Finding Sodom and Gomorrah

Henry Ossawa Tanner: Destruction of Sodom and ...

Henry Ossawa Tanner: Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (1929) (Photo credit: freeparking :-|)

We read the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19, when God rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven.” In verses 20-22, Lot requested to go to Zoar, calling it “a little one.” In fact, the city’s name was derived from that Hebrew word meaning “small.” The five cities that are referred to as the “cities of the plain” are Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboim, and Bela (Bela being another name for Zoar). It has long been thought that these cities were located in the plain south of the Dead Sea.

This region contains  underground deposits of bitumen. Bitumen is a petroleum-based material that is highly concentrated with sulfur. The area was studied by geologist Frederick G. Clapp, who came there in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s. His findings led him to the theory that tremendous pressure from an earthquake could have forced bitumen out of the ground through a fault line that has been found to exist there. Any sort of spark, surface fire, or lightning could then have ignited the gas-filled mixture, which would then fall to the earth in burning masses that would indeed cause much destruction.

A clay tablet found at Ebla, Syria

A clay tablet found at Ebla, Syria (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1975, cuneiform clay tablets were found in Syria at Tell Mardikh (formerly ancient Ebla), one of which was a geographical atlas. In addition to confirming the location, at least two of the cities of the plain are mentioned by name in that atlas – Sodom and Admah.  In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, excavations in the area of the Dead Sea revealed much more.

Though secular cynics are naturally not in full agreement with the analysis, archaeologist Dr. Bryant G. Wood and his party located city gates, and a cemetery-like building with structures that had all been burned and destroyed. They found crushed graves, towers, a temple, the water supply, and thick city walls. Dr. Wood identified the remains as Sodom and Gomorrah. Geologist Dr. Steve Austin studied the geological evidence, including the fault zone, the burn layer, and the bitumen evidence, confirming Dr. Wood’s findings. Today, the names of the locations of the two main cities of the Bible are Bab edh-Dhra, which is believed to be Sodom, and Numeira, which is believed to be Gomorrah.

For a much better account of these findings, please see these two articles at “Associates For Biblical Research”: “Sodom and Gomorrah: Is There Evidence for Their Destruction?” and “The Discovery of the Sin Cities of Sodom and Gomorrah“.

(This year’s reading plan for Luke, Acts, and 1 and 2 Chronicles averages just 15 verses per day – 5 days per week!)
Schedule for this week

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.

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Prayers of Thanksgiving

Group of Christians praying in the cave at Yeo...

Group of Christians praying in the cave at Yeoju Pyungkang Jeil Conference Center near Yeoju, Gyeonggi-do, South Korea. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Earlier his year, we began a series to help us develop our praying habits, with an emphasis on the ACTS method of prayer in this post. There is no requirement for any set formula for prayer, but the method referred to by the acronym can be useful. The elements of prayer represented by the ACTS method are adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication.

Let’s take a moment to focus on the aspect of thanksgiving. Giving thanks to God for the things in our lives that we are blessed with is a very important part of prayer. We all should, of course, thank God for our food at meal time. And we often remember to thank Him for many other things. One way to “step up” the thanksgiving portion of our payers is by examining ourselves and our lives with respect not only to all that we have, but also by considering those who do not have many of the things that we are blessed with in our lives.

As with all prayer, a healthy reading of God’s word on a regular basis will sharpen our perspective by virtue of the personal growth that His wisdom imparts. But more powerful than anything else is a prayer that comes from within the heart. No matter what is going on in our lives, when we take the time to truly contemplate how blessed we are by God’s grace, it is impossible not to be grateful. Based on that assurance, I offer this simple prayer:

Our Holy Father in heaven
Creator of all that is and ever has been
I thank you for the love and sacrifice
of your son and our Savior, Jesus Christ
the author and perfecter of our faith,
And that because of that sacrifice,
we can come to you in prayer and bring our petitions.
I thank you, Father, for the life you have given me
and for the world that you spoke into existence
which holds so many great blessings for me.
Somewhere else, though another is hungry
yet because of your mercy, I am fed.
Though somewhere else, someone has no home
yet I am blessed with a warm and safe shelter daily.
And still you bless me further with good health
and with many dear friends and loved ones
and with brothers and sisters who care about me.
For these and for many other blessings, I thank you with all my heart
In Jesus name, Amen.

