Biblical archaeology is the scientific study of ancient cultures through the examination of their material remains such as buildings, graves, tools, and other artifacts usually dug up from the ground. The biblical archaeologist in Bible lands remove the soil of the earth in a very careful and methodical manner, so as to examine rocks, ruined walls, buildings, city remains as well as pottery, clay tablets, written inscriptions, coins, and other ancient remains, or artifacts, with the purpose of recording information that can aid in the discovery of what happened. This painstaking work has improved our understanding of 2,500 years of Bible times, from the days of Noah stepping off the ark in about 2369 B.C.E. to the death of the Apostle John in 100 C.E. We have gained immense knowledge of their languages, places of residence, food and meals, clothing, home life, marriage, health, education, the peoples around them, economy, cities and towns, recreation and sports. Our knowledge of all the regions of Bible history has grown immeasurably: Palestine, Egypt, Persia, Assyria, Babylonia, Asia Minor, Greece, and Rome. Archaeology is a relatively new science, as it has only been around for about 200-years.
The Bible is filled with a rich history of people, places, and events, and God’s interactions with them, personally at times, through materialized angels at other times, but by far, through human representatives.
All Christians desire a full or accurate understanding of the meaning of the Bible. However, most are not aware that they must have knowledge of the historical-cultural and geographical background of the Bible. Without such, much of the Bibles, true message will be lost, because the reader would be attempting to impose their modern day mindset on an ancient society, as oppose to bridging that gap, getting back to the Bible times setting.
2 The Gazites were told, “Samson has come here.” And they surrounded the place and set an ambush for him all night at the gate of the city. They kept quiet all night, saying, “Let us wait till the light of the morning; then we will kill him.” 3 But Samson lay till midnight, and at midnight he arose and took hold of the doors of the gate of the city and the two posts, and pulled them up, bar and all, and put them on his shoulders and carried them to the top of the hill that is in front of Hebron.
City gate from Balawat—Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds
Every Christian is aware of Samson’s superhuman strength that he received through God. However, some biblical accounts come to life when the reader is aware of the background information. What Samson pulled out of the ground and threw on his shoulders at Judges 16:2-3, weighed a minimum of 400-500 pounds, with some suggesting closer to 2,000 pounds. If this feat of strength is not enough to grow our appreciation of Samson’ great power, the simple statement that he “carried them to the top of the hill that is in front of Hebron,” will do just that. Gaza, the city, mentioned here is at sea level, while Hebron is about 3,000 feet above sea level, a serious climb indeed! However, there is more. Hebron is 37 miles from Gaza, uphill all the way! Knowing the weight of the gate and posts, the distance traveled, and that it was uphill, makes Samson’s colossal feat take on a completely new magnitude, does it not?
If most Christians were aware of the need for having some understanding of Bible backgrounds, they would eagerly find the appropriate books that would aid them in this area. It seems that when a pastor adds some Bible background into his sermon, it really enhances what is being said, and is a part of the conversation after the meeting is over by most of the congregants. Learning of the historical setting is paramount in much of the Bible if the reader is going to have an accurate understanding of the text. Many Christians are hungering for this sort of information, which will make their studies come to life. Please see the footnote below, for a section of our Amazon bookstore that will recommend some books that cover this area.
Places of Residence
19 as if a man fled from a lion,
and a bear met him,
or went into the house and leaned his hand against the wall,
and a serpent bit him.
Home in First-Century Palestine
Homes in Bible times were not viewed the same as those of our modern day Western world. They spent most of the day outside, using the home for protection from the weather, and a place to sleep. In the plains, where one could find little good-quality limestone and sandstone, sunbaked or, sometimes, kiln-baked mud bricks were used for the walls of homes. Snakes could be found in the crevices of the walls because they too enjoyed the warmth of sunbaked bricks.―Amos 5:19.
15 Then she let them down by a rope through the window, for her house was built into the city wall so that she lived in the wall.
Some houses were built on the top of wide city walls. (Jos 2:15) Some cities had double walls surrounding it. The space between the two walls was filled with dirt.
