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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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The Historical Context of Jonah

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Nimrod built Nineveh very soon after the flood. It was part of his kingdom to rebel against God.

[Nimrod’s] kingdom began in the region of Shinar with the cities of Babylon, Eriech, Akkad, and Calneh. From there he went north to Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth-ir, and Calah, along with Resen, which was located between Nineven and the great city of Calah. Genesis 10:10-12

2,000 years later, every Jew listening to Jesus understood Nineveh.

An evil and adulterous generation craves a sign. Yet no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah, because just as Jonah was in the stomach of the sea creature for three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment and condemn the people living today, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah. But look-something greater than Jonah is here! Matthew 12:39-41

Jeroboam II led the northern kingdom of Israel to its greatest glory since Solomon. Jonah prophesied that Jeroboam (II, of the line of Jehu) would take impoverished, defeated Israel and restore its borders to the Euphrates River. This was the same border Israel had under Solomon.

“God used Jeroboam to … restore the former borders [Numbers 13:21] from the entrance into Hamath to the sea of the plain. This fulfilled the prophecy of the Lord which was spoken by Jonah the prophet, the son of Amittai. 2 Kings 14:25,27,28.”
825 BC Ussher The Annals of the World

[Jeroboam] rebuilt Israel’s coastline from the entrance of Hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, in accordance with the message from the Lord God of Israel that he spoke through his servant Jonah the prophet, Amittai’s son, who was from Gath-hepher. 2 Kings 14:29
“Jonah was later sent to Nineveh …”
808 BC Ussher The Annals of the World

Sir Isaac Newton believed that Jonah actually lived and prophesied earlier, before the reign of Jeroboam II. “Homer mentions Bacchus and Memnon Kings of Egypt and Persia, but knew nothing of an Assyrian Empire. Jonah prophesied when Israel was in affliction from Syria, and this was in the latter part of the Reign of Jehoahaz, and the first part of the Reign of Joash, Kings of Israel, and I think in the Reign of Moeris the successor of Ramesses King of Egypt, and about sixty years before the Reign of Pul; and Nineveh was then a city of large extent, but full of pastures for cattle, so that it contained but about 120000 persons. It was not yet grown so great and potent as not to be terrified at the preaching of Jonah, and to fear being invaded by its neighbours and ruined within forty days: it had some time before got free from the dominion of Egypt, and got a King of its own; but its King was not yet called the King of Assyria, but only King of Nineveh, Jonah iii. 6,7 and his proclamation for a fast was not published in several nations, nor in all Assyria, but only in Nineveh, and perhaps in the villages thereof; but soon after, when the dominion of Nineveh was established at home, and exalted over all Assyria properly so called, and this Kingdom began to make was upon the neighbouring nations, its Kings were no longer called Kings of Nineveh but began to be called Kings of Assyria.”
Sir Isaac Newton The Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms p. 99

II Kings 14:25 means that either Jonah lived during the reign of Jeroboam II or Jonah lived and prophesied earlier and Jeroboam II fulfilled an earlier prophecy. According to Sir Isaac Newton, Jonah went to Nineveh around 850 BC, more than 40 years before Ussher’s date for the book of Jonah.

With either position, Nineveh was at that time a minor city-state. The original Jeroboam, son of Nebat, the servant of Solomon lead the northern kingdom in rebellion against Rehoboam. Jeroboam, son of Nebat, was allied with Egypt. So the northern kingdom of Israel was either an ally or a vassal state to Egypt. This relationship is rarely mentioned in the Bible. Later, Ahab also had a strong alliance with Egypt. It is impossible to know if Egypt viewed the northern kingdom of Israel as an ally or a vassal state.

It is very likely that Assyria was a small local power before Tiglath-pileser developed a professional military and marched on Israel. (747 BC, Ussher).

The people of Nineveh would have no problem adding Jehovah to their pantheon. Their problem was the first commandment, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” So what did Nineveh know about Israel when Jonah arrived?

