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Study Resources :: Articles and Books :: Scripture Difficulties

Scripture Difficulties

Contents

  1. Table of Contents
  2. Introduction
  3. Difficult Texts Explained

Table of Contents

Introduction

Like all other ancient writings, the Holy Scriptures present many difficulties. Some of these are not easy of solution, while others may be satisfactorily explained. The existence of difficulties in such a book was to be expected, and therefore cannot be wondered at. It is a matter of astonishment, indeed, that there are not more found in it. This must be evident to any one on reflecting that "the books of Scripture were written by different persons, in almost every variety of circumstance; that they refer to people whose customs and habits were totally dissimilar to our own; that they narrate histories of which we possess no other authentic documents which might reflect light on some obscurity of expression or vagueness of description; that they were written in other languages than those in which we now possess them; and that, in addition to the mutability of language, there are the difficulties of translation out of one tongue into another."

The proper spirit in which to deal with these difficulties is, to remove them as far as practicable, and to cleave and submit to the truth, even when every cloud cannot be cleared away from it. We should imitate the example of the apostles, who, when some of the disciples were offended by what they called a "hard saying," so as to forsake Christ, silenced every objection with this: "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life, and we are sure that Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." Whenever and wherever we see an error assaulting or overlying a truth, let us destroy the error and emancipate the truth; but when we see a truth seemingly in conflict with another truth, let us try to reconcile them, and show them thus reconciled to all.

Difficult Texts Explained

Gen 1:1

"In the beginning," etc. It is not said whether this "beginning" was the commencement of time, or far back of the creation of man, and long before the present geological period.

Gen 1:5

"And God called the light day," etc. Though the sun was not made until the fourth day, it is not true that there could be no day without the sun, as some have affirmed. By recent discoveries (or rather the recent revival of old ones) we are taught to believe that light does not consist in certain particles coming to us in a direct ray from the sun, or any other luminous body, but is a subtle fluid diffused through all space, and capable of being acted on in a thousand various ways. It is not said that the sun, as a body, was created on the fourth day, but only that it was then appointed for a special purpose.

Gen 1:26

"Let us make man in our own image," etc.-that is, naturally, in spirituality and immortality; morally, in "righteousness and true holiness," and politically, as having dominion over all the earth.

Gen 2:3

"He had rested from all his works," etc. This refers to God's cessation from creating and making; and Jhn 5:7 refers to the ceaseless workings of Providence.

Gen 2:5

"And there was not a man to till the ground." This verse is not contradictory to Gen 1:27, where the creation of Adam had been already affirmed. The inspired historian first gives a general account of the whole creation in six days, and then, carrying on his history, describes particularly the formation of Adam and Eve.

Gen 4:6

"Cain went out from the presence of the Lord"-that is, went out from the place of worship and of Divine manifestation.

Gen 4:7

"If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted?" etc. Sacrifices were of two sorts, eucharistical and expiatory; the former consisting of the fruits of the earth, the latter of a living animal, the life of which God would accept instead of that of the offender. Abel brought a sacrifice of atonement, acknowledging himself a sinner. Cain brought a sacrifice of thanksgiving, expecting to be accepted without repentance. God thus expostulates with Cain: "If thou wert so righteous as to need no atoning sacrifice, thou shouldst be accepted; as thou art not, sin will lie in the way till thou hast removed it by an atoning sacrifice of sin-offering."

Gen 4:17

"And Cain knew his wife," etc. It is asserted that Adam "begot sons and daughters" (Gen 5:4), meaning, doubtless, sons and daughters not named in any catalogue of his children. Nor did Cain sin by marrying his sister, as there was a necessity for such marriages at the time, and the law forbidding them had not been given.

Gen 4:26

"Then began men to call upon the name of the Lord." Men had begun to do so before. Dr. Boothroyd and others translate the passage, "Then began men to be called by the name of Jehovah."

Gen 6:3

"My spirit shall not always strive with man." Not always plead with man on account of his errors, for he is flesh, yet his day shall be one hundred and twenty years.-Dr. Boothroyd.

Gen 6:6

"And it repented the Lord that he had made man," etc. God accommodates his language to our conceptions, that we may more easily apprehend his character and perfections. Here, the cause is put for the effect, by a well-known figure of speech, and the change of His mind signifies merely a change of dispensation. The repentance was only apparent.

