Day 313 (Nov. 9): Disciples chose seven men to assist them, Stephen is arrested, Stephen addresses the council

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.

Acts 6-8:1a

Questions & Observations

Q. (Acts 6:7): It’s nice to see some Jewish priests softening up and being converted.

A. There is certainly a degree of importance in this often missed verse.  Though many of the Jewish leaders condemned themselves by siding against Jesus, they were able to find repentance and be saved by the very plan that they had themselves enacted.  Surely that is God’s grace at work!

O. (Acts 6:15): So, take that!

Q. (Acts 7:2-50): OT, in a nutshell, right?.  Thanks, Stephen!

A. Sort of.  He definitely hits the um…highlights.  But his main point is that the Jews have a long history of rejecting the work of the Holy Spirit because of their hard hearts, as they are doing here in persecuting the Church.  Stephen is accusing them of being just like their ancestors, and I would say their response indicates that they did not like that accusation.

Q. (Acts 8:59-60): I guess Jesus’s believers knew what they were getting into after seeing Jesus crucified.  Stephen showed what kind of mercy he had on people by asking God to forgive his murderers.  I take it that Stephen is asking Jesus to welcome him to His Kingdom when he asks Jesus to receive his spirit?  Pretty amazing stuff.

A. Yes, I would say that is right.

Day 242 (Aug. 30): God to shame shepherds (leaders) for helping themselves and not their flock (Israelites), God to gather scattered sheep, Canaan will be restored, Edom to suffer for treating Israel mercilessly, the land of Israel has been beaten and mocked but God will restore it and punish those who spoke and acted against it, God is especially angry at Edom, God promises a more beautiful Israel than before and one that will not be mocked, God to cleanse the Israelites and their land

It’s hard to believe that today, we are two-thirds through the Bible.  We will start reading the New Testament on Sept. 24.  Yipee!

If you are joining BibleBum for the first time, welcome! This blog is 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.  As you journey through the Bible, think about all the blessings that surround you.  As you read further and further, they will multiply.

Ezekiel 34-36

Questions & Observations

O. (Ezekiel 34:1-10): We have talked about God’s use of shepherds and flocks, which is richly used in this passage!

Q. (34:23): Does “David” here refer to David’s line down to Jesus?

A. It refers to a ruler from his line that will serve God as David did.  We will be hard pressed to find such a person until Jesus.

Q. (34:25-31): Here God says that the Israelites will return to their land, not threatened by neighboring kings nor wild animals and they will be known for their plentiful harvests.  However, historically, the Israelites have had it good and they eventually ruin it.  We know that this will happen again since Jesus, the Messiah has to come and save them.

A. There’s a lot that will take place between “then” and when Jesus comes on the scene, but Jerusalem will be Israel’s home and capital for around 500 years before the events of the Passion.  Jerusalem will be destroyed in 70 AD by the Roman army, so I would say God let things run for a pretty good amount of time, wouldn’t you?

Q. (36:25-27): Has this passage been used to create sprinklings in churches?  Or, is that in the NT?

A. Ritual sprinkling of water was part of the ritual of the priesthood, which is what God is referring to here.  The NT tradition of baptism is something else, but the notions of purification that underlie it are fairly similar.  Though I don’t know all the details, it would not surprise me if this verse is cited in the theology of Christian “sprinkling” (rather than immersion) baptisms.

Q. (36:37): God says he is ready to restore Jerusalem.  Has it been 70 years yet?

A. Not yet.  Patience, there is still much to do before they will be ready.

Day 92 (April 2): Gideon defeats Midianites, Gideon kills Midian’s kings, leaders of Succoth and Peniel make wrong decision, Gideon makes trophy ephod, Abimelech kills all of his brothers except for Jotham who escaped

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.

Judges 7-9:21

Questions & Observations

Q. (Judges 7:3): What does this say about the resolve of the Israelites?  There were 32,000, but only 10,000 were willing to fight?  I see why the Israelites’ faith is a roller coaster with that many who have not committed to God.

A. Maybe it is talking about their eagerness to fight?  But you have provided an apt description of their faith: a roller coaster suits it nicely.

Q. (Judges 7:4-6): I certainly understand why God wanted to thin out the Israelite army: to let them know that without God, they couldn’t possibly defeat anyone, especially with only 300 men.  Do you have any comments as to why — or the significance of — God testing the Israelites by how they drank water?

A. I actually remember hearing a sermon on this: supposedly the men who drank by taking the water in their hands rather than stopping down to drink were the most seasoned veterans: they never took their eyes off of the battlefield.  That is most likely your answer.

Q. (7:8): We have seen a lot of ram’s horns used.  Why were they so important?  I guess they were a way to make noise and gather folks together from afar.

