Observations on life; particularly spiritual

Posts tagged “miracle

The greatest miracle

Michelangelo knew that Adam was created as an adult & not an infant, but most scientists don't know that the earth was created "adult" and not "infant" as is assumed in the big-bang idea

Michelangelo painted “The creation of Adam” and other biblical scenes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome (1508-1512). It seems to reflect the idea that humanity has been created in the image and likeness of God. And, as discussed below, Adam is shown as a male adult. Why is the first miracle in the Bible the greatest?

Creation

The Bible begins with, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1NIV). This is the absolute (not relative) beginning of space-time. It begins with a creative act of God and rules out many false ideas that people have today (Appendix A). This creation is a reason to praise God (Appendix B). “The heavens and the earth” is a figure of speech called a merism in which two opposites are combined into an all-encompassing single concept. For example, a shop that is open “day and night” is open 24 hours per day. “The heavens and the earth” means the universe (or everything that has been created). It’s mentioned in the ten commandments as, “in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them” (Ex. 20:11). Then God describes how He created everything (Genesis 1:1 – 2:25).

Isaiah says that God is the one and only Creator,
“For this is what the Lord says—
He who created the heavens,
He is God;
He who fashioned and made the earth,
He founded it;
He did not create it to be empty,
but formed it to be inhabited—
He says: ‘I am the Lord,
and there is no other'” (Isa. 45:18).
God created the earth and the heavens and everything in the earth, which was made to be perfectly suited for humanity.

And an angel said that God “created the heavens and all that is in them, the earth and all that is in it, and the sea and all that is in it” (Rev. 10:6).

A miracle

This is the first miracle in the Bible. It was creation out of nothing. The word “Creator” is synonymous with God. No one else can create something from nothing. According to the Macquarie dictionary, a miracle is “an effect in the physical world which surpasses all known human or natural powers and is therefore ascribed to supernatural agency”. Miracles display God’s power.

Other great miracles in the Bible are the incarnation of Christ (His coming into the world), the resurrection of Christ from the grave, the salvation of sinners and the new creation.

If we can believe the first verse in the Bible, no other verse in the Bible should be a problem. If God can create the universe out of nothing (the Bible says, by His command, Ps.148:5), then raising people from the dead and causing a virgin to conceive would be easier. If God can do the greater, then He can also do the lesser. If God has the ability to create everything, then the other biblical miracles are consistent demonstrations of His power.

Apparent age

The Bible says it took 6 days to create the universe, whereas science says it took about 14 billion years. Did you know that they are both right? And the Bible says it took 6 days to create the earth and its inhabitants, whereas science says it took about 4.5 billion years. Did you know that they are both right?

The vegetation that was created on the third day of creation was unique because it didn’t come from seeds and had no seedling stage. Instead of developing from a seed, it began life as mature plants with fruit so that it could be eaten by the animals and Adam and Eve on the sixth day of creation (Gen. 1:29-30; 2:16-17). As it can take an apple tree about ten years to bear fruit, on day six the apple trees had two ages: 3 days actual age and at least 10 years apparent age (if they grew from seedings).

The creatures that were created on the fifth and sixth days of creation were unique because they didn’t come from eggs and had no juvenile stage. Instead of developing from an egg, they began life as mature creatures so that they could reproduce and be named and enjoyed by Adam and Eve on the sixth day of creation. As it can take a male elephant 25 years to be sexually mature, on day six the male elephants had two ages: 1 day actual age and at least 25 years apparent age (if they grew from infancy).

As God created mature plants and mature animals during the days of creation, this implies that He also created mature ecosystems. All the cycles of nature were established and in equilibrium by the end of the sixth day of creation. They didn’t have to develop from simple to complex as imagined by the uniformitarian hypothesis. As it can take say 100 years to produce a mature ecosystem after a volcano erupts, on day six the ecosystems had two ages: 1-3 day actual age and at least 100 years apparent age (if they developed from a bare landscape).

Adam and Eve, who were created on the sixth day of creation, were unique because they had no mothers and no childhood. Instead of developing from a zygote, they began life as mature adults who could reproduce (like in Michelangelo’s painting). This is an example of irreducible complexity (Appendix C). As it can take people about 20 years to reach adulthood, on day seven Adam and Eve had two ages: 1 day actual age and at least 20 years apparent age (if they grew from infancy).

Similarly, on day six the earth had two ages: a few days actual age and about 4.5 billion years apparent age (if it developed according to the uniformitarian hypothesis and if Adam and Eve could use current scientific methods). And on day six the universe had two ages: a few days actual age and about 14 billion years apparent age (if it developed according to the big-bang model and if Adam and Eve could use current scientific methods). They are both right because God created a mature earth in a short period of time. He did it suddenly, not gradually and piece by piece.

