Questions From Readers
● Can the word “angel” properly be applied to resurrected anointed Christians?—R. C., U.S.A.
The Bible does not use the word “angel” in speaking of anointed Christians who have been resurrected to heavenly life. However, by noting the way the Bible does use the Hebrew and Greek words that can be translated “angel” one can see why it apparently would not be amiss to apply in a general sense the term “angel” to these Christians who become heavenly spirit creatures.
Both the Hebrew (malʼakhʹ) and Greek (agʹgelos) words translated “angel” in the Bible literally mean “messenger.” In the Bible they are applied to spirit messengers of Jehovah. But they are also used with reference to human messengers. (2 Sam. 5:11; 11:25; Jas. 2:25) The apostle John was told to write to the “angels of the seven congregations.” (Rev. 1:20) He would logically not be writing to spirit creatures in heaven but to the anointed human overseers of seven congregations in Asia Minor. Thus it can be seen that the Scriptures do not restrict to spirit creatures the Hebrew and Greek words that can be translated “angel.”
The exalted Jesus Christ and the anointed Christians resurrected to rule in heaven with him are actually on a higher level than the spirit creatures normally called angels. Jesus and his anointed followers in heaven are immortal. (1 Tim. 6:15, 16; 1 Cor. 15:51-54) In contrast, the angels are mortal, as can be seen from the fact that Satan and his disobedient angels will be destroyed. (Rev. 20:10, 14; Luke 8:30, 31) Additionally, the Bible shows that Christ has been elevated above the angels and that his anointed followers will share in judging angels.—Heb. 1:4; Phil. 2:9-11; 1 Cor. 6:3.
Nonetheless, Jesus after his resurrection is still called Michael the archangel. (Jude 9; Rev. 12:7) And it appears that the exalted Jesus is referred to as an angel in Revelation 20:1 for, as God’s king, he is the logical one to bind Satan and the demons. So evidently, the term “angel” as designating an office may be used in a general sense to refer to all heavenly spirit creatures.
● What is “the language of Canaan” referred to at Isaiah 19:18?
As one point in Isaiah’s “pronouncement against Egypt” the prophet foretold: “In that day there will prove to be five cities in the land of Egypt speaking the language of Canaan and swearing to Jehovah of armies.”—Isa. 19:1, 18.
This prophecy written about 732 B.C.E. referred to what would take place after the destruction of Jerusalem in 607 B.C.E. The Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar left a remnant of the poor Jews in the land. Some rebels struck down Governor Gedaliah, and the people fled to Egypt, contrary to the counsel of Jeremiah. (Jer. 41:1-3; 42:9–43:7) The record specifically mentions three cities where they took up dwelling: Migdol, Tahpanhes and Noph. (Jer. 44:1) And it may be that those who fled to Egypt for sanctuary on this occasion joined Jews who were already in the land.—Jer. 24:1, 8-10.
The language we now speak of as ancient Hebrew was not referred to by that designation in the Hebrew Scriptures. On occasion it was called “the Jews’ language” or “Jewish.” (2 Ki. 18:26; Neh. 13:24) It belongs to the Semitic group of languages, and the language used in the land of Canaan in the time of Abraham appears to have been related to Hebrew. When once the Israelites took over the Promised Land or the land of Canaan, their language might be termed “the language of Canaan” in two senses. It was similar to the tongue of the Canaanite inhabitants who were killed, and it was the language of the people who now ruled the territory of Canaan.
Consequently, the comment in Isaiah 19:18 about cities in Egypt “speaking the language of Canaan” refers to the Hebrew language being spoken in Egyptian cities by Jews who had fled there.
● How was the “dove’s dung” mentioned in 2 Kings 6:25 used?—H. F., U.S.A.
This verse describes conditions in the city of Samaria when it was besieged by the Syrians during the days of Elisha. We read: “In time a great famine arose in Samaria, and, look! they were besieging it until an ass’s head got to be worth eighty silver pieces, and the fourth of a cab measure of dove’s dung was worth five silver pieces.”—2 Ki. 6:25.
Accordingly, about one-half dry pint or .3 of a liter of dove’s dung was worth about $2.38. But the question of how the buyer would use the dung has been widely discussed.
Some persons have thought that “dove’s dung” may have applied to a plant, basing this view on the facts that Arabs use the name “sparrow’s dung” for a plant eaten by persons of little means and that in the area of Samaria there grows a plant the Latin name of which means “bird’s milk.” However, there is no evidence that either of these plants was ever known as “dove’s dung” or that they would be available to people bottled up in besieged Samaria.
If the expression is to be taken literally, what use would be made of dove’s dung? The suggestion has been offered that this material has long been used by people in the Near East as fertilizer. But it is improbable that persons bordering on death by starvation would be concerned about fertilizing crops that might not be available for months.
There is the possibility that the dove’s dung was used for food. In an attempt to frighten the people of Jerusalem Rabshakeh once warned that an Assyrian siege would drive them to “eat their own excrement and drink their own urine.” (2 Ki. 18:27) The thought of consuming dung is repulsive, yet the fact that the hunger was so great that women would boil and eat their own children indicates that they would consume anything available. (2 Ki. 6:26-29) Though dung would be of limited nutritional value, starving persons frequently eat anything to deaden the pangs of hunger. According to Josephus, Jews besieged by the Romans in 70 C.E. ate dung from “old dunghills of cattle.” And there is a report that during a famine in England in 1316 C.E. people ate “their own children, dogs, mice and pigeon’s dung.”
Perhaps the most likely suggestion is that the dung was used for fuel. The prophet Ezekiel was instructed to portray the equally dire siege conditions due to come upon Jerusalem by cooking his food with dung as the fuel. (Ezek. 4:12-17) Even to this day, dried cattle dung, called by some “cow chips,” serves as a fuel in parts of the earth. If this view of dove’s dung is correct, then the account is simply stating the cost of the food (in this case an ass’s head) and the cost of the fuel to cook it. The succeeding verses indicate that the people were as yet not eating raw flesh.