A. The instrument referred to here is called a Shofar (read about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shofar), made from the horn of a domestic animal that had a horn you could hollow out, usually a ram as mentioned.  The instrument is first referred to in Exodus 19 when the presence of God causes great distress among the people.  The horn was used for religious purposes, and still is today, to call the people to important festivals.  The sound is quite loud and distinctive (listen to it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6iNXRVN-WE) and would also have been very useful in battle to summon soldiers or intimidate the enemy, as it is used here.

Q. (7:10): I don’t know why God gave Gideon an act of assurance here.  God is God and Gideon believed in Him.  Why did he need some proof?

A. Apparently his self-doubt was strong: in the story God tells him to go “if he is still afraid.”  Apparently he is.

Q. (7:18): So they included Gideon in their shout so the enemies would know that God is with Gideon giving him power?

A. I think they did that because Gideon was the commander of their force.

Q. (8:1-3): So is Gideon telling the people of Ephraim to not be upset that he didn’t call them to help, they should be rejoicing that God gave them a victory over Oreb and Zeeb?  In other words, they need to feel joy for the win for all of Israel and not concern themselves what part they had in the victory?

A. I think that’s partly right.  He’s also saying that he didn’t have much of a victory, and that he called the other tribes for the “good part” of the fighting — they got to spoil the conquered people.

Q. (8:4-21): Of course, the leaders of Succoth and Peniel should have fed Gideon’s army.  I assume they knew that Gideon was fighting for the Lord.  Is there something we should take from this, like always help a stranger or always help those who are doing good work?

A. I think the folks in Succoth and Peniel (where Jacob wrestled with God back in Genesis) were caught between two powerful warring tribes, and hedged their bets.  They were concerned that if they supplied Gideon’s troops, they risked alienating the Midianites — or they may have been related — and if the Midianites won, there could have been repercussions against them.  It looks to me like these towns were in a no win situation, and they probably should have just picked a side.  In choosing neither, they lost either way.

O. (8:10): It’s truly amazing that 300 Israelites with the power of God could kill 120,000 warriors and capture the remaining 15,000.

Q. (8:23): Gideon sure shows an immense amount of faith and loyalty in the Lord.  But, why did he make an ephod?  In Moses’ days, the ephod was a design that God ordered, not a man.  Was this an egotistical move of Gideon — similar to Joseph bragging about his dreams, which, in turn gave him the punishment of being sold as a slave and spending years in Pharaoh’s jail?  Is this why a trap came to Gideon’s family as a result of the ephod?  I don’t know what that means: a trap for Gideon and his family, especially because it goes on to say that the Israelites lived in peace for 40 years.

A. Gideon’s indulgence in taking the gold of his conquest and making the ephod (we’re not clear on exactly WHAT he created — it may have been something very different from what God had made for the high priest) would be the downfall of his family due to his son’s desire for power.  I think that Gideon had it made to celebrate his own accomplishments, and also something to share with his town and family, but this was a poor decision.  The 40 years of peace refers to outside invasions, not necessarily what was going on inside the nation.  There was clearly prominent unrest among Gideon’s many descendants.

Q. (8:30, 31): What happened to the rules of a man should marry one woman?  Here, the Bible says Gideon has many wives.  Also, does God view a child that comes from a concubine as less than a wife?  We saw this with Abraham too — that Isaac was favored over Ishmael.

A. While one man and one woman, Jesus tells us, is God’s IDEAL for marriage (Matthew 19:4), there were no particular laws regarding multiple wives (never multiple husbands) or concubines.  Since concubines were, in a sense, promoted slaves, their children probably did not have the full status of the more “legitimate” wives.  And it is important to note that just because God allows men to keep multiple wives (we wouldn’t have the 12 tribes of this nation without Jacob’s four wives- probably 2 wives and two concubines), it NEVER endorses this practice.  God’s ideal remains one man and one woman.

The example you gave with Abraham is different because God had already promised Abraham a son VIA his wife Sarah.  Hagar and Ishmael enter the picture because Sarah couldn’t wait and frankly didn’t believe God.  I certainly think that Abraham thought Ishmael was just as much his son as Isaac, but God chose to carry on the line of Israel through Isaac, as He promised.

Q. (9:5): God seems to have a fondness of the youngest siblings.  Here it is Jotham.  Also, Joseph, Benjamin, and Jacob was actually the younger twin, I think.

A. Jacob/Israel was the younger twin to Esau, and Joseph and Benjamin were indeed Jacob’s favorite sons — and it appears God favored them as well.  I would say that God tends to favor the least and the last.  We will see this again with David in 1 Samuel.  But also He tends to choose people who have a heart for Him alone, and can’t get by on their favored position — as firstborn son or similar — alone.

