Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Does God Swear By His Creation or Doesn’t He?



Addressing a Supposed Biblical Discrepancy
By Sam Shamoun



According to the following Muslim article, the Holy Bible allegedly contradicts itself concerning whether Yahweh swears only by himself or also by his creation.

The article cites the following NT passage,

so that you may not be lazy, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could vow by no one greater, He vowed by Himself, saying, ‘Surely I will bless you, and surely I will multiply you.’" Hebrews 6:12-14

And seeks to pit it against this next verse from the OT which has Yahweh swearing by the Pride of Jacob:

The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob: Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.” Amos 8:7

The article claims that this is a “clear contradiction, which proves that the Bible is corrupt,” since the inspired book of Hebrews plainly teaches “that God Almighty wouldn't swear on anything other than Himself, because there is none Greater than Him.”

To call this desperate would be to put it mildly. The supposed contradiction only exists in the mind of the author, who is trying so desperately to find an error in order to justify the fact of his god swearing by his creation, unlike the true God of the Holy Bible:



The problem with this supposed error is that a careful reading of the context shows that “”the pride of Jacob” is simply another way of referring to Yahweh, which means that God is actually swearing by himself.

The Holy Bible is replete with examples of God referring to himself with names or titles in relation to his people Israel.(1)

For instance, Yahweh is called “the Fear of Isaac,”

“If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been with me, surely you would have sent me away empty now. God has seen my affliction and the labor of my hands and rebuked you last night.’ … ‘The God of Abraham, the God of Nahor, and the God of their father, judge between us.’ Then Jacob vowed by the Fear of his father Isaac.” Genesis 31:42, 53

“The Holy One of Israel,”

“For the Lord is our shield of defense, and the Holy One of Israel is our king.” Psalm 89:18

“For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of Hosts is His name; and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel; He shall be called the God of the whole earth.” Isaiah 54:5

“The Redeemer of Israel,”

“Thus says the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel, and his Holy One, to the despised one, to the one whom the nation abhors, to the servant of rulers: “Kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship, because of the Lord who is faithful and the Holy One of Israel who has chosen you.” Isaiah 49:7

“The Rock of Israel,”

But his bow remained firm. His arms were agile because of the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob, because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel, because of the God of your father who will help you, and by the Almighty who will bless you with blessings from heaven above, blessings from the deep that lies beneath, the blessings of the breasts and the womb.” Genesis 49:24-25

The Spirit of the Lord spoke by me, and His word was on my tongue. The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spoke to me: He who rules over man justly, who rules in the fear of God,” 2 Samuel 23:2-3

As well as “the Glory of Israel,”

He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind.” Isaiah 15:29 New International Version (NIV)

It should therefore come as no surprise that God would choose to refer to himself as “the Pride of Jacob,” especially since elsewhere in Amos God swears by himself that he shall destroy Jacob’s pride:

The Lord God hath sworn by Himself, an oracle of the Lord the God of Hosts: I abhor the pride of Jacob and hate his palaces, so I will deliver up the city with all that is in it.” Amos 6:8

In this particular context, the pride of Jacob refers to Israel’s wealth, more specifically to all of its palaces which gave the covenant community the false sense of safety and prosperity. By later identifying himself as Jacob’s Pride, God was basically telling his people that they should not trust in their palaces and/or riches for security, but rather their trust should be in the Lord their God. God’s point to them was that it is he, not their riches or strong fortresses, who happens to be the only true Pride that Jacob has ever had, and their boasting and glorying should therefore be in him alone:

You shall fan them, and the wind shall carry them away, and the whirlwind shall scatter them; and you shall rejoice in the Lord, and shall glory in the Holy One of Israel.” Isaiah 41:16

Surely, one shall say, ‘Only in the Lord are righteousness and strength.’ Men shall come to him, and all who are incensed at Him shall be ashamed. In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified and shall glory.” Isaiah 45:24-25

“The sun shall no longer be your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you; but the Lord shall be an everlasting light to you and your God for your glory.” Isaiah 60:19

Nor is this the only place in Amos where God swears by himself:

The Lord God has sworn by His holiness: Indeed the days are coming upon you when they will take you away with hooks, the last one of you with fishhooks.” Amos 4:2

In this text God swears by his own holiness, which provides further support for the fact that, just as in the case of both here and 6:8, Yahweh again swears by himself in 8:7. Yet, in this case, he chose to employ a different epithet to describe himself in relation to his covenant people.

