Category Archives: BIBLE CONTRADICTIONS / CONFUSING VERSES SIMPLIFIED

Did God really demand Ezekiel eat excrement?

DID GOD REALLY DEMAND EZEKIEL EAT EXCREMENT?

by Shawn Brasseaux

No. There is a misunderstanding here. It is important to look at the Bible passage in question so we can set the record straight.

The inquiry stems from Ezekiel chapter 4: “[9] Take thou also unto thee wheat, and barley, and beans, and lentiles, and millet, and fitches, and put them in one vessel, and make thee bread thereof, according to the number of the days that thou shalt lie upon thy side, three hundred and ninety days shalt thou eat thereof. [10] And thy meat which thou shalt eat shall be by weight, twenty shekels a day: from time to time shalt thou eat it. [11] Thou shalt drink also water by measure, the sixth part of an hin: from time to time shalt thou drink. [12] And thou shalt eat it as barley cakes, and thou shalt bake it with dung that cometh out of man, in their sight. [13] And the LORD said, Even thus shall the children of Israel eat their defiled bread among the Gentiles, whither I will drive them.

“[14] Then said I, Ah Lord GOD! behold, my soul hath not been polluted: for from my youth up even till now have I not eaten of that which dieth of itself, or is torn in pieces; neither came there abominable flesh into my mouth. [15] Then he said unto me, Lo, I have given thee cow’s dung for man’s dung, and thou shalt prepare thy bread therewith. [16] Moreover he said unto me, Son of man, behold, I will break the staff of bread in Jerusalem: and they shall eat bread by weight, and with care; and they shall drink water by measure, and with astonishment: [17] That they may want bread and water, and be astonied one with another, and consume away for their iniquity.”

These are certainly bizarre instructions, are they not?! However, they are not as strange as we first suspect. Contrary to what we may have heard, Ezekiel was not actually required to use human or cow excrement as ingredients for his bread. Rather, the feces were a form of fuel to cook that food. While an unpleasant thought to “cultured” people such as ourselves, the ancient Egyptians and Persians (Iranians) used dried animal dung as fuel—and this is true even today. People throughout modern Asia (India, Pakistan, China, for example) still resort to the practice because manure is cheap, plentiful, and easy to collect, among other “advantages.”

How could God be so extreme and grotesque here? The key is verse 13: “And the LORD said, Even thus shall the children of Israel eat their defiled bread among the Gentiles, whither I will drive them.” JEHOVAH God was leading the Prophet Ezekiel to behave in a certain way so as to teach the Jewish people a lesson. These “skits” or “plays” are found in chapters 4 and 5 of Ezekiel. In the case of the “object lesson” using cow dung to cook his bread, Ezekiel was demonstrating to Israel they would be deported to foreign (Gentile) lands. These Gentiles or non-Jews did not observe the kosher food laws as found in Leviticus chapter 11 and Deuteronomy chapter 14. Such conduct was just as repulsive to Israel as Ezekiel’s disgusting dung fuel! After centuries of pagan idolatry, the Kingdom of Judah (Southern Kingdom) would be chastised as God promised in the Law of Moses. This is the Babylonian Captivity of 606–536 B.C., of which Ezekiel (and other prophets) predicted.

Leviticus chapter 26: “[27] And if ye will not for all this hearken unto me, but walk contrary unto me; [28] Then I will walk contrary unto you also in fury; and I, even I, will chastise you seven times for your sins. [29] And ye shall eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters shall ye eat. [30] And I will destroy your high places, and cut down your images, and cast your carcases upon the carcases of your idols, and my soul shall abhor you. [31] And I will make your cities waste, and bring your sanctuaries unto desolation, and I will not smell the savour of your sweet odours. [32] And I will bring the land into desolation: and your enemies which dwell therein shall be astonished at it.

“[33] And I will scatter you among the heathen, and will draw out a sword after you: and your land shall be desolate, and your cities waste. [34] Then shall the land enjoy her sabbaths, as long as it lieth desolate, and ye be in your enemies’ land; even then shall the land rest, and enjoy her sabbaths. [35] As long as it lieth desolate it shall rest; because it did not rest in your sabbaths, when ye dwelt upon it. [36] And upon them that are left alive of you I will send a faintness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies; and the sound of a shaken leaf shall chase them; and they shall flee, as fleeing from a sword; and they shall fall when none pursueth. [37] And they shall fall one upon another, as it were before a sword, when none pursueth: and ye shall have no power to stand before your enemies. [38] And ye shall perish among the heathen, and the land of your enemies shall eat you up. [39] And they that are left of you shall pine away in their iniquity in your enemies’ lands; and also in the iniquities of their fathers shall they pine away with them.