The mound, or “tell,” of Jericho was surrounded by a great earthen rampart, or embankment, with a stone retaining wall at its base. The retaining wall was some 12–15 ft high. On top of that was a mudbrick wall 6 ft thick and about 20–26 ft high (Sellin and Watzinger 1973: 58). At the crest of the embankment was a similar mudbrick wall whose base was roughly 46 ft above the ground level outside the retaining wall. This is what loomed high above the Israelites as they marched around the city each day for seven days. Humanly speaking, it was impossible for the Israelites to penetrate the impregnable bastion of Jericho.
Within the upper wall was an area of approximately 6 acres, while the total area of the upper city and fortification system together was half again as large, or about 9 acres. Based on the archaeologist’s rule of thumb of 100 persons per acre, the population of the upper city would have been about 600. From excavations carried out by a German team in the first decade of this century, we know that people were also living on the embankment between the upper and lower city walls. In addition, those Canaanites living in surrounding villages would have fled to Jericho for safety. Thus, we can assume that there were several thousand people inside the walls when the Israelites came against the city.
1 And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. 2 And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. 3 And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. 4 And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay.
WATTLE AND MUD ROOF Reconstruction of the roof of a typical rural home. Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds
While the homes of our Western world have roofs that were built on a slant, the ones of Bible times were often flat. In the image above, we can see the roof larger wooden beams running from wall to wall, with smaller beams wooden rafters running across the beams. These wooden rafters, in turn, were covered with branches, reeds. Then, a layer of earth several inches thick was added, followed by a thick coating of plaster of clay or clay and lime. It would have been quite easy for the four men to climb up on the flat roof, pull up the paralyzed man, and dig through such a roof and lower in him in on the cot, so that Jesus might heal him. Rather than be angry at such an intrusion, Jesus was moved by such great faith.
13 And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas, the son of James.
While most have likely not given any serious consideration, as to why the disciples met in an upper room, aside from the fact it was likely the home of someone that was sympathetic to their needs; it also accommodated their needs in size as well.
A historical tradition locates the “upper room” in the Cenacle on Mount Zion. Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds.
To accommodate a crowd of this size (later 120 people meet in the room), the home was probably owned by a fairly wealthy person. Archaeologists have recovered the remains of a few homes in the Herodian quarter from this period owned by wealthy citizens. One of these homes, the so-called “Palatial Mansion,” had a room that measured thirty-six by twenty-one feet (nearly seven hundred square feet). Early Christian tradition, however, identifies this home with the “Cenacle”.
Food and Meals
Matthew 16:6, 11-12
6 Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 11 How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12 Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
Leaven in Scripture often denotes sin or corruption. Initially, the disciples did not understand that Jesus was speaking symbolically to them. He was warning them about the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and false teachings of the Sadducees. Jesus would also mention Herod and his followers, saying, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” (Mark 8:15) He was exposing the hypocrisy and political deceitfulness of Herod and his followers. He also bravely condemned the Pharisees as hypocrites concerned only with superficial displays of devotion.―Matthew 23:25-28.
19 “The best of the firstfruits of your ground you shall bring into the house of the Lord your God. “You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.
What would be the reason for God prohibiting the Israelites from boiling a kid (young goat) in its mother’s milk? This prohibition appears three times in the Mosaic Law. (Ex 23:19; 34:26; Deut. 14:21) This prohibition helps the reader to appreciate Jehovah God’s decency, his concern for his created beings, and his sensitivity.
If we pause for a moment and consider what God created the milk for; to nourish the young goat and help it grow. Therefore, to boil a young goat in its mother’s milk would be contrary to the arrangement that God had set in place.
There are other suggestions as to why God established this prohibition: (1) it was an idolatrous practice, (2) it was an occult practice to improve the productivity of the land, (3) the belief that milk and meat were difficult to digest, (4) it would be disrespectful to the feast of ingathering, (5) and so on.
