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Course Spotlight: The Holy Spirit

On the night of His final Passover, Jesus Christ told His disciples that He was going to return to the Father. “I will not leave you comfortless” (John 14:18 KJV). He went on to explain, He would send them another Comforter or Helper. In what way could the Holy Spirit be considered as a helper or advocate?

Course Spotlight From The General Epistles: (Part 2) The Letters of John and Jude

Digging Deeper: Who Were Concubines?

Author: Mr. Kenneth Frank | Faculty in Theology, Living Education


Estimated reading time: 7 min., 26 sec.

Did you know that the word concubine as used in the Old Testament does not bear the same connotation as in modern English?

Today it has a rather negative meaning of a mistress or paramour outside of marriage. However, that was not the meaning of this family institution in Old Testament times. This Digging Deeper investigates the times of the patriarchs, judges, and kings of Israel to better understand who concubines were and what their place in the family was.

The meaning of “concubine”

The words concubine or concubines appear 39 times in 37 verses in the King James Bible – all in the Old Testament. Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible explains the derivation of our English word: “We borrow this word from the Latin compound concubina, from con, together, and cubo, to lie, and apply it solely to a woman cohabiting with a man without being legally married” (e-Sword 13.0). However, that is how the word is understood and used now. The first appearance of this English word in our Bible is the mention of Reumah, the concubine of Abraham’s brother, Nahor: “And his concubine, whose name was Reumah, she bare also Tebah, and Gaham, and Thahash, and Maachah” (Genesis 22:24 KJV throughout).  Understanding the customs of the times will redirect our understanding of this institution from what seems so strange to our Western minds.

The Hebrew word for concubine is pilegesh (pee-leh’-ghesh). The Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature by John McClintock and James Strong provides its definition and derivation: “(פִּילֶגֶשׁ, pile’gesh, deriv. uncertain, but apparently connected with the Gr. πάλλαξ [fully in the plur. נָשִׁים פִּילִגְשִׁים, 2 Samuel 15:16; 20:3]; Chald. לְהֵנָה lechenah’, Daniel 5:2-3, 23), denotes in the Bible not a paramour (Gr. παλλακή), but only a female conjugally united to a man in a relation inferior to that of the regular wife (אִשָּׁה)” (e-Sword 13.0). Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible adds: “The Hebrew word is פילגש  pilegesh, which is also a compound term, contracted, according to Parkhurst, from פלג  palag, to divide or share, and נגש  nagash, to approach; because the husband, in the delicate phrase of the Hebrew tongue, approaches the concubine, and shares the bed, etc., of the real wife with her” (Ibid.).

An issue of status

In Western culture, concubine describes a woman who is not a man’s wife but yet lives with him in a sexual relationship. This was not the case in ancient times. A concubine was a culturally lawful wife of lower rank who was not wedded with matrimonial ceremonies and solemnities, being inferior to the first wife who was mistress of the house. John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible explains that she was: “Not an harlot, but a secondary wife, who was under the proper and lawful wife, and a sort of a head servant in the family, and chiefly kept for the procreation of children; which was not thought either unlawful or dishonourable in those times such as was Hagar in Abraham’s family” (e-Sword 13.0). Being servants, concubines had no authority in the family.

Social status was well-defined in ancient times compared to our egalitarian western culture. Dave Miller in his Apologetics Press article Concubines? recently wrote: “In a country where social status and barriers are of minimal concern, it is difficult for us to grasp the magnitude of the chasm that existed between classes in ancient cultures, a chasm that stayed with a person throughout life regardless of advancements along the way.”

What led to the institution of concubinage is explained by Fausset’s Bible Dictionary: “The desire of offspring in the Jew [Israelite] was associated with the hope of the promised Redeemer. This raised concubinage from the character of gross sensuality which ordinarily it represents, especially when a wife was barren. This in some degree palliates, though it does not justify, the concubinage of Nahor, Abraham, and Jacob. The concubine’s children were adopted, as if they were the wife’s own offspring; and the suggestion to the husband often came from the wife herself (Genesis 30). The children were regarded, not as illegitimate, but as a supplementary family to that of the wife.” (e-Sword 13.0). However, The Cambridge Bible for Colleges and Schools’ note on Genesis 22:24 states: “The children of the concubine denote a less intimate tribal relationship than the children of the legal wife” (e-Sword 13.0). These children did not inherit their father’s fortune, though he might provide for them with gifts.

