|Responsibility Regarding God's Purpose
|Why did Joseph marry Asenath, the daughter of an Egyptian priest? Didn't this violate God's instructions against marrying a pagan non-believer?
Responsibility Regarding God's Purpose
On Saturday, April 10, 2004, Edwin Pope will be giving the sermon, titled, “Our Responsibility Regarding God’s Purpose.”
The services can be heard at www.cognetservices.org at 12:30 pm Pacific Time (which is 2:30 pm Central Time). Just click on Connect to Live Stream.
On Monday, April 12, 2004, is the Last Day of Unleavened Bread. Norbert Link will be giving the sermon in the morning, and Dave Harris in the afternoon. Both will be discussing important principles related to that day.
The services can be heard at www.cognetservices.org at 10:00 am Pacific Time (which is 12:00 pm Central Time), and at 2:30 pm Pacific Time (which is 4:30 pm Central Time). Just click on Connect to Live Stream.
by Dave Harris
Who is a Christian, really?
Among the various religions of this world, Christianity claims approximately 1.9 billion adherents. When one closely examines just who these people are, the stunning variety of subgroupings within Christianity is bewildering.
Since modern Christianity claims its origins from the Bible, it would seem to follow that most would believe and practice what the Bible teaches. However, that simply is not the case!
In anticipation of world conditions that would be extant shortly before His return to the earth, Jesus Christ warned His disciples of sweeping religious confusion: “‘For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect'” (Matthew 24:24).
On a global scale, there is no question that confusion and deception account for what now presents itself as Christianity. Almost everyone proclaims that they, alone, are the “true believers.” This self-appraisal can be blindingly dangerous if wrong. Jesus cautioned those who would follow Him with these words: ” ‘Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ and then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ ” (Matthew 7:21-23).
Against this backdrop of widespread deception and self-delusion, a much smaller group of Christians is identified in the Bible. As cited in Matthew 24, Jesus spoke of them as “the elect.” These are the few who truly uphold the teachings of Jesus. These are also the ones who are not deceived. And yet, the elect must be very circumspect as well!
Paul, who was, without question, one of these “elect,” was careful to warn of counterfeit Christianity seeking to overwhelm true Christians: “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).
By drawing close to God through humble obedience to what He reveals in His Word, the Bible, the elect of this generation can prevail. Note this further teaching from Jesus: ” ‘Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are MANY who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are FEW who find it’ ” (Matthew 7:13-14).
For those who also would be a part of the “elect,” it is vitally important to continually examine their own lives, and perhaps we should also ask ourselves: “Am I a Christian, REALLY?”
This Week in the News
PAGANISM ON THE RISE
Zenit reported on February 7, 2004, that Europe is experiencing a rising return of pre-Christian paganism. The article did not mention the fact, however, that Europe has been, for many centuries, deeply embroiled in pre-Christian paganism, such as the celebration of Christmas, Easter, and other pre-Christian pagan festivals. Still, the article pointed out:
“Denmark has announced it will allow a group that worships Thor, Odin and other Norse gods to conduct legally-valid marriages…” In quoting from the Guardian newspaper in Britain, the article continued:
“Cherie Blair, wife of the British Prime Minister, is keen on alternative forms of spirituality… Both Cherie and Tony Blair underwent a Mayan rebirthing experience while on holidays in Mexico in 2001… Fewer than 3% of Londoners are now regular churchgoers. At the same time, non-Christian practices such as Kabbalah, Buddhism, Hinduism and crystal healing are flourishing… For many westerners, particularly women, it has become the norm to master Buddhist chanting in a meditation class, learn about ancient Hindu philosophies during a yoga class, light an (aromatherapy) candle and say a prayer (to a nameless God) back at home.”
God does not look with favor or approval at those practices. In speaking about the great and terrible time period of the “Day of the Lord” soon to come, during which time God will intervene in the affairs of man and begin to punish man for his sins, Isaiah 2:6 reads: “For You have forsaken Your people, the house of Jacob [mainly referring here to the modern descendants of Jacob or Israel, that is, the United States of America, Great Britain and the Commonwealth nations], BECAUSE THEY ARE FILLED WITH EASTERN WAYS; they are soothsayers like the Philistines, And they are pleased with the children of foreigners [i.e., those who follow pagan religions].”
ANOTHER UNPOPULAR MOVE BY THE UNITED STATES
A recent decision by the Bush Administration, pertaining to 27 countries, is bound to further fuel the flames of anti-Americanism amongst many of the citizens of those countries.
As the press announced on April 2, travelers from western European nations and Japan will be added by September 30 to the list of foreign visitors fingerprinted and photographed upon arrival in the United States.The only “visa-waiver” countries excepted from the rule are Canada and — although this is hard to believe — Mexico.
