Day 261 (Sept. 18): Community effort to rebuild Jerusalem’s wall, half of construction force stand guard because of enemies opposing rebuilding, Nehemiah orders nobles and officials to pay back interest they charge to their relatives for loans made because of famine, Nehemiah foils Tobiah’s and Sanballat’s plan to defeat him, builders complete wall and stand guard

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.

Nehemiah 3-7:3

Questions & Observations

Q. Ezra was on the forefront of our readings, but then Nehemiah came into the picture and we don’t hear anything from Ezra anymore.  Any idea what happened to him?

A. Well, we moved into a new book, didn’t we?  Just kidding.  Ezra is around, and will be mentioned again, but this is Nehemiah telling his own story, especially as it relates to the repairs of the wall.  Ezra’s concern has been much more with the Temple and the priests, while Nehemiah is doing a bit more nuts and bolts type repairs.

Q. (Nehemiah 3:1-32): I don’t think we need to remember who built what section of the wall.  But, I do think the community effort is important to notice.  Then, about the building materials themselves, do you have any idea what their bolts were made out of?  I guess they well knew how to work with metal.  And the wall was made of sun-dried clay bricks?

A. Most likely they used rock from the local quarries (some of which have been discovered outside of Jerusalem), that was carried in by hand or on simple carts.  As to the bolts, they were most likely made of iron, possibly with bronze mixed in, and forged by local blacksmiths.

Q. (4:1-23): Where were Sanballat and Tobiah living?

A. Most likely they did not live in Jerusalem.  They had to be informed of the repairs if they could see them in the city itself.  The implication that Tobiah was corresponding with the elders of the Jews would also indicate to me he did not live within the city; otherwise he would just go speak to them directly.

O. (6:1-14): Oh, what drama!

Day 237 (Aug. 25): Tyre to be destroyed and not restored, Tyre’s ships and merchandise are caught in stormy sea and their fortunes are lost, Tyre’s king claims he is a god, plague hits Sidon, when Israel is restored the neighboring nations will know God, Zedekiah and soldiers fled Jerusalem, Babylonians invade city, Zedekiah captured and tortured

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 26:15-28:26

2 Kings 25:3-7

Jeremiah 52:6-11

Jeremiah 39:2-10

Questions & Observations

Q. (Ezekiel 26:15-21): I’m just wondering if God is going to destroy all of the nations.  If so, how can it be rebuilt?

A. No, He won’t.  God is pronouncing judgment on Judah’s neighbors in the midst of their destruction under Nebuchadnezzar.  Note that this is most what you might call a “political” destruction — Nebuchadnezzar is seeking governments and nations that will submit to his power, as Israel did before Zedekiah’s revolt, and among those who did not yield without force were Tyre and Sidon, we will explore Tyre’s fate below.

Q. (27:1-25): So, Tyre’s sin is that they boasted?  I don’t see any idol worship.  Their city’s description sounds heavenly.  I don’t read of any wickedness except for being prideful.

A. Their idolatry was love of money.  They became wealthy at the expense of others.  Among other things, they made money off of slave trade, and were unscrupulous when it came to shipping cargo — if you had the money, it got shipped, no matter how “bad” the product might be.  So part of what is happening here is God is saying that you have made your decadence an idol, and must suffer for your boasting.

Q. (27:26-36): Is a stormy sea really how Tyre was destroyed or is that just a metaphor?

A. No.  There’s some interesting history here.  Tyre was among the nations that formed an alliance with other nations, including Egypt, to throw off Nebuchadnezzar’s rule.  According to Babylonian notes, Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to it for a number of years, and it eventually surrendered to his rule — but the city itself was not destroyed, at least not at that time.  Tyre would be completely decimated, but not by Nebuchadnezzar; instead it was leveled by Alexander the Great 200 years later.  So the prophecies of Tyre’s destruction were certainly proven true, it was not Nebuchadnezzar who leveled it.

Q. (28:14): So, we have seen another reason why God destroyed Tyre because of her king saying he was a god.  But, in v. 14, he was in God’s presence or court.  So, is this one of those instances where we talked that there was some evidence in the Bible about other heavenly beings becoming “gods” of other nations?  They were envious of God, like Lucifer, and were kicked out of God’s army?  Have I gone too far with this hypothesis?

A. Honestly, there are differing interpretations of what is happening here.  One of them is that Ezekiel is comparing the king of Tyre with Lucifer — a loose comparison, but there are some similarities.  But another way to look at the passage is that Ezekiel is using a metaphor of the king being an innocent (i.e. pre-fall) person in the Garden of Eden.  That would make the king an Adam-like being.  Note the cleverness of the metaphor: while Adam and Eve were naked, the king is dressed in royal splendor, which again points to the decadence of Tyre’s people.  So the extension of the metaphor goes like this: you, oh king, live in paradise in all your great splendor.  You are even in the presence of God Himself, but your sin (trying to BE God) has caused you to lose it all, and you will be “cast out” just as Adam and Eve were for your pride.  I would say that’s the message of this passage.

Q. (2 Kings 25:3-7): Was it Ezekiel that broke through a wall in his home as a demonstration of what was to come of Jerusalem?  Now they see that God’s prophecies come true.  We did read where Zedekiah would live out his life in Babylon, but I had the impression that it was going to be an easy life.

A. Yes, that image was in Ezekiel 12.  Being aware of Zedekiah’s fate, I was hesitant to share too much about the “peace” that he would “enjoy,” but he lived.  Nebuchadnezzar was not kind to those who rebelled against him, especially since HE was the one who put Zedekiah on the throne (another reason the Jews rejected him, just as they will reject another king later in our story…).  Still, he was not executed, but I honestly can’t say I can think of a worse fate than the last thing I ever see (because he was blinded) is my children being executed and then living afterwards.  Pretty brutal.

Q. (Jeremiah 39:2-10): I like this description the best of the three that are given to us here.  Are bronze chains significant?  On Day 234, God calls the Israelites that remain in Jerusalem “worthless slag” leftover from smelting silver.  V. 10 says some of the poor were left in Judah to care for the vineyards and fields.  Was this part of God’s plan?

A. Since there remain Jews in Judea in our story, they will be able to bring news to the Jews in Babylon, which will be an important part of our story when we get to Ezra and, especially, Nehemiah.  So I would say yes, God desired that some of the people stay, but I suspect it was not by any means an easy life.

Day 231 (Aug. 19): Ezekiel gives God’s message to those seeking advice but have “idols in their hearts,” God to punish false prophets, even righteous characters of old couldn’t save Israelites from their punishment, people of Jerusalem are but useless grapevines, God shows that Israelites are more sinful than prostitutes, Israelites allies that they have sinned with will witness Israelites’ punishment, God says sinners of Judah will be scorned by whