Category Archives: Bible

Saturday Book Notes: The Commentary

Everyone needs a commentary on the Bible that they can understand and that answers their questions about the meaning of the text.  So I wrote one for lay people on the whole Bible.

The set runs $75.  This very low cost has been decided upon because I’m very keen to make it accessible to a lay audience.  At $75 it’s less than any other commentary on the entire Bible, so a bargain indeed.   Listen to Prof Dr Ralph Keen- ‘$75 is a mere fraction of its true value!’

So if you or someone you know has wanted to get a copy of the collection in PDF format, you can do so from yours truly for $75 by clicking my PayPal Link.

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[I] wanted to thank you for your commentary set I recently acquired. My daughter Chloe (age 11) and I are using the one on Mark as we read through and discuss the gospel every second evening. It helps shed light on the text without being academically burdensome for us to work through. .. [Y]our comments are pitched wonderfully for anyone wanting to begin serious engagement with the text. It also complements the more ‘scholarly’ works. – Blessings, David Booth

 

It Was True In Amos’s Day And It’s True Today

Hebrew ScribeThey hate the one who rebukes in the gate, And they abhor the one who speaks uprightly.

Therefore, because you tread down the poor And take grain taxes from him, Though you have built houses of hewn stone, Yet you shall not dwell in them; You have planted pleasant vineyards, But you shall not drink wine from them. For I know your manifold transgressions And your mighty sins: Afflicting the just and taking bribes; Diverting the poor from justice at the gate. Therefore the prudent keep silent at that time, For it is an evil time.

Seek good and not evil, That you may live; So the LORD God of hosts will be with you, As you have spoken. Hate evil, love good; Establish justice in the gate. It may be that the LORD God of hosts Will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.

Therefore the LORD God of hosts, the Lord, says this: “There shall be wailing in all streets, And they shall say in all the highways,`Alas! Alas!’ They shall call the farmer to mourning, And skillful lamenters to wailing. In all vineyards there shall be wailing, For I will pass through you,” Says the LORD.  Woe to you who desire the day of the LORD! For what good is the day of the LORD to you? It will be darkness, and not light. It will be as though a man fled from a lion, And a bear met him! Or as though he went into the house, Leaned his hand on the wall, And a serpent bit him!  Is not the day of the LORD darkness, and not light? Is it not very dark, with no brightness in it? (Amos 5:10-20)

A Test

Dear friends, don’t believe every spirit. Test the spirits to see if they are from God because many false prophets have gone into the world. This is how you know if a spirit comes from God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come as a human is from God, and every spirit that doesn’t confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and is now already in the world. (1 Jn. 4:1-3)

For Your Exegetical Reading Pleasure

ἐξ ἡμῶν ἐξῆλθαν ἀλλ᾽ οὐκ ἦσαν ἐξ ἡμῶν, εἰ γὰρ ἐξ ἡμῶν ἦσαν, μεμενήκεισαν ἂν μεθ᾽ ἡμῶν ἀλλ᾽ ἵνα φανερωθῶσιν ὅτι οὐκ εἰσὶν πάντες ἐξ ἡμῶν. (1 Jn. 2:19)

They went out from us, but they were not of us. The meaning of this sentence turns on the understanding of from and of. Both are expressed by the same Greek preposition (“out-of”), which can indicate origin, but also membership of a group.

The first clause, they went out from us, is meant to draw attention to the fact that the antichrists had been members of the congregation, as well as to the fact that they left it. This is brought out in such renderings as, ‘these men went out from (or left) our company,’ ’ (it was) from among us (that) they went out.’—The verb “to go out from” is in the aorist, indicating that the reference is to a definite event in the past.

They were not of us. For “to be of” cp. v. 16. The clause serves to say that the antichrists (that is, the false teachers) have been members only in the outward appearance of things, not in the full sense of the word; hence, “these people really did not belong to our group” (TEV), ‘they were not our real companions,’ ‘their hearts were not fully the same as ours.’

Further rearrangement of the sentence pattern is sometimes idiomatically preferable. It may result in a rendering like, ‘they seemed to be (one) with us but now they have gone out.’

If they had been of us, they would have continued with us. The whole sentence is given in a form that shows it to be contrary to fact. The if-clause is the opposite of the preceding proposition.

The words they had been of us repeat what goes directly before, a repetition that is characteristic for John’s style. If idiom compels the translator to avoid such repetition, he may say, for example, ‘if that (really) had been so.’

