Monday, October 31, 2011

John Gill's "Of Singing Psalms" (Trumpet Books)

I have had an interest for some time in putting together some Reformed and Baptistic reprints. I recently completed my first project, a newly edited and formated version of John Gill's Of Singing Psalms, As a Part of Public Worship, under the imprint of "Trumpet Books."  This first effort was a bit of an experiment.  The booklet is short (only 28 pages) and (unfortunately) the cost needed to be high.  I hope future projects will be both more substantial (and, correspondingly, more affordable).

Gill's discussion of the Biblical argument for psalm singing in public worship is very valuable, and the booklet makes this material available for those who don't have access to his Body of Doctrinal and Practical Divinity.

Here's the blurb on the back of booklet:

What should the church sing in its worship services?  Contemporary Christian music?  Traditional hymns?  Today's churches have been torn apart by the so-called "worship wars."  In this booklet one finds a fresh, Biblical response to the question of what is appropriate for believers to sing in worship--namely, it calls for the singing of Biblical psalms.  In Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16, God commands the singing of "psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs."  In many circles, there has been a return to the Biblical and Calvinistic views on the doctrines of salvation.  Will there also be a hunger for Biblical and Reformed worship that includes the singing of inspired Psalms?

The Gill booklet on psalm singing can be ordered (first preference) through my site.

It is also available here on amazon.

Eventually I hope to have some copies on hand at an even lower price (maybe c. $5.00 per booklet).  You can let me know directly if interested.  I also have a second project in the works that I hope to complete soon.


Saturday, October 29, 2011

William Rushton, Jr. reflects on the Lord's dealings with him

William Ruston, Jr. (1796-1838) was a Particular Baptist of the “high Calvinist” persuasion from Liverpool, England. In his journal on Saturday, December 6, 1828 he wrote the following, reflecting on his conversion in childhood and his pilgrimage since:

This day twenty-two years ago, the Lord first savingly impressed my heart with the conviction of sin, and my need of Christ. And when I look back at His dealing with me, in bearing with my manners in the wilderness, I am astonished at His longsuffering and forbearance. I find that I am at this hour nothing but a miserable sinner; all my righteousnesses are as filthy rags, and nothing have I to plead before God but the infinitely meritorious blood and righteousness of Jesus, and nothing else do I desire. My grief is, that I know so little of it, lived so little upon it, and publish it so feebly and so seldom to others. I want to know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and to show forth His glory in heart, lip, and life, forever and ever.


Friday, October 28, 2011

Scenes from CRBC Midweek Meeting

Given that our members and attendees are spread out over Central Virginia, we have been trying to have one of our CRBC midweek meetings per month in a member family home.  We enjoyed fellowship last Wednesday (10/26/11) with the McG. family in Waynesboro.  Here are some fellowship scenes:

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Singing Psalms with "Worthy to be Praised'

When I get emails from Sherman Isbell and Malcolm Watts within the same day recommending the same resource, I sit up and take notice.

The resource is a series of of CDs titled Worthy to be Praised, which comes from the Psalmody Committee of the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing).  The lyrics are from the 1650 Scottish Metrical Psalter.  For those new to or interested in learning more about psalm singing, this, indeed, looks like it could be a wonderful aid.


The Vision (10.27.11): Where is Christ in 1 Samuel?

Image:  Reading John 14-15 at CRBC midweek Bible Study and Prayer meeting (10/26/11).

I began last Lord’s Day morning’s sermon on 1 Samuel 17 (the David and Goliath narrative) by noting that this kind of passage is perhaps the most difficult to preach. I would much rather preach a text that is less familiar to most people than one that is overly familiar. The problem with such passages is that we have a hard time listening to them, because we think we understand them or that we don’t have anything new or fresh to learn from them. My hope in preaching such a passage is to make the familiar seem strange and the strange familiar.

