Earthquakes in the Bible 

This post, Earthquakes in the Bible, grew out of my study of Amos. I took a look at the faults and volcanoes in the area and will mention several of the “major” quakes in the Bible. If you want to do your own study and are using a Bible app search tool, adding these terms will increase your hits. I used the NIV-earthquake, quake, earth open, shook, shake, melt, trembled, split, and mountain moving. 

A little science first. (Names have been an interesting problem and are different depending on what map you look at.) The main crack in the crust is called the Levant Fault and seems to follow the Jordan River. There are many smaller faults on the east and west sides of the Levant. This fault line is a border between the Arabian Plate (east) and the plate under the Mediterranean Sea (west). This is a transform fault (it moves laterally). The Arabian Plate also has a divergent line (spreads apart) in the Red Sea, and a convergent zone (comes together or is pushing into or under another plate) that runs through the Arabian or Persian Gulf. The divergent zone is associated with the fault that runs through the eastern side of Africa. Earthquakes in this region are numerous and would not have been anything new to the people of the Bible. There are also several volcanoes in the area, though none seem to have erupted in the last four thousand years.  

Korah, Dathan, and Abiram 

Numbers 16: 30 is the story of a rebellion against God and Moses. God stops it by removing the conspirators. For the location, this was on the east side of the Jordan and Dead Sea. “The earth opening up and swallowing” is something that can happen during a quake. Korah was a Levite and Dathan, and Abiram is from Ruben. In the layout of the camp around the Tabernacle, these two families/groups would have been next to each other in the heart of the camp on the south side. This just adds an extra level to the story, for me; God opened that hole in the middle of a busy “city” and did not harm anyone else. This power and judgment were talked about for a long time, it made a “second-level” telling in Psalm 106:17.  

Elijah also records a specific earthquake in 1 Kings 19:12. The man of God, was about to meet his Lord in a one-on-one encounter. I have heard it preached many ways, but I do not think God was pleased with Elijah being in that cave. This meeting has some parallels with Moses on the mountain when God came to him. God’s entrance also has wind and fire. When you study other mentions of quakes; severe weather, storms, landslides, and violent waves are talked about several times. 

Amos 1:1 tells of a quake that occurred during the reign of Uzziah. Zechariah uses that earthquake to tell a future quake that will happen when the Messiah returns and touches the Mount of Olives. Isaiah has many references to earthquakes (I counted 6x), the references in Isaiah 5:25 and 29:6 could be speaking of the one mentioned by Amos. The one in Isaiah 29 has thunder, great noise, windstorms, and fire, it may also talk of the one I mentioned in Zachariah and/or the quake in Revelations 16. 

Matthew tells of a quake and its aftershock in chapters 27 and 28 that occurred during the Passover when Jesus was sacrificed and reborn. The first quake occurred when Jesus breathed His last breath (verses 50-54). The thick curtain in the Temple was torn revealing the empty Holy of Holies and tombs around Jerusalem were opened. The timing convinced the centurion and soldiers that Jesus was the Son of God. The aftershock was provided by an angel who rolled the sealing stone out of the way, so the women could not find the body.  

There is a movie/documentary called the Crucifixion Quake. I saw three strands in this movie. The main strand was a geologist trying to find evidence of the earthquake talked about by Matthew, he did. He used fieldwork, lab work, and some impressive studying of ancient text to confirm that the quake actually happened. Strand two was a priest and several scientists that supported the Bible and the Christian beliefs of this quake and other events of that day. Strand three had a New Age pundit and several “New Testament experts” that did not believe Matthew’s account or spun the story to neutralize Jesus and that day. Okay, I did a lot of fast-forwarding because strand three was giving me a headache. I may try watching it again and doing a better review, but.   

In my study I used this link for the word seismos. σεισμός | billmounce.com 

Luke records a specific earthquake that set Paul and Silas free from chains and helped to get the jailor and his family saved. Philippi is far removed from the Levant but is no stranger to fault lines, earthquakes, and volcanoes. 

Metaphors, Prophecy, and Quakes 

Many writers talk about earthquakes in the Bible. Jerusalem and the Land are the epicenter of these really and predicted quakes. There are several references to the hills and mountains melting like wax. Of course our modern minds go to lava. But active volcanoes near the Holy Land are few, so may I suggest that a landslide or rockslide could be described like that. 