The verb of the second clause, “to continue” (lit. “to remain”), is in the pluperfect in the Greek, which tense has the force of a combined aorist and imperfect. It serves here to state that the false teachers would have been with us in the past and would still be with us in the present. This is sometimes better expressed negatively, for example, ‘they would not have left us.’

But they went out, that, lit. “but in-order-that,” represents an ellipsis in the Greek. This ellipsis is to be filled out by repeating the verbal expression of the preceding clause (as RSV does), or by adding a more generic expression, for example,’ but this happened in order that.’

This construction occurs also in Mark 14:49 (the parallel Matt 26:56 is non-elliptical); John 1:8; 9:3; 13:18; 15:25. It often has the connotation of referring to something that is ordained by God. Therefore it can also be rendered by some phrase suggesting divine necessity. This may lead in the present sentence to a rendering like, ‘it had to become plain that they all are not of us.’

It might be plain is in the Greek lit. “they might-be-shown,” then, “they might become known”; or “they might show themselves.” The subject is the same as that of the preceding verbs in the verse, namely, the antichrists. Some receptor languages follow the non-personal construction of RSV, for example, ‘it might be shown,’ ‘it might become known,’ ‘it might become visible/clear.’ In others one can better shift to a rendering like, ‘we (inclusive) might see their situation clearly.’ The next clause indicates what that situation is.

They all are not of us. The Greek word order is, “not they-are all of us.” Rendered as in the RSV, the subject they refers to the antichrists, whereas “all” emphasizes they, and not negates the predicate are … of us. Another possibility is that not negates all, and all … not means “none”; hence, ‘none of them is of us,’ “none of them really belonged to our group” (TEV). Both interpretations are possible, and semantically they do not differ much, but the second one may be a better model of translation.

Quite a different interpretation is followed in versions that take all to be the subject and to refer to the congregation, cp. ‘not all are of us’ (NV), “not all in our company truly belong to it” (NEB). This interpretation would seem to be the less probable one for two reasons. (1) The shift of subject it presupposes would be rather unexpected in this verse. (2) To take not as restricting all (in the sense of, “not all, only some of them”) would require a different Greek word order, namely, “not all they-are of us” instead of “not they-are all of us” (cp. for example, 1 Cor 10:23)*

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* C. Haas, Marinus de Jonge, and J. L. Swellengrebel, A Handbook on the Letters of John, UBS Handbook Series (New York: United Bible Societies, 1994), 63–64.

The Last Judgment

Evangelicals Need the Book of Malachi

It addresses failed priests and a failed priesthood and Evangelicals today, in America, have failed just as miserably as their ancient counterparts.  So, for your edification, here is the Book of Malachi.  Read it.  It’s all about you (theologically).

A message. The word of Yahweh to Israel through Malachi. 2 ‘I have loved you, says Yahweh. But you ask, “How have you shown your love?” Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? declares Yahweh; even so, I loved Jacob 3 but I hated Esau. I turned his mountains into a desert and his heritage into dwellings in the wastelands. 4 If Edom says, “We have been struck down but we shall rebuild our ruins,” Yahweh Sabaoth says this, “Let them build, but I shall pull down! They will be known as Land of Wickedness and Nation-with-which-Yahweh-is-angry-for-ever. 5 You will see this yourselves and you will say: Yahweh is mighty beyond the borders of Israel.” 6 ‘The son honours his father, the slave stands in awe of his master. But if I am indeed father, where is the honour due to me? And if I am indeed master, where is the awe due to me? says Yahweh Sabaoth to you priests who despise my name. You ask, “How have we despised your name?” 7 By putting polluted food on my altar. You ask, “How have we polluted you?” By saying, “The table of Yahweh deserves no respect.” 8 When you bring blind animals for sacrifice, is this not wrong? When you bring the lame and the diseased, is this not wrong? If you offer them to your governor, see if he is pleased with them or receives you graciously, says Yahweh Sabaoth. 9 In that case, try pleading with God to take pity on us (that is what you have done), and will he take any notice? says Yahweh Sabaoth. 10 Why does one of you not close the doors and so stop the pointless lighting of fires on my altar? I am not pleased with you, says Yahweh Sabaoth; from your hands I find no offerings acceptable. 11 But from farthest east to farthest west my name is great among the nations, and everywhere incense and a pure gift are offered to my name, since my name is great among the nations, says Yahweh Sabaoth. 12 ‘But you have profaned it by saying, “The table of the Lord is polluted, hence the food offered on it deserves no respect.” 13 You say, “How tiresome it all is!” and sniff disdainfully at me, says Yahweh Sabaoth. You bring a stolen, lame or diseased animal, you bring that as an offering! Am I to accept this from you? says Yahweh Sabaoth. 14 Cursed be the rogue who has a male in his flock but pays his vow by sacrificing a blemished animal to me! For I am a great king, says Yahweh Sabaoth, and among the nations my name inspires awe.’

