What the Bible says about
(From Forerunner Commentary)
Mizraim is the Hebrew word that is commonly translated as "Egypt," thus the Philistines are ethnically related to the Egyptians.
However, note that the Casluhim are divided into the Philistines and Caphtorim (in fact, the Philistines are frequently identified with Caphtor, the Hebrew name for at least the island of Crete and perhaps for the whole Aegean region; see Amos 9:7; Jeremiah 47:4). This indicates that their origins lie in the area of Crete, western Asia Minor, and the Aegean Sea, and modern archeology bears this out. For instance, Philistine pottery resembles that of the Minoan and Mycenaean (Homeric Greek) civilizations to the point that a material connection is beyond question. Other substantial links to the area include early Greek weapons, armor, dress, burial methods, military tactics, government, religion, etc.
How did these Aegean people end up settling in southwestern Canaan? The story is a long one, beginning in the days of Abraham. Being a restless, warlike, trading people, the Philistines frequently attempted to expand their influence, first through setting up trading colonies in distant lands and then by force of arms, if necessary. Genesis 21:34 records, "Abraham sojourned in the land of the Philistines many days," referring to the area around the town of Gerar, where Abimelech was king (see Genesis 20). This means that by the early nineteenth century BC, at least a small colony of Philistines had already gained a foothold in the land of Canaan.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Who Were the Philistines?
Isaac was about to do the same thing that Abraham had done. When there was a famine in the land, he decided to go down to Egypt. However, in his case, God intervened, saying, "Do not go there." In a sense, He was saying, "Stay here. Live by faith. I will take care of you."
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Twenty-Seven)
Exodus 12:40-42 is describing the Night To Be Much Observed, not the Passover night. There is a reason why God established two different festivals. The first, Passover, on the 14th of Nisan, begins in the evening, that is, at the beginning of the day with the killing of the lamb.
The killing of the lamb has a specific focus, the death of the Savior, showing that we have a part in His death. The second part of the ritual, the eating of the lamb, emphasizes the more important continuance of the relationship. When a person ingests food, he receives energy, and his life is sustained. This is the symbolic meaning of eating the lamb.
Nisan 15—the First Day of Unleavened Bread, when the exodus occurred—emphasizes the action required to keep the relationship going and growing. That is our part. We have to get up and do something; we have to leave Egypt, a type of leaving sin.
We are dealing with two different festivals with two altogether different focuses.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Night to be Much Observed
The nations listed in Psalm 83:5-8 comprise a fairly complete rundown of the ancient enemies of Israel, and Edom, the descendants of Esau, is given primacy of place. After Edom come the usual suspects: the Ishmaelites, Moab, the Hagarites, Gebal, Ammon, Amalek, Philistia, and Tyre; and Assyria joins them, specifically helping the children of Lot.
Descendants of Esau actually appear three times on this list, as Amalek (see Genesis 36:12) and Gebal (here, a region of Idumea, often confused with the Phoenician city of Gebal or Byblos) are tribes that became distinguished from the bulk of the Edomites. Evidently, these tribes struck out on their own and eventually established their own identities. Amalek, in particular, was a thorn in Israel's side.
Bible history, from about Genesis 16 on, records that all of these nations rose up against Israel and Judah perpetually. Only very rarely did they ally with Israel for any length of time, and when they did, it was usually because they faced an even stronger, more dreaded enemy. It seems that Israel had peace from them only when they were conquered and put under tribute.
The only major nations missing from this list of Israel's persistent enemies are Egypt and Babylon. There may be several reasons for their omission. First, the context speaks of a particular historical "confederacy" against Israel, and Egypt and Babylon may not have been part of it. Second, as major powers in the region, Egypt and Babylon were generally unconcerned about Israel, or at least did not posses the visceral hatred of God's people that these other nations did. Third, the peoples that are mentioned were either ethnically related to Israel or lived in close proximity to her, while Egypt and Babylon are not related to Israel and inhabited distant realms.