(This year’s reading plan for Luke, Acts, and 1 and 2 Chronicles averages just 15 verses per day – 5 days per week!)
Schedule for this week

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.

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Digging Up the Past – The House of David

We’ve written recently of some glaring examples of the secular world being so desperate to prove the Bible wrong that non-believing scholars often stick their feet in their mouths about the Bible’s historical accuracy. This post about the Hittites, and this one about the “camel fallacy” demonstrate this quite well. The March/April 2014 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review proclaimed that “Archaeology Confirms 50 Real People in the Bible.” This is fascinating reading, and it is especially satisfying that before the evidences were found, several of these real people were claimed by skeptics to have been merely mythological.

One such person was King David himself. Now don’t get us wrong. The evidence for a Davidic empire is not so overwhelming that all skeptics concede the point (it is the opinion of this blogger that some of those could not ever be given enough evidence to do so). But if this evidence was related to a historical king that was not written about in the bible, we would wager that there would be no doubters. The issue is presupposition – pure and simple.

The Tel Dan Stele resides in the Israel Museum

The Tel Dan Stele resides in the Israel Museum

Israeli archaeologist Avraham Biran began digging at Tel Dan in Israel in 1966. From 1993 – 1994, after nearly 30 years of excavations, his expedition uncovered a basalt (an igneous rock) stone with an inscription in Aramaic.  It has been dated to about the mid-800’s B.C. The inscription described military victories by an Aramaean king (almost certainly Hazael of Damascus). In the inscription, the king bragged about killing the king of Israel (Joram) and the king of Judah (Ahaziah) in one of his campaigns. Later, once the occupying forces were finally defeated at Dan, they broke the stone up and used the pieces in construction of their city gate; and this is how the expedition found it in the dig.

In 2 Kings 9, it was actually Jehu that assassinated these two kings. But the text does detail Hazael’s extensive fighting against both kings (2 Kings 9:14-16). It is not surprising that Hazael would erect this inscribed stone in Dan, which he occupied, taking credit for these assassinations in order to show his “bright feathers” for all men there to see. Though Jehu did the assassinations, Hazael was nonetheless responsible for the demise of their reigns in every other respect. More than one biblical passage make that clear, including 2 Chronicles 22:1-9, and 2 Kins 8:7-15, and 28. And in 1 Kings 19:15-17, God told Elisha:

“Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. And when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria. And Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place. And the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha put to death.”

Mesha Stele: stele of Mesha, king of Moab, rec...

Mesha Stele: stele of Mesha, king of Moab, recording his victories against the Kingdom of Israel. Basalt, ca. 800 BC. From Dhiban, now in Jordan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A huge significance of the find in this dig is that the inscription refers to the kingdom of Judah as the “House of David.” It is the earliest known reference to it outside the Bible. A few naysayers, of course, say that all it proves is that there was a tribe of Israel and that they had a leader named David at one time. But they come off like whiny children who just cannot stand not getting their way. It is highly unlikely that this Aramaean king would be so proud as to erect this monument to boast about defeating relatives of a small tribal sheep-herder.

But there is more. The Moabite Stone or “Mesha Stele,” first discovered in 1868 contains the words “House of David” in the Moabite language, meaning that he was the beginning ruler of the dynasty. It is a ninth century B.C. inscription that the Moabite king Mesha had erected as bragging rights for his victory over the king of Israel and his accompanying armies. Though his boasting differs greatly from what the Bible tells us in 2 Kings 3, it is nonetheless important for several reasons beyond the confirmation it gives us from the “house of David” reference.

