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Feb 28, 2021

Greetings and welcome to this third edition of the Reader: Take Note series. This is an occasional series of podcasts aimed at providing extra commentary and encouragement for those following the Digging Deeper Daily reading plan. No matter where you are in the reading calendar, I hope that the things I share in this episode will support the idea that God’s Word has many treasures for us, and it always pays to dig deeper.

In this episode I will discuss

* my mistake in the last Take Note podcast,

* things modern readers may miss in the story of the 10 plagues in Egypt,

* why the descriptions of the construction of the Tabernacle are so hard to visualize,

* which order were the synoptic Gospels written in?

* and two verses that are difficult to translate in Luke.

Did you catch my mistake in the last Take Note podcast? I said that John the Baptist’s father (Zechariah) quoted from Malakai 4, about ‘NLT'07 Malachi 4:6:

6 His preaching will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers. …

Zechariah actually said,

GW'20 Luke 1:76:
76 “You, child, will be called a prophet of the Most High. You will go ahead of the Lord to prepare his way.

His words are reminiscent of Malachi 3-4. But the one who actually quoted Malakai 4:6 was the angel Gabriel, who (speaking to Mary about Jesus) said,

GW'20 Luke 1:17:
17 He will go ahead of the Lord with the spirit and power that Elijah had. He will change parents’ attitudes toward their children. He will change disobedient people so that they will accept the wisdom of those who have God’s approval. In this way he will prepare the people for their Lord.”

If you have questions or comments, or corrections to what I have said, my favorite way for you to send messages to me is via the contact button at dailybiblereading.info. I’m always interested to hear your thoughts.

Let’s open to Exodus 3— if you happen to have a Bible handy and are not listening to this while driving. When we were checking our translation of Exodus with a consultant (Norm Mundhenk by name), he showed us several things I had never noticed. In the story of the burning bush:

NLT'07 Exodus 3:2-4:
2 There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a blazing fire from the middle of a bush. Moses stared in amazement. Though the bush was engulfed in flames, it didn’t burn up. 3 “This is amazing,” Moses said to himself. “Why isn’t that bush burning up? I must go see it.” 4 When the LORD saw Moses coming to take a closer look, God called to him from the middle of the bush, “Moses! Moses!” “Here I am!” Moses replied.

So who is in the bush, the angel or God? The interesting observation here is that Moses seems not to like having the Lord do things that are physical or visible, such as making a bush be on fire. In this story, the angel messenger never speaks, but

GW'20 Exodus 3:5-6:
5 God said, “Don’t come any closer! Take off your sandals because this place where you are standing is holy ground. 6 I am the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” Moses hid his face because he was afraid to look at God.

Another example is found in chapter 14:

NLT'07 Exodus 14:19-20:
19 Then the angel of God, who had been leading the people of Israel, moved to the rear of the camp. The pillar of cloud also moved from the front and stood behind them. 20 The cloud settled between the Egyptian and Israelite camps. As darkness fell, the cloud turned to fire, lighting up the night. But the Egyptians and Israelites did not approach each other all night.

The angel of the Lord made the very visible pillar of cloud and fire, but just a few verses later:

NLT'07 Exodus 14:23-25:
23 Then the Egyptians— all of Pharaoh’s horses, chariots, and charioteers— chased them into the middle of the sea. 24 But just before dawn the LORD looked down on the Egyptian army from the pillar of fire and cloud, and he threw their forces into total confusion. 25 He twisted their chariot wheels, making their chariots difficult to drive. “Let’s get out of here— away from these Israelites!” the Egyptians shouted. “The LORD is fighting for them against Egypt!”

There are Bibles that capitalize the word for Angel in these cases where God is so closely connected with some physical manifestation. In Genesis the same thing happens. When angels appear, they most often speak God’s words directly using the first person for God. Now the word in both Hebrew and Greek that we translate as ‘angel’ means messenger. In later OT books (and especially Daniel) angels are indeed just that, messengers, and sometimes even with names, who speak about the Lord in the third person.

Now let’s look at the 10 plagues that God wreaked upon Egypt. Our consultant, Norm, had us compare the similarities and differences in

* location, at the river, or more likely at the palace?

* Whose staff was used, Moses’ or Aaron’s? Or did God say to lift up their hands, or did Moses just pray?

* the magicians’ reaction, or the reaction of Pharaoh’s officials

* Pharaoh's reaction, in particular, Did Pharaoh harden his own heart, or did God do that?