The laws concerning concubines

Polygyny was customary in the east and was tolerated in Old Testament times. The Fausset Bible Dictionary explains: “From the beginning, when man was sinless it was not so; for God made male and female that in marriage ‘they TWAIN should be one flesh’ Matthew 19:4-5, 8)” (e-Sword 13.0). Polygyny was not God’s original intention for humankind. However, the first couple sinned and as Fausset elaborates further: ” … in the course of developing corruption, strayed more and more from the original law, God provisionally sanctioned a code which imposed some checks on the prevalent licentiousness, and exercised His divine prerogative of overruling man’s evil to ultimate good. Such a provisional state was not the best absolutely, but the best under existing circumstances. The enactment was not a license to sin, but a restraint upon existing sin, and a witness against the hardness of man’s heart” (Ibid.).

Smith’s Bible Dictionary comments on who could become a concubine: “A concubine would generally be either

(1) a Hebrew girl bought of her father;

(2) a Gentile captive taken in war;

(3) a foreign slave bought; or

(4) a Canaanitish woman, bond or free.

The rights of the first two were protected by the law, Exodus 21:7; Deuteronomy 21:10-14, but the third was unrecognized and the fourth prohibited. Free Hebrew women also might become concubines” (e-Sword 13.0).

Fausset’s Bible Dictionary notes that concubines were given some protection by law: “The bondmaid or captive was not to be cast away arbitrarily after lust had been gratified (Exodus 21:7-9; Deuteronomy 21:10-11); she was protected by legal restraints whereby she had a kind of secondary marriage relationship to the man. Thus, limits were set within which concubinage was tolerated until ‘the times of this ignorance’ which ‘God winked at’ (Acts 17:30) passed by, and Christ restored the original pure code” (e-Sword 13.0).

In His mercy, God worked with this less-than-ideal situation to mitigate sin. Don Fleming’s Bridgeway Bible Dictionary explains: “Moses introduced laws to protect concubines for much the same reason as he introduced laws to protect slaves. Both slavery and concubinage were wrong, but the practices were so deeply rooted that they could not be removed immediately. However, laws could control them and so start a movement that would lead to their eventual removal (Exodus 21:7-11; Deuteronomy 21:15-17; see also SLAVERY)” (Ibid.).

Not so from the beginning

Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:1-3)! The Bridgeway Bible Dictionary explains their relevance in the age of the Israelite kings: “God warned Israelite kings against glorifying themselves through building large harems, but most kings ignored his warnings (Deuteronomy 17:15-17; 2 Samuel 15:16; 1 Kings 11:3; 2 Chronicles 11:21; cf. Esther 2:14). People considered the harem to be such a symbol of kingly power, that a new king established his claim to the throne by claiming the former king’s harem (2 Samuel 3:7-8; 12:7-8; 16:20-22; 1 Kings 2:21-22)” (e-Sword 13.0). The People’s Dictionary of the Bible by Edwin W. Rice details succession: ” …the right over those of one monarch, accrued to his successor; so that to seize on any of them was regarded as an overt act of rebellion. 2 Samuel 3:7; 12:8; 1 Kings 2:22; 1 Kings 11:3″ (Ibid.).

Solomon’s wives, which included his secondary wives (concubines), turned his heart away from God by their importation of paganism when he married them to cement alliances with nearby peoples. The Bridgeway Bible Dictionary describes the resulting family discord: “Yet concubines proved to be a source of trouble to Israel’s kings. The presence of so many wives and children in the palace created family conflicts (2 Samuel 3:2-5; 13:20-22; cf. Genesis 21:8-10; Judges 8:31; 9:2-5), and the idols that foreign concubines brought into the palace led believers away from God (1 Kings 11:4)” (e-Sword 13.0).

Dave Miller in his Apologetics Press article, Concubines?, provides us a fitting summary of concubinage: “Nevertheless, awareness of the biblical meaning assigned to the word ‘concubine’ enables the English reader to understand that Bible characters who possessed concubines were not guilty of taking ‘mistresses,’ but were, in fact, married to them—and not merely engaging in extra-marital intimate relations. In any case, the Bible does not sanction the practice of unmarried sexual partners.”

Since Christ’s first coming, concubinage has become illicit. Easton’s Bible Dictionary affirms: “Christianity has restored the sacred institution of marriage to its original character, and concubinage is ranked with the sins of fornication and adultery (Matthew 19:5-9; 1 Corinthians 7:2)” (e-Sword 13.0). God’s ideal marriage remains one man united to one woman as it was in the beginning (Matthew 19:4-5).


