Category Archives: Bible Teaching

Isaiah Chapter One: The Price of Doing What You Want

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Isaiah was a prophet to four kings in Judah. His book is, in our modern version, 66 chapters long, the same as the number of the books in our Bible. Some have called it a microcosm of the whole Bible. Indeed, we can find many of the elements throughout the Bible in this one book, so studying it gives a chance to hit many of the highlights God wants us to discover throughout His Word.

Heavens and earth are called to witness the declaration. Creation has been an innocent witness to and victim of man’s rebellion from the time of the fall. Romans 8:18-25 details the correct attitude of believers, that of understanding that suffering is part of true service to God, because sin is not good and pleasant and enjoyable, but produces misery and anguish. Creation has longed for purging from the effects of sin ever since it entered the natural world.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. (Romans 8:18-25, NASB)

This should have been the attitude of the Children of Israel in Isaiah’s time, but the truth was that they, instead of acting like sons raised up to love and serve their father, God, they revolted. They weren’t just indifferent or apathetic, they actively rebelled.
Trained domestic animals know better than these people about who to serve and obey. How can these people be ignorant? Sinful as a whole nation, burdened by all of that wickedness, generational guilt and corruption. Abandoning, despising, and turning away from God.

This has to be true because if the traditions were maintained, Jewish children were educated in the Law from an early age. They knew better, from the three methods God has always used:
1. the witness of creation,
2. the witness of His Word, and the message of the prophets. By this time they had numerous books of the Bible
3. plus teachers and prophets like Isaiah.

“There is no room for another mark.” Tars Tarkas said in the John Carter movie, speaking to his daughter Sola. Sola was punished for disobedience against her green Martian tribe by being branded each time she was caught. She had been punished so many times there was no space left on her body for the signs of her rebellion.

Whether this punishment in this movie was just or not isn’t the point. It illustrates the condition of the people of God. He had disciplined them for their true and unquestionable rebellion until there was no space that did not bear “bruises, welts, and raw wounds.” (Isaiah 1:6, NASB)

Put aside your socially-conditioned shock over corporal punishment, please. Even in our permissive society we reach a point where we have laws to try to correct wrongdoing. These were God’s attempts to lawfully correct His people’s wrongdoings. He just didn’t have any place left to administer correction.

From head to toe these people bore the marks of stubbornness and rebellion. The fact that they were untreated (raw) and “not pressed out or bandaged, nor softened with oil” means that they were like sheep who wouldn’t even let a shepherd take care of the injuries sustained as part of the sheep’s natural tendency to wander and get itself injured or corrected with the rod. They’ve run from the tender aftermath where the father who had to discipline would love to take the rebel into His arms and administer comfort and display love.

The man-curated portion of creation also bears witness to rebellion. His structures created from God-supplied building materials are burned. His crops are stolen by invaders, as happened often throughout the book of Judges. These marauders devoured this food right in front of the Israelites. Desolation by strangers. A terrible fate.
This makes it clear that it wasn’t God who wanted to rob them of safety and sustenance. Enemies took the opportunity to swarm in because the people had trampled on God’s walls of protection. They smashed through those loving arms reaching out to defend them and embraced instead false gods and practices. In doing so they also invited in pain, misery, and loss.

All that was left was a little shack in an empty field, the place where someone was supposed to look after the crops as they grew. But there was nothing left to tend or protect. A besieged city will eventually run out of supplies and come to the end of its food and water. Israel had allowed itself to be surrounded and cut off from God’s help. Only a few survivors would remain because of God’s enduring mercy. They could have been wiped out, as Sodom and Gomorrah were, but God did not desire that.

How do we know that they were probably still following the traditions of teaching their children? Because they were following others, the sacrifices, the attendance at the Temple. We know this because God said they were sacrificing, but instead of enjoying the “sweet aroma,” as He has described it elsewhere, God said “I take no pleasure” calls them “worthless” and says “incense is an abomination.” He says “I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly.” It’s as if you invited and important guest to dinner and served the garbage disposal scraps along with the real food. What were the Israelites thinking?