I also suggested that one of the dangers of preaching a passage like 1 Samuel 17 is our tendency to fall back on a “moralizing” interpretation. As Dale Ralph Davis notes:

If we don’t listen to this text, then we’ll end up bringing in all the junk about being courageous in the face of “your Goliaths,” whether the bully down the street (for primary Sunday School kids) or—everyone’s preoccupation—one’s poor self-image. We must protect ourselves from such deafness to the text (1 Samuel: Looking on the Heart, p. 179).

I further suggested that one of our ongoing tasks in listening to 1 Samuel (as well as the rest of the Old Testament) is looking for Christ and the gospel. Christ does not appear in the Scriptures only at the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem and forward. The Son was there with the Father and the Holy Spirit as the one true God from the very beginning. He is in both testaments.

Here are my notes from the conclusion of the message on 1 Samuel 17:

There is much to meditate upon in this great chapter. In the end, I hope you’ll agree that the center of this passage is not some moralizing point about how you can overcome your “Goliaths.” It is about God’s own zeal for his glory and how he sees fit to raise up men like David who want God’s glory more than their own, men who rest in their weakness rather than in their strength.

And where is Christ? I see him in the question of David in 1 Samuel 17:26: “What shall be done to the man that … taketh away the reproach from Israel?” Christ is the one who took away the reproach of spiritual Israel not by killing but by being killed on the cross. David trusted the Father to win a victory over Goliath; Christ trusted the Father to lose his life and then to take it up again.

Did you see any of those horrific images of Libya’s dictator Kaddafi this week? Many rejoiced to see this man getting what they believe he deserved. But when we look at Christ, we see an innocent man, a righteous man, suffering and dying for what he did not deserve. He took on our sin to take away our reproach.

Christ showed God’s power most perfectly in his weakness. The Goliath of sin and death, all the weight of sin and death fell defeated, never to rise again, as Christ arose victorious.

I look forward to looking for Christ with you as we continue listening to 1 Samuel in the days ahead.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Note: We will begin a new series in afternoon worship this Sunday (10/30/11) through the questions, answers, and scriptural proofs in Spurgeon’s Baptist Catechism.

Meeting Pastor Bala

I had the opportunity meet Pastor Bala of Sovereign Grace Church, Auckland, New Zealand on Tuesday at the RB pastors' fraternal in Verona.  This brother shared his testimony of growing up in Sri Lanka in a high caste Hindu family and coming to know the Lord.  He serves his church in New Zealand and also publishes a widely read magazine in Tamil called The Bible Lamp and has translated over 20 Reformed and Calvinistic books into Tamil.  It was very encouraging to hear of how the Lord is raising up solid, Reformed Baptist churches among Tamil speaking people in India.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Monday, October 24, 2011

Text Note on 1 Samuel 17

I preached yesterday on the David and Goliath narrative in 1 Samuel 17. Dale Ralph Davis makes the following remarks on the text of 1 Samuel 17:

"There is a major debate about the text of 1 Samuel 17 (-18). The Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament, ca. 200 B. C.) does not have verses 12-31, 41, 50, 55-58 as in most English versions, which follow the traditional Hebrew text (called the Masoretic text). (LXX also omits 18:1-5.) If one reads the story as LXX has it one finds a flowing, consistent account free from the tension and apparent inconsistencies of the MT. That is why I suspect the LXX here; it is too neat…." (1 Samuel: Looking on the Heart, p. 180, n. 1).

Comment: Davis’ note here indicates that in 1 Samuel 17, at least, the tendency of the LXX is to harmonize what it takes as difficulties in the MT. He even insists: “My own preference for MT in chapter 17 is no symptom of conservative paranoia” (Ibid). Indeed, Davis does not always support the traditional (i.e., MT) text of the Hebrew Bible. Despite this disclaimer, Davis’ point should raise questions about the reliability of the LXX in other places and the modern text critical tendency to prefer reconstructions based on the authority of the LXX (e.g., as in Psalm 145:13).


