Can We Encompass A Single One of God's Blessings?

In the verses 14:34 and 16:18 it states that if we count God’s blessings we will not be able to encompass them. While the translations for these expressions appear almost identical, there is a subtle difference that is worth reflecting upon.

Here is the word by word breakdown of the expression in 14:34:

[14:34] And He gives you all kinds of things that you implore Him for. If you count GOD’s blessings, you can never encompass them. Indeed, the human being is transgressing, unappreciative.

وَآتَاكُمْ مِنْ كُلِّ مَا سَأَلْتُمُوهُ وَإِنْ تَعُدُّوا نِعْمَتَ اللَّهِ لَا تُحْصُوهَا إِنَّ الْإِنْسَانَ لَظَلُومٌ كَفَّارٌ

Notice that this verse uses the plural form of the word “blessing” which is “نِعْمَتَ”. Additionally, it uses the Arabic word تُحْصُوهَا which comes from the root ” ح ص ي ” which has to do with counting.

Now let’s contrast this with the expression in 16:18.

[16:18] If you count GOD’s blessings, you cannot possibly encompass them. GOD is Forgiver, Most Merciful.

وَإِنْ تَعُدُّوا نِعْمَةَ اللَّهِ لَا تُحْصُوهَا إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَغَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ

And here is the word by word breakdown of the verse.

If we notice this time it uses the singular form of the term blessing “نِعْمَةَ”.

My understanding of this is that even if we attempt to encompass just a single one of God’s blessings we will never be able to fully appreciate it. To put this in perspective let’s read the following verses which constitute the prayer of Abraham to God.

[14:35] Recall that Abraham said, “My Lord, make this a peaceful land, and protect me and my children from worshiping idols. [14:36] “My Lord, they have misled so many people. As for those who follow me, they belong with me. As for those who disobey me, You are Forgiver, Most Merciful. [14:37] “Our Lord, I have settled part of my family in this plantless valley, at Your Sacred House. Our Lord, they are to observe the Contact Prayers (Salat), so let throngs of people converge upon them, and provide for them all kinds of fruits, that they may be appreciative. [14:38] “Our Lord, You know whatever we conceal and whatever we declare— nothing is hidden from GOD on earth, nor in the heavens. [14:39] “Praise be to GOD for granting me, despite my old age, Ismail and Isaac. My Lord answers the prayers. [14:40] “My Lord, make me one who consistently observes the Contact Prayers (Salat), and also my children. Our Lord, please answer my prayers. [14:41] “My Lord, forgive me and my parents, and the believers, on the day when the reckoning takes place.”

Now take in consideration that from this one person, Abraham, the impact he has had from his one single prayer for so many countless believers. Because God answered his one prayer, He has blessed generations of humans with the Salat, Hajj, and even the Quran, and Submission as a whole.

[2:127] As Abraham raised the foundations of the shrine, together with Ismail (they prayed): “Our Lord, accept this from us. You are the Hearer, the Omniscient. [2:128] “Our Lord, make us submitters to You, and from our descendants let there be a community of submitters to You. Teach us the rites of our religion, and redeem us. You are the Redeemer, Most Merciful. [2:129] “Our Lord, and raise among them a messenger to recite to them Your revelations, teach them the scripture and wisdom, and purify them. You are the Almighty, Most Wise.”

The name Jesus

“Jesus” is the English derivative of the Greek transliteration of “Yehoshua” via Latin. In the New Testament, all instances of the word “Yehoshua” are written as “Ἰησοῦς” (Iēsoūs), which is the closest Greek transliteration of the Aramaic: ישוע; Yeshua‎.

Because of the lack of a “sh” sound in Greek when the Bible was translated from Greek to Latin it retained the name as Iēsus and eventually changed into Jesus when translated to English from Greek.

But there is more than one Yeshua in the Bible. Yeshua was also one of the leaders of the Children of Israel at the time of Moses, which we know as Joshua. The reason Yeshua was transliterated closer to the original name as opposed to Jesus was because Yeshua was translated straight from Hebrew to English without the Greek translation as an intermediary.

