Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Why were people with diseases asked to live outside the camp?

It doesn’t seem fair. The ones who lived outside the camp faced great difficulties, since they were completely cut off from society (except for supplies left behind). Yet everyone understood the measure as an unpleasant but necessary way to prevent God’s dwelling from being defiled (Numbers 5:1-4). On the positive side, these harsh requirements served to protect the unclean person, keeping the holy things at a distance so no one would die for accidentally touching them. These rules also protected the rest of the camp, quarantining the disease and preventing its spread. No exceptions were made–even Moses' sister Miriam was exiled.

If we’re all “beautiful” in the sight of the Lord, then why is He so selective and prejudicial with regard to the handicapped?

Leviticus 21:18. This rule had nothing to do with individual rights. Serving as a priest was not a right but a privilege reserved for only a few. Those with physical defects were no more discriminated against than were most of the people of Israel: Only men of a certain age, ceremonially clean, without defect, from the tribe of Levi and descended from Aaron were granted the privilege to represent God as priests. At issue was whether the priests would project an image of a holy, perfect God to the people. Like the sacrifices that had to be without defect, the priests were to typify Christ’s perfection (Heb 9:13-14). The uniqueness of the call preserved the image. Nonetheless, Aaron’s descendants with defects were not barred from other priestly benefits.

–The NIV Study Bible and The Quest Study Bible

Were all of the animal offerings completely consumed by the fire?

Only in the case of the burnt offering was the whole animal consumed by fire (all of it offered to God). This became a picture of total consecration, for in the same way the nation was to be utterly committed to God. In most sacrifices, however, the animal was eaten as part of a meal. The priests would literally butcher the meat and bring it back to the person and/or family who offered it (they would then eat the meal as part of worship).

–Don Porter

Why were male goats sacrificed for some sins, females for others?

It’s unclear why. Some think a sinner of higher status required a sacrifice of greater value. A high priest’s sin, for example, would have had more serious repercussions than an individual's. If so, then male goats were considered more valuable, though this does not always seem to be the case. Others, however, think the distinction was due to the public nature of the sin. Since priests and leaders were more visible, sacrifices for their sins were treated like public sin offerings.

–The Quest Study Bible

Why send a goat off into the desert?

Leviticus 16:20-22. A sacrifice was a substitute, symbolically bearing sin and receiving its consequences. This goat, however, was a living sacrifice–banished from camp as a symbol of guilt removed far from the people and God’s presence. The people watched as the goat was led to a distant spot–a striking portrayal of God’s promise to remove their sins from them.

–The Quest Study Bible

Why is a woman declared unclean twice as long after giving birth to a girl as opposed to a boy?

Leviticus 12:1-5. First, let’s look at why the woman would be considered unclean after giving birth. According to the text, bleeding made the woman unclean. Some suggest this regulation protected women from infection. Others see it as a symbol for a lack of wholeness. Perhaps because blood meant life, bleeding implied the opposite, symbolizing death and sin.

Now, with regard to the question above, we don’t really know why God gave this command. Sometimes God’s instructions reflected cultural views held during that time. Ancient peoples may have believed a woman bled longer after delivering a girl. Or perhaps the passage acknowledges the higher value their culture placed on males. Though such a perspective seems unfair today, Biblical teaching raised the status and rights of women far above any other laws or cultures of the time.

–The Quest Study Bible

What is the difference between a “sin offering” and a “guilt offering”?

Leviticus 6:24-30 & 7:1-10. The difference between the sin offering and the guilt offering was in the nature of the sin. The former was for what might be called general sins; the latter was for sins that injured other people or detracted from the sacred worship. The guilt offering thus involved not only a sacrifice but also restitution plus a fine of 20 percent (6:5).

–NIV Bible Commentary

If there are sin and guilt offerings for “unintentional sins,” are there no offerings for “intentional sins”?