Just as the people were burdened with their sins in verse 4, God was burdened by their hypocritical sacrifices and growing weary of having patience, seeking true repentance in verse 14. That’s what sacrifices were supposed to be for, to show evidence of being sorry, turning away, and seeking forgiveness.

That’s not what these sacrifices were, though. When the Israelites prayed, they couldn’t even see that they were raising up bloody hands, stained by the innocent blood God says elsewhere that people were guilty of shedding. From evil kings all the way down to mothers who killed their own children, God recounts over and over again the horrors His own people were capable of committing. God will not, cannot, listen to the prayers of polluted people when they never give a thought to confessing and forsaking their sin but just feel like they have to carry out a ritual.

“Tradition!” shouts the cast of Fiddler on the Roof in the famous production number of the same name, but these traditions were empty of truth and meaning to those people in Isaiah’s time.

God begged and pleaded that they would see their sin, acknowledge it, and be cleansed from it. They needed to learn what the traditional education was supposed to be impressing on them, the basics of right human behavior.

These were such simple precepts. Stop doing evil. Learn how to do right. You don’t have to have superpowers to become a champion of justice. Tell bad people they are wrong. Stand up for children with no parents. Defend women left without husbands.
Did you think God was only interested in emotion, in mysticism? Then why does He invite us in verse 18 to reason together with Him? Because true belief isn’t weird. It isn’t mysterious and impossible to think through and understand.

God gives an object lesson. If you spill blood on something, it will stain. Just so, the people had stained themselves by killing the innocent. But blood can be washed out, even out of something pure white, like wool, and then it will be bright, clean, and shining pure again.

But of course He isn’t talking about literal blood or wool here. He’s talking about sin and its remedy. Sin is the destruction of innocence. People do murder innocents when they abort babies or leave newborns in a toilet or leave children in a cardboard box someplace because they didn’t want to protect them. The same goes for women who are attacked, molested, raped, or murdered because they are deemed easy prey.

In the days of Isaiah there were human sacrifices, usually children, but women were also victimized, used and discarded as temple prostitutes or subject to other monstrous mistreatment. Anytime we fail to value and protect life we are guilty of innocent blood.
Again, God appeals to simple reason in verse 19. Consent to obey, and you will have the best. Refuse and rebel, and the sword is coming to kill you. You have been warned, just as you are warned about the consequences of misbehavior when you accept a job.
If you keep abusing your position, stealing from your employer (so many ways to do that and no one can pretend they don’t know many ways to betray an employer’s trust) vandalizing his property, mistreating fellow employees, you could end up worse than fired. You could go to prison, at least. This is what the people were doing to God.

How does a person go from faithful to unfaithful? Just to unjust? Righteous to murderer? How does this happen in the heart of a man or woman today? A bride and groom do still sometimes exchange vows, including a pledge of fidelity. Believe it or not, this is still a thing in many marriage ceremonies, even nowadays.

Yet married couples betray each other by adultery, mistreat each other by hiding or misspending income, abuse each other with physical violence, and even murder a spouse, sometimes with the added horror of committing suicide afterwards. This can happen in other areas of life as well, following a pattern of initial faithfulness devolving into downward steps that end in some kind of terribly unnatural death.

Instead of maintaining valuable currency we have, like ancient Sparta, become satisfied with coinage worthless outside our own tiny circle. We can’t get anything but watered-down beverages because we don’t protect the value of things. We are led by the rebellious and form friendships with people who think stealing is just getting what you’re owed or the only way to get ahead. You can pay people to make you falsely successful. Nobody listens to the cries of the real needy, the orphans and the widows. They’re too busy chasing false success for themselves.

