• Genesis

Why did Abraham have his servant put his hand under his thigh?  Was this symbolic of something (24:2)?

This was a covenant ritual, apparently an ancient custom, though no extra-biblical material mentions it.  The intimacy that such a practice would require suggests the high level of trust sought in the oath.  This practice is found in other places in the Bible and it is always associated with a solemn oath.

–Don Porter 

Are dreams messages from God (28:12-15)?

Dreams can be messages from God, but they are not always.  In this case God repeats the promises made to Jacob’s father and grandfather.  The dream corresponds to the already revealed will of God.  Likewise, if God chooses to reveal his will to us in a dream, it will correspond to the teaching of Scripture.

Dreams should never replace sound and well thought-out decisions.  Scripture and respected members of the church should be consulted carefully.  We shouldn’t expect God to tell us in a dream whom to marry or what career track to choose.  That isn’t God’s pattern of revealing his will. This dream was given to assure Jacob that God was present with him and that God intended to bless him, keeping the promise made to his ancestors.  It also marked the beginning of Jacob’s lifelong relationship with God.

–Don Porter

Why promise a tenth (28:22)?

It seems to be a way of acknowledging the authority and generosity of the one who has provided the blessing. Later God required a tenth from all Israelites (Leviticus 27:30-32; Numbers 18:26; Deuteronomy 14:22-28).

–The Quest Study Bible

Is Jacob really wrestling with God?  How can this be if God is a Spirit (32:22-32)?

Jacob’s wrestling with an angel epitomizes the whole of Jacob’s life. He had struggled with his brother (chapters 25, 27), his father (chapter 27), and his father-in-law (chapters 29-31), and now he struggles with God (ch. 32). Jacob’s own words express the substance of these narratives about him: “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” Here is a graphic picture of Jacob struggling for the blessing–struggling with God and with a man (32:28).

Significantly, Jacob emerges victorious in his struggle. His victory, even in his struggle with God, came when the angel “blessed him.” The importance of the name “Peniel” is that it identifies the one with whom Jacob was wrestling as God. Jacob’s remark that he had seen God face to face did not necessarily mean that the “man” he wrestled with was in fact God. Rather, when one saw the “angel of the Lord,” it was appropriate to say that he had seen the face of God.

NIV Bible Commentary

Are the two accounts of creation in Genesis in conflict with one another? (Genesis 1-11)

Genesis 2 does not present a creation account at all but presupposes the completion of God’s work of creation as set forth in chapter 1. The first three verses of Genesis 2 simply carry the narrative of chapter 1 to its final and logical conclusion, using the same vocabulary and style as employed in the previous chapter. It sets forth the completion of the whole primal work of creation and the special sanctity conferred on the seventh day as a symbol and memorial of God’s creative work. Verse 4 then sums up the whole sequence that has just been surveyed by saying, “These are the generations of heaven and earth when they were created, in the day that Yahweh God made heaven and earth.” Having finished the overall survey of the subject, the author then develops in detail one important feature that has already been mentioned: the creation of man.  As we examine the remainder of Genesis 2, we find that it concerns itself with a description of the ideal setting that God prepared for Adam and Eve to begin their life in, walking in loving fellowship with Him as responsive and obedient children.  From the survey of the first fifteen verses of chapter 2, it becomes quite apparent that this was never intended to be a general creation narrative. Genesis 1 is the only creation account to be found in the Hebrew Scripture and it is presupposed as the background of Genesis 2. . . . Quite clearly, then, chapter 2 is built on the foundation of chapter 1 and represents no different tradition than the first chapter or discrepant account of the order of creation.

–Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties

Was there more to the special robe that Joseph received than just a fancy piece of clothing?  His brothers were very angry, was something else going on behind the scenes (ch. 37)?

There was a ceremony involving such robes in the Ancient Near East that marked the recipient as the father’s primary heir.  Joseph, the eleventh son in the family lineage takes the rights of the firstborn.  Joseph gets the farm.  When he receives this special robe, the situation is packed with emotions because the whole family inheritance is at stake.  This was a volatile moment because the older boys would have clearly seen that Joseph had been placed before all of them.  This was a recipe for sibling civil war, and that is exactly what happened.

–John Ortberg

How do we reconcile the creation account of Genesis 1–2 with modern science?

No one can read these early chapters of Genesis and miss the fact that modern cosmology and evolutionary biology make strikingly different claims about how the universe came into being. Here are two considerations to keep in mind as you explore this issue further. First, up until recent times heated scientific debates raged around the question of whether the universe was eternal and infinite (never had a beginning and went on forever) or whether it had a beginning and was finite. Philosophically, those are the only two options. Many scientists were reluctant to acknowledge a beginning to the cosmos because of the theological implications: if there was a start to the universe, no explanation exists for why it started, and what brought it into being. Yet in the last century, the scientific community has come to accept the fact the universe did have a beginning and is not eternal. This of course was never an issue for those who read in the Genesis 1:1 that “In the beginning, God created” space and time.  Second, in the field of biology the Intelligent Design movement is pointing out the deficiencies in the prevailing evolutionary explanations for life. Within all life forms are biochemical as well as mechanical features that are “irreducibly complex”–that is to say, they cannot be simplified any further and still function. Therefore because no mechanism exists to explain how they arouse from a more simplified form–but here they are anyway–they must have had this complexity from their inception. The hard facts point to design by intelligence and irreducibly complex systems that no known natural process can account for. Again, for those who read in Genesis that there is a Being who has the power to simply declare things into existence (“Let there be … and it was so”) this scientific discovery comes as no surprise.

–Judson Poling

Why did God put some people to death (38:7-10)?

It may seem that God is arbitrary in his punishment.  Some men and women have been executed for what seem to be minor offenses; others – perverse criminals – have been allowed to wallow in their wickedness.  Why is it that God sometimes appears inconsistent in his discipline?

The Bible reminds us that God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked.  He wants every person to take responsibility for his or her own wrongdoing and to turn from it (Ezek. 33:11).  On the other hand, God in his wisdom chooses to make examples of some people, and that may have been the case with the men in these verses.  Their punishment reminds us that even relatively minor offenses separate us from God.  Perhaps God allows some of the wicked to live because he wants to give them time to turn from their evil ways, no matter how deeply depraved they may appear to be. He has tolerated the corruption of some for decades or even a lifetime.  Some of the most evil people in history have turned from their immoral ways to become great builders of God’s kingdom.  The apostle Paul is an example of such a person.

The Quest Study Bible

What was the big deal about one of Noah’s sons seeing him naked (9:22)?

The reason Noah cursed his son Ham was that he had derided and dishonored his father after he found him naked, sleeping off a drunken stupor. Ham should have treated him respectfully, even though his father (who had apparently never tasted liquor before) had made a fool of himself.

It should be noted that it was Noah, and not God, who cursed his son and his grandson.  Also, some scholars believe the act of Ham could have been a repudiation of his father’s religion, marked by his joy and satisfaction at finding his “righteous” father naked in a drunken state.  Thus, he reveled in his father’s sin!  By contrast, Ham’s brothers grieved for their father and did what they could to remove the indignity.

–Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties

What is this business of a brother lying with his deceased brother’s wife to bear children?  Was that God’s plan (38:8)?

This was a custom of the day intended to perpetuate the line of a deceased brother and provide for the needs of his widow.  This was later defined in the Mosaic Law so that the brother could back out of the responsibility, but not without some shame (Deuteronomy 25:5-10).

The Quest Study Bible

  • Exodus

Who are the “poor” that are referred to in Exodus 23:3 (i.e., are these slaves)?

The Hebrew word used in this passage is dal, which can be literally translated as “weak, thin, lean, or needy.”  Thus, while this could refer to a slave, what is intended here are the “poor” in general.

–Don Porter

Exodus 24:13 seems to indicate that Joshua accompanied Moses up the mountain.  Wasn’t Moses instructed to go alone?

While it is true that only Moses was to “approach the Lord,” there were others who were to accompany Moses to the mountain.  In light of verse 24:18, it seems clear that only Moses went up the mountain in accordance with God’s instructions (“and he stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights”).

–Don Porter

What does it mean when we read that the Lord spoke to Moses “face to face” (Exod. 33:11)?

The phrase “face to face” is a metaphor that, along with the phrase “as a man speaks with his friend,” suggests spiritual communion and intimacy. The image should not be taken literally, especially in view of the fact that God said no one, including Moses, could see his face and live. It describes God’s straightforward and deep communication with Moses, not his physical presence (Numbers 12:6-8).

The Quest Study Bible

What was Moses asking for when he said to the Lord, “Show me your glory” (Exod. 33:18)?

The glory of God is the worthiness of God–the presence of God in the fullness of his attributes in some place or everywhere (Exodus 16:10; 29:43; 33:19-34:8; Isaiah 6:3).  Thus, Moses wanted to see the character of God.  In a sense, Moses’ prayer was answered on the Mount of Transfiguration (Luke 9:30-32), where he shared a vision, however brief, of the Lord’s glory with Elijah and three of Jesus’ disciples.

NIV Bible Dictionary

Can lying ever be justified (1:19-20)?

This is certainly a difficult moral dilemma.  They are praised for their outright refusal to take infant lives, and God gave them “families.”  The midwives may have lied to Pharaoh, or they may have attempted to avoid answering Pharaoh’s question directly, and therefore commented on what was true without giving all the details.  There are also those who believe they should have told Pharaoh the truth and trusted the Lord to protect the infants.

The NIV Bible Commentary

Why was the face of Moses “radiant” after he came down from the mountain (Exodus 34:30)?

Some think this radiance was the glory Moses prayed for during his second 40 days (33:18). Others believe that Moses’ anger when he first descended the mountain (32:19) canceled out any glory that would have appeared on his face. When Moses descended the second time, he was not angry.

The Quest Study Bible

Why these particular signs (4:1-9)?

These miracles would validate both God’s messenger, Moses, and God’s message. There are disagreements over the precise meaning of each of these signs. The first sign, the staff and snake (which some think were Egyptian symbols of power and life), would underscore God’s power over Egyptian dominance. The second sign, the leprous hand, would highlight God’s power over dread diseases and warn Pharaoh that Moses, an ambassador of God, had the power to inflict sickness. And the last sign, turning water from the Nile (worshiped by Egyptians) into blood would demonstrate God’s power over their gods.

The Quest Study Bible

How did the Lord “speak” to Moses?

On occasion it seems Moses actually heard an audible voice (7:89). Other times he may have experienced a mystical inner sensation or had a mental impression. God communicated with Moses more directly than with the other prophets who received visions or dreams (Numbers 12:6-8). In more than 20 ways and over 150 times, Numbers records that God spoke to Moses.

–The Quest Study Bible

Is God responsible for disabilities (4:11)?

The answer is unclear, clouded by the notion that a loving God couldn’t permit so much pain, much less cause it. This verse, taken alone, paints a picture of a capricious God, who randomly scars certain people. But three facts help us see a more correct picture: (1) God loves us. (2) All people are scarred, to one degree or another. (3) God works through the weaknesses of wounded, broken people. Our disabilities, however great or insignificant, become a showcase for God’s abilities. Because Moses was “slow of speech and tongue” (v.10), God was better able to speak through him (v.12).

The Quest Study Bible

Why were there multiple marriages in Israel after the giving of the Ten Commandments?

The fact of the matter was that while polygamy was contrary to God’s intention and ideal, nevertheless, because of what Christ called “the hardness of men’s hearts” (Matthew 19:8).  This practice was tolerated especially in the case of a political leader whose dynasty would fail if he were unable to produce a son by his first wife.

Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties

  • Leviticus
  • Numbers

What is the curse mentioned Numbers 5:21? 

The passage reads that the curse would cause “her thigh to waste away and her abdomen to swell.”  This is figurative language for infertility. It indicates a physical malady or reproductive problem that would prevent a woman from bearing children.  During this time the Israelites viewed the inability to have children as a divine punishment for personal sin (see Deuteronomy 7:14), though not necessarily limited to adultery. God’s Word, however, does not make such blanket generalizations. Sarah, for example, bore disgrace for decades, though later she was called “holy” (1 Peter 3:5-6).

The Quest Study Bible

Why such specific instructions on how the tribes should travel and camp (10:11-28)?

There is powerful imagery and meaning in the way Israel camped and traveled.  The plan God gave was one that kept the tabernacle (a symbol of God’s presence) in the very middle of their lives.  When they camped, the tabernacle was in the center of the camp.  As a matter of fact, all the doors of the tents were to open toward the tabernacle.  When they traveled, the tabernacle was central in their procession.  This is a powerful reminder of the need to realize that God should be central in every aspect of our lives.  This picture should encourage us to evaluate our lives and make sure God is at the center of all we do.

Kevin Harney

How could God punish the Israelites for eating the quail He had miraculously provided as their food (Numbers 11:31-34)?

If we read the whole account of Numbers 11 carefully, we can understand why God was so highly displeased with the Hebrew malcontents who were tired of His daily supply of manna and longed for meat and vegetables in their diet (verses 4-9).  God gave them what they were asking for, thus bringing them to see how foolish they were to despise the good and sufficient food He had apportioned them in favor of that which they chose for themselves. In other words, in order to teach them a much-needed lesson, God saw fit to give the discontented rabble exactly what they asked for–rather than that which would be best for them.  Such a huge number of dead birds would speedily begin to rot in that hot desert, despite the people’s best efforts to convert them into dried meat that could be preserved. There is little wonder that they began to suffer from food poisoning and disease as soon as they began chewing this unaccustomed food. In the end a great many of them died of plague and had to be buried right there in the desolate wilderness, at Qibrot Hatt’avah, “The Graves of Greed.”

