Category Archives: Bible Study

Visualizing Isaiah 31: Egypt relies on horses and chariots

A woe is announced on those who go to Egypt for help in the form of horses and chariots.

Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the LORD! (Isaiah 31:1 ESV)

The prophet explains that this would be a mistake for Israel.

The Egyptians are man, and not God, and their horses are flesh, and not spirit. When the LORD stretches out his hand, the helper will stumble, and he who is helped will fall, and they will all perish together. (Isaiah 31:3 ESV)

The temple walls throughout Egypt are replete with reliefs of the Pharaohs riding in their chariots pulled by powerful horses. Their enemies are portrayed as tiny and trodden down. The photo below is on one of the large interior walls of the Mortuary Temple of Ramses III at Medinet Habu in the Valley of the Kings at Luxor. Various conquered enemies are portrayed on the walls of the temple.

Relief from the mortuary temple of Ramses III. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Relief from the mortuary temple of Ramses III. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Solomon had made this mistake earlier, but Israel failed to learn from it (1 Kings 10:26). Moses prohibited the kings of Israel from returning to Egypt to acquire horses.

“Moreover, he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor shall he cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, since the LORD has said to you, ‘You shall never again return that way.’(Deuteronomy 17:16 NAU)

 

Visualizing Isaiah 30: not a shard to take fire from the hearth, or to dip water out of the cistern

There were those in Israel who wanted to rely on Assyria and others who wanted to rely on Egypt. The prophet Isaiah urged that the LORD’S people wait on Him.

Trust in Egypt would be like dependence on a wall that was ready to collapse. The destruction would be as complete as “that of a potter’s vessel that is smashed so ruthlessly that among its fragments not a shard is found with which to take fire from the hearth, or to dip up water out of the cistern.”

Therefore thus says the Holy One of Israel, “Because you despise this word and trust in oppression and perverseness and rely on them, therefore this iniquity shall be to you like a breach in a high wall, bulging out, and about to collapse, whose breaking comes suddenly, in an instant; and its breaking is like that of a potter’s vessel that is smashed so ruthlessly that among its fragments not a shard is found with which to take fire from the hearth, or to dip up water out of the cistern.” (Isaiah 30:12-14 ESV)

The Believer’s Bible Commentary has this comment on our text:

Let it be recorded for posterity that the treaty with Egypt (and all such misplaced trust) is a blatant rejection of the law of the Lord through His prophets. Judah will see that Egypt is a poor wall of defense. In fact the high wall will bulge and crash. It will be smashed as completely as an earthenware vessel, with no fragments big enough to use in minor chores.

During archaeological excavations thousands of broken pottery shards are recovered. The destruction (judgment) of the LORD would be so complete that there would not even be a piece large enough to use to move coals of fire from a hearth, or large enough to dip water from a cistern.

In the photo below, made at Ramat Rachel between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, we see part of a pile of pottery shards recovered during the excavation of the site.

Broken pottery shards at Ramat Rachel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Broken pottery shards at Ramat Rachel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

If enough large pieces of a pot or jar are found they may be restored. This can be seen in the photo below that was taken at the En-Dor archaeological museum.

Restored pottery at the En-Dor archaeological museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Restored pottery at the En-Dor archaeological museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Jeremiah used a similar illustration during the Babylonian period (19:10-11).

Visualizing Isaiah 29: a book that is sealed

Sealed documents were common in Bible times. Isaiah had already used this figure in chapter 8:16. Here the same illustration is used to show that because of Israel’s blindness of heart, no one was able (or willing) to accept and understand the will of God (see 6:9-10).

And the vision of all this has become to you like the words of a book that is sealed. When men give it to one who can read, saying, “Read this,” he says, “I cannot, for it is sealed.” And when they give the book to one who cannot read, saying, “Read this,” he says, “I cannot read.”(Isaish 29:11-12 ESV)

The photo below was taken in the archaeological museum in Gaziantep, Turkey. It shows a rolled up document with three strings held by clay seals. It appears that the document is modern with three ancient seals, but it illustrates what Isaiah is writing about.

The illiterate man says, “I cannot read.” The man who is literate says, “I cannot, for it is sealed.” The illiterate man does not try to find someone who can read, and the literate man does not find someone with authority to break the seal. Blindness, darkness, and spiritual insensitivity prevent either man from finding out what is in the document. No wonder Jesus cited Isaiah’s statement to explain why he used parables (Matthew 13:13-15).

A sealed document displayed in the Gaziantep Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A sealed document displayed in the Gaziantep Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament (Walton, Matthews & Chavalas) has this explanatory note about sealed documents in Bible times.

Official documents were written on scrolls of papyrus or vellum and then, when stored or dispatched by messenger, were rolled up and sealed with string and an affixed seal (see 1 Kings 21:8; Jer 32:10–11). The seal, either a ring or signet, was impressed into either wax or a lump of clay known as a bulla (Job 38:14). Archaeologists have found many of these clay bullae with the names of Israelite officials.