Also see:
» What are “vanities” in Scripture?
» Why did John the Baptist behave so strangely?
» Who is the “foolish nation” in Romans 10:19?

Who wrote Romans—Paul, or Tertius?

WHO WROTE ROMANS—PAUL, OR TERTIUS?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Suppose we are reading Romans in its entirety, from start to finish. It has been quite edifying, to say the least. By the time we get to the end, however, we are surprised. Chapter 16, verse 22: “I Tertius, who wrote this epistle, salute you in the Lord.” Wait! Just wait a minute! Were we not under the impression the Apostle Paul was writing Romans? Then, who is this “Tertius” fellow? Why does he “audaciously” thrust himself into a “Pauline” doctrinal treatise?

Tertius is simply a secretary, no different from an “administrative assistant” taking dictation from his or her boss. Although the mechanical writing is that of the servant, the thoughts belong to the manager. Be careful to note the authority still lies in the superior individual. In other words, the involvement of a secretary in no way diminishes the importance of the document. We would do well to notice Romans chapter 1, verse 1, begins with Paul as opposed to Tertius: Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,….” The Book of Romans carries Paul’s apostolic authority. Paul is addressing the Roman believers, although he has employed Tertius to actually hold and use the writing instrument.

Who is Tertius anyway? He appears just this once in Scripture, so we cannot say much. His name is of Latin origin and it means “third.” For example, in the series—primary (first), secondary (second), tertiary (third)—his name is related to the number three. He would have also been a Christian, present with Paul at the time of writing Romans (Acts 20:1-3?). Besides these few facts, nothing else is known about him.

By the way, the technical term for Tertius’ job is an “amanuensis,” that is, “one employed to write from dictation or to copy manuscript.” Merriam-Webster Dictionary has the following etymological information: “In Latin, the phrase servus a manu translates loosely as ‘slave with secretarial duties.’ (The noun manu, meaning ‘hand,’ gave us words such as manuscript, originally meaning a document written or typed by hand.) In the 17th century the second part of this phrase was borrowed into English to create amanuensis, a word for a person who is employed (willingly) to do the important but sometimes menial work of transcribing the words of another. While other quaint words, such as scribe or scrivener, might have similarly described the functions of such a person in the past, these days we’re likely to call him or her a secretary, or maybe an administrative assistant.”

Lastly, and most importantly, we remember the Holy Spirit “moved” the Apostle Paul to select words with which He wanted to form the Book of Romans. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). “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 (2 Peter 1:20-21). Paul then dictated those words to Tertius, who subsequently wrote them down to produce the Book of Romans. In summary, the Holy Spirit guided Paul to speak audibly, and He superintended Tertius to write physically. Just as Paul’s connection does not take away God’s authority from Romans, so Tertius’ participation does not detract from Paul’s authority in Romans. Simple!

Also see:
» “Epistle” and “letter”—same or different?
» Can you explain Galatians 6:11?
» What was “the epistle from Laodicea?”

Does Acts 7:6 have a mistake?

DOES ACTS 7:6 HAVE A MISTAKE?

by Shawn Brasseaux

The Prophet Stephen preached to the nation Israel’s apostate religious leaders in Acts 7:6: “And God spake on this wise, That his seed should sojourn in a strange land; and that they should bring them into bondage, and entreat them evil four hundred years.” Yet, when we check the Old Testament records, we encounter an incongruity. Is this a mistake? What are we to believe?

Stephen agrees with Genesis chapter 15: “[13] And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; [14] And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance.” But, when we look at the companion passage, Exodus chapter 12, we find another number: “[40] Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years. [41] And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt.”

Even the Apostle Paul reaffirms the 430-year-period in Galatians 3:17: “And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.” There were 430 years between the time of the Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis chapter 12) and the Mosaic Covenant (Exodus chapter 19)—the first agreement was made before the Egyptian bondage and the other was ratified after the Egyptian bondage.