Gen 9:25

"And Noah said, Cursed be Canaan, a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren." Infidels cavil at this curse, because it falls on the descendants of the offender, Ham, the son of Noah. It may be replied, that the curse fell upon the offender in his own proper person. The vices of the Canaanites could not but be their plague, whatever had been the character of Ham. The wretched slavery of that people was not inflicted in consequence of their father's crime, but their slavery was foretold as a punishment on their ancestor. Had he been a good and righteous man, he might have been spared the foresight of so much misery.

Gen 22:2

"Take now thy son, thine only son," etc. God had no design to accept such a sacrifice; nothing more was intended than to make trial of the faith of the patriarch, and furnish a noble example of obedience to succeeding generations. But if Isaac had been slain, would any injustice have been done? Not surely to Isaac, whose life was forfeited by sin, like that of all other men, and might be taken from him in this way as well as by disease. It would have been painful to his father to be the agent, but the right of the Supreme Governor to prescribe any service to his subjects is indisputable, and in obeying him they can do no wrong.

Gen 12:13

"Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister," etc. Abram, in this instance, evidently did wrong, but neither God nor the historian is responsible for the prevarication. It is merely recorded as a historical fact, without any approval or attempt at palliation. The same thing is true of the faults and sins which are recorded of Moses, David, Jonah, Elijah, Peter, etc. The registering of these things is proof of the stern fidelity of the sacred writers.

Gen 36:2-3

, as compared with Gen 26:34. In the East different names were often applied to one person. Esau had three wives, and each of them is spoken of under two names, making six names for them all.

Gen 46:8-27

For the genealogical list of Jacob's family, here given, as consistent with itself, and reconcilable with Stephen's statement in Act 7:14, see a subsequent chapter.

Exd 4:21

"I will harden Pharaoh's heart." Properly, I will permit Pharaoh's heart to be hardened. God did not actually interfere to strengthen and confirm the obstinacy of Pharaoh, but, moved by that obstinacy, He withdrew from him gradually all the restraints of His grace, and as these restraints were removed, the heart of the king was more and more hardened.

Exd 7:11

"Then Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers," etc. It is not true, as has been alleged, that the magicians performed miracles as well as Moses. In every instance in which they attempted to compete with him they fell infinitely below him, and at last gave up the attempt, confessing that "the finger of God" was with him.

Exd 11:2

"Speak now in the ears of the people, and let every man borrow of his neighbor," etc. There is no evidence that the Israelites designed to deceive the Egyptians; everything in the narrative goes to show that the people expected to return, and were perfectly honest in thus dealing with their neighbors. The word borrowed is rendered ask in Psa 2:8.

Exd 20:5

"Visiting the iniquities of the fathers upon the children," etc. Apart from the teaching of the Bible, it is a fact which observation attests, that, in diseased constitutions, dishonored names, and broken fortunes, the physical consequences of the sins of parents are entailed upon their posterity.

Exd 25:8

"Let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them." Act 7:48. "The Most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands." The former text describes the majesty of God, the latter his grace. The one is his absolute dwelling, "light inaccessible, and full of glory;" the other is his special and gracious presence: "wheresoever two or three are met together in my name, there am I in the midst."

Num 22:22

"And God's anger was kindled because he went." It is true that God told Balaam to go (v 20), but as he was first positively forbidden to go, and, instead of obeying, yielded to temptation (v 17), and persuaded Balak's messenger to remain all night (v 19), and thus sinned, God gave him up to his own wicked heart, and that his punishment might be wrought upon him said, in answer to his solicitations, "Go."

Num 25:9

"And those that died in the plague were twenty and four thousand." Paul, in 1Co 10:8, speaks of twenty-three thousand; but he refers only to those who "fell in one day," while the text includes all that died on that occasion, even those who were destroyed by the judges.

Deu 10:6

"There" (at Mosera) "Aaron died, and there he was buried." It is said, in Numbers, that Aaron died at Mount Hor. Mosera was the name of the district in which Hor is situated. Besides, the word there (scham) may be here used to designate the time of Aaron's death, and be translated then, or at that time, as it is in several other passages.

