Introduction to Jonah — part 2

When we look at the book of Jonah we see a man who refused to do the will of God out of utter contempt for his enemies (Assyrians). He appeared to struggle with the “orge” anger in Ephesians 4:31 in which his natural disposition towards the Assyrians was hatred. Orge means “to swell” and denoted an anger that was fully ripe. Properly, it is a “settled anger”. There are a few factors that I believe contributed to this. First, the Assyrians were known as the most brutal and barbaric nation during this time, and they took pride in their malevolent acts towards other peoples, including Israel. Secondly, there are biblical prophecies about the destruction of Nineveh that Jonah more than likely knew about. I believe this also to be a contributing factor to Jonah’s disobedience. With that said, let’s look at the Assyrian malevolence first.

The Assyrians had many inscriptions about their conquests and the brutality with which they treated their enemies. They took pride in their cruelty as they sought to stoke fear into the hearts of any that opposed them. Here are some examples documented in history:

“One inscription from a temple in the city of Nimrod records the fate of the leaders of the city of Suru on the Euphrates River, who rebelled from, and were reconquered by, King Ashurbanipal (884-859 BC):

  • ’I built a pillar at the city gate and I flayed all the chief men who had revolted and I covered the pillar with their skins; some I walled up inside the pillar, some I impaled upon the pillar on stakes.’ Such punishments were not uncommon. Furthermore, inscriptions recording these vicious acts of retribution were displayed throughout the empire to serve as a warning. Yet this officially sanctioned cruelty seems to have had the opposite effect: though the Assyrians and their army were respected and feared, they were most of all hated and the subjects of their empire were in an almost constant state of rebellion. (Simon Anglim, Fighting Techniques of the Ancient World, p185-186).”

 

When you see “flayed” that means that they cut the skin off the person’s entire body. They became masters of skinning people and were not shy about their wickedness. They were Satanic to the core.

One of the things I learned about the Assyrians is that their inscriptions/annals never pictured an Assyrian defeat or even a soldier wounded. To me this was one of the earliest forms of propaganda to make their enemies cower and to build up the pride of their people and soldiers. The annals always pictured their king as a victorious warrior who had the approval of the gods.

Here is an inscription from Salmaneser III (859-824 BC):

“I filled the wide plain with the corpses of his warriors…. These [rebels] I impaled on stakes.  …A pyramid (pillar) of heads I erected in front of the city.” (Daniel David Luckenbill, Ancient Records of Assyria and Babylonia , 2 vols. (Chicago Univ. of Chicago Press, 1926–1927), vol. 1, secs. 584–585.)

 

Assyria.PNG

 

Here is one from Tiglath Pileser (745-727 BC):

“Nabû-ushabshi, their king, I hung up in front of the gate of his city on a stake. His land, his wife, his sons, his daughters, his property, the treasure of his palace, I carried off. BitAmukâni I trampled down like a threshing (sledge). All of its people, (and) its goods, I took to Assyria.” (Luckenbill, p599)

 

One of the things I studied was how the Assyrians impaled people and put them on stakes. This is a bit gross, but necessary to understand the barbarism. The Assyrians were the originators of crucifixion and had a distinct method for hanging people on stakes. They usually impale their victims alive (Grayson, p124). They would strip a person naked and take a wooden pole/tree the height of a man and sand down one of the ends to where it was blunted so that there was no sharp edge. They would take the pole and stick it into the anus of the victim. If the pole did not fit, they would make an incision with a knife and cut from the anus up towards the genitalia a few inches to create a larger opening to fit the post. They would insert the post into the person and then erect them and plant them in the ground. The blunted post would begin to push up against their internal organs causing great pain as they hung. The stake would slowly make its way up through the organs damaging them severely. Blood would flow down the post from their anus and entice all types of insects to go into the person and feast on them. The post would eventually reach the lungs if the person was still alive and asphyxiate them. Any impaled person would last between 1-3 days before they died.

If this wasn’t enough for you to stomach, here is one more account from one of the most brutal king’s, Sennacherib (705-681 BC).

“I cut their throats like lambs. I cut off their precious lives (as one cuts) a string. Like the many waters of a storm, I made (the contents of) their gullets and entrails run down upon the wide earth. My prancing steeds harnessed for my riding, plunged into the streams of their blood as (into) a river. The wheels of my war chariot, which brings low the wicked and the evil, were bespattered with blood and filth. With the bodies of their warriors I filled the plain, like grass. (Their) testicles I cut off, and tore out their privates like the seeds of cucumbers.” (Luckenbill, vol.2, p254)

Their brutality is unparalleled, but could certainly be challenged by the Babylonians and Huns.

Assyrian power and brutality is consistent throughout its history until the reign of three brothers consecutively who were considered by historians as the weakest in the line of kings. There was a rebellion of 27 cities in 826 B.C. which included Nineveh under Shamshi-adad V (824-811). When he finally crushed the rebellion in 820 BC the Assyrian empire was severely weakened and was now open to more acts of rebellion from the peoples it had conquered. This was the start of a roughly 80 year decline where the bottom fell out under the reign of these three brothers:

Shalmanesar IV – 783-773 BC

Ashur-dan III – 772-755 BC

Ashur-nirari V – 755-745 BC

Jonah’s revival happened somewhere around circa 760 BC meaning that Ashur-dan III was the king during the revival. Multiple rebellions were happening under the reign of these three kings. Not only did Ashur-dan have to deal with rebellions, generals/dignitaries challenging his power, but also two plagues that swept through Assyria. One was in 765 BC and the other in 759 BC. Many times God will use adversity to humble an unbeliever so as to open their ears to the Gospel. This appears to be one of those times as he prepared their hearts for Jonah’s arrival.

What I have found truly interesting is that there isn’t any information on these three kings conquests. Of all the Assyrian kings before and after them there is plenty of recorded history of conquests, brutality, propaganda, etc… Yet, literally nothing for these three. When Jonah came to Nineveh in chapter 3 we see that all the people, the king (Ashur-dan III) and his nobles, repented of their sin as they were redeemed by God. I believe this includes Ashur-dan’s brother Ashur-nirari who would have residence in the city being part of the royal family. What is even more interesting is that when Ashur-nirari came to power, instead of practicing the Assyrian custom of going out to war every year, he abstained from the practice for his first four years of rule. This was viewed as weakness. Some historians believed that he chose not to abide by this custom because he wanted to protect his power from the Assyrian dignitaries who had grown strong in the empire. If anything, in my opinion, not obeying Assyrian custom to go to war every year would do more to jeopardize his power with the dignitaries and the people of Assyria. Little do the secular historians know (or want to acknowledge) is that a revival took place in Nineveh and it just might be that Ashur-nirari as a believer refused to go to war. There are literally no obelisks or records showing any conquests of Ashur-dan or Ashur-nirari amongst Assyrian kings. War, conquests, and brutality were a thing of pride amongst Assyrians. Just to re-state, here are four observations that I believe show that these two kings were believers.

  1. Jonah 3 tells us that the king, people, and the nobles (which most likely included Ashur-nirari) repented.
  2. These two kings strangely had no recorded military conquests which goes against the Assyrian war culture. The history of Assyrian kings recorded brutality and victories stops around these 3 brothers and then picks up after Ashur-nirari dies. This halting in hostilities in my mind shows the leaders had a change of heart because they repented of the evils they once held.
  3. Ashur-nirari violated the Assyrian custom of kings going out to war every year. He did this for at least 4 years, but through my limited study I could not find that he went out to war in any year of his reign. As I read an Assyrian Eponym list (most list name of kings/magistrates, dates, and history) I noticed that Ashur-dan III was recorded in one of them as not going to war in 757/756 or 756/755 BC.[1] Could this be fruit from a converted heart? I think it may.
  4. Ashur-nirari was murdered and the entire royal line exterminated by the usurper Tiglath-pileser. Assyria was not the ravenous war machine that it once was and Tiglath-pileser sought to remedy that. Under his reforms (for time’s sake I will not go into), he restored Assyria back to its barbaric and warmongering ways and began expanding the nation’s borders again. If you kill the shepherd the sheep will scatter. When Tigleth-pileser murdered Ashur-nirari (whom I believe to be redeemed), then the sheep scattered just as the apostles did when Christ died on the cross. To refrain from evil would be a cause for suspicion.