Leviticus 5:15. The expression “to sin unintentionally” calls for some comment. The NIV reading may give the impression that there was no sacrifice for intentional sins. This presents a problem, for many of our sins are more or less intentional (though not necessarily deliberate). The word basically means “to err, go astray, wander, or stagger.” That is, the notion of intent or lack of intent is not basic to the meaning of the Hebrew word and ought not to be imported. The usual sins we fall into are covered by the sin offering and the guilt offering. For instance, lying, stealing, cheating, and false swearing are surely intentional. And yet, each of these sins are specifically covered by the guilt offering (Leviticus 6:2-3).

–NIV Bible Commentary

Why were the people guilty for a priest’s sin?

Leviticus 4:3. In the Old Testament, it was the role of the priest to represent the people before God. Thus, the life of the priest would impact the people. If the representative was guilty, he “brought guilt upon the people.” Fortunately, God made provision for dealing with the priest’s sins. Also, it should be noted that this principle of “representation” is picked up in the New Testament as Jesus is seen as the representative of humanity in whom our righteousness is found!

–Don Porter

Why would God hold someone responsible for an accidental sin?

Leviticus 4:2. The original word for “unintentionally” meant “wandering away.” It is our human condition that we tend to wander from God. Whether this is done intentionally or accidentally, the Lord holds us accountable to our choices and makes it clear that the “wages of sin [accidental or intentional] is death” (Romans 6:23). A holy God demands that we are holy, and any sin makes us “unclean.” This is true whether our sin is “intentional” or “unintentional.”

–Don Porter

With so much emphasis on “blood sacrifices,” why was provision made for a grain offering?

With so much emphasis on “blood sacrifices,” why was provision made for a grain offering (Leviticus 2:1-16; 6:14-18)?

The grain offering was presented as a gift, an act of worship rather than restitution for sin. The grain offerings were offerings of fine flour or of unleavened bread, cakes, wafers, or of ears of grain (2:1, 4, 13-14; 5:11) Although the poor could mix grain with an animal sacrifice as a substitute sin offering (Leviticus 5:11), the grain offering itself was probably intended simply to remember God’s favor and, by remembering, to please him (an aroma pleasing to the Lord).

–The Quest Study Bible and NIV Commentary

What is a "Fellowship Offering"?

What is a “fellowship offering” (Leviticus 3:1)?

In the phrase “fellowship offering,” the word translated “fellowship” includes the ideas of health, wholeness, welfare, and peace. It is reflected in the common Jewish greeting “Shalom!” This offering apparently symbolizes peace with God because the worshiper joins in the sacred meal (symbolized sharing a meal with the Lord). A fellowship offering could be voluntary as a special offering of thanks to God or could be given as the result of a vow or as a freewill offering (7:12-26). This offering was given by the thousands at special celebrations when many people joined in the sacred meal (1Kings 8:63). If a man was too poor to bring a voluntary fellowship offering, he would probably be given a share in the offerings of others

– NIV Bible Commentary

Why Would God be so Concerned About the Priestly Garments?

Why would God be so concerned about the priestly garments (Exodus 39)?

Some of the pieces of the priestly garments were not only beautiful but also significant. For example, one part of the high priest’s uniform was the breastpiece. On the front of the breastpiece were attached 12 precious stones, each inscribed with the name of a tribe of Israel. This symbolized how the high priest represented all the people before God. The breastpiece also contained pockets that held two stones or plates called the Urim and the Thummim, which were consulted to determine God’s will for the nation.

–NIV Life Application Study Bible

After the 10 Commandments, Why Were There Multiple Marriages?

Why were there multiple marriages in Israel after the giving of the Ten Commandments?

The fact of the matter was that while polygamy was contrary to God’s intention and ideal, nevertheless, because of what Christ called “the hardness of men’s hearts” (Matthew 19:8). This practice was tolerated especially in the case of a political leader whose dynasty would fail if he were unable to produce a son by his first wife.

–Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties

How Did the Lord "Speak" to Moses?

How did the Lord “speak” to Moses?

