Category Archives: Uncategorized

WHEN THE TEMPTER CAME

When Jesus had just been baptized by John in the Jordan river, continuing to fulfill all righteousness (Matt. 3:15), then the heavens opened and the Spirit of God descended in a bodily shape like a dove and lighted upon Him. Magnifying this already awesome event, the voice of God spoke from heaven saying “This is My Beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:13-17). It was immediately after this that the Lord was led of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil (Matt. 4:1). There Jesus fasted for forty days and was hungry and weak (Matt. 4:2). During these forty days in the wilderness, the tempter came to Him. The following are at least some of the lessons we can learn from this account.

First, the tempter comes to us at our weakest moments. It was not a coincidence that the tempter came to Jesus when He had been fasting for forty days and was surely in a weakened condition. Generally speaking, experience has taught us that forty days nears the limits of man’s ability to safely fast. After this, serious health issues arise and death is a real possibility. Jesus was physically and mentally exhausted. When this particular temptation was over, He apparently needed the assistance of the angels, for they are found ministering unto Him (Matt. 4:11; Mark 1:13). But even in this depleted and weakened condition, Jesus was still able to overcome these temptations.

Second, the tempter comes to us when we least expect it. These temptations came right after Jesus had received approval from God in heaven. It was a glorious moment for the Lord, quite unlike His time on the cross when He cried out “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Matt. 27:45,46). Here, God proclaimed His approval for His beloved Son, as He did at the the mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17:1ff). It was similar to His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, when all men proclaimed Him as Messiah. Yet very soon afterword, they were calling for His crucifixion (Matt. 21:8-11; 27:20-25). It was soon after this emotional, glorious and joyous event that satan attacked. Be sober for your adversary as a roaring lion seeketh whom he may devour ( I Pet. 5:8).

The tempter hits us at our weakest points. Due to His fasting, Jesus was particularly hungry during His wilderness stay (Matt. 4:2). It is no wonder then that the tempter tempted Him to make bread out of stones. Perhaps, in the Lord’s mind, as hungry as He was, when He saw a stone it resembled bread to Him and the tempter used this association to get Jesus to think about actually giving in to this urge. On another occasion, Jesus was anxious about going to Jerusalem and suffering many things at the hand of the priests and being crucified (Matt. 16:21). When Peter urged Him not to go, it was a great temptation to Him and He rebuked Peter for it (Matt. 16:23). He did not need the further hindrances to His work.

The tempter is the tempter, not God. James said, “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed (James 1:13,14). Two things to note. First, the devil actively tempts us. Jesus was led into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil, not God. God does not tempt any man. It is God Who makes a way of escape (I Cor. 10:13). Second, man, himself, is also responsible, for it is his own lusts that lure him into situations of temptation.

The tempter does not quit tempting. Luke tells us that the tempter departed from Jesus after these temptations but only “for a season” (Luke 4:13). Jesus said the apostles had continued with Him in His “temptations,” plural, not singular (Luke 22:18). The devil does not let up on us. He goes about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (I Pet. 5:8). Paul says we need the shield of faith to quench, not just one single dart, but “all” the fiery darts (plural) of the wicked (Eph. 6:16). We must resist him steadfast in the faith because he will not let up on his attack (I Pet. 5:9).

The tempter can be resisted. In every case, Jesus resisted the devil’s temptations. Some have said He could do this because He was divine. But if that is the reason, then He can no longer be our example, for we are not divine (at least not in the same sense He was). Jesus took on Himself the seed of Abraham, being made like unto His brethren in all things that He might destroy the devil and his work (Heb. 2:14-18). He was tempted in all points “like as we are,” touched with every feeling of our infirmities, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15).

When the tempter comes, what will we do? God commands us not to sin (I John 2:1). Our human weaknesses, however, often give us trouble. We have the example of our Saviour who overcame temptation. Temptations will surely come but as Jesus suffered being tempted, He is able to succour them that are tempted (Heb. 2:18). We have but to resist the devil and he will flee from us (James 4:7).

 

Eric L. Padgett

CORNELIUS

Luke highlights the conversion of Cornelius because of its value in describing the universality of the gospel, but in so doing he also describes in one man a series of admirable qualities, those to which any sober-minded man would gladly aspire. By virtue of being a Roman centurion, he had to possess in himself unmistakable and remarkable qualities of leadership and submission. William Barclay quotes an unnamed ancient historian who describes the qualifications of a Roman centurion: “Centurions are desired not to be overbold and reckless so much as good leaders, of steady and prudent mind, not prone to take the offensive to start fighting wantonly, but able when overwhelmed and hard-pressed to stand fast and die at their posts.”

A Roman legion consisted of six thousand men. Each legion was then divided into ten cohorts of six hundred men. A cohort was divided into three bands and each band into two centuries. As a centurion, Cornelius was over one of these centuries, or one hundred men (eighty soldiers and 20 servants), and demonstrated both submission to authority and leadership skills. The band to which Cornelius was attached was called the Italian band, probably because it consisted of those who were from Italy. There was a well known and esteemed patrician family in Rome by the name of Cornelia and many commentators suggest the possibility that Cornelius was connected with that family.