 

As you can see here, the revival of Nineveh was short lived. If you do the math you will see that it lasted about 16 years. Nineveh may have repented, but the rest of the Assyrian empire did not. The great act of God’s mercy and grace was short lived. The royal line was assassinated, a brutal ruler became king, while fear and forgetfulness probably set in the Ninevite hearts.

 

From a prophetic prospective there is a lot said in Scripture that relates to Assyria, especially as the tool God uses to defeat and disperse the Northern Kingdom. There are also prophecies about God’s judgment on Assyria for their wickedness. My desire is to walk through some of these prophecies and show you how some of them may have had a profound impact on Jonah.

There are five prophets that I have found that speak about Nineveh/Assyria. They are Amos, Micah, Nahum, Hosea, and Isaiah. Of these, Jonah, Amos, and Hosea were all contemporaries.

  • Jonah served Israel (Northern Kingdom) during the reign of Jeroboam II (793-753 BC).
  • Amos served Israel (Northern Kingdom) during the reign of Jeroboam II (793-753 BC).
  • Hosea served Israel (Northern Kingdom) until its eventual fall to Assyria in 722 B.C. to which he may have been one of the remnant left behind per Amos 3:12. He served from circa 755-710 B.C.

With this said, I am going to focus specifically on the prophet Amos.

“Therefore, thus says the Lord God, ‘An enemy, even one surrounding the land will pull down your strength from you and your citadels will be looted.’” Amos 3:11

The context of Amos 2:4 – Amos 3 deal with the judgment of Israel (Northern Kingdom) and Judah (Southern Kingdom). The Lord pulls no punches here as he addresses Israel and condemns them for:

  • “They sell righteousness for money and the needy for a pair of sandals.” Amos 2:6b. They had become greedy and were ruthless to the poor.
  • Greed is lust, and as such, sexual immorality stands right along side of it. “A man and his father resort to the same girl” (Amos 2:7b) meaning they are sleeping with the same woman which would indicate that they were sleeping with prostitutes. They had no regard for marriage.
  • In ancient times clothes were used as currency. We see this demonstrated at the cross where the Roman soldiers are casting lots for Christ’s garments. We see this in Judges 14 where Samson propounds a riddle to the Philistines with a wager of 30 sets of clothing. In Exodus 22:26-27, God instituted a law that if you took your neighbors garment as a pledge for a loan that you would give it back at the end of the day (sundown). Amos 2:8a says, “On garments taken as pledges they stretch out beside every altar”. Israel was not obeying this. Instead, they were keeping the garments and using them to make themselves comfortable as they reclined at feasts, further showing that the rich had no regard for the poor.
  • So bad was the extortion of the poor that Amos writes, “They drink the wine of those who have been fined.” Amos 2:8b. “Fined” (anash) carries the idea that a fine is laid on a person for some type of wrong doing. The implication is something that is punitive. The wealthy in Israel were extorting money from the poor who could not defend themselves. The poor were subject to the extortion of these fines, and the wealthy would take the fines and buy wine. You could clearly see what Israel was worshipping and it was not God.

So thoroughly and utterly evil was the Northern Kingdom that Amos 5:21-22 says:

“I hate, I reject your festivals, nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me up burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them; and I will not even look at the peace offering of your fatlings.”

The Northern Kingdom was still “religious” in that they were doing their customary offerings to the Lord. The grain offering recognized their gratitude for God’s provision and the burnt offering was an offering where the blood on an unblemished animal was killed (symbolic of Christ, the lamb of God) as atonement for their sins. Why were these disgusting in His sight? The Israelites external worship was merely outward ritual. There was no gratitude for what God had given them in the way of His provisions, nor did they have contrite hearts over their sin. They loved their sin.

As I thought about this, they were no different than antinomians in the sense that they enjoyed the mercy and grace of God because it allowed them to sin as much as they wanted. All they had to do is offer their burnt offering and their sin was cleansed, right? Wrong! They were unbelievers because their actions in how they treated their neighbor reflected an evil heart. They hated God’s precepts. I am going to be honest here for a minute with an example. If you are someone who goes to church every Sunday and serves in some capacity like the choir or with children, gives to the church regularly, helps the poor and needy, but then goes out to a bar and gets drunk, speaks crassly, and tries to find people you are attracted to so as to take them home for the night, you are no different than Israel. God hated their offerings because they were mere rituals they thought would get them into heaven. Your regular attendance in church, giving, and serving will afford you no place in heaven because the requirement is perfection. Those who have been redeemed are given Christ’s perfect righteousness so that when they stand before God they will be allowed entrance into heaven. They will grieve over their sin when they commit it and flee from it by the grace and mercy of God. The Israelites celebrated their sin and faced God’s judgment.

We now have the context for Amos 3:11 so that you understand why God was bringing the house down on Israel. The Lord had enough. His long-suffering Israel had run out. His prophets were ignored which would mean that His sovereignty was denied. Israel did not listen to His voice to repent, so now God will take His mercy to a pagan nation. The prophecy stated that God would use an enemy that surrounded the land. That enemy would be Assyria which was the most powerful nation in the world at the time. Why would God ordain the most ruthless and barbaric of nations to topple Israel? Because most of Israel was apostate. They were worthy of destruction like every man on earth running towards the gates of Hell as fast as they can unless God steps in. God preserved a remnant as He always does in Israel (See Amos 3:12), including today with those whom He has redeemed.

In Amos 6:14, God says, “’For behold, I am going to raise up a nation against you, O house of Israel,’ declares the Lord of hosts, ‘And they will afflict you from the entrance of Hamath to the brook of Arabah.’”

More from Amos:

“The Lord God has sworn by His holiness, ‘Behold, the days are coming upon you when they will take you away with meat hooks, and the last of you with fish hooks.’” Amos 4:2

This is referring to the Northern Kingdom’s destruction as it speaks to the deportation of Israel. The meat hooks and fish hooks are meant to represent the utter helplessness of the people, just as a fish that has been caught is carried away with no ability to free itself.

Jonah, being a contemporary of Amos’ in the Northern Kingdom would more than likely have known about this prophecy of Israel’s destruction, not to mention that he probably had a good idea of which nation would carry it out. Jonah knew from Scripture that Nineveh was built by the Satanically inspired Nimrod. He knew of Nimrod’s barbaric fruit that was passed down to the Assyrian rulers and people. He knew of the false gods that propagated from Nimrod when he built Babel which were the foundation of the Assyrian culture. He knew of the Assyrian brutality and the attempts by Assyria to take the Northern Kingdom. With an awareness of Israel’s impending judgment God now commands him to go to the nation that will destroy his home and call them to repent and turn to God. Keep in mind that prophets in Israel only served within the kingdom. They never went outside of Israel’s or Judah’s boundaries. This command from God was to do something that had never been done, that is, to go to another nation and call them to repent and serve God.