In reality, the Law had a number of comparable restrictions against brutality toward animals and protections against working in opposition to the natural order of things. For example, the Law encompassed instructions that prohibited sacrificing an animal except when it had been with its mother for at least seven days, sacrificing both an animal and its young on the same day, and taking from a nest both a mother and her eggs or young.—Leviticus 22:27, 28; Deuteronomy 22:6, 7.
|Proverbs 16:24 (ESV)
24 Gracious words are like a honeycomb,
|Proverbs 24:13-14 (ESV)
13 My son, eat honey, for it is good,
|Ezekiel 3:2-3 (ESV)
2 So I opened my mouth, and he gave me this scroll to eat. 3 And he said to me, “Son of man, feed your belly with this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it.” Then I ate it, and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey.
|Revelation 10:9 (ESV)
9 So I went to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll. And he said to me, “Take and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey.”
In Scripture, the healthful properties of honey are likened to gracious words and wisdom for the soul, because it is sweet to the taste, but also because it is good for the health as well. Certainly, we benefit spiritually from the gracious words of our Creator, in the same way, that honey is beneficial for our soul (body).
Scripture also uses honey illustratively for its sweetness and the pleasure of eating it, as we can see from the above Ezekiel 3:2-3 and Revelation 10:9. Honeycomb is frequently talked about because it is thought of as being superior in flavor, sweetness, and richness to honey that has been out in the air for some time. Solomon stresses the goodness and satisfaction of the words spoken by the Shulammite girl; her shepherd lover says, “Your lips drip sweetness like the honeycomb.” (Song of Solomon 4:11) ‘The rules of Jehovah are true, and righteous altogether … sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.’ (Ps 19:9-10) “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”—Ps 119:103.
12 For man does not know his time. Like fish that are taken in an evil net, and like birds that are caught in a snare, so the children of man are snared at an evil time, when it suddenly falls upon them.
Scripture also likens men to fish. Solomon likened men to fish from the perspective of their being “snared at an evil time.” Jesus Christ views his disciples as “fishers of men.” (Mark 1:17) On another occasion, he likened righteous ones to good fish, and unrighteous ones to bad fish.–Matthew 13:47-50.
In Bible times, it was an indication of bonding in fellowship, to eat food together. (Gen. 31:54; 2 Sam. 9:7, 10, 11, 13) If someone refused to eat with another, this was an indication of anger, or some feeling or attitude against the host. (1 Sam. 20:34; Ac 11:2, 3; Gal. 2:11, 12) In addition, food was used, at times, as a gift, to acquire or make sure of the friendliness of another. For one to accept food as a gift, it then obligated the receiver to remain at peace with the giver.—Gen. 33:8-16; 1 Sam 9:6-8; 25:18, 19; 1 Ki 14:1-3.
2 they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. 3 (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly, holding to the tradition of the elders, 4 and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) 5 And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?”
2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.”
It is not that Jesus’ disciples did not wash their hands at all, but rather did not partake of the ceremonial washing that the Scribes and Pharisees attached great importance. The Scribes and Pharisees were not washing their hands for hygienic reasons, but were following the traditions of former men (elders), washing their hands up to the elbows. The Babylonian Talmud, Sotah 4b, views eating with unwashed hands (the ceremonial way), as being equal to having sexual relations with a harlot, and whoever does not take hand washing serious, will be “uprooted from the world.”
RECLINING AT THE TABLE A model of a table, eating utensils, and terracotta pottery typical of the Roman period. Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds
John 13:23, 25; 21:20
23 One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was reclining at table at Jesus’ side, 25 So that disciple, leaning back against Jesus, said to him, “Lord, who is it?” 21:20 Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?”
Generally, guests at banquets and feasts reclined on their left side using a pillow to support their elbow. Typically, there would be 3-5 persons occupying each couch. The back of a person’s head would be toward the breast, or bosom, of the person behind him. The person who had no one behind him would have been considered the one holding the honorable position at the dinner, with each succeeding person as the next position of honor. As we will notice from the image above, this required persons to be very close to one another, and so the custom was to place friends next to friends. This undoubtedly made conversation much more lively, as well as private comments if preferred. The person who was in the bosom position of the most honored one at a banquet or feast was viewed as one having a favored position with that honored one. In the Gospel of John, we repeatedly see that it is the beloved Apostle John in this favored position with Jesus.