Likewise, today the earth has two ages: about 6,000 years actual age and about 4.5 billion years apparent age (if it developed according to the uniformitarian hypothesis). And today the universe has two ages: 6,000 years actual age and about 14 billion years apparent age (if it developed according to the big-bang model). They are both right because God created a mature universe in a short period of time. He did it suddenly, not gradually and piece by piece.

Is this deceptive?

So while the universe is actually about 6,000 years old, to scientists it seems to be about 14 billion years old. Is the fact that it can have two ages (actual and apparent) that differ by billions of years deceptive? The answer is “no”, because God has given us the actual age of the universe in the Bible. The Bible says that Adam was created on the sixth day of creation and it gives a detailed chrono-genealogy of his descendants to Abram (Gen. 5:1-32; 11:10-26). The way the Bible is written enables the determination of the dates of some important ancient events.

The Bible is a historical book and it gives an outline of the history of the world. As it’s written from God’s perspective, it’s an accurate history that we can trust.

Discussion

Christians accept many miracles in the Bible, but they may doubt some like creation. How can we make such a judgment? For example, they usually accept that Jesus made wine out of water at a wedding (Jn. 2:1-11). As it was “choice wine”, the wine was mature. In those days it took 1-3 weeks to produce wine. So although the time it took to produce this wine was actually less than one hour, it would have appeared to have been 1-3 weeks in age (if it had been produced in the usual way).

Likewise, Christians usually accept that Jesus fed a crowd of 5,000 men (plus women and children) with five loaves of bread and two fish (Mt. 14:15-21; Mk. 6:35-44; Lk. 9:12-17; Jn. 6:6-13). The fish taken from the Sea of Galilee for human consumption may have been at least one year old. So although the fish that were eaten were actually less than a few hours old, they would have appeared to have been at least one year in age (if they grew from infancy).

These are examples of how, because of divine miracles, things can have two ages; actual and apparent. The same is the case for the creation at the beginning of time. But in the case of creation there are differences between our knowledge of things that can and can’t be studied by observational science.

The lifetime of vegetation (plants), creatures, ecosystems, and people can all be studied by observational science. But the lifetime of the earth beyond history and the lifetime of the universe can’t be studied by observational science. So observational science can’t be used to determine the age of the earth or the universe. This means that the Biblical record is the most reliable record of the age and history of the earth and the universe.

This situation has implications for scientists who extrapolate backwards in time past recorded history. Obviously, according to the historical record in the Bible, the earth’s real history is no longer than about 6,000 years and scientists shouldn’t extrapolate backwards past then. If they do, there is something wrong with their assumptions and their findings are purely theoretical and don’t match reality.

This is a boundary condition problem. Theoretical models always assume certain boundary conditions and the model only applies within these constraints. The problem with the big-bang model is that it violates a boundary condition imposed by God. If we extrapolate backwards in time for 6,000 years we reach the initial condition after God created the universe. Beyond that we are making assumptions about a miracle which is nonsense! So the supposed 14 billion age of the universe is nonsense. It’s purely hypothetical.

Conclusion

Creation is the greatest miracle in the Bible because it rules out many false ideas that people have today and it’s one of the main reasons to praise God.

Furthermore, creation is the greatest miracle because it has the greatest difference between the actual age and the apparent age. Also, it’s the original miracle and the others are later consequences.

Appendix A: False ideas

The following ideas are shown to be false because they are inconsistent with Genesis 1:1:
– Atheism (there is no God). God created the universe and has existed from before this time.
– Agnosticism (it is impossible to know whether God exists). God has revealed Himself in Scripture as Creator.
– Pantheism (everything is god; god and creation are the same thing) – God is distinct from His creation because He created it.
– Panentheism (everything is in god). God transcends what He created.
– Polytheism (there is more than one god). Only one God created all things.
– Materialism (mass-energy is the only reality) and naturalism (natural laws describe all things). God created mass-energy and nature.
– Humanism (humanity is the measure of all things). God created humanity, so God is the measure of all things.
– Evolutionism (all life originated from matter by natural processes). God created all things.

Appendix B: Creation is a reason to praise God

The fact that He is the all-powerful Creator is a reason to praise God. In heaven He is praised,
“You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for You created all things,
and by Your will they were created
and have their being” (Rev. 4:11).
God deserves our praise. Because God is Creator of everything, He is Lord of all. He is sovereign (supreme ruler) over history.

And Paul described God as “the Creator—who is forever praised” (Rom. 1:25). Those who don’t praise the Creator worship His creation instead, which is an act of idolatry.