Lastly, there is one more piece to the puzzle that I believe is completely relevant to Jonah’s hatred, and it relates to not only going to Nineveh, but that the Lord might redeem Nineveh. I want to credit Pastor Tim Dunn who provoked my thinking on this when we discussed it on Twitter. After the city was redeemed and spared of God’s judgment Jonah had a temper tantrum in chapter 4. He says:

“Please Lord, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and one who relents concerning calamity.” Jonah 4:2b

This is an indictment on Jonah. The first implication is that Jonah appears to have pleaded with God while he was still in Israel to not send him. The second implication is that he expressed to God that he knew He was “gracious and compassionate”, “slow to anger”, “abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity.” Jonah knew that God was going to save Nineveh. This statement makes it crystal clear that there was no question in his mind that God would redeem the city. He is being commanded to preach a message of repentance to the Ninevites whom he knows will repent. This is the very nation that will destroy his country and take his people helplessly into captivity like a fish on a hook. This means that the reason for Jonah’s disobedience was so God would destroy his enemies. Can you imagine the conflict within him? “Lord, you want me to go to Nineveh so that you can redeem these heathens who have persecuted us and will eventually destroy us?”

With all of this said, can you see why it might have been hard for Jonah to love his enemies? He was commanded by God to go to a city built by a Satanically inspired man (Nimrod), whose brutality in warfare was most certainly mimicked in each generation. This pagan nation has committed countless atrocities against the surrounding nations, including Israel, and takes pride in their malevolence. This same nation will one day be used as a tool for God’s judgment against the Northern Kingdom. Yet, God in his grace has chosen to redeem the vilest of people. This wicked city of Nineveh God has predestined to salvation. Make no mistake, no one in Nineveh was seeking after God. Romans 3:10-18 makes it clear that there is no one who seeks after God and Nineveh could not be a better example.

Jonah reveals to us that God’s commands expose the state of our hearts (“Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before me.” Jonah 1:2). It is the whole of Scripture that convicts and condemns humanity in our sin. Man’s hearts are exposed with the light of Scripture, and God’s command to Jonah was no different as it showed a fierce hatred in one of His servants. Because God loves His children He will not tolerate willful sin in our lives because He is holy. He will seek to remedy us for the better when we stray just like He did Jonah. It is painful to our rebellious hearts, but when God’s work is done we will praise Him for it.

My next blog post will start the exegesis of Jonah in Chapter 1.

[1] https://www.livius.org/articles/concept/limmu/limmu-list-858-699-bce/

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Introduction to Jonah–part 1

This is the first post of a blog series in which I will exegete the entire book of Jonah. Instead of diving into the text immediately, I thought it would be wise to look at a bigger picture so that we can understand why Jonah hated the Ninevites (Assyrians).  The bible is a history book, and as a student of history I believe that it is imperative to study events of the past to find the author’s original intent. This means reading secular accounts of people and of nations that correspond to scripture to get a better understanding of what might have been happening during that time or how it influenced someone in scripture (Keep in mind that the bible is inerrant, so the accounts of other historians are only used to corroborate Scripture). In this case, Jonah had such contempt for the Assyrians that he wanted God to destroy them, so much so, that he refused to obey God and attempted to run as far away as he could. This begs the questions, “What did the Assyrians do to him/Israel?” and “Why would he rather die than carry out the will of God?” I believe that if we look at Scripture closely as well as what some of the secular historians had to say about the Assyrians that we would get a good idea as to why. This is why I am going to start at the very beginning with the man who founded Nineveh.

In Genesis 10 we see the post flood descendants of Noah’s sons. As you recall, Ham had four sons, the eldest being Cush. Cush gave birth to a son and named him Nimrod. The name Nimrod derives from the Hebrew verb, “marad”. Marad means “rebellious/revolt” which defines Nimrod as a “rebel”. In fact, the Babylonian God Marduk derives from marad. One of the derivations of marad is the feminine noun “mardut” used in 1 Samuel 20:30 (“You son of a perverse and ‘rebellious’ woman”). It is where I believe the chief Babylonian god Marduk gets its name. This would indeed implicate Nimrod as the inspiration of this false deity.

Concerning Nimrod, scripture says in Genesis 10:8-12:

“Now Cush became the father of Nimrod; he became a mighty one on the earth. He was like a mighty hunter before the Lord; therefore it is said, ‘Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the Lord.’ The beginning of his kingdom was Babel and Erech and Accad and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. From that land he went forth into Assyria, and built Nineveh and Rehoboth-Ir and Calah, and Resen between Nineveh and Calah; that is the great city.”

Nimrod is mentioned directly in one more piece of scripture:

“They will shepherd that land of Assyria with the sword, the land of Nimrod at its entrances; And He will deliver us from the Assyrian, When he attacks our land and tramples our territory.” Micah 5:6

In Micah 5:6 we are seeing a prophecy regarding Assyria sieging the kingdom of Judah and the Northern kingdom. Both nations bordered the pagan nation of Assyria and it is interesting that Micah refers to it as the land of Nimrod. This is not a coincidence. The foul kingdoms of Babylon and Assyria were created by the Satanically inspired Nimrod. The people of these nations were a reflection of the barbaric Nimrod himself. The Northern Kingdom was conquered by the Assyrians in 722 B.C., but Judah survived the Assyrian attack in 701 B.C. by God’s intervention. Judah was eventually conquered in 587 B.C. by Babylon.

Assyria and Babylon were two different kingdoms, but they were both part of the original rebel nation that Nimrod created and ruled (Babylon). Genesis 10 speaks to these facts. The beginning of his kingdom was Babel and extended east into Assyria where he built Nineveh amongst other cities. For a king to extend his territory like this would show military dominance. When scripture says that Nimrod, “became a mighty one on the earth” and “He was like a mighty hunter before the Lord”. “mighty one” in Hebrew is “gibbowr”. It means “powerful” and by implication a warrior or tyrant. When Nimrod is called a “mighty hunter” I don’t believe this word is being wielded in the literal sense, but figurative. He was a great warrior and would be deemed a hunter of men. He trapped them with his military strategies and bent them to his will. He would cut down any man or people that opposed him. He is like his father Satan known for his hatred of God and brutality towards those made in the image of God. He was a rebel in the truest sense of the word. As the founder and builder of Nineveh I believe the Assyrians mimicked Nimrod’s brutal ways as we will study further down.

Josephus writes, “Now it was Nimrod who excited them to such an affront and contempt of God. He was the grandson of Ham, the son of Noah, a bold man, and of great strength of hand. He persuaded them not to ascribe it to God as if it was through his means they were happy, but to believe that it was their own courage which procured that happiness. He also gradually changed the government into a tyranny, — seeing no other way of turning men from the fear of God, but to bring them into constant dependence upon his power.” Josephus – The Antiquities of the Jews Book 1 chapter 4, 113-114a.

This was why I believe that Nimrod was indeed a tyrant that was Satanically inspired. His sole purpose was to turn people away from God and bend their wills to his. As I write this I am reminded of the Greek term “hairesis” (A personal decisive choice – heresy). It was used by secular authors like Herodotus (The Histories, Book 4.1) contextually to mean “to take/to capture” a city. It implies an exertion or conquering of one’s will. That is what heretics/false teachers do, they seek to conquer the wills of people and turn them from God, just like Nimrod. So great was Nimrod’s contempt for God that Josephus writes:

“He also said he would be revenged on God, if He should have a mind to drown the world again; for that he would build a tower too high for the waters to be able to reach! And that he would avenge himself on God for destroying their forefathers!” Josephus Antiquities of the Jews Book 1 Chapter 4 114b

I realize that this is not scripture, rather from a secular historian who had access to historical parchments that are no longer in existence. First, Scripture does not say that Babel was built to be revenged of God for the flood, but that they wanted to create a new system of worship of the creation rather than the Creator. Logically speaking, why would Nimrod want to build a tower too high for God to drown on one of the lowest and flattest surfaces in the world? If this was his intent, why wouldn’t he start by building it on a mountain or higher area? This is interesting, and maybe Nimrod could have said it in his pride, but we have to trust what Scripture reveals as to the intent over what a secular author wrote.

Secondly, Josephus points to Nimrod as the one who led the construction of the tower of Babel even though he is not specifically named in Genesis 11. I believe that this can be considered because of what is spoken of in Scripture regarding Nimrod (Mighty warrior, tyrant, king, rebel). I believe that Scripture does in part point to Nimrod.