23 One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was reclining at table at Jesus’ side, 24 so Simon Peter motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. 25 So that disciple, leaning back against Jesus, said to him, “Lord, who is it?”
20 Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?”
Viewpoint, Feelings, Thinking, Expressions
41 And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed
Kneeling was a common position when praying, but not the only position. In addition, while many times a Scripture may have the plural “knees,” this does not exclude that it could be the person is on one knee.―1 Kings 8:54; Acts 9:40; 20:36; 21:5; Ephesians 3:14
It was a common practice for the Jews to bow before a person in a position of authority to show respect. It was also a common practice within the Persian Empire for people to bow down or do obeisance to the king. Obeisance is not necessarily an act of worship (dependent on the heart of the person), it is more of a gesture of respect or deference shown to another, especially royalty, in which one bows, kneels, or prostrates the body before another. “The Persian scholar P. Briant raises some questions about the exact meaning of proskynesis (Gr., obeisance), and notes that on the Persian monuments the gesture of obeisance is not prostration but a slight inclination of the body and a hand-kiss.” King Ahasuerus gave a command that Haman was to be shown this honor. The entire account of Esther hangs on the fact that Mordecai will not bow before Haman. It is not stated why Mordecai refuses to do so, because as was stated above, this is not an act of worship for the Israelites (e.g., 1 Sam 24:8; 2 Sam 14:4; 1 Ki 1:16). However, some history says that that Persians saw the king as being divine.
What is the most likely reason for Mordecai refusing to bow before Haman?
It is obvious from this, that Mordochai had declared to those who asked him the reason why he did not fall down before Haman, that he could not do so because he was a Jew,—that as a Jew he could not show that honour to man which was due to God alone. Now the custom of falling down to the earth before an exalted personage, and especially before a king, was customary among Israelites; comp. 2 Sam. 14:4, 18:28, 1 Kings 1:16. If, then, Mordochai refused to pay this honour to Haman, the reason of such refusal must be sought in the notions which the Persians were wont to combine with the action, i.e., in the circumstance that they regarded it as an act of homage performed to a king as a divine being, an incarnation of Oromasdes.
While the possibility of Mordecai’s failure to bow before Haman might be because the king was viewed as divine, it seems that there is a more likely reason. There had to be occasions for Mordecai to have to do obeisance to King Ahasuerus; otherwise, he would have never received the promotion that comes later in the account. Unquestionably, what motivated Mordecai is the fact that Haman was an Agagite, probably a royal Amalekite, an enemy of the Israelite people in the extreme. Mordecai’s Jewish ancestry stands in opposition to Haman’s Agagite ancestry. Jehovah had declared the subsequent execution of the Amalekites as they had revealed their hatred of God and his people by attacking the Israelites at Rephidim in the wilderness. (Ex 17:8–16; Deut. 25:17–19; 1 Sam 15:17–20) Therefore, righteous Mordecai faithfully rejected the notion of prostrating himself before Haman. Bowing would symbolize not only respect, but also would have possibly sent the message that there was to be peace and perhaps reverence to the point of a worshipful attitude toward this Amalekite.
Placing Hand Under Thigh
Genesis 24:2-4 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
2 And Abraham said to his servant, the elder of his house, that ruled over all that he had, “Put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh. 3 And I will make thee swear by Jehovah, the God of heaven and the God of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell. 4 But you will go to my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife for my son Isaac.
A method of making an oath was to place one’s hand under the other’s thigh, as Abraham’s servant did in swearing that he would not take a wife for his son of the daughters of the Canaanites, but would go to Abraham’s country, and to his relatives, and take a wife for Isaac. (Gen. 24:2, 9).
Throwing Dust on the Head
Joshua 7:6 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
6 And Joshua tore his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of Jehovah until the evening, he and the elders of Israel. And they put dust upon their heads.
There were many signs in ancient Israel that would tell others that one is going through grief. For example, throwing dust on the head, tearing clothes, wearing sackcloth, cutting off or shaving, or pulling out one’s hair, and beating one’s breast, to name just a few.
