Questions From Readers
● Your publications point out that the battle of Armageddon will come in this generation, and that this generation began A.D. 1914. Scripturally, how long is a generation?—G. P., Liberia.
Webster’s unabridged dictionary gives, in part, this definition of generation: “The average lifetime of man, or the ordinary period of time at which one rank follows another, or father is succeeded by child; an age. A generation is usually taken to be about 33 years.” But the Bible is not so specific. It gives no number of years for a generation. And in Matthew 24:34, Mark 13:30 and Luke 21:32, the texts mentioning the generation the question refers to, we are not to take generation as meaning the average time for one generation to be succeeded by the next, as Webster’s does in its 33-year approximation; but rather more like Webster’s first-quoted definition, “the average lifetime of man.” Three or even four generations may be living at the same time, their lives overlapping. (Ps. 78:4; 145:4) Before the Noachian flood the life span was hundreds of years. Down through the centuries since, it has varied, and even now is different in different countries. The Bible does speak of a man’s days as being threescore and ten or fourscore years; but it assigns no specific number of years to a generation.—Ps. 90:10.
Even if it did, we could not calculate from such a figure the date of Armageddon, for the texts here under discussion do not say God’s battle comes right at the end of this generation, but before its end. To try to say how many years before its end would be speculative. The texts merely set a limit that is sufficiently definite for all present practical purposes. Some persons living A.D. 1914 when the series of foretold events began will also be living when the series ends with Armageddon. All the events will come within the span of a generation. There are hundreds of millions of persons living now that were living in 1914, and many millions of these persons could yet live a score or more years. Just when the lives of the majority of them will be cut short by Armageddon we cannot say.
● Deuteronomy 21:10-13 shows that Israelite men could marry foreign captive women, yet other texts forbid intermarriage with foreigners. Is this not contradictory?—M. H., Pennsylvania.
Jehovah gives the reason for the general prohibition concerning foreign wives, as follows: “They would turn your sons from following me to serving alien gods.” Also divine warning was sounded against “marrying your sons to their daughters, who will desert to their gods and make your sons desert also”. (Ex. 34:16, Mo; Deut. 7:4, AT) The prohibition was based on no racial prejudice nor any nationalistic grounds, but it was solely for the purpose of protecting the Israelites from religious contamination. It was to avoid contacts that might jeopardize the purity of worship rendered to Jehovah.
But notice how the special circumstances involved in the case discussed at Deuteronomy 21:10-13 eliminate this danger of contamination: “When thou shalt go forth to war against thine enemies, and Yahweh thy God shall deliver them into thy hand and thou shalt take them captive; and shalt see among the captives a woman of beautiful figure, and shalt have a desire unto her, and wouldest take her to thee to wife, then shalt thou bring her into the midst of thy house, and she shall shave her head and pare her nails; and put away the raiment of her captivity from off her and shall remain in thy house, and bewail her father and her mother for the space of a month, and after that mayest thou go in unto her, and be her husband, and she shall be thy wife.”—Ro.
She cut off her hair, which was the usual sign of mourning. (Job 1:20; Isa. 15:2; Jer. 7:29; Amos 8:10; Mic. 1:16) She either cut her nails close, which would remove this means of adornment, since they were stained to be attractive; or she let them grow to become unkept, without their usual manicured attractiveness. (Deut. 21:12, Knox; Le) She put off the raiment in which she was taken captive, since the women of defeated forces put on their finest dresses and ornaments in the hope of finding favor in the eyes of their captors. For a month she was in mourning, bewailing the loss of her loved ones, thus possibly indicating the thoroughness of the war’s destructiveness at the time of her capture. The captive women were possibly the only survivors, and the heathen gods were doubtless destroyed by the Israelite warriors. So no ties were left with the pagan nation, either socially or religiously. There were no heathen in-laws for the Israelite man to mix in with.
Hence to marry a foreign woman so completely severed from connection with false gods and false worshipers was permissible. It was quite different from marrying a foreign woman not a captive whose relatives were living, whose religious gods were still worshiped by her family, who would from time to time have some contact with her heathen relatives and their gods, and who might bring her Israelite husband into contact with them also, thereby exposing his pure worship to contamination. So it was the special circumstances of Deuteronomy 21:10-13 that allowed for an exception to the general prohibition of intermarriage with foreign women.
Let your utterance be always with graciousness, seasoned with salt, so as to know how you ought to give an answer to each one.—Col. 4:6, NW.