The Stele (now housed in the Louvre in France) also confirms by name two other kings written about by scripture (Mesha himself, and King Omri of Israel), the tribute extracted from the Moabites by Israel, and the tribe of Gad. It is also the oldest secular evidence we have of the Tetragrammaton YHWH (Yahweh) as the name that God revealed to Moses in Exodus 3:14. But it also was the best confirmation at the time of the existence of Moab itself – yet another factual place that skeptics had long doubted.

(This year’s reading plan for Luke, Acts, and 1 and 2 Chronicles averages just 15 verses per day – 5 days per week!)
Schedule for this week

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.

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King David’s Favor With God (1 Chronicles 17-18)

English: Nathan advises King David

English: Nathan advises King David (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It was important for the chronicler to communicate well the events of I Chronicles 17 to the post-exilic Jews because it contains the covenant of God with David. Covered first in 2 Samuel 7, it begins with David wanting to build God a house. But God tells Nathan the prophet to let David know that it would not be him that builds such a house. Instead, God promises that He would build David’s “house” – that David’s offspring (Jesus) would reign forever.

In answer to God’s covenant, David makes a prayer to God (verses 16-27). It is one of the longest prayers in the bible, and incredibly humble and heartfelt. It begins with “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far?” They are words that each of us should ask God in prayer as well. The blessings that He has given us and the promises He has made to us are no less magnificent and undeserved that those made to David.

Hama

Hama (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chapter 18 contains some stunning military victories, some of which were reported in 2 Samuel 8. Here, David defeats the Philistines, and also takes Gath. The Moabites are defeated and become servants to David. He also “defeated Hadadezer king of Zobah-Hamath, as he went to set up his monument at the river Euphrates.” The plunder he took from the cities of Hadadezer included 1,000 chariots, 7,000 horsemen, and 20,000 foot soldiers, and shields made of gold.

In addition, verse 9 tells us that Tou king of Hamath was so pleased when he heard of the defeat of Hadadezer that he sent his son with gifts of gold, silver and bronze that Solomon would later use in building the pillars and the sea, and the bronze vessels for the temple.  Hamath is associated with modern Hama, which is located on the Orontes River in western Syria. There is an article with a picture there of a noria (a machine for lifting water into an aqueduct) at this link to Ferrell’s Travel Blog. We also recommend this article at BiblePlaces.com and this one at BiblicalArcheology.org for information on discoveries related to Tou (also called Toi and possibly Taita).

The victories continue against the Syrians and 18,000 Edomites in the Valley of Salt. And the text says that God gave victory to him wherever he went. Verses 14-17 detail how just and fair David was as a ruler, and how stable and well-organized his administration was. Joab was established as military commander, and “Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud was recorder; and Zadok the son of Ahitub and Ahimelech the son of Abiathar were priests; and Shavsha was secretary; and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over the Cherethites and the Pelethites; and David’s sons were the chief officials in the service of the king.”

(This year’s reading plan for Luke, Acts, and 1 and 2 Chronicles averages just 15 verses per day – 5 days per week!)
Schedule for this week
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from Luke here
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from 1 Chronicles here

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  

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It’s the Camel Fallacy (Again!)

If one has studied apologetics for a considerable length of time, the recent news stories about the camel bones proving the Bible wrong might very well lead one to react by saying “again? seriously?” The whole thing has been answered quite thoroughly many times already. And not so surprising is the glaring fact that only when disputing the Bible would a conclusion based upon a logical fallacy be so widely reported in the media.

Camel_220214In case you haven’t seen any of the stories, here is a brief summary. The Bible first begins to mention camels as domesticated (in the sense of someone possessing them, rather than simply being in the wild) in Genesis 12:16. Abram and Sarai have come to Egypt, and it is Pharoah that has them, among his other livestock. But we find Abraham himself, Isaac, and Jacob all in possession of the humped animal as well; and the time period is generally accepted as being from 2000 – 1500 BCE.