Dictionary of Bible Difficulties

Why was God so strict about “complaining” (21:5-6)?

The people’s complaining was symptomatic of a much deeper problem: distrust of God. Their verbal barrage assaulted God’s character. Israel refused to take God at his word.

–The Quest Study Bible

In Numbers 25:17 God tells the Israelites to treat the Midianites as an enemy.  This is confusing because Moses is married to a Midianite woman.  What was the problem?

The answer to this question can be found in Numbers 18, in which the Lord tells the people that the Midianites “treated you as enemies when they deceived you in the affair of Peor. . . .”  In an attempt to stop Israel, the Midianites and the Moabites came up with a plan to get Israel to abandon the Lord and thereby lose His protection.  To do this, Moabite women invited Israelite men to their fertility festival which involved Baal worship and sex with temple prostitutes.  The command in Numbers 25:17 is a way of protecting the nation from such a deceitful attack.

–Don Porter

How can Numbers 12:3, with its emphasis on Moses’ humility, be an authentic comment from Moses’ own pen?

One scholar, Haley (Alleged Discrepancies, p. 248), makes this observation with regard to this:

“Moses, under the impulse of the Holy Spirit, was writing history `objectively.’ Hence he speaks as freely of himself as he would of any other person. It is also to be observed that he records his own faults and sins with the same fidelity and impartiality.”   So far as Numbers 12:3 is concerned, it should be observed that Moses’ failure to speak in his own defense, even when put under great pressure by Aaron and Miriam to lose his temper, calls for special explanation. That explanation is found in his complete deliverance from pride and his thoroughgoing commitment of himself to the Lord God as his vindicator and protector. Any other leader in his position would surely have faced them with a withering reply, but Moses turned the matter completely over to God. We really need the information contained in v.3 in order to make sense of his amazing meekness in this situation.

Dictionary of Bible Difficulties

Why did the women have to have their vows authorized by men (Numbers 30:2ff.)?

The regulations were given to clear up any confusion at home when fathers and husbands left for war. With the men absent, the women would have to make decisions that would affect the family. These laws retained the right of husbands and fathers to have a say in these matters at a later date. The guidelines freed a woman from possible conflict between obligations to her father or husband and obligations to God.

The Quest Study Bible

Did the mission of the twelve spies start from Paran (Numbers 13:3) or from Kadesh Barnea (Numbers 20:1)?

Both statements are true. The Wilderness of Paran extends from the port of Eloth (Eilat) on the Gulf of Aqabah in a north-northeast direction across the the Nahal Paran and Har Ramon to include the site of Kadesh Barnea, which lies on the same latitude as Punon. The spies therefore set out from Kadesh, which is located in the Wilderness of Paran (Num. 13:26: “in the Wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh”).

Dictionary of Bible Difficulties

Numbers 28 talks about the offerings to be given to the Lord each day.  Were these to be done by every person, family, or tribe? 

There were a variety of sacrifices offered to the Lord and these were dictated largely by the calendar (Numbers 28-29).  There were times when sacrifices were offered by individuals (and families), and on behalf of the nation as a whole.  The enormous loss of life and shedding of blood was to be a constant reminder to the people of the seriousness of their sin in the eyes of God.  The sacrificial system was meant to be serious and gruesome–sin is a very serious matter.

–Don Porter

How could Moses be said to have given Hoshea the name Joshua in Numbers 13:16 when he has already been referred to as “Joshua” in Exodus 17:9 and 24:13?

There is no difficulty here, for the final composition of Exodus by Moses undoubtedly occurred toward the end of the forty years’ wandering. Even though Joshua may not have acquired the name from Moses until later in the journey from Egypt to Canaan, nevertheless in retrospect it would have been only natural to refer to Joshua by the name he bore at the time Exodus was composed by Moses. It should be added that Yehosua‘ (“Jehovah is salvation”) is virtually the same name as Hosea‘ (“salvation”), both being derived from the root yasa‘.

Dictionary of Bible Difficulties

  • Deuteronomy

Why a ritual for an unsolved murder (21:1-9)?

God had declared  that “bloodshed pollutes the land” (Numbers 35:33-34). So something had to be done to cleanse the land of the guilt of murder. Unplowed land may have symbolized unproductive land. It pictured fields without crops as the consequences of the murder. Running water, then, would have symbolized cleansing. This ritual thus would mean that no plow could uncover any guilt or blood that had soaked into the ground.

–The Quest Study Bible

Why did God have to warn his people about sacrificing their own children (12:31)?

Because he knew that they could be influenced by the lower standards of the world around them. God’s commands demonstrated his [values, including his view of human life. Yet, though God consistently condemned human sacrifice, Israel often adopted the ways of their pagan neighbors in hopes of gaining the favor of false gods.

–The Quest Study Bible

Is this testing a type of entrapment (13:3)?

No. God never desires his people to fall into sin. But trial comes from many sources: resisting false prophets with their signs and wonders was only one way to prove their allegiance to the Lord. Overcoming false prophets allowed Israel to strengthen their love and obedience to God.

The Quest Study Bible

Is not being pleased grounds for divorce (21:14)?

Not in the sense that we would think of it today. In Old Testament times, however, this provision would actually have protected the woman from misuse and loss of status on the whim of her husband. It was very generous in comparison with the treatment of women captured by neighboring nations.

The Quest Study Bible

Why couldn’t the Israelites worship anywhere (12:5)?

The Canaanites worshiped their nature-gods wherever they thought they were evident (usually on high hills or under trees). But God was concerned that his people not be drawn away to the practices and false gods of their neighbors. He chose the tabernacle, and later the temple, as the place where he was to be revealed–one place to correspond to one God over Israel.

–The Quest Study Bible

Is Deuteronomy 22:5 applicable today?

The basic principle here is that each of the two sexes is to appreciate and honor the dignity of its own sex rather than to adopt the appearance or role of the opposite sex. If a man is thankful to God that he was created a male and the woman that she was a female, then they should be happy to dress the part of a man or a woman, as the case may be, rather than imitating the costume of another.  The specific range of styles worn by each sex tends to differ somewhat from one decade to another, and so it is impractical to lay down any hard and fast rule beyond the simple principle enunciated above.

–Dictionary of Bible Difficulties

Why does God have to test us (13:3)?

God does not need to test his people to discover how they will respond. Rather, testing teaches us what we need to know about ourselves. The Israelites needed to learn whether they would remain faithful to God. Testing and trials can strengthen our faith and commitment.

–The Quest Study Bible

Does God reject the children of sinful parents (23:2)?

Some suggest this means God rejected illegitimate children born out of wedlock. Others say a “forbidden marriage” probably was an incestuous affair or a sexual liaison with a cult prostitute in pagan worship. However, excluding descendants for the fault of their ancestors seems extreme, and some see this as a figure of speech (hyperbole) to portray the severity of this sin. The same penalty on the Moabites (v. 3), for example, did not prevent Ruth from becoming a proselyte and an ancestor in the Messiah’s family tree (Ruth 1:16; 4:17).

The Quest Study Bible

What is the Old Testament teaching on the use of intoxicating liquor? Deuteronomy 14:26 seems to permit the purchase and use of wine and strong drink, while other biblical passages seems to reject the use of any wine.

The Old Testament abounds with warning examples of the misuse of wine and the very grave dangers it holds in store for those who drink it.  According to Leviticus 10:8-11, no priest was allowed to enter into the tabernacle or temple to perform divine service if he had partaken of wine.   It is clear that in the days of Christ and the apostles, wine was served as a table beverage at meals and used in communion services. It is also very clear that the New Testament itself lays down a principle that makes it very difficult for a conscientious believer to carry on the use of liquor even on a temperate scale. That principle is found in Romans 14:21: “It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.” In other words, the basic issue at stake is the law of love toward the weaker brother, and whether we as ambassadors of Christ are so concerned about souls that we are willing to forgo personal “rights” in order to win alcoholics and near-alcoholics to Christ.

Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties

How could Moses have written the first five books of the Bible when the fifth book, Deuteronomy, reports his burial in an unknown grave?

Obviously Moses did not write in advance the account of his own death. Deuteronomy 34 is an obituary written by a friend and contemporary, possibly Joshua the son of Nun (v.9). Under the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, then, Joshua possibly appended an appropriate record of the death and burial of his revered master and framed the eloquent praise with which the book closes.  There is no reason to believe that Moses is not responsible for Genesis 1 through Deuteronomy 33.

Dictionary of Bible Difficulties

  • Joshua

What right did the Israelites have to take land from other people (1:4)?

In the Old Testament, God took land as punishment for sin. This judgment would fall upon Israel herself at a later date, when, because of their sin, their land would be lost to other nations. God’s judgment upon Canaan occurred because of the sin of its inhabitants (Genesis 15:16). The people living in the land had a long history of worshiping idols (including engaging in religious prostitution and human sacrifice).

–Don Porter

Does God promise health and wealth (1:8)?

It would appear so, at least in the Old Testament where God’s promises were linked to the land. But God’s kingdom is not geographical; it is spiritual and eternal. Some who are called to serve the Lord may have to endure the rigors of poverty and deprivation. Nonetheless, countless Christians testify to a general truth: building one’s life on biblical values often leads to material reward. God made two kinds of promises to Joshua and Israel physical and spiritual. Both look back to God’s pledge to give Abraham land, posterity and spiritual blessings (Gen. 12:23). The land and posterity were specific, physical promises, made exclusively to Abraham’s physical descendants. The promise of spiritual blessing, however, extends to believers in Christ (Abraham’s heirs, Gal. 3:29). Both Gentile and Jewish believers can be confident that God will always be with them (Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5).

–The Quest Study Bible

How did the people consecrate themselves (3:5)?

An act by which a person or thing is dedicated to the service and worship of God. In this particular passage, the people were to be consecrated because God is holy, the ark was holy, and the event itself was holy. Consecration involved bathing, washing one’s clothing, and abstinence from sexual activity (cf. Exodus 19:14-15).

–NIV Bible Commentary and the NIV Bible Dictionary

Why was a memorial needed (4:67)?

These stones would become a constant reminder to the people of his faithfulness, love, and power. In the challenges that the nation would face in the years to come, this memorial would provide a powerful reminder that God can be trusted. Also, for generations to come, the memorial would beg the question, “Why is this here?” The answer would provide opportunity to teach the next generation the stories of God’s love for the people. It is important that we remember what God has done, both to give him glory and to be strengthened to stand firm in the faith!

–Don Porter

Why did Joshua have to circumcise the Israelites (5:3)?

Probably because spiritual conditions were at a low ebb. God required each male to be circumcised as a sign of cutting off the old life and beginning anew with God (see Genesis 17:13). The 40-year desert march was punishment for their unbelief, so the people may have felt some degree of rejection by God. They may have neglected circumcision because they felt the spiritual bond it represented was broken. Also, they may not have felt compelled to identify with the Lord as strongly while isolated in the desert as when facing pagans.

–The Quest Study Bible

What was special about the number seven (6:13,15)?

The number seven is the most significant symbolic number in the Bible, which probably relates to the Old Testament week of seven days with the final day representing the Sabbath (Genesis 2:2ff.). And so, the number seven is often used to symbolize completeness or perfection. In this passage the number seven is connected to God’s total destruction of Jericho. It should be noted in this passage that it is not clear whether Jericho was destroyed on the seventh day of the week (the Sabbath, which was to be a day of rest) or on the seventh day of the siege.

–Don Porter

Why blame everybody for one person’s sin (7:11)?

Individualism as we know it was not the Israelites’ way of thinking. The ancient Israelites would wonder how we could think in any terms other than the community as a whole. Because Achan violated the instructions about Jericho, he broke trust between God and Israel–and the nation as a whole suffered.

–The Quest Study Bible

Why could the Israelites plunder Ai, but not Jericho (8:2)?

In ancient times pillaging was a means of resupplying the army with food and equipment. So it was not the battle of Ai that was unusual, but the battle of Jericho. The dedication of Jericho’s valuables to the Lord paralleled God’s laws about “firstfruits” (see Leviticus 2:14), and so they honored the Lord by giving the first victory to him.

–The Quest Study Bible

Are we to believe that the sun actually stopped (10:13-14)?

While some argue that the passage is figurative, there is no reason to believe that God could not extend the day. He who created the world by the power of His word can certainly work beyond the normal limitations of that which can be explained by science. If God can raise the dead, part the Red Sea, and heal leprosy, He can certainly control the sun and the earth.

–Don Porter

Did women have any rights in that society (17:4)?

The women of ancient Israel had few rights by today’s standards. But the law provided for their care and protection in several important ways: (1) a childless widow was granted the right of a son by her husband’s brother (insuring inheritance rights; see Deuteronomy 25:56); (2) some kinds of divorce were prohibited totally (for example, Deuteronomy 22:19); (3) women without any brothers could inherit their father’s land (Numbers 27:37); (4) women were protected from starvation (Deuteronomy 24:1921).

–The Quest Study Bible

  • Judges

Why would it be a bad thing that “everyone did as he saw fit” (21:25)?

While this phrase was first used as a warning against violating approved religious ritual (Deuteronomy 12:8), it applies to any and every action that refuses to take into account what God says about the matter. God and his laws are not in opposition to human freedom. People often do what is wrong, thinking it’s OK. Time tests the fruit of every action–but sometimes we have to live with undesired consequences (for example, AIDS; see Proverbs 14:12). That’s why doing “what is right in our own eyes” may actually be doing the very thing that God knows will lead to disaster (Judges 2:11; 4:1; 6:1; 10:6). God is not anti-freedom, but choosing his will rather than what we see fit protects us, and leads to life.

–Judson Poling

How could an entire generation grow up not knowing the Lord (2:10)?