Friday, October 21, 2011

Sermon of the Week: Carl Trueman on the 400th Anniversary of the KJV

Daniel H. sent me a link to the October 19, 2011 lecture by Dr.Carl Trueman at the Westminster Seminary Library on the 400th anniversay of the KJV.  The lecture is titled, Throwing the Book at his Enemies:  King James I and his Bible.  You can listen to the message here.

Trueman gives a vivid overview of the historical circumstances leading to the KJV.  He praises, in particular, the literary majesty of the KJV Bible, though he also makes clear that his preference is for modern translations in pulpit use.  He does not address issues related to the traditional text upon which the KJV was based.  In his sketch of James he relays an interesting physical description of the king from Charles Dickens and also passes on as likely the common modern (anachronistic?) suggestion that James was a homosexual.  I hope to address this in a later post.  Anyway, the lecture is worth a listen.  Good to see the 400th anniversary milestone marked in some way in a Reformed, evangelical seminary.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Vision (10/20/11): David's ministry of consolation to Saul

We returned to the book of 1 Samuel last Lord’s Day morning at CRBC. Over the next several weeks we will be working our way through the narrative of the life of David (1 Samuel 16-31).

In 1 Samuel 16 we read of David’s anointing by the prophet Samuel. The last scene in the chapter describes how Saul, troubled by an evil spirit, is comforted by the harp playing of David.

In his commentary on this chapter, theologian Dale Ralph Davis suggests that the followers of Christ have much to ponder in “David’s ministry of consolation to Saul” (1 Samuel: Loooking on the Heart, p. 176). For the time being, Saul loves David. Saul “loved him greatly; and he became his armor-bearer” (v. 21). Before long, however Saul will hate David, see him as a rival, and attempt to kill him.

Here’s the spiritual analogy Davis draws for Christians: “As Saul will hate David, and as he is rejected by God yet sustained by David’s service, so the world hates Christ’s people (John 15:18-21) yet, in its doomed state, is only benefited by them.” We are the salt of the earth, and the light of the world. Christians in the society and culture around us keep it from “rotting into complete decay,” but we are hated (p. 176). As David played the harp for Saul, so we conduct a ministry of consolation to the world around us.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Text Note on 1 Samuel 16:7 (with thoughts on the LXX from Owen)

Last Lord’s Day morning we shifted from our Romans sermon series back to 1 Samuel. In reading through 1 Samuel 16, I came across textual/translation issues with v. 7, which is the doctrinal heart of this passage.

Comparison of translations:

KJV 1 Samuel 16:7 But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.

NIV 1 Samuel 16:7 But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."

NASB 1 Samuel 16:7 But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."

The issue:

At first glance, the difference in these renderings may not be readily apparent. They seem to follow the same text. This is one of those places where the AV’s use of italic, however, is significant. The phrase in question is: “for the LORD seeth not as man seeth.” The AV italicizes words that are added to the text, since the Hebrew literally reads, “for not as man seeth [ki lo asher yireh ha-adam].” We do notice a difference in the NASB which reads, “for God sees not as man sees,” using “God” rather than “LORD” and placing the supplied verb “sees” in italic.

The textual notes of the NKJV give light as to the textual issue here. It reads: “LXX For God does not see as man sees; Tg. It is not by the appearance of a man; Vg. Nor do I judge according to the looks of a man”. Now it become more evident that the NASB perhaps favors the LXX and that the other modern translation may or may not also be influenced by the LXX, but, without the use of italic, it is harder to judge this.


In his commentary on this verse, Dale Ralph Davis adds this note: “I have translated verse 7 following the Hebrew text as we have it. I know the arguments but am not yet convinced that the text needs correcting on the basis of LXX which includes “as God sees.” However, most English versions follow LXX here….” (1 Samuel: Looking on the Heart [Christian Focus, 1996: pp. 169-170]). He adds here that a Dead Sea Scroll fragment (4 QSamb) supports the LXX reading.

