2 Timothy 2:14‐19 14 Remind them of these things, and solemnly charge them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words, which is useless, and leads to the ruin of the hearers. 15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth. 16 But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, 17 and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 men who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and thus they upset the faith of some. 19 Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, "The Lord knows those who are His," and, "Let everyone who names the name of the Lord abstain from wickedness." NASB 2 Timothy 3 3 But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. 2 For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self‐control, brutal, haters of good, 4 treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; 5 holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; and avoid such men as these. 6 For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, 7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 8 And just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected as regards the faith. 9 But they will not make further progress; for their folly will be obvious to all, as also that of those two came to be. 10 But you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, 11 persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord delivered me! 12 And indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 13 But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them; 15 and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. NASB
"THE EPISTLE TO TITUS" Elders And Their Qualifications (1:5-9) INTRODUCTION 1. In writing Titus, Paul reminds him why he was left in Crete... a. To set in order the things the things that are lacking - Tit 1:5 b. To appoint elders in every city - ibid. 2. The word 'elder' comes from the Greek word presbuteros... a. Lit., an older person b. Often used to describe "persons of ripe age and experience who were called to take part in the management of public affairs." - The Complete WordStudy Dictionary c. Applied to certain members of the Jewish Council (the Sanhedrin) - e.g., Mt 26:57 d. Also applied to men appointed to positions in the church - cf. Ti 1:5; Ac 14:27 [What service did the elders render in the church? What qualifications were necessary to be appointed as an elder? Let's first review...] I. THE OFFICE OF ELDERS A. IN THE ORGANIZATION OF NEW TESTAMENT CHURCHES... 1. The elders were also known as: a. Bishops (Grk., episkopos, overseer) - for their duty was to oversee the local congregation - cf. Ac 20:17; 1Pe 5:1-2 b. Pastors (Grk. poimen, shepherd) - for their task was to shepherd and feed the flock of God - cf. Ac 20:17,28; 1 Pe 5:1-2 2. Elder, bishop, and pastor were not three distinct offices, but different ways to describe the men and their work - cf. Easton's Bible Dictionary, Moody Handbook of Theology 3. A congregation that was completely and scripturally organized... a. Contained a plurality of qualified men serving as bishops - e.g., Php 1:1 b. They were assisted by qualified men serving as deacons - ibid. 4. Their authority was limited to their local congregation a. They were to take heed to the flock of God "among which" the Holy Spirit made them overseers - Ac 20:28 b. They were to shepherd the flock "among them", serving as overseers - 1Pe 5:1-2 c. The elders of one congregation did not have oversight of Christians in other churches B. IN THE SERVICE OF NEW TESTAMENT CHURCHES... 1. Elders were 'shepherds' (pastors) and 'overseers' (bishops) of the congregation a. Taking heed to themselves - Ac 20:28a b. Taking heed to the flock of God among them - Ac 20:28b; 1 Pe 5:2 c. Leading by example - 1Pe 5:3 d. Watching out for trouble - Ac 20:29-31 e. Depending upon God and His Word - Ac 20:32 2. Elders were to be 'teachers' and 'rulers' of the flock a. Able to teach - 1Ti 3:2 b. Able to rule others well - 1Ti 3:4-5; 5:17 c. Holding fast what they were taught - Tit 1:9 d. Able to use the word to exhort and convict - Tit 1:9 [The work of elders (bishops, pastors) was to oversee the flock, leading and guarding the sheep. Paul called it 'a good work' (1Ti 3:1). Such a work required qualified men. The qualifications are found in two places (Tit 1:5-9;1Ti 3:1-7)...] II. THE QUALIFICATIONS OF ELDERS A. GENERAL QUALIFICATIONS... 1. They describe what an elder 'must be' - Tit 1:7; 1Ti 3:2 2. A bishop must be 'a man'
- Tit 1:6; 1Ti 3:1-2; cf. 1Ti 2:11, 12; 1Co 14:34-37 3. A bishop must be 'blameless'- Tit 1:6-7; 1Ti 3:2 a. One against whom no evil charge can be sustained b. Free from accusations that can be rightly proven
