Reformed Commentary on Job: Chapter 3

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The third chapter of the Book of Job reveals for us the nature of Leviathan and how, during suffering, the moral fabric of existence becomes apparent.

Chapter 2 (For Previous Chapter Click Here)

By chapter three Job’s friends have arrived and seven days have passed.  Needless to say, after seven days Job loses his cool and wishes he’d never been born (Job 3:1, 3).  He asks a very pertinent question that we all ask during an intense period of suffering: Why did God put us on this Earth to feel such anguish?

With all of these painful thoughts rushing through Job’s head, he is understandably confused. This may explain some of his responses further in the dialogue where he seems to contradict himself. Nonetheless, the main theme here is that he’d be better off dead than alive.

It is important to observe that Job did not curse God. He was a faithful man, so in its place he “cursed the day of his birth” (Job 3:1). Between Job 3:3-10, it is apparent that Job is invoking creation when cursing the day of his birth. This is apparent in the mention of “darkness” (Job 3:4-7) as opposed to “light” (Gen 1:3-5) and the lack of “joyful shouts” (Job 3:7) instead of “shouting for joy” at creation (Job 38:7; see also Psalm 19:5 where the sun rejoices when shedding its light on the world).  What is the connection?

It is our contention that the foundations of Job’s view of God’s nature have been shaken by his suffering and as a result, Job cannot make sense of his world anymore. In other words, creation now appears to him chaotic instead of orderly and sensible.

This is hard to think of in the modern day, because when we think of “creation” scientific precepts concerning natural laws and such dominate our thoughts. However, to a man like Job and to anyone who suffers and thinks “something’s not right in the world” there appears to be a moral component to existence. After all, if there was not such a component, it really would not matter whether or not people suffer. Being that almost no one even to this day takes this position, whether people say it or not, they do believe there is a moral fabric in our existence.

Because there is a moral fabric, many want to hold God to some sort of moral standard. We would like God to be good and not malicious. The thought of there being a malevolent, all-powerful god is terrifying. We can either live in fear of it or deny its existence in order to feel more comfortable.

It is with this background that Job views his existence as miserable chaos. The God He knew that exists was acting completely against how he expected Him to. This idea pains him so much, he wishes that he never existed.

The reason why we take this interpretation is because it makes sense both of Job’s wishing God never did His creative acts and his invoking of “Leviathan.” “Leviathan” is a mysterious character in the Scripture. Leviathan is simply a sea monster in the ocean in Psalm 104:26. In Isa 27:1 he appears to be the satanic dragon from the Book of Revelation. However, our most complete description outside of the Book of Job is Psalm 73:13-14:

You divided the sea by Your strength;

You broke the heads of the sea monsters in the waters.

You crushed the heads of Leviathan;

You gave him as food for the creatures of the wilderness.

Leviathan, ultimately, pertains to creation as other ancient near-eastern religions attest to a similar story where one of their chief gods slays a primordial dragon. Instead of explicitly becoming food for creatures in the wilderness, its body becomes the land in which the Earth is populated. The sense of such stories is clear: the god took some adversarial chaotic force, mastered or slayed it, and by doing so made the world a better place.

Critical theologians have observed more succinctly, and probably correctly, that the Biblical (as well as pagan) take on such stories pertains to God creating order out of chaos in the act of creation itself.

In philosophy there has been debate over the ages whether God created the universe out of nothing (creatio ex nihilo) or out of something. To be perfectly frank, this is not a matter the the Bible weighs in conclusively, nor does it need to, as the answer to the question does not affect our faith. The “sacred writings … are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim 3:15), not address every single possible question that exists.

The Scripture instead addresses what God did do: He certainly made an orderly creation. In Gen 1:2-4,7 and 9 it states:

The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light day, and the darkness He called night…God made the expanse, and separated the waters which were below the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so…Then God said, “Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so…

God took a formless and void mass, where water was not differentiated from air or land and neither light was distinct from darkness, and He made sense of them by making them separate. It is impossible to even imagine what darkness combined with light, or water combined with land, looks like. God’s control over these chaotic waters is made clear in Psalm 104:9 (“You set a boundary that they may not pass over, so that they will not return to cover the earth,”) as well as in Job 38:10-11, Prov 8:29, and Jer 5:22. It would appear that the water can jump it’s tidal boundaries and plunge the world back into a chaotic, formless void if it were not for God’s intercession.\

So, Leviathan  the sea monster is the personification of the chaos of the Earth before God mastered the sea monster by setting boundaries for the waters.

