The Guilt of Ephraim and Samaria

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YHWH’s indictment was strong, as was His plea for His people to repent. They refused; they were destroyed or exiled. YHWH would nevertheless restore. The message was recorded for our encouragement to not fall according to the same pattern of disobedience.

The Guilt of Ephraim and Samaria

When Ephraim spake, there was trembling; he exalted himself in Israel; but when he offended in Baal, he died. And now they sin more and more, and have made them molten images of their silver, even idols according to their own understanding, all of them the work of the craftsmen: they say of them, “Let the men that sacrifice kiss the calves.” Therefore they shall be as the morning cloud, and as the dew that passeth early away, as the chaff that is driven with the whirlwind out of the threshing-floor, and as the smoke out of the chimney.
Yet I am YHWH thy God from the land of Egypt; and thou shalt know no god but me, and besides me there is no saviour. I did know thee in the wilderness, in the land of great drought. According to their pasture, so were they filled; they were filled, and their heart was exalted: therefore have they forgotten me. Therefore am I unto them as a lion; as a leopard will I watch by the way; I will meet them as a bear that is bereaved of her whelps, and will rend the caul of their heart; and there will I devour them like a lioness; the wild beast shall tear them. It is thy destruction, O Israel, that thou art against me, against thy help.
Where now is thy king, that he may save thee in all thy cities? and thy judges, of whom thou saidst, “Give me a king and princes?” I have given thee a king in mine anger, and have taken him away in my wrath.
The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up; his sin is laid up in store. The sorrows of a travailing woman shall come upon him: he is an unwise son; for it is time he should not tarry in the place of the breaking forth of children. I will ransom them from the power of Sheol; I will redeem them from death: O death, where are thy plagues? O Sheol, where is thy destruction? Repentance shall be hid from mine eyes. Though he be fruitful among his brethren, an east wind shall come, the breath of YHWH coming up from the wilderness; and his spring shall become dry, and his fountain shall be dried up: he shall make spoil of the treasure of all goodly vessels. Samaria shall bear her guilt; for she hath rebelled against her God: they shall fall by the sword; their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up.

O Israel, return unto YHWH thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity. Take with you words, and return unto YHWH: say unto him, “Take away all iniquity, and accept that which is good: so will we render as bullocks the offering of our lips. Assyria shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses; neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, ‘Ye are our gods’; for in thee the fatherless findeth mercy.”
I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely; for mine anger is turned away from him. I will be as the dew unto Israel; he shall blossom as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon. His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive-tree, and his smell as Lebanon. They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the grain, and blossom as the vine: the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon. Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols? I have answered, and will regard him: I am like a green fir tree; from me is thy fruit found.

Who is wise, that he may understand these things? Prudent, that he may know them? For the ways of YHWH are right, and the just shall walk in them; but transgressors shall fall therein (Hosea 13:1-14:9).

The Guilt of Ephraim and Samaria
The Book of Hosea

 
 
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What Is the Bible?

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It’s the perennial bestseller; you’ve heard of it often. But what is the Bible? Why is it so important to Christianity? What are we to do with it?

What Is the Bible?

What Is the Bible?
The Fundamentals

 
 
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False Prophets

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It’s the question that almost every reader of the history and the prophets in the Old Testament asks: why did Israel not listen to the prophets? In reality, Israel listened to the prophets: the false prophets (Luke 6:23)! We do well to see what we can learn about the false prophets in the Old Testament lest we fall by the same pattern of disobedience.

False Prophets

False Prophets
False Prophets and Teachers

 
 
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An Unbelievable Work

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Habakkuk saw immorality all around him and wanted to know why God allowed it to be. He did not imagine what God’s response would be!

An Unbelievable Work

The burden which Habakkuk the prophet did see.

O YHWH, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear? I cry out unto thee of violence, and thou wilt not save. Why dost thou show me iniquity, and look upon perverseness? For destruction and violence are before me; and there is strife, and contention riseth up. Therefore the law is slacked, and justice doth never go forth; for the wicked doth compass about the righteous; therefore justice goeth forth perverted.