As with some other passages we have previously noted (cf. e. g., 1 Samuel 13:1; Psalm 145:13, etc.), there is a distinct tendency in contemporary translations to reconstruct the OT text, by abandoning the traditional Hebrew text and embracing a reconstruction based on the LXX. I think 1 Samuel 16:7 will likely be a useful verse to check in forthcoming translations to see how it is rendered/handled.

Reading some of the older men reminds us that the preference for the LXX is nothing new. John Owen in “The Divine Original of Scripture” (Collected Works, Vol. 16; p. 301) offers a critique of one of his contemporaries (Capellus) who, Owen says, made “an unhappy attempt” to depart from the traditional Hebrew text, by relying “upon uncertain conjectures and the credit of corrupt translations.” He adds, “The translation especially insisted on by him is that of the LXX.” Owen laments: “Strange that so corrupt a stream should be judged a fit means to cleanse the fountain.” It is unlikely that Owen would have budged from this assessment, even in light of the Dead Sea discoveries.


Monday, October 17, 2011

Carl Trueman on T. D. Jakes and "The Elephant Room"

Just listened to this podcast that came as a link on the RB Pastors discussion list. In it Carl Trueman addresses the recent controversy (see this post, among many) swirling in YRR circles regarding James MacDonald's invitation of one-ness Pentecostal T. D. Jakes to appear in his “Elephant Room” discussion group. Mark Dever was apparently also supposed to appear in the discussion but backed out when the controversy started to bubble. Trueman makes some typically sagacious comments. Sidenote: I find it interesting that the SBC’s LifeWay bookstores also sell T. D. Jakes’ books (look here), but this does not yet seem to have grabbed the attention of Calvinistic SBCers.


Watts on Moses and Elijah at the Transfiguration

I’d been meaning to do a post on Malcolm Watt’s sermon on the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-9) when he was with us.  In particular, I was intrigued by Watts’ interpretation of the appearance of Moses and Elijah (v. 3).  Not only did he point out that they represented the law and prophets, but he also meditated on the fact that Moses would have been there in spirit and Elijah in body (as one who was taken from the earth before death).  So, in this way, they represent the believers in the intermediate state (present with the Lord in spirit) and the final state (spirit and body).

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Vision (10.13.11): Some Ideas on How to Deepen Your Enjoyment of the Lord's Day

Here are four practical ideas on how to make the Lord’s Day a blessing:
1. Understand the spiritual significance of the Fourth Commandment.

Of the top ten principles that God has given to mankind, one of the ten is that we remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy (Exod 20:8-11). The Christian Sabbath is now the Lord’s Day, the day that Jesus rose from the dead (John 20:1, 19; Acts 20:7; 1 Cor 16:2; Heb 4:9; Rev 1:10). What better time is there to come together to worship him!

To understand the doctrine of the Lord’s Day even better, study Chapter 22 “Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath Day” in the Second London Baptist Confession and questions 49-51 of Spurgeon’s Catechism, along with the Scriptural proofs.
2. Set apart this day as special.

This is not a call to legalism but holiness. Sabbath keeping is not a “work” that saves! Your conscience will need to lead you in the observance of the Lord’s Day. We do not want to be like the Pharisees who followed “the tradition of the elders” rather than Scripture (see Mark 7:2). We have not been appointed as spies over each other. The Holy Spirit must be our guide.

The Bible allows for acts of mercy (e.g., helping people or animals), necessity (e.g., eating), and piety (e.g., driving to church) on the Lord’s Day (read carefully Matthew 12:1-13; Mark 2:23—3:5; Luke 6:1-10).

We make this day special by intentionally laying aside the things we normally do (and that are not wrong, like our ordinary work) and giving special attention to things that might otherwise get crowded out the rest of the week (e.g., worship, devotion, prayer, spiritual conversations, ministry, rest, and reflection).

For encouragement in this area, consider reading Walter Chantry’s book Call the Sabbath a Delight (Banner of Truth, 1991) or Bruce A. Ray’s Finding Rest in a Restless World (P & R, 2000).

