Verse Commentary

Genesis 2:19 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Gen 2:19 Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.

This verse represents God’s first act towards human beings, after creating them and commanding them to multiply. God brings the animals to Adam to see what he would name each. This is a delegation of power, and also appears to be an action based in curiosity, as if God is seeing how His newfound creation will act when given occasion. God is interested in what His newfound creation will in turn innovate.

2 Peter 3:8 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

2Pe 3:8 But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

This verse is used to say that God is outside of time, or God experiences time in some sort of different manner (for than just regarding time differently). Wayne Grudem makes this explicit claim:

In the New Testament, Peter tells us, “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8). The second half of this statement had already been made in Psalm 90, but the first half introduces an additional consideration, “One day is as a thousand years”; that is, any one day from God’s perspective seems to last for “a thousand years”: it is as if that day never ends, but is always being experienced. Again, since “a thousand years” is a figurative expression for “as long a time as we can imagine,” or “all history,” we can say from this verse that any one day seems to God to be present to his consciousness forever.

Taking these two considerations together, we can say the following: in God’s perspective, any extremely long period of time is as if it just happened. And any very short period of time (such as one day) seems to God to last forever: it never ceases to be “present” in his consciousness. Thus, God sees and knows all events past, present, and future with equal vividness. This should never cause us to think that God does not see events in time and act in time (see below), but just the opposite: God is the eternal Lord and Sovereign over history, and he sees it more clearly and acts in it more decisively than any other. But, once we have said that, we still must affirm that these verses speak of God’s relationship to time in a way that we do not and cannot experience: God’s experience of time is not just a patient endurance through eons of endless duration, but he has a qualitatively different experience of time than we do. This is consistent with the idea that in his own being, God is timeless; he does not experience a succession of moments. This has been the dominant view of Christian orthodoxy throughout the history of the church, though it has been frequently challenged, and even today many theologians deny it.

But in context, that explanation makes no sense. The argument Grudem must believe Peter is making is that God can make any time claims that He wants, and be wildly off because time has no meaning to God. This is not what is happening in the text. If placed in context, these understandings of the verse is not intelligible, nor would they be persuasive to Peter’s readers. The context is about a delay in the coming apocalypse:

2Pe 3:1 Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder),
2Pe 3:2 that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior,

Jesus’ primary gospel was the coming of the Kingdom of God, an event in which angels would round up the wicked and kill them. Jesus preached that individuals should turn from their sins and hold fast. Peter here is reminding his listeners of both these things. By the time 2 Peter was written, doubts about the coming apocalypse were circulating. Peter sets up the reader to address this particular point. He continues:

2Pe 3:3 knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts,
2Pe 3:4 and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.”

Christians, former Christians, or Christianities critics were beginning to spread doubts about the second coming. “Where is the promise of his coming?” We see an element of time has passed: the “fathers had fallen asleep”. The problem was that people began “walking according to their own lusts”. Peter was confronting a general rebellion against the ministry of Jesus, a brooding skepticism. Peter next reminds them that judgment was historically real:

2Pe 3:5 For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water,
2Pe 3:6 by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water.
2Pe 3:7 But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.

God created the earth and previously destroyed it. Peter’s critics were Jews and believed as much; they just now rejected Jesus’ message about coming doom. Peter appeals to their belief in Noah’s flood. And then Peter claims they are wrong to think a similar judgment is not imminent. It is in this context, Peter utters those famous words:

2Pe 3:8 But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

Peter is not shuffling in some unrelated statement of God being outside of time. This would not make sense in context: “Be assured the end is nigh, because God is outside of time.” That is not what this verse is communicating. Instead Peter is offering reasons why the apocalypse has been delayed and offering assurances that it will soon come to pass.

One day is as a thousand years. God is powerful and could bring to pass His grand plan in one day, in the time it would take people thousands of years. Even if people do not see signs that the end is nigh, one day is all it takes for God to accomplish His will.

A thousand years is as one day. God is patient waiting for repentance. God could wait a thousand years, and it would be as man waiting patiently for one day. That is the contrast.

Peter reinforces this idea:

2Pe 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
2Pe 3:10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.

So Peter’s argument is that people should be prepared because the apocalypse could come at any moment, any day without foreshadowing. It has only been delayed because God is allowing time for repentance. This reinforces the ideas of the previous verses. Verses 9 and 10 are an explanation of Peter’s metaphor in verse 8! Peter concludes:

2Pe 3:11 Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness,
2Pe 3:12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?
2Pe 3:13 Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
2Pe 3:14 Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless;

Peter reminds his audience that the apocalypse would happen and Peter tells them to remain righteous because the end was coming. Peter was giving credibility to the premise that the end could come at any time and an apology as to why it had not happened as of yet. Peter uses the time illustration for this end. Peter was not interjecting a strange metaphysical concept in the middle of a pointed passage.

Grudem, and others who take this text as a “time has no meaning to God” need to explain how that point fits in the context. It has to make sense to Peter and his readers how the argument would fit Peter’s overall point. “Timelessness” just does not fit.

Isaiah 55:8-9 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Isa 55:8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
Isa 55:9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

This verses are often used as a prooftext of God’s incomprehensibility. Wayne Grudem writes:

Because God is infinite and we are finite or limited, we can never fully understand God. In this sense God is said to be incomprehensible where the term incomprehensible is used with an older and less common sense, “unable to be fully understood.” This sense must be clearly distinguished from the more common meaning, “unable to be understood.” It is not true to say that God is unable to be understood, but it is true to say that he cannot be understood fully or exhaustively.

These verses allow us to take our understanding of the incomprehensibility of God one step further. It is not only true that we can never fully understand God; it is also true that we can never fully understand any single thing about God. His greatness (Ps. 145:3), his understanding (Ps. 147:5), his knowledge (Ps. 139:6), his riches, wisdom, judgments, and ways (Rom. 11:33) are all beyond our ability to understand fully. Other verses also support this idea: as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are God’s ways higher than our ways and his thoughts than our thoughts (Isa. 55:9).

God’s statement that “[His] ways are higher than [our] ways, and that his [thoughts] are higher than ours” seems to Grudem to be some sort of claim about incomprehensibility. But the context of this chapter does not support this reading.

This verse is not used in Isaiah in some sort of blanket distancing God from human kind. Instead, this verse specifically means that God shows mercy to the repentant rather than exact vengeance. This is not some sort of absolute distinction meaning no person could fully conceive God, but instead, it means that humans tend to be vengeful whereas God shows mercy even in extreme cases.

Examining the context:

Isa 55:3 Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear, and your soul shall live; And I will make an everlasting covenant with you— The sure mercies of David.
Isa 55:4 Indeed I have given him as a witness to the people, A leader and commander for the people.
Isa 55:5 Surely you shall call a nation you do not know, And nations who do not know you shall run to you, Because of the LORD your God, And the Holy One of Israel; For He has glorified you.”
Isa 55:6 Seek the LORD while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near.

The first set of verses in this chapter are dedicated to wooing Israel. God calls Israel to repentance. If they repent, God will make a covenant with them. They will be a strong nation whom can command other nations to action. God will be their God and they will be God’s people.

But as of now, there is a problem. The people are wicked, so wicked that they risk being punished in spite of any repentance. It is this that God tries to dispel:

Isa 55:7 Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the LORD, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon.
Isa 55:8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD.
Isa 55:9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.

God wants the wicked to repent. It is them to whom God says “My thoughts are not your thoughts.” It is that person whom God will pardon, because “God’s ways are not his ways.” Normal people, especially the wicked audience of this chapter, would not pardon as God does. But God promises blessings for the wicked if they repent.

God then proceeds to detail His promise of blessings:

Isa 55:10 “For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, And do not return there, But water the earth, And make it bring forth and bud, That it may give seed to the sower And bread to the eater,
Isa 55:11 So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.

God is not lying when He promises blessings to the repentant. Just as the rain creates green grass rather than just returning to the sky, God will create prosperity without His work returning fruitless. This is the context of God’s word not returning to Him void.

God then paints a picture of the paradise He is promising:

Isa 55:12 “For you shall go out with joy, And be led out with peace; The mountains and the hills Shall break forth into singing before you, And all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
Isa 55:13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress tree, And instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree; And it shall be to the LORD for a name, For an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”

Far from being a text in which God is telling humanity that they could never fully comprehend Him, this is a text about contrasting normal human responses with God. The text is written in language meant to explain to the listeners God’s own thought process, such that they understand how God acts. The text is expressly about God telling us how He operates. The text is one for clarity, not confusion.

