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Marc Roby: We are resuming our study of systematic theology today by continuing to examine the providence of God. Dr. Spencer, last time we made the point that it is both illogical and unbiblical to think that God can control major things if he doesn’t control the details of life. How would you like to proceed today?

Dr. Spencer: I would like to look at some Scriptures to strengthen and extend the scope of our argument that God providentially rules his universe.

Marc Roby: Very well, please proceed.

Dr. Spencer: There are many passages that tell us that God is in control of every aspect of our lives. Louis Berkhof gives a nice representative, but certainly not exhaustive, list in his Systematic Theology.[1] He gives eleven categories to illustrate God’s providential control. His first category is sort of an umbrella that actually covers all of the others too, because he first points out that the Bible clearly teaches God’s providential control over the universe at large, by which he means the physical creation and all of human history. To back up this claim he first cites Psalm 103:19, which says, “The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.” [2]

Marc Roby: That verse implicitly makes an important point. When we think of God’s providence, we need to think of him ruling over his creation. He has a throne in heaven and a kingdom. And, as Psalm 19:1 tells us, all of creation declares his glory.

Dr. Spencer: I agree that’s an important point. God is not an impersonal force, he is a person, the King of the universe. Berkhof also cites Ephesians 1:11, which says, “In him”, referring to Jesus Christ, “we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will”.

Marc Roby: And since this verse is speaking about God’s plan of salvation, it is clear that when it says “everything” it is speaking about human history, both collectively and individually.

Dr. Spencer: Absolutely. This verse speaks about human history, so it’s clear that Berkhof isn’t just thinking about the inanimate creation. That’s why I said this first category is a sort of umbrella. But, now let’s move on to Berkhof’s second category, which is God’s providential control over the physical world. He cites Psalm 104:14, which says that God “makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate— bringing forth food from the earth”. He also cites Job 37, where Job’s friend Elihu is speaking about God and says, for example, in Verses 11-13, “He loads the clouds with moisture; he scatters his lightning through them. At his direction they swirl around over the face of the whole earth to do whatever he commands them. He brings the clouds to punish men, or to water his earth and show his love.”

Marc Roby: And that verse again illustrates that God’s providence is personal and has a purpose to achieve. I would also cite Job Chapter 38 to show God’s control of the physical world, where God himself peppers Job with a number of rhetorical questions regarding his creation and control of the world.

Dr. Spencer: That is a great chapter. And I would add that this in no way implies that there aren’t physical laws that govern our universe. God uses secondary agents to accomplish his purposes. There is a very interesting reference to the physical laws of our universe in the book of Jeremiah.

Marc Roby: It might be good to point out that Jeremiah prophesied to the people of Jerusalem before, during and after the Babylonians captured the city and took most of the prominent Jewish people away into captivity in Babylon between 605 and 587 BC.

Dr. Spencer: That does set the stage for his comment. As part of his prophecies, God told Jeremiah to encourage the people by telling them that their captivity was not the end of God’s work on their behalf. God was still in control and would, ultimately, restore the kingdom of Israel and bring the promised Messiah.

So, in Jeremiah 33:25 we read, “This is what the LORD says: ‘If I have not established my covenant with day and night and the fixed laws of heaven and earth, then I will reject the descendants of Jacob and David my servant and will not choose one of his sons to rule over the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. For I will restore their fortunes and have compassion on them.’”

Marc Roby: That verse uses a very interesting literary device. Instead of using a simple “if A then B” sentence structure, God uses an “if not A then not B” structure. But then he emphasizes the certainty of B by giving an A that the listener knows without any doubt to be true. When God says “If I have not established my covenant with day and night and the fixed laws of heaven and earth”, he assumes that the listener will immediately recognize that he has, in fact, established his covenant with the day and night and the fixed laws of heaven and earth and therefore, when he says “then I will reject the descendants of Jacob and David”, the implication is clear; God will not reject the descendants of Jacob and David.

Dr. Spencer: That is a very interesting literary device. And it also serves to emphasize God’s providential control of creation via the secondary agent of fixed laws, because the statement assumes that it is obvious to all that there are fixed laws of heaven and earth.

This is the reason science works. God rules his universe in an orderly way. The law of gravity, for example, is the same now as it was 200 years ago, and we have every reason to believe that it will be the same 200 years from now. Therefore, we can perform experiments, make observations, put forth hypotheses about the nature of gravity and then confirm or deny and refine those hypotheses by further experiments. And that is how we have come to understand so much of the physical world. This verse gives us a good biblical basis for doing science.

Marc Roby: Of course, it does not logically follow that God himself is incapable of violating those fixed laws if and when he so chooses.

Dr. Spencer: Of course not. But, the vast majority of the time, they are fixed. And we have no power to alter them. Berkhof’s third category notes that God’s providence extends over all animals, which he calls the “brute creation”. He cites Matthew 6:26, where Jesus tells us to, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.”

Marc Roby: We could again point out that there are secondary agents involved here. Plants have to grow and the animals themselves have to go and find the plants and eat them. It isn’t that God comes down and puts the food into their mouths.

Dr. Spencer: It is important to constantly take note of God’s use of secondary agents. There are very few things that God has done or continues to do by his own immediate action. In his fourth category, Berkhof notes God’s providence over nations, citing, for example, Job 12:23, where we read that God “makes nations great, and destroys them; he enlarges nations, and disperses them.”

Marc Roby: Another great example would be Cyrus, King of Persia. God told his people about this king and what he would do more than 100 years before Cyrus was born. For example, in Isaiah 45:13 we read, “I will raise up Cyrus in my righteousness: I will make all his ways straight. He will rebuild my city and set my exiles free”.

Dr. Spencer: Cyrus is an impressive example of God’s providential control over the nations of this world. Berkhof’s fifth category is God’s providence over man’s birth and lot in life and he cites Psalm 139:16 where we read that “your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

Marc Roby: And I would add Jeremiah 1:5 to this list, where God tells the prophet, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

Dr. Spencer: Yes, that is another great example, and it isn’t just the prophet Jeremiah that God knew before he was conceived. We read in Ephesians 2:10 that “we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” God has prepared work for each one of us in advance, and he can only do that if he has control over the details of our lives.

For his sixth category, Berkhof notes God’s providence over the successes and failures of men and he cites Luke 1:52, where we are told that God “has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.”