Deu 34

"Death of Moses." There is reason to believe that this passage originally formed an introduction to the Book of Joshua, and became separated from it by the division of the books into chapters and verses, or at some earlier period.

Jos 10:13

"And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies." The miracle here recorded was known to these of old who had no means of access to the Divine writings. We find the event mythologically related, and there is not one system of belief of which astronomical observations have formed a part in which this "long day" has not been noticed.

In the original, the phrase, "Sun, stand thou still," is, " Sun, be thou dumb (withhold thy influence) while over Gibeon, and thou, moon, over the valley of Ajalon." There are two reasons why Joshua called upon the "sun" to stand still, instead of giving the scientific command according to our ideas-"Earth, stand thou still." 1. The command was not addressed to the sun only, but to the sun and moon jointly. "Sun, stand thou still," or " withhold thine influence," would have the effect of restraining the operation both of earth and moon, and keeping them in their relative positions. 2. The command, as given, would be more intelligible to those to whom the words were addressed. As the Amorites were pre-eminently adorers of the heavenly bodies, it would tend to show them how great was the power of the true God against those very beings whom they worshiped, if Joshua uttered his command, as he did, to the objects of their idolatry. So, likewise, the suspension of a general planetary law would plainly affect the moon as well as the sun, and thus would it appear as though Joshua had been well acquainted with this fact.

The phrase, "Sun, stand thou still," does not necessarily mean that its influence was suddenly withdrawn. All we are told is, that the sun "hasted not to go down for a whole day." The sun slackened its apparent motion, or we may say the earth slackened, at the Divine command, its actual motion, and thus, though there would be an apparent cessation of the motion of the sun, it would be but gradually stayed, and stayed only for such a period as, in the exercise of His wisdom, God thought fit to permit. But we must observe that the term "Be thou dumb," or "withhold thine influence," is one which is peculiarly applicable. It is a form of expression to be found not only in the Hebrew language but in other idioms; and we have an instance of this in one of the most sublime poets (Dante), who, whether he copied from the Divine writings, or whether it struck his own mind, speaks of the sun as being silent, when referring to those places where the light of the sun is not seen. If, then, we understand that the earth did stay its motion in obedience to the command, "Sun, stand thou still," or "withdraw thine influence," that that motion was gradually slackened for the period during which the miracle lasted, and that then it continued at the rate at which it had gone on before, we shall see an easy mode of understanding how the miracle was performed, and we shall see the entire applicability, both spiritually and philosophically, of the words which were spoken.

Jdg 11:30, 31

Jephthah's vow. Infidels have made this narrative a ground of railing against the Bible, and Scripture expositors have been greatly embarrassed with it. Some of the latter maintain that the fair victim of what they regard as a rash vow was actually put to death; others contend that she was only devoted to a life of pious celibacy. Both parties, however, have shown that there is here no room for infidel scoffs, since, if such an execution was perpetrated, it was done in flagrant violation of the Divine precepts (Lev 18:21; 20:2-5; Deu 12:29, 30, 31), and only proved that this judge of Israel was extremely ignorant of the Mosaic law; and if he only devoted her to the service of the tabernacle, he still displayed a want of knowledge of the Levitical code, in supposing that he "could not go back" from his vow, there being an express provision that such vows might be commuted (Lev 27:1-8).

That there was no real sacrifice in the case, the following considerations have been adduced to show. How such a sacrifice could be lawful cannot be discerned, as the high priest himself could not offer what he pleased for sacrifice, if it were not of that kind which God had appointed. If Jephthah was stained with the blood of his only child, it is not conceivable that his name would have been enrolled in the New Testament among the illustrious examples of faith and piety. Jephthah in his negotiations with the king of the Ammonites showed himself a man of justice and humanity, soundness of mind, strength of understanding and of argumentation, and accurate acquaintance with the laws and records of his nation. The last words of his vow in the Hebrew will fairly admit of this rendering-"Shall surely be consecrated to the Lord, or I will offer it a burnt-offering." In making his vow, may he not be supposed to have imagined that, on his return, he might meet his flock of sheep or herd of goats, and that in this case his purpose was to offer a hecatomb of these animals as a grateful oblation to God, but that meeting his own daughter, and instantly remembering that the performance of his vow in causing her to spend her days in God's service, and exempt from the duties of a wife and mother, would dash his hope of posterity, this thought occasioned the mental disturbance expressed by rending his clothes? Can it be imagined that the daughter, if she knew she was to be laid upon a flaming altar, would have coolly asked for two months merely to bewail her virginity? If Jephthah could allow her two months, why not twenty years? If, when she returned to her father at the set time, and he sacrificed her, would the historian have gravely added, "And she knew no man"? Does not this clause show that the vow had its fulfillment in her continuing to the end of her days in celibacy? Would the virgins of Israel have gone to Jephthah's daughter to "comfort her four days in a year," if she had been numbered with the dead?