Finally, as a prophecy of the last days, Psalm 83 may not consider Egypt and Babylon to represent the physical peoples that they did anciently. In fact, a physical Babylon does not seem to exist in the end time; the ancient city lies in ruins for tourists in Iraq to behold. If Egypt, a modern Arab nation, is contemplated in the prophecy, it may be included under the Hagarites, as Hagar, mother of Ishmael, was an Egyptian (Genesis 16:1). In addition, Ishmael's wife was also Egyptian (Genesis 21:21), making the Ishmaelites three-quarters Egyptian.
Nevertheless, all of these different peoples—Edom, Ishmael, Amalek, Moab, Ammon, Philistia, Tyre, and Assyria—are among the major players in the Middle East today. These are peoples from whom the Jihadists and the Islamic fundamentalists hail, making up what is known as the "Arab" or "Muslim world." Today, these people inhabit the nations of Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Egypt, Libya, Sudan, Morocco, Tunisia, etc., and the pseudo-nation of Palestine.
Psalm 83 lists a group of peoples—a confederacy—whose main enemy is Israel. Today, there exists a worldwide jihad against the West, particularly aimed at the "Great Satan," the United States, and the despised Jews, the State of Israel. The physical descendants of ancient Israel—the English-speaking peoples, the democracies of Northwest Europe, and the Jewish Diaspora—are the standard-bearers of Western civilization. The same players are still in the game!
Who has initiated the conflict over these last several years? For the most part, Islamist or fundamentalist Arabs have been the aggressors. The terrorists have mainly come from Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, North Africa, Iraq, etc.—that is, Arab nations. The philosophical or religious underpinnings for these attacks have their source in the virulent and violent anti-Western teachings of Wahhabism (spread from Saudi Arabia), militant pan-Arab socialism (cultivated by despots in Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, etc.), and anti-Semitism (practiced hypocritically by a majority of Arabs, who are themselves Semitic peoples, descendants of Abraham).
Where have most of the attacks taken place? Although many of them have occurred in the Middle East, they have been predominantly against Western interests. Terror organizations have targeted Western people, planes, helicopters, ships, homes, shops, hotels, and embassies—anything Western seems to be fair game to them.
For example, the bombing in Beirut against a U.S. military installation in 1983 killed hundreds of Marines in their barracks, and jihadists attacked the U.S. mainland on September 11, 2001. The State of Israel, of course, has endured a heavy share of the militant Islamic violence since its founding in 1948. More recently, Britain, Australia, France, the Netherlands, Denmark, and other predominantly Israelite nations have also suffered terrorist atrocities. This in no way discounts the terrorism that has also struck non-Israelite but Western nations like Spain and Italy.
Putting Psalm 83 together with what we know about these nations' ancestries and with what we see on the evening news, these prophecies are coming to pass before our eyes!
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
All About Edom (Part Two)
God's experience with Israel (recorded from Exodus through Deuteronomy) is helpful in understanding this. Slavery in Egypt, where they faced certain, ignominious death, represents the world, and Pharaoh represents Satan. Leaving Egypt symbolizes what justification accomplishes in God's spiritual plan: It frees from bondage.
But God did not stop working with them at that point. He revealed His law to them, and then commanded them to choose to live by it. They had to endure a forty-year pilgrimage, enduring many trials along the way, before they finally were delivered into their inheritance, the Promised Land, which represented salvation. However, many perished along the way because they did not live by faith, as shown by their disobedience to His revealed law.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Twenty-Nine)
The idea of inferiority seems to pass to the succeeding empires as well. But in what way was Medo-Persia inferior?
Medo-Persia controlled a larger territory than did Babylon, so it was certainly not inferior in political or military might. Even before the fall of Babylon, Cyrus had defeated the wealthy Croesus, king of Lydia in Asia Minor (546 BC). After victories in central Iran and in Phoenicia, he conquered Babylon in 539 BC, and his son Cambyses overthrew Egypt and Libya in 525 BC. At its height the Persian Empire was nearly double the size of Babylon.
It did, however, have a problem with internal unity. Cyrus, a Persian, initiated the growth of the empire by usurping the Median throne with the help of the Median nobility. The empire, from this point on, was dominated by Persians, or as the Bible says, the "bear . . . was raised up on one side" (Daniel 7:5). The two arms of the image symbolize this division.
