Day 354 (Dec. 20): Faith is key to salvation, Old Testament heroes were rewarded for their faith, others suffered and died for their faith knowing they would have a better eternal life, God disciplines those He loves, there is a peaceful harvest after suffering the pain of discipline, listen to God so you don’t miss God’s grace, God to shake the earth so only the unshakable will remain

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.

Hebrews 11-12

Questions & Observations

I could write observations for every verse in this reading.  All the reminders of the OT and how they have come to fruition in the whole picture of God’s word were so enlightening!  God is blessing us with so many answers and insightful closures at the end of the Great Book!

Q. (Hebrews 11:1): Let’s try this again: I don’t understand the virtue of hope.  Why should we hope for something if we believe it will happen?  To me hoping signifies doubt.  But, the teachings of the Bible encourage hope.

A. As this passage alludes to, the line between hope and faith gets fairly blurry, but I confess I do not understand in what sense you feel that hoping for something involves doubt — hope is very opposite of doubt.  God has give us a vision in the Bible of how life can be when we follow after Him instead of our own desires, but again, we live in that tension of “already” but “not yet”.  So we have seen how things can turn with God’s help, but they have not “turned” yet, so to speak, for many of us.  But we believe that there is a better future, a better world, etc. for us (and our children, and grandchildren, and…), and that I think is the basis of hope.  We seek and desire the world to come, the rewards of our labor, and the purging of sin/evil from the world — Revelation will cast a vision of — but we know that it is not yet here.  So we wait, but we wait hopefully, not pessimistically.  C. S. Lewis had this to say about hope:

Hope is one of the Theological virtues. This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.

Q. (Hebrews 11:6): So to ask questions is to seek and by asking does not mean that I am weak in the Spirit, rather that I am trying to clear up confusion so I can gain understanding and BE closer to God/Jesus/Holy Spirit.

A. Yes, I would say that is correct.

O. (11:26): When a believer says, “Look up,” I have thought it just meant to consider God when I deliberating about something.  But, here we see it has more meanings like, “Keep your eyes on the eternal prize.”  And greed for the joy we’ll have in heaven is a great reason, but it has earthly goodness in it by actually bringing joy to your life and others.  Making others happy, makes me happy, makes God happy and vice versa: you get happy from others and God gets happy all over.  Making God happy makes me happy.  “Looking up,” always thinking of our heavenly home can get us through the hard times on earth and helps us make the right choices to get there.

Q. (12:7-9): What is divine discipline?  Does this mean that when something hurts us that we are being punished?  So, we should rejoice because if God punishes us, we know He loves us and is working to set us straight?

A. What the writer is arguing here is that the suffering and persecution that Christians often face (not from God directly) should be seen as discipline and instructive training for our own spiritual development.  Many who have suffered greatly under persecution achieve a level of faith that is difficult for us to even comprehend — God used (but did not cause) the situation and the persecution to deepen the faith of those who were suffering for the Gospel.  And as the passage reminds us, Jesus Himself is our example of how to persevere in the midst of suffering: He is our example and the truest Son of God.

O. (12:14): This reminds me of the Jackie Robinson story when instead of getting irate at the people persecuting them, he turned the other cheek.  He won his battle by staying true to his goal, having endurance and then many could see that he was no different from them.  If we let our oppressors ruffle our feathers and they see us get irate, then they are not seeing the Jesus’s love.

Q. (12:27-28): By unshakable, I would take it that “sin” and Satan have no power over us?

A. The power of sin will be broken (as we will soon see in Revelation), and the Kingdom that God will establish will be eternal, not finite as this world is now.

Day 240 (Aug. 28): Jeremiah cries out the woes of Jerusalem, Jeremiah asks God if He is still angry, Obadiah prophesies that Edom will be condemned for celebrating Judah’s fall, Jerusalem to become a refuge for those who escape, Israelites to take over defeated nations, Ishmael revolts at Gedaliah’s appointment to govern Judah

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.