There is something more to this chaotic sea monster. In light of Is 27:1, there is something demonic about Leviathan. We have a clue about this in another section of the Book of Isaiah where it invokes the mythical sea monster “Rahab,” which is a personification of Egypt:

Awake, awake, arm of the Lord, clothe yourself with strength!

Awake, as in days gone by, as in generations of old.

Was it not you who cut Rahab to pieces, who pierced that monster through?

Was it not you who dried up the sea, the waters of the great deep,

who made a road in the depths of the sea so that the redeemed might cross over (Is 51:9-10)?

Egypt is called “Rahab” because her “help is utterly useless” and so God “call[s] her Rahab the Do Nothing” (Is 30:7). When God saves the people of Israel from Egypt, he cut through the Red Sea and made it like dry land so the nation of Israel may cross over. God’s mastery of water invokes sea monster imagery, as it does in the full recounting of creation in Psalm 74:13-17:

You divided the sea by Your strength;

You broke the heads of the sea monsters in the waters.

You crushed the heads of Leviathan;

You gave him as food for the creatures of the wilderness.

You broke open springs and torrents;

You dried up ever-flowing streams.

Yours is the day, Yours also is the night;

You have prepared the light and the sun.

You have established all the boundaries of the earth;

You have made summer and winter.

What’s going on here? There is certainly a connection between the separating and controlling of waters in creation and the slaying of Leviathan. Later in the Book of Job, the idea is invoked again when it is asked, “Am I the sea, or the sea monster, that You set a guard over me” (Job 7:12)? God’s mastery of Leviathan is the reason why the chaotic waters of the sea stay where they do at the tides. We do not think this way in the modern day, but God sustains existence at every moment, keeping a “guard” over the sea and retaining the breath in our lungs (Job 34:14-15).

It is with this understanding that Isaiah invokes similar imagery when recounting Egypt’s defeat at the Red Sea as God mastering Rahab. Implicitly, God defeating Egypt and the demonical forces behind her (Ex 12:12) by splitting the Red Sea invoked Him doing the same to Leviathan at creation.

The connection between Rahab and Egypt is similar with that of Satan and Babylon, which is described as “a dwelling place of demons and a prison of every unclean spirit” (Rev 18:2). A common theme in Scripture is the practice of using places of captivity such as Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon to serve as images of the demonic realm, which is the place of mankind’s captivity to sin (described as “slavery to sin” in Rom 6:16).

With this in mind, let’s reflect on the demonic nature of the sea monsters. In Is 26:21-27:1 it states:

For behold, the Lord is about to come out from His place

To punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity;

And the earth will reveal her bloodshed

And will no longer cover her slain.

In that day the Lord will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent,

With His fierce and great and mighty sword,

Even Leviathan the twisted serpent;

And He will kill the dragon who lives in the sea.

The terms “serpent” and “dragon” appear in Rev 20:2 where it says that God “laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan.” It is rather clear, then, that Leviathan is Satan. This interpretation is very important when understanding God’s description of the creature later.

It should be made clear that this is hardly a new conclusion. Joseph Caryl, probably the preeminent interpreter of the Book of Job because he allegedly preached through it for 40 years, makes an argument from Hebrew that the term being used in the book is not “Leviathan, that is the Devil” but rather the word “morning” (An Exposition with practical observations upon the first three chapters…, Chap 3, p. 380). For, the purposes of this commentary, being that we are not delving into the issue of manuscripts, we will leave that be. Thomas Aquinas also views Leviathan as a metaphor for Satan.

Now, let’s go back to Psalm 74:13 where Leviathan has several “heads.” Why would a singular sea monster have several heads? If the beast is indeed Satanic, it may reflect the several different names for Satan in the Book of Revelation. In the book there is a perverse trinity of the False Prophet, the Dragon, and the Beast/Anti-Christ. This is akin to Dante’s description in The Inferno where he gets a glimpse of Satan. Satan was frozen in ice and overcome by fury, with his three heads chewing on the three greatest traitors in history (Judas, Brutus, and Cassius.)