The measure has received strong objection from the American travel industry, which fears that it will greatly reduce travel into the United States. The affected countries include Australia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom, among others.
The U.S. government had already begun in January to fingerprint and photograph visitors from nations other than the visa-waiver countries. About 2.6 million people have been processed so far, and about 200 have been stopped, because of prior or suspected criminal or immigration violations. NOBODY has been stopped, however, because of suspicion of terrorist involvement.
The U.S. government stated that the new measures will not create massive backlogs at airports and seaports for the estimated 13 million annual visitors from visa-waiver countries. It was pointed out that the procedure “only” takes 23 seconds per person. This is, of course, a very naive assessment. Considering the rather catastrophic situation already presently existing at the Los Angeles airport, this new procedure will cause a further delay of over an hour or perhaps even two hours for travelers arriving at LAX.
While some of the governments of the affected visa-waiver countries declined to comment or even expressed “understanding,” many of the affected citizens responded with outrage.
Italian citizens were quoted as saying: “With this condition, I won’t feel welcome any more… That’s too oppressive.”
A French citizen said: “Welcome to the dictatorship. Why don’t they put a barcode here [pointing to the back of his neck] and stick a microchip in your arm.”
A British citizen stated that he would be “very peeved.” Another said that the measure is “demeaning.” He continued: “There’s 1,001 places to go, so why not go somewhere where you’re not going to get treated like a criminal?”
A citizen from the Netherlands was quoted as saying: “What are they trying to do, alienate their last remaining allies? I think it’s a strange move.”
(Sources: Associated Press; Yahoo!News; Bloomberg. com; Der Spiegel Online; Bild Online)
GERMANY PARTIALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR IRAQ WAR?
On April 5, 2004, Der Spiegel Online reported that “Information provided by the German Federal Intelligence Service on Iraqi biological weapons has become a political issue: Did the Germans, by providing incorrect information, inadvertently contribute to the outbreak of the war?”
The article continued: “This is a sentence that will probably find its way into every history book: ‘It turns out that we were all wrong.’ This assessment, reached by former US chief weapons inspector David Kay, has been causing significant problems for US President George W. Bush for months. The inflated story about Saddam’s alleged arsenal of horror could be one of the factors that may cost him his reelection.
“Another remark Kay made during his testimony before a congressional panel in January has not yet become as widely known: ‘The Germans and their intelligence services believed that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.’
“Does this mean that key reasons to go to war were supplied by Germany, an opponent of the war? Both the German government and the Federal Intelligence Service, or Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), have been worried about a backlash from Washington for months. On the weekend before last, their fears became reality. Through an article printed in the Los Angeles Times, the US government leaked the information that Berlin allegedly bears a portion of the responsibility for the debacle in Iraq. According to the article, this is because the Germans are principally responsible for the fantastic story of biological weapons laboratories being hidden in mobile containers that the dictator supposedly had driven back and forth across the country in trucks. It was precisely this laboratory for toxic substances that US Secretary of State Colin Powell used as one of his central arguments in attempting to convince the UN Security Council of the dangers posed by Iraq.”
While the German government denied that the BND had given any wrong information to the U.S. government, Germany’s opposition party has begun to accuse the BND and the German government of incompetence or worse. As Der Spiegel Online pointed out:
“‘Either the BND wasn’t doing a very good job, or the government passed on the information provided by the BND in a manner that was simply negligent. In either case, the government bears full political responsibility,’ says the foreign policy spokesman of the CDU and CSU coalition, Friedbert Pflüger.”
“FATHER OF THE EU” SOON A SAINT?
As euobserver.com reported in March, “the Pope is set to beatify Robert Schumann — one of the founding fathers of the EU — next September. This is the first step on the road to Sainthood. The Head of the Catholic Church will take up an INVITATION TO ADDRESS THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE IN STRASBOURG NEXT SEPTEMBER — if his ailing health allows. And he is expected to use this occasion to beatify Mr. Schumann, to underline the CHRISTIAN ROOTS OF EUROPE.”
The article explained that Schumann proposed in 1950 “that France and Germany should join forces and create the European Coal and Steel Community on an equal footing. Germany agreed and the first institution of the EU was born.”
Beatification is the first step in the process that leads to a member of the Catholic Church becoming a Saint. To take the final step, miracles after the death of the person, allegedly done by the dead person, must be proved.