With that said, let’s look at the Genesis 11 account to indeed show you how much influence Nimrod had on the nations of the world.

“Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words. It came about as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. They said to one another, ‘Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly.’ And they used brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar. They said, ‘Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.’ The Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. The Lord said, ‘Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.’ So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth.” Genesis 11:1-9

So, the people of the earth gathered and moved east away from the sea and found a plain to settle in called, “Shinar” which is where Babylon was founded. People are selfish by nature, and as such, all of mankind would not just uproot and go east in unison. This could only mean that the people had a leader. They had to have a leader that unified them and then led them east into Shinar. I believe this leader to be Nimrod. In the above quote from Josephus regarding Nimrod he records, “He also gradually changed the government into a tyranny, — seeing no other way of turning men from the fear of God, but to bring them into constant dependence upon his power.”

When you put all the pieces of the puzzle together Nimrod is most likely this person who united and led the peoples of the earth to disobey God. How did they disobey? God commanded, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” in Genesis 9:1. He told them to spread out and fill the earth, but they united and disobeyed, moving to Shinar instead. In Genesis 11:4 the united peoples under Nimrod said they wanted to build a tower and a city into heaven, “otherwise we will be scattered aboard over the whole face of the earth.” This proves that they knew God’s command and they chose to do this in rebellion.

The tower of Babel was where false religion started. The tower was not being built so high as to invade heaven or to avoid another flood. Again, if it was, they would not have started building it on the lowest flattest land possible, rather they would have erected it on higher ground like a mountain. What they were building was a ziggurat. Ziggurats are different from pyramids because they are temples for worship whereas a pyramid is strictly for burial. On the top of the ziggurat was a flat or an inner sanctum where sacrifices were made to pagan gods. The belief by many commentators is that this is where astrology got its beginning. This is where the false religious system of the world started as these Babylonians under King Nimrod began worshipping the creation (Sun, moon, stars) rather than the Creator. Herodotus saw the Tower of Babel and describes it in this way:

“…and in the other the temple of Zeus Belos (Ba’al) with bronze gates, and this exists still up to my time and measures 1200 feet or 400 yards square each way, being of a square shape: and in the midst of the temple precinct is built a solid tower measuring 606 feet both in length and in breadth, and on this tower another has been erected, and another against upon this, and so on up to the number of eight towers. An ascent to these has been built running outside round about all the towers; and when one reaches about the middle of the ascent one finds a stopping place and seats to rest upon, on which those who ascend sit down and rest: and on top of the last tower is a large sanctuary, and in this cell a large couch is laid, well covered, and by it is placed a golden table.” Herodotus, The Histories, Book 1.181

If you are following the size, there are eight sections of the tower with one stacked upon the other until you get to the last section where there is a room with a golden table and a large couch. If this symbol of man’s rebellion was around during Herodotus time (484-425 B.C.) then it was still standing during Jonah’s time of service for the Lord in the early 8th century B.C.  When God said “confuse” their language in Genesis 11:7,9 the Hebrew term is “balal”, meaning “to mix/confuse” which is where Babel gets its meaning as “confusion”. This judgment is where we get the origin of languages.

I want you to think about one thing for a moment: When God dispersed the Babylonians, one would think that they would turn back to God seeing His miraculous power in action, but they didn’t. In fact, if you look throughout the Middle East, Mesopotamia, Central and South America, Africa, and China, you will see similar structures of ziggurat temples or pyramid-like structures. What I am wanting to point out is that these pagan peoples took their false religious system with them throughout the world and we see the remnants of them today in these structures.

I write all of this to show you the inspiration of Assyria and its malevolence. It was founded by a war mongering tyrant who hated God and was in fact a Satanically inspired anti-Christ. The barbarism of Assyria mimicked the murderous brutality of its father, Nimrod. I will go more into the Assyrian barbarism in part two of the introduction to Jonah as well as some biblical prophecy regarding the Assyrians.

To Judge or Not to Judge

Reposting since believer and unbeliever alike misunderstand what Christ meant about “do not judge”.

Aletheia (Truth) Blog

“The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9

“There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one.” Romans 3:10-12

“Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Genesis 6:5

I am sharing these verses to show you that the heart of man is evil to its core. Every one of our thoughts is on evil all the time because our focus is not God, but self. If we being evil can take good things and destroy them, then we can take the word of God and mutilate its meaning. My…

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Excerpt From Athanasia: The Unknown Lands

I have taken a break from blogging for almost a year to work on my two books. As many of you know I wrote a commentary on the book of Jude called, “Agonizing for the Faith”. I released it for sale on Amazon on August 3rd. Many of you know that I am writing a 6 book series that is epic didactic fantasy which is also partial biblical allegory. The first book, “Athanasia: The Great Insurrection” was released in April 2016, and the second book, “Athanasia: The Unknown Lands” will be released (Lord willing) in February 2019.

Below is chapter one of Athanasia: The Unknown Lands after 4 rounds of revisions, with one more round of revisions to go. If you have not read the first book then this will not make sense. This series is very similar to Lord of the Rings. It has deep theological truths taught through the story and characters which instruct the reader. The teaching is what makes it didactic. If you are interested, The first book, “Athanasia the Unknown Lands” is reduced in price until December 31st 2019.

I will start up my exegesis of scripture again in the summer of 2019 and will probably go through the book of Jonah.

 

What I would like to ask is for anyone that reads this chapter, would you mind giving me your honest critique and speak to any inconsistencies or gaps that you see? I would be very grateful.

 

1 – The Unknown Lands

 

As Sprasian glared at the wall the reality of this discovery began to manifest in his spirit. A smile crept up on his face and grew larger and larger as every second passed. This wall appeared to be made of stone, was 30 feet in height, and outlined the entire land as far as they could see. This barrier came almost directly up to the edge of the shore leaving hardly any room for even a rowboat to land. They all stood without speaking, looking from one horizon to another at a discovery many of them thought would never have occurred. No land other than Athanasia was ever thought to exist and just as astounding was the fact that the land was evidently inhabited.

Sprasian slid down from the crow’s nest and began embracing the crew as he realized the magnitude of this discovery. Within a few moments the whole ship was in celebration as some of the men even began to dance. Katherine searched out Sprasian and gave him a long embrace. While everyone celebrated, Spiros cast a stoic gaze at the wall, not even cracking the faintest smile. He just stared at the stone walls with his hand holding his chin, while covering part of his mouth, deep in thought. His eyes were so intensely focused on the wall that it appeared almost as if he could see through it and know what was on the other side.

Sprasian’s excitement quickly dropped as he made way to Spiros with Katherine in tow. “Spiros, why does your countenance remain unchanged after such a momentous discovery?”

Spiros looked away from the wall and turned to Sprasian. “Indeed! Sophos did not lead us astray as our faith has become sight.”

Sprasian then replied, “Then why do you look concerned?”

Spiros turned and pointed at the massive wall and said, “I thought to myself, why would anyone build a wall that outlined their entire land?”

Spiros paused and then continued, “I can only think of two reasons as to why. Either they are trying to keep another kingdom out or they are trying to keep their people in.”

Sprasian’s eyes opened wide as his adjulation began to wane. Spiros, like the other Adelphos, was gifted with great discernment. Sprasian retorted, “Which of the two do you think it is, Spiros?”

Spiros replied, “The latter.”

Spiros paused after his brief statement and then began to explain. “All the kings of Athanasia have been at war since kingdoms have been established. Yet, they never built up walls around the borders of their entire kingdom to withstand a threat from another kingdom. This wall was built to keep people in.”

Sprasian responded, “True, but is that your only apprehension?”

Spiros remarked, “Look at the walls. Do you see any sentries looking out to the ocean for enemy vessels?”