That God is swearing by himself in all these verses from Amos is further seen from the fact that the context of all these texts is one of impending judgment and destruction. Note, for instance, the immediate context of 8:7:

The Lord has sworn by himself, the Pride of Jacob: ‘I will never forget anything they have done. Will not the land tremble for this, and all who live in it mourn? The whole land will rise like the Nile; it will be stirred up and then sink like the river of Egypt. In that day, declares the Sovereign Lord, I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight. I will turn your religious festivals into mourning and all your singing into weeping. I will make all of you wear sackcloth and shave your heads. I will make that time like mourning for an only son and the end of it like a bitter day.” Amos 8:7-10 NIV

The NIV rendering makes it explicitly clear that it is Yahweh who is the Pride of Jacob, which confirms that God is not swearing by someone or something else. Rather, Yahweh is actually swearing by himself since he happens to be the true Pride of Jacob.(2)

Another line of evidence, which confirms that Yahweh is none other than Jacob’s Pride by whom he swears, is that the Hebrew root for “Pride” in Amos 8:7, i.e., gaown, is used to describe Yahweh in several OT passages, some of which include the following:

Your right hand, O Lord, is glorious in power. Your right hand, O Lord, shatters the enemy. In the greatness of Your excellence, You overthrow those who rise up against You. You send out Your wrath; it consumes them like stubble.” Exodus 15:6-7

“Enter into the rock,and hide in the dust from the fear of the Lord and from the glory of His majesty. The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day. For the day of the Lord of Hosts shall be upon everything that is proud and lofty, and upon everything that is lifted up, and it shall be brought low; and it will be upon all the cedars of Lebanon that are high and lifted up, and upon all the oaks of Bashan, and upon all the high mountains, and upon all the hills that are lifted up, and upon all the high towers, and upon every fenced wall, and upon all the ships of Tarshish, and upon all pleasant sloops. The loftiness of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be brought low; the Lord alone will be exalted in that day;18the idols He shall utterly abolish. They shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, from the fear of the Lord, and from the glory of His majesty, when He shall arise to shake the earth mightily. In that day a man shall cast away his idols of silver and his idols of gold, which they made for themselves to worship, to the moles and to the bats, to enter the caverns of the rocks, and into the clefts of the cliffs, from the terror of the Lord, and from the glory of His majesty, when He arises to shake the earth mightily. Cease regarding man, whose breath is in his nostrils; for why should he be esteemed?” Isaiah 2:10-22

They lift up their voices; they sing for the majesty of the Lord; they cry aloud from the west. Therefore glorify the Lord in the east, even the name of the Lord God of Israel in the coastlands of the sea. From the uttermost part of the earth we hear songs, that is, ‘Glory to the Righteous One.’ But I say, ‘Woe to me! Woe to me! Alas for me! The treacherous deal treacherously; indeed, the treacherous deal very treacherously.’” Isaiah 24:14-16

He will stand and shepherd in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God; then they will live securely, because now He will be great until the ends of the earth;” Micah 5:2-4

All of these factors provide conclusive evidence that Yahweh in Amos 8:7 wasn’t swearing by something or someone else, but was rather swearing by himself, since he truly is Jacob’s Pride.

So much for the alleged contradiction.

Addendum
Select Commentaries

Here is a list of Bible scholars and theologians who all concur that the text of Amos 8:7 is describing the one true God as the Pride of Jacob.