Revelation 1:8 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Rev 1:8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

Charles Hodges uses Revelation 1:8 (and Revelation 21:6) as a prooftext for his concept of immutability:

The immutability of God is intimately connected with his immensity and eternity, and is frequently included with them in the Scriptural statements concerning his nature. Thus, when it is said, He is the First and the Last; the Alpha and Omega, the same yesterday, to-day, and forever; or when in contrast with the ever changing and perishing world, it is said: “They shall be changed, but thou art the same;” it is not his eternity more than his immutability that is brought into view. As an infinite and absolute Being, self-existent and absolutely independent, God is exalted above all the causes of and even above the possibility of change. Infinite space and infinite duration cannot change. They must ever be what they are. So God is absolutely immutable in his essence and attributes. He can neither increase nor decrease. He is subject to no process of development, or of self-evolution. His knowledge and power can never be greater or less. He can never be wiser or holier, or more righteous or more merciful than He ever has been and ever must be. He is no less immutable in his plans and purposes. Infinite in wisdom, there can be no error in their conception; infinite in power, there can be no failure in their accomplishment.

The God who is the “Alpha and Omega” and who “is and was and is to come” is said to be in reference to His self-existence, absolute independence, pure actuality, and all sorts of concepts about eternality. But this seems more like projection onto the text rather than a solid contextual reading.

The entire book of Revelation is about a future apocalypse wherein God will descend to Earth and judge the wicked. In Revelation 21, God is said to come to Earth and rule, with the Jesus by His side. This was a common Jewish belief, that God would Himself rule Earth with or through a Messiah. This is actually the immediate textual context of the “Alpha and Omega” claims. The Alpha seems to be coupled with the creation of the world (or the beginning of the apocalypse) and the Omega is the coming judgment (or end of the existing world).

In a sense, the idea is not about lifespans or about God’s relation to time. The entire book of Revelation is about God acting in time and doing things. In any case, “Alpha and Omega” has nothing to do with “timelessness”. Instead, this is a phrase about power. In Revelation 1, the phrase “Alpha and Omega” and “beginning and the end” are both coupled with “who is and who was and who is to come”. This is further coupled with God’s attribute of Almightiness:

Rev 1:7 Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.
Rev 1:8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

What is particularly of interest is this phrase “who is and who was and who is to come”. The layman might claim that this is, in fact, some sort of claim for God’s eternal nature. But a variation of this phrase is used of someone other than God:

Rev 17:8 The beast that you saw was, and is not, and will ascend out of the bottomless pit and go to perdition…

And

Rev 17:11 The beast that was, and is not, is himself also the eighth, and is of the seven, and is going to perdition.

So the Beast was, and is not, and is to come. The best way to understand this is about power. The Beast once had power, the Beast currently does not have power, but when the Beast rises, it will regain power. The Beast is not popping in and out of existence. The Beast is not eternal into the past. Instead, the figure of speech is about past power, current power, and future power. If this is accurate, the Alpha and Omega phrase takes on a whole new meaning:

Rev 1:7 Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.
Rev 1:8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

All four phrases could easily be variations on the theme of power. God is the Alpha and Omega, Beginning and End, “Who is, was, and is to come”, and is Almighty. The quote in Revelation 1 does not have context that suggests either way, but the context of Revelation 21 is all about God’s activity:

Rev 21:4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
Rev 21:5 Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”
Rev 21:6 And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts.
Rev 21:7 He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.

God abolishes evil. God is then said to “make all things new”. God then calls Himself the Alpha and the Omega. God then gives gifts. God then bestows inheritance. What makes more sense, God claiming in the middle of this to last forever or God claiming in the middle of this to be powerful?

In Revelation 22, God also couples “Alpha and Omega” with power statements:

Rev 22:12 “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.
Rev 22:13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.”
Rev 22:14 Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.

This theme is actually echoed in the Old Testament in the book of Isaiah. Isaiah was written in Hebrew, so one would not expect claims about being the “Alpha and Omega” (Greek letters). Instead, the claims in the Old Testament are about being the “First and the Last”. Revelation borrows many themes from Isaiah, especially concerning the coming Apocalypse (see Rev 21:1 versus Isa 65:17, 66:22). The themes about being the First and the Last come directly from God’s primary power claims in Isaiah (chapters 40-48):

Isa 41:3 Who pursued them, and passed safely By the way that he had not gone with his feet?
Isa 41:4 Who has performed and done it, Calling the generations from the beginning? ‘I, the LORD, am the first; And with the last I am He.’ ”
Isa 41:5 The coastlands saw it and feared, The ends of the earth were afraid; They drew near and came.

Isa 44:3 For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, And floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, And My blessing on your offspring;

Isa 44:6 “Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel, And his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: ‘I am the First and I am the Last; Besides Me there is no God.
Isa 44:7 And who can proclaim as I do? Then let him declare it and set it in order for Me, Since I appointed the ancient people. And the things that are coming and shall come, Let them show these to them.

Isa 46:9 Remember the former things of old, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me,
Isa 46:10 Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,’

Isa 48:10 Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.
Isa 48:11 For My own sake, for My own sake, I will do it; For how should My name be profaned? And I will not give My glory to another.
Isa 48:12 “Listen to Me, O Jacob, And Israel, My called: I am He, I am the First, I am also the Last.
Isa 48:13 Indeed My hand has laid the foundation of the earth, And My right hand has stretched out the heavens; When I call to them, They stand up together.

Notice the coupling of activity with “First and Last”. God has performed. God is the First and the Last. God has no equal among other gods. God is the First and the Last. God does everything He wants. God declares the end from the beginning. God created heaven and Earth. God is the First and the Last. These are power claims.

Compare also the idea of water to the thirsty in conjunction (Isa 44:3) with being “the First and the Last”. This parallels Revelation 21:6 (“I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts”) which is also in the context of being the Alpha and Omega. The author of Revelation heavily drew on Isaiah for inspiration throughout the entire book. There is no reason to think the idioms would have morphed into some idea of timelessness.

Charles Hodge and others are divorcing statements from the context of Revelation in order to support their individual theologies which they want the text to be about. The author of Revelation does not seem concerned with Negative Theology, but is very concerned with God’s power to overcome the forces of evil. God is the Alpha and Omega because God is powerful. God is the First and the Last because God is powerful. God is the Beginning and the End because God is powerful. God is Almighty because God is powerful. The phrase is about power, not lifespan or interaction with time.

Job 22:13-14 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Job 22:13 But you say, ‘What does God know? Can he judge through the deep darkness?
Job 22:14 Thick clouds veil him, so that he does not see, and he walks on the vault of heaven.’

Sometimes Job 22:13-14 is used in reference to God’s omniscience. The criticism found in the verses is that the unrighteous do not believe God can see everything, so therefore the correct view of the righteous is that God is omniscient.

In Job 22, Eliphaz the Temanite criticizes Job. The reader sympathizes with Job, as Eliphaz levies claims that Job is hiding sin. Job is righteous. But Eliphaz believes Job has some hidden sin. Furthermore, in verses 13-14, Eliphaz claims that Job is like an unrighteous man who believes that clouds block God’s vision.

While this text does not have theological weight (Eliphaz being condemned by God for wrong speech in Job 42:7), it can tell the reader something about common ancient views on omniscience. Eliphaz is citing common conjecture. Yahweh has omniscience, but it is of a type which is based in what God can see. Clouds can block that vision. This vision blocking is not standard belief in righteous Israel, but it is found among those whom wish to marginalize Yahweh.

Omniscience, in the ancient mindset, is not the same as in the classical Greek mindset. Omniscience was the ability to see events as they occur. God is in heaven and looks down on Earth. Those who wanted to avoid God’s gaze would do things during the night (Psa 139:12), in secret (Eze 8:12), or during cloudy weather (Job 22:14). The counterargument by the righteous is that God can see, in spite of the darkness and clouds into the secret places. The counterargument is never exhaustive Greek omniscience.

Malachi 3:10 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Mal 3:10  Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. 

In Malachi 3:10, Israel is depicted as thinking that their offerings have no affect on the world. God, to reverse this, challenges Israel to challenge Himself. Malachi 3:10 falls in the context of the famous prooftext for immutability (Mal 3:6). In contrast to immutability, the context is God’s dynamic relationship to Israel. God states that if Israel repents, then He will respond. Verse 10 is very explicit about the open nature of the future and God’s possible responses. God tells Israel to test Him, not knowing if they will or will not. He implies that He will pass their tests and give them blessings as a result. Israel, as evident in the question, is skeptical of God. God wishes to reach the people through a give and take relationship.

Proverbs 16:33 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Pro 16:33 The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.

Calvinist John Piper includes this text in a list of prooftexts on God doing everything that ever happens:

God “works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Eph. 1:11).

