100 Days to go! And, just 2 days until we hit the NT!
Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives. The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version. At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture. To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.
Day 265 (Sept. 22)
New Living Translation, Biblegateway.com
Dedication of Jerusalem’s Wall / 445 BC
27 For the dedication of the new wall of Jerusalem, the Levites throughout the land were asked to come to Jerusalem to assist in the ceremonies. They were to take part in the joyous occasion with their songs of thanksgiving and with the music of cymbals, harps, and lyres. 28 The singers were brought together from the region around Jerusalem and from the villages of the Netophathites. 29 They also came from Beth-gilgal and the rural areas near Geba and Azmaveth, for the singers had built their own settlements around Jerusalem. 30 The priests and Levites first purified themselves; then they purified the people, the gates, and the wall.
31 I led the leaders of Judah to the top of the wall and organized two large choirs to give thanks. One of the choirs proceeded southward[a] along the top of the wall to the Dung Gate. 32 Hoshaiah and half the leaders of Judah followed them, 33 along with Azariah, Ezra, Meshullam, 34 Judah, Benjamin, Shemaiah, and Jeremiah. 35 Then came some priests who played trumpets, including Zechariah son of Jonathan, son of Shemaiah, son of Mattaniah, son of Micaiah, son of Zaccur, a descendant of Asaph. 36 And Zechariah’s colleagues were Shemaiah, Azarel, Milalai, Gilalai, Maai, Nethanel, Judah, and Hanani. They used the musical instruments prescribed by David, the man of God. Ezra the scribe led this procession. 37 At the Fountain Gate they went straight up the steps on the ascent of the city wall toward the City of David. They passed the house of David and then proceeded to the Water Gate on the east.
38 The second choir giving thanks went northward[b] around the other way to meet them. I followed them, together with the other half of the people, along the top of the wall past the Tower of the Ovens to the Broad Wall, 39 then past the Ephraim Gate to the Old City Gate,[c] past the Fish Gate and the Tower of Hananel, and on to the Tower of the Hundred. Then we continued on to the Sheep Gate and stopped at the Guard Gate.
40 The two choirs that were giving thanks then proceeded to the Temple of God, where they took their places. So did I, together with the group of leaders who were with me. 41 We went together with the trumpet-playing priests—Eliakim, Maaseiah, Miniamin, Micaiah, Elioenai, Zechariah, and Hananiah— 42 and the singers—Maaseiah, Shemaiah, Eleazar, Uzzi, Jehohanan, Malkijah, Elam, and Ezer. They played and sang loudly under the direction of Jezrahiah the choir director.
43 Many sacrifices were offered on that joyous day, for God had given the people cause for great joy. The women and children also participated in the celebration, and the joy of the people of Jerusalem could be heard far away.
Provisions for Temple Worship
44 On that day men were appointed to be in charge of the storerooms for the offerings, the first part of the harvest, and the tithes. They were responsible to collect from the fields outside the towns the portions required by the Law for the priests and Levites. For all the people of Judah took joy in the priests and Levites and their work. 45 They performed the service of their God and the service of purification, as commanded by David and his son Solomon, and so did the singers and the gatekeepers. 46 The custom of having choir directors to lead the choirs in hymns of praise and thanksgiving to God began long ago in the days of David and Asaph. 47 So now, in the days of Zerubbabel and of Nehemiah, all Israel brought a daily supply of food for the singers, the gatekeepers, and the Levites. The Levites, in turn, gave a portion of what they received to the priests, the descendants of Aaron.
Nehemiah’s Various Reforms
13 On that same day, as the Book of Moses was being read to the people, the passage was found that said no Ammonite or Moabite should ever be permitted to enter the assembly of God.[d] 2 For they had not provided the Israelites with food and water in the wilderness. Instead, they hired Balaam to curse them, though our God turned the curse into a blessing. 3 When this passage of the Law was read, all those of foreign descent were immediately excluded from the assembly.
Nehemiah left Jerusalem in 433 BC and returned to his point in Susa as King Artaxerxes’ cup-bearer.
Nehemiah’s Absence from Jerusalem
4 Before this had happened, Eliashib the priest, who had been appointed as supervisor of the storerooms of the Temple of our God and who was also a relative of Tobiah, 5 had converted a large storage room and placed it at Tobiah’s disposal. The room had previously been used for storing the grain offerings, the frankincense, various articles for the Temple, and the tithes of grain, new wine, and olive oil (which were prescribed for the Levites, the singers, and the gatekeepers), as well as the offerings for the priests.