Kenneth Frank headshot

Kenneth Frank was born and raised in New Jersey, USA and attended Ambassador College, graduating in 1973. He served in the Canadian ministry from 1973-1999, after which he returned to the USA to pastor churches in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina for 15 years. Having earned a BA degree from Ambassador College he later earned a MA degree from Grand Canyon University before being assigned to the Charlotte office to teach at Living University, now Living Education. Currently, he teaches the Survey of the Bible course to the on-campus students and writes the Digging Deeper column for our online Bible study program. He is married, has four children, and seven grandchildren.

Course Spotlight: The Great Commission

Jesus Christ instructed His disciples to “go into all the world and preach the gospel” (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15). How does His church have an impact in fulfilling this commission?

Course Spotlight From The Life, Ministry, and Teachings of Jesus Christ: (Unit 4) Passover to the Resurrection

Digging Deeper: Almost

Author: Mr. Kenneth Frank | Faculty in Theology, Living Education


Estimated reading time: 8 min., 36 sec.

Did you know that the apostle Paul made such a convincing case for Jesus as Messiah through His resurrection from the dead that a Jewish king who heard him said Paul almost convinced him to become a Christian?

The facts of Jesus’ death and resurrection in AD 31 were evident, as this king was aware. Now about AD 59, Paul appealed to Roman and Jewish officials to consider what these things meant. This king nearly surrendered. Today’s Digging Deeper explores this engaging account in the Book of Acts to consider why some veer away from choosing to accept Christ’s offer of salvation.

Here is some essential background to the text in the Book of Acts that we will consider in this study. Following Paul’s three evangelistic journeys throughout the Greco-Roman world, Luke in this section of Acts describes the various hearings Paul had with Roman governors Felix and Festus and the Jewish king Herod Agrippa II. Paul had been falsely accused by Jerusalem Jews who tried to tear him apart in the temple. Roman officials came to his rescue but insisted that he explain himself. For his safety, the Romans moved him to Caesarea Maritima along the coast where he could be kept in state custody until his case could be properly heard. This process went on for about two years. Our primary text describes Paul’s exchange with the Roman governor Festus and Jewish King Herod Agrippa II before he was shipped to Rome to present his case to the Roman emperor.

A compelling exposition

Our primary text records the words of Paul to Agrippa: “For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest. Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian. And Paul said, I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds” (Acts 26:26-29 KJV throughout). Dake’s Annotated Bible explains this encounter: “This is to be taken literally, that he [Agrippa] was almost persuaded to embrace Christianity. At least, this is the way that Paul understood it and so answered it in Acts 26:29” (Bible Analyzer 5.4.1 22).

There is a textual matter to consider. Henry Morris’ Defender’s Study Bible provides this background: “Some expositors, because of certain variations in the Greek text here, regard this as a question, or as a sarcastic remark, as though Paul was presumptuous in trying to persuade in a short time such an important man as King Agrippa to become a Christian. However, the majority text, as well as the context, favors the Authorized Version here. If Paul’s exposition could make the Roman governor Felix tremble (Acts 24:25) with terror (literal meaning), he could certainly bring strong persuasion to a man such as Agrippa who was much better instructed than Festus in the Scriptures” (e-Sword 13.0). The Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary adds further: “But the apostle’s reply can scarcely suit any but the sense given in our authorized version, which is that adopted by Chrysostom and some of the best scholars since” (Ibid.).

Paul was determined to spread the gospel far and wide, high and low. When he was ordained, Christ prophesied that Paul would stand before kings (Acts 9:15). Herod was one such king. What drove Paul to preach so urgently? He explains in one of his epistles: “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences” (2 Corinthians 5:11).

Who was Agrippa?

Knowing a little about King Agrippa will help us understand this conversation in historical context. The ESV Study Bible in its note for Acts 25:13 writes of him: “Agrippa the king was Agrippa II, son of Herod Agrippa I (see notes on 12:1; 24:24), and great-grandson of Herod the Great (see note on Matt. 2:1). He ruled over several minor, primarily Gentile territories. The emperor Claudius had conferred on Agrippa II rule over the temple in Jerusalem and the right to appoint the high priest (see Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 20.222, 223) (Tecarta Bible App). Herod necessarily had an interest in the charges that Paul desecrated the temple.

