Fourteen

Q. In Jesus’ genealogy in Mt 1:17 there were 14 generations from Abraham to David, 14 from David to the deportation to Babylon, and 14 from the deportation to the Messiah. What is the significance of “fourteen” in the Bible?

A. The number fourteen or fourteenth appears 44 times in the NASB. I’ve read authors who are into numerology or gematria proposing fanciful meanings for the number. Just think of the many permutations and combinations of smaller numbers you can put together to equal 14, and you can see how the imagination can run wild very quickly. So I shall restrict myself to biblical citations, and have classified the 44 references as grouped in the Appendix.

The frequency of the references is as follows:
1. Passover 12 X
2. Feast of Tabernacles 9 X
3. Purim 5 X
4. Victory/Defeat 4 X
5. Turning Point 4 X
6. Service 4 X
7. Inheritance 2 X
8. Unclassified 4 X

Passover is the feast instituted the night before God delivered His people from Egyptian slavery. The Feast of Tabernacles or Ingathering celebrated the final harvest of olives and fruits and also the start of the civil new year. Many scholars believe it to be symbolic of the Second Coming of Christ, the final ingathering of God’s people. Purim is the feast commemorating the deliverance of the Jews by Esther from a massacre plotted by Haman. All three (26 out of 44 X or 59%) are related to the idea of deliverance and salvation.

The second major idea is that of turning point. There were 4 references to 3 battles which meant victory to the conquerors, but defeat for the captives, a turning point. These are followed by 4 references to turning points of 14 generations, days or years. Altogether 8 out of 44 times or 18% are related to turning points. A third minor idea is that of service or order of ministry, 4 out of 44 X or 9%.

If you are interested in numerology you can search online. I am a historical-grammatical-cultural type and did not spend much time in this topic.

Appendix: Fourteen in the Bible

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Angelic Announcements

Q. In Luke 1 the angel Gabriel announced to Zacharias the priest that his wife Elizabeth will bear him a son to be named John. Zacharias doubted and was unable to speak until John was born. Gabriel also announced to Mary that she will give birth to Jesus. Mary also questioned him but was not punished. Why?

A. Both asked a similar question:
Lk 1:18 Zacharias said to the angel, “How will I know this for certain? For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years.”
• Lk 1:34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”

But the thinking behind each is very different.

What do we know about Zacharias from the text? We know that he:
1. was righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord (v6)
2. had no child, his wife was barren, and they were both advanced in years (v7)
3. had been praying for a son (his petition has been heard, v12)
4. asked for a sign (how will I know this for certain v18)
5. looked at his circumstances (I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years v19)
6. did not believe Gabriel’s words (v20)

Although Zacharias was a priest and ought to know better, he did not believe Gabriel’s words.
Lk 12:48b From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.
He prayed but did not believe when God answered his petition. He did not accept God’s messenger’s words at face value, but asked for a sign similar to what Gideon did (Jdg 6:36-40). And unlike Abraham who did not waver in unbelief (Rom 4:20), he contemplated his own body and the deadness of Elizabeth’s womb, and he became weak in faith (contrast Rom 4:19).

What about Mary? We know that she:
1. was a virgin engaged to Joseph (v27)
2. was very perplexed at Gabriel’s statement (v29)
3. was puzzled about her conception as she was a virgin (v34)
4. accepted Gabriel’s announcement without further objection (may it be done to me according to your word v38)

Even though she was only a country girl and not as highly trained as Zacharias was, she received the angelic announcement by faith, despite the impossibility of a virgin conception. Her Magnificat showed that her focus was entirely on God, not circumstances:
1. the Lord (v46)
2. God my Savior (v47)
3. He has had regard for His bondslave (v48)
4. the Mighty One, holy is His name (v49)
5. His mercy toward those who fear Him (v50)
6. He has done mighty deeds with His arms, He has scattered (v51)
7. He has brought down rulers (v52)
8. He has filled the hungry (v53)
9. He has given help to Israel His servant, in remembrance of His mercy (v54)
10. He spoke to our fathers (v55)

This is in stark contrast to Zacharias. No wonder she was blessed and he got his sign of being struck mute.