Spiros paused again and then pointed at the shore before speaking. “Look at the shore. Why would you build a 30-foot wall up to the edge of the ocean spanning over the entire mass of land? Doesn’t that seem excessive for defending against enemies? It would take an enormous amount of time, material, money and manpower to do such a feat. Walls are not welcoming, I believe that we should proceed with a heightened sense of caution.”

Sprasian nodded his head and said, “We will proceed with utmost care.”

Sprasian looked out to his men and pronounced his orders. “Men, prepare the boats with provisions as we are going ashore. Make sure to arm yourselves and to be watchful for these are unknown lands.”

While the men began preparations to make landfall Katherine approached Sprasian during the commotion and pleaded with him that she should come along.

Sprasian shook his head and said, “These lands may indeed be very dangerous, so I need to take warriors in the case that we are drawn into battle. You will be well protected here on the ship.”

Katherine countered, “We have reached unknown lands and who knows what peril awaits us on land or the sea. There is no place for us to go, we are too far away from home.”

Sprasian took a deep breath and pondered for a moment what Katherine had said. He knew that there would be no place of escape for anyone if they were somehow overtaken. He replied, “My love, these lands are untested. I have no inclination of what awaits us. I believe that trials and tribulation await me and I fear bringing you in the storm that awaits me because it will most certainly draw you in.”

Katherine responded, “Sprasian, we are to be married. Whatever storm that you go through in this life is a storm in which I will accompany you to the end. Whatever happens to you happens to me. There will be times that I will help to shoulder your burdens and times in which you will help me to shoulder mine. If you are to be refined by trials, then I want to be there with you being perfected.”

Sprasian replied, “You are right, Katherine. What happens to one happens to the other. We are to be there for each other even in the worst of times being perfected by Sophos. Being apart is not an option.”

Sprasian paused for a moment and then continued, “You have learned to wield a sword very well and who knows if we may need your skills with medicine to heal us if any of us are injured. I would want you with me so that I could defend your life. It would grieve me if something happened to you and I could not be there to protect you.”

Katherine smiled and kissed him on the cheek and ran to go and fetch her things so that she could go ashore. The kiss caught Sprasian off guard as his face began to turn a light pink, so he tried to find something to redirect his focus. He fished out of his pocket the coin they had found in the pond and began to stare at it wondering how it came to be on the remote island they had found.

Within an hour Sprasian set out to shore with Katherine, Spiros, and 47 soldiers. He left Dulas in charge of the ship as he was the one that saved Sprasian’s life when the men were ready to mutiny. Some of the men grumbled because Sprasian would not only leave them behind to go ashore, but that he had the audacity to leave a cook in charge. In the end, they obeyed Sprasian and the complaints immediately ceased.

The long boats made it to shore and found a small patch of beach amongst the rocks and walls where they could land. As everyone exited the ships, they had to make their way up the rocks beneath the wall as there was not enough room for them all to congregate. They slowly and carefully maneuvered up the rocks to the base of the wall with a trail of people in tow. There was not a lot of room to stand beneath the wall, so only Sprasian, Spiros, Katherine, and a few others got close while the rest waited patiently amongst the rocks.

“Spiros, if we are able to affix a grappling hook, would you be able to scale the wall and help us up?” asked Sprasian.

Spiros replied, “It would be my pleasure.”

One of the men took out a grappling hook with rope tied to it, began whirling it at his side, and then flung it upward. The hook eclipsed the top of the wall taking much of the rope with it. The soldier then began to pull the slack back in until he felt it wedge on something. He began to pull hard and put his full weight onto the rope, but the rope did not budge.

“Be careful,” said the soldier as he smiled and handed the rope over to Spiros.

Spiros took the rope and started up. The wall was slippery from the salt and moisture from the ocean so he had to use his upper body strength to pull himself up. As he reached the peak of the wall he could not find something to grip to pull himself over the wall. Spiros, while holding onto the rope with one hand, pulled out his sword and thrust it into the wall. He then put both of his feet on the flat of the sword while using the rope as leverage and was able to lift himself up. When he looked down on the other side of the wall he saw no ledge with which he could walk on, but rather a straight drop from the top of the wall to the ground. He studied the wall for a long distance in front of him and then behind. There was no ledge in either direction built into the wall with which anyone could walk for as far as he could see.

Upon this realization Spiros yelled down to the group gathered beneath him, “There is no ledge on the wall. We will have to rappel down.”

Spiros pondered for a moment on how he and the rest of the party could repel downward. He then realized that he could keep his sword embedded into the ocean’s side of the wall and tie a rope to its hilt. This would give a counterbalance effect that would allow people to repel down to the ground safely given the durability of his sword.

Spiros yelled down to Sprasian, “Can you send up some rope?”

Sprasian answered, “Yes!”

He then sent a soldier up with the rope that was needed. When the soldier reached the top Spiros extended his hand and pulled the man up.

The soldier gave Spiros the rope and as Spiros began tying the rope to the hilt of his sword the man commented, “What a beautiful sight.” Spiros was so busy trying to find a solution for everyone to scale the wall that he neglected to look at the landscape around him. He looked out at the ocean and saw the sun reflecting off the blue waters as the fog had lifted. He saw beautiful blue sparkles on the ocean’s surface as the light of the sun shined. So beautiful were these waters that the light from the sun made them transparent and showed the shallow bottom and all the fish swimming in these depths. He then looked inward at the land and saw beneath him a beautiful yellowish-brown pasture with rolling hills decorated with white flowers. There were some highlights of green on this yellow canvas as well as a few trees that dotted the landscape.

Spiros commented, “What beauty, what serenity!”

As Spiros continued to gaze at the landscape he saw smoke arising from a great distance away from behind the furthest hill of his sight. He pointed over to the smoke and said, “Are my eyes deceiving me or is that smoke in the distance?”

The soldier fixed his eyes on where Spiros was pointing and said, “Yes! I see it!”

Spiros said, “There must be civilization to the north of our position. Quickly, take this rope tied to my sword and rappel down the wall. Your job will be to ensure that everyone makes it down safely.”

The soldier nodded and rappelled down the rope with great ease. Spiros then called down to the others on the ocean side to start making their way up. One by one each soldier scaled the wall and repelled safely to the other side until Sprasian and Katherine were all that were left on the ocean side.

Sprasian asked, “Would my dear lady Katherine like to scale the wall on my back?”

Katherine responded, “If the wall were shorter I could do it on my own, but since you are offering, then I accept.”

Katherine climbed up on Sprasian’s back wrapping her arms and legs around his torso. Sprasian started to climb the wall and by the halfway point began to struggle. His face started turning red and his breathing became deeper. Katherine held on as Sprasian moved upward. When they were five feet from the top Sprasian’s face turned a deep red and he began to gasp for air.

Katherine asked, “Am I too heavy for you?”

Sprasian exhaled and said in a strained voice, “Not at all.” He then took a deep breath, exhaled, and then finished his sentence, “You are as light as a feather.”

Sprasian continued upward to the top as Katherine smiled. When they reached the peak, Spiros pulled Katherine up and then Sprasian.

As Sprasian was catching his breath he said, “You were right, Spiros, this is a wall meant to keep people in, not turn them away.”

Spiros replied, “I see smoke rising in the far north behind the last hill we can see. I think we should head in that direction as we will most assuredly find civilization.”

Sprasian nodded his head and gathered Katherine on his back as the two rappelled down together to the ground. Spiros followed suit as he pulled his sword out of the wall on the ocean side. He untied the rope on the hilt of his sword and tied it to the hilt of another. He inserted this standard sword into the wall where his sword had been so that they could escape if necessary. He then re-positioned the grappling hook on the ocean side as a second way of escape. Spiros then took his sword and impaled the wall twice on the ocean side, which created insertion points for two more swords. He called for two swords and two lengths of rope. Upon receiving them, he inserted the swords into the wall on the ocean side and tied the rope to each hilt. He then dropped both lengths of rope to the ground. He sheathed his sword and then jumped 30 feet down to the ground, landing on both feet as easily as if he’d jumped from a chair. Katherine had let out a short scream as he fell, but when he had safely landed they all just looked at him, wide-eyed.