1Sa 28:7-25

Saul and the witch of Endor. Henry thinks that the fallen angels might attend upon the call of a sorceress, and therefore takes it for granted that an evil demon, raised by the arts of witchcraft, assumed the shape of Samuel, and, personating the prophet, answered the inquiries of Saul. The profound silence of Scripture with respect to the manner of operation in effecting this should teach us "not to covet to know these depths of Satan, or the solution of such mysteries of iniquity." Some commentators consider the apparition of Samuel to Saul as a real miracle, produced not by the arts of sorcery but by the finger of God. Modern expositors have supposed that as God overruled Balaam when seeking for enchantments, and compelled him to utter a true prophecy, and as he sent a messenger of death to Ahaziah at the time when that prince was sending to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, so at the instant when Saul was appealing to a witch, the true Samuel was made to appear for his greater terror and punishment, by confirming the immediate execution of the sentence before passed upon him.

2Ki 20:11

The sun-dial of Ahaz. This miracle appears, at least in one point, to be even greater than that of Joshua, for whereas Joshua only commanded the sun to stand still while the armies of the Lord fought against their adversaries, it would seem in this case as though the work of creation had been, so to speak, undone, as though the earth had been turned back upon her axis, in order to testify the Lord's favor toward one of his servants, so that the miracle appears to be greater in itself, and more wonderful in proportion to the less amount of cause for its exhibition. "As the miracle," says one, "specifies a particular sun-dial, and claims no other object than the satisfaction of Hezekiah's mind by giving him 'a sign,' it maybe held more in accordance with the importance of the case that the miracle should have been wrought upon the sun-dial, and not upon the sun." Be this as it may (though we do not admit the view), it is not necessary, for the understanding of the text, to suppose that either the sun or the earth changed its course ten degrees, or even one degree. The intervention of a light mass of vapor between the dial and the sun would have refracted his beams sufficiently to bring back the shadow of the style ten degrees, measuring perhaps ten minutes, or even less.

Psa 140:10; 129:6; 143:12; 58; 59

Instances of what are called imprecations in Scripture. Some of these expressions might be rendered, with equal correctness, predictions of what shall be. If we take the severest sense, we must remember that David wrote them, not as a private man venting his personal feelings, but as a judge pronouncing what God had authorized. Their crimes justly deserved these penalties, and the psalmist, as the mouthpiece of God, faithfully pronounced them.

Psa 110:3

"From the womb of the morning thou hast the dew of thy youth." Thy progeny shall be numerous and beautiful as the dew-drops of the morning.

Psa 144:8

"A right hand of falsehood." The right hand was held up when taking an oath; this means they were given to false swearing.

Pro 26:4, 5

"Answer not a fool. ... Answer a fool." Contend with a fool, yet reprove a fool.

Ecc 1:9

"There is no new thing under the sun." No new expedient found to make men happy.

Ecc 7:16

"Be not righteous overmuch." Understood, satirically, to mean, if you would pass current with the world, a little religion will go a great way, and please them better than much.

Ecc 7:17

"Be not overmuch wicked." Satirically, because you will not be tolerated in society if you exceed certain excesses.

Isa 22

"I will lay upon his shoulder the key of the house of David." A large key, carried on the shoulder, was an ensign of authority.

Isa 44:20

"Is there not a lie in my right hand?" Have I not an idol (a lie) near me at all times?

Isa 45:7

"I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create evil: I the Lord do all these things." The Lord sends wars, pestilence, calamities and other evils, as punishments for national sins; it is in this, and not the sense of an originator of evil, that he is said to create evil.

