Questions and Answers about Bible History

 

Contents:

"Sons of God"

Hagar, the Levite's Concubine, and Jephthah's daughter

The Land of Nod

Economic Relations Between Israel and Other Nations

The Wise Men

AD/BC Dating System

Who Wrote the Bible

 

"Sons of God"


Question: Who are the "sons of God" and the "Nephilim" mentioned in Gen. 6:1-4?

Answer: Some have suggested that the "sons of God," as portrayed in Genesis, were angels. They say that when these celestial beings intermarried with the daughters of men they produced the Nephilim—giants.

However, the Bible never identifies the sons of God as angels. Instead, Scripture uses the phrase to describe human beings who followed God's instruction and did His will.

Jesus Christ bears the title "Son of God" in a different sense in that He, being God, took upon himself the body of a human being. In this way He became the Son of God at His birth in Bethlehem, and shall remain such throughout eternity. (Phil. 2:5-8; John 3:16)

Luke calls Adam "the son of God" (Luke 3:38) in contrast to all others, whom he designates as sons of other men. Adam was the son of God in the special sense that God created Adam with his own hands. God was Adam's only Father.

The New Testament reveals that those who believe on Jesus' name also become "sons of God" (John 1:12 KJV); that "those who are led by the spirit of God are the sons of God;" (Romans 8:14); and that the one who purifies himself in preparation for Christ's coming is "now" a child of God (1 John 3:2).

Thus the "sons of God" before the flood were, like the "sons of God" today, those who worship their Creator. In pre-flood times these people were descendants of Seth. In contrast, the sons of men followed Cain in rebellion against God. When the "sons of God" married the "daughters of men" they soon forgot their righteous heritage, and turned their backs on their Creator. In this way they also became sons of men.

I found this interesting statement in an old magazine—The Signs of the Times, 2/27/1879. I thought you too might find it interesting.

"Those who honored and feared to offend God, at first felt the curse [of sin] but lightly, while those who turned from him and despised his authority felt its effects more heavily, especially in stature and nobleness of form. The descendants of Seth were called the sons of God; the descendants of Cain, the sons of men. As the sons of God mingled with the sons of men, they became corrupt, and by intermarriage with them lost, through the influence of their wives, their peculiar, holy character, and united with the sons of Cain in their idolatry."

The Nephilim—giants (KJV)—have not been adequately identified, but there is evidence the word could be translated "terrorists."

Hagar, the Levite's Concubine, and Jephthah's daughter


Question: Could you tell me about these ladies? I've heard their stories referred to as "texts of terror."

Answer: There's no doubt about it: These ladies went through terrible times, and to two of the three it was fatal.

Hagar

Hagar was an Egyptian slave girl who served Sarah, the wife of Abraham. Slavery, though repugnant to us, was an accepted practice in the 19th century B.C. I think we can expect that Sarah thought well of Hagar and treated her kindly. Why else would she have suggested that Abraham take her for a concubine?

Hagar, of course had no say in the matter—though she may have been overjoyed by the prospects. After all, what slave girl wouldn't want to be married to the most wealthy man in the country—knowing as she did that her child would inherit the entire fortune!

At any rate, Hagar let her enthusiasm get the better of her, and after Ishmael was born she began to throw her weight around, treating Sarah with disdain. Later when Isaac was born, Ishmael—now probably about 13—sneered at the young boy and treated him as an inferior. Sarah was infuriated. She was "queen" of the household and Hagar was merely a slave-concubine.

When Sarah complained to Abraham she didn't get much support. He said, in effect: "She's your slave. Do whatever you want with her." So Sarah kicked her out.

Thus began Hagar's terrible time. She took food and water, but these didn't last very long. She had become lost in the desert and Ishmael was dying of thirst. She prayed to the God of Abraham—and He heard and answered her prayer by providing water. Later Hagar got an Egyptian wife for Ishmael. He became the father of all the Arabian nations.

The Levite's Concubine

We don't know her name, but we can be sure she was a real, red-blooded child of God. She became disenchanted with her Levite husband and left their home in Dan (the northern area of Israel) and went to her father's home in the south.