If you do the analysis, you will notice patterns and a crescendo building toward the 10th plague.

Then there is something I only recently learned from a different source: I perhaps heard in a sermon, but never remember looking into the claim that each of the 10 plagues showed that God is more powerful than Egypt’s gods. Rather than repeating information penned by others, let me suggest that you search on the Internet for ‘ten plagues of Egypt’ and choose the article by GotQuestions.org, or find the link here in the episode notes:

https://www.gotquestions.org/ten-plagues-Egypt.html

This site also has a beautifully done video with the same information as their excellent article.

I find the 9th plague particularly interesting:

“The ninth plague, darkness, was aimed at the sun god, Re, who was symbolized by Pharaoh himself. For three days, the land of Egypt was smothered with an unearthly darkness, but the homes of the Israelites had light.”

“The tenth and last plague, the death of the firstborn males, was a judgment on Isis, the protector of children.”

Remember that Pharaoh’ own son and heir to his throne died on that night. (Ex. 11:5)

Next, have you ever had trouble visualizing the sacred tent or tabernacle? I certainly have! Let’s concentrate on chapter 26:1-6. 

Exo 26:1-6: "“Moreover, you shall make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine twined linen and blue and purple and scarlet yarns; you shall make them with cherubim skillfully worked into them. The length of each curtain shall be twenty-eight cubits, and the breadth of each curtain four cubits; all the curtains shall be the same size. Five curtains shall be coupled to one another, and the other five curtains shall be coupled to one another. And you shall make loops of blue on the edge of the outermost curtain in the first set. Likewise you shall make loops on the edge of the outermost curtain in the second set. Fifty loops you shall make on the one curtain, and fifty loops you shall make on the edge of the curtain that is in the second set; the loops shall be opposite one another. And you shall make fifty clasps of gold, and couple the curtains one to the other with the clasps, so that the tabernacle may be a single whole."

One of the problems is that the Lord (or Moses) didn’t organize the material to make it easy to understand for those who didn’t get to see the virtual guided tour or YouTube shown to Moses up on Mount Sinai. (Actually, I am sure that Moses was shown something much better than a YouTube.) First we are told to make ten curtains of linen that are 42 feet by 6 feet. These sheets are called ‘curtains’ by both ESV and NLT. So I ask you, when I say ‘curtain’ do you envision something laying horizontally or hanging vertically? My problem in understanding started here, because these are not curtains that hang vertically, but would be better called sheets of cloth that lay over something. These sheets will lay over a framework to make the roof and hang down over the walls on the north and south, and also on the west. The front door faces east.

Then the text says that the curtains were joined together on ‘one side’. Because of the word curtain, I always imagined joining the long sheets on the short side, and imagined we were making the curtain fence that was made to surround the Tabernacle. That is wrong again. The Hebrew text never clearly says, but these 42 foot long sheets were actually joined on the long side. That's why joining them required 50 clasps. To me, it helps a lot to simply say right from the beginning of the description that all this is to make the roof of the Tabernacle.

There are also other things that are not clear. The Hebrew text doesn’t specifically say that they were to ‘sew’ the 10 sheets into two sets. The Hebrew says they would be ‘joined’ or ‘attached’. The ten sheets were probably sewn together, with five in each set, sewn along the long edge. Each set would then measure 42 feet by 30 feet. 

Above the linen layer, there was a slightly bigger goat's hair layer. Over those two layers of cloth, they made a ram’s skin leather layer. The skins were dyed red. Think how many male lambs were sacrificed to make that?! Then a mysterious final layer was placed on top of that. We really don’t know how to translate the material for the top layer. It has been translated as fine goat’s skin, or as sea cow hide. The way we translated it (since no one  knows what it was made of) is to say that it was ‘water proof leather’.

Now that you understand about the 4 layers of the roof and walls, let’s take another look at the linen cloth. The NLT says,

NLT'07 Exodus 26:1:
1 “Make the Tabernacle from ten curtains of finely woven linen. Decorate the curtains with blue, purple, and scarlet thread and with skillfully embroidered cherubim.

The Hebrew text is not clear that the pattern was applied by embroidering. Think of the 42 by 30 foot long sheets being spread out over a frame that is 15 feet high. Inevitably there would be a lot of rubbing and friction on the decorated surface of the cloth due to frequent disassembly and reassembly. If the design was embroidered, it would quickly become abraded. Instead, I propose that the beautiful designs of blue, purple, and scarlet were woven directly into the fabric. As we worked on this book with our translation consultant, we found evidence that Egyptians of this period had linen cloth with elaborate woven designs. The Hebrew slaves would likely have been involved in this art.