Marc Roby: I would, again, want to add a verse to the list. We read concerning Joseph’s time in an Egyptian prison in Genesis 39:23 that “The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the LORD was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.”

Dr. Spencer: And in Proverbs 21:31 we read that “The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the LORD.” There are many other verses we could cite as well, but it is clear that the Bible teaches us that all success comes from the Lord.

Berkhof’s seventh category is that God is sovereign over apparently accidental or unimportant events and he cites Proverbs 16:33 and Matthew 10:30, both of which we looked at in our previous session when we made the point that there are no chance events.

His eighth category is God’s providence in the protection of the righteous. The most important verse he cites there is Romans 8:28, which says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Marc Roby: That is a familiar and very comforting verse for Christians. It isn’t that all things are, in and of themselves, good, but that they all work together for good. But only for those who love God and have been called according to his purpose.

Dr. Spencer: Yes, that is an extremely comforting verse. God takes care of his children. And Berkhof’s ninth category is God’s providence in supplying the wants of God’s people. Now I must point out that he is using the word “want” in an old-fashioned sense here. He is really speaking of those things which we need. And to support this, he cites Philippians 4:19, where the apostle Paul told the believers in Philippi that “my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”

Marc Roby: And, of course, one of the most famous verses in the Bible is Psalm 23:1, which says, “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.” Which is, again, speaking about things we need, not all of our earthly desires.

Dr. Spencer: We also read in Psalm 84:11, “For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.”

Marc Roby: And, amazingly, it isn’t just his chosen people that God cares about, Jesus himself commanded us in Matthew 5:44-45, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

Dr. Spencer: Yes, that is incredible. Berkhof’s tenth category is God’s providence in answering prayer. And to illustrate that point I would cite one Old Testament verse and one New Testament verse.

Marc Roby: I’m going to guess that the Old Testament verse is 2 Chronicles 7:14, where God tells Solomon, “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

Dr. Spencer: That is exactly the verse I had in mind. And in the New Testament, I would cite Matthew 21:22, where Jesus tells us that “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” And then finally, Berkhof’s eleventh category is God’s providence in the exposure and punishment of the wicked.

Marc Roby: I’m surprised Berkhof doesn’t also mention God’s providence in the full and complete salvation of his chosen people.

Dr. Spencer: I am as well, so let’s take the liberty of adding that ourselves. In Matthew 25:31-46 we read about the final destiny of all people. Jesus tells us in Verses 31-32 that “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” And then, in Verse 46 we read that those who have not trusted in Christ, “will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Marc Roby: And that verse shows us the end toward which God’s providential control of this world is headed. There are only two possible eternal destinations, heaven or hell. We must see our need for a Savior, repent of our sins, and trust completely in Jesus Christ to be saved.

Dr. Spencer: That is the most important decision any human being makes, what will they say to God’s glorious offer? The secular view of history is that it is not controlled by anyone and it has no ultimate purpose. We are just animals that live out our lives and then disappear from the scene. But that is not the truth, and God has given all of us more than enough information to know that it isn’t truth.

Marc Roby: Which is why even people who don’t claim any faith in God speak of people who die as being “in a better place” and things like that. They know the person still exists in some way.

Dr. Spencer: And that is also why people fear death so much. They know in their heart that they will be judged. And so, the biblical view of history takes into account the fact that history is linear. It had a beginning, it has an appointed end, and it has a purpose. In his book Foundations of the Christian Faith, James Boice notes that “There is probably no point at which the Christian doctrine of God comes more into conflict with contemporary world views than in the matter of God’s providence.”[3] And he goes on to point out three things about the Christian view of providence. First, it is personal and moral.[4] It is not like the secular view of fate or chance. There is a personal God who rules his creation and deals with us as moral creatures who can be justly held accountable for our actions.

Marc Roby: Yes, and even for our thoughts.

Dr. Spencer: You’re quite right, we’re told in Hebrews 4:12 that “the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” And God’s word is a reflection of his character. It isn’t just that his word judges in some abstract way, God himself will judge our thoughts and attitudes in a very concrete way on that day.

Marc Roby: Which is obvious given the fact, for example, that Jesus told us in Matthew 5:28, “that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” In other words, we will be judged as having broken the commandment to not commit adultery.

Dr. Spencer: Very true. In addition to saying that providence is personal and moral, Boice makes two more points about the Christian view of providence. He says, secondly, that providence is specific. By which he means that God deals specifically with individual people in our different individual situations.

Marc Roby: Which goes along with providence being personal. What is the third point that Boice makes?

Dr. Spencer: That God’s providence has a purpose, it is directed toward a specific end.

Marc Roby: Which is why you said that history is linear.

Dr. Spencer: Exactly. And now that we’ve given an outline of the biblical data regarding God’s providence, and made some general comments about the nature and purpose of his providence, I think we are ready to dive in a bit deeper and look at the doctrine systematically.

Marc Roby: But, we are out of time for today, so I’d like to remind our listeners that they can email their questions and comments to info@whatdoesthewordsay.org and we’ll do our best to respond to them.

[1] Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1938, pg. 168

[2] All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® (1984 version). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™.

[3] James Boice, Foundations of the Christian Faith, Revised in One Volume, InterVarsity Press, 1986, pg. 176

[4] Ibid, pg. 180

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Marc Roby: We are resuming our study of systematic theology today by continuing to examine God’s will. Dr. Spencer, we ended last time by looking at 1 Peter 1:18-20, and in verse 20 it says that Christ “was chosen before the creation of the world” [1]. You also pointed out that he was chosen for the purpose of becoming incarnate and giving his life as an atonement to save his people from their sins. And that all of this is part of God’s decretive will.

Dr. Spencer: Yes, it is part, God decrees everything that happens, even our sin. Listen to what the apostle Peter said to the crowd on the day of Pentecost. We read this in Acts 2:22-24, “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.”

Marc Roby: And in Acts 4:28 we read that the believers were praying about the authorities crucifying Jesus Christ and they said, “They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.”

Dr. Spencer: God’s will is wonderful. He can work directly in this universe, as he did in creation and as he does in regeneration, but he normally uses secondary agents to accomplish his purposes. In this case, he used this horrible sin of crucifying the completely innocent God-man Jesus Christ to bring about the redemption of his people. It completely boggles the mind. God used what was the worst sin ever committed to bring about the greatest good ever achieved.

