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.
Questions & Observations
Q. Ezra feels such remorse here. Can we apply this to today? Is it wrong by God to marry someone who is not a Christian? I know several who have married non-believers and they really struggle with the fact that they won’t go to church with them. I think that we will learn in the NT that they will be saved by their spouse’s faith? Then, (this is not quite the subject matter, but let’s talk about it anyway) there are others who believe, but have no interest in going to church for whatever reason. These are some of them: I was in church and it was nothing but power struggles; Sundays are our only day when we don’t have anything to do; I don’t know anyone who goes to church, among others. But, they believe in God. So, I think we will learn in the NT that they will be saved, but God also notes that deeds and faith will earn rewards in heaven. Is that accurate?
A. The NT (Paul’s writings in particular) describe the dangers of being what he calls “yoked” with a non-believer: it puts a serious strain on your own walk with God, as you note. Too often, you are forced to make decisions that either harm your relationship with your spouse, or your personal walk with God. Frankly, neither of these decisions honors God (who greatly desires us to honor our marriage, just not at the expense of our relationship with Him). Thus, it is not hard to see why Paul advises against marrying a non-Christian. There are certainly issues with children to consider. As to being in a married relationship with someone of another faith, I can’t see how that would work without major compromises to either their religious faith or yours, and I don’t see the value in such half-hearted religion.
As to whether we are “saved” by our spouses as you suggest, I’m not familiar with the passages in question. As far as I know, the only instance of Paul describing someone’s faith saving someone else is as it relates to children, not another adult. We must all make our decisions about what god we will serve, and no one but ourselves will answer to God for it.
Q. (Ezra 10:18-44): I guess by naming each of them, they are held accountable? And, what about the children? They are also considered to defile Israel?
A. Yes and yes. The children are the “fruit” of this series of compromises that clearly did not honor God.
Q. (Nehemiah 1:1): Had Nehemiah lived in Jerusalem?
A. I doubt it. It was such a long way — a journey of several months — that very few people would make the trip (a very dangerous path, as we read in Ezra) unless it was absolutely necessary. It is most likely that Nehemiah grew up in the court of Xerxes (Artaxerxes’ father) and was groomed for a position in Artaxerxes’ court.
Q. (2:1-2): We have seen the “cup-bearer” position many times, but I never asked what are the duties of the cup-bearer? Now that I see Nehemiah doing it, I think of it as a bartender. Someone who provides the king his drink, someone he could trust and confide in. Good analogy? (lol)
A. Since one of the easiest and secretive ways of killing a king would be to poison him, the cupbearer would have been a closely trusted ally of the king, who would personally look after all the king would consume on a daily basis. He was something of a personal aide as well. It is also very likely, as you infer, that he would have been a confidante of the royal family, and would have had a position of great influence.
Q. (2:10): What would an Ammonite and a Horonite be doing in Jerusalem? They are not a part of Israel are they?
A. Remember that there is no king of Israel at this point: Jerusalem is being ruled from Samaria, and that is the region of these other tribes. That is mostly likely why they are there. It is very likely that the men mentioned had a great financial interest in keeping Jerusalem “down.”
Q. (2:11-20): Nehemiah is so secretive because he was afraid he would counter some objection to rebuilding the wall. That doesn’t seem right. Why would anyone object? And, in v. 2:19, what king is being referred to that Nehemiah would be rebelling against. I’m confused if there is a king of Judah, Jerusalem or Israel right now. Wasn’t Ezra given those duties?
A. They are accusing Nehemiah of revolting against Artaxerxes, the only king that mattered in this region. They are basically accusing him — and will continue to do so — of taking the money provided by the king and using it to lead an insurrection against him. Nehemiah is doing nothing of the sort, but as I said in my last question, it is very likely that Jerusalem becoming important again was going to hurt these men’s sphere of influence and their pocketbook. They will prove powerful enemies for our story.
O. (2:18): I can imagine the shame and depression that would go along with having a city in ruins with burnt gates and a trampled wall. Go into a neighborhood with graffiti and there is no pride felt there. Or even your nice home. Whenever it’s messy or the yard is unkempt, it feels shameful. But here, they get hope that their shame will be lifted.