The Befuddlement of Language (The Covenant & the Cross #45)



Today’s passage of Scripture is Genesis 11:1-4 which reads: “And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there. And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter. And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.”

tower_of_babel.170113154Allow me to share with you some further commentary on this passage from the Reformation Study Bible by Dr. R.C. Sproul:

The description of the tower suggests a monumental effort motivated by pride. Human beings—this time in a titanic attempt at corporate self-assertion—again sacrilegiously challenge God. They wanted to make a name for themselves. Since “name” connotes fame and progeny, these city builders were attempting to find significance and immortality in their own achievements. But only God gives an everlasting name to those who magnify His name.

Like Cain, in their isolation from God, these proud sinners feared dislocation, and perhaps one another as well. Also like Cain, they found their solution in an abiding city rivaling God—a strategy that involved disobeying God’s command to “fill the earth.”

Today’s quote about the Bible is from John Ruskin. He said: “Whatever merit there is in anything that I have written is simply due to the fact that when I was a child my mother daily read me a part of the Bible and daily made me learn a part of it by heart.”

Our topic for today is titled “The Befuddlement of Language” from the book, “The Promise and the Blessing” by Dr. Michael A. Harbin.

The seventh failure of humankind came some time later. One family had survived the Flood—Noah and his three sons and their wives. After the Flood, God told the remnant of humankind to multiply and disperse. The people multiplied but did not disperse. Rather, they gathered in the land of Shinar (Mesopotamia), where they began building cities and a tower, by which means they sought to reach up to the heavens.

While we know today that a physical tower could not actually reach to heaven, we really don’t understand what they were trying to achieve. Did they really think that it could? Or was this to be a unifying symbol? Whatever the purpose, it was their motivation that brought the next judgment on humankind. Their desire was to keep from being scattered abroad. The judgment was a breakdown of languages.

With the resultant loss of communication between groups, God’s desire was carried out. Humankind was dispersed. The result of the dispersion was actually anticipated in Genesis chapter 10, which is called the Table of the Nations. While more work needs to be done, not enough recognition has been given to the accuracy of this table.

It is in this section that we begin to see the narrowing in focus that will dominate the rest of Genesis. We have seen the toledot of Noah’s three sons, which is not a genealogy but an explanation that shows how they became the various nations, many of which the people at Mount Sinai had probably never heard of. Then we were given the explanation for language diversity and separation. Now the writer gives us the toledot of Shem. This takes us down to Terah, the father of Abraham. As we read through Genesis, it becomes clear that the shift is to explain to the people at Mount Sinai their own ethnic history, and more important, why God had intervened to bring them out of Egypt. But those are the subjects of subsequent chapters.


The Flood, Part 3 (The Covenant & the Cross #44)


Today’s passage of Scripture is Genesis 8:1-3 which reads: “And God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the cattle that was with him in the ark: and God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters assuaged; The fountains also of the deep and the windows of heaven were stopped, and the rain from heaven was restrained; And the waters returned from off the earth continually: and after the end of the hundred and fifty days the waters were abated.”

Allow me to share with you some further commentary on this passage from the Reformation Study Bible by Dr. R.C. Sproul:

The account of post-Flood history mirrors the pre-Flood period: the creation out of dark waters, the depraved condition of the human founders, Adam and Noah; the division of the founder’s sons into elect and reprobate lines; the tyrannical non-elect building a city and making a name for themselves, Cain and Nimrod; the preservation of a godly line and of a faithful agent of blessing in the fallen world. The parallel judgment on the reprobate will come with the fiery judgment and the introduction of the new heavens and the new earth.

The Hebrew expression, “God remembered Noah,” indicates action based on a previous commitment, not merely mental recall.

The Hebrew word used for “wind” is the same one used for “Spirit” in Genesis 1:2, recalling the original creation account and introducing God’s first re-creative act renewing the earth out of the waters. Successive re-creative acts mirroring the original creation follow: the gathering of the waters, the placing of birds in the heavens, the establishment of dry ground, the emergence of animals and humans upon the earth to multiply, and the divine blessing.

