"Naaman, Nero, Nineveh, and Senacharib."
[first posted 6/6/09]
I have a question concerning Naaman.
2 Kings 5:17-19 And Naaman said, Shall there not then,I pray thee, be given to thy servant two mules burden of earth? for thy servant will henceforth offer neither burnt offering nor sacrifice unto other gods, but unto the LORD. In this thing the LORD pardon thy servant, that when my master goeth into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leaneth on my hand, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon: when I bow down myself in the house of Rimmon, the LORD pardon thy servant in this thing. And he said unto him, Go in peace. So he departed from him a little way.
Why did Elisha basically say it was "alright" to bow to a false God under the circumstances? Other scripture seem clear that it isn't "alright", so why was it here? After all Daniels three friends were cast into the fire rather than bow down. I must say "go in peace" wouldn't be my first reaction if someone just saved said something like that to me. I would probably tell them they had a choice to make... serve God or not... Thoughts on this?
Well this is another well known "crux", and one I have personally chewed over for some time. I think we should start by noticing that Elisha's answer, "go in peace", is ambiguous enough that we would do well to be very cautious about drawing any applications for our own Christian walk from this passage. You mention Daniel and his friends. It is also true that in the context of Kings the Lord distinguishes between those who are His and those who are not with the phrase "who have not bowed the knee to Baal". Clearly, the dividing point is what is going on in the heart. Those our Lord commends are commended because they have remained faithful to Him in their hearts and that has been reflected in their actions. Naaman's words and Elisha's response indicates to me that he was now a believer in his heart, but was concerned about a situation he anticipated where he would "have to" (in his present thinking) do something which is inconsistent with what he had come to believe.
Notice also that we hear nothing about this. It may well be that the Lord was with Naaman in ways he, as a new believer, could not fully anticipate, and that this situation never arose in the first place for a whole variety of potential reasons. It may very well be that part of God's testing and plan for him was for him to wrestle with this situation and ultimately refuse to bow to this pagan God – if so, I am confident in the Lord's ability to rescue him. A point of personal and general application here: if it is hard for us to imagine/believe/accept that God could have done this for someone else about whom we know very little and nothing in a personal way, what hope do we have of believing that God will do such things for us?!
It is certainly true that when it comes to life in the secular world there are often places where it is hard to "draw the line" between what is taking things to ridiculous extremes and what is fundamental compromise of an essential principle of truth. As we grow in the Lord and in the Word, 1) we should get better about distinguishing such things and about gaining a sense of true spiritual perspective so that we can differentiate between minor and major matters, and 2) we should get better about throwing off false guilt where there is no true compromise on the one hand, and about courageously sticking with our principles where it really is a matter of essential compromise on the other. In all these things, "God is greater than our heart".
I like to think that on further reflection, Naaman decided he just could not go through with overt pagan worship of a false god and stay as faithful to the Lord as he wanted to be. And that God, in His matchless grace, worked things out in such a way that the confrontation Naaman was dreading never materialized, or that in the course of refusal he was given a wonderful opportunity to witness for the Lord which would have otherwise been lost, but in either case that he was delivered from the consequences which his words to Elisha show he feared.
And there is another lesson to draw from this passage. Notice how Elisha does not take this opportunity to confront Naaman and say something like, "If you do, you're damned!" or "You have to choose one way or another" or "No self-respecting believer would ever do this!" Many Christians (and all legalistic Christians I know) would be licking their chops at the prospect of slamming Naaman for saying what he said. But Elisha just says "go in peace". It takes a certain amount of spiritual maturity to understand that when someone is so involved in a rationalization under extreme pressure as Naaman was that there isn't much point in confronting them directly and aggressively about it because it will likely only irritate them – and may do damage to them by causing them to dig in their heels. But by not criticizing Naaman while at the same time not signing on to his rationalization, Elisha plants a seed of doubt without hindering Naaman's likely further consideration of the issue. As with our children or friends or other believers when we hear them spouting such ridiculous things like this, rather than jumping into a confrontation, it is often the height of spiritual wisdom just to let them talk without expressing any overt disapproval – but without backing them up either. Many a Christian – in fact probably all of us – has had the experience of expressing in some detail a "grand plan" that on further consideration we realize would have been a big, big mistake. As we reflect on such things (as I hope Naaman did), we are always grateful to friends, family, and Christian acquaintances who did not beat us up about the folly of what we had so laboriously constructed in our minds (this might only have led to our following through out of pure stubbornness), and yet did not give their blessing or approval, leaving us on our own with our own free will still intact to figure out on our own with the help of the Spirit and God's graciousness that it was bad idea.