Perhaps, Satan is in some way a trinity of his own, but this is merely speculation. It is more likely the Scripture reflecting the fact that he is the antithesis of God instead of literally saying he is three different beings. In the same way, Satan is not literally a sea monster. However, as in Job’s own life, he sows chaos. Ironically, Job is wanting Leviathan to swallow up the day of his birth so he could avoid the suffering he has been dealt by Leviathan himself.

So, being that the mastery of Leviathan has to do with God’s separating of the waters, what does Satan have to do with the first day of creation?

We don’t know. There seems to be some indication that the stars and the clouds were already created when Lucifer was expelled from heaven, though the highly figurative language in the Book of Isaiah may not necessitate an understanding of Satan’s fall occurring sometime after the first day of creation:

How you have fallen from heaven,

O star of the morning [Lucifer], son of the dawn!

You have been cut down to the earth,

You who have weakened the nations!

But you said in your heart,

‘I will ascend to heaven;

I will raise my throne above the stars of God,

And I will sit on the mount of assembly

In the recesses of the north.

‘I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;

I will make myself like the Most High (Is 14:12-14).’

Perhaps the mastering of Leviathan occurred before the first day of creation was complete, though a literal rendering of the above text appears to preclude this. However, if Satan’s rebellion was indeed a chaotic event such as God’s quelling of the chaotic sea, there may be some sort of connection. If there is, it is not one that we can know with any certainty. Job did not grasp the concept very well either, especially because he invoked Leviathan in the desire the day of his birth would be cursed, not being aware of the satanical element that this would entail.

It is interesting that even though Job thought it better never to be born, he never considered suicide as an option. This is especially impressive of Job because he did not have much of a view of an afterlife. He didn’t fear hell, because the wicked would join him in death too Job 3:17). Nor, at this point, does he dwell too much on the reality of heaven. Instead, he asserts if he was never born but died as a miscarriage, “I would have slept then, I would have been at rest” (Job 3:13).

It is in some sense strange that Job wouldn’t just commit suicide if he faced no punishment for doing so. However, as we learn in the story, Job does not have a carrot and stick mentality. He did not offer praise and worship to God simply because God gave him material and emotional blessings. He was obedient to God out of a true devotion for Him.

So, unlike some of us, a desire for heaven or fear of hell did not factor into his thinking. Instead, he desired obedience to God no matter how much or little he was blessed. By not committing suicide, it appears that he considered suicide a sin and even still was blameless and obedient before God.

After this, Job begins making observations about how death is the great equalizer between the lofty (Job 3:14, 15) and the lowly (Job 3:17, 18). “The small and the great are there, and the slave is free from his master” (Job 3:19), he says.

Much like Solomon observes in Ecclesiastes, life itself appears vain to Job because it ends in death. In verses 14 and 15 he speaks of the company he would have in death: “…kings and with counselors of the earth, who rebuilt ruins for themselves…princes who had gold, who were filling their houses with silver.”

Simply put, Job is observing even a life well lived is vain because no matter how much one accomplishes, it is all lost it all in the end anyway. The dead kings rebuilt cities on top of the ruins of another city, only for their own life and city to waste away. Princes “had” or “were filling” their coffers, and now their wealth is no more much like their own lives.  Indeed if the only point of life was self-gratification, life would indeed be vanity.

Job then wonders why he was even given such blessings to begin when he asks, “Why is light given to him who suffers and life to the bitter of soul” (Job 3:20)?

This is highly speculative, but Job may be reflecting that his wealth and family may have been a punishment, because they can be pulled away like a rug from under him. This is a concept elaborated upon by Saint Augustine, who interpreted 1 Cor 3:15 (“If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire”) to mean that a Christian with good things has more to lose and when put through a trial than a Christian with less:

In fact, wood and hay and stubble may be understood, without absurdity, to signify such an attachment to those worldly things—albeit legitimate in themselves—that one cannot suffer their loss without anguish in the soul. Now, when such anguish “burns,” and Christ still holds his place as foundation in the heart—that is, if nothing is preferred to him and if the man whose anguish “burns” would still prefer to suffer loss of the things he greatly loves than to lose Christ—then one is saved, “by fire.” (Handbook on Faith, Hope, and Love, Chapter 28).