Genesis and Stephen provide one number (400), but Exodus and Paul use another figure (430). Why? It is not difficult. Do we not, in daily language, estimate numbers or round them off to the nearest 10, 100, et cetera? If we find no fault in ourselves, neither do we have any justification for belittling the Scripture here! No, there is no mistake in Acts 7:6.

Also see:
» Does Acts 7:14 have a mistake?
» Does Acts 7:16 have a mistake?
» Does Acts 7:43 have mistakes?

Can you explain Galatians 3:17?

CAN YOU EXPLAIN GALATIANS 3:17?

by Shawn Brasseaux

The Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul penned in Galatians 3:17: “And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.” Since this verse has several commas setting off phrases, it can be challenging to pair thoughts in a meaningful way. However, if we examine the verse in light of the context, it really is not difficult as originally assumed.

We will begin at verse 16: “[16] Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. [17] And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. [18] For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise. [19] Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. [20] Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one.”

The “covenant” at the opening of verse 17 is none other than the Abrahamic Covenant (see verse 16). Genesis 12:1-3 stresses what the LORD will do on Abraham’s behalf (grace) as opposed to what Abraham would do for the LORD (law): “[1] Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: [2] And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: [3] And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” God confirmed this agreement “in Christ” because it would depend on God’s performance. (Of particular interest here is the omission or removal of the words “in Christ” from the modern English versions, translated from a Greek text separate and distinct from the Greek Textus Receptus underlying the King James New Testament.)

Some 430 years after the Abrahamic Covenant, at Mount Sinai, Israel insisted on being under a performance-based acceptance system. This is the Mosaic Law, also known as the Old Covenant. Now, they would work in religion to become God’s people and receive His blessings if they obeyed Him. Of course, if they disobeyed Him, they would receive curses. This arrangement was certainly not like the contract the LORD made with Abraham over four centuries earlier!

Exodus chapter 19 records the exchange: “[1] In the third month, when the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day came they into the wilderness of Sinai. [2] For they were departed from Rephidim, and were come to the desert of Sinai, and had pitched in the wilderness; and there Israel camped before the mount. [3] And Moses went up unto God, and the LORD called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel; [4] Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself.” (Do you see God’s performance in verse 4—His rescuing Israel from Egyptian bondage?)

“[5] Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: [6] And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel. [7] And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the LORD commanded him. [8] And all the people answered together, and said, All that the LORD hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the LORD.” (Do you see Israel’s performance mentioned in verses 5 and 8?)

Even though God made a second covenant with Israel (the Mosaic Law), Galatians 3:17 says it did not cancel (“disannul”) His preexisting covenant with Abraham. Israel would ultimately become God’s people because of His faithfulness as opposed to theirs. The LORD God made a promise to Israel’s patriarch Abraham, and He could never take it back. See Galatians 3:18: “For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise.” However, Israel in her sinful flesh had to be taught this. Our sinful nature, in an attempt to “measure up to” or replace God’s righteousness, always wants to work! God had to prove to Israel it would have to be grace (His efforts), or nothing. Israel could never bring about the Abrahamic Covenant blessings in her own strength.

Let us turn to Romans chapter 4 for extra details: “[13] For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. [14] For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect: [15] Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression. [16] Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all, [17] (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.”

Simply put, God promised Abraham “righteousness.” “Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness” (Galatians 3:6). Once Abraham was justified, or had a right standing before God, he would be qualified to be “the heir of the world” (Romans 4:13). Righteousness was given to him by faith, not works, for (remember!) God was working on Abraham’s behalf as opposed to Abraham working on God’s behalf. The only thing grace accepts is faith!

Getting back to our original question, the Apostle Paul’s argument in Galatians chapter 3 is to simply show the Galatian saints the Law system is not advantageous to them any more than it was to Abraham or Israel. The Law was a temporary system, an arrangement God instituted so Israel could see she could not perform to get His blessings. It merely pointed out sin (Galatians 3:19), so it could not help the sinner become a saint or be justified in God’s sight (Romans 3:19-20). Israel had to learn God’s blessings would come solely from His faithfulness rather than her faithfulness. Likewise, in chapters 3 and 4 of Galatians, these members of the Church the Body of Christ had to realize Grace and not Law was God’s preferred method of dealing with them. Galatians 4:21: “Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law?” If necessary, read the entire Book of Galatians—and then read Romans chapters 1-8. Since the Galatians did not learn the basics of grace as found in Romans, they had to be retaught in Galatians! Even today, most professing believers in Christ struggle to understand such fundamental matters. This is because denominations and most churches constantly stress Law and ignore Grace. They do not rightly divide the word of truth, handling the Bible dispensationally (2 Timothy 2:15). Consequently, religious tradition has done more to harm than help souls.

