Archive for August, 2008
Most believe that the alphabet as we know it is a human invention. I do not. I have come to the sincere belief that every single word (or jot) in the Bible is divinely placed and meaningful. Additionally, I believe that the language in which the Old Testament was originally written is also divinely created and given by God (see God Speaks: The Origin of the Alphabet).
I think some of the best evidence for this belief can be found in Biblical names. I have previously shown the vivid pictures painted in the names Noah and Moses by the ancient Hebrew pictographs. I believe equally vivid stories can be told for most, if not all, names in scripture.
Among the reasons I believe that the ancient Hebrew alphabet was created and given to man by God is the superhuman mix of simplicity and complexity. The simplicity of an alphabet based on child-like pictures (an ox head to mean a strong leader or God) is in stark contrast to the complexity of a name prophetically depicting verses in scripture written some 500 years later (see Elohim as Psalm 23). I can imagine an extremely gifted human developing a language with symbolic alphabetic characters, perhaps even where the symbols can be arranged to form words, possibly even tell stories. But, when someone does this in a manner that also prophecies something 500 years in advance, then I might reconsider my position.
I believe there are countless examples of words and names depicting scriptures, a divine double entendre, but without the ambiguity. In this post, I want to focus on just two of these examples: Ishmael and Isaac.
I believe this is actually possible with any name in the Bible, I have studied Adam, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, Moses and others, and never have I been disappointed. I might write on others later, but the account of Ishmael and Isaac has always fascinated me because of its reflection of God’s grace vs our works.
You all know the story, Sarah becomes impatient with her inability to produce a child and persuades Abraham to impregnate Hagar. I’m sure we can all sympathize with Sarah’s impatience. I know I’ve tried to help God along on more than one occasion. But, the promise is fulfilled not through our works, but through God’s grace. So what of the works? They amount to nothing, usually cause problems, and are cut off like Ishmael.
Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.” Gen. 22:2.
By this time Abraham had both sons, Isaac and Ishmael. But, what does God say, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac…” This is a harsh, but true reality. As far as God was concerned, Abraham had only one son, the son of promise. Now, God made provision for Ishmael, and promised Abraham that he would become a great nation too, but there were consequences. Here is how the Angel of the Lord explained it:
The angel of the LORD also said to her: “You are now with child and you will have a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the LORD has heard of your misery. He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.” She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” Gen. 16:11-13.
First, more than a prophetic statement, this is now an historical fact. Second, this prophetic look into the future of Ishmael was decreed from the naming of Ishmael (You shall name him Ishmael). In Hebrew, Ishmael is spelled YOD, SHIN, MEM, AYIN, ALEPH and LAMED. In the ancient Hebrew pictographs, the YOD is pictured as a hand from the fist to the elbow meaning my, my hand, or my works. SHIN is pictured as two teeth meaning to destroy or consume. MEM is pictured as waves of water meaning waters, nations or peoples. AYIN is pictured as an eye meaning to see, or to see as God sees. ALEPH is an ox head meaning strong, leader or God. LAMED is pictured as a shepherd’s staff meaning to lead.
Recall from earlier posts that the combination of ALEPH and LAMED form the Hebrew name El or God. The name Ishmael means God hears me or my God hears because the YOD or “ee” sound is the letter or sound for my/me and “shama” (produced by SHIN, MEM and AYIN) is the Hebrew word for hear. So, Ishmael (or ee shama el) is my God hears or God hears me. But, when you look at the Hebrew pictographs what you see is Genesis 16:11-13, “his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers…” and “You are the God who sees me…”
Here it is in the ancient Hebrew pictographs:
As much as Ishmael is a vivid picture of future strife, Isaac (meaning laughter) vividly depicts the replacement of Ishmael and the sacrifice God asks Abraham to make with Isaac. The Bible says Ishmael was a hunter or bowman, a man of the bow. Ishmael is a man of the bow because the bow is a symbol of covenant (see my discussion of the bow as covenant), and, while God’s covenant with Abraham was to be through Isaac, we are reminded that God also promised to make Ishmael a great nation.