The source of the dispute is the fact that researchers from Tel Aviv University have studied the bones of camels found at the site of ancient copper mines near the Dead Sea. Through radiocarbon dating, they have determined that the camels were used in those operations around the end of the 10th century BCE. In fairness to these learned researchers, it should be pointed out that (despite what the news stories say) these researchers only wrote one thing in their report that is related to the “patriarchal narrative” (that would be the word of God, folks):

“This together with the depiction of camels in the Patriarchal narrative, has generated extensive discussion regarding the date of the earliest domestic camel in the southern Levant.”

This seal shows a divine couple sitting on the two humps of a Bactrian camel, one of the earliest images of this animal. Above them hovers a winged rosette, which is a protective emblem. A smaller figure holding a bow stands on the head and neck of the camel. A winged female deity, stands off to the side, facing a contest between a man and a beast. The surrounding space is filled with a variety of animals, including a lion, scorpion, bull, and gazelle. 1800-1650 BC (Syria II-III)

This seal shows a divine couple sitting on the two humps of a Bactrian camel, one of the earliest images of this animal. Above them hovers a winged rosette, which is a protective emblem. A smaller figure holding a bow stands on the head and neck of the camel. A winged female deity, stands off to the side, facing a contest between a man and a beast. The surrounding space is filled with a variety of animals, including a lion, scorpion, bull, and gazelle. 1800-1650 BC (Syria II-III)

That’s it. All of the other titles in articles (some we list below) contain things that these researchers did not say. Okay, so now that we have covered that, what is the big deal? Well, since no bones of camels have been found in Israel at sites known to be older than that date, that has led others to the conclusion that there were no domesticated camels in Israel prior to the 10th century BCE. This would mean that the writers of the Old Testament books had to have just inserted camels into the narrative mistakenly because they didn’t exist there at the time they were writing about.

The headlines of the fore-mentioned news stories range from simply misleading and erroneous to downright irresponsible, outlandish, and even insulting. The Huffington Post’s headline reads “Major Discrepancy in the Bible.” The New York Times article proclaims “Camels Had No Business in Genesis,” and writes: “These anachronisms are telling evidence that the Bible was written or edited long after the events it narrates and is not always reliable as verifiable history.” The “Fashion Times” article headlines the “trending news” “Historical ERROR in Bible’s Old Testament, REVEALED.” We’re still mystified as to what camels and the Bible (error or no error) could possibly have to do with the world of fashion, but we digress.

The logical fallacy here is one known by several names:  “argumentum ad ignorantiam,” “appeal to ignorance” or “absence of eveidence.” One common comment about this is that “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” This is certtainly true. But in Todd Bolen’s article at BiblePlaces.com (“The Domestication of the Camel: Observations from Heide”), he quotes the following – more aptly put:

A camel in the Haran area, Turkey, known as Charran in ancient Mesopotamia.

A camel in the Haran area, Turkey, known as Charran in ancient Mesopotamia.

“Proving that something did not exist at some time and place in the past is every archaeologist’s nightmare because proof of its existence may, despite all claims to the contrary, be unearthed at some future date.” (p. 337, Heide, Martin, 2011 “The Domestication of the Camel: Biological, Archaeological and Inscriptional Evidence from Mesopotamia, Egypt, Israel and Arabia, and Literary Evidence from the Hebrew Bible”).

We recently underscored that point when we wrote in this previous post about the fact that skeptics claimed for a very long time that the Hittites were a figment of the Bible writers’ imaginations because no evidence had ever been found of their existence. That is, not until such evidence was found. Then it was discovered that they were a vast empire that dated back to the 14th century BCE.

We could easily be persuaded to believe that the camel was not widely used for domestic purposes by the common people until after the 10th century BCE in Israel, which would be one possible explanation of why a plethora of camel bones from earlier periods has not been found. We should remember that Pharaoh and yes, even Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had been men of considerable wealth (Genesis 13:2, Genesis 26:12-13, Genesis 30:42-43). Many have suggested that Abraham brought his camels from Egypt, and that is certainly possible. But we should also remember that he had been in Mesopotamia – Haran (Genesis 12:4), and Mesopotamia’s ancient domestication of camels is just as well-documented.