Today’s quote about the Bible is from John Quincy Adams. He said: “So great is my veneration for the Bible that the earlier my children begin to read it the more confident will be my hope that they will prove useful citizens of their country and respectable members of society. I have for many years made it a practice to read through the Bible once every year.”

Our topic for today is titled “The Flood (Part 3)” from the book, “The Promise and the Blessing” by Dr. Michael A. Harbin.

If the Flood was indeed a global flood, what are the implications? At a minimum, it would seem to indicate that many of those who are looking for evidence are looking in the wrong places. A global flood would leave its traces in the geological record rather than the archaeological. That is, the deposits would be sweeping landscapes rather than mud layers in cities. Several organizations are beginning to evaluate and organize possible evidence of the Flood, but much work still needs to be done.

The third question relates to the significance of the Flood to the original audience that stood at Mount Sinai. Two areas of significance are noted. First, the Israelites would have understood that the Lord was a God of both judgment and mercy. In the case of Noah, God judged the world but had mercy on a remnant. This element likely brought to mind to the nation of Israel that they too were a remnant. For us, it brings to mind Peter’s warning about a coming judgment. Second, the Flood highlighted for them the pattern of failure that we have been seeing. Because of the failure of humankind, God purified the world. But as we will soon see, even this purification process was inadequate. The problem is the human heart. For this reason, the biblical writer will soon start showing God’s process for heart renewal. But before he does that, there are several loose ends to tie up regarding the structure of the world.

After the Flood, three more failures are cited. First, Noah got drunk. We are given no explanation or excuses — the event is just noted. While he was drunk, his son Ham “saw his father’s nakedness, and told his two brothers outside.” They carefully backed into the tent with a blanket and covered their father. After sobering up, Noah cursed Canaan, the son of Ham. While we do not really understand what was involved or why Canaan was cursed instead of Ham, the significance to the Israelite audience would have been clearer. They were about to go into the land of Canaan. This episode would serve to encourage them regarding the outcome of that invasion.

The Flood, Part 2 (The Covenant & the Cross #43)

Today’s passage of Scripture is Genesis 6:11-13 which reads: “The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.”

Allow me to share with you some further commentary on this passage from the Reformation Study Bible by Dr. R.C. Sproul: The same Hebrew word lies behind “corrupt” and “corrupted”. The punishment matches the crime: as man ruined the good earth, so God will ruin the earth against man.

Today’s quote about the Bible is from William P. White. He said: “The Bible is a harp with a thousand strings. Play on one to the exclusion of its relationship to the others, and you will develop discord. Play on all of them, keeping them in their places in the divine scale, and you will hear heavenly music all the time.”

Our topic for today is titled “The Flood (Part 2)” from the book, “The Promise and the Blessing” by Dr. Michael A. Harbin.

This brings us to the second key question: Was the Flood local or global? Both of the suggestions we covered in our last broadcast are based on the premise that the Flood was local, that it covered a limited geographical region of the earth and no more. The biblical text asserts that the Flood was global; it enveloped the entire earth. A number of specific points must be addressed as one evaluates the question.

1. God gave a 120-year warning that the Flood was coming. With this much warning, Noah and his family could have moved to higher ground rather than build an ark if they had known that the Flood was to be local.

2. The ark was huge. What Noah built was not a lifeboat, but a major barge-like vessel. If the description is accurate, it was clearly designed to hold more than local domestic livestock.

3. The outcome was devastating. God declared that one of the victims of the destruction would be birds. In the event of a local flood, birds would be able to fly away from the spreading flood waters.

4. The Flood lasted a year. The period of rain was forty days and nights. More important, the duration of the flood state was a year.

5. The Flood covered mountains. According to the text, the water was fifteen cubits above the highest mountains. Even if the tops of the mountains were lower than today, this information implies more than the notion of a valley being filled. Tied to this point is the final resting place of the ark — “on the mountains of Ararat.” This place is understood to be a region in the northeast portion of what is now Turkey. It is a mountainous plateau several thousand feet above sea level. The specific mountain that is traditionally identified as Ararat is listed as being 16,804 feet above sea level.

6. God promised never to destroy all flesh by flood again. While there have been many local floods throughout history, the promise was that there would never be another flood like this one, which destroyed all flesh. If the Flood had been only local, this declaration of God is negated, for there have subsequently been many floods. In the New Testament, Peter uses the Flood as an analogy of God’s final judgment, which will be a judgment of fire.