These people are adversaries of God. They oppose Him, and He will treat them like enemies in battle. He won’t put up with impurities like the dross in silver. Get ready for the lye soap, you dirty sinner. You will become pure by God’s washing and it won’t be comfortable or make you feel loved, since you didn’t want to be loved when you had the chance.

How do we get back to righteousness? Let God restore it. Stop rebelling. Give in to His wisdom in the choice of judges and counselors. He chose them in the time of the Judges, just to name one example. Wow! Would we have chosen Samson or Jephtha? God’s ways are not our ways, but He asks us to trust Him and to be obedient, not understand or know everything. “Trust and Obey” is far more than a song for children in Sunday school. It’s a life principle.

Only in that way can faithfulness be restored. God does it. We don’t do it. Our efforts fail and so do our sinful hearts. “Redeemed, how I love to proclaim it.” But how do we get redeemed? By sacrifices? By struggling with our own version of righteousness? Nope. Once again, God does it. Verse 27 doesn’t say Zion redeems herself. It says she “will be redeemed.” How? By repentance.

What’s repentance? Simple. It’s when I’m walking that way, the way of sin, doing that thing that is opposed to God, and suddenly I say, “No. I’m going to walk the opposite way, and do the opposite thing!” You say and think the same thing about sin that God says. “No more! I oppose it! I turn my back on it.”

After all, transgressors, that is, people who turn off God’s path, ignore His signs so they can do things ‘way worse than walking on the grass, end up in the trash compactor. Hear that awful din when the garbage man comes with his big truck and those claws grab your can and hoist it into the air, emptying it into the maw of the crusher? Hear the roar and squeal and the grinding of the compactor mashing your trash into … yeah. That’s the fate of the sinner. You don’t want to be in God’s compactor. You don’t want to know what it means when God says these people will “come to an end.” (v. 28)

Why would you be ashamed of trees? Embarrassed by gardens? (v. 29) Maybe you don’t understand the Bible because you don’t see how the cultural applications are relevant today. Ever hear of a Zen Garden? Japanese and other Buddhists create these as a place where they can meditate. It’s a form of worship. False worship.

These trees, these gardens, mentioned in Isaiah, are places to worship false gods. You should be embarrassed if you are worshiping idols. Oh, you don’t worship any false gods? People throw around terms from other religions today, like feng shui, yoga, even mindfulness, claiming they are ways to get healthy, get focused, be more successful. They don’t see the idolatry. Or they don’t want to. These are obsessions with physical things that cross over into supposed spiritual benefits.

God uses parallels to visualize the fate of idolaters. Love to worship at that sacred tree? Watch the leaves wither and fall. Sitting and meditating in that mystical garden? It dries up without water. Who puts life into a tree or gives water to a garden? Look to the Source of life, God, and stop worshiping the mere life itself.

Not only are the tree and the garden temporary, not only do they die off, they dry up and so do the people who worship them. A man might seem strong and successful as he practices techniques of eastern mysticism, but if the focus is on the mere physical, something so temporary, when it dries up it could become just something to spark a fire. It could burn up. In fact, God says the idolater will burn up, no matter how strong he appears. No one can put out a fire that God starts, and He will start one, to do away with the idol and the idolater.

Questions for Further Study, Discussion, or Thought
1. Why is Creation a good witness for God to call upon?
2. How do we know that Israel should have known better than to rebel?
3. How should children respond to their father’s discipline? Why would they not respond correctly?
4. Why did God hate their sacrifices? What is the real purpose of sacrifice?
5. List some ways married couples can be unfaithful, and how this is a picture of man’s relationship to God.
6. Explain the meaning of repentance.
7. Share some cultural examples of idolatry that people may not realize they practice. What is their justification for doing these things?