- cf. 1 Ti 5:19-20 4. As a 'steward of God' - Tit 1:7 a. A steward was a servant entrusted with that which belongs to another b. A steward must be faithful, that is, trustworthy - cf. 1Co 4:1-2 B. FAMILIAL QUALIFICATIONS... 1. The husband of one wife (i.e., married) - Tit 1:6; 1Ti 3:1 2. Having faithful children, not accused of dissipation or insubordination - Tit 1:6 3. Ruling his own house well - 1Ti 3:4-5 C. SPECIFIC NEGATIVE QUALIFICATIONS... 1. Not self-willed (must not be arrogant) - Tit 1:7 2. Not quick-tempered (not soon angry) - Tit 1:7 3. Not given to wine (not a brawler) - Tit 1:7; 1Ti 3:3 4. Not violent (no striker, not pugnacious) - Tit 1:7; 1Ti 3:3 5. Not greedy for money (not fond of sordid gain) - Tit 1:7; 1 Ti 3:3 6. Not quarrelsome (not contentious) - 1Ti 3:3 7. Not covetous (no lover of money) - 1Ti 3:3 8. Not a novice (not a new convert) - 1Ti 3:6 D. SPECIFIC POSITIVE QUALIFICATIONS... 1. Hospitable (given to hospitality) - Tit 1:8; 1Ti 3:2 2. Lover of what is good (of good men, of goodness) - Tit 1:8 3. Sober-minded (prudent, sensible) - Tit 1:8; 1Ti 3:2 4. Just (upright) - Tit 1:8 5. Holy (devout) - Tit 1:8 6. Self-controlled (temperate) - Tit 1:8 7. Holding fast the faithful Word as taught - Tit 1:9 8. Able to teach, exhort, convict - Tit 1:9; 1Ti 3:2 9. Temperate (vigilant) - 1Ti 3:2 10. Good behavior (orderly, respectable) - 1Ti 3:2 11. Gentle (patient) - 1Ti 3:3 12. Good testimony from without (well thought of) - 1Ti 3:7 CONCLUSION 1. The list of qualifications can be revealing about the work of elders... a. It involves teaching, patiently guiding and leading the family of God b. It tests one's patience (when there is murmuring, discontent, or apathy among brethren) c. It can place one in volatile situations (e.g., that faced by the apostles, cf. Ac 6:1-2) d. It can be tempting for those attracted by money
(e.g., Judas, the Pharisees) 2. For the flock of God to be well-fed and well-led, it requires men who meet both... a. The positive qualifications (what an elder must be) b. The negative qualifications (what an elder must not be) 3. For those qualified to serve as elders... a. It is a good work - 1Ti 3:1 b. It is an awesome work - He 13:17 c. It is a rewarding work - 1Pe 5:4 d. It is a much needed work - Tit 1:5 May the Lord raise up men to serve His flock in this way; for the need is certainly great...! Note: For a detailed series of outlines on the work and qualifications of elders (bishops, pastors), please see my series entitled "Shepherds Of The Flock".
The Barren Fig Tree
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
Upon encountering the story of Jesus cursing the barren fig tree, the average Bible student is slightly taken aback by the “strangeness” of the events that occur. Mark’s account records the story as follows:
Now the next day, when they had come out from Bethany, He was hungry. And seeing from afar a fig tree having leaves, He went to see if perhaps He would find something on it. When He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. In response Jesus said to it, “Let no one eat fruit from you ever again.” And His disciples heard it.... Now in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. And Peter, remembering, said to Him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree which You cursed has withered away” (11:12-14,20-21, emp. added).
One prominent question naturally arises from a straightforward reading of the text. Why would Jesus curse a fig tree that did not have figs on it, especially since the text says that “it was not the season for figs”? In response to this puzzling question, skeptical minds have let themselves run wild with accusations regarding the passage. Steve Wells, the author of The Skeptics’ Annotated Bible, labeled this story as an absurdity and said in a sarcastic tone: “Jesus kills a fig tree for not bearing figs, even though it was out of season. He did this to show the world just how much God hates figs” (2006, emp. added). Louis Cable, another skeptic, responded to the story with this statement: “Now to curse a fig tree for not bearing fruit in March is not unlike kicking a dog because it can not speak English thereby punishing it for the inability to do the impossible” (n.d.).
Is it the case that Jesus capriciously, out of anger, cursed the fig tree for not bearing fruit, even though the tree was incapable of producing? With a little research, one quickly ascertains that such is not the case. Not only does an excellent reason exist for the curse upon the fig tree, but an equally good spiritual application should be considered as well.