So Jesus is the English form of Latin Iēsus which is the Hebrew name Yēšua (ישוע), which is in turn is the shortened form of Hebrew Yehōšua (יהושע) or “Joshua” in English.

What is the meaning of Yehoshua?

Yehoshua comes from two words Yahweh which means “God” + Shua from the root יָשַׁע (yasha’) which means salvation. Therefore, the literal translation of Yehoshua would be “God saves” or “God is salvation.”

What is interesting is that according to Numbers 13:8 we see that the original name of Yehoshua, or Joshua in English, was Hoshea, but in Numbers 13:16, Moses changed his name to Yehoshua/Joshua.

Numbers 13

1 The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders.” 3 So at the Lord’s command Moses sent them out from the Desert of Paran. All of them were leaders of the Israelites. 4 These are their names…

Numbers 13:8 from the tribe of Ephraim, Hoshea son of Nun;

Numbers 13:16 These are the names of the men Moses sent to explore the land. (Moses gave Hoshea son of Nun the name Joshua.)

There is some debate to why Moses called Hoshea Joshua, but if we look at the meaning of Hoshea it might shed some light.

Hoshea comes from the same root as Joshua יָשַׁע (yasha’) which means salvation, but unlike Joshua which means God is salvation, Hoshea would simply mean Salvation. As salvation only comes from God it makes sense that Moses could have decided to call him Joshua as in “God is salvation” which he is called throughout the rest of the Bible.

What does this have to do with Jesus?

Christians believe that Jesus is God, and this is contrary to the very name God gave him as his name is a testament that salvation only comes from God, otherwise it would make more sense that his name would have been Hoshea which would simply mean salvation.

[4:172] The Messiah would never disdain from being a servant of GOD, nor would the closest angels. Those who disdain from worshiping Him, and are too arrogant to submit, He will summon them all before Him.

Also, it is quite funny that Christians put so much importance on Jesus, and specifically his name, yet we don’t even know 100% for sure what he was called by the people at the time as we do not have the original Gospels in Aramaic.

[3:45] The angels said, “O Mary, GOD gives you good news: a Word from Him whose name is `The Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary. He will be prominent in this life and in the Hereafter, and one of those closest to Me.’

What else is interesting is that it is not clear why the Quran uses the term Isa for Jesus. God willing hoping to dig into explore this in the future.

Man: The Best Design & Circumcision

How do we reconcile circumcision with God informing us that He created man in the best design?

To understand this question we need to understand that the form of a human being has been around long before Adam; for hundreds of thousands of years. What set Adam apart was not just his form, but specifically his soul. That is why the human form is not entirely distinct from all other animals, but instead falls into the category of mammals, and even more specifically primates.

One of the commonalities of all mammals is that they are endowed with foreskin. The main purpose of the foreskin is twofold (1) as a protective layer against the environment (2) to expedite time to ejaculation for increased probability of conception. While both these cases are highly advantageous for all other mammals and their survival, this is not the case for modern humans.

1. Humans wear clothes animals do not

No surprise, but animals do not wear clothes, therefore it makes sense that their vulnerable parts have an additional layer of protection rather than being out in the open. But human beings do wear clothes for protection and additionally, unlike animals humans feel shame in nudity, which again originated with Adam & Eve’s soul being assigned to human bodies.

[20:121] They ate from it, whereupon their bodies became visible to them, and they tried to cover themselves with the leaves of Paradise. Adam thus disobeyed his Lord, and fell.

[7:26] O children of Adam, we have provided you with garments to cover your bodies, as well as for luxury. But the best garment is the garment of righteousness. These are some of GOD’s signs, that they may take heed.

