Archive for ‘Commentry’

March 28, 2012

The Unclean Mother in Israel

by Aaron Dunlop

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The ceremonial laws for uncleanness in the Old Testament relate to three main areas: death and the dead, leprosy, and aspects of human procreation (Leviticus 12:1–8; 15:1–33). The proximity of human procreation to death and disease highlights the sinfulness and extent of sin in human nature—“all have sinned” (Romans 3:23). The command to “be fruitful, and multiply” that God gave Adam in the beginning, now, since sin entered, translates to the increase of sorrow with the birth of every child. Hence Job could say, “Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble” (14:1). Furthermore, the woman in the pain and sorrows of childbirth is the clearest expression of fallen humanity. Her suffering was part of the original curse, and the pain of labour is used throughout Scripture as being analogous to the judgment of God (Genesis 3:16; cf. Jeremiah 22:23).

Notwithstanding the continual reminder of the curse that the pain and sorrow in childbirth is and the danger of death for both mother and baby, nowhere was the birth of a child more welcomed and rejoiced in than in Israel. Rachel cried, “Give me children, or else I die (Genesis 30:1). The reason for this was the great hope and expectation of the birth of the promised Redeemer. The laws of the sin offering (which point to Christ) in Leviticus 12 and other passages therefore show us that God has not left humanity in the sorrow of sin without hope or without a way of escape. The good news is that the child—born in uncleanness and sin and, as Andrew Bonar points out, an “heir of hell!”—can, in Christ become an heir of God and a joint heir with Christ (Romans 8:17).

The purpose of the laws of uncleanness

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September 7, 2011

Studies on the Tabernacle (Pt. 2) The Names and Designations of the Tabernacle

by Aaron Dunlop

The tabernacle was the meeting place of God. This is clearly identified in the four names that are given to it. The most common name was mishkan (dwelling place). It was also called an ohel (tent). God’s mishkan would necessarily be an ohel. Both of these names are significant. It must be a mishkan because God will dwell with His people. But it must also be an ohel because God’s people dwell in ohels. God identifies with the lot of His people and dwells with them there. Furthermore, God’s desire to dwell with His people is reciprocated; the tent is constructed by the freewill offerings of the people (Exodus 25:1–7) which indicated their desire for Him.

Two other names that were used to identify this dwelling place of God were “tent of meeting” and “tent of testimony.” The “tent of testimony” implies that any meeting with God will be according to God’s law and would therefore be a witness to who God is and what He is (Psalm 78:1–7).

When the scholars were working on the Revised Version in the 1800s, this phrase “the tent of meeting” generated important discussion because there is no English word that can express the meaning adequately. The Scottish revisers were keen to use the word “tryst” which means an “appointed meeting” or an “engagement” but this was not accepted by the majority because it was not a widely used word. The Authorized Version translated it “tabernacle of the congregation” but this does not give the sense of the Hebrew word. The tabernacle, the place of Old Testament worship, was “a pre-arranged meeting,” a “meeting by appointment,” and implies that the people comply with the arrangements for meeting laid down by the Lord (Exodus 29:42–43).

August 31, 2011

Studies on the Tabernacle (Pt. 1) Introduction

by Aaron Dunlop


Much of the New Testament language and theology cannot be fully understood without first understanding Old Testament history, the workings of God with His ancient people. Nowhere is this more evident than in the book of Hebrews, with the references to the tabernacle, the vessels of the ministry, priests and sacrifices, etc. A number of observations therefore highlight the importance of this study:

1. The weight of importance given to the tabernacle in the record of Scripture. There are over forty chapters given to the history, materials, crafting, and ministry of the tabernacle. Furthermore, the significance of the tabernacle is carried on in the first pages of the gospel (John 1:14: “He tabernacled with us) and extends to the future state of the church in eternity (Rev. 21:3). The physical form of the tabernacle embodied something of eternal significance.

2. The priority given to it over the temple. The glory of the temple in Solomon’s day, with its unparalleled splendor, never superseded that of the simple lessons taught in the rustic tabernacle of the wilderness. The writer to the Hebrews never refers to the temple, but always takes the people of Israel back to the tabernacle.

3. The typological significance attributed to the tabernacle. With all of the importance given to it, the time and craftsmanship in the building, the spiritual weight and reference to it in the Old Testament, it is interesting that the tabernacle as an instrument of worship is dropped without reluctance or regret by the New Testament church. This is because it pointed to a truth that was greater than its physical existence. The ritual and ceremony involved in the tabernacle ministry is finished; any return to it undermines its significance and cheapens the gospel.

4. The names and designations given to the tabernacle point us to the very heart of the corporate worship of Jehovah.

  • That God purposed to dwell with His people. This was called the “Tent of Meeting”(Exodus 29:42).
  • That God expects reciprocity in worship (there must be a mutual exchange, a response to God; theI will be your God and ye shall be my people relationship).
  • That God’s moral law is the most absolute expression of His will; this was called the “Tent of Testimony”(Ex. 38:21).

5. The form of worship which is so detailed adds emphasis to the importance the Lord puts on formal worship.

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June 21, 2011

Ruth #4 Understanding Ruth’s “Bold Proposition” (Ch. 3:7)

by Aaron Dunlop

Practices in ancient Israel were very different from the modern western world. Indeed some cultural practices have become fodder for critics and skeptics. The practice of uncovering the feet (Ruth 3:7), for example, seems to the modern mind to be improper if not immoral, but in ancient Israel it did not carry the same sexual connotation as we might infer from it today.

  • First: It is unlikely that Boaz was alone at the threshing floor that evening after the days work. The harvest was in progress and the workers most likely “camped out” with him.
  • Second: There is nothing intimate in this passage. The language indicates that there was a distance between Ruth and Boaz. Ruth lay at his uncovered feet while he was sleeping and when he awake he put the corner (“skirt” is used in Scripture to speak of an edge or border or extremity) of his garment over her.
  • Third: both these actions were symbolic. Uncovering the feet of Boaz was an indication of subjection and submission and her willingness to become his wife. Furthermore, when Boaz threw the corner of his garment over her he indicated his willingness to spread a covering over her, as though taking her under his wing (cf. 2:12).
  • Fourth: the reason Ruth gave (3:9) for her action at the threshing floor was not at all sexual, but legal. She needed a (near) kinsman redeemer.
  • Fifth: that Boaz acted honourably is clear from the fact that he presented the other kinsman before himself (4:1f).
June 18, 2011

Ruth #2 Themes in the book of Ruth

by Aaron Dunlop

The Sovereignty of God

It is rather paradoxical that a book so rich in the works of God makes so little mention of God. There are instances where it seems the writer avoids attributing to God the credit for actions (cf. 2:3) or inquiring of God for wisdom (3:18). But the work of God is evident throughout this entire book. Indeed the manner of writing seems to emphasis the hidden hand of God continually at work on behalf of Naomi and Ruth even in those circumstances we might consider coincidental. God is working all things out in this world for his own glory and the believer’s good even what seems to us to be against the will of God (Romans 8:28).

The key thought concerning God in this little book is His sovereignty in salvation. When Ruth’s husband died in Moab she could never have imagined the blessings that the Lord was going to raise up out of death. Amid the cruel twists and turn of this changeful life God in his providence showed His grace to Ruth and Naomi. The inclusion of Ruth in this divine plan underlines the inclusiveness of redemption. Ruth is among a number of Gentiles in the Old Testament to be brought into the blessing of Israel promised to Abraham in Genesis 12:3. The grace of God is not only seen in relation to redemption but in provision for his people. The book begins in famine and death and end with plenty and new life.

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