In first Corinthians 8:1-13, we will discover that there were those who restricted themselves from eating meat that was sacrificed to idols (leftovers being sold in the meat market), as they were struggling to get over their former idolatrous life, and could not set aside their worshipful attitude. On the other hand, there were ones, who exercised their freedom to partake of this meat and viewed the former as spiritually weak ones. As we will see, those who had the accurate knowledge lacked the wisdom of how to apply that knowledge, because they were puffed up.
Representation of Ancient Corinth
Food Offered to Idols
1 Corinthians 8:1-2
1 Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. 2 If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know.
In the Greek culture of first-century C.E., there were families that made sacrificial offerings of meat to idols in the temples. Only certain portions of the meat were used, with the rest being taken home by the family, or sold to the meat market. The question that lies before the Christian: ‘is it then permissible to eat the meat at the market.’ It is true that “all of us possess knowledge.” However, is it accurate knowledge, and do we possess wisdom, the ability to apply the knowledge correctly? Thus, the actual danger for the Corinthian Christians is their belief that they have the accurate knowledge, which has him puffed up, when in truth, it is not accurate at all.
1 Corinthians 8:3
3 But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.
The obvious mark that a Christian has love for God will be evidenced in his or her attitude and actions toward fellow Christians, as “love builds up.”
1 Corinthians 8:4-6
4 Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” 5 For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords,” 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.
Paul is making the point that even though there are so-called gods, their claim is false. The gods “in heaven” would include deities such as Jupiter, the chief of the pagan gods, and Aphrodite, the patron deity of the colony. The gods “on earth” may be an allusion to the way the Roman imperial family was worshiped and considered divine. At Corinth, there was a temple of Octavia, dedicated to the sister of the emperor Augustus. The focus for a provincial imperial cult, based at Corinth, was established about a.d. 54. There was a regular festival celebrating the imperial family; thus a Christian attending a banquet in honor of the deified emperor might be compromised.
The Corinthians Christians knew “there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.” (8:6) Living in the pagan city, they were well aware that there were many false, nonexistent gods and lords, which were worshiped by the citizens of Corinth. They knew that these idols were simply pieces wood, stone or metal, and were powerless. Based on this knowledge, the Corinthian Christians should have known that meat in the market that had been part of what was offered to idols, had no power over them, being no different from any of the other meat at the market.
However, is this basic knowledge, able to guide them in the wisdom of whether they should eat it or not? While some were spiritually mature enough, to realize that eating such meat meant nothing. However, there were others in the Corinthian congregation, new ones, and older ones, who were spiritually weak, unable to make the connection. Paul goes on,
1 Corinthians 8:7
7 However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.
These Christians being referred to in verse 7 were former idolaters, who had been very much involved in the practices of the false gods, and were unable to make the connection. If they ate such meat, even being told this was permissible, they would not be able to set aside the worshipful spirit that they had previously experienced. Therefore, they could not accept that it would be permissible to eat such meet. In addition, in their case, because they still possessed a worshipful spirit, it would have been wrong. Paul touched on this with the Romans, “But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” (Rom. 14:23)
1 Corinthians 8:8-11
8 Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do.9 But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.10 For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? 11 And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died.
In keeping with the rest of the New Testament, Paul often used the word translated “we are worse” (hystereo) to mean “to be lacking” or “to be in need” (cf. 2 Cor. 11:9; Phil. 4:12). The word translated “we are better” (perisseuo) appears to carry the meaning “abound, overflow” in every other Pauline usage. In 8:8 these words most probably refer not to moral or spiritual benefit or damage, but to material prosperity. This corresponds well with the idea in the ancient world that sacrifices procured material blessings from the gods. This seems an even more likely reading in light of the famines in Greece at the time of this letter.
This is where insight must come in for the spiritually mature Christian, as he would be sinning if he ate meat in front of such spiritually weak ones, as he may stumble such ones. The spiritually weak one may draw the conclusion that the mature ones in the Corinthian congregation were partaking in false worship to pagan idols. On the other hand, they may think that it is fine to eat the meat, still possessing their worshipful spirit, which remains from former days. Thus, the spiritually mature one would have caused his brother to sin.
1 Corinthians 8:12-13
12 Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.