Heavenly Mansions

Q. John 14:2 In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. Since the mansions are already there in heaven, why did Jesus say “I go to prepare a place”? and Why will there be a need for a new heaven and new earth?

A. I will give you the common interpretations, plus my opinion.

1. Mansions or Rooms
NKJV Jn 14:2 In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
• NIV Jn 14:2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?
• ESV Jn 14:2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?

This carries the idea of many buildings with lots of rooms, one for each believer. Some commentators refer to the New Jerusalem in Rev 21, with pearly gates and foundations of precious stones. I do not think this is the correct interpretation as our resurrection bodies are not “natural” but spiritual (1 Co 15:42-44). We will not need physical rooms to rest.

2. Resurrection Bodies
The English word “mansions” translates the Greek word mone, which literally means:
• a staying, dwelling, abiding, abode
• to make an (one’s) abode
• metaphorically of God the Holy Spirit indwelling believers.
Mone appears 3 times in 2 verses in the NT:
NASB Jn 14:2 In My Father’s house are many dwelling places (twice); if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.
• NASB Jn 14:23 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.

Therefore other commentators take this to mean Jesus is going to prepare an imperishable, glorified, powerful, spiritual body (1 Co 15:42-44) for us. This is possible, but does not fit the context. Jn 14:1 begins with Jesus comforting His disciples. Jn 14:4-6 ends with Jesus stating “I AM the way”. Nowhere is the resurrection body in sight in the immediate context.

3. Homes
Still other commentators look at the cultural background in Jesus’ days. Extended families live in and around the patriarch’s home, which is the center of the community. So what Jesus was saying is “there is plenty of room to accommodate all of you, to live together as a loving, tight-knit family.”

Amplified Jn 14:2 In My Father’s house there are many dwelling places (homes). If it were not so, I would have told you; for I am going away to prepare a place for you.
• Living Bible Jn 14:2 There are many homes up there where my Father lives, and I am going to prepare them for your coming. When everything is ready, then I will come and get you, so that you can always be with me where I am. If this weren’t so, I would tell you plainly.

In this interpretation, Jesus was not going away to prepare a physical place, nor a resurrection body, but a home where the family of God dwells together. In general I interpret literally, but allow room for figurative language. I think this fits the context in John 14 about oneness with the Father better, and is my own view.

A new heaven and a new earth is needed because the old heavens and earth will be judged and destroyed:
2 Pet 3:10-13 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.

The old heaven and earth were created “good” (Gen 1), but sin brought corruption and futility, and they need to be set free:
Rom 8:20-22 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.
Hope this explanation helps.

Child’s Faith

Q. Since I was a child, I have always believed in John 3:16 but had no concept of Eph 1:4-7 or 2 Co 5:21. All I knew was that Yahweh is the only true god instead of Buddha. Was I saved as a gentile child?

A. Only God who knows your heart, then and now, can answer your question. However, I can offer a few comments:

1. Being saved depends on your relationship with God, not how much you know:
Jn 3:16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
• Jn 3:36 He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.
• Jn 20:31 but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.
• 1 Jn 5:11-13 And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.

Note that John’s consistent testimony is that:
• Eternal life is in the Son
• Has the Son = Has life
• Does not have the Son = Does not have life.
How do you have the Son? By believing in Him.
What does believe mean? Not intellectual assent, but:
• Trusting that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God or God the Son;
• Obeying the Son to demonstrate that the trust is genuine.
John said nothing about head knowledge, how much theology you know. It’s all about trust, as a child trusts in his/her parents, and depends totally on them for everything. It is a matter of the heart. I’ve heard lectures and read books by unbelieving “theology professors” with several doctorates, but I don’t think they are saved. Now whether you have the simple, complete, faith of a child, only God knows and you know.