On occasion it seems Moses actually heard an audible voice (Numbers 7:89). Other times he may have experienced a mystical inner sensation or had a mental impression. God communicated with Moses more directly than with the other prophets who received visions or dreams (Numbers 12:6-8). In more than 20 ways and over 150 times, Numbers records that God spoke to Moses.

–The Quest Study Bible

Why was Moses' Face Radiant?

Why was the face of Moses “radiant” after he came down from the mountain (Exodus 34:30)?

Some think this radiance was the glory Moses prayed for during his second 40 days (33:18). Others believe that Moses' anger when he first descended the mountain (32:19) canceled out any glory that would have appeared on his face. When Moses descended the second time, he was not angry.

–The Quest Study Bible

What Was Moses Asking for When He Said "Show me Your Glory"?

What was Moses asking for when he said to the Lord, “Show me your glory” (Exodus 33:18)?

The glory of God is the worthiness of God–the presence of God in the fullness of his attributes in some place or everywhere (Exodus 16:10; 29:43; 33:19-34:8; Isaiah 6:3). Thus, Moses wanted to see the character of God. In a sense, Moses' prayer was answered on the Mount of Transfiguration (Luke 9:30-32), where he shared a vision, however brief, of the Lord's glory with Elijah and three of Jesus' disciples.

–NIV Bible Dictionary

What Does It Mean that God Spoke "Face to Face" with Moses?

What does it mean when we read that the Lord spoke to Moses “face to face” (Exodus 33:11)?

The phrase “face to face” is a metaphor that, along with the phrase “as a man speaks with his friend,” suggests spiritual communion and intimacy. The image should not be taken literally, especially in view of the fact that God said no one, including Moses, could see his face and live. It describes God’s straightforward and deep communication with Moses, not his physical presence (Numbers 12:6-8).

–The Quest Study Bible

Did Joshua go with Moses up the Mountain Even though Moses Was to Go Alone?

Exodus 24:13 seems to indicate that Joshua accompanied Moses up the mountain. Wasn’t Moses instructed to go alone?

While it is true that only Moses was to “approach the Lord,” there were others who were to accompany Moses to the mountain. In light of verse 24:18, it seems clear that only Moses went up the mountain in accordance with God’s instructions (“and he stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights”).

–Don Porter

Who Are the "Poor" that are referred to in Exodus 23:3?

Who are the “poor” that are referred to in Exodus 23:3 (i.e., are these slaves)?

The Hebrew word used in this passage is dal, which can be literally translated as “weak, thin, lean, or needy.” Thus, while this could refer to a slave, what is intended here are the “poor” in general.

–Don Porter

Does God Favor Male Slaves over Female Slaves

Why would God make provision for a husband and wife not to leave together when the husband is freed as a slave (Exodus 21:4)?

First, it would be helpful to consider why God allowed Hebrews to enslave other Hebrews. Though they had all been slaves in Egypt and were now set free, Moses permitted a sort of voluntary slavery to continue. Individuals could sell their services for up to six years to repay debts or make restitution. Hebrew slaves were regarded more as hired hands. The seventh year, their debts were canceled, and they received their freedom.

Second, with regard to why God would make provision for a husband and wife not to leave together when the husband was no longer a slave. This would make more sense to us if we could see through the lens of their culture. Their customs required a man to “purchase” a wife by paying a bride-price to her father. If a slave owner purchased a bride for his servant, however, she technically belonged to the one who paid the price. This policy seems harsh, but it was softened by other provisions (see Exodus 21:8,11,26-27).

–The Quest Study Bible

Does God Command Murder?

If God values life, why did he direct the Israelites to totally destroy the people of the neighboring nations (particularly in light of the commandment, “You shall not murder”)?