  1. Abraham and his family left Mesopotamia traveled to Egypt, and left Egypt wealthy.
  2. Abraham headed a coalition from Canaan headed by 318 special forces from his own family which defeated a five nation alliance headed by the nation of Elam.
  3. Jacob and his children destroyed every person in Shechem.
  4. Joseph by skill becomes Vizier of all Egypt.
  5. As slaves, the Israelites, already skilled in the ways of Mesopotamia, learn all of the skills of Egypt.
  6. The God of Israel destroyed Egypt. This might be the most important point when they listened to Jonah’s message.
  7. Led by Joshua, Israel captured Canaan, destroying the most powerful city-states of that time.
  8. Led by Gideon, Israel destroyed the Midianites who were as numerous as the sand of the sea.
  9. Led by Saul, Israel destroyed Amalek, first among the nations.
  10. Led by David, Israel destroyed the Syrians. At one time, the Syrians had controlled Nineveh.
  11. Led by Solomon, every nation on earth paid tribute to Israel.
  12. Led by King Asa, Judah had defeated an army of one million Ethiopians.

Jonah did not arrive in Nineveh in a vacuum. God had prepared the people of Nineveh for Jonah’s message.

All Scripture quotes are from the ISV.

Image from Wikimedia Commons

Nineveh. Adad Gate. One of the fifteen gateways of ancient Nineveh. A reconstruction was begun in the 1960s by Iraqis, but was not completed. The result is an uneasy mixture of concrete and eroding mudbrick, which nonetheless does give one some idea of the original structure. The lower portions of the stone retaining wall are original. Fortunately, the excavator left some features unexcavated, allowing a view of the original Assyrian construction. The original brickwork of the outer vaulted passageway is well exposed. The actions of Nineveh’s last defenders can be seen in the hastily built mudbrick construction which narrows the passageway from 4 m. to 2 m. Height of vault is about 5 m. Photo by Fredarch.
Source http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Nineveh_Adad_gate_exterior_entrance_far2.JPG Author Fredarch

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How Jesus Dealt with People — post by Michael J. Findley

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Throughout His ministry, occasionally Jesus dealt with those who openly rejected Him, such as Herod and the Romans who were like the atheists/secular humanists of today. So [Herod] continued to question [Jesus] for a long time, but Jesus gave him no answer at all. (Luke 23:9, ISV)

Several times Jesus dealt with those who pretended to accept Him, such as the Sadducees. They are like modern liberals who choose to accept some Scriptures, but use their own opinions to reject other Scriptures. When they brought up a spurious question about a woman with seven husbands to Jesus, He revealed their true intentions. Jesus answered them, “You are deceived, because you don’t know the Scriptures or the power of God.” (Matthew 22:29 HCSB)

At His trial, Jesus gave the High Priest, a Sadducee, very brief answers to direct questions. But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest answered and said to Him,I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!” Jesus said to him, “It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (Matthew 26:63,64 NKJV)

Frequently Jesus dealt with the Pharisees. These were the conservatives of the first century. Unlike the Herodians and the Sadducees, Jesus spent much of His ministry attempting to instruct the Pharisees. As Jesus said, “They sit in Moses’ seat.” As exemplified in the confrontation in John 5, the Pharisees talked to Jesus for years. Both Nicodemus and Paul were Pharisees who believed in Jesus.

But Jesus spent the majority of His ministry instructing His disciples. Yet after three years of intense instruction in the true meaning of the Old Testament Scriptures, they still did not understand. “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me?” Jesus asked him. (John 14:9 ISV)

After His resurrection, He met two of His disciples and walked with them on the road to Emmaus. “Then Jesus told them, “O, how foolish you are! How slow you are to believe everything the prophets said! The Messiah had to suffer these things and then enter his glory, didn’t he?” Then, beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them all the passages of Scripture about himself. (Luke 24:25-27 NIV)

After rising from the dead, Jesus spent all of His time on earth providing evidence of His resurrection and explaining the Old Testament.

Image Credit: from Waiting For The Word “Jesus Washes the Feet of His Disciples” Artist: Nelson Flikr Commons

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What Did Jesus Look Like? — post by Michael J. Findley

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Caravaggio The Arrest of Christ National Gallery of Ireland “The Judas Kiss” Source/Photographer Web Gallery of Art Wikimedia Commons

Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would have “no form and he had no majesty that we should look at him, and there is no attractiveness that we should desire him.” (53:2 ISV)
While this might refer to Jesus after He was beaten by the Romans, the words indicate that Jesus was an ordinary Jew. On the night of His arrest, Judas had to identify Him to the soldiers making the arrest.

The Law required a Jewish male to wear a beard. Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah “gave my back to those who beat me and my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard.” (50:6 ISV)

Other than these words, the Bible gives no hint as to what Jesus looked like. Jesus walked everywhere, spending considerable time outdoors. He would be fit, if not muscular. He would also be tanned, almost certainly a dark brown.

