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.

How many generations from Abraham to Moses

A Study in Contradictions #1 (refer here for series and reference explanation)

When you sort the SAB contradictions list by name, as I have done, the third item on the list is a question of how many generations there are from Abraham to Moses. I feel like this is a good first topic because it clearly shows the way a lack of context and historical knowledge can make anything conflict.

The SAB quotes Genesis 15:16 as saying, “and they (meaning the descendants of Abraham) will come back here (to Canaan) in the fourth generation.” The SAB claims this means there are four generations between Abraham, to whom God was speaking here, and Moses, who physically brought the Israelites back to Canaan. The “conflict” given is in the genealogies given in Gen. 21:1-3, 25:21-26, 35:23, Exodus 6:16, 18 and 20. 

The genealogy goes like this: Abraham fathered Isaac (Gen. 21:1-3), Isaac fathered Jacob (Gen. 25-21-26), Jacob had 12 sons, including Levi (Gen. 35:23), Levi had three sons, including Kohath (Exo. 6:16), Kohath had four sons, including Amram (Exo. 6:18), and Amram had two sons – Aaron and Moses (Exo. 6:20). 

Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Levi, Kohath, Amram, Moses. Seven generations. The SAB is right.

But didn’t God tell Abraham his descendants would return to the land in four generations?

Yes, he did. This is where history comes in. 

Abraham’s descendants – or at least the main family line of inheritors – lived in the land of Canaan for a long time after God gave that promise. They didn’t leave the land until the famine while Jospeh was in Egypt. (This would be the same generation as Levi, who was one of Joseph’s brothers.) It was then, in Genesis 46 and the surrounding chapters, that the remaining descendants of Abraham left the land of Canaan and went to live in Egypt. 

Now, let’s go back to Gen. 15:16 really quick and back up to verse 13 and go through 16. “Then the Lord said to Abram (the name of Abraham, before he changed it), ‘Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs (Egypt) and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years (roughly four generations). But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. As for yourself, you dhall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not complete.'” 

Did you see that? “They shall come back here in the fourth generation…”. Not that this will happen IN four generations from when it was spoken, but that they shall return four generations after they left to go to Egypt. 

The Israelites left Canaan and went to Egypt in the generation of Levi, as we saw in Gen. 46. From Levi to Moses is Levi, Kohath, Amram, Moses.

Four generations. 

Genesis 15:16 and surrounding verses do not conflict with the given genealogies.

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

Who’s talking to you?

Our home congregation here just finished a short gospel meeting with Mr. Sidney White from Florida. His lessons each night were well-presented, however there was one statement in particular that really stuck in my head.

I forget the exact context of this example, but he gave the example of a young college girl that once came to their house in tears over a break-up. She told him and his wife that she had dated several young men and nothing had worked out. She felt that “maybe God was trying to tell her something.”

In response, he asked her,

“Have you ever thought maybe Satan is trying to tell you something?”

He went on to wonder if maybe Satan weren’t trying to tell this young girl – and all young people like her – to lower her standards, settle for less than the best, and look for a mate who might not have the Christian values she was looking for.

Mr. White said, “Sometimes we give God credit for things He doesn’t do.” God wants us to hold on and wait for the good things He has promised for those who obey Him. Satan wants you to give up early and settle for being just short of the goal.

So I know I’m still very young and relatively newly-married, but I would like to say this to those out there who are still looking (and yes, that includes those who might be engaged, because engagements can be broken but marriage is forever):

Hold on to the picture of a Godly spouse found in the Bible and have the strength to wait for him or her. Don’t settle for less because you fear being alone longer than society says is acceptable. It is better to wait than to find yourself yolked to a spouse who will not help you get to Heaven. That voice you hear sometimes, telling you that your standards are too high and you need to relax a little, or that no one else will ever love you if you give this person up, or that you’re getting too old to wait any longer and might as well go for it… that is not the voice of God. That is the voice of Satan, and he wants you to miss out on the joys of a strong Christian marriage and the help of a Godly spouse to get you and your children to Heaven. That is not to say that marriages to non-Christians never work; there are too many examples to the contrary to say that. But you do enter into what could be years of struggle and heartache and hurt until that conversion occurs, and even those who are strong going in run the risk of losing themselves along the way. Be careful, singles. Marriage is not just a pretty ring and social media congratulations and pinterest decorations and professional photos. It’s forever, and that’s a really long time to settle for less than what God has intended for you – which, by the way, is more and different from what you have intended for yourself.