The answer to this question is best summarized in verse 2:10, that this generation “knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel.” One generation had failed to instruct the next generation in the ways of the Lord and to tell the great stories of God’s love and faithfulness (as instructed in Deuteronomy 6:4–9). Thus, not only did the next generation grow up not knowing the Lord, but as a result they “did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals” (2:11). This should be a sobering reminder to all generations to be intentional in passing on their faith.

–Don Porter

Why did God decide to stop helping Israel (2:20–21)?

The summary here closely resembles the stern pronouncement of vv. 1–3 by the angel of the Lord. Violating the covenant meant a slower conquest of Canaan. The nations would be left there to test Israel’s desire to obey the Lord. The constant pressure from a pagan culture would prove who the genuine believers really were.

NIV Bible Commentary

How could a woman be a leader in a patriarchal society (4:4)?

Deborah most likely ascended to prominence because of a power vacuum. With no male leaders stepping forward, Deborah took the initiative. Although it was rare for a woman to do what she did, there was no divine injunction against it (see Miriam, Exodus 15:10, and Huldah, 2 Kings 22:14). In fact, God blessed her for her trust in him, and the people recognized God’s hand upon her.

The Quest Study Bible

What is “putting out a fleece,” and is it appropriate for us to do today (6:37–40)?

As in the account of Gideon, “putting out a fleece’’ often describes a specific action that “tests” God’s approval or disapproval with regard to a particular decision. We need to be cautious when seeking to follow Gideon’s approach to discerning the will of God. First, there are many warnings in Scripture regarding “putting God to the test (ex., Deuteronomy 6:16).” Second, there are very few examples of God’s people using this as a method to test God’s purposes. Whenever seeking to assure ourselves that we have heard the Lord’s direction, it is always prudent to make sure each proposed direction is supported (or not forbidden) by Scripture. One should also prayerfully consider the input of other mature believers (Proverbs 15:22).

–Don Porter

If the “Spirit of the Lord” was on Jephthah, how could he make such an unwise vow (11:29–31)?

There is no connection between the Spirit’s empowering of Jephthah and his vow. Possessing the Holy Spirit for a special assignment does not guarantee a person will be faultless in other areas of life. Jephthah’s vow was an attempt to strike a deal with God for a blessing instead of trusting him. What he got instead was grief.

The Quest Study Bible

Could God be honored by a sinful act (human sacrifice), if it was to fulfill a vow?

No. Fulfilling a vow was a high priority in ancient times (Lev.5:4; Deut. 23:21–23; Joshua 9:19; Eccl. 5:1–5) and Jephthah apparently didn’t want to be humiliated by reversing his promise. But God had outlawed human sacrifice (Lev. 18:21; 20:1–5). God disapproves of sin, even one committed to fulfill a vow.

The Quest Study Bible

Was it permissible to allow marriages to outsiders (12:9)?

Although the Bible clearly forbids marriage to a foreigner (Exodus 34:15–17; Deuteronomy 7:1–4), it was permissible to marry a person from another tribe (or clan) of Israel. The purpose of the law with regard to foreigners was to prevent the worship of pagan gods which was common to the religion’s of the neighboring nations. Similarly, many would read 2 Corinthians 6:14–16 as a similar warning against a believer in Jesus Christ marrying an unbeliever.

–Don Porter

If “the Spirit of the Lord” was upon Samson, why was he so morally corrupt (13:25)? Why would God select this type of leader?

Samson’s passions were his own, causing him to desire a wife who, contrary to God’s wishes, worshiped idols (Exodus 34:15–17; Deut. 7:1–4). But God remained involved in Samson’s life despite his sin. God was committed to using Samson’s failures as well as his successes and redeemed the situation to accomplish his purposes (see Romans 8:28). The writer of Judges, writing after the fact, seems to editorialize as he describes God’s sovereign involvement.

The Quest Study Bible

Why wasn’t Samson more suspicious of Delilah (16:4–20)?

Delilah was a deceitful woman with honey on her lips and passion in her heart. Cold and calculating, she toyed with Samson, pretending to love him while looking for personal gain. … If he didn’t realize what was happening after the first or second experience, surely he should have understood the situation by the fourth time! We think Samson is foolish, but how many times do we allow ourselves to be deceived by flattery and give in to temptation and wrong beliefs? Avoid falling prey to deceit by asking God to help you distinguish between deception and truth.

–Don Porter

  • Ruth

What is the purpose of the Book of Ruth?

Through the story of the experiences of this family, Ruth presents unobtrusively but powerfully the concept of divine providence. There are no direct conversations with God or appeals to him, though God is mentioned in the book in various places, and the solemn oath “As surely as the Lord lives” (3:13) is invoked. Clearly divine providence is behind everything that happens in the book–the famine, the deaths, Ruth’s choice of Boaz’s field as a place to glean, his attraction to her, and their eventual marriage. The covenant relationship that bound the people of Israel to God and to one another underlies much of the book. Though the word “covenant” is not found in Ruth, it is a significant factor in the book’s unfolding plot. Ruth’s eloquent commitment to the God of her mother-in-law (1:16–17) was her acceptance of a relationship voiced earlier by Israel at Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:3). When Boaz commended Ruth’s loving care of Naomi (2:12), he was echoing Deuteronomic theology (Deuteronomy 28:2). Even Naomi’s bitter complaint (1:21) was based on the presupposition of his faithfulness and trustworthiness by reason of his covenant relationship with his people.

NIV Bible Commentary

Why did Naomi tell Ruth to return to her own gods (Ruth 1:15)?

Implied in Naomi’s charge to Ruth seems to be a lack of concern that she would worship the one true God. In the Middle East at that time, people were seen as an inseparable unit, part and parcel with their land and their gods. God’s call of Abraham had challenged that view, envisioning a blessing encompassing “all the peoples on the earth” (Genesis 12:3). Naomi should have remembered that original plan. Jesus reiterated this worldwide mission when he told us to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). Our message about God is for everyone–as was Abraham’s . Our concern should always be to share the truth of eternal life in Jesus Christ, regardless of a person’s culture or background.

–Don Porter and Judson Poling

Was Ruth being immoral by lying at the feet of Boaz while he slept (3:7–8, 13–14)?

Although this custom may sound questionable to modern ears, Ruth was above reproach. Her actions were simply a ceremonial request for marriage. Anything immoral would have been out of character for her.

The Quest Study Bible

What did it mean to “spread the corner of your garment” over someone (3:9)?

This may have been a play on words in the original language. “Garment” (singular) referred to a custom that had to do with making a marriage proposal. The same word (plural) could mean “wings”–suggesting that, more than marriage, this was a request for protection. Boaz used the term earlier when he said Ruth trusted God by taking refuge in Him.

The Quest Study Bible

Is not the transaction between Boaz and the kinsman in Ruth 4:3–8 contrary to the stipulations in Deuteronomy 25:5–10?

There is not a contradiction to the general law of the levirate in Deuteronomy 25. The basic rules there for a formal rejection of the duty to the widow and also for a public acceptance of that responsibility were carried out by both men. Ruth’s failure to carry out an active role in accusing and shaming the other go’el amounted to the voluntary surrender of her right to perform this ceremony, in view of the fact that the essential purpose of the levirate ordinance was about to be achieved in a far more desirable and acceptable fashion through Boaz himself.

Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties

Was it wrong for an Israelite to marry a Moabite?

No disapproval by God is implied here. Marriage with the Moabites was not forbidden by God, but no Moabites or their sons to the tenth generation were allowed in the tabernacle (Deut. 23:3). The Moabites, though not Israelites, were considered distant relatives, because they were descendants of Lot, Abraham’s nephew (Gen. 19:36–37). As a result, the restrictions against marriage to foreigners did not apply to the Moabites.

The Quest Study Bible

  • 1 Samuel

How does God show his will (6:9)?

This is a description of how God worked on this occasion, but it does not prescribe a method for discovering God’s will. In this case, God revealed himself to the Philistines by working through their superstitions. For God’s people, however, he gives Scripture, prayer and the inner witness of the Spirit.

The Quest Study Bible

Why did the Israelites choose to send the ark away (6:20–21)?

If the ark was the problem, they reasoned, then they needed to get rid of it. They reacted much the same way the Philistines did, not realizing they were the problem, not the ark.

–The Quest Study Bible

Does God’s Spirit leave people today as he left Saul (1 Samuel 16:14)?

The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament is described as coming upon an individual (for example, 10:9–10; 16:13), filling a person for service (Exodus 31:3; 35:31) or being in someone (Numbers 27:18; Daniel 4:8). But the presence or absence of the Spirit had nothing to do with salvation. Rather, the presence of the Spirit in the Old Testament indicated only that a person was empowered for service. Since Saul repeatedly acted arrogantly and independently of the Lord, the Spirit left him to his own devices (15:26). Today, the Spirit dwells in everyone who believes in Christ.

The Quest Study Bible

How can an evil spirit be “from the Lord” (16:14)?

This statement and similar ones in Scripture indicate that evil spirits are subject to God’s control and operate only within divinely determined boundaries (see Judges 9:23; 1 Kings 22:19–23; Job 1:12; 2:6; compare 2 Samuel 24:1 with 1 Chronicles 21:1). Saul’s disobedience continued to be punished by the assaults of an evil spirit (vv. 15–16, 23; 18:10; 19:9). Saul’s increasing tendencies to despondency, jealousy and violence were no doubt occasioned by his knowledge of his rejection as king (see 13:13–14; 15:22–26; 18:9; 20:30–33; 22:16–18) and his awareness of David’s growing popularity, but an evil spirit was also involved in these psychological aberrations (see 18:10–12; 19:9–10).

The NIV Bible Study Notes

Why didn’t Saul recognize David (1 Samuel 17:55, 58 in light of 1 Samuel 16:14–23)?

The seeming contradiction between 17:55–58 and 16:14–23 may be resolved by noting that prior to this time David was not a permanent resident at Saul’s court (see v. 15; 18:2), so that Saul’s knowledge of David and his family may have been minimal. Further, Saul may have been so incredulous at David’s courage that he was wondering if his family background and social standing might explain his extraordinary conduct.

The NIV Bible Study Notes

Why did David–a man after God’s own heart–have an idol in his house (1 Samuel 19:13)?

Some argue that Michal, without David’s knowledge, kept it in the home. But that is not likely if it was the size suggested here. Such idols played an important role in the culture, indicating who possessed the rights and privileges as leaders of households or clans. Perhaps that is why the early Israelites did not seem concerned that these statues might suggest they were being unfaithful to the Lord. Nevertheless, it remains a mystery why David could have permitted an idol in his own home.

The Quest Study Bible

What is a “New Moon festival” (1 Samuel 20:5)?

The Hebrew month began with the new moon, and on this day each month the people dedicated the day to the worship of the Lord. Although this day was similar to the Sabbath, there was a greater sense of celebration and joy. There was to be no mourning and no fasting on this day. And the various offerings (Numbers 28:11–15) dedicated to this day were greater in number and quality than those for the Sabbath.

–Don Porter

How did Jonathan help David “find strength in God” (1 Samuel 23:16)?

The terminology used here depicts Jonathan as a minister of encouragement to his fearful friend David–one who offers support in the face of a special undertaking. Jonathan’s very presence must have lifted David’s spirit. Beyond that, there was Jonathan’s certainty about God’s will for the future; his own resolve to defer to David, and his admission that even Saul, despite his stubborn resistance, knew what God had planned.

The Quest Study Bible

Why did David feel so guilty about merely cutting off a corner of Saul’s robe (1 Samuel 24:5)?

Out of respect for Saul’s divine anointing, and therefore not willing to kill him, but at the same time wanting to let him know that he was not in control of his own destiny, David crept up behind him “unnoticed.” In cutting off the corner of Saul’s robe, David may have been symbolically depriving Saul of his royal authority and transferring it to himself (cf. v. 11). That David was “conscience-stricken,” for what he had done is to be understood as recognition on his part that he had sinned (cf. 2 Samuel 24:10). Using a solemn oath, David–himself also the Lord’s anointed–affirms to his men that he will never do harm to his master Saul, who is “the Lord’s anointed” (used seven times in chapters 24 and 26).

The New International Bible Commentary

Why did David still call Saul “the Lord’s anointed” (1 Samuel 26:9)?

Saul’s royal office carried with it divine sanction by virtue of his anointing. The designation “the Lord’s anointed” is used interchangeably in the books of Samuel for “the king” (see 1 Samuel 2:10). David, no doubt, used “the Lord’s anointed” in this fashion, maintaining his high regard for the office, in spite of the man who held it.

The Quest Study Bible

  • 2 Samuel

Who moved David to number his people, God or Satan (2 Samuel 24:1)?

In 2 Samuel 24:1 we read, “And again the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and He moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah.” In the parallel account in 1 Chronicles 21:1–2 it is stated: “And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.” The wording of 1 Chronicles 21:2 is similar to that of 2 Samuel 24:2. There are times when Satan believes God’s purpose will accomplish his own. In this case, the Lord was drawing David into a trial by allowing him to fulfill his desire to count up his manpower. Quite possibly this would also afford him a better base for assessment of taxes. And so God in effect said to him: “All right, go ahead and do it. Then you will find out how much good it will do you.” In 1 Chronicles 21, we are faced with the statement that it was Satan who moved David to conduct the census. Why would Satan get himself involved in this affair if God had already prompted David to commit the folly he had in mind? It was because Satan found it in his own interest to do so.

The Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties

Why wouldn’t God permit David to build a temple (7:13)?