Marc Roby: And yet Judas, who betrayed Jesus, was still morally culpable for his sin. And so were the Jewish leaders who conspired against him and condemned him, and so was Pontius Pilate, the prefect of the Roman province of Judaea, who acceded to their demands; they were all morally culpable for their sins even though they were accomplishing God’s set purpose in doing so.

Dr. Spencer: They most certainly were morally responsible for their sins. No one forced them to sin, even though God had ordained from before the creation of the world that they would do so. The theological term used to describe the fact that God’s free will and our free will can work together to accomplish exactly what God has foreordained, or decreed, is called concurrence. It is a very important concept.

Marc Roby: And, of course, the crucifixion of Christ is not the only dramatic example of concurrence. The story of Joseph being sold into slavery in Egypt gives us another great example.

Dr. Spencer: Yes, it does. But in order to give that example, we need to remind our listeners of some of the facts relating to Joseph’s life.

Marc Roby: Alright, let me begin. Joseph was one of the twelve Patriarchs of the Jewish people. He was the favorite son of his father Jacob, who was the son of Isaac, the son God promised to Abraham and Sarah. Joseph’s brothers hated him because he was his father’s favorite, so they sold him to some Midianite slave traders who were heading down to Egypt and then told their father Jacob that he had been killed by a wild animal. Joseph was later sold to Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s guard.

Dr. Spencer: And we read about all of that in Genesis Chapter 37. But God was gracious to Joseph in Egypt and through a long process, which included his being unjustly imprisoned for years, he miraculously became second in command in Egypt as we read in Chapters 39-41 of Genesis. We also read that there was a severe famine in the land and Joseph was in charge of Pharaoh’s storehouses of grain.

Marc Roby: And in Chapter 42 of Genesis we are told that there was also famine in the land of Canaan, where Joseph’s brothers and father lived. And because they heard that there was grain in Egypt, Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt to buy grain for their families. In doing so, they came before their brother Joseph.

Dr. Spencer: And there is a lot that we are leaving out in order to get to our main point. This is a marvelous story of God’s grace and sovereignty and I encourage our listeners to read it if they don’t know the story. But to move on, Joseph’s brothers didn’t recognize him because he now spoke, dressed and acted like an Egyptian, but he recognized them. I will again leave out a lot of wonderful and edifying material from Chapters 43 through 49 and just say that Joseph eventually revealed himself to his brothers and then his entire family, including his father Jacob, moved down to Egypt.

Marc Roby: And Jacob died in Egypt, which then left Joseph’s brothers worried. In Genesis 50:15 we read that “When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, ‘What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?’”

Dr. Spencer: And we finally come to the verses we want to discuss today. In Genesis 50:19-21 we read, “But Joseph said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.’ And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.”

Marc Roby: What a gracious response that was.

Dr. Spencer: It was incredibly gracious, but Joseph saw God’s purpose in all that had happened. I’m sure that as a human being he must have struggled with all of the trials he went through because of his brother’s hatred, and in the material we skipped over we do see him exacting a bit of revenge. But the main point here, just as we saw in Acts regarding the crucifixion of Jesus, is the concurrence between the free, sinful actions of human beings and God’s ultimate purpose and decrees.

Marc Roby: Now I suspect that that will sound very strange to many of our listeners. The idea that God would, in any way, concur with sinful acts.

Dr. Spencer: I’m sure that does sound strange to anyone who has not heard of this doctrine before. The word concur is often used to indicate agreement or approval, but it can also simply mean to act together toward some common goal, in which case it does not imply approval of the actions of the other person. And that is the sense in which we are using the word here.

God’s actions and the sinful actions of human beings can work together to bring about a result that God has decreed will happen, but there is no implication that God approves of the sinful actions.

Marc Roby: Louis Berkhof gives a good definition of concurrence in his systematic theology text. He writes that “Concurrence may be defined as the cooperation of the divine power with all subordinate powers, according to the pre-established laws of their operation, causing them to act and to act precisely as they do.”[2]

Dr. Spencer: That is a great definition. We will have more to say about concurrence, which is part of the doctrine of God’s providence, when we finish with God’s attributes. But for now, let me just point out a couple of things. First, note that Berkhof talks about divine power and subordinate powers. God is in complete control of his creation. That does not mean that we are all puppets, but it does mean that we are completely subordinate. No one can thwart God’s plans. He brings about exactly what he has decreed will happen. When we sin, he uses our sin, together with other factors, to bring about his purposes.

Marc Roby: That’s an amazing thing to think about.

Dr. Spencer: It really is. But I also like the fact that Berkhof mentions the “pre-established laws” that are in operation. There are, for example, the laws of nature, which God himself established and upholds, but there are also laws, if you will, of human behavior. As we noted in Session 84 and will talk about more when we get to biblical anthropology, we do have free wills, but our wills are not absolutely free. We cannot violate our own nature. Which is perfectly logical and reasonable. It strikes me as exceedingly strange, to say the least, to think that I have the freedom to choose to do something that goes completely against all of my own inclinations and desires.

Marc Roby: That is indeed illogical. But, now that we have established that in order to accomplish his decretive will God works through secondary agents, including even the sinful actions of human beings, what else do you want to say about the will of God?

Dr. Spencer: Well, since we have been talking about human sin and its relation to God’s will, I want to stick with that general idea and talk about what is usually called God’s permissive will. I can’t find a good definition of this term in any of my theology texts because theologians seem to not use the term. But Christians use it reasonably often, so I think we should discuss it. I think that what people usually mean by God’s permissive will is that it encompasses all those things that God allows to happen even though they are not what he desires or commands to have happen.

Marc Roby: And these actions may include sin as well as things that are not, in themselves sin.

Dr. Spencer: I think that’s right. And although I can’t find a theologian speaking about God’s permissive will, Berkhof does talk about the fact that God’s eternal decree, which is basically synonymous with what we have been calling God’s decretive will, is permissive with respect to human sin.

Marc Roby: Now, that’s an interesting statement, can you explain what he means by that?

Dr. Spencer: Yes, I can. He wrote that when God decrees human sin, “It is a decree which renders the future sinful act absolutely certain, but in which God determines (a) not to hinder the sinful self-determination of the finite will; and (b) to regulate and control the result of this sinful self-determination.”[3]

Marc Roby: This sounds like concurrence again, mixed in with God’s sovereign control of all things, including human sin. Berkhof’s point seems to be that God permits sin, but it is never outside of his control and is used by him to accomplish his own purposes.

Dr. Spencer: I think that’s a fair summary.