Hence, the one who is wealthier in material goods, esteem, or whatever else will experience greater loss.  This would give a literal meaning to “blessed are the poor,” wouldn’t it?

However, the term “light” in the Scripture usually reflects a spiritual (Prov 29:13; 1 John 1:7), and not material, element. Why would God give Job grace only to arbitrarily crush him? His pain in no longer feeling he knows God is so great he seeks death “more than for hidden treasures” (Job 3:21).

Just as God has made a boundary that the sea could not cross, Job believes “God has hedged [him] in” (Job 3:23). Instead of understanding that God uses the hedge to protect him from Satan, he instead believes it is used to trap him in suffering. This might be the most untrue accusation against God Job makes, as we know that God does not treat His people like enemies as He did to Leviathan. Further, we already know what the hedge really is and what it does.

However, Job is distraught and this is just one of several falsehoods he says out of his anguish. The narrator of the story states that “he justified himself before God” (Job 32:2). This is just one of several examples of Job doing just that, not understanding God’s purposes.

Job’s anguish is profound. Food does not satisfy him and he weeps incessantly (Job 3:24). Everything he held dear in the world has been torn from him. It is possible that “what I fear comes upon me, and what I dread befalls me” (Job 3:25) is in reference to his worldly blessings. We believe it is more instructive to interpret verse 25 in reference to Job’s fears losing his relationship with God, and not his family or wealth. Job’s piety is real, unlike Satan thinks. However, his understanding of what it means to walk with God is incomplete. He only understands half what Jesus promises believers as their reward for forsaking the things of this world and following Him:

Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions (Mark 10:29-30).

Job understood the increase in children and farms, but not the persecution part. Because of this, he believes that it is possible his worst fear is realized: the God whom He loves is angry at him and does not count him as one of His children.

For this reason Job says, “I am not at ease, nor am I quiet, and I am not at rest, but turmoil comes” (Job 3:26).

He will not be silent now. He has been weeping and wondering for months. Now, amidst the confusion, Job speaks his mind.

Homosexuality is the not 21st century’s version of Civil Rights

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At work they are killing me with country music. Usually, the DJ just mentions contests or local affiliated bars. This time, the DJ responded to a rumor that Taylor Swift is cohabiting with a 17-year old girl, presumably in a lesbian relationship. The DJ, after giving the background to this odd relationship said with pride something to the effect of, “I just love Taylor Swift and everything that she does.”

I am sick of this pride in homosexuality, like you’re “stickin’ it to the ‘man'” if you are homosexual or support a “homosexual agenda.” What is a homosexual agenda anyway? Is there are “foot fetish agenda” or “liar’s agenda” or any other personality trait agenda? Homosexuals aren’t people for Pete’s sake, they don’t have agendas! There are people who commit homosexual acts, but they are not in their essence homosexuals! They’re just people.

Furthermore, I came across an article this morning when I was trying to find out if the Yankees played last night. Apparently, the Yankees GM Brian Cashman had a meeting with “the nation’s oldest LBGTHQFIO&1! [misspelling is intentional] youth group.” There were perhaps 5 or 6 people in there early 20s in the picture, one of the people interviewed was 20 years old. At 20 years old, I would hope one is an adult in not an “at-risk youth” or whatever that is.

The reason I bring up any of this stuff is because, quite frankly, I find it weird. It is not particularly worse than anything else we see on a daily basis. In fact, it is much better than tons of other activities society smiles upon, such as stealing and lying for a living. However, the part that strikes me how not that long ago all of these things would have been considered weird or not newsworthy.

Society continues to deteriorate and the new normal is not the old normal, in fact it is abnormal. However, as Augustine warned long ago, the time will come where sin is so normal in a society, it will be seen as virtue. We are definitely there, but we were always there. Whatever is not of faith is sin and the whole world is in the hands of Satan. So, whatever the world considers normal is always sin, because the world hates the light and loves darkness.

May God have mercy on us all.

Debating Head Covering: It’s The Culture Stupid!

