How many sons did Abraham have?

A Study in Contradictions #2 (refer here for series and reference explanation)

I haven’t forgotten about this challenge, I just haven’t gotten around to typing up my responses in a while. I know there are many of you out there who started following this blog specifically because of this study series, and I hope to be more consistent about this in the future.

The SAB asks the question, “How many songs did Abraham have?” and gives the following options:

A) only one — Heb. 11:17; Gen. 22:2

B) two — Gen. 16:15, 21:2-3; Gal. 4:22

C) eight — Gen. 25:1-2; 1 Chron. 1:32

The biggest part of this question is in the difference between Isaac and Ishmael, Abraham’s two sons. Abram (Abraham’s original name) was promised a son to carry on his line and inherit the promises from God (Gen. 15:4). This promise isn’t fulfilled immediately and, since Abram and Sarai (Sarah’s original name) have free will, they become impatient and take matters into their own hands to make an heir happen.

As was the custom of the day, Sarai, who was unable to have children of her own, provided Abram with an alternative – a selected servant girl who would bear his children and continue the family line. This woman, Hagaar, had a son named Ishmael, but he was not the son God had promised.

We know this because in Gen. 17:15-17 God visits Abraham again and reminds him that he will have a special son. Abraham tries to present Ishmael to God in v. 18, but God says, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him” (v. 19). God clarifies that Ishmael is not the son He had promised before who would inherit Abraham’s covenant with God. (Ishmael did not come directly from God’s power, but was instead the product of man’s own decisions. Isaac came from God’s blessing in allowing Sarah to conceive a child she was otherwise physically unable to have. 21:1)

So Abraham at this point in time has two biological children who are half-brothers to each other, but only one of them is the son promised by God. When God tells Abraham to sacrifice his “only son” in Gen. 22:2, He is referring to this only son of promise, Isaac. Ishmael and Hagaar have also been sent away at this point (21:8-21), so Isaac is also the only son growing up in Abraham’s household at this time to which God could have been referring. (Think about it – if you only have one child in the house and someone says “your son,” do you start looking for other children that may be out in the world or do you look at the one playing in front of you?)

As for the eight sons reference, Abraham went on to have six sons later with his second wife, Keturah, after Sarah has died, making a total of eight sons. Isaac is a grown man and married at this point, so those other sons – and possibly unmentioned daughters – came much later in Abraham’s life.

This supposed contradiction should be easy to understand because if a man today has one son he would say, “I have only one son.” That doesn’t mean he will never have any other sons or other children; it just means he only has one at the time that you asked him. All of the SAB’s offered answers are true – it depends on what time in Abraham’s life you asked him.

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A Study in Contradictions

A friend recently challenged me to prove that the Bible does not contradict itself. This has actually already been done by scholars far more intelligent than myself, but I consider the idea an interesting guide for my own personal studies and hope that having a list of “contradictions” to disprove will help motivate me to study God’s word on a regular basis.

And a list I have. A list of 500, in fact, conveniently provided by Steve Wells, the author and curator of The Skeptics Annotated Bible. Now, I’m not going to sit here and say that I’ll write about every single one of them, because that’s a list that will take me years to finish. But I have been working through the first few and thought I might share some of my findings with you occasionally as I go. It will also help keep me going if I need to have something to post for my readers, so this is a good thing in both directions. (This will be a periodic, not necessarily a weekly thing.)

If there is one thing I’ve learned in my years as a literature major, it’s that anything, ANYTHING, can be taken out of context and made to mean wheatever you want it to mean. One word or one sentence, disconnected from the sentences around it, is not a support for anything. You have to take the surrounding context, both grammatical and historical, into account before trying to make any argument stand on a single statement. This is not only true of the Bible, but also of Shakespeare, Twain, Darwin, myself and any other writer that ever existed.