“All things” includes rolling dice (Prov. 16:33), falling sparrows (Matt. 10:29), failing sight (Ex. 4:11), financial loss (1 Sam. 2:7), the decisions of kings (Prov. 21:1), the sickness of children (2 Sam. 12:15), the suffering and slaughter of saints (1 Pet. 4:19; Ps. 44:11), the completion of travel (James 4:15), repentance (2 Tim. 2:25), faith (Phil. 1:29), holiness (Phil. 3:12-13), spiritual growth (Heb. 6:3), life and death (1 Sam. 2:6), and the crucifixion of Christ (Acts 4:27-28).

Piper, John; Taylor, Justin; Helseth, Paul Kjoss. Beyond the Bounds: Open Theism and the Undermining of Biblical Christianity (pp. 380-381). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

In this sense, Proverbs 16:33 is used to illustrate God’s meticulous control over all things. Granted, that is one such possible meaning of this verse, but it is not the only meaning. Language is not that static that a simple sentence without context must mean what Piper claims it to mean.

Adam Clarke takes the “lot” to be a serious inquiry to God, and not to be confused with playing with dice. Other possibilities include this proverb being a generality, or just illustrating a concept such as God is the one who guides people. The author is unlikely to be claiming that for a pair of 6-sided dice, God just prefers that they roll a 7 most often, and other numbers according their own random probability.

Proverbs lacks context to clarify the meaning of this passage. Just a few Proverbs later, the author talks about God testing hearts to know what people will do (Pro 17:3) and being angry at people that do wrong (Pro 17:15). The author might believe that God guides people’s paths, but in a responsive way in accordance to what God observes in human behavior.

Hebrews 1:11-12 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Heb 1:11 THEY WILL PERISH, BUT YOU REMAIN; AND THEY WILL ALL GROW OLD LIKE A GARMENT;
Heb 1:12 LIKE A CLOAK YOU WILL FOLD THEM UP, AND THEY WILL BE CHANGED. BUT YOU ARE THE SAME, AND YOUR YEARS WILL NOT FAIL.”

Hebrews 1:11-12 is a quote from Psalms 102:26:

Psa 102:24 “O my God,” I say, “take me not away in the midst of my days— you whose years endure throughout all generations!”
Psa 102:25 Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands.
Psa 102:26 They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away,
Psa 102:27 but you are the same, and your years have no end.

Louis Berkhof uses both these verses for a prooftext on immutability:

The Immutability of God is a necessary concomitant of His aseity. It is that perfection of God by which He is devoid of all change, not only in His Being, but also in His perfections, and in His purposes and promises. In virtue of this attribute He is exalted above all becoming, and is free from all accession or diminution and from all growth or decay in His Being or perfections. His knowledge and plans, His moral principles and volitions remain forever the same. Even reason teaches us that no change is possible in God, since a change is either for better or for worse. But in God, as the absolute Perfection, improvement and deterioration are both equally impossible. This immutability of God is clearly taught in such passages of Scripture as Ex. 3: 14; Ps. 102: 26-28; Isa. 41: 4; 48: 12; Mal. 3: 6; Rom. 1: 23; Heb. 1: 11,12; Jas. 1: 17.

Berkhof, Louis. Systematic Theology (Kindle Locations 1181-1184). . Kindle Edition.

Berkhof claims that these verses are speaking about God being unchanging in the sense that any change to God in any respect must be a change for the worse. He is reading Perfect Being immutability into these fairly straightforward texts about God never aging or growing weak.

In the context of Psalms 102:25-27, God is being praised for His everlastingness, contrasted to the short time that people live. The people will die but God will live forever. The narrator contrasts God with man. He points out God’s years are “through all generations”. Those who are changed, die with old age. God is not subject to this same aging.

The broader context is a cry for God to listen to the petitioner’s prayer. In verse 1, there is a call for God to “hear my prayer” and in verse two to “do not hide your face from me”. God is said to watch man from heaven (v19). The petitioner begs for God’s salvation. These are not actions of someone thinking in terms of perfect immutability, in which God does not listen or respond or experience duration. These are the prayers of an Open Theist begging God to listen and act.

The context of Hebrews 1:11-12 is the Messiah sitting next to Yahweh on His throne, in heaven and having a conversation. These facts are antithetical to the Perfect Being narrative, in which God is perfectly simple, timeless, immutability, and cannot be related to anything in any manner. By having relations with other things, this causes change. Furthermore, Hebrews 1:11-12 is applied to Jesus, who lived, died, and rose again. These are all changes, and not compatible with the immutability narrative.

The “You are the same, And Your years will have no end” in both Hebrews 1:11-12 is best seen as one in which God will never grow old and die. Instead, Yahweh (and Jesus) live forever without aging. This is not a prooftext for immutability, but a prooftext to God’s everlastingness and uninterrupted reign.

Luke 1:3 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Luk 1:3 it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus,

In the first chapter of Luke, Luke claims that he has had “perfect understanding of all things” and this is “from the very first”. Luke is not claiming to have omniscience of all things to have ever happened. Instead, the “perfect understanding” means an accurate memory, although imperfect. “From the very first” is limited by context to Jesus’ ministry.

This is a hyperbolic figure of speech.

2 Samuel 14:20 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

2Sa 14:20 In order to change the course of things your servant Joab did this. But my lord has wisdom like the wisdom of the angel of God to know all things that are on the earth.”

An often ignored verse, 2 Samuel 14:20. In context, Joab wants to convince King David to forgive Absalom. He sends a woman to David in order to do the convincing. She begins her speech with flattery. King David, she says, knows “all things that are on earth”. Naturally, this should be taken in a hyperbolic sense.

But the phrase is interesting. Elsewhere, other kings are said to know everything. The idea likely being forwarded is that the king has wide-ranging power. Their access to information is above virtually anyone else.

The same phrase, if applied to God, would be taken as Platonic Omniscience by Negative Theologians. God knows all that can be known, instantly and inherently. But the phrase is instead applied to two creatures, David and the angel of God.

The angel of God could be Yahweh (there is precedence in the Bible for this), but this seems to be applied to creatures as well. King David, himself, is said to be an “angel of God” five chapters later:

2Sa 19:27 And he hath slandered thy servant unto my lord the king; but my lord the king is as an angel of God: do therefore what is good in thine eyes.

That this type of omniscience, a knowledge of all things on Earth, would be applied to angels and man, shows the extent of hyperbolic phrases of this type in the Bible. It also is a clear example of this type of speech not being meant in a Platonic sense.

Ezekiel 33:8-9 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Eze 33:8 If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand.
Eze 33:9 But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.

In Ezekiel 33, God explains to Ezekiel the concept of a watchman. The illustration is that of someone watching for approaching enemies. If this watchman notifies the people of approaching enemies, anyone who dies does so at their own fault. After all, they were warned. But if the watchman does not warn the people, then the people’s blood is on the hands of the watchman.

God then uses this principle to apply to Ezekiel. Ezekiel is appointed a watchman. He can no longer stay silent, because if he does then he will receive greater condemnation. Ezekiel’s special tasking, above and beyond the normal duties of individuals, is to proclaim God’s warnings to the people. If he does not then he will not “deliver his soul” (possibly spiritual or physical death).

God’s warnings also increase culpability of the people. If the people are warned and do not repent, their blood is on their own heads. This suggests both that Ezekiel’s message were conditional warnings and that the people had the ability to respond. The fact that the people do not respond increases their guilt.

Job 11:7 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Job 11:7 “Can you find out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limit of the Almighty?

Job 11:7 is sometimes used to prooftext ideas of God’s infinite nature. Louis Berkhof, in his Systematic Theology writes:

1. HIS ABSOLUTE PERFECTION. This is the infinity of the Divine Being considered in itself. It should not be understood in a quantitative, but in a qualitative sense; it qualifies all the communicable attributes of God… In this sense of the word the infinity of God is simply identical with the perfection of His Divine Being. Scripture proof for it is found in Job 11: 7-10; Ps. 145: 3; Matt. 5: 48.
Berkhof, Louis. Systematic Theology (Kindle Locations 1207-1214). . Kindle Edition.

When quoting Job, the context is of vital concern. The story of Job is one in which three (or four) friends of Job confront Job and tell him their individual misconceptions about how the world operates. At the end of the book of Job, God condemns these friends (three explicitly, and one, perhaps, by implication) and commends Job:

Job 42:7 After the LORD had spoken these words to Job, the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.

