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.