Therefore, it was not enough to be aware that they possessed the freedom to eat the meat, because the meat was no different from any other, and had no power over them; they needed to have insight into how to apply that knowledge wisely. The alleged mature Christian, who failed to consider those who were spiritually weak, is ‘puffed up with knowledge,’ when he should be ‘building up with love’ of his fellow brothers. This one sees the weak as being overly rigid and dogmatic, as opposed to struggling to get over a former way of life. Therefore, while he might possess the accurate knowledge, he fails to use it wisely, and is foolish, because in the end, he has sinned against Christ. He did not allow love to be the guide of that knowledge.
Ephesians 6:10-19 American Standard Version (ASV)
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
12 For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Wherefore take up the whole armor of God that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and, having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 in all circumstances taking up the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: 18 with all prayer and supplication praying at all seasons in the Spirit, and watching to that end in all perseverance and supplication for all the saints, 19 And on my behalf, that utterance may be given unto me in opening my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel,
We may be thinking that it seems very unlikely that any human can be at odds with a demonic spirit creature, and come out victorious, as they have unimaginable superhuman abilities. It is only possible by our reliance on Christ Jesus. We must have a complete grasp of God’s Word, and apply it in a balanced manner in our lives each day. Only by doing so, can we be freed from the bodily, moral, emotional and mental harm that those under demonic or satanic control have gone through.–Ephesians 6:11; James 4:7
Girding Our Loins with Truth
First-Century Roman Armor
The loins are the area on each side of the backbone of a human between the ribs and hips. At the time that the Apostle Paul wrote this to the Ephesians, soldiers wore a belt or girdle-like we see in the image of Roman soldiers. It was 2 to 6 inches in width. This belt served a double duty: (1) to protect the soldier’s loins, (2) but it also serves in supporting his sword. When a soldier girded up his loins, this meant he was getting ready to go into battle. This soldier and his belt served as the perfect analogy, of how a Christian is to put on the belt of biblical truth, to protect his life. The truths of Scripture should be pulled tight around us, helping us to live a life that is reflective of that truth, and so that we can use that Bible truth to defend the faith, contend for the faith, and save those who doubt. (1 Peter 3:15, Jude 3, 21-22) If we are to accomplish these tasks, we will have to study the Bible carefully and consider its contents. Prophetically, it was said of Jesus, “your law is within my heart.” (Psalm 40:8) If Jesus came under attack by the enemy of truth, he was able to refer to biblical truth from memory.―Matthew 19:3-6; 22:23-32.
20 And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. 21 And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.
Breastplate of Righteousness
The breastplate of the soldier was a piece of armor that covered the chest, protecting one of the most important organs, the heart. As all Christians likely know, we have a figurative heart, which is our inner person, and it needs special protection because it leans toward wrongdoing. (Genesis 8:21) Therefore, we must cultivate a love for God’s Word and the standards and values that lie within. (Psalm 119:97, 105) Our love for the Word of God should be to such a depth that we would reject “the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life.” (1 John 2:15-17) In addition, once we have developed such a desire for right over wrong, we will be able to avoid paths that would have otherwise led us to a ruination. (Psalm 119:99-101; Amos 5:15) Our greatest example in everything, Jesus Christ, evidenced this to such an extent that Paul could say, “You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness.”—Hebrews 1:9.
Shod Our Feet with the Preparation of the Gospel of Peace
Roman soldiers needed suitable footwear, which (1) kept the soldier’s footing sure in battle, and (2) allowed him to march some 20 miles during a campaign while wearing or carrying some 60 pounds of armor and equipment. Thus, Paul’s ongoing analogy of the armor of a Roman soldier was right on target, as the appropriate footwear for the readiness of a Christian minister active in spreading the gospel message is even more important. The importance is shown by Paul again in his letters to the Roman congregation, when he asks how will the people get to know God if the Christian is not willing and ready to bring it to him, as he preaches and teaches?―Romans 10:13-15.