Return to Galatians chapter 3 one last time: “[16] Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. [17] And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. [18] For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise.”

With a completed Bible in hand, we understand the ultimate “seed” of Abraham God promised him in Genesis 13:14-17 and Genesis 17:1-8 was Jesus Christ (cf. Galatians 3:16). It is Abraham’s nation that is in Christ (born again) who will be the heirs of the world, for it is Jesus Christ Himself who will inherit the world’s governments. (Lacking the prepositional phrase “in Christ” in Galatians 3:17, the modern English versions eliminate this connection.) As Hebrews chapter 1 tells us: “[1] God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, [2] Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;….”

All believing children of Abraham—all Jews with a circumcision in the flesh and in the heart (Romans 2:28-29)—will be heirs of that Abrahamic Covenant. Concerning the Old Covenant or the Mosaic Law, the New Covenant will replace it at Christ’s Second Coming, and through Jesus’ shed blood it will take care of Israel’s sins committed under the Old Covenant (Acts 3:19-21; Romans 11:25-27; Hebrews 8:1-13; Hebrews 9:1-28; Hebrews 10:1-39). It is through the New Covenant—God’s grace—that Israel receives the blessings of the Abrahamic Covenant. Having come full circle, we can now close this study!

Also see:
»
Can you shed light on Galatians 3:20?
»
Was the Law of Moses given by the LORD, or by angels?
»
How many dispensations are there?

“Ye have the poor always with you?”

“YE HAVE THE POOR ALWAYS WITH YOU?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

Sometimes, the Lord Jesus Christ is perceived to be callous or insensitive as touching the poor and destitute. After all, in Matthew 26:11, He said, “For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always.” What should we conclude here? Was Jesus really being unsympathetic?

Come to Matthew chapter 26: “[6] Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, [7] There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat. [8] But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste? [9] For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor. [10] When Jesus understood it, he said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me. [11] For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always. [12] For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial. [13] Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her.”

Upon first glance, Jesus seems rather cold-hearted. However, He in no way diminished the unfortunate plight of people disadvantaged and needy. Consider the background, and all will be clear. A woman anointed Jesus’ body with fine fragrance, so the disciples grew upset and exclaimed, “How she wasted that expensive substance!” They argued the aromatic herb could have been sold and the money used to help the poor. Jesus mildly corrected them for their confusion and mixed-up priorities. He would be alive for just a day or so more, so they needed to treat Him with respect while He was present with them. In the parallel passage (Mark 14:3-9), the wording is: “For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always” (verse 7). That is, “You will have plenty of other opportunities to help the poor, but you will not have another chance to do good to Me like this woman has just done!”

Indeed, He Himself had even spoken in Deuteronomy 15:11: “For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.” The Jews should help the poor, should be compassionate toward them, but they should never confuse the creature with the Creator (Romans 1:25).

Also see:
» Was God unfair in striking Uzzah dead?
» Was God unfair to punish us for Adam’s sin?
» Why did God judge Nadab and Abihu so strictly?

Who was High Priest—Annas or Caiaphas?

WHO WAS HIGH PRIEST—ANNAS OR CAIAPHAS?

by Shawn Brasseaux

The Bible speaks of Annas as “high priest.” It also applies the title to Caiaphas. How can there be two high priests?

  • Luke 3:2: Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.”
  • Matthew 26:3,57: “[3] Then assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas,…. [57] And they that had laid hold on Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled.
  • John 11:49: “And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all,….”
  • John 18:13-14,24,28: “[13] And led him away to Annas first; for he was father in law to Caiaphas, which was the high priest that same year. [14] Now Caiaphas was he, which gave counsel to the Jews, that it was expedient that one man should die for the people…. [24] Now Annas had sent him bound unto Caiaphas the high priest…. [28] Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment: and it was early; and they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the passover.”
  • Acts 4:6: “And Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem.”