Cornelius was not only a capable military leader, but he had personal qualities that endeared him to the people. Luke records that he had “a good report among all the nations of the Jews” (Acts 10:22). Luke further records that he was a just man, and one that feared God, gave much alms to the people and prayed to God alway (Acts 10:2, 22). This was not altogether uncommon, for another centurion during Jesus’ day had supported the Jews and had even built them a sysnagogue (Luke 7:1-5). It was said that he “loved our nation” and was worthy to receive an answer to his request (vv. 4,5). Cornelius was also such a man.

There has been much discussion over the religious state of Cornelius. Some have tried to make Cornelius a Jewish proselyte. But the truth of the matter is the Text no where states that Cornelius was a proselyte to the Jewish faith. In fact, it rather states the opposite. Albert Barnes outlines the reasons well: “But there is no sufficient evidence of this. The reception of the narrative of Peter, Acts 11:1-3, shows that the other apostles regarded him as a Gentile. In Act 10:28, Peter evidently regards him as a foreigner – one who did not in any sense esteem himself to be a Jew. In Acts 11:1, it is expressly said that ‘the Gentiles’ had received the Word of God, evidently alluding to Cornelius and to those who were with him.” The Pulpit Commentary observes, “he is spoken of simply as a Gentile and uncircumcised. . .he was in no sense a proselyte.”

And yet the Text speaks of him as a “devout” and “just” man and as one “that feared God” and “prayed to God alway” (Acts 10:1,2,22). His prayers went up to God as a memorial (Acts 10:4). Since he wasn’t a Christian yet, and since he wasn’t a proselyte, then how could he be described as devout? Brother Woods answers that “the only conclusion harmonizing the difficulties of the case” is that Cornelius “was worshipping God under the system of patriarchy” (Questions and Answers Open Forum Freed-Hardeman College Lectures, 1976).

It does seem either that 1) Cornelius was under the law of patriarchy and his prayers were offered while he was still amenable to that system, and God heard them with a view to answering them or 2), his prayers simply went up to God as a memorial and God arranged mercifully in His providence for Cornelius to hear the gospel of Christ, as He does for all those that seek Him (e.g., II Pet. 3:9). For more discussion on Cornelius and his prayer see Does God Hear The Alien Sinner’s Prayer?

Regardless of the answer, it is significant that God chose Cornelius of all the Gentiles in the world to be the first to be brought into the body, thus fulfilling the mystery that “in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; That the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel” (Ephesians 3:5-6). This alone speaks volumes of his character. God only chooses the right people for the job, and Cornelius was that man.

The Lord’s approval of him, and all those that likewise trusted in Him there that day, is seen in His bestowing the gift of the Holy Spirit on Cornelius even before he had obeyed the gospel (Acts 10:44-48). This pouring out of the gift of the Holy Ghost (not the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which was reserved for the apostles alone – John 14:26; 16:13), without the laying on of their hands (Acts 8:18), demonstrated that God had granted unto the Gentiles repentance unto life (Acts 11:18). The conversion of Cornelius demonstrated to Peter that God was “no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with Him (Acts 10:34,35).

Eric L. Padgett

PONTIUS PILATE

Did Jesus stand before Pontius Pilate or did Pilate stand before Jesus? Of course, the Bible states that Jesus stood before Pilate (Matt. 27:11; I Tim. 6:13), and from the perspective of the world, this is what happened. Jesus stood before Pilate and was judged by him. Pilate even tried to reiterate to Jesus the power he thought he had over Him by reminding Him that he had the “power to crucify” or to release Him (John 19:10). But Jesus meekly declared that “Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above” (John 19:11). Pilate unwittingly played an important role in the unfolding scheme of redemption.

The name “Pontius” was an old name among the Samnites in central Italy, and it may be Pilate’s family came from this region. He was from the upper middle class (Equestrian). He became procurator of Judea in 26 A.D. and continued thus till 36 A.D. As Procurator or Governor, he had four main duties. He was responsible for the collection of taxes for the emperor (supervising the local Judaean tax collectors or publicans), he managed the provincial books, he was the supreme judge of the province and he commanded a small army. He was under the Governor of Syria and when he needed military help he could call on him for aid. For the first six years of his administration of Judea, however, the Syrian governor was absent and Pilate was on his own.

Five major historical sources give us information on Pontius Pilate. The first and most trustworthy is the Bible, the second is Josephus, the third is Philo, the fourth is Tacitus and the final source is an inscription in stone called the Pilate Stone. The latter is a moderately sized solid block of inscribed limestone that was discovered in 1961 in Caesarea Maritima. The inscription, though somewhat damaged by time, describes Pilate as the prefect of the province of Judaea, confirming the Biblical account. Tacitus refers to the fact that Christ “suffered the extreme penalty…at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilate” (The Annals, 15, 44), not only confirming the historicity of Pilate, but also of Christ.

The references to Pilate in Philo and Josephus are not very kind. Philo, if we can trust his as an unbiased assessment, describes “his corruption, and his acts of insolence, and his rapine, and his habit of insulting people, and his cruelty, and his continual murders of people untried and uncondemned, and his never ending, and gratuitous, and most grievous inhumanity” (ON THE EMBASSY TO GAIUS 40:XXXV:III:302)  Josephus is far less explicit but does seem to place Pilate in an unfavorable light, as when he describes how Pilate provoked the Jews to riots by using temple treasure for an aqueduct and then beat them down to quell their protests.

