Gleanings from Judges [16]

samson

Samson and the Retaliation Against the Philistines – Judges  15

In my study of Judges, I have come to the unusual, but extraordinary life of Samson.

First, he had a special calling. He was born to a barren mother, and was told to be a Nazarite before his birth.
Second, he had a spectacular mission. He was stirred to action by the Holy Spirit against the Philistines and empowered with superhuman strength.
Third, he had a separated life. His special calling led him to take on a separated life from specific defilement. He was meant to demonstrate the separation Israel was to have from the Philistines.

Yet, in spite of such an unique work of God in Samson’s life, he was a morally flawed man. We see him as a compromiser, as one pursuing a marriage to a woman who was from the very enemies God had raised him up to conquer. It is as if Samson forgot who he was, why he was born, and it appears that if God had not “rushed” upon him to drive him to action against the Philistines, he would never have done what God wanted him to do.

But God wants His people separate; a holy people set aside to Himself. In spite of his flaws, God uses Samson as the disturber of the peace between Israel and their Philistine overlords.

Initially, Samson had seen a Philistine girl (Judges 14), and acting upon his lust, wanted her as a wife. His parents, alarmed by the request, give into his demands anyways and arrange the marriage. During the wedding feast, Samson states a riddle to the men appointed to watch him. The riddle was based upon his killing of a lion with his bare hands and bees making a hive in the carcass. The loser had to pay with 30 garments.

Only he alone knew about this lion bee hive, so before the allotted time expired, the Philistines force the girl to find out the answer and cheat Samson. Enraged by the deception, the Spirit of the LORD comes upon him and he kills 30 Philistine men in Ashkelon in order to hold up his side of the gamble by paying the wedding guests 30 garments of clothing.

Those events are merely the precursor to the next level of events which escalate Israel’s situation with the Philistines to an all out war.

Samson and his father-in-law (15:1-8). Chapter 15 opens with the words, After a while. We are not sure how much time elapsed. We know it was the wheat harvest, so these events could have started in late May, early summer.

Samson takes a young goat and goes to claim his bride. She, however, has been given to another man. Her father offers her younger sister, but Samson is not satisfied. He vows to do the Philistines harm for this outrage of injustice. The idea of harm is meant to cause strife. Similar to how God sent an ill spirit between Abimelech and men of Shechem so that the men dealt treacherously with Abimelech. Samson begins to rupture the comfortable peace between Israel and the Philistines.

Samson seeks revenge. He captures 300 foxes, or possibly jackals (not an easy feat), ties them together and ties a torch between them. He then sets them loose in the grain fields of the Philistines burning their crops. That would obviously be a serious situation for the Philistines, because they would have no food. Samson was striking against their economy, livelihood, and their fertility gods.

The Philistines knew immediately that Samson was the culprit. The even knew why: because his father-in-law gave away his wife to another man. They in turn kill the man, his family, and burn his house down with fire. Samson avenges their murder by attacking the men who killed them, smiting them hip and thigh with a great slaughter (15:8). He then leaves and dwells in the caves of Etam.

Samson and Judah (15:9-17). While he is hiding in the caves, the Philistines go to elders of Judah and threaten war. They force the men of Judah to arrest Samson and then hand him over to them.

Gathering their army, the men of Judah go down to where Samson was hiding and call him out. He is causing problems with the Philistines, they insist, and they were there to seize him and hand him over. Samson allows himself to be taken and bound with new rope. As soon as the Philistines see him come out bound, they run down to attack him. At that moment, the Spirit of the LORD came upon Samson, the ropes were burned off of him, and Samson takes a fresh jawbone of a donkey and slays 1,000 men with it.

His slaughter of them was so spectacular that Samson renames the place where the battle took place, Ramath Lehi, which can mean, Jawbone Hill.

The reader will note a couple of important truths.

First, Samson does not initiate the move against the Philistines in order to deliver Israel. His actions were purely personal vendettas against those who hurt him.

Secondly, seeing his own actions and renaming the two spots, where he defeated the Philistines with a jawbone and where he called for water and God miraculously supplied it, it is clear he has his own interests in mind.

But all of those events is for an occasion against the Philistines. God will have His people separate and He raises up a severely flawed man to accomplish the freedom of Israel.

Reviewing Navigating Genesis [4]

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The Creation Week – Chapters 3-6

I continue in my review of Hugh Ross’s progressive creationist book, Navigating Genesis. Again, my purpose in reviewing this work is to offer a corrective to his creationist apologetic that is adopted without criticism by a number of mainstream Christian ministries and amateur apologists who desire to defend the Christian faith within the general public.

I want to center my review this time on chapters 3-6. They are Ross’s treatment of the events of the creation week, and I want to review them as a whole rather than one by one individually. The primary reason being is that the material is so overwhelmingly bad, that in order to address it in full would require a number of lengthy posts. My goal is not to turn my reviews into a long, extended series of detailed analysis, but to provide a basic framework demonstrating that Ross’s apologetic is detrimental to a defense of biblical Christianity.

As much as I know there are readers who would enjoy reading such a detailed analysis, I refer them to works available online at Answers in Genesis and Creation Ministries International, as well as two book length treatments by Jonathan Sarfati, Refuting Compromise, and Jason Lisle’s Understanding Genesis.

With that in mind, these four chapters cover the creation week up to the seventh day. Chapter 3 discusses the beginning of creation which is Genesis 1:1,2, chapter 4 is creation days one and two, chapter 5 is creation days three and four, and chapter 6 is creation days 5 and 6.

Let me back up and provide a review of some of the critical flaws I see with his understanding of the creation week.

First, Ross has a strident, unflinching reliance upon modern scientific conclusions as factually accurate. I’ve made passing mention of this in my previous reviews. His reliance upon scientific analysis misleads him to an uncritical utilization of it as an overriding authority when interpreting Scripture. That dependence only pushes him into dark holes of wild speculation when it comes to reading the Bible and developing a theology of creation.

He cites heavily from a variety of secular scientific papers, reports, and books, because he believes they lend insight to how Christians should read Genesis 1. Glancing over his end notes, he uses articles published in Nature, the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, the Astrophysical Journal Supplement, Sedimentary Geology, Astrobiology, and Science, just to note a few.  While certainly it is fine for any author to reference such works if he is writing a book on the topic of Genesis and creation, the problem with Ross is his use of those sources as providing factual conclusions as to what we are to believe about the history of an ancient cosmos and life on earth and how those beliefs should inform the Christian’s interpretation of Genesis, even when those conclusions drastically contradict the narrative of the creation week.

Let me give you some examples.