3. Make worship a priority.

In the Old Testament, the Lord instructed his people to set apart the Sabbath for “an holy convocation” (see Leviticus 23:1-3). As noted above, the Scriptural witness is that the New Covenant believers gathered on the first day of the week for worship of the risen Jesus.

On the most practical level, this means making a commitment regularly to be present for the public exercises of the worship of God. In our church, this means, unless providentially hindered, being present for morning worship, the fellowship meal, and the afternoon service in which we share in the Lord’s Supper, the spiritual meal that gives us nourishment for the week ahead. It also means making time for private and family worship on this day.

4. Be intentional in preparation and planning for the Lord’s Day.

It has been said that a good Sunday begins on Saturday evening. Your enjoyment of the Lord’s Day might be helped by going to bed at a reasonable hour on Saturday night. It might also be helped by taking care of “ordinary” matters on Saturday so that Sunday can be set apart. This might include setting out clothing, preparing meals, doing shopping, getting gas for the car, etc.

Sundays may be a good time to visit with extended family, friends, and neighbors. It is a wonderful day to drop by and visit in a nursing or retirement home. These activities can be made part of the spiritual observance of the day. They can also usually be scheduled around the gatherings of the church for worship without being in conflict with them.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Gill: "I neither thought it, bought it, nor sought it."

I've been reading John Rippon's A Brief Memoir of the Life and Writings of the Late Rev. John Gill, D. D. (Sprinkle reprint, 2006).  Rippon reports Gill's surprise when he was unexpectedly awarded the Doctor of Divinity degree by Marischal College and University of Aberdeen in 1748:

"Hence, when his deacons, in London, congratulated him on the respect which had been shewn him, he thanked them, pleasantly adding, I neither thought it, bought it, nor sought it" (p. 59).

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Word Magazine: Interviews with Malcolm Watts

Image:  Pastor and Mrs. Watts at the Dulles Airport.

I finally got around to posting two new editions of Word Magazine to sermonaudio yesterday.  Both include interviews with Pastor Malcolm Watts.

The first interview covers issues related to worship and the regulative principle.  We did this one after worship on October 2nd.

The second interview covers various issues related to church government (elders, deacons, gifted brethren, and call to ministry).  It ends with Pastor Watts describing a visit to his church in the 1970s by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  We did this interview while riding to Dulles Airport early on Monday morning October 3rd.  Sadly, I fouled up the recording of the first half of the conversation on Elders, but got the second half.  The sound quality is a little rough (car noise) but the content is good for those who can overlook that.

Here are the links:

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

2011 Keach Conference Audio Online

Image:  Dr. Joel Beeke (l) and Malcolm Watts (r), 2011 Keach Conference Speakers

The audio recordings of the messages from the 2011 Keach Conference has been posted online at Covenant RBC's sermonaudio site.  The messages:

Friday, September 30:

Saturday, October 1:

Carroll on Romans

B. H. Carroll (1843-1914) on the book of Romans (from An Interpretation of the Engish Bible, Vol. XIV, p. 79):

It is the most fundamental, vital, logical, profound, and systematic discussion of the whole plan of salvation in all the literature of the world.  It touches all men; it is universal in in application; its roots, not only in man's creation and fall, but also in the timeless purposes and decrees of God before the world was, and fruits in the eternity after this world's purgation.

Monday, October 10, 2011


Someone recently sent me a link to Ray Comfort's "180" video in which the street evangelist begins by talking about Hitler and leads to a conversation about abortion. Most interesting to see the bubble of relativism burst. Best illustration: When one interviewee says she does not know whether a fetus is a life or not, Comfort asks if a person was going to demolish a building and he was told there may or may not be a person inside whether or not he should proceed.