Q. (9:21): I would like to talk about when to trust God.  Like Jotham knew his brother would kill him if he caught him.  But, how much are we supposed to rely on God that He will take care of all things?  Are we true Christians if we go to the doc and get treatment, or should we just rely on God to heal us?  A lady I talked to last week was talking about what and when to teach certain things in the Bible to kids.  She gave an example of Shadrick, Meshak and Abednego.  They were thrown into a furnace, but they prayed and God protected them.  She said she didn’t think that was appropriate for preschoolers because they could think that if they prayed to God to protect them that they could walk through a fire unharmed.  She said if they walk into a fire, they are going to get burned.

A. Wow, way to save it for the end there.  Shadrick, Meshack, and Abednego story is recorded in Daniel 3.

Regarding the teaching of that story to children, I guess I could see why you would want to avoid it, but it is one of the strongest Biblical examples of pure faith in the entire story.  I would say that if you told the story correctly (and she did not for multiple reasons besides the names — read the story yourself and you’ll see what I mean), you would have no need to fear of your child walking through a campfire.

Regarding the VERY DIFFERENT issue of when to trust God, that is something that ultimately must be worked out between you and Him.  There are various semi-church groups out there who argue that, as you mentioned, we should trust in God for faith healing and not seek modern medicine.  However, many Christians have argued that God has given us minds to think and to solve problems, including problems that have plagued mankind for millennia: disease, recovery from injury, and other traumas.  I have no problem with arguing that these provisions — antibiotics, immunizations, other drugs —are gifts from God to make our lives easier and less brutal.  Frankly, modern society couldn’t exist without them.  But these things are not the be-all-end-all: we will still face death, and to this point, there is no coming back from it (Easter events not withstanding).  If we are without a relationship with God, then the drugs and attempts to prolong our life will literally be all we have left at the end.  But if we do trust in God, ESPECIALLY in dying, then we will see that death is only a step — one that is necessary for God to complete His final work in us, just as He did with Jesus’ death.

We are celebrating the Easter season, and it is the very resurrection that we celebrate that personally gives me the courage to trust God no matter what.  That doesn’t mean I don’t take advantage of modern medicine and efforts to be healthy, but I would most likely draw the line at prolonging my life simply for the sake of having it continue.  I believe that there is more than this life alone.  Ultimately, if I do not trust God with my eternity, then the decisions I make about vaccines or antibiotics will make little difference in the end.  The Easter story is about God demonstrating His ability to conquer even death, and to show us that He is worthy of our trust, even in light of eternity.

Thanks for reading along.  See you tomorrow!

Day 88 (March 29): Joshua’s land, cities of refuge, Levites territory

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.  Take the challenge.  You won’t regret it.

Joshua 19:49-21:45

1 Chronicles 6:54-81

Questions & Observations

O. (Joshua 19:50): I am just paying attention to notable tidbits about the tribes and who comes from which one.  I did look up which tribe Joshua came from — it had slipped my mind.  It is the tribe of (drumroll, please) Ephraim, one of Joseph’s sons.  I just thought that it was predictable, yet interesting and noteworthy, that he chose his own tribe to live among.

Q. (20:1-9): There sure is a significant amount of scripture given to the cities of refuge.  Why were they so important?  It sounds like a simple, logical idea, yet so much text is devoted to their conception.  Are there any particular cities of refuge that we should make note of?

A. According to my notes, the cities were important because they prevented blood feuds between families, which would be the result of potentially endless life for life retribution.  I can’t give you a really good explanation as to why they get so many verses, but it appears that the cities provided an important cog in the Israelite system of justice.

As to the cities themselves, in this area, the city of Kedesh, was not an important place at this point (it was consecrated in this reading), but the other two sites are important to note: the city of Shechem was the site where Israel renewed its covenant with God in Joshua 8.  Joseph’s bones will be buried there in our next reading.  Hebron — in addition to being the land given to Caleb — was among the most important places in all of Canaan, as it was the place where Sarah died way back in Genesis 23, and would subsequently be the resting place of many of the patriarchs and their wives: Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, and Jacob and Leah (Genesis 49:29-50:14).

On both sides of the Jordan (remember there are 6 cities total), there is a city in the north, south, and middle of the Israelite territory, in order to ensure that no one has to go too far in order to be protected.

Q. (21:2): There seems to be a lot going on at Shiloh.  Is it the city where the leaders settle?

A. Yes.  As mentioned, the Tabernacle is setup in Shiloh, and it will serve as an unofficial capital until David moves the capital to Jerusalem in 2 Samuel.

Q. (21:6): I don’t ever think we talked about why Manasseh split.  Did they act as one tribe after the split or two?

A. Joseph’s son Manasseh got the single largest share of the Promised Land, and if we consider the Transjordan area as part of their territory as well, then their allotment is truly huge.  Because of the major geographical barrier between East and West (the Jordan river), as far as I can tell, the tribes acted more like two than one.  The Bible does not tell us why the tribe split in half, but it appears that some of the families of Manasseh wanted to stay in the Transjordan area, while others wanted to enter the true Promised Land.

