• Law,  Old Testament

    What Does it Mean to Take the Name of the Lord in Vain?

    The first commandment states that God is to be supreme above all of creation, nothing created is to be elevated to His position. The second commandment states that God is not to be brought down to the common level of creation. Together both commandments reflect the rightful position which God is to occupy. They function as two sides of the same coin. Unsurprisingly, the third commandment, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain” (Exod 20:7), can only rightfully be applied when we understand the significance of the first two commandments. Because of who God is as Creator, we have a mandate to act in a certain way. The Traditional Understanding of Taking the Name of the Lord in Vain Growing up, I was always taught the primary reference of the third commandment was to our speech (i.e., we should not say “God” or “Jesus”…

  • Law,  Old Testament

    No Idol or Likeness—The Uncommon God (Exod 20:4-6)

    The first commandment stated that God is supreme above all things. The second commandment is, like the first commandment, also an application of the supremacy of the Creator. The first commandment applied the supremacy of God through mandating that nothing is to be treated as God. The theological reality which undergirds the second commandment is that God must never be brought down to creation status. So, together the first two commandments teach that nothing must ever be elevated to God’s rightful status as supreme object of our affection and worship; second, God must never be treated as common or as a part of creation. The second commandment, like the first, is rooted in Genesis 1. We see this clearly by the repetition of Genesis 1 language, “heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.” This commandment focuses specifically upon making any representation of God…

  • Law,  Old Testament

    The Supremacy of God in the Commandments

    The Ten Commandments are one of the most beloved sections of Scripture. Even nonbelievers usually know at least a few of the Ten Commandments. However, often the commandments are misunderstood or misapplied. Thus, we will take this opportunity to go through the Ten Commandments and make some important observations. Of great importance is understanding that the first commandment is foundational for the rest of the Ten Commandments. When God says, “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exod 20:3), He is demanding exclusive worship. This exclusive worship is unsurprising, because the theological foundation of the Ten Commandments assumes the uniqueness of God and His divine role as Creator. Notice that the word, “LORD,” is not present in this command. The Lord is mentioned by name (“LORD”, יהוה) throughout Exodus 20 (vv. 5, 7, 10, 11, 12), yet here the focus is on God in relation to His status as…

  • Hermeneutics,  Law,  Old Testament

    To Boil or Not to Boil: Exod 12:8-9 and Deut 16:7 in Contradiction?

    Many people constantly accuse the Bible of having contradictions within it. One such alleged contradiction is in regard to the command not to boil the Passover lamb. In Exodus 12:8-9, Israel is forbidden to eat any of the lamb raw or to boil it in water. Similarly, in Deuteronomy 16:5-7, Moses’ instructions on eating the Passover include the command to cook it and eat it. Although the apparent contradiction is not present in many English translations, the issue is that the Hebrew of Exodus 12:8-9 says not to “boil [מְבֻשָּׁל] in water,” while Deuteronomy 16:7 uses the same verb while saying, “boil [וּבִשַּׁלְתָּ] and eat.” So the same verb (“to boil,” בשׁל) is used in both verses, but seemingly in contradiction. In Exodus 12:9 Israel is told not to בשׁל (boil) the meat. But in Deuteronomy 16:7 they are told to בשׁל (boil) it. Are these two passages a contradiction?…

  • Old Testament

    Ancient Israel’s Calendar and the Bible

    A calendar is a cultural convention of tracking extended time. It is internalized without much thought by a culture, but it is interesting (and important) to note that calendars have changed significantly over time. In fact, it may come as a surprise to some readers that the current calendar that Western nations use is called the Gregorian calendar, which was recently (1582 AD) put into place by Pope Gregory XIII to improve the former Julian calendar, which had been used utilized since the time of domination by the Roman Empire. The Julian calendar, named after Julius Caesar (40s BC), was largely accurate, but was off by about 1 day per 100 years. Thus, Pope Gregory instituted a new calendar which would align even more precisely with the times and seasons, and would avoid having a regression (however slight it may be). So, the present calendar we use was not even…

  • Apologetics,  Church,  Ethics,  Old Testament

    What is Marriage?