The Pilate revealed in the New Testament, however, is much less depraved than he is depicted in the external sources. The scriptures in no way absolve him of the role he played in the crucifixion of Jesus. An event not recorded by either Philo or Josephus is included in the New Testament which suggests an act of great violence on his part (Luke 13:1). But as corrupt and insolent and insulting as he may have been, Pilate seemingly wanted to set Jesus free because he saw no fault in Him (Luke 23:4). It suggests that he maintained some sense of justice. In fact, Jesus stated that those who delivered Him to Pilate had the greater sin (John 19:11).

For example, on the recommendation of the Jewish Sanhedrin, Pilate could have legally acquiesced to their demands and sentenced Jesus to immediate death. Instead, the Record shows that Pilate tried multiple times to spare Jesus from that capital penalty. The Jewish leadership clamored for Jesus’ death and stirred up the people to call for Jesus to be crucified (Luke 23:21). It was only when Pilate’s opposition to Jesus’ death was used against him to suggest Pilate was no longer Caesar’s friend that, Pilate, in fear, relented of his opposition and washed his hands of the whole matter (John 19:12).

Perhaps Pilate’s great sin in the matter of Jesus was weakness. He did not possess the moral courage to stand against the pressure exerted by the Jewish council. His own wife called Jesus a “just man” and implored her husband to have nothing to do with Him (Matt. 27:19). He knew Herod had found no fault in Jesus (Luke 23:13-16). He knew the charges against Jesus were false and that the council’s only motive was envy (Matt. 27:18). Even when he could find no fault in Jesus, he allowed Him to be crucified. Yet, even in this, how much different was he than the apostle Peter who denied the Lord even though he knew Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God (Matt. 16:13-19)?

Peter, who had first hand knowledge of these things, said that while Pilate was “determined” to let Jesus go the “men of Israel . . . desired a murderer to be granted” freedom, meaning Barabbas (Matt. 27:21; Acts 3:13,14). Nevertheless, he doesn’t leave Pilate without culpability. He next quotes the second Psalm which describes the kings and rulers of the earth taking counsel against the Lord and against His anointed and applying this to Pilate, Herod, the Gentiles and the Jews (Acts 4:24-30). We are all guilty before the Lord (Rom. 3:23).

Two thousand years ago Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate, governor of Judea, in his judgment hall and received the biased judgement of men. Sometime in our future Pilate, Herod, the Jews and all men will stand before the Lord of heaven and earth in the Day of Judgement and receive the righteous judgement of God (Rev. 20:11-15). We will not be able to wash our hands and declare our innocence but we will need to be washed in the blood of the Lamb (Acts 22:16; Rev. 1:5).

Eric L. Padgett

EZRA

Ezra was a good servant of the Lord and he was also a brilliant scholar of God’s word. He was described as “a ready [or brilliant or diligent – ELP] scribe in the Law of Moses” (7:5), a “scribe of the law of the God of Heaven” (7:12,21), and “a scribe of the words of the Commandments of the Lord and of his statutes to Israel” (7:11). He was multi-lingual and able to translate Hebrew into  Aramaic so that the people, which had for decades been in captivity and had forgotten much of their native tongue, could clearly understand (Neh. 8:8).  His ability to expound upon the meaning is also suggested.

He traced his lineage back to Aaron, brother of Moses (7:1-5), and was the descendant of Hilkiah the priest which found the book of the law of Moses in the temple ruins during the days of King Josiah (7:1;II Kings 22:4-1). The name Ezra means “help,” though it probably is a shortened form of Azariah, which means “God has helped.” His skills as a scribe were undoubtedly derived from natural abilities he already possessed, and from gifts with which the Lord had blessed him, but they also resulted from the fact that he had “prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord” (7:10).

One hundred and forty-eight years prior to Ezra’s work, in 606 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, besieged Jerusalem and put king Jehoikim in chains (Dan. 1:1,2; II Chron. 36:6-8; II Kings 24). Seventy years later, in 536 B.C., Cyrus, king of Persia, allowed the Jews to return to their land to rebuild the temple (II Chron. 36:22,23; Ezra 1:1-4), just as Jeremiah had prophesied (Jer. 25:8-12; 29:10-12). Zerubbabel and Joshua, the high priest, led a group of captives back, laid the foundation of the temple and built the altar and then completed the temple around 515 B.C. (5:2). The prophets Haggai and Zechariah prophesied during this time (Hag. 1:1; Zech. 1:1) and the events of Esther took place (cir. 479 B.C.).

In 458 B.C., Ezra led a smaller group of captives back to Jerusalem. He assembled his contingency by the banks of the river Ahava for three day and fasted and sought of God the right way to proceed (8:21). As Ezra left to return back to Jerusalem, he put his trust in God for his protection. He felt ashamed to ask the king for protection, for he had boasted to him that God would deliver them and would protect them (8:22,23). It took four months for Ezra to make the journey and God did watch over them (7:9).