In chapter 4, on page 38, Ross discusses how the Bible describes God’s spirit hovering over the waters in Genesis 1:2. Seizing upon that description, he states how that picture is found in other portions of Scripture of a mother eagle or hen using her wings to protect her young. He then shifts to the “record of geology” referencing at least four secular sources to explain how science confirms that the earliest life on the planet was single-celled microorganisms that provided nourishment for the oceans and oxygen for the planet. He believes those sources provide some apologetic nugget about how God cares for His creation as a loving creator.

Following up that discussion, on page 39 of the same chapter, Ross talks about what he calls the “moon miracle.” Appealing once again to the secular astronomy version of how the moon was made, Ross retells how scientists know the moon was formed when there was a planetary collision with the earth by a body at least the size of Mars. That collision, Ross confidently explains, would have blasted nearly all the Earth’s original atmosphere into outer space, while the cloud of debris arising from the collision would have orbited the Earth and eventually coalesced to form our Moon [40].

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Of course, that is entirely whimsical speculation; but he cites the experts who have mathematical models and he provides the numbers showing how that the moon just had to have been formed in that fashion. There is no explanation as to whether or not how all the life giving microorganism in the ocean discussed previously could have survived if a Mars sized planet hit the earth, but oh well.

Indeed, Ross’s appeal to the secular, scientific literature is rather troubling, because the way he utilizes those sources, the reader is left with the impression that the Genesis account itself would be unconvincing as a revelation from God. It is as if he thinks he is helping out God by mentioning how popular atheist, Richard Dawkins, is flummoxed by the appearance of life in the Cambrian explosion because he has no way to really explain its sudden appearance [59]. In some unspoken fashion, the Bible is supposed to be much more reliable because Ross has highlighted various scientific factoids pertaining to modern evolutionary theories regarding the earth. How could anyone have believed what Genesis was saying about creation before old earth apologists synchronized secular theories with the text?

Another flawed problem area with his presentation is Ross’s mishandling of the original Hebrew language. He is dependent upon secondary sources, and even then it is a limited source like the Theological Wordbook of the OT. Other sources noted aren’t linguistic experts either, but other authors and apologists who are also ineptly attempting to reconcile deep time views of the secularists with what the Bible plainly says in Genesis.

For example, Ross appeals to Psalm 104 as a supplemental creation text [31]. He specifically notes Psalm 104:6, which reads, You covered it with the deep as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains, and suggests this is speaking of the conditions on the first three days of creation. But a reading of Psalm 104 tells us that the Psalm is referencing the global flood as recorded in Genesis 7, not the events of creation. In fact, the same expression, the waters stood above the mountains, is used in Genesis 7:19,20. Here we have Ross taking a passage out of context and misapplying it to an unrelated section of Scripture.

He does a similar thing with Job 38:9 which reads, when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band,… suggesting this passage describes the opaque enshrouding clouds that blocked light from the already created sun from reaching the earth, [31]. But, while Job 38 is recording God’s creation of the early earth, it is an inaccurate misapplication to claim the darkness covering the earth is a result of the light from an already created sun being prevented from reaching the surface. The two are really unrelated, especially given the fact that the sun light is not created yet.

Ross also claims that God, rather than creating the sun and stars on day four for the first time, merely caused the already heavenly bodies to “appear” in the sky by rolling the clouds out of the sky. He argues that the Hebrew word, asah, translated as “made,” is not a synonym for “create,” but is a word that means “made to appear.” He writes, “The Hebrew verb, asa, translated “made,” appears in an appropriate form for past action. There are no verb tenses in Hebrew to parallel verb tenses in English…Verse 16 makes no specification as to when in the past the Sun, Moon, and stars were made, [54].” He goes on to write that the phrase “heavens and earth” in Genesis 1:1 places the existence of the Sun and stars before the first creation day.

Ross’s interpretation of the fourth day of creation is not only a disparate attempt to explain away the text, but it is also dishonest. Ross puts himself forth as a champion apologist for understanding creation and the Christian worldview, but here he does a great disservice to anyone who would utilize his argument in a discussion.

First, the word asah, as it reads in 1:16, is also used in 1:25 where the text states, And God made the beasts of the earth… Given the context, it is clear the word made is a synonym for create. The beasts hadn’t previously existed and then were “made to appear.” Further more, 1:26 has the Godhead stating, let us make man in our image, or asah. Was Adam “made to appear” in the same way that the stars were “made to appear?” Ross’s view is akin to the heretical arguments of Biologos who insist that there were many evolved humankinds and Adam was a chosen representative, or God “made him appear” out of all of humanity. Given Ross heterodox teachings about soulless hominids, his interpretation of asah comes dangerously close to affirming Biologos’s heresy.

Secondly, asah is used in Exodus 31:17, For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, 2 Kings 19:15 [Isaiah 37:16], You alone have made heaven and earth, and 2 Chronicles 2:12, Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who has made heaven and earth. All of those instances are synonyms to Genesis 1:1 where it says God created the heavens and the earth.

And then thirdly, if God wanted to communicate that the Sun and stars were already in existence on the first day and that they appeared in the sky from the vantage point of looking up into space from the surface of the earth, Moses had already used a perfectly good word to describe such an event. Genesis 1:9 states, Then God said, “Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear; and it was so. The Hebrew word raah, means exactly what Ross is forcing asah to mean, appear.

This is a major reason why Ross’s progressive creationists apologetics are detrimental for unlearned, but eager apologists. Instead of carefully researching and staying faithful to Scripture, Ross has only formulated a strained proof-text for his problematic apologetics. He is not defending the faith at all, but instead has led his readers astray into gross error that when scrutinized, will only bring them embarrassment, placing a major stumbling block before unbelievers.

Gleanings from Judges [15]

samsonlionSamson Stirs the Phillistines – Judges 14

When we come to the judgeship of Samson, we learn from out of all the previous judges, his was especially unique. He was called by God from before his birth to fulfill his roll as a judge. Both he and his mother, at least for her until she gave birth to him, were under the Nazarite vow. Samson would live a life-long commitment to the vow, at least for the most part as we shall see. But most importantly, Samson’s birth was unique because it was “miraculous.” His mother had been barren since her marriage to his father, Manoah, and she conceives after God’s pronouncement.

Samson’s birth and eventual ministry is entirely orchestrated by the LORD. He had to move to deliver His people, because they wouldn’t attempt to leave their circumstances. They lived under the dominion of the Philistines, and it becomes apparent as we move through the record of Samson’s life and judgeship that Israel was content and comfortable with that arrangement. God was going to move, however, to disturb the peace. He wants them separate from the Philistines.

Coming to Judges 14, we have the first instance of Samson acting in his judgeship. It is an event totally driven by the LORD. The section really begins in 13:25 where the text states that the “Spirit of the LORD began to stir him.” The word “stir” has the idea of compelling. God was directing Samson to be an instigator that would make the Philistines angry with Israel. Coupled with Judges 14:4, we see that God was moving upon Samson, because He was seeking an occasion, or opportunity, against the Philistines.