Through the preservation of many skeletons from the time, we know that the average height for a Jewish male was about 5’ 1.” There are many coins, bas reliefs, and of course the images the Romans made of the sacking of the temple. Since the Jews wore helmets, their hair was short, though longer than a Roman’s. When the early pictures are in color, a Jew’s hair is always very dark and either wavy or curled.

Forensic anthropologists have examined several first century male Jewish skulls and have made a composite image which is likely similar to Jesus. https://3dprint.com/111718/3d-modeling-image-of-jesus/

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Is Ancient History Important? — post by Michael J. Findley

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Pool of Bethesda ruins_2272 Author James Emery from Douglasville, United States Wikimedia Commons

What existed from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we observed and touched with our own hands-this is the Word of life! This life was revealed to us, and we have seen it and testify about it. (1 John 1:1,2a, ISV)

This defines the scientific method, which John applies to history.

Later on, there was another festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem is a pool called Bethesda in Hebrew. It has five colonnades, and under these a large number of sick people were lying-blind, lame, or paralyzed… (John 5:1-3 ISV)

Out of this crowd of sick people, Jesus picked one man.

One particular man was there who had been ill for 38 years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he asked him “Do you want to get well?”  (John 5:5, 6 ISV)

Jesus healed only one man out of the “large number of sick.” Each miracle had a purpose.

Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!” The man immediately became well, and he picked up his mat and started walking. Now that day was a Sabbath. So the Jews told the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.” But he answered them, “The man who made me well told me ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’” (John 5:8-11 ISV)

The historical record of Jesus healing the man takes two verses. The issue of breaking the Sabbath takes up the rest of the chapter. Jesus healed this man with the intended purpose of using this healing to confront the Jews. When Jesus has the attention of the Jews because of the healing on the Sabbath, He makes a clear claim to be the Messiah.

“Just as the Father has life in himself, so also he has granted the Son to have life in himself, and he has given him authority to judge, because he is the Son of Man. Don’t be amazed at this, because the time is approaching when everyone in their graves will hear the Son of Man’s voice…” (John 5:26-28)

This is the entire point of this confrontation. The God who judges “everyone in their graves” is described in the Old Testament. Jesus is judging them for claiming to be the teachers of Israel and not understanding the Old Testament. As Jesus told Nicodemus, “You’re a teacher of Israel, and you can’t understand this?” (John 3:10 ISV) Jesus confronted the Jews over the keeping of the Sabbath because it demonstrated their failure to understand the Old Testament.

“You examine the Scriptures carefully because you suppose that in them you have eternal life. Yet they testify about me.” John 5:39 (ISV)

The Greek translated here “You examine” can be translated as a command. “Examine the Scriptures carefully!” The Greek words are exactly the same. It makes sense that Jesus intended the double meaning “You examine the Scriptures carefully,” pointing out that the Jews spent the time in study to examine the Scriptures carefully. But they missed the main point, so they needed to go back and “Examine the Scriptures carefully!” Jesus was pointing out that their Sabbath rules were yet another example of the Jews “straining out gnats and swallowing camels.”

The important point for this blog is that the modern world is committing the same sin these Jews did. The Jews studied the Old Testament without understanding. Modern scholars are ignoring the Old Testament in the mistaken belief that we can get along with one another by ignoring God’s Word.

Brooklyn_Museum_-_Woe_unto_You,_Scribes_and_Pharisees_(Malheur_à_vous,_scribes_et_pharisiens)_-_James_Tissot

Woe unto You, Scribes and Pharisees J.J. Tissot Source/Photographer Online Collection of Brooklyn Museum Wikimedia Commons

How can you believe when you accept each other’s praise and do not look for the praise that comes from the only God? Do not suppose that I will be the one to accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom you have set your hope, because if you believed Moses, you would believe me, since he wrote about me. But if you do not believe what he wrote, how will you believe my words?” (John 5:44-47 ISV)

Moses wrote that the Exodus, the Flood, and Creation were historical events. Moses provided us with information to date these events. We can take this information and correlate these events with other cultures to make a matrix to understand some of the important dates for all ancient civilizations.

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Can We Not Know We Are Serving Christ?

