Sunday, April 6, 2014

Did Jesus Exist?

           With Easter approaching, I wanted to revisit a topic that I continue to see resurfacing, mostly on Facebook and Internet message boards.  A popular modern theory is that, quite simply, Jesus never existed, and that there is little to no evidence outside of the Bible that points to a man named Jesus of Nazareth.  Is this claim actually true?
            First, let's look at the extra-Biblical evidence for Jesus.  The following documents testify to the existence of a man named Jesus of Nazareth (sometimes the Romans called him "Christus" or "Chrestus"), and all of them were written within 100 years of the time period he was said to have lived in (circa 6 BCE - 30 CE):
            Tacitus, a first century Roman historian (who lived circa 56-117 CE), mentioned  a man called "Christus" being executed during the reign of Emperor Tiberius (reigned 14-37 CE), and Emperor Nero's persecution of Christians in 64 CE: "Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Jud├Ža, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired." [1]
            Suetonius, another first century Roman historian (who lived circa 69-122 CE), also mentioned Christians being punished by Emperor Nero [2].  He also mentioned a man named "Chrestus", in his account of the life of Emperor Claudius (reigned 41-54 CE): "Since the Jews constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus,  he expelled them from Rome". [3]
            Josephus, a Jewish  historian (who lived circa 37-100 CE), mentioned Jesus, James and John the Baptist in Antiquities.  His main passage about Jesus has been disputed, due to doubt over whether or not some of the phrases in the passage were added at a later date.  The following is the paragraph, with what is commonly believed to be additions by a later Christian translator in brackets: “At this time there appeared Jesus, a wise man [if indeed one ought to refer to him as a man]. For he was a doer of startling deeds, a teacher of people who received the truth with pleasure. And he gained a following both among many Jews and among many of Greek origin. [He was the Messiah-Christ.] And when Pilate, because of an accusation made by the leading men among us, condemned him to the cross, those who had loved him previously did not cease to do so. [For on the third day he appeared to them again alive, just as the divine prophets had spoken about these and countless other marvelous things about him.] And up until this very day the tribe of Christians, named after him, has not died out.” [4]  Later, Josephus describes the death of Jesus' brother, James: “But this younger Ananus, who, as we told you already, took the high priesthood, was a bold man in his temper, and very insolent.  He assembled the Sanhedrin of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus the so-called Messiah-Christ, whose name was James, and some others. When he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them over to be stoned.” [5]
            Pliny the Younger (who lived circa 61-112 CE), was a magistrate of Rome during the late first and early second century.  He wrote a series of letters to Emperor Trajan.  One of them concerned what should be done with the Christians he arrested: "They also declared that the sum total of their guilt or error amounted to no more than this: they had met regularly before dawn on a fixed day to chant verses alternately amongst themselves in honor of Christ as if to a god, and also to bind themselves by oath, not for any criminal purpose, but to abstain from theft, robbery and adultery." [6] 
            Mara bar Serapion was an Assyrian Stoic philosopher, who wrote one letter to his son which has survived.  Most scholars date this letter to being composed shortly after 73 CE (Mara was taken captive circa 72 CE by the Romans).  He wrote the following passage in his letter: "What else can we say, when the wise are forcibly dragged off by tyrants, their wisdom is captured by insults, and their minds are oppressed and without defense? What advantage did the Athenians gain from murdering Socrates? Famine and plague came upon them as a punishment for their crime. What advantage did the men of Samos gain from burning Pythagoras? In a moment their land was covered with sand. What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise king? It was just after that their kingdom was abolished. God justly avenged these three wise men: the Athenians died of hunger; the Samians were overwhelmed by the sea and the Jews, desolate and driven from their own kingdom, live in complete dispersion. But Socrates is not dead, because of Plato; neither is Pythagoras, because of the statue of Juno; nor is the wise king, because of the 'new law' he laid down." [7]  Some scholars see the reference to the "wise king" as an early non-Christian reference to Jesus.
            A common response when these extra-Biblical references are presented is as follows: "These documents were written between 40-90 years after the death of Jesus, so they can't be considered valid references".  Actually, the fact that anything was written about Jesus within a century of his death is unusual, considering that in the ancient world, biographies and histories were often not written about a person or event for at least a couple of centuries.  For example, Alexander the Great lived circa 356-323 BCE, but his earliest biography was not written until the first century BCE, leaving a gap of 300 years [8].  The biography and sayings of Buddha were not written until the first century CE, over 400 years after his death [9].  To have multiple sources mentioning the same relatively obscure person within the time frame of a century after his death was not common.
            In terms of the Biblical evidence for Jesus' existence, we have the four Gospels, written by eyewitnesses and their companions, which all tell the story of Jesus, his life and teachings, and his death and resurrection.  The letters of early church fathers (such as Papias, Polycarp and a document known as the Didache), written between 95-150 CE, quoted extensively from all four of the Gospels and said that they contained the words of Jesus.  We also have an early fragment of John's Gospel (known as Papyrus P52), dated roughly to the first half of the second century CE.  The four Gospels were in circulation and being quoted by 100 CE, which means that they were written within 70 years of the death and resurrection of Jesus (which occurred circa 30 CE).  In addition, we have the letters of Paul, Peter and James, who all were martyred prior to 67 CE.  All of these letters testified to the existence of Jesus and his death and resurrection, and all were written within 40 years of the events.
            In conclusion, the claim that Jesus never existed is not sound.  There are simply too many sources that were written within a century after his lifetime to attest to his existence. 

