Genesis 25:16 - CASTLES and NATIONS
Hi saints. I received this challenge from a pastor over at Baptistboard.com I thought some of you might be interested in how to deal with issues like this when they come up. This brother Bob SAYS he believes The Bible is the inerrant words of God, but pinning him down to tell us exactly where we can get a copy of this inerrant Bible he says he believes in is a little like trying to nail jello to a tree.
Will, To start off with I use the KJV 95 to 99.9% of the time. But I'm not KJVO, for a lot of reasons but maybe you can answer two questions here, which might help me see your side better.
In Genesis 21:18 God said he would make Ishmael a great nation which is in agreement with the Hebrew, but in Genesis 25:16 it has nations, which isn't in accord with the Hebrew. Here it should be tribes.
Also in Genesis 25:16 it has castles which isn't in accord with the Hebrew. These were nomadic people which lived in tents, they didn't have castles, encampments would have been a better word or tents.
I know God would not have made these two mistakes but man has, no doctrine are changed but it isn't true to the Hebrew.
Thanks Will for your reply that will come.
My Response -
Hi Bob. Thanks for the questions. I think the way to resolve the difficulty you think you see here is to look more carefully at the English words used and their various meanings.
I notice that in both examples you bring up of individual words you tell us that the word “nations” and “castles” ISN’T IN ACCORD WITH THE HEBREW. Well, brother, that is your first wrong assumption and you only reveal here that the English translation is not in accord with YOUR understanding of the Hebrew. Other Bible translators, and some of them Jewish, who probably know their own language a little better than you do, disagree with you on this.
Let’s start off with your first objection - that of the word “nation”. The word “nation” does not always refer to a territory marked by clear borders and a ruling seat of government, as in the nation of the USA or Canada. The word nation comes from the Latin word natio which is the past participle of the verb nasci, meaning to be born.
In Spanish to be born is "nacer", and from it we get nación or nation. In English we have the related words "nascent" = coming into being, being born, beginning to form - thus we speak of the nascent moon or a nascent state of affairs. Another related word is "natal" - pertaining to birth.
When we use the word “nation” it does not necessarily mean a sovereign political state with well defined borders and a central government. We can also use the word nation to describe a body of people with a common descent and culture. We still talk about the early native American Indians as the Cherokee nation, the Comanche nation, etc.
The particular Hebrew word used in Genesis 25:16 is found only three times in the O.T. Once it is translated as ‘nations’ and twice as ‘people’. In Genesis 25:16 the King James Bible says: “These are the sons of Ishmael, and these are their names, by their towns, and by their castles: twelve princes according to their NATIONS.”
The same Hebrew word is translated as “people” in Numbers 25:15 “Zur was head over A PEOPLE”, and in Psalm 117:1 we see the Hebrew parallelism of equating one thing with another term. “O praise the LORD, all ye nations: praise him, all ye PEOPLE.” Here the first word for “nation” is the usual one as found in Genesis 21:18 that you mentioned earlier. The word “people” here is equated in meaning with “all ye nations”.
In fact, the Hebrew word you referenced before in Genesis 21:18 “I will make him a great nation” is also translated as “people, heathen, and Gentiles” in the KJB. Versions like the NASB translate this same word as “nation, Goiim, herds and people.”
The NIV translates it as “nation, people, gentile, countries, foreign, kind, and pagan nation.” So again, when you tell us that the translation of “nation” is “NOT IN ACCORD WITH THE HEBREW”, there are obviously many other bible translators who disagree with your opinion.
When we see the inerrant King James Bible use the word “nations” in Genesis 25:16 to describe the descendants of the 12 PRINCES, who were the sons of Ishmael, we are looking at the various groups of people related by blood, language and traditions.
Don’t pick a definition that doesn't fit and then try to claim error in the King James Bible. Be of faith and look for the explanation that makes the most sense; not the one that creates the biggest contradiction. Unless of course you are LOOKING FOR contradictions.
Oxford Compact Dictionary defines Nation =
Noun - a large body of people united by common descent, culture, or language, inhabiting a particular state or territory. — ORIGIN Latin, from nasci ‘be born’.
The Cambridge Dictionary gives two definitions of the word nation =
1 a country, especially when thought of as a large group of people living in one area with their own government, language, traditions, etc:
All the nations of the world will be represented at the conference.
The Germans, as a nation, are often thought to be well organized.
Practically the whole nation watched the ceremony on television.