Image Credit: Isaiah Bible Card from the Providence Lithograph Company, 1904. thebiblerevival.com Wikimedia Commons

 

 

 

 

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A “To God” List

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Yesterday in our Sunday school class we were talking about the true meaning of the Sabbath. Some people believe the Sabbath is obsolete because it was part of the law. But Jesus kept the Sabbath, and never said we shouldn’t. He often said, however, that the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. He also said the Jewish leaders burdened people with wrong ideas about the Sabbath. They condemned Jesus for healing on the Sabbath, but He quite rightly pointed out that they would not hesitate to water and feed their livestock or pull them out of pits on the Sabbath. To these Jewish leaders, their Sabbath rules were a means to control people.

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Sometimes we think God is trying to control us. Many people say that is why they reject Jesus Christ and salvation, because they see it as a loss of freedom. They will be burdened with a heavy list of rules to follow, a life filled with “don’ts” that will make them miserable.

I want to share the whole 58th chapter of Isaiah because it is so fantastic on the subject of real reasons to do real things for God. But I’ll just share verses 13 and 14 and stick with the Sabbath discussion. God had a very different view of the Sabbath from the Pharisees and Sadducees, I think.

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“If because of the Sabbath, you turn your foot from doing your own pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the Lord honorable, and honor it, desisting from your own ways, from seeking your own pleasure and speaking your own word, then you will take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; and I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (NASB)

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Yes, we have to turn away from our own pleasure. But look! We can call the Sabbath a delight. People are fond of “name it, claim it” theology and visualization. This is a place where it works. Call the Sabbath a delight and it will be. You will also get to take delight in the Lord. Imagine how it would feel to “ride on the heights!”

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What is the heritage of Jacob? Maybe he’s not our father, if we are not literal children of Israel, but God gave Jacob, who was a most imperfect man, as are we all, huge blessings. Salvation is by grace, and was even for Jacob, and salvation puts us into God’s family. In Christ we can claim God’s blessings. God wants to feed us, and send us soaring like that daddy who swings his little one up in the air and makes him scream with joy.

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So instead of grumbling about all God is going to make us do, why don’t we make a change in our thinking? That’s all God really wanted us to do, with all the laws and regulations and commandments. Love God, love your neighbor. Jesus said these fulfill the commandments. It’s not a burden. It’s a delight.

Some people make “To Do” lists. What if we made a “To God” list, committing our day to God and seeking just to delight in Him, to honor Him, and see if we can’t get that ride to the height, and that feeding from His bounty?

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What would your “To God” list look like? We’d love to have you share it with us.

All images Public Domain from Pixabay

 

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Working With Your Own Hands — Post by Michael J. Findley

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The Law and the teachings of Jesus allowed for 3 classes: business owner (such as shepherds), hireling, and slave. In reality, there were other classes such as politicians, professional soldiers, and destitute poor people who were not slaves. Though not an exhaustive list, the Law, Proverbs, the apostles, and Jesus recognized that financial freedom offered greater opportunity for righteousness. Certainly we cannot serve God and mammon, and the love money is root of all sorts of evil. But as Solomon said, “Keep well informed of the condition of your flocks and pay attention to your herds, because riches don’t endure forever, and crowns don’t last from one generation to the next.” Proverbs 27:23,24 ISV.

An owner of a small business is glorifying God, if he is obedient to God’s Word. This blog is more of a reminder of principles most believers already know. These points are along the line of water is wet and the sun is shining. But we tend to forget.

First, God is more important than our businesses. This is more important than just reserving time to worship. It means spending time alone with Him, studying His Word, and sharing the Gospel. It also means a proper attitude in whatever we are doing. Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31 ISV It matters to God how we spend our time, how we respond to people, and how we think.

The expression “time is money” is not found in the Word of God because God values our time more than our money. So wasting money is wasting time, which is more valuable in the sight of God. Do not spend more money on equipment than is necessary. At the same time, do not waste money on poor quality equipment.

People are more important than things. Numerous businessmen say that you do not have a real business until you have at least one employee, someone you are responsible for.

Your family is more important than your business, so as quickly as possible, move your business away from your home. It might be just around the corner. But when you are home you are not working.

