Genesis 19:30–38—Does the Bible condone incest?

Problem: Incest is denounced in emphatic terms in many biblical passages (cf. Lev. 18:6; 20:17). In fact, the Lord declared, “Cursed is the one who lies with his sister, the daughter of his father or the daughter of his mother” (Deut. 27:22). Yet Lot committed incest with his two daughters here, from which came the nations of Moab and Ammon.

Solution: There is no question that Lot sinned here in several ways, to say nothing of the violation of incest laws that Moses later gave as commands to Israel. Noah was drunk, and he committed adultery with his daughters. Lot’s righteous soul was vexed with many sins due to his long association with the people of Sodom. But none of these sins are approved of in this passage. Indeed, the whole colorless tone of the narrative, without any positive comment by the narrator, indicates that there was no attempt to conceal the horror of his sins. Here is a good example of the principle that not everything recorded by the Bible is approved by the Bible.

Genesis 19:8—Was the sin of Sodom homosexuality or inhospitality?

Problem: Some have argued that the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was inhospitality, not homosexuality. They base this claim on the Canaanite custom that guarantees protection for those coming under one’s roof. Lot is alleged to have referred to it when he said, “don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof ” (Gen. 19:8, niv). So Lot offered his daughters to satisfy the angry crowd in order to protect the lives of the visitors who had come under his roof. Some also claim that the request of the men of the city to “know” (Gen. 19:5) simply means “to get acquainted,” since the Hebrew word “know” (yada) generally has no sexual connotations whatsoever (cf. Ps. 139:1).

Solution: While it is true that the Hebrew word “know” (yada) does not necessarily mean “to have sex with,” nonetheless, in the context of the passage on Sodom and Gomorrah, it clearly has this meaning. This is evident for several reasons. First of all, 10 of the 12 times this word is used in Genesis it refers to sexual intercourse (cf. Gen. 4:1, 25).

Second, it means to know sexually in this very chapter. For Lot refers to his two virgin daughters as not having “known” a man (19:8), which is an obvious sexual use of the word.

Third, the meaning of a word is discovered by the context in which it is used. And the context here is definitely sexual, as is indicated by the reference to the wickedness of the city (18:20), and the virgins offered to appease their passions (19:8). Fourth, “know” cannot mean simply “get acquainted with,” because it is equated with a “wicked thing” (19:7). Fifth, why offer the virgin daughters to appease them if their intent was not sexual. If the men had asked to “know” the virgin daughters, no one would have mistaken their sexual intentions.

Sixth, God had already determined to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, as Genesis 18:16–33 indicates, even before the incident in 19:8. Consequently, it is much more reasonable to hold that God had pronounced judgment upon these cities for the sins they had already committed, namely homosexuality, than for a sin they had not yet committed, that is inhospitality.

Genesis 15:17; 19:23—Why does the Bible use unscientific terms such as “the sun going down”?

Problem: Evangelical Christians claim that the Bible is the inspired and inerrant word of God. However, if the Bible is inerrant in all that it affirms, including historical and scientific facts, why do we find such unscientific terms as “the sun going down” or “the rising of the sun”?

Solution: The Bible is not claiming that the sun actually sets or rises. Rather, it is simply employing the same kind of observational language that we employ even today. It is a regular part of any weather forecast to announce the time of “sunrise” and “sunset.” To claim that the Bible is “unscientific,” or that there are scientific errors because of the use of such phrases, is a feeble argument. Such a charge would have to be equally leveled against virtually everyone today, including modern scientists who employ this type of language in normal conversation (see comments on Josh. 10:12–14).

Genesis 15:16—Did the Exodus occur in the fourth generation or in the sixth?

Problem: Here the Bible speaks of the Exodus as being in the “fourth generation” from the time of Jacob’s descent to Egypt. However, according to the genealogical tables in 1 Chronicles 2:1–9 (and Matt. 1:3–4) it was really the sixth generation (2:1–11), namely, Judah, Perez, Hezron, Ram, Amminadab, and Nashon.

Solution: The word “generation” in Genesis 15:16 is defined in that very passage as 100 years, since “the fourth generation” (v. 16) is used to refer to “four hundred years” (v. 13). So Genesis 15 is referring to the amount of time and 1 Chronicles is speaking of the number of people involved in the same period of tim

Genesis 14:18–20—Who was Melchizedek?

Problem: There is some debate over the nature of Melchizedek. Was he a historical person, a super-normal being, or just a mythical figure?

