Many Old Testament texts are somewhat obscure and Bible commentators vary widely in their interpretations. This series will attempt to find the most logical meaning of some of these verses with the hope that it will add interest and a better understanding of the Sacred Word. This is not to say that the exact meaning can always be ascertained, but any additional information is bound to be helpful to the reader.
Let us begin with Genesis 1:1-2. “In [a] beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.”
What is the meaning of, “And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters”?
The Hebrew word ruwach often means “breath,” or “wind,” and some take this last portion of verse two to refer to a great wind used in the same sense that it was employed to dry up the land after the Flood. But since the dry land did not appear until the third day, this view is faulty. The wind blowing over the water could not produce the events that took place on the following days. What moved upon the waters? The Spirit of God. God is a Spirit (John 4:24). Throughout the Bible the “Spirit of God” is equivalent to God. The creative “moving” (hovering) was made by the Spirit of God — the great Agent that imparts vital energy and action. Matter cannot create anything; only the will of God can. The combination of God’s will, His Spirit, and great power executed the event necessary to establish the first step in the creation of this marvelous earth. Nothing but the absolute power of God could bring about such a great and fundamental change in the construction of man’s abode. This text portrays in a single verse the state of the earth prior to its being prepared as a dwelling place for man.
Genesis 5:21-24 is the next text to be considered. What happened to Enoch? Was he taken to heaven or what?
The text reads: “And Enoch lived sixty and five years, and begat Methuselah: And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters: And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years: And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; [emphasis ours] for God took him.”
One fact is absolutely certain: Enoch did not go to heaven. Jesus said: ” . . . No man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven . . . .” (John 3:13). Notice in the text above that Enoch lived 365 years. No more, no less. He died after this time period. Notice again, “he was not for God took him.” What does this mean? The New Testament explains what happened.
The Apostle Paul explained in Hebrews 11:5: “By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him. . . .” Notice carefully, the Bible does not say that Enoch went to heaven when he was translated. The question is then, what does the word “translate” mean? “Translate”(metatithemi) means “to transfer,” “transport,” “exchange,” “change sides.” It never means “to go to heaven.” In Acts 7:16, it refers to the body of Jacob being transported to Sychem where he was buried. So Jacob was transported (translated) to the place of his burial. What then happened to Enoch? He was transported and buried in a place where God took him. Remember in Deuteronomy 34:6, God took Moses from the people and buried him where he could not be found.
Enoch is included in the saints of God who have not yet received the promise of eternal life (Heb. 11:5, 13). The saints are awaiting the resurrection of the dead. Consider this use of the word “translate” in Colossians 1:13. Paul referring to God, writes: “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son.” The word “translate” means “to cause a change of sides,” that is, the saints are no longer a part of this world but placed among those who will be in God’s kingdom.
The last question to be answered is: What does it mean in Hebrews 11:5 that “Enoch should not see death?” The Scripture says Enoch lived 365 years and died. (Heb. 11:13). Enoch died, so to which death does this refer? There are two deaths. All men are appointed to die the first death (Heb. 9:27), but the incorrigibly wicked will die the second death in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:15; 21:8). Clearly, Enoch was removed physically by God and then buried, being fully assured that he would not see the second death.
A text that has perplexed many is Genesis 32:24-30. This is the account of Jacob wrestling with the Angel. In the Bible the “Angel,” or “Angel of the Lord,” often refers to Christ.[W]e read of God’s being manifested in the form of man; e.g. to Abraham at Mamre (Gen 18:2,22; comp. 19:1); to Jacob at Penuel (Gen 32:24,30); to Joshua at Gilgal (Josh 5:13,15), etc. It is hardly to be doubted that both sets of passages refer to the same kind of manifestation of the Divine Presence. This being the case, since we know that “no man hath seen God” (the Father) “at any time,” and that “the only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath revealed him” (John 1:18), the inevitable inference is that by the “Angel of the Lord” in such passages is meant He who is from the beginning, the “Word,” i.e. the Manifester or Revealer of God. These appearances are evidently “foreshadowings of the incarnation” (McClintock and Strong Encyclopedia, Electronic Database).
This fact is affirmed by Genesis 32:30: “And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.” See also Hosea 12:4.
The account is as follows:
And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him. And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed. And Jacob asked him, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, thy name. And he said, Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name? And he blessed him there. And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved. (Gen. 32:24-30)
After sending his wives and family across the river Jabbok and being fearful of Esau, Jacob remained on the north side of the river to reveal his cares and fears to God before meeting Esau. Years before, Esau had threatened to kill him. There at the river he encountered “the Man” and began to wrestle with Him. What was the purpose of this encounter? Jacob knew that the promises given to Abraham had passed on to him, yet he was fearful and greatly distressed because of Esau. Would he survive Esau’s wrath? God, who appeared in the form of a man, was unable to dislodge Jacob and smote his thigh in order to prevail. Could God have manifested His true power? Of course! But the purpose of the struggle was to strengthen Jacob’s faith and remove his doubts. After Jacob was subdued he realized that he had met God face to face. It was then he knew that God’s blessing alone was necessary for success. Jacob’s pattern of life required a radical change. After the encounter with God, not only was he blessed but his tainted past of deceitful behavior was forgotten, and he was given a new name. The name Jacob meant “supplanter,” but his new name was Israel, meaning “prince of God,” or possibly “God fights,” signifying that Jacob had fought with both men (Gen. 48:22) and God. During his life he had used God’s blessing for his own advantage regardless of the circumstances. Now by humbling himself and by receiving God’s assurance, he now knew he would be successful in his encounter with Esau.
