty sheep, kissed his shocked cousin, and began to weep loudly. When he gathered himself, he told Rachel who he was. In a flash she was running home to tell her father the news (see Gen 29:1-12).
Jacob stuck around and started helping Laban out. When Laban became uncomfortable with all that free labor, he said to Jacob, “Tell me what your wages should be” (Gen 29:15). Jacob didn’t even have to think. “I’ll work for you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel” (29:18).
Seven years seems like a long time to us, but the “shapely and beautiful” Rachel was a catch, and Jacob was utterly smitten. Consequently the years “seemed like only a few days to him” (Gen 29:17-20).
However, on their weeding night Uncle Laban pulled a fast one. He gave Jacob his older, less attractive daughter, Leah. It sounds hard to believe, but whether due to darkness, an excess of veils, or perhaps too much wine at the reception, Jacob was none the wiser. In the bright light of morning, Jacob was justifiably ticked. He confronted Laban, calming down only when Laban agreed to give him Rachel in one week’s time if Jacob would work for him seven more years. Jacob agreed.
Marriage is complicated; throw in an extra spouse, and things start getting really messy. Rachel was beloved, but childless. Leah, despite being unloved (see Gen 29:31), had several children. After watching her big sister produce four sons, Rachel became angry and desperate. She arranged for Jacob to have children by her servant girl, Bilhah, which resulted in the birth of two sons (see Gen 30:1-7). This started unhealthy competition between the sisters. Leah responded in kind, giving her handmaid, Zilpah, to Jacob. Soon, there were two more sons in this atypical family.
It wasn’t until after Leah gave birth to two additional sons and a daughter that “God remembered Rachel. He listened to her and opened her womb. She conceived and bore a son, and said, ‘God has taken away my shame'” (Gen 30:22-23). She named the boy Joseph, which means “may the LORD add another son to me” (30:24). The name was probably both a note of praise and a prayer.
Soon after the birth of Joseph, Jacob decided to take his family back to Canaan (see Gen 31:17-20). During the long journey, Jacob had a strange midnight wrestling match with God at the Jabbok River (see Gen 32:22-32). He also had a nerve-rattling reunion with his brother, Esau (see Gen 33:1-16). Rachel became pregnant again either during the family’s sojourn in Succoth or their short stay at Shechem (see 33:17-18). It was after stopping to worship at Bethel, and then heading for Ephrath (Bethlehem), that Rachel went into severe labor (see 35:16).
Life was always so complicated for her. Her rare beauty. Her conniving father. Having to share her husband with an envious big sister. Infertility. And now this: giving birth in the middle of a trip in the middle of nowhere.
It was another boy. God had answered her prayer (see Gen 30:24). Realizing she wasn’t going to see her newborn grow up, she named him Ben-oni, “son of my sorrow.” Probably because didn’t want to think of Rachel’s death every time he called his son, Jacob changed the boy’s name to Benjamin. Then he buried the great love of his life.
There’s no nice way to say it. Rahab was a harlot-in modern parlance, a hooker. At her home atop the wall that surrounded the bustling, ancient city of Jericho, Rahab took in strange men and gave out sexual favors.
Because of her prominent role in the story of Israel, a few prim and proper types have tried to improve Rahab’s image by engaging in a bit of revisionist history. “Maybe,” they’ve suggested, “she wasn’t actually a ‘lady of the night.’ Perhaps she was only an ‘innkeeper.'” Continue reading WOMEN OF THE BIBLE (RAHAB: THE SHADY LADY)