CLASH AT HOLY SITE
Israelis and Palestinians clashed on Friday at the Temple Mount, a holy site for both religions. While the clash was temporary and minor, it brought into focus the importance of the site. As the Associated Press reported on April 2, 2004, “it is a 35-acre walled esplanade on a hilltop in the old city of Jerusalem, where the Al Aqsa and the dome of the rock mosques sit atop the ruins of the biblical Jewish temples. In Jewish tradition, it is the place where King David kept the Ark of the Covenant, and where Abraham nearly sacrificed his son Isaac. Jews believe the Second Temple, whose destruction by the Romans in 70 A.D. came to symbolize the start of the long Jewish exile, lies under the compound. Muslims revere the site as the spot from which they believe Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven. At the Israeli-Palestinian peace summit at Camp David in July 2000, negotiators were unable to agree on who would have sovereignty over the site.” It is certain that the site will be in the news quite frequently in the future.
MAJOR EARTHQUAKES IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA?
As Der Spiegel Online reported on April 3, 2004, scientists at the University of Los Angeles have predicted that southern California will be hit by major earthquakes in September. The anticipated magnitude will be 6.4 on the Richter Scale — or even higher. The cause for the alarm is a recent series of minor earthquakes in the region.
MANY ARABS LIKE MEL GIBSON’S MOVIE
Associated Press reported on April 5, 2004, that Mel Gibson’s movie — “The Passion” — is a “hit” among Arabs. This, in spite of the fact that “many Muslims” normally “recoil at seeing their prophets [Jesus Christ is viewed by Muslims as a prophet] portrayed as flesh-and-blood characters,” and that the Quram, Islam’s holy book, denies the crucifixion. In sura (chapter) 4, verse 157, it is stated: “They said, ‘We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah’ — but they killed him not, nor crucified him. But so it was made to appear to them. And those who differ therein are full of doubts with no knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not.”
AP points out that Muslims believe “another man was crucified in Jesus’ place.”
Gibson’s movie has been labelled as anti-Semitic, and many Arabs approving of the movie have stated that the movie should motivate people to turn against the Jews, as the movie reveals “crimes committed by Jews against Christ.” This paradox with the official position of their own religion (that allegedly, Christ was not even killed) cannot be explained even by Arabs.
At the same time, many Jews have opposed the movie for numerous reasons. While fear of anti-Semitism was undoubtedly the major reason, another reason stemmed from the Jewish belief that Jesus Christ was not the Son of God, and that His death was just the death of an ordinary person — perhaps of a prophet.
Sadly, both Muslims and Jews, holding such beliefs, as described herein, are thereby rejecting the only “name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (compare Acts 4:12). The truth is that there is NO “salvation in any other” (same verse). To reject Christ as the Son of God, and to deny that He died and was resurrected from the dead, is tantamount to rejecting God’s gift of eternal life. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:17, “if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!”
Fortunately, Christ, who was God, became Man to die for us, so that we can have eternal life, when we repent of our sins and accept Christ’s Sacrifice. He was offered once to bear the sins of many (Hebrews 9:28). Christ was resurrected, to return “to those who eagerly wait for Him… apart from sin, for salvation” (same verse). Christ, the Messiah of Christians, Jews, Arabs, and the whole world, will come “a second time,” as our “great GOD and Savior” (Titus 2:13).
Why did Joseph marry Asenath, the daughter of an Egyptian priest? Didn't this violate God's instructions against marrying a pagan non-believer?
Genesis 41:44-46 reads as follows:
“Pharaoh also said to Joseph, ‘I am Pharaoh, and without your consent no man may lift his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.’ And Pharaoh called Joseph’s name Zaphnath-Paaneah [the Margin of the New King James Bible states here: “Probably Egyptian for ‘God Speaks and He Lives.'”]. And he gave him as a wife Asenath, the daughter of Poti-Pherah priest of On. So Joseph went out over all the land of Egypt. Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh king of Egypt.”
We also read, in Genesis 46:20: “And to Joseph in the land of Egypt were born Manasseh and Ephraim, whom Asenath, the daughter of Poti-Pherah priest of On, bore to him.”
In Genesis 48, we read the stirring account of Jacob’s adoption of Joseph’s two sons (Genesis 48:5); his blessing of the two sons; his placing his name (that of “Israel”) on them (v. 16); and his “setting Ephraim before Manasseh,” Joseph’s firstborn son (v. 20). Jacob prophesied that Manasseh would become a great people, but that Ephraim would be “greater than he, and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations” (v. 19). We know from history that Manasseh became the United States of America, while Ephraim became Great Britain and the Commonwealth of nations — quite literally “a multitude” of nations.
With this background, let us begin to answer why Joseph submitted to Pharaoh and accepted from him, in marriage, Asenath, the daughter of Poti-Pherah, the priest of On.
Some propose that Poti-Pherah and Asenath were not pagan worshippers. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, states: “[Joseph’s] naturalization was completed by this alliance with a family of high distinction. On being founded by an Arab colony, Poti-pherah, like Jethro [father-in-law of Moses], priest of Midian, might be a worshipper of the true God; and thus Joseph, a pious man, will be freed from the charge of marrying an idolatress for worldly ends.”