Much confusion has arisen from the misleading translation of Exodus 20:13 that occurs in most English versions. The Hebrew original uses a specific word for murder (rasah) in the sixth commandment and should be rendered “You shall not murder” (as opposed to many English versions which read “kill”). This is not a prohibition against capital punishment for capital crimes, since it is not a general term for the taking of life, such as our English word “kill” implies. Exodus 21:12, in the very next chapter, reads: “Anyone who strikes a man and kills him shall surely be put to death.” This amounts to a specific divine command to punish murder with capital punishment, in keeping with Genesis 9:6: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.”

Violence and bloodshed are occasionally mentioned in the record of man’s history throughout Scripture, but never with approval. Yet there were specific situations when entire communities (such as Jericho) or entire tribes (such as Amalekites) were to be exterminated by the Israelites in obedience to God’s command. In each case these offenders had gone so far in degeneracy and moral depravity that their continued presence would result in spreading the dreadful cancer of sin among God’s covenant people.

–Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Why did the sons of Israel stay in Egypt after the famine?

Why did the sons of Israel stay in Egypt after the famine (Genesis 50:22)?

Perhaps the Israelites enjoyed the prosperity and goodness of Egypt. Canaan was more on the frontier, less stable politically and perhaps not as fertile. Since the Israelites lived in Egypt throughout Joseph’s lifetime (three generations), they were probably more familiar with Egypt. Also, they may have had some obligation to Pharaoh. Everyone in Pharaoh’s land would in some way be indebted to him, even though we see no indication of their slavery until the book of Exodus. Though Joseph knew he would die and not see the time when his sons returned to the land, he nevertheless expressed clearly the hope and trust that he had in God’s promise: “God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” As has been characteristic of the literary technique of the Joseph narratives, Joseph repeated a second time (cf. Genesis 41:32) his statement of trust in God’s promise: “God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place."

–The Quest Study Bible and the NIV Bible Commentary

What kind of divination did Joseph do?

What kind of divination did Joseph do (Genesis 44:15)?

“Divination” is the attempt to obtain secret knowledge, especially of the future, either by inspiration (Acts 16:16) or by the reading and interpreting of certain signs called omens. The divination was accomplished by placing oil drops upon water and observing the resulting patterns. Divining God’s will through dreams, the budding of plants, sheep fleeces and the casting of lots was not condemned in the Old Testament. People believed God was totally in control and spoke through these means. The Mosaic Law does not forbid divination, but it condemns consulting the dead through “mediums.”

–The NIV Bible Dictionary and The Quest Study Bible

Was Joseph wrong to marry the daughter of a pagan priest?

Was Joseph wrong to marry the daughter of a pagan priest (Genesis 41:45)?

The text makes no judgment about this marriage. In the context of Genesis 41, Joseph’s marriage appears positive, underscoring the power and prestige Joseph had gained in Egypt. The marriage was apparently another blessing from God, along with all the other good things happening to him.

–The Quest Study Bible

Did Pharaoh come to believe in the true God?

Did Pharaoh come to believe in the true God (Genesis 41:37-39)?

Probably not. Pharaoh uses the word “Elohim,” a generic name for God that could also be translated “gods.” Here Pharaoh did not necessarily make a confession of faith, but probably only referred to a god or gods generally, according to his understanding. The word “spirit” in verse 38 is therefore typically not capitalized, since reference to the Holy Spirit would be out of character in statements by pagan rulers.

–NIV Study Bible

Why would God speak to Pharaoh?

Why would God speak to a “non-believer” like Pharaoh (Genesis 41:16)?

God will work through anyone to accomplish his purposes. Earlier there was Abimelech, the Philistine king to whom God spoke in a dream (Genesis 20:3-7). God influenced mighty leaders like the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 25:9), an unnamed Assyrian king (Isaiah 10:5-12) and Cyrus, the founder of the Persian empire (Isaiah 45:1), to accomplish his will.

–The Quest Study Bible

Why would God allow Joseph to be forgotten?

Why would God allow Joseph to be forgotten (Genesis 40:23)?

Although God may allow people to forget those who have helped them, God never forgets those who belong to him. Perhaps this was a time of spiritual development for Joseph. Although nothing negative is said about Joseph in this account, his heart might not have been ready for the responsibilities God had in store for him.