Since animals do not wear clothes, their genitals have more exposure to air, reducing bacterial growth under the foreskin. This is not the case for humans. Humans wear clothes and do not require the extra protection that the foreskin serves, and due to the fact that humans wear clothes, this actually has a negative impact for uncircumcised men in regards to hygiene. Also, humans sweat more than any other mammal, while this is great for disseminating of heat, it does not function well for the genitals covered in clothes with excessive foreskin. It is a proven fact that infants, teenagers, and men that uncircumcised are at much higher risk of Urinary Tract Infections and sexually transmitted diseases both for themselves and even for their partners, compared to ones who are circumcised.

Additionally, it is interesting that God encourages cleanliness throughout the Quran, but specifically in the context of sexual relations:

[2:222] They ask you about menstruation: say, “It is harmful; you shall avoid sexual intercourse with the women during menstruation; do not approach them until they are rid of it. Once they are rid of it, you may have intercourse with them in the manner designed by GOD. GOD loves the repenters, and He loves those who are clean.”

2. Humans have sex for pleasure more than they do for procreation, animals do not

Most animals have sex strictly for the sake of procreation, therefore an animal that can ejaculate faster than its peers has a better chance to pass their genes for future generations. This is not the case for humans.

Humans are one of the only mammals who have sex for pleasure. A simple example of this is that on average a couple will have sex 1,000 times before a birth of a child, while other primates, like gorillas, have sex only about twelve times before a birth. Also, humans’ duration of copulation is one of the longest for any mammals. Actually, human sexuality can be argued serves primarily as a bonding device between monogamous couples and secondly for procreation. Again this goes counter to the function of the foreskin. Foreskin speeds up ejaculation because in the animal kingdom the purpose of sex is for procreation, so the faster that one can complete the task the more likely they are to pass their genes to the next generation.

It is a fact that men who are circumcised have a much longer “Intravaginal ejaculation latency time” (IELT). This means that they can perform intercourse for longer. The advantage of this is (1) they can enjoy this blessing for a longer duration of time (2) their partners, who physiologically take longer to climax, will also be able to enjoy intercourse for longer (3) therefore the probability of their partner reaching climax during intercourse is higher. While these points may be obvious, the fourth reason is very profound (4) the amount of oxytocin release is higher during prolonged intercourse and especially after climax. Oxytocin is known as the love hormone. It is a major factor in what keeps couples monogamous and even more awesome is that it is linked to couples’ drive to stick together through relationship hard patches.

Now consider this, you are a about to have a son and as a parent you have the opportunity to bestow a gift for them that will leave them with better hygiene, less prone to infection, a better sex life with their spouse when they get married, and also the ability to have a stronger bond with their spouse to increase their chances of staying together through relationship difficulties – would you want to provide such a blessing for them?

Milat Ibraheem (Religion of Abraham) in the Hebrew Bible

The expression مِلَّةَ إِبْرَاهِيمَ (millata ib’rāhīma), which means the “religion of Abraham”, occurs eight times in its various forms in the Quran: 2:130, 2:135, 3:95, 6:161, 16:123, 4:125, 12:38, and 22:78)

[2:135] They said, “You have to be Jewish or Christian, to be guided.” Say, “We follow the religion of Abraham—monotheism—he never was an idol worshiper.”

وَقَالُوا كُونُوا هُودًا أَوْ نَصَارَىٰ تَهْتَدُوا قُلْ بَلْ مِلَّةَ إِبْرَاهِيمَ حَنِيفًا وَمَا كَانَ مِنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ

[16:123] Then we inspired you (Muhammad) to follow the religion of Abraham, the monotheist; he never was an idol worshiper.

 ثُمَّ أَوْحَيْنَا إِلَيْكَ أَنِ اتَّبِعْ مِلَّةَ إِبْرَاهِيمَ حَنِيفًا وَمَا كَانَ مِنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ

The Arabic word millat comes from the root م ل ل (mim-lam-lam). This root has the following meanings: to dictate; to embrace a religion; faith; religion; creed.

Does this expression also occur in the Bible?