The Levite came to fetch her back to his own home. The girl's father probably knew what kind of a husband this man had been to his daughter and, perhaps wanting to save face, he entertained the young man for several days. The father apparently felt that the Levite was in a hurry and hoped he would give up and go home alone. But the husband finally prevailed and left with his concubine.

They began their journey late in the afternoon. (Does this tell us how much the father resisted and how much the Levite insisted?) It would be obvious to anyone that they would have to stop somewhere for the night. The passed one town because they knew it was occupied by Canaanites. They wanted to stay in a city controlled by their own countrymen. This proved to be disastrous.

I'm sure you've read the story of how the Levite threw her out of the house to save his own skin, how she was gang-raped and abused depraved men all night long. And in the morning the Levite stood by his dying concubine (for whom he had expended so much time and energy to take home) and commanded her to get up as they needed to be on their way. Observe the Levite's actions and his total disregard for the safety and well-being of his concubine—perhaps the reason she had left him in the first place. We can certainly pity her, because women didn't have much to say about how they were treated by their men in those times.

The Levite's subsequent actions are unconscionable. The concubine was dead now, and she no longer had any knowledge or feelings (Eccl. 9:5, 6). She was in a permanent sleep. But her husband proved to be as irascible after her death as he had been before. I can't imagine what could possess the man to dismember his wife's body and send it with messengers all over the country!

This all led into one of the most disastrous wars in the history of the nation up to that time. It resulted in the annihilation of the entire tribe of Benjamin—leaving only 600 men who had escaped. And how perverse the elders of Israel must have been to suggest that these men kidnap 600 young girls from the city of Shiloh!

I think we can see the reason behind this story when we read the last verse in the book of Judges: Judg 21:25 "In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes." As we would say today: Everybody did "his own thing." Perhaps that philosophy isn't such a good idea after all!


Jephthah's Daughter

Jephthah was a bastard (a person who's father was unknown) who was an outcast in Israel. He lived off by himself on his own "ranch," without any outside help. But when an enemy came against Israel there was no adequate general to lead the troops. Everybody knew that Jephthah was a good fighting man and although they all disliked him, they realized that he was the only one for the job.

Jephthah took an oath, before going into battle, that he would sacrifice as a burnt offering whatever came out to meet him first—if the Lord would give him victory. I feel that God gave the victory because He wanted His people to be free of the invading forces. I don't think the victory had anything to do with Jephthah's rash oath.

When Jephthah came home victorious, the first living thing to come to meet him was his unmarried daughter. He wept and told her of his oath. She evidently loved her father and had been raised to be an obedient child. Though I'm sure she was terribly frightened by the prospects, yet she was submissive (much as Isaac had been when Abraham told him that he would himself be a sacrifice).

Jephthah's daughter made a request to spend two months with her friends up on one of the mountains. Then she would return to let her father do his dastardly deed. "And it came to pass at the end of two months, that she returned unto her father, who did with her according to his vow which he had vowed: and she knew no man. . . ." Judg 11:39.

Bible scholars are disagreed in the interpretation of what happened to Jephthah's daughter. Some hold that she became a virgin for the rest of her life and Jephthah had no grandchildren to inherit his land, etc. Others say that Jephthah offered her as a burnt offering as he had vowed he would. This, of course, would be heinous in God's eyes as He had directly instructed His people not to sacrifice human beings. That was the way pagans worshiped their gods. Either way, Jephthah's daughter got a raw deal.

I think the last two stories are a record of how far the Israelites had drifted from the ideal for which God had instructed them. They had become little better in their morals than brute beasts. And though they claimed to worship God, their profession didn't ring true—for their actions denied their claims. (We see the same attitude today in the people who profess to be Christians and yet live lives that are anything but Christian.)

Jephthah's story also teaches us the folly of making rash promises. We may have to swallow the outcome. We can carry through, and cause, at times, untold harm. Or we can go back on our promises (which, in the case of Jephthah, would have been the right thing). Either way, we're in hot water.

The Land of Nod

Question: Where is the City of Nod?

