Friday, October 23, 2015

The Self-Harmony of the Bible - 2 (Part Five)

Did Sarah Have Faith?
            “By faith also Sarah received power to conceive offspring, even when she was past the age, since she considered Him faithful who made the promise,” says Hebrews 11:11 (NWT). However, the skeptic tauntingly says, “How may this be reconciled with the clear account of Sarah’s lack of faith?” He alludes to Genesis 18:12-15 (NWT), which says: “So Sarah began to laugh to herself, saying: “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I really have this pleasure?” Then Jehovah said to Abraham: “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Am I really going to give birth even though I am old?’ Is anything too extraordinary for Jehovah? I will return to you next year at this appointed time, and Sarah will have a son.” But Sarah denied it, saying, “I did not laugh!” for she was afraid. At this he said: “Yes! You did laugh.””
            Some suggest that Sarah was not laughing at the incongruous nature of the promise, but with joy. This, while I think is not that likely. However, it seems that Abraham did this kind of joyful laughing. (Genesis 17:17) And while proof for this position is said to be found at Genesis 21:6 (NWT) where Sarah says: “God has brought me laughter; everybody hearing of it will with me.” I think that the natural connection would be that she was laughing for a new reason than she did before. She remembered her initial (and short-lived) shock or disbelief and is playing off of it on account of her joyful laughter, a realization of the faith she possessed.
            Yes, I suggest that Sarah may have be amazed to think that such a thing was possible, but as Jehovah showed by his ability to read her heart and especially in reminding her of who he was, God Almighty, that nothing is “to extraordinary for Jehovah.” Then he again said, “I will return to you next year at this appointed time.”[1] Sarah did not engage Jehovah in conversation other to deny that she laughed in the first place.[2] Whether at that instant, or when she and Abraham tried to conceive, or sometime in between, she gained faith – I cannot say. However, it is clear that from the time Jehovah spoke to the time that Isaac was conceive and beyond, Sarah reflected on the incident and gained the faith that Paul praises her for. Therefore, there is no contradiction in not having faith in the promise at the time it is spoken, and building that faith so as to receive the benefits of it when the time came.

Was Ishmael a Child When He Left?
            Do skeptics assume that the Bible was written in English, or that the Hebrew words, which in actuality often only roughly correspond to English words, mean exactly the same thing as their English counterparts? They say that there is no way that Ishmael was a mere child or boy anymore when he left. The scriptures in question are: Genesis 21:14 – which calls him “the boy,” Genesis 17:24-26 – which shows that he was 13 when Abraham was 99,[3] making him 19 when he left (14 according to the skeptic, though the “contradiction” could be argued in either case, especially if he was 19).
            The thing to consider, that which skeptics have not, is that the Hebrew word “child” does not refer merely to an infant or pre-pubescent children, but can go as far as those who are youths or young men. For example, Joseph was called “child” when he was 17. (Genesis 42:22) This word, incidentally, is ye’ledh. There is no contradiction in saying that Ishmael was 19, or 14 and yet a “child.”

Was Jacob brought out of Egypt or Did he Die There?
            Jehovah promised Jacob: “I am the true God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I myself will also bring your back from there, and Joseph will lay his hand on your eyes [after you die].” (Genesis 46:3,4 NWT) So, the skeptic, despite the previously mentioned precedent that “one’s self” includes one’s descendants in a sense, assumes that Jacob had to be literally brought back to Canaan while alive.[4]
            That is why he says that Genesis 49:33 (NWT), which says: “Jacob finished giving these instructions to his sons. Then he drew his feet up onto the bed and breathed his last and was gathered to his people,”[5] contradicts Jehovah’s promise. Of course there is no contradiction since Jehovah meant no such thing, nor did Jacob think that he did.

Did Cain Struggle or Prosper After Being Banished?
            Cain was punished with banishment for killing his brother. Genesis 4:11,12 (NWT) records Jehovah’s words: “And now you are cursed in banishment from the ground that has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you cultivate the ground, it will not give you back its produce. You will become a wanderer and a fugitive in the earth.” Therefore, the skeptic is confused when it says: “Cain went away from before Jehovah and took up residence in the land of Exile, to the east of Eden. Afterward Cain had sexual relations with his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch [not the prophet]. Then he engaged in building a city and named the city after his son Enoch.” (Genesis 4:16,17 NWT) This hardly seems likes banishment, or that he was withering.
            The first thing is to note that Cain was not cursed with being a wanderer and fugitive, for he said to Jehovah: “The punishment for my error is too great to bear. Today you are driving me from your face; and I will become a wanderer and a fugitive on the earth, and anyone who finds me will certainly kill me.” Jehovah then said, “For that reason, anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times.” And “Jehovah set up a sign for Cain in order that no one finding him would strike him.” – Genesis 4:13-15
            Therefore, while Cain was exiled, he was not to be a fugitive, which would have been necessary if someone might try to kill him. But since this was no longer the case he could then afford to remain in one location. Anyone, who otherwise would want to kill him, would not, and his descendants would not be likely to do so – regardless of the mark – so he could build a city.
            However, this is not inconsistent with his still extant punishment (that the ground would withhold produce from him). This city, at first was not great – the text does not indicate that it ever became great. All it says is that he engaged in building a city after his being exiled, which does not mean that he was growing crops. He simply built a city, and had to find food other ways, scavenging, hunting or gleaning from where he could. His building a city is no indication that he prospered. Neither was punished by withering, only that he couldn’t grow crops and was banished from the land where he killed Abel.

[1] Perhaps it is just non-deliberate word choice, but I think it is of note that Jehovah now says, “this appointed time.” I am implying that Jehovah wished to make the wording of the promise reflect his statement that it was going to happen, for he was Jehovah, to instill faith in Sarah’s heart.

[2] Why would she do this if she was laughing with joy, and why did Jehovah address her laughing for joy, but not Abraham’s when he did the same thing?

[3] Thus making Isaac about 19 when he left. As for why the skeptic I am refuting from in this case said 14, I cannot say anything other than he read to hastily. He likely overlooked the phrase “Now the child [Isaac] grew and was weaned” – and assumed a young age of about six months to a year, but considering the chronology of the bible require that he be five, which is  no out of harmony with nursing practices, we must assume that he was five. (Genesis 21:8) For example in the book of Maccabees 7:27 a child was nursed for three years. Five years, while stretching it, as it were, was not impossible, therefore it is reasonable to give the Bible the benefit of any doubt that we might have. Isaac was five when Ishmael was expelled.

[4] He was brought back for burial.
[5] A poetic expression for dying.

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