And to those who aren’t looking for spouses anymore, but hear that voice in your head about other things – to accept that job, even though it will take you away from your family and from church services; to sleep in this Sunday morning because you don’t want to wake the kids; to skip church tonight because it’s too cold outside; to lower your standards of integrity and honesty to make a few extra dollars that “won’t hurt anybody”… that is not the voice of God. We must all learn to recognize that voice for who it really is, and for what he is really trying to do. Don’t give credit where credit isn’t due.

I Don’t Know Much, but I Do Know Some

“Nut House” has had 70 visits on its busiest day. Most weeks I spike around 50-60 visitors on Monday with new posts and trickle down throughout the week.

            But I’ve become increasingly aware lately that my readership is much larger than that – including grandparents, coworkers of my in-laws and church members who read printed rather than online versions.

            And I hope those 50-60+ visitors continue to read regardless of content, because this week I’m going to take a short break from the newlywed theme and address a few things I don’t know and a few things that I do.

            I don’t know why the Lord permits bad things happen to good people. I don’t know why a young mother in the prime of her life, with two young boys and a fabulous husband, has stage four colon cancer and has called in hospice. I don’t know why someone who has never smoked a day in his/her life can suffer long years with emphysema. I don’t know why deserving couples can’t have children and crack addicts can have multiples.

            Now for what I do know.

            I do know that the Lord loves us all and that nothing can separate us from that (Romans 8:35, 38-39). I do know he wants everyone to spend eternity with Him in heaven (1 Timothy 2:1-4).

            BUT, I also know that we must play by the rules. We can’t just pick and choose which areas we like and throw out the ones we don’t. We can’t say, “I think God would like this because. . . .” If the Lord had wanted full-fledged concerts in His worship He would have added “electric guitars” to Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 when he commands us to worship Him with “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” He didn’t need to wait for electric guitars to be invented – He knew they were coming.

            So many people want to turn the situation around and say that those who “judge others” for being homosexual are the ones who anger God because of their intolerance. No, we should not judge people from our own hearts because we are not perfect ourselves and must avoid hypocrisy. Yes, we must reach out to all people because all souls are worth the same. But when I tell you that homosexuality is a sin, it’s not me that judges you – it’s God. It’s the many instances when He specifically lists homosexuality as an “abomination.” I didn’t write that. He did.

            Christians must belong to Christ – to the church that belongs to Him. He bought it with His own pain and suffering and does not deserve to be pushed aside in favor of any man. The church of the Lord was not founded by Joseph Smith (Galatians 1:6-9). It was not established by the Nicene Creed in the 4th century. It did not include a catalog of special prayers or a crowd of men wearing tall white hats deciding what sin is and is not. If we needed extra books or extra creeds the Lord would have provided them.

            When the Lord sends a soul to Hell for disobedience that does not mean He does not love you. Nothing can separate us from the love of God. But parents punish their children – who they love – when they are disobedient and unruly. Thus will the Lord, our Father, punish those who disobey. None of us will be able to stand before Him on judgment day and say “Well I thought. . .” and reason our way out of the punishment we have earned. Not just been given – but earned. All those who end up in Hell will have earned that position. Scary thought, huh?

            Now for something else I know.

            I know this is not a religious column. But I also know that while that may not be the main focus of this blog, it should not be something I purposely avoid. I know that “political correctness” is a tool of Satan to silence those who carry the truth. I have the greatest of friends, the finest of coworkers and the most beloved of family members who would be lost if the world ended today. I know that and it eats at my heart that I have not done more to show them their separation from God.

            Why are certain topics taboo at family gatherings? Why do we not tell those we love that they are wrong? It’s because we are afraid to lose them. I don’t want to lose them. But at the same time, if I see them in Heaven one day it will make up for never speaking to them again in this life. This is hard to accept, but it must be accepted.

            I expect comments and controversy. I expect to be told that I am wrong and hateful. But I also expect each and every person who responds to provide me with scripture to back up your “I think” or “Well we believe.” Prove me wrong. Show me it’s ok to walk your own path. Show me an example where the Lord has ever accepted someone into Heaven who was “a good person” but not an obedient, baptized Christian. Only the Lord knows the heart of a man, and only the Lord can judge us. But He also provides us with instructions. He knows when we willfully decide to lay them aside and we will be held accountable for them all, even those we do not choose to acknowledge.

I struggle with my own demons and I fail my Lord in countless ways each and every day. I am just as much in danger of falling as anyone else. I am not claiming to be beyond the influence of sin; to make such a claim would not only be a lie but would make God a liar as well, since he has said that “every man has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

            One day we will ALL have to face the music. We will ALL kneel before the Lord, whether you believe in Him or not. Those who do not live in obedience will be lost. So I ask you now, why should you be the exception?