When Ezra made it back to Jerusalem, he found that the people had not separated themselves from the people of the land and were continuing their ways which led to the captivity in the beginning. He rent his clothes and plucked his hairs because of the sins of the people in marrying into the heathen culture and practicing their evil ways. Ashamed of their sins, he cried out in prayer to God. He observed that God had been merciful to them and that they had been punished less than their sins deserved (9:1-15).

As Ezra was praying and weeping before the house of God, he was pleasantly surprised by a large group of Jews who also come weeping and lamenting their sins (10:1). Then one of them, one Shechaniah, encouraged Ezra and desired the Jews to put away their strange wives and the children born to them. How difficult it must have been for these men to put away their wives, and in some cases their children which they had by these women. But this is what they did because they wanted to serve the Lord and be right with Him.

At this point the account of Ezra goes silent for a little over a decade. It is not until the wall is completed under Nehemaiah that Ezra makes another appearance (Neh. 8). He is called upon by the people to bring the book of the law of Moses and read it before the people (8:1). But because the people had been so long in captivity, they did not understand their own native tongue and as Ezra the scribe read from the law, standing on a pulpit of wood, he had to translate it for the people to understand (Neh. 8:1-8).

The time in which Ezra grew up saw an increased emphasis upon learning and scholarship. Ezra is a case in point. It was during his days that the synagogue was probably formed and, according to Jewish tradition, Ezra was responsible for helping to collect and edit the Old Testament canon as we know it.  Clearly, by the time of the Christ, the canon of the Old Testament was settled (Luke 24:44).

Eric L. Padgett

JEREMIAH

JEREMIAH

It was as cold and wet outside as a late November and early December day (Hebrew month of Chislev), but the king sat in his enclosed, winter quarters, warming himself by the fire pit (36:22). The princes were all in the room as well as some of the king’s servants and Jehudi had just returned with the scroll that Baruch had written as Jeremiah dictated the words of the prophecies he had pronounced years earlier (36:4). When three or four leaves of the prophecy were read aloud in the king’s hearing, either Jehudi or Jehoiakim, the king, cut the papyrus scroll in pieces and brazenly cast it into the fire.

The one person not literally in the room but on everyone’s mind was Jeremiah the prophet. Jeremiah (“Jah will raise”) was initially reluctant in his role as prophet. When he was first called by the Lord he used Moses’ old excuse, “I cannot speak” but the Lord exploded that feeble argument (1:6-10; cf. Ex. 4:10). During his service as the Lord’s prophet he despaired when the people derided and mocked him daily (20:7). Like Job, he even cursed the day he was born (20:14-17). At one point he became so distraught that he attempted to refrain from speaking, but God’s word was as a fire shut up in his bones and he could not keep quiet (20:9).

But Jeremiah was young when the Lord called him to speak to His people, perhaps around twenty years of age (1:6). From the first, the Lord told him that his task would not be an easy one. He was warned not to be dismayed though he was going to be opposed by the people (1:17). The Lord told him that the people of the land, the priests, the princes, the kings, even the whole land would fight against him (1:18). Even his townsmen and family opposed him (11:21,12:6).

His message would not be a popular one. The Lord had established his covenant with His people and a curse was placed on all those that did not obey (11:1-7). And yet their history was one of rebellion and disobedience (11:8-10). Because they had continuously disobeyed, the Lord was going to bring evil upon them from which they would not be able to escape (11:11-17). The Lord would bring Babylon against them and they would serve them for seventy years (25:8-11). Because of this message, he suffered much at the hand of his enemies. He was thrown into stocks, cast in prison, he was thrown into a pit and his life was sought by his enemies (20:1-3; 33:1; 37:15-21; 38:6-13; 11:18-21).

This opposition came a little later in his work, however. Initially, as he prophesied under Josiah, he was relatively free from trouble. The young and good king Josiah had taken the throne and had begun drastic reforms in the land (II Kings 22,23). But though Josiah was sincere in his reforms and in his personal conduct, the hearts of the people in the land were not converted for immediately after Josiah’s death, the people began to revert back to their old ways. When Josiah died, Jeremiah lamented his death (II Chron. 35:25).

There were other prophets in the land beside Jeremiah. Many of them. But the vast majority of those prophets prophesied falsely (5:28). “From the least of them even unto the greatest of them every one [was] given to covetousness;” said Jeremiah, “and from the prophet even unto the priest every one [dealt] falsely” (Jer. 6:13). They all cried “Peace! Peace! When there was no peace” (6:14). Jeremiah warned them of the coming judgment and captivity. He implored them to “Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein” (Jeremiah 6:16).

After Jehoiakim had burned the scroll, the Lord spoke to Jeremiah again and had him write once more all the words that were on the first scroll with the addition of new judgments against Judah (36:28,32; cf. Rev. 22:18,19). It was shear folly to think that God’s word could be destroyed or that God’s judgment could be avoided by not paying heed to it (Matt. 24:36; Psalm 12:5-8). You can’t hide from God by ignoring His word. You just can’t hide from God (Heb. 4:13)! Period.

However, not everything that Jeremiah wrote promised judgement, destruction and death. The very judgements passed were immersed in divine love, enduring mercy and hope. “I have loved thee with an everlasting love” (31:3). “I will surely have mercy upon him” (31:20). “There is hope in thine end” (31:17). While His people had broken His covenant God was going to make a new covenant that would be planted in the heart and where the sins and iniquities would be remembered no more (31:31-34). The Righteous Branch would be raised up and in His days Judah and Israel would be saved (23:5,6).