Murray on Romans 11:33-36: A Response of Adoring Amazement

I completed a series through Romans chapters 9-11 on Sunday morning with a message on Paul's doxology (11:33-36).  Here is an insight from John Murray's Romans commentary on this passage:
If we are sensitive to the depths of the design here stated, we must sense the unfathomable, and we are constrained to say:  God’s way is in the sea and his paths in the great waters:  his footsteps are not known (cf. Psalm 77:19).  This was the reaction of Paul himself.  Hence the exclamations:  “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!  how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” (vs. 33).  It is not the reaction of painful bewilderment but the response of adoring amazement, redolent of joy and praise.  When our faith and understanding peer to the horizons of revelation, it is then our hearts and minds are overwhelmed with the incomprehensible mystery of God’s works and ways (Romans, Vol. 2, p. 103).

Thursday, October 06, 2011

The Vision (10/6/11): Reflections on the death of a famous person

And it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment (Heb 9:27).

The story dominating the news today has been the death of Apple CEO Steve Jobs. The public praise for Jobs has been effusive. He has been called the Edison of our generation. Jobs died in only his 56th year, having survived a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer by about seven years. I do not know what spiritual beliefs Jobs held. Several reports on his life noted that as a young man he traveled to India seeking spiritual enlightenment. At a Stanford graduation speech, given after the diagnosis of his cancer, he semi-mockingly noted that even those who believe in heaven were in no hurry to go there. Jobs has now passed from this life to the next, and the Lord is his Judge.

Here are a few further spiritual thoughts that came to mind on Jobs’ death:

First, Jobs has been praised for his creativity, industry, and aesthetic sensitivity. Apple products not only worked well, but they also looked good. But where did Jobs and other designers get the raw materials with which they worked? Who created the metal, the fiber, the pigments that gave to every artist, architects, and engineer the building blocks with which they created? What is more, who gave them their bodies, their hands, and their minds? All came from a much greater Designer and Creator.

Second, I was struck by one reporter who noted that Jobs did his best work after he learned he was dying man. Jobs, no doubt, was living with urgency and passion. This reminds me of the Puritan Pastor Richard Baxter who was fond of saying that he preached “as a dying man to dying men.” In truth we are all dying men. One day we too will go the way of all flesh. The apostle Paul reminds us that “we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out” (1 Tim 6:7). Jobs lived with urgency for his business and technology. Are we living with urgency for something much greater? Are we giving all for Christ?

Today I happened to open a book titled An Exposition of Titus (first published in 1612) by the Puritan minister Thomas Taylor (1576-1632). In a brief memoir of Taylor in the book’s preface I read that Taylor also died in his 56th year after contracting “pleurisy.” He is described as “a man full of meekness, love, and charity, which most liberally he would extend, where necessity required, without sounding the trumpet, his left hand not knowing what his right hand bestowed.” On his death bed, he was said to have expressed an abundance of joy. “In Christ,” said he, “I am more than a conqueror. Oh! I serve a good God who covers all imperfections, and gives great wages for little and in mercy he has provided for me some of the greatest.” His biographer relays that he continued praying and praising God until by degrees his voice failed him. On the following Lord’s Day “he departed out of this troublesome world to enjoy a perpetual Sabbath in a better, and to be forever with Christ his Redeemer, at whose right hand is crowned all fullness of delight, and pleasures for evermore.”

When we read of the deaths of famous men, we should consider the course of our own lives.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

The cost of a Bible: From a farm, to a cow, to a gallon of milk.

We gave away C. P. Hallihan's The Authorized Version: A Wonderful and Unfinished History (TBS, 2010) as a free gift to attendees at this year's Keach Conference.

I love this anecdote from one of the endnotes in this booklet which describes how changes in technology led to cheaper and more universally available copies of Scripture:

"It has been estimated that an early handwritten Bible on vellum might have cost the price of a farm, a 16th century printed Bible the price of a cow, and the price of a modern printed Bible the cost of a gallon of milk” (p. 37, n. 5).