–The Quest Study Bible

Why would a brother be intimate with his deceased brother's wife?

What is this business of a brother lying with his deceased brother’s wife to bear children? Was that God’s plan (Genesis 38:8)?

This was a custom of the day intended to perpetuate the line of a deceased brother and provide for the needs of his widow. This was later defined in the Mosaic Law so that the brother could back out of the responsibility, but not without some shame (Deuteronomy 25:5-10).

–The Quest Study Bible

Why did God put some people to death?

Why did God put some people to death (Genesis 38:7-10)?

It may seem that God is arbitrary in his punishment. Some men and women have been executed for what seem to be minor offenses; others – perverse criminals – have been allowed to wallow in their wickedness. Why is it that God sometimes appears inconsistent in his discipline?

The Bible reminds us that God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. He wants every person to take responsibility for his or her own wrongdoing and to turn from it (Ezek. 33:11). On the other hand, God in his wisdom chooses to make examples of some people, and that may have been the case with the men in these verses. Their punishment reminds us that even relatively minor offenses separate us from God. Perhaps God allows some of the wicked to live because he wants to give them time to turn from their evil ways, no matter how deeply depraved they may appear to be. He has tolerated the corruption of some for decades or even a lifetime. Some of the most evil people in history have turned from their immoral ways to become great builders of God’s kingdom. The apostle Paul is an example of such a person.

–The Quest Study Bible

What's the deal with Joseph's robe?

Was there more to the special robe that Joseph received than just a fancy piece of clothing? His brothers were very angry, was something else going on behind the scenes (Genesis 37)?

There was a ceremony involving such robes in the Ancient Near East that marked the recipient as the father’s primary heir. Joseph, the eleventh son in the family lineage takes the rights of the firstborn. Joseph gets the farm. When he receives this special robe, the situation is packed with emotions because the whole family inheritance is at stake. This was a volatile moment because the older boys would have clearly seen that Joseph had been placed before all of them. This was a recipe for sibling civil war, and that is exactly what happened.

–John Ortberg

Did Jacob really wrestle with God?

Is Jacob really wrestling with God? How can this be if God is a Spirit (Genesis 32:22-32)?

Jacob’s wrestling with an angel epitomizes the whole of Jacob’s life. He had struggled with his brother (chapters 25, 27), his father (chapter 27), and his father-in-law (chapters 29-31), and now he struggles with God (ch. 32). Jacob’s own words express the substance of these narratives about him: “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” Here is a graphic picture of Jacob struggling for the blessing–struggling with God and with a man (32:28).

The unexpected and sudden introduction of this man (v. 24), who wrestles in the dark with Jacob, captures something of the event itself. By the time their contest comes to an end, Jacob is convinced that his opponent is God himself (v. 30). This is not improbable, given that God had previously come to Abraham in human form (18:1-15). The story contains an interesting wordplay in the Hebrew: God wrestles (ye'abeq) with Jacob (ya'aqob) by the Jabbok (yabboq).

Significantly, Jacob emerges victorious in his struggle. His victory, even in his struggle with God, came when the angel “blessed him.” The importance of the name “Peniel” is that it identifies the one with whom Jacob was wrestling as God. Jacob’s remark that he had seen God face to face did not necessarily mean that the “man” he wrestled with was in fact God. Rather, when one saw the “angel of the Lord,” it was appropriate to say that he had seen the face of God.

–NIV Bible Commentary & ESV Study Bible

Why promise a tenth?

Why promise a tenth (Genesis 28:22)?

It seems to be a way of acknowledging the authority and generosity of the one who has provided the blessing. Later God required a tenth from all Israelites (Leviticus 27:30-32; Numbers 18:26; Deuteronomy 14:22-28).

–The Quest Study Bible

Are dreams messages from God?

Are dreams messages from God (Genesis 28:12-15)?