So, to that end, I’ve added a complete list of my sources in a “References” section under the “About the Couple” tab at the top for your use. I’ll be using these same sources for all my studies, and if something additional is needed for a particular topic I’ll just add that reference to that particular entry. I’ll reference the Bible by book, chapter and verse; Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary and Strong’s Concordance by their authors’ names as appropriate; and the reference notes in my English Standard version study bible as Crossways note on whatever. The supplement materials are to help me understand and connect ideas in historical context and are not meant to serve as a replacement for God’d words in any way.

I will also reference The Skeptic’s Annotated Bible from time to time to quote their perceptions on the passages, so that will appear as SAB. The list of points I am studying can be found here: The Skeptics Annotated Bible list of contradictions.

I also plan to create a new tab across the top so that the entire “Lessons in Contradictions” series can be found easily in one place.

I pray this series might be useful to you as well as to me, and that you will chime in with thoughts and further questions when you have them. I don’t by any means claim to know everything, but there is someone out there that can answer your question and we will all work together to try and find answers to better understand what God wants us to know.

I’ll post my first series discussion later today, and I hope you will follow along.

Love,

The Missus

Thoughts from the “Marriage Manual”

This week marks the Gardner Church of Christ’s spring gospel meeting, and it is off to a spectacular start. Keith Mosher, the guest speaker and a teacher at the Memphis School of Preaching, is just a wonderful speaker. Words can’t even describe. He’s conversational, engaging, funny and relevant. He doesn’t talk “at” you or “over” you like so many preachers do; he talks TO you and makes you think. Seriously, when a preacher can talk for an hour and fifteen minutes, and you don’t even notice, that’s when you know you’ve got a good one.

Last night he spoke of marriage and brought out a few points from Matthew 19:3-6; and Ephesians 5:21-31.

First of all, leaving aside the fact that marriage is stated to be between one man and one woman and can only be scripturally ended by death or adultery (since those are a whole other ballgame), Mr. Mosher started with Matthew 19:5, where Jesus is speaking on marriage and says, “…For this cause (meaning marriage) shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (King James Version).

As Mr. Mosher pointed out, and as so many of us have already observed in society, the adolescent phase of life is getting longer and longer. Instead of children becoming adults at 20 or 21, they are now waiting to really grow up until 25 (women) and 27 (men). They are getting their degrees and then moving back in with mom and dad to finish growing up. They are not being taught to be adults on their own in the world. This contributes to the high percentage of failed marriages these days, because in many cases you essentially have two children getting married and then having no idea how to run their own homes.

People don’t seem to know what it is to “leave father and mother” anymore. I totally agree with Mr. Mosher when he said that “the husband is to be the protector and the wife is to be a supporter in A NEW HOME.” If you’re getting married and then moving back in with mom and dad, or grandma and grandpa or whoever, maybe you should have waited to get married. Whether it’s a maturity issue or a money issue, it doesn’t really matter. If you don’t have the money saved to support a new home, then you should still wait. Now of course, there are obvious, temporary reasons where this might be acceptable. Maybe you’re moving, maybe the house is being remodeled, maybe your husband is deployed and you’re expecting a baby so you move home to get help with the pregnancy – makes perfect sense! But these are all temporary situations.

(This also applies to in-laws and parents being involved in the new home. STOP IT! To all you parents out there who want to make your married child’s decisions and “help” run his or her home – get out of it! That is not the biblical way, and you, regardless of how well-meaning you may be, are disrupting God’s design for their new marriage. [And no, I’m not talking about my own parents and in-laws. You guys are great.])

Mr. Mosher’s second point was the idea of “cleaving to his wife” (or husband, as the case my be). Couples are to be each other’s best friends, closest companions and first resource. The marriage relationship comes even before the children, because you train the children to leave the nest, but you will always have each other. How sad to get all the children out of the house and then look at your spouse (notice, not “partner”) and realize you have nothing in common.

Moving in Ephesians 5: Wives are commanded to be subject to their own husbands. This does not include other men, only the one you married. There is no commandment that a woman is to be in subjection to the whims of the man down the street who thinks he’s better than you because he has a Y chromosome. Ignore that man. He’s got bigger problems. Marriage is structured this way so that it will function properly, because “the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church…” (verse 23). Many women take this offensively, with the attitude of “Why should I have to listen to a stupid man?” Well, if you thought he was stupid, why did you marry him?