Answer: The Bible doesn't tell us specifically where Nod was except to tell us that it was east of Eden. However, the world that was in existence at that time was completely destroyed by the Flood (read Genesis chapters 6-9). Some of the pre-flood geographical names have been carried over and used after the flood to name rivers etc. that now exist; e.g. Euphrates River, and Tigris River. But because of the Flood, Eden and the pre-flood rivers that had those names no longer exists in the world today—and neither does the City of Nod.

Economic Relations Between Israel and Other Nations
Question: What were the economic relations between Israel and the nations that surrounded them?

Answer: I suggest you begin your study of relationships with Egypt at the time of Abraham (12:10-14).

Abraham's son Ishmael married an Egyptian wife which his mother Hagar got for him. (21:21).

Abraham made a covenant with Abimelech (21:22-34)

Abraham bought a field and a cave in which he buried Sarah (23:1-19). Pay close attention to the way they bargained with each other:

Abraham offered to buy the field; Ephron wanted to give it; Abraham refused but restated his desire to buy; Ephron mentions a price but said, in our words: "it's was really nothing—take the field;" but Abraham paid his price. (If Abraham had taken the field when Ephron offered it, there would have been anger, perhaps even hostilities.

Chapter 24 details the dealings between Abraham's chief servant and Laban in the "procurement" of Rebekah as a wife for Isaac.

I could go on, but you get the idea. Look for the story of Esau and Jacob re: the birthright; Jacob's working 14 years for Rachael (and Leah), and another 7 for flocks and herds; Jacob's covenant with Shechem; Joseph's sale as a slave to Midianite traders; Joseph's dealings with Potophar, his wife, the prisoners, Pharaoh, the people of Egypt, his brothers, etc.

 

The Wise Men

Question: I was reading the account of Jesus' birth in Matthew. The wise men are mentioned here, but not in Luke. Matthew is generally seen as the most "Jewish" gospel, the one that goes into detail about how Jesus fulfilled OT prophesy. Were wise men or visitors from the east prophesied in the OT?

Answer: We have no idea why Luke left out this scene. He may have felt it was immaterial to his overall story, since he put such a heavy emphasis on the conception, birth and the visits of the shepherds. The visit of the wise men did not occur until about 5 or 6 weeks after Jesus' birth. (Matthew portrays the little family as fleeing from Bethlehem right after the wise men's visit. Luke explains that Jesus was dedicated in the temple, which would have been 40 days after his birth. If the star was made up of the angels who sang to the shepherds, then it would have taken 4-6 weeks for the wise men to reach Jerusalem/Bethlehem). Luke doesn't mention the flight to Egypt either, although this must have been a major incident for Jesus and His parents.

Each of the gospel writers wrote about Jesus from his own perspective, narrating the events in Jesus' life and ministry in a way to bring out the points he felt was the most important to him. The Holy Spirit worked this way upon all the Bible writers. He gave them a message and then let them write it in their own language and according to their own customs. So the Bible is the word of God, but written in the language of men. And that's why each book is different. Matthew wanted to present the gospel so that the Jews would see Jesus as the Messiah foretold in Scripture; Mark seems to have related the experience of Peter; Luke portrayed Jesus to the Gentiles; John emphasized Jesus' teachings and spent several chapters on what He said the night He was captured.

I know of no Old Testament prediction of visitors from the east visiting the new-born Messiah. But the wise men were not ignorant of the Scriptures as we might think from their point of origin. (Some scholars see them as coming from the vicinity of upper Mesopotamia in the region of Charchemish.).

These men probably knew of the prediction of the world's Deliverer and were perhaps acquainted with Daniel's prophecy which gives the timing of His arrival:

Daniel 9:25, 26. "Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; . . ."

The commandment to restore and build Jerusalem, though given by Cyrus and later by Darius, was finalized by Artaxerxes in 457 B.C. Daniel pictures Messiah the Prince as beginning His work 69 weeks of years (483 years) after the starting point of the prophecy. (A day is used as a symbol for a year in Bible prophecy—see Ezekiel 4:6 and numbers 14:34.)

They may even have known of Balaam's prediction that Messiah would come through Israel.

Numbers 24:17 "I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Scepter shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth."