7. Jehovah Himself is the Excellency, the Pride and Boast of His people. (John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible)

v. 7. The Lord hath sworn by the excellency of Jacob, He Himself being Israel's Pride and Glory, Surely I will never forget any of their works; for by leaving such sins unpunished, He would deny His glory in Israel. (The Popular Commentary by Paul E. Kretzmann)

By the excellency of Jacob - that is, by Himself who was its Glory, as Samuel calls Him “the Strength” 1 Samuel 15:29 or the Glory of Israel. Amos had before said, “God sware by His Holiness” and “by Himself” or “His soul.” Now, in like way, He pledges that Glory wherewith He was become the Glory of His people. He reminds them, who was the sole Source of their glory; not their calves, but Himself, their Creator; and that He would not forget their deeds. “I will not forget any,” literally, “all;” as David and Paul say, “all flesh,” all living men, “shall not be justified,” that is, none, no one, neither the whole nor any of its parts. Amos brings before the mind all their actions, and then says of all and each, the Lord will not forget them. God must cease to be God, if He did not do what He sware to do, punish the oppressors and defrauders of the poor. (Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible; bold and underline emphasis ours)

Amos 8:7. The Lord hath sworn by the excellency of Jacob — That is, by himself; Surely I will never forget any of their works — God is said to remember men’s sins when he punishes them. We may learn by this passage, and many others in Scripture, that however slightly men may think of it, God takes particular notice of, and will certainly punish, all extortions and over-reachings in trade, and more particularly when they are used in regard of the poor. They shall have judgment without mercy, who have showed no mercy. It is to be wished that persons would always consider themselves as the fathers of the poor, when they deal with them; and rather give them measure pressed down and running over, than mete to them with a scanty hand. (Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments; bold and underline emphasis ours)

(8) By himself.—Literally, by His soul. Jehovah swears by His life or soul because He could swear by no greater—the eternal “I Am.” (Comp. the formula of Divine asseveration: “As I live, saith the Lord,” which derives illustration from the custom of swearing by the life of a monarch; Genesis 42:15-16.) With the eternal unchangeable being of the Supreme Monarch stands contrasted “the excellency of Jacob,” the false futile glory which Jehovah abhors. In Amos 8:7 the phrase is used for God Himself; not, however, in either passage God’s absolute perfection or objective glory, but the thoughts, sometimes wise, sometimes base, which men have entertained about Him. From the context we infer that the splendid shrine of Samaria, with its unacceptable offerings and calf-worship, is here meant. The reference to the coming destruction of buildings great and small (Amos 6:11) lends colour to this interpretation. (Comp. Amos 6:13.) (Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers; bold and underline emphasis ours)

1. God will remember their sin against them: He has sworn by the excellency of Jacob (Amos 8:7), by himself, for he can swear by no greater and who but he is the glory and magnificence of Jacob? He has sworn by those tokens of his presence with them, and his favour to them, which they had profaned and abused, and had done what they could to make them detestable to him for he is said (Amos 6:8) to abhor the excellency of Jacob. He swears in his wrath, swears by his own name, that name which was so well known and was so great in Israel. He swears, Surely I will never forget any of their works, but upon all occasions they shall be remembered against them, for more is implied than is expressed. I will never forget them is as much as to say, I will never forgive them and then it proclaims the case of these unjust unmerciful men to be miserable indeed, eternally miserable woe, and a thousand woes, to that man that is cut off by an oath of God from all benefit by pardoning mercy and those have reason to fear judgment without mercy that have shown no mercy. (Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible; bold and underline emphasis ours)

By the excellency of Jacob; by himself, for God cannot swear by any greater, and he is called the excellency of Jacob, Psalms 47:4. (Matthew Poole’s English Annotations on the Holy Bible; bold and underline emphasis ours)