    We are in the midst of a time where terms are being redefined to suit one’s own purpose. However, if we want to think rightly and accurately about an issue, we need to think in terms of the definitions laid out in God’s Word. Nowhere is this more evident than in the question, “What is marriage?” In contrast to how marriage would have been defined even 10 years ago, the first search result of the question, “What is marriage” (Psychology Today) defines marriage as follows: Marriage is the process by which two people make their relationship public, official, and permanent. It is the joining of two people in a bond that putatively lasts until death, but in practice is often cut short by separation or divorce. Notice how marriage is defined here. Marriage is simply two people making their relationship (which already exists) public. This cultural definition of marriage is in stark…

  • New Testament,  Old Testament

    Why the Intertestamental Period Matters

    The book of Malachi was written approximately 400 B.C. The next biblical events that are addressed are those 400 years later, around the birth of Jesus. The time between is known as the intertestamental period. Some have called this intertestamental period “400 not-so-silent years.” Since many Christians often have no idea what happened in this time period, I will provide a brief snapshot of what happened during the intertestamental period and why it matters. Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem in 587 BC, and the Jews were scattered in exile throughout the kingdom of Babylon (and some in Egypt). In 539 BC, Cyrus the Great of Persia conquered Babylon. Under Cyrus the Jews were allowed to return to their homes and they rebuilt the city of Jerusalem and the Temple. World dominion stayed in Persian hands until Darius III (336-331 BC). Beginning in 334 BC, 20 yr old Alexander the Great launched an offensive…

  • Hermeneutics,  New Testament,  Old Testament

    Why Does Jesus say, “I am the Good Shepherd”?

    “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). Most Christians are familiar with the picture of Jesus as the good shepherd. Typically, the meaning of the good shepherd comparison focuses on Jesus’ care for Christians. I have heard multiple sermons on what it means for Jesus to be the shepherd. In particular, I remember a sermon where the question was asked, “What is a shepherd?” The proposed points in the sermon went something like: A Shepherd Leads the Sheep A Shepherd Feeds the Sheep A Shepherd Loves the Sheep A Shepherd Sacrifices for the Sheep Now I do not dispute that these points are indeed true of a shepherd. Further, I do think there can be an analogy between these points and the love and care of Christ. However, I think we are missing something if we don’t examine this reference…

  • Old Testament

    Egypt, the Hyksos, and the People of Israel

    Many people have not heard of the Hyksos before. The Hyksos are not mentioned in Scripture, but there are many times in Scripture where knowing the historical background helps one understand what is going on in the text. Such is certainly the case in Exodus 1, where we are told rather abruptly that a Pharaoh arose over Egypt that “did not know Joseph” (Exod 1:8). Although it is possible that this could actually be a reference to a Pharaoh not having any historical knowledge of how the Israelites came to be in Egypt, that seems highly unlikely. Rather, the concept of “knowing” in the Hebrew Bible often will carry with it a relationship component (cf. Gen 4:1; 18:19). If such is the case here, then the point is that a Pharaoh arose over Egypt who did not wish to be friendly to the Israelites as the Egyptians had in the…

  • Old Testament

    What Color was Joseph’s “Coat of Many Colors”?

    I still remember learning the story of Joseph and his brothers in Sunday School growing up. I remember watching the story played out on a flannelgraph where the main character, Joseph, was displayed in his brightly colored “rainbow” coat. I also remember going to a local theater to watch the musical, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat.” These were landmark times in my life. But, were these teachings mistaken? It is no surprise that most people think Joseph was the object of jealousy of his brothers because of his coat of many colors. Consider the following translations of Gen 37:3. ESV Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his sons, because he was the son of his old age. And he made him a robe of many colors.   NASB Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his sons, because he was the son of his old…