Isa 63:17

"O Lord, why hast thou made us to err from thy ways, and hardened our hearts from thy fear?" "Why dost thou suffer us to err from thy ways, to harden our hearts from fear of thee?"

Jer 20:7

"O Lord, thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived." The passage alludes to the encouragement God gave the prophet to take office, and critics have rendered it, "Thou didst persuade me, and I was persuaded."

Eze 14:9

"I, the Lord, have deceived that prophet." I, Jehovah, have permitted that prophet to be deceived.

Hsa 1:2

"Take unto thee a wife of whoredoms." Eminent critics consider this as spoken in parabolic terms, to show the Jews the abomination of their idolatries.

Mat 3:4

"Locusts and wild honey." A species of the grasshopper or locust, very common in the East, is still used there as an article of food, being dried, ground and made up into bread.

Mat 4:8

"All the kingdoms of the world." All the surrounding kingdoms, many of which could be seen from certain elevated spots in and about Judea.

Mat 10:34

"Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I come not to send peace, but a sword." This is not a contradiction of those passages that announce the Saviour as the Prince of Peace. The gospel may be the occasion of war, but in itself it is the cause of peace. Its holiness coming into collision with man's sins, its denunciations of iniquity falling on those that love it, its rebuke of the most plausible hypocrisy, and its recognition of the least heartfelt desire "to do justly and love mercy," its enshrining the least seed of truth, and its indifference to the largest husk of ceremony, are calculated as soon as introduced into a fallen world to rouse the resistance of wicked men. But such resistance is not the fruit of Christianity, but of corrupt human nature, hating and seeking to repel the approach of truth.

Mat 12:31

"The blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men." From the connection, it is generally inferred that the sin against the Holy Ghost was the ascribing the miracles of Christ to Satanic agency, which could only have been occasioned by a willful and malignant opposition to Christ. When the same is manifested in opposing the revelation of the Holy Spirit against the clearest and strongest convictions of conscience, the result is the same. But as unpardonable sin hardens the heart, where there is a spirit of deep contrition for sin against God, this sin cannot have been committed, though there may have been near approaches to it. "It shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world nor that which is to come," is not to be understood of sin ever being forgiven in the next world, but is a strong expression for, it shall never be forgiven. There has been a greater variety of opinions in regard to the sin against the Holy Ghost than any other question within the range of theological discussion. Epiphanius believed it to be "vilifying the Holy Ghost;" Hillary, "the denial of God in Christ;" Cyril, "an unmeet expression of the Spirit;" Augustin, "final impenitence;" Ambrose, "the blasphemy of infidelity;" Lyra, "sinning maliciously against the truth;" Beza, "universal apostasy from God, by which the majesty of God is maliciously opposed;" Musculus, Bucer, Calvin, Piscator, "opposition to the Word of God, while convinced of its Divine authority;" Chrysostom, "blasphemy in the face of miracles."

Mat 16:18

"And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Keys signify authority, Isa. 9:5; 22:22; Rev 3:7. The binding and loosing, as Lightfoot proves from Jewish writings, refers to instructions, doctrines, and not to persons, and the passage signifies the inspiration of the apostles to confirm or reject doctrines and customs as the Spirit should teach them.

Mat 16:19

"And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Keys signify authority, Isa. 9:5; 22:22; Rev 3:7. The binding and loosing, as Lightfoot proves from Jewish writings, refers to instructions, doctrines, and not to persons, and the passage signifies the inspiration of the apostles to confirm or reject doctrines and customs as the Spirit should teach them.

Mat 13:12

"Whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance; but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath." One special gift of God to his people is an earnest of others; so that he who has faith and grace shall receive further communications of knowledge, wisdom, holiness, and every blessing of salvation, till he has a great abundance, whereas he who has not faith and grace shall at last be deprived of all his other attainments and advantages in which he trusted and gloried.

He who hath considerable religious knowledge, and takes that care to improve it which men are observed to do with their wealth, will find it increase; while he who has but little, and manages it as the poor are often observed to do, will find it come to nothing. The little he had learned will slip out of his memory, he will be deprived of it, and in that sense it will be taken from him. God never intended that men should attain heavenly knowledge, any more than earthly, without labor, pains and attention.

Mar 6:5

"He could there do no mighty work." Not that he had not power, for he did cure a few sick; but the unbelief of the people prevented them from applying to him. See Mat 13:58.