So these wild leaps of unwarranted conclusions give skeptics and scoffers fodder to fan the flames of their frivolous fancies. And we find the unbelievers saying “well of course,  the Bible is not an accurate historical record” (a statement already proven time and again to be so absurd that it hardly deserves comment). And many of those who know that the Bible is the word of God – just wait for the truth. And if perchance convincing physical evidence is found in our lifetimes that categorically dates camel bones in Israel much earlier, you can be sure that the news will be relegated to a small blurb in a very inconspicuous place in most publications.

As for us, we know that Proverbs 30:5 is right: “Every word of God proves true.”

If you want to read the truth about what we know outside of the Bible concerning this subject, we suggest the following articles as examples:

“Abraham’s Camels” – ApologeticsPress.org
“The Annual Camels-Disprove-the-Bible Story” – Todd Bolen, BiblePlaces.com
“The Latest Challenge to the Bible’s Accuracy: Abraham’s Anachronistic Camels?”- ChristianityToday.com
“Bronze Age Camel Petroglyphs In The Wadi Nasib, Sinai” – BibleArcheology.org
“The Domestication of the Camel: Biological, Archaeological and Inscriptional Evidence from Mesopotamia, Egypt, Israel and Arabia, and Literary Evidence from the Hebrew Bible” – Martin Heide

(This year’s reading plan for Luke, Acts, and 1 and 2 Chronicles averages just 15 verses per day – 5 days per week!)
Schedule for this week

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  

How do we know the Bible is God’s Word?

The following illustration of memory technique for this subject has been attributed to the “Stand to Reason” folks, e.g. Greg Koukl.  We’re not sure this is exactly correct, as the pretext has been passed around for many years, but we’re happy to make that attribution nonetheless.

handIf you are reading this blog, the chances are that you already believe that the Bible is the word of God.  But what about those times when the subject comes up with our friends and acquaintances that aren’t so convinced?  We know from 2 Timothy 2:16 that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” But the world is full of people who believe the Bible is little more than myths and fairy tales.

And rarely do we carry around for ready recollection a list of convincing arguments or evidences for what we ourselves know to be the truth of the matter.  And it’s true also that we are not likely to be able to do that even with the following memory aids.  But we should be prepared (1 Peter 3:15)  to present some general truths for which we can later provide examples in evidence in a meaningful manner; and it’s as plain as the hand in front of our face.

pinkySo let’s start with the pinkie.  When you think of this digit, thing “P” for prophecy.  The Bible has many examples of fulfilled prophecy.  And none other than Moses gave us the measure of how easy it is to know true prophecy (Deuteronomy 18:22).  How about some examples of those?  Take Daniel chapter 8, which was written around 550 B.C and accurately predicted the rise of several empires to Belshazzar in interpretation of his dream.  Validated as far as time goes by the historian Josephus, this prophecy predicted even the rise of Alexander the Great.  For an expanded dissertation, please see this article at ApologeticsPress.org.  Here’s more.  Read about Ezekiel’s stunningly accurate prediction of the fate of the city of Tyre in this article.  Here is an aerial photo of the site taken by the French military in 1934.800px-Tyre-aerial-photo-by-France-Military-1934  This aerial view of Tyre vividly shows the land bridge that Alexander the Great created. Much silt and sand has accumulated over the years to widen the area of the original causeway.

Then there’s Isaiah’s prediction written almost two hundred years in advance of Cyrus’ conquest of Babylon (539 B.C.) –  “The Prophecy of Cyrus.”

Paul was a prisoner in Rome, under house arrest, but he was free to preach the Gospel to many who came to listen (Acts 28:7-31).