Dreams can be messages from God, but they are not always. In this case God repeats the promises made to Jacob’s father and grandfather. The dream corresponds to the already revealed will of God. Likewise, if God chooses to reveal his will to us in a dream, it will correspond to the teaching of Scripture.

Dreams should never replace sound and well thought-out decisions. Scripture and respected members of the church should be consulted carefully. We shouldn’t expect God to tell us in a dream whom to marry or what career track to choose. That isn’t God’s pattern of revealing his will. This dream was given to assure Jacob that God was present with him and that God intended to bless him, keeping the promise made to his ancestors. It also marked the beginning of Jacob’s lifelong relationship with God.

–Don Porter

Why did Abraham have his servant put his hand under his thigh?

Why did Abraham have his servant put his hand under his thigh? Was this symbolic of something (Genesis 24:2)?

This was a covenant ritual, apparently an ancient custom, though no extra-biblical material mentions it. The intimacy that such a practice would require suggests the high level of trust sought in the oath. This practice is found in other places in the Bible and it is always associated with a solemn oath.

–Don Porter

Why would Abraham ask Sarah to say she was his sister?

Why would Abraham ask Sarah to say she was his sister (Genesis 12:13; 20:2)?

Abraham’s response was driven by his fear of being killed by men who would long for his beautiful wife. It was understandable enough that Sarah complied with his request under those circumstances. Yet it was a sin on the part of both of them, and it robbed them of all possibility of witnessing to the truth of God before the idolatrous society of Egypt.

It seems quite clear that this account of Abraham’s failure is an honest inclusion of his lack of faith as manifested by this entire episode. If he had not believed that Yahweh was able to protect him with honor and integrity if he went down to Egypt, then he should never have gone there at all. As it was, he brought dishonor on himself and the cause he stood for, discrediting himself before the moral standards of Egypt itself.

–Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties

Why would Lot offer his virgin daughters to a mob of men?

Why would Lot offer his virgin daughters to a mob of men (Genesis 19:8)?

Three factors may have contributed to Lot’s outrageous proposal: (1) Hospitality was considered to be one of the highest measures of a man. To take a stranger in and let him eat your food was to guarantee his safety – even at personal risk. (2) Wives and daughters were typically viewed as property in his culture. (3) Living as he did in a degenerate society, Lot’s values were likely off center. Sin distorts priorities and blurs the line between right and wrong. It was no doubt the combination of these factors that caused Lot to value the safety of his guests more than the well-being of his daughters.
–The Quest Study Bible

Why cut an animal in half to establish a covenant?

What was the significance in cutting the animals in half (Genesis 15:10-17)?

In those days, when people made a covenant, they would take animals and literally cut them in two pieces and set the two pieces next to each other, side by side. Then they would go for a covenant walk. They would pass between the pieces of the animal, and the symbolic meaning of this was, “May this be my fate if I don’t live up to the covenant, if I don’t honor the covenant, if I’m not faithful.” Jeremiah 34:18 says, “Those who have violated my covenant … I will treat like the calf they cut in two and then walked between its pieces.” When people cut a covenant, blood was shed. It was a way of saying, “I take this very seriously.”
–John Ortberg

What about polygamy?

Why were multiple wives or concubines allowed in the Old Testament?

Genesis 2:23-24, as Christ pointed out, teaches monogamy as God’s will for man. Now there is no possibility of a husband’s constituting a unity with one wife if he also has another wife–or several others. This is made very clear by the analogy in Ephesians 5:23. The implication here is that there is but one true church and that it stands in a relationship to the heavenly Bridegroom like that of the wife toward her husband. Christ is not the Head of many different churches; He has but a single mystical body–not several different bodies–and therefore His one and only church is viewed as the antitype of monogamous marriage. Polygamy is absolutely excluded. As we examine the scriptural record, we come to the realization that every case of polygamy or concubinage amounted to a failure to follow God’s original model and plan. The fact of the matter was that while polygamy was contrary to God’s intention and ideal, nevertheless, because of what Christ called “the hardness of men’s hearts” (Matthew 19:8), it was tolerated–especially in the case of a political leader whose dynasty would fail if he produced no son by his first wife.