Marc Roby: When people speak of God’s permissive will, it is usually in some way contrasted with his perfect will.

Dr. Spencer: That contrast is what you typically hear.[4] And what is usually meant by God’s perfect will for us is almost synonymous with his revealed, or preceptive will. It is what God has commanded us to do, although it often goes beyond that. For example, someone might talk about it not being God’s perfect will for them to marry a particular individual, whereas Scripture, of course, does not command us to marry or not marry a specific individual. It only gives us the command that as Christians, we must marry another Christian.

Marc Roby: I’ve certainly heard that kind of talk, and it does make a valid point. We can make decisions that are not necessarily sinful, they aren’t the wisest choice. God will not usually intervene in any direct way to stop his people from making bad decisions, or even from sinning, so we need to be careful to not conclude that just because he allows us to do something, that it is the best thing to do, or even to conclude that it isn’t sin.

Dr. Spencer: I agree that is the point usually being made when people talk about God’s permissive will versus his perfect will. And it is an important point. It should scare us to know that God will allow us to make bad decisions. And it should scare us even more when we read, for example, that God allowed King David to commit adultery and murder. We would prefer to read that David was prevented from doing so. But the reality is that, for his own perfect purposes, God allows his people to sin, sometimes grievously. And we cannot take any solace in the fact that he is sovereign even over our sins and will somehow use them to accomplish his good purposes. It would always, without exception, be better for us to not sin.

Marc Roby: I completely agree. We need to seek to be led by the Word of God, with the help of the Holy Spirit, in order to avoid sin and even decisions that are not sinful, but that are also not the wisest choice.

Dr. Spencer: And we have a great promise from God about temptation to sin. In 1 Corinthians 10:13 we read that “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”

Marc Roby: Yes, that is a great promise. But it does not say that God will not allow us to be tempted. It only says that he will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear.

Dr. Spencer: And the painful truth is that we sometimes give in to temptation in spite of God keeping it limited to what we can bear. We need to be very careful to watch our life and doctrine closely as the apostle Paul wrote to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:16. God will provide a way out of every temptation, but we must look for it and avail ourselves of it. If we don’t, we will suffer harm.

Marc Roby: Yes, and very often others will be harmed as well.

Dr. Spencer: That’s quite true. This is why Jesus taught in the Lord’s prayer to pray that God would deliver us from temptation. He also told us to pray “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10), which is obviously speaking about God’s preceptive will; in other words, we are praying that people, including ourselves, would obey God’s commands. It would make no sense for this to refer to God’s decretive will since whatever God decrees will, in fact, happen. Therefore, if this referred to God’s decretive will we would be praying that God would cause what is going to happen to happen.

Marc Roby: That certainly wouldn’t make any sense. But I doubt that many people are consciously aware that they are praying for their own obedience when they pray the Lord’s prayer. What else do you want to say about God’s will?

Dr. Spencer: I think it is important to distinguish between what theologians call God’s necessary and free wills.

Marc Roby: We have already pointed out that there are things that God cannot do, so his necessary will must refer to those things which he must do because he is God. Things like continuing to exist and always telling the truth.

Dr. Spencer: That is exactly what is meant, so in a sense we’ve covered God’s necessary will already. But the important point I want to make is that God also does many things freely, and it is particularly important for us to know that creation was God’s free decision. He did not need to create this universe for any reason. Nor did he need to redeem anyone after the fall.

Marc Roby: You do sometimes here Christians talk about God creating us for fellowship, which sounds a bit like he would be lonely without us.

Dr. Spencer: That is precisely the view I want to oppose. It is unbiblical. God is love as we are told in 1 John 4:16, and that is an essential attribute of God. It is part of his fundamental nature. It was true before he ever created this universe. There was absolutely perfect love and fellowship between the persons of the Trinity prior to the creation of this universe. God did not need to create. Wayne Grudem states it well in his systematic theology. He wrote that “It would be wrong for us ever to try to find a necessary cause for creation or redemption in the being of God himself, for that would rob God of his total independence. It would be to say that without us God could not truly be God. God’s decisions to create and to redeem were totally free decisions.”[5]

Marc Roby: That is a very important, and humbling, point. Is there anything else you wanted to say about God’s will?

Dr. Spencer: I want to go back to the Lord’s prayer and note again that in that prayer Christ taught us to pray that God’s will would be done on earth, which certainly includes in our own lives. If we have surrendered our lives to Christ, we must work hard to submit our will to his will. When Jesus was crying out to the Father from the Mount of Olives prior to his crucifixion, we read in Luke 22:42 that he prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” That is the kind of complete submission to God that all of us should strive to achieve in our own lives.

I’ve heard that people used to add the letters D.V. to statements of their intentions for the future. For example, I might write that I will visit you in Oregon this summer, D.V. The letters D.V. stand for the Latin phrase deo volente, and mean God willing.

Marc Roby: Which comes, of course, from James 4:13-15, where we read, “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’”

Dr. Spencer: I assume that is where it comes from, yes. And although I’m sure it can easily become a meaningless cliché used to try and sound godly, it is a good sentiment to have in mind at all times. As Christians, our job is to seek to know and do the will of God. As Jesus himself told us in John 13:17, “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”

Marc Roby: I think that is a good place to end for today, so let me remind our listeners that they can email their questions and comments to info@whatdoesthewordsay.org and we’ll do our best to respond to them.

 

[1] All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® (1984 version). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™.

[2] Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1938, pg. 171

[3] Ibid, pg. 105

[4] It shows up, for example, in a popular old daily devotional called My Utmost for his Highest by Oswald Chambers, see the entry for December 16.

[5] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, Inter-Varsity Press, 1994, pg. 213

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Marc Roby: We are resuming our study of systematic theology today by beginning to examine the doctrine of the infallibility of the Bible. Dr. Spencer, I suspect that this doctrine is unfamiliar to most of our listeners, why is this topic important?

Dr. Spencer: It is important because true Christianity stands or falls with the truthfulness of the Bible. By “true Christianity” I mean a Christianity that has the power to save a person from eternal hell and bring him into the very presence of God in eternal heaven. That’s why I often refer to “biblical Christianity”, by which I simply mean the true Christian religion as revealed by God, in distinction from all man-made variations and imposters. The bottom line is that, if the Bible is not completely and totally the very Word of God, and therefore completely infallible, our faith is built on the shifting sand of subjectivism and is bound to unravel one doctrine at a time, which is precisely what we see happening in the church today.