Do these goals seem like a faraway dream? If they truly glorify God, then they are goals we can pray to meet some day.

Image Credit: Tom Roberts Shearing the Rams wikidata:Q7492201 Photographer lQEDjT-_MXaMJQ at Google Cultural Institute Wikimedia Commons

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How God Preserved His Word History 1

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A dozen times the New Testament refers to the Old Testament as the Law and the Prophets. In Luke 24:44 Jesus said “the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms.” Yet most of the Hebrew Old Testament, Joshua through Esther in the English arrangement, are primarily historical. They are quoted in the New Testament as Scripture. For example Paul in Romans 11:4 quotes 1 Kings 19:18.

It is easier for us to think of Judges through Esther as history. There is some poetry, a few prophecies, a few proverbs and a few random commandments. But over 90% is narrative prose, written as history. It even includes genealogical records which are pure history.

Ezra is credited by tradition with preserving the entire Old Testament. He collected, arranged, and wrote it in the form we have it today. But there were many authors, from the time of Joshua around 1450 BC to Ezra around 400 BC. Some of the known authors of this history are Joshua, or people writing for Joshua, Samuel, the sons of the prophets, set up by Samuel, royal scribes, paid for by the northern kings as well as the southern kings, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Baruch, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. It is not possible to know how much any of these men contributed, though Baruch under Jeremiah might have gathered together all of the Scriptures available at that time.

It is also known that under King Manasseh, the son of Hezekiah, every known copy of the Scriptures was destroyed and a single copy was preserved in the temple. So all existing copies from that point come from the single text found in the temple by Hilkiah the priest around 735 BC, 2 Kings 23:24.

Image Credit: Henry Ossawa Tanner Christ and His Mother Studying the Scriptures circa 1909 Dallas Museum of Art Wikimedia Commons

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Actual Dates and 14C Dates — Michael J. Findley

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Please forgive the oversimplification. But radiocarbon dating, like all radiometric dating, begins with assumptions (beliefs, paradigm) and uses those beliefs as proofs of dates. Science is the accurate examination of the evidence. The evidence of radiocarbon in the remains of organism which were once alive does not produce a date. It produces a 14C:12C ratio. Then assumptions (beliefs, a paradigm) are applied to that ratio. The result is a date. But the science is only the ratio.

Regular 14N in the upper atmosphere is bombarded by cosmic rays and produces 14C, which is unstable and breaks down over time. All living organisms absorb 14C throughout their lifetime through eating and breathing. At death, the organism no longer absorbs 14C. Since 14C is unstable, it begins to break down at a steady rate. This allows us to measure the 14C:12C ratio. By applying assumptions, the end result is a date.

The group of assumptions used by Secular Humanism have a paradigm that assumes the present to be the key to the past. It assumes that formation of 14C:12C was roughly the same as 14C:12C today. Allowing for anomalies, it assumes a constant rate for 60,000 BP (Before Present) years, the maximum accurate date for 14C dating.
The flood model assumptions have a paradigm where the past is vastly different from the present. The flood changed the paradigm dramatically.

Since there are no samples to test before the flood, it is a waste of time to discuss the antediluvian condition. But we accept the standard geologic position that earlier time periods, such as what they called the Cambrian through the Jurassic, had much higher carbon levels than we have today. All of these strata were formed during the flood and represent antediluvian carbon levels.

With higher levels of 12C and 14C formed at a constant rate, the 14C:12C therefor had highly diluted levels of 14C. Therefore, any sample from this time would cause a 14C date to be much older than its actual date because of the increase in 12C, not a reduction in 14C formation.

The flood altered the 14C:12C ratio by saturating the atmosphere with volcanic aerosols laden with vast quantities of 12C. At the same time, the sluice-gates of heaven were opened. 40 days of worldwide torrential rains flushed the atmosphere of any element besides water. This included 14C. Finally, all air-breathing organisms died. The last stage of the carbon cycle, converting 14C back to 14N, did not exist.