I am aware of one ancient document with as many as seven seals. It is the Wadi ed-Daliyeh Aramaic papyrus document dating to the 4th century B.C. The seals are currently displayed in the Israel Museum, Jerusalem. This document provides an illustration for Revelation 5 and 6.

Visualizing Isaiah 28: the threshing sledge

Toward the end of Isaiah 28 several agricultural illustrations are used. Notice the references to the threshing sledge in verses 27 and 28.

Dill is not threshed with a threshing sledge, nor is a cart wheel rolled over cumin, but dill is beaten out with a stick, and cumin with a rod. Does one crush grain for bread? No, he does not thresh it forever; when he drives his cart wheel over it with his horses, he does not crush it. (Isaiah 28:27-28 ESV)

A threshing sledge was made of wood with sharp stones placed in the bottom. The sledge was pulled around and around over stalks of wheat or barley to cut the stalks into small pieces. The sledge was pulled by oxen or another animal. A young man, with perhaps some weights would be placed on top of the sledge to make it more efficient. The photo below shows an antique threshing sledge at Aphrodisias, Turkey.

Threshing sledge with most of cutting stones gone. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Threshing sledge with most of cutting stones gone. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The next photo shows another sledge with many of the stones still in place. Every time the sledge went over the grain the pieces became smaller.

A threshing sledge with most of the cutting stones gone. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A threshing sledge with many of the cutting stones in place. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The entire process of threshing, winnowing, and sifting, is shown in the art by Balage at Archaeology Illustrated.

Araunah's threshing floor. Art by Balage, Archaeology Illustrated.

Araunah’s threshing floor. Art by Balage, Archaeology Illustrated.

 

Preaching and Teaching from the Old Testament

Those who preach and teach might enjoy, and profit by, Preaching and Teaching From the Old Testament by Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. The 2003 book is $3.99 today in Kindle format. It is normally $22.00. Click on the book for more information.

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:6-9 ESV)

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.(Romans 15:4 ESV)

Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.(1 Corinthians 10:11 ESV)

 

 

Visualizing Isaiah 26: strong city, walls, bulwarks, gates

Isaiah’s readers should find consolation in the fact that the city that was to be devastated by the Babylonians would eventually be rebuilt.

In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah: “We have a strong city; he sets up salvation as walls and bulwarks. Open the gates, that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in. (Isaiah 26:1-2 ESV)

A remnant of Judeans returned from Babylonian exile in 536 B.C., with a second group returning in 458 B.C. (Isaiah 10:21-22; 2 Chronicles 36:23; Ezra 1; 9:13-15). Nehemiah came to Jerusalem in 444 B.C. to lead in the rebuilding of the walls of the city.

The photo below shows the foundation of a large wall thought to be the “Broad Wall” of Nehemiah 3:8 (see 12:38). The wall, excavated after 1967, was originally about 25 feet high.

Next to them Uzziel the son of Harhaiah, goldsmiths, repaired. Next to him Hananiah, one of the perfumers, repaired, and they restored Jerusalem as far as the Broad Wall. (Neh 3:8 ESV)

The "Broad Wall" in Jerusalem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The “Broad Wall” in Jerusalem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Prof. Eilat Mazar believes she has discovered a wall dating to the time of Nehemiah (Persian Period) in the City of David excavations. If so, this would mean we have portions of the wall on the west and on the east side of the ancient city.

Possible portion of wall from time of Nehemiah in the City of David. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Possible portion of wall (right) from time of Nehemiah in the City of David. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

 

Visualizing Isaiah 25: “on this mountain”

Isaiah continues the apocalyptic description of the judgment of the LORD and the return from captivity. The city that will be destroyed by the Babylonians will become a place of great feasting for all nations.

On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.(Isaiah 25:6 ESV)

Early in the book Isaiah has informed us that “the mountain of the LORD” would become a place for blessing all men through the word which would go forth from Jerusalem.

It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. (Isaiah 2:2-3 ESV)

Jerusalem is not directly on the top of the central mountain range that runs from the north to the south in the land of Canaan/Israel. It is situated on the eastern slope of the mountain ridge. Even then there are mountains that are higher. In the photo below you see the Old City of Jerusalem, where the Temple of Solomon once stood. But you see that Mount Scopus and the Mount of Olives are higher than Jerusalem. In God’s plan Jerusalem would become the highest of all. We see the fulfillment of this in Acts 2.

Notice Jerusalem in the mountains. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Notice Jerusalem in the mountains. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The photo above was taken from the Haas Promenade south of Jerusalem. Click on the photo for a larger image and a better view of the city.

Donkey sacrifice?