Lamentations 5:1-22

Obadiah 1:1-21

2 Kings 25:22-26

Jeremiah 40:7-16

Jeremiah 41:1-18

Questions & Observations

O. (Lamentations 5:7): Jeremiah, who wrote this (Jeremiah does not identify himself, but tradition holds that he is the writer- Rob), is obviously suffering, but we see that he still has his wits about him because after his complaints in v. 5:1-18, he praises the Lord … briefly.  I wanted to point out that in v. 7, Jeremiah is blaming the Israelites ancestors for all of their present suffering.  My first thought was, “Excuse me, God has been warning you over and over again — through you, no less — that the idol worship had to stop or Judah would see doom.  And, it didn’t stop.  But, in reality, their ancestors are the ones who set the precedent.  Of course, they could change their ways, but as we have discussed before, change is hard and what your ancestors taught you is engrained.  So, in all fairness, the ancestors deserve their fair share of blame.  (I’m not trying to approve or disapprove of God’s actions here.  I know better!)  The subject of being so engrained in your world that you can’t leave it all to follow Christ came up in a speech that the headmaster of my daughters’ school, Rev. Bob Ingram, gave at their convocation chapel this past week.  He discussed having a hardened heart.  Check it out at:

http://www.genevaschool.org/wp-content/uploads/08.22.13-Opening-Convocation.Ingram.pdf.  When I think of a hardened heart, I think of pharaoh not letting the Egyptians go because God hardened his heart, which pretty much means he was stubborn and prideful.  In another example, in his speech, Rev. Ingram brings up the wealthy man in the NT who followed Jesus and obeyed all of the laws.  He asked Jesus what more he could do.  Jesus told him that there was one thing left: to sell his possessions, give it to the poor and follow Me.  He couldn’t do it.  That is how our hearts are hardened today.  We can be good Christians and do everything that society tells us to do, but can we give our entire lives over to Jesus?  There is a family in one of my daughter’s classes that are interviewing to be missionary directors or something like that in South America.  Here they are, both have great jobs, their daughters are in an awesome school, they have family close by, but they listened to God’s calling.  The husband had heard God call him to mission work.  He finally told his wife and she said, “OK.”  I’m not saying that we all need to do mission work, just that we need to listen to God and give ourselves to Him.  I always put myself in other people’s shoes and compare myself — a self-defeating habit I’m trying to squash — and think that maybe I should take in a foster child or go on a mission trip.  Well … not that it’s a bad thing, but God hasn’t called me to do that.  He did call me to do this blog and I think that I have mission work in my future.   You?

O. For a quick look at Obadiah, go to: http://biblesummary.org/obadiah/1.htm

Q. (Obadiah 1:19-21): I guess this is why God has scattered the remaining Israelites — so they will inhabit all of the surrounding nations?

A. It appears to be part of the way that God has ensured the survival of His people throughout the ages.

Q. (2 Kings 25:25): Why did Ishmael kill Gedaliah and all of those with him?

A. There could be a number of factors at play here.  First, he might have been loyal to Zedekiah and avenging his capture.  He also might have been an ally of Ammon, which was mentioned, whose people may have pushed him to kill the ruler.  A third possibility is that he was angry at Gedaliah for encouraging the people to submit to Babylon and killed him in a desire to continue the revolt against Babylon.

Q. (Jeremiah 41:1-18): Is there any importance to Ishmael killing Gedaliah?

A. Not especially.  I’m not aware of any particular way that this affects the “downstream” action.  From here, we will focus on the captivity in Babylon through Ezekiel, Daniel, and Ester, and begin the restoration of the nation via our other writings.

Day 13 (Jan. 13): Descendants of Esau, Edom’s origins, Edom’s rulers, Israel’s descendants

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.

Genesis 36:-19

1 Chronicles 1:35-37

Genesis 36:20-30

1 Chronicles 1:38-42

Genesis 36:31-43

1 Chronicles 1:43-54

1 Chronicles 2:1-2

Questions & Observations

Q. What significance is there in letting the readers know the lines of Esau?

A. It appears that the writer wants us to know that the descendants of Esau aligned themselves with the various tribes in the land of Canaan, the land promised by God to the descendants of Jacob.  It appears that the rivalry the began with Jacob and Esau would continue for many generations (watch for the word Edomites, which is the most common name for Esau’s family).  Various later sections of the Old Testament list Edom as one of the greatest rivals and enemies of Israel.  So what the writer wants us to bear in mind is that these enemies tribes of Israel trace their origins and alignment to the rival of one of their founding fathers: Jacob and his brother Esau.

Q.  With some exceptions, it appears that the Bible usually traces ancestry through the men.  Are women viewed less important?

A. Yep.  The Bible definitely prioritizes men over women, as did the larger world it was written in.  Though there are a few women who “make the cut” as being mentioned (Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel and Leah, Miriam, Rahab, Deborah, Ruth, Naomi, Esther is a fairly complete list), it is mostly the lines of men that are traced by the story.