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Does the cultural context of the first century in Greece affect the plain interpretation of 1 Corinthians 11? In the following debate, we go over this issue and more.
Originally Posted by hedrick

The wearing of appropriate head covering (such as a hood) denoted respect and respectability. Within the semiotic clothing code of first-century Roman society (see above on Roland Barthes) “a veil or hood constituted a warning: it signified that the wearer was a respectable woman and that no man dare approach her,” i.e., as one potentially or actually sexually “available” (my italics).145

The problem with the above assertion, is that it is not true.

One example is the wearing of the mitra, which we know was worn by prostitutes:

“I cannot abide, Quirites, a Rome of Greeks; and yet what fraction of our dregs comes from Greece? The Syrian Orontes has long since poured into the Tiber, bringing with it its lingo and its manners, its flutes and its slanting harp-strings; bringing too the timbrels of the breed, and the trulls who are bidden ply their trade at the Circus. Out upon you, all ye that delight in foreign strumpets with painted headdresses!”

ite, quibus grata est picta lupa barbara mitra! (Juvenal’s Satire Book 3, verse 66).

“Mitra” is where we get the word “mitre,” or “miter” which is the head covering typical of bishops and such in the RCC an EO churches.

For what this is worth, none of the above is scholarly research, it is my own original research. Whenever I would follow up on quotations like yours and read their sources, I would find they never quoted primary sources, but rather secondary sources.

So, we have from a contemporary primary source that the head covering was not always a reflection of respectability, but rather it commonly indicated a prostitute among the Greeks. From my own research, I have found that there were also respectable head coverings, one for example much like a wedding veil that was, just like today, worn during a wedding ceremony.

Now, the assertion from Christian scholars (but no secular scholars that actually do primary source research ironically) is that the wedding veil was worn all the time by “respectable” married Roman and Greek women.

The problem is, they don’t have evidence of this. In fact, if you take a few minutes to look at contemporary paintings of every day life such as those in Pompeii you would see, aside from all the pictures of couples having sex, that there are a plethora of unveiled women. The same can be said of Greek paintings and pottery. It seems to me that the only people that take issue with this interpretation are post 1960s Christian apologists, not secular historians of any era or any Christians before that time.

If at the very least there is some doubt that within ancient Rome alone there was a uniform head covering practice connoting respectability, isn’t it foolish to negate Scripture for something that is at present not conclusive in historical study?

Further, Paul says that the Church everywhere had no other practice, which existed throughout the Roman Empire (Greece, Libya, Egypt) and outside the pale of Rome at the time of Paul’s writing (Ethiopia, Arabia, Parthia, Armenia, some claim India, etcetera.)

It appears to me that the only reasonable historical conclusion we can draw is that the physical practice of wearing headcoverings among the ancient church ran contrary to the cultural norms of many of the societies that the Church penetrated, rather than conforming to the wider societies of the time.

We postpone for the present whether ἀκατακαλύπτῳ may conceivably denote long hair that is “loosed” down the back, since this would generate the very same signal.

Yes, the “long hair as headcovering” argument. The problem is, that Paul uses distinctly different words in Greek and internally, the passage discounts the notion:

Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered (akatakalupton)? Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him, but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her? For her hair is given to her for a covering (peribolaiou).

The word in the Greek is different for one and the injunction “if you don’t cover your head, then cut all your hair off” doesn’t make any sense unless Paul is only against medium-length hair.

In vv. 4 (men) and 5 (women) the principle remains the same: self-advertisement, especially if it relates to perceptions of the worship leader as an object of sexual attraction, diverts attention from God who should be the center of undivided attention.

You need to take your commentary from Thiselton and throw it in the garbage now. Nowhere does the passage refer to this at all, this is made up out of whole cloth.

Paul adds his own content to the meaning of head covering, but the choice of that specific symbol was cultural.

Do you have any evidence that is not second hand of this? I just provided two pieces of evidence to the contrary.

Paul says this himself. “Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair, it is degrading to him.”

Yes, but this was after Paul made an argument from creation. Paul makes two arguments in favor of head coverings in the passage, one from the divine order of things (1 Cor 11:3, 7-10) and the other from nature, which in effect is arguably a reflection of the divine order of things.

Just look at verse 7:

“For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man.”

