Reader’s Biblical Questions Answered – Volume 1
I recently had a reader ask some interesting questions concerning various subjects in the Bible. Since the questions were not all of the same subject, I decided to just make a post of questions and answers. Hopefully some of the rest of you will find this information helpful and interesting as well.
Q: Do you think there were there really “demons” inside of people? In the New Testament Jesus repeatedly sends away “demons”. Was this a primitive way of understanding diseases or other illnesses, or were there literally DEMONS inside of a person? If there really were demons in the people, are there demons inside of people today?
There are people today who try to explain away what they read in the Bible with explanations of modern psychosis and mental illnesses, but the Bible clearly says there were demons and clearly says what the demons were/are.
Revelation 12:9 is probably the clearest scripture on the identity of the demons we read about in the Bible:
The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.
Although this scripture doesn’t specifically use the word “demon,” it is widely accepted as scripture that describes what they are. In all simplicity, demons are most likely the angels who followed Satan in sin and rebellion against God. There are many scriptures that support this assertion. You can find many of those scriptures and read more about it here.
Demons who are in control of a person would certainly make that person seem mentally ill. I’m not saying that all mentally ill people are demon possessed – simply that those possessed could certainly seem to have mental issues.
The scriptures, however, leave no doubt that demons existed (and exist) and that Jesus dealt with them successfully on more than one occasion.
To answer your last question, yes, I do believe that they still exist and are still capable of possessing people today. However, I think the exorcisms that we’ve grown up watching on TV are a bit far fetched. Jesus didn’t need any of that extra stuff to command the demons and neither do true Christians today.
Q: Why was a woman unclean for a longer period of time when she gave birth to a daughter, rather than a son (see Leviticus 12)?
Contrary to what you might think, and what some people would have you believe, this doesn’t have anything to do with God being chauvinistic or misogynistic.
Although we don’t necessarily know the exact reasons God had for having this rule we can conjecture some possible reasons.
Keep in mind that God has a reason for everything He does and a lot of times the reasons He had for doing things in the Old Testament was a direct result of the situation in which the people lived. For example, some people suggest the longer period of “unclean” time in connection with the birth of a girl was due to the fact that girls were often born smaller than boys and the longer period of focused care and attention on the child by the mother helped the girl child survive. It’s also been suggested that this longer period of time with the female child forced the mother to bond more deeply with the female children which were not as prized as male children and probably were not as favored.
God also does a lot of things for symbolic reasons as we well know. It is possible that the longer period of ceremonial uncleanness for the birth of a daughter represents the symbolic impurity of bringing other sinners into the world. That is, when giving birth to a female, a mother brings a sinner into the world who will bring still other sinners into the world.
We cannot know for certain what God’s intentions were or what His reasons were exactly but I can assure you that there were valid reasons for his commandment and that it was not something that was just made up on a whim or because He’s a misogynistic deity.
Q: Moses convinced God not to kill the Isrealites. I didn’t think God ever changed his mind, or made a mistake, right (see Exodus 30)?
First of all, you have to realize that changing your mind is NOT the same thing as making a mistake. When God threatened to destroy the Israelites he did so because of his anger at their disobedience and sin. If you read the passage, which is actually in Exodus 32, you’ll see that the Israelites got tired of waiting for Moses to come down from the mountain, give up on God entirely, and decide to build a golden calf which they almost immediately begin worshipping as a god.
The scriptures tell us that God is a jealous God. His wanting to destroy the Israelites as punishment was harsh but not entirely out of character. He could have, presumably, fulfilled his promise to Abraham by allowing Moses to live which is precisely what he suggested.
Moses was able to talk him out of destroying the Israelites by making a several valid arguments that actually won over God – that changed God’s mind. This doesn’t mean that God made a mistake. This actually affirms our understanding of a God who is impacted by our prayers and pleadings. We saw a similar instance of this when Abraham “struck a deal” with God concerning the destruction of Sodom (when Abraham bargained with God to not destroy the city if there were ten righteous people in it).
You can find a good discussion of this topic at:
Q: Basically the entire Old Testament- what’s the big deal with yeast?
What you are referring to is, I presume, the fact that God told the Israelites that they could only sacrifice bread that had been made without yeast at the altar of the temple.
There are actually two reasons for this stipulation and for all corresponding instances where yeast (or perhaps “leaven”) is mentioned. The first reason is in the events of the Passover which is depicted in Exodus 12:8:
That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast.
If you’ll recall, this is the last meal the Israelites were to eat before fleeing Egypt. It was a meal that was meant to be symbolic and also quick (bread made with yeast would not have time to rise).
The second reason is the symbolism itself. The symbolism aspect of yeast (or leaven) as seen in verse 15 is most likely the reason we think there’s such a big deal about yeast. As part of the Passover feast, the purification of the household was symbolized by the removal of all leaven from the house. Leaven, then, is seen as a symbol of sin or is symbolic of evil.
Christ himself alludes to this symbolism in the New Testament in Matthew 16:6:
“Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
Paul makes the symbolism much clearer in 1 Corinthians 5:6-7 when he says:
…Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast—as you really are…
In this letter to the Corinthian church Paul is admonishing the congregation to expel a member who is sexually immoral for fear that continued contact with this person would spread the influence of evil throughout the church in the same way that yeast spreads throughout the dough of a bread.
This symbolism can be taken even further. When Jesus partook of the last supper, he ate unleavened bread which symbolized his body and his sinless nature.