The catalyst for God’s occasion against the Philistines was a Philistine girl.

Samson goes to Timnah, a town about 6 miles west of Samon’s hometown. While there, he sees a Philistine girl and is immediately smitten by her. He returns home to tell his parents to get her for him as a wife. His parents, as any good God-fearing parents would be, are distraught by his request. Doesn’t he want to marry a nice Jewish girl? Instead he goes to an uncircumcised Philistine girl, which is to say, a girl who is outside the Covenant the God made with Israel.

Samson brashly follows his flesh and lusts. “She is right in my eye,” he says when he demands his parents get her for him as his wife. The comment speaks to what he values most, outward appearance. He is also willing wishes to align himself with a pagan culture. Reluctantly, his parents approve.

Samson and his parents travel to Timnah to ask if the girl’s family would be willing to give the girl in marriage. At some point, Samson is alone in a vineyard, which raises concern about him violating his Nazarite vow. Why is he alone in a vineyard when he isn’t to have any wine? Never the less, he is by himself when a lion attacks him. The Spirit of the LORD rushes upon him and he kills the lion with his bare hands.

At some point later, he goes to make wedding preparations, and so he happens to turn to see the dead lion. Bees had made a hive in the carcass, which is a strange occurrence, because bees don’t normally make hives in rotting corpses. Violating the Nazarite vow of touching unclean things, like a dead body, Samson scrapes up the honey and eats it, and even gives some to his parents without telling them from where he got it.

When he gets to Timnah to be married, he prepares a feast for the men of the town, which it can only be guessed that involved the use of alcohol. Already Samson is on the brink of becoming a seriously compromised man.

As is the custom, Samson is appointed 30 companions. They were “brought” to Samson, which has the idea of being conscripted, or made to be with him. Men who were more than likely told to keep an eye on him, but they give the appearance of being around him in goodwill. He proposes a riddle to them based upon his dead lion with the honey. Obviously, Samson is the only one who could possibly know because he was alone.

Irritated that they could not figure out the riddle, the Philistines tell his wife that she is to find out the answer or they will burn her house down and kill her family. So she did what all manipulative women do: she nagged him until he broke. He tell her the answer and she in turn tells the 30 men. They in turn tell Samson the answer.

Angered by his loss, he now has a need to pay off a substantial gambling debt. He does it by having the Spirit of the LORD rush upon him and by picking a fight with the Philistines. Travelling nearly 20 miles away, he goes to Ashkelon and single-handily kills 30 men! And unbelievable event. He takes their garments and gives them to his companions.

Obviously, the brutal killing of 30 Philistine men by the hands of just one Jewish man would not go unnoticed, and this becomes the event that eventually brings God to using Samson to destroy the Philistines.

Books I Heard or Read in 2016

libraryMy yearly review of all the books I either heard on audio or read via print or ebook. Reviews for previous years can be located HERE.

Audio Books I Heard

The Great War of Our Time: The CIA’s Fight Against Terrorism – Michael Morrell

Morrell is the former deputy director of the CIA. The book tells his life story of how he was recruited into the CIA, how he worked his way up through the ranks to eventually become the daily CIA briefer for George W. Bush. The book really picks up when he gives his eye-witness recounting of the events of 9/11 and the decade long manhunt for Bin Laden that ended in his eventual killing. That section of his book was fascinating. Where I thought the book began to go off the rails is the latter portion. There he attempts to defend Hillary Clinton and President Obama’s incompetent handling of the Benghazi attacks.

Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle the Set Them Free – Hector Tobar

This book tells the story about the San Jose mine collapse in August 2010 down in Chile. I remember being riveted to the news when it was discovered the men were still alive and the subsequent attempt to rescue them. The author does a great job of detailing the individual lives of each of the 33 miners. In fact, it was so detailed that the flow of the story got bogged down a bit with the human interest angle. He even goes into the personal background of all the Chilean government officials and special operators who led the rescue efforts. It wasn’t until the 8th hour of listening that I finally got to the rescuers breaking through to the miners and the book focusing on keeping the miners alive and getting them out.

The Wright Brothers – David McCullough

This book started out a bit slow. The first disk was a dry, biographical sketch introducing us to Orville and Wilbur, their sister, and parents. I suppose it was necessary to set the story up. But once I made it past that section, the book picks up pace as McCullough recounts the experimentation the brothers went through to build a working glider, then an engine propelled glider, and their eventual triumph becoming the first men to ever successfully fly a working airplane.

Normal Books I Read

I actually read more books this year than I heard.

History of Western Philosophy and Theology – John Frame

An outstanding and well done overview of the key philosophers and theologians, beginning with the ancient Greeks and moving through to early Christian apologists, Medieval theologians, the major Reformers, Renaissance philosophers, Enlightenment era skeptics, and modern era philosophers like Bertrand Russell. Frame provides a brief biographical sketch of all the thinkers, what it was they taught, and offers a biblical critique. I’d highly recommend this book as a solid reference work. I was thankful I picked this up the first of the year when P&R publishers was offering it on sale through Westminster books.

The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance–Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters – Sinclair Ferguson

I heard Ferguson lecture on this topic a number of years ago, so I was glad to see his material written up into book format. The topic of the extent of law-keeping and Christian liberty has always been a struggle for believers to work through. Ferguson frames his study around the events of the Marrow Controversy that took place in Scotland in the early 1700s. The controversy is still relevant for us today as Christians need to have a working understanding of Christ’s liberty and how the law of God should shape our faith given to us freely by grace.

17 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be on September 22nd, 2017 – No Man Knoweth

Title and author is fairly straight forward what this book is about. See my fuller review HERE.

The 10 Myths of Teen Dating – Daniel Anderson, with his daughter Jacquelyn Anderson

I received this book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing. The primary focus of the two authors is to help teen girls specifically navigate the perils of teen dating and how if they do it stupidly, their choices will wreck their futures. The book was a big disappointment as I explain in a fuller review HERE.

Truth or Territory: A Biblical Approach to Spiritual Warfare – Jim Osman

Pastor Jim Osman works through all the false teaching on spiritual warfare from charismatics and provides a thorough rebuttal. He evaluates the concepts of praying hedges, binding the devil, and generational curses, while at the same time presenting a biblical perspective on how Christians should think about spiritual warfare. See my fuller review HERE.

Evangelical White Lies – Mike Abendroth

My good pal Mike has written a splendid little book that addresses a number of bad teachings that have appeared throughout the years in evangelical churches. The book is short, to the point, and would even be a worthy of a men’s Bible study. See my fuller review HERE.