Luk 14:26

"If any man come to me, and hate not his father and mother," etc. The word "hate" is used in Scripture comparatively with love. Thus, it is stated in Gen 29:31, "When the Lord saw that Leah was hated;" but this is explained in the preceding verse (v 30), "he loved Rachel more than Leah;" "hated," in verse 31, is the "less loved" in verse 30. So, "if any man hate not his father," etc., must mean, "If any man love his father above me, serve, or sacrifice, or suffer for an earthly relationship more than for me."

Luk 16:9

"Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness," etc. Mammon was the heathen god of plenty. Mammon here means money: make friendship by a benevolent use of this, especially among the household of faith.

Luk 18:25

"For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye," etc. This proverbial expression will appear less strange if we consider that doors in the East, at least those of the enclosures about their houses, were very low, so made as some defence against the sudden incursions of the mounted Arabs of the desert. Through these their camels were made to enter, kneeling, with considerable difficulty. So that, to force a camel through a doorway as small, as the eye of a needle came to be thought of.

Jhn 1:21

"Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No." John the Baptist was not literally the person of Elias, and it was proper for him to say he was not, in order to correct the false notions of the Jews on that subject. Had he answered in the affirmative, he would have confirmed them in a gross falsehold. Yet John the Baptist was that Elias of whom the prophet Malachi spoke (Mal 4:5); that is, as Luke expresses it, "He came in the spirit and power of Elias" (Luk 1:17); and so was, as it were, another Elias.

Jhn 5:40

"Ye will not come to me that ye may have life;" also, Eze 18:31, "Why will ye die?" If it be asked, Why does not the Almighty do what he thus seems so much to desire? the answer is, God will not treat men as dead machines, or as irrational and irresponsible creatures. He will not drive men to heaven by force. He draws with cords of love, and with the bands of a man. He stands at the door of the human heart and knocks for admission. He will conciliate where he might coerce and command.

Jhn 19:14

"And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour; and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your king!" Mark says Christ was crucified about the third hour. The word sixth, in the text, is thought by many eminent critics to be a mistake of some copyist, as a few old MSS. read third instead. Calvin, Grotius, and some others, think the two Evangelists adopted different modes of reckoning time, in one of which the day was 'divided into twelve hours, beginning at sunrise, and in the other of which it was divided into four parts, of three hours each, which would make the sixth and third coincide. Some think John followed d Romish custom of reckoning the hours from midnight.

Jhn 19:34

"But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water." It appears that the spear went through the pericardium and pierced the heart, and that the water proceeded from the former, and the blood from the latter.

Jhn 20:29

"Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed;" also Luk 10:23, "Blessed are the eyes which see the things which ye see." The former of these passages pronounces a blessing upon those who saw the fulfillment of what others have believed; the latter upon those who should believe the gospel on the ground of their testimony, without having witnessed the facts with their own eyes. There is no contradiction in these blessings, for there is a wide difference between requiring sight as the ground of faith, which Thomas did, and obtaining it as a completion of faith, which those who saw the coming and kingdom of the Messiah did. The one was, a species of unbelief, the other was faith terminating in vision.

Act 7:14

"Then sent Joseph and called his father Jacob to him, and all his kindred, threescore and fifteen souls." For explanation of this verse see subsequent chapter.

Act 22:9

"And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid, but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me." Act 9:7

"And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man." The statement in these two passages contains a variety, but no contrariety; the former observing that the men "heard a voice," the latter, that they "heard not the voice of him that spoke" to Saul. They heard a sound which terrified them, but did not understand the meaning, which Saul did. The one says that they "saw the light," the other that they "saw no man." In all this there is no inconsistency.

Rom 5:9

"Justified by Christ;" v 1 "Justified by faith." Jam 2:24; "By works a man is justified." The contradiction here is only apparent, not real. We are justified by Christ, meritoriously; by faith, instrumentally; by works, declaratively. Christ's righteousness is the ground of our justification; faith is the medium or means by which that righteousness becomes ours, and a holy life is the visible evidence of our acceptance with God and title to happiness.

Rom 6:17

"But God be thanked, ye were servants of sin." The original is often elliptical, and in such cases the deficiency should be supplied: "Though ye were the servants of sin," etc.