Q. (21:43-45): In today’s society, we have expectations of immediate gratification.  We want something, we charge it and hopefully pay later.  In these times, God makes a promise to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and on to Joseph and Moses among all the other faithful Israelites.  However, they did not get to see the Promised Land.  It seems almost unjust that these men of God did not get to enjoy the fruits of their toil.  Were expectations different back then? Something promised to your descendants would mean so much to you that you would go to great lengths to make it happen, and never enjoy it yourself?  Or, does the Bible say anything about they are there enjoying it in spirit?

A. As the story in Genesis told us, the land was not directly promised to Abraham, but rather to Abraham’s descendants, and renewed with Isaac and Jacob.  So, I think that God was perfectly up front with these men about what He was promising.  It did appear to be enough for each of these men that their families — more than 400 years later — would receive the blessing that had been promised to them.

This part of the OT does not talk much about the afterlife — though it never says there isn’t one — but rather a person’s success or failure comes with having descendants who will carry on your heritage, and hopefully succeed more than you did (something we frankly all want for our kids.  We just don’t always define “success” they way they do).  So not only is God promising Abraham and his sons that they will still HAVE descendants in more than 400 years (by no means guaranteed), but that his family will be huge, prosperous, and able to take an entire area of land with God’s help.  That sounds like an amazing promise, and I think it surely would have been enough for them to hear the ways that God would be faithful.

Day 86 (March 27): Allotments for Judah, Ephraim, and West Manasseh

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.  Take the challenge.  You won’t regret it.

Joshua 15:20-18:18

Questions & Observations

Q. (Joshua 15:63): This is the second time I have seen a passage that says the Israelites could not drive out some of the people.  What is the purpose of God allowing this?

A. These other nations appear to be a test of the people’s resolve, and their ability to follow God’s orders.  Much like the 10 spies who came back proclaiming, “giants” to scare all the people, we will see the Israelites fear the iron weapons that some of the tribes possess, and they will make decisions that go against what God has told them to do.  God has made His will clear: all the tribes in the land are to be removed by force.  But Israel has, with the Gibeonites, and will continue to violate this requirement by making more treaties, or not trusting in God and losing the subsequent battle (we will see this in Judges).  So basically, what is happening is not what God desires, which could be the definition of sin in that sense.  Even today, God often allows us to make bad decisions, and then live with the consequences in the hope that we will learn from our failures.  That appears to be why God is allowing these other nations to continue.  Much like our bad decisions, the decisions that Israel is making in this period will be costly.

Overall, even with the land “conquered,” there will still be many battles to fight, because many of the tribes that Israel will face are powerful and will not surrender easily.  David will achieve great victories over some of these nations, including victory at Jerusalem where he will establish his capital, but that’s a long way off.

Day 82 (March 23): Israelites cross the Jordan, Ark parted the waters, memorial to crossing Jordan, circumcision requirement reestablished, Joshua bows to commander of Lord’s army, march around Jericho, Jericho’s walls crumble, Rahab and family saved

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.  Take the challenge.  You won’t regret it.

Joshua 3-6

Questions & Observations

Q. (3:13): I like how God uses a parting of the waters again to enter into a new land.  The Israelites who witnessed this miracle at the Exodus are no longer living.  So, it is wonderful that the new generation can see the power of God parting water.  Is there anything symbolic of parting water?

A. Water was an ancient symbol of life giving deities.  By turning the Nile to blood, parting the Red Sea, and the Jordan River, God is demonstrating His power of these other false gods.

Q. (3:17): I thought the Israelites were told to stay a half mile back because of the holiness of the Ark, but here, they are passing by it.  Can you explain?

A. They were told to stay back until the Ark got to the middle of the Jordan and the water receded.  Then they could cross by it.

Q. (4:12): I notice that the warriors from the tribes that asked for the land east of the Jordan instead of west of the Jordan are asked to go first.  Is this sort of a payment of these tribes for asking for the land on the east side of the Jordan River, sort of rejecting the land that God had promised them?

A. As we mentioned yesterday, that was the bargain that Moses struck with the tribes: your leadership in battle in exchange for this good land.  As far as I know, the land on the east side of the Jordan is Canaan as well, so it was part of what God intended for Israel.

Q. (5:2): We have discussed the Lord’s requirement of circumcision of the Israelite males in Day 5’s reading (Jan. 5).  You can find it by clicking on “Index.”  Rob, anything to add here?