Nevertheless, the Abrahamic covenant was through Isaac, and Ishmael was completely cut off from it. We can see this is the name Isaac. In Hebrew, Isaac is spelled YOD, TSADE, CHET and QUPH. Again, the YOD is pictured as a hand, meaning my or my efforts. TSADE is pictured as a man lying on his side or a fish hook meaning to hunt or fish. CHET is pictured as a wall or fence meaning to cut off. QUPH is pictured as a horizon meaning some sort of time element. So Isaac is a depiction of the relationship between Abraham and Ishmael: MY HUNTER (Ishmael the hunter or bowman) will be CUT OFF for all TIME, or the product of MY EFFORTS, the HUNTER is CUT OFF for all TIME.
Moveover, in the ultimate test of one’s faith, God asks Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. It is quite an amazing test, one I’m not sure many would pass. But, Abraham does, and it is recorded in this way:
Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” Gen 22:9-12
You can almost picture Abraham taking his son by the hand and then in his arms and laying him down to cut him with the knife, but the angel intervenes in the nick of time. What is truly remarkable is that this picture was painted before Isaac’s birth, when the Lord told Abraham, “your wife Sarah will bear you a son and You will call him Isaac…” Gen. 17:19. Actually, now that I think about it, all of these word pictures were painted before time began. They were only revealed later. Quite astounding!
Here is Isaac:
…lest anyone doubt the significance of a name!
It seems the release of new study Bibles is all the rage these days. For those of you who follow this blog, my last post was on the release of the NLT Study Bible, and now the ESV is preparing to release an ESV Study Bible October 15, 2008.
The ESV Study Bible will feature over 20,000 notes, 80,000 cross references, 200 color maps and over 200 charts. The ESV Study Bible will also be available in eight editions, including hardcover, TruTone, bonded leather, genuine leather and calfskin.
If you are interested, check out the sample pages and illustrations here, and the list of endorsements here. Also, take a look at this excerpt from the introduction to the Book of Luke which includes a timeline, a map, an outline and much more. It is quite impressive. The ESV Study Bible will also be published simultaneously in print and online which will be available free to everyone who purchases a print edition.
Although I have a soft spot in my heart for the ESV, I think I can fairly say that this will be an outstanding study Bible, truly second to none. I cannot wait to get my hands on one. I know I have encouraged my readers to support the ESV, but I now encourage you to wait. If you don’t have an ESV or a study Bible (in any translation), wait until October 15, 2008 and get an ESV Study Bible. Better yet, order now and get a 20% discount through September 15, just go to the ESV Study Bible website and click Formats.
If you want to learn more, here are a few ESV Study Bible links:
UPDATE 8/23/08: Beauty of the Bible is a winner!!! I hope you know I wouldn’t recommend anything to you that I wouldn’t do or try myself. Well, I submitted questions for a couple of days, and a question I submitted on 8/21/08 was a winner. The list of daily winners is at the bottom of the post. So, go ask questions, there are only a few days left!
ORIGINAL POST: I thought you might be interested to know that the new NLT Blog (the official blog of the New Living Translation) is giving away 31 of the new hardcover New Living Translation Study Bibles (NLTSB).
This is not a scam and you don’t have to register for anything to win. It is a month-long promotion for the release of the NLT Study Bible.
All you have to do to win is submit a question (any question) about the NLTSB here:
A winner will be selected each day randomly from among the questions posted that day. You can win only once, but you can enter every day until you win.
If any of you need a new study Bible or would like a chance to win a New Living Translation Study Bible, go submit your questions to the NLT Blog. Good luck!
When I first began writing this blog, I began by showing Genesis 1:1 in the ancient Hebrew pictographs and the beauty revealed therein. I showed that Jesus’ redemptive work on the cross was revealed from “In the beginning…” The last such entry was about “the heavens” and the various revelations made about Noah, Moses, etc. There is much more in “the heavens,” but I will develop that more later.
For those who began reading since then, and for a quick recap here is a brief summary of what we have seen in Genesis 1:1 to this point (and the links to those earlier posts):
- In the beginning – The Son of God would be destroyed on a cross.
- God – Psalm 23: The Lord is my shepherd…
- created – Jesus as the creator.
- the heavens – Noah and the flood (Part 1).
- the heavens (cont.) – The story of Moses (Part 2).
Now, “and the earth.” I realize it has taken several months to conclude what I began several months ago, but that is, in part, because I wasn’t satisfied that I had finished “the heavens” or “the earth.” Well, there is plenty more in “the heavens,” and I know there is more in “the earth,” but I doubt I will ever be able to exhaust either. That is no reason to prolong sharing what I know is there, so here it is.