According to Jewish history, Quirinus, the imperial Governor of Syria (cf. “Cyrenius,” the Greek form of the name, in Luke 2:1-2), appointed Annas to the office of High Priest circa A.D. 6. Annas served for approximately 10 years, before the Roman Procurator Valerius Gratus unseated him and replaced him with his son-in-law (full name Joseph Caiaphas). Caiaphas held the office until about A.D. 36, within a few years after Calvary. While Caiaphas really was the High Priest, his father-in-law Annas evidently still exercised a considerable amount of the power he had formally held. Pagan rulers and corrupt politicians pervaded Israel’s government during this time anyway, so we need not be surprised at the convolution. Annas lived to be quite an old age, supposedly having five sons who became High Priests!

The Lord Jesus Christ stood before both Annas and Caiaphas during His trial. Both men were unbelievers, bitter enemies even of His 12 Apostles in the early Acts period.

Also see:
» Who was “Herod?”
» Who was “Caesar?”
» Who were the “Herodians?”

Does Acts 7:43 have mistakes?

DOES ACTS 7:43 HAVE MISTAKES?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Stephen’s sermon in Acts chapter 7 claims: “[42] Then God turned, and gave them up to worship the host of heaven; as it is written in the book of the prophets, O ye house of Israel, have ye offered to me slain beasts and sacrifices by the space of forty years in the wilderness? [43] Yea, ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god Remphan, figures which ye made to worship them: and I will carry you away beyond Babylon.”

We can go turn the Old Testament Book of Amos to find the original quote. (Acts 7:42 says “the prophets” because Hosea to Malachi, while 12 Books in our Gentile Old Testament, were originally one Book in the Hebrew Bible—it was titled “the Twelve,” as in “Twelve Prophets”). Read Amos chapter 5: “[25] Have ye offered unto me sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness forty years, O house of Israel? [26] But ye have borne the tabernacle of your Moloch and Chiun your images, the star of your god, which ye made to yourselves. [27] Therefore will I cause you to go into captivity beyond Damascus, saith the LORD, whose name is The God of hosts.”

If we are meticulous Bible students, we see two main points of controversy here. Firstly, Amos says “Chiun” whereas Stephen uses “Remphan” instead. Why? Secondly, Amos has “Damascus” but Stephen replaces it with “Babylon.” To what purpose?

The god “Chiun” is rather mysterious, so its identity is unclear. It may have been a statue to worship a pagan god associated with the planet Saturn (cf. “the host of heaven” in Acts 7:42). The Greek word “Remphan”—from Egyptian (?)—means “the shrunken [that is, lifeless].” God the Holy Ghost, speaking through Stephen (Acts 6:5; Acts 7:55), may have selected this word to underscore the lifelessness of “Chiun,” the false religion Israel had chosen. Whatever the idol’s name, it was still paganism and offensive to JEHOVAH God!

As touching “Damascus” in Amos, and “Babylon” in Acts, this is nothing more than the Holy Spirit through Stephen extending the initial prophecy so it encompasses a later prophecy. Amos was writing to the Northern Kingdom, Israel’s 10 tribes, which would soon go away into Assyrian Captivity (to the north, past Damascus—modern Syria). Judah, the Southern Kingdom, was exiled in the Babylonian Captivity approximately 100 years later (to the east, past Babylon—modern Iraq). Stephen, living many centuries after, replaces “Damascus” with “Babylon” to encompass all 12 tribes’ captivity in Gentile/foreign lands. In both cases, it was the fifth course of chastisement—God’s punishment on the idol-worshipping Jews (Leviticus 26:27-39)! Details concerning the Assyrian Captivity are in 2 Kings chapter 17; the Babylonian Captivity is found in chapters 24–25.

Also see:
» Does Acts 7:14 have a mistake?
» How did the Israeli patriarchs “resist” the Holy Ghost?
» Does Acts 7:16 have a mistake?
» Why did Jesus Christ stand in Acts 7:55-56?

Does Acts 7:16 have a mistake?

DOES ACTS 7:16 HAVE A MISTAKE?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Read the following excerpt from the Prophet Stephen’s sermon in Acts chapter 7: “[15] So Jacob went down into Egypt, and died, he, and our fathers, [16] And were carried over into Sychem, and laid in the sepulchre that Abraham bought for a sum of money of the sons of Emmor the father of Sychem.” Everything looks fine—until we check the Old Testament cross-references. Now, things get complex… and some poor, worried soul cries out, “Look, we have an error in the Bible!”