Appendix C: Irreducible complexity

The Bible teaches that God created a mature fully-functioning universe, not one that was primitive and that need to develop piece-by-piece. This is consistent with the fact of irreducible complexity. The earth and the universe is more complex than scientists imagine (Job was taught this fact). There are complex systems and cycles and interactions between the components. An ecosystem is a small example of this.

For example, Adam was a real person who was created suddenly out of nothing (Gen. 5:3-5; Rom. 5:14; 1 Cor. 15:22, 45; 1 Tim. 2:13-14; Jude 1:14). As mentioned above, he began life as a fully functioning adult human being. All the processes of the human body were present and fully developed at the beginning. Otherwise, Adam would not be able to function as a human being. For example, blood must be circulating as soon as he was created.

Reference

Sarfati J. (2015), “The Genesis account”, Creation Book Publishers.

Written, May 2019

Also see: God created a huge universe


An evolutionary miracle

The theory of biological evolution is the current scientific explanation of life on earth. This assumes that life has developed from simple to complex over time. So if we extrapolate backwards in time, we eventually reach the first living cell. As this theory relies on natural selection, it only operates on populations of species, and not on the original members of the species (like the first living cell). So where did the original living cell (which is assumed to be the ancestor of all life on earth) come from? It’s assumed that life originated from non-living chemicals via chemical evolution.  Did you know that this theory includes a miracle that can’t be explained by modern science? According to the Macquarie dictionary, a miracle is “an effect in the physical world which surpasses all known human or natural powers and is therefore ascribed to supernatural agency”.

Complexity of life

In the 19th century many people believed the theory of spontaneous generation; that life arose from non-living matter. This is understandable because they knew little about the cell’s structure.

But today we know that even the simplest living single-cell organism is extremely complex, including numerous, complex machines and instructions to build them, all stored in a way that can be both decoded for use by the organism and passed on to offspring. In fact, a single cell is vastly more complicated than anything human minds have ever engineered.

Scientists agree that the first living cell possessed DNA, RNA and proteins, a universal genetic code, ribosomes (the protein-building factories), ATP and a proton-powered enzyme for making ATP. The detailed mechanisms for reading off DNA and converting genes into proteins were also in place. So it must have been like a modern cell. This is called “irreducible complexity” – all these components are required for a cell to function and reproduce. Because this complexity could never arise by chance, it was either designed or it was a miracle. Life can’t evolve from chemicals by chance.

Information

Living cells are comprised of hardware and software. The software is information stored in the DNA molecule. Enormous amounts of coded information are stored in DNA. Each of the thousands of genes on a DNA molecule contains instructions necessary to make a specific protein that, in turn, is needed for a specific biological function. All the detailed chemical and structural complexity associated with the metabolism, repair, specialized function, and reproduction of each living cell is a realization of the coded messages stored in its DNA. This information is read by a RNA molecule and used to make proteins. But the RNA is also encoded in the DNA, which is a “chicken and egg” problem! And the energy to do this is produced by the nano-motor ATP synthase which is also encoded on the DNA and is decoded by machines needing ATP! So there are multiple “chicken and egg” problems.

ATP synthase is one of many enzymes which are biological catalysts that speed up vital chemical reactions. Without them many reactions essential for life would be far too slow for life to exist. These enzymes, as well as other processes, must exist in the first replicating cell in order for that cell to survive and pass on the DNA, and the DNA must code for the proteins required for those processes!

The naturalistic explanation of the origin of life from non-living matter has a problem because there is no known natural process which can cause information to originate by itself in matter. Information cannot arise by naturalistic processes. The DNA code within all plant and animal cells is vastly more compact than any computer chip ever made. Therefore, the originator of the information must be supremely intelligent.

The theory of the chemical evolution of life assumes that this information is produced by physical processes. But the chemical workings of the cell are controlled by information which does not reside in the atoms and molecules of that cell. For example, the order of the DNA base pairs (like letters in a message) cannot be predicted from the chemical characteristics of the individual base pairs (letters). And as there is no law of physics about creating information from nothing, this assumption is equivalent to a miracle.

Extra-terrestrial life

Because of the impossibility of chemical evolution on earth, some have suggested that life began in outer space. In order to be able to start the evolution of life on earth, it has been proposed that life was seeded on earth by meteorites, comets or extra-terrestrials. Of course, there is no evidence of this and it doesn’t answer the question of the origin of life. It just transfers it to another place in the universe.

Discussion

Besides the above, the theory of chemical evolution goes against the law of biogenesis (Appendix A).

And the Milller-Urey experiment, which is often quoted to support the theory of chemical evolution didn’t produce the amino acids necessary for life (Appendix B).

Conclusion

The theory of chemical evolution of life on earth involves a miracle that can’t be explained by operational science. This is a fatal flaw for a model that doesn’t accept miracles! But the theory of biological evolution can’t start without this miracle.