One of the cool things about Logos, or any Bible software program I would imagine, is the app gives me access to my Logos library on my tablet and phone. It is kind of neat to be standing in line waiting to board the Matterhorn at Disney Land and being able to search all my commentaries on the pastorals. Maybe folks have been aware of this wonderful tech for years, but I just discovered that beautiful feature and it is like aliens have landed. My entire reading habits have been expanded and transformed. Along with reading the commentaries I have for 2 Timothy when I prepare my sermons for my volunteers, I have been reading other books in my library.

Heretics for Armchair Theologians – Justo and Catherine Gonzalez

A brief study on all the main heresies that have popped up ever since the first century to trouble the church. He covers Marcion, Montanism, Donatists, Pelagius, and Arianism to name a few. I would recommend this as a handy introductory work for new Christians who have never been exposed to church history.

The Expectant Prophet: Habakkuk Simply Explained – John Currid

I have the Welwyn Commentary series on Logos and they have published some short, but well written commentaries on a number of OT books. I found that they have a large collection of the minor prophets. My goal is to read through the titles covering the minor prophets because my knowledge of those books is lacking. I like Currid’s work, so I started with Habakkuk, which I found to be an encouraging devotional study of that short little book. I plan to do Zephaniah next.

I am currently reading three books that I was unable to finish before the years end, so they will be on the 2017 book review post next year. I have liked them so much I did want to briefly mention them.

First is Matt Waymeyer’s, Amillennialism and the Age to Come: A Premillennial Critique of the Two-Age Model. It is his dissertation work from TMS and is an excellent treatment critiquing the most recent of Amillennial authors like Sam Storms, Kim Riddlebarger, and NCT advocate, Dean Davis. He not only offers a rebuttal to amillennial arguments against premillennialism, but his primary focus is to show clearly the biblical teaching of an intermediary, earthly kingdom.

Next is Richard Heitzenrater’s biographical study on John Wesley, Wesley and the People Called Methodists. I have a friend who graduated from a Wesleyan college and he recommended it because it is one of the better biographies that is not ashamed to mention Wesley’s theological errors and other personal foibles.  I am not a fan of Wesley and I believe his false doctrines he promulgated during his life, and that were picked up by his ardent followers, are the seed of a lot of theological ills in the modern church.

Next is Jason Lisle’s book, Understanding Genesis: How to Analysis, Interpret, and Defend Scripture. The book talks about reading Genesis, but the bulk of Lisle’s study deals with the hermeneutics of reading Scripture and applying what you read. I would highly recommend this book for both new and seasoned believers. We can never get enough teaching about studying the Bible accurately and correctly.

Studies in Ezekiel’s Temple Vision

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I posted these articles a few years ago when I was doing my study on eschatology.

Since I wrote them, they have become some of my most read posts that draws some of the biggest traffic to my otherwise small, obscure blog. The one thing I failed to do, and should have, because I was short sighted as to how popular they would be, is post them in one article for easy access. Rather than having to find all 6 via the link tags, here they all are in one place for easy availability.

I would encourage folks to read them in order from start to last, because they build upon themselves as I get to the thorny question as to a real, historic and future temple where animal sacrifices will function and how that relates to the work of Christ on the cross.

Resources on Ezekiel’s Temple Vision

Interpreting Ezekiel’s Temple Vision

Literally Reading Ezekiel 40-48

Animal Sacrifices in Ezekiel 40-48

Ezekiel’s Temple Sacrifices and Hebrews

Answering Objections to Ezekiel’s Temple Sacrifice

Reviewing Navigating Genesis [3]

scienceChapter 2 – Reasons for Resistance

I am doing a review and critique of Hugh Ross’s progressive creationist book, Navigating Genesis. Introductory post can be read HERE.

With chapter 2, before he delves into his study of the creation week, Ross attempts to identify obstructions many have to the Christian faith that pertains to the book of Genesis. One of the key objections he hears frequently when he interacts with non-Christians is that the book of Genesis is unscientific. People will skeptically ask, “Why should I believe the message of a book that at the start contradicts the known facts of science?”

Ross then highlights four creation models that have been developed by believers and unbelievers alike in order to answer that objection.

First is a separatist model that says science and Scripture are completely independent of one another. Stephen Gould’s philosophy of non-overlapping magisteria is probably the most notable example.

Second is a conflict model, or the idea that science and Scripture are in direct opposition to one another and can never be reconciled. Atheist Richard Dawkins is a proponent of this model. He says that because religion makes existence claims, that obviously means scientific claims, and because religion is wrong about science, it is ultimately wrong about our existence. It then cannot be trusted and should be rejected.

Third is a complementary model that says science and Scripture compliment each other. Generally, those who hold to theistic evolutionary beliefs will utilize this model.

Fourth, is a constructive integration model, also called concordism. It states that both the words of the Bible and the record of nature provide trustworthy and reliable revelation from God. Ross and his apologetic crew would fancy themselves as constructive integrationists.

After discussing the models, Ross further explains how he has identified additional forces he says is working to sustain separatism between science and faith. Ultimately it is a “turf war,” writes Ross, that erupted a few centuries ago when scientific specialists and biblical specialists were competing to establish the ownership of truth.

First is a database difference. The canon of Scripture was completed at the end of the first century and is now a closed database, whereas the database of science is always growing with the inclusion of new discoveries. Second is the isolation of specialization, in which scholars who specialize in the various sciences remain isolated from those scholars who specialize in biblical studies and theology. And then third is the intellectual resistance people have to what Genesis records and what it tells us about reality.

By identifying those obstacles, Ross is hoping that the remainder of his book will help tear down any mistrust anyone has in Scripture.

Review and Critique

turfwarRoss is partially correct when he writes that the battle between Christian faith and so-called science is a “turf war” between specialists for the ownership of truth. Where he is mistaken is that this war did not erupt only a few centuries ago around the time of the Renaissance and Reformation, but it is a battle that began as soon as Satan asked Eve, “Yea, hath God said?”

According to Ross, unbelievers cite intellectual problems they have with Genesis as one of the motivating factors why they reject Christian faith. People regularly ask him why they should believe the message of a book that contradicts the known facts of science right from the start. He even notes how “new atheists” and popular skeptics like Michael Shermer, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Sam Harris openly mock the book of Genesis in their talks and written materials.Their widespread appeal and intelligent articulation of their views is compelling argumentation with audiences who are largely ignorant of what Scripture teaches. But is that entirely accurate?

I’ll outline a few problems I have with his thesis regarding the unbeliever’s resistance to truth.

First, skeptics of the Christian faith are not hostile to Christianity because they have an intellectual problem attempting to reconcile alleged contradictions between modern science and the Genesis record. They are hostile to the Christianity because they are sinners who have a moral problem with their creator. That is what the Bible clearly teaches throughout its pages, for example Romans 3:9ff., 8:7,8; 1 Corinthians 2:14-16;  Ephesians 2:1-3, 4:18,19.

