Tuesday 29 November 2016

Strong molten mirror

Job 37:18 says
Can you, like him, spread out the skies,/
hard as a cast metal mirror? (ESV)

will you, with him, spread out the clouds,/
solid as a mirror of molten metal? (NET)

can you join him in spreading out the skies,/
hard as a mirror of cast bronze? (NIV)

Can you, with him, spread out [raqa`] the skies [shachaq],/
strong [chazaq] as a mirror [r'iy] of molten [yatsaq] metal?

raqa` means to "spread out".

shachaq is more often translated "clouds" or "dust". It is less often used for "heaven" and the more common word for heaven is the Bible is shamayim.

chazaq means "strong", so "hard" or "solid" seems reasonable if the context is that of a solid object.

r'iy means means "appearance" and it is used here in Job and nowhere else in the Old Testament. The more common word for mirror is mar'ah. Mirror may seem an appropriate translation based on the meaning "appearance".  However the Septuagint doesn’t translate the word as “mirror” but “appearance”.

yatsaq means to "pour out". It is translated into English as "molten" only here. As mirrors were made of metal (not glass) poured out metal is molten metal. Thus a reasonable translation if mirror is also correct. Yet what is a molten mirror? One in the process of being cast (see ESV and NIV)? But a molten mirror would not be hard or strong, though perhaps mighty or powerful.

Going with the more usual meanings of the words (if the context allows it) we get, as per the NET,
will you, with him, spread out the [strong] clouds,/

Newman translates the whole verse,
Can you, with Him, spread out the mighty clouds,/
With an appearance of being poured out?
Or more colloquially,
Can you, with him, spread out the mighty clouds,/
that look like they have been poured out?

The Myth of the Solid Heavenly Dome: Another Look at the Hebrew (RĀQÎA‘) by Randall W. Younker and Richard M. Davidson, Andrews University Seminary Studies, No. 1, 125-147. (pdf)

Footnote 62: Job 37:18 records Elihu’s challenge to Job: “Can you, with Him [God], spread out [rāqa‘] the skies [šeḥaqim], strong [ḥāzāq] as a molten [mûṣaq] mirror [re’î]?” Newman, 13-15, examines this passage, and points out, 14-15, that the Hebrew word šeḥaqim normally means “clouds” and not “skies” elsewhere in Scripture. See HALOT, 1464-1465. Unless there is unambiguous evidence in the immediate context that the term should be translated “skies,” it is preferable to translate it as “clouds” here and elsewhere. Several major commentators (e.g., Tur-Sinai, Dhorme, Gordis, and Habel) have seen a reference to “clouds” and not “skies” in this passage (cf. NET which translates the term as “clouds”). Newman, 14, further calls attention to the fact that the word re’î, usually translated “mirror,” is not the normal word for “mirror” in the Hebrew Bible, and, in fact, is a hapax legomenon, translated by the Septuagint as (horasis), which means “appearance” in Hellenistic Greek, not “mirror.” This translation is supported by a slightly different pointing of the same Hebrew consonants (with a composite sheva instead of simple sheva), as (ra’î), which means “appearance” and is found four times in the OT, including a single passage in Job from the same speech of Elihu (Job 33:21). Newman, 15, also notes  that ḥāzāq can mean “mighty” as well as “strong,” and mûṣaq literally means “poured out.” He concludes that since in this verse the context is on-going weather phenomena rather than creation, the following translation of the verse is preferred: “Can you, with Him, spread out the mighty clouds, With an appearance of being poured out?” (ibid.). Regardless of the precise translation of the entire verse, if šeḥaqim means “clouds” and not “sky,” there is no reference to a solid domed sky in this passage. Instead, we have an example of “a non- solid object (clouds) being spread out with use of the verb rāqa‘ ” (ibid.). Alternatively, if one insists on translating šeḥaqim in Job 37:18 as “skies” or “heavens” “like a molten mirror” as in many modern versions, the passage still does not imply a solid metal dome. Kenneth Mathews, who follows this traditional translation, points out that “Job 37:18, which describes skies without rain as a ‘bronze’ expanse (cf. Deut 28:23), is figurative and does not support the common contention that the ‘expanse’ was considered a bronze dome by the Hebrews” (Genesis 1–11:26, New American Commentary 1a [Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1996], 150).

Monday 28 November 2016

Monday 21 November 2016

Monday quote

Holiness requires of us uncompromising action against sin in our lives and communities. This entails being prepared to resist the urge of compassion towards people closest to us when that compassion would lead to compromise. Christ places a sword between the nearest of relations.

Alastair Roberts

Sunday 20 November 2016

The Fall: Man

God cursed the man last
Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.
God rebukes the man for listening to his wife. It may be suggested that this interpretation is a problem in itself; rebuking listening would seem to conflict with other Scripture where women give wise advice, consider Abigail and Deborah. A possibility is that this a rebuke for listening and doing as she suggested, that is obeying his wife. There may be some credence to this view as it seems that Adam knew his action was rebellious. The curse hints at this and Paul distinguishes the behaviour of the man and woman in his letter to Timothy.
Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived (1 Timothy 2)
Though perhaps the rebuke is because he listened to his wife over God's explicit command. Paraphrased
You listened to your wife and did as she said,
but I said not to do this.
Therefore the possibilities for the rebuke to the man are
  1. Listening to his wife (heeding her opinion rather than just listening to God)
  2. Obeying his wife
  3. Obeying his wife over a direct command from God otherwise
The first is unlikely, the third is true regardless, and the second is a possibility as to the meaning here.

Understanding this preamble to the curse may give us insight into how the state of affairs were between husband and wife before the Fall. Although pre-Fall relationship can be garnered from other passages which then aids us in interpreting this verse.