Though David was a “man after God’s own heart” he was not without faults. His adultery with Bathsheba was legendary. Beyond that, he was a man of war–and that aspect of his life specifically disqualified him from building a sacred place for God. In 1 Chronicles 22:8, God said, “You have shed much blood and have fought many wars. You are not to build a house for my Name, because you have shed much blood on the earth in my sight.” His constant warring was in part the result of God’s judgment on him from the Bathsheba episode (“the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own,” 2 Samuel 12:10). Ironically, David’s military exploits established a time of peace enjoyed by Solomon that facilitated the building of the temple. It is a great reminder to us that though our sin may cause some blessings to be forfeited forever, God has purposes for our lives beyond what we know, and he can even take our mistakes and out of the ashes bring about some good.

–Don Porter and Judson Poling

How has David’s house and kingdom endured forever (7:16)?

The succession of kings who ruled in Jerusalem after David were all direct descendants from this great king. However, the New Testament is clear that Jesus represents the fulfillment of this wonderful promise. In Luke 1:32–33 we read the words of the angel assuring Mary that Jesus would be “given the throne of his father David” and that “his kingdom will never end.” God can be trusted to fulfill all of his promises–though often in ways that surprise us!

–Don Porter

Were the predictions in these verses fulfilled (12:10–14)?

Yes. Because David murdered Uriah and stole his wife, (1) murder was a constant threat in his family (13:26–30; 18:14,15; 1 Kings 2:23–25); (2) his household rebelled against him (15:13); (3) his wives were given to another in public view (16:20–23); (4) his first child by Bathsheba died (12:18). If David had known the painful consequences of his sin, he might not have pursued the pleasures of the moment.

NIV Application Bible

Why did David and his men mourn their enemy’s demise (2 Samuel 1:12)?

David and his men mourned the death of Saul and Jonathan because (1) Jonathan was David’s close friend; (2) Saul, although corrupt, was nonetheless their king; (3) the death of even a corrupt king meant politically difficult times for Israel and (4) the deaths came from another humiliating defeat at the hands of the Philistines.

The Quest Study Bible

If God forgave David, why did his son have to die (12:14)?

We can only speculate about God’s mysterious ways. It seems sin often has a price tag in this life, though its eternal consequences have been paid. Some suggest there are two results of sin: (1) It separates a person from God. (2) It produces negative effects in this world. In this view, forgiveness covers the first result of sin but not necessarily the second. And unfortunately for innocent bystanders like David’s infant son, the negative effects of sin are not limited to the sinner.

The Quest Study Bible

What kind of love was better than the love of women (2 Samuel 1:26)?

Some have used the biblical language describing the relationship between David and Jonathan to argue that they had a homosexual relationship. This conclusion simply cannot be supported by the language or by a serious study of the Bible. David’s statement that Jonathan’s “love” for him was “more wonderful than that of women” should be understood to have covenantal connotations (i.e., covenantal/political loyalty; translated “friendship” in Psalm 109:4–5). This is certainly the nature of relationships that God longs for his people in the church–a deep, committed love for one another that strengthens our faithfulness to God!

–Don Porter

If God said to name the baby “Jedidiah,” why did they call him “Solomon” (12:25)?

Apparently the baby was given two names, even though only one of them came to be commonly used (just as some today go by their middle name). Jedidiah means “loved by the Lord” and is a name similar to the name of David himself (1 Samuel 16:13). The name “Solomon” is a form of the word “shalom,” which means “peace.” Perhaps he was called Jedidiah as a child, but officially adopted the name Solomon upon assuming the throne because God had promised his kingdom would be one of peace (1 Chronicles 22:8–9).

The Quest Study Bible and The NIV Bible Commentary

Why did David execute those who helped him win the throne (2 Samuel 4:12)?

David showed his disfavor for the king’s murderers and thus gained the respect of those loyal to the king. But political gain was not likely his primary motivation. Time and again, David demonstrated deep regard for God’s sovereignty. He knew that God had delivered him in the past and would deliver him now. David didn’t need any self-appointed vigilantes taking matters into their own hands.

The Quest Study Bible

Second Samuel 14:27 says Absalom had three sons; 2 Samuel 18:18 says he had none. Which is right?

2 Samuel 14:27 says, “And to Absalom there were born three sons, and one daughter whose name was Tamar.” But 2 Samuel 18:18 states, “Now Absalom in his lifetime had taken and set up for himself a pillar which is in the King’s Valley, for he said, ‘I have no son to preserve my name.’ So he named the pillar after his own name, and it is called Absalom’s monument to this day”–that is, to the time of the final composition of 2 Samuel, which may have been in the middle of the eighth century B.C. This establishes the fact that by the time he set up his monument (which may have been a year or two before his rebellion against his father, David), Absalom had no male heirs surviving to him. But it does not prove that none had been born to him previously (and died in infancy). Consequently, as Absalom had no sons, he afterwards erected a pillar to preserve his name. Apparently he endured the heartbreak of losing all three little boys in their infancy, and it had become apparent that his wife would not bear him any more.

Dictionary of Bible Difficulties

  • 1 Kings

Did Solomon believe in false gods or merely accommodate his wives’ beliefs (1 Kings 11:5)?

Solomon’s construction of shrines to foreign gods was no mere political gesture. Solomon participated in the worship of his wives’ gods, which might have included shrine prostitution and child sacrifice. As his intimacy with his wives grew, so did his compulsion to honor their gods.

–The Quest Study Bible

What was the heavy yoke Solomon had imposed on the people (12:4)?

Solomon had enslaved foreigners (9:15) and Israelites to work one month out of every three (5:13–15). He also divided the kingdom into twelve districts, each responsible for providing one month of supplies for the king and his extravagant royal household (4:7,22–23,27–28). This policy had led to discontent and isolated many of the tribes who had only recently begun to see themselves as a nation rather than twelve loosely connected tribes. Solomon’s policies, sustained and intensified by Rehoboam, led to a division of the nation into two countries – Israel to the north and Judah to the south.

–Don Porter

Did God cause Rehoboam to reject the people’s request (12:15)?

Yes and no. On the one hand, Rehoboam made his decision and had to live with the consequences. On the other hand, God worked in and through the circumstances that led to Rehoboam’s decision. In this sense “this turn of events was from the Lord.” On the one hand human beings are given the choice to follow God or not. If we choose wrongly, we might face disaster. On the other hand, God ultimately controls all of human history. He is always working out the purposes of his own will. Rehoboam’s bad decision brought about the rebellion, but God used his choice to punish Solomon’s court for its idolatry.

The Quest Study Bible

What are the specific sins mentioned in the phrase “And this thing became sin” (12:30)?

Jeroboam’s royal policy promoted violation of the second commandment (Exodus 20:4–6). It inevitably led to Israel’s violation of the first commandment also (Exodus 20:3) and opened the door for the entrance of fully pagan practices into Israel’s religious rites (especially in the time of Ahab). Jeroboam foolishly abandoned religious principle for political expediency and in so doing forfeited the promise given him by the prophet Ahijah (see 11:38).

NIV Bible Study Notes

Why did Zadok the priest anoint Solomon king rather than Nathan the prophet (1:36)?

Kings chosen by God to rule over his people who were not in a line of dynastic succession were anointed by prophets (Saul, 1 Samuel 9:16; David, 1 Samuel 16:12; Jehu, 2 Kings 9). Kings who assumed office in the line of dynastic succession were anointed by priests (Solomon, here; Joash, 2 Kings 11:12).

NIV Bible Study Notes

Why would God kill the man of God for trusting a lying prophet (13:18)?

The prophet from Judah was too easily convinced by the old man’s deception. Perhaps a fundamental flaw in his character can herein be detected: his carrying out of God’s charge may have been sheerly from command, not conviction. At any rate, he went with the prophet of Bethel. While they were dining, the word of the Lord truly did come to the old prophet. Because the man of God had disobeyed the full counsel of God, he would not be buried in the tomb of his father; this meant that he would meet a violent death along the way home.

–NIV Bible Commentary

Why did Adonijah take “hold of the horns of the altar (1:50)?

The horns of the altar were vertical projections at each corner. The idea of seeking asylum at the altar was rooted in the Pentateuch (see Exodus 21:13–14). The priest smeared the blood of the sacrifice on the horns of the altar (see Exodus 29:12; Leviticus 4:7, 18, 25, 30, 34) during the sacrificial ritual. Adonijah thus seeks to place his own destiny under the protection of God.

–NIV Bible Study Notes

With judgment promised against false priests, why would anyone want to be a false priest (13:33)?

Jeroboam’s priests were politically and perhaps financially motivated. Accepting such an office would require skepticism, if not complete disbelief, that God would speak through a prophet. These priests were, therefore, unafraid of the prophet’s prediction of doom. We need to take God seriously, seeking to be faithful to all He has called us to do.

The Quest Study Bible

Does God always prosper his people when they obey (1 Kings 2:3)?

Imagine you have two teenaged children. The older son does what you desire out of love for you; the younger son, whenever he obeys you, comes around asking for money. Which one loves you, and which one loves what you give him? You desire both to obey you, and you desire to bless and give good things to both. But if one of your children ever becomes demanding or insists, “Hey, it’s your job to give to me’’ good things!” such language would reveal what the relationship and obedience was really all about. God wants his children to obey, and yes, he will often bless them tangibly. But the Son he loved more than any other–Jesus Christ–suffered, and was not spared rejection, humiliation, or physical pain. The “blessings” of obedience Jesus experienced are a clue to what we as his followers can expect: sometimes they will be temporal, but even when they are absent, God is present. He alone–not prosperity–is our greatest reward.

–Don Porter

What happened to the immediate judgment–“even now” (14:14)?

Why did Jeroboam die in a ripe old age and his son succeed him, apparently contradicting Ahijah’s warning? Ahijah pronounced God’s judgment as effective without delay, but not all judgment falls with suddenness. For Jeroboam, the immediate future included the death of a son. The long-range future included the sure prospect that all his efforts would lead to disaster and shame. It was a sentence of lifetime frustration and failure, and it must have been like a dark cloud over Jeroboam’s head, every day of his life.

The Quest Study Bible

  • 2 Kings

Why sacrifice the heir to the throne (16:3)?

From ancient times those who have tried to manipulate the spirit world have considered human sacrifice the most dreadful and most powerful of all sacrifices. If a god would give assistance for payment of a goat or bull, it was reasoned, a human life would buy a much stronger favor. In a time of national and personal crisis, Ahaz tried to buy the help of the nature gods of Canaan with the life of his son.

The Quest Study Bible

How did the Israelites sin secretly (17:9)?

This probably was a reference to the pointless deception pursued through their idolatry. They continued to worship God as if he didn’t know they were also worshiping idols. The Bible describes people who think they can sin in secret (Psalms 73:11; 94:7; Isaiah 5:18–21). They almost seem to be challenging God to discover their sin, but their sinful lives are as futile as the idea that God can’t see them.

The Quest Study Bible

(It should be noted that this passage [17:7–23] provides) a theological explanation for the downfall of the northern kingdom. Israel had repeatedly spurned the Lord’s gracious acts, had refused to heed the prophets’ warnings of impending judgment (vv. 13–14, 23) and had failed to keep her covenant obligations (v. 15). The result was the implementation of the covenant curse precisely as it had been presented to the Israelites by Moses before they entered into Canaan (Deuteronomy 28:49–68; 32:1–47).

NIV Bible Study Notes

What was the difference between a prophet and a seer (17:13)?

It seems there wasn’t much difference. In earlier times, prophets were called seers (1 Samuel 9:9). It may be that as Israel developed from a tribal confederation to a kingdom and as people turned from God, the prophetic ministry and its name changed. Or perhaps the language just changed.

The Quest Study Bible

What was wrong with these practices (17:17)?

Divination means witchcraft, and sorcery is consulting evil spirits. Forms of witchcraft, fortune-telling, and black magic were forbidden by God (Deuteronomy 18:9–14). They were wrong because they sought power and guidance totally apart from God, his law, and his Word. Isaiah echoed this law and prophesied of the complete destruction these occult practices would bring to those who participated in them (Isaiah 8:19–22).

NIV Application Bible

Was the king involved in Satan worship (1:2)?

No, but he did worship idols, which could be considered a form of Satanism. Baal-Zebub, a popular pagan deity, was actually “Baal-Zebul” (meaning “lord or master, the prince”). But the Lord’s people ridiculed him as “Baal-Zebub” (meaning “lord of the flies”). Since this term implied both false worship and moral filth, a variation of it was used for Satan in New Testament times.

The Quest Study Bible

Yes. The people of Samaria represented the mixed population of the former territory of the northern kingdom. In accordance with the deportation system used so fully by Tiglath-Pileser III and followed by his successors, a vast transplantation of populaces occurred. Israelites were sent to Mesopotamia and even beyond; Babylonians and Arameans were transferred to Israel. These people of mixed ancestry eventually came to be known as Samaritans. In later times the Samaritans rejected the idolatry of their polytheistic origins and followed the teachings of Moses, including monotheism. In New Testament times Jesus testified to a Samaritan woman (John 4:4–26), and many Samaritans were converted under the ministry of Philip (Acts 8:4–25).

NIV Bible Study Notes and NIV Bible Commentary

Was it unusual for the Lord to communicate His purposes through angels (1:3)?

Yes. In the over 2000 years of Old Testament history from Abraham to Christ, there are proportionately few angelic conversations recorded. Those that are documented tend to be bunched up in eras, with long episodes of silence between (the same holds true for the New Testament). That doesn’t mean there couldn’t have been unrecorded conversations, but clearly an angelic visit was meant to mark something extraordinary about to happen–not the typical form of divine communication. In the Old Testament, the Lord usually spoke directly to the consciousness of the prophet (1 Kings 17:2, 8; 18:1; 19:9; 21:17). Perhaps the means of revelation was changed in this instance to heighten the contrast between the messengers of Ahaziah (vv. 2–3, 5) and the angel (which means “messenger”) of the Lord.