Q.  (36:12) Esau’s son had a concubine.  How were concubine’s viewed?  One of God’s commandments is, “Thou shall not commit adultery.”  Of course, as humans surrounded by temptation, all of God’s commandments were not followed.  But, is a man having one wife something that gets decreed later?

A. Concubinage is something the Bible discusses (and does not necessarily approve of), and it is something of a different category from adultery.  We might think of it like this: a powerful ruling man (a king or ruling person such as in this case) already has a wife, but he has the wealth to take on other women and be in relationship with them (with the wife’s knowledge- this isn’t the man sneaking around).  Especially if the other women are of a different class (many concubines were from lower class families or were even servants or slaves), rather than marry her (he already had a wife), he would make her something like a “lower wife” or concubine.  Basically, it was a way for the man to control a greater number of women (and the children they produced- something important to keep in mind) without technically violating his marriage vows.  We will see this come into play as Israel establishes its own line of kings in later OT books.

Q. (36:15): Can you describe a “clan”?  How big are they?  Does it have the same meaning as “nation”?  Do they let others in?

A. I tried to find some good material on this, and honestly didn’t come up with a whole lot.  Clan size could very greatly, especially since it would have involved servants or other “extra” members (who weren’t technically family) in the count.  If a clan got big enough to have a particular ruler, it could be considered a kingdom.  Usually, kingdoms referred to locations (the kingdom of Jerusalem, or Babylon, etc.) and territory, rather than family (where clan would be rightly used).

Q. (1 Chronicles 1: 35-37): Why does the Bible repeat these descendant stories?  Who wrote 1 and 2 Chronicles?

A. Yes, the Bible frequently repeats stories of many sorts, including genealogies.  Part of the reason for this was that there were various materials circulating among the various tribes before what we know as the OT was assembled (which happened in fairly modern times).  Since it was so important for a family to be able to trace its roots, it is unsurprising that genealogies were frequently presented.

We don’t know exactly who wrote 1 and 2 Chronicles, but we do know that they were written much later than most of the other works of the OT (one of the last books written along with Malachi).  Chronicles (its only one book in Jewish Bibles- though the material is the same) was written to teach the history of the Jews to the people in the post exile period when Jerusalem was being rebuilt.  It was written as a way for the Israelite people who lived around 500 BC (give or take a few hundred years) to connect with their history.  As such, there are frequently places where Chronicles tells us a story that we have already “heard” elsewhere.

Q. (Gen. 36: 31): So there were kings ruling over the clans of Jacob, the clans of Esau and other groups — the whole Canaan area?  Do we need to know what was going on around these areas at the time?

A. The entire land of Canaan was under the control of various tribes, and this continued even when the Israelites return to the land several hundred years later.  This does not mean that these kings controlled everything, it is clear from the story that Jacob and his sons did not serve a king, they were powerful enough to be in charge of their own area.  So Jacob’s family controls its own territory.  But the story is telling us that some of the clans the Israelites will deal with when they return to Canaan from Egypt will trace their roots to Jacob’s brother Esau.

Day 12 (Jan. 12): Jacob plans trip to face Esau, Jacob wrestles with God, Esau happy to see Jacob, Revenge at Shechem, Jacob returns to Bethel, Rachel and Isaac die

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.

Genesis 32-35

Questions & Observations

Q. (32:22, 30): Why did God and Jacob wrestle?  How did he know the man was God?

A. The story tells us that Jacob has been struggling against God and men his entire life (his father, his brother, his uncle, etc.) but in the end he conquered each of them.  The timing of the event is crucial to recognize: Jacob is leaving his confrontations with Laban, and about to confront Esau, but it is at this moment that the person who Jacob has struggled most with appears: God Himself.  (There are some who think that Jacob is wresting with an angel of God, though as we established the angel would have basically been seen as the same thing as God Himself).  God wanted more than Jacob’s worship and acknowledgement, He wanted Jacob’s heart, and this is the way that He wins it.

While it is not directly stated that the man is God (or an angel), verses 28 and 30 point to this reality.  In case it is not directly stated by the text (some translations do), the word Israel (the name for the entire nation in the Old Testament) means “wrestles with God.”  We shall indeed see what an appropriate title this is.

O. (33: 4): The differences between siblings can be night and day to where they want to be worlds away from one another.  Yet, when they have been apart for some time, their differences go by the wayside and their love for one another takes over.  This happened between my sister and I when she went away to college.  She purposely did things to annoy me … I’m sure for good reasons.  But, once she left for college and I had my own space, we became much closer.  Can anyone relate to the Jacob and Esau reunion?  Or, have you had a different experience?