JACOB’S BURIAL: “For his [that is, Jacob’s] sons carried him into the land of Canaan, and buried him in the cave of the field of Machpelah, which Abraham bought with the field for a possession of a buryingplace of Ephron the Hittite, before Mamre” (Genesis 50:13). Jacob was entombed in the land of Machpelah. His grandfather Abraham bought that land from Ephron the Hittite: “And the field of Ephron which was in Machpelah, which was before Mamre, the field, and the cave which was therein, and all the trees that were in the field, that were in all the borders round about, were made sure Unto Abraham for a possession in the presence of the children of Heth, before all that went in at the gate of his city” (Genesis 23:17-18). Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 25:9-11), son Isaac (Genesis 35:27-29), and grandson Jacob (Genesis 50:13) were all buried here at Hebron.

JOSEPH’S BURIAL: According to Joshua 24:32, Joseph was buried in Shechem, what his father Jacob purchased from the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem: “And the bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel brought up out of Egypt, buried they in Shechem, in a parcel of ground which Jacob bought of the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for an hundred pieces of silver: and it became the inheritance of the children of Joseph.”

Some argue Stephen in Acts chapter 7 condensed these two burial accounts into one. However, we do not believe Stephen was speaking of Jacob’s entombment at all. To demonstrate this, we simply read Acts again: “[15] So Jacob went down into Egypt, and died, he, and our fathers, [16] And were carried over into Sychem, and laid in the sepulchre that Abraham bought for a sum of money of the sons of Emmor the father of Sychem.” Who was “carried over into Sychem [Greek form of Hebrew “Shechem”]?” The verb in verse 16 is “were,” so the implied pronoun is plural (“they”) not “he” (singular). Far better off we would be to apply “were carried” to the preceding nouns “he [Joseph], and our fathers [Joseph’s brethren].” Remember, as Joshua 24:32 just informed us, Joseph was buried in Shechem. Presumably, as Stephen says, all of Joseph’s brethren were buried there too. Jacob’s burial plot—and Abraham’s land transaction here—is another matter entirely.

We do not have to contend with any discrepancy between Genesis 50:13 and Acts 7:15-16. On one hand, yes, Genesis speaks of Abraham buying land from Ephron the Hittite. This was the eventual cemetery for the corpses of Abraham, son Isaac, and grandson Jacob. On the other hand, indeed, Acts refers to Abraham purchasing land from the sons of Emmor the father of Sychem (Shechem). This area ultimately became the cemetery in which Joseph and his brethren were disposed. Eliminating Genesis 50:13 as a companion verse to Acts 7:16 makes the matter considerably easier to handle.

The real controversy is between Joshua 24:32 and Acts 7:15-16. Who purchased Joseph’s burial land—Jacob or Abraham? Joshua claims Joseph was buried in land that Jacob, Joseph’s father, bought from “the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem.” Stephen in Acts asserts Joseph’s tomb was part of the property Abraham bought from “the sons of Emmor the father of Sychem.” (“Hamor” and “Emmor” are interchangeable, as are “Shechem” and “Sychem.” Stephen’s words, part of the Greek New Testament, translate the Hebrew names found in Joshua.)

Abraham built an altar in Shechem back in Genesis chapter 12: “[6] And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem [that is, Shechem], unto the plain of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land. [7] And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him.” Presumably, Abraham bought this land from Hamor’s family before erecting that altar. However, Abraham did not dwell here permanently, so the land reverted back to Hamor’s family. Evidently, Jacob repurchased it from them, and this matches Genesis chapter 33: “[18] And Jacob came to Shalem, a city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Padanaram; and pitched his tent before the city. [19] And he bought a parcel of a field, where he had spread his tent, at the hand of the children of Hamor, Shechem’s father, for an hundred pieces of money. [20] And he erected there an altar, and called it EleloheIsrael.” (Notice he bought the land before constructing the altar. We would assume Abraham did the same earlier.)

