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Date added or revised: 6/26/2020 8:52 AM EST Commentary for 2 Kings 19:17[Initial commentary. A lesson from Hezekiah’s prayer.]
“It is true, O Yahweh.” More literally, “Truly,” but we would commonly say, “It is true.” Hezekiah sets forth an important principle of prayer here, which is to be honest about the facts and the situation. God knows the situation, and it does not help our prayers to hide the truth from God. Sometimes Christians try too hard to “pray positive prayers,” and say positive things, and end up misrepresenting the situation. While it is important to work to keep a positive attitude, that is because it is a reflection of what we think about God and His delivering power, and the power of hope, and not because our words have any power in and of themselves. It is God who has the power, and we come to Him with honest and frank speech, asking for His help. The “positive” part of prayer in a desperate situation comes from stating our dependence upon God and our trust in Him, not from watering down the gravity of the situation with words that are overly optimistic.
Hezekiah’s prayer was honest, simple, and powerful. The Assyrians had indeed laid waste the nations and had attacked and captured many cities in Judah (2 Kings 18:13; according to the Assyrian annuls, Assyria captured 46 cities in Judah). God would have to help the Judeans at this...Read More
Date added or revised: 5/28/2020 5:33 PM EST Commentary for John 21:20[Who was the disciple whom Jesus loved?]
“the disciple whom Jesus loved.” There is a long-standing debate about the identity of “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” All the references to the disciple whom Jesus loved are in the book of John (John 13:23, John 19:26, John 20:2 and John 21:7, John 21:20), and John uses both the Greek words agapaō and phileō to express the love Jesus had for that disciple. Although the Gospel of John does not specifically identify its author, and “the disciple whom Jesus loved” is nowhere explicitly named in Scripture, there are convincing reasons to believe it refers to the Apostle John.
The early Christians recognized John as the author of the Gospel and “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” For example, Irenaeus (c. 130-203 AD), Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-211 AD), Tertullian (155-222 AD), St. Theophilus, Bishop of Antioch (c. 185 AD), and Origin (185-253 AD), say the Apostle John wrote the Gospel of John. Furthermore, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, and Origin all identified John as the author of 1 John, and conservative scholars conclude that the same person wrote the Gospel of John and the Epistles of John. The fact that John likely lived to at least the mid-90s AD, and may have even lived to see 100 AD, makes the...Read More
Date added or revised: 5/27/2020 10:42 AM EST Commentary for 2 Kings 18:22[Hezekiah’s stand for Yahweh]
“is not he the one whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah has taken away.” Sennacherib was very well informed about what was going on in Judah, and it is almost certain that he had spies there and/or had other sources of information, after all, he had already conquered a large number of the cities of Judah and would have learned a lot from the people he captured (2 Kings 18:13). So what he said was not a guess. Hezekiah had taken away the high places and pagan altars (2 Kings 18:3-4), and told the people to worship in Jerusalem. Hezekiah had also told his people and his army that they were to trust in Yahweh (2 Chron. 32:8). Hezekiah’s reform was so extensive, and his life and actions so important, that 2 Chronicles has four chapters on Hezekiah (2 Chron. 29-32).
The ungodly and pagan acts of king Ahaz, Hezekiah’s father, would have penetrated the culture quite deeply in the 16 years of Ahaz’s reign. So when Hezekiah abruptly put an end to those pagan practices he would have upset quite a few people. That meant that the reforms of Hezekiah, although welcomed by the godly people of Judah, would have been hated and opposed by the ungodly people. This was one of those situations where the leader cannot please everyone....Read More
Date added or revised: 5/25/2020 7:35 AM EST Commentary for Luke 8:14[The idol of pleasure]
“and the pleasures of life.” Believers are to seek to please God and do his will, but too often believers get sidetracked by seeing happiness or pleasure and putting that ahead of God. “Having a good time” can be an idol that takes the place of God. God wants people to enjoy life, and life can be very enjoyable when one obeys God. Most committed Christians would testify that life is more fun and enjoyable when they are obeying God than when they are not. Leaving the things of God to have “fun” or “enjoy life” is not wise.
Pleasure and “fun” can be an idol, even though the person does not have a statue or something that represents “pleasure,” as did the ancient religions. An idol can be set up in the heart (Ezek. 14:3). The ancient Greeks and Romans recognized that pleasure could be a god, and both cultures had a goddess of pleasure. The Greeks had the goddess Hēdonē (ἡδονή, pronounced hay-doe-nay) who was the personification of pleasure and enjoyment. The Greek word hēdonē means “pleasure” and is where the English word “hedonism” comes from. In Aristotelian ethics, hēdonē “is part of the philosopher's account of virtue and that pleasure (along with pain) is said to reveal a person's character. It is good if it is a...Read More
Date added or revised: 5/7/2020 8:17 AM EST Commentary for Joshua 4:22[teach your children about God]
“to make known to your children.” This translation may be a little weak. The Hebrew is causative; make them know. It is a parent’s responsibility to teach their children about God. The assumption of Scripture is that children are curious and will ask questions, such as “What do these stones mean” (Josh. 4:21). At that time parents are to “make them know” the great deeds of Yahweh. Parents today often express that they want their children to “make up their own mind.” That will happen naturally. Eventually every person makes up their own mind as they grow and mature. But it is the parent's responsibility before God to raise their young children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. In reality, the children do not belong to the parent, they belong to God; the parents are simply the wards of the children until they mature, and so the parents are responsible to raise the children as the Heavenly Father would have them raised. To not teach children about God early on puts them at a serious disadvantage because they learn to live without thinking about God even though every breath of air they breathe is from God. Eternal life and eternal death are not things to take a chance on. Every parent should give their children the best...Read More
Date added or revised: 4/20/2020 1:37 PM EST Commentary for John 10:10[Who is the thief in John 10:10?]