Men actually have it harder, because they are commanded in verse 25 to “love (their) wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” Wives are told to give their husbands the last word, but husbands have to be willing to die for their wives. Now, ladies, which would you rather be? There is no commandment in scripture that wives be ready to die for their husbands. Personally, I think this is because God understands that men are oftentimes difficult to live with and do not always live up to what we wives hope they will be. It’s a reminder to men that, while wives are to be subject, they (the husbands) cannot lord themselves over their wives and exalt themselves to a position of infallibility.

Mr. Mosher’s last two points came from verse 33: “Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.” He talked about how women, because of the way we are wired, need to hear that we are needed by our husbands; women need to be told how much we are appreciated for our daily efforts in the marriage and the home and whatever else. Men, on the other hand, need to be “reverenced.” Many women hear this word and see themselves physically bowing down to their husbands, and reject the idea. (Of course! Who wouldn’t?) But, that’s not what that means. In this context, it means “respect.” Wives should respect their husbands, not only in words but in deeds; not making fun of him or bringing him down, letting him know he is a good provider for his family, etc. This really shouldn’t be so difficult. If you don’t respect him, why did you marry him?

(Also, if you were just planning to “change him,” why did you marry him?)

 

So, in summary:

  • One man, one woman, NEW HOME.
  • Parents and in-laws, stay out of it.
  • Wives subject to own husbands.
  • Husbands be willing to die for your wife.
  • Tell your wife you need her.
  • Tell your husband he is good at what he does.
  • Don’t marry him if you’re just wanting to “change him.”

 

Thoughts? Comments? Opinions? Have you ever had to move in with your parents or in-laws? How did that work out?

Finding Faith in Love

We all have things happen in our lives that can shake our faith in love.

Maybe your parents got divorced, or that perfect couple broke up, or someone got caught cheating.

Maybe you’ve seen your own heart shattered and stared down at the pieces littering the parking lot and wondered how you would ever fill the space they left behind.

It is far too easy these days to focus on the bad things, the heart-breaking things. I know too many young people who are too old for their years. They have seen too many seemingly-solid relationships fall apart to really believe in the power of love.

So they settle. They settle for the security of money or the promise of being able to leave their parents’ house. They cling to the idea that “at least he treats me better than the last one.”

I do not claim to be anywhere near an expert on this topic, having only been in love twice and married for two months. But I do know that love is not about pride. It’s not just about finding something better than what you’ve got.

It’s about endurance and faith and trust. It’s about knowing that it doesn’t matter what hardships may lie ahead, you have someone who will always walk those rocky paths beside you.

The mister and I have only been married for two months, and we only dated for two years before that. We have not yet had to endure true hardship.

However, we were privileged this past weekend to witness the marriage of two young people—the bride younger than me—who have already been through more in their seven-year relationship than many couples endure in a lifetime together.

They have been through military deployments and radical job changes. They have been 7,000 miles apart and still managed to have movie dates on Friday nights. They have made it through those difficult years where you truly learn who you are, and have come out the other side still each other’s better half.

Now I’m not saying they are that mythical “perfect couple;” they’ve had their issues just like everyone else. But even when they’ve disagreed, fought and even broken up, they have always found their way back to each other. Even across oceans.

D and J are an inspiration to everyone who has ever hoped to be in love. But just because they finally have rings does not mean their battles are over—the hardest part has only just begun. However, of all the couples I know who have gotten married this summer (the list is at 14 right now since May 12), they are the ones I have the least worries about.

Their wedding was beyond gorgeous, and they are two of the most deserving people I know to have had a celebration like that. And it truly was a celebration.

So for those of you who may be cynics, for one reason or another, remember that there is real love in this world. There are those who, whether you believe in “fate” or not, were somehow meant to be together.

People are not perfect, and those we love will sometimes break our hearts. But even through the heartache there is hope; you just have to remember to believe in it.

(Click here for sneak peek pictures of D and J’s wedding!)