Contradiction #7 – Moses’ Personality

NUM 12:3: “Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the fact of the earth.”

NUM 31:14, 17, 18: “And Moses was wroth…” And Moses said unto them, “Have ye saved all the women alive? … Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman, … But all the women children … keep alive for yourselves.”

For myself, this supposed contradiction is somewhat more interesting than the others. I think there’s a 3rd dimension to Moses’ personality that is often overlooked. For the purposes of this blog-post, I’m not going to spend any time trying to justify God’s orders  for Moses to kill, rather I’m going to focus on the personality of Moses.

Let’s draw a super-brief character profile on Moses.

a)   He was found by Egyptian royalty and raised in the Pharaoh’s household. (Exodus 2:10)
b)   In the defence of another Hebrew man, Moses lashed out in rage and murdered an Egyptian. (Exodus 2:12)
c)    When God commissions Moses to liberate the Israelites from Egypt… Moses response is one that lacks faith. (Exodus 3:6; 4:1; 4:10; 4:13 etc)

I’ve heard it taught that just like in the story of Moses, God can use anyone to do his tasks. I have seen this used as the battle cry for those that suffer from nervousness, or speech problems. And while it is certainly true that God can use anyone, maybe this isn’t the best part of scripture to pull that conclusion from.

Let’s make some safe assumptions about our three dot points above.

a)   Even if he was adopted into Pharaoh’s family, one would assume that he would be educated. Moses is credited to writing the first five books of the bible. Which after thousands years of literary interpretation, remains one of the most profound works ever written. He was not illiterate.
b)   In murdering another man, it can safely be assumed that Moses was somewhat of a hot head. He probably had trouble keeping his cool.
c)    Moses is clearly not trusting God. Considering his background, Moses is probably the most qualified person for the job God sets out before him.

Let’s face it, Moses wrote the book of Numbers, and in it he essentially wrote “I Moses, am the most humble person. More humble than all the men on the face of the Earth”. The statement in itself appears to be a contradiction. UNLESS, writing in retrospect, Moses was trying to illustrate a deeper and more profound message than his own meekness.

In a sermon from the David Jones (Moderator Presbyterian Church of Australia), he spoke on Moses meekness:

(Paraphrased) “Moses wasn’t always the meekest man. He was a murderer in Egypt. Hot Headed. And now this is testament to the grace of God. God changes our weaknesses into our strengths. These qualities didn’t come naturally to Moses. In fact they are supernatural.”

If we look at the context of Numbers 12, Moses is having to deal with Aaron and Miriam. He has to deal with the problem of their envy and jealousy. A family feud. I think that Moses leads with a good example, showing that we need humility when dealing rationally with others.

In Numbers 34, Moses is angry with his military commanders, as they have clearly disobeyed him, and the Lord. They’re disobedience in the past has caused much pain and suffering for Israel. Being a military person myself, I can fully appreciate the frustration of subordinates disobeying orders. As I said, I’m not going to spend any time looking at the act of killing in Numbers 31, but I think it is suffice to say that in Moses’ lifetime he is radically transformed into a humble leader, one who will do anything to protect his people and to serve his Lord and Saviour.

If the book of Numbers, and all of Moses’ works are viewed as a journey from point A to point B, it is clear that Moses’ personality changes over his lifetime. Again, if FAITHFULLY read in context, there’s no contradiction.

Contradiction #6 – Is it folly to be wise or not?

PRO 4:7 The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight.

ECC 1:18 For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increased knowledge increased sorrow.

1CO 1:19: “For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”

Short answer:

Proverbs 4:7 – Is talking about a Godly wisdom that is desirable for man to have.
Ecclesiastes 1:18 – Is talking about human wisdom, thinking that he can rely on his own wisdom, not Gods.
1 Corinthians 1:19 – Is pointing out how God’s wisdom is received by different people.

Wisdom (that is: ‘knowing and obeying God’) is a good thing. However when it’s used incorrectly, (that is: ‘when we rely on our own wisdom, and leave God out of the picture’), it’s a bad thing. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians shows that when men try to do it their way, God will show them that they need Him. So there’s no contradiction.

Before I start the irony behind this contradiction is almost laughable. That’s because in essence, the person who came up with this contradiction is leaning upon his own understanding and not trusting in the Lord for true wisdom. A wise person would read the above verses in context and see that there is no contradiction.