Marc Roby: That is a very strong statement and I look forward to seeing how you back it up. Where shall we begin?

Dr. Spencer: Let’s begin, as usual, by looking at the what the Bible itself says. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17 the apostle Paul wrote that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”[1]

The Greek word translated as “God-breathed” by the NIV is θεόπνευστος, which literally means breathed out by God, which is how the English Standard Version renders it. The King James Version says that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God”, which is why you hear people say that the Bible is inspired by God.

Marc Roby: By which they don’t mean that God gave the person the idea or encouragement to write, which is what we usually do mean by the word inspire.

Dr. Spencer: That’s right. We can talk about some actor or musician giving an inspired performance, but that is an entirely different usage of the word. That’s why I don’t like to say the Scriptures are inspired by God, it is too easily misunderstood. The NIV and ESV translations are better here. The Greek says that all Scripture is breathed out by God. The idea is that the Bible, while written by human authors, is uniquely the very words of God himself. We discussed this in Session 27 when we examined the authority of the Bible, and the authority of the Bible is inextricably linked to its infallibility. But, the bottom line is that the Bible is completely infallible because God is infallible and he is the author of the Bible.

Marc Roby: It would be good to define precisely what you mean when you say that the Bible is infallible.

Dr. Spencer: The word infallible means not capable of being in error, so it is a stronger statement than saying the Bible is inerrant, which is, of course, also true. When I say that the Bible is infallible, I mean that because it is the very words of God, who himself is the perfect, all-knowing, sovereign creator of all things and who cannot lie, the Bible, in its original manuscripts, is incapable of being in error.

Marc Roby: These original manuscripts are called the autographs, but we don’t have them in our possession, so how can the doctrine of infallibility be important if it only applies to the autographs?

Dr. Spencer: As we noted back in Session 7, there is a science called textual criticism, which allows us to reconstruct what the autographs said based on the copies we have available. This science is used on other ancient documents as well. We covered this topic in some detail in Session 7, and I am only going to summarize the argument here. But it necessarily begins by examining the copies we have of the original documents, because if these were not complete, or if they were corrupted too badly, textual criticism would yield a very uncertain or incomplete result. In the case of the Bible however, we have very good and complete copies.

The Old Testament has been preserved almost perfectly through the millennia, which we know because the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were found in 1947, gave us copies of much of the Old Testament from before the time of Christ and they agree to an astonishing degree with the next oldest extant copy we have, which is from about 1000 AD. With regard to the New Testament, it is by leaps and bounds the best attested book from antiquity, bar none, as even non-Christian scholars will admit.

Marc Roby: Alright, so we have really good copies of the original documents. What then is this science of textual criticism?

Dr. Spencer: Let me repeat what I said in Session 7 about it because it is critically important to our present discussion. E.J. Young, in his book Thy Word is Truth, provides a marvelous example of how textual criticism can work.[2] He says to consider a schoolteacher who writes a letter to the President of the United States. To her great joy, she receives a personal reply. It is a treasure which she shares with her pupils by dictating the letter to them. And, after collecting the assignment, which gives her 30 imperfect copies of the letter, she loses the original. The question is, can she reconstruct it from the 30 imperfect copies? And the answer is, of course, yes. With a very high degree of certainty she can reconstruct the original letter. The different copies will contain spelling errors, missing or added words and so on, but these errors will be different in the different copies, so by comparing the 30 copies she can surely correct these errors and arrive at a very good copy of the original.

There is, of course, more to it, but that gives you a good idea. When this technique is applied to the Bible, we’re able to reconstruct with very high confidence what the autographs said. And, unlike most ancient documents, we don’t have to fill in holes where there is material missing. When you combine our many different manuscripts, we have reliable, complete copies of the entire Old and New Testaments.

Marc Roby: Alright, so we have very good copies, in the original languages, of the autographs. But, what about the translations that most of us read?

Dr. Spencer: Well, first let me note that the New Testament quotes from the Septuagint, which is a Greek translation of the Old Testament that was in use at the time of Christ, so clearly translations, in and of themselves, are not a problem. Also, as you would expect, some of them are better than others. Translation is never exact and it isn’t neutral either. The particular theological biases of the translator can significantly affect the final result. That is why we should read different translations to find out what the differences are and then also examine the theological biases of the translators. You should also look in good commentaries that go back to the original language and discuss the reasons for various choices made during the translation process.

Marc Roby: That sounds like a lot of work. How can a layperson, with limited time and knowledge, be sure that he or she is getting to the right answer?

Dr. Spencer: First of all, pray. Then you trust God to guide you. And, hopefully, if you have found a good church, led by pious and learned men, you can ask for their help. We use the 1984 New International Version, or NIV, Bible in our church, but it is no longer readily available and the newer versions of the NIV have been corrupted by liberal theology, so if you are looking to purchase a new English-language Bible, I would recommend the English Standard Version, or ESV. The New King James Version is also good. The old King James is still good too, but most modern readers find the English in it a bit difficult to understand.

Finally, it is very important to note that the basic message of salvation is so clearly taught in the Scriptures, that even a poor translation is sufficient to bring you to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. You may get some confusion on secondary points, but the basic message is there.

Marc Roby: And, if a person is born again, then he is guaranteed to have the Holy Spirit to guide him as he seeks to learn God’s truth more completely.

Dr. Spencer: That’s right. If you have been born again, you are never truly alone in your search for God’s truth. That doesn’t mean that you don’t have to put forth the effort and be careful, but God will guide you. And, if you are reading your Bible, God will also use that to help you recognize whether or not you are in a good church. We have a mutual friend who was saved and started attending a Jehovah’s Witness church – which is definitely not a true Christian church. But, he was reading the Bible and discovered for himself, guided by the Holy Spirit, that that church did not truly stand on the Word of God, so he left and found a good church.

Marc Roby: Alright, you’ve established that the Bible claims to be the very words of God, which makes it infallible, and you’ve argued that the copies we possess in our own language are extremely good representations of what the original documents said, so now let me get back to your opening statement. You said that if we give up on the infallibility of the Bible, our faith will unravel one doctrine at a time. Can you defend that statement?

Dr. Spencer: Sure. If the Bible had errors in it, how would we determine where they are? The only answer is that we would have to look to human reason and scholarship to see if what the Bible says is true. That may sound like a plausible approach, but if you think about it for a bit you can see that it is fatally flawed.