This conclusion is not necessarily negated by the fact that Poti-Pherah and Asenath were called with pagan names. The Ryrie Study Bible comments: “In order to ‘Egyptianize’ Joseph, Pharaoh gave him an Egyptian name and an Egyptian wife. The meaning of his Egyptian name is uncertain. Asenath means ‘ she belongs to Neith’ ( a goddess of the Egyptians). On is the city of Heliopolis, a center for the worship of the sun god, Ra.” Still, the fact that Joseph’s wife and his father-in-law were called by such names does not prove that they were pagan worshippers. Pharaoh gave Joseph an Egyptian name which could, in some contexts, refer to an Egyptian god (compare the Nelson Study Bible). However, it is interesting that the Bible, apart from this passage in Genesis 41, never uses this name to refer to Joseph.
The New Student Bible comments: “Proud Egyptians did not care for Hebrews. In order that Joseph’s ethnic past be erased as quickly as possible, Pharaoh gave Joseph an Egyptian name and married him into a prominent Egyptian family. Joseph gave his own sons Hebrew names, however, a practice that suggests he maintained his own identity.”
In addition, Soncino points out that the Hebrew word for “priest” in “priest of On,” i.e., “kohen,” can also be translated as “ruler,” as is the case in 2 Samuel 8:18. In that passage, the Authorized Version says, “chief rulers,” while the New King James Bible says, “chief ministers.” In any event, the meaning in 2 Samuel 8:18 is clearly not one of a religious function. Accordingly, Soncino suggests as a possibility that in Genesis 41:45, Poti-Pherah was not a “priest” of On, but a “ruler” of On.
Others feel strongly that Joseph’s wife and father-in-law were pagan worshippers at the time of Joseph’s marriage. If so, such a marriage would have been against God’s law. Abraham insisted that his son Isaac would not marry a wife “from the daughters of the Canaanites,” but from his own family and country (Genesis 24:3-4). Later, God specifically prohibited the Israelites to “make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land [of Canaan] where you are going, lest it be a snare in your midst” (Exodus 34:12). He warned them not to “take of [an idolater’s] daughters for your sons, and his daughters play the harlot with their gods and make your sons play the harlot with their gods” (Exodus 34:16).
In this light, the following statements by the Broadman Bible Commentary are quite interesting:
“The name given Joseph is an Egyptian one probably meaning, ‘the God speaks and he hears’…, a pagan testimony to the reality of God in Joseph’s life. Potiphera is pure Egyptian, meaning ‘he whom Re gave,’ and is essentially the same name as Potiphar. Asenath means ‘belonging to (goddess) Neith.’ Potiphera was priest of On, one of the most influential offices in Egypt. Joseph married into one of the most prominent priestly families in Egypt, but they were nevertheless pagan. Isaac and Jacob had secured wives from their own cultural background. Joseph did the very thing which the others sought to avoid. Could this deed possibly have met with God’s approval? The writer of the Joseph story is silent, but that silence does not necessarily mean assent… It does not appear to be coincidence that the descendants of Joseph and Asenath, the principal northern tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, were always addicted to idolatry. The golden calves of Jeroboam I in North Israel were based upon experiences during the flight from Egypt (cf. Ex. 32:4 with 1 Kings 12:28). Thus the silence of this section of Genesis is followed by the judgment of history.”
It is noteworthy that the modern descendants of Ephraim and Manasseh are likewise steeped in paganism and idolatry. Religious feasts such as Christmas or Easter are being celebrated, which have nothing to do with true Christianity, but which are clearly derived from pagan worship. For more information, please read our free booklet, “Don’t Keep Christmas.” You may also want to read the Editorial in Update #89, dated April 18, 2003, titled, “Why We Don’t Celebrate Easter.”
Whether Asenath was a pagan idolatress or not, it is clear that God never allowed His followers to marry unbelievers. This is true today for Christians, as it was always true in God’s eyes — since God does not change. We read in 1 Corinthians 7:39 that a marriage should be conducted “only in the Lord.” However, we are also told that a believing mate is not to divorce from his or her unbelieving mate, if the “unbelieving” mate is pleased to dwell with the believer, and that their children are “holy,” having access to God (1 Corinthians 7:12-14). Ephraim and Manasseh’s descendants did not have to become idolaters. They could have continued to follow God. The same can be said about the modern descendants of Ephraim and Manasseh. God warns them today, through His Church, of impending disaster. They COULD listen and repent of their evil deeds, as the ancient Ninevites did (compare the book of Jonah). The question is, Will they?
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