I’m skeptical of a model that claims to be based on naturalism, yet requires miracles! It’s like pulling a rabbit out of a hat! This kind of historical science isn’t consistent.

But the Bible is consistent when it attributes the creation of plant, animal and human life to the all-powerful spiritual God (Gen. 1:11-12; 20-27).

Appendix A: The law of Biogenesis

The law of biogenesis says that all life comes from life. Lois Pasteur disproved the idea of spontaneous generation (that life could come from non-living material). He demonstrated that life does not arise from matter that has not been contaminated by existing life. This means that life has never come from non-life.

Appendix B: The Miller-Urey experiment

This was a chemical experiment that simulated the conditions thought at the time to be present on the early Earth. In this experiment a mixture of water, methane, ammonia and hydrogen was exposed to an electrical current. It resulted in the production of amino acids that were claimed to be the precursors of life. But this experiment relied on the lack of oxygen in the atmosphere, whereas more recent studies indicate that oxygen was present in the earth’s atmosphere earlier than had been believed. And if there was no oxygen, there would be no ozone and the amino acids would be destroyed by ultraviolet solar radiation. Also, they had to isolate the amino acids from the mixture to stop them being destroyed (by hydrolysis, for example). And the amino acids produced were a mixture of left-handed and right-handed, which would be detrimental to life because all the proteins in animals and plants are only made up of left-handed amino acids. So this experiment didn’t produce the amino acids necessary for life.

Reference

Sarfati J. (2014), “The origin of life”, Evolution’s Achilles’ Heels, Creation Book Publishers, p.79-111.

Written, May 2019

Also see: Two Big-bang miracles


Two Big-bang miracles

Big band model 2 400pxThe big-bang model is the current scientific explanation of the universe (Appendix A). Did you know that this mathematical theory includes two miracles that can’t be explained by modern science? According to the Macquarie dictionary, a miracle is “an effect in the physical world which surpasses all known human or natural powers and is therefore ascribed to supernatural agency”.

A model is a mathematical explanation of something. Models that describe a current process can be tested experimentally against the real thing. Their predictions can be compared with observations. This is operational science which is reliable. But models about the distant past can’t be tested in that way because we can’t directly observe the past (and human records are fragmentary). This is historical (or forensic) science which is more speculative and unreliable than operational science. It involves the construction of tentative historical narratives to explain past events. And models about the distant future can’t be tested in that way because the future hasn’t occurred yet. This is futuristic science which is also more speculative and unreliable. Historical and futuristic science often rely on unreliable assumptions and extrapolations. But just because operational science is reliable, doesn’t mean that the others are also reliable. In fact, because they can’t be tested by experimentation, historical and futuristic science will always be less accurate than operational science. So operational science is more robust than historical and futuristic science.

Modern science is naturalistic and rejects the possibility of miracles because miracles defy explanations within the realm of nature. According to science, miracles don’t occur (they are supernatural) because it is assumed that there is a naturalistic explanation for everything. But we will see below that modern science isn’t consistent because it includes miracles in the area of historical science.

Something from nothing

The big-bang model assumes that the universe started in a hot, dense state and has been expanding over time since then. This is the beginning of space, time, and matter, which means that the universe had a cause. If something had a beginning, then it had a cause. But the cause of the universe could not have been spatial, temporal, or material because something cannot cause itself to come into existence. It’s absurd if something existed before it brought itself into being! This rules out naturalistic causes for the existence of the universe. Therefore, the universe had a supernatural cause.

According to operational science, we can’t get something from nothing (not anything). A vacuum remains a vacuum for eternity. But according to the historical science of the big-bang model, something (like a “quantum fluctuation”) came from nothing at the beginning of time. And that sounds like a miracle to me, because quantum mechanics never produces something out of nothing. Theories that the universe is a quantum fluctuation must presuppose that there was something to fluctuate. So this aspect of the big-bang model is inconsistent with naturalistic operational science.

Cosmic inflation

The big-bang theory had a horizon problem (the universe is isotropic, it appears to be the same in all directions), a flatness problem (the density of energy/matter in the universe is fine-tuned) and a magnetic monopole problem (none have been observed). To fix these problems, a cosmic inflation theory was developed where there was a brief (less than one-billionth of a second) rapid expansion of space in the early universe (to say about 50% of its size today).

This hypothetical cosmic inflation defies all known laws of physics – it’s a miracle invoked to help the big-bang model. And what caused this rapid expansion to start and stop? No one knows.

Discussion

The big-bang theory also includes hypothetic “dark (unseen) matter” and “dark (unseen) energy”. Like hypothetical inflation, scientists have added these to the theory to make it work, but they have never been observed! To explain the accelerating expansion of the universe, they proposed “dark energy”, that was a seeming anti-gravity force pulling the cosmos apart. Dark matter and dark energy are said to compromise about about 96% of the mass-energy content of the universe! Because of the need of such large fudge factors, the big-bang model is a poor theory for the structure and origin of the universe. There are at least six major assumptions that are accepted by faith in the Big-bang model (Appendix B).