Also, each time an emperor died, severe struggles erupted over succession to the throne. Fortunately, mostly strong and capable rulers won these struggles, especially during its first century, and kept the empire whole for over two hundred years. Only the superior might of Alexander's Macedonian army spelled its downfall.
Another factor of its inferiority was, oddly, its rulers. Cyrus, regaled in the Bible as God's "shepherd" and "His anointed" (Isaiah 44:28-45:13), was not the same caliber of man as Nebuchadnezzar. Though he was a humane and conciliatory ruler for his time, he neither lived long enough to stamp his character on his realm (d. 529 BC), nor did he acknowledge God's sovereignty as did his predecessor (Daniel 4:28-37).
In relation to this, the word inferior itself ('ara') means "earth, world, ground." Persia was literally more "earthly" or "worldly" than Babylon in God's eyes. The aims and drives of its kings were, as a whole, of a lower nature than Babylon's, though the latter's were certainly misguided as well. However, the trajectory of this factor in all these kingdoms is, according to the prophecy, downward, and it sinks further with each new empire.
On the other hand, it must be injected here that Cyrus was the instrument that God used to reestablish the Temple in Jerusalem (II Chronicles 36:22-23). The Persians had a general policy to honor the gods of all their defeated enemies by repairing or rebuilding temples and giving offerings to them. This was mainly done to appease the gods "just in case" they had been offended by the subjugation of their peoples, as well as to smooth relations between the Persians and their vassals. Scholars are still divided over whether Cyrus actually meant that the God of Israel was indeed the true God and thus his sovereign Lord. Most think he did not because decrees to other nations have been found in which similar language is used.
Unlike the Babylonians, the Persian Empire centered squarely on its military and political bases rather than its religious, cultural, or economic life. Historians consider the Persian imperial political structure and administrative forms to be the finest example of government before the Roman period. In fact, they think that the Romans borrowed Persian ideas in forming their own. This meant that the real basis of power in the empire was the army, even above that of the king, although the king supposedly controlled the army.
The religion of the Persians was Zoroastrianism, a dualistic belief in good and evil and man's struggle between them. Although it was less bloody, warlike, idolatrous, and superstitious than other polytheistic religions of the region, it retained vestiges of ancient beliefs that eventually supplanted it. The cults of Mithra, the sun god, and Anaita, the goddess of fertility—similar to Nimrod/Tammuz and Semiramis, the old Babylonian Mystery Religion—grew in popularity until Zoroastrianism faded into obscurity. But its principle of dualism lived on in Gnosticism and the mystery religions of the Roman Empire. Some of these beliefs and practices (such as Mithra's birthday, December 25; Sunday as a holy day; All Soul's Day; and heaven, hell and purgatory) were later embraced by Catholicism to counter the popularity of these cults.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Nebuchadnezzar's Image (Part Two): Chest and Arms of Silver
History records that the Persians considered a ram with sharp, pointed horns to be their guardian spirit, and the king bore the head of a ram instead of a crown when he led his armies into battle. The symbols of Medo-Persia used in the Bible, the ram and the bear, are powerful creatures, as opposed to the quick and agile goat and leopard, representing Greece. As for the different heights of the horns, the taller one represents the Persian half of the empire that rose to power later than the Median half.
Both the Medes and the Persians, as the Bible shows are represented by these horns (Daniel 8:20), also had territories located near the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Though it makes little difference in the prophecy's interpretation, this river could also be "the River Ulai" (Daniel 8:2) upon whose banks the Persian capital of Susa (Shushan) was built.
The ram's pushing in every direction except east reflects the historical reality that Persia's eastern campaigns were inconsequential as compared to its other conquests. Though they did conquer as far east as the Indus River, subjugating Asia Minor, Babylon, Egypt, and Armenia was much more significant. Persia felt very little resistance in the east, and in its later history the western Macedonians under Alexander, represented by the he-goat with a notable horn (verse 21), were its most challenging foes.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Nebuchadnezzar's Image (Part Two): Chest and Arms of Silver
Forty years had passed since Exodus 1, and Moses is now 40 years old. We do not know a great many specifics about his life, but there are a few historical tidbits that can be put together. From archaeological finds as well as some written histories, we know that Egypt was the greatest land of its day, the United States of America of that time.