If Job is being quoted, Job is likely (but not necessarily) correct. If any of Job’s friends are being quoted, those ideas need to be treated with skepticism. Surely, the quotes should not find their way into a Systematic Theology textbook as evidence for a particular theology. To find it as evidence of a theology is to find evidence that the author does not understand the context of his evidence. It is poor theology.

This particular comment is a comment by Zophar the Naamathite. This is someone God specifically condemns for wrong speech about Him. The prooftext is suspect, and is not to be used for theology (other than understanding what wrong theology might look like).

Complicating the issue, this verse is striking similar to other comments in the Bible by true believers of God. But it is doubtful that this verse is being used as defending concepts of Platonic infinite, boundless and incomprehensible perfection. Rather, these sorts of comments are usually contextual to the mindset of early peoples: that God is on another level than human beings. A high school soccer player might be said to not be able to even compete with a professional soccer player. The question is one of scope of power. One agent lacks the power and ability to compare to the other. This is evident by the immediate context which questions Job’s ability to understand the limits of the Earth, much less God. Job is a weak creature. God is too complex.

In any case, Zophar is not speaking about qualifying “all the communicable attributes of God”. This is a wild stretch. Using this fleeting phrase as a prooftext for concepts not defined until centuries later is not valid theology.

Job 2:10 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Job 2:10 But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

Job 2:10 is often used to claim that God controls all things. Calvinist John Piper writes:

From the smallest thing to the greatest, good and evil, happy and sad, pagan and Christian, pain and pleasure—God governs all for his wise, just, and good purposes… After losing his ten children, Job says, “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21). Covered with boils, he says, “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10).
Piper, John; Taylor, Justin; Helseth, Paul Kjoss. Beyond the Bounds: Open Theism and the Undermining of Biblical Christianity (p. 381). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

There are a few issues with this type of prooftexting. First, the Fallacy of Composition is at play. Piper is going from one statement about Job, the most righteous person on Earth whom God was showing special attention, and then exporting that statement to all things that ever happen. If I had a child, I might give him ice cream one day and revoke his video games the next. The child might rightly claim that “my father gives and my father takes away.” This is not meant to be exportable to all of humanity. A child who I do not show attention would be amiss to say the same thing.

Secondly, standalone phrases have various possible meanings. When modern insurance claims say that houses are destroyed due to “acts of God”, this is not a theological statement nor is anyone trying to attribute that event to God’s express will (although it could have meant that at some remote time in the past). The idiom could be one that because God is in charge of the universe and this event happened, then God is responsible by the nature of His position. It could also mean that God was being blamed for not intervening. There are many alternatives to making this text some sort of prooftext about God controlling all things, even within the life of Job. More context is needed to understand what this means.

The actual context is a gentleman’s wager between God and “the adversary” on if Job would follow God. God does not know if Job’s righteousness is due to his rewards or due to faith for its’ own sake. God sits on his throne and receives reports from angels. All this does not suggest the extreme control that a prooftext on micromanagement sovereignty would have us believe.

2 Timothy 1:9 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

2Ti 1:9 who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began,

The NKJ translation states that grace was given to us “before time began”. The KJV lists this phrase as “before the world began”. The ESV states “before the ages began”. The Greek phrase is “χρονων αιωνιων” (time eternal). The Word English Bible possibly has the best translation “before times eternal”. The word for “time” is used consistently in the Bible for a passing of time. The word for “eternal” is used consistently to denote a large amount of time, or an unceasing time.

Second Timothy 1:9 is used to claim that individuals were chosen before time began, before any fall of man. Jesus, it is said, was an eternal plan in the mind of God. John Piper writes:

In other words, God not only foreknew in eternity the sinful choice that Adam (and Lucifer before him) would make, but he also planned to give us grace through Jesus Christ in response to the misery and destruction and condemnation resulting from the fall that he foreknew.
Piper, John; Taylor, Justin; Helseth, Paul Kjoss. Beyond the Bounds: Open Theism and the Undermining of Biblical Christianity (p. 375). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

Piper makes a good point. And the verse could be read in that fashion. This is particularly true if the word for “eternal” is being used as Plato uses it in Timeaus:

… Accordingly, seeing that that Model is an eternal Living Creature, He set about making this Universe, so far as He could, of a like kind. But inasmuch as the nature of the Living Creature was eternal, this quality it was impossible to attach in its entirety to what is generated; wherefore He planned to make a movable image of Eternity, and, as He set in order the Heaven, of that Eternity which abides in unity He made an eternal image, moving according to number, even that which we have named Time…

But the verse does not have to be read in the fashion of eternity. Instead, it could be used in more of a hyperbolic sense. In Polybius’ Histories, he uses the word to mean “a very large number” of writings:

Nor is it necessary to mention any names: but after Alexander’s death, in their mutual rivalries for the possession of various parts of nearly all the world, they filled a very large number of histories with the record of their glorious deeds.

Strabo in Geography uses “eternal” for natural phenomenon of tides, a twice daily event:

For instance, one could not accept such a reason for their having become a wandering and piratical folk as this—that while they were dwelling on a Peninsula they were driven out of their habitations by a great flood-tide; for in fact they still hold the country which they held in earlier times; and they sent as a present to Augustus the most sacred kettle1 in their country, with a plea for his friendship and for an amnesty of their earlier offences, and when their petition was granted they set sail for home; and it is ridiculous to suppose that they departed from their homes because they were incensed on account of a phenomenon that is natural and eternal, occurring twice every day.

In these uses, “eternal” just means “happens all the time” or “a very large amount”. Paul, in this fashion, could be using “time eternal” to mean “since always”, an English expression meaning that something has been in place for a long time, but not necessarily eternal in essence.

The idea of a Messiah is definitely not “eternal” in the Bible. One does not see talk of this Messiah until after the Babylon and Assyrian exiles. This is after the line of David is cut off (David was a Messiah, an anointed). Paul could be referring to expectations that have been in existence since the exilic period.

Alternatively, he may be referencing God’s enduring plan to have a people with whom to commune, a plan first implemented in the creation of man, and then time and time subverted throughout the Bible. The Bible tells a story of God attempting to reconcile man to Himself.
While Piper’s reading is acceptable, there are alternatives which are also likely.

aionion-plato

aionion-hyperbole

Isaiah 40:29 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Isa 40:28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.

Isaiah 40:28 is used in several ways by proponents of Classical Theism. The phrase “[God’s] understanding is unsearchable” is often used as a prooftext for omniscience. The phrase “[God] does not faint or grow weary” is used to trump other verses which describe God’s mental exhaustion at dealing with unrepentant Israel (e.g. Jer 15:6). This is not a prooftext for either use.

The context of Isaiah 40:28 has God imparting His regenerating power to those who follow Him. Those who reject God grow weary. Those who accept God never grow weary.

Isa 40:29 He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Isa 40:30 Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted;
Isa 40:31 but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

The idea is about being tired from fatigue. This is about power and strength. This is not about mental stress due to trying interpersonal relationships with loved ones, as in Jeremiah 15:6. Isaiah 40:28 is a claim that no one person can overpower God. The verse it is used to counter is about God’s frustration with dealing with people. Both verses (Jer 15:6 and Isa 40:28) can be true in their contexts without one overriding another.

Likewise, “understanding is unsearchable” is not quite a prooftext for total omniscience of all future events. The words being used don’t even necessarily have anything to do with knowledge, but with ability. “Understanding” is contrasted to “knowledge” in various verses and tends to have more in common with “craftiness”, “cleverness”, and even “skillfulness”. Take Psalms 78:72, for example:

Psa 78:72 With upright heart he shepherded them and guided them with his skillful hand.

The same word is translated “skillful”. A translation dealing with “knowledge” might work in this verse, but might not communicate the full intent. In any case, one would be hard pressed to equate “unsearchable understanding” to with modern concepts of omniscience. Nothing in the context suggests that this is what the author intended. Absolutely nothing in the context suggest this needs to extended to complete omniscience of all future events.

Mark 13:32 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Mar 13:32 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

In Mark 13:32, there is an unequivocal statement by Jesus about lacking some information about the future. Jesus states the “Son” does not know the day and hour of the Day of the Lord. What this verse shows is that Jesus was not omniscient of future events.

What this primarily shows is that omniscience of future events is not a requirement for divinity. This is in opposition to many classical claims about the attribute of God.

What this also shows is how generalizations and contextual understandings work within the bounds of language. Jesus is said elsewhere to “know all things” (Joh 21:17) and be the same “yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb 13:8). The knowing all things is likely only a claim that Jesus has a lot of knowledge. The being the same “yesterday, today and forever” is likely about Jesus’ moral character, in context, Jesus’ steadfast presence.