‘And now, priests, this commandment is for you. 2 If you will not listen, if you will not sincerely resolve to glorify my name, says Yahweh Sabaoth, I shall certainly lay a curse on you and I shall curse your blessing. Indeed I will lay a curse, for none of you makes this resolve. 3 Now, I am going to break your arm and throw offal in your faces — the offal of your solemn feasts — and sweep you away with it. 4 Then you will know that I sent this commandment to you, to affirm my intention to maintain my covenant with Levi, says Yahweh Sabaoth. 5 My covenant was with him — a covenant of life and peace, and these were what I gave him — a covenant of respect, and he respected me and held my name in awe. 6 The law of truth was in his mouth and guilt was not found on his lips; he walked in peace and justice with me and he converted many from sinning. 7 The priest’s lips ought to safeguard knowledge; his mouth is where the law should be sought, since he is Yahweh Sabaoth’s messenger. 8 But you yourselves have turned aside from the way; you have caused many to lapse by your teaching. Since you have destroyed the covenant of Levi, says Yahweh Sabaoth, 9 so I in my turn have made you contemptible and vile to the whole people, for not having kept my ways and for being partial in applying the law. 10 ‘Is there not one Father of us all? Did not one God create us? Why, then, do we break faith with one another, profaning the covenant of our ancestors? 11 Judah has broken faith; a detestable thing has been done in Israel and in Jerusalem. For Judah has profaned Yahweh’s beloved sanctuary; he has married the daughter of an alien god. 12 May Yahweh deprive such an offender of witness and advocate in the tents of Jacob among those who present offerings to Yahweh Sabaoth! 13 ‘And here is something else you do: you cover the altar of Yahweh with tears, with weeping and wailing, because he now refuses to consider the offering or to accept it from you. 14 And you ask, “Why?” Because Yahweh stands as witness between you and the wife of your youth, with whom you have broken faith, even though she was your partner and your wife by covenant. 15 Did he not create a single being, having flesh and the breath of life? And what does this single being seek? God — given offspring! Have respect for your own life then, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth. 16 For I hate divorce, says Yahweh, God of Israel, and people concealing their cruelty under a cloak, says Yahweh Sabaoth. Have respect for your own life then, and do not break faith. 17 ‘You have wearied Yahweh with your talk. You ask, “How have we wearied him?” When you say, “Any evil-doer is good as far as Yahweh is concerned; indeed he is delighted with them”; or when you say, “Where is the God of fair judgement now?”