CONCLUSION

The supposed “contradiction” between Acts 7:16 and the Old Testament record is nonexistent. No errors exist. Filled with the Holy Ghost (Acts 6:5; Acts 7:55), Stephen supplements the Hebrew Bible not “corrects” it. Here is our reasoning:

  1. Jacob was buried in the field of Machpelah, what his grandfather Abraham purchased from Ephron the Hittite (Genesis 50:13). Note: Stephen in Acts is not referring to this transaction or burial.
  2. Abraham bought the land of Sichem/Shechem/Sychem from the sons of Hamor/Emmor, and then built an altar there (Genesis 12:6-7; Acts 7:16). However, Abraham did not settle in Shechem. Consequently, ownership of this real estate reverted back to Hamor’s family.
  3. A few centuries later, Abraham’s grandson Jacob repurchased the land of Shechem from Hamor’s family (Genesis 33:18-19). Jacob’s son Joseph, and Joseph’s brethren, were buried in Shechem (Acts 7:15-16).

Also see:
» Does Acts 7:14 have a mistake?
» How did the Israeli patriarchs “resist” the Holy Ghost?
» Does Acts 7:43 have a mistake?
» Why did Jesus Christ stand in Acts 7:55-56?

Does Acts 7:14 have a mistake?

DOES ACTS 7:14 HAVE A MISTAKE?

by Shawn Brasseaux

In Acts 7:14, the Prophet Stephen preaches: “Then sent Joseph, and called his father Jacob to him, and all his kindred, threescore and fifteen souls.” A “score” is 20, so “threescore and fifteen” totals 75. You may not realize it, friend, but this forms the heart of a centuries-old debate amongst textual critics (Bible correctors).

The Old Testament record calculates 70:

  • “And the sons of Joseph, which were born him in Egypt, were two souls: all the souls of the house of Jacob, which came into Egypt, were threescore and ten(Genesis 46:27).
  • “And all the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob were seventy souls: for Joseph was in Egypt already” (Exodus 1:5).
  • “Thy fathers went down into Egypt with threescore and ten persons; and now the LORD thy God hath made thee as the stars of heaven for multitude” (Deuteronomy 10:22).

How do we reconcile Stephen’s reckoning with that of Moses? Was it 70 or 75? One method—the easiest and laziest!—is to hold to the 70 of Moses as factual and dismiss the 75 of Acts 7:14 as nothing but a “scribal error.” This is unbelief rather than faith. We have a serious problem if we claim to be “Bible believers” but are willing to renounce it where it has “mistakes!” Another “scholarly” way people have handled this textual difficulty is by appealing to the Septuagint (LXX), the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament supposedly written a few centuries before Christ. The Septuagint adds five names to the family tree in Genesis 46:20. As with the other route, this too is doubt not faith.

First, notice Genesis 46:20 in the King James Bible (and its underlying Hebrew Masoretic Text): “And unto Joseph in the land of Egypt were born Manasseh and Ephraim, which Asenath the daughter of Potipherah priest of On bare unto him.” You will recall verse 27: “And the sons of Joseph, which were born him in Egypt, were two souls: all the souls of the house of Jacob, which came into Egypt, were threescore and ten.” The Bible says 70.

Now, based on the genealogy listed in 1 Chronicles chapter 7, the editors of the Septuagint cleverly altered Genesis 46:20 so it reads this way: “And there were sons born to Joseph in the land of Egypt, whom Aseneth, the daughter of Petephres, priest of Heliopolis, bore to him, Manasses and Ephraim. And there were sons born to Manasses, which the Syrian concubine bore to him, Machir. And Machir begot Galaad. And the sons of Ephraim, the brother of Manasses; Sutalaam, and Taam. And the sons of Sutalaam; Edom.” Did you see how the (Greek) Septuagint modifies the Hebrew Bible here? Five names have been added—one son of Manasseh (Machir), two sons of Ephraim (Sutalaam and Taam), and one grandson of both Manasseh (Galaad) and Ephraim (Edom). Now, the “revised” total of verse 27: “And the sons of Joseph, who were born to him in the land of Egypt, were nine souls; all the souls of the house of Jacob who came with Joseph into Egypt, were seventy-five souls.” Verse 27 has been forced to match Stephen’s words (75 people; Acts 7:14).

As opposed to trusting the “new” Old Testament as found in the Septuagint—which contains the Apocryphal Books as though they are inspired of God—here is how we think we should approach this matter from a Bible-believing (not Bible-correcting or Bible-corrupting) standpoint.

Genesis 46:26-27 says: “[26] All the souls that came with Jacob into Egypt, which came out of his loins, besides Jacob’s sons’ wives, all the souls were threescore and six; [27] And the sons of Joseph, which were born him in Egypt, were two souls: all the souls of the house of Jacob, which came into Egypt, were threescore and ten.” Scripture is clear 66 came with Jacob into Egypt. Joseph and his two sons (Ephraim and Manasseh) were already living in Egypt, bringing the number up to 69. Jacob himself would be the 70th person of “the house of Jacob” (verse 27).