O. (33:10): This reminds me of when we visit our siblings’ families and go out to eat.  There is always a race to pay the bill.

Q. (33:16): Why did Jacob not follow Esau to Seir?

A. Honestly, my suspicion is that he still didn’t trust his brother, and therefore wanted to put a little distance between himself and Esau.

Q. (34:15):  This is an intense scene.  I am glad that Jacob stood up for his daughter.  It was quite a trick to have them agree to be circumcised, then when they are still healing from the procedure, Jacob’s family attacked.  If this hadn’t been a trick, God would not have supported the agreement, right?  Doesn’t God have to be the one that chooses the people to bear the sign of His chosen?

A. Circumcision was one of the most important rules of the Law.  And indeed, there are sections of the Law that describe the procedures for admitting alien people (usually slaves, an entirely different topic) into the “house” of Israel.  The simplest rule: if you weren’t circumcised, you weren’t part of the tribe.  Actually, marriage, the reason for this little event, was the major way that people could join the tribe of Israel (think of people like Ruth).  There were particular rules about which other tribes were not to be admitted (we will see these later), but generally, there were some routes for a people of various other tribes to “join up” in certain circumstances.

Q. (35:1) Bethel is where Jacob spent the first night on his journey to Laban’s, right?  Bethel means House of God.  Does this place have long-term significance or importance in the future?

A. That’s the one, where Jacob saw the ladder.  Bethel does not appear to play a major role in the future of the nation of Israel.  The town is mentioned throughout the territorial sections (land distribution in the book of Joshua after the land is conquered) and Bethel is given to one of Joseph’s sons named Ephraim.  It did gain one infamous role: it became the center of cult worship in the Northern Kingdom (this is way in the “future” of the story, if you will) after the death of King Solomon.  So in the era of 1 and 2 Kings, it would have been known, but not in a good way.

Q. (35:5): Any idea what the terror was?  It would be so awesome to see God’s power like that.  Do you think it happens today, like in earthquakes, floods, etc.?

A. It would be tough to guess what God exactly did to make the people afraid.  Usually if it is a natural disaster, the text will say so, so this might have been something more psychological.  Whether one sees the power of God displayed in earthquakes and floods is one of the toughest questions a Christian can ask.  I leave that up to the readers to decide.

Q. (35:8): Can you tell us anything about servants of those days.  The master’s family obviously cared about them as we see in this passage as they name the tree where a nurse was buried “weeping tree.”  How did one become a servant versus a master?  How were they revered?

A. Part of the implication of Jacob’s wealth (which would have been assumed by the audience) was that he would have servants, including slaves, who came to work for him seasonably (think migrant workers today) or other servants who were hired to keep the flocks or crops, supervise workers (like field managers), cook and prepare meals, work closely with the children (like the nurse in question), or keep the tents and other dwellings clean.

While we tend to think of slavery and servanthood as racially motivated, it was mostly the result of financial considerations in the ancient world.  Servants could be hired and align themselves with masters (which would likely use the covenant ceremony we discussed last week) for protection and even have families of their own.  We must be very careful about not applying Western American notions of slavery and service to the ancient world that thought very differently about people’s value.  There would have been none of this “all men are created equal” business (actually Jesus is the person single handedly most responsible for that concept, so that gives you the timeframe- more than a thousand years in the future), they would have understood masters as being superior to servants.  People would have worked for masters, be bought and sold as slaves (sometimes to pay off debt, sometimes as a result of being taken prisoner during war), and depended upon the wealthy to survive.

Even in such a harsh world, it is not hard to see how certain servants (head servants or nurses for example) would have come to be revered by the family due to their years of service.

Q. (35:20):  Can the monument be seen today?

A. When the writer says, “the monument can be seen today”, we do not know exactly when “today” is, and there are a number of theories about that.  But if you mean, can you still see the original site, well, that depends on who you ask.  For many of the important landmarks of this story (including events that take place in the New Testament, so you’re talking about literally thousands of years later), there are usually what are called “traditional” sites of an event or marker.  (You can read about the traditional site for Rachel’s tomb here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rachel’s_Tomb).  If you read the article, it notes that there are several sites that claim to be the “correct” one, but that generally we can only guess about the accuracy of the assessment.  The same is actually true for the site of Christ’s crucifixion and burial (there are TWO traditional burial sites for Christ).  The biggest problem for a lot of these sites is that for Rachel’s tomb as example, we are talking about a place that was marked more than 3000 years ago.  With all of the war, destruction, new construction, and endless movement and death of people, it is sometimes surprising that we know so much about this era at all.