A. Yes, this passage indicates that exception had been made for this generation of Israel: those born in the wilderness (i.e. the generation who would take the Promised Land, as opposed to those who died out) were not circumcised, for reasons that are not explained.  The rite is simply suspended for 40 years.  This passage indicates that when Israel crossed the Jordan, the religious observances were reestablished- note that after the covenant is reaffirmed by circumcision, they celebrate Passover.  It also tells us that the manna disappears, indicating a closure to that chapter of God’s provision for His people.  My notes also tell me that it was in Canaan that Abraham and his family members were first circumcised, so doing this ceremony in the Promised Land is a way of renewing the covenant relationship that he established.

O. (5:9): I had never thought about any shame the Israelites would have carried from being former slaves.  I guess that would have been a burden to carry and now God somehow took that feeling away.

O. (6:1-5): Remember the discussion about the importance of certain numbers in the Bible?  Seven signifies completeness and fulfillment, and traces its roots back the seven days of creation.  To see other important numbers Rob told us about, see the first answer on Day 3.

Q. (6:25): Will Rahab or her descendants come up again?

A.  I don’t think so, but Rahab’s faith does get her two mentions in the NT: in Hebrews 11 (the hall of fame passage) and James 2.  Not a bad consolation, right?

Thanks for checking out BibleBum.com!  Hope to see you tomorrow!

Day 79 (March 20): Moses reviews Covenant, God shows mercy for those who stray but return, life choices, Joshua is Israel’s new leader, Book of Instruction, Israel’s disobedience predicted

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.  Take the challenge.  You won’t regret it.

Deuteronomy 29:2-31:29

Questions & Observations

Q. (Deuteronomy 29:29): This is an interesting verse.  Has God said this before that there are secrets that He has not revealed?

A. I don’t think it has come up to this point, but honestly, there will always be things about the infinite God that are incomprehensible to the finite “us.”  I don’t really like the way that this verse in translated in this version.  The NIV makes Moses’ point more carefully.  The focus is not on God and His secrets, i.e. things He has not revealed, but rather on the Law as a blessing to the people and future generations of their children.

O. (30:1-10): Yeah!  God has mercy on the Israelites.  I thought that once they sinned, they are doomed.  God is merciful.

O. (30:9-10): This passage made me smile.  It’s nice to know we can delight God.  So many times, it feels like we can either make Him happy or make Him mad.  But, the thought that we can bring joy to His heart brings joy to my heart, much like when I look at my girls and think how lucky I am that God gave them to me.

Q. (30:17): I know these commandments are for the Israelites — I never really differentiated that rules were for them and not necessarily for us today until Rob explained that — nevertheless, we can still learn from them, right?  Here Moses is telling the Israelites that if they worship other gods, they will be destroyed.  There are other false gods to worship, but I think that once you become a Christian, you are not likely to be lured by other cults, religions, etc., but we have idolatry of today: TV, work, temptations, food, alcohol, sports, anything that we give so much importance to that we forget about God.  Would you say that applying this passage to today in this way is accurate?

A. I think it is.  You have begun to see the way that we should think about idolatry today: as anything that competes with God for our attention and time.  It is anything that we trust in besides God.  Having said that, I think that we as a society are moving toward a more open view of mixed religious theology.  We usually call it pluralism, and say things like, “all roads lead to God.”  Unfortunately, this goes exactly against what Moses is teaching the people here.  We must be very careful about allowing other religious ideas to infiltrate our faith.  Intermixing their faith in God with other faiths will get the Israelites in a lot of trouble.

O. (31:1-8): Just reading this gets my heart pounding.  I imagine the Israelites thinking about how big and numerous these inhabitants were and here God said He is going to conquer them.  And now, since they did not actually see the miracles in Egypt, there may be many who doubt these commands.  But, Moses keeps reminding them of the deliverance and miracles and I’m sure their parents did — the loyal, wise ones anyway.

Q. (31:12): What is in the Book of Instruction?  The curses and the blessings?  Was this book placed in the Ark of the Covenant also?  Do any of these exist in museums today?  That’s another question.  Can you give us a nutshell version of where all of the scrolls that form the Bible were found?

A. The Book of Instruction is the Law.  It is basically some form of the previous four books we have been reading: Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.  I suspect the versions of the books that we have been reading were edited together to combine the instructions of the Law with the journey in the wilderness that we have been reading about.  There will be various references to copies of the Law throughout the OT, but it appears a copy of the Law did end up in the Ark.  It is very unlikely, however, that it was a copy that would have been used.  It is likely that other copies made by the priests were used for everyday study.

Regarding your other question, you’ve touched upon a complex subject: the transmission of the OT.  There’s a few things to note.  First, the oldest known copy of the complete OT in Hebrew is called the Masoretic Text (usually MT), which is a medieval copy of the OT from the Middle Ages.  We have portions of the OT that are found throughout the Middle East, but there’s a catch.  In the late BC era, the OT was translated into ancient Greek, to create a document known as the Septuagint (from the Greek word for seventy from the number of translators who worked on it).  Most of the ancient copies of the OT are Septuagints: Greek, not Hebrew copies.  Modern Jews reject the use of the Septuagint (probably because it’s the version that many early Christians, including Paul, used), and feel that only the Hebrew is valid for translation.  So while we have many fragments of the OT in Hebrew, and several copies in Greek, the oldest complete text comes from the Middle Ages.