The Flood, Part 1 (The Covenant & the Cross #42)


Today’s passage of Scripture is Genesis 6:1-3 which reads: “And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. And the Lord said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.”

Allow me to share with you some further commentary on this passage from the Reformation Study Bible by Dr. R.C. Sproul:

This section, by the mention of Noah, signals the transition from the godly line of Seth to the flood story and recalls the ominous situation at the end of the Cainite lineage.

These ‘sons of God’ have been identified as Sethites (the traditional Christian interpretation), as angels (the earliest Jewish interpretation), and as royal tyrannical successors to Lamech who gathered harems (proposed by rabbis of the second-century a.d.). All three interpretations can be defended linguistically. On the surface, the first interpretation best fits the immediate preceding context (a contrast of the curse-laden line of Cain with the godly line of Seth), but it fails to explain adequately how “daughters of man” refers specifically to Cainite women. The second view has ancient support, but seems to contradict Jesus’ statement that angels do not marry and does not explain why the focus is on mortals and the judgment on them. The third interpretation best explains the phrase “any they chose” but lacks as much ancient support. The best solution is probably a combination of the last two. These human offspring are also the spiritual offspring of Satan, empowered by demons.

Today’s quote about the Bible is from A.W. Tozer. He said: “The Word of God well understood and religiously obeyed is the shortest route to spiritual perfection. And we must not select a few favorite passages to the exclusion of others. Nothing less than a whole Bible can make a whole Christian.”

floodOur topic for today is titled “The Flood (Part 1)” from the book, “The Promise and the Blessing” by Dr. Michael A. Harbin. Before we begin looking at that topic, we are going to address another question that has often been asked by readers of the Bible, and that is: Is Polygamy Allowed?

The author states: A question that is often raised is, Why does God permit polygamy? As I read my Bible, my impression is that this is one of various practices that God tolerated in Old Testament times but did not authorize. There is no place where God specifically says that it is acceptable for any man to marry more than one woman (although there are some guidelines in the law that protect the rights of the second wife of those who do). Rather, as Jesus noted in Matthew 19:3-9 and Mark 10:2-9, the ideal is for one man and one woman to become one.

Now, we are going to turn our attention to the Flood —

After telling us what became of Adam, the writer opens a new toledot section, spending some time on the Flood. Here there are two complex issues that need to be addressed, both of which are very controversial. The first is the cause of judgment. The second is the nature of the Flood itself.

The text of Genesis 6 tells us that the cause of the Flood was the intermarriage of “the sons of God” and “the daughters of men.” The meaning of this statement has been debated, and there are three dominant proposals. Some argue that the sons of God are human judges or rulers; others argue that they are the godly line of Seth and that the daughters of men are the offspring of Cain (or the rest of Adam’s children). Still others argue that the sons of God are fallen angels, and the daughters of men are human women. Most likely the latter view is correct, especially since at the time, according to Genesis 6:4, the Nephilim (which probably means “fallen ones”) were on the earth. In any case, the cause of judgment is increasing evil on the earth. While the nature of this evil is not specified, the most likely reference is to an increasing pattern of false worship.

Now, we will look at the nature of the judgment. The judgment God sent was a flood that destroyed most of the life on the earth. From a remnant, God started again. While there are several issues involved in this event, three key questions stand out.

Perhaps the most critical is the question of historicity: Was there such a flood? The factuality of this event was generally accepted up to the eighteenth century, when many aspects of the Genesis record began to be questioned. As a more critical spirit enveloped biblical scholarship, the Flood came to be regarded as a mythical event. Today, those who view it as mythical are inclined to treat the biblical account as an embellishment of an actual event in history, although there is tremendous debate as to what event that might have been. After archaeology began to develop and the ruins of cities in Mesopotamia began to be excavated, several cities were found to have mud layers pointing to floods. Initially, some archaeologists made a connection with the flood of Noah, which some still accept today. More recently, evidence of a major flood in the region of what is now called the Black Sea has been proposed as the explanation. In both cases, proponents see these floods as the historical event that lay behind the deluge described in the Bible.