These aspects of the big-bang model of creation defy all known laws of physics and involve speculative ideas. And the model has other unverifiable assumptions like that the universe has no center or edge. So, it takes a lot of faith to believe the big-bang model!

Conclusion

The inflationary big-bang model includes at least two miracles that can’t be explained by operational science. The first is how something came from nothing in the beginning. And the second is how there was a minute burst of supernatural cosmic inflation soon after the beginning. This is a fatal flaw for a model that doesn’t accept miracles! But the big-bang can’t start without these two miracles.

I’m skeptical of a model that claims to be based on naturalism, yet requires miracles! It’s like pulling a rabbit out of a hat! This kind of historical science isn’t consistent.

But the Bible is consistent when it provides the cause of the universe as the all-powerful spiritual God (Gen. 1:1). He isn’t spatial, temporal, or material. But at the beginning of time at the creation of the universe, He created space, time and energy/matter as we experience it today.

Appendix A: Summary of the Big-bang theory (from John Harnett)

A “quantum fluctuation” produces the matter and energy of the future universe, which then goes through a brief period of “inflation”. This inflation produces “flatness” in the energy distribution and prevents the universe from collapsing in on itself. After stars form, “dark matter” is required to explain the shape of galaxies and “dark energy” is required to explain the apparently accelerating expansion of the universe. The cosmic microwave background radiation is the afterglow of the post-inflation fireball, but the light is extremely red-shifted due to the stretching of space.

This theory assumes that the distribution of matter throughout the universe is homogeneous (uniform) and isotropic (the same in all directions).

Appendix B: Six assumptions accepted by faith in the Big-bang model

These are assumptions that can’t be verified by scientific experiments. None of the proposed entities can be measured directly (using operational science) because of the limitations of time and space.

  1. A “quantum fluctuation” produced the matter and energy of the future universe.
  2. Galaxy redshifts are explained by “expansion of space”.
  3. Cosmic microwave background radiation is explained as the “afterglow of the big-bang”.
  4. Rotation curves of spiral galaxies are explained by “dark matter”.
  5. As distant supernovae are dimmer than expected, the universe is assumed to be accelerating, which is explained by “dark energy”.
  6. Flatness and isotropy are explained by “inflation”.

Reference

Harnett J. (2014), “Exposing the Big Bangs fatal flaws”, Evolution’s Achilles’ Heels, Creation Book Publishers, p.215-231.

Written, May 2019

Also see: An evolutionary miracle


Massacres and miracles at Jericho

Jericho 1 400pxSome places are associated with massacres (like Srebrenica) and some with miracles (like Lourdes), but both occurred at ancient Jericho. Jericho in the Middle East is said to be one of the oldest settlements in the world. It’s also the lowest city in the world, being in the Jordan rift valley.

Jericho was a strategic location on the route from the fords of the Jordan river to Jerusalem. This route is part of an ancient route between the Kings Highway to the east and the Via Maris (way of the sea) to the west. These were the major ancient routes between Egypt and Mesopotamia. Jericho was one of the gateways to the land of Canaan. It was the access point to the hill country of Palestine from the Trans-Jordan, being 8km (5 miles) west of the Jordan river and 22km (14 miles) east-northeast of Jerusalem.

Jerusalem experiences a Mediterranean climate, but due to the “rain-shadow” effect, Jericho on a plain in the Jordan valley has low rainfall. Because of a spring it’s an oasis in a desert which has been called “the city of the palms” (Dt. 34:3; Jud. 1:16; 3:13; 2 Chr. 28:15NIV).

In this post we look at some historical events that have occurred at Jericho.

The promised land

The exodus was when the Israelites journeyed from Egypt to the promised land of Canaan. The first mention of Jericho in the Bible is near the end of the journey when “the Israelites travelled to the plains of Moab and camped along the Jordan across from Jericho” (Num. 22:1). At this time Jericho was a fortified city occupied by the Canaanites.

Before their leader, Moses, died, he viewed the promised land from Mount Nebo, including  “the valley of Jericho, the city of palms” (Dt. 34:1-4). Jericho was central in the land that was occupied by the Israelites: between Hazor in the north and the Negev in the south and the Trans-Jordan towards  the east and the Cis-Jordan towards the west.

When the tribes of Israel were allocated land in Canaan, Jericho was in the territory occupied by the tribe of Benjamin. Jericho was near the boundary of Benjamin with Ephraim to the north (Josh. 18:12, 21). And the southern boundary of Benjamin was the Pass of Adummim (Josh 15:7) – the road from Jericho to Jerusalem goes up this ridge.