‘Look, I shall send my messenger to clear a way before me. And suddenly the Lord whom you seek will come to his Temple; yes, the angel of the covenant, for whom you long, is on his way, says Yahweh Sabaoth. 2 Who will be able to resist the day of his coming? Who will remain standing when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire, like fullers’ alkali. 3 He will take his seat as refiner and purifier; he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they can make the offering to Yahweh with uprightness. 4 The offering of Judah and Jerusalem will then be acceptable to Yahweh as in former days, as in the years of old. 5 I am coming to put you on trial and I shall be a ready witness against sorcerers, adulterers, perjurers, and against those who oppress the wage-earner, the widow and the orphan, and who rob the foreigner of his rights and do not respect me, says Yahweh Sabaoth. 6 ‘No; I, Yahweh, do not change; and you have not ceased to be children of Jacob! 7 Ever since the days of your ancestors, you have evaded my statutes and not observed them. Return to me and I will return to you, says Yahweh Sabaoth. You ask, “How are we to return? 8 Can a human being cheat God?” Yet you try to cheat me! You ask, “How do we try to cheat you?” Over tithes and contributions. 9 A curse lies on you because you, this whole nation, try to cheat me. 10 Bring the tithes in full to the treasury, so that there is food in my house; put me to the test now like this, says Yahweh Sabaoth, and see if I do not open the floodgates of heaven for you and pour out an abundant blessing for you. 11 For your sakes, I shall forbid the locust to destroy the produce of your soil or prevent the vine from bearing fruit in your field, says Yahweh Sabaoth, 12 and all the nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delights, says Yahweh Sabaoth. 13 ‘You have said harsh things about me, says Yahweh. And yet you say, “What have we said against you?” 14 You have said, “It is useless to serve God; what is the good of keeping his commands or of walking mournfully before Yahweh Sabaoth? 15 In fact, we now call the proud the happy ones; the evil-doers are the ones who prosper; they put God to the test, yet come to no harm!” ‘ 16 Then those who feared Yahweh talked to one another about this, and Yahweh took note and listened; and a book of remembrance was written in his presence recording those who feared him and kept his name in mind. 17 ‘On the day when I act, says Yahweh Sabaoth, they will be my most prized possession, and I shall spare them in the way a man spares the son who serves him. 18 Then once again you will see the difference between the upright person and the wicked one, between the one who serves God and the one who does not serve him. 19 ‘For look, the Day is coming, glowing like a furnace. All the proud and all the evil-doers will be the stubble, and the Day, when it comes, will set them ablaze, says Yahweh Sabaoth, leaving them neither root nor branch. 20 But for you who fear my name, the Sun of justice will rise with healing in his rays, and you will come out leaping like calves from the stall, 21 and trample on the wicked, who will be like ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I act, says Yahweh Sabaoth. 22 ‘Remember the Law of my servant Moses to whom at Horeb I prescribed decrees and rulings for all Israel. 23 ‘Look, I shall send you the prophet Elijah before the great and awesome Day of Yahweh comes. 24 He will reconcile parents to their children and children to their parents, to forestall my putting the country under the curse of destruction.’

Perchance to Dream

Perchance to Dream: Dream Divination in the Bible and the Ancient Near East
Edited by Esther J. Hamori and Jonathan Stökl, ANEM 21, 2018
download paperback hardcover

You can download it for free.

Let Those With Ears, Hear

Whoever lives alone follows private whims, and is angered by advice of any kind.  A fool takes no pleasure in understanding but only in airing an opinion. (Prov. 18:1-2)

Remember…

“Den Feigen und Ungläubigen, den mit Greueltaten Befleckten und Mördern, den Unzüchtigen, Zauberern und Götzendienern und allen, die der Lüge dienen, wird ihr Teil beschieden sein im brennenden Feuer- und Schwefelsee; das ist der zweite Tod.” (Rev. 21:8)

Consider Your Ways

“Now therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts: “Consider your ways! “You have sown much, and bring in little; You eat, but do not have enough; You drink, but you are not filled with drink; You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; And he who earns wages, Earns wages to put into a bag with holes.” Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Consider your ways!” (Hag. 1:5-7)

The Christian’s Duty

Abstain from every form of evil. (1 Thess. 5:22)

That includes supporting evil projects, evil plans, evil persons, evil politicians, and evil political programs.

What is a Commentary?

From the previously mentioned volume-

I couldn’t have said it better.

Sprüche (Proverbia) 1-15

Bernd U. Schipper reads the book of Proverbs within the context of ancient Near Eastern wisdom literature and at the same time as an integral part of the Old Testament. As a work of literature from the Second Temple period, the book of Proverbs takes part in the theological debates of its time over issues such as the significance of the Torah (and particularly the Deuteronomic law) or whether humans are capable of living in accordance with the divine will.

The analysis of ancient Near Eastern parallels gives special attention to textual material that has previously not been applied to the exegesis of the book of Proverbs: the sapiential texts from the Egyptian Late Period (6th–2nd c. B.C.E.).

On the whole, the final form of the book of Proverbs emerges as a text from the late Persian and early Hellenistic periods that can be ascribed to a circle of “scribes” who were well-versed in the scriptures of ancient Israel.

Looks glorious doesn’t it?  You’re welcome.

Quote of the Week

“I am coming to put you on trial and I shall be a ready witness against sorcerers, adulterers, perjurers, and against those who oppress the wage-earner, the widow and the orphan, and who rob the foreigner of his rights and do not respect me, says Yahweh Sabaoth. ‘No; I, Yahweh, do not change; and you have not ceased to be children of Jacob! Ever since the days of your ancestors, you have evaded my statutes and not observed them.

