Thursday, August 8, 2013

How much is a good wife worth?

Families with multiple daughters in India are increasingly faced with a fixed multiple choice question for their family.
 A. Impoverish your family by paying dowry for multiple daughters to get married.
 B. Risk vengeance for not paying enough dowry to the future husband's family.
 C. Avoid dowry and condemn your daughter to an uneducated life of poverty with potential for a future in prostitution.
 D. Encourage your daughter to marry a man who will mistreat her rather than honor her.
 E. Abort daughters or allow them to die after birth.
 F. Find a way to end this cycle, offer equal education, and seek forgiveness for the past.

 There is a shortage of 60 million girls in India. 
 In just 7 years, there will be 28 million more men of marriageable age in India than women available to marry.

 Granted, 28 million is only 4% of India's population, but with a targeted 50-50 ratio this number represents an 8% shortage of women by 2020. 

For these men to have wives, it would take almost the entire female population of the UK to fix the imbalance.

 Consider if someone went into every classroom of 24 boys and girls in the US and killed one girl out of the 12 girls and told 1 boy out of the 12 boys that he would likely never have a wife.

 Eventually this number will grow to at least a 10-12% shortage as the remainder of the children affected by the disproportionate population grow up.  Our world has seen populations with more women than men due to war, but never has our world encountered such a huge disparity caused by the absence of women.  The ancient world witnessed the acceptance of polygamy as the women outnumbered the men due to the death rates of warfare and occupations.

 What will this situation look like a decade from now?  While change can occur in the future, the generation that will experience this issue has already been born and the ratios are already set in place.

 Will wives be in such high demand in India that the law of supply and demand will override culture such that husbands will have to pay dowries to get a wife instead of the reverse?
 Will the structure of their traditional culture collapse and force change?
 Will there be a generation of 28 million men living in singleness as commitment to marriage unravels?
 Will a previously unseen wave of massive immigration and emigration occur as Indian men seek wives?
 Will the rapidly growing populations of places that discourage the birth of daughters like India and China burst at a ceiling of growth and decline as rapidly as they grew?

 The future in which the answers will be seen will be here very soon.  There is also a deep moral lesson for America to learn about what happens when people play God and try to determine who lives and who dies. 

Almost the identical story holds true for China, with 2020 expected to see a similar 30 million men of marriageable age without a wife to be found.  There will be an unprecedented game of musical chairs building up to 2020 when 60 million men in China and India are ready for marriage.

To put this number of 60 million men looking for wives into perspective, there are currently about 60 million women between the ages of 25 and 45 in the entire 28 countries of the European Union.

60 million is approximately the total number of women in the US between the ages of 20 and 49.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Ezekiel's Temple

Several struggles present themselves when one tries to pin down the timing of the intended fulfillment for Ezekiel's temple found in Ezekiel 40-48. [1]

Issues for the figurative interpretation

· The details appear to be far too specific for a figurative account, which would normally include only the details needed for the figure to be illustrated, similar to a parable.

Issues for the historical-literal interpretation

· There are no vertical dimensions
· The horizontal dimensions are expanded and do not match prior temples.
· The description differs from prior instructions and gives no list of materials (1 Ki. 6:2-7:51; 2 Chron. 3:3-4:22; Ezra 6:3-4).
· The absence of the Ark of the Covenant, the cherubim, the Mercy-Seat, the Golden candlestick, and the veil.
· Conditions were given, but were never met (Ezek. 43:9). Israel also did not ever achieve the tribal boundaries prophesied by Ezekiel.
· Hyperbolic language such as a river flowing from the temple (Ezek. 47:1-12).
· The prince is responsible for the expense of providing the offerings as well as actually preparing and making the offerings (Ezek. 45:17).
· Ezra and Malachi both point to ongoing issues with idolatry and corruption in the priesthood so that the ideal experience described by Ezekiel did not take place (Mal. 2:7-9; Ezra 9:1-4).