The curse God gave to the man affected his work and his life. Work is not a result of the Fall, rather toil is.
God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth." And God said, "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food." (Genesis 1)
Dominion over the earth was given to the man and the woman. While such dominion involved more than the provision of food, it would take work. Provision of food perhaps could be seen as merely sustenance in the face of the command to fill the earth and subdue it.

Though working the earth was still a significant component of the subduing,
The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. (Genesis 2)
In the same way that filling the earth with people became difficult thru the curse on the woman, subduing it became difficult because just the provision of food was now toilsome.

The curse of the ground is seen as the fault of the man. God says, "Because of you..." Is there a hint of a necessity here? The only appropriate response from God was to curse the land. Not cursing was not a possibility, there were no other options.

The word pain (`itstsabown) is repeated here. The woman has pain in childraising, the man has pain in provision of food. Eating being a metonymy; it is not the eating that is painful, it is the growing of food to eat. The sweat on the brow shows that these are not just nuisances, they are a very burdensome toil.

The curse has a passive and active component. The soil would not produce food easily, and the soil would produce harmful vegetation.

And the end of it all? Death. The poetical irony, man was made from dust, yet animated by God's Spirit. But at the end of his days he will become mere dust again. God's warning came to pass,
but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for when you eat of it you shall surely die.

Monday 14 November 2016

Monday quote

God sovereignly decreed that man should be free to exercise moral choice, and man from the beginning has fulfilled that decree by making his choice between good and evil. When he chooses to do evil, he does not thereby countervail the sovereign will of God but fulfills it, inasmuch as the eternal decree decided not which choice the man should make but that he should be free to make it. If in His absolute freedom God has willed to give man limited freedom, who is there to stay His hand or say, ‘What doest thou?’ Man’s will is free because God is sovereign. A God less than sovereign could not bestow moral freedom upon His creatures. He would be afraid to do so.

A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy: The Attributes of God.

Saturday 12 November 2016

Idolatry in Gomorrah

There are occasional announcements of various Christians claiming that after some intensive research, thought, and prayer, that they have come to the conclusion that Christianity allows for same sex relationships. When this position is criticised the push back is quite furious with claims of judgmentalism, adiaphora, lack of love. Some deny that Christians can even comment on whether others are saved: how can anyone deny that homosexuals and advocates of this lifestyle are part of the kingdom of God?

Now this kind of critique can have merit. God sets the criteria for those he saves. As Christianity is about following a person; in a large degree it concerns the direction of our lives not whether we hold to specific doctrines. Even so, Jesus condemns a group for making their disciples twice the sons of hell that they are (Mat 23:15) and he asks them whether they can escape hell fire (Mat 23:33). Paul demands that people be put out of the church (1Cor 5:2). John warns against welcoming those who do not hold true doctrine else they share in their wickedness (2Jo 1:10-11). So while we may not know the exact status of all men—and many will be surprised that Jesus never knew them (Mat 7:21)—it seems that we can know that at least some men are under God's wrath.

This means that criticism of Christians who warn against accepting a homosexual agenda is often unwarranted. Warnings of the danger of the gay lifestyle are needed.

Even so, there is a more sinister issue attending this debate. Those promoting same sexual behaviour have placed sexual desire and behaviour above Christ.

Jesus tells us that we are to follow him. We are to deny ourselves and pick up our crosses (Mat 16:24). All our lives are to be under the lordship of Christ. Jesus came dividing households against each other: father against son, mother-in-law against daughter-in law (Luk 12:53). Those who leave their houses, land, family, for the sake of the kingdom are rewarded (Mat 19:29); which implies that such leaving is a preferable action even if it is not a necessary one. To follow Jesus means that we are to place him first. At times following him means we are to give up even good things: things that are not intrinsically sinful. Now sodomy is clearly condemned throughout Scripture. If we are to put off good things for the kingdom how much more do we rid ourselves of sin. Those promoting homosexuality as a righteous behaviour deny that such desires should ever be suppressed. Yet we see that God demands that he is primary. We must put God first. To refuse to leave something behind that God demands we abandon is putting that thing above God: it is idolatry. Same sex desire and behaviour is the one thing that the gay activists within the church deny should be denied for the sake of the kingdom. It is not just that they are wrong concerning the sinfulness of sodomy, they place the desire and the behaviour above God.

In his letter to the Ephesians Paul says that we must avoid sexual immorality, impurity and covetousness (Eph 5:5). Covetousness he identifies as a form idolatry, which he also does in Colossians 3. When we desire things above God we make them more important than God and thus they are an idol. It is interesting that covetousness is so often connected to sexual immorality. Sexual sin drew the Israelites into idolatry at Moab (Num 25).

Scripture makes it clear that sodomites who do not repent will not inherit the kingdom. But further evidence that it is immoral is that its apologists refuse to submit homosexuality to the lordship of Christ. Their idolatry shows the bankruptcy of their position.

For those who struggle with same sex attraction, you need to submit your whole self to Christ. It is true that the adulterer needs to abandon his adultery, the fornicator his fornication, and the sodomite his sodomy. Sexuality is a major and key area that we need to repent of. But it is not just your sexuality that needs to come under the lordship of Christ it is your whole life. God doesn't just want your sexuality handed over to him, he wants your time, your money, your friendships, your conversation, your job; he wants all of you.

Monday 7 November 2016

Monday quote

A man may know that nobody has insulted him, but that he has invented the insult for himself, has lied and exaggerated to make it picturesque, has caught at a word and made a mountain out of a molehill—he knows that himself, yet he will be the first to take offence, and will revel in his resentment till he feels great pleasure in it, and so pass to genuine vindictiveness.

Fyodor Dostoevsky


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