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In Matthew 25:31 ff Jesus speaks about sheep and goats. They will be separated in the end times and the goats will be condemned. The sheep, on His right, will be praised in this manner:

“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink?  And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’”

Did you notice something odd about this passage? The sheep — the blessed of the Father, express surprise that they were “caught serving” Christ. They didn’t know they were doing it. How can that be? Don’t some of us work hard to “work the works of Christ”? Don’t we want to be known for serving Him? But these people … they are just going about their lives, doing what comes to mind, and earning Christ’s praise because it turns out they are serving and meeting needs for food, clothing, drink, shelter, all the way down to prison visits. Yet they react with surprise. They’re not working to earn a reward. They’re not looking for Jesus as they meet needs and show love. But there He is, and He’s blessing them and rewarding them.

I want to stop working so hard to please God. I want it to be natural and automatic to show love that pleases God. I want to be surprised when Jesus says, “You did these things, and they were for me.” — Post by Mary C. Findley

 

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Rolling Along Through Breakdown and Blessing

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I attended a church Book Club meeting last night and one of the icebreaker questions was “If your life was a book, what would the title be?” The title of this blog post is the one I came up with. Many readers know hubby has been an over-the-road truck driver off and on since 1998. Employment has always been tough to find while we wait for fame and fortune as authors (ha ha!) so truck driving has always been his most successful source of income. I also had the opportunity to “ride shotgun” with him for the last eight years. God has provided “just enough” for us financially as we lived in the truck and traveled the lower 48 and Canada.

However, in January, truck #3’s engine blew. We paid for diagnostics and discovered needed repairs that exceeded the true value of the truck. Even people with cars can relate to that Catch-22. We tried to qualify for a loan but apparently paying off 3 trucks did not constitute enough credit history (nothing current), so we had to scrap the truck for $3500 and come to stay with daughter in Tulsa OK at her apartment. We pay half rent, but the future still seemed pretty uncertain. BTW our daughter Vicky has been such a help and encouragement to us through the years, and more so now, putting up with me fulltime and all the rest. God bless her as she goes through her own transitions.

I applied for local jobs and Michael investigated some options, including going for a PhD in History at OU. I am now a proud part-time employee at a Walmart I can walk to, and my muscles and joints are groaning in protest about all this activity.

The results of Michael’s GRE exams were a bit disappointing so he was not sure what to do next. He met online a small truck company owner based in the Dallas area. He was looking to expand and agreed to take Mike on as a driver. Unfortunately that job has not worked out for various reasons. He is going to take the GRE again but in the meantime, a trucker friend had recommended the company he works for, a very small (4 trucks) outfit based in Ohio. Michael finished his last load for the previous company this week and has made his way toward the orientation for the new job, leaving most of his equipment and other property here at the apartment.

We have been pretty discouraged these past few months. The truck was our home and our income, and we had the freedom to choose the best loads as well as to travel and most of the time get work done on our books. But we got a bit stalled with all these life happenings. It felt like we were back in Basics for Believers, at the 101 course level, saying, “God, what is Your will for our lives?”

But there has been some encouragement. I am making progress on Conflict of the Ages Five, the next module in our homeschool curriculum, with the editing, formatting, and questions and images that need to be added.

Now, back to the Book Club meeting. The books we will read were already chosen, and I was a little discouraged about not having an opportunity to maybe insert one of our books. But the lady leading the group did acknowledge me as a published author, and I got to tell them about a couple of our books. The lady who is in charge of women’s and children’s ministries at the church asked for a list of all our books. That was exciting.

Hubby arrived at the airport for his new job orientation this morning. Unfortunately his checked bag(s) did not. (Everybody knows checking bags is a bad idea, but he had to take some extra things in case he goes straight out onto the road for a week or two before coming back here.) When the driver arrived to pick him up, he agreed that waiting for the next flight, which the missing bags are supposed to be on, was the best idea, so he is doing that while the driver makes other runs. But the driver said he has read our books Antidisestablishmentarianism and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: A Readers’ and Writer’s Guide for Believers and is eager to talk to Michael about them. Wow! Plus I had a fan of the Alexander Legacy series ask on the blog when the fourth book in that series is coming out. Encouragement! These are both people we don’t know!

We hope people who follow this blog are sticking with us through these transitional times. we are certainly not giving up on writing, and we are making plans to get back into video production, too. Stick around, folks. We don’t know what’s ahead, but it’s pretty certain breakdowns and blessing will always come. We hope you’ll pray that through both we can extend our reach and be a blessing to others. — post by Mary C. Findley

 

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