Spiros just shrugged his shoulders and said, “I am an Adelphos.”

Spiros then walked over to Sprasian and Katherine and said, “Let us make way towards the smoke, but be on your guard for my senses tell me that we will not be very welcome here.”

Contending For The Faith – Chapter 1

This is a one chapter excerpt from my book, “Agonizing For The Faith: A Biblical Exposition of Jude”

 

“Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, To those who are the called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ; May mercy and peace and love be multiplied to you. Beloved, while I was making every opportunity to write to you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.” Jude 1-3

The greatest threat to the church since its formation has always been false teaching. This epistle is a polemical letter to the church in every age. It is a gift from God that is meant to protect the flock from the corruption of sin propagated by false teachers. To begin with, false teaching was not prevalent in the church until around 68-70 A.D. Satan had attempted to destroy the early church by persecution initially, but his plan backfired and instead the church grew exponentially. In light of this failure, Satan took a more clandestine approach. Our great enemy devised a plan to come in under the radar of those who lacked discernment. He came into the church through unbelievers posing as Christians and began to teach false doctrine.

History

The book of 2 Peter was written around 67-68 A.D. before Peter’s death. This is important because it helps us to date the book of Jude. Many scholars believe that Jude was written after 2 Peter, but before Jerusalem was sacked in 70 A.D. The support for this lies in several areas, most notably in Jude 17-18 where Jude makes a direct quotation from 2 Peter 3:3 in verse 18. In verse 17, Jude tells us to remember what the apostles said beforehand (primarily Peter) as he quotes 2 Peter 3:3. This shows us that Jude indeed was written after Peter for him to make this citation. Keep in mind that Jude more than likely lived in Jerusalem at this time. The letter must have been written before the Roman Emperor Titus destroyed the city in 70 A.D. or Jude would most certainly have included it in the epistle. Lastly, there is commonality between Jude 6-7 and from 2 Peter 2:4-9 about Sodom and Gomorrah and the angels who did not keep their domain. The book of 2 Peter is more prophetic about the coming apostasy, whereas Jude reveals to us the fulfillment of those wolves that have entered the church.

Author

Who is Jude? There are two possibilities as to the identity of Jude (Judas): Jude the apostle who was the son of James and Jude the half-brother of Jesus. There are many liberal commentators that espouse that “we cannot know who this Jude really was.” The fact is that we can because there really isn’t a lot of ambiguity. The people who mislead Christians with statements like this are nothing more than wolves in service of Satan himself looking to discredit Scripture any way they can. With this said, We can immediately rule out the apostle Jude, son of James simply by looking at verse 1 which says, “Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James.” The apostle Jude was the son of James (See Luke 6:16 and Acts 1:13). This would give credence to the fact that the author was indeed Judas the half-brother of Jesus.

James was the leader of the Jerusalem church, the writer of the epistle of James, and the half-brother of Jesus. Mark 6:3 reveals, “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?” John 7:5 shows us that none of his brothers believed He was the Christ. “For not even His brothers were believing in Him.” Then in Acts 1:14 after Jesus death the faithful all gathered in the upper room. “These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.” So at some point between John 7:5 and Acts 1:14 Jesus’ brother Judas, using his own words became a “bond servant of Christ.” This was certainly not the infamous Judas Iscariot, nor Judas son of James. Jude was Christ’s half-brother.

There is one more point to look at in regards to Jude’s salvation. The Greek word for bond servant is “doulos” (δοῦλος). It derives from “deo” which means “to bind”. Originally, it was the lowest form of servitude, but also came to mean, “One who gives themselves up to the will of another.” Jude was no longer a slave to sin, but a slave to Christ, and as such, has given his will up for that of Christ’s. Jude’s identity no longer lies in this world because He has a new Master, one who is not cruel and whose yoke is light.

“To those who are the called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ: May mercy and peace and love be multiplied to you.” Jude 1b-2

“Those who are called” is “kletos” (κλητός) and means “invited”. Its root word is “kaleo” which means “to call” or “to summon”. Kletos is used in Scripture for God appointing someone to an office (i.e. apostle – Romans 1:1), a general call to salvation (Matthew 20:16), or to identify His elect (Jude 1:1). In the context, Jude is referring to those who have been elected to salvation. They are true believers in Christ. This shows us God’s irresistible grace which calls His elect to salvation. This is not the general call to salvation. Believers have been appointed to salvation by God’s grace and sovereignty, not by works lest any man should boast. This salvation cannot be taken away from the believer. “To those who are called beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ.” Notice that the believer is not only appointed by God the Father, but “kept” by God the Father for Christ. “Kept” is “tereo” (τηρέω), which derives from “teros”, meaning “a guard”. In context it means “to preserve” or “to attend to carefully”. A pastor friend provoked my thinking in regards to “kept” when he wrote, Jude also says that we are preserved, “kept safe” in Jesus Christ. Just as Noah and his family were kept safe and secure in the Ark, which was a foreshadowing or type of Jesus…”[1] The ark was a representation of refuge in God through Christ. It is Christ who protects the believer from the wrath of God just as the ark protected Noah and his family from God’s judgment on the world. Just as God preserved Noah, so too will He preserve all of those who are called to salvation (See John 10:29).

Mercy, peace, and love was a distinctly Christian greeting. “Mercy” (Eleos – ἔλεος) means “kindness to those that are afflicted”. Jude is asking God to multiply His mercy to the elect that read this letter. He knows that they are afflicted by sin and in need of constant mercy before an all holy God. Praise God that He indeed multiplies His mercies daily for us!

“Peace” (Eirene – εἰρήνη) means “wholeness”. It implies having been at war and then being reconciled. It is the reconciliation that we have to God through Christ that gives believers peace with our Creator. We are no longer at war with Christ. If we are at peace with our Maker, we can be at peace during the seemingly constant storms of our lives that seek to unsettle and sink us. He asks that God multiply His peace to them, which gives the believer assurance of their salvation.

Lastly, “love” (agape – ἀγάπη) derives from “agapao”. This word denotes being full of goodwill. It is the unconditional love out of the four Greek loves. It is showing benevolence and charity to someone who is in need, and might I add, someone who could never pay you back for the good you bestow to them. This is precisely the love that was demonstrated when Christ became a scapegoat on our behalf and bore the wrath of God for our sins. Christ saw our need and paid our ransom to any who believe on Him and repent of their sins. We could never pay Him back for this act of self-sacrificing love.

“Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.” Jude 3

What you must understand is that certain heresies began to creep into the church. When Jude started the letter with “beloved” he is wanting to convey his love for them, and inasmuch having this love for them, he must convey a very hard message where his words will not be so gentle. In other words, he does not want believers to take offense to what he is about to unveil. Jude’s original intent was to write about the salvation they share in Christ, however, something happened. The Greek words behind “while I was making every effort” make it hard to know for sure whether Jude had a strong desire to write about their “common salvation”, or was possibly in the act of writing about their “common salvation” when the Holy Spirit prompted him to change directions. Jude was in the act of trying to write the letter about salvation, but the Holy Spirit interrupted and prodded him to a more urgent matter. Have you ever been in the midst of doing something when the Holy Spirit stopped you? I remember many years ago I was on the faculty for a national leadership school up in Chicago for SAE (Sigma Alpha Epsilon). We were teaching undergrads from colleges around the country about leadership. I remember specifically that I saw an undergrad (out of several hundred) at the beginning of the week and had a strong desire to talk to him, but I wasn’t sure why. I didn’t know him, but then I had a sense of regret in my heart for not going up to talk to him that first night. In fact, I didn’t see him the rest of the week and felt a strong desire that I needed to talk to him. I kept looking for him at all the meetings and gatherings, but could not seem to find this young man. Then on the last night I went out with some faculty to a sports bar. I ended up seeing this undergrad sitting at the bar with his friend. Like Jude stated, “I felt the necessity to write”, I felt the necessity to speak to this man for whatever reason. He had people with him on both sides of the bar, so I prayed to God that if it was His will for me to speak to this man that he would open up a seat beside him. Literally, the moment that I finished praying, the man to his left stood up and walked away. I left the other faculty members at our table and just pulled up a seat beside him and sat there. I wasn’t sure what to do from there because his back was turned, so I prayed that God would start the introduction. This young man turned around the second I finished my prayer and asked me from out of nowhere, “Would you ever commit suicide?” I was completely caught off guard. I replied, “No”. He then replied, “I would if my girlfriend broke up with me.” That was when I shared with him the hope believers have in Christ. I shared the Gospel with him and spent the night talking to him. I had intended to hang out with the faculty that night, but the Holy Spirit called an audible. He did not come to know Christ as his Savior that night, but seeds were planted. I found out the next year that he had been through some storms. His girlfriend had broken up with him, but he didn’t take his life. Are you ever so busy or in such a hurry that you cannot sense the Holy Spirit prodding you to minister to someone in need? Or perhaps scrap a lesson you were going to teach? I think there are far more opportunities each day where the Spirit prods us, but we ignore the still small voice inside us.

“I felt the necessity to write to you”. I want to elaborate on the word “necessity” so that you understand what Jude is saying, and the burden I felt in Chicago to talk to that young man. “Necessity” is “anagke” (ἀνάγκη). The preposition “ana” means “upward” and denotes a movement from lower to higher, while the other part of the word “agkali” derives from “agkos” and denotes the curving of the inner angle of the arm, or “a bent arm”. Properly, it means “an arm bent to receive a burden”. These two words together imply a serious compression or stress. It is a burdensome situation that necessitates immediate action. This was no small burden Jude was carrying. God had clearly put something so heavy on Jude that he could do nothing else until he wrote this letter addressing these false teachers. God does not speak to us in an audible voice, but he does take a prod and poke our spirits to make us go in the right direction so as to accomplish His will. In fact, in Psalm 119, “teach me” is a common saying by David. The Hebrew word “lamad” (לָמַד – teach, Psalm 119:12) actually means “to strike with a sharp rod”. It is used in context to an ox-goad which is a sharp stick that is used to prod oxen or cattle to go into the direction the farmer desired. This is exactly how God teaches us, directs us, and grows our faith because we are a stubborn people. Can you now see the pressure that God had truly put on Jude?

Jude exhorts the brethren to “contend earnestly for the faith.” Contend is “epagonizomai” (ἐπαγωνίζομαι). This is where we get our English word, “agonize”. “Epi” (focused on) is a preposition that intensifies the meaning of the word, and “agon” meaning “a contest”. This word is used in athletic competitions where athletes contend against others to win the game. It was also used in a figurative sense of soldiers in combat against an enemy. When your life is on the line and you are fighting vigorously against an enemy combatant, you will pour every ounce of your strength and wisdom into overcoming your foe. If you don’t, you will die. I believe this is the exact thought that Jude is conveying figuratively. It is a battle against enemies. I could imagine Jude saying to the church today, “Stand up against this enemy that has infiltrated Christ’s church and throw them out!” Epagonizomai is in the present tense denoting that believers should be constantly engaged and ready to fight those that malign the word of God. Jude is showing us that there are two options: Fight or retreat. The believer is commanded to fight, though I will say that the fighting is done with the sword of the Spirit in grace and truth, not in malice or hatred. The believer’s fighting must be different from the unbeliever, who will be angry, malicious, and seek to hurt you. If we are not gracious in our rebukes and reproofs then we will look no different from the world. Beloved, if you do not contend for the truth of God then error will abound and a Christianity that is not Christian will prevail.

[1] Quote from Pastor Stephen Bowen

 

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Israel Was Not Enslaved in Egypt for 400 Years

I am breaking my hiatus from blogging temporarily! This blog was inspired from some realizations that I made as I was working on my book, “Agonizing for the Faith”, an exegesis of Jude. I was doing some studying regarding Jude 1:7 where Jude gives us an example of the apostasy of the past. I had read from John MacArthur that Sodom was destroyed approximately 450 years after the flood. This would have meant that Shem was still living at the time of Sodom and Gomorrah’s judgment. He was 98 when the flood subsided and died at 600 years old. If Dr. MacArthur is correct, Shem would have been alive 50 years after the destruction of these cities. This would reveal in some ways that Sodom and Gormorrah are without excuse for their apostasy, especially through Lot, knowing about the flood judgment and ignoring it.

With all of this said, I began to count backwards chronologically from Christ’s birth using scripture as my guide. I was at 1445 B.C. (the exodus) when I was looking at the Abrahamic covenant. Everything was on target until I found some numbers that didn’t reconcile from two different verses:

“God said to Abram, ‘Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed 400 years.” Genesis 15:13

“Now the time that the sons of Israel lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years. And at the end of 430 years, to the very day, all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt.” Exodus 12:40-41

Even the New Testament had a verse corroborating the 400 years through Stephen’s address to the Pharisees. “God spoke to this effect, that His descendants would be aliens in a foreign land, and that they would be enslaved and mistreated for 400 years.” Acts 7:6

How can you reconcile these two different numbers? For so long people have taught from scripture that Israel was enslaved for 400 years. In Genesis 12:4 we find out that Abraham is 75 years of age when God makes the covenant with him. In Exodus 12:41 it specifically says, “And at the end of 430 years, to the very day”. This means that from the very day that the covenant was made with Abraham to the very day that the Israelites were freed from Egypt was 430 years exactly. Our God is a God of details. So, if our God is a God of details then why do we have the 30 year discrepancy between Genesis 15:13 and Exodus 12:40-41?

I knew that there was no way that Abraham dwelled in Egypt at the time the covenant was made. I also knew that Isaac did not. I knew that for most of Jacob’s life he did not. Remember Jacob settling in the land of Shechem (in Canaan) in Genesis 33:18 after he parted ways with Esau? This did not sit well with my spirit, nor did the 30 year discrepancy. I started with what I thought would be the easiest discrepancy to reconcile; The 30 year difference.

As I read commentaries about this discrepancy the overwhelming majority of commentators stated that the author (Moses) was rounding down to the nearest hundredth. I didn’t buy that explanation because God is a God of details, not ambiguity, so there had to be an answer. There are a few examples in scripture of rounding, but they were used in regards to estimating the number of men (Acts 5:36, 1 Samuel 22:2, 1 Kings 22:6). As far as I know I did not see a biblical precedent for rounding to the nearest hundred in terms of years (I could be wrong). The rounding suggestion did not sit well with my spirit, so I continued my studies. That was when I came across a British Theologian by the name of Henry Ainsworth from the early 1600’s. He said regarding Genesis 15:13 in terms of the 400 years of oppression, “Which began when Ishmael, Son of Hagar the Egyptian, mocked and persecuted Isaac.”  So he believes that the 400 years started when Ishmael mocked Isaac. Remember, it was 400 years of persecution, not 430. Genesis 15:13 specifically says that Abraham’s descendants will be “strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed.” This means that Abraham would not suffer this enslavement or oppression, but his offspring would.

Let’s take a look at Genesis 21:8-11 where the persecution of Isaac is recorded.

“The child (Isaac) grew and was weened, and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. Now Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, mocking. Then she said to Abraham, “Drive out this maid and her son, for the son of this maid shall not be an heir with my son Isaac. The matter distressed Abraham greatly because of his son.”