First of all, it means our ultimate standard for truth is human reason, but every rational person admits that human reason is fallible and human knowledge is limited, so our conclusions are necessarily conditional and subject to later revision.

Marc Roby: Can you give us an example of what you mean?

Dr. Spencer: Sure. Prior to the 1990’s many scholars taught that king David was a purely mythical character. But, as we noted in Session 19, the discovery of the Tell Dan Stele and other evidence now makes it clear that King David was a real person in history.

If we subject the Bible to our current understanding of history and science, our ultimate authority is really human reason, not the Word of God. And that is shifting sand. It really leaves us with subjectivism because we have to decide which parts of the Bible to believe and which not to believe. As I just noted, while it may sound reasonable to do that for historical issues, such as the question of whether or not Kind David was a real, historical figure, that really is not a solid foundation.

In addition, it is clearly not a reasonable approach when it comes to what the Bible tells us about God and how to be saved. On what basis are we going to decide which statements are true and which are not? If the Bible cannot be relied upon completely, we are left with our own subjective ideas about God and salvation.

Marc Roby: Perhaps another example would be useful.

Dr. Spencer: Consider the fundamental question of God’s nature. The Bible tells us that there is one God, but that he exists in three persons. On what basis, outside of the Bible, can someone say whether that teaching is true or not? There are many other doctrines that are similar. Where, besides the Bible, can we look to see whether an eternal heaven or hell exists? What about how we can escape the punishment of hell? These things are only revealed to us in the Bible. If it isn’t infallible, then we can’t possibly know that what it teaches us about these most important issues is right.

Marc Roby: I see your point.

Dr. Spencer: There is a lot of confusion in the modern church world because so many people have given up on the infallibility of the Bible. As a result, people question whether there really is an eternal heaven, or an eternal hell, or whether Jesus Christ truly rose from the dead, or even whether or not Jesus Christ is truly God, or was born of a virgin.

Let’s examine just one common example. Many people who claim to be Bible believing Christians will say that they don’t believe in eternal hell. And the argument they give will virtually always be something like this; God is love and it wouldn’t be loving for God to punish people for all eternity, so I can’t believe that God would do that.

Marc Roby: I’ve heard similar arguments.

Dr. Spencer: Even if the argument is far more sophisticated than I’ve made it sound, it still boils down to human theorizing about what God would or would not do. But, if we believe the Bible to truly be God’s infallible Word, then the question can only be answered by looking at the Bible; and when you do that, the answer is quite clear.

The infallibility of the Bible is of central importance because it establishes the only firm foundation for our faith. Once we have come to the realization that Word of God is infallible, then all speculation and human philosophizing go away and the only question we need to ask on any issue we are interested in, is “What does the Word of God say?”

Marc Roby: And hence the title and subject of this podcast.

Dr. Spencer: Precisely. But, I really want to emphasize how important this issue is and establish clearly in our listener’s minds that, if they are Christians, the Word of God is not only their absolute authority, it is also infallible. The book I quoted from earlier, Thy Word is Truth, by the great Old Testament scholar E.J. Young, was written precisely because he saw this issue as central to our faith.

Marc Roby: And that book was written in 1957!

Dr. Spencer: Absolutely, and the problem is much worse now. Young states his purpose in writing the book clearly on page 7; he wrote that his purpose was “To acquaint the intelligent layman with the Biblical doctrine of inspiration and to convince him of its importance”.[3] I’m going to be using his book quite a bit in our discussion on this topic and I highly recommend it to our listeners, it’s still readily available in print from many sources.

Marc Roby: The debate over this topic also led, in 1978, to a large number of biblical scholars producing the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.

Dr. Spencer: That’s right, and I think the opening paragraph of that statement would be good to read. It says, “The authority of Scripture is a key issue for the Christian Church in this and every age. Those who profess faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior are called to show the reality of their discipleship by humbly and faithfully obeying God’s written Word. To stray from Scripture in faith or conduct is disloyalty to our Master. Recognition of the total truth and trustworthiness of Holy Scripture is essential to a full grasp and adequate confession of its authority.”[4]

Marc Roby: That is a wonderful statement, and a good place to end for today. I’d like to remind our listeners that they can email their questions and comments to info@whatdoesthewordsay.org.

[1] All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® (1984 version). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™.

[2] E.J. Young, Thy Word is Truth, the Banner of Truth Trust, 2012, pg. 57

[3] Ibid, pg. 7

[4] Available from http://defendinginerrancy.com/chicago-statements/ and also from http://www.alliancenet.org/the-chicago-statement-on-biblical-inerrancy

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Marc Roby: We are resuming our study of biblical theology today by continuing to examine evidence that corroborates the Bible. Last time we discussed evidence for the Israelite conquest of Canaan. Dr. Spencer, what would you like to cover today?

Dr. Spencer: The next phase of biblical history is the period covered by the book of Judges along with the first seven chapters of 1 Samuel. This period begins with the death of Joshua and extends up to the beginning of the monarchy under Saul. We are told in Joshua 24:29 that he died at the age of 110. And we also know that he was Moses’ aid when the Israelites first came out of Egypt, so assuming he was a young man of, let’s say, 18 or 20 at that time, he must have died a few years before 1350 BC. We also know that Saul started to rule around 1050 BC, so the period of the judges extends for about 300 years, from around 1350 to 1050 BC.

Marc Roby: And what extra-biblical evidence do we have for that period?

Dr. Spencer: Let me first say a little about the dates, and in doing so also provide a bit more evidence for the conquest, before I get into any of the evidence for the time of the Judges, because this is a period, just like the Exodus, about which there is a great deal of controversy. There are those, like Kenneth Kitchen, who hold to a late date for the Exodus, around 1250 BC,[1] which I think is very difficult, if not impossible, to reconcile with the biblical accounts, and they point to the fact that much of the evidence for destruction and resettlement of towns in Canaan comes from the 13th and 12th centuries BC, rather than the 14th century. But, as Kitchen himself points out in his book On the Reliability of the Old Testament, which we’ve used quite a bit, the biblical account of the conquest does not say that the Israelites came in, totally destroyed and then immediately occupied most or even many of the towns in Canaan.[2]

In fact, we are told in Joshua 13:1 that “When Joshua was old and well advanced in years, the LORD said to him, ‘You are very old, and there are still very large areas of land to be taken over.’” [3] So, we know that around the middle of the 14th century the Israelites had not yet occupied much of the land of Canaan. We are only told that the Israelites totally destroyed and burned three cities: Jericho, Ai, and Hazor. We discussed Jericho at some length last time, and the exact location of Ai is still in doubt, but we have not yet said anything about Hazor, which is north of the Sea of Galilee.