It is important to understand that the flood paradigm assumes, just like Secular Humanism does, that 14C formation from 14N was constant throughout earth’s history. What changed, and changed greatly, was the addition of many times the regular 12C in the atmosphere compared to what we measure today. That changed the 14C:12C ratio. As the chart says, the 14C was diluted by many times the amount of 12C we measure today.
So immediately after the flood, 14C was so diluted that a sample from that time measured today would, without correcting for the additional 12C, would date to be 40,000 BP or older.

Following the blue line on the chart, the amount of 12C in the atmosphere decreased to the amount we have measured for centuries since around 600 BC.
Assuming the eruption of Thera coincided with the Exodus, then we can use it to correct 14C dates. Ussher dates the Exodus 1491 BC. 14C dates the eruption of Thera to be 1640 BC for an error of 150 years.

So 14C dates for Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian empire are approximately the same as Ussher’s dates. 14C dates for the Exodus, 1491 BC, are approximately 150 too old. And 14C dates for the flood are tens of thousands of years older than actual dates.

Image Credit included at the bottom of the chart

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How God Preserved His Word For Us: Torah — post by Michael J. Findley

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The Torah for modern readers is Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Some arrangements in the past have included Joshua, but that has not been the case for centuries for English readers.

We believe that the Law itself was given by the LORD God on Sinai. God could have added to and edited information Moses already had. Moses was trained in all the learning of the Egyptians and he left Egypt with records of creation, the flood, and the tower of Babel. He also had the records of his own people. He kept records of their wilderness wanderings. And after his death, Joshua added several verses to include his death.

It is possible that Joshua and his assistants made extensive changes to the book of Deuteronomy. It is also possible that the sons of the prophets, the school for formal education in the Law during the monarchy period, edited the Torah. The final edit for the entire Old Testament was made by Ezra after returning from the exile, though these were likely only minor changes.

Reading of the Torah, Aish Synagogue, Tel Aviv, Israel. Photographer Roy Lindman Wikimedia Commons

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How God Preserved His Word For Us: Job — post by Michael J. Findley

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Some very godly men might disagree in a few points of this traditional view. Martin Luther certainly did on the book of James. But if someone has more than a few disagreements and they might not be firmly grounded in the faith. Perhaps they might not be believers at all.
As a complete book, Job is the oldest written book in the Bible. It could be the oldest book in the world. It was written around the time of the Patriarchs, Abraham to Joseph. That makes it an Ice Age book. The speeches were likely written before they were delivered. Then these speeches were compiled into a book later. Perhaps others wrote the speeches down as they spoke, but cuneiform writing using wedges into clay tablets would require several people transcribing at the same time. However it was done, someone recorded their speeches and the speeches of God. God also directly revealed the scenes in heaven.
While it certainly is possible that the events in the book of Job took place before the flood, and the book was preserved by Noah and his family, there is no evidence to support this theory. Almost no Jewish sources support this. Job had 7 sons and 3 daughters before the events recorded began. He had 7 more sons and 3 more daughters and lived another 140 years after the events recorded in the book of Job. It is reasonable, based on how long he lived, to believe that Job was older than Abraham.
The book includes hundreds of descriptions of everyday life, and the details could fit with any preindustrial society anywhere on earth. Civilization has not developed or progressed the way Secular Humanists teach. The major technological changes in the past 200 years have not improved the quality of family life. The creatures God describes to Job, generally translated as leviathan and behemoth, fit what we know about dinosaurs. Dinosaurs could be what we know as dragons.
How did the Jews include Job in their sacred writings? The book of Job was written before the Jews were a nation. None of possible answers can be verified. But everyone agrees that Moses had the book of Job and included it with the writings he left the Children of Israel.

Image Credit: Behemoth and Leviathan by William Blake

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