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Michal, motherhood, and the text of 2 Samuel 6:23 and 21:8


I just finished philosopher Gordon H. Clark’s insightful discussion of rational problems with modern text criticism in his booklet Logical Criticisms of Textual Criticism (Trinity Foundation, 1986). Though Clark notes that his study “aims generally to support the King James version as being better or at least as good as the new versions” (p. 4), he makes clear his preference for the “Majority Text” over the Textus Receptus in the NT. I was intrigued, however, by some side comments Clark makes on some OT texts (1 Same 6:23; 21:8) while discussing the pericope adulterae in order to illustrate supposed problems with the KJV, which would really be a problem with the traditional Hebrew text of the OT. Clark comments:

“First, no one should hold that the King James Version is the infallible autograph. For example (even if it is in the Old Testament), II Samuel 6:23 says, ‘Michal the daughter of Saul had no child unto the day of her death.’ But II Samuel 21:8 refers to ‘the five sons of Michal the daughter of Saul.’ For once the Revised Standard Version can be complimented for removing the contradiction….” (p. 37).

Clark errs here in assuming that the issue is one of translation. In fact, the real issue is the underlying text. The King James Version, like the Geneva Bible, follows the Masoretic text. The RSV follows a modern critical Hebrew textual reconstruction in its translation of 2 Samuel 21:8 by replacing “Michal,” the reading of the majority traditional text, with “Merab,” a reading supported by only two Hebrew manuscripts and some LXX manuscripts. The “Merab” reading in 2 Samuel 21:8 removes an apparent logical contradiction with 2 Samuel 6:23 which says that Michal had no children.

Which reading is correct? Does the traditional text leave us with an insurmountable blunder in the traditional text? Or is there a perfectly reasonable explanation as to why the traditional reading persisted?

Questions raised and the solution of modern translations:

Let us first sketch in greater detail out some of the dilemmas. The traditional text of 2 Samuel 6:23 states that “Michal the daughter of Saul had no child unto the day of her death.” Then, however, the traditional text of 2 Samuel 21:8 mentions “the five sons of Michal the daughter of Saul whom she brought up for Adriel the son of Barzillai the son of Meholathite” (so the KJV). This raises the following questions:

1. Did Michal have no children (6:23) or five sons (21:8)? How could both possibly be true?

2. Should the Hebrew verb yalad be translated as “to bring up” (so KJV) or as “to give birth”?

3. Should the traditional text “Michal” actually be “Merab” in 2 Sam 21:8? Michal had a sister named Merab (cf. 1 Sam 18:17). After her marriage to David ended, Michal was married to Phaltiel, the son of Laish (1 Sam 25:44), while Merab, her sister, had been married to Adriel the Mehatholite who is mentioned in 2 Sam 21:8 (cf. 1 Sam 18:19). Did a scribe merely confuse “Michal” for “Merab”? The Geneva Bible reads “Michal” at 2 Sam 21:8 but adds a note which reads: “Here Michal is named for Merab, Adriel’s wife, as appeareth, 1 Sam 18:19, for Michal was the wife of Paltiel, 1 Sam 25:44, and never had a child, 2 Sam 6:23.”

The modern translations figure that there is an error in the traditional text, and they correct it to avoid conflict with 2 Sam 6:23, which Clark praises. In addition to the RSV/ESV cited by Clark, compare (emphasis added):

NIV 2 Samuel 21:8 But the king took Armoni and Mephibosheth, the two sons of Aiah's daughter Rizpah, whom she had borne to Saul, together with the five sons of Saul's daughter Merab, whom she had borne to Adriel son of Barzillai the Meholathite.

NASB 2 Samuel 21:8 So the king took the two sons of Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, Armoni and Mephibosheth whom she had born to Saul, and the five sons of Merab the daughter of Saul, whom she had born to Adriel the son of Barzillai the Meholathite.

Though the Hebrew support for “Merab” in place of “Micah” is slim, only two Hebrew manuscripts, this modern reconstructed reading does have the support of some LXX manuscripts.