Issues for a future-literal interpretation

· There is physical circumcision of the priests and anyone who enters (Ezek. 44:9)
· Sacrifice for sin after Christ’s perfect sacrifice (Heb. 7:27; Heb. 10:18)
· The prince is a man and cannot be a 100% literal description of Christ because this prince has sons (Ezek. 46:16) and offers a sin-offering for himself (Ezek. 45:22).
· Ezekiel speaks of types and shadows that have been fulfilled by Christ (Heb. 10:1-2).
· Christ tore the veil from the temple and ended Old Covenant style temple worship (Matt. 27:51; Heb. 6:19; Heb. 10:19-22).

What then is the meaning of Ezekiel’s temple?

Below is a suggested approach that reconciles the various difficulties. Some of the below analysis grew from ideas first presented in chapter 9 of my 2003 dissertation, The Glory of the Lord in Ezekiel: Yahweh's Self-Revelation in Judgment and Restoration.

      I believe the first question we must ask is what did it mean to Ezekiel’s audience? To this question, I believe the response is that they anticipated a literal temple to be built after the restoration and that they would claim the entire boundaries of the land. However, they failed to meet the conditions, so this aspect of the prophecy was not fulfilled. Likewise, the incomplete directions of the temple hint at their inability to meet its demands similar to their inability to keep the covenant. The temple of Ezra and Nehemiah does not match the same specifications, so ultimately the fulfillment is left awaiting a New Covenant fulfillment similar to Ezekiel 36 that precedes the discussion of the temple. Since the new covenant promises to empower them with the ability to keep the demands of the covenant, then the idealized temple of Ezekiel could be realized at that time.

     I also believe that the hyperbolic language in the discussion of the temple points to Ezekiel’s temple as a type of Christ and what Christ accomplishes, just as the temple in general serves as a type with spiritual meaning.

     Thus, I believe the temple and the prince are part of an unfulfilled conditional covenant that is ultimately fulfilled by Christ in the New Covenant and more literally demonstrated in the Millennium.  Based on the NT light that is shed on Ezekiel and Jeremiah, I believe Ezekiel 40-48 speaks of Christ as the perfect prince and perfect priest who will rule from the Millennial temple. However, the nature of a Millennial temple can only be described with conjecture based upon NT passages. Yet, I would not anticipate any activity that contradicts the finality of Christ’s completed work.  I would expect the role of the temple to be highly symbolic, even in the Millennium.

     I see Hebrews 10 as a significant passage for interpreting what a temple could look like in New Covenant times based on the quote in Heb. 10:16 of the new covenant passage from Jer. 31:33-34 that is similarly stated in Ezekiel 36. In the Millennium, if believers came to the temple to offer a sin offering, I believe Christ would say, “ where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin”(Heb. 10:18). Even uncircumcised believers would be accepted into the Holy of Holies to the dismay of Jews. If unbelievers come to the temple to offer sin offerings, Christ would say “I am the priest that has already offered one sacrifice for all time for your sins, I have no desire for your offerings” (Heb. 10:12, 8). Furthermore, he would invite them to enter his holy place to accept his blood sacrifice “with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith” (Heb. 10:20-22). Finally, similar to the way God liberated Isaac from the altar of sacrifice, I see Jesus taking the sacrificial lamb and lovingly patting it on the head to say go free, I have freed you from the curse as I have freed these from their sins. Then, Jesus will turn to the one he has forgiven and state, “I am the final sacrificial lamb. I am the Prince who has paid for your offering. I will remember your sins no more, and I will put my law in your heart so that you will obey my covenant perfectly” (Heb. 10:16-17; Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:22-36). The only sacrifice accepted in such a temple would be the bloodless sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving as we cry Hosanna to the king (Mark 11:9-10; Ps. 54:6; Lev. 7:11-16).  I could see the Temple as a location for some type of ordinance like the Lord’s supper of the NT with similar purpose as the fellowship offering of the OT.

[1] For a more detailed treatment of the various interpretations and the potential issues listed here, see B. Keith Lester, “The Glory of the Lord in Ezekiel” (PhD diss., Bob Jones University, 2003), 232-42.