The NKJ Study Bible for Acts 26:28 offers a probable explanation for Agrippa’s lack of response: “Agrippa realized that Paul was doing more than just defending his faith; he was actually trying to persuade Agrippa to become a follower of Jesus Christ. If Agrippa had told those gathered that he did not believe the prophets, he would have angered the Jews. If he had acknowledged that he did believe the prophets, he would have had to give weight to Paul’s words. Agrippa avoided being maneuvered into an embarrassing corner by sidestepping the issue. The interview was becoming too personal for Agrippa’s comfort, so he ended the dialogue” (Tecarta Bible App). Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible adds this additional point: “He had no particular hostility to Christians; he knew that they were not justly charged with sedition and crime; and he saw the conclusion to which a belief of the prophets inevitably tended. Yet, as in thousands of other cases, he was not quite persuaded to be a Christian” (e-Sword 13.0).

Failing to respond

The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 6 suggests this explanation for people who do not take action: “Like Agrippa, those who are under deep conviction oftentimes speak and act in an indifferent way, particularly in the presence of unbelieving associates. Though under deep conviction, Agrippa perhaps wished to give those assembled in the procurator’s [Festus’] audience chamber the impression that he thought Paul naive to think a prisoner could convert a king in so short a time, or with so brief an explanation” (Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1980, p. 441).

What keeps people from surrendering to Christ when intellectually they know they must to be saved? Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible suggests several causes for failing to respond:

“Such persons are deterred from being altogether Christians by the following, among other causes:

  • (a) By the love of sin – the love of sin in general, or some particular sin which they are not willing to abandon;
  • (b) By the fear of shame, persecution, or contempt, if they become Christians;
  • (c) By the temptations of the world – its cares, vanities, and allurements- which are often presented most strongly in just this state of mind;
  • (d) By the love of office, the pride of rank and power, as in the case of Agrippa” (e-Sword 13.0).

Ezekiel faced a similar lack of response in his own day: “And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness” (Ezekiel 33:31 KJV). James adds another sobering conclusion: “For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was” (James 1:23-24 KJV).

What Agrippa gave up

What had Agrippa almost become? David Guzik’s Enduring Word Commentary explains: “Acts 26:18 describes five things that happened to Paul when he became a Christian. A Christian has their eyes opened. A Christian has turned from darkness to light. A Christian has turned from the power of Satan to God. A Christian has received forgiveness of sins. And a Christian has an inheritance among those set apart to God” (e-Sword 13.0). How much Agrippa missed!

When Paul said he wished Agrippa was like himself except for his bonds (chains), The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible offers this dramatic scene: “A speech’s conclusion often included an emotionally rousing climax, here probably including Paul gesturing with his unjust chains. Given ancient analogies, Paul’s right hand may have been chained to a guard’s left hand, with an iron shackle weighing 10 or 15 pounds (4.5 or 6.8 kilograms)” (Tecarta Bible App). We can imagine the emotional appeal Paul made to Agrippa and yet Agrippa did not respond to Paul’s challenge to repent to and turn to Christ in obedient repentance.

A challenging thought for our conclusion comes from Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible: “There is no reason to believe that Agrippa ever became fully persuaded to become a Christian. To be almost persuaded to do a thing which we ought to do, and yet not to do it, is the very position of guilt and danger. And it is no wonder that many are brought to this point – the turning-point, the crisis of life – and then lose their anxiety, and die in their sins. May the God of grace keep us from resting in being almost persuaded to be Christians” (e-Sword 13.0)!

If you sense your need to repent before Christ and accept His sacrifice for your sins, we urge you to contact our church office for personal counseling with one of our ministers. Do not be an almost Christian.


Kenneth Frank headshot

Kenneth Frank was born and raised in New Jersey, USA and attended Ambassador College, graduating in 1973. He served in the Canadian ministry from 1973-1999, after which he returned to the USA to pastor churches in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina for 15 years. Having earned a BA degree from Ambassador College he later earned a MA degree from Grand Canyon University before being assigned to the Charlotte office to teach at Living University, now Living Education. Currently, he teaches the Survey of the Bible course to the on-campus students and writes the Digging Deeper column for our online Bible study program. He is married, has four children, and seven grandchildren.

Men’s Training Camp – Delavan, Wisconsin

51 men, ranging in age from 16 to 91, from congregations in Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa and Missouri, assembled June 11–13 for the Upper Midwest Men’s Training Camp in Delavan, Wisconsin. Presentations, workshops, interactive breakout sessions and split sermons addressed the societal challenges facing adult and young men, fulfilling our Creators’ intent, making a contribution to the Body, defending the truth, organization and time management, building a strong marriage, understanding the challenges our children are being exposed to, and mentoring the next generation. Meals and free time provided plenty of opportunities for the men to mix, build bonds, support and encourage each other. The men left reinforced in their roles, armed and ready to apply what they learned, and to be the kind of men, husbands, fathers and Christians God wants them to be.—Bob Rodzaj

Digging Deeper: The Flood in the New Testament

Author: Mr. Kenneth Frank | Faculty in Theology, Living Education


Estimated reading time: 8 min., 40 sec.