  • Debroah-Judges 5: 4+5 
  • Micah 1:4 
  • Nahum 1:5  
  • Jesus – Matthew 24:7, Mark 13, and Luke 21 
  • David – Psalm 68:8 this echoes Deborah, Psalm 18:7, 2 Samuel 22:8 
  • Moses – Psalm 97: 5 (I think he wrote this psalm) 
  • Asaph and the sons of Korah – Psalm 77:18, 75: 3, 46: 3  
  • Isaiah14:16 (a reference to Satan); 29:6; 5:25; 24:18,19; 42:15; 45:8 
  • Zechariah 14:4,5 
  • Ezekiel 38:19 
  • John – Revelations 16:18,19; chapters 6, 8, and 11 also reference earthquakes 

Seismos is a Greek word that references more than earthquakes. What other events does it talk about? 

Many of the earthquakes mentioned by the prophets talk about a great earthquake that will happen on the “Day” of His return. This may not be all of the references to earthquakes in the Bible, but it should get you started in your studies. 

Shadow-Protection 

Shadow is a metaphor for protection in many verses of the Bible. As I have mused on these verses, it is God who is doing the protecting and His people are what is being protected. Shadow and shade are not the only ideas we need to look at for the area of protecting someone. We will add the words pillar and cloud to expand the study. 

Pillar of Cloud and Clouds 

Okay, I will touch on these as two different things, but the cloud will not just produce shade but protect you from the glory of God. Wait a minute, shadows are produced by solid objects, and clouds are not solid! This is true, the blocking ability of clouds is in the billions of waterdrops that scatter the light rays from being able to get through them in a straight line. The darker the appearance of the cloud is due to how dense the droplets are in it. “Silver-linings” are from this light-scattering property. 

Many references to clouds are part of a story where the glory of God is involved. From Exodus 13 through Deuteronomy 31 “a cloud” and the “pillar of cloud” are usually the same thing if they are talking about God interacting with people. In Samuel, just a cloud is covering things or hiding the glory. The “pillar” that led the Children is not mentioned past Deuteronomy except in Nehemiah 9 when he is used it to show the faithfulness of God. Did the pillar of cloud go past the Jordan? Isaiah 4:5-6 does describe what my paradigm of the pillar of cloud did for those forty years. In Psalm 99:7, a function of the pillar is told of how and when Moses spoke with God.  

What did the cloud by day and the fire by night look like? I recently saw a drawing where the “pillar” was a narrow thing that only stood over the Tent that housed the Ark. Many of the references in Exodus may lend weight to this idea. I always had the idea that the “cloud” provided shade for the camp during the day and light and warmth at night. I had hoped that Balaam (Numbers 23) or Rahab (Joshua 2) said something about the pillar and cloud, but they did not, so for now I will hold on to both of those ideas. 

Shadow Of 

In the NIV “shadow of” followed by “His wings, His hand, and the Almighty” is found in seven verses. His hand is found in Isaiah 49:2 and 51:16. God’s hand was protecting Isaiah as part of him doing his ministry. I believe the other five have a connection to the Exodus. 

The “shadow of His wings” puzzled me. I just never thought of the Father as having or needing wings. More metaphors, possibly? In studying the Ark, the Mercy Seat or lid to the box offered a better picture. The two angels that are part of the lid were made to spread their wings over the Mercy Seat, which was sprinkled with blood and where God talked to Moses from. Being in the shadow of those wings would put you at the mercy of God. The shadow would be greater if the wings spread out horizontally and not vertically (Exodus 25:17-22). A Google search of the Mercy Seat shows the artist making the wings in both directions. I like that picture of being in the shadow protected while resting on His mercy. 

I believe Moses wrote Psalm 91 as a singing lesson to teach the Children in the wilderness. Verse one is the first visual as they lived under the cloud of the Almighty. The rest of that psalm could be connected with many of the things that happened as Israel left Egypt. 

Study work-connect the verses of Psalm 91 to events in the Exodus. 

Shadow  

Shadow is the perfect example of a Bible study that had multiple reasons to start it. The first is the phrase “in the shadow of your wings”. The second is the from the Tolkien trilogy Lord of the Rings. Then the “science teacher” kicked in and I remembered that shadows are naturally occurring things. The metaphors then divided the writer part of me, requiring that the light and dark side of this come forth. Yes, there will be several posts from this thought. 