Return to me and I will return to you, says Yahweh Sabaoth. You ask, “How are we to return? Can a human being cheat God?” Yet you try to cheat me! You ask, “How do we try to cheat you?” Over tithes and contributions. A curse lies on you because you, this whole nation, try to cheat me. Bring the tithes in full to the treasury, so that there is food in my house; put me to the test now like this, says Yahweh Sabaoth, and see if I do not open the floodgates of heaven for you and pour out an abundant blessing for you.” (Mal. 3:5-10)

A Few Imprecatory Prayers

May death descend on them, may they go down alive to Sheol, since evil shares their home with them — (Ps. 55:15)

Or

Erase them from the book of life, do not enroll them among the upright. — (Ps. 69:28)

Or if the big guns are needed-

God, break the teeth in their mouths, snap off the fangs of these young lions, Yahweh. May they drain away like water running to the sewer, may they wither like trampled grass, like the slug that melts as it moves or a still-born child that never sees the sun. — (Ps. 58:6-8)

Just in case the occasion should arise when such prayers should be needed.  You’re welcome.

55% Off Volumes of Biblia Hebraica Quinta (BHQ)

This is great news for those who are looking to obtain the volumes already published in this incredibly important edition of the Hebrew Bible (and incredibly sad news for those of us who have been paying full price as the volumes come out…).  Take advantage of it while you can.

Quote of the Day

But if you do not [do Yahweh’s will], you will sin against Yahweh, and be sure your sin will find you out. — (Num. 32:23)

Enemies and Friends of the State: Ancient Prophecy in Context

Within the world of the Bible, prophets and prophetesses were sometimes ardent proponents of royal and priestly rhetoric and deeds, but they could also be vocal critics, speaking truth to power. Enemies and Friends of the State plumbs the depths of the prophetic voices of the Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament Apocrypha, and the Greek New Testament, with more than twenty-five of the most distinguished scholars in the field of biblical studies contributing articles. The volume also includes articles on prophecy in Mesopotamia, Egypt, Syria, and Transjordan. In addition, articles at the beginning of the volume on the nature of the state and of prophecy provide a context for the discussion of prophecy both inside and outside ancient Israel, and a concluding essay discusses the views of Josephus and the Rabbis on prophecy. Because of the breadth and depth of this volume, Enemies and Friends of the State is certain to be the standard treatment of this subject for a generation.

It’s edited by Chris Rollston, so I’m sure it will be good.

Liz Fried’s Ezra Commentary is Now in Paperback

Via the publisher-

Sheffield Phoenix Press is pleased to announce a new publication of one of its titles in paperback, Lisbeth S. Fried’s Ezra: A Commentary. The price will be £29.50 / $34.50 / €32.50, compared to the previous list price of the hardback, £60 / $95 / €75. You can order the book from our website, https://www.sheffieldphoenix.com,

Stingy Giving and Stingy Givers

On Galatians 6:7, while discussing 6:6-10, which says,  “When someone is under instruction in doctrine, he should give his teacher a share in all his possessions.  Don’t delude yourself: God is not to be fooled; whatever someone sows, that is what he will reap.  If his sowing is in the field of self-indulgence, then his harvest from it will be corruption; if his sowing is in the Spirit, then his harvest from the Spirit will be eternal life.  And let us never slacken in doing good; for if we do not give up, we shall have our harvest in due time.  So then, as long as we have the opportunity let all our actions be for the good of everybody, and especially of those who belong to the household of the faith.”  (Gal. 6:6-10)

Calvin writes

The design of this observation is to reply to the dishonest excuses which are frequently pleaded. One alleges that he has a family to support, and another asserts that he has no superfluity of wealth to spend in liberality or profusion. The consequence is, that, while such multitudes withhold their aid, the few persons who do their duty are generally unable to contribute the necessary support. These apologies Paul utterly rejects, for a reason which the world little considers, that this transaction is with God. The supply of a man’s bodily wants is not the sole question, but involves the degree of our regard for Christ and his gospel. This passage contains evidence that the custom of treating faithful ministers with scorn did not originate in the present day; but their wicked taunts will not pass unpunished.

Calvin couldn’t be clearer and neither could Paul: you should support, without being stingy, those who teach you the Word.  People may not like it, and they may not do it, but Scripture is here quite unmistakably clear- it should be done.