Ross, and his RTB gang of apologists, could provide all sorts of airtight responses that soundly answer all the objections of a skeptic, but that skeptic will still find something to be skeptical about. As much as he wishes to think he is removing stumbling blocks to faith with his apologetic, it is doing no such thing. The skeptic’s problem is a rebellion against God problem and only a supernatural work of God can change that.

Second, a so-called “turf war” between Christians and skeptics vying for ownership of truth didn’t first appear just a few hundred years ago. Skeptics challenging biblical truth have existed since the world began. In fact, the NT church was forged in a crucible that involved refuting challenges to their faith, even during the time of the apostles. Consider that by the end of the first century AD, early Christian apologists began writing against skeptical Jews like Trypho and hostile, non-religious sectarians like Porphyry.

By the end of the first millennium, Christians were interacting with Muslim critics, and by the time of the Reformation, Roman Catholic apologists threatened the claims of sola scriptura and the other theological truths the Reformers were proclaiming. The challengers from the so-called scientific realm really didn’t come around until the last two hundred years or so, and they stand at the end of a long, long line of other sundry cranks. In all of those instances Christians interacted with skeptics long before the science specialists came on the scene, and none of them took Ross’s approach of constructively integrating the truth of Christianity with perceived “truth” found in their challenges.

Third, one may object that what Ross has in mind with “constructive integration” is specifically identifying truth from specialists who deal in the science pertaining to nature, or God’s creation. Seeing that Scripture speaks of nature telling forth God’s existence, it is entirely appropriate to apply constructive integration between those two areas.

Ross claims the Belgic Confession even confirms his constructive integrationist model. He writes, “Article 2…states that both the words of the Bible and the record of nature provide trustworthy and reliable revelation from God, giving testimony to God’s attributes and handiwork,” [19].

However, he is overreaching.The entire article from the confession states,

Article 2: The Means by Which We Know God

We know him by two means:

First, by the creation, preservation, and government of the universe, since that universe is before our eyes like a beautiful book in which all creatures, great and small, are as letters to make us ponder the invisible things of God: his eternal power and his divinity, as the apostle Paul says in Romans 1:20.

All these things are enough to convict men and to leave them without excuse.

Second, he makes himself known to us more openly by his holy and divine Word, as much as we need in this life, for his glory and for the salvation of his own.

Reading article 2 carefully, it is saying that God is known by His creation, which would be the nature part. That is standard orthodoxy with regards to general revelation. But that is not what he has in mind exactly.

Ross tends to overemphasize the importance of nature as a revelation for God, conflating it with the modern views of the specialists. For example, because cosmologists say the universe is billions of years old or geologists claim a global, Noahic flood could never have happened, those positions are considered to be legitimate revelation regarding nature. Hence, the biblical record has to be accommodated to explain that “revelation.” That is not what article 2 of the Belgic Confession, or any historic confession for that matter, is saying about general revelation.

What Ross is saying represents the so-called revelation of nature is really man’s interpretation of the nature, and interpretations that have only existed for as little as half a century or so. Such knowledge is not only questionable as legitimate, but it has not been accessible to all men at all times, a crucial component to general revelation.

Additionally, I take his unquestioned confidence in the findings of those specialists to be a major weakness for his apologetic. It is as if he just assumes all of them are biased-free and reporting their findings honestly. In many cases, they are not; but they have a significant agenda to promote. Any attempt to constructively integrate biblical truth with what Ross has mistakenly identified as the “truth” of nature is a major compromise that has manufactured a hybrid view that is comprised of truth, partial truth, and maybe even intentional lies.

Fourth, Ross has something of a troubling, continuationist view of natural revelation. He writes,

“The biblical canon…has been completed since the first century…AD. In the sciences, the databases never stops growing and in some cases doubles within a decade or less. Because scientists’ aim is to break new ground and replace old understandings with new ones, science claims exclusive rights to tell the unfolding story of what really happened,” [21].

He goes on to suggest there may be some instances when misinterpretations of texts need to be revised due in part to these new discoveries in nature.

That is an extremely dangerous position to hold with regards to revelation, and in my mind, it is the most disturbing area of Ross’s apologetic. He essentially places God’s special revelation of Scripture in conflict against the general revelation of nature. Whereas the special revelation of Scripture is fixed and unchanging, according to Ross, general revelation is fluid and can change every year depending upon what specialists discover. Not only that, those new discoveries can influence how Christians interpreted Scripture for centuries.

I am left wondering if he is aware of the significant inconsistency he has created? If new discoveries within general revelation can revise interpretations regarding special revelation, then what exactly were generations of Christians believing before those discoveries? They taught a view of Scripture according to what was a normal, exegetical interpretation of a text that is now overturned due to a discovery by specialists in a field of study. If this is the case, God’s revelation is in conflict with itself. How can Christians be certain that what they teach from Scripture today will not change next week depending upon something supposedly added to the database in nature?

Ironically, this continuationists, neo-orthodox apologetic of God’s revelation unintentionally creates a separation between biblical authority and nature’s “authority,” the very kind of separation Ross is attempting to bridge with his book. We will see it play out again and again as I work through his book.

The Myth of “Fake News”

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There is not a “fake news” crisis. There is an idiot crisis.

Ever since Hillary Clinton was soundly trounced by Donald Trump in the latest presidential election, the cultural gate keepers on the two coasts have been navel gazing for an explanation as to how an individual who, in their minds, is the equivalent of a Jersey Shore Bro with money, could become the most powerful man in the world. They have offered a number of reasons, the most popular being that it was a “whitelash” of sexist, homophobic, racist Redneck Gomer Pyles from Hicksville, USA, who hate Obama.

Recently, the newest, popular excuse they have embraced is the influence of fake news. The idea is that thousands of fake news stories about Hillary having Parkinson’s, or her space mumu outfits were made by ISIS terrorists, or Huma runs a sex cult out of her apartment, etc, became so prolific on Facebook and Twitter, that the Hicksville rubes, who may have internet in those hard to reach places, were too unsophisticated to know what is real news and fake news, and the fake news manipulated their small brains to vote for Trump.

So now, there is what is called a “Fake News Crisis.” The realization of this “crisis” has caused the metropolitan progressive left to fall headlong upon their fainting couches. The “real news” media began issuing nightly reports warning users on social media of the danger of this infectious mind disease and it’s ability to confuse and give the reader bad, non-progressive left thoughts. Even the president lamentably opined that the Democrat loss was due in part to Fox News being on in every bar and restaurant across America.

Democrat operative and government censor, Mark Zuckerberg, formed a task force for Facebook to figure out what would be the most effective way to keep grandma Eloise in Possum Grape, Arkansas, from posting endless fake news links from Screaming Eagle Patriot dot com and Todd Starnes. Brian Stelter, host for CNN’s Sunday’s Reliable Sources program, invited veteran CBS News anchor, Dan “forged documents” Rather, to lecture about the importance of reliable press and honest journalism. (You can’t make this stuff up!)

