Day 249 (Sept. 6): The ‘man’ shows Ezekiel the life in the river that flows from the Temple to the Dead Sea, land boundaries for tribes, tribes’ division of land, special allotment for Temple, public use are for gardens, homes and pastures, new city’s name is “The Lord is There,” God to reward Nebuchadnezzar and his army for their hard work defeating Tyre, proud Egypt and her allies will be destroyed, new Babylonian King Evilmerodach is kind to exiled King Jehoichin

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.

Ezekiel 47-48:35

Ezekiel 29:17-21

Ezekiel 30:1-19

2 Kings 25:27-30

Jeremiah 52:31-34

Questions & Observations

Q. (Ezekiel 47:1-12): I assume that the river symbolizes God and from Him, comes life?

A. You got it.  Even the Dead Sea, a symbol of death if ever there was one, comes alive by God’s power.  I see this as another instance of resurrection imagery in this story: God can even bring dead seas back to life.

Q. (Ezekiel 47:21-23): Aren’t the Israelites still in Canaan?  Why don’t they just use the same distribution of territory that they had before the destruction of Israel and Judah?

A. I honestly don’t have a good answer for that, but it probably comes from God’s desire to do something new.

Q. (2 Kings 25:27): What happened to Nebuchadnezzar?

A. As we read in Daniel (Babylonian historians don’t mention the years in question for Nebuchadnezzar’s rule, which could imply the loss of his sanity as the Bible suggests), he loses his mind, but is restored according to the story.  He is not mentioned in the Bible again.

Day 95 (April 5): Samson carries off Gaza’s gates, Samson and deceptive Delilah, Samson pleads to God for one last big hoorah, Micah and his twisted religion, Dan attacks Micah’s land and worships his idol

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 16-18

Questions & Observations

Q. (Judges 16:1): Samson seems to have a thing for Philistine women.  The Philistines were ruling, so maybe they wore beautiful clothes and nice perfume?  They may have been more attractive than Israelite women?  But, this was part of God’s plan for Samson?

A. I do not think that Samson’s lusting after Philistine women (for whatever reason) is something that God desired, but He did use it to bring down the rulers of the Philistines.

Q. (16:4-19): So, up until 16:21, Samson thought that Delilah was just playing a lover’s game?  Surely, he didn’t realize that she was trying to trap him or he wouldn’t have played along.  Samson really didn’t take heed to his parents warning about getting involved with a Philistine woman when he was courting his first wife.  But, like it says, in 13:5, Samson will begin to deliver Israelites from Philistine rule.  So, how do we know when to break societal rules — like not marrying the enemy — and know that it is God’s plan?   Maybe they didn’t know it then and didn’t need to know it, but it’s important for readers now?

A. I think the implication of the story is that Samson got by for a long time on his immense strength, but he abused the privilege and violated his Nazirite vows.  If you note the sequence of the story, he has touched the lion corpse, consumed alcohol at his wedding, and now in this story has his hair cut, which wouldn’t have happened if he didn’t reveal it — making it ultimately his fault.  These were the exact things that the Nazirite vows said he couldn’t do (Numbers 6:1-8).  Samson was clearly aware of what he was doing; he refers to himself as a Nazirite in 16:17, so he is taking for granted that the blessing of his strength will always be there.  But, oops, he pays dearly for his pride and is forced into slave labor for the amusement of the Philistines.  That doesn’t exactly ring true for me as a message of “sometimes its ok to violate what God has made perfectly clear.”  It seems more like, “you reap what you sow,” which comes for scripture as well (Galatians 6:7).

I knew a minister in college that memorably told me that you never grow closer to God by sinning, and I think that it is good advice.  This is not to say, as we see in this story, that God cannot redeem a man even as prideful as Samson, but who knows how God might have better used Samson if he had been more faithful and less self-serving.

O. (16:22): So we can see here that God is not done with Samson yet.  His hair is growing back.

Q. (16:30): Why did Samson want to die with the Philistines?  He did cross the Philistine/Israel line a lot.  Did he feel like he just needed to go down with them?  I wish we could known more about Samson.  We don’t know much about his heart.  We just know that he liked Philistine women and that got him into trouble.  But in the end, God was victorious via Samson.  Something great can come from suffering.  This copies Christ’s death to some degree.

A. Samson’s death was redemptive to a degree.  It certainly points to the idea that Samson turned to God when he had LITERALLY nothing left, but he did turn to Him.  I don’t really know why Samson wanted to die with the Philistines.  He certainly hated them, and I don’t think he, in any way, thought of himself as “like them,” he just was attracted to their women for some reason.  I think it ultimately was his understanding that he was never going to get such an opportunity again to take out so many important Philistines at once, so he acted on it even though he understood it would cost him his life.