Additionally, when people point to prophecies of Jesus which did come true, they then are saying a non-omniscient being can make correct predictions of future events. This undermines any case that one has to be omniscient to accurately predict the future. Of course, in these incidents, a critic can claim that Jesus gained his information from the father, but this is assumed onto the text.

Genisis 6:5-7 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Gen 6:5 The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
Gen 6:6 And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.
Gen 6:7 So the LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them”.

Genesis 6 follows the pattern of repentance found elsewhere in the Bible. Something is done by God, there is a change in disposition by God, and then that original thing is undone by God. In Genesis 6, this is God’s own past acts (God is not so much undoing man’s wickedness as he is undoing his past creation). The text, on face value, has God repenting of His own actions. God’s creation has failed and God blames His own actions. The text reads as if God is taking responsibility for the actions of His creation. God is blaming Himself.

The chapter depicts God as seeing that mankind has become evil. New information is flowing to God which prompts God to regret (repent) in making man. This regret is reinforced though a reiteration and use of a synonym (“grieved him to his heart”). The focus of the text changes from the narrator to God’s own words about Himself. God repeats what the narrator has already said. God declares His own regret in making mankind.

God’s solution is to undo all of creation. Although the narrator declares God’s regret in making man, God resolves to destroy everything on Earth including animals and birds. God is utterly undoing all that He has created. This helps the reader understand that God’s regret is really about undoing creation. If this were just about the guilty, then the entire world would not need to be punished.

The situation is unequivocal. God’s learning about mankind drives the plot. God’s repentance adds motivation for the resulting actions. God’s actions are geared toward the object of His regret (His own past acts). Not only the narrator, but God describes the repentance. If there was ever a passage of the Bible describing God changing His mind, it is this passage.

Amos 7:1-9 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Amo 7:1 This is what the Lord GOD showed me: behold, he was forming locusts when the latter growth was just beginning to sprout, and behold, it was the latter growth after the king’s mowings.
Amo 7:2 When they had finished eating the grass of the land, I said, “O Lord GOD, please forgive! How can Jacob stand? He is so small!”
Amo 7:3 The LORD relented concerning this: “It shall not be,” said the LORD.
Amo 7:4 This is what the Lord GOD showed me: behold, the Lord GOD was calling for a judgment by fire, and it devoured the great deep and was eating up the land.
Amo 7:5 Then I said, “O Lord GOD, please cease! How can Jacob stand? He is so small!”
Amo 7:6 The LORD relented concerning this: “This also shall not be,” said the Lord GOD.
Amo 7:7 This is what he showed me: behold, the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand.
Amo 7:8 And the LORD said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said, “Behold, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass by them;
Amo 7:9 the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste, and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.”

In Amos 7:3, the context is that God wants to judge Israel for wickedness. God first begins forming locusts, but Amos intercedes (“please forgive!”), and God repents. Then God begins calling fire on Israel. Amos again intercedes (“please forgive!”), and God repents again. Then God shows Amos a plumb line (used for demolishing buildings), and declares against Israel. The first part might have a period of time implied between pronouncements. It seems to be implied that Amos is recounting a history of his intercessions for Israel.

God is described as having begun to build a judgment by locusts. This is an action that God never finishes. Amos intercedes and God repents. The same series of events occur again after God begins preparing fire as judgement of Israel. Again, God never finishes what He began. Again the prophet intercedes and God repents. This passage would be odd in light of total omniscience of future events. Why would God begin activities He knows He will never complete? Why even delay punishment knowing that He would eventually punish anyways. The delayed punishment seems not to have borne any fruit.

This series of events is reminiscent of the potter and the clay parable found in Jeremiah 18. God begins shaping a pot, the pot is marred, and God makes the vessel into another object. In the Jeremiah passage as well as the Amos passage, God is not completing His original intentions. In contrast, the Jeremiah repentance is in respond to repentance in the people (either repentance to or from evil). In Amos, the repentance is due to the intercession by a valued individual apart from any repentance of the people.

This passage is not about Negative Theology, but God’s long-suffering and people exhausting His patience. This passage is written to communicate God’s excessive steps to reach Israel, steps which bare no fruit.

1 Kings 22:52 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

1Ki 22:52  He did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and walked in the way of his father and in the way of his mother and in the way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin. 

In 1 Kings 22:52, Jeroboam is said to “make Israel sin”. If there was a passage similarly worded about God, it would be claimed that God controlled those actors in a supernatural sense to force their actions. A common example of this are the passages that describe God hardening Pharaoh’s heart. The Calvinist understanding is that God controls all things and forced Pharaoh’s heart to become hard.

But communication standards allow a better understanding. “Making” someone do something doesn’t necessarily mean coercive force. “Making” someone do something, as used in many passages describing Kings who made Israel sin, is rather about leadership and persuasion. The mechanism is that people freely choose to follow the direction of the king. The king does not even necessarily have to issue decrees or even command the people to do evil. The people might just choose to mimic what they see. The king’s behavior might just a re-enforcing bad inclinations of the people.

1 Kings 22:52 and similar verses teach the reader to exercise caution in the assumptions brought to texts in which God “makes” people do things.

Acts 26:19 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Act 26:19 “Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision,
Act 26:20 but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.

Paul is often used as an example of an individual, chosen by God, who had no choice in his ministry. Earlier in Acts, Jesus appears to Paul during his persecution of Christians. Paul is recruited by Jesus to become a full time minister for the message of Christ.

But Paul had the ability to reject God’s calling. Much like the prophet Jonah, Paul could have chosen to flee God’s calling. But instead, Paul declares that he was obedient and that he decided to act on his calling by traveling to the areas of the Gentiles, to preach God’s word. Paul understands that he had every choice to reject his calling.

The context of Acts 26 is Paul explaining his ministry to his captor, King Agrippa. He relates how he saw the vision of Jesus, and the steps he took in order to fulfill his tasking. Paul is not fatalistic in his understanding of the situation.

Exodus 3:18 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Exo 3:18 And they will listen to your voice, and you and the elders of Israel shall go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us; and now, please let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God.’

The context of Exodus 3:18 is Moses’ conversation with God. God tasks Moses with going to the King of Egypt and securing the freedom of Israel from him. God says that Moses should first go to the elders of Israel and those elders would support Moses’ mission. This never happens; the elders reject Moses. Neither do the elders go to pharaoh to ask for release.

Moses himself does not see this statement by God as a prediction of the future (or clairvoyance of future acts). Instead, Moses begins questioning God, skeptical that the elders will listen to him. God responds by giving Moses a series of miracles by which he can convince Israel. Ultimately, none of these work, and Moses receives only resistance from the elders of Israel while he tries to liberate Israel.

God is predicting actions, not foreseeing events. Those actions are free and do not turn out as predicted. Neither Moses nor God treat the future as set and foreknown. Instead, they see God’s predictions as not concrete and not necessarily accurate. God never responds to Moses’ skepticism with an account of divine foreknowledge. God responds with a cascading contingency plan in case the people are not convinced. God treats the future as no settled, and His own predictions as possible scenarios.

Ezekiel 26:3 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Eze 26:3 therefore thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I am against you, O Tyre, and will bring up many nations against you, as the sea brings up its waves.

Ezekiel 26 records a prophecy against Tyre. This prophecy against Tyre fails later in Ezekiel (Eze 29:18). Nebuchadnezzar leads his men against Tyre, but Tyre is not destroyed. Tyre consisted, at that time, of a city split between an island and the adjacent shore. When attacked, Tyre retreated to their more defensible island, and Nebuchadnezzar never was able to breach their defenses.

Ezekiel 26:3 is used to try to salvage this prophecy. The key word that is cited is “nations”. The claim is that God’s prophecy was that multiple different kings would attack Tyre over hundreds of years. The claim then is that Alexander the Great fulfilled the prophecy in xyzBC. Nebuchadnezzar was the first “wave” and Alexander was the final “wave”.

But this claim is not the most likely reading of the text. King Nebuchadnezzar is elsewhere described as a King of nations (Jer 28:11, Dan 4:1). This is a common thought in the ancient world. Different peoples are different nations although they are under the same government. The Kings levy auxiliary troops from these different nations, in addition to using alliance troops in conjunction with foreign rulers (e.g. 2Ch 20:1). In this way, “nations” are to come against Tyre.

This is reinforced by the details of the prophecy along with contextual clues. Tyre is said to become “plunder for the nations”. Nebuchadnezzar did not plunder Tyre and Alexander destroyed Tyre. If “nations” in verse Ezekiel 26:3 is meant to be successive waves of armies over hundreds of years, only one nation actually ended up plundering Tyre. A better understanding is that “nations” refers to a coalition of troops during a single instance.