Moses probably lived in the palace with his mother (Pharaoh's daughter), Pharaoh, and the rest of his family, for about 35 years. We can understand from this conjecture, that Moses had access to the cream of everything in Egypt. Being part of the Royal Family, if he rode out on a chariot, the people on the street bowed. He would have had the best. If Moses traveled down the Nile by barge, it was among the finest in Egypt.
When it came to education, he probably had the finest tutors available in the land. We know for sure, from written records, that they had a great university, in its time comparable in esteem to an Oxford or a Harvard today. He would have been instructed in astronomy, chemistry, mathematics, engineering, music, and art. The movie, The Ten Commandments, depicted this well. Undoubtedly, much of what he was taught was nothing more than sheer foolishness—just as much in our modern universities also teach a lot of foolishness. Nevertheless, the overall effect of what he learned filled him with knowledge and understanding that would stand him in good stead later.
In reading between the lines of Scripture, during his 35 years in the palace, Moses never really lost contact with the people of Israel and with his real family, even though Jochebed and Amram turned him over to Pharaoh's daughter. From time to time, he would have been able to visit with them. He would, then, have had access to the language, history, and expectations of Israel. His mind, to be used later by God, was being formed by being filled with knowledge.
Stephen says that he was "mighty in words and deeds." He became a statesman, representing Egypt to foreign peoples and leaders. Ancient historians say that he was a soldier. The years passed. But despite being prepared for high office in Egypt, the memories of his early childhood and his real parents—the knowledge that they were slaves and that his kinsmen were groaning in the brickyards—never left him.
A mind was being formed during those years. Please do not forget yourself in all of this. God has been dealing with us a great deal longer than our conversion, perhaps from our earliest years.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Conviction and Moses
At this point in his epistle, it occurs to Paul that it would only be normal for someone to ask the question, "What, then, was the purpose of the Old Covenant?" Thus, verse 19 begins with, "What purpose then does the law serve?" This broad question covers many more specific ones: Why was it needed? Why did God call Israel out of Egypt? Why did God write His Ten Commandments on tables of stone with His own finger? Why did God have Moses write the statutes and judgments in a book? Why did God establish the Levitical priesthood, the Tabernacle/Temple worship, the washings, oblations, and the sacrifices? What was the purpose of all the rules and regulations of the Old Covenant? Such questions would naturally come to the mind of anyone reading Paul's letter since he emphasizes that our salvation through Christ fulfills the promise made to Abraham. What need is there for another covenant?
The answer he gives is a key to understanding much of everything else he says in Galatians: "It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made." "It was added" means that the Mosaic covenant was in addition to the one God had made with Abraham. But what "transgressions"? Abraham obeyed all of God's laws, commandments, statutes, and ordinances (Genesis 26:5). He taught God's laws to Isaac, who taught them to Jacob. However, after Israel was in Egypt for many years, they forgot them and lived in ignorant transgression of them. Having absorbed so much Egyptian culture in their sojourn, they were even ignorant of the Sabbath day. Paul explains that God "added" the Old Covenant because Israel had gone so far into sin when they lived in Egypt.
Therefore, God had to call Israel out of Egypt and teach them His laws all over again to prepare them for the coming of Christ. He wrote the Ten Commandments on tablets of stone, and Moses wrote the statutes and judgments in a book so that Israel would have a permanent record of His laws and statutes throughout the centuries. God gave them rituals of worship that made them different from other nations, and He forbade them to have anything to do with foreign, pagan customs. Circumcision identified them as a separate and distinct people. These rules and regulations put a hedge around Israel (Isaiah 5:5; Matthew 21:33) to preserve them pure for the coming of Christ.
Just prior to the scripture Paul quotes in Galatians 3:12, God says in Leviticus 18:3,
According to the doings of the land of Egypt, where you dwelt, you shall not do; and according to the doings of the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you, you shall not do; nor shall you walk in their ordinances.