I hear the questions rising now: isn’t that a long time?  Yes it is, but one of the coolest discoveries of modern Biblical archeology was the discovery of what is known as the Dead Sea Scrolls in the 1940s and 50s- found near the Dead Sea in the West Bank.  This was a collection of nearly a thousand clay pots that contained scrolls of various sizes.  These scrolls contained various portions of nearly every book of the OT (the exception was Esther, for reasons that don’t concern us here).  The ultimate find, however, was a full-length copy of the Book of Isaiah on a 12-foot scroll.  The coolest part of the discovery: the text of Isaiah matched more than 99% of the Masoretic text, despite being more than a thousand years older!  This, I think, tells us the great care with which Jews have copied their sacred text (and the way early Christians transmitted theirs), and gives me great confidence that the copies of the Bible that we have today are accurate representations of what the original author and editors desired to write about God.

O. (31:16-18) I doubt this is news that sits well with Moses, especially on the day of his death!

Q. (31:29): So much for peace in the valley of milk and honey.  Why does the disobedience have to continue?  From reading the Bible thus far, it seems that God does have a hand in what disasters strike.  Is this just more of God testing to see who deserves His blessings?

A. The people continue to rebel against God.  And just because God can “see it coming” as it were, does not make the people any less responsible for their actions, which is part of what God is telling Moses here.  The purpose of the curses, the droughts, the conquest by other tribes, these are all tools used by God to call His people back to Him.  None of us deserve the blessings God provides for us.  Like the Israelites, our call is to be faithful to God, and He will handle the rest.

Tune in tomorrow for the Song God gave Moses to share with the Israelites.

Day 73 (March 14): Moses calls Israelites to fully commit to God, loyalty comes with rewards, remember God’s blessings, God to drive out the wicked from Canaan, Moses lays out sin of golden calf again

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.  Take the challenge.  You won’t regret it.

Deuteronomy 6-9

Questions & Observations

Q. (Deuteronomy 6:2): What is God referring to here when he says “you will enjoy a long life?”  Is he referring to eternal life or just that they will live a long, healthy life on earth?

A. There is not much discussion of eternal life in the first five books of the Bible.  It is a concept that is introduced later, notably in the New Testament.  Moses is speaking only of a prosperous, healthy temporal life on earth.

O. (6:4): What a simple, great verse, but so hard to wholeheartedly get my mind and heart around.  I find it extremely hard to forget about “myself” and replace it with God — God’s will.  I often wonder when I will get to this point in my life and how I can let myself go and welcome God in.  I have definitely taken baby steps in this endeavor and it feels great when I do, but then I need to take even bigger steps to get that same feeling.  I am looking forward to a complete turnover.  That’s the major reason I am reading the Bible in a Year.  Not to do it fast like a race, but to commit myself to studying all of it so I can know God better and what he wants me to do with my life that will help others and help Him.  And, I hope to find the time when I can fully give up my own wishes for God’s.  It’s just so hard to fathom!

Anyone else want to chime in?

O. (6:6-9): This sounds like what our schools want us to do.  We put posters up and try hard to teach our kids everything the standardized tests want them to learn, but how many people post God’s rules all over their house and recite them regularly to their children? Where do our world’s priorities lay?

Q.  (7:7): It is pretty amazing that God chose Abraham, who had no children, to be the father of all nations.  Then, he finally gave him one child Isaac.  These were both good men who followed God, thus God’s love for them and promises to them.  But, there is nothing special about this nation, other than the fathers of it were loyal to God.  So, it is interesting that God chose the Israelites.  Rob, can we talk about this a little?  Like, why God chose anyone?  What is the purpose of God having his own people?  I assume it’s for God to have a model nation to show his power through them, that he is the one, true God.  Are there any other reasons for choosing them?

A. I think that the relationship between God and Abraham is special, as Genesis indicates, and the Bible writers go out of their way to point out that when God makes a promise, He is faithful to it — unlike us.  So, part of the reason that God is so faithful to this particular nation, that there is nothing else especially interesting about, is that He is keeping His word to Abraham.

 

In the Old Testament, God is painting an image of a nation that will be a shining light to the rest of the world: a symbol of what right relationship between God and man looks like.  At this stage, it looks like this: God sets the terms of the relationship in exchange for the great provisions that He will pour out on His people, as long as they are faithful to the covenant.  We will see Israel’s unfaithfulness explored a lot more in the coming texts, but we will also see the way that the Prophets of God (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, among others) will powerfully describe the way that God has remained faithful not only to His promises, but also His vision for the nation of Israel — as unfaithful as she is — to be a light to the Gentile world.