Within Ezekiel the method of fulfillment is given within the prophecy itself:

Eze 26:7 “For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will bring against Tyre from the north Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, king of kings, with horses and chariots, and with horsemen and a host of many soldiers.

The text goes on to list a number of things Nebuchadnezzar would do which also never happened. Nebuchadnezzar did not make Tyre “a bare rock” and “never to be rebuilt”. The context of these statement are what Nebuchadnezzar would do, not some distant king hundreds of years into the future.

The entire prophecy is against the princes of Tyre. A fulfillment, hundreds of years later, does not even fit the intent of the prophecy: to punish current leaders. A punishment of people who have been dead for hundreds of years is not that good of a punishment.

Using Ezekiel 26:3 as a prooftext to claim the prophecy was fulfilled in the person of Alexander the Great is an embellishment of the prophecy. There is nothing in the text warranting this, and the prophecy is better read as meant to be fulfilled under Nebuchadnezzar.

Isaiah 55:8 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Isa 55:8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD.

Isaiah 55:8 is often used by those wishing to justify what they claim are God’s acts. Something tragic will happen. God will be said to have done this. And then if they are questioned about this, they will claim that “God’s ways are not our ways.” This is to say that God has some mysterious plan that He is working. But the context of Isaiah 55:8 point to an entirely different meanings:

Isa 55:7 let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
Isa 55:8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.

The context is about God’s repentance. If the wicked repent, God will pardon. In this way, God’s thoughts are not our thoughts and God’s ways are not our ways. While man might not pardon someone who has wronged them, God is open to forgiveness.

The point of Isaiah 55:8 is not that God has some secretive plan that no one can understand, but that God is less vindictive than man. The text is expressly about God telling us how He operates, so it is not some secret surprise. The text is one for clarity, not confusion.

Jeremiah 1:5 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Jer 1:5  “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” 

This text is used to promote future omniscience of all events. Each Christian is said to be known before they are born. Pro-life campaigns quote Jeremiah 1:5 as a blanket idea that God knows all babies before they are born. This might be stretching the text too far. Note that this knowledge is never said to be eternal knowledge. The idea that God knows all babies intimately from before the creation of the world is an unwarranted assumption. Likely the text is limited to Jeremiah’s conception, or God creating a specific baby for a specific purpose when a specific need arises.

This text is about Jeremiah. God, throughout the Bible, chooses people from birth to be advocates for him. King David was convinced about this. Isaiah was convinced of this (Isa 49:1). It is a fallacy is to take special people in the Bible and then export their experiences to all of humanity. Not everyone is King David or Jeremiah. This is the logical fallacy of composition.

But even God’s calling doesn’t always go as planned. In Numbers 18, God gives Aaron and his sons the priesthood. But in Leviticus 10:1, Aaron’s immediate sons quickly sin and God puts them to death. They have failed their calling and have failed God.

In 1 Samuel 22, the same thing happens. The sons of Eli sin. God kills them, revokes his promise to Aaron’s lineage, and then promises to raise up a faithful priest instead:

1Sa 2:30 Therefore the LORD God of Israel says: ‘I said indeed that your house and the house of your father would walk before Me forever.’ But now the LORD says: ‘Far be it from Me; for those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed.

Notice the revocation of God’s promise. If God has foreseen the revoking of His promise, then His promise was a lie. The more natural reading is that although God raised up Aaron’s lineage to be a priest nation, they ignored God’s guidance, and God changed His mind based on their actions. God chooses to raise up a new priest:

1Sa 2:35 Then I will raise up for Myself a faithful priest who shall do according to what is in My heart and in My mind. I will build him a sure house, and he shall walk before My anointed forever.

The very next chapter starts with God calling to the boy, Samuel. Samuel was called as a boy, not from before birth, and only because of the failings of Eli’s sons. But Eli was called young, because God raises up people from birth. Sometimes they are a plan B, as with David who receives Saul’s kingdom after God wanted to give Saul an eternal kingdom but then Saul failed. Sometimes God’s chosen fail God.

Jeremiah 29:11 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Jer 29:11  For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 

Jeremiah 29:11 is often used for a prooftext to claim that God has plans for every person’s life, and often extended to mean that God then brings those plans about by micromanaging all coincidences one experiences. God, it is said, has intricate and detailed plans for everyone which He is constantly bringing to fruition. But Jeremiah 29:11 is just not about this. In context, Jeremiah is addressing Israel. This verse is about the Babylonian exile. Those being addressed are exilic Israel:

Jer 29:1  These are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders of the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. 

The benefit is specifically stated, and national in scope:

Jer 29:10  “For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 

This verse is about God’s plans for cooperate Israel. Any extension of the meaning to individuals in the modern world is out of the scope of what is intended. This verse is not about God having plans for individuals, nor micromanaging the lives of everyone on Earth.

Matthew 22:32 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Mat 22:32 ‘I AM THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, THE GOD OF ISAAC, AND THE GOD OF JACOB’ ? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.”

In Matthew 22:32, Jesus is responding to the Sadducees. The Sadducees were of the opinion that there was no life after death. Death was the end. Jesus references an Old Testament quote by God. The quote is made in the present tense: ‘I AM THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, THE GOD OF ISAAC, AND THE GOD OF JACOB’ (a reference to Exodus 3:6). This statement is made by God to Moses, long after Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had been dead. Jesus’ point is that if Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob no longer existed, then God would have said “I was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” Because it is in the present tense, God continues to be their God after they are dead. They still exist.

What this interaction shows is that neither Jesus, the Sadducees, or anyone else present at that time considered a possibility that God is timeless. If they believed God was timeless, Jesus’ argument would not work. The argument would be made that God is timeless, and thus can forever be currently the God of the dead because all events are happening to God in the same instant. Only without timelessness can arguments about God based on the tense of verbs be entertained. Jesus did not think God was timeless; he did not even consider the possibility. The Sadducees did not think God was timeless; they did not even consider the possibility. Anyone listening to Jesus did not think God was timeless; they did not even consider the possibility. Jewish thought in the time of Jesus did not entertain timelessness as a theological option. Their very arguments about God depend on God not being timeless.

Numbers 23:19 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Num 23:19 God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?

Numbers 23:19 is often quoted as a prooftext for immutability. This quote is said to show that God cannot change in any way, shape, or form. But, contextually, there is likely a better understanding of this verse.

In context, God has intercepted a false prophet, Balaam, from declaring that Yahweh was against Israel. God threatens Balaam into proclaiming blessing, not curses for Israel. Balaam complies, and informs the enemies of Israel that “God is not a man that He should lie or a son of man that He should change His mind.” Contextually, the point is that God has declared blessings for Israel and will not just change His mind. God has spoken, and God will fulfill.

The context is God’s promises towards Israel. God is not fickle in His promises. The context says nothing about God’s essence, being eternally immutable in every respect, or even being impassible. Contextually, at best, this is a prooftext for God never changing His mind. More likely, however, this is a generality (as is common in human communication) and means simply that God is not arbitrary. God does change His blessings into curses throughout the Bible, but it is for reasons such as Israel rebelling against God. No such third party factors are at play in the Numbers verse.

A false prophet is speaking these words, granted under duress from God. Even if the speaker was arguing for pure immutability, the words need to be taken with a grain of salt. Surely, the reoccurring words from God about Himself describing God’s own change of mind have more weight than a false prophet. This text is a poor prooftext for immutability.

1 Samuel 15:29 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

1Sa 15:29 And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor relent. For He is not a man, that He should relent.”

1 Samuel 15:29 is often used to advocate the idea that God is immutable, not only immutable in His word but also in His very essence. Here is the context of the entire chapter:

King Saul has just violated God’s command not to take spoils of war.

1Sa 15:9 But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them: but every thing that was vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly.
1Sa 15:10 Then came the word of the LORD unto Samuel, saying,
1Sa 15:11 It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king: for he is turned back from following me, and hath not performed my commandments. And it grieved Samuel; and he cried unto the LORD all night.

This leads God directly to “repenting” of having made Saul the king of Israel. Samuel hears God’s message and the next morning confronts Saul on his spoils of war. Samuel explains to Saul that “Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king.” Saul immediately repents, and asks for mercy (for his kingdom to not be taken away):

1Sa 15:24 And Saul said unto Samuel, I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD, and thy words: because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice.
1Sa 15:25 Now therefore, I pray thee, pardon my sin, and turn again with me, that I may worship the LORD.
Notice Saul’s deep repentance. Saul seeks pardon and wants to go worship God. But this is denied. Samuel says:
1Sa 15:28 And Samuel said unto him, The LORD hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbour of thine, that is better than thou.
1Sa 15:29 And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent.