Behold ye among the nations, and look, and wonder marvellously; for I am working a work in your days, which ye will not believe though it be told you. For, lo, I raise up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, that march through the breadth of the earth, to possess dwelling-places that are not theirs. They are terrible and dreadful; their judgment and their dignity proceed from themselves. Their horses also are swifter than leopards, and are more fierce than the evening wolves; and their horsemen press proudly on: yea, their horsemen come from far; they fly as an eagle that hasteth to devour. They come all of them for violence; the set of their faces is forwards; and they gather captives as the sand. Yea, he scoffeth at kings, and princes are a derision unto him; he derideth every stronghold; for he heapeth up dust, and taketh it. Then shall he sweep by as a wind, and shall pass over, and be guilty, even he whose might is his god.

Art not thou from everlasting, O YHWH my God, my Holy One? we shall not die. O YHWH, thou hast ordained him for judgment; and thou, O Rock, hast established him for correction. Thou that art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and that canst not look on perverseness, wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously, and holdest thy peace when the wicked swalloweth up the man that is more righteous than he; and makest men as the fishes of the sea, as the creeping things, that have no ruler over them? He taketh up all of them with the angle, he catcheth them in his net, and gathereth them in his drag: therefore he rejoiceth and is glad. Therefore he sacrificeth unto his net, and burneth incense unto his drag; because by them his portion is fat, and his food plenteous. Shall he therefore empty his net, and spare not to slay the nations continually? (Habakkuk 1:1-17)

An Unbelievable Work
Habakkuk

 
 
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The Voice 5.10: March 08, 2015

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The Voice

Jonah

The Assyrians, the scourge of Israel, were the strongest power of the day. It would not be long before they would decimate and then destroy the northern Kingdom of Israel. How could YHWH want such people to repent and be saved? Such is the mentality of the prophet Jonah.

Sistine jonah Jonah is the thirty-second book in most English Bibles; in the Hebrew Bible it is part of the Nevi’im, the Prophets; in the Greek Septuagint Jonah is the sixth of the Duodecim (Latinized; Dodeka in Greek), “the Twelve.” In Hebrew Jonah’s name is the same word as for “dove,” generally a sign of peace (e.g. Genesis 8:8-11, but also Hosea 11:11 in terms of Assyria). Jonah son of Amittai came from Gath-hepher, on the border of Zebulun near Nazareth (Joshua 19:13), and prophesied of Jeroboam’s (II) restoration of the borders of Israel to their former state (2 Kings 14:25; ca. 786-746 BCE). While Obadiah and Nahum prophesy against other nations, Jonah alone among the Twelve actually goes to the nation and preaches to them without respect to Israel; while we primarily hear the voice of the other eleven prophets, Jonah’s story is being told by an inspired narrator of whom we know nothing. The book of Jonah tells how YHWH summoned Jonah to preach to Nineveh in Assyria so as to demonstrate YHWH’s concern for people of all the nations.

The book of Jonah begins with the story of God’s first call and Jonah’s rejection of that call (Jonah 1:1-17). YHWH’s word came to Jonah telling him to go to Nineveh and cry against it (Jonah 1:1-2). Jonah attempted to flee, embarking on a boat heading to Tarshish away from YHWH (possibly Tartessus in Spain; Jonah 1:3). While the boat was at sea YHWH stirred up a large storm; each person cried out to their god; Jonah was asleep; the crew woke him; they cast lots and learned Jonah was the cause of the storm (Jonah 1:4-7). Jonah explained how he served YHWH the God of heaven; the crew was afraid; Jonah offered to be cast overboard; the crew resists but ultimately does so, praying to YHWH for mercy; when Jonah goes overboard the storm stops; the crew offered sacrifice to YHWH (Jonah 1:8-16). A large fish swallowed Jonah and he was in its belly three days and nights (Jonah 1:17).