–Don Porter, Judson Poling and NIV Bible Footnotes

How could something good be used for evil (18:4)?

Sin often can be seen as a distortion or a perversion of something good: Eating is good, but gluttony is sin; God created sex, but adultery is sin; it’s good to talk, but gossip destroys. In this case, “Nehushtan” illustrates the tendency humans have to worship things God gives rather than to worship him alone. Over time, the people probably had begun to think of the bronze snake as something that could help them as it had in the past. Gradually, it acquired the status of an idol with supernatural powers.

The Quest Study Bible

What did Elisha really want (2:9)?

Undoubtedly Elisha did not ask this simply for the privilege of being Elijah’s successor in terms of the Deuteronomic legislation concerning the eldest son’s inheritance (Deuteronomy 21:17), for such both he and Elijah knew him to be (cf. 1 Kings 19:16–21). Nor was this simply to give some confirmatory sign for Elisha’s appearance, for this is scarcely a “difficult thing.” Rather, the enormity of the loss of Elijah, that Spirit-filled and empowered prophet, must have so gripped the humble Elisha that, claiming his position as firstborn, he asked for the firstborn’s “double portion”–i.e., for especially granted spiritual power far beyond his own capabilities to meet the responsibilities of the awesome task that lay before him. He wished, virtually, that Elijah’s mighty prowess might continue to live through him.

NIV Bible Commentary

Did Sennacherib really believe he was doing God’s bidding (18:25)?

No, not in the sense of being a submissive follower. Sennacherib earlier taunted Judah that they shouldn’t trust in the deliverance of their God (18:22) and later made it clear he thought his power greater than God’s (vv. 30, 32–35). His claim to be doing God’s work was propaganda, meant to demoralize them. The irony here is that–unknown to Sennacherib–God had in fact decreed Israel’s military defeat at Sennacherib’s hand as punishment for sin (v. 12), though the city of Jerusalem was spared by miraculous intervention (19:32–36).

–Judson Poling

  • 1 Chronicles

How are the books of Chronicles different from the books of Samuel and Kings?

Just as the authors of Samuel and Kings had organized and interpreted the data of Israel’s history to address the needs of the exiled community, so the Chronicler wrote for the restored community. The burning issue was the question of continuity with the past: Is God still interested in us? Are his covenants still in force? Now that we have no Davidic king and are subject to Persia, do God’s promises to David still have meaning for us? After the great judgment (the dethroning of the house of David, the destruction of the nation, of Jerusalem and of the temple, and the exile to Babylon), what is our relationship to Israel of old? Some of the unique approaches of Chronicles to the history of God’s people include: (1) The Chronicler has idealized David and Solomon. Anything in his source material (mainly Samuel and Kings) that might tarnish his picture of them is omitted. (2) The author (of Chronicles) also appears to consciously adopt the account of the succession of Moses and Joshua as a model for the succession of David and Solomon.

–The NIV Bible Study Notes

What is the point of all the genealogies in 1 Chronicles (1:1–9:44)?

The genealogies succinctly show the restored community’s continuity with the past. The great deeds of God on Israel’s behalf prior to the rise of David are passed over in silence, but the genealogies serve as a skeleton of history to show that the Israel of the restoration stands at the center of the divine purpose from the beginning (from Adam, verse 1). And the genealogies also serve the very practical purpose of legitimizing the present. They provide the framework by which the ethnic and religious purity of the people can be maintained. They also establish the continuing line of royal succession and the legitimacy of the priests for the postexilic temple service.

–The NIV Study Bible Notes

Why are only sons listed (1:5)?

In Israelite culture, the sons received the inheritance. Through the sons the father’s name was carried on. These genealogies were given to help the Israelites stay connected with their history. The names of the males represented entire families that people could relate to, even though mothers’ and daughters’ names weren’t often mentioned.

–The Quest Study Bible

How could a good God, a God of peace, condone warfare (1 Chron. 5:22)?

Underlying this question are certain assumptions that require careful examination as to their soundness. Is it really a manifestation of goodness to furnish no opposition to evil? Can we say that a truly good surgeon should do nothing to cut away cancerous tissue from his patient and simply allow him to go on suffering until finally he dies? Can we praise a police force that stands idly by and offers no slightest resistance to the armed robber, the rapist, the arsonist, or any other criminal who preys on society? How could God be called “good” if He forbade His people to protect their wives from ravishment and strangulation by drunken marauders, or to resist invaders who have come to pick up their children and dash out their brains against the walls?

–Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties

1 Chronicles 6:16ff. says that Samuel’s father was a Levite, but 1 Samuel 1:1 says that he was an Ephraimite. Which is correct?

So far as 1 Samuel 1:1 is concerned, this simply states that Elkanah was “from” (min) Ramathaim-zophim on Mount Ephraim. All Levites were assigned to certain “Levitical cities” or towns throughout the Twelve Tribes, according to the regulation laid down in Numbers 35:6. We do not have a list of these forty-eight towns, but quite possibly Ramathaim-zophim was one of them. By ancestry, then Elkanah was a Levite; by location he was an Ephraimite. Hence there is no contradiction whatever between these two passages.

–Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties

Why punish someone who was only trying to help (13:9–10)?

The severity of the divine judgment against Uzzah, even though his action had been well-intentioned, provided an illustration to all future generations of the necessity for reverence and for absolute conformity to God’s directives concerning his holy objects. The transgression in this instance was twofold. (1) The ark should not have been placed on a cart but carried by hand, as David himself later acknowledged (15:13). True, the Philistines had previously transported it on a wagon (1 Samuel 6:11), but they had acted in heathen ignorance. (2) It should not have been touched. Even its authorized carriers, Levites of the clan of Kohath (cf. 15:2)–which Abinadab may or may not have been–had long ago been warned against this by Moses, on pain of death (Numbers 4:15).

–The NIV Bible Commentary

Why did David act like a priest (16:2)?

Other kings were punished when they offered sacrifices, something only the priests were supposed to do. Saul lost his kingdom (1 Samuel 13:9–14) and Uzziah was afflicted with leprosy (2 Chronicles 26:16–21). Some think David was permitted to offer sacrifices in this unique instance because he was a man after God’s own heart. It is much more likely, however, that though David “offered” sacrifices, he did it “through” the priests who actually killed the animals and burned them on the altar.

–The Quest Study Bible

How could David say in 1 Chronicles 22:14 that he had provided for 100,000 talents of gold for the future temple and then say in 1 Chronicles 29:4 that he had donated only 3000 talents?

The answer to this is very simple. In 1 Chronicles 22 David makes his principal donation to the work of building and equipping the future temple of Yahweh so that Solomon will have everything needful when he sets about its construction. But in 1 Chronicles 29 David holds another building fund rally in which he appeals to his well-to-do supporters to make a supplemental donation beyond that which they have already given in chapter 22.

–The Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties

What was wrong with taking a census (21:1,6–7)?

A census was not in itself wrong (cf. the God-directed census in Numbers 1 and 26). But on this occasion David seems to have ordered this because he was placing his trust in “multiplied troops” rather than in the promises of God.

–The NIV Bible Commentary

Why would God be grieved by something he himself initiated (21:15)?

Just as a parent finds it painful but necessary to discipline a beloved child, God is troubled when we suffer the consequences of going against his will. He looks on us with compassion and love; he does not delight in destruction but works to save and heal. Because he is holy, sin must be punished; but because of his mercy, the repentant can be spared.

–The Quest Study Bible

  • 2 Chronicles

Why did Jehoshaphat find these prophets unsatisfactory (18:5–6)?

Jehoshaphat put little confidence in Ahab’s four hundred court prophets (cf. v. 6). These were men who confessedly spoke in the name of the Lord and not of Baal (vv. 5, 10). But it was the Lord in the corrupted form of a golden calf (cf. 13:8); and their words were false (v. 22), couched in terms that were calculated simply to please the hearers (v. 12; cf. Micah 3:5, 11).

–NIV Bible Commentary

Why have a choir lead soldiers into battle (20:21)?

Soldiers typically would shout war cries or chant and sing in rhythm to the marching. Jehoshaphat had the Israelites do the same, but their shouts were to summon the help of the Lord instead of their own courage. He wanted them to see that they weren’t the warriors; God was fighting for them! Joshua (Joshua 6:20), Gideon (Judges 7:20) and Jeroboam (13:14–15) commanded similar processions or war shouts that glorified God.

–The Quest Study Bible

How did the Lord “ambush” the enemy of Israel (20:22)?

The “ambushes” that the Lord then set against the invaders are not identified; but they may have consisted of some of the more rapacious Seirites (Edomites), since the men of Ammon and Moab proceeded to turn on the men of Mount Seir. The result was that “they helped to destroy one another,” just as had occurred at the triumph of Gideon (Judges 7:22).

–NIV Bible Commentary

What was wrong with going into the temple (27:2)?

The Lord had made it clear that there was to be a distinction in the responsibilities and role of the different offices of the leaders of the nation. For example, the role of priests and that of kings were distinct so that there were certain areas of the temple which were restricted to priests alone. This is probably to keep the people looking to God and not to human leaders. Uzziah’s mistake was to do what only priests were commissioned to do, and Jotham is commended here for not repeating it.

–Don Porter

Why did Solomon worship at a “high place” (1:3)?

While the writer of Kings is somewhat apologetic about Solomon’s visit to a high place (1 Kings 3:3), the Chronicler adds the note that this was the location of the tabernacle made by Moses in the desert (v.3), bringing Solomon’s action into line with the provisions of the law (Leviticus 17:8–9).

–NIV Bible Study Notes

Do those who faithfully serve God always grow powerful (27:6)?

This statement is unique to the Chronicler and an elaboration of his thesis that fidelity to God’s commands brings blessing: in construction, military victory and prosperity–all “because he walked steadfastly before the Lord” (v. 6).

–NIV Bible Study Notes

Those who faithfully follow the Lord may or may not be successful from a “worldly” perspective. What makes them powerful is not their status or money, but their relationship with the Lord.

–Don Porter

Why did David set up a new worship center in Jerusalem (1:4)?

In 2 Chronicles 6:6, we hear David’s own explanation for his decision: God had chosen Jerusalem. This was the place where Abraham had obeyed God in faith and offered his son as a sacrifice centuries earlier (Genesis 22). In addition to its religious significance, David may have wanted Jerusalem for his capital because it was a good military site, easily defended by his army. He probably wanted to bring together the political and religious centers of Israel.

–The Quest Study Bible

Is defeat a sign of God’s displeasure (28:5)?

It was in this case but it’s not always a certain sign. A sovereign God does not insure that good always wins and evil always loses–except in the long run. While the battle is the Lord’s, smaller skirmishes may be lost for a number of reasons: human error, wrong timing, less than ideal circumstances, talented opposition and so on. Losses need not mean defeat, however. Instead they can be an opportunity to take stock, reconsider strategy and determine if God’s plan is being followed.

–The Quest Study Bible

If people keep God and his will as first priority, will they be wealthy like Solomon (1:11–12)?

Solomon is a great example of “seeking first (God’s ) kingdom and his righteousness (Matthew 6:33)” and letting God take care of meeting temporal needs. In Solomon’s case, that meant provision beyond “needs”– God added to him unparalleled material wealth. It is true that often God wants to be lavish and bless us materially, above mere subsistence. But many of God’s people have been very faithful, serving him and walking by faith–without accumulating great wealth. Like a good parent, God doesn’t give his children every toy they whine for–what would happen to our character if he did? Instead, he wisely uses material goods to teach us many lessons about the life of faith, including not giving us something as a way to help us grow. God’s heart toward us is always good, whatever our financial condition. And sometimes, he uses things–or the lack of them–to teach us that the best things in life aren’t possessions (Philippians 4:12–13).

–Judson Poling

Why would Ahaz become even more unfaithful to the Lord in a time of trouble (28:22)?

In times of struggle and stress some people rely on the Lord in deeper trust and faith while others place their reliance even more on themselves (their strength, their will, their wisdom, etc.). We need remember that while trials and struggles may not always turn out as we would like, they always provide opportunity for greater growth and maturity (James 1:2–4 and Romans 8:28).

–Don Porter

  • Ezra

Why don’t these numbers add up (Ezra 1:9–11)?

Originally, they probably did. Several of the Hebrew words in the list are hard to translate: they could mean either a number or a description of a gold or silver item. This makes it difficult to correctly tally the numbers.

The Quest Study Bible

Why was ancestry so important (Ezra 2:59)?

Such records were essential in matters of property inheritance, but they were also important spiritually. Jews who could demonstrate their family purity after two or three generations in a foreign land showed that they had not mingled with pagans and (by implication) pagan gods.

The Quest Study Bible

Who were these people who came to help the exiles (Ezra 4:1–2)?

The people who proffered their help were evidently from the area of Samaria, though they are not explicitly described as such. After the fall of Samaria in 722 b.c., the Assyrian kings kept importing inhabitants from Mesopotamia and Syria “who worshiped the Lord, but … also served their own gods” (2 Kings 17:24–33). The newcomers’ influence doubtless diluted further the faith of the northerners, who had already apostatized from the sole worship of the Lord in the tenth century.

–NIV Bible Commentary

Why is Cyrus called the “king of Babylon” (Ezra 5:13)?

The Judean elders probably used this title to contrast Cyrus with the former king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar (v. 12). The term was not incorrect: Cyrus, as ruler of the Persian Empire, could be called the king of any number of nations that were subject to him. In one ancient text he refers to himself not only as the “king of Babylon” but as “king of the world,” listing other lands over which he ruled.

The Quest Study Bible

How did the preaching of Haggai and Zechariah help in the building of the temple (Ezra 6:14)?