The context of God not repenting is “repenting that He made Saul king.” When God says He will not repent, God is saying “I will not repent of repenting that I made Saul king (taking his kingdom away).” God is not making a general claim of immutability. God is making the claim that Saul cannot expect to convince God to give him back the kingdom. God has made up his mind.

The statement needs to be understood in context, and not carte blanche applied to everything. In the direct context, not God says says that He repents, but also the narrator. It is the same word used in verse 29. The text is not contradicting itself, and it is not suggesting to elevate the words of Samuel over the words of God and the narrator. Samuel is definitely not launching into a off the cuff sermon on advanced metaphysics to Saul. Reading comprehension does not support 1 Samuel 15:29 as a prooftext for immutability.

Ezekiel 4:12-15 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Eze 4:12 And you shall eat it as a barley cake, baking it in their sight on human dung.”
Eze 4:13 And the LORD said, “Thus shall the people of Israel eat their bread unclean, among the nations where I will drive them.”
Eze 4:14 Then I said, “Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I have never defiled myself. From my youth up till now I have never eaten what died of itself or was torn by beasts, nor has tainted meat come into my mouth.”
Eze 4:15 Then he said to me, “See, I assign to you cow’s dung instead of human dung, on which you may prepare your bread.”

In Ezekiel 4, God is commanding Ezekiel to perform a series of symbolic acts to prophesy to the people of what is to come. Some of these tasks are quite hard, such as sleeping on his side for over a year. One such command is for Ezekiel to cook his food with human poop/dung. Ezekiel was to use the poop as fuel for his cooking fire. The symbolic purpose was to teach Israel that they too would eat unclean food, as the human excrement would defile the food.

But this is too much for the committed Ezekiel. If he were to eat this food, he would be undoing his life’s work in remaining pure in food. God instantly changes His mind and allows Ezekiel to use cow dung instead of human dung. This is an instant change of plan based on a real time petition. God’s original plan is modified to allow for the concerns of his prophet.

This entire incident counters all sorts of classical theology. God’s plans can change based on the desires of people. God’s plans are flexible and can change in an instant. What God declares does not necessarily come to past. God does not mind changing His plans to accommodate people. God sometimes compromises.

Yahweh, as shown in this story, is not outside of time. Yahweh is not immutable, and is definitely not impassible. Instead He cares about people and they can change Him. Yahweh does not know the future, but experiences it in the present. If He were to have an eternal picture of the future, His command to use human dung would be disingenuous. Instead he might have begun with the cow dung, explaining it is a stand-in for human dung, and both represent the uncleanness in the food Israel will soon eat. Instead, what happens is a clear change in God’s plans. This is describing a dynamic God, one who considers humanity when modifying His decrees.

Daniel 2:21 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Dan 2:21 And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise And knowledge to those who have understanding.

Daniel 2:21 is sometimes claimed as evidence that God is responsible for the rise and fall of all kings to ever exist. By extension, God controls all governments and perhaps all things in life. But even the first step of logic is unwarranted, and the following steps of logic are definitely too much.

Often when powerful people talk about what they do and how they act, they use similar statements. In Isaiah 14, God speaks to the king of Babylon and uses similar phrases:

Isa 14:5 The LORD has broken the staff of the wicked, the scepter of rulers,
Isa 14:6 that struck the peoples in wrath with unceasing blows, that ruled the nations in anger with unrelenting persecution.

Isa 14:12 “How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low!

The king of Babylon “ruled the nations” and “laid nations low”. Naturally no one would assume the text is about the king of Babylon ruling all nations on earth or destroying all nations to ever be destroyed. Instead, the claims are about characteristic actions of Babylon. When writing about characteristic actions, often this general phrasing is used. It does not matter if it is about people, nations, or even God. This is just a normal way of writing.

To claim Daniel 2:21 is about God controlling all nations everywhere is to import theology onto the text. The more natural reading is much like Isaiah 14 that God is powerful and has characteristically controlled nations (but not necessarily all nations). The statement is a general power claim, not a claim to control everything ever to happen. If the author’s purpose was to proclaim God’s power, and the author believed God controlled all things to ever happen, he probably would have written quite a different point. Saying God controls all things is a much more forceful claim than controlling governments. Not surprisingly, the author never makes the claim that God controls all things.

Judges10:13-16 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Jdg 10:13 Yet you have forsaken me and served other gods; therefore I will save you no more.
Jdg 10:14 Go and cry out to the gods whom you have chosen; let them save you in the time of your distress.”
Jdg 10:15 And the people of Israel said to the LORD, “We have sinned; do to us whatever seems good to you. Only please deliver us this day.”
Jdg 10:16 So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the LORD, and he became impatient over the misery of Israel.

Judges 10:16 is possibly better translated by the NJKV:

Jdg 10:16 So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the LORD. And His soul could no longer endure the misery of Israel.

In Judges 10, God becomes so frustrated with Israel that He proclaims that He “will save you no more”. But the people repent in verse 15. They show humility and accept punishment, only asking that God once again save them. In verse 16, the people forsake false gods, and then the text reads that God’s “soul could no longer endure the misery of Israel.” God changes His mind. Although He had proclaimed against Israel to no longer save them, God reverses that position when He witnesses their repentance.

It is important to note that Israel has before been given leniency due to their suffering. In verse 14, God is repenting of continually showing leniency due to suffering. But God reverses His declaration after direct observation of their suffering, yet again. The idea being communicated is both God’s overwhelming frustration with Israel’s cycle of sin, their short-lived repentance, and God’s wasted efforts in salvation. This is coupled with God’s emotional attachment to His people, while seeing them suffer. This passage is about God’s conflicting internal emotions, and God’s commitment to Israel instead of His own declarations.

None of this would make sense in a world where God is impassible, or outside of time, or has a single “perfect” will. This is just one of many examples in which God revokes His declared intentions. In this instance, the text represents God as knowing the people would beg to be saved and would repent. God’s own repentance is not based on intellectual knowledge, but new emotional experiences that sway God against His prior judgement. God’s change is not based on calculated logic, but on passions that the people evoke within God.

Amos 3:6-7 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Amo 3:6 Is a trumpet blown in a city, and the people are not afraid? Does disaster come to a city, unless the LORD has done it?
Amo 3:7 “For the Lord GOD does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets.

Amos 3:6-7 is much like the theme of Isaiah 42-48. God is said to declare all His works to His prophets before God acts. The concept is that people can then differentiate between God’s acts and happenstance. It is not very convincing to attribute acts to God “after the fact”. Any false religion can do that. The test of a true God is revealing power acts before those acts are accomplished.

Notice how this passage is antithetical to concepts such as God controlling all things. If God does everything, and everything God does is told to his prophets, then God would have to be communicating all sorts of endless, infinite, trivial things to people that have neither the time nor the brainpower to process. The assumption in Amos is that God does not do everything, and that when God does act in a way to show His power He then makes it public such that He can gain credit.

Genesis 1:1 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Gen 1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

Genesis 1:1 is often used to support the claim that God created time, and thus God is outside of time and sees all the future in one instant. Genesis 1:1 is said to be God creating all that exists. It is claimed that time is something that exists, thus time is created in Genesis 1:1.

The striking problems with this position should be obvious.

First, this verse says nothing about “time” being created. That has to be assumed onto the verse. The assumption is counter to normal Jewish thought throughout the Bible that does not see “time” as a thing to be manipulated. There is no slowing of time, reversing time, time travel, or any similar concepts in the Bible. Time is not a “thing” in normal Jewish thought.

Second, the verse just talks about the “heavens and the earth”. Perfectly rational people would be able to claim that this verse is just about creating the physical world. This does not event have to be about creating a spiritual “heaven”, as birds fly in the “heaven” in verse 20. The assumption that “time” is created is unwarranted.

Third, Biblical scholarship such (as Dr. Michael Heiser (known as “liberal”), Dr. James Allman (known as “conservative”), and Dr. Joel M. Hoffman (a secular scholar)) seems to be fairly united that Genesis 1:1 is not an “initial event”. Instead this is a summary of what is happening in the chapter, or, in conjunction with the following verses, is setting up the preconditions before God starts creating. This is most evident in the JPS:

When God began to create the heaven and the earth – the earth being unformed and void, with darkness over the surface of the deep and a wind from God sweeping over the water – God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.

One can still see this in modern translations:

Gen 1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
Gen 1:2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
Gen 1:3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

Compare to Genesis 2:4:

Gen 2:4 These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens.
Gen 2:5 When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground,
Gen 2:6 and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground—
Gen 2:7 then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.