In Acts 7:14, Stephen says the number of Jacob’s “kindred” were 75. Genesis 46:26 leads us to conclude the higher number incorporates Jacob’s daughters-in-law (his sons’ wives). The number 75 would have been even greater, but some members of Jacob’s family perished in Canaan before the household migrated into Egypt. For example, Er and On—grandsons of Jacob through his son Judah—expired in Canaan (Genesis 46:12). Also, Rachel, one of Jacob’s four wives, died in Canaan while giving birth to Benjamin. Neither did Rachel accompany them into Egypt (Genesis 35:19).

If we will correct the Hebrew Bible using the Septuagint (LXX), attempting to harmonize it with Stephen’s words in Acts 7:14, we have introduced confusion that would have otherwise not occurred! The extra five names in Genesis 46:20 of the LXX increases the number to 80, so we would then have to alter Acts 7:14 from 75 to 80. (And that would be an error!!) Again, relying on the Septuagint’s “dependability” is hopeless here—and, if we cling to it, we will surely fall to our doctrinal demise!! It only complicates an already difficult matter.

CONCLUSION

Contrary to popular belief, Acts 7:14 is not a “scribal error.” Stephen’s number 75 is appropriate because it tallies Jacob’s daughters-in-law, whereas Moses’ number 70 of Genesis 46:27, Exodus 1:5, and Deuteronomy 10:22 excludes them (cf. Genesis 46:26). Friend, retain and believe the King James Bible’s readings, and you will not be confused—here, or any other passage.

Also see:
» Does Acts 7:16 have a mistake?
» How did the Israeli patriarchs “resist” the Holy Ghost?
» Does Acts 7:43 have a mistake?
» Why did Jesus Christ stand in Acts 7:55-56?

Can you explain, “Strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel?”

CAN YOU EXPLAIN, “STRAIN AT A GNAT, AND SWALLOW A CAMEL?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

In Matthew 23:24, we find the Lord Jesus Christ voicing a bizarre censure: “Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.” How should we handle such unusual language?

Verily, verily, Matthew chapter 23 and John chapter 8 are Christ’s harshest words directed toward corrupt religious leaders. The Jewish nation to which He is ministering is largely deceived—and that is because its spiritual leaders have been willing participants of Satan’s policy of evil! He calls them “blind guides” because they lack spiritual eyes to guide Israel in the Word and ways of JEHOVAH God. These very religious leaders will, in rank unbelief, soon encourage the nation to demand Jesus’ crucifixion because they view Him as nothing but an imposter. Ironically, they are the men perverting the nation and leading it astray. The best word to describe them is “hypocrites” (a word Jesus uses seven times in Matthew chapter 23). Despite their nice external features, they are evil and faithless inside. Parading their “ceremonial cleanness,” they are still internally soiled!

So, what of the “gnat” and the “camel?” How do they factor into this matter? Why would the Lord mention them at all? According to the Mosaic Law, the gnat was the smallest of the unclean or non-kosher creatures in Palestine. Leviticus chapter 11: “[23] But all other flying creeping things, which have four feet, shall be an abomination unto you. [24] And for these ye shall be unclean: whosoever toucheth the carcase of them shall be unclean until the even. [25] And whosoever beareth ought of the carcase of them shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until the even.” The camel was the largest unclean animal in Palestine, as seen in verse 4: “Nevertheless these shall ye not eat of them that chew the cud, or of them that divide the hoof: as the camel, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you.”

In an effort to be as ceremonially clean as possible—not accidentally consuming the corpse of a tiny gnat—the Jews were careful to strain their drinks. However, Jesus pointed this out in sarcasm and hyperbole. They had the discernment to avoid eating a puny unclean gnat but lacked sense to prevent themselves from eating a whole camel! That is, they were more fixated on minor issues than major ones. Their priorities are mixed up. They cannot see the greater error! Hence, they were rightly termed “blind guides.” (The same could be said of religionists today.)

Also see:
» Did the Lord forbid public prayer?
» Can you explain, “They be blind leaders of the blind?”
» Should we be “fruit inspectors?”