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Archived photo of Dan Rather reporting “real news”

The National People’s Radio posted an alarming study from Stanford University that finds American college students have a frightening inability to distinguish between real news and fake news. While the pearl clutchers at NPR believe reporting on this story will trouble the nation’s collective soul thus stirring them to action and taking steps to remedy such a tragedy, their report ultimately accomplishes two objectives.

On the one hand, the blame for Trump’s undeserved victory is shifted away from the inconvenient truth that a lot of the reason people voted for him was due in part to the leftist policies the government has been cramming down the throats of normal Americans, and places it upon an imaginary threat. And on the other, it provides an excuse to censor opposing political voices, especially the conservative ones, under the guise of protecting the unwashed from “fake news.”

If I may be blunt: there is no such thing as a “fake news” crisis. It is completely made up. In fact, one could say the “fake news” crisis is a perfect example of “fake news.” What is being labelled “fake news” these days is really just grocery story tabloid journalism that has moved from the checkout stand at the local Kroger to the international platform of social media. The key difference being that the tabloid news, instead of being separated on its own news rack, is mixed with what one might call real news, and it takes a bit more scrutinizing discernment on the part of the internet consumer to identify it.

Honestly, the primary motivation behind the “fake news” crisis is to squash conservative thought and opinion. If a blog article is published effectively critical of some leftist policy, that article can be rightly censored because, well, it’s considered “fake news.” Already, a feminist professor published a list of “fake news” sites, that was picked up by the LA Times. On that list was obvious parody sites like The Onion, Click Hole, and Landover Baptist and conspiracy style sites like Coast to Coast and Info Wars. But also listed was reputable conservative sources like The Daily Wire, RedState, Project Veritas, and The Blaze. Conspicuously absent was foaming leftist loon sites like BuzzFeed, Vox, and Salon.

Back to that NPR Stanford report.

The report spends a considerable amount of space lamenting about how easily duped the students were with believing “fake news.” The researchers were “shocked” “Flabbergasted” and a number of other stunning adjectives. How could our American education system have failed a generation of students?, they wonder. Well, I can help you out there.

You see, those students are a product of the postmodern, liberal educational gobbledygook in which students are indoctrinated with propaganda and group think and the philosophy of “truth is whatever is true for you.” They are taught to feel and emote, not to analyze, use logic, and critically think. If you are going to coddle young adults and treat them like children, they will behave in society as big, grown children. That means they are going to believe anything you tell them.

Couple that with the instantaneous and ubiquitous social media platforms that are ready made for them to “share” and “like” any article, picture, or “news” items that confirms their biases and their social narrative, well of course they are gonna have a hard time distinguishing between real stories and fake ones. That goes for everyone, whether it is aunt Liz sharing the latest Hillary melt down as reported on the Minute Man Warrior or your Bernie loving atheist cousin, Tom, sharing the latest Trump-Putin connection via the Blue State Free Thinkers. They share “fake news” because they believe the “fake news” because it is confirmation bias for their souls.

Until people genuinely care about truth, “fake news” will abound. Censoring it and attempting to silence your critics will only fail.

Gleanings from Judges [14]

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The Birth of Samson [Judges 13]

Continuing in our study in the book of Judges, I come to the life of Samson. He is probably the most memorable of all the judges because of his feats of strength. In fact, it is his truly remarkable — or better, miraculous — judgeship of Samson that causes theological liberals to deny the historicity of these stories. They claim they are exaggerated hero stories because no man could single-handily destroy the Philistine army or carry the city gates of Gaza some 20 miles into the territory of Israel.

Samson was unique because he was anointed of God for a purpose: to stir up the Philistines so God could use Israel to destroy them. In children’s picture books and other Christian pop cultural references and artwork, Samson is shown as a brawny, muscular man who rivals a Gold’s gym user. The book of Judges tells us his strength came from the Spirit of God coming upon him, which makes me wonder if he was a small, averaged sized man that no one would ever think was physically strong.

Samson is also something of a mixed bag morally. Though he is called of the Lord and and anointed by the Spirit to do remarkable, supernatural feats of strength, he had a severe weakness for women, especially Philistine women. It is his lust for strange women that is what becomes his undoing and brings him to a sad end to his life.

But before we even get to those issues in his life, we need to consider his remarkable birth beginning in Chapter 13.

The Setting

Chapter 13 opens by reminding us of the situation in Israel. The people had done evil and God had given them over to a foreign oppressor, the Philistines. I pointed out when discussing Jephthah that it was an unusually wicked time in Israel’s history. According to 10:6ff., there was rampant apostasy on a wide-scale. God, 10:7 says, hands them over to two oppressors who troubled them simultaneously: The Ammonites on the eastern side of the Jordan, who Jephthah dealt with, and the Philistines on the western side, who Samson dealt with.

The Philistines were mentioned briefly before in chapter 3 of Judges when Samgar, quite possibly a non-Jewish judge, defeated 600 of them with an ox goad, 3:31. His defeat of them was merely a temporary fix. The Philistines are shrouded in mystery. It is believed they were sea people who came from the Aegean area around Greece. Some come by sea via Crete and Cyprus, known in the OT as Kittim. Others crossed the land, down from the north, displacing the Hittite empire. Their goal may had been to overrun  Egypt, the then major superpower in the region.

Around 1190 B.C., Ramses III defeated the Philistines in battle and then hired many of the defeated troops as mercenaries, putting them at the coastal towns of Gaza, Ashkelon, and Ashdod, three of the five major Philistine cities. If Israel had been faithful, they would have rooted them out like the other nations, but their apostasy brought Israel under their oppression.

Announcing a Deliverer

One interesting side-note to Samson’s story is the absence of the people crying out and repenting like those in Jephthah’s story. If Samson so readily fraternizes with them, the women particularly, as we shall see, one is left wondering if Israel genuinely wished to be delivered.

– Choosing the Parents – As we shall see, it is YHWH who provokes the Philistines (Judges 14:4, “God is seeking an occasion against the Philistines”). But before we get to Samson, we see God announcing his birth and special calling to his parents, especially his mother, an unnamed woman. His father was a man named Manoah, a name that plays of Noah and means, “resting place.” He was a “certain man” from Zonah located in the region where the Danites lived before they moved north. The people of Zonah may be from a smaller group of Danites who did not leave.

– Choosing a barren woman – Even though Manoah’s wife is not named, she was barren and had no children. Children are a mark of God’s blessing and sons, particularly, moved along the family name. If one does not have children, it was commonly believed the person or family had offended God and they were all cursed.

– Choosing the child – The Angel of the Lord (a Christophaney) appeared to Manoah’s barren wife. This one occasion was a special blessing if one thinks about it. He tells her He knows she is barren, which indicates that God knows our trials. He goes on to tell that she will conceive and have a son.