Work on the temple had made little progress not only because of opposition but also because of the preoccupation of the returnees with their own homes (Haggai 1:2–9). Because they had placed their own interests first, God sent them famine as a judgment (Haggai 1:5–6, 10–11). Spurred by the preaching of Haggai and Zechariah, and under the leadership of Zerubbabel and Jeshua, a new effort was begun (Haggai 1:12–15).

–NIV Bible Study Notes

Why did Ezra confess guilt as though he himself had sinned (Ezra 9:6)?

Like a modern pastor, Ezra led a public prayer of confession. He did not personally commit the sins mentioned from the pulpit, but Ezra saw himself vitally linked to the community–even in its sin. Ezra showed care and responsibility for his people rather than setting himself above them.

The Quest Study Bible

If God hates divorce, as Malachi 2:16 says, why commend it in Ezra 10:3?

God hates the violation of a sacred covenant–and sacredness was completely absent in these relationships. (1) It is not clear these were full-fledged marriages. Ezra 10:2 uses a word that means “give a home to”–implying these foreign women may have been little more than live-in prostitutes. (2) Even if these were “legal” marriages, they were forbidden by law (Deuteronomy 7:1–4), so they were technically more like annulments than true divorces and ended what were from the start illegitimate relationships. (3) Because of the great care used to investigate and process these “divorces” (Ezra 10:16–17), we can speculate that perhaps some form of compensation to the women and children was given. Moreover, if a woman had converted to following Israel’s God, a legitimate marriage may have been allowed.

–Judson Poling

  • Nehemiah
  • Esther
  • Job
  • Psalms
  • Proverbs
  • Ecclesiastes

What is the purpose of the book of Ecclesiastes?

The theme of the book appears in the prologue: “Meaningless! Meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” The general conclusion comes in the epilogue, which speaks of fearing God and keeping his commandments because we must one day give account to him. The meaning and purpose of the book must be discovered within this framework. Life in the world is subject to frustration; but human beings can still accept their circumstances, even enjoy them, and find strength to live life as it comes.

–NIV Bible Commentary

Much of the book of Ecclesiastes sounds discouraging and negative. What is the author trying to teach us?

Life not centered on God is purposeless and meaningless. Without him, nothing else can satisfy (2:25). With him, all of life and his other good gifts are to be gratefully received (see James 1:17) and used and enjoyed to the full (2:26; 11:8). The book contains the philosophical and theological reflections of an old man (12:1–7), most of whose life was meaningless because he had not himself relied on God.

–The NIV Study Bible Notes

What’s worth doing (Ecclesiastes 2:3–11)?

Solomon wanted to determine to what extent one could find the key to life in a varied use of great wealth. In the end money and the pleasures it can buy do not lift us out of the realm of earthbound frustration. The Teacher will later amplify this conclusion in terms of death and the handling of one’s possessions (see 5:8–17). Despite riches we may still be empty shells and our gains only as substantial as the wind.

–The NIV Bible Commentary

Why would a funeral be better than a party (Ecclesiastes 7:2)?

Like other wisdom sayings, this is not a hard and fast law–absolutely true in all situations. It’s a general principle meant to illustrate a valuable lesson: here, the need to reckon with the reality of death. Just as Moses asked God to help us all “number our days” so that we could be wise (Psalm 90:12), the writer of Ecclesiastes is urging us to see a reality of life that many of us would prefer to ignore: our mortality. By seeing that, we use life as the limited commodity it is–and live better by living in the light of the eternity that follows.

–Judson Poling

Is God to blame for bad times (Ecclesiastes 7:13–14)?

In one sense, yes. God himself took credit for creating darkness as well as light, and for causing disaster as well as prosperity (Isaiah 45:7). God is sovereign over all that he has created. The Teacher echoes what Job said: “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (Job 2:10). The conclusion of Ecclesiastes, however, reminds us that God one day will judge everything, both good and evil (12:14).

–The Quest Study Bible

What role does luck play in our lives (Ecclesiastes 9:11–12)?

So often it seems that we have no control over the events of our lives, that blind chance determines who succeeds. But this viewpoint looks only at things “under the sun”–from an earth-bound perspective. The Teacher sees the arbitrary events of life as a sign that God is unconcerned and is unfair in his dealings with humanity. The Bible as a whole, however, teaches the opposite. God is concerned about everyone and deals with people fairly. What we don’t see is that accounts are not all settled in this lifetime.

–The Quest Study Bible

Why would the writer declare money is the answer for everything (Ecclesiastes 10:19)?

This verse can be read at various levels–as a wry (or sarcastic) comment on human values, as sober advice to earn a good living rather than have a good time (see the first two lines) or as stating the great versatility of money (cf. Luke 16:9).

–The NIV Bible Study Notes

What are Ecclesiastes 11:1–2 seeking to teach?

The phrase, “Cast your bread upon the waters” (11:1), encourages the reader to be adventurous, like those who accept the risks and reap the benefits of sea borne trade. It is encouragement to not always play it safe (see Proverbs 11:24). The phrase “Give portions to seven”(11:2) is encouragement to be generous while you have plenty as unforeseen disasters may make you dependent on the generosity of others.

–The NIV Bible Study Notes and Don Porter

  • Song of Songs

How did such a book as Song of Songs get to be part of the Bible?

There is no denying that the Song of Songs is a very different book from the rest of the Bible. Its theme is not doctrine but inner feeling–that most exciting and uplifting of all emotions, the emotion of love. The importance of Song of Songs is that it is a book about love, especially love between husband and wife as a paradigm of the love between the Savior and His redeemed people. The Song of Solomon serves as a reminder to all believers that God rejoices in His handiwork and knows how to invest it with thrilling beauty that deserves a full and proper appreciation. Yet along with this warm response to all that God has made beautiful–whether landscape, sky, sea, the magnificent trees, gorgeous flowers, or the transient charms of human loveliness, we must never forget to give all the glory and worship to the One who fashioned them so. We must always remember to exalt the Creator above all His creation and above all His creatures.

–Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties

Is her lover her husband (Song of Songs 1:13)?

The term “lover” appears 30 times in this poem, but the terms “husband” or “wife” don’t appear even once. Other cultures may use the word “lover” outside the context of marriage, but the Biblical perspective is that one’s lover is one’s spouse. When the Bible uses “love” to describe adultery, it clearly labels it as sin. That is not the case here. In intimate conversation (and this is a very intimate poem), spouses go beyond terms like “husband” and “wife” to words like “sweetheart, darling” and “beloved.”

–The Quest Study Bible

Is this a “compliment” (Song of Songs 4:1–4)?

What woman wants to be compared to sheep, goats and pomegranates? These images do not typically appeal to our modern imaginations because we are so far removed from the simple country beauty from which they are drawn. But to people of an earlier time and more rural culture, these images would easily be seen as attractive. For example, a flock of goats streaming down a hillside at sunset looks curiously like a woman’s long, flowing hair.

–The Quest Study Bible

How could she seal her husband’s heart (Song of Songs 8:6)?

The bride wanted to put her mark of ownership on her husband. In Biblical times an engraved stone or metal seal was used to identify the owner of something. It gave the owner free access to his or her possessions–and it kept others out. Not only would her husband be identified as her property, he would be reserved for her alone. She belonged to him and he to her.

–The Quest Study Bible

  • Isaiah

Why are God’s emotions so volatile (12:1)?

God is not distant and uninvolved; he cares intensely about his relationship with us. If he were indifferent about our sin, for example, his apathy would show he didn’t care about us as his people. To increase the impact of his writing, Isaiah intentionally pictured God’s emotions from opposite ends of the spectrum.

–The Quest Study Bible

What does it mean that Cyrus was “anointed” (45:1)?

To be “anointed” by the Lord was a sign that the person was set apart and empowered to accomplish God’s particular purposes. Although the living God normally employed Israelites for such purposes, he is sovereign and may use whom he will. Because in God’s purpose Cyrus functions for Israel, he comes into the good of some of God’s promises to that people. The prophet declares that Cyrus would call on the Lord’s name (41:25) and that God’s support of Cyrus has as its purpose that he might know that Israel’s God is the Lord.

–The NIV Commentary

Does “Morning Star” represent Satan or the king of Babylon (Isaiah 14:12)?

Some believe this passage (14:12–15) refers to the fall of Satan (Luke 10:18), while others see this as a metaphor for the fall of the king of Babylon. This passage probably can be used for both. Certainly there is a reference to the fall of Satan. His proud boast (vv. 13–14) that he will ascend to heaven and raise his throne above the stars of God and sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north points to a level of expectation far beyond that conceivable by any human ruler concerning himself. However, there may also be a sense in which the king of Babylon is implied as well. Verse 21 proclaims the command: “Prepare a place to slaughter his sons for the sins of their forefathers …”. In other words, the Empire of Babylon will go down in defeat and ruin, and the survivors of the coming catastrophe are to be decimated and forever bereft of political power. What we have here, then, is the defeat of Satan’s henchmen mirroring the defeat of Satan himself. This clearly implies that the Wicked One was the animating and inspiring force that manipulated Babylon–and, in all probability, Assyria as well.

–Dictionary of Bible Difficulties

What should we do with our doubts and complaints (45:9)?

The word for “quarrel” here conveys the idea of picking a fight. There is a rich Biblical tradition of faithful people expressing their honest disagreements with God. Abraham, Moses, David, Job, Jeremiah and others all did this. But their complaints actually served to bring them closer to God, while the quarrels mentioned here are points of division. We can tell God how we feel without picking a fight and turning away from him.

–The Quest Study Bible

Did Isaiah expect revival among the pagans (19:19–25)?

Yes. God promised as much when he called Abraham to be a light to the nations, promising blessings through his provision (Genesis 12:2–3). Today nations are being converted to the God of Israel through the ministry of the church (Matthew 28:18–20; Romans 15:8–12).

–The Quest Study Bible

What does it mean that God engraved them on his hands (49:16)?

Tattooing was common in the ancient Middle East for religious and personal reasons. Isaiah is using figurative language to emphasize the truth that God would not forget them, and would always care for them. As faithful followers of God might write his name on their hands (Isaiah 44:5), so God graciously identifies with and “owns” them as well.

–Don Porter

In what way was Tyre like “a prostitute” (23:17)?

In two ways: (1) figuratively, by compromising ethical standards for the sake of making a profit and building a thriving business with merchants from many nations; (2) literally, by using temple prostitutes to worship Baal. Tyre returned to its prostitution when Ptolemy II, an Egyptian ruler sympathetic to Jews, began rebuilding Tyre.

–The Quest Study Bible

This entire chapter seems to be describing Jesus – is this a fair interpretation (chapter 53)?

Interestingly this was the same question asked by the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:32–35. With the emphasis on the fact that the Servant would bear the sins of many and would make intercession for the transgressors (Isaiah 53:12), the best interpretation of this passage would be Jesus (as opposed to Israel). It is Jesus alone who took our sins upon himself so that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).

–Don Porter

Why was God tired of sacrifices (1:11–14)?

Because the Israelites’ hearts were hard, set against obeying God. Though they outwardly did what he had commanded (Exodus 23:15, Deuteronomy 16:16), they resisted God inwardly. God wanted their inner motives to be pure (Psalm 51:17, Hosea 6:6) even more than he wanted their sacrifices. Clearly, Israel had not humbled itself before God.

–The Quest Study Bible

Does “judgment” teach righteousness better than “grace” (26:9–10)?

Certainly it seems to be part of the human condition that we tend to ignore God when we falsely believe “all is well.” Judgment, or discipline, is a powerful way for God to get our attention. In this way, judgment can be seen as a part of grace as it draws our attention once again to the One who loves us.

–Don Porter

  • Jeremiah

Is it right to pray for vengeance (11:20)?

It is important to realize that Jeremiah was asking the Lord to express his justice by rendering judgment on the people. Jeremiah was not seeking vengeance for himself, but justice for the sake of God’s reputation. Sadly, we are too often motivated more by our own hurts and disappointments with people than we are by concern for true righteousness. Jeremiah provides an example of longing for evil to be contained and justice to prevail (see also Revelation 6:9–11).

–Don Porter

Can we complain when God seems unfair (12:1-4)?

Scripture testifies to many godly people honestly coming before the Lord with their fears, pain, and even anger. The Old Testament contains complaints about what seem to be miscarriages of justice (for example, Asaph objected to the prosperity of the wicked in Psalm 73). God permits and encourages such honest expression–pretending we don’t feel what we feel is absurd in the face of God’s omniscience. But God desires that after we have acknowledge our pain, we also declare what is true about him–that he is wise and righteous (see also Habakkuk).

–Don Porter and Judson Poling

Why did Jeremiah accuse God of deception (20:7)?

“Deceived” is a strong word and may even be translated as “seduced.” Jeremiah accused God because he was struggling with his honest emotions about his call to become a prophet and proclaim God’s Word. Jeremiah had “eaten” God’s Word and could do nothing but proclaim it to a people who didn’t want to listen. As Jeremiah suffered rejection, beatings, prison, abuse, and misunderstanding, he felt betrayed by God. This is a reminder to us that God’s call in our lives doesn’t always mean we will be successful from the world’s perspective. But, being faithful has the reward of lasting peace and joy as we receive God’s commendation!

–Don Porter

Why would God fight against his own people (21:5)?

Because: (1) his people had repeatedly sinned, breaking the covenant promises they had made with God; (2) they had continually rejected his calls through the prophets to repent; and (3) they now faced certain judgment. God sometimes uses sinful people or nations as his instruments of judgment.

The Quest Study Bible

Why would God call his work “bloodshed” (Jeremiah 48:10)?