6 I was not in Jerusalem at that time, for I had returned to King Artaxerxes of Babylon in the thirty-second year of his reign,[e] though I later asked his permission to return.
14 For the entire twelve years that I was governor of Judah—from the twentieth year to the thirty-second year of the reign of King Artaxerxes[a]—neither I nor my officials drew on our official food allowance. 15 The former governors, in contrast, had laid heavy burdens on the people, demanding a daily ration of food and wine, besides forty pieces[b] of silver. Even their assistants took advantage of the people. But because I feared God, I did not act that way.
16 I also devoted myself to working on the wall and refused to acquire any land. And I required all my servants to spend time working on the wall. 17 I asked for nothing, even though I regularly fed 150 Jewish officials at my table, besides all the visitors from other lands! 18 The provisions I paid for each day included one ox, six choice sheep or goats, and a large number of poultry. And every ten days we needed a large supply of all kinds of wine. Yet I refused to claim the governor’s food allowance because the people already carried a heavy burden.
19 Remember, O my God, all that I have done for these people, and bless me for it.
Nehemiah’s Return to Jerusalem / after 433 BC
7 When I arrived back in Jerusalem, I learned about Eliashib’s evil deed in providing Tobiah with a room in the courtyards of the Temple of God. 8 I became very upset and threw all of Tobiah’s belongings out of the room. 9 Then I demanded that the rooms be purified, and I brought back the articles for God’s Temple, the grain offerings, and the frankincense.
10 I also discovered that the Levites had not been given their prescribed portions of food, so they and the singers who were to conduct the worship services had all returned to work their fields. 11 I immediately confronted the leaders and demanded, “Why has the Temple of God been neglected?” Then I called all the Levites back again and restored them to their proper duties. 12 And once more all the people of Judah began bringing their tithes of grain, new wine, and olive oil to the Temple storerooms.
13 I assigned supervisors for the storerooms: Shelemiah the priest, Zadok the scribe, and Pedaiah, one of the Levites. And I appointed Hanan son of Zaccur and grandson of Mattaniah as their assistant. These men had an excellent reputation, and it was their job to make honest distributions to their fellow Levites.
14 Remember this good deed, O my God, and do not forget all that I have faithfully done for the Temple of my God and its services.
15 In those days I saw men of Judah treading out their winepresses on the Sabbath. They were also bringing in grain, loading it on donkeys, and bringing their wine, grapes, figs, and all sorts of produce to Jerusalem to sell on the Sabbath. So I rebuked them for selling their produce on that day. 16 Some men from Tyre, who lived in Jerusalem, were bringing in fish and all kinds of merchandise. They were selling it on the Sabbath to the people of Judah—and in Jerusalem at that!
17 So I confronted the nobles of Judah. “Why are you profaning the Sabbath in this evil way?” I asked. 18 “Wasn’t it just this sort of thing that your ancestors did that caused our God to bring all this trouble upon us and our city? Now you are bringing even more wrath upon Israel by permitting the Sabbath to be desecrated in this way!”
19 Then I commanded that the gates of Jerusalem should be shut as darkness fell every Friday evening,[a] not to be opened until the Sabbath ended. I sent some of my own servants to guard the gates so that no merchandise could be brought in on the Sabbath day. 20 The merchants and tradesmen with a variety of wares camped outside Jerusalem once or twice. 21 But I spoke sharply to them and said, “What are you doing out here, camping around the wall? If you do this again, I will arrest you!” And that was the last time they came on the Sabbath. 22 Then I commanded the Levites to purify themselves and to guard the gates in order to preserve the holiness of the Sabbath.
Remember this good deed also, O my God! Have compassion on me according to your great and unfailing love.
23 About the same time I realized that some of the men of Judah had married women from Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab. 24 Furthermore, half their children spoke the language of Ashdod or of some other people and could not speak the language of Judah at all. 25 So I confronted them and called down curses on them. I beat some of them and pulled out their hair. I made them swear in the name of God that they would not let their children intermarry with the pagan people of the land.
26 “Wasn’t this exactly what led King Solomon of Israel into sin?” I demanded. “There was no king from any nation who could compare to him, and God loved him and made him king over all Israel. But even he was led into sin by his foreign wives. 27 How could you even think of committing this sinful deed and acting unfaithfully toward God by marrying foreign women?”