Q. (35:27): If I remember right, Abraham and Isaac lived in Hebron as foreigners because this was the land God had promised to them and their descendants.

A. Most of the areas described in these stories (notably around the Jordan river) will ALL be taken over by Jacob/Israel’s descendants in about 400 years.

Day 10 (Jan. 10): Jacob travels to Uncle Laban, Jacob’s dream, Jacob finds Rachel, Laban tricks Jacob, Jacob’s children

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.

Genesis 28:6-30:24

Questions & Observations

O. (28:9): I find it interesting that Esau marries Ishmael’s daughter.  If you remember, Ishmael was Abraham’s other son (Isaac’s half brother) whom he loved by Hagar, but was not the son God chose for his “nation.”  Yet, God said Ishmael would prosper in another land.  Likewise, Esau was denied his firstborn birthright and blessing.  But, as the story goes, Esau also has a great many people, but not the great nation God is choosing for His people through Isaac and Jacob.

Q. (28:17): … the very gateway to heaven.  To me this is saying the stories of the generations of the Israelites, which includes Jesus, will show you the way to heaven.

A. That’s an interesting take on the image.  Many Christians view the bridge or ladder as an image of Christ himself, the connection between heaven (the realm of God) and earth (the realm of man).  As the bridge between them, Christ returns the proper relationship between God and man.  Jacob’s vision can be seen as a prophetic vision of the future of his family (as you have pointed to) and one (very distant) son in particular (Jesus) who will complete the reunion between God and man.

Q. (29:22-27): I understand the custom of a man’s oldest daughter must be married first.  However, why didn’t Laban just tell Jacob of this rule?  Jacob was so much in love with Rachel that he likely would have agreed to marry Leah first as long as he gets Rachel too.  Again, there is deception here.  This also sets a scene for sibling rivalry.

A. Interesting that in this story the shoe is on the other foot.  Jacob surely did not like being deceived.  It appears to be one of those “what goes around comes around” kind of moments.  Absolutely Laban deceived Jacob, and with good reason: Jacob’s love for Rachel got Laban seven additional years of free service out of Jacob.  Considering the misery Jacob caused his brother and father, it only seems fair that this is how his uncle treats him.  But this generation is especially important to keep track of, because the four women (Rachel, Leah, and their two servants) will give birth to the 12 sons of Jacob that will become the 12 tribes of Israel.  One of the things that is worth noting is that here, as in previous generations, God is not concerned with birth order (especially compared to how people are concerned with it).  Over the rest of the story (basically the rest of Genesis will focus on the lives of the 12 sons), note the way that God uses them for various roles, and the way that some of the younger sons will be the most influential.

Q. (29:31-30:24): Rachel and Leah obviously rival.  We also have seen it in Cain & Abel, Esau and Jacob and soon Joseph and his brothers.  Does the Bible address sibling rivalry — the causes, the reasons, the cures?

A. Like other less than perfect aspects of the people in the story, the Bible does not shy away from mentioning sibling rivalry, and even mentions some of the ways that God redeems these rivalry situations.  As far as I know, the Bible does not specifically address the particular circumstance of sibling rivalry, though it has plenty to say about respect for family and loving people in general (including family of course).  The Bible tells us that, as much as it is up to us, we should live at peace with those around us (Romans 12:18), Psalm 133 informs us that it is good when brothers live in unity.  And Luke 15 (the story of the prodigal son) describes the way that a loving God (the father) attempts to bring about peace between rival brothers.

Day 9 (Jan. 9): Jacob tricks Esau out of birthright and blessing, Isaac tricks Abimelech, dispute over water rights, Isaac and Abimelech make peace, Jacob flees to uncle Laban

Genesis 25:27-28:5

Questions & Observations

Q. (26:7): Is there any significance of Isaac going through the same scenario as his father, saying that his wife was his sister for fear of being killed to get her?  Abraham and Isaac both seemed to not realize that the rulers they were scared of actually feared them because the rulers knew the Lord was with Abraham and Isaac.  Also, this seems to be setting up, “Thou shall not commit adultery?”

A. Outside the very likely scenario that Abraham TAUGHT Isaac this method of survival in a hostile environment, I am not aware of particular significance to it.  It is interesting to me that the rulers who are deceived by this ploy (twice with Abraham, once with Isaac) have a great deal of respect for married life, and clearly take great pains to avoid committing adultery.  They don’t seem to need a command not to, though it would appear “thou shall not bear false witness” should be in order for Abraham and Isaac.  Anyway, once again, for some reason, God rewards the behavior by having the king grant Isaac protection for himself and Rebekah.