In order to find out we need to determine what is the Old Testament Hebrew equivalent of the Arabic word millat مِلَّةَ. As both Arabic and Hebrew are semitic languages, they share a lot of similarities, including many relationships between words and roots. Therefore, we can check to see if there exists a Hebrew equivalent root, and it just happens that it does.

The equivalent root to the Quranic Arabic word millat مِلَّةَ in Old Testament Hebrew is מלל (mēm-lamed-lamed). When used as a verb this root in the Hebrew Old Testament has four distinct meanings in the form of מלל (malal). The definition for all four verbs have to do with: separating or severing something from what it’s normally connected to.

One of these four definitions specifically means to circumcise and is a by-form of the verb מול (mul). We see this form used in the following verse of Genesis 17:11.

If we look at all the other occurrences of the word מול (mul) in the Bible, we see this word occurs thirty-six times. There are two verses in the entire Bible where this word is preceded after the name Abraham. These two verses are Genesis 17:26 and Genesis 21:4. Below are both verses showing the the Hebrew equivalent of the Arabic مِلَّةَ إِبْرَاهِيمَ (millata ib’rāhīma / the religion of Abraham), which in Old Testament Hebrew occurs as the “circumcision of Abraham”.

This discovery corresponds with the following verse from the Quran where God put Abraham to the test with certain commands that he fulfilled.

[Quran 2:124] Recall that Abraham was put to the test by his Lord, through certain commands, and he fulfilled them. (God) said, “I am appointing you an imam for the people.” He said, “And also my descendants?” He said, “My covenant does not include the transgressors.”

The Jews call this covenant Brit Milah which translates to the “Covenant of Circumcision”.

Bible vs. Quran – Raising of Mount Sinai

We read in the Quran in the following passages that at some point in the history of the Children of Israel Mount Sinai was raised above them and the following commandments were given to them.

[Quran 7:171] We raised the mountain above them like an umbrella, and they thought it was going to fall on them: “You shall uphold what we have given you, strongly, and remember the contents thereof, that you may be saved.”

[Quran 2:63] We made a covenant with you, as we raised Mount Sinai above you: “You shall uphold what we have given you strongly, and remember its contents, that you may be saved.”

[Quran 2:93] We made a covenant with you, as we raised Mount Sinai above you, saying, “You shall uphold the commandments we have given you, strongly, and listen.” They said, “We hear, but we disobey.” Their hearts became filled with adoration for the calf, due to their disbelief. Say, “Miserable indeed is what your faith dictates upon you, if you do have any faith.”

[Quran 4:154] And we raised Mount Sinai above them, as we took their covenant. And we said to them, “Enter the gate humbly.” And we said to them, “Do not desecrate the Sabbath.” Indeed, we took from them a solemn covenant.

But where can we find this event in the Bible? In Exodus 19:17 we read about a similar event that contextually appears to match the account in the Quran, but according to most translations it seems to indicate that this event took place at the foot of the mountain as opposed to the mountain being lifted above the Children of Israel.

16 On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. 17 Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot (בְּתַחְתִּ֥ית / bə·ṯaḥ·tîṯ) of the mountain. 18 Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently. 19 As the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him.

Exodus 19

We also see that Deuteronomy 4:11, appears to be describing the same event.

Now, Israel, hear the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take possession of the land the Lord, the God of your ancestors, is giving you. Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you.

See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the Lord my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it. Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him? And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?

Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. 10 Remember the day you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, when he said to me, “Assemble the people before me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children.” 11 You came near and stood at the foot (תַּ֣חַת / ta·ḥaṯ) of the mountain while it blazed with fire to the very heavens, with black clouds and deep darkness. 12 Then the Lord spoke to you out of the fire. You heard the sound of words but saw no form; there was only a voice. 13 He declared to you his covenant, the Ten Commandments, which he commanded you to follow and then wrote them on two stone tablets. 14 And the Lord directed me at that time to teach you the decrees and laws you are to follow in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess.

