Category Archives: Bible Commentary

Bible Commentary: Who Was the Queen of Sheba?

 

The Queen of Sheba, according to the biblical narrative, was a woman of great wealth, beauty and power. Sheba, believed to be either in Ethiopia or Yemen by most biblical scholars, was a well-established city, and although there is little evidence outside the Bible as to the nature of the monarchy and how it was established, it is clear that the Queen of Sheba ruled alone and was not enamored with the religions in her own land.

The Queen of Sheba traveled to Jerusalem as she had “heard about the fame of Solomon and his relationship to the LORD, [and] came to test Solomon with hard questions” (1 Kings 10:1). As God had granted Solomon the gift of wisdom (1 Kings 3:5–12), “nothing was too hard for the king to explain to her” (1 Kings 10:3). After a meal together, the Queen of Sheba declares how impressed she is with Solomon’s answers, hospitality, and the reputation that preceded him. The story ends with an exchange of resources and Queen Sheba returning “with her retinue to her own country” (1 Kings 10:13).

Sources outside the Bible suggest that the Queen of Sheba conceived a child in secret with King Solomon, while some Bible commentators have suggested that the nameless woman in the Song of Solomon is the Queen of Sheba (with the man being King Solomon). Both are speculative and while interesting, cannot be declared factual. Whether she has any relation to the “Sheba” mentioned in Genesis 10:7 and 28, or if she was the ancestor of “Candace, queen of the Ethiopians” (Acts 8:27), is again, open to speculation.

The Queen of Sheba is mentioned again in the New Testament, by an alternative title, the Queen of the South (Matthew 12:42; Luke 11:31). Jesus refers to her, reaffirming her historical personage, as a means to illustrate the point that, despite being originally pagan in belief and Gentile in race, the Queen of Sheba recognized the truth and reality of God, unlike the religious leaders who opposed Jesus. As such, they would be condemned for their ignorant and defiant nature.

Two lessons can be learned from the story of the Queen of Sheba. First, like King Solomon, believers are to show evidence of God’s favour in their lives, whatever their role, profession or environment. Second, the reputation of believers should precede them by their godly words and actions, for we are “Christ’s ambassadors” (2 Corinthians 5:20).[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Bible Commentary: What Should We Learn from the Account of Daniel in the Lion’s Den?

 

The story of Daniel in the lions’ den, recorded in Daniel 6, is one of the most beloved in all Scripture. Briefly, the story involves Daniel, a prophet of the true and living God, who defies King Darius’s decree that the people should pray only to the king for 30 days. Daniel, an otherwise law-abiding man, continues to pray to Jehovah as he has always done. Evil men, who instigated the decree in the first place in order to entrap Daniel, of whom they were jealous because of his good reputation, report him to Darius, who is forced to put Daniel into a den of lions where he would be torn to pieces. Darius, who is greatly distressed about having to punish him, says to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you” (Daniel 6:16). God does indeed rescue Daniel, sending His angel to shut the mouths of the lions so they do not harm him. Daniel is removed from the lions’ den the next day, much to the relief of the king.

One of the chief lessons we learn from this narrative is gleaned from the confession of King Darius himself: “For he is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end” (Daniel 6:26). For only by faith in such a God could any man have “shut the mouths of lions” (Hebrews 11:33). As with Daniel, the faithful Christian must understand that God is sovereign and omnipotent and His will permeates and supersedes every aspect of life. It is God’s will that takes precedence over everything and everyone. The psalmist tells us, “As for God, His way is perfect” (Psalm 18:30). If God’s ways are “perfect,” then we can trust that whatever He does—and whatever He allows—is also perfect. This may not seem possible to us, but our minds are not God’s mind. It is true that we can’t expect to understand His mind perfectly, as He reminds us in Isaiah 55:8–9. Nevertheless, our responsibility to God is to obey Him, to trust Him, and to submit to His will and believe that whatever He ordains will be for our benefit and His glory (Romans 8:28). In Daniel’s case, “no wound was found on him, because he had trusted his God” (Daniel 6:23). Joseph, too, understood that sometimes evil men plan things for evil, but God means them for good (Genesis 50:20).

There is more to learn from this remarkable story that makes it relevant to our postmodern culture. Peter tells us in 1 Peter 2:13–20 to “submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him” (1 Peter 2:13–14). Daniel not only followed this principle, he exceeded it by distinguishing himself as one with “exceptional qualities” (Daniel 6:2–3). Taking this lesson further, we read that submission to our political authorities “is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk as foolish men” (1 Peter 2:15). Daniel’s faithfulness, his outstanding work ethic, and integrity made it next to impossible for his adversaries to find “grounds for charges against him” (Daniel 6:4). Instead, they found that “he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent.” The world now, as it did then, judges us not by our faith but by our conduct (James 2:18). How many today could stand such a scrutiny as did Daniel on this occasion?