Q. (26:18): To name a well, they must have been important.  It sounds like they are geographical markers, like a town.  Were they more than a hole in the ground?

A. Since much of the story to this point takes place in a desert, you can be that water locations and rights (note the number of disputes over water in just today’s text alone!) were absolutely crucial.  Wells and other watering holes would have been community-gathering points as well, so it is unsurprising that they would be given ceremonial “nicknames” to commemorate a major event that happened there.

O. (27:4): Eating seems to be a ceremonial occasion in the Bible thus far.  When the Lord appeared to Abraham, he prepared a feast of his best animals and harvest.  Here, Isaac asks Esau to prepare a meal before giving him his birthright blessing.  Today, we still practice feasts for important occasions and every day life.  I see it as a literal taking in and sharing God’s blessings, enjoying them and praising Him for them.

Q. (27:5-35): Why is such deception allowed in the story of Jacob tricking Isaac in giving him his blessing instead of Jacob?  It doesn’t sound like something God would approve. Was this planned by God, or He just knew what would happen?  I find it difficult to understand free will when God knows everything that will happen to us.  He creates us and says that He knew us before we were formed.  So, did He create us to succeed or fail according to His plans?  I feel like I may get struck down for asking this question, but I’m sure the answer is in the Bible.

A. It is important to note that not everything the Bible reports is something the Bible approves of.  Jacob will pay a price for his deception of his brother and father: he will be forced into exile, though God will bring blessing to Jacob in spite of Jacob’s actions.  As I mentioned yesterday, God certainly knew in advance what Jacob would do, but ultimately, this is the line that God has chosen (for better or worse, see it sounds like a marriage already!) to redeem the entire world.  I tend to fall into the free will camp myself, with the understanding that just because God knows what I am going to do does not make me less responsible for it.  And God is capable of working with us in the midst of those good and bad decisions to carry out His purposes.  And the real payoff in this story for the “good things coming out of really, really bad decisions” is still coming out of the story of Jacob’s 12 sons: the story of Joseph being sold into slavery by his jealous brothers.  So, honestly, at this point, let’s let the story unfold and we can see the way that God will use Jacob’s deception to bring about the redemption that He desires.

Day 8 (Jan. 8): Abraham dies, Esau and Jacob are born

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.

Genesis 25:1-4

1 Chronicles 1:32-33

Genesis 25:5-6

Genesis 25:12-18

1 Chronicles 1:28-31

1 Chronicles 1:34

Genesis 25:19-26

Genesis 25:7-11

Questions & Observations

Q. (25:1): Abraham remarried and had other children, but in other verses, 1 Chronicles 1:28, the Bible says he only had Isaac and Ishmael for sons.

A. I guess the answer is that the Chronicler is limited in space (if you will) and he is choosing to focus only on the significant (in his mind) sons of Abraham.

Q. (25:23): When God tells Rebekah that her sons will be two rivaling nations, He makes it that way for a reason?  This goes against the thought that God gives us free will.  Like Hagar accepted God saying that she must yield to Sarah, Rebekah accepts that her twins will be rivals.

A. There’s a difference between saying that a person has free will and saying “God does not know what this person will become, regardless of free will.”  Jacob and Esau were born to be rivals (and if anything their parents encourage this, as we will see shortly).  Keep in mind that rivaling nations does not necessarily mean “enemy nations.”

I think the situations you are comparing point to two different concepts.  While Hagar’s story is about her submission to Sarah, it was better than dying in the wilderness, as she would have without God’s help.  But when God tells Rebekah that she will have twins- well, there’s no way around that.  She didn’t have a free will consideration in how many babies she had.  As to whether they would be rivals, as I mentioned, Rebekah herself will have a hand in creating their rivalry.  I wouldn’t read this scripture as God CREATING the fate of her boys, but rather INFORMING her of the path that her twins will walk.

Regardless of ones feelings about free will and predestination (the other side of the free will coin), the two sides agree completely in the fact that God knows the whole life of every person and what actions they will take.  This is an example of what we refer to as God’s omniscience- that He knows everything that there is to be known- including the entire lives of human beings.  The true consideration of FW/Pred is not whether God knows everything (He does), but whether the will of God can be rejected by human choice.  Predestination argues that the will of God is unavoidable because of His ultimate power, and Free Will argues that the will of God can be resisted because He chooses to not force us to choose Him.  I hope that is helpful.