Paul doesn’t say a man ought not to be uncovered because of it being a no-no in wider society. He actually argues it is a creation ordinance.

Here’s a fuller quotation from Calvin’s commentary to show that this approach is not just some recent thing:”Doth not even nature itself. He again sets forth nature as the mistress of decorum, and what was at that time in common use by universal consent and custom—even among the Greeks—he speaks of as being natural, for it was not always reckoned a disgrace for men to have long hair. Historical records bear, that in all countries in ancient times, that is, in the first ages, men wore long hair. Hence also the poets, in speaking of the ancients, are accustomed to apply to them the common epithet of unshorn.1 It was not until a late period that barbers began to be employed at Rome—about the time of Africanus the elder. And at the time when Paul wrote these things, the practice of having the hair shorn had not yet come into use in the provinces of Gaul or in Germany. Nay more, it would have been reckoned an unseemly thing for men, no less than for women, to be shorn or shaven; but as in Greece it was reckoned an unbecoming thing for a man to allow his hair to grow long, so that those who did so were remarked as effeminate, he reckons as nature a custom that had come to be confirmed.2″

To quote Calvin later:

“Let us therefore carefully mark this passage, that we may not allow ourselves to be carried away with needless disputations, provided at the same time we know how to distinguish contentious persons. For we must not always reckon as contentious the man who does not acquiesce in our decisions, or who ventures to contradict us; but when temper and obstinacy show themselves, let us then say with Paul, that contentions are at variance with the custom of the Church.”

Or, in plain English, don’t contradict the teachings of the passage and follow the custom of the Church.

It doesn’t make sense to get into a debate about how often women covered and didn’t cover their hair. That’s not the issue.

True, because anyone who invokes the cultural argument makes an argument from history, which is demonstrably inaccurate.

The claim isn’t the Paul was trying to deal with a few women who violated cultural norms, but that Paul saw covered hair as a symbol, but that the symbol was based on a cultural practice.

Again, present a non-secondhand source on this and then you have some sort of argument. Problem is, you don’t you are just reiterating a baseless presumption.

Furthermore, Paul does not invoke culture or propriety. He invokes creation itself and then nature as a way of showing how headcoverings are reflected in the creative order.

I think your hermeneutic is way off on this and one must do violence to the Scripture and put words in Paul’s mouth that he did not say invoking a rationale contrary to the one he gave himself.

It doesn’t have to be a universal cultural practice, just one that would be recognized and respected.

Paul said there should be “no other practice.”

It presumably refers to churches that those in Corinth would know and respect.

It presumably does not, simply because without doing violence to the Greek we can properly interpret passages about Christ dying for the sins of the world and etc. However, there isn’t another appropriate way to interpret that none of the churches of God have another practice and as we can see in Tertullian’s time, that remained the case in the early Church.

The reason I cited Calvin was to show that the idea that Paul’s sign was cultural is not a modern liberal understanding. I should also note that this is a Reformed group, in which Calvin’s understanding has some weight.Your paraphrase inverts the meaning of the final quotation from Calvin. Calvin is not saying that we should take Paul literally, but that we should not dispute Christians who have different understandings of it.

I am inclined to disagree, I believe you are reading Calvin out of context. He is very careful to maintain the continuance of the practice to the point of saying he must take his cap off before preaching and that if women stop, the next thing is them showing off their breasts in church:

Let us, however, bear in mind, that in this matter the error is merely in so far as decorum is violated, and the distinction of rank which God has established, is broken in upon. For we must not be so scrupulous as to look upon it as a criminal thing for a teacher to have a cap on his head, when addressing the people from the pulpit. Paul means nothing more than this — that it should appear that the man has authority, and that the woman is under subjection, and this is secured when the man uncovers his head in the view of the Church, though he should afterwards put on his cap again from fear of catching cold. In fine, the one rule to be observed here is το πρέπον — decorum If that is secured, Paul requires nothing farther (Calvin, Commentary of 1 Corinthians, verse 4).