Eric L. Padgett

ISAIAH

What an awe-inspiring vision it must have been, this vision of the Lord which Isaiah saw. He beheld the Lord “sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple” (6:1). He said “mine eyes have seen the King, Jehovah of hosts” (6:5). The majesty of the scene, the splendor of His appearance, the grandeur and the radiance of His presence shook the very foundations of the temple and filled Isaiah with a sense of uncleanness and weakness (6:4,5). Even the seraphim were overcome with the glory of the sight and burst out in refrains of praise for the holiness of the Lord (6:3).

By his own accounting, Isaiah, the son of Amoz (“strong”), prophesied during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah (Is. 1:1). If, as tradition states (though not stated in scripture), he also continued during the reign of Manasseh, his tenure as a prophet of the Lord was anywhere from forty to over sixty years. Whether or not the vision above is a record of his first vision or a subsequent one is also not clear. This particular vision occurred during the year the king died (6:1), but he begins the prophecy by saying he saw these visions during the “days” of Uzziah, Jotham, etc (1:1).

Another tradition surrounding Isaiah says that he was the cousin of Uzziah, making him of royal blood. It seems as though he had easy access to the king and those in positions of authority (7:1-4; 8:2). He was married and he called his wife a prophetess (8:3), either because she was married to him or because she, herself, was given visions as other, faithful women had been (e.g., Jud. 4:4; II Kings 22:14). He had at least two sons, Mahershalalhashbaz meaning “swift (to the) prey,” and Shearjashub meaning “a remnant will return.” His sons helped him in his prophesying (8:18). If he was of royal blood, he nevertheless shunned the trappings, for he wore sackcloth (20:2). He also authored two other books, biographies of the kings, one of Uzziah and the other of Hezekiah (II Chron. 26:22; 32:32).

One final tradition that should be mentioned, though it has not the force of scripture, is that he is said to have suffered martyrdom under the reign of Manasseh by being sawn in half with a wooden saw. Justin Martyr mentions this tradition. Paul’s mention of those who were “sawn asunder” may be an allusion to this act (Heb. 11:37). Many commentators believe so.

The name Isaiah means “saved by Jehovah” or “the salvation of Jehovah.” Though not the same name, his name has the same meaning as the name of Jesus, which means “saviour” (Matt. 1:21). This is most fitting for many commentators have seen “salvation” as the theme of his writings. “Salvation” is mentioned twenty-eight times in the book of Isaiah, for example, whereas it is mentioned only once in the book of Jeremiah and not even once in Ezekiel. Isaiah is often referred to as the Messianic prophet and the book of Isaiah is indeed the most often quoted book in the New Testament in relation to the Messiah and His everlasting Kingdom.

In this vision, though Isaiah feels unworthy, unclean and weak, yet his sins are symbolically cleansed with a coal from the altar (6:7). Then, when the Lord asks for someone to go to His people, Isaiah immediately responds “Here am I; send me” (6:8). Isaiah was willing to go, to do the will of Jehovah. Someone has said that Isaiah is the evangelist of the Old Testament. Linguistic scholars also observe that he is distinguished from all other writing prophets for his literary and poetic talents. For instance, his portrayal of the Suffering Servant is both beautiful and unmistakably clear.

Isaiah’s commission is a difficult one. He is told to go tell this people, “Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed” (Is. 6:9-10). In effect, the more Isaiah preached the truth, the more the people rejected it. This is true for all ages and all men. Noah was rejected. So were Ezekiel and Jeremiah (Jer. 1:17-19). Zechariah was rejected (II Chron. 24:20,21). Paul was rejected (Gal. 4:16). The list could go on (Matt. 23:35-39).

The passage, however, finds it’s greatest fulfillment in Christ for He came unto His own and His own received Him not (John 1:11). John quotes from Isaiah six immediately after he observes that though Christ did “so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on Him” (John 12:37). He says that their unbelief happened that the saying of Esaias might be fulfilled and quotes Isaiah 6:9,10. Then, quite amazingly, as John speaks of Jesus rejection by the Jews, he says “these things said Esaias, when he saw His glory, and spake of Him” (John 12:41). When Isaiah saw the Lord high and lifted up, when he saw the King, Jehovah of Hosts, he saw the Christ! Will you believe Him or will your ears and eyes and heart be closed to the truth?

Eric L. Padgett

JONAH

In Jonah’s day, Nineveh was an “exceeding great city” having a large population (Jon. 3:3; 4:11; cf. Deut. 1:39). Moses mentioned first Nineveh as being built by Asshur, the son of Shem (Gen. 10:11, 22). The children of Asshur then became the Assyrians of which Nineveh became the capitol. Nahum says it was a rich city through commercial enterprise (Nah. 2:8,9; 3:16). However, it was a city full of sin, full of lies and robbery (Nah. 3:1), witchcraft (Nah. 3:4) and idolatry (Nah. 1:14). It was to this city that Jonah was sent by God.

