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Amateur shipbuilders

Some of you may have heard this statement: “The ark was built by amateurs, the Titanic was built by professionals.”  Of course the ark saved the human race and many kinds of animals from extinction while the Titanic hit an iceberg and sank during its maiden voyage.  The meaning of the saying is that those who obey God can accomplish more good than well trained professionals who rely on their own wisdom.

While I agree with the intent of this statement I wonder just how true it is.  Was the ark built by amateurs?  We are told nothing about how Noah made his living before building the ark.  It is possible that he and his sons were professional shipbuilders.  If this is so, then the ark and the Titanic were both built by professionals. Read the rest of this entry

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The Wise Men at the manger

Every year around Christmas we see nativity scenes.  The details of the scenes differ but all of them show the baby Jesus in a manger with Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and the Wise Men either standing or kneeling around him.  These scenes serve a useful purpose by reminding everyone that Christmas is about Jesus, not Santa Claus.  Unfortunately every nativity scene I have ever seen promotes an error.  They show the Wise Men being present at the birth of Jesus.  In fact they were nowhere near Bethlehem then and didn’t arrive until much later.

Here is Matthew’s description of the birth of Jesus.

When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus. (Matthew 1:24-25)

He doesn’t give any details about the birth except to tell us that Mary was still a virgin.

Luke 2:1-20 gives a more detailed description of Jesus’s birth.  Joseph and Mary were forced to go to Bethlehem because of a decree by Caesar and Jesus was born there and placed in a manger.  An angel revealed to a group of shepherds that the Messiah had been born and they came to see him. Read the rest of this entry

Long range consequences

Jeremiah 39-43 describes Nebuchadnezzar’s conquest of Jerusalem and the events that followed it.  Most of the inhabitants of the land were taken to Babylon but some were left.

Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, left in the land of Judah some of the poor people who owned nothing, and gave them vineyards and fields at the same time. (Jeremiah 39:10)

A man named Gedaliah was appointed governor.  He was assassinated and, fearing reprisals by Nebuchadnezzar, the Jews planned to flee to Egypt.  They first asked Jeremiah to find out what God wanted them to do.

And they went and stayed at Geruth Chimham near Bethlehem, intending to go to Egypt because of the Chaldeans. For they were afraid of them, because Ishmael the son of Nethaniah had struck down Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, whom the king of Babylon had made governor over the land.

Then all the commanders of the forces, and Johanan the son of Kareah and Jezaniah the son of Hoshaiah, and all the people from the least to the greatest, came near and said to Jeremiah the prophet, “Let our plea for mercy come before you, and pray to the Lord your God for us, for all this remnant—because we are left with but a few, as your eyes see us—that the Lord your God may show us the way we should go, and the thing that we should do.”

Jeremiah the prophet said to them, “I have heard you. Behold, I will pray to the Lord your God according to your request, and whatever the Lord answers you I will tell you. I will keep nothing back from you.”

Then they said to Jeremiah, “May the Lord be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not act according to all the word with which the Lord your God sends you to us. Whether it is good or bad, we will obey the voice of the Lord our God to whom we are sending you, that it may be well with us when we obey the voice of the Lord our God.” (Jeremiah 41:17 – 42:6)

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Result of the plagues

Exodus 7:1-12:40 describes the ten plagues God had to send on the Egyptians before they would let the Israelites leave to go to the land God had promised them.  Yet even after all of this suffering Pharaoh changed his mind about freeing the Israelites and tried to bring them back into slavery.  Exodus 14:5-31 tells how God opened the Red Sea to allow the Israelites to escape and then allowed the sea to return to drown Pharaoh and his army.  Israel was finally free to go to its own land and Egypt was in ruins with its ruler dead.

But God’s judgments had another result.

“Behold, about this time tomorrow I will cause very heavy hail to fall, such as never has been in Egypt from the day it was founded until now.Now therefore send, get your livestock and all that you have in the field into safe shelter, for every man and beast that is in the field and is not brought home will die when the hail falls on them.”  Then whoever feared the word of the Lord among the servants of Pharaoh hurried his slaves and his livestock into the houses, but whoever did not pay attention to the word of the Lord left his slaves and his livestock in the field.

Exodus 9:18-21

Not all of the Egyptians were as hard hearted as Pharaoh.  Some of them feared God and took steps to protect themselves.  When the Isrealites left Egypt they left behind a group of people who believed in the true God.

Potiphar the Egyptian

Now Joseph had been brought down to Egypt, and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian, had bought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there.
Genesis 39:1

Joseph’s brothers had sold him to a caravan of Ishmaelites who were on their way to Egypt.  When the Ishmaelites reached Egypt they sold Joseph to Potiphar.   We are told two things about him: he was the captain of Pharaoh’s  guard and he was an Egyptian.  Saying  he was captain of the guard makes sense.  It gives us some information about who Potiphar was.  But saying he was an Egyptian seems redundant.  He lived in Egypt and was an officer of Pharaoh.  What could he be except an Egyptian?

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Why Moses failed to free the Israelites

Nearly everyone knows how Moses freed the Israelites from Egyptian slavery.  Not many know that Moses had made a previous attempt to free them and had failed.

One day, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and looked on their burdens, and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people. He looked this way and that, and seeing no one, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.

When he went out the next day, behold, two Hebrews were struggling together. And he said to the man in the wrong, “Why do you strike your companion?”

He answered, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?”

Then Moses was afraid, and thought, “Surely the thing is known.” When Pharaoh heard of it, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from Pharaoh and stayed in the land of Midian.
Exodus 2:11-15

This appears to be nothing more than Moses seeing an act of cruelty and intervening but the New Testament gives more information.

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