The Sons of God in Genesis 6:2-4

One of the most puzzling passages in the Bible is Genesis 6:2-4.  This mentions the “sons of God” (the sons of Elohim) who took wives from the “daughters of man.” This happened just before the Flood of Noah.  Many sensational videos have been made recently to explain this strange event and the mysterious Nephilim mentioned in these same verses.  But what do we actually known about these “sons of Elohim”? And what can we learn about them from other passages in the Bible?  We’ll also say a little about the book of Enoch, often mentioned in these videos.

What Will be our Language in Heaven? (Q&A)

Q:  Someone in our small group asked this question when we were going through Revelation, “What will be our language in heaven?” referencing Revelation 7:9-10:

“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” (ESV)

Will it be that we will be worshiping and singing to the Lord in our own language? And will we be communicating with our own languages yet understanding each other and never needing any translation? (I’m thinking of 1 Corinthians 13:12 on this.)

Could you enlighten me please? I want to know your thoughts. —Jean R.

Understanding Alfred Edersheim’s “The Law in Messianic Times”

 What will happen to the Law of Moses in the time of the Messiah?  This was an open question in Jesus’ day.  And it still generates strong opinions today.  Does the Law of Moses have any legitimate place in the Christian Church?  What about for Messianic believers in Jesus?  And what about in the Messianic age to come?  You may think your church or Christian organization is exempt from such controversies.  But if your church teaches that Jesus did away with the Law of Moses, how does it explain continued obedience to the Ten Commandments?  This “moral law” as some call it is still nevertheless a part of the Law of Moses.  So is the Law of Moses in force today or not?

The famous Messianic scholar Alfred Edersheim laid out some important insights into these questions in the 14th appendix of his classic The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah.  Unfortunately, his style of writing and the difficulty of tracking down his references cause many skip over this little gem.  So to make it more accessible, I’ve written a brief summary with explanatory comments, complete with internet links to his rabbinical references in English.  His original writing is also linked below.  (A few of the links require you to sign-in to and to “borrow” the book in order to read it.  The references that I can’t find at the indicated location are marked with a “?”.)

Edersheim may not answer all our questions.  But he helps us understand the background to this discussion among the Jewish people.  Hopefully, this short summary will make it easier to grasp his main points and to find many of his references.

Can We Command God (Isa. 45:11)? (Q&A)

Q:  A classmate sent me an online poster titled “You Will Command Me” (Tetzavuni) and said we can command Jesus to do healing, not ask!  The poster has different translations of Isa. 45:11, including the original Hebrew.  Is this true?  How to explain the Hebrew here? –Ruth C.

NOTE:  The poster includes an English translation from the Darby Bible:  “Thus saith Jehovah, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker: Ask me of the things to come; concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my hands, command ye me” (Isa. 45:11)

A:  It’s certainly true that many translate the end of this verse as “you command me concerning the works of my hands.” But meaning is derived from context, and so we need to look at the context to figure out what this means.   

The passage appears in the middle of a prophecy about Cyrus, the Persian ruler who defeated the Babylonians (in 539 BC).  God says that he will “subdue nations” before Cyrus, even though Cyrus doesn’t know the God of Israel:  “though you have not known me (Isa. 45:1,4).  And why will God support Cyrus in this way?  In order to prove that “besides me there is no God” (Isa. 45:5-6).  Not only does the prophecy mention Cyrus by name, it also mentions that he will rebuild Jerusalem and let the Jewish exiles go free (Isa. 45:13).  These are tremendous miracles that actually happened more than a hundred years after Isaiah’s prophecy was given.

Why did God want to kill Moses (Exo. 4:24-25)? (Q&A)

Q:  About Exodus 4:24-25:  Why did God want to kill Moses? And why did Zipporah cut off her son’s foreskin and cast it at Moses’ feet? Why did she say Moses is truly a “bridegroom of blood”? –Ruth C.

A:  Zipporah called Moses a “bridegroom of blood” because of the circumcision of their son (Exo. 4:26).  This refers to the small amount of blood produced in a circumcision.  But we know little else about this incident. 

It’s especially puzzling that the Lord wanted to put Moses to death, since he was in the process of going to Egypt to do exactly what the Lord had asked him to do (Exo. 4:24).  But something similar happened to the prophet Balaam when he went to prophesy over Israel.  He, too, was on his way in obedience to the command of God (Num. 22:20).  But even though he was obeying God, God was angry with him (Num. 22:22).  In the Balaam story, it’s clear that God wanted to put fear in Balaam’s heart to make sure that he only spoke the words that God wanted him to speak (“and the word that I speak to you, only that will you speak,” Num. 22:35).  So perhaps this is also what God was doing with Moses.  We know that people often go through a big spiritual struggle when God is calling them to do some great thing, and this seems to be what Moses was going through. 

The Lament of the Land (Micah 7)

The judgment of Israel for sin is a common theme in the Bible.  But only rarely is the land itself given a voice to cry out concerning the iniquities committed on it.  This is the unique perspective of Micah 7:  in this chapter, the land itself laments the tragedies that it has and will have to suffer.  

This unusual prophecy caught the imagination of Jesus.  He quoted a portion of it in his own prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem (Matt. 10:34-36, Luke 12:51-53).  It’s outcry of the land contains an important message for us today when people and nations are once again risking spoiling their land through sin and the judgment that follows.

Micah spoke shortly before the devastating Assyrian conquest of the northern kingdom of Israel.  This was the breakaway Israelite kingdom that ruled over the northern ten tribes.  His message came at a time of political turmoil:  The northern kingdom had been ruled by five rulers in the space of twenty years.  Two of these had ruled for less than a year, and three of them had gained the throne by murdering its former occupant.  False prophets filled the land with false hope (Micah 3:5-7).  And this spiritual and moral corruption was spreading south to Judah.  But despite the judgment and destruction that Micah warns is coming, in the end God will restore his people. 

The Lament of the Land is the climax and final chapter of Micah’s prophecy (Micah 7): 

Why was Joseph buried in Shechem? (Q&A)

 Q:  I was rather astonished to realize, in reading Joshua 24, that they buried the bones of Joseph in Shechem instead of in the cave of Machpelah, where Sarah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were buried...  Do a word-search on Shechem and you'll find that it is a rather nefarious place. Why did they bury him there?  I was also a little distressed to realize that Stephen, in the book of Acts, says that Abraham bought the land in Shechem, but Moses wrote that it was Jacob that bought land there. –Sarah P.

A:  Welcome to the tension between the north and the south in Israel.  This tension goes all the way back to the division of Saul’s kingdom in the time of David, a division that reemerged when the kingdom was divided again after the death of Solomon.  It then reappears in the time of the New Testament in the tension between the Samaritans in the north and the Judeans in the south.  Among these tensions were some different and conflicting traditions. 

What does this have to do with Shechem?  Let’s begin with the burial place of the twelve patriarchs, the sons of Jacob, one of whom was Joseph.  Acts 7:16 implies that they were all buried in Shechem:  “And they [the antecedent of “they” is “our fathers” in vs. 15] were removed to Shechem and laid in the tomb that Abraham had purchased for a sum of money from the sons of Hamor in Shechem.”*  That the brothers were buried in Shechem certainly makes sense, as the children of Israel under Joshua came into possession of this area before they did of Hebron.  And it seems logical that they would bury the others where Joseph was buried: “And they buried the bones of Joseph, which the sons of Israel brought up from Egypt, at Shechem” (Joshua 24:32).  However, the Bible only mentions the bones of Joseph being brought along in the Exodus: “And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him” (Exo. 13:19).  Nothing is said, except in the book of Acts, about the burial of his brothers.