The only man in the Bible named Jonah, meaning “dove,” was the son of Amittai from Gath-hepher, a city of Zebulon (II Kings 14:25). Gath hepher, “wine press of the well,” is today a “small set of ruins” about three miles north of Nazareth in the Galilee district near Mashhad, Israel. Jonah and Jesus grew up in the same area. There is near this site one of the several purported tombs of the prophet Jonah. He was possibly one of the earliest of the writing prophets following Elisha.

Jonah had apparently prophesied in Israel concerning the restoration of the territory once given to the children of Israel in fulfillment of the prophecy to Abram (Gen. 15:18). This prophecy was first fulfilled in Solomon (I Kings 8:65) and the territory, after having been lost (e.g, II Kings 13:25), was then restored in fulfillment of Jonah’s prophecy (II Kings 14:25). It was only after his successful mission to Israel that the Lord sent Jonah over 500 miles away to Nineveh. It was a mission that Jonah did not want to undertake.

So “Jonah arose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord” (Jon. 1:3). Jonah, as a prophet of the Lord, must have known that no man can hide himself from God (Jer. 23:24; Psalm 139:7-10; Heb. 4:12). Indeed, he admits as much (Jon. 1:10-12). But it has been a human reflex to hide from the face of God knowing you have done wrong instead of facing His Holiness and judgment (e.g., Gen. 3:8-10; Rev. 6:15,16). Jonah intended to flee as far as he could from Nineveh in the northeast to Tarshish, in Spain. But his plan was to fail.

With Jonah’s admission that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord (1:10), and his own solution of being cast overboard to spare the ship (1:12), God had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah (1:17). For three days and nights Jonah cried out to God from the belly of hell (2:2). His prayer of fear and hope and of terror and trust is recorded in the second chapter of his book. After three days and nights, at God’s word, the great fish vomited Jonah upon dry ground. Jesus used this episode of Jonah’s life to foreshadow His own resurrection from the dead (Matt. 12:40).

Given a new lease on life, Jonah is again commanded by God to go to Nineveh and “preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee” (Jon. 3:1). Instead of fleeing in the opposite direction, this time Jonah heads toward Nineveh and begins to preach “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown” (3:4). Jonah must have been an effective and persuasive preacher because the people of Nineveh believed God and turned from their evil way (Jon. 3:10). And because they repented and God saw their works, God also repented of the promised destruction (Jon. 3:10).

This should have pleased Jonah. Instead, “it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry” (Jon. 4:2). The commentaries provide a host of possible reasons for Jonah’s anger, but the answer must lie in Jonah’s response: “Therefore I fled before The unto Tarshish: for I knew that Thou are a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest Thee of evil” (4:2). Jonah fled because he knew God was merciful. These words suggest that Jonah sought the destruction of Nineveh. Furthermore, God’s words “Should I not spare Nineveh…” suggest the same idea.

The fact that the Lord used the repentance of Nineveh against the Jewish leaders of His day, demonstrates what a poignant example Nineveh had become. Jesus said “The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here” (Matthew 12:41). A greater than Jonas is here. Will you repent?

Eric L. Padgett

REHOBOAM

Life in Israel under Solomon had been a mixed experience. His focus on building projects, commerce and alliances with other nations had made Israel extremely prosperous. Solomon had become so prosperous, in fact, that it was said that silver was made as common as stones in Jerusalem (I Kings 10:27). He was renown the world over for his wisdom and dignitaries from around the world sought to hear his wisdom and, in turn, brought gifts of silver and gold, and garments and armor, and spices and horses and mules (I Kings 10:23-25). Rehoboam inherited such a kingdom and such wealth.

However, there was another side to Solomon’s kingdom. In building such a kingdom, Solomon had to levy men out of all the children of Israel, thirty thousand men, and a third of them were put to work in Lebanon for a month every three months in gathering materials for the building of the temple (I Kings 5:13,14). Solomon’s building projects were many and required much manpower (I Kings 9:15-19, 24).

Though made up of the Canaanite tribes left in the land, Solomon also used one hundred fifty thousand as forced slaves (I Kings 5:15; II Chron. 2:17,18) and over these he set Israelite task masters to the tune of three thousand six hundred. Taxes were such that when the people came to Rehoboam’s coronation, they requested that the burdens which his father had placed on them be lightened, indicating Solomon had made things quite difficult for the people.

Besides all this, throughout the course of Solomon’s reign, he had curiously let slip away both his trust in Jehovah and God’s confidence in him. For “the LORD was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the LORD God of Israel, which had appeared unto him twice, And had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods: but he kept not that which the LORD commanded” (I Kings 11:9-10). Like his father he desired many wives and had eighteen wives and sixty concubines (II Chron. 11:21,23).

Rehoboam inherited a kingdom in which, sadly, much of the populace was willing to turn from Jehovah and turn to other gods in Dan and Bethel (I Kings 12:29-33). All the gold and all the glory could not hold Israel together. Previously, faith in God had kept Israel united. Now that faith had been compromised by the sins of Rehoboam’s father and further exacerbated by Rehoboam’s sins.