He is consecrated before the Lord before he is even conceived. His mother is also consecrated. He was placed under a Nazorite vow, a voluntary vow that was done by a person as an act of dedication to God for a period of time. The difference with Samson’s Nazorite vow was that it wasn’t voluntary, but divinely appointed. Even his mother is to take it until he is born. The vow takes effect the moment of Samson’s conception, and it is not temporary for him, but remains with him all his life.

– Fulfillment of the promise – After Manoah’s wife told him about her visitation from the Angel of the Lord, he goes to seek Him out. He then reappears to his wife and she goes to find her husband to bring him to the Angel. In a scene similar to what happened with Gideon in Judges 6, Manoah offers a meal, but offers it as a burnt offering. The Angel of the Lord says that His name is wonderful, a Messianic title of divinity like in Isaiah 9:6. They immediately recognize that he is divinity, God in the flesh (13:21-22)

True to His word, Manoah’s wife bears a son, Samson.

Reviewing Navigating Genesis [2]

 

creationChapter 1 – Personal Journey

Summary

I have taken up reviewing Hugh Ross’s book, Navigating Genesis. My introductory post explaining my reasoning can be found HERE.

Ross opens up his book recounting his personal journey as a young man putting the Bible to his rigorous scientific testing. As an apologist, he encounters many people these days who complain that the Bible is an ancient book full of scientific nonsense and blatant contradictions. When he asks folks for examples of that scientific nonsense, many of them cite Genesis 1-11.

Ross, however, sees their rejection of Genesis as an opportunity, because “the scientific discoveries of the past few decades…present some of the most persuasive evidences ever assembled for the supernatural authorship, accuracy, and authority of the Bible,” [9]. He goes on to explain how Genesis can withstand rigorous scientific and biblical testing, and because of that those first 11 chapters of Genesis present some of the most persuasive evidence of the divine authority of the Bible.

He tells how when he was a young man, his singular passion was science. He was particularly drawn to astronomy and he specifically believed the big bang model of cosmology was the best model ever conceived that fits the observational data, [11]. That led him further to be convinced that the big bang model implied that a creator existed.

When he turned his attention to studying the world’s religions, the one religious book that stood out above all the others as a reasonable explanation of that scientific data was the Bible. The “scientific method was clearly evident in Genesis chapter 1 as in a modern research paper,” [12]. After reading the entire Bible he failed to discover anything within its pages that could be label as a verifiable error. Once his study was completed, and he saw that the Bible lined up with everything he knew scientifically, he gave his life to Christ as his savior. The book, Navigating Genesis, is his attempt to navigate the record of Genesis with his reading audience, while answering challenges raised by skeptics, both inside and outside the church.

Review

With this introductory recounting of his personal faith journey, Ross announces that he will build the argument in his book upon a number of what are clearly faulty premises. Let me highlight a few important ones that will direct the trajectory of my forthcoming reviews.

To begin, he is going to treat the book of Genesis, a book that is a historical record of God’s creation and the events of the early earth that lead up to the call of Abraham, as if it is a scientific research paper. He writes, “As a scientist I would say these events beg to be tested,” [9]. But how exactly does one scientifically test events recorded in a historical document? Ross believes those events are a record of the past, but unless he has access to a special Delorean, he cannot possibly scientifically test them. All he can do, and what he will do throughout his book, is force upon the historical record of Scripture modern presuppositions from secular science he unquestionably accepts as valid. That is not doing science; that’s gaming the facts.

Additionally, he attempts to distinguish his scientific test for the events recorded in Genesis from miraculous events like the Virgin Birth and Jesus turning water into wine. He seems to think that the miraculous, divine interventions recorded in Genesis like the creation week, Noah’s flood, and the confusion of languages at Babel, are scientifically testable, but the resurrection of Lazarus is not. He assumes that verifying the miracle of creation according to the various scientific disciplines, will somehow verify those other miracles.

Yet all of those events, the creation, Noah’s flood, Christ feeding the 5,000, and His bodily resurrection, are all equally miraculous. For some reason, Ross believes we can scrutinize the miracles recorded in Genesis because they apparently fall into the realm of the scientific disciplines, whereas the other recorded miracles do not. (Why wouldn’t a Resurrection fall into the realm of medical science, for instance). What he fails to inform the reader is that he will evaluate those Genesis events according to the various presuppositions of secular science and the conclusions of secular science tend to deny the miraculous and explain it away.

Ross also notes three biblical tests he believes are important to his presentation. How exactly those biblical tests come together with the scientific tests just mentioned is not really explained. The reader is expected to roll with the disconnect.

First he notes what he calls the Berean test taken from Acts 17:11. Like the noble Bereans (who were unbelievers, by the way), who tested all the claims made by Paul about Jesus, all the biblical passages that parallel and overlap Genesis 1-11 must cohere with what ALL of Scripture teaches. That raises the question as to whether or not when those biblical passages contradict the scrutiny of the so-called scientific disciplines used to evaluate the events of Genesis, what gives way? The biblical testimony or the scientific discipline evaluating that testimony?

If Scripture cannot be broken as Ross asserts, can the scientific discipline in conflict with the point of Scripture be broken? He writes, “…understandings of Genesis 1-11 that contradict any other part of the Bible must be rejected,” [10]. But does that apply to any of the scientific disciplines?

Next is the spirit test that the apostle John writes of in his first epistle. Christians are to “test the spirits” to see if whether they come form God. But lots of the scientific scrutiny comes from “spirits” that are hostile and opposed to God. In fact, a number of modern practitioners of the scientific disciplines do not care for God at all. If they are religious, they tend toward synchronizing Darwinian evolution with what religious faith they may have to produce some weird, unbiblical theistic evolutionary hybrid. There certainly is a spirit behind such overt hostility to God.

Thirdly is the biblical language test. Ross writes, “A precise understanding of the text is crucial for interpreting the scientific and historical details as well as the theological context,” [10]. He goes on to explain that a precise understanding includes knowledge of the original language, the grammar, and its usage in various passages.

The problem, however, is that as one works his way through his book, nothing indicates that he has a working grasp of the original languages or the grammar. He is dependent upon secondary sources, which is understandable, because many writers and theologians may not have a full, working knowledge of the original languages. But his dependence, as I noted in my first review, relies almost exclusively upon the Theological Workbook of the OT. In fact, his appendix B, which is a breakdown of all the important Hebrew words in Genesis 1 is taken solely from the TWOT.