[1] Tacitus, Annals 15.44 (written circa 116 CE), translated by Church and Brodribb
[2] Suetonius, Life of Nero 16.2 (writen circa 121 CE)
[3] Suetonius, Life of Claudius 25.4 (written circa 121 CE)
[4] Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 18.63-64 (written circa 93-94 CE)
[5] Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 20.200 (written circa 93-94 CE)
[6] Pliny the Younger, Letters, 10.96 (written circa 111 CE)
[7] Mara ben Serapion, The Epistle
[8] "Diodorus Siculus",*.html

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Debt and Slave Regulations (Leviticus 25)

The following quotes are taken from

"Slavery In The Bible - Except for murder, slavery has got to be one of the most immoral things a person can do.  Yet slavery is rampant throughout the Bible in both the Old and New Testaments.  The Bible clearly approves of slavery in many passages, and it goes so far as to tell how to obtain slaves, how hard you can beat them, and when you can have sex with the female slaves.

"Many Jews and Christians will try to ignore the moral problems of slavery by saying that these slaves were actually servants or indentured servants.  Many translations of the Bible use the word "servant", "bondservant", or "manservant" instead of "slave" to make the Bible seem less immoral than it really is.  While many slaves may have worked as household servants, that doesn't mean that they were not slaves who were bought, sold, and treated worse than livestock.

"The following passage shows that slaves are clearly property to be bought and sold like livestock."

"However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you.  You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land.  You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance.  You may treat your slaves like this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must never be treated this way."  (Leviticus 25:44-46 NLT)

These verses are part of a larger passage concerning the Year of Jubilee and the treatment of slaves, both Israelite and foreigner.  You can read the entire chapter here:

            The first quote claims that the Bible approves of slavery.  This is not the case.  Though God allowed certain conditions to exist for a time period, such as polygamy and slavery, he did not approve of them.  There are no statements in the Bible that praise slavery or even command people to own slaves.  The references to slavery in the Bible are laws concerning how slaves were supposed to be treated. 
            The slavery of the Ancient Near East was different than the slavery in the world over the past few hundred years.  In Western culture over the past few centuries, particularly in the United States, slavery was primarily race-based, and people were kidnapped from their homes and forced into slavery against their will.  They received no monetary compensation for their services, and were often severely physically, verbally and emotionally abused by their owners.  The Bible most definitely condemns this type of slavery.  In the Law, anyone who kidnapped a person in order to sell them into slavery was sentenced to death (Exodus 21:16).  Slavery based on race alone was also discouraged; the Hebrews were made slaves in Egypt simply because of their race, and God was concerned about the way they were being oppressed (Exodus 2:23-25).
            The second quote is also incorrect - In the Ancient Near East, the class system was very different from most cultures today.  Many people, when becoming poor, destitute, or overly in debt, would have to sell themselves and their children into slavery in order to survive [1][2][3].  With this in mind, part of the Law concerned the fair treatment of slaves.  For example, a Hebrew who sold himself into slavery to another Hebrew could not be enslaved for more than 6 years (Exodus 21:2).
            This brings us to the first question presented: Why were the Israelites permitted to own foreign slaves for longer than 6 years, sometimes even for life?  We must consider a few things here.  The foreign slaves living in the land of the Israelites were most likely in the same situation as an Israelite who had become destitute and had to sell themselves as slaves: they had no other choice if they wanted to survive.  In some instances, people sold themselves to the Israelites in exchange for protection from attacks by other nations, as in the case of the Gibeonites (Joshua 9-10).
            Also, though the Law allowed the Israelites to own a foreign slave for life, it wasn't a requirement.  The verse states, "You can (or, you may) bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can (or may) make them slaves for life" (Leviticus 25:46, NIV) - the verse says "you can", not "you must".  It was certainly acceptable to give a foreign slave their freedom after a specified period of time.
            Slaves, whether foreign or Israelite, were not treated like livestock.  The Law prohibited the gross mistreatment or murder of slaves.  Many of these laws in the Bible were actually a step up from other laws concerning slavery in the Ancient Near East during that time period.  For example, in the Code of Hammurabi, if a person permanently injured a slave, they would have to pay one half of the value [4].  In the Law, if a person permanently injured a slave, the slave was to be set free as compensation (Exodus 21:26-27). 
            Other laws in the Bible concerning the fair treatment of slaves are as follows:

Slaves could not be forced to work on the Sabbath; they had a day of rest just as free people did (Exodus 20:10, 23:12; Deuteronomy 5:14).

Slaves could celebrate at the Festival of Weeks and the Festival of Tabernacles with their masters (Deuteronomy 16:9-15).

Anyone who beat a slave to death would be punished (Exodus 21:20).

A slave must be immediately set free if their master hit and permanently injured them (Exodus 21:26-27).

The Israelites had to protect foreign slaves who had escaped from their masters; they could not turn them in.  The former slaves could then live as free people among them (Deuteronomy 23:15-16).

            Slavery was - and is - not an ideal condition, nor is it commended by God.  This is why most of the passages in the Bible referring to slavery are laws regarding their treatment.  Slaves were human beings created in the image of God just as free people were, and their mistreatment was forbidden. 

[1] Life and Society in the West: Antiquity and the Middle Ages, Constance Brittain Bouchard, 1988.  Pg. 33.
[2] A History of the Ancient World (Fourth Edition), Chester G. Starr, 1991.  Pg. 43.
[3] Life In The Ancient Near East, Daniel C. Snell, 1997.  Pg. 35-36.
[4] Code of Hammurabi (written circa 1772 BCE), translated into English by L.W. King (1915) #199, see also #16-20

See also:

"Why was slavery allowed in the Old Testament?"

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Elijah and the Prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:16-40)

The following quote is taken from

"Murder - "At the customary time for offering the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet walked up to the altar and prayed, "O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, prove today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant. Prove that I have done all this at your command.  O LORD, answer me! Answer me so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God and that you have brought them back to yourself."  Immediately the fire of the LORD flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones, and the dust.  It even licked up all the water in the ditch!  And when the people saw it, they fell on their faces and cried out, "The LORD is God!  The LORD is God!"  Then Elijah commanded, "Seize all the prophets of Baal.  Don't let a single one escape!"  So the people seized them all, and Elijah took them down to the Kishon Valley and killed them there."  (1 Kings 18:36-40 NLT)

This is part of the larger story of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, and of Elijah, one of God's prophets.  You can read the full story of Elijah's contest against the prophets of Baal here:

(For the entire story, please see 1 Kings 16 - 2 Kings 2).