The science part first. Shadows occur because there is a light source strong enough to cause one. A solid object blocks the light and as the rays respond to the object a shadow is formed. The brightness of the light, the size of the object, and the distance that separates them determine the shadow.  

Earth’s shadow is the biggest one we deal with every day; you know it as night. We tend to not think of night as a shadow, but the earth is blocking the sun’s light rays from us. During the night we are in the umbra of its shadow. That is the darkest part. Loosely, we could call dawn and dusk the penumbra, or the lighter part of a shadow. The light-scattering properties of the atmosphere also come into play at these times of the day. 

You may not always see a penumbra, but it is there. It may only be a thin lighter part that rings the main shadow, but it is present. If the source is bright enough our eyes may have a hard time picking it out, and it may not be very wide. 

Unless you are Peter Pan, shadows are very obedient and follow your every movement. They will resemble the object that is blocking the light, but it may not be a perfectly clear image. The penumbra will add to the haziness of an exact match. The surface you view the shadow on will also affect its appearance. As the angle of the light changes to the solid object, so will the umbra. 

In dusk and dawn, the color of things will appear different. This is because of the amount of available light that enters our eyes and activates the cones and rods of the retina. A very simple idea needs to be said here. You will not see your shadow if you are facing the light, it is there but you have to look for it. 

Questions for you: What is the third type of shadow called? What common item has umbra as part of its name? 

Three Negative Forces

There are three negative forces in our world that are the opposites of love, faith, and hope.  The opposing forces are hate, fear, and confusion and shame.  I paired confusion and shame because they are frequently together in Scripture.  Love is opposite of hate, faith opposes fear, and hope battles confusion and shame in our world.  These and more bad things flow from sin, which is the real problem.

The word negative, to be honest, caused me to stop and think awhile.  Most of this reflection is because of friction!  As a science teacher, I presented friction as a “negative” force and frequently as something to be defeated.  Just because something opposes you does not mean that it is bad, remember the angel in the talking mule story of Balaam.  If there is a “push” normally there is a “pull” that is needed to get the job done!  Without friction, we do not move.  So, in itself friction is not bad, as it is nice to move.  Friction is not the topic of this post, so back to hate, fear, and confusion and shame.  Just remember to be careful when using the word “negative”.

Sin and Satan use these three negative forces to affect this world. For Christians, they will affect us if we don’t use God’s grace given us through the sacrifice that Jesus provided.  In discussing the post of Creation Qualities #1 and #2 with my wife brought up 1 John 2:16 when I mentioned these negative forces.  The Apostle John talks about the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life as not being from the Father. (These are KJV terms, my 1990 NIV uses different terms for the same ideas.)  Since lust are internal and pride can have an outward and internal manifestation I thought I could work them into the pattern of the first two posts.  Trying this thought and then that one, I just never felt comfortable in squeezing them into a “negative” form of the first post.  Pride and the lusts did not pair up nicely with hate, fear, and confusion and shame.  The thought that did develop was that pride and the lusts could develop from hate, fear, and confusion and shame individual or collectively. Hate, fear, confusion and shame, pride, and the lusts are real and they will consume you if you let them.  Jesus is the source of help when you finally realize that you have a problem – see “Following Jesus?” and find a good Bible-believing church! 

The Bible and Science – Creation Qualities #2

When I am lifted up, I will draw everyone to me. John 12:32 (NIV)

A very simple definition of a force is a push or pull (draw) on an object.  Movement of some kind is the result of a force being applied to an object.  In the first Creation Qualities post, I saw three things that keep our world as we know it.  Then, I compared those things (atomic forces, light, and gravity) to Father God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. 

Now, I want to compare three Bible forces to these natural forces. (Light is a force because photons can physically push things.). The Biblical forces are – love, faith, and hope.  (See my post Faith, Hope, and Love)

Love holds this world together.  Father God is love, He is the glue in our existence. 1 Corinthians 13 states that love is the greatest of these three forces.

Faith – Faith shines from believers lighting the way for unbelievers to find Jesus.  Faith, like light, has two parts.  There is an invisible part of faith, but there is also the physical side of faith.  Faith will grow and change you.  This causes you to do and say things that are the result of the internal work in you (works of faith).  

Hope – Our hope draws people to us. Hope joins faith and love together. Like gravity the more you have (bigger you are) the more things are drawn in.  If you could lose all gravity nothing would be attracted to you.  Hope has the same effect.  The more you have the more people want to be around you.  If you are without hope people are not drawn to you.