In Him who is the only truth, dear Jesus Christ.
I forwarded your email to one of my friends from bible study and I wanted to know if you agreed with any of it.
Generally speaking the prophets were more than willing to "slam" as you say, someone that was going against Gods will. Samuel speaking to Saul and Nathan speaking to David come to mind. Matter of fact, I only recall a few places where God told them NOT to speak out against error, and those case usually involved highly stiff-necked unbelievers. That said there are of course multiple ways to say something, you can be kind, mean, arrogant, or humble in what you say and although you may say basically the same thing it will no doubt be taken vastly differently depending on how it is said. As I said, I just can't imagine Elisha saying "go in peace" and no more in direct reply to a request for pardon if Namaan was indeed requesting pardon for "future sins". Namaan must have meant something else...
Well, since this is the Bible, we can be sure that just like "Horton the elephant", Elisha "said what he meant and meant what he said". "Go in peace" means "Go in peace". It doesn't mean "I agree with everything you just said". And come to think of it, I know of no other example in the OT where a prophet is confronted with anticipated future behavior. When they rebuke someone, they rebuke them for what they have already actually done. Since Naaman hadn't actually done this but was clearly concerned about it, Elisha doesn't let him off the hook – but he doesn't seek to take control of his free will in a legalistic way either. Also, we should remember the spiritual I.Q. of the person to whom we are speaking is something which must always be taken into consideration in such situations. Naaman had only just that day come to the Lord; David and Saul had been believers their entire lives, and few had been as great as Saul until he back-slid, and none have been as great as David. I like to think that you and I are capable of humbly absorbing more frank spiritual advice today than we were on the day we first accepted Jesus Christ. So I think that this was a perfect response on Elisha's part, one from which we can all learn – if we are willing to do so.
In CT - 4 it is stated that Nero is the 6th dominant emperor. My list of Roman emperors shows Nero as the 5th dominant emperor, starting from 27 B.C.
Help, what am I missing? Thanks in advance, for your time and insight.
Most people do count that way. But the best way to look at it (and the biblical way in any case) is to see Julius Caesar as the first of the Caesars. That was certainly how his adopted son Octavian (a.k.a. Augustus) and essentially all other contemporaries saw things. Without Julius Caesar, there would have been nothing like a Roman Empire, and he was the first to exercise supreme power with complete control of all the Roman legions and the political apparatus. His only mistake was having a poor a sense of personal security. But to exclude Julius Caesar from the list – even though that is standard practice for us in the modern world – would have seemed
quite bizarre to any 1st century Roman. The fact that we do so now and for some strange reason I don't quite understand, well, that this is a modern conceit which has contributed much to the misinterpretation of the phrase "he is the eighth and one of the seven" in Revelation 17:11.
You have a good eye for detail! For more on this please see the links:
In CT 3B "Antichrist's national origin"
In CT 5 "The Beast on whom Babylon Rides"
"Jonah 2:10 And the LORD spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land."
"Jonah 3:1-4 And the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the second time, saying,
Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee.
So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days journey. And Jonah began to enter into the city a day's journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown."
I had always been under the impression that the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time immediately after the whale spit him out. BUT I was looking at it today and "three days journey" stood out to me. Nineveh is on the far side of the tigris river, a LONG way from the Mediterranean sea, and over rough terrain. I wouldn't call it a three day journey from the coast back then... So I am thinking that perhaps he was already on the way to Nineveh when the word.
What do you think?
The phraseology here in the Hebrew admits of the likely possibility that this is referring to the immense size of Nineveh: to cover the entire city on foot, preaching as he went, would require three days. Thus it takes some time before the message reaches everyone in town and makes its way to the palace.
Hi again Doc!
"Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days journey. And Jonah began to enter into the city a day's journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown."
Unless I am misunderstanding the context...it appears as Jonah going a days journey into the city before he said anything that way of reading it wouldn't seem to make sense. Jonah going a days journey into a city that took three days to cross before he called for them to repent would seem unlikely. It seems that after what he had gone through he would have been preaching as soon as he got there.