Did you know that Jesus referenced the great flood of Noah’s day to describe the world’s unrepentant state before His Second Coming?

There are vital lessons for our day from Jesus’ relating this story. Skeptics today question whether this flood ever occurred, stating it was legendary or merely symbolic. Others may accept its reality but challenge whether the flood was universal or only local. There is a direct and conclusive way for Christians to verify the details of this Genesis account: by closely reading the New Testament. This Digging Deeper delves into the New Testament’s reference to this dramatic story to motivate humanity to heed Jesus’ warnings about world conditions before His return.

The first passage that mentions the flood in NT

The great flood of Noah’s day (sometimes referred to as the “Genesis Flood” or “Noah’s Flood”) is mentioned in six New Testament passages. The first is: “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matthew 24:36-39 KJV throughout).

Notice that Jesus affirms that such a flood actually occurred and that it took them all away. This story was quite familiar to His listeners since He did not have to recount the entire drama. Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words states that the Greek word translated flood is: “kataklusmos (G2627), ‘a deluge’ (Eng., ‘cataclysm’), akin to katakluzo, ‘to inundate,’ 2 Peter 3:6, is used of the ‘flood’ in Noah’s time, Matthew 24:38, 39; Luke 17:27; 2 Peter 2:5” (e-Sword 13.0). Noah’s Flood was a cataclysmic deluge of the entire planet. Many Jews of the time thought the flood prefigured the day of judgment to come.

The King James Study Bible comments on these verses: ” … we are given a comparison to the days of Noe (Noah and the Flood), which illustrate and prefigure the condition of humanity at the time of Christ’s return. The last generation, like the one of Noah’s day, is pleasure-oriented and self-gratifying by eating and drinking. The reference to marrying and giving in marriage may refer to carrying on the normal course of life without heeding the impending judgment” (Tecarta Bible App).

As in Noah’s day, people will be unprepared for the destruction to come due to neglecting God’s warnings. R.C.H. Lenski in his Commentary on the New Testament wrote: “In the days preceding the deluge men were wholly unconcerned (ἦσαν with an indefinite subject). They spent the 120 years which God had fixed as the limit of his grace ‘eating (πρώγειν, “to munch,” audible eating, used in John 6:54–58) and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage’ as though no judgment were impending. These are neutral actions that are not sinful in themselves; but they obtain a sinister significance when the total disregard of God’s warnings is observed which underlies this conduct. These men should have repented in sackcloth and in ashes” (Bible Analyzer 5.4.1.22).

The second passage is:

“And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all” (Luke 7:26-27). When He said it “destroyed them all,” Jesus considered it a universal flood since He used it as a historical precedent for massive destruction of the world’s population at His return resulting from open sin. The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible notes: “Ancient Jewish sources depicted Noah’s generation (Ge 6:11–13) and Sodom (Ge 18:20; 19:4–9), sometimes together, as the epitome of evil. The point here is that they thought only of life as usual, and sudden judgment took them by surprise (Ge 7:21–23; 19:24–25)” (Tecarta Bible App).

Sudden destruction will catch most people unprepared at Jesus’ return. R.C.H. Lenski in his Commentary on the New Testament described the people of Noah’s day: “They disregarded absolutely all warning and lived on as though the warnings meant nothing. The four verbs which are without connectives are dramatic, all are imperfect tenses to express customary actions. It is a masterly description of that blind, secure, unbelieving, ungodly generation of Noah’s day, whose successors are with us now and shall fill the world when the Son of man comes” (Bible Analyzer 5.4.1.22).

The third passage is:

“By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith” (Hebrews 11:7). The KJV Study Bible notes: “Noah was asked by God to do in faith things that were incongruous with his former experience. He had never seen rain (Genesis 2:5), and yet God told him to build an ark because of a coming flood (Genesis 6:13–17)” (Tecarta Bible App). The NKJ Study Bible adds further: “Noah had never seen (v. 1) the flood God revealed to him. Yet he believed God in spite of this and heeded His warnings. His faith not only saved him from the deluge but also from God’s judgment, for He became an heir of righteousness” (Ibid.).