When Jesus approached the fig tree, the text indicates that the tree had plenty of leaves. R.K. Harrison, writing in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, explains that various kinds of figs grew in Palestine during the first century. One very important aspect of fig growth has to do with the relationship between the leaf and the fruit. Harrison notes that the tiny figs, known to the Arabs as taksh, “appear simultaneously in the leaf axils” (1982, 2:302) This taksh is edible and “is often gathered for sale in the markets” (2:302). Furthermore, the text notes: “When the young leaves are appearing in spring, every fertile fig will have some taksh on it.... But if a tree with leaves has no fruit, it will be barren for the entire season” (2:301-302).
Thus, when Jesus approached the leafy fig tree, He had every reason to suspect that something edible would be on it. However, after inspecting the tree, Mark records that “He found nothing but leaves.” No taksh were budding as they should have been if the tree was going to produce edible figs that year. The tree appeared to be fruitful, but it only had outward signs of bearing fruit (leaves) and in truth offered nothing of value to weary travelers.
In addition, anyone even slightly familiar with the character of Jesus knows that He did not spend His time on this Earth eradicating barren fig trees as an ecological service to Palestinian farmers. What, then, was the point of such abrupt action against the tree? When one notices the context of the event, Jesus’ intention seems to become apparent and two fold. First, in its immediate context, the barren fig tree seems to apply to the pretentious religion of the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem. Following Jesus’ curse upon the fig tree, the text says that Jesus went to Jerusalem and began to drive the money changers out of the temple (Mark 11:15-19). The activities in the temple that once had been fruitful and wholesome had become empty of value and useless. Allen Black commented: “The cursing of the fig tree symbolizes God’s judgment on Israel for not bearing the fruit he wanted from the temple. It foreshadows the cleansing of the temple and ultimately the prophecy of its destruction in chapter 13” (1995, p. 200).
Second, in a general sense, Jesus often insisted that trees which do not bear good fruit will be cut down (Matthew 7:19; Luke 13:6-9). The fig tree did not bear fruit, was useless, and deserved to be destroyed: the spiritual application being that any human who does not bear fruit for God will also be destroyed for his or her failure to produce.
Jesus did not throw a temper tantrum and curse the fig tree even though it was incapable of producing fruit. He cursed the tree because it should have been growing fruit since it had the outward signs of productivity. Jesus’ calculated timing underscored the spiritual truth that barren spiritual trees eventually run out of time. As for personal application, we should all diligently strive to ensure that we are not the barren fig tree.
Black, Allen (1995), The Book of Mark (Joplin, MO: College Press).
Cable, Louis (no date), “Some Famous New Testament Forgeries,” [On-line], URL: http://www.inu.net/skeptic/ntforge.html.
Wells, Steve (2006), Skeptic’s Annotated Bible, [On-line], URL: http://www.Skepticsannotatedbible.com.
Harrison, R.K. (1982), “Fig, Fig Tree,” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
The Audacity To Say “Yes, Sir”?
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
“Sir” and “ma’am” have long been considered respectful and courteous ways to address adults and those in positions of authority. Parents are delighted to hear their children address adults with such considerate language. Bosses are very appreciative of their employees responding with a respectful “Yes, sir” or “Yes, ma’am.” Kings, presidents, and military heroes demand our deference. God commands Christians to “[r]ender therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor” (Romans 13:7, emp. added).
Recently, the highest ranking political and military official in the United States, President and Commander-in-Chief George W. Bush, visited Pope Benedict XVI for the first time. What will be remembered most about their meeting? That President Bush had the “audacity” to refer to the pope several times as “Sir.” News organizations all over the world reported how “Bush drew gasps at the Vatican...by referring to Pope Benedict XVI as ‘sir’ instead of the expected ‘His holiness’” (“Bush...,” 2007). Columnist John Hooper wrote: “[B]efore he got down to cases with Bush, the Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles and Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church had the unusual experience of being called ‘sir.’ ‘It’s good to be with you, sir,’ said Bush as he sat down” (2007). In addition to “consistently” addressing the pope as “Sir,” Catholic World News also noted how President Bush “did not bow when he met the Pope” (“Iraq...,” 2007).
Bush spoke respectfully to the pope, yet was criticized heavily for not venerating him as “The Holy Father” or acknowledging him as “the Vicar of Jesus Christ.” In reality, every faithful Christian falls under the same criticism because the pope deserves no such reverence. Christians must never feel pressured into honoring any human being in the way we honor God. There is only one Holy Father (Ephesians 4:6), and no man should expect to be called by that name in a religious context (Matthew 23:9). Even the apostle Peter (whom Catholics errantly allege was the first pope; see Pinedo, 2005) rejected such adoration (Acts 10:25-26). Only God is worthy of our worship and sacred praise (Matthew 4:10).