This prophecy may well have led them to the recognition of the star as a sign that the Messiah had been born.

AD/BC Dating System

Question: What year followed 1 B.C. Can you give me the answer and why? I always believed that AD stood for after death, but my Mother who studies the Bible says it comes from a Latin term. If this is the case, how were years measured Before Christ since no one knew he was coming.

Answer: The year that followed 1 B.C. was 1 A.D. At the time of the person who designed the B.C./A.D. dating system the zero had not yet been invented.

A.D. is an abbreviation of the Latin term ano domini which translates roughly, "In the year of our Lord." The designer of the system wanted to have year 1 start at the birth of Christ. But he didn't have as accurate records as archaeology has given us today. We now know that Christ was born about B.C. 4 or 5.

Before the B.C./A.D. dating system was devised—which was several hundred years A.D.—calendars were based upon the years of the reign of the current monarch. You see an example of this in Luke 3:1, 2: "Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, . . ." All this information was necessary for people to be able to know when this happened. This rather longish statement is the equivalent of my saying "it happened on January 13, 1999."

 

Who Wrote the Bible

Question: I have gone to church for my teenage years but i still dont under stand who wrote the bible? and how do we know that they were telling the truth?

Answer: At least 40 men wrote the 66 books of the Bible, and their writings span about 1500 years. As you can imagine, few of them had opportunity to get together and discuss what they should write. They had to depend upon the Holy Spirit to guide them.

Here are some of the men who wrote the Bible:

Moses wrote the first 5 books, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, and there is evidence that he may have written the book of Job.

David wrote at least 75% of the Psalms.

Solomon wrote the book of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon

The prophetic books were written by the men whose names they bear.

Ezra the scribe (the one who wrote the book of Ezra) probably helped to gather up all the known writings of the prophets, etc., into a canon (collection of books) similar to the one we have today. Scholars believe that Ezra either wrote the books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles or collected the information from various sources and edited them into their respective books.

The 4 gospels were written by the men whose names they bear.

Mark is thought to have written his book with the guidance of Peter.  

Luke was the only gentile to write a book of the Bible. He was a physician who attached himself to Paul and spent the latter part of his life with the apostle. He also wrote the book of Acts.

The apostle John probably wrote his book on the Isle of Patmos somewhere around 96 AD. He also wrote the 3 letters that bear his name, and the Revelation.

Paul wrote many letters to various churches that he had planted. The ones we have are contained in all the books from Romans to Titus.

James, the half-brother of Jesus, wrote the book that bears his name.

Jude was also one of Jesus’ half-brothers, called Judas in Matthew 13:55.

Peter wrote the two letters that bear his name

How do we know they are telling the truth?

While you might find some differences in minor details, the books that make up the Bible are in agreement on every major point of doctrine.

For instance:

All those who deal with the subject teach that the seventh day of the week is the Sabbath of the Lord. (Gen. 2:1-3; Ex. 20:8-11; Mark 2:24-28; Luke 23:54-24:3; etc.) 

All who deal with death teach that the soul is made up of both body and breath and that when these part company the person diesbecomes unconscious; knows nothing; sleeps until the resurrection. (Gen 2:7; Eccl. 9:5, 6; John 11:1-45; etc.)

All that speak about Heaven agree that God lives there; it is a perfect place where sin doesn’t exist; it will become the home of those who are faithful to Jesus. (Isa 6:1-6; Isa 65:17 John 14:1-3; Rev. 21, 22)

I could list dozens of other Bible teachings, but I think you get the picture.

The New Testament authors tell us several things about the Scriptures that they had in their day, and which we call the Old Testament. These tell us their attitude toward it and give some indication as to how it written:

2 Tim 3:16, 17 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

2 Pet 1:20, 21 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

Who wrote the Bible? Holy men of God who spoke by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. ("Holy men" are people who have dedicated themselves to God. Every Christian can have this experience.)

How do we know it’s telling the truth? Because it agrees with itself, even though written by dozens of authors over a 1500-year time period. And the New Testament writers explain how sacred all Scripture is because of the influence of the Holy Ghost upon those who wrote it.