            Elijah was one of God's greatest prophets.  He lived during the reign of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel of Israel (reigned circa 885-874 BCE).  King Ahab was one of Israel's worst kings.  He married Jezebel, a Sidonian princess, and together they instituted worship of Baal, a false god, in Israel.  "Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the LORD than any of those before him" (1 Kings 16:30, NIV).  In addition to deliberately committing idolatry themselves and leading the Israelites to do the same, Queen Jezebel murdered many of the LORD's prophets (1 Kings 18:3-4). 
            In the verses preceding this one, Elijah presented himself to King Ahab at God's command, and they gathered the Israelites on Mount Carmel, together with the 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah, another false god that Ahab worshipped.  The intention was to determine, once and for all, which god was real and which one was false; to determine which god should be worshipped by the Israelites.
            Why was this such a serious issue?  The charge of idolatry is a very grievous sin, which God does not take lightly (see Exodus 20:3-6, 23; 23:13, 23-24; 34:17; Leviticus 19:4; 26:1; Deuteronomy 4:15-28; 5:7; 6:14-15; 8:19; 12:31; 17:2-7; 27:15; 29:17-18).  God warned the Israelites on several occasions that if they committed idolatry, it was a crime that warranted the death penalty.  The Israelites' covenant with God demanded that they worship and serve him only.  They were not supposed to worship other gods or fashion idols for themselves.  God had warned them that if they did these things, it would lead to their destruction: "If you ever forget the LORD your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed" (Deuteronomy 8:19, NIV). 
            Why is idolatry considered such a serious crime?  The severity of the judgment, capital punishment, is due to the severity of the sin.  God is the only God, the Lord and creator of all the universe.  When anyone bows down and worships or pays tribute to a false god or idol, they are taking credit away from God and giving it to something undeserving of that credit.  "I am the LORD; that is my name!  I will not yield my glory to another or my praise to idols" (Isaiah 42:8, NIV).  The crime of idolatry was so serious that it was often referred to as adultery against God (Ezekiel 6:9).
            In the contest that Elijah proposed, he would set up a sacrifice of a bull on one altar, and Baal's prophets would set up a sacrifice of a bull on another altar.  Then, each would call to their god, and the god who answered by fire was the true God.  The Israelites agreed to this contest.  The prophets of Baal went first - they spent the entire day crying out to Baal, dancing and mutilating themselves, but nothing happened.  Then Elijah had the altar with his sacrifice drenched with water three times.  He then prayed for God to answer him, and God answered with fire - it burned not only the drenched sacrifice on the altar, but also the wood, stones, soil and even the water in the trench.  After that, the people fell prostrate and declared the LORD to be the true God (1 Kings 18:16-39).
            The question that has been presented here is as follows: Why did Elijah have the prophets of Baal killed after this event?  The first and primary reason was because of their idolatry, and for leading the Israelites into a great sin against God.  The second reason was due to another sin. It is interesting that the author of does not mention this, since the website is focused on the condemnation of human sacrifice: human/child sacrifice was massively performed by those who worshipped Baal.
            Worship of Baal and Molech frequently involved the sacrifice of infants, particularly firstborn sons [1] [2] [3].  Sometimes the babies and children would be immediately burned to death in a fire, other times they would first be placed on an altar that had been heated by coals, and then rolled off of it into a burning fire as a sacrifice.  This practice was strongly condemned by God: "They built high places for Baal in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to sacrifice their sons and daughters to Molek, though I never commanded—nor did it enter my mind—that they should do such a detestable thing" (Jeremiah 32:35, NIV; see also Leviticus 18:21; 20:2-5; Deuteronomy 18:10; 2 Kings 23:10; Jeremiah 19:5).  (A common question in response is, "If God was against human/child sacrifice, then why did he command Abraham to sacrifice Isaac?"  See my earlier article for a discussion of this topic.)  Baal worship, besides human sacrifice and cultic prostitution, also involved self-mutilation (1 Kings 18:28).
            With all of this in mind, we can conclude that Elijah executed the prophets for violating God's commandments against idolatry and child sacrifice.  He was, in essence, doing to them what they had done to countless victims on their altars.   
[1] Exploring the World of the Bible Lands, Roberta L. Harris, 1995.  Pg. 53, 73, 89.
[2] A History of the Ancient World (Fourth Edition), Chester G. Starr, 1991.  Pg. 156.
[3] Archaeology of the Bible: Book By Book, Gaalyah Cornfield, 1976.  Pg. 52, 170.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Golden Calf (Exodus 32)

The following quote is taken from

"Kill Your Neighbors - "(Moses) stood at the entrance to the camp and shouted, 'All of you who are on the LORD's side, come over here and join me.' And all the Levites came.  He told them, 'This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: Strap on your swords! Go back and forth from one end of the camp to the other, killing even your brothers, friends, and neighbors.'  The Levites obeyed Moses, and about three thousand people died that day.  Then Moses told the Levites, 'Today you have been ordained for the service of the LORD, for you obeyed him even though it meant killing your own sons and brothers. Because of this, he will now give you a great blessing.'"  (Exodus 32:26-29 NLT) 

            This passage is part of the larger story of how the Israelites sinned against God by making a golden calf to worship.  You can read the full story here:

            At this point in Israel's history, God had just rescued the Israelites from perpetual slavery in Egypt.  The Israelites had been slaves in Egypt for 400 years, and were oppressed with hard labor (Exodus 1:8-14).  The Pharaoh of Egypt had also commanded the murder of thousands of infant Israelite boys (Exodus 1:22).  God sent Moses and Aaron to give God's command to Pharaoh to release the Israelites, but Pharaoh refused, and so God sent ten plagues on Egypt (Exodus 7-11).  After that, Pharaoh finally relented, and God led the Israelites (and non-Israelites who left Egypt with them) out of Egypt and into the wilderness, even parting the Red Sea so that they could pass through (Exodus 14).  While in the wilderness God took care of the Israelites, bringing water out of a rock for them to drink, and bread from the sky ("manna") to eat (Exodus 16-17).  When they reached Mount Sinai, God gave Moses the covenant that God was about to make with the Israelites: he rescued them from slavery in Egypt to bring them into a good land of their own, to protect them, bless them and make them his holy nation and treasured possession - as long as they kept his commandments.  The Israelites agreed to these terms (Exodus 19:8; 24:3, 7), and Moses received God's commandments on Mount Sinai while the people were gathered at the bottom of the mountain.  Moses was on the mountain for 40 days and nights (Exodus 24:18).
                Moses had been gone for so long that the Israelites began to think he had either died or abandoned them, and in their impatience and panic, they committed a great sin.  "When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, 'Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him'" (Exodus 32:1, NIV).  So Aaron fashioned a calf idol out of the gold earrings the people brought him, and they began to engage in idol worship, in defiance of the first commandment God had directly spoken to them prior to Moses' going up Mount Sinai: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.  You shall have no other gods before me.  You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.  You shall not bow down to them or worship them" (Exodus 20:2-5, NIV).  The Israelites had received this commandment directly from God before Moses left, but they disobeyed.
            The charge of idolatry is a very grievous sin, which God does not take lightly (see Exodus 20:3-6, 23; 23:13, 23-24; 34:17; Leviticus 19:4; 26:1; Deuteronomy 4:15-28; 5:7; 6:14-15; 8:19; 12:31; 17:2-7; 27:15; 29:17-18).  God warned the Israelites on several occasions that if they committed idolatry, it was a crime that warranted the death penalty.  The Israelites' covenant with God demanded that they worship and serve him only.  They were not supposed to worship other gods or fashion idols for themselves.  God had warned them that if they did these things, it would lead to their destruction: "If you ever forget the LORD your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed" (Deuteronomy 8:19, NIV). 
            Why is idolatry considered such a serious crime?  The severity of the judgment, capital punishment, is due to the severity of the sin.  God is the only God, the Lord and creator of all the universe.  When anyone bows down and worships or pays tribute to a false god or idol, they are taking credit away from God and giving it to something undeserving of that credit.  "I am the LORD; that is my name!  I will not yield my glory to another or my praise to idols" (Isaiah 42:8, NIV).  The crime of idolatry was so serious that it was often referred to as adultery against God (Ezekiel 6:9).
            In response to the Israelites' betrayal after he had rescued them from slavery, God was furious.  He was so angry that he told Moses he would destroy all of them, and start over with Moses and his family, making them into a great nation.  Moses reminded God of his promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and God refrained from destroying all of the Israelites (Exodus 32:7-14).  However, this great sin could not go unpunished (Numbers 14:18).
            In response to the Israelites' idolatry, Moses broke the tablets of the original covenant, to symbolize that the Israelites had broken their promise to God.  He then burned the calf idol, ground it into powder, scattered it on the water and made the Israelites drink it (Exodus 32:15-20).  He then called everyone who was willing to repent of their sin and be on the Lord's side to come to him, and all of the Levites came to him.  They were then commanded to kill those who were unrepentant and wished to continue in their idolatry, breaking God's covenant - even their family members, neighbors and friends.  Those who were unrepentant were killed, but the rest of the Israelites were spared (Exodus 32:25-30).  God is willing to show mercy to those who repent.
            This story is a sober reminder that God's commandments are not to be taken lightly.  He was very serious about the covenant that he made with the Israelites, and they were aware of the consequences if they broke it.  It was the Levites who would end up being God's priests, and they had to do the devastating task of carrying out God's judgment that day - even against family and friends.  Their loyalty was first to God.  God expects this kind of loyalty from all who believe in him - we are not commanded to take such drastic actions as the Levites did in the Israelite theocracy, but we are expected to put God and his commandments first in our lives.  Jesus said, “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.  Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me" (Matthew 10:37-38, NIV).
                Today, instead of God's old covenant that the Israelites continuously broke, we have a new covenant - a covenant not only for the Jewish people, but Gentiles as well - the New Covenant of Jesus, God's promised Messiah (Hebrews 8).  "While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, 'Take and eat; this is my body.'  Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, 'Drink from it, all of you.  This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins'" (Matthew 26:26-28, NIV).