He was preaching as soon as he got there. Note how we are told that the city was so big, three days of walking around were required to see it all. That is why the (KJV) "exceeding great city" precedes the "three days journey", to specifically connect the two ideas. Thus the "journeying" is not from the coast but specifically keyed to the size of Nineveh (it might well have taken Jonah a considerably longer time to get there in the first place, and of course "how long to Nineveh?" would depend upon where one started). The phrase in Jonah 3:4 which you highlight here I would translate "Now Jonah began to make his way through the city for one day's journey [i.e., out of the three necessary to cover the whole town]"; that is to say, while Nineveh was "three days journey" large, they began to respond after Jonah had made his way through only a third of the city.
Please take a moment to evaluate the following theological scenario. I think that the Assyrian Empire is the ‘Head that was wounded unto death by the Sword' that will at some point in the future, be healed.
Rev. 13:3: And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed...
Rev. 13:14: ...which had the wound by a sword, and did live.
To this end, we see that God Himself declared that the King of the Assyrian Empire (Sennacherib/Sanacharib) would die by the Sword.
Isaiah 37:7: Behold, I will send a blast upon him, and he shall hear a rumour, and return to his own land; and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land.
Isaiah 37:38: And it came to pass, as he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch his god, that Adrammelech and Sharezer his sons smote him with the sword...
Therefore, having said this as I have stated before Beastly Heads in Scripture imply a triad which includes the Beast Kingdom itself, the ruling Fallen Beast Angel of that Kingdom (Dan. 10:20), and the Human Beast King of that Kingdom. Meanwhile, to wound any part or in any way an element of the ‘Heads' triad (Kingdom/Angel/Human) is to wound the ‘Head of the Beast'. That being said, in Rev 13:18 we see that the Name and gematric Number of the Beast is the Same as the Name and gematric Number of the Man. Therefore, the gematric number of the Beast is equal to the gematric number of the Man also making them having the same names.
Rev. 13:18: Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is [consisteth] the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.
Herein lies the theory, if the Seven Headed Abyss Beast is the ‘fallen angel/prince/king' that once ruled the Assyrian Empire through Sennacherib, then per the Scripture above there should have been and will be a Man with the ‘Same' identical name and gematric number as the now fallen abyss angel that empower/ruled that Empire. There is such a man – Sennacherib who was recorded as Sanacharib by the Greek historian Herodotus, et. al, has a Hebrew gematric value of 333.
SANACHARIB = 333 [ סאנאחאריב] =
60(S)+1(A)+50(N)+1(A)+8(CH)+1(A)+200(R)+10(I)+2(B) = 333 X 2 = 666
If this is correct, then Sanacharib apparently bore the name of the fallen Angelic Prince that once ruled the ancient Assyrian Empire. BOTH of their names and gematric numbers were the SAME – Sanacharib and 333. When we look at Rev. 13:18 the word ‘IS' (...for it is the number of a man...) (Strong's Greek esti 2076) suggests that within the final composite total number of the Beast Consiteth the EQUAL gematric number of a Man.
This same word with its Greek tense is used in Luke 12:15.
Luke 12:15: And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.
In summary, in Rev. 13:18 we read the following:
Rev. 13:18: Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: [generative, singular, neuter, noun] for it is the number of a man; and his [generative, singular, neuter/masculine, personal pronoun] number is Six hundred threescore and six.
Therefore, in the above passage I suggest that the word ‘Beast' is a ‘Collective Noun' that refers to BOTH the fallen angelic Abyss Beast (Head/Prince/King) Sennacherib who once ruled the ancient Assyrian Empire, AND the human Head/King Sennacherib (bearing the fallen angel's name) that was ‘possessed' by the Abyss Beast Sennacherib and served as the human Head/King/Mouth of the Assyrian Empire, until he/they were wounded to death by the Sword (Isa. 31:8).
Meanwhile, by definition and in accordance with grammatical rules a collective noun can be either singular or plural and refers to a group of more than one person, place or thing that functions as a unit (whole). As such, we then grammatically would use a singular pronoun (in this case a singular possessive pronoun – his/its) in accordance with the antecedent collective noun (unless the group is functioning as individuals). Moreover, no one who believes in the ‘Trinity' (Godhead) can reasonably argue that the Hebrew ('elohiym) or Greek (theos), both the Old and New Testament words for ‘God', are not also Collective Nouns and are grammatically followed by singular pronouns – He, Him, His.
Genesis 1:26: And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness...