The word “mocking” in the Hebrew means “to laugh,” but is not a light-hearted type of laughing. It denotes “to make sport of” someone. It is a rather harsh and cruel type of mocking meant to deride its object. It upset Sarah so much that she wanted Hagar and Ishmael out of their lives with no inheritance because Ishmael was not the heir. This was when the persecution started, and they were in Canaan, not Egypt. Is it any wonder that in Genesis 26:18-22 we see that after Isaac dug wells on two occasions he quarreled with herdsmen who claimed that the water was theirs, and they took them from him. Then upon digging a third well there was no more fighting from the herdsman in the land. Isaac did all the work and these herdsmen took the first two wells from him.

Now, Galatians 4:28-29 backs up Henry Ainsworth’s interpretation. In fact, it was these verses that he cited for his support. “And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise. But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also.”

The believer is like Isaac who was a child of the promise. The “he who was born according to the flesh” is Ishmael and represents those without inheritance into God’s Kingdom. Paul tells us that it is he (Ishmael) who was born of the flesh that persecuted he (Isaac) that was born of the Spirit. Paul is showing us that Ishmael indeed persecuted his brother Isaac and this strongly supports that the persecution started in Canaan before any of Abraham’s children reached Egypt.

In regards to weening (citing from the below video). The Jewish Agency for Israel  stated that in Talmudic times children were weened between 18 months and 5 years old. A Rabbi named Joshua stated that a child should be allowed to nurse until the age of 5 back then. If all of this is true, then Abraham was 75 when the covenant was made and 25 years passed until Isaac was born. Isaac was then weened at 5 years old and the persecution began for Abraham’s offspring, starting with Ishmael’s persecution of Isaac. This accounts for the 30 years + 400 of oppression and slavery.

Lastly, it is time to look at why the Bible says in Exodus 12:40 “Now the time that the sons of Israel lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years.” Here is the Septuagint (LXX) translation of this exact same verse:

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Αἰγύπτῳ means Egypt, and Χανααν is Canaan. So, why is Canaan not in our bibles? It is not in the KJV, ESV, NASB, NKJV, NIV, or any other translation of the bible. The answer is actually very simple. The Hebrew translation that all of these bibles are translated from derive from the Hebrew Masoretic Leningrad Codex which was transcribed in 1008 A.D. The Septuagint (the Greek translation of the ancient Hebrew text) was translated in 250 B.C. which is over 1200 years before the Masoretic translation. The Septuagint was translated from an older Hebrew text that is no longer in existence. The Septuagint is one piece of evidence against the Masoretic translation. The Hebrew Masoretic indeed appears to have a scribal error when it was copied. (Citing from Video, though I looked at the Greek translation of this verse while they looked at the English).

A second piece of evidence against the Masoretic translation of Exodus 12:40 is the Samaritan Pentateuch “Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, and of their fathers in the land of Canaan and in the land of Egypt, was 430 years.” It was written around 100 B.C. and had access to this older Hebrew text that is no longer in existence. This too supports that Canaan was left off because of a scribal error. (Citing from video and verified)

A third piece of evidence against this translation is the historian Flavius Josephus. So I opened my book of all his writings to see what he had to say. He had access to these older manuscripts as he wrote history in the first century A.D. He says, “They left Egypt in the month of Xanthicus, on the fifteenth day of the lunar month; four hundred and thirty years after our father Abraham came into Canaan, but 215 years only after Jacob removed into Egypt.” Antiquities of the Jews, book 2.15.2 (cited from video, but verified in my copy of Josephus).

Josephus corroborates that the Israelites were in Canaan first and then Egypt second during this 430 year period. He even elaborates more by saying that when Jacob moved down to Egypt with all of their relatives (66, but a total of 70 counting Jacob, Joseph, Manasseh and Ephraim) that this ended 215 years living in Canaan and would begin a 215 year period living in Egypt. So the Israelites were not enslaved for 400 years as many pastors and movies might tell you. Now we have three sources, which are proving that a scribal error was made in the transcription of the Hebrew Masoretic Codex.

Fourthly, the apostle Paul had access to these older Hebrew texts, especially as a Pharisee. We know that he was a mix of Jew and Greek, and that he was a Roman citizen. Paul referred to himself as a Hebrew of Hebrews. In Acts 26:14 during his conversion on the road to Damascus, Christ spoke to him in Hebrew:

“I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me.”

Paul clearly knows Hebrew. As such, he studied these old texts and references them in his letter to the Galatians. “Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed.” Galatians 3:16a. Then in verse 17 he says, “What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise.” Paul is saying the Law came 430 years after the covenant was made, showing us that the Mosaic Law came right after they were freed from Egypt as he obviously referred back to Exodus 12:40. Note, He did not say 400 years of slavery in Egypt. (Cited from video)

I hope this clarifies some things for you. Exodus 12:40 has an obvious scribal error from its transcription in 1008 A.D. and as such makes this verse a contradiction because almost all bible translations do not include Canaan.

I found this resource that helped me to pull many of the missing pieces together and solidify it. I have included some of the information I learned into this blog post (See citations). It is a brilliant 12 minute video that perfectly articulates not only this, but even down to how many actual years the Israelites were in bondage (No less than 80 years, but no more than 144 years). It goes into several other things that are very relevant which I don’t mention here. It is biblical scholarship at its very best. Please watch it! It will help you to defend against attacks that claim the bible is full of error. That is why I felt it so necessary to write about this because liberal theologians and unbelievers only seek to disprove God’s word. Hopefully, this will strengthen your faith and prove the inerrancy of God’s word.

 

Soli Deo Gloria!

 

Beware of Christian Pragmatism

This is not a typical blog post where I exegete scripture. This was a thread I wrote on Twitter today (2/21/18) about the dangers of Christian pragmatism and transcribed upon request. Keep in mind this is a transcript from my Twitter thread so it will be lacking in eloquence 🙂

 

Christian pragmatism is judging the right or wrong of any decision based on the results. If there are good results then that has to be the right way, or if the results are bad it must be the wrong way. This is the Christian Pragmatist line of thinking.

It is the reason why many churches have made changes to attract the unbeliever. It is what has brought about the Seeker movement, but unbelievers aren’t seeking God. “There is no one who seeks for God.” Romans 3:11b Pragmatism says, “We want more people to be saved from Hell.” So, they make a series of decisions that will bring people to the church instead of going out to the unbeliever. They will have large free events for the community, move from a choir to a band that sings hip Christian songs on the radio, the pastor will wear jeans & a shirt, the pastor will stop teaching doctrine, moving from an exegetical position to an eisegetical one. Hell will no longer be preached, but the love of Jesus will be heralded without the consequences for unbelief. Salvation becomes a decision you make, churches get a food court, Jesus is reduced to a self help guru who wants you to do your will, in fact your will is His will. The children’s ministry will become more like a daycare, rather than a place for instruction. The church becomes a place for constant entertainment, church planting is done based on demographics and surveys done in communities to see what type of church the community wants, missions trips will attract few and the sole purpose will be to meet the earthly needs of people, not the spiritual need of salvation in Christ, kids will only play games in youth groups rather than study the word, liberty will become license to do what ever one wants, righteousness will wane as eventually sin will not be taught. I am only scraping the tip of the iceberg with Christian pragmatism, and it is wrong.

Christian pragmatism is an assimilation to the world to carry out the great commission. It comes at sacrificing God’s truth. It believes that large numbers are good when in reality those large numbers of unbelievers aren’t changing, rather it is the true believers that degrade. If there is one thing Satan has done almost from the beginning, it is to infiltrate the church. When he overruns a church with unbelievers coming for a feel good message and entertainment who do you think begins to fill the leadership roles in the church? Unbelievers.

I have seen a God fearing woman lose her job & move in with her boyfriend because she could not afford to pay rent. That is Christian pragmatism. It is based on the end results of what you deem is good, not what God deems is good. Pragmatism is destructive to the church. Stop it!