Apparently, though Solomon had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines, he was Solomon’s only son. No others sons are mentioned, though Solomon had at least two daughters (I Kings 4:11,15). There is no mention of other male rivals for the throne. Perhaps Solomon wanted more children for he wrote that a man is happy that has many children (Psalm 127). Rehoboam’s mother was Naamah, an Ammonite princess (I Kings 14:31). He was born in the last year of David’s life and the first year of Solomon’s reign. The name Rehoboam, quite ironically, means “enlarger of the people,” which is not what happened under him at all.

While Solomon was known for his wisdom, Rehoboam became known for his foolishness. When the people promised their allegiance to Rehoboam if he would but ease their burden, Rehoboam rejected the counsel of his father’s advisors who urged him to listen to their request, and listened to the young men with whom he grew up, who advised him to be harder than was Solomon (I Kings 12:1-11). Rehoboam’s rebuff of the people was the final straw in a series of events that led to the dividing of the kingdom. This was God’s judgment on the house of David for Solomon’s sins (I Kings 11:11-13).

But this was not the end. Though the first three years of Rehoboam’s reign in Judah strengthened his hand (II Chron. 11:17), because of his turning to idolatry, within five years God sent the king of Egypt against him and he despoiled the house of the Lord and the king’s house (I KINGS 14:25-28; II Chron. 12:2-4). This invasion by the king of Egypt and the rending of the kingdom, was a judgment from God because Rehoboam and Israel turned away from God unto idols (II Chron. 12:1-5; I Kings 11:11-13).

The one redeeming quality which we see Rehoboam evince is his final humility. When the king and the princes of Israel heard the Lord’s condemnation by the prophet Shemaiah, they humbled themselves (II Chron. 12:6). While he did evil and did not prepare his heart to seek the Lord (II Chron. 12:14), in the end he showed humility. And as God giveth grace to the humble, God did not destroy them but brought them into servitude instead (II Chron. 12:7,8; James 4:6).

Eric L. Padgett

SOLOMON

Nathan the prophet had told David that through his seed the Lord was going to build a house for His Name (II Sam. 7:12,13). Though not specifically mentioned in Samuel, David states that God intended Solomon to build the earthly house of the Lord in Jerusalem (I Chron. 22:11; 28:5,6; 29:1). God refused David the privilege because he had shed much blood upon the earth (I Chron. 22:8). But though he could not build the house, he prepared for it abundantly before his death (I Chron. 22:5).

Solomon’s ascension to the throne of David was not without some resistance. Adonijah, David’s son by Haggith, following in the footsteps of his half-brother Absalom, offered resistance at first and proclaimed himself king (I Kings 1:5). He was supported by the formidable but aging Joab and by Abiathar the priest (I Kings 1:6). But Nathan perceived the plot and with the aid of Bathsheba thwarted the plan. David proclaimed Solomon king in the ears of all Israel and they rejoiced at the news (I Kings 1:32-40).

Solomon was the son of David and Bathsheba, born to them after the death of their first child. Commentators generally agree, but are not completely united, that Solomon was the second son born to these two parents. However, in the lists given of their children, Solomon is listed fourth (I Chron. 3:5; II Sam. 5:14). Josephus also makes Solomon the last born child of David (“Solomon, my youngest son” – Antiquities 7:14:2). It is possible that Solomon was born later but that he was the one whom the Lord chose to build the House of the Lord. The relationship between Solomon and Bathsheba was very close for he says that he was “tender and only beloved in the sight of my mother” (Prov. 4:3; I Kings 1:13).

We do not know the name of Solomon’s oldest brother, the child who died in infancy, unless he is named in the list of their children as Shimea or Shammua (I Chron. 3:5; II Sam. 5:14). Solomon and his brother Nathan are both listed in the genealogy of the Christ, one through Mary and the other through Joseph (Matt. 1:6; Luke 3:31). The name “Solomon” means “peace”. It comes from the same base as the greeting Shalom! He was to be called Solomon because God was going to give peace and quietness unto Israel in his days (I Chron. 22:9). It is from this line that the Prince of Peace would arise!

From the previous passage, this name seems to be by divine appointment, as does his other name, Jedidiah, given by the prophet Nathan (II Sam. 12:25). The name Jedidiah means “beloved of Jah” (Cf. Psalm 127:2). And so he was (II Sam. 12:24). The name contains the same root as the name David, which means “loving.” Just as Solomon was loved of the Lord, God said of His Only Begotten, “This is My Beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17).

Though we do not know the exact age of Solomon when he ascended the throne, he was evidently still young for David called him “young and tender” (I Chron. 22:5). This is also an indication that Solomon may have been born later. He called himself a little child (I Kings 3:7). He is young enough for David to urge him to show himself a man (I Kings 2:2). Barnes suggests an age between fourteen and twenty-five. Solomon ruled over Israel for forty years (I Kings 11:42). All the days of Solomon, Judah and Israel dwelt safely, had peace on every side and extended the borders of the kingdom to the greatest extent, fulfilling the promise God had given to Abraham (I Kings 4:20-27; Gen. 15:17-21).