Therefore, I suggest the TWO (Sanacharib the Abyss Beast and Sanacharib the possessed man Antichrist) will function and act as ONE Beast during the Great Tribulation. Here is a bit of trivia, in our English spelling Senna(Cherib) suggests – Assyrian Moon God (Sin) Cherib/Cherub – sin moon god cherub. Sennacherib in Akkadian means "man of sin or Sin (moon god) has multiplied the brothers". The pagan god Sin was a celebrated ‘moon god' of the Assyrian Empire.
I'm not so sure I'd call this simple; seems pretty involved to me. I can't claim to have digested everything you have here but I will offer a few comments:
1) My own position on the wounded head is similar to yours in some respects, i.e., that is it antichrist, but that antichrist, the beast, is a real person who is killed (only apparently) and then "resurrected" to the awe of the world; in biblical symbolism he is also synonymous with the empire he forges, revived Rome (although his base of power is neo-"Babylon", i.e., the U.S.). This is all found in part 3B of "Coming Tribulation: Antichrist".
2) On the gematria, I would find it more convincing if one did not have to double the starting number. For instance, one of the more interesting gematria is that "Nero Caesar" written in Hebrew, N-R-I-N Q-S-R is exactly 666. Of course it may be objected to this and to many such derivations that there may be a variety of ways to spell this name in Hebrew and it is possibly a bit "too cute" to insist on the one that adds up the "right way"; that is something that can be applied to Sennacharib, especially seeing as how this name does not even occur in scripture. I have long been of the very decided opinion that 666 is a litmus test rather than a prognostic tool; we are not meant to be able to figure out the person before the person is revealed, but need a device to confirm with certainty that the likely person really is the beast once revealed. For there are very many names (in various configurations) that can be made to equal 666 (not to mention multiples thereof), but if we are limiting ourselves to current political personalities and using 666 as a test we find the results quite different: only the real beast is likely to fit the bill and at the same time have his name "add up" to 666 without unnecessary mathematical or linguistic "gymnastics".
3) Man of sin: apart from the fact that the "sin" in the etymology of Senacharib's name is only accidentally similar to the word "sin" in English (a language with no direct application to the Bible; i.e., this argument would mean nothing to, say, a brother who speaks Parsi), there is also the considerable problem that even the phrase "man of sin" is not biblical. This phrase comes as the result of a textual error in the so-called textus receptus which formed the basis of the translation of the KJV version. Most more recent versions use the correct text (where hamartias is replaced by anomias) and translate "man of lawlessness" at 2Thes.2:3.
4) The number of people and things, real, metaphorical and prophetical, "killed by the sword" in the Old Testament is, in my opinion, far too numerous to count for too much. The critical thing about the beast and the empire he represents is not the manner of the death but the fact of (apparent) revival. That is what sets him and his empire apart and what, in the context, causes the world to admire and worship him.
I'm sorry not to be able to be more encouraging as to this particular theory, but as many of my friends from seminary who don't agree with me often say, "Your teaching is between you and the Lord." May He lead us both into all truth.
In the Name of the One who is the only truth, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Thank you so very much for your kind and prompt response to my theory – I always depend on you for both a professional and educated answer. However, there is something I do not understand. You mention in your response that the name ‘Sennacherib' (2 Kings 18:13, 19:16, 20, 36; 2 Chr. 32:1, 9, 22; Isa. 36:1; 37:17, 21, 37 (you wrote Senarcharib?) does not even occur in Scripture, what did you mean by that? The name I suggested was Sennacherib's alternate spelling by the Greek historian Herodotus, et. al. – Sanacharib.
I appreciate your persistent and consistent thirst for the truth! What I meant vis- -vis Sennacherib is that a gematria is only valid if derived from the spelling of a name in the original language, not from an English equivalent or transliteration. For example, it would be pointless to attempt to make anything of the name "Elijah" from the English spelling since the Hebrew is more akin to 'Eliyahu in pronunciation, and in terms of the consonants actually used in the text, well, suffice it to say that the mathematical result would be entirely different depending upon which version one used. On Sennacharib, the spelling I see in my Hebrew Bible is:
That is to say סנחריב, and not סאנאחאריב (the basis for your calculation). So while it's clearly the same person, the Masoretic Text's spelling yields a different value – or values, depending upon whether or not one wants to understand the long "e" (in the place where the brackets are above) as consonant to be counted or merely represented the vowel as a mater lectionis. The numerical values based upon the name as it actually occurs in scripture would be then be either 330 (with yodh counted) or 320 (without counting the yodh).
Sorry for the confusion.