1. What was the sin of Ham that caused Noah to curse the descendants of Ham? Why was the punishment so severe? And why the curse was referred to Canaan instead of Ham whom was the one who did the act?
It seems that Ham innocently came upon his father after he had uncovered himself in a drunken stupor. The sin of Ham is that he told his brothers of what he had seen and made fun of it. In doing so, it brought shame to the entire family. In the ancient world merely seeing one’s father naked was an offensive act. The father’s position as moral and spiritual head could possibly be held in disrepute and the family unit would suffer as a result of this.It was reprehensible enough for God to curse the line of his son Canaan. The judgment was not directed to Canaan personally but rather to his descendants as a nation.
2. For the English bible, we have the book of James. However, for the Chinese bible, the same book in the bible is named as Jacob. I have heard the original is actually Jacob in Hebrew. Is it true? Henceforth, why it is different for the English bible?
The actual reading for the brother of the Lord should really be “Jacob”. But the name was so important in the history of the church and repeated so many times that it eventually went through a complicated process of alterations. The consensus is that the name went from Hebrew (Yaʻaqov ) to Greek (Iacobus) to Late Latin (Iacomus) to Old French (Jammes) and finally to English (James).
3. What does Jesus mean in Matthew 19:24 when He said it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God? Is “the eye of a needle” a small little door in Israel when people have to unload their things from a camel to enter the old city?
There have been some interpretation talking about small side entrances into larger Jewish cities where one could gain a quick access to the city. But the gate was so low and tiny that the merchant’s accompanying camel would have to kneel down to pass or it would not pass at all. The problem is that existence of these tiny gates has never been confirmed. The real meaning of Jesus is simply “impossibility.” Jesus uses a hyperbole statement, a figure of speech that exaggerates for emphasis (see also a “plank” in one’s eye in Matt 7:3-5 and swallowing a camel in Matt 23:24). In this context, those who are rich tend to trust in their riches and lose focus from God, thus jeopardizing access to the eternal life. We cannot be saved on the basis of our own merits or riches. Interestingly enough, the Jewish rabbinical literature mentions another animal passing through the eye of a needle as the same equivalent of impossibility: an elephant. The rabbinic Talmud was produced in Babylon where the biggest animal was elephant while in Jesus’ Israel the biggest animal was camel.
4. Is there any significance in almond or almond trees biblically? Or significance in Hebrew? Is there any meaning to the almonds budding on Aaron’s rod in Numbers 17?
The almond tree was known that it blossoms white on a branch without leaves in winter. Thus it was all silver/white and gave an impression of an old age (e.g. Ecc 12:5). It blossoms very early in the year and gives people hope of the upcoming spring. For some, it is a symbol of resurrection because the blossoming happens earlier than the other trees. There is a Hebrew wordplay on the word with the same root as “almond” that is “watchful/non-sleeping.” In the context of Jeremiah 1:11, it could mean that God is watching over His word. So by the almonds on Aaron’s rod in Numbers 17, God would reaffirm Aaron’s mandate, confirming the Word that He had spoken previously about the leadership of Moses and Aaron.
5. In 1 Chronicles 21, there is David’s command on counting Israelites… why was it evil in the sight of God?
It says that Satan moved David to count Israel. And David succumbed to the temptation. The actual sin is unclear. But it must have been something with David’s pride. In OT, man can count only what is his. It could have been symbolic that Israel belongs to God, therefore David was not allowed to count it. David could have also possibly enjoyed his prosperity and growing kingdom and cherished the idea how great his possession actually is. Thus, he was backsliding to rely on his own strenght, strategies and structures instead of relying fully on God. So the punishment was like a spiritual wake-up call. We know from the Book of Acts that GOD was “adding the number” of people in the early church after Peter and the other apostles preached.
6. I understand that the first five books are written by Moses. What are the evidences that show that Moses is the one who wrote the five books? And if it is true that he wrote the five books, why are the texts written in third person point of view instead of first person point of view? Also, in the book of Deuteronomy, it wrote about Moses’ death. How can he write about his death?
Mosaic authorship of Pentateuch is maintained by the Jewish tradition. Jesus himself mentions Moses as the author in the gospels several times (e.g. Matt 19:8; Mk 7:10). Moses could have used the third person because he may have been aware that he writes an inspired text that will be widely circulating. It was quite common with the other OT authors as well (Joshua, Samuel etc.). Another common procedure and explanation of the third person is that these authors often used so-called “amanuensis”, a scribe that wrote the actual text under their mentor’s supervision. Thus, Mark wrote a gospel that features Peter’s style from which it derives its apostolic authority. Paul was using the service of amanuensis, too. Many times, he just signed the letter. He writes in 2 Thess 3:17: “I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand, which is the distinguishing mark in all my letters. This is how I write”. In the same manner, it is possible that Moses’ disciple upon their previous mutual agreement recorded Moses’ death and then just closed the book under the delegated Mosaic authority. It could have been Joshua, for instance, because he then continues with his own Book of Joshua.
7. Who killed Saul? In 1 Samuel 31, it says that Saul asked his armorbearer to kill him when he was wounded critically but the armorbearer refused and Saul commited suicide. But in 2 Samuel 1, it is an Amalekite who claimed to kill Saul and David punished him for it.
The first account of Saul’s death seems to be authentic. There is a detailed description how Saul died together with the armorbearer. The Amalekite was apparently near the scene. But he lied to David about killing Saul in order to justify that he had taken Saul’s crown as he probably expected a reward from David. But he miscounted totally and paid the ultimate price for getting involved with God’s anointed.
8. I have always wondered about this incident from 1 Chronicles 13:10: The Lord was so furious with Uzzah, he killed him, because he reached out his hand and touched the ark. He died right there before God. It seemed natural and instinctive to stop the Ark from slipping over! Can you help me?
Uzzah was a good and faithful servant but he did things his own way, not God’s. The ark was supposed to be carried by priests and not on an oxcart. That was the beginning of the trouble.