What Does the Vision in Ezekiel 1 Mean?


We are prone to make assumptions about God and His favor when life has us down due to sin, mistakes, or incomprehensible circumstances. Of all the Scripture passages we might turn to during these times, the bizarre vision that opens the book of Ezekiel would not register high on our list. However, reading this passage with its original ancient context in mind reveals a powerful message for its original recipients and for every believer.
[Read more…]

Who Has the Authority to Edit the Bible?

How strange would it sound if a friend described what they did this morning like this? “After she got out of bed, she took a shower and then made a quick breakfast for herself—just some coffee and a bagel. I was in such a hurry that I didn’t even finish my bagel and just took the coffee with me!”

Be honest. You would probably wonder if your friend needed medication. Although your friend was describing what she did this morning, the first few details sounded like she was talking about someone else. If the information was about her and spoken by her, why not use “I” and “my”—what we call “first person” pronouns in grammar? Why would she refer to herself in the third person? We just don’t talk or write like that.
[Read more…]

Are There Really Two Versions of Jeremiah?


If we look beyond the details of Jeremiah’s anguish and apparently fruitless ministry, we can spot a dual emphasis in the book that bears his name: judgment and repentance. But emphasis is not the only double issue. Two full versions of the book have survived from antiquity—and they diverge in many ways.
[Read more…]

What Does It Mean To “Stand in the Council”?


Most people think a prophet is someone empowered by God to foretell the future. No doubt, prophets announced God’s intentions, but forecasting future events wasn’t their primary job description. A prophet’s chief task was to serve as God’s mouthpiece to His covenant people Israel and to her enemies. So how did someone become a prophet? Was there some sort of heavenly qualification? In fact, there was.

You might think the standard for a prophet was whether their words came to pass exactly as uttered (Deut 18:15–22). But that’s actually a by-product of the real litmus test, which we read about in Jeremiah:

For who among them has stood in the council (סוד, sôd) of the Lord to see and to hear his word, or who has paid attention to his word and listened? [The Lord says] … “If they had stood in my council (סוד, sôd), then they would have proclaimed my words to my people” (Jer 23:18, 22).

What does it mean to “stand in the council”? Jeremiah elaborates: “to see and to hear his word … to pay attention to his word and listen.” The one essential test of a prophet—that preceded their ability to deliver a divine message—was that the prophet had to see and hear God in His council. [Read more…]

Who Are Gog and Magog, and What’s So Evil about the North?

The terms “Gog and Magog” seem to factor into biblical prophecy quite a bit. Do a Google search for them, and you’ll come up with quite a few conflicting (and sometimes fanciful) articles. Most speculation attempts to tie Gog and Magog’s appearances in Ezekiel and Revelation to a specific geographical location or country.

[Read more…]

The Name of Yahweh and the Angel of the Lord

In Exodus 3, God famously appears to Moses in a burning bush and sends him to rescue the Israelites. Fearing nobody will believe him, Moses says, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” (Exodus 3:13).

And then God tells us his name.

[Read more…]

Was Mary a Virgin?


The prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 is among the most well-known passages in the book of Isaiah. It’s also one of the most controversial, for many reasons.

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin (עלמה, almah) shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

It’s difficult to get through the Christmas or Easter season without seeing one of the major news periodicals or educational television networks cast doubt about the meaning of almah (עלמה) in Isaiah 7:14. A favorite argument is that the Hebrew word almah cannot mean “virgin” but instead refers to a young woman of marriageable age—without respect to prior sexual activity. The more precise word for “virgin” is betulah (בתולה), a word not used in Isaiah 7:14. The New Testament author Matthew, we are so often told, mistakenly assumed the term meant “virgin.” His ignorance led to the doctrine of the virgin birth of Jesus. But are these assertions correct? [Read more…]

What Really Happened at the Tower of Babel?

Most children who’ve attended Sunday school classes can tell you what happened at the Tower of Babel. King Nimrod wanted to be famous, so he convinced the people of Babylon to build a great tower that would reach heaven.

God could see that the people were becoming prideful and decided that he should go down and mix up their language so they couldn’t understand each other. This teaches us that pride is bad and helps us understand where all the world’s languages came from.

Most adults don’t really have an understanding of this story that’s any more sophisticated. But Dr. Michael S. Heiser, author of The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible, would like to remedy that. In this post, adapted from his popular book, Heiser explains what really happened at the tower of Babel and unpacks its implications. Then he goes on to show how the New Testament corrects what happened at the tower of Babel. [Read more…]

Who (or What) Were the Nephilim?

In the sixth chapter of Genesis, we’re confronted with a curious reference to the Nephilim. Who are they? Were they a race who came to be through the mingling of divine beings and the daughters of men? Were the Nephilim engineered by God’s enemies to thwart his plans for mankind?

Even more puzzling is how the Nephilim could show up in Numbers 13—long after the flood. Wouldn’t they have died out in the flood with the rest of humanity? How could they have shown up in Canaan? Is it possible that Noah himself was a Nephilim?!

In his book, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible, Dr. Michael S. Heiser (Ph.D. in Hebrew Bible and Semitic Languages at the University of Wisconsin-Madison) unpacks this controversial topic by looking at the passages where the Nephilim show up, exploring a few explanations for the Nephilim’s existence before—and after—the flood. [Read more…]

Who Wrote the Book of Proverbs?


The first book of Proverbs announces, “These are the proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel” (compare Prov 10:1; 25:1). By its own testimony, though, the book of Proverbs had many authors: “These are the sayings of the wise [literally, wise ones]” (Prov 24:23). This same idea—that the proverbs in the book were written by a number of sages—is reiterated in Proverbs 1:6 and 22:17.

But old traditions die hard, and the authorship of these proverbs is still debated. What role did Solomon actually play in writing this Wisdom literature? [Read more…]