Some Questions about Genesis 1:1 – Exodus 40:38

Dear Reader,

If you have joined me in reading through the Bible in 90 Days, your assignment for this week will be Genesis 1:1 – Exodus 40:38.

Some of the texts in these chapters caused people problems in years past.  So I have posted and answered them here in case some of you who are reading through the Bible with me now had the same questions:

 1. In Genesis 19: 30-36, we are told that Lot’s two daughters both slept with him; the 2 sons conceived became the fathers of the Moabites and Ammonites. How can the Bible say it is good that two leaders of God’s people are the products of incest? The Bible never ever approves of incest and is highly critical of Lot and his 2 daughters for their behavior.  Furthermore, Moab and Ben-Ammi never became leaders of God’s people — they were born into Lot’s lineage, not Abraham’s. Instead these children of incest became the patriarchs of the Moabites and the Ammonites, two tribes that God’s people will have nothing but trouble with through all the generations to come.  What the Bible is telling you is that right from the very beginning, you can expect nothing but trouble to come as a result of the behavior of Lot’s daughters.

2. In Genesis 28:22, when Jacob promised to give God a 10th of his possessions, is this where tithing came from? No, Jacob’s grandfather Abraham gave the same proportion to Melchizedek, the priest of God Most High (in Genesis 14:20).  Tithing is not required until Deuteronomy 14:22.

3. There are two versions of the 10 Commandments, but only one version of the Golden Calf. Is there a “story” attached to the other story of the 10 Commandments that I missed? The “two versions” of the 10 Commandments are found in Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:1-22; and they aren’t really two different versions, instead, in Deuteronomy the 10 Commandments are being  delivered  to the generation of God’s people who are about to occupy the promised land. So those two are the same version, just different generations.  What you might be thinking about as “two versions” in Exodus could be Exodus 20:1-17 and  Exodus 34:11-26 — but Exodus 34:11-26 is a covenant renewal and focuses specifically on the three annual feasts.  You will find other covenant renewals at Exodus 23:14-19, Deuteronomy 7:1-11, Deuteronomy 16:1-17, and other places.

4. In the instructions for the Sabbath, there was to be no light. There was no explanation of what to do for light on the Sabbath (keeping a fire to keep warm, an oil lamp to see in the dark). What did the people do in order to keep the Sabbath if there was no light. Did they sit in the dark and pray? What a great question! I ass-u-me your referent is Exodus 35:3: “you shall kindle no fire in all your habitations on the Sabbath day.” This verse is the reason why many Orthodox Jews refrain from turning anything electrical on or off during Shabbat. One member of this congregation found herself as the “resident Gentile” on an entire floor of Orthodox Jews in her dorm in college, and so she was the one designated to turn the lights on and off for everyone on her floor.  When Mike and I were in Israel, on the Sabbath in our hotel, all of the elevators ran continuously — and stopped automatically  at every single floor on the way up and down.  This verse has led to lots of interesting dilemmas: can you open a refrigerator door if there is a light inside? Can you use a milking machine on your dairy cattle on the Sabbath? Can you put your lights on timers? Can you look at an electric clock to find out what time it is on the Sabbath? Can you use a telephone or computer? If you want to find out more about this, just Google “Electricity on Shabbat in Jewish Law.”

5. Exodus 39:34 makes mention of the animal “sea cows.” Are”sea cows” known by a different name today or are they extinct? A “sea cow” is an archait way to refer to a “manatee.”  

If any other text raises questions for you, ask it here in the comments section and I will answer it.  Any question you have, other people will probably share. I hope this is helpful.

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