The Bible explains why the Canaanites were invaded and driven from their land. God told Abram that his descendants would be enslaved in Egypt for 400 years and after this “your descendants will come back here (Canaan), for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure” (Gen. 15:13-16). The peoples of Canaan were dispossessed of their land as an act of God’s judgement when their sin had reached God’s limit (Dt. 9:4-6). They were guilty of idolatry, sexual immorality, religious prostitution, witchcraft, and child sacrifice (Lev. 18:24-27; Dt. 9:4-6; 18:9-12).

Joshua at Jericho (1410BC)

The Israelites entered the promised land by crossing the Jordan River near Jericho. Because Joshua and the Israelites followed the Lord’s instructions, God gave them a great victory over the fortified city of Jericho. It was a miracle that the walls of the city fell down when the army shouted. Jericho was destroyed and lacked walls and gates for centuries after this because Joshua placed a curse on whoever would rebuild them (Josh.6:26). Only Rahab and her family, who cared for the spies, were rescued and saved from the massacre (Josh. 6:22-23, 25).

So the city and its occupants were destroyed because of their wickedness. And God gave it to Israel as their first possession west of the Jordan river. This incident reminds us: that Joshua had faith in the true God but the Canaanites didn’t, that God judges people’s sin, and that salvation is available to the repentant.

Israel destroys Jericho (1375BC)

But later on Jericho was destroyed by the Israelites themselves! When the Israelites punished the Benjamites because of a rape and murder at Gilead, 25,000 of the Benjamites died in battle and the Israelites “put all the (Benjamite) towns to the sword, including the animals and everything else they found. All the towns they came across they set on fire” (Jud. 20:48).

So there was another massacre in Jericho and the town was burnt once again. In this instance, God’s people also experienced God’s judgement.

Ehud at Jericho (1316BC)

When the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, Jericho was attacked and captured by the Moabites (Jud. 3:12-30) and Jericho was ruled by the Moabites for 18 years. After the Israelites cried out the Lord, He gave them a deliverer named Ehud. Ehud assassinated Eglon the king of Moab and “took possession of the fords of the Jordan that led to Moab” (Jud. 3:28). So the Moabites were defeated and Jericho was ruled by the Israelites once again.

So, when the Israelites turned away from God, Jericho was captured and ruled by foreigners. But the city was regained by Israel after they repented and prayed.

Up to this time, Jericho was a place of battles, massacres and destruction.

David’s men at Jericho (995BC)

When king David sent some men to the king of the Ammonites, the king shaved their heads and cut off half of their beards, humiliating David’s men (2 Sam. 10:1-5). So David instructed them to stay at Jericho until their beards had grown back. This means that Jericho was still occupied at this time although it had no city walls or gates.

Fortification of Jericho (850BC)

When the kingdom was split into Judah and Israel, they became more vulnerable to foreign invasion. Two such enemies were Moab and Ammon, just east of the Jordan river. That’s probably why the city walls and gates of Jericho were rebuilt (1 Ki. 16:34) as a fortified city in the time of King Ahab (about 850 BC). Jericho had lacked such fortifications for about 560 years. Was the fact that Jericho was now fortified why Moab and Ammon attacked Judah from the south rather than from the east (2 Chr. 20:1-26)?

Elisha at Jericho (850BC)

Idolatry was prevalent in the 9th century BC in the kingdom of Israel. Even king Ahab worshipped Baal (Canaanite storm god) and Asherah (Canaanite goddess of love and fertility) (1 Ki. 18:18-19). But there were 7,000 Israelites who didn’t worship Baal (1 Ki. 19:18). These people who worshipped the true God were probably led by prophets. Besides Elijah and Elisha, there were groups of prophets at Bethel and Jericho (2 Ki. 2:3, 5). The prophets from Jericho went with Elijah and Elisha to the Jordan river to witness the miracle by which Elijah and Elisha crossed the river. But only Elisha returned and he had Elijah’s coat which symbolized that he was succeeding Elijah. Elisha began his ministry at Jericho with a miracle turning brackish spring water into pure water (2 Ki. 2:18-22).

So at this time there was a group of godly people living at Jericho and the prophet Elisha performed a miracle there.

David and king Zedekiah at Jericho (976BC & 586BC)

In God’s covenant with Israel, if they disobeyed God they were to be driven from their land (Dt. 28:32-37). And this is what happened 680 years later (when the Assyrians conquered the kingdom of Israel) and 820 years later (when the Babylonians conquered the kingdom of Judah).