Believe it or not, the “and” is quite significant on its own and probably deserves its own post, but for sake of time, I will combine the two. The Hebrew word v’at translated “and” is comprised of the Hebrew letters VAV, ALEPH, and TAV. If you will recall from earlier posts, the ancient Hebrew alphabet was made up of pictographs that represented a letter of the alphabet, a number, and had a symbolic meaning.
The letter VAV was pictured as a tent peg, hook or a nail. Specifically, the VAV was the tent peg or hook that held the curtains of the tabernacle of Moses together. The symbolic meaning of the VAV was to bind together or hook, and represented the connection between heaven and earth. The ALEPH was pictured as the head of an ox and symbolized strength or God, as in the Lord is my strength. The TAV was pictured as two crossed sticks and symbolized a cross, mark or covenant.
Interestingly, the VAV in v’at (and) is the first VAV in the Bible and connects “the heavens” and “the earth” as is symbolized by VAV. As I have written before, I believe “the heavens” symbolically represent God’s Old Testament Covenants. I also believe “the earth” symbolically represents God’s New Covenant in Christ Jesus. The “and” reveals this relationship. The NAIL or VAV is GOD’S COVENANT.
The “and” also is a reassurance that GOD is BOUND by His COVENANTS. Without this reassurance, what is revealed in “the earth” would be meaningless. “The earth” is comprised of the Hebrew letters HEY, ALEPH, RESH and TSADE. The letter HEY was pictured as a man with outstretched arms and means to behold. The letter HEY is also representative of God’s gift or grace. The ALEPH, as I mentioned before, was pictured as an ox head and represented strength or God. The letter RESH is pictured as the head of a man and means the first or highest man, or first born. The TSADE is pictured as a man lying on his side or bent at the knees, or pictured as a fish hook. The symbolic meaning of the letter TSADE was to hunt or fish.
Therefore, GOD’S COVENANT by which He is BOUND is the GRACE or GIFT of GOD which is His FIRST BORN. The conclusion, or TSADE, is even more remarkable. It is our great commission, to GO FISHING/HUNTING. This was and is God’s promise to the world, “Behold, I am going to send for many fishermen,” declares the LORD, “and they will fish for them; and afterwards I will send for many hunters, and they will hunt them from every mountain and every hill and from the clefts of the rocks…” Jeremiah 16:16. Moreover, Jesus first chose fishermen to be His disciples, and He told them He would make them fishers of men.
Let’s go a little deeper. There are five Hebrew letters which have a sofit form which is used when one of these five letters concludes a word, such as the TSADE in “the earth.” The traditional form of the TSADE is a man on bent knees or laying down, representing humility, as in to kneel before or to lay down one’s life. The sofit form is the righteous man upright with hands held high (the Hebrew word tzadik means righteous person). If this is not a picture of Christ Jesus, I don’t know what is. The humble servant laying down his life and rising again. So, “the earth” is the GRACE of GOD in JESUS (HIS SON) who died and rose again, now go FISHING.
As rich and full as some literature is, the beauty of the Bible is beyond human capability and comprehension. Genesis 1:1 alone is fuller and richer in symbolism and meaning that any written work of man…and this is without touching on the numbers and gematria, which I will leave to others far more qualified than I. I used to think that you could devote a lifetime to studying the Bible and never get it all, and I still believe that, but I now think you could spend a lifetime studying Genesis 1:1 and still not get it all.
But it’s going to be fun trying.
This is the follow up to Belief v. Believe where I discussed the difference between a belief in God and believing God. I apologize for the post in between, but I couldn’t resist tossing a little Kudos to the ESV and the ESV Bible Blog for acknowledging my post on Bible Translations.
So, how do you believe God? What does it mean to believe God? If you believe God, what should you believe?
First, these are not theological questions I am asking and attempting to answer. I will leave the theological questions for another day, time, writer, blogger, preacher, priest, or, better yet, you. These are very practical questions, with a surprisingly practical, if sometimes complicated, answer. Answer: You believe God’s Word/word.
For the time being, I see three ways this can be expressed. There may be others, and I have no intention of trying to limit God, but these three seem obvious (which is probably why they are so often difficult).
First, believing God’s Word. This is often complicated because there are so many competing interpretations and teachings about scripture that it can be a mess trying to sort them all out. I’m certain this was never intended, and it is quite an effective tactic of the enemy. However, there is an ultimate authority on the matter who we have available to us for guidance, the Holy Spirit. Does this mean we can never be wrong theologically? Absolutely not. I find that I am wrong frequently. But, yielding to the promptings of the Holy Spirit will always get you back on track, even if you have to learn a few lessons along the way. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.