The Old Testament approach to getting rid of sin was to get rid of the sinner, often resulting in men, women, and children being slaughtered. Those who picked up the sword to slay the guilty were considered agents of the Lord’s wrath and judgment. Those who were killed were not viewed as victims since it was their own sins and hardened hearts that had brought punishment upon them.

The Quest Study Bible

Is “defending the cause of the poor and needy” all that is necessary to know the Lord (22:16)?

We must distinguish between the fruit of knowing the Lord and the process of coming to know the Lord. The Bible is clear that we are saved by God’s grace through faith and not by our good works (Ephesians 2:8–9). However, our salvation is expressed through acts of obedience (such as defending the cause of the poor and needy) that are consistent with the nature, character, and purposes of God.

–Don Porter

Why seek advice from a despised prophet (21:1–2)?

Perhaps the proverb “any port in a storm’’ best describes King Zedekiah’s motives in sending an official delegation to Jeremiah. With Nebuchadnezzar approaching the city gates, the panicky king sent emissaries to Jeremiah hoping for an eleventh-hour reprieve. With his back to the wall, Zedekiah was forced to admit what he had tried to deny. If he wanted to hear from God, he knew Jeremiah was the one to turn to.

–The Quest Study Bible

Who were these prophets and what were they doing (23:9–14)?

The false prophets’ characteristics were that (1) they used God’s name without authorization, (2) they were of low moral character, (3) they spread false hopes and promises among the people, (4) the source of their messages was their own minds or those of other false prophets, and (5) they were never called of God.

NIV Bible Commentary

Sadly, the people were so desperate to hear a promise of peace that they were willing to listen and put their trust in the words of the false prophets. As such, they were rejecting the true word of God through Jeremiah and other Spirit-inspired prophets. Each of us must be willing to hear the truth, even when it is not the word we hoped to receive.

Don Porter

Why were people attracted to worshiping idols (2:5–8, 25–28)?

Probably many factors attracted the people to worship idols. In ancient times, gods were associated with places, so people tended to want to “cover their bases” by worshiping any local deity so as not to invoke that god’s disfavor. Israel also wrestled with a persistent desire to be like their neighboring nations, so all those foreign gods and their worship became a “fashion” to follow. In Jeremiah’s day the people also desired to appease the Babylonian government through accepting their gods. Another reason to follow a false god is that worship of many idols included ceremonial prostitution, which appealed to the people’s immoral desires. Finally, idols are tempting because they are controllable (people create idols and so have some sense of control over them as opposed to obeying the Lord, who created us). It is important to note that we too are attracted to idols. The idols that draw us today are such things as money, possessions, relationships, power, influence, and success (things we think we can control as opposed to allowing God to control us).

–Don Porter and Judson Poling

How did the people turn to God (24:7)?

The key to repentance and transformation is found in God’s promise: “I will give them a heart to know me.” This verse indicates that God must first work in people’s lives for them to escape their sinful condition. It was only because of the Lord’s mercy that the exiles could be changed and hope for a return to God.

The Quest Study Bible

  • Lamentations

What is the purpose of the book of Lamentations?

The book bewails the siege and destruction of Jerusalem and sorrows over the sufferings of the inhabitants during this time. It makes poignant confession of sin on behalf of the people and their leaders, acknowledges complete submission to the divine will, and prays that God will once again favor and restore his people.

NIV Bible Dictionary

Why did Judah’s “friends and lovers” become her enemies (Lamentations 1:2)?

When things became tough, Judah’s former political allies cut their ties with her. Egypt, Tyre, and Sidon failed to come to her rescue when Babylon invaded. Some of these former allies even betrayed Judah by joining forces with Babylon. Through the prophets God had warned the people that they should put their trust in him alone. However, insecure about their own military strength, Judah disobediently put their trust in their political alliances, which proved inadequate. In spite of “human wisdom” to the contrary, trust in the Lord is the only real security!

–Don Porter

What does the reference to “footstool” mean in Lamentations 2:1?

God’s footstool refers to the temple, which represented God’s presence among his people. But the temple was razed to the ground, which sparked fear and confusion in the hearts of the people: Why would God abandon his house? This destruction underscored the seriousness of the people’s sin and their rejection of the Lord. It also taught the people a valuable lesson about the temporal nature of the temple–it was only a symbol, meant to be replaced by a more permanent reality of God dwelling in our hearts (see John 4:20–24; 1 Corinthians 6:19; 1 Peter 2:5)

–Don Porter and Judson Poling

Had God made his people forget him (Lamentations 2:6)?

This was a way of saying that God had judged the people and placed them in a situation where they could no longer practice their feasts and Sabbaths. Captives in Babylon where there was no temple to the Lord and where they did not have the freedom to observe their religion, they were cut off from reminders of God’s presence. In reality, the people were punished because they had forgotten the Lord by refusing to serve him.

The Quest Study Bible

Why would God dismiss prayers (Lamentations 3:8)?

Feeling completely isolated, Jeremiah felt God’s judgment personally. It felt to him as if God wasn’t listening. However, God still cared for Jeremiah and Judah. He still heard their prayers. But part of the price of willful disobedience is that prayer becomes ineffective.

The Quest Study Bible

Where did Jeremiah find optimism in such bleak times (Lamentations 3:21–24)?

In the midst of such a bleak and hopeless book come these words of hope and perspective. Note that Jeremiah’s hope is not in what “might happen” or in what he longs for, but is in the nature and character of God. Jeremiah’s hope is in the eternal and unfailing truth of God’s love, compassion, and faithfulness. In times of struggle and confusion, lasting hope comes as we meditate on the character of God and on the promises he has made to us.

–Don Porter

Should we ask for revenge (Lamentations 3:64)?

In his exasperation, Jeremiah implored God to retaliate. Yet even in the Old Testament, vengeance was solely God’s prerogative, executed in his timing (Deuteronomy 32:35; Romans 12:19–20). Modern believers should expect, work towards, and pray for justice on earth (Matthew 16:27; 2 Timothy 4:14). But we are also commanded to love our enemies (Luke 23:34; Acts 7:60). God will ultimately right every wrong.

The Quest Study Bible

Is there a point of no return (Lamentations 5:22)?

In this amazing prayer, Jeremiah cries out to God and asks for restoration, “unless you have utterly rejected us.” If we come to such a point of despair, we must remember (1) the teaching of the New Testament that “while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8) and (2) the examples of God’s grace being extended to people like the apostle Paul, who described himself as the worst of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). Only if we reject God and his provision for our sin, Jesus Christ, will we go beyond the point of no return (Romans 8:35–39).

–Don Porter

  • Ezekiel

Is this a picture of Satan (28:13)?

Certainly the theory advanced by some writers that this chapter contains a flashback to Satan’s personal career prior to his rebellion and expulsion from heaven is at best unsupported conjecture. All the hyperbolic language employed in the verses discussed above can best be understood as the flattering self-delusion of the Tyrian millionaires and their money-loving leaders, whose concept of heaven rose no higher than their treasures of rubies and gold, and whose yardstick for virtue consisted of material wealth. Yet it should be clearly understood that in a very real sense every culture that has sold out to materialistic values is under the domination of Satan and is influential in promoting his cause. It will also share in his ultimate judgment and eternal destruction (Revelation 20:10).

Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties

What are these “fiery stones” (28:14)?

There are at least three views: (1) “Fiery stones” could be an image for angels called “flames of fire” (Hebrews 1:7), among whom the “guardian cherub” walked. (2) These “stones” were brilliant, sparkling jewels of heaven (Revelation 21:18–21). (3) They were fiery coals, illustrating the pride of the king of Tyre who thought himself able to walk on them without being burned.

–The Quest Study Bible

When the righteous do wrong, do they lose their salvation (33:13)?

Christians disagree on this question. Some believe that once one is chosen by God he or she can never lose salvation. Others say that sin can cause a person to lose a relationship with God. The risk of the former view is a life of spiritual complacency; the risk of the latter is a life of anxious insecurity. A middle view suggests that a person is secure as long as he or she lives by faith–neither complacent nor anxious, but trusting in God’s grace.

The Quest Study Bible

How did the people of Israel profane the name of the Lord (Ezekiel 36:20)?

In disciplining Israel in this manner, the Lord risked his own reputation in the world. A nation was uniquely tied to its land in the ancient Near East. If a people were forced off their land, whether by conquest, famine, disease, or any other reason, this was a demonstration that their god was not sufficiently strong to protect and care for them. Therefore, when God scattered Israel among the nations, they perceived that Israel’s God was weak; thereby the name of the Lord was profaned among them.

–NIV Bible Commentary

What special meaning did the four faces of each “living creature” have (Ezekiel 1:5–6)?

“Four,” which stands for completeness (cf. the four directions in Genesis 13:14 and the four quarters of the earth in Isaiah 11:12), is used often in this chapter–and over 40 times in the book. The living creatures, called “cherubim” in chapter 10, are throne attendants, here (see v. 10) representing God’s creation: “man,” God’s ordained ruler of creation (see Genesis 1:26–28; Psalm 8); “lion,” the strongest of the wild beasts; “ox,” the most powerful of the domesticated animals; “ eagle,” the mightiest of the birds. These four creatures appear again in Revelation 4:7 and often are seen in the paintings and sculpture of the Middle Ages, where they represent the four Gospels.

NIV Bible Study Notes

Since Jesus died to atone for the sins of the world, why do we read of the renewal of animal sacrifices once again at some future age (Ezekiel 40:44)?

There has never been a temple at this site that has conformed to the images drawn from Ezekiel’s prophecies. Thus, this prophecy must refer to a temple that will stand one day in the future. Because we know that the blood of Jesus covers the sin of those who believe, we may be confident that the sacrifices mentioned in Ezekiel 43 have nothing to do with atonement for sin. One school of thought sees their function as parallel to that of the Lord’s Supper, which Christ established as a communion ordinance during our present church age. In that view, during the age of the millennial kingdom, when our Lord Jesus Christ will come again to set up the rule of God over all the earth, blood sacrifices will once again be offered–yet without any of the atoning function of the Old Testament period. A differing perspective sees this temple as symbolic. Given the fact there are no dimensions of height mentioned, this temple may well signify spiritual realities rather than describe a physical structure.

–(adapted from) The Dictionary of Bible Difficulties and Judson Poling

Why did God tell Ezekiel to eat the scroll (Ezekiel 3:1)?

Eating the scroll was a graphic way of saying Ezekiel was to preach only the words God gave him and nothing else. He could not fulfill God’s commission in his own strength, only in God’s . Remember that this was a spiritual vision, not a natural incident.

–The Quest Study Bible

How would a description of the temple shame Israel (Ezekiel 43:10)?

Describing the details of the temple reminded the people of God’s holiness–and how much they had lost. If they could once again see the difference between what was holy and what was ordinary, they would perhaps be moved to repent. Ezekiel hoped to rekindle within the people a desire for the fellowship with God that they had lost because of sin.

The Quest Study Bible

Why did God’s glory move to the threshold of the temple (9:3)?

Grieved and angry over his people’s rejection, God fulfilled his promise to leave the temple if they turned away from him (1 Kings 9:6–9). But rather than leave all at once, the glory of the Lord departed in stages: (1) from the cherubim in the Most Holy Place to the door, (2) from the door to the cherubim of Ezekiel’s vision (10:18, 20), (3) to the east gate of the temple (10:19) and (4) to the Mount of Olives just outside Jerusalem (11:23).

The Quest Study Bible

Why would God hold a special group to a higher or different standard of life (Ezekiel 44:20–25)?

God requires more of those who minister on his behalf or hold places of spiritual leadership. However, this must be qualified in two ways: (1) This does not mean that failures cannot be forgiven. They can. (2) Though only certain members of the Levites could be priests in the Old Testament, today God calls all believers to serve him as priests (1 Peter 2:5; Revelation 1:6). Though church leaders are to meet certain qualifications (1 Timothy 3:1–13) and more is expected of them (James 3:1), all believers are called to live holy lives (1 Peter 1:15).

The Quest Study Bible

  • Daniel

What was the purpose of the book of Daniel?

The book of Daniel was written in the context of the fall of Jerusalem and the deportation of the Jews to Babylonia. Despite decades of warning by numerous prophets, the people’s flagrant apostasy and immorality finally brought to pass the destruction God had warned them about ever since the time of Moses. From a human viewpoint, it now seemed that the religion of the Hebrews had been completely discredited. The Lord appeared inferior to the gods of Assyria and Babylon. It was therefore essential at this time in Israel’s history for God to display his power in such a way as to prove that he was the one true God and the sovereign Lord of history. So by a series of miracles he vindicated his position as the only true God over against his detractors and convinced the supreme rulers of Babylon and Persia that he, the Lord, was the greatest power both on earth and in heaven.

NIV Bible Commentary

Why did the young men cooperate with their captors (Daniel 1:3–7)?

Even though they were given new names that honored the false gods of Babylon, the young men appear not to have protested. Why? First, these young teenagers probably were hostages, held by Nebuchadnezzar to prevent a revolt by those who remained in Judah. Resistance could have meant death to the young men and to their relatives back home. Second, the prophet Jeremiah, warning of Babylon’s invasion, had told the people not to fight back (Jeremiah 21:9)–and most hadn’t .

The Quest Study Bible

How would the king’s food and wine have “defiled” Daniel (Daniel 1:8, 12)?

At least part of it probably had been offered to idols, which prohibited faithful Jews from eating it (Exodus 34:15). Also, Gentiles had prepared the food without attention to Jewish dietary laws, without which it would be unclean. The food probably included certain meats forbidden by the Law of Moses. Since there were no “unclean” vegetables, the young men switched to a vegetarian diet.

The Quest Study Bible

Was Nebuchadnezzar a “believer” (Daniel 2:47)?