Q. (Judges 17-18): Is this a “stay-tuned” passage?  Micah and his mother sound like they have heard parts of how to properly worship God, but they have obviously missed the bulk of God’s guidance.  Micah steals, his mother says it’s OK sense he admitted it, and from that point on, the story is lacking God.  I need some closure here.

A. Nope.  No “stay tuned”, no other resolution, just some powerful irony, and a whole lot of not God.  This passage — and the one for our reading tomorrow — is a epilogue on the story of Judges that is basically a late way of saying, “how did the Israelites reject God in the Promised Land?”  This story is a powerful indictment of the way that some of the people strayed, and traded in God for false idols.

But for the sake of some closure, let’s do a little summary shall we?  This silver idol that Micah sets up has its origins in his STEALING FROM HIS MOTHER.  From here, rather than using this ill-gotten gain to provide for the poor or donate it to God, he MAKES a god of his own, and SETS UP A HOUSE OF WORSHIP for his idol.  Then, he “ordains” his own son to be the priest of this idol.  If you’re following, what Micah has done is setup a rival religion against God, right in the Promised Land.  Then, he gets a corrupt Levite to run his little house or worship, and he thinks he is all set — that God will actually bless him for what he has done (17:12).

But then, oh irony.  He has his idols, wealth, and his Levite stolen from him by a corrupt group from the tribe of Dan.  Don’t miss this: Micah attempts to chase down and rescue his idols- these same “gods” that he likely turned to for protection.  So not only do we have the almost karmic punishment of Micah having stolen from him what he stole from his mother, but now his own gods need “rescuing,” and in the end, he has nothing.  On top of all of this, the religion and priest that he set up are now leading an entire tribe (Dan) away from God.  Frankly, I think that this is exactly what the storyteller intended for us to understand about Micah and this corrupt tribe.  The people were lawless: rejecting God and setting up gods for themselves, and living not by the Law of Moses, but rather by “might makes right.”  And that, I think, is all the closure this story needs.

Day 87 (March 28): More allotments of land to the tribes of Benjamin, Simeon, Zebulun, Issachar, Asher, Naphtali, Dan

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 18-19:48

Questions & Observations

Q. (Joshua 18:8): So, in the verses previous to this one, Joshua asks them why they haven’t taken possession of their land and then he instructs them to survey it and divide the land.  But, then when they start to do that, he calls them back.  Why was the land divided up this way?  What does casting sacred lots mean?  Haven’t we had previous stories take place at Shiloh?

A. After the tribes were set up on the east side of the Jordan, there were 9 tribes who still needed their land.  The two most prominent sons under Jacob, Judah and Joseph, went first, and since Joseph got two plots for his two sons, there were three different allotments, but only left seven sons.  The other seven sons had the remainder of the land divided up by lot.

The sacred lot was an act of divination, which was something the nation was forbidden to do on their own, but was part of the responsibility of the High Priest according to Exodus 28:30.  This verse describes two stones, the Urim and the Thummim, which were part of the decoration of the priestly garment.  According to what I read, it appears that these two stones represented the words “yes” (Thummim), and “no” (Urim).  You can see a picture of what they may have looked like here: http://www.bibleandscience.com/store/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=29.  We will see more references to their usage in later stories, which you can preview here: http://www.biblegateway.com/keyword/?search=urim&version1=NIV&searchtype=all&resultspp=500.

The priest or Joshua in this case would have the tribe names — or whatever they were trying to determine — on script or ancient paper, and would basically choose one tribe in this case for a particular plot of land.  So it was one tribe on one side, and the other six on the other.  He would then “cast” or throw the stones or “lots”, and see which one landed closer to the isolated tribe.  If the one tribe got the “yes” stone, then that was their land.  But if the “no” stone turned up, then the priest would set aside a new single tribe and cast again.  It went something like that as far as I can tell.

As for Shiloh, as far as I can tell, this is the first time the place has been mentioned, but it will be a very important location for the Tabernacle until King David, and therefore we won’t see it mentioned again until 2 Samuel, with sporadic references after that.

Q. Do we need to pay any particular attention to what tribe gets what land?  Any idea if some tribes had different needs and thus were partnered with the area most suited to them?

A. That may have factored into the way that, according to this, God chose to divide up the land via the lots, as we talked about in the previous question, but we don’t have any way to know for sure.  That certainly seems likely to me.  As we discussed yesterday, don’t worry too much about what tribes get which land at this point, but we will make reference to the divisions throughout the remaining story.