Long Answer:

First, let’s tackle Proverbs 4:7. Seeing as we are speaking about wisdom, it’s probably important to note that Proverbs falls into a group of books within the bible called the ‘wisdom literature’.

Godly wisdom and discipline belong hand in hand. The word ‘wisdom’ (or חכמה – pronounced chokmah) is used in Proverbs has the connotation to know and obey God. More specifically in Proverbs 4, the author is saying that to seek knowledge of God and have obedience is a good thing.

Secondly, the wisdom from the perspective of a sinful man is displayed in Ecclesiastes 1:18. In stark contrast to Proverbs 4:7; the author is telling of his futile efforts to gain understanding of the world through his own efforts, leading him to sorrow. This verse shows that when we rely on our own understanding it leaves us craving more and more, to no avail.

Later in Ecclesiastes, after the author has appropriately put human understanding in its place, the author in chapters 9 and 10 show that wisdom that is used for the right purposes can be a good thing.

In 1 Corinthians 1:19, Paul (that’s the author) is writing about the things that oppose people ‘knowing and obeying God’. There is much to be said about the socio-political setting of the Pauline letters, a good book to read if you’re interested is: ‘Dr. Bruce Winter’s After Paul Left Corinth’. It goes into some depth about the issues that both the Jews and the Greeks were opposing. It is suffice to say that in the 1st century culture the Jews were looking backward for signs of the Messiah, and the Greeks were looking for scientific proof that the Christian religion was true. (Not unlike some people 2000 almost years later). But Paul writes that God will destroy the wisdom of the people who lean on their own understanding, and will ruin the discernment of those who try to understand God through the signs of man.

Even though the bible was written over 1000’s of years, in different languages, from different parts of the world and by different men,  it still proves the wisdom of the so called wise to be folly and the wisdom of God to be truely wise. So there’s no contradiction.

Contradiction #5 – Which First; Beasts or Man?

GEN 1:25 And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and everything that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
GEN 1:26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

GEN 2:18 And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.
GEN 2:19 And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.

Simple answer: Beasts.

Long answer: In one way it is a shame that Chapters, Verses and Subheadings were inserted into the bible after the original authors had finished their works. Here is a good example of a chapter division falling in a pretty awful spot. The Hebrew text would read much smoother if chapter 1 was extended to include 2:1-4. That being said, it doesn’t change much, especially if we understand that 2:4 is in fact a marker for a change in topic.

Chapter 1 is commonly thought of as the historical chapter. While this does hold some other implications if it is taken 100% literally, the common consensus, and the author’s intended reading, is most probably a literal one. Although the author has written with a historical genre, historicity is not his primary concern. What is certain from reading Genesis 1 is the author is concerned with the hierarchical structure of Creation. Using common terms, that structure is: God rules over everything. Man has responsibility for Woman, and Man and Woman rule together over the animals and the earth. This seems to be the primary concern for the author.

From chapter 2:4 the author changes his angle. Confident that the audience now has a clear understanding of the hierarchical structure, he can move on and elaborate on some of the details which ‘he’ finds important. (Note that the details are the things that he finds important, not us, him).

2:4 contains the word  תּולדה  (pronounced toldah). This Hebrew word means family ‘decent’ or historical ‘generations’. It is clear that the authors intent in chapter 2 is to tell the story of mankind in more detail and from a different perspective to chapter 1.

It could be argued (I don’t know how convincingly) that chapter one has a concern with God and creation of the world because this is what it starts with. Following this line of thought, the author would start with the generations of mankind if this were in fact his concern in chapter 2.

Hence, chapter 2 skips the first 5 days of Creation and lands firmly onto man in the 6th day. So it is safe to assume that man is the key character in this chapter’s story. The story of man is fixated on his relationships and vocation.

God’s concern isn’t with the order of creation. And having already introduced his main point of emphasis which is MAN, the author focuses in on man’s relationships. God created animals for man to rule over. He showed man that they were unsuitable for companionship, so woman was created. We can assume (by studying the bible and other ANE literature) that to an ANE (ancient near eastern) Hebraic mind, introducing man first, animals second and woman third led the original audience to understand the relationship between himself, woman and animals.

