Praying for ‘revival’ might not be the right thing to do

Question 185, from Matt

I was at a prayer meeting where people were praying for revival and I felt uneasy about their prayers. Should we pray for revival? I keep thinking of the Bible verse ‘If my people, who are called by name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face, I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.’ So, surely we should seek God and revival is a ‘by-product’?

This is a good question because it impacts on a number of theological doctrines, for example, the doctrine of the Holy Spirit (sometimes called pneumatology), the theology of mission, and also the application of the Bible. (more…)

Joseph practicing divination in Genesis 44

Question 184, by Michael C

This originally came through a comment on another question: Divination in the Old Testament

I am curious about the cup of Joseph that he had placed in Benjamin’s bag when he was returning home with his brothers (Genesis chapter 44). In the text it says that this cup was used by Joseph for divination. Now we know from the story of Joseph that he was skilled in understanding messages from God through the translation of dreams, however there is no statements about other uses of determining the will of God. This of course was many years before the Levitical ban on divination, so my question is, since divination is declared as sinful in Leviticus, is there a translation error in the text with regard to Joseph’s cup, or is there some other message here?

The word translated as ‘divination’ is the Hebrew word na-khash, which specifically means “to practice divination, divine, observe signs, learn by experience, diligently observe, practice fortune-telling, take as an omen”[1]. It is an onomatopoeic word, with a root meaning of ‘to whisper’ because soothsayers and fortune tellers often whispered their predictions of the future, for dramatic effect if nothing else.

The ‘cup’ was a popular method of divination in ancient Egypt. The fortune teller added a small amount of oil or dropped a small object into a cup and interpreted the resulting patterns or ripples in the surface. The passage in question does not say that Joseph actually used the cup to practice divination, although he instructs his steward to tell his brothers that is what he uses the cup for (verse 5). (more…)