There is no evidence to assume Nebuchadnezzar was now a believer in the one true God. Although he was proclaiming that the Lord was worthy of worship, he was probably still worshiping many gods. This is true for many today–but it is never an option to add God or Jesus to one’s other spiritual “loves” (a kind of spiritual polygamy). Whoever would have the God of the Bible as Lord must have him alone and no other.

–Don Porter and Judson Poling

How could Daniel be in charge of things God abhors (Daniel 5:11)?

Being “chief” of the magicians and others (4:9) didn’t necessarily mean Daniel had authority over them. This phrase may simply have acknowledged Daniel’s superior wisdom and ability to interpret dreams. Even if this was an official position, there is no evidence that Daniel was involved in occult activities–all of which had been declared by God to be off-limits (Deuteronomy 18:9–12).

The Quest Study Bible

Is God responsible for bad government (Daniel 5:18)?

We might expect an all-powerful God to place only righteous leaders in office, but he has used both good and bad rulers to achieve his goals. Nebuchadnezzar (see also 2:21) carried out God’s plan to discipline Judah, just as Roman persecution (see Romans 13:1–7) would later strengthen the church and advance the spread of the gospel. God will judge evil rulers (7:26–27). But for his own reasons, he allows sinful leaders–and sinful followers, which includes all of us–to live and even prosper.

The Quest Study Bible

What does it mean that the Lord is the “Ancient of Days” (Daniel 7:9)?

This is a name for God that emphasizes his eternal existence (see Isaiah 43:13). In this particular passage Daniel sees God on the throne, judging all of the great empires of the earth. He rules and reigns over all generations, all kingdom, all nations, all kings, all people! Our response should be to submit (through obedience) to his rule in our lives.

–Don Porter

Who is the “son of man” in Daniel 7:13?

Jesus Christ quoted this very text and applied it to himself. During his trial when he was pressed by the high priest to declare his identity without ambiguity, Jesus responded that he was the “son of man” who would “come with the clouds of heaven,” as Daniel here described (Matthew 26:63–66; see also Matthew 28:18; Acts 1:9–11). The effect of Jesus’ words was something like this: “Today, I am in your court being judged by you, but someday the tables will be turned; at the end of time, just like Daniel prophesied, you will all stand before me and be judged by me.” Utter blasphemy…unless true!

–Judson Poling

What four kingdoms do these beasts represent (Daniel 7:17)?

Many scholars believe that the lion refers to Babylon, the bear to Medo-Persia, the leopard to Greece, and the terrifying and powerful beast to the Roman empire.

–Don Porter

Why would the prince of Persia battle an angel (Daniel 10:13)?

Some think this was a spiritual fight in which a demon assigned to Persia was trying to keep Gabriel from getting his message to Daniel. Some speculate that God assigned each nation a guardian angel, that Satan countered with a high-ranking demon, and that clashes between these forces are part of the battle Paul describes in Ephesians 6:12. Others believe that this refers to human rulers of Persia and Greece who opposed Israel.

–The Quest Study Bible

  • Hosea

Why would God tell a godly man to marry an adulteress (Hosea 1:2)?

This became a powerful picture to the nation of God’s relationship with Israel. Just as Gomer was unfaithful to Hosea, so the nation had been unfaithful in its relationship with the Lord, Israel’s spiritual husband (by pursuing idols and rejecting God’s ways). God’s instruction to Hosea to love his unfaithful wife is a powerful picture of the God who does not give up on his people but is faithful even when we are not faithful to him (2 Timothy 2:13).

–Don Porter

Why refuse to love “children” of adultery (Hosea 2:4–5)?

Again Hosea draws a distinction between mother and children. The former again refers to the nation as a whole, the latter to individual Israelites. Israel as a nation was guilty and deserving of punishment, but so were individual Israelites. “Love” would be shown to neither. “Children of adultery” refers to those who are called children because they practiced the sins of their mother (cf. 1:2).

NIV Bible Commentary

Why does God act like a jealous lover (Hosea 2:13–14)?

Though God is sovereign and in need of nothing, he has chosen to reveal himself as a God deeply in love with his creation. Hosea shows that God is not merely a business-like overseer of the world, who methodically dispenses appropriate judgment: He also is a God with feelings. He can be grieved, angered, frustrated or delighted by our behavior. He illustrates this side of his nature by describing a spouse who has been betrayed and who swings from emotion to emotion. Nevertheless, throughout the Bible, the threat of punishment is consistently followed by tender promises of intimacy.

–The Quest Study Bible

Does God ever hide from us (Hosea 5:6)?

Our sinful deeds (v. 4) and our arrogance (v. 5) can become like a wall separating us from God. Until we repent of such sinful attitudes and behavior, fellowship with God will be impossible. But when we seek God with repentant hearts, we will find him (Deuteronomy 4:29).

The Quest Study Bible

How were the people supposed to choose their leaders (Hosea 8:4)?

They were supposed to support leaders who would obey the law, destroy idols, care for the poor, provide justice and seek God. As it was, violent coups and assassinations often deposed the kings. Power-hungry men and their cohorts competed for the throne. Conditions worsened because those who ruled by the sword became more paranoid of others with power and less sensitive to issues that concerned God.

–The Quest Study Bible

What were the “cords of human kindness” (Hosea 11:4)?

The exact meaning is unknown. Possibly these “cords” refers to those that were used in the culture to help young children learn to walk. In the same way, God had “led” the people with cords of “human kindness” and “ties of love.” Their response to such loving-kindness should be one of obedience and love. We too need to remember how gracious and kind God has been to us, and respond in love and obedience!

–Don Porter

  • Joel

What is the purpose of the book of Joel?

The occasion of the book was a devastating locust plague. The prophet, after describing the plague and its resulting chaos, urges the nation to repent of its sins and then goes on to predict a worse visitation, the future Day of the Lord. Joel’s greatest contribution to Christian thought is his teaching about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit “on all people” (Joel 2:28), quoted by Peter in his Pentecostal sermon (Acts 2:14–21). In a special way the new age was to be one of the Spirit (Isaiah 32:15; Zechariah 12:10; John 7:39). All of God’s people would now be priests and prophets, for the ideal stated when the law was given but never achieved would now become a reality (Exodus 19:5–6; 1 Peter 2:9–10).

–NIV Bible Dictionary

What is “the day of the Lord” (Joel 1:15)?

This is an eschatological term referring to the consummation of God’s kingdom and triumph over his foes and deliverance of his people. It begins at the Second Coming and will be accompanied by social calamities and physical cataclysms (Matthew 24; Luke 21:7–33). It will include the millennial judgment (Revelation 4:1–19:6) and culminate in the new heaven and the new earth (Isaiah 65:17; 66:22; Revelation 21:1).

NIV Bible Dictionary

What is the “large and mighty army” in Joel 2:2?

Some have erroneously identified this army with God’s people, even speculating that it is some kind of end-time vanguard of “super-Christians.” But the text in context is quite clear: These are locusts, not people, sent by God to judge rebellious Israel (Joel 1:4, 6; 2:18–20, 25). None of us as his followers would want to join that army!

–Judson Poling

Does repentance prevent catastrophes (Joel 2:12–14)?

Like removing a cancerous growth from the body, God uses catastrophes to practice spiritual surgery. If repentance does not follow sin, judgment will. With repentance, however, the full weight of God’s wrath is restrained or sometimes averted altogether. Natural consequences of sin may still follow, but repentance restores the relationship with God.

The Quest Study Bible

Why are there broken hearts instead of torn clothes (Joel 2:13)?

A traditional sign of sorrow was to tear one’s clothes. However, the outward act of tearing one’s clothing (or, for that matter, offering sacrifices) does not necessarily indicate a repentant heart. God cares more about the condition of our hearts than the mere observance of religious traditions.

–Don Porter

  • Amos

What does the phrase, “For three sins … even for four” mean (Amos 1:3)?

The numerical motif–“for three sins … even for four”–is common in Semitic literature (e.g., Job 5:19; 33:29; Proverbs 6:16; 30:15–31; Ecclesiastes 11:2; Micah 5:5–6) and is not always to be taken literally. Sometimes it denotes an indefinite number, as here.

–NIV Bible Commentary

Why call these women “cows” (Amos 4:1)?

Bashan was a very fertile area. The cows there were famous for being well fed. That’s why he calls the women of Israel “cows of Bashan.” This is not just name-calling here. Think, for a moment, about the nature of a cow. Cows are not notable for their good works, are they? A cow just asks one question. Do you know what the question is? “Where can I get more?” That’s the only question a cow ever asks. Human beings live like that sometimes. We live in a society that often encourages us to live like that, to think of ourselves as just walking appetites for money, for food, for pleasure. “How can I get a bigger house?” “How can I get a larger income?” “How can I drive a newer car?” “How can I have greater sexual pleasure?” “How can I be more attractive?” You understand, that’s the kind of person our society produces–cows of Bashan.

–John Ortberg

What did the plumb line show (7:7–8)?

A plumb line was a cord with a stone or metal weight, the plummet, tied to one end; it was used by builders to keep a wall perpendicular. Plumb lines and plummets are used figuratively of God’s action in testing the uprightness of his people (2 Kings 21:13; Isaiah 28:17; Amos 7:7–9).

–NIV Bible Dictionary

When will God establish Israel permanently (Amos 9:15)?

Some believe God plans to do this for the Jews some time in the future. This would take place in the Millennium, the thousand-year earthly reign of Christ after he returns. There the nation of Israel would finally be restored. Others, though, think this refers to Christ’s return, when God’s people–those who believe in Christ, Jews and non-Jews–will be permanently settled in heaven.

The Quest Study Bible

  • Obadiah
  • Jonah
  • Micah
  • Nahum
  • Habakkuk
  • Zephaniah
  • Haggai
  • Zechariah

What is the purpose of the book of Zechariah?

The chief purpose of Zechariah (along with Haggai) was to rebuke the people and motivate and encourage them to complete the rebuilding of the temple (Zechariah 4:8–10; cf. Haggai 1–2), though Zechariah was clearly interested in spiritual renewal as well. Also, the purpose of the eight night visions is explained in Zechariah 1:3, 5–6: The Lord asked Israel to return to him; then he would return to them, and his word would continue to be fulfilled.

NIV Bible Commentary

What does the lampstand symbolize (4:2–3)?

The lampstand symbolized the bright shining testimony of the people of God, giving glory to God. The repetition of the number seven and the fact that the lampstand was connected to living olive trees suggest the idea of completeness. Also see Exodus 25:31–40.

The Quest Study Bible

Why picture wickedness as a woman (5:7–8)?

The people of God are often portrayed in the feminine gender, particularly in their relationship to God. So it is not surprising for their unrighteousness to be described in feminine terms. This was a literary tool meant simply to illustrate the wickedness of the people–men as well as women.

The Quest Study Bible

What is the meaning of the prophecies given in Zechariah 12–14?

These are prophecies describing the victories of the new age and the coming Day of the Lord. Three apocalyptic pictures are presented: (1) Jerusalem will be saved from a siege by her enemies by the intervention of the Lord. (2) A remnant of Israel will be saved. (3) The nations will come to Jerusalem to share in the joyous Feast of Tabernacles, and all will enjoy the blessings of God’s kingdom.

NIV Bible Dictionary

  • Malachi

Why would God “hate” Esau (Malachi 1:2–5)?

The phrase “Esau I have hated” does not refer to Esau’s eternal destiny. These verses elaborate God’s rejection of Esau’s land (cf. Isaiah 11:14; 34:5–6; Jeremiah 49:7–22; Ezekiel 25:12–14; 35:15; Joel 3:19; Amos 1:11; Obadiah). Of all the enemies of Israel, Edom was perhaps the most long-lived and consistent one. The enmity began with Amalek, an Edomite (Exodus 17:8–16), and continued through the Exodus (Numbers 14:44–45), into the period of the Judges (Judges 3:12–13), and to the time of Saul (1 Samuel 15:1–3) and David (1 Samuel 27:8). Moreover, the enemies mentioned by Ezra (Ezra 4:7) and Nehemiah (Nehemiah 4:7) probably included Edomites (Amalekites), and this special curse would be an oblique kind of encouragement to the Israelites.

–NIV Bible Commentary

Why would God not receive the offering offered by the people (Malachi 1:10)?

The people were not bringing their best to the Lord but were offering blind, crippled, and diseased animals. They could have offered more but didn’t want their sacrifice to “cost” them too much. The prophet makes it clear that these offerings would be insulting to governors if they were offered to them, let alone to the Lord. What we bring as an offering to the Lord reveals our attitude toward him. What does your offering reveal about what you believe about God?

–Don Porter

What is meant by the phrases “refiners fire” and “launderer’s soap” (Malachi 3:2)?

Both these phrases refer to the process of purifying. In refining metals, the raw metal is heated with fire until it melts. The impurities rise to the surface and are skimmed off, leaving the pure metal. Launderer’s soap was used to whiten cloth. In each image we are reminded that God is in the process, through the work of his Spirit, to mold us into the image of Jesus. At times this process is painful, especially when accomplished through his discipline or suffering. Are you willing to go through the refiner’s fire? Are you willing to participate with God in his process of refining you? Malachi would tell you that it is well worth it.

–Don Porter

  • Matthew
  • Mark
  • Luke
  • John
  • Acts
  • Romans
  • 1 Corinthians
  • 2 Corinthians
  • Galatians
  • Ephesians
  • Philippians
  • Colossians
  • 1 Thessalonians
  • 2 Thessalonians
  • 1 Timothy
  • 2 Timothy
  • Titus
  • Philemon
  • Hebrews
  • James
  • 1 Peter
  • 2 Peter
  • 1 John
  • 2 John
  • 3 John
  • Jude
  • Revelation

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