Rom 8:19

"For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God:" generally understood to mean that the whole visible creation waits anxiously for the time when the sons of God shall be manifested, and the earth and its creatures be restored to the primitive state of their creation.

Rom 9:3

"For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh." It would be absurd to suppose that the apostle wished himself eternally cursed; but the language seems to intimate his willingness to die what was deemed an accursed death, such as Paul's Lord endured, so that he could be the means of saving his countrymen. Compare Gal 3:13.

Rom 9:18

"Whom he will he hardeneth." He suffereth to be hardened.

Rom 9:22

"What if God, willing to show his wrath," etc. He may show his wrath in punishing the guilty without any impeachment of his justice. "Vessels of wrath fitted for destruction." Not fitted by God, but by themselves, by their own sins. "Vessels of mercy:" made meet for heaven by Divine grace.

1Cr 10:33

"I please all men in all things" Gal 1:10

"If I yet please men, I should not be the servant of Christ." The former is that sweet inoffensiveness of spirit which teaches us to lay aside all self-will and self-importance; that charity which "seeketh not her own," and "is not easily provoked." The latter spirit referred to is that sordid compliance with the corruptions of human nature of which flatterers and deceivers have always availed themselves, not for the glory of God or the good of men, but for the promotion of their own selfish designs.

1Cr 11:27

"Guilty of the body and blood of the Lord." Liable to the punishment due to those who "dishonor the symbols of the Lord's body and blood."

1Cr 15:29

"Baptized for the dead" means here, in the room of, filling up the places of the dead who have fallen by martyrdom, or otherwise died in the faith of the same Lord.

2Cr 12:10

"Nevertheless, being crafty, I caught you with guile" The apostle clearly uses the language or charge of an accuser. He does not confess the truth of the charge of craftiness, but concedes it so far only as to turn the point against his accuser.

Hbr 6:4-6

"For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened," etc. Nothing is impossible with God; but God works by means, and the persons here alluded to are confirmed apostates, who, having abandoned for ever all the means of grace, have cut themselves off from all the hopes of glory.

Hbr 7:3

"Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days nor end of life." Melchisedec is here taken as a type of Christ, from certain peculiarities respecting him. He was "without recorded father, without recorded mother, without priestly pedigree," either by father or mother's side; nor have we any account of the beginning of his days, or of the end of his life and ministry.

Hbr 11:33, 39

"Who, through faith, obtained promises." "And these all received not the promise." The "promises" referred to are those which were fulfilled during the Old Testament dispensation. The "promise" mentioned was that of the coming of the Messiah, in the faith of which the fathers lived and died, but saw no its accomplishment.

Hbr 12:17

"For he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears." No place for repentance in his father's mind. Such as willfully renounce Christianity will find no place for repentance in God, who has connected apostasy with ruin, though no true penitent ever sought mercy in vain.

Jam 2:10

"He that offendeth in one point is guilty of all." The Divine law in no respect and in no instance tolerates sin. The man who violates it in one particular shows that there is in him the spirit of disobedience. The angels sinned only once. It was by one offence that Adam incurred the penalty of death.

1Pe 3:19

"He went and preached unto the spirits in prison." Not in prison in Noah's days, but shut up for their unbelief in the prison of darkness, when the apostle wrote about them.

1Jo 5:16

"There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it." The sin of malicious unbelief, showing itself by speaking evil of the miraculous works of the Spirit, as the Jews did, apostatizing from the truth, and final impenitence.

Jud 9

"Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil, he disputed about the body of Moses." There are several conjectures respecting this passage, but that which seems most likely is, that Satan would fain have prevented the interment of the body of Moses, that its exposure might lead the Israelites to pay divine honors to it, from their strong propensity to idolatry.

Rev 2:17

"To him that overcometh will I give a white stone," etc. It was a custom among the ancients to give their votes by white or black stones: with these they condemned the guilty, with these they acquitted the innocent. In allusion to this ancient custom, our Lord promises to give the spiritual conqueror the white stone of absolution or approbation; and inseparably connected with it a new name of dignity and honor, even that of a child of God and heir of glory, which is known only to himself, or the inhabitants of that world to which he shall be admitted and who have already received it.

Psalm 138:2

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