The story ends badly for Daniel’s accusers, just as it will for those who accuse and persecute Christians today. King Darius, on the other hand, recognized the power of the God of Daniel, turned to Him in faith, and commanded the people of his kingdom to worship Him (Daniel 6:25–27). Through the witness of Daniel, his faith, and the faithfulness and power of God, an entire nation came to know and reverence the Lord. “For he is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end.”[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Bible Commentary: What Are the Major Prophets and Minor Prophets?

 

The terms “Major Prophets” and “Minor Prophets” are simply a way to divide the Old Testament prophetic books. The Major Prophets are Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, and Daniel. The Minor Prophets are Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.

The Major Prophets are described as “major” because their books are longer and the content is considered more important. The Minor Prophets are described as “minor” because their books are shorter (although Hosea and Zechariah are almost as long as Daniel) and the content is considered less important. That does not mean the Minor Prophets are any less inspired than the Major Prophets. It is simply a matter of God choosing to reveal more to the Major Prophets than He did to the Minor Prophets.

Both the Major and Minor Prophets are usually among the least popular books of the Bible for Christians to read. This is understandable with the often unusual prophetic language and the seemingly constant warnings and condemnations recorded in the prophecies. Still, there is much valuable content to be studied in the Major and Minor Prophets. We read of Christ’s birth in Isaiah and Micah. We learn of Christ’s atoning sacrifice in Isaiah. We read of Christ’s return in Ezekiel, Daniel, and Zechariah. We learn of God’s holiness, wrath, grace, and mercy in all of the Major and Minor Prophets. For that, they are most worthy of our attention and study.[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Bible Commentary: What Is the Baptism of/by/with Fire?

 

John the Baptist came preaching repentance and baptizing in the wilderness of Judea, and he was sent as a herald to announce the arrival of Jesus, the Son of God (Matthew 3:1–12). He announced, “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3:11).

After Jesus had risen from the dead, He instructed His apostles to “… wait for the Promise of the Father which you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:4–5). This promise was first fulfilled on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1–4), and the baptism of the Spirit joins every believer to the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13). But what about the baptism with fire?

Some interpret the baptism of fire as referring to the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was sent from heaven. “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them” (Acts 2:2–3). It is important to note that these were tongues as of fire, not literal fire.

Some believe that the baptism with fire refers to the Holy Spirit’s office as the energizer of the believer’s service, and the purifier of evil within, because of the exhortation “Do not quench the Spirit” found in 1 Thessalonians 5:19. The command to the believer is to not put out the Spirit’s fire by suppressing His ministry.

A third and more likely interpretation is that the baptism of fire refers to judgment. In all four Gospel passages mentioned above, Mark and John speak of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, but only Matthew and Luke mention the baptism with fire. The immediate context of Matthew and Luke is judgment (Matthew 3:7–12; Luke 3:7–17). The context of Mark and John is not (Mark 1:1–8; John 1:29–34). We know that the Lord Jesus is coming in flaming fire to judge those who do not know God (2 Thessalonians 1:3–10; John 5:21–23; Revelation 20:11–15), but praise be to God that He will save all that will come and put their trust in Him (John 3:16)![1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Bible Commentary: What Does It Mean that Jesus Is the Author and Perfecter of Our Faith (Hebrews 12:2)?

 

Jesus is described as the author and perfecter, or finisher, of our faith in Hebrews 12:2. An author is an originator or creator, as of a theory or plan. The Greek word translated “author” in Hebrews 12:2 can also mean “captain,” “chief leader” or “prince.” Acts 3:15 uses the same word: “And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses” (KJV), while the NIV and ESV use the word “author” instead of “prince.” From this we can deduce that Christ is the originator of our faith in that He begins it, as well as the captain and prince or our faith. This indicates that Jesus controls our faith, steers it as a captain steers a ship, and presides over it and cares for it as a monarch presides over and cares for his people.

The Greek word translated “perfecter” in Hebrews 12:2 appears only this one time in the New Testament. It means literally “completer” or “finisher” and speaks of bringing something to its conclusion. Putting the two words together, we see that Jesus, as God, both creates and sustains our faith. We know that saving faith is a gift from God, not something we come up with on our own (Ephesians 2:8–9), and that gift comes from Christ, its creator. He is also the sustainer of our faith, meaning that true saving faith cannot be lost, taken away or given away. This is a source of great comfort to believers, especially in times of doubt and spiritual struggles. Christ has created our faith and He will watch over it, care for it, and sustain it.

It is important for us to understand that God in Christ is not only the creator and sustainer of our saving faith, but He is also the sustainer of our daily walk and the finisher of our spiritual journey. For if God in Christ is not the author of our new life, and if Christ is not the finisher and perfecter of our faith through the Holy Spirit’s indwelling power, then we are neither born again nor are we a true follower of Christ. “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (Philippians 1:6; Ephesians 1:13–14).[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.