Note also, whether or not the design was woven into the material, it would take a seriously big loom to make 6 foot wide bolts of cloth. Where would the Israelites have gotten all the tools to make bronze castings, and to engrave gemstones, and to weave cloth? Think how magnificent the visual result would have been!

Someone with the initials R W has created 12 wonderful Youtube videos of the Tabernacle construction. You can find them by searching for ‘Youtube 3D Tabernacle The boards’ and especially see ‘Youtube 3D Tabernacle The curtains’. This is a series of 12 videos. 

Now I want to shift our attention to the Gospel of Luke. In the last episode in the Take Note series, I mentioned that I was reading a book entitled Perspectives on the Ending of Mark. The last chapter in that book is by David Alan Black. He defended his position supporting the longer ending of Mark based on evidence for the order of the writing of the first three Gospels. Let me very briefly summarize.

According to some ancient sources, Mattew was written first, and written at a time when most believers were from a Jewish background. That Gospel was carried far and wide as Christianity spread. 

However, as Paul spread the Gospel among the non-Jews in far away places, the need became increasingly apparent for a Gospel to be told from a Greek world view, instead of the Jewish world view. Luke came with Paul to Jerusalem as one of those who brought financial help to the believers. (Acts 20) He evidently stayed in the area during Paul’s two year imprisonment, which is the most likely time for him to pen his Gospel. One wonders how often Luke came to Caesarea to visit Paul and share about his research, such as interviewing Mary the mother of Jesus, and other early followers of Jesus. It might be that Paul was the one who asked Luke to write his own well-researched account. All the exact details that Luke included would appeal to Greek readers. Luke followed much of the outline of events as given by Matthew, with a notable exception in the accounts of John the Baptist’s and Jesus’ birth.

If Luke took the draft of his Gospel on the voyage to Rome, I wonder how he kept it dry in the shipwreck at Malta! Somehow he must have. The problem, as Black reconstructs the situation, is that a Gospel from a non-witness like Luke would not have been accepted well, so Luke delayed the release of his Gospel. During some part of the time that Paul was in Rome, Peter was there as well, along with Mark. So Black further posits that Paul arranged with Peter to have public lectures in Rome where Matthew’s account of a portion would be read, then Luke’s account, and afterward Peter would give his recollections of the same event. I would have loved to be present at those lectures!

Evidently in Rome, there were scribes that were experts at shorthand. Black again posits that one such person was employed to write down Peter’s words. That account, then could be used by Mark to write his Gospel, which everyone recognizes shows Peter’s influence. This explains why events where Peter was not present (like the birth of Jesus) are not told in Mark’s Gospel. The ordering of Matthew first, Luke second being based on Matthew, and Mark third based on Peter’s reactions to both Matthew and Luke— does a fair job of answering why various details are differently related between the three accounts.

Well, you may remember that I started the Digging Deeper Reading plan with Mark as the first NT book in the year because I said that it was written first. It turns out that there are various theories.

A remark by Augustine of Hippo at the beginning of the fifth century presents the gospels as composed in their canonical order (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John), with each evangelist thoughtfully building upon and supplementing the work of his predecessor. (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synoptic_Gospels#:~:text=A%20remark%20by%20Augustine%20of,hypothesis%20(Matthew%E2%80%93Mark).)

However another wikipedia article under the title of Marcan priority, states that 

The tradition handed down by the Church Fathers regarded Matthew as the first Gospel written.[3] This view of Gospel origins, however, began to be challenged in the late 18th century, when Gottlob Christian Storr proposed in 1786 that Mark was the first to be written.[4][5]

Gottlob Storr’s opinion was largely ignored for a while, and then picked up and debated. And by the time of the last century, the Wikipedia article states:

Many scholars in the twentieth century regarded Marcan priority as no longer just a hypothesis, but an established fact.[14]

So it turns out that the theory I took as ‘an established fact’, which I picked up from various sources, was really 20th century opinion. But that opinion was strongly influenced by the scepticism of the late 1800s and early 1900s. Dr. Black’s reconstruction of the order of writing is supported by writings of Eusebius, who is a far earlier source than the experts of just 170 years ago. Eusebius of Caesarea (260/265—339/340 AD), EH6.14.5–7, speaking of (*?no longer extant) writings of Clement (35-99 AD) states

5 Again, in the same books, Clement gives the tradition of the earliest presbyters, as to the order of the Gospels, in the following manner:

6 The Gospels containing the genealogies, he says, were written first. The Gospel according to Mark had this occasion. As Peter had preached the Word publicly at Rome, and declared the Gospel by the Spirit, many who were present requested that Mark, who had followed him for a long time and remembered his sayings, should write them out. And having composed the Gospel he gave it to those who had requested it.