Once again, we must look to our exemplar Jesus Christ, as he says to the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate, “For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” For three and a half years, Jesus walked throughout the land of Palestine, preaching to all who would listen, giving the ministry a top priority in his life. (John 4:5-34; 18:37) If we, like Jesus, are eager to declare the good news, we will find many opportunities to share it with others. Furthermore, our being absorbed in our ministry will help keep us spiritually strong. Acts 18:5
The Shield of Faith, the Helmet of Salvation, and the Sword of the Spirit
Thureon is the Greek word rendered “shield,” which actually refers to a shield that was “large and oblong, protecting every part of the soldier; the word is used metaphorically of faith.” This shield of faith would and will protect the Christian from the “the fiery darts of the evil one.” In ancient times, the darts of the soldiers were often hollowed out having small iron receptacles, which were filled with a clear colorless flammable mixture of light hydrocarbons that burned. This was one of the most lethal weapons as it caused havoc among the enemy troops, unless the soldiers had the large body shields that had been drenched in water and could quench the fiery darts. In fact, the earliest manuscripts repeat the definite article, literally “the darts of the evil one, the fiery (darts),” emphasizing the fact that they were above all destructive. If the soldier’s shield caught fire, he would be tempted to throw it down, leaving himself open to the enemy’s spear.
What does the highly metaphorical language of the fiery darts depict and how does this weaken or undercut our faith? It may come in the form of minor persecution if we live in the Western world, such as being ridiculed for our Christian faith, even verbally assaulted by Bible critics. Another fiery dart may be the temptation to put money over the ministry. Then, there is the constant temptation from Satan’s world to lure us into immorality. We would have to be literally blindfolded not to see sexually explicit images hundreds of times per day, as it is used to sell everything. It is not only the images but also the mindset. Here is one example, and please excuse the graphic nature. The modern day junior high school teens (13 and 14 years old); literally view oral sex as being no different than kissing one another on the lips.
If we are to protect our Christian family, our congregation of brothers and sisters, and ourselves, we must possess “the shield of faith.” Faith is not a simple belief in Jesus Christ as some misinformed ones might tell us; rather it is an active faith in Jesus Christ. James tells at 1:19 “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe, and shudder!” The demons and Satan believe in the existence of Jesus Christ, and yet this brings them no salvation whatsoever. Faith comes from taking in an active knowledge of the Father and the Son, to the point of building a relationship, a friendship based on the deepest love, and the committing of oneself to the point of turning our life over completely. It is regular prayerful communication, understanding and valuing how he protects us.—Joshua 23:14; Luke 17:5; Romans 10:17.
Yet again, we turn to our great exemplar, Jesus Christ, who demonstrated his faith throughout some very trying times. He completely trusted the Father to accomplish his will and purposes. (Matthew 26:42, 53, 54; John 6:38) A great example of this trust can be found when Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemane. He was in great anguish because he knew that he was going to be executed as a blasphemer of his Father, and even then, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39) Not that he was backing out of the execution, the ransom that is, but he wanted to be executed for another reason, other than a blasphemer. Jesus was an integrity keeper, which brought great joy to the Father. (Proverbs 27:11) As we face difficult times in the world that is alienated from God, we will do well to imitate Jesus great faith, and not give ours under the pressures of the world that lies in the hands of the evil one. Moreover, our faith will be refined if we trust in God, evidencing our love for him, by applying his Word in our daily walking with him. (Psalm 19:7-11; 1 John 5:3) The immediate gratifications that this world has to offer could never compare with the blessings that lie ahead.―Proverbs 10:22.
Not long ago, those trying to curb the use of drugs within the American youth had the saying, “the mind is a terrible thing to waste.” Our next piece of armor of God would be a very useful tool for protecting the Christian mind, the helmet of salvation. The Apostle Paul said to the Thessalonians, “we must stay sober and let our faith and love be like a suit of armor. Our firm hope that we will be saved is our helmet,” because it protects our Christian mind. (1 Thessalonians 5:8) Even though we may have accepted Christ, and have entered onto the path of salvation, we still suffer from imperfect human weaknesses. Even though our foremost desire is to do good, our thinking can be corrupted by this fleshly world that surrounds us. We need not be like this world but rather openly allow God to alter the way we think, through his Word the Bible, which will help us fully to grasp everything that is good and pleasing to him. (Rom. 7:18; 12:2) We likely recall the test that Jesus faced, where Satan offered him “all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.” (Matt. 4:8-10) Jesus response was to refer to Scripture, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘you shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” Paul had this to say about Jesus, “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”―Hebrews 12:2.