John begins his Gospel this way: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” This is quite a remarkable statement because the “Word” John is talking about is the Greek word logos, which is God’s inspired and written Word (the Scriptures). So, the entire Word was completed before a single Hebrew letter was written down, before there were humans to write. The entire manuscript or scroll of human history was completed before it began. The Word is not just what a bunch of Jewish guys wrote down a long time ago, it is one of the many expressions of the living God.
Just as Jesus is God in human form, the Word is God in creative form. The declared word of God is the most powerful thing in the universe. God speaks things into existence. God’s prophets determine the destiny of nations. A simple word of knowledge or wisdom can heal bodies and change lives. God’s creative word is responsible for our very existence.
The Bible is not inerrant because of how accurate Hebrew scribes were and are, or how historically accurate it is, or because the human authors were inspired by God. The text we have is a way for God to reveal Himself to us is a way we can comprehend, and we can barely do that. The Word is inerrant because it is God, one of His infinite number of expressions. I look forward to the day when we no longer are limited by language and are better able to appreciate the magnitude of this.
The second and third way to believe God is to believe the rhema of God, also translated “word.” The rhema is the “word” given to you by the Holy Spirit. A scripture recalled at a precise moment, an instruction regarding a particular matter, a prompting to pray for someone or something, or a word of wisdom or knowledge for someone, are all examples of God’s rhema. I have found that it is in trusting God’s rhema that I learn the most.
The Holy Spirit is a miraculous teacher, truly a wonderful counselor. How better to illustrate a theological question than through on-the-job training. Very often the Holy Spirit will answer questions by walking you through the answer. Is this a divine teaching method? Was the question presented in anticipation of the circumstance? Can you miss the question/answer? I’m sure the answer to all of these is “yes,” but the only way to know for sure is to believe God’s word to you.
Thirdly, and similarly, you should believe the word God has for you through someone else. God will give you a word for someone else, why shouldn’t He give someone else a word for you? Admittedly, this can be dangerous, and John warned us to try the spirits whether they are of God, but the body of Christ is purposefully intertwined, and no individual part can operate better than the whole. In fact, I believe there are many instances where God purposefully gives an answer you need to someone else specifically to make us all co-dependent. I think this is especially true for family relationships (husbands and wives, parents and children, etc.).
This is hard, I know, because you’re not entirely sure you can hear God clearly for yourself, and now you’ve got to trust that someone else can. This is absolute faith and surrender. I’m not suggesting that you blindly take people at their word every time they tell you the word is from God, but this is where the Holy Spirit will counsel you…if you let Him.
In short, believe His Word (the Bible), His word to you, and His word for you from others. Why? Because you will find that His Word/word is worth believing.
In my post, So Many Translations, So Little Time, I made reference to my recent purchase and study of the English Standard Version (ESV), which I highly recommend (even more highly now). For those of you familiar with my sense of humor, I jokingly included the following remarks:
Now, if only the ESV’s publisher would write a paragraph about the following footnote on the translation page rather than footnoting every use of brothers:
Fn. Or brothers and sisters. The plural Greek word adelphoi (translated “brothers”) refers to siblings in a family. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, adelphoi may refer either to brothers or to brothers and sisters.
I think it would save more than a few trees considering how many times brothers is used in the New Testament. Plus, I’m tired of being suckered in to reading a footnote that I have read over and over. If you have an ESV, you know what I’m talking about. It’s a small point, but one that is rapidly developing into a pet peeve. I may send the publisher a letter. Perhaps, he¹ will read this post.
¹The English word he has traditionally referred to both men and women, depending on the context, and may refer to either a man or a woman.
Well, there is no need to send the publisher a letter because the Official ESV Bible Blog has responded here. The blog’s author correctly notes that the word adelphoi does get a couple of sentences in the ESV’s Preface, but that the note occurs some 80 times in the New Testament. And, because of the rapid response from the ESV Bible Blog and the acknowledgment of my little post, I just want to say that I now look forward to reading all 80.
I want to thank the blog’s author for the reference, and I want to urge all of my readers to support the ESV in any way you can. It is my new favorite Bible translation. If you don’t have an ESV, get one. I may go buy another one just to celebrate appearing in the ESV Bible Blog.
And, of course, the wonderful ESV Bible Blog.