Notice the starting sentence is prepping the story. It informs the reader about what the story is depicting and then gives starting conditions. In Genesis 1:1, water and a formless earth exist. In Genesis 2:4, no plants exist and God uses rain to create vegetation. This is before creating man.

In short, Genesis 1:1 has nothing to do with metaphysics. God is not creating “time”. That assumption is a fairly presumptuous one, at best.

Psa 51.5 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Psa 51:5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.

Psalms 51:1 is often used to defend doctrines such as Total Depravity or Original Sin. The claim is that King David’s statement is concerning the ontological nature of human beings; that all human beings are sinful from birth. But this is more likely not what King David is speaking about. Walter Brueggemann writes:

c) The statement of verse 5 can be readily misunderstood. It does not mean that sex is sinful, nor that this speaker has a perverted beginning, or that the mother is morally implicated. Rather the speaker asserts that he is utterly guilty, in principle, from the beginning. There never was a time when this speaker was not so burdened. I take this to be not a clinical statement, but an expression of theological candor as the speaker exposes himself to God’s righteousness. One may say that it is a piece of liturgical hyperbole, as is much of the Psalms. We do not need to take the statement ontologically as a ” doctrine of man . ” What is important is that in this moment of drastic confrontation, the speaker has no claim. There is indeed “no health in him.”

Brueggemann points out that the statement need not be more than hyperbole. This would be much like Job who says:

Job 31:18 …from my mother’s womb I guided the widow),

The speech is hyperbolic, meant to say that Job’s entire life is one characterized by helping the poor (Job is protesting his innocence). This is not about Job being sinless by nature. Likewise, King David’s statement is not about man’s utterly fallen nature. Psalm 51 is not even about anyone except King David himself. Instead, this is a submission to God’s judgment in the context of a Psalm exclusively about King David’s own sin and guilt.

Alternatively, it has been claimed by various Open Theists that King David is referencing the conditions of his conception in which his mother sinned to conceive him. But this is speculative in nature.

Genesis 15:13 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Gen 15:13 Then the LORD said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years.

Gen 15:13 Then the LORD said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years.

Genesis 15:13 reads as if God is foretelling the future. God tells Abraham both that his offspring will be oppressed and adds a timeframe. If this is just a general foretelling of the future, it serves as evidence that God has omniscience of future events (especially if firm time frames are used).

In Genesis 15:13, God explains to Abram (Abraham) that his decedents will be “afflicted” for 400 years. The context of this is Abraham wondering how God will prove to him that he will have decedents as numerous as the stars. In the text, God has Abraham gather animals for sacrifice, and then Abraham passes out and goes into this vision.

This vision is possibly meant to calm Abraham’s fears that his lineage would be cut off. God’s assures that both Abraham’s decedents will be alive for 400 years and under foreign rule for this same timeframe. These facts seem to be presented to alleviate Abraham’s fears.

God could be offering Egypt (or another foreign nation) as protection of Abraham’s family, as Abraham’s decedents multiply. That might be the purpose of this prophecy. This is in fact what happens, as Israel multiplies at so fast a rate that a future Pharaoh attempts to cull their newborns.

If this is the case, then the foretelling of the future is actually a prophecy that God fulfills in order to bread Israel into a mighty nation. God would be able to do this through His own power. If true, Genesis 15:13 is God promising protection rather than just telling visions of future events.

A few items of note. First, Israel is never “afflicted” for 400 years. The oppression described in Exodus 1 only starts within the generation in which Moses is born. Israel, then, only suffers about 80 years of slavery and oppression. Second, Exodus puts the timeframe in Egypt at 430 years (Exo 12:40). Each of these facts mean that the “prophecy” in Genesis 15:13 only came true in a loose sense. It is not as much a vision of the future, as a general prediction of the future. This prophecy is “fulfilled” in the sense that it generally was accurate, but a vision of the future would be expected to better predict the details.

This being the case, Genesis 15:13 is not good evidence that God has omniscience of future events.

Act 13.48 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Act 13:48 Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.

This verse is often used to defend the idea that God has elected people eternally for salvation. One Calvinist reports that Acts 13:48 is the Bible verse that made him a Calvinist.

But this Bible verse seems to be mistranslated. There exists a better and more natural translation that better fits the context. The verse very easily could have been rendered:

Act 13:48 Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as appointed themselves to eternal life believed.

In the Greek language, the Middle and Passive take the same verb form. So unless the context is clear, there is uncertainty in if others are acting upon someone or if those people are acting upon themselves. A Greek Grammar website explains:

Middle and Passive Transitive Verbs Transitive verbs can be either middle or passive, and only the context can help you decide which meaning is intended. (Transitive) Middle Voice Usage For transitive verbs, the implication of the of the middle voice is that the action expressed by the verb directly affects the subject. The verbs in the following sentences are all transitive, and they all have a middle/passive form in Greek. οὐκ οἴδατε τί αἰτεῖσθε You do not know what you are requesting (Matthew 20:22) ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν• πάτερ, εἰς χεῖράς σου παρατίθεμαι τὸ πνεῦμά μου. Jesus said: Father, into your hands I commit my spirit (Luke 23:46) τί διαλογίζεσθε ἐν ἑαυτοῖς …ὅτι ἄρτους οὐκ ἔχετε; Why are you discussing among yourselves …that you have no bread? In each of these examples, the subject is presented as acting for its own benefit. Compare the following example. The verb used there (δέχομαι) is a lexical middle. ἐμὲ δέχεται [He/she] receives me (Matthew 10:40) The form of this verb that appears in the lexicon (δέχομαι) is middle voice. Since the verb always has a middle voice implication—the action it expresses (receiving) directly impacts its subject—it never appears with active voice forms. Its meaning is best expressed in the middle voice. Passive Voice Usage (always transitive) Observe the following sentences in which the subject is acted upon by someone not explicitly named. οὐχὶ δύο στρουθία ἀσσαρίου πωλεῖται Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? (Matthew 10:19) ἀφίενταί σου αἱ ἁμαρτίαι Your sins are forgiven (Mark 2:5) ἕκαστον γὰρ δένδρον ἐκ τοῦ καρποῦ γινώσκεται For every tree is known by its fruit (Luke 6:44) Notice that the subject of these verbs would be the object if the verb were active voice. This is the basic meaning of the passive voice. When translating Greek middle/passive forms of transitive verbs you may need to try both middle and passive translations to see which makes best sense in the context.

This cannot be stated enough: When translating Greek middle/passive forms of transitive verbs you may need to try both middle and passive translations to see which makes best sense in the context. Jesse Morrel makes an excellent case as to why this passage would be better rendered as middle:

3. Also notice the passive/middle ending “μένοι.” That means that ordained/disposed can be taken as something which was done to them (passive), in this case by the word, or something which they did to themselves (middle), in this case by allowing themselves to be properly influenced by the word. Given the context of this passage, especially in contrast with vs. 46 that uses the reflexive pronoun “ἑαυτοῦ” to say that they judged themselves unworthy of eternal life, this verb “τεταγμένοι” should be understood to be in the middle voice. Context is the only key in determining whether a verb is in the passive or in the middle, as the ending is identical.

Gen 50.20 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Gen 50:20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

This verse is often used by those who want to claim that God makes all evil happen in order to fit into His perfect plans. Evil, it is said, is caused by God for a greater purpose, and exists concurrently with man’s will (a belief called compatibilism).

Here is Calvinist James White:

Joseph’s brothers meant their actions for evil. But in direct parallel, God meant the same action for good. Due to the intention of the hearts of Joseph’s brothers, the action in the human realm was evil. The very same action as part of God’s eternal decree was meant for good, for by it God brought about His purpose and plan. One action, two intentions, compatible in all things. Joseph’s brothers were accountable for their intentions; God is to be glorified for His.

This verse just does not read that way despite those who want to make the concepts mechanical. The verse has nothing to do with eternal decrees, or even God causing Joseph to be sold into slavery. It easily can be ready that Joseph’s brothers purposed to do evil, but God purposed to do good. There is nothing in the reading that suggests God is not repurposing Joseph’s brother’s evil acts. In fact, a future Biblical commenter reads the same passage as God rescuing Joseph from his brothers:

Acts 7:9 And the patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him
Acts 7:10 and rescued him out of all his afflictions and gave him favor and wisdom before Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who made him ruler over Egypt and over all his household.

This is a perfectly acceptable reading of Genesis 50:20, that stands in opposition to God decreeing the evil to happen.

In any case, it is a wild leap of logic to point to one instance of an evil event being used for good, then to posit that all evil events are used for good, God has decreed them all since time eternal, and that God endorses the evil events.