For years, people have wondered how anyone could have transgressed the laws before they were given. Simply put, Paul is talking about the laws of God which have been in full force since creation! When he writes that the Old Covenant was added "till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made," he means that the Old Covenant was temporary; Christ would replace it with the New Covenant. Rather than saying that any of God's laws had become obsolete, he is explaining how important it was to preserve the knowledge of God's laws in Israel to prepare them for the coming of Christ!
Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
What Was the Law 'Added Because of Transgressions'?
Abraham actually had more sons through Keturah, but for the purposes of Paul's allegory, he focuses on Ishmael, the son through Hagar, and Isaac, the son of promise through Sarah.
Given that the false teachers were trying to convince the Galatians to turn to a Gnostic form of Judaism, Abraham would have been a character who would have been highly respected in their eyes (the Jews in Jesus' time trusted in descent from Abraham for salvation). Paul uses the example of Abraham throughout this epistle because he (Abraham) simultaneously served as someone that they would have looked up to, as well as a testament that they (the Galatians) were approaching this the wrong way—different from the way Abraham did.
Physical descent does not matter as far as the spiritual promises are concerned; Christ castigated the Jews for thinking that they could rely on being physical descendants of Abraham as a means of gaining favor with God. Christ showed that where it really counted was in behaving like Abraham—which the Jews did not.
Paul, in an attempt to help the Galatians to understand the covenants, is likening the Old Covenant to being born to a "bondmaid" (a female slave or servant) while the New Covenant is compared to being born of a "freewoman" (someone who is a citizen; unrestrained; not a slave; exempt from liability; at liberty). The carnal mind, as described by Romans 8:7, leaps to the conclusion that the New Covenant gives freedom from the confines of law, while the Old Covenant keeps one in bondage to a set of archaic rules. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The apostle James twice refers to the law as the "law of liberty" (James 1:25; 2:12). He could do this because when God was giving the Ten Commandments to Israel, He prefaced them with the declaration, "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage" (Exodus 20:2). This—bringing Israel out of bondage—set the context, the foundation, for the giving of the law. Clearly, it is not God's definition of right and wrong that keeps us in bondage; the law was given as a guide to the right way to live. The "bondage" that we are subject to derives from Satan (Ephesians 2:1-3; 6:12; II Corinthians 4:4; Revelation 12:9), this world (Exodus 6:5-8; Deuteronomy 5:6), sin (John 8:33-36), and our own human nature—our carnal mind and heart. Our bondage is to sin (John 8:33-34)—not to God's definition of it.
The Old Covenant did not provide a way to overcome these things. Even though the Old Covenant included God's royal law of liberty, it had no provision for ever truly escaping the clutches of sin. God's law, which is also a part of the New Covenant (Hebrews 8:7-12; Jeremiah 31:31-34), merely defines what sin is, so that one may avoid it (Romans 3:20; 4:14-15; 5:13; 7:7, 12, 14). It neither enslaves, nor frees. The Old Covenant—the agreement, rather than the law that was its core—provided no means for overcoming the evil heart of unbelief (Hebrews 3:12, 19; 8:7-8), and so Paul compares it to a bondwoman. In verse 24 he says that it "engenders"—gives birth to—bondage. He does not mean that the agreement between God and Israel was bondage, nor that God's definition of right and wrong keeps people in slavery, but rather that the temporary covenant made no provision for true spiritual freedom. It "gave birth to" bondage because, without addressing the incurable sickness of the heart, the only possible outcome was human degeneration back into the bondage from which they had been freed.
The New Covenant addresses these problems:
For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. Because finding fault with them [the weakness was with the people, not the agreement or the law], He says: "Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more." (Hebrews 8:7-12; see Jeremiah 31:31-34)
The New Covenant allows God's way of life (law) to be internalized (put into the mind and heart). It allows for a personal relationship with God, rather than going through an intermediary. It allows for complete forgiveness of sins through repentance and accepting the shed blood of Jesus Christ.
In another place, God promises,
Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God. (Ezekiel 11:19-20)
Through the justification and forgiveness of sins available under the New Covenant, it is possible for the heart to be changed, and for human nature, which drives us to sin, to be overcome. Thus, true spiritual freedom is offered under the New Covenant, while absent under the Old.
David C. Grabbe
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