The fourth passage is:

“Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:20-21). The Holman KJV Study Bible explains: “Noah and his family were saved by water, or brought safely through the floodwaters, whereas the wicked were destroyed (Genesis 7:22-23). Baptism in the NT corresponds to this OT event in that both involve breaks from past lives and a fresh start and entrance into new life” (Tecarta Bible App).

The fifth passage is:

“And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly” (2 Peter 2:5). The NKJ Study Bible comments: “Noah is called a preacher of righteousness because his righteous life put to shame the immoral lives of his neighbors. Noah’s building of the ark would certainly have given him the opportunity to explain the coming judgment and to invite people to repent and believe in God. But his entreaties fell on deaf ears, just as the truth of Christ’s atonement fell on the deaf ears of the false teachers of Peter’s day. Such indifference and unbelief brought the ungodly of Noah’s world to certain destruction” (Tecarta Bible App).

The sixth and final passage is:

“For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished” (2 Peter 3:6). In his Days of Praise article for February 5, 2018, John Morris wrote, “Peter uses extraordinary language. The word ‘overflowed’ in today’s verse translates the mighty Greek word katakluzo, from which we get our word ‘cataclysm’ …In the Greek New Testament, this word is only used to refer to Noah’s Flood (see Matthew 24:38-39; Luke 17:27; 2 Peter 2:5) …” This is the word described earlier in this article. The NKJ Study Bible additionally notes: “The scoffing teachers would choose to overlook events such as creation and the Flood. The people of Noah’s time did not believe in Noah’s warning because they had never experienced a flood.” (Tecarta Bible App).

To summarize the importance of the words of Jesus and the New Testament apostles, Henry Morris in his Days of Praise article for January 30, 2018 wrote: “This is what Jesus said, and what He believed, and therefore, those who are truly His disciples must also believe this. The destructive effects of the Flood can still be seen today not only in the biblical record, but also in the abundant evidences of cataclysmic destruction in the rocks and fossil graveyards all over the world. To refuse this evidence, as do many modern intellectuals, can only be because they ‘willingly are ignorant,’ as Peter said in referring to this testimony (2 Peter 3:5).”

Christians need only go back to the New Testament’s affirmation in the first century that the flood was real and globally destructive. Contrary to what some claim, there is ample biblical and geological evidence of a global flood. Faith in the words of Christ Who inspired the New Testament settles the matter satisfactorily for those who claim to be His disciples. Jesus referenced the flood account to warn people not to avoid His call for repentance as people did in the time of Noah. Believers who heed God’s word and respond like Noah will find ” … grace in the eyes of the LORD” (Genesis 6:8).


Kenneth Frank headshot

Kenneth Frank was born and raised in New Jersey, USA and attended Ambassador College, graduating in 1973. He served in the Canadian ministry from 1973-1999, after which he returned to the USA to pastor churches in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina for 15 years. Having earned a BA degree from Ambassador College he later earned a MA degree from Grand Canyon University before being assigned to the Charlotte office to teach at Living University, now Living Education. Currently, he teaches the Survey of the Bible course to the on-campus students and writes the Digging Deeper column for our online Bible study program. He is married, has four children, and seven grandchildren.

Course Spotlight: The Genealogy of Christ

Have you ever wondered sometimes why the Bible mentions two genealogies of Christ – one in Matthew 1 and another in Luke 3? The most confusing thing about them is that they are totally different! Why are these two genealogies both in the Bible? Can we learn anything from them?

Course Spotlight from The Life Ministry and Teachings of Jesus Christ: (Unit 1) The Early Life of Christ

Digging Deeper: Open Thou Mine Eyes

Author: Mr. Kenneth Frank | Faculty in Theology, Living Education


Estimated reading time: 8 min., 40 sec.

Did you know that humans are unable to understand the rich meaning of the Bible unless God opens their eyes to it?

Try as they might, people can read and reread the sacred text and yet never grasp the deep, underlying instruction from God’s Holy Book. They may discover surface details but the deeper truths of Scripture must be unlocked to trusting minds. The NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible explains: “Without the Lord’s intervention, we will miss the wonderful treasures in the word” (Tecarta Bible App). Bible readers must discover the frame of mind that God requires of inquirers. This Digging Deeper searches for this key to understanding.

Our primary text is: “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law” (Psalm 119:18 KJV throughout). Notice that it is a prayer request from a believer who already had sufficient spiritual insight to recognize that he was still missing the even deeper significance of Scripture. He realized he was impeded from beholding wondrous things. That impediment was sin. Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible elucidates: “The Holy Scriptures are plain enough; but the heart of man is darkened by sin. The Bible does not so much need a comment, as the soul does the light of the Holy Spirit. Were it not for the darkness of the human intellect, the things relative to salvation would be easily apprehended” (e-Sword 13.0).