2 a large group of people of the same race who share the same language, traditions and history, but who might not all live in one area: the Navajo nation
Not only does the King James Bible say “twelve princes, according to their NATIONS.” in Genesis 25:16 but so also do the following Bible translations: Tyndale 1534, Matthew's Bible 1549, Douay-Rheims 1582, the Geneva Bible 1599, The Bill Bible 1671, the Thomson Bible 1808, the Revised Version 1885, American Standard Version 1901, Webster’s 1833, the Boothroyd Bible 1853, Brenton Translation 1851, Lesser Bible 1853, Julia Smith Translation 1855, The Wellbeloved Scriptures 1862, The Revised English Bible 1877, the Revised Version 1885, the Smith Bible 1876, ASV 1901, The Ancient Hebrew Bible 1907, the Jewish Publication Society 1917 translation, Lamsa's Translation of the Syraic Peshitta 1933, the Hebrew Publishing Company 1936 translation, the Hebrew Names Version, the Fenton Bible 1966, the NKJV 1982, The Word of Yah 1993, the 21st Century KJV 1994, The Revised Webster Bible 1995, The Third Millennium Bible 1998, God's First Truth 1999 - "in their towns and castles twelve princes of nations.", The World English Bible 2000, The Sacred Scriptures Family of Yah 2001, Apostolic Bible Polyglot English 2003, The Judaica Press Complete Tanach 2004, Green's Literal 2005, Complete Apostles Bible 2005, A Conservative Version 2005, Judaica Press Complete Tanach 2004 "NATIONS", The Revised Geneva Bible 2005, Context Group Version 2006, Holy Scriptures VW Edition 2010, The New European Version 2010, the Hebraic Transliteration Scripture 2010 - “and by their CASTLES; twelve princes according to their goyim (NATIONS).”, New Heart English Bible 2010, World English Bible 2012, Natural Israelite Bible 2012, The Revised Douay-Rheims Version 2012, The New Brenton Translation 2012, the Hebraic Roots Bible 2012, the Hebrew Names Version 2014
and The Interlinear Hebrew Old Testament -This Interlinear has both NATIONS and CASTLES. You can see it here -
The Italian Diodati Bible 1991 also has the word “nations”. It reads: “i dodici principi delle loro rispettive NAZIONI.”
Objection raised: “Also in Genesis 25:16 it has castles which isn't in accord with the Hebrew. These were nomadic people which lived in tents, they didn't have castles, encampments would have been a better word or tents.”
Brother Bob, again we need to properly define our English words to see how they are being used in a particular context. And again we see that there are some Bible scholars who disagree with you about “not being in accord with the Hebrew”.
Castle - Easton’s Bible Dictionary = Castles are also mentioned (Genesis 25:16) as a kind of watch-tower, from which shepherds kept watch over their flocks by night.
The Dictionaries give a variety of meaning to the English word “castle”. It does not always mean the same thing in every context. Please notice definition #3 and notice the origin of this word which has come to us from the Latin language.
1. a fortified, usually walled residence, as of a prince or noble in feudal times.
2. the chief and strongest part of the fortifications of a medieval city.
3. A STRONGLY FORTIFIED, PERMANENTLY GARRISONED STRONGHOLD.
4. A small defensive tower, as on the back of an elephant. (Funk and Wagnalls Standard College Dictionary)
Etymology Dictionary - castle = late O.E. castel, from O.N.Fr. castel, from L. castellum "FORTIFIED VILLAGE," diminutive of castrum "fort"
Encyclopedia Britannica - The word "castle" (castel) was introduced into English shortly before the Norman Conquest to denote a type of fortress, then new to the country, brought in by the Norman knights ...The essential feature of this type was a circular mound of earth surrounded by a dry ditch and flattened at the top. Around the crest of its summit was placed a timber palisade.
This particular Hebrew word has been translated even by such modern versions as the NASB and NKJV as “battlement”, and by Youngs and the NIV as “tower” in the Song of Solomon 8:9.
Not only does the King James Bible translate Genesis 25:26 as “by their towns, and by their CASTLES” but so too do Wycliffe 1395, Tyndale 1534, the Great Bible 1540, Matthew's Bible 1549, the Bishops’ bible 1568, the Geneva Bible 1599, the Douay-Rheims 1610, the Bill Bible 1671, The Patrick Paraphrase 1822, Webster’s 1833, the Lesser Bible 1853 by Isaac Lesser, The Revised English Bible 1877, The Ancient Hebrew Bible 1907, the Douay 1950, the Hebrew Publishing Company translation 1936, The Word of Yah 1993, the 21st Century KJV Version 1994, The Revised Webster Bible 1995, The Third Millennium Bible 1998, the American King James Version 1999, God's First Truth 1999 - "in their towns and CASTLES twelve princes of nations.", the Third Millennium Bible 1998, The Revised Geneva Bible 2005, the Hebraic Transliteration Scripture 2010 - “and by their CASTLES; twelve princes according to their goyim (NATIONS).”, Biblos Interlinear Bible 2011, The Work of God's Children Illustrated Bible 2011 - "in their CASTLES", and the Biblos Interlinear Bible 2013
The Italian Diodati of 1649 also translates this word as castles - “nelle lor villate, e nelle lor CASTELLA”.
The Portuguese Almeida Revisada e Corrigida 2009 also has the word “CASTLES” in it. It reads: “os seus nomes pelas suas vilas e pelos seus CASTELOS.”
The French Martin 1744 also uses the word "CASTLES" - "selon leurs villages, et selon leurs châteaux" - châteaux means "castles" in French.
The “castle” spoken about in this passage is not the ornate, fortified carved stone residence of a feudal lord. Rather it was a fortified garrison set up to protect the local villages and towns. It is the same word translated elsewhere in the NIV, NASB and NKJV as “tower” and “battlement”.
If a person states “I believe The Bible is the inspired and inerrant words of God”, we should then examine this profession to see if it is indeed true. Does this person have a real and tangible Book made up of paper and ink that he can read, memorize and believe EVERY word found within its pages?
Or does this person pick and choose among the various manuscripts, different conflicting versions, and preferred translations of individual words to essentially piece together their own variety of an “inspired and inerrant Bible” as they go along according to their own understanding?
The fact is, this is the reality of what most Christians today are doing. And, of course, nobody is in total agreement with anybody else about which texts should be included nor how they should be translated.
It's Every Man For Himself Versionism. Or as the Bible puts it - "Every man did that which was right in his own eyes." Judges 21:25
By His grace believing the Book, the Authorized King James Holy Bible,
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