Marc Roby: Is there evidence for the conquest of Hazor?

Dr. Spencer: We have a tremendous amount of evidence that Hazor was a very large Canaanite settlement, including extra-biblical references to it, for example in the Amarna letters we discussed in Session 18, all of which is consistent with it being described in Joshua 11:10 as “the head of all” the Canaanite kingdoms in the north. In fact, the excavations at Hazor are still going on now and this most recent round of excavations was begun almost 30 years ago, in 1990.

Marc Roby: That’s a long time to be digging in one place.

Dr. Spencer: Yes it is, and yet they have still only excavated a small percentage of the site. And it has been under the direction of the same person for the entire time, Prof. Amnon Ben-Tor of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In any event, these are some of the most extensive excavations in the region and they have yielded a lot of evidence as I said. There is also clear evidence of a massive destruction of the site by fire, which Prof. Ben-Tor dates to the time of Joshua, although – as you might guess – the date is controversial.

In any event, the main point I want to make is that independent of the exact date of the destruction by fire seen in the excavation at Hazor, there is a tremendous amount of evidence that corroborates the biblical narrative of both the conquest and the period of the Judges. In addition, as has been pointed out by many, the entire period of the Judges, which we are going to briefly examine now, is a time of many conflicts and changes in this region. So, the evidence of destruction and resettlement in this period of time is consistent with the biblical narrative and is not evidence that uniquely points to a late date for the Exodus.

Let me quote Randall Price from his book called The Stones Cry Out, which is another very useful book. He writes, “the signs of widespread destruction at certain sites should not be considered as archaeological evidence against the biblical chronology and for a late date for the Conquest. These destructions better fit the period of the Judges, during which ongoing warfare was commonplace.”[4]

Marc Roby: I think we are clear on the fact that archaeologists disagree about some of the dates. But what evidence do we have for the period of the Judges?

Dr. Spencer: We have a good deal of evidence, with much of it again being circumstantial. For example, we read in Judges 18 the sad story of the tribe of Dan, who, having not been successful in occupying the territory God assigned to them, sent out spies to look for somewhere else to go. And we are told in Judges 18:7 that the spies “came to Laish, where they saw that the people were living in safety, like the Sidonians, unsuspecting and secure. And since their land lacked nothing, they were prosperous. Also, they lived a long way from the Sidonians and had no relationship with anyone else.” The spies then returned to the rest of the tribe and said, “let’s attack them!” And they did so, taking the city and renaming it Dan.

As Kitchens details, we have significant archaeological evidence for Laish having a large Canaanite settlement, which was then destroyed around 1200 BC and resettled by Israelites.[5]

Marc Roby: That’s impressive evidence. What else do we have?

Dr. Spencer: One of the more interesting bits of indirect evidence is provided by the Midianites, whom the Bible describes as one of the enemies of the Jewish people during this time. As it turns out, the Midianites where a people with a very short history. They seem to have existed for only 200 years or so, starting from about 1300 BC.[6] So, the Bible mentioning them at this point is a very specific bit of evidence for the historicity of the account, and is again something it would have been virtually impossible for someone to get right if this account were written hundreds of years later as the minimalists would have us believe. A similar situation is true of another enemy of the Jewish people in this period, called the Amalekites.

There are a number of other specifics I could cite, but you get into arguments about dates and so forth for much of them, so I’ll just finish by reminding our listeners that the Amarna letters we’ve discussed before illustrate the kind of constant conflict that was going on during this period. In addition, since there was no large or powerful Jewish state during the time of the judges, one would not expect to find a great deal of evidence. The Amarna letters and the Merneptah Stele, both of which were discussed last time, along with the evidence from Laish and the general archaeological evidence of a volatile time of destruction and re-settlement, is probably more than we should reasonably have expected to find.

Marc Roby: Very well. So what do we look at next?

Dr. Spencer: The next period in biblical history is the united monarchy. This started, as I noted a while ago, about 1050 BC when the Jewish people asked for a king and God complied.

Marc Roby: I think it would be a good idea to pause and point out the theological importance of this episode in Jewish history at this point.

Dr. Spencer: I agree. The book of Judges has a clear theme. Over and over again we see the people being punished for their disobedience to God’s commands, followed by their crying out in repentance for relief and God, in his great mercy, providing deliverance. Overall then, it is a book about the unfaithful apostasy and idolatry of God’s people and his faithful mercy and long-suffering. There is a phrase repeated four times in the book, “In those days Israel had no king”, which is a terrible thing to have said about them since they did, in fact, have a king. And not just any king, they had the King of kings! And twice in the book, that phrase is combined with another sad statement that further explains it; in both Judges 17:6 and 21:25 we read, “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.”

Marc Roby: That sounds a lot like our time.

Dr. Spencer: Yes it does. But, returning to the united kingdom, we have no good direct evidence for Saul, but we do have for his successor David, who is, of course, the most famous of all the Jewish kings.

Marc Roby: It’s particularly interesting that we have solid direct evidence for him since for many years the skeptics have been saying that King David was a figment of the Jewish imagination; a purely mythical ideal king.

Dr. Spencer: Yes, it is interesting. I think that God has a great sense of humor and sometimes delights in giving people just enough rope to hang themselves. It is also a clear demonstration of how inconsistent and downright silly some of the critics of the Bile can be. If the Jewish people were going to construct a mythical perfect king, I don’t find it credible to believe that they would come up with David, who while certainly a great king, was also severely flawed. I mean, who would create a mythical supposedly ideal king who is also guilty of adultery and murder?

Marc Roby: That’s a good point. But what is the extra-biblical evidence for David, and just how recent is it?