Deuteronomy 4

The Hebrew word that is translated as “at the foot” (of the mountain) in Exodus 19:7 comes from the Hebrew word תַּחְתִּי (tachti). This word has nineteen occurrences in the Bible and also means beneath, as well as lower or lowest.

We see this word used in the context of beneath three times in Chapter 31 of Ezekiel.

14 so that all the trees by the waters may not be exalted in their stature, nor set their top among the clouds, nor their well-watered mighty ones stand erect in their height. For they have all been given over to death, to the earth beneath (תַּחְתִּ֗ית / taḥ-tîṯ), among the sons of men, with those who go down to the pit.”

15 ‘Thus says the Lord God, “On the day when it went down to Sheol I caused lamentations; I closed the deep over it and held back its rivers. And its many waters were stopped up, and I made Lebanon mourn for it, and all the trees of the field wilted away on account of it. 16 I made the nations quake at the sound of its fall when I made it go down to Sheol with those who go down to the pit; and all the well-watered trees of Eden, the choicest and best of Lebanon, were comforted in the earth beneath (תַּחְתִּית֙ / taḥ-tîṯ). 17 They also went down with it to Sheol to those who were slain by the sword; and those who were its strength lived under its shade among the nations.

18 “To which among the trees of Eden are you thus equal in glory and greatness? Yet you will be brought down with the trees of Eden to the earth beneath (תַּחְתִּ֗ית / taḥ-tîṯ); you will lie in the midst of the uncircumcised, with those who were slain by the sword. So is Pharaoh and all his hordes!”’ declares the Lord God.”

Ezekiel 31

Additionally, Deuteronomy 4:11 provides additional support that the mountain was lifted over the heads of the Children of Israel as depicted in the Quran. When we look at the Hebrew word “at the foot” (of the mountain) in Deuteronomy 4:11 we see that the word that is used is תַּחַת / tachath. This word means: underneath, below, or instead of. This word occurs 504 times in the Bible, and is used to mean underneath or below (see: Genesis 1:7, 6:17, 7:19, 18:4, 18:8, 24:9, 35:4, 35:8…) as well as at the foot of.

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Why do some people think Bakka means weeping?

[3:96] The most important shrine established for the people is the one in Becca; a blessed beacon for all the people.

 إِنَّ أَوَّلَ بَيْتٍ وُضِعَ لِلنَّاسِ لَلَّذِي بِبَكَّةَ مُبَارَكًا وَهُدًى لِلْعَالَمِينَ

The root fo the word بِبَكَّةَ used in 3:96 of the Quran is ب ك ك which has the following meanings:

crowding together of people; lacking water; and breaking of the neck.

These meanings are all associated with Mecca as this is where (1) people crowd together for Hajj, (2) aside from occasional rains that cause floods it is a desert and lacks water (3) anyone who attempts to lay siege on the Kaaba is not successful and thus breaks their neck e.g. The People of The Elephant.

Some have the false understanding the the word بِبَكَّةَ comes from the same word as “to weep”. This misunderstanding appears to have originated from the Greek translation of Hebrew of Psalms 84, where the early Greek translators translated the Hebrew word Bakka בכא (ba-k-a) which is a name to the similar-sounding word בכה (be-k-ha) which means “crying or weeping” and translated the mention of “valley of Bakka” in Psaml 84:6 as: ἐν τῇ κοιλάδι τοῦ κλαυθμῶνος “valley of mourning or weeping”. This is an inaccuate translaiton as בכא (ba-k-a) & בכה (be-k-ha) are two completely different words despite sounding similar.

Similarly, in Arabic the word for weeping is بَكَى‎ (ba-ka-ya) which is pronounced as baka, but again is a completely different word than بَكَّةَ (bakka) which is the name Bakka, the ancient name of Mecca.

To put this in perspective for English speakers, this would be equivalent to translating the word “blew” as the color “blue”. Despite sounding the same these words are fundamentally different.

If you are interested to know why God might have used two names for the same location then check out the following article

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