Two Jewish kings fled from Jerusalem to Jericho. When the Babylonians invaded Judah and destroyed Jerusalem, the army and king Zedekiah escaped at night and fled towards the east. But the Babylonian army chased them and captured the king in the plains of Jericho (2 Ki. 25:3-6; Jer. 39:4-5; 52:8).  David made a similar trip when he escaped from Absalom in 976BC by travelling from Jerusalem to the Jordan river (2 Sam. 15:28-16:14).

After the Babylonian exile, in about 537BC, 345 men of Jericho returned to Judah (Ezra 2:34). And in 444BC, men from Jericho helped to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem (Neh. 3:2). This showed that there were still godly people living at Jericho 260 years after Elisha began his ministry and that they returned to live in Jericho after the exile.

Jesus at Jericho (AD30)

The Jericho of New Testament times was built by Herod about 2.4 km south of the ancient site. It was at the mouth of Wadi Qilt, which is the valley north of the Pass of Adummim. In the middle ages the crusaders built a town about 2 km east of the ancient site and the modern town has expanded to include the ancient site.

Jericho was on the route between Galilee and Jerusalem if you wanted to avoid travelling through Samaria. It is supposed that the sites of Christ’s baptism (at the Jordan river) and temptation (at a mountain west of Jericho) are near Jericho.

In the parable of the good Samaritan (Lk. 10:29-37), the traveller was attacked as he was going down from Jerusalem (797m above sea level) to Jericho (250m below sea level). The distance was about 29 km (18 miles) and the difference in altitude about 1050m. At that time, it was a narrow, winding mountainous trail or footpath through rocky desert terrain. And there were plenty of hiding places and escape routes for bandits. Robberies in the wild and lonely terrain were so frequent that a Roman garrison had to be stationed there to protect travellers.

On the trip to Jerusalem before His death, Jesus stayed at Jericho. This was where the tax collector Zacchaeus was converted (Lk. 19:1-10) and Bartimaeus was healed of blindness (Mk. 10:46-52). This healing seemed to have occurred after Jesus left ancient Jericho (Mt. 20:29; Mk. 10:46) and before He reached Herodian Jericho (Lk. 18:35). After this Jesus climbed the ascent to Bethany, Bethphage and Jerusalem.

Discussion

This history of Jericho began with a fortified city that was destroyed by God and ended with a fortified city that witnessed miracles of God. Between these times the city lacked fortifications and was destroyed and conquered. During this time period, Jericho was occupied by the Canaanites, the Israelites, the Moabites, the Israelites, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks, the Seleucids and the Romans.

This reminds me of what Paul told the Athenians, “From one man He (God) made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from any one of us” (Acts 17:26-27). God determines the beginning and end of nations and the lands that they would occupy.

The incidents that happened at Jericho illustrate God’s supernatural power. The city walls fell when the army shouted. Ehud was able to assassinate Eglon. And Elisha and Jesus did miracles.

The people of Jericho were punished when their sins had reached God’s limit. In a coming day God will punish our sinful world because, “her sins are piled as high as heaven, and God remembers her evil deeds” (Rev. 18:5NLT). Meanwhile, on which side of the walls of Jericho are we?

Some of the occupants of Jericho were ungodly (the Canaanites, the Moabites, and the Israelites who disobeyed God by practicing idolatry) and some were godly (Elisha and the prophets, and the Jews who returned from the Babylonian exile). And some changed from being ungodly to godly (Rahab, the Israelites who repented of their idolatry, and Zacchaeus).

Lessons for us

Over the centuries, many things happened at Jericho – massacres, rescues and miracles. But it was always under God’s control. Likewise, many things happen in our lives. But we can be assured that God is in control.

Let’s trust God like Joshua, and change from our ungodly ways like Rahab and Zacchaeus. Paul told the Athenians how to do this by repenting of their ungodly ways by trusting in Jesus because “He (God) has set a day when He will judge the world (at the second coming of Christ) with justice by the man (Jesus) He has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising Him (Jesus) from the dead” (Acts 17:31).

Written, June 2018

Also see other articles on places in the Bible:
Bethlehem, God’s solution to our crises
Gehenna – Where’s hell?
Where’s Zion?
Babylon, center of humanism and materialism
Lessons from Egypt
Lessons from Sodom
Rebellion and deception at Samaria
Nineveh experienced God’s mercy and justice


Was Philip transported miraculously after the Ethiopian was baptized?

After Philip baptized the Ethiopian treasurer, “When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and travelled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea” (Acts 8:39-40NIV). Was Philip miraculously transported to Azotus, a town that may have been 30 km away? Luke, the author of Acts, would have heard about this event directly from Philip as he stayed with him in Caesarea (Acts 21:8-9).