Such crimes as these, which sap the very foundations of social life, shall meet with vengeance. The Excellency of Jacob. This is a title of God himself, as in Hosea 5:5; Hosea 7:10, where it is rendered "pride." Thus the Lord is said to swear by his holiness (Amos 4:2), by his soul. So here he swears by himself, who is the Glory and Pride of Israel; as truly as he is this, he will punish. The Vulgate treats the sentence differently, Juravit in superbium Jacob, i.e. "The Lord hath sworn against the pride of Jacob," against the arrogancy with which they treat the poor, and trust in their riches, and deem themselves scours. So the Septuagint, μνύει κύριος κατ τς περηφανίας ακώβ, I will never forget, so as to leave unpunished. Literally, if I forget, equivalent to a most decided denial, as Hebrews 4:8, Hebrews 4:5, etc. "Nec mirum est, si Deus jurare dicatur; quum dormientibus dormiat et vigilantibus vigilet; hisque qui sibi thesaurizaverunt iram in die irae dicatur irasci" (St. Jerome). (The Pulpit Commentaries; bold and underline emphasis ours)

Such wickedness as this would be severely punished by the Lord. Amos 8:7. "Jehovah hath sworn by the pride of Jacob, Verily I will not forget all their deeds for ever. Amos 8:8. Shall the earth not tremble for this, and every inhabitants upon it mourn? and all of it rises like the Nile, and heaves and sinks like the Nile of Egypt." The pride of Jacob is Jehovah, as in Hosea 5:5 and Hosea 7:10. Jehovah swears by the pride of Jacob, as He does by His holiness in Amos 4:2, or by His soul in Amos 6:8, i.e., as He who is the pride and glory of Israel: i.e., as truly as He is so, will He and must He punish such acts as these. By overlooking such sins, or leaving them unpunished, He would deny His glory in Israel. שׁכח, to forget a sin, i.e., to leave it unpunished… (Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary; bold and underline emphasis ours)

Unless noted otherwise, all Scriptural references taken from the Modern English Version (MEV) of the Holy Bible. 

Endnotes

(1) Interestingly, the Muslim whom the author credits with coming up with this supposed contradiction was aware that “the Pride of Jacob” could be viewed as a title for Yahweh God himself. In anticipation of this response the Muslim then comes up with a really bad argument:

« Reply #7 on: January 16, 2016, 09:18:51 AM »
Salam Aleikum Brother, all was THANKS GOD. May God continue helping us in our reserchings [sic], Insha-Al-lah, Amen. Brother, I want to make a clarification, it´s possible that somebady [sic] say to you that God is the "Glory of Jacob" in Amos 8:7, because in 1 Samuel 15:29 God is refering [sic] like the Glory of Israel. But, but, THERE IS NO PROBLEM! Because I read in hebrew [sic] the two words used to Glory, AND THOSE ARE DIFFERENT! For in 1 Samuel 15:29, the word used is: Nesah (That is the word to refer to God).

Here is the interlinear: http://biblehub.com/text/1_samuel/15-29.htm

But the word used in Amos 8:7 is very different, because the word used in that is: Gaown, which means arrogancy [sic] (http://biblehub.com/hebrew/1347.htm)

Here is the interlinear of Amos 8:7: http://biblehub.com/text/amos/8-7.htm

THANKS FOR ALL BROTHER, SALAM ALEIKUM

The Muslim rebuttal is nothing more than a straw man since no informed Christian would argue that 1 Samuel 15:29 and Amos 8:7 employ the same Hebrew word. Rather, a Christian would appeal to 1 Samuel 15:29 to establish the fact that the Holy Bible attributes to God various names and characteristics to describe his relationship with Israel. This in turn would provide some evidence for taking the title “Pride of Jacob” as a reference to God himself. Apparently unable to refute this argument, the Muslim commenter chose to attack straw man instead. 

(2) Ironically, the writer cited a variety of English translations of Amos 8:7, but didn’t bother to quote the NIV rendering of this passage. It is obvious why he didn’t, since he must have seen that this translation refutes his desperate attempt of pitting Amos 8:7 and Hebrews 6:12-14 against each other, in order to manufacture a biblical contradiction.

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