A spiritual prognosis will specify what needs attention. Joseph S. Exell’s The Preacher’s Complete Homiletical Commentary details the human condition further: “I. That man by himself cannot see wondrous things. The Hebrew phrase is, ‘Unveil mine eyes;’ implying—1. That man is spiritually blind (Revelation 3:17; Job 11:12). (1.) By sin (Ephesians 4:18). (2.) By reason of ignorance. (3.) By reason of self-conceit (1 Corinthians 8:1-2). (4.) By reason of prejudice and disaffection (Luke 16:14; 2 Corinthians 4:4). 2. That man is not only thus naturally blind, but lacks that divine light which can alone reveal and illuminate the sacred mysteries. Man is both blind and in the dark. His therefore is ‘gross darkness.’ 3. That this blindness and darkness are universal. The Psalmist’s case before his prayer was not the exception, but the rule” (e-Sword 13.0).

Looking closer

Taking a closer look at some words used in our text will expand our understanding. The word open has the sense of “unveil.” The Dake Reference Bible notes that the Hebrew word is “galah (H1540), unveil; uncover; remove that which hinders sight (Psalm 119:18; Numbers 22:31…)” (Bible Analyzer 5.4.1.22). Dake’s illustrative verse, Numbers 22:31, comes from the account involving Balaam when his donkey spoke to him. The LORD had to open Balaam’s eyes to see an angel standing with a drawn sword causing him to bow his head and fall flat on his face in submission. Balaam had been blinded by his willfulness and sin.

The Bible is veiled to those who do not have “eyes to see.” Until one submits to God in repentant obedience the meaning of sacred text remains veiled. We need to pray for insight beyond our abilities. The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges explains this word open: “Natural sight is unable to discern the mysteries (cp. Psalm 119:27) of Divine revelation; hence this prayer for the removal of the veil from his eyes. Cp. 2 Kings 6:17 (a different word); Ephesians 1:17-18” (e-Sword 13.0).

The apostle Paul’s conversion illustrates this process: “And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized” (Act 9:17-18). From that point on, Paul had “eyes to see.” He became one of the most effective first-century apostles, writing 14 of our New Testament books employing this spiritual insight.

The word behold in Psalm 119:18 means “discern, or see clearly”. The author asks God to enable him to understand God’s revelation as He intends. In His first recorded sermon, Jesus said one of the reasons for His ministry was the “recovering of sight to the blind” (Luke 4:18). He will cure spiritual myopia.

The word wondrous too has special significance. The Ultimate Cross-reference Treasury defines this word as “the wondrous, spiritual, truths that lie hid beneath the letter” (e-Sword 13.0). Bible readers will discern surface teachings, but to grasp the deeper issues submissive prayer is required. The ESV Study Bible states that the wondrous things are: “Probably the wondrous works recorded there and what they reveal of God himself (cf. v. 27; Ex. 3:20; Josh. 3:5; Ps. 78:32; 145:5)” (Tecarta Bible App).

The need for spiritual discernment

Some cross-references are enlightening: “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man” (1 Corinthians 2:12-15).

Paul’s declaration about comparing spiritual things with spiritual refers to employing Scripture to interpret Scripture – one of the most important Bible study principles. These verses explain a major problem people have in reading the Bible today: they try to read it using man’s wisdom instead of seeking God’s wisdom provided by the Holy Spirit. Without that, the words of Scripture are foolishness to them because they are spiritually discerned. This accounts for much of the biblical skepticism not only among the general public but even among biblical scholars today.

The word law at the end of our primary text does not refer only to God’s Old Testament legislation. The Hebrew word torah has the broader meaning of instruction or teaching. The Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary expounds it as: “The wonders of the law, not only its deep mysteries, but its practical truths, proceed ‘out of’ it only to the spiritually enlightened” (e-Sword 13.0). This is what it takes for “rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). Unless we discern properly, we are apt to misinterpret Scripture and attempt to apply it in ways not intended by the Author. Our primary text explains how Bible readers should discern the meaning of biblical truths to properly apply its teachings to their lives.

The need for communication with God

Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible explains God’s law as: “Out of the written word; out of the Scriptures. The word ‘law’ here is used to denote ‘all’ that God had revealed to mankind; all that is contained in the volume of inspiration. The truths taught here are:

(1) That there are deep, hidden, secret things in the word of God, which are not perceived by the natural man;

(2) That those things, when understood, are suited to excite wonder, or to fill the mind with admiring views of God;

(3) That a special illumination of God is necessary that man may perceive these things; and

(4) That the proper understanding of these things is connected with prayer, and can be hoped for only in answer to prayer” (e-Sword 13.0).