What happened to Philip is described by the Greek word harpazo (Strongs #726), which is translated above as “suddenly took. The other occasion this word is used by Luke is when Paul was in Jerusalem and the Jews accused him of speaking against their religion: “The dispute became so violent that the commander was afraid Paul would be torn to pieces by them. He ordered the troops to go down and take him away from them by force and bring him into the barracks” (Acts 23:10). Here harpazo is translated “take by force”. In both cases someone is suddenly moved away from where they were – it is as though someone has seized them. In the second case it was via means of the troops and in the first case it was via means of the Holy Spirit.

In this brief account we are told that Philip left the Ethiopian suddenly after the baptism at the direction of the Holy Spirit. There is no clear evidence in the text that any other miracle was involved and such a miracle is not necessary to explain what happened. For example, Philip could have been shown that he had to leave the Ethiopian immediately and then travelled by the normal means of transport to Azotus. After all, that’s what happened when Paul was directed by the Holy Spirit to travel to Macedonia instead of to Asia and Bithynia (Acts 16:6-10). In Paul’s case, they “got ready at once to leave for Macedonia”.

Philip’s sudden departure meant that the Ethiopian was unable to thank or reward Philip for his help. Instead of being occupied with the person God used to assist in his conversion, he was occupied with Christ as “he went on his way rejoicing”, which is much more important than Philip’s mode of travel.

Written, June 2012


A video entitled “Raised From The Dead” claims to be a 21st-century miracle resurrection story. Is it true?

This video, sold in bookstores and on the Internet, claims that in 2001, a Nigerian man died from injuries due to a car accident, and then came back to life two days later after being taken to a church. The man reported that during this time he had been taken by angels to heaven and hell, before God sent him back to warn people of hell.

The account is unusual because, although the man was said to be critically injured, after being taken to a hospital he was able to demand transfer to his hometown hospital, a 1.5 hour drive away. Then he was taken to a clinic, a mortuary and a church. No proof is given regarding the accident or the man’s injuries, and the only evidence of death is a clinic certificate and verbal report. Although the man’s family, a doctor and a mortician claim he was dead, the evidence is not conclusive.

The claim of being taken to heaven and hell goes against Bible teaching. As the man himself said on one occasion, “It may have been a dream.” Heaven is the eternal destiny of believers while hell is the eternal destiny of unbelievers. After death people go to one or the other, not both. The Bible says there is a great chasm between heaven and hell and no one from either side can cross over (Lk. 16:26). For example, Lazarus went to heaven and the rich man went to hell (Lk. 16:19-31). The reason the rich man was in hell was because he rejected the message given in the Old Testament.

The phrase, “women received back their dead” (Heb. 11:35), quoted in the video to support the alleged miracle, refers to events in the Old Testament such as the son of the widow of Zarephath and the Shunammite’s son (1 Ki. 17:17-24; 2 Ki. 4:18-37). On these occasions God used a prophet, either Elijah or Elisha, to raise a boy back to life.

Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter (Mk. 5:22-24, 35-43), the son of the widow of Nain (Lk. 7:11-17), and Lazarus (Jn. 11:1-44; 12:1-2). In the second case it occurred during the funeral and in the third case it happened after the burial. When Jesus died many godly men and women were raised from their tombs (Mt. 27:52-53). Three days later, Jesus was resurrected from the tomb (Jn. 20:1-31 ). Peter said, “We are all witnesses of this fact.” Paul said that Jesus appeared to more than 500 followers at the same time (Acts 2:32; 1 Cor. 15:6). Dorcas was raised after Peter prayed (Acts 9:36-42). Eutychus died after falling from the third story of a building, but came alive after Paul put his arms around him (Acts 20:9-12). All these New Testament instances of people being raised from death involved either Jesus or an apostle.

This video promotes a gospel of works. It states that a person is in hell for stealing, not for rejecting Christ’s work of salvation, and the man who died would go to hell because of angry words spoken to his wife. The video supported this with Jesus’ statement that God will not forgive our sins if we do not forgive others and only the merciful will obtain mercy (Mt. 5:7; 6:14-15). These verses are taken out of context; they do not refer to salvation, which is an unconditional gift received by faith in Christ, not a goal achieved by works (Eph. 2:8-9). Instead, they are part of the Sermon on the Mount giving the Lord’s disciples principles for daily living (Mt. 5:1,2). They teach that forgiveness is necessary for believers to maintain fellowship with God, and that believers will be rewarded according to their compassion displayed (1 Jn. 1:9; 1 Cor. 3:12-15). The man said to have been raised from the dead was afraid that he would sin again and not go to heaven. He had no assurance of salvation.

The video says that this miracle was a sign from God to lead us to Jesus. However, our faith in Christ is not based on modern miracles, but on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as documented in the Scriptures. The way to heaven is through believing the message of the Bible, not a so-called modern miracle.

Published, May 2006