Respecting our fellow man and giving “honor to whom honor” is due is biblical (Romans 13:7). Venerating a man above all men in a religious sense, however, is unscriptural. All Christians are part of the “royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9), but we serve no High Priest but Christ (Hebrews 8:1; 9:11; 10:21). He has no vicar on Earth. Rather, Jesus has “all authority...in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18).
Regardless of what one thinks of George W. Bush as President, his refusal to call the pope by one of his “holy” names is a noble act worth emulating. If the pope was obedient to Almighty God, he would (among many other things) be content with respectful addresses, rather than expecting reverence due only to God.
“Bush Makes a Gaffe at Vatican City” (2007), The Times of India, June 11, [On-line], URL:http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Bush_makes_a_gaffe_at_Vatican_City /articleshow/2113119.cms.
Hooper, John (2007), “What the President said to ‘His Holy Father,’” The Guardian, June 10, [On-line], URL: http://www.guardian.co.uk/italy/story/0,,2099715,00.html.
“Iraq Tops Agenda as Bush Meets with Pope” (2007), Catholic World News, June 11, [On-line], URL:http://www.cwnews.com/news/viewstory.cfm?recnum=51704.
Pinedo, Moises (2005), “The Pope, the Papacy, and the Bible,” Apologetics Press, [On-line], URL:http://www.apologeticspress.org/article/626.
The Assumption of Mary
The Assumption of Mary
The “Assumption of Mary” is one of Catholicism’s newest dogmas. Proclaimed by Pope Pius XII in 1950, in the papal bull Munificentissimus Deus, it is one of the most ambiguous, changeable, and confusing teachings of Catholicism. In fact, nobody can say exactly what Mary’s condition or circumstances were prior to her “assumption.” Soon after the introduction of this new doctrine, serious disagreement arose between Mariologists and Pius XII over whether or not Mary died, was resurrected, and then ascended to heaven, or simply ascended to heaven without dying. In spite of the Catholic claim that the pope speaks with “infallibility,” there is not yet consensus concerning the details of this dogma. Therefore, its advocates have taken the liberty of adjusting the details to better fit their developing ideas and traditions, and to make it more attractive to believers.
Although you may find many versions of Mary’s alleged assumption into heaven, one common idea, supported by Catholic tradition, is represented by the following description:
One day, when Mary, according to her custom, had gone to “the holy tomb of our Lord” to burn incense and pray, the archangel Gabriel announces her approaching death, and informs her that, in answer to her request, she shall “go to the heavenly places to her Son, into the true and everlasting life.” On her return home she prays, and all the Apostles—those who are already dead and those still alive—are gathered to her bedside at Bethlehem.... [T]he Apostles, carrying the couch on which “the Lady, the mother of God,” lay, are borne on a cloud to Jerusalem. Here Christ appears to her, and in answer to her request, declares: “Rejoice and be glad, for all grace is given to thee by My Father in heaven, and by Me, and by the Holy Ghost....” Then, while the Apostles sing a hymn, Mary falls asleep. She is laid in a tomb in Gethsemane; for three days an angel-choir is heard glorifying God, and when they are silent, all know that “her spotless and precious body has been transferred to Paradise” (Hastings, 1906, 1:683).
Many Catholics believe that Mary died before going to heaven (see “Did Mary Die?,” 1997, p. 11), but others consider her death an open question (see Mischewski, 2005). They have advocated that
Concerning Mary’s death the dogma is non-committal. It only says: “when the course of her earthly life was completed.”... As it stands now both opinions are acceptable and accepted: Mary’s death, resurrection and glorification as well as glorification at the end of her life without death (Roten, 2006, emp. added).
This doctrine is so “flexible” that it can work either way. However, this produces a dilemma since it is said that
the Apostolic Constitution of Pope Pius XII, Munificentissimus Deus, clearly and repeatedly refers to the death of the Virgin Mary. In no less than seven separate paragraphs this Apostolic Constitution refers, in one way or another, to the death of the Virgin Mary (Conte, 2006).
It is interesting that, according to some Catholics, the declaration of a supposedly infallible pope can be interpreted in two completely opposite ways. So, who has the final word concerning this and other Catholic topics? Who can say, with any degree of confidence, what one should believe?
The very fact that interpretations of this doctrine are so “flexible” makes it unreliable and incredible. In contrast, the Bible is very clear about those who left behind their earthly existence without experiencing death. Enoch “was taken away so that he did not see death” (Hebrews 11:5; cf. Genesis 5:24). Of Elijah, the Bible says that a “chariot of fire” took him without him seeing death (2 Kings 2:11). Equally clear details are given about Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection, and ascension (1 Corinthians 15:3-4; Acts 1:9). There is neither ambiguity nor the slightest hint that these historical facts are open to various interpretations.
A second reason why we should reject this Catholic dogma is its opposition to statements of Christ Himself. Speaking to Nicodemus, Jesus said: “No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man” (John 3:13, emp. added). This includes everyone who has died, as well as those who were taken by the Lord and did not taste death. Again, Jesus taught that those who die go to a place called hades—a place of waiting for the Final Judgment (Revelation 20:13-15) that is independent from heaven and hell (Luke 16:19-23). In John 14:3, Jesus promised His disciples, “And if I go [to heaven] and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” When the time comes for His return, Jesus will keep His promise and open the doors of heaven for all those who have obeyed Him (cf. Matthew 25:31-46). But, since He has not yet returned, we conclude from the Scriptures that none of His disciples have been taken to heaven, not even Mary.
A third reason why we should reject the dogma of Mary’s assumption is its opposition to other related biblical doctrines. Concerning the Second Coming of Christ, Paul wrote that the resurrection of the dead will occur “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:52, emp. added). In contrast, the doctrine of Mary’s assumption into heaven implies that she has already undergone a transformation of her body into a glorious state. It should be obvious that it is impossible to reconcile the Catholic tradition of Mary’s assumption with the biblical doctrine of resurrection.
A fourth reason to reject this doctrine is that the New Testament does not record the ascension of Mary. Some Catholics have proposed that it is implied by the Bible since Mary’s death is not recorded. This reasoning fails to acknowledge that the Bible does not record the deaths of many people, including John, Mark, Paul, and even Pilate. Does this mean that these people (and many others whose deaths are not recorded in the Bible) ascended to heaven? To argue in this way is to argue from the silence of Scripture. To establish a historical, biblical truth, we should turn our attention from what the Bible writers did not record, to what they did record.
By the time the New Testament books were written, the alleged Assumption of Mary would have occurred. However, not one New Testament writer gives even a hint of this event’s occurrence. If this doctrine is so important (as Catholicism claims), why was it excluded from the New Testament? If Jesus promised that the apostles were going to be guided into all truth and were going to declare allof the truth of God (John 16:13), why did they not record this “significant truth” about Mary? If the Bible records the “ascensions” of Enoch and Elijah, why does it not also record Mary’s? The simple answer is that the “Assumption of Mary” never occurred; it was created by minds focused on traditions, not truth.
The papal bull of 1950 further declared that “if anyone, which God forbid, should dare willfully to deny or to call into doubt that which we have defined [the “Assumption of Mary”—MP], let him know that he has fallen away completely from the divine and Catholic Faith” (Munificentissimus Deus, 45, emp. added). But if this dogma is so important—to the point that those who do not believe it are condemned—how do Catholic clergy and theologians explain the fact that most mainstream Catholics lived for approximately 1,400 years in ignorance of this dogma? Were the Catholics, including the popes, who lived before its declaration by Pius XII (1950), saved in their ignorance of the “Assumption”? If they did not need this “truth” for salvation prior to 1950, why do they need it now?
There is no doubt that Mary was a special woman, but just like every other human being, she lived in a world regulated by an established principle that affects all of us: “It is appointed for men to dieonce, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27, emp. added). Mary, at the end of her earthly journey, crossed the path from life to death and met all those who “sleep” in Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14). Like them, and us, she is waiting for the Final Judgment, when the doors of heaven will open for all those who have done the will of the Father (Matthew 25:31-46).
Conte, Ronald L. (2006), “A Summary of the Doctrine of the Dormition,” [On-line], URL:http://www.catholicplanet.com/CMA/dormition-summary.htm.
Hastings, James, ed. (1906), A Dictionary of Christ and the Apostles (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons).
Mischewski, Dean (2005), “The Assumption of Mary into Heaven,” [On-line], URL:http://homepages.paradise.net.nz/mischedj/ct_assumption.html.
“Did Mary Die?” (1997), Catholic News, August 13, [On-line], URL:http://www.catholic.org.sg/cn/wordpress/?p=1791&page=1.
Munificentissimus Deus (1950), [On-line], URL:http://www.ewtn.com/library/PAPALDOC/P12MUNIF.HTM.
Roten, Johann (2006), “What about Mary’s Death?,” [On-line], URL:http://www.catholicweb.com/media_index.cfm?fuseaction=view_article&partnerid=48&article_id=2768.
The Ariels of Moab
Occasionally, as time passes and languages develop, the particular meaning of a word is changed or lost. One can see plainly, even in the English language, where words fall in and out of use, and their meanings change over time. Every language goes through this development, and sometimes it is difficult for the translators of the Bible to capture, by a single English word, the deeper meaning of a Hebrew or Greek word—especially if the exact meaning is lost in antiquity. One such word is found in 1 Chronicles 11:22 (and in 2 Samuel 23:20), among the lists of the mighty men of David:
Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, the son of a valiant man of Kabzeel, who had done many acts; he slew two lionlike men of Moab: also he went down and slew a lion in a pit in a snowy day (KJV).Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, the son of a valiant man of Kabzeel, who had done mighty deeds, he slew the two sons of Ariel of Moab: he went down also and slew a lion in the midst of a pit in time of snow (ASV).And Benai’ah the son of Jehoi’ada was a valiant man of Kabzeel, a doer of great deeds; he smote two ariels of Moab. He also went down and slew a lion in a pit on a day when snow had fallen (RSV).Benaiah son of Jehoiada was a valiant fighter from Kabzeel, who performed great exploits. He struck down two of Moab’s best men. He also went down into a pit on a snowy day and killed a lion (NIV).
Four different versions give four different translations in reference to the same group: the ariels of Moab. The Anglicized “ariel” comes from the Hebrew word ‘ariyel, which is a compound of the words ‘aryeh, which means “lion,” and ‘el, which means “God.” This literal translation, “lion of God,” does not explain to whom the authors of Chronicles and Samuel were referring. However, when taken in context, it appears that these were warriors of stature that were feared for their might.
The Revised Standard Version did not translate the word, but placed a transliteration from Hebrew into English in the passage. The American Standard Version also transliterated the word, but inserted the phrase “sons of ” into the text, seeming to assume that ‘ariyel referred to a specific man named Ariel. However, this does not seem to fit with the text. The passage continues the record of Benaiah by speaking of his killing an ‘aryeh (“lion”), as if the passage were speaking of him killing two “lions of God,” and also killing a lion. To make ‘ariyel a name breaks the continuity of the passage in its references to lions, whether they be of God or otherwise.
Probably the best treatment of this passage would come from a mingling of the New International and King James Versions. The NIV translated ‘ariyel by the phrase “best men,” as in men of might and valor, while the KJV used “lionlike men” (NKJV—“lion-like heroes”). When taken in context, something along these lines would be the better translation. The passage in 1 Chronicles 11:10-47 speaks of the men that David considered mighty, as well as some of their exploits. The record of Benaiah (vv. 22-25) states that he killed the two ‘ariyel (along with a lion) and an Egyptian giant whose height measured about seven and a half feet. Therefore, the best rendition of ‘ariyel is probably something that conveys might and strength, more so than what “best men” or “lionlike men” convey—they were mighty men who fought like lions from God. In the Old Testament, the image of a lion was used often to express power and strength when describing warriors. Soldiers from the tribe of Gad were described in 1 Chronicles 12:8 as having faces like “the faces of lions.” David’s lament for Saul and Jonathan called the deceased “stronger than lions” (2 Samuel 1:23). Proverbs 30:30 described the lion as “mighty among beasts.”
Perhaps these ‘ariyel were a special elite corps in the army of the Moabites, similar to our special forces (U.S. Navy SEALs; U.S. Army Green Berets, Airborne Rangers, and Delta Force; etc.). They also could have been two men who referred to themselves as the ‘ariyel, in reference to their abilities as warriors; likewise, it could have been an epithet given to them by their enemies. Whatever the reason, these men must have been known as some of the fiercest fighters, because they were compared to the “king of the jungle”—the mighty lion. Defeating two of them obviously was a feat worthy of mention in the list of mighty men. It is very hard for a single English word to convey the idea of warriors that go by “lions of God,” but it is obvious that they were considered some of the mightiest of men in that day.