Dr. Spencer: The best evidence comes from a 1993 find in our old friend, the city of Dan. Called the Tell Dan Stele, it was a black basalt monument erected in the late 9th century BC, about 150 years after David died. It is a victory stele put up by the Arameans to commemorate a victory over their enemies, the Israelites. One line of the stele says, with some reconstruction, “I killed Jehoram son of Ahab king of Israel and I killed Ahaziah son of Jehoram king of the House of David.”[7]

The reconstruction of a couple of names is all but certain, but more importantly there is no reconstruction necessary for the part that says, “the house of David”. So, first of all, we have absolutely irrefutable extra-biblical evidence for the existence of David. Secondly, the silly proposals that the real David was a petty tribal king and that the mythical David simply borrowed his name are put to rest because kings in the ancient world were no different than people today. They didn’t make a big deal out of commemorating a victory over a nobody. And, in addition, if David was such a minor figure, Jehoram would not have been called “king of the House of David” nearly 150 years after David lived.

Marc Roby: That does seem unlikely. You said this is the “best evidence”, so I assume there is more?

Dr. Spencer: Yes. Another piece of direct evidence, which, although less certain than the Tell Dan Stele, is also solid – no pun intended – is the Mesha Stele, which is also called the Moabite stone. Mesha was the king of Moab and this stele, which was also erected in the 9th century BC, links the house of David with an occupation in part of southern Moab.[8] But our evidence doesn’t stop there. There is a third, less certain but nonetheless probable reference to David in a list of place names conquered by Shoshenq I of Egypt. This list was engraved around 925 BC at the Great Temple of Karnak in Egypt and includes a place called “the heights of David.”[9]

Marc Roby: That is truly amazing that after so many years we have solid evidence for this most famous of all Israelite kings. Do you want to say any more about the united monarchy?

Dr. Spencer: There is a lot more indirect evidence that I’ll let people look at on their own if they are interested, but I do want to mention that Kitchen does a good job of listing evidence from other ancient rulers that completely puts the lie to the idea that Solomon’s riches and fame are somehow not believable.[10] Solomon, as many of our listeners know, was David’s son and was named by David as his successor. And many people have claimed that Solomon’s riches, like his throne and vast amounts of gold and silver, are not believable. But, it turns out that there is a tremendous amount of evidence for other rulers of the same time frame having similar thrones, similarly huge amounts of gold and silver and so on. In addition, Solomon’s relations with other kingdoms at the time, like the famous visit by the Queen of Sheba, all make historical sense. But, I’d like to move on now to the period of the divided kingdom.

Marc Roby: Alright. And for those listeners who don’t know the history, after Solomon’s son Rehoboam took over the kingdom was split in two. The southern kingdom, usually called Judah, was first ruled by Rehoboam and included the holy city of Jerusalem, while the northern kingdom, usually called Israel, was ruled at first by Jeroboam.

Dr. Spencer: That’s right. And this period of history, starting roughly in 930 BC, is one of great turmoil, as anyone who has read the biblical account in 1st & 2nd Kings and 2nd Chronicles knows. The Bible tells us that all of the kings of the northern kingdom were wicked and, as a result, that kingdom was totally destroyed and the Israelites carried off into captivity by the Assyrians. The capital city of Samaria fell in 722 BC.

Marc Roby: And the southern kingdom didn’t fare much better.

Dr. Spencer: That’s true. It did have some kings who were good, even very good, but because they also failed to remain faithful to God in spite of repeated warnings from the prophets and the example of the northern kingdom, they too were defeated, this time by the Babylonian empire, with most of the leading citizens of Jerusalem being carried into captivity in Babylon and the city itself being destroyed in 586 BC.

Marc Roby: And do we have evidence to corroborate the Bible’s narrative of this period of history?

Dr. Spencer: Absolutely. In fact, we have an embarrassment of riches and it is safe to say that it would be completely futile to challenge the veracity of the biblical accounts in this period. I won’t spend much time on it because it is really not controversial except for some minor details. The bottom line is that we have a lot of extra-biblical evidence that shows the biblical narrative to be factual. Let me give a couple of quick examples.

Marc Roby: Please do.

Dr. Spencer: Let’s look at some evidence for the very beginning of the divided kingdom. In 1 Kings 14:25-26 and 2 Chronicles 12:2-9 we are told of Pharaoh Shishak’s military campaign against Rehoboam. Shishak is also known as Shoshenq I.[11] No mention is made in the Bible of his also going into the northern kingdom of Israel, but Shoshenq I did leave a list of cities conquered in the Great Temple of Karnak[12] as I mentioned a couple of minutes ago, and that list allows people to trace the route of his military campaign into Canaan, which definitely included a foray into the north.[13] Kitchen speculates, I think reasonably, that since Jeroboam had fled to Egypt before taking power in the north, he was a vassal of the pharaoh and had, perhaps, stopped making payments, which would certainly have brought the pharaoh up north to collect.[14] In any event, we know from the city list that the pharaoh went there, and a portion of a victory stele was found in Megiddo, which clearly identifies Pharaoh Shoshenq I.[15]

Marc Roby: That’s pretty solid evidence indeed. What else do you have to share?

Dr. Spencer: Well, moving along a bit in the list of kings, one of the most prominent kings of the northern kingdom of Israel was Omri. There was yet another stele found in 1868, which is called either the Mesha stele, or the Moabite stone. It was erected by Mesha, king of Moab, around 840 BC and it describes him gaining a victory over a son of “Omri king of Israel”.[16] Not only does it specifically name Omri king of Israel, it also gives a description of the battle which is consistent with the account given in 2 Kings Chapter 3. Anyone who is interested can read the inscription for himself on Wikipedia.

Marc Roby: I continue to be astounded by all of the extra-biblical evidence and how it continually proves the Bible to be an accurate source. But we are out of time for today and will have to continue this next time.

Dr. Spencer: That’s fine, but I do want to remind our listeners to email their questions on this session, or any previous sessions, to info@whatdoesthewordsay.org.

[1] Kenneth A. Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2003, pg. 359

[2] Ibid, pp. 161-163

[3] All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® (1984 version). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™.

[4] Randall Price, The Stones Cry Out, Harvest House Publishers, 1997, pg. 147

[5] Kitchen, op. cit., pg. 211

[6] Ibid, pp. 213-214

[7] Price, op. cit., pg. 170

[8] Kitchen, op. cit., pp 92-93

[9] Ibid, pg. 93, see also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shoshenq_I

[10] Ibid, pp 107-137

[11] Ibid, pg. 33

[12] Ibid, pg 33

[13] E.g., see The Harper Concise Atlas of the Bible, Harper Collins Publ., 1991, pg. 63

[14] Kitchen, op. cit., pg. 34

[15] Ibid, pg. 33, also Price, pg. 227

[16] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mesha_Stele#Parallel_to_2_Kings_3

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