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Prophecies Concerning The Messiah's Birth

The Messiah would be a descendant of Judah:

"The scepter will not depart from Judah,
    nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until he to whom it belongs shall come
    and the obedience of the nations shall be his."
- Genesis 49:10

Jesus is a descendant of Judah (Matthew 1:3; Luke 3:33).

The Messiah would be a descendant of David (the son of Jesse):

"A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
    from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
  The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
    the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
    the Spirit of counsel and of might,
    the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord
  and he will delight in the fear of the Lord."
-Isaiah 11:1-3

Jesus is a descendant of David (Matthew 1:6; Luke 3:31-32)

The Messiah would come from Bethlehem:

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
    though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
    one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
    from ancient times.”
- Micah 5:2

Jesus was born in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:1; Luke 2:1-7)

The Messiah would be born of a virgin woman:

"Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel."
- Isaiah 7:14

Jesus was born of a virgin woman (Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-38)

The Messiah would come and then be put to death 40 years before the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem:

“Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy Place.
“Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble.  After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed.  He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’  In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him."
- Daniel 9:24-27

“'I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,' says the Lord Almighty."
-Malachi 3:1

Jesus was born near the end of the reign of King Herod the Great, approximately 75 years before the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70 CE (Matthew 2:1).  He was crucified approximately 40 years before the destruction of the Temple (Luke 3:1-2, 23).

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Sennacherib Threatens Jerusalem (2 Kings 18-19)

The following quote is taken from

"The Angel of Death - "That night the angel of the Lord went forth and struck down one hundred and eighty five thousand men in the Assyrian camp.  Early the next morning, there they were, all the corpses of the dead."  (2 Kings 19:35 NAB)

            This passage is part of a larger story, concerning King Hezekiah's conflict with King Sennacherib of Assyria.  You can read the full story here:

            King Hezekiah of Judah (reigned circa 716-687 BCE), witnessed the destruction of the kingdom of Israel by the kingdom of Assyria in 722 BCE.  In 701 BCE, after capturing all the fortified cities of Judah, King Sennacherib of Assyria sent messengers to Hezekiah to threaten Jerusalem.  The field commander threatened Hezekiah and the people of Jerusalem publicly, in their language, in front of the city walls (2 Kings 18:17-37, NIV).  It was Sennacherib's intention to destroy Jerusalem and take the people into captivity, as the Israelites had been conquered.  Among other things, the Assyrian field commander told the people of Jerusalem: “Was it only to your master and you that my master sent me to say these things, and not to the people sitting on the wall—who, like you, will have to eat their own excrement and drink their own urine?” (2 Kings 18:27, NIV).  The field commander urged the people to betray their king and surrender to Sennacherib, or face destruction.  Worst of all, he repeated Sennacherib's message of blasphemy, insulting not only Hezekiah and the people of Jerusalem, but God himself.  “Do not listen to Hezekiah, for he is misleading you when he says, ‘The Lord will deliver us.’  Has the god of any nation ever delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria?" (2 Kings 18:32-33, NIV).  In saying such things, Sennacherib and his men were openly mocking the God who created them, and falsely boasting that they were more powerful.
            In response to these threats and insults, King Hezekiah prayed for God to deliver them: "Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the Lord and spread it out before the Lord.  And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord: 'Lord, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth.  You have made heaven and earth.  Give ear, Lord, and hear; open your eyes, Lord, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God.  It is true, Lord, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands.  They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by human hands.  Now, Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, Lord, are God.'” (2 Kings 19:14-19, NIV). 
            God heard Sennacherib's insults and Hezekiah's prayer for deliverance, and he responded through the prophet Isaiah with a message to Sennacherib: "Who is it you have ridiculed and blasphemed?  Against whom have you raised your voice and lifted your eyes in pride?  Against the Holy One of Israel!... Therefore this is what the Lord says concerning the king of Assyria: 'He will not enter this city or shoot an arrow here.  He will not come before it with shield or build a siege ramp against it.  By the way that he came he will return; he will not enter this city, declares the Lord.  I will defend this city and save it, for my sake and for the sake of David my servant.’” (2 Kings 19:22, 32-34, NIV).  That very night, God sent his angel, who took the lives of 185,000 Assyrian soldiers, sending a powerful message not only to Sennacherib, but to people of all nations: God does not tolerate threats and abuse against his people, nor does he tolerate being mocked. 
            After this incident, Sennacherib withdrew from Jerusalem and returned to Nineveh.  20 years later, in 681 BCE, he was murdered by two of his sons, Adrammelek (aka Ardi-Mulishi) and Sharezer (2 Kings 19:36-37).