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Previously Asked Old Testament Questions

Why did Lot's wife turn to salt?
Why did Isaac give Jacob the blessing instead of giving it to Esau? (Genesis 27)
Can you tell me where in the Bible I can find "the joy of the Lord is my strength?
Please explain why the plural is used in Genesis when God says; Let us make man in our own image.
How did the rest of human beings come to be? Are we to believe that incest occurred at the beginning?


Why did Lot's wife turn to salt?

The stories in the book of Genesis are the teaching stories for the children of Israel as they were journeying from Egypt to Canaan. Both ends of their journey was rampant with polytheism, the belief in may gods. God's major concern was to teach and train his people about who he was. Remember they had lived in Egypt for several centuries and had forgotten who he was. Hence, the story early in Exodus about Moses wanting to know who he should tell the slaves in Egypt that God was. At the foot of Sinai, God continued to teach them about being faithful to the covenant he had made with Israel which began with the covenant stipulation that Israel could only have one God, Yahweh. No other gods were permitted. The result of worshiping other gods would have serious consequences on them. The result of looking back to Egypt and their former gods would have serious result in the community. In light of this small historical backdrop, it is not surprising that we have several stories about the result of disobeying God of which Lot's wife is one.

The story does not center around the substance into which she was turned, salt. However, in a land which was close to the Great Salt Sea in which nothing was able to live, one might be inclined to observe that to be turned into salt was a picture of how drastic it is to disobey God.

The children of Israel who were on their journey needed to know and understand how important it was to obey God. Some of them learned this and made it to the land God had promised their forefathers. Others died in the wilderness for their disobedience.

One might ask from this story what the result might be in our lives for disobedience to the direction of God.

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Why did Isaac give Jacob the blessing instead of giving it to Esau? (Genesis 27)

As we stated above, the stories in Genesis are given to help Israel on their journey to the land that God had promised them beginning with Abraham. At this point in the story, Abraham had died. What might happen to God's promise to him about a land? The stories that follow in Genesis stress that the promise will continue through Isaac and later his children. The basic idea of these stories is that the descendants of the obedient servant Abraham would be blessed because of him, but his descendents also had to exercise faith in order to enjoy the promised blessing of the land. A faith in God to produce his promises engenders a fearless walk focused on God and not on surroundings. This Israel needed to learn on their journey to the promise land.

In the story of Genesis 27.1ff. Isaac was advanced in age and was losing his eye site. He requested his oldest son to go into the fields and find wild game and make him something to eat and he would bless him. It is paradoxical to note that Esau lost his birthright after he returned from a hunt and he was about to lose the blessing after he left to go hunting.

When the deception, (which is the root meaning of Jacob's name) was complete and the blessing given, there was no ability to undo it. Once a word of blessing in the ancient world was spoken it could not be recalled. We may note that this is the reason there are so many injunctions in the Old Testament against speaking too much, making rash vows, injudicious talk, etc. There is an irrevocable quality attached to words. One cannot unsay them.

It appears that Jacob and his mother Rebekah won with their deception. While in fact just lines in a later story of Joseph, he noted that God works in everything to bring about what he wants to bring about. God would work through their conniving. What God wanted to achieve would not be stopped by man's inability to wait for God to move. God's program will triumph in spite of fallen human activities.

The story demonstrates the over-reliance on one's senses and the fact of deception. Israel needed to learn that to make it into the land that God had promised that there was a need to be obedient and not be given to following their natural senses. This happened in Ai only to the detriment of Israel.

We must remember that the stories that are recorded in the Bible are "as is." There is no choice to spin the characters to look like "holy" people. They are just plain ole people trying to learn to follow God and gaining the blessings when they succeed and judgment when they fail.

In light of the deception of Jacob's father, God still worked out what he wanted to accomplish. But, think of the anguish of Jacob in his deception of his father and his long estrangement from his brother. Deception had its consequences. One of the timeless truths that we may discover here is that a reliance on one's senses for spiritual discernment not only will often prove fallible, but often foul up life and make it more messy than it already is.

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I've got a question that I can't seem to find the answer to. About a year ago, I heard a verse that went like this, "The Joy of the Lord is my strength" (or something like that). There is also a song that has that in it. Can you tell me where in the Bible I can find that?

The verse is found in Nehemiah 8.10 which reads:
10Nehemiah said, "Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength."

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Please explain why the plural is used in Genesis when God says; Let us make man in our own image. Thanks for your help.

To understand this phrase we need to ask the question: What did the human author mean by it and what could the first hearers have understood by it? This is the controlling factor for its present meaning.

Humanity's creation is preceded by the phrase "let us make man" (v. 26). We should hesitate to read this as a clear-cut Trinitarian statement, a matter about which the Old Testament is essentially silent. One must remember that the Old Testament people of God to whom this story of creation was first delivered believed, the Shema, "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the LORD is one!" (Deut. 6:4).

God's main interest in this creation story was to help his newly formed children to form a monotheistic view of God over against the polytheistic view of the ancient world in which they lived. The "us" for this group of people may have been the concept of the heavenly council (Psalm 89.6-7). If that were the case then community was the image to which this text was pointing. Therefore, this phrase may indicate that God created humankind to be a community. This would be within the boundaries of teaching his newly formed children that they were his people.

As the New Testament unfolded and the church of the first centuries begin to understand the implications of the teaching of the New Testament, the doctrine of the Trinity of God began to be understood. The Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is community also.

The uniqueness of the Holy Spirit in inspiration allowed the first hearers to understand community without stumbling them by the idea of Trinity in the midst of a polytheistic society.

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According to Genesis 1:27-28 God created one man and one woman and told them to multiply. How did the rest of human beings come to be? Are we to believe that incest occurred at the beginning? As a Catholic, I am often asked that question and I really do not know how to answer. I believe the Church says that we are not to consider Adam and Eve as just representing one couple among many. Please help me on this.

There is an interesting rule of thumb when it comes to asking question of Scripture. If we supply the right answer to the wrong question, the answer we supplied is wrong. As Westerner believers we often ask questions of Scripture that are not really important. Think of it this way. If one believes that God is behind the writing of Scripture (i.e., he inspired the humans authors to write what he wanted written but allowed them to use their own vocabulary to do so) then what is written is what God wanted to be said on any subject. When we ask a question that is not answered in Scripture. There is nothing wrong with Scripture; there might be something wrong with the question. Such is the question about where did other humans come from or more simply stated as a question, "Where did Cain get his wife?" Since Scripture is silent on where Cain's wife came from, it means that it is not important for us to know or God would have provided the answer.

This answer makes most Western believers feel very uncomfortable. Because of the Enlightenment project of the last 300 or so years, we have come to believe that if there is a question that we can think up, there must be an answer to it. Such is simply not the case.

The text of Genesis 1.27-28 was a story told the Hebrews at Mt. Sinai to help them understand the importance of community. If they were going to be God's people in the land of promise to which they were going, they desperately needed to understand and live as a community.

Genesis 1 is not a treatise on how the world came into existence. It is a teaching about how to have relationship with the one and only God and not all the other gods that crowd our lives asking for worship.

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