Paul was a prisoner in Rome, under house arrest, but he was free to preach the Gospel to many who came to listen (Acts 28:7-31).

ring_fingerNext, we take the ring finger.  This represents the unity of the Scriptures.  Written over the course of thousands of years with diverse authorship, and in a variety of writing conditions such as battlefields, dungeons, prisons and caves, all showing pieces of the same puzzle and still when assembled together they all tell the same story of God’s plan for the salvation of mankind – none of which was fully even known by all of the authors.  Kings, tax collectors, physicians, servants, shepherds, and warriors were all guided by the Spirit of the Lord to record His word in amazing unity. A substantial portion of the new Testament was even written by Saul of Tarsus, who before his conversion, was known to have hated the Lord Jesus so much at one time, that he was responsible for the persecution and cruel murders of many of his disciples. It is impossible for anyone to truly read and study this entire book (for it is one book, in the end) in honesty of heart and open-mindedness without realizing that this cannot be the work of mere men.

big fingerLet’s not skip the big finger.  The Bible has the answers to the important epistemological, moral, ethical, and scientific questions of our age and any age.  No other religion and no other collection of writings can provide the answers to the big questions that have been on the minds of philosophers, educators, kings and yes, even clergy throughout the ages in the way that the Bible clearly reasons.  Genesis provides the answers to the great questions of where the universe came from, how man fits into that universe, how things such as love beauty, laws of logic and other universals are possible.

What makes something right or wrong?  Is it the mere acceptance of society concerning moral absolutes.  If so, why should one society’s view of those morality or right and wrong over truly that of another – like say that of Nazi Germany? The Bible gives us the answers to these and other truths, such as uniformity of nature.  We fully expect that scientific experiments can be repeated with accuracy because we know that certain physical things occur with expected results.  But what gives us the reason to know and believe that this will continue to be the case?  Our creator gives us the answers, as he has promised to “hold things together” (Colossians 1:17).  And why do we recognize human dignity, have funerals, etc? Could it be because we recognize that man was indeed created in God’s image?  To paraphrase the late Dr. Greg Bahnsen, without the Christian world view, whether you acknowledge it or not, you couldn’t make sense out of anything – you cannot provide the preconditions of intelligibility.   What are laws of logic anyway, and how can an atheist account for them?  They certainly are not just the way the human brain thinks because my gray matter is not the same as yours.  And if one claims that they are conventions, then I should be able to claim my own conventions, and be just as logical.

pointerNext we have the index of the pointer finger that points the way to history, archaeology, and even scientific fore-knowledge (see  this article for that information).  Even scientists and archaeologists who do not believe the Bible is the word of God consult it when they want to know where to dig, and it proves itself historically time after time.  Just type in “archaeology” in the search box on this page, and you will be rewarded with one example after another of this truth.  If it is written in the Bible, and it is possible to validate or invalidate what is written, the bible has always been proven correct.  The Bible is the only book that can look to historical evidence to support its unique theological claims.  The New Testament documents are the best historical documents of the ancient world when approached using the standard cannons of historical research untainted by naturalistic presuppositions.  Time and again even in recent decades, the Bible has been proven correct in such controversies as who Pilate actually was, whether he actually lived and what his title actually had been – and much more.

thumb2Next, we move on to the thumb.  In olden times, an emperor would give a thumb up or thumb down to spare or condemn a man.  The Bible has the power to change lives no other medium, and no other way of life.  Those life changes do not occur because of something we’ve done.  God changes us in a way we never could change ourselves when we obey the Scriptures.  This experience is universal, is the same everywhere in the world in which it is taught. It transcends all economic, ethnic, and even geographical boundaries.

Finally, we have the fist.  The Bible is from God, who fights for us (the name of Israel actually translates “God fights”).  He has protected His word for centuries.  There are no “lost books” of the Bible.  We have copies today that are older even than those we had 100 years ago, and there are no substantive differences in any of them.    How does it compare with other historical manuscripts?  The works of Plato, for example, written 427-347 B.C . The earliest copy we have today is about 900 A.D. Tacitus wrote around 100 A.D, and the earliest copy is about 1100 A.D. Only about 20 manuscripts exist.  Homer’s “Iliad” was written about 900 B.C .  The earliest copy from about 400 B.C.  Number of manuscripts – 643.  The New Testament was written 40-100 A.D.  The earliest copy about 125 A.D.  Number of manuscripts – 24,000.  The Bible stands the test of time.