This brings forward another vital key for Bible study. Before beginning one’s daily Bible reading and study, students should pray that God will unfold its significance before the reader’s eyes. David Guzik’s Enduring Word Commentary elaborates: “In order to keep God’s word, must we not pray to understand it? What then is this prayer? Not – give me a plainer Bible – but open my eyes to know my Bible. Not – show me some new revelations beside the law – but make me behold the wonders of the law (Bridges)” (e-Sword 13.0). So many clamor today for “clearer, more modern” translations of the Bible when the chief problem is their spiritual blindness caused by sin. Our standard classic English Bible is clear enough to those who ask God to open their spiritual eyes. 

The Pulpit Commentary carries this thought further: “To how many the Bible is all dark and dull, incomprehensible in many parts, and void of interest in others! It is because the films of sin and prejudice have rendered their eyesight dark and dull. Let their eyes be but opened, and they will behold, not, as now they do, mere words, but wondrous things out of God’s Law” (e-Sword 13.0).

With a submissive mind willing to respond to what is read, God will surely enlighten the reader to what is required to deepen one’s relationship with Him. Such readers will receive life through God’s Word (Psalm 119:17). Bible study should be life-giving. Far too many never experience the word as God intends. Readers need to pray for open eyes so that the blinder of sin will be removed. Once Christians are in a harmonious relationship with Christ, spiritual blindness can be cured by this sincere request: “Open Thou mine eyes.”


Kenneth Frank headshot

Kenneth Frank was born and raised in New Jersey, USA and attended Ambassador College, graduating in 1973. He served in the Canadian ministry from 1973-1999, after which he returned to the USA to pastor churches in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina for 15 years. Having earned a BA degree from Ambassador College he later earned a MA degree from Grand Canyon University before being assigned to the Charlotte office to teach at Living University, now Living Education. Currently, he teaches the Survey of the Bible course to the on-campus students and writes the Digging Deeper column for our online Bible study program. He is married, has four children, and seven grandchildren.

Course Spotlight: Lessons from Forgiveness

In some of our online courses, we have a “Student Thoughts” section where we ask a question to see what the students think. In Unit 4 of the Life Ministry and Teachings of Jesus Christ course, we asked the question:

As He is dying, Christ asks the Father to forgive the people (Luke 23:34). What lessons can we learn from Christ’s attitude during His crucifixion? 

Come take a look at some of the Student Responses below!


By Christ asking for God to forgive those who were crucifying Him, He showed exactly what He meant in Matthew 5:44 where He said to ” Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” If we all could learn to do this today, we would be showing that Christ is indeed living through us.

-GW

Jesus Christ had compassion on the world when He was suffering, because He saw the big picture of the Kingdom coming ahead. Suffering has a way of humbling a person to a point of understanding that cannot be understood by any other means. When we suffer, we draw close to God and He gives us a peace and clarity that helps us see beyond our suffering. Jesus had the ultimate vision of the Kingdom and could see that in the resurrection, the hearts of those that crucified Him would be cut deeply by their wrongful condemnation of Him. We as His followers have to forgive those that sin against us also in order to have our sins forgiven and be able to enter into the Kingdom.

-AL

Christ shows us through the recording of this statement the heartfelt love He has for His family, not wanting any to be lost. He taught this during His entire ministry in many ways, but He was so very concerned for these people who were treating Him in such a vile way during the scourging and crucifixion that He felt compelled to beg the Father to have mercy on them. I’ve felt, as most of us probably have, this overwhelming concern at times for my children and for others, because of the deep desire to see them succeed, that I’ve cried out on their behalf, sincerely, that the Father and Christ will have mercy, and not at all concerned at the time for myself.  Christ desires this heart in us to always care, to be quick to forgive, to be merciful, to teach, to guide, and to protect the rest of our family – in essence to think outside of ourselves.

-MA

Course Spotlight: Horsemen of Revelation

What do the white horse and its rider represent in Revelation 6? Some commentators mistakenly say that these represent Christ, because the imagery appears similar to the description of Christ given in Revelation 19. But when we compare the Revelation 19 description to the first horseman, we find notable differences.

Course Spotlight From The Life, Teachings, and Ministry of Jesus Christ: (Unit 3) The Judean Ministry