–The Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties

Why did God command Abraham to be circumcised?

Why did God command Abraham, and those men who followed, to be circumcised (Genesis 17:10)?

Circumcision was usually practiced in the ancient world as a rite of passage into puberty or marriage, though it does not seem to have been practiced among the Canaanites. God, however, gave this peculiar custom new meaning when he required it of Abraham. For Abraham, circumcision was a mark of possession, indicating that he belonged to God. It was also a sign of commitment, symbolizing that the Lord alone would be the one he would trust and serve. Some think it indicated a type of oath: “May I be cut off from my people as my foreskin has been cut off, if I am not faithful to the Lord (Gen. 17:14).

In many ways, God’s relationship with Abraham, as symbolized by circumcision, is similar to that of a marriage covenant. The commitment that God intends a husband and a wife to have for each other illustrates the commitment that God wanted from Abraham. Throughout the Old Testament, God characterizes himself as a husband to his people, and adultery is used as a metaphor for their idolatry and unfaithfulness to him (see, for example, Hosea 2:16; 4:15).

–The Quest Study Bible

Jacob Blessed for Deceiving?

Why was Jacob blessed even though he deceived his father to receive the blessing (Genesis 27:5ff.)?

First, a comment about the rite of blessing. Our culture affirms equality and even distribution, which make Isaac’s response difficult to understand. But in that culture only one son could inherit the family blessing. In this case only one son could provide the family line through which the Messiah would come.

Why would God bless a deceitful person? Obviously not because the person was deceitful. For a reason known only to God, he chose to bless Jacob and not Esau. Paul points out that since his choice was made before they were even born, it was not based on their merit (Romans 9:10-13) but on God’s sovereign freedom. God’s grace and blessing are always undeserved and unexpected.

–The Quest Study Bible

Sunday, March 8, 2009

How did Zipporah Save Moses' Life?

Exodus 4:24-26 (NIV)

24At a lodging place on the way, the LORD met Moses and was about to kill him. 25But Zipporah took a flint knife, cut off her son's foreskin and touched Moses' feet with it. "Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me," she said. 26So the LORD let him alone. (At that time she said "bridegroom of blood," referring to circumcision.)
This event happens right before Moses goes to Pharaoh to deliver the Israelites from Egypt. This account of Zipporah circumcising her son, touching Moses' feet with the foreskin, and then calling Moses a "bridegroom of blood" seems very odd. On top of that, we read that God was about to kill Moses and the actions of his quick-thinking wife saved his life. This also seems out of place.

There is a fair amount of consensus among Old Testament scholars that this is a story about the profound importance of circumcision in the covenant. Circumcision was a kind of signature on the part of a person, which meant they wanted to be in a covenant relationship with God. Apparently Moses had not circumcised his son, although he knew he should have. Most likely, he has not been circumcised himself, which means he is deliberately disobeying God. He is holding himself outside of a covenant relationship with the Lord. There is simply no way he can take on God's mission until this is remedied.

So Zipporah, his wife, recognizing what's happening, takes a flint knife--the appropriate instrument--and circumcises their son. Then she touches Moses' feet. The word for feet is often a euphemism in Semitic culture for genitals. She touches him as a kind of temporary, vicarious circumcision of Moses until the time comes when Moses can be properly circumcised.

When Zipporah makes that statement about "you're a bridegroom of blood to me, " it might sound like a negative thing to say, like, "What a lot of bloodshed you and your God are causing me." But this is not what she is saying. It was actually a ritual marriage statement that a Hebrew bride would make when her groom had been circumcised before marriage. It's a positive statement: "You are blood kin to me. We're members of one family. We're a covenant people together." What's really happening here is that Moses has been disobedient to God's covenant calling. God is serious about it, and Zipporah's quick insight and actions save Moses' life!
-John Ortberg