28 One of the sons of Joiada son of Eliashib the high priest had married a daughter of Sanballat the Horonite, so I banished him from my presence.
29 Remember them, O my God, for they have defiled the priesthood and the solemn vows of the priests and Levites.
30 So I purged out everything foreign and assigned tasks to the priests and Levites, making certain that each knew his work. 31 I also made sure that the supply of wood for the altar and the first portions of the harvest were brought at the proper times.
Remember this in my favor, O my God.
Malachi’s ministry may have occurred during the time of Nehemiah’s absence from Jerusalem beginning in 433 BC.
The Prophecy of Malachi / ca. 433 to 430 BC
The Lord’s Love for Israel
2 “I have always loved you,” says the Lord.
But you retort, “Really? How have you loved us?”
And the Lord replies, “This is how I showed my love for you: I loved your ancestor Jacob, 3 but I rejected his brother, Esau, and devastated his hill country. I turned Esau’s inheritance into a desert for jackals.”
4 Esau’s descendants in Edom may say, “We have been shattered, but we will rebuild the ruins.”
But the Lord of Heaven’s Armies replies, “They may try to rebuild, but I will demolish them again. Their country will be known as ‘The Land of Wickedness,’ and their people will be called ‘The People with Whom the Lord Is Forever Angry.’ 5 When you see the destruction for yourselves, you will say, ‘Truly, the Lord’s greatness reaches far beyond Israel’s borders!’”
6 The Lord of Heaven’s Armies says to the priests: “A son honors his father, and a servant respects his master. If I am your father and master, where are the honor and respect I deserve? You have shown contempt for my name!
“But you ask, ‘How have we ever shown contempt for your name?’
7 “You have shown contempt by offering defiled sacrifices on my altar.
“Then you ask, ‘How have we defiled the sacrifices?[c]’
“You defile them by saying the altar of the Lord deserves no respect. 8 When you give blind animals as sacrifices, isn’t that wrong? And isn’t it wrong to offer animals that are crippled and diseased? Try giving gifts like that to your governor, and see how pleased he is!” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
9 “Go ahead, beg God to be merciful to you! But when you bring that kind of offering, why should he show you any favor at all?” asks the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
10 “How I wish one of you would shut the Temple doors so that these worthless sacrifices could not be offered! I am not pleased with you,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “and I will not accept your offerings. 11 But my name is honored[d] by people of other nations from morning till night. All around the world they offer[e] sweet incense and pure offerings in honor of my name. For my name is great among the nations,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
12 “But you dishonor my name with your actions. By bringing contemptible food, you are saying it’s all right to defile the Lord’s table. 13 You say, ‘It’s too hard to serve the Lord,’ and you turn up your noses at my commands,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. “Think of it! Animals that are stolen and crippled and sick are being presented as offerings! Should I accept from you such offerings as these?” asks the Lord.
14 “Cursed is the cheat who promises to give a fine ram from his flock but then sacrifices a defective one to the Lord. For I am a great king,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “and my name is feared among the nations!
A Warning to the Priests
2 “Listen, you priests—this command is for you! 2 Listen to me and make up your minds to honor my name,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “or I will bring a terrible curse against you. I will curse even the blessings you receive. Indeed, I have already cursed them, because you have not taken my warning to heart. 3 I will punish your descendants and splatter your faces with the manure from your festival sacrifices, and I will throw you on the manure pile. 4 Then at last you will know it was I who sent you this warning so that my covenant with the Levites can continue,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
5 “The purpose of my covenant with the Levites was to bring life and peace, and that is what I gave them. This required reverence from them, and they greatly revered me and stood in awe of my name. 6 They passed on to the people the truth of the instructions they received from me. They did not lie or cheat; they walked with me, living good and righteous lives, and they turned many from lives of sin.
7 “The words of a priest’s lips should preserve knowledge of God, and people should go to him for instruction, for the priest is the messenger of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. 8 But you priests have left God’s paths. Your instructions have caused many to stumble into sin. You have corrupted the covenant I made with the Levites,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. 9 “So I have made you despised and humiliated in the eyes of all the people. For you have not obeyed me but have shown favoritism in the way you carry out my instructions.”
Questions & Observations
Q. (Nehemiah 12:27-43): The wall is so incredibly important to Jerusalem because it protects them (and notably the temple and treasures from enemies), makes it easier to break away from ruling kingdoms and not pay their “taxes” or whatever they are called and it would better control who comes into their city — keeping those out who may defile them. Is this right? Are there any other reasons that a wall is so important?