Solution: Based on Hebrews 7, some have interpreted Melchizedek as being an angel or even an appearance of Christ. This is not likely since the author of Hebrews was using Melchizedek to be a type of Christ. In Genesis, Melchizedek is presented in an ordinary, historical manner. He meets and speaks with Abraham in an ordinary manner. There is no reason, archaeological or otherwise, to question the historical character of Melchizedek.

Genesis 14—Is the account of Abraham’s defeat of the Mesopotamian kings historically reliable?

Problem: Genesis presents this battle as factually true. But, according to the Documentary Hypothesis of biblical criticism, this story is a later addition and totally fictitious.

Solution: We possess very little information about this period apart from Genesis itself. As a result, while we do not have direct archaeological confirmation, there is no good reason to doubt the event. Such doubt usually stems from an anti-biblical bias.

Furthermore, there is indirect support for the validity of this account. Noted archaeologist W.F. Albright has observed that, “In spite of our failure hitherto to fix the historical horizon of chapter 14, we may be certain that its contents are very ancient. There are several words and expressions found nowhere else in the Bible and are now known to belong to the second millennium [b.c.]. The names of the towns in Transjordania are also known to be very ancient” (Alleman and Flack, Old Testament Commentary, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1954, 14). In light of this, there is no good reason to doubt the authenticity of the biblical account of Abraham’s battle with these Mesopotamian kings.

Genesis 12:10–20; 20:1–18—Why did God let Abraham prosper by lying?

Problem: We are told in the Bible not to lie (Ex. 20:16), but, when Abraham lied about Sarah, his wealth was increased.

Solution: First, Abraham’s increase in wealth should not be viewed as a divine reward for his lie. Pharaoh’s gifts to him were understandable. Pharaoh may have felt obligated to pay amends for the wicked constraint that his corrupt society put on strangers who visited his land.

Furthermore, Pharaoh may have felt he had to make amends to Abraham for unwittingly taking his wife into his palace. Adultery was strictly forbidden by the Egyptian religion.

What is more, Abraham paid for his sin. The years of trouble that followed may have been a direct result of his lack of faith in God’s protecting power.

Finally, although some people are portrayed as men of God, they are still fallible and responsible for their own sin (e.g., David and Bathsheba, 2 Sam. 12). God blessed them in spite of, not because of, their sins.

Genesis 11:32—Was Abraham 75 years old when he left Haran, or was he 135 years old?

Problem: Genesis 11:26 states, “Now Terah lived seventy years, and begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran.” In Acts 7:4 Stephen states that Abraham did not leave Haran until after Terah, his father, died. Genesis 11:32 says that Terah died at 205 years of age. If Abraham was born when Terah was 70, and did not leave for Canaan until Terah died at 205, that would make Abraham 135 years old when he left Haran to travel to Canaan. However, Genesis 12:4 states, “And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.” How old was Abraham when he left Haran? Was he 75 or was he 135?

Solution: Abraham was 75 years old when he left Haran. Although it was customary to list the names of sons from the oldest to the youngest, this practice was not always followed. Genesis 11:26 does not say that Terah was 70 years old when Abraham was born. Rather it states that Terah lived for 70 years before he had any sons, then he had three sons, Abraham, Nahor, and Haran. Haran was probably the oldest son of Terah, indicated by the fact that he was the first to die (Gen. 11:28). Nahor was probably the middle son, and Abraham was the youngest. Abraham was listed first because he was the most prominent of Terah’s sons. Since Abraham was 75 when he left Haran, this would mean that he was born when Terah was 130 years old.

Genesis 11:28—How could Abraham’s family be from Ur of the Chaldees when elsewhere it says his ancestors came from Haran?

Problem: There is an apparent conflict as to where Abraham is really from. Genesis 11:28 says Abraham came from Ur of the Chaldees (in southern Iraq), but Genesis 29:4 claims he is from Haran (in northern Iraq).

Solution: This conflict is easily resolved. Abraham’s family originated in Ur, but later migrated to Haran when God called him (Gen. 11:31–12:1). It is not unusual that Abraham would look back to Haran, where he had lived until he was 75 years old, as his homeland. Also, he quite naturally refers to the children of his two older brothers as part of his family.

Genesis 11:5—How can God “come down” from heaven when He is already here (and everywhere)?

Problem: God is omnipresent, that is, everywhere at the same time (Ps. 139:7–10). But this text declares that God “came down” to see the city that men had built. But if He is already here, then how can He “come down” here?

Solution: God “came down” as a theophany, which is a special localized manifestation of the presence of God. These theophanies often appeared in the OT. Once God appeared to Abraham as a man (Gen. 18:2). God also came down to speak to Moses (Ex. 3), Joshua (Josh. 5:13–15), and Gideon (Jud. 6) in a similar manner.

John 14:6