fistNo other book has been so thoroughly censored throughout the ages, yet it cannot be destroyed. Just as so-called “renowned” atheists of today disparage faith they cannot even comprehend, and make it their mission in life to destroy that faith in others, men throughout the ages have attempted to silence God’s word. Virtually all of the apostles were martyred for proclaiming the Lord Jesus crucified.  From A.D. 303-311, the Roman emperor Diocletian, during the empire’s bloodiest persecution of Christians, ordered every Bible burned, thinking he could destroy Christianity by executing anyone who was apprehended in possession of a Bible. Just 25 years later, the Roman emperor Constantine ordered that 50 perfect copies of the Bible be made at government expense, and Christianity became the empire’s officially preferred religion. The French philosopher Voltaire, a skeptic  who attempted to destroy the faith of many people boasted that within 100 years of his death, the Bible would disappear from the face of the earth. Voltaire died in 1728, but ironically, 50 years after his death, the Geneva Bible Society moved into his former house and used his printing presses to print thousands of Bibles.  William Tyndale was executed by strangulation and burned at the stake for heresy for his crime of translating the Bible from Greek to English.  Hundreds of years later, Joan Bridgman made the comment in the Contemporary Review that, “He (Tyndale) is the mainly unrecognized translator of the most influential book in the world. Although the Authorized King James Version is ostensibly the production of a learned committee of churchmen, it is mostly cribbed from Tyndale with some reworking of his translation.”

The Hammer and the Anvil

Last eve I passed beside a blacksmith’s door
And heard the anvil ring the vesper chime;
When looking in, I saw upon the floor,
Old hammers worn with beating years of time.

“How many anvils have you had,” said I,
“To wear and batter these hammers so?”
“Just one,” said he; then with a twinkling eye,
“The anvil wears the hammers out, you know.”

And so, I thought, the anvil of God’s Word,
For ages, skeptics blows have beat upon;
Yet, though the noise of falling blows was heard,
The anvil is unharmed – the hammers gone.

~ John Clifford

/Bob’s boy
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image © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

Ezra 1 – The Proclamation of Cyrus

Cyrus Cylinder. Terracotta, Babylonian, ca. 53...

Cyrus Cylinder. Terracotta, Babylonian, ca. 539-530 BC. From Babylon, southern Iraq. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ezra begins in 539 BC with the proclamation of Cyrus.  This was prophesied hundreds of years before he was even born – in Isaiah 44:28-45:1.  Verse 1 says that “the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia,” affirming that the proclamation was the Lord’s doing.  The reference to the words of Jeremiah is about Jeremiah 25:11-14 and 32:36-38, wherein the prophet predicts the exile to Babylon as well as their return.  The leaders of the tribes of Benjamin and Judah, along with the priests and Levites, gather money and material for the temple – as Cyrus decreed it to be rebuilt.  Cyrus also brings the treasures that were taken from the temple in 586 b.c. for them to take back to Jerusalem (verses 7-11).

Side note: The Cyrus Cylinder was discovered in 1879 by Hormuzd Rassam.  Cyrus conquered the Babylonians and captured Nabonidus, the last Babylonian king.  He details the restoration of exiles and the return of temple “gods” to their sanctuaries.  There is a great story about this cylinder in this article from BibleArchaeology.org.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
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some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

2 Kings 17 – Fall of the Northern Kingdom

English: The capture of the city of Astartu by...

English: The capture of the city of Astartu by the Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser III about 730–727 B.C., as depicted on a palace relief now kept on display at the British Museum – detail (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1 Kings 15:29-30, the Bible tells us that Pekah was king over Israel when Hoshea killed him, and took his place.  This was during the reign of the Assyrian king, Tiglath-pileser III, who captured much of Israel’s northern and eastern territory.  The Assyrian king’s son, Shalmaneser, succeeded him; and Hoshea became his vassal, paying him tribute.  But he reneged on this tribute and sought help from the king of Egypt; and Shalmaneser had Hoshea thrown in prison – and besieged and captured Samaria (verses 4-6) around 722 BC.  Verses 7-23 summarize in detail the many reasons why God brought this downfall upon them.  After God had delivered them from Egyptian bondage, he had brought them to the promised land to expel the wicked Canaanites that occupied it.  Now, the Israelites were just as bad, practicing idolatry of all kinds, and even performing the same types of child sacrifice (verse 17, 31) as the Canaanites had!