7 When Peter learned of this, he neither directly forbade nor encouraged it. …

I think Eusebius is right, and probably Dr. Black has perhaps filled in too many details, but is pointing us in the right direction. It just goes to show: In the realm of historical information circulating about the Bible, ideas regarded as established facts in our time are often just opinions currently in vogue.

Because I have mentioned reading a book or two, I want to admit that I seldom sit down to read books. But wonder of wonder, I am actually in the process of reading another book. It is How People Grow, by Dr Henry Cloud and Dr. John Towns. I have been so impressed with this book that a few days ago I ordered 5 copies to give away. Lots of authors share how to make your life better or how to become a more effective person. But these two authors have a breadth of counselling experience and they have learned Biblical principles that actually work. It turns out that how people grow is related to how our Creator has made us, plus other principles found in God’s Word. Even at 71 years old, I want to keep growing. I hope you do too.

GW’20
Luk 11:34-36: "Your [eyes are//eye is] the lamp of your body. When your [eyes are//eye is] healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when [they are//it is] bad,** your body is full of darkness. 35 Therefore be careful lest the light in you [become//be] darkness. 36 If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light.”"

**Translation note: The Greek use the singular eye (ὀφθαλμός), but there is no reason to not use plural in our translation, as this is more natural, and Luke would have used plural had he been writing in English.

Footnote in our Indonesian translation:

eyes are bad Literally, “your eyes are evil/diseased.” Jesus was speaking to the Jewish leaders, including the members of the Pharisees and the Law experts. In the context of this chapter, we see that they had seen many miracles which proved that Jesus was sent by God, but it’s as if they became blind to all of those miracles. (11:29-30) In fact, they say that He worked by the devil’s power. Bad eyes are also frequently interpreted as meaning greedy for money, as in Matt. 6:19-24. See Luke also 16:14.

GW'20 Luke 14:34-35:
34 “Salt is good. But if salt loses its taste, how will you restore its flavor? 35 It’s not any good for the ground or for the manure pile. People throw it away. “Let the person who has ears listen!”

Many people can’t fathom how salt could lose its flavor. Modern pure white salt crystals never lose their flavor. But when we were living with the Orya people, they had salt that could lose its flavor. Out in the forest, around a hundred miles from the coast, there are salt springs. Back in the early 1980’s when we first were there, the people would still go out to the spring and boil salt water in pans until the water would evaporate and salt would be left. The water was not clean and smoke went into the pan, so the resultant salt was black and gritty with impurities. They kept it wrapped in leaves hanging over their cooking fire, so that it would stay dry. They called it ‘black salt’. In the tropical climate, black salt that wasn’t kept dry would collect moisture and the salt water would drip out. If that happened, all that was left was slightly salty black sand. Just like Jesus said, it is good for nothing and people throw it away.

But what’s the point? Why did Jesus give this teaching about salt? For people groups who have trouble figuring out why Jesus would talk about salt (and who don’t figure out that He is speaking figuratively), translators can explicitly give a hint: “You are like salt.”

ESV Colossians 4:6:
6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

Jesus finished his teaching with a favorite saying of his, and I have found it very hard to translate. 

ESV Luke 14:35b:
He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

This memorable saying always comes at the end of something Jesus is teaching. It is pointing backwards. In other words: “Listen to that, what I just said.”

Here’s how we translated those verses in Orya and Indonesian:

34 “Each of you who follows Me is like salt. Of course, salt is used to make food tastier. But if its taste has disappeared, the salt won’t be useful at all,

35 either for the field or as fertilizer. In the end such salt is just thrown out.

Don’t let that last teaching of mine go in your right ear and out your left! Meditate on it.”

Let’s pray:

Truly, Father, please transform us so that we might be called the salt of the earth and lights in this world. Please help us to keep our spiritual eyes clear. When we have opportunities to give a word of testimony about You or don’t know what to say to people, we pray that you would bring to mind what we have read from your Word. Teach us how to keep your Word in mind and to meditate on it. We pray that we would have the joy of feeling your presence as we lean and rely on You.

Amen.

May the Lord bless you ‘real good’.