A defense of the traditional text:

Given these circumstances, how then could one possibly defend the traditional text rendering? The nagging problem with the modern solution, in my mind, is the fact that the Masoretic scribes were neither stupid nor foolish, and yet they kept the traditional reading. They would surely have known that these two verses might possibly have been interpreted as being in contradiction, but they did not alter the traditional reading. To them it made sense.

How could it possibly make sense? The answer to this question is not likely to be found in modern commentaries. When we go back to the old men of the Reformation and post-Reformation, however, we find a pre-critical logic that unlocks perceived closed doors and looses what seem to be hopelessly tied up knots. One master of this is Matthew Poole.

For this passage Poole is not unaware of the interpretive difficulty. He makes the following points:

The passage might need some supplied words to complete the meaning according to Hebrew convention.  Poole notes that “the Hebrew language is very short, and full of ellipses or defects of words, which may yet be easily understood from the sense. Particularly relative words are often lacking, and to be supplied.” Thus, he postulates that the sons of Merab were called here “the sons of Michal,” meaning they were adopted by her.

Poole poses the following anticipated objection: “But why then are they not called the sons of Merab?” And he answers, “Because they were better known by their relation to Michal, who was David’s wife, and it may be, alive at this time, and having no children of her own, took these, and bred them up as her own; when Merab was now a more obscure person, and possibly dead many years before this.”

He notes that the Hebrew verb can mean to bring up as well as to bear (cf. Gen 1:23; Ruth 4:17) “because the education of children is a kind of bearing of them, as requiring frequently no less care and pains than the bearing doth.”


If Michal adopted or took under her care the sons of her sister Merab, this would mean that 2 Samuel 6:23 and 21:8 are not in contradiction.  With all due respect to Clark, the explanation of the traditional text and of Reformation translations based upon it and its interpreters (like Poole) seems more reasonable than the modern efforts speculatively to reconstruct the text. 

Monday, October 03, 2011

Images from the 2011 Keach Conference

Image:  2011 Conference plenary speakers, Dr. Joel Beeke (l) and Pastor Malcolm Watts (r).

We had a wonderful Keach Conference over the weekend, Friday-Saturday, September 30-October 1, 2011.  This was our tenth annual meeting.  The theme was "Of Divine Providence."  Dr. Joel Beeke gave two stirring messages on Afflictions and Providence (taken from Hebrews 12:3 and Job 1:20-22, respectively) and Pastor Watts two weighty addresses on the providential preservation of Scripture.  Audio from both messages will be posted online soon.  We had 151 persons registered through EventBrite (the first time we've done online registration).  Covenant RBC in Warrenton did a tremendous job of hosting the conference.

Below are a few images to give you a flavor of the meeting: 

Image:  Conference poster.

Image:  Pam Hileman of Covenant RBC and Bonnie Beach of Christ RBC were the smiling faces welcoming conference attendees at the registration table.

Image:  The beatiful "five solas" banner at the church entrance.

Image:  Entering the sanctuary for one of the Friday evening sessions.

Image:  Raise-the-roof congregational singing of psalms and hymns with a full congregation.

Image:  Elder Bret Vincent leads congregational singing.

Image:  Dr.  Beeke shares about some Reformation Heritage Books before his Friday evening address.

Image:  Fellowship between sessions in the sanctuary.

Image:  Fellowship Hall conversation.

Image:  Joel Beeke and Lloyd Sprinkle swapping stories.

Image:  Refreshments!

Image:  Books!

Image:  Dr. Beeke with some young fans of the "Building on the Rock" series.

Images:  Conversations.

Image:  Daniel Houseworth and Malcolm Watts.

Image:  Ron Young, Sr. and Malcolm Watts in animated conversation Saturday morning.

Image:  Conference leaders and speakers (l to r):  Steve Clevenger, Joel Beeke, Malcolm Watts, Jeff Riddle, Bret Vincent.