2. You quoted Eph 1:4-7 and 2 Co 5:21, both deep truths penned by Paul:
Eph 1:4-7 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace
• 2 Co 5:21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Eph 1:4-7 teaches:
1. Election (He chose),
2. Sanctification (holy),
3. Perfection (blameless),
4. Predestination,
5. Adoption,
6. God’s will,
7. Free grace,
8. Redemption,
9. Forgiveness, while
2 Co 5:21 teaches:
10. Jesus as perfect Man (no sin),
11. Substitutionary atonement (to be sin on our behalf),
12. Imputation (righteousness of God).

I doubt any new Christian would have a full grasp of these dozen subjects, yet they are saved the moment they placed their trust in Christ alone and commit to follow Him. Christ gave them the right to become children of God (Jn 1:12). I do not mean to belittle theology, but it’s the heart that counts, not the head.

Bible Versions

Q. Which interpretation is most accurate? They all convey different meanings:
• NIV Has not the one God made you? You belong to Him in body and spirit. And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring.
• ESV Did He not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring.
• KJV And did not He make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That He might seek a godly seed.

A. I studied only very little Hebrew, not enough to do proper translation. Using an interlinear does not help much as the word-for-word translation does not give you the word order in English sentences. Having said that, I would first take a look at the Amplified or Expanded Bible to see the range of possible meanings allowed by the text:

• Amplified Bible, Classic Ed. And did not God make [you and your wife] one [flesh]? Did not One make you and preserve your spirit alive? And why [did God make you two] one? Because He sought a godly offspring [from your union]. Therefore take heed to yourselves, and let no one deal treacherously and be faithless to the wife of his youth.
• Expanded Bible. God made [ Did not God make…?] husbands and wives to become one body and one spirit for His purpose—so they would have children who are true to God [godly offspring]. So be careful [ guard yourself in your spirit], and do not break your promise [be unfaithful] to the wife you married when you were young [ of your youth].

Language is not like numbers, with only one meaning within our decimal system. In translating, which possible meaning to use is the choice of the translators, subject to the context. With that as background, I would look at the 3 translations again and offer the following comments:

• NIV. In English, “you” can be either singular or plural. Does it mean the man who has been unfaithful to his wife (singular), or the husband and wife collectively (plural)? Mal 2:14-15 read, “You ask, “Why?” It is because the LORD is the witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have been unfaithful to her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. 15 Has not the one God made you? You belong to him in body and spirit. And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful to the wife of your youth. So the NIV context indicates singular, the man who hates and divorces his wife.

• ESV. The ESV, on the other hand, says, “But you say, “Why does He not?” Because the LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. 15 Did He not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. The ESV chose the plural, the man and his wife.

Which is more accurate? I can offer you only my opinion – I prefer the ESV. Of course the man is the guilty party in divorcing his wife, but the nature of his sin is in breaking the marriage covenant, where God joined two together to become one. For the man to divorce his wife not only does violence to her, but is an affront to God who joined them; hence my preference.

• KJV. While some are “KJV Only” as they believe all contemporary versions are less accurate, I feel they are too narrowly focused. I hold a conservative position, but I believe textual criticism has value in getting closer to the original meaning. As a minimum, I suggest using the NKJV instead of the KJV to avoid the burden of old English. Mal 2:15 in the NKJV reads, “But did He not make them one, having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth.” The word “them” is not in the original Hebrew, but interpolated by the translators as the best meaning. As such, it is essentially the same as the ESV.

Conflicting Translations?

Q. Why is the NIV translation of Hosea 11:12 entirely the opposite of King James or Chinese translation?
• (NIV) Ephraim has surrounded me with lies, Israel with deceit. And Judah is unruly against God, even against the faithful Holy One.
• (KJV) Ephraim compasseth me about with lies, and the house of Israel with deceit: but Judah yet ruleth with God, and is faithful with the saints.