For a 21st Century audience, it only takes a little intelligent thinking, and a desire to seek the truth to see that the beasts were created first, humans second. There is no contradiction. But I’m sure if you were able to ask the author who was created first, he would look at you with a blank face and reply… “Who flippin’ cares? The whole point I wrote Genesis 1 and 2 was to show that God is our King, and we are here to worship him with our work”.

Contradiction #4 – Who was at the tomb?

Matthew 28:1 – Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.

Mark 16:1 – When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him

John 20:1 – Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.

Answer – Luke 24:10. There were several other women with Mary. Leaving some of them out doesn’t classify as a contradiction.

While this is in my opinion a clear cut case. I will take some time to discuss the difference between biblical inaccuracy and biblical contradictions.

Let’s first start with biblical inaccuracy. Our first challenge is to acknowledge that as a result of living 1000’s of years removed from the biblical culture we will never fully appreciate the customs and traditions of our biblical heroes. This extends to not having an instinctive appreciation for the things that were primarily important to them. An example is ‘Hebrew Numerology’. In a 21st century context it is not considered important to put hidden meanings into numbers, like 7, 12, 14, 1000, etc. Yet these numbers are scattered through the bible because it was highly important to the author and original reader, these numbers hold a very significant meaning. The opposite of this also applies. In a technological, information crazed society we 21st century humans crave accuracy. We place a high emphasis of the grammar, format, spelling of a document. We are a precise and controlling society that demands perfection in everything that we see, buy and want. If we go and buy a new car, the tiniest imperfection will cause us to rethink the value. How can we expect an author, writing some 2-5 thousand years before us to be writing to accommodate us? Isn’t it a little absurd to expect Matthew, Mark and John to change their perspective of importance to meet our needs. Further, isn’t it a bit irreverent to expect God to rethink what’s important to Him when inspiring these people to write the bible.

Now jumping to the alleged contradictions. Using some material from BibleGateway.com I learnt that a contradiction is something that both confirms and denies the same thing at the same time. Eg. I say the apple is red, you say the apple is green. We have contradicting opinions.

This inaccuracy in the bible doesn’t point to a contraction. Rather it shows us what was important to the people of that day and age.

If you were sitting in a restaurant and a customer pulled out a gun and shot the chef. And afterwards you were interviewed by the Police. You would probably remember what the man was wearing. What colour his skin was. You might even be able to identify the gun. But would you be able to remember these same things about the people who were sitting at his table? If the police asked all the people in the restaurant about his table… do you think they would all answer the same?

To the disciples of Jesus; who was with Mary was not really important; what was important was that Jesus’s body should have been in the tomb, and it wasn’t. Just like what the people were wearing on the table isn’t important compared to finding the man who shot the chef. In order to understand the word of God, I encourage you to read it deeper than the surface. Look for the supporting evidence before looking for the contradiction.

Contradiction #3 – Who is the ‘Father of Joseph’?

MAT 1:16 And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.

LUK 3:23 And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli.

It seems that even among Christian scholars there is some ambiguity. Most of the timelines, commentaries and recent research show Luke to record the genealogy of Mary. and Matthew records the genealogy of Joseph. There’s a few reasons why people come to that conclusion (some of which are relatively convincing), but it seems that nothing adds up more than speculation.

So what are the speculations? One is that Matthew’s linage stem’s back to King David through Solomon and therefore satisfies the Old Testament prophecy requirements that the Messiah would be an heir of David. This is the legal application.

But actually by blood Jesus came from King David’s other son, Nathan. While this wasn’t the royal line of Kings, Jesus still come from the body of David. This second line is supposed to be recorded through Mary’s genealogy. So the implication of that is Mary and Joseph were in fact related 14 (i think) times removed.

So the question stands “Why didn’t Luke record ‘being the son of Mary, the daughter of Heli’ or ‘being the son of Joseph, the son-in-law of Heli”? The short answer is: it is seemingly unimportant to Christians because the main character of the story is Jesus. No one asks who Neo’s parents are in The Matrix.

But the long answer would involve going to extra-biblical references. It requires an understanding of the importance of genealogies in the first century context.  I think none of the above solutions are adequate, and place things upon the text that aren’t actually there to be read.

Grant Osborne, writes “Examining each genealogy closely reveals the authors’ different purposes. Matthew’s list resembles those used by rulers to justify their rank and status, and by families to determine connections to a common ancestor. Matthew arranges his genealogy into three groups of 14 names each. In Jewish gematria–a kind of numerology stemming from the fact that letters of the Hebrew alphabet were also numbers-names have numerical value. The three consonants for David add up to 14. So Matthew underscores Jesus’ kingly ancestry by working in groups of David, or 14.”