O. (7:9-11): “Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commands. 10 But he does not hesitate to punish and destroy those who reject him. 11 Therefore, you must obey all these commands, decrees, and regulations I am giving you today.”

These verses are a wonderful summary of the awards and consequences of following God’s rules.  Loving God is for the Israelite’s benefit.  These are verses that you can take either with a “half-empty” or “half-full” approach.  Half empty, you can either read it that if the Israelites don’t obey God, they will be punished.  Or, half full, read it if they love God, they will give them his unfailing love.

Q. (7:12-14): These verses suggest that if the Israelites obey God they will be fruitful — I would think that would translate into “rich” — but the Bible also says that it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to get to the Kingdom of Heaven.  Is this contradicting?

A. I don’t see a contradiction, and I think that part of the passage we just read helps us understand the distinction.  The camel/needle idea comes from Matthew 19:24, in which Jesus is warning against the way that wealth tends to blind us to our own need for God.  A rich person is not necessarily dependent upon God in order to prosper or succeed.  But that is the danger: it is not the money in and of itself, but what the money does to our spiritual priorities.  In this passage (6:12), we see Moses give a careful warning: you are about to enter a realm, he says, where you and your families will prosper.  Be careful, therefore, that when you have all this stuff, that you DON’T FORGET GOD!  That, I think, is the real danger of wealth and riches in that it insulates us to our own need for God.  Such insulation can truly make it easier for the camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to properly understand their own need for God who has greatly blessed them.  I hope that makes it clear.

Q. (7:15): To me this also has a contradiction in it to the NT.  Here God says he will protect his followers from sickness, but doesn’t the NT say that sickness can come to Christians?  We have seen it come to Job in the OT.  That was a different circumstance.  And, it doesn’t seem that this necessarily applies to today, right.  This “sickness-free” decree was meant for the Israelites?

A. I’m not even sure if I would say that Moses is doing anything but making a rhetorical argument about how good the Israelites will have it in the Promised Land if they are faithful to God.  I would say that much of what he is promising here is hyperbole: you will NEVER get sick, your animals will ALWAYS have offspring, etc.  I would not take such promises completely literally: Moses is saying that you will have it good in this country.  And honestly, part of the problem with the entire scenario is that we never get to find out how much of it was what God truly promised: the people will be unfaithful to the covenant, so they lose out on the promises anyway.

In general, it is a good idea to consider that any promise, rhetorical or not, made in scripture is only applicable for the people that it is written to, unless the promise specifically says it can be applied to different circumstances.  It’s a good rule of thumb for such sections of scripture.  We will see more examples of this, and I will try to highlight instances where either scenario is appropriate.

O. (7:16-20): The Israelites are reminded again and again about God bringing them out of Egypt.  After they failed God, I can understand the constant reminders.  I, too, need constant reminders of everything God has done for me and that nothing is impossible and everything is possible.

O. (8:5): I never thought of this analogy before, that we are to God what our children are to us.  That puts some perspective on our relationship to God: that we are devoid of power and not comparable to Him.

Q. (9:1-6): I am struggling with the question of why God tries so hard to make the Israelites realize that He is all powerful?  Why does He care so much?  Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are long gone.  If He were human, he would have likely given up on them, after all of their failings, a long time ago.

A. I would actually answer this the same way I answered our question from 7:7: God has made a covenant with Abraham, and He is faithful to keep it, even in light of the failings of each generation.  One other thing to remember: the nation of Israel will give birth to the Messiah, Jesus.  Jesus is the one who will set not just Israel, but the entire world to rights with God.  So certainly part of God’s plan is to use this nation, in spite of its failings, to bring about a restored relationship for all humanity — past, present, and future.  Why God chose these people is beyond our full comprehension, but as Christians, we can see the way that God is laying the foundations so that one day, God Himself will walk the earth as one of us to save us from our sins and teach us the right way to be in relationship with Himself and one another.

One other reaction I had to the way you phrased your question: be careful about assuming that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are “long gone” as you put it.  When Jesus was confronted about the afterlife, He clearly pointed to the idea that these men were still alive with God.  He quotes God’s conversation with Moses in Exodus 3 when God says, “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob”.  God, Jesus tells us, is not a God of the dead, but a God of the living!  (Matthew 22:32)  What an amazing verse!  So, perhaps we would be careful about assuming that God is any less faithful in the afterlife to these men, and those who faithfully follow Him, as He was when they were living.

See you tomorrow!

Day 69 (March 10): Gad and Reuben choose land east of Jordan River, Moses warns of countering God, Moses recounts Israel’s journey through desert, God instructs Israelites to drive out everyone living in Canaan, Land allotment begins

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.  Take the challenge.  You won’t regret it.

