Questions From Readers
● At Genesis 2:10-14 four rivers are mentioned. However, on Bible maps only two of these, the Hiddekel and the Euphrates, are shown. What about the other two, Pishon and Gihon?—H. N., United States.
Before answering this question it may be well to observe that “Hiddekel,” the third river mentioned in the scripture cited, is by common consent recognized to be the river Tigris. In fact, this is the name given for it in the Septuagint Version at both Genesis 2:14 and at Daniel 10:4.
As for the first two rivers, Pishon and Gihon, there has been much conjecture on their identity. Bible dictionaries and religious encyclopedias give various theories and some go to great lengths to present these. But in the end it all amounts to conjecture.
The fact that these two rivers cannot with certainty be identified is no cause for concern. It may well be that these two no longer exist. Changes have taken place in the appearance of the earth since those words were first recorded in the book that Moses consulted when compiling this part of Genesis. (Gen. 5:1) Especially is it reasonable to conclude that the flood of Noah’s day brought about great changes in the topography of the earth, even as that flood wiped out the garden of Eden, so that angels were no longer needed to guard its entrance.—Ps. 104:6-8; Gen. 3:24.
As Delitzsch so well observes in his Commentary on Genesis: “It is therefore unnecessary in order to establish the geographical statements of the sacred writer, that we should be able still to point to four distinct streams (the Tigris and the Euphrates among them), proceeding from a single source, which is plainly impossible. The original oneness of the four streams is, in the sense of the author, as certainly at an end as that paradise is lost.”
● What is the explanation for Lot’s being called Abraham’s brother at Genesis 14:14 when he was in fact his nephew?—A. M., United States.
Lot was, of course, the nephew of Abraham, for Genesis 11:31 says that Terah took “Abram his son and Lot, the son of Haran, his grandson,” along with him when they left Ur of the Chaldeans. However, Abraham recognized Lot as a brother, not because Lot was the son of Abraham’s dead brother Haran, but because he was in a spiritual family relationship such as obtains today between the members of the New World society of Jehovah’s witnesses. Hence Abraham addressed Lot as his brother, as, for instance, in Genesis 13:8, “Please, do not let any quarreling continue between me and you and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen, for we men are brothers.”
In view of these facts it was consistent for Genesis 14:14 to speak of Lot as Abraham’s brother. Likewise, the members of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel addressed one another as brothers, although according to the flesh they were really cousins, all of them being sons of twelve brothers. Thus in the Christian Greek Scriptures we find the apostles repeatedly referring to their fellow Jews, not yet Christians, as “Brothers.” (See Acts 2:29; 3:17; 23:1, 5, 6.) In the same way these Jews at times addressed the apostles as “brothers.” (Acts 2:37; 13:15) In certain instances, however, it seems that the term “brothers” was intended to apply to Jews of the same age or younger, and so we find both Stephen and Paul using the expression, “Brothers and fathers.”—Acts 7:2; 22:1.
In Biblical Hebrew there is no specific word for nephew, as is apparent from the fact that the term “nephew” is not found in the Revised Standard Version of the Bible. In Hebrew a nephew is termed either ben ahh, “son of a brother,” or ben ahhóth, “son of a sister.” The four references to nephews in the Authorized Version use this obsolete word for “grandson” and thus translate Hebrew and Greek words really meaning progeny or grandsons and are so rendered in the New World Translation. (See Judges 12:14; Job 18:19; Isaiah 14:22; 1 Timothy 5:4.) The term nephew does occur in the New World Translation, at 1 Chronicles 27:32. However, as noted in the footnote of the first edition of that translation, as well as in the margin of the Authorized Version, “nephew” or son of an uncle apparently is meant, although the Hebrew word there generally does mean “uncle.” But Rotherham’s Emphasised Bible translates it “relative.” Let it be noted, however, that modern Hebrew does have a word for “nephew,” namely, ahh·yán.
● Why does the New World Translation render Psalm 90:2 so differently from other translations?—B. B., United States.
According to the Revised Standard Version Psalm 90:2 reads: “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting thou art God.” The New World Translation of this verse reads: “Before the mountains themselves were born, or you proceeded to bring forth as with labor pains the earth and the productive land, even from time indefinite to time indefinite you are God.”
The Hebrew word for the first of these expressions is the passive voice of yalad and, according to Hebrew lexicographers, it means to be begotten, born, and relates to the ordinary birth process. Yalad is applied to both the father’s and the mother’s part, as can be seen from Job 14:1 (“Man, born of woman”) and Psalm 2:7 (“I have become your father”).
The Hebrew word for the second verb in Psalm 90:2 is entirely another verb and is used in connection with the birth process to call attention to the pain and travail thereof. It is the Hebrew word hhil, which, according to Hebrew authorities, means basically, “to have labor pains.” The form of this verb in the Hebrew text here has a sort of reflexive force in which the performer of the act suffers the accompanying sensations. In other words, he experiences the labor pains or childbirth pains. That is why the word is also defined as “to bring forth (in pain).”—Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible.
This same word is found at Deuteronomy 32:18, which reads: “The Rock who fathered you, you proceeded to forget, and you began to leave God out of memory, the One bringing you forth with childbirth pains,” without doubt referring to the miracles Jehovah wrought in Egypt in connection with the deliverance of the nation of Israel. Also, we find this Hebrew term at Isaiah 51:2, where we read: “Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who gradually brought you forth with childbirth pains.” Also at Proverbs 25:23: “The wind from the north brings forth as with labor pains a downpour.”
From the foregoing references we can see the use of these words particularly in poetic writing, and we see that they are full of meaning, expressive indeed. Modern translations hide the force of these expressions by their free renderings.
Regarding the use of these terms in Psalm 90:2, it might be said that, judged by human standards, the producing of this earth and the productive land with all its complicated mechanisms and chemistry would certainly call for a great deal of effort, painful effort, as measured even by scientists today. The psalmist here speaks from a purely human standpoint and thereby shows both an active imagination and great respect for the amount of work involved for Jehovah to create these things; with what expenditure of time, of course, we do not know.