So after refusing to heed the warnings of one prophet after another, God’s judgment fell on them, and the northern kingdom of Israel was no more.  The people were taken captive into Assyria, and in verse 24, the king brought people in from Babylon and other places to take their place.  The intermarriage with these people would result in the Samaritan people, which we will see that the Jews in the New Testament scripture will despise (Jesus shocked both sides of this equation by venturing into Samaria, and even having fellowship with them – for such was simply not done – see John 4:1-9).  But God did not make life easy for these interlopers either (verse 25); and the Assyrian king had a Jewish priest brought in to teach them the law of “the god of the land” (verse 27).  So the worship to God himself was still further perverted and polluted by the pagan idol worship, as verse 41 summarizes.

Tiglath-Pileser III. Stone panel, Assyrian art...

Tiglath-Pileser III. Stone panel, Assyrian artwork, ca. 728 BC. From the Central Palace in Nimrud. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Side notes:

A seal was found, dating to the 8th century, with the inscription “Belonging to Abdi servant of Hoshea” – pictured in this link from Biblical Archaeology Review.  More information can be found in this article from Truth Magazine.

Some of the tablets found from Tiglath-pileser III are housed in the British Museum .  An inscription on one tablet has that king boasting credit for Hoshea becoming king.  The translation of the inscription reads:

“Pekah their king they had overthrown, I placed Hoshea over them. From him I received 10 talents of gold and 1000 talents of silver.”

This blog usually is hesitant to link to Wikipedia articles, but at the time of this writing, this one appears to be pretty true to the facts about this subject.

 Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
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some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

Genesis 44 – Joseph Tests His Brothers

When Joseph sends them away, he has his steward once again place their money in their sacks.  But this time, he has his silver cup placed in Benjamin’s bag and he has them followed, accused of theft, and brought back.  The brothers who have carried the burden of their guilt for so long are convinced that God himself has brought this on them for what they did to Joseph so many years ago.

Joseph tells them that the rest of them can go, but Benjamin will remain as his slave.  The brothers are purposely placed in the position of losing their younger brother – and facing Jacob’s (Israel’s) devastation.  Judah begins a passionate plea of repentance in verse 18, offering himself in his younger brother’s place.  Remember, it was Judah’s idea to have Joseph sold instead of killing him in Gen 37:26-28.

The change that has taken place in his brothers is no doubt what Joseph was looking (and hoping) for.

(Side note: Here is a link to a lengthy, but very interesting article from the publishers of “Bible and Spade” magazine calledThe Joseph Narrative (Genesis 37, 39–50)that includes information about Egyptian captives from Canaan)

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

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Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.
/Robert

Genesis 11 – The Tower of Babel

So God commanded the people to go forth and populate the earth after the flood, and what do they do? They do what they want instead, as usual. They congregate in one place and they build the Tower at Babel. They are full of themselves and their abilities, and not following God’s plan for them. So He confuses their language so that they cannot understand each other. This has the intended consequence of getting them to move on and spread out away from each other.

The genealogy of Shem’s line is told. The most important part is when it gets to Terah. Terah was the father of Abram, who God will later rename as Abraham, and his brother Haran, who fathers Lot. This means Lot is Abram’s nephew; and their stories will become important, especially the story of Abraham.

(Side note: The ancient city of UR in v 28 has unquestionably been found, and was the site of major excavations in the late 1920’s and early 1930s by Sir Leonard Wooley. It lays less that 200 miles southeast of modern Baghdad, and has been found to have been the site of highly developed urban culture. Some pictures of artifacts can be found at this link)

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

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Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.
/Robert