Matthew believed that the most effective and convincing way of recording the genealogy was to engage his audience with things they were passionate about. Matthew’s goal is to portray Jesus as the saviour, by pointing the reader back to Old Testament scripture and prophecy. On the one hand seems trivial to the 21st century reader, and it reminds us of really bad bible interpretation, and we feel that somehow the author is about to predict a date for the end of the world based on numerology. But on the other hand we must realise that for the author and his primary audience it was incredibly important and relevant.

Grant Osborne also observes Luke’s account: “Luke, on the other hand, begins his genealogy with “the Son, so it was thought, of Joseph” (3:23), and concludes with “the son of God” (3:38). At Jesus’ baptism, God declares Jesus “my Son” (3:22), and Jesus’ temptation begins with Satan recognizing him as “the Son of God” (4:3). Placed between Jesus’ baptism and temptation, Luke’s genealogy is meant to proclaim that Jesus is, indeed, God’s only Son.”

He goes on to say that Luke doesn’t group the names like Matthew, so is less concerned with the Jewish traditions. Luke does however place a strong emphasis on Jesus’ humanity by placing more common, unheard of names in the family tree. He also goes back to Adam suggesting that Jesus came for all mankind. Finishing with Adam, he moves straight into the temptation of Jesus. With Adam in the background of the readers mind, it is clear that he is using a literary technique to show that Jesus came to do what Adam could not.

In regards to the contradiction of genealogies, I hope you can see past the shallow view of the sceptic, and see that in accommodating humanity God has given us diversity in the scriptures whilst still remaining faithful to the truth. Mathew is pointing to a saviour, Luke is pointing to the one who can do what the first Son of God (Adam) could not. JESUS!

(Grant Osborne’s full article is: Christianity Today, Dec2009, Vol. 53 Issue 12, p56-56, 1p)

Contradiction #2 – Is God a ‘Man of War’ or a ‘Man of Peace’?

EXO 15:3 The LORD is a man of war: the LORD is his name.

ROM 15:33 Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.

1. I believe the Exodus verse is more of a translation issue: The Hebrew more literally says “the Lord is a warrior: the Lord is His name.” the word translated as ‘man of war’ is the Hebrew word milchamah which is used 319 times throughout the Old Testament. In many cases it’s used in its plural form and translated as men of war. or Warriors.

Again, the context for this text is poetry, or a song or a warriors bard if you want to call it that. Moses is rejoicing and giving thanks to the Lord that the people had victory over their adversaries.

Romans 15:33; is the closing of a letter to the church residing in Rome. A few thousand years later, and a massive event involving the recent life death and resurrection of Jesus. One would assume that ‘peace/harmony/reconciliation/unity’ (words translated from the same greek word ‘eirene’) is a good word to be used when God’s people came to the realisation of the gravity of God’s act of salvation. An act that changed the way in which God dealt with sin.

2. In today’s age we have many people in authority that have authority over military forces. Let’s take Julia Gillard as an example. (A bad one I know, but it’s late) She gives jurisdiction and authority to Australian troops to operate in Afghanistan. We must all agree that it hardly makes her a ‘woman of war’. In the same way myself, serving as an Army medic, would not say that I am a ‘man of war’ but I can see a need for it, and I am willing to serve in it, in order to serve my country.  I might be a warrior, but most definitely not a ‘man of war’. In the same way, God is not stereotyped as a MAN OF WAR, yet He does wage a war good versus evil. He does give authority (at times) for his people to participate in war both defensively and offensively.

3. So is God a man of peace or of war? In pushing back, I would ask the question, Do peace and war need to be mutually exclusive? In a fallen world with people operating outside of God’s ideal, then there needs to be some form of control measure, there needs to be some form of protection. The bible paints a picture of a pre-fallen world where war wasn’t needed. God had no intention for there to be war. In that context without hesitation, everyone must acknowledge that God is a God of peace. However, post-fall is a little more complicated, man’s greed, lust and selfishness led him into battle after battle. In a wider theology of the entire bible we can see God allowing mankind to make his own decisions and also often giving man what he wants. Their actions come hand in hand with their punishment. (cf. Num 11:31-35 eating quail unto death). When man craves war, God gives it to him. It seems to be in mans nature to create conflict. I think (and correct me if I’m wrong, as I am sure you will) that after man had chosen to make his own decisions, to create his own destiny, it was man who sought out war. The Lord will use even man’s evil behaviour to benefit his Kingdom.