Jonah prayed while in the belly of the fish, poetically narrating his descent into the waters, his helplessness, and YHWH’s deliverance (Jonah 2:1-9). The fish vomited Jonah up onto dry land (Jonah 2:10).

YHWH again called Jonah to go to Nineveh, and this time he obeys (Jonah 3:1-3). He cried out that Nineveh would be overthrown in forty days; the people of Nineveh believed in God and fasted, even the king in Nineveh, who decreed fasting, sackcloth, and prayers for relief (Jonah 3:4-9). God saw and relented of the calamity which He was going to bring upon Nineveh (Jonah 3:10).

Jonah, however, is none too pleased; in anger he prays to YHWH, indicating he had spoken of this when first summoned, knowing that YHWH was gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and had fled to Tarshish because he knew YHWH would relent; he wanted to die (Jonah 4:1-3). YHWH asks if he does well to be angry (Jonah 4:4). Jonah then sat outside of the city in a booth to see what would become of Nineveh: it got hot, and YHWH prepared a plant for him to give him shade, and it pleased him (Jonah 4:5-6). The next day the plant withered, and a very hot east wind arose, and Jonah asked to die on account of the heat; God asked if he does well to be angry about the plant; Jonah believed so, even to the point of death (Jonah 4:7-9). YHWH provides the lesson: Jonah showed concern for the plant for which he had done nothing to make or nourish and lived but a day, so why should YHWH have no concern for more than 120,000 Ninevites who do not know their right hand from their left and who have many cattle (Jonah 4:10-11)?

Most people remember Jonah’s story on account of the big fish; it may have been a whale, since Israelites tended to categorize creatures by environment or function as opposed to our categorization system (cf. Leviticus 11:13-19), or it could have been a sea creature no longer in existence. Jonah’s three days and nights in the fish prefigure Jesus’ time in death before His resurrection (the “sign of Jonah,” Matthew 12:38-41, 16:4, Luke 11:29-32). Nevertheless, the book of Jonah is less about the big fish or even Nineveh and more about YHWH and Israel. YHWH loves Israel, abounds in covenant loyalty, and is gracious and merciful; He is able to show the same love and loyalty to foreign nations, even foreign nations whom He will use to judge His people. Nineveh will have its day of destruction as Nahum makes clear (Nahum 1:1-3:19), but it would not be in the day of Jonah, because they had repented.

We do well to learn the message of Jonah: God is love, and does not want anyone to be condemned but all to come to a knowledge of the truth and be saved (1 Timothy 2:4, 1 John 4:8). Let us proclaim the Gospel to all the creation so all may praise God the Father in the name of Jesus the Son (Mark 16:15, Romans 1:16)!

Ethan R. Longhenry

The Voice 5.06: February 08, 2015

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The Voice

Obadiah and Nahum

The Assyrians conquered the northern Kingdom of Israel and humiliated the southern Kingdom of Judah. The Edomites attempted to take advantage of Judah when they were down and out. YHWH had noticed. He spoke condemnation upon them through His prophets Obadiah and Nahum.

Obadiah is the thirty-first book and Nahum the thirty-fourth book in most English Bibles; in the Hebrew Bible they are part of the Nevi’im, the Prophets; in the Greek Septuagint Obadiah is the fifth and Nahum the seventh of the Duodecim (Latinized; Dodeka in Greek), “the Twelve.” Nahum is most likely earlier than Obadiah; he prophesies between the fall of Thebes in Egypt (ca.664 BCE; Nahum 3:8-10) and Nineveh in Assyria (612 BCE; Nahum 2:3-4), and within that range most likely between 660-630 BCE. Obadiah’s message does not have any specific chronological information and has been dated from 850 BCE to 400 BCE. Nevertheless Obadiah is most likely prophesying after the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem (586 BCE; Obadiah 1:11 yet is anticipating Babylon’s campaign against Edom (553 BCE; Obadiah 1:15-16). The two prophets live at distinct times and prophesy to different nations but among the Twelve they devote their messages primarily to foreign nations and not to Israel and Judah (Jonah prophesies to the Assyrians but the story as told is directed to Israelites). Obadiah condemns Edom for their rapaciousness against Judah and warns about the judgment coming upon them. Nahum warns Nineveh of the wrath of YHWH’s vengeance which will come against it swiftly.

Abdias Obadiah sets forth the vision he received (Obadiah 1:1-21): YHWH will make Edom small among the nations; its pride will be humbled (Obadiah 1:1-4). Esau will be thoroughly pillaged with nothing left, having been deceived by former allies, and the wisdom of the wise is for naught (Obadiah 1:5-9). This judgment comes upon Edom because of how they treated their brother Judah: they stood aloof when Judah was ravaged, and they should not gloat over the downfall of Judah and encroach so as to pillage (Obadiah 1:10-14). The Day of YHWH is upon the nations, and their deeds will return upon their heads (Obadiah 1:15): Israel will again rise and possess its land and will then consume Edom; all Edom will be ruled by Israel (Obadiah 1:16-21).

Nahum of Elkosh also sets forth the vision he received (Nahum 1:1-3:19): YHWH is jealous and avenging; the land shakes before Him; He pours out His wrath against the adversaries but provides refuge for His people (Nahum 1:1-11). YHWH promises that those who have power will be cut down; the yoke will be removed; the idols will fall; good news will be brought; Judah must keep feasts and vows, for the enemy will be cut off (Nahum 1:12-15). YHWH is restoring the majesty of Israel by destroying Nineveh; Nahum evocatively describes the siege and war that leads to Nineveh’s devastation and destruction (Nahum 2:1-13). Nahum declares woe upon Nineveh as the “bloody city,” full of plunder, now full of slain in the streets, suffering because of its idolatry (Nahum 3:1-4). YHWH is against Nineveh and will cause the nations to see its shame; none will mourn for Nineveh (Nahum 3:5-7). Nahum asks whether Nineveh is better than Thebes in Egypt which suffered destruction and devastation; the presumed answer is no, and thus Nineveh will suffer the same fate (Nahum 3:8-10; Thebes was attacked in 664 BCE). Nineveh will go into captivity: its fortresses are ripe for destruction, and its soldiers weak (Nahum 3:11-13). Nahum (likely sarcastically) advises them to prepare for siege, but it will end in destruction; their merchants and princes are as locusts and grasshoppers, here today, gone tomorrow (Nahum 3:14-17). Assyria will be grievously wounded but all will be pleased, for Assyria’s unceasing evil has afflicted all the nations (Nahum 3:18-19).

The visions of Obadiah and Nahum may be short but remain quite compelling. The fulfillment of their words is nothing short of astonishing: even though Edom was allied with the Babylonians, Nabonidus would turn against Edom in 553 BCE to more effectively control trade routes in Arabia (cf. Nabonidus Chronicle). In 125 BCE John Hyrcanus of Judea conquered Edom and forced them to convert to Judaism, vividly fulfilling Obadiah 1:21 (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 13.9.1, 14.4.4). While Nahum prophesied Assyria was the strongest empire in the land at the height of their power; the entire ancient Near Eastern world was astonished at the speed of the fall of the Assyrian Empire at the end of the seventh century. Nineveh was the largest city of the world for fifty years; after an internal civil war a coalition of Babylonians, Medes, Persians, Scythians, and Cimmerians attacked and destroyed it in 612 BCE, fulfilling Nahum’s oracle (cf. Babylonian Chronicles). Three years later Nebuchadnezzar defeated the remnant of the Assyrians and it was all over!

Obadiah and Nahum remind us that YHWH is loyal to His covenant. His people may rebel against Him and He may punish them for a time; nevertheless, the time will come when YHWH will gain vengeance over those who humiliate His people. Perhaps few believed it at the time, but YHWH proved faithful to His oracles through these prophets, whether quickly or over time. YHWH remains God; He is jealous and avenging; He is slow to anger, great in power, but will not clear the unrepentant guilty. May we ever serve Him and take refuge in Him!

Ethan R. Longhenry