Next, let us consider Genesis 44:15. This text, as translated in the Authorized Version, implies that Joseph had the power of divination. In addressing his brothers the text reads: ” . . . What deed is this that ye have done? wot ye not that such a man as I can certainly divine?” Could Joseph divine — a practice strongly condemned by God (Deut. 18:10)? The problem here is the translation. Joseph was a righteous man and would not be guilty of any occult practice. The word for divination nachash, has several meanings. One of these is “to diligently observe.” Another is “to make trial.” Either of these would be the logical meaning. Remember, Joseph had not yet revealed himself to his brothers, and had put them on trial. Please read the account in Genesis 43 through 45 in order to understand Genesis 44:15 in context. This should make it perfectly clear that Joseph did not practice divination. It was at this time that Judah prevailed above his brethren (1 Chron. 5:2).
Exodus 10:27-29 appears to contradict Exodus 12:31. “But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let them go. And Pharaoh said unto him, Get thee from me, take heed to thyself, see my face no more; for in that day thou seest my face thou shalt die. And Moses said, Thou hast spoken well, I will see thy face again no more.” Yet in Exodus 12:31 we read: “And he [Pharaoh] called for Moses and Aaron by night, and said, Rise up, and get you forth from among my people, both ye and the children of Israel; and go, serve the LORD, as ye have said.”
Did Moses appear one more time before Pharaoh? Many translations of Exodus 12:31 say that Moses and Aaron were summoned by Pharaoh. Did they appear in his presence? Not according to Exodus 11:4-8. Note verse 8 in particular: “And all these thy servants [of Pharaoh] shall come down unto me, and bow down themselves unto me, saying, Get thee out, and all the people that follow thee: and after that I will go out.” So while Moses and Aaron were summoned, they did not appear before Pharaoh. Rather his servants came to Moses and Aaron who may have been in their proximity at that time.
An explanation is due regarding the sudden death of Aaron’s sons. The account goes as follows and is an object lesson on following to the letter what God commands:
And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not. And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD. Then Moses said unto Aaron, This is it that the LORD spake, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified. . . . (Lev. 10:1-3)
Several breaches of the law are mentioned here. The key here is that these sons of Aaron were absolutely presumptuous. They assumed an office that belonged to Aaron alone. Only one person, Aaron, was authorized to perform this ceremony, but they took the censers which had not been authorized for them and put incense upon them instead of on the designated altar. Some commentators believe they either entered or tried to enter the holy of holies which was forbidden except for the high priest on the Day of Atonement. Also, they took coals from a fire other than from the brazen altar. Not one of these things had been authorized by God. Strange fire refers to “foreign fire,” that is, fire contrary to the specific fire God commanded. This example illustrates the absolute requirement to take God’s commands seriously. These sons of Aaron were completely secular in the worship of God. Like many people today they served God in the manner that suited them, rather than in the manner that God commands.
Also, what is interesting is that in verses 8-9 we read: “And the LORD spake unto Aaron, saying, Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations: And that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean.” It makes one wonder if drinking alcohol contributed to their sin.
Another example of carelessly obeying God is found in Numbers 20. The offense was so serious that as a result Moses was forbidden to enter into the Holy Land.
And there was no water for the congregation: and they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron. And the people chode with Moses, and spake, saying, Would God that we had died when our brethren died before the LORD! And why have ye brought up the congregation of the LORD into this wilderness, that we and our cattle should die there? And wherefore have ye made us to come up out of Egypt, to bring us in unto this evil place? it is no place of seed, or of figs, or of vines, or of pomegranates; neither is there any water to drink. And Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they fell upon their faces: and the glory of the LORD appeared unto them.
So upsetting was this incident to Moses and Aaron that God appeared and said: “Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock: so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink” (v. 8).
No doubt Moses was agitated as the following verses illustrate. “And Moses took the rod from before the LORD, as he commanded him. And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we [italics ours] fetch you water out of this rock? And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also” (vv. 9-11).
What was God’s response? “And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them” (v. 12). What had Moses done that was so offensive to God? Notice above, he did not sanctify God because he gave himself and Aaron the credit for the miracle. He did not address the rock, but rather the people. In addition he smote the rock two times. God’s command was specific. Moses was to speak to the rock, not strike it. In disobeying God Moses had called undue attention to himself, not to God. Psalm 106:32-33 gives us more detail. “They angered him [Moses] also at the waters of strife, so that it went ill with Moses for their sakes: Because they provoked his spirit, so that he spake unadvisedly with his lips.”
Valuable lessons for today can be garnered from these Scriptures. Entirely too many people are careless and indifferent about the Word of God. Their worship and obedience are haphazard and slipshod. What does the Apostle Paul tell us about the Old Testament Scriptures? “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope” (Rom. 15:4).