We need to understand that the above examples of faith, does not come to us automatically. If we are focusing on what this current system of things has to offer, as opposed to focusing on the hopes that are plainly laid out in Scripture, we will be weak in the face of any difficult trial. After a few stumbles, it may be that we suffer spiritual shipwreck and lose our hope altogether. Then again, if we frequently feed our minds, or concentrate the mind on the promises of God, we will carry on delighting in the hope that has been offered us. Romans 12:12.
If we are to keep our Christian mind on the hope that lies ahead, we need to possess the Sword of the Spirit. The loving letter from our heavenly Father, his Word, the Bible is stated to be “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” This Word, if understood correctly, applied in a balanced manner, can transform our lives, and help us avoid or minimalize the pitfalls of this imperfect life. We can depend on that Word when we are overwhelmed, or temple to give way to the flesh, and when the Bible critics of this world attempt to do away with our faith. (2 Corinthians 10:4-5) We need to heed the words of the Apostle Paul to his spiritual son, Timothy:
2 Timothy 3:15-17
14 But as for you [Timothy], continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it [Paul, who Timothy traveled with and studied under for 15 years] 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings [the whole Old Testament], which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
Today’s Bible student has a plethora of priceless Bible study tools that will allow them easily to gain access to the geographical and historical setting of any Bible person, place, topic, or event. Christian Publishing House is currently working on CPH Old and New Testament Commentary volumes that cover all of the sixty-six books of the Bible. These volumes are a study tool for the pastor, small group biblical studies leader, or the churchgoer. The primary purpose of studying the Bible is to learn about God and his personal revelation, allowing it to change our lives by drawing close to God. These volumes are written in a style that is easy to understand. The Bible can be difficult and complex at times. Their effort is to make it easier to read and understand, while also accurately communicating truth.
CPH Old/New Testament Commentary will convey the meaning of the verses within each Bible book. In addition, they will also cover the Bible background, the custom, and culture of the times, as well as Bible difficulties. Another important feature of CPH Old and New Testament Commentary is its range of information. They have made every effort to supply their readers with important textual information in a simple way. In addition, the reader will be introduced to one of the original languages of the Bible by way of transliteration (English letters), Hebrew / Aramaic / Greek. Moreover, they will be covering all of the Bible difficulties from Genesis to Revelation.
This thorough information should benefit their readers in becoming more in-depth students of the fully inerrant, inspired Word of God, as well as being better qualified to defend to anyone who asks them for a reason for their hope. 1 Peter 3:15
- What is biblical archaeology and how has it aided our understanding of the Bible?
- Why is the historical-cultural and geographical background of the Bible important to the modern day Christian, and how is Samson an example of such?
- How were homes viewed differently in Bible times, as opposed to our modern day Western world?
- How was leaven in often viewed in Scripture?
- How are we to understand Exodus 23:19?
- What does the book say about how we should understand “honey” within Scripture?
- What do we learn about mealtime, washing hands, and eating in Bible times?
- Read the attitudes and gestures, giving the gist of each.
- What do we learn about the armor of God at Ephesians 6:10-19?
 Clinton E. Arnold, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary Volume 2: John, Acts., 227 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002).
 Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, Es 3:3–4 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1996).
 Clinton E. Arnold, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary Volume 3: Romans to Philemon. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002), 143.
 Richard L. Pratt Jr, I & II Corinthians, vol. 7, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 140.
 W. E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger and William White, Jr., vol. 2, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Nashville, TN: T. Nelson, 1996), 571.
 6.36 belos, ous n: a missile, including arrows (propelled by a bow) or darts (hurled by hand)—‘arrow, dart.’ In the NT belos occurs only in a highly figurative context, to bele … peporomena ‘flaming arrows (or darts)’ Eph 6:16, and refers to temptations by the Devil.―Louw and Nida 6.36.