Therefore I think the Lord is a warrior. He has warrior like qualities. He at times supports conflict in order to achieve His aims through men. But I find it difficult to give God the primary characteristic of WAR or WARLIKE especially when His first and most perfect creation was filled with PEACE.

Contradiction #1 – Is God Good ‘To All’ or ‘Just A Few’?

I’ve decided to do something a little different. A while ago I got given a list of contradictions in the bible. I believe that the bible is without contraction. So this is my effort to refute each one. this is for my benefit primarily. But feel free to interact using comments / Facebook / email. I am happy to change things up, or discuss where you think I am wrong. There lots of them, so only a couple at a time. God bless. In red is the supplied contradiction. 

PSA 145:9 The LORD is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works.

JER 13:14 And I will dash them one against another, even the fathers and the sons together, saith the LORD: I will not pity, nor spare, nor have mercy, but destroy them.

[Editor’s note: Some readers have raised an objection to this alleged contradiction. They point out that PSA 145:20 states that The Lord keeps all who love Him, but that He will destroy the wicked. In other words, some see no contradiction between “The Lord is good to all” and JER 13:14. Others contend, however, that even if the Lord destroys the wicked he could do so with compassion, pity, and mercy. Further, there are biblical examples that indicate that the Lord is not necessarily “good” or merciful– even to those who are not wicked. One such example is Job. As one reader points out, “If Psalm 145:9 was not a contradiction of Psalm 145:20 or Jeremiah 13:14, it would read something like

this: “The LORD is good to all, except the wicked: and his tender mercies are over all his works, except when He is punishing the wicked.” In any case, the idea that the Lord is good and merciful is contradicted by countless examples in the Bible where God orders the destruction of infants, personally kills David’s infant child, etc.]

1. Psalms are poetry, love songs written to God. In all cultures, both past and present that tends to manipulate the rules of absolutes. One could argue that the Bible should be beyond such rules, but as it is written by man, for man, to accommodate humanity such rules still apply. The bible is divinely inspired and is perfect to serve its purpose in pointing man to Christ. Although this is not the reason this psalm was written (like using a balloon to hammer nails) we can see in the case of Ps145:20 (as is written in the editors note) the contrast between just and unjust punishment. The God of scripture, in His authority has the right to reprimand as He sees fit. To some God will show kindness and mercy, to others He will punish. This occurs according to His discretion. This concept is supported by the rest of the bible.

In the case of Jeremiah 13:14, the book has a prophetic overtone to it, leading to a different form of literary construct. At this point Jerry is predicting the future of God’s justice if God’s people choose to rebel against Him. This hasn’t happened, but will happen if the people don’t obey God.

2. A parallel might be that ‘you wouldn’t allow a son to be involved in the family business if he was repeatedly bringing dishonour to the company by dealing drugs under the company banner. Your consequence might be to sack him, might even be to tell the police.’ In the same way God’s people bring shame to God’s reputation and here in Jer13:14 the consequences for such are outlined.

3. This text is unsettling because as children we are (sometimes unhelpfully) told that God is all about LOVE, LOVE and more LOVE. Often Christians grow up with a poor understanding of how God responds to rebellion. And that is with ANGER. This undoubtedly leads to people questioning the consistency of God through his dealings with the world. The Jer13:14 text is also unsettling because it moves family members into conflict father and son against each other. The breaking up of the family unit has been a sore point for all generations, because in our human nature it is such basic instinct to protect that. The question then gets asked “even a loving God sees the value of family and why would he mess with that?”. The unsettling answer is ‘God has created all mankind to be in union with Himself as one large family. Jeremiah foretelling of destruction has nothing to do with the issues of mercy, it has to do with the issues of justice. In a pre-Jesus context God directly punishes humans for all their rebellion. And in all cases His punishment is severe. If God were to allow sin to go unnoticed, that would be a contradiction. Find me that example and I will be stuck. Therefore in His perfectly consistent behaviour He punishes the rebellious. Unsettling, but biblical.