A. I don’t get the impression that Judah wanted a wall so they could revolt against the king: that was certainly not Nehemiah’s plan, but other than that you have it right. In the ancient world, a city wasn’t really considered a city without a wall: the “regulation” that came with the wall (what goes in, what goes out) was central to this idea of a city.
Q. (13:15-18): Keeping the Sabbath holy and a day of rest is obviously a very important law for God. If it’s so important, why is it deflated in the NT?
A. Oh, let’s not spoil that when we’re so close. Patience.
Q. (13:19): I have heard that the Sabbath back then was actually on Saturday. Is this right? If so, how has it ended up on Sunday?
A. You are correct, it is Saturday. Here’s what I responded when asked this very question in our section on the 10 Commandments way back Exodus 20 (Day 38, Feb 7th):
Observant Jews and Seventh Day Adventists will tell you that the Sabbath is Saturday. Sunday is seen as the first day of the week, following the Sabbath. So we should think of Sunday as “Day 1” in the Creation story. This is significant when it comes to the story of Jesus and His resurrection. Jesus was resurrected on a Sunday, and the implications of that are significant: the resurrection intentionally spoke of a new creation story: everything was new in light of what Christ had done. Two factors played a role in the loss of Saturday as the formal Sabbath of Christians: Christians began to gather on Sundays (called the first day of the week in the NT) to commemorate the resurrection, and because Christians came to see themselves as free from the requirements of the Law, they were not obligated to take the Sabbath on Saturdays. Thus, most Christians would, I think, tell you that the Sabbath was Sunday if you asked. As we discussed yesterday [Day 37], there is value in taking a day of rest for the purpose of connection with family and God, but we are NOT required to, and we are certainly NOT required to do so on Saturday.
Q. (13:19-21): Back then, religion, at times, had control of the government. There is irrefutable evidence that the U.S. forefathers’ heavily put their religion into laws and forming this country. That has pretty much been completely replaced by a politically-correct, religious-free attitude or equality for all religions. I wonder if it would ever change back. Do you know of any research to compare the well-being of society during times when Christianity has controlled a society?
A. First, the separation of Church and State (i.e. religion and government) is a modern, Enlightenment concept that would have baffled people from prior centuries, but it is standard practice now. I will leave it up to you to decide if we are better off with these two “camps” divided (I personally think the barrier is silly and artificial, but anyway…). As to your question, I rather doubt there would be any way to empirically test it, simply because there have been so many stripes of Christianity throughout the centuries. I would point out, however, that I do not think that it is in the best interest of our society to keep pushing for less and less religious influence. The natural state of man is slavery (i.e. control by someone or something else), but it is only in the Gospel that man can find true freedom. That is why the Judeo-Christian foundations of Western Society were so crucial to the establishment of the freedoms we enjo — we moved away from our natural state by God’s grace, and the flourishing of the entire Western world was the result. But what happens when we remove the foundation? The building collapses, and we return to our natural state: control of the many by the few in power (i.e. slavery). I don’t know about you, but that sure sounds like the direction we’re headed.
Q. (13:25): I am surprised that Nehemiah beat and pulled the hair of offenders. I wonder what kept them people from fighting back? Maybe he had other palace officials with him. Why would people want to submit to someone who is so oppressing?
A. Nehemiah was in charge: that’s why. If they turned on him, they would be out.
Q. (Malachi 1:2-5): This does not sound like a loving God. Why would He make an entire nation a forever enemy? I hope you can explain this because I am bummed about it and confused.
A. I agree it sounds harsh, but like all nations, Edom can take solace in the light of the Gospel: all nations are redeemed by God’s work in Christ, even the enemies of God’s chosen people (whether in ancient times or today). Praise God for His great mercy!
O. (1:8-9): I love this! I have been thinking about giving my best lately. My Kindergartner came home from school all excited about finding things for a charity drive to give to Haiti orphans. She was looking for toys that she didn’t want. I explained to her that that was fine. If they are in good shape and she doesn’t want them, then giving them away is a great idea. But, I also told her that God expects us to give our best. I asked her about some pop beads that she enjoys playing with from time to time. I told her that I could just imagine a group of girls sitting in a circle playing with them. I think she got the picture. She put them in her school bag to donate. Giving to the orphans is giving to God.