A. Heb 11:12 is a difficult verse to translate because of textual problems. My favorite NASB has:
(NASB) Ephraim surrounds Me with lies And the house of Israel with deceit; Judah is also unruly against God, Even against the Holy One who is faithful.
Yet the ESV which many people like has:
(ESV) Ephraim has surrounded me with lies, and the house of Israel with deceit, but Judah still walks with God and is faithful to the Holy One.
Which is correct? I will try to explain this as simply as possible as most readers have not studied Hebrew grammar.

The problem hinges on one word in the Hebrew רוּד (ruwd), which precise meaning is lost according to lexicographers. They agree that the root is related to rule, but whether it is translated positively (rule with) or negatively (unruly against) is subject to debate.

Let me quote from Strong’s Definitions: ruwd – a primitive root;
• to tramp about, i.e. ramble (free or disconsolate)
• have the dominion, be lord, mourn, rule.
As you can see, Strong’s carry both opposite meanings.

There is a related issue. For translations who opt for the negative meaning, they assumed the adjective “faithful” qualifies God the Holy One. However, for those who opt for the positive meaning, they associate “faithful” with Judah to be consistent. There are reputable scholars on both sides, and I don’t think I can settle the debate, only offer my opinion.

I believe we have to look at the broad and immediate context of Judah during the time of Hosea. Hosea prophesied to Israel in her final days, about 753-722 BC. During this time 6 kings (Zechariah, Shallum, Menahem, Pekahiah, Pekah, and Hoshea) reigned in Israel, all bad. At the same time, the kings in Judah were Uzziah, Jotham, both did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, and Ahaz, who did evil. The good kings tried to steer Judah back to God, while the bad king led Judah to idolatry. So Judah during Hosea’s time was a mix of good and bad. It is therefore understandable that those translators who assumed Judah to be reforming took the positive perspective for 11:12, while those whose presupposition was that Judah was turning away from God opted for the negative interpretation.

For me, the immediate context is instructive. The text immediately following 11:12 is 12:1-2
(NASB) Ephraim feeds on wind, And pursues the east wind continually; He multiplies lies and violence. Moreover, he makes a covenant with Assyria, And oil is carried to Egypt. The LORD also has a dispute with Judah, And will punish Jacob according to his ways; He will repay him according to his deeds.
• (KJV) Ephraim feedeth on wind, and followeth after the east wind: he daily increaseth lies and desolation; and they do make a covenant with the Assyrians, and oil is carried into Egypt. The LORD hath also a controversy with Judah, and will punish Jacob according to his ways; according to his doings will he recompense him.

Notice that whether you use NASB or KJV, whether you prefer the negative or positive for 11:12, the meaning for 12:2 is clear – the LORD has a dispute or controversy with Judah. My thinking is that if the LORD has a dispute with Judah in 12:2, it is unlikely that He calls Judah faithful just 2 verses earlier. So logically the negative meaning makes more sense in 11:12. I therefore take the position that the NIV and NASB are correct, not the KJV or ESV this time.

British Israel Church of God

Q. Is the British-Israel Church of God (http://www.british-israel.ca/) a cult? I don’t see them acknowledging the Trinity in their statement of faith.

A. I believe they are a cult. Their statement of beliefs is in their website:
http://www.british-israel.ca/Statement.htm
They also have a PDF (http://www.british-israel.ca/Cult.pdf) rejecting the claim that they are a cult.

But they do not believe in the Trinity, claiming that the Holy Spirit is not a person, only the spiritual extension of God. Neither do they believe in the immortality of the soul, as they believe in annihilation of the wicked in the Lake of Fire, not eternal punishment in hell. Furthermore, they hung onto OT laws such as keeping the Sabbath and festivals as binding on all Christians.

These put them at odds with historic orthodox Christianity, whom they assert to be non-biblical. But who is right? Orthodoxy which had been attacked over the last two thousand years and stood the test, or a deviant group who claimed to have found the “truth” by twisting the Bible? Search the Scriptures for yourself.