So, when it is permissible for the women to uncover their heads, one will say, “Well, what harm in uncovering the stomach also?” And then after that one will plead [for] something else: “Now if the women go bareheaded, why not also [bare] this and [bare] that?” Then the men, for their part, will break loose too. …So if women are thus permitted to have their heads uncovered and to show their hair, they will eventually be allowed to expose their entire breasts, and they will come to make their exhibitions as if it were a tavern show… In short, there will be no decency left, unless people contain themselves and respect what is proper and fitting, so as not to go headlong overboard (Calvin, Sermon on 1 Cor 11:2-3 in Men, Women and Order in the Church, trans Seth Skolnitsky, Presbyterian Heritage Publications, pp. 12-13).

St Paul now continues with the subject which he had begun: namely, that women must have the decency not to come to the public assembly with their heads uncovered; and that men must also be decently attired so that there be no beastly confusion. To confirm it, however, he adds a further reason. ‘Does not nature itself teach that if a woman have no head-covering, it is a shame to her?’ he says. One would surely say that a woman was mad, if she came without hair. When he says ‘her hair is for a covering,’ he does not mean that as long as a woman has hair, that should be enough for her. He rather teaches that our Lord is giving a directive that he desires to have observed and maintained. If a woman has long hair, this is equivalent to saying to her, ‘Use your head-covering, use your hat, use your hood; do not expose yourself in that way! Why? Even if you have no head-covering, nor hood, yet you also have something to conceal yourself. You see that it would not be fitting to go bare-headed; that is something against nature.’ This is how this passage of St. Paul’s must be understood (Calvin, Sermon on 1 Cor 11:11-16, op. cit. pp. 52-53).

Ezra 8 and Predestination

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Many people think that predestination is some sort of idea invented in the 1500s, but the idea is Biblical and taken for granted in the Old Testament. A few obscure references to God’s sovereignty over the course of history and man’s will can be found in Ezra 8. The one thing they all have in common is their reference to “the hand of our God.”

For I was ashamed to request from the king troops and horsemen to protect us from the enemy on the way, because we had said to the king, “The hand of our God is favorably disposed to all those who seek Him, but His power and His anger are against all those who forsake Him” (Ezra 8:22).

What is Ezra ashamed about? Is he ashamed of using violence to defend himself? I don’t believe that is the issue, because merely giving that same job to act violent in place of yourself is a tad hypocritical to say the least.

Other similar passages help us answer what Ezra is ashamed about:

According to the good hand of our God upon us they brought us a man of insight of the sons of Mahli, the son of Levi, the son of Israel, namely Sherebiah, and his sons and brothers, 18 men (Ezra 8:18).

Then we journeyed from the river Ahava on the twelfth of the first month to go to Jerusalem; and the hand of our God was over us, and He delivered us from the hand of the enemy and the ambushes by the way (Ezra 8:31).

Obviously, if our lives “having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will” (Eph 1:11), then we know that God foreknew how all these things were going to work out and, if anything, He Himself is the one who works all things according to His own will.

Now, the Calvinist interprets “all things” literally to mean everything, so that means God even works through our decisions and free will. The Arminian, or an unlearned Eastern Orthodox or Roman Catholic, says that indeed God works out all things but the one exception is a man’s free will, which is left solely to man.

Where is their evidence for this? The Bible never says God explicitly refuses to violate the will of man, because Romans 9:16 would actually seem to explicitly be against it. Instead, they infer from God’s commandments that God would never command man to do something he could not actually do. Apparently, if God asks something that man cannot actually do, this would be unfair (may it never be, Rom 9:14!)

Let’s get back to these passages in Ezra. If we took the Arminian interpretation, we would have no idea why Ezra was ashamed of asking for help. Or, why it was from God’s very hand he was able to find Sherebiah. Lastly, the Arminian interpretation would make no sense in Ezra 8:31, because how would God keep bandits away if their free will could not be violated? Perhaps, God sent them dreams or used angels and scared them off.

However, what is the easiest interpretation of these verses? Ezra was ashamed to ask for help, because he knew that God was sovereign over everything. God so put it into Sherebiah’s mind to cross paths with Ezra, it was not “chance” or “coincidence.” Likewise, God so put it out of the minds of the bandits to rob the silver, gold, and animals of great value that Ezra was bringing to the temple.

I suppose there is no contradiction in applying the Arminian “free will exception” in Ezra 8. However, it makes everything much more complicated and takes away from what it appears to be what Ezra is really talking about. God’s hand is on everything, no exceptions.

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