A rabbi and his student were arrested for trying to kill a donkey as a sacrifice for sins, according to a report in The Jerusalem Post here. The article says this took place “near the Tomb of Samuel the prophet which is located in the West Bank north of Jerusalem.” I assume the reference is to Nebi Samwil, the traditional burial place of the prophet Samuel. Nebi Samwil is easily accessible within Israel, but is located on the border of the West Bank. The site overlooks the Benjamin Plateau. You can see the Arab town of El Jib, biblical Gibeon, from Nebi Samwil.

The photo below shows Nebi Samwil from the south.

Nebi Samwil from the south. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Nebi Samwil from the south. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A short distance north of Nebi Samwil, within the West Bank, some Bedouin have settled with their tents, donkeys, trucks, and satellite dishes.

Donkey north of Nebi Samwil. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Donkey north of Nebi Samwil. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Read more: “The donkey: beast of burden” here, and “Don’t underestimate the donkey” here.

The sacrificial system of the Mosaic law required grain, drink, or animal offerings. The prescribed animals include lambs (male, female), goats (male, female), bulls, pigeons, and turtledoves (Exodus 29:38-42; Numbers 28:3-8; 15:22-26, et al.). Donkeys are not among the animals accepted for sacrifice during the Mosaic period.

Christians believe what the writer of Hebrews says about these Mosaic sacrifices.

For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. (Hebrews 10:1-4 ESV)

We believe that Jesus, as the lamb of God (John 1:29), made a single offering for the sins of those who respond to Him.

For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. (Hebrews 9:24-26 ESV)

If we seek the forgiveness of the LORD Almighty we must comply with His requirements.

Reading the Blogs # 4

Do you rob temples?

You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? (Romans 2:22 ESV)

Charles Savelle has a helpful chart at BibleX on Romans 2:22. What does the text mean? The chart allows the student to see various interpretations at a glance, with observations to enhance understanding.

Ruins of the temple of Apollo at Corinth. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Ruins of the temple of Apollo at Corinth. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

— • —

God’s fellow-workers. Daniel B. Wallace responds, on his blog, to the question, “What Does ‘We are God’s fellow-workers’ in 1 Corinthians 3:9 Really Mean”. Dr. Wallace says,

The King James Version in 1 Cor 3.9 reads, “we are labourers together with God…” This unambiguously suggests that Paul and Apollos were considered in some sense on the same level with God. Of course, ‘in some sense’ covers a multitude of possibilities, but there nevertheless seems to be an underlying tone of synergism and mutual credit.

After discussing 38 works (translations and commentaries), Wallace provides a “Table of Interpretations and Translations of 1 Cor 3:9.” The three views of the meaning of this verse are,

  1. Paul and Apollos are co-workers with God.
  2. The statement is ambiguous, tending toward the first view.
  3. Paul and Apollos are co-workers with each other in the service of God.

Then Greek-language illustrations from writers such as Josephus, Philo, and Justin Martyr are provided along with other Biblical references that might shed light on the subject.

Wallace concludes that the “co-workers” are the ministers who belong to God.

Too many Bible classes overlook the difficult passages of Scripture without any explanation. Dr. Wallace provides a good illustration of how to deal with these verses. Tables and charts usually help the teacher and the student.

— • —

“The Authenticity of the James Ossuary” is a technical article on the archaeometric analysis of the James Ossuary from the Open Journal of Geology. The article by Rosenfeld, Feldman, and Krumbein is scholarly and technical, but may be of interest to some readers.  Download the PDF here.

— • —

Wadi Zin comes to life. “The  river doesn’t flow every year, and it has been several years since it last came to life.” The Times of Israel includes a short video showing the wadi (nahal, brook) coming to life in a powerful way. See it here. See the same video at examiner.com.

A dry wadi in the wilderness of Zin. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A dry wadi in the wilderness of Zin. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Israelites wandered in the Wilderness of Zin (Deuteronomy 32:51). See more here.

Cold-Case Christianity, free today

Cold-Case Christianity by J. Warner Wallace is available free in Kindle format March 10-11. The foreword is written by Lee Strobel. The publisher’s promo information says,


Written by an L. A. County homicide detective and former atheist, Cold-Case Christianity examines the claims of the New Testament using the skills and strategies of a hard-to-convince criminal.
Christianity could be defined as a “cold case”: it makes a claim about an event from the distant past for which there is little forensic evidence. In Cold-Case Christianity, J. Warner Wallace uses his nationally recognized skills as a homicide detective to look at the evidence and eyewitnesses behind Christian beliefs. Including gripping stories from his career and the visual techniques he developed in the courtroom, Wallace uses illustration to examine the powerful evidence that validates the claims of Christianity.
A unique apologetic that speaks to readers’ intense interest in detective stories, Cold-Case Christianity inspires readers to have confidence in Christ as it prepares them to articulate the case for Christianity.

Click on the book cover for more information, and to order.

HT: Brooks Cochran; Gospel eBooks.