Like David, his father, and like Saul, as well, Solomon was very much faithful to the Lord early in his reign. God blessed Solomon with great wisdom, a wisdom which was reknown the world over (I Kings 3:16-28). He truly loved the Lord (I Kings 3:3). Because he asked not for wealth, or the life of his enemies or long life for himself but an understanding heart to judge the people, God blessed him with the things he asked not as well. But like David, Solomon had a weakness for women. He was truly the son of his father. Solomon had a total of one thousand wives, three hundred wives and seven hundred concubines (I Kings 11:3). Sadly, in the end these turned his heart away from the Lord (I Kings 11:1-13).

Solomon was truly one of the great kings in history, but Behold, a greater than Solomon is here, said the Lord (Matt. 12:42). Solomon built the house of the Lord that David wanted to build but could not. But the Lord built His church, the house of the Lord (Matt. 16:18; I Tim. 3:15). This is the tabernacle which the Lord pitched, and not man (Heb. 8:2), the rebuilt tabernacle of David (Amos 9:11). It is the house of the Lord that shall stand forever (Matt. 16:18), an eternal kingdom (II Sam. 7:12,13; Dan. 2:44).

Eric L. Padgett

JOAB

Joab came from a family of warriors. His younger brothers Abishai and Asahel were both noted for their bravery and physical prowess. His father is never mentioned by name but his selpechre was in Bethlehem (II Sam. 2:32), indicating he had already died, perhaps, in battle. His mother was Zeruiah. Twenty-three times the expression son or sons “of Zeruiah” is mentioned in the life of David, showing her importance to Joab and his brothers. Zeruiah, along with Abigail, was the sister of David. However, her father is said to be Nahash, not David’s father Jesse (II Sam. 17:25), leading some to suspect that Zeruaiah was David’s half sister. In any event, the relationship between David and Joab was more than just king and captain of the host for Joab was David’s own nephew.

The first time we are introduced to Joab, is when Abishai is identified as his brother (I Sam. 26:6), indicating, it seems, that Joab was the better known of the two. But the two brothers are one in their thoughts. In this instance, it is Abishai who volunteers to go with David stealthily into the camp of Saul and asks David to let him “smite Saul to the earth.” But David refuses to harm God’s anointed (I Sam. 26:8-11). This pattern will repeat itself on occasion when the sons of Zeruiah seek to kill David’s enemies but David, himself, shows them mercy.

The next time we meet Joab is when he and Abner, Saul’s Captain, allow twelve men from each side to battle, presumably to determine the fate of all the parties involved. But all twelve men die in the contest and a battle ensues in which David’s men rout Saul’s men. Joab always seems to be better than Abner and every other enemy he faces. It is in this battle, however, that Abner kills Asahel, the youngest brother of Joab, and while Joab never forgets this, he sounds a trumpet at Abner’s request to cease hostilities (II Sam. 2:26). In the end, Abner lost three hundred and sixty men; Joab lost only twenty, including his brother, Asahel (II Sam. 2:30,31). But Joab is not the kind of man to forget something like this.

While the conflict between the house of Saul and the house of David continued, Abner seemingly sought to throw his support to the house of David (II Sam. 3:9,10). Whether or not this was a genuine sentiment on Abner’s part, we can not know for certain but David accepted the overtures and received Abner in peace and let him go the same way. But when Joab heard this, he reproved David and insinuated that Abner was only spying on David (II Sam. 3:26). Later, unknown to David, Joab would call for Abner and kill him for his killing of Asahel, his brother (II Sam. 3:27).

Joab was a man of action. Though David had pleaded with his men to be deal kindly with his son Absalom when he rebelled against David, Joab took advantage of the opportunity to end the rebellion once and for all and killed him. Though Joab had earlier helped Absalom come back to David in Jerusalem, he now saw Absalom as a threat to David and the kingdom. When David appeared overly sorrowful at the death of Absalom to the point of causing those in the kingdom to question David’s heart, Joab brought David back to the reality of his reign with a stern rebuke (II Sam. 19:1-7). Joab is the only one who can speak to David as he does.

Later, David would take another, former enemy into his cabinet, Amasa. Amasa was another relative of David, a nephew, the son of his sister Abigail (II Sam. 17:25). From the wording of the Text, he seems to be an illegitimate child and perhaps had been neglected by David. This may explain the reason why he joined Absalom in rebellion against David. But when Absalom’s rebellion was quelled, David, in a spirit of royal magnanimity, and, apparently, with the hopes of getting rid of Joab, offered Amasa Joab’s position as Captain of the Host (II Sam. 19:13).

Joab and Abishai had been grating on David’s sensibilities for some time and David’s frustrations with them burst forth when Shemei, who had cursed David when he was fleeing Absalom now asks for forgiveness. Abishai wants to put Shemei to death for his abuses of the king but David refers to Joab and Abishai as his “adversaries” (II Sam. 19:21,22). It seems that Joab and Abishai’s advice is correct, however, for when David is on his deathbed, he instructs Solomon to “hold him not guiltless” but “bring his hoar head down to the grave with blood” (I Kings 2:9).

There has been a question about Joab for a long time among Bible students. Was Joab a bad person or was he a good person? Perhaps the truth lies somewhere in the middle. He could be deadly and ruthless, but he was fiercely loyal to the house of David. He was jealous of any rivals to his position as Captain of the Host but he was eager to bring reconciliation between David and his son Absalom. One thing is certain, if you were in a battle, you would want Joab on your side!

Eric L. Padgett