“the thief.” The “thief” in this record is specifically a reference to the various evil religious leaders. It is not a direct reference to the Devil, although in John 8:44 Jesus boldly proclaimed that the religious leaders were children of the Devil, and said that they did the works of their father the Devil. It is not wrong to call the Devil a thief, because he is one, but the “thief” in this parable is any given follower of the Devil, who through evil intent or simple ignorance destroys the sheep.
The key to understanding what Jesus is saying is to realize the record here in John 10 is a continuation of John 9, and even a continuation of John 8, at least in general thrust and impact (see commentary on John 10:1). In John 8, which occurred during the Feast of Tabernacles which would have brought huge crowds to Jerusalem, Jesus openly opposed the religious leaders. Jesus taught that he was the light of the world, but the religious leaders challenged him. But he said to them, “You are from beneath, I am from above…That is why I said to you that you will die in your sins” (John 8:23-24). The argument between Jesus and the Jews got more and more heated until the last verse in John 8, at which point the Jews “picked up stones to...Read More
Date added or revised: 4/15/2020 5:17 PM EST Commentary for Judges 9:8[Initial commentary. Bramble people]
“One day the trees went out.” Jotham starts this poetic fable as we would start a story, “One day,” except we often say, “Once upon a time.” Jotham’s fable is short but powerful, and is about the trees wanting a king (Judg. 9:8-15).
In this fable, the trees are the common people, and this is different from the metaphorical use of trees in many other places in the Bible where the trees are the leaders, the powerful people in the kingdom (see commentary on Luke 3:9). The common people are often referred to as “sheep,” but not here. In this case, Jotham correctly points out that the common people often do not want to participate in governing themselves or take much responsibility for how their lives are governed (even today a significant percentage of the population of the USA does not vote, and few of those who do vote make much effort to find out much about the candidates). Thus, the trees seek out a leader and are persuaded by boastful talk and big promises, and do not recognize “bramble-people” and work to keep them from gaining power in the kingdom.
The trees’ desire to have a king is parallel to the people of Shechem wanting a king (Judg. 9:2-6). Later, Israel would want a king and anointed Saul (1 Sam. 10:1; 11:15)....Read More
Date added or revised: 3/31/2020 7:33 AM EST Commentary for Joshua 2:24[Focus on the task at hand, not what might have been.]
“Yahweh has given into our hands all the land.” These two spies, like Caleb and Joshua almost 40 years earlier, were confident, having a secure trust in the work of Yahweh in bringing them into their land inheritance. Years earlier, Moses had sent out 12 spies (Num. 13:1-20), and 10 of them fearfully reported that they could not conquer the land, saying, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are” (Num. 13:31-32). In contrast to those ten, Joshua and Caleb had confidently reported that Israel could conquer the land (Num. 14:6-9). There is little doubt that when Joshua heard the confident report of the spies that he had sent to Jericho that he remembered what he and Caleb had reported to Moses those many years before. It is quite likely that he thought about what his life would have been like if all the spies Moses sent into Israel had been like he and Caleb and these two brave men. He could have spent his life in the Promised Land rather than marching around the desert and eating the same manna day after day for 40 years. Every life has its “What if…,” but it is not healthy to dwell on that. There is much to do for God here and now, and believers have eternity to look forward to because we...Read More
Date added or revised: 3/27/2020 8:00 AM EST Commentary for Genesis 3:22[Humans know good from evil]
“knowing good and evil.” The fact that humans have an inherent knowledge of good and evil is very important in understanding the responsibility that humans have towards God. God holds people responsible for finding Him and then showing love and honor to Him by serving Him.
The knowledge of good and evil can move from the inherent to the intellectual via some very basic things: for example, we know that it hurts if people steal from us so we know not to steal from others. We know that it hurts when people lie about us, so we know not to lie to others. The basic understanding of good and evil is why law codes from all ages and all cultures have a deep similarity—although it happens that people and leaders can become so hard and selfish that their conscience becomes cauterized and they follow a path of hurt and pain (1 Tim. 4:2). The inherent knowledge of good and evil is why even children know quickly if a person is good and kind or selfish and hurtful. The inherent and internal basic knowledge of good and evil is why God says that people can do “by nature” the things in the Law that He gave from heaven: “indeed when Gentiles who do not have the law do by nature the things of the law, these, not having the law, are a law to...Read More
Date added or revised: 3/23/2020 8:13 PM EST Commentary for Genesis 22:1[“God tested Abraham”]
“God tested Abraham.” The Hebrew word translated “tested” in Genesis 22:1 is nasah (#05254 נָסַה), and its meanings include “to test” and “to tempt.” It is helpful in biblical study to know that in both Hebrew and Greek, the same word can be either “test” or “tempt,” depending on the motivation of the one doing the testing or tempting. In a “test,” the most common idea is that the test would help the person in some way and result in success. In contrast, in a temptation, the motivation is that the person will fail. When it comes to nasah referring to a “test,” there are different uses of “test” in the Bible: people test God (Judg. 6:39); people test other people (1 Kings 10:1; Dan. 1:12, 14); people test things (1 Sam. 17:39), and God tests people (Gen. 22:1; Ps. 26:2). Understanding temptations is a little more challenging because people “tempt” God on their part (cp. Exod. 17:7; Num. 14:22), but God is not tempted by what they do, nor does God tempt anyone (James 1:13).
God’s “tests” are meant to strengthen the person in their walk with Him, and also accomplish His purposes. That is certainly the case here with Abraham. But it is important to understand that God testing Abraham is not unique because there are many times in...Read More