Numbers 32-33

Questions & Observations

Q. (Numbers 32:4): It does appear that God had intended for this land to belong to the Israelites.  Why else would he have conquered it, unless it was on their way to Canaan and there was no way around it?  But, you would think that the Gad and Reuben clans would want to see what God had set aside for them.

A. They appear to feel that the land they had was as good as anything in the Promised Land, in the spirit of “one in the hand is worth two in the bush.”

O. (32:6-30): I like how Moses reminds the tribes of Gad and Reuben — and essentially probably all of Israel — the history of this sort of thing happening and it going bad.  This memory is fresh enough that the Israelites still remember it.  Apparently, the lesson has been learned this time.  We’ll see for how long.

Q. (32:34-42): Life back then seemed so uncertain.  From these verses, I can picture non-Israelites being forced out of their villages.  It seems that the only certain thing was God.  If I were these other villages, I would think hard about finding out about the Israelites God and/or ask to join them.  Is there any information about if non-Israelites could join the Israelites?  The Midianite girls were spared (Numbers 31:18).  Do we know if they became Israelites?

A. There are regulations spread throughout these first five books, including Exodus 12, which says that foreigners who want to join in Passover celebrations must have all males circumcised, and various similar instructions — some of which will come from our next book, Deuteronomy, so watch for those.  Numbers does not tell us the fate of the girls, but we can assume that they grew up in Israelite households and perhaps some of them married into the tribes.  It appears that if the right steps (i.e. circumcision) took place, the Israelites had a fairly “open door” policy on joining up with God’s people.

O. (33:3-48): I guess this is a wrap-up of their journey.  Let’s view a good map of the Israelites’ 40-year journey in the desert.  Try: www.keyway.ca/htm2001/20010411.htm

Q. (Numbers 33:4): What is God talking about here when he says, “ the gods of Egypt.”

A. As we looked at back in Exodus, the victory in the Passover would have been seen as God conquering the gods of Egypt.  Obviously if the gods of Egypt had won, then the firstborn of Egypt would not have died.

Q. (33:55): God is forewarning the Israelites to clear out all of those people who are occupying the land He is given to the Israelites.  I wonder if we are getting a little picture of some conflict to come, or if the Israelites will obey?

A. This will indeed be something to watch for, and the answer is no.

Thanks for reading.  Hope to see you tomorrow!

Day 62 (March 3): Israelites show doubt, God stands beside Caleb and Joshua, Moses pleads for Israelites, God takes away Promised Land from complainers, rules for offerings, penalty for breaking the Sabbath, tassels have meaning

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions, discover the purpose for our lives and give Him the glory.  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.  Take the challenge.  You won’t regret it.  Let us know if you have any comments to share.

Numbers 14-15

Questions & Observations

O. (Numbers 14:6): Rob has answered the subject of tearing of clothes (discussed on Jan 19th, Day 19 in our reading of Job 1-4).  It has been done numerous times thus far in the Bible in acts of mourning or distress.

O. (Numbers 14:17-19): I am amazed at the close relationship between God and Moses.  Moses reminds Him of His love for His people and His forgiveness for their sins.  This reminds me of disciplining children.  God takes the Promised Land away from most of them because of their grumbling.  I would think they would know by now how serious He is.

Q. (Numbers 14:30): So Caleb and Joshua are the only Israelites who will enter the Promised Land?

A. What it says is that, of the generation who was 20 years or older in the census from our earlier reading, only these two men (remember that this includes both Moses and Aaron!) will enter the Promised Land.  The rest of the company will die.  If we remember our significance of the number 40 in scripture, one of the things that 40 stands for is a mark of a generation.  So basically, by having the people spend exactly 40 years in the wilderness, what the Lord is essentially doing is cutting off the unfaithful generation and giving the Promised Land to their children.  Joshua, who will lead after Moses, will not only enter the land, but will be handsomely rewarded when the land is divided up.  The same is true for Caleb.  Truly this is a prime example of the importance of having faith in God’s ability to keep His promises.

O. (Numbers 14:39-43): This reminds me of my 4-year-old.  I ask her to do something and tell her what the punishment is for disobeying, she disobeys anyway and then says sorry after she gets in trouble.  She backpedals and tries to make it right so she can get the prize.  The Israelites realized they disappointed God and charged on to try to make it right.

Q. (Numbers 15:30-36): These two sections — the rules about “brazen” violations of the law, and the punishment for a man who actually does so — seem related.  Are they?

A. Yes.  I would say this is a good example of the text setting up a particular scenario. Basically, people are being reminded what a particular rule is — in this case knowingly violating the Lord’s commands — and then having that scenario acted out.

O. (Numbers 15:37-41): I never knew tassels had a special meaning!