While I would certainly agree that the TWOT is a fine reference work, if you are an apologist who is writing a book length treatment advocating your unique apologetic of creation and the book of Genesis, and insisting to your readers you alone have the correct understanding of the text, it would behoove you to expand your sources beyond just one resource, albeit a good one. Moreover, the TWOT is limited in its scope in that it doesn’t cover grammatical and syntactical matter of the Hebrew texts under consideration. A number of Ross’s assertion about how the original language should be understood doesn’t even take into mind those grammatical and syntactical nuances.

And then one final, faulty premise is Ross’s “Nature is a 67th book of the Bible” argument. Ross, and the RTB apologists, believe that nature is a unique revelation all unto its own that is self-sufficient and self-authenticating. In one of his earliest books that sets forth his apologetic, Creation and Time, Ross writes that,

“the Bible teaches a dual, reliably consistent revelation. God has revealed Himself through the words of the Bible and the facts of nature…So, God’s revelation is not limited exclusively to the Bible’s words. The facts of nature may be likened to a sixty-seventh book of the Bible. Just as we rightfully expect interpretations of Isaiah to be consistent with those of Mark, so too we can expect interpretations of the facts of nature to be consistent with the message of Genesis and the rest of the canon.” [Creation and Time, 56-57]

He states that he is NOT putting nature on equal footing with the authority of the Scripture, but he does just that when he assigns nature, or better, secular interpretations of nature, the authority to correct and/or re-interpret Scripture so that it conforms to the scientific consensus.

Richard Mayhue takes apart Ross’s 67th book presupposition with a withering analysis in the book, Coming to Grips with Genesis, pages 105-129. He points out a number of flaws with Ross’s overreach with general revelation, but the one that is particularly problematic is that it presents an open canon. In other words, rather than the biblical canon closing at the writing of Revelation, it suggests the canon is still very much open and incomplete as new, and yet to be discovered, scientific discoveries present the possibility of reshaping our understanding of Genesis and creation.

God’s revelation is then not settled and fixed as the historic, Bible-believing church teaches, but is still in flux as modern science allegedly discovers new understandings of origins. Such a position leads one precariously close to heresy.

Gleanings from Judges [13]

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Jephthah’s Tarnished Victory (Judges 11:30-12:7)

The last time I began considering the judgeship of Jephthah. He served during a time when the tribes of Israel were engaged in apostasy on a mass scale. As a result, God specifically gave them to the Ammonites and Philistines in judgment. However, the LORD is gracious. After they confess their sin, cast away their idols, and returned to serving the LORD, Jephthah was raised up as a deliverer.

Because he was the son of a harlot, he was cast out of his family and joined with a band of pirates. The situation with the Ammonites caused his people to call him back to be their leader against their enemy, and after failed negotiations with the Ammonites, he rallies the Israelites in a spirit-led victory over them.

His victory, regrettably, became tarnished. Two events brought him to a downfall as a hero. His vow regarding his daughter and his brutalization of the Ephraimites.

– The Vow

In verse 30, before he goes to battle, he makes a vow. Vows were not necessarily unusual. For instance, Hannah’s vow of Samuel (1 Samuel 1:11), Israel’s vow of victory (Numbers 21:2), Jacob’s vow at Bethel (Genesis 28:20-21). In Jephthah’s case, he vowed to offer as a burnt offering the first thing that greeted him from the doors of his house if God delivered his enemies into his hands. The question I always had is what did he expect to come through the doors of his house? A goat? Moreover, did he really think He was going to make a burnt offering of a human being?

A burnt offering has the idea of “to cause to go through fire.” It normally refers to a sacrifice like a lamb. We see this idiom in a number of places through Scripture and never does it refer to a human sacrifice.

The question is: Did Jephthah kill his daughter or was there something else that happened to her?

The alternative to actually killing her is that he devoted her to a life of perpetual service to the Lord at the tabernacle. This interpretation is typically put forward by biblical interpreters who are uncomfortable with the idea of a man killing his only daughter as a sacrifice to God. They claim that Jephthah, being Jewish, would have abhorred the idea of human sacrifice to begin with. He was God fearing enough to respect what the law stated on the matter of murder.

Additionally, they further argue that a burnt offering can have the idea of tabernacle service. There is evidence of individuals being given in service like Hannah did for Samuel or possibly the Daughters of Shiloh mentioned in Judges 21. Also, Leviticus 27 has stipulations about committing a person to service, so perpetual service could be a real possibility. The text does say she was allowed to go bewail her virginity (11:37), meaning lamenting her inability to ever be married due to fulfilling the vow. That suggests she is going into perpetual service like a nun.

However, while this view is a commendable attempt to tone down the harshness of what happened, given Jephthah’s reputation as a horrible father, there are some problems with it.

– Jephthah’s life was one that was non-religious. It may be that he wasn’t even a practicing Jew, being half-Jewish himself. He lived away from the tabernacle and viewed God much in the same way the Canaanites viewed their gods, a being who occasionally needed to be placated or manipulated so he would favor the person.

– It is also significant that he lived among men who practiced human sacrifice. He was in a synchronized culture that was not a pure devotion to YHWH alone. Clear example is the Moabites he associated with who did practice human sacrifice to their gods Milkon and Chemonesh. In 2 Kings 3:27, the Moabite king sacrificed his oldest son in order to stay the Israelites moving against him in battle.

– It is true that Leviticus 27 allowed for perpetual service, however, the chapter explains that God provided an “out” for an individual who could not fulfill the vow because it was too difficult. Their was a shekel price Jephthah could have paid if he wanted to be released from his vow. All he needed to do was to make a trip to Shiloh where the tabernacle was located, paid the required offering, and then he would be released from his vow. He did not do this.

Given the nature of his vow, what he said, and the time and place where he lived, the only sad conclusion to draw is that he offered her up as a burnt offering. A rather sad and tragic example of the bizarre, ungodly times Israel was experiencing.

– Against Ephraim

We also find Jephthah embroiled in a civil war, a battle between the tribe of Gilead and Ephraim. The Ephraimites were  bothered that they weren’t called to join the battle against the Ammonites, and so they crossed the Jordan to pick a fight with Jephthah. They even threatened to burn his house down.

He tried to explain to them that he was involved with his people in a struggle against a mortal enemy that left him no choice to fight them. He apparently had called them, but they did not respond, so he had fight them with his people.

His words, however, did not placate the Ephraimites. They went to battle with Jephthah and Gileadites. They in turn soundly defeated the Ephraimites, but rather than just letting them return defeated to their homes, they prevented them from escaping across the river back to their home territory.

A couple of thoughts about the judgeship of Jephthah.

First, he demonstrates a Canaanizing influence within Israel. He attempted to manipulate God with the promise of a sacrifice, only to be mocked when his only daughter greets him at the door.

Secondly, there is no national unity, but only tribal squabbles that lead to battle. Rather than unifying the Gileadites with the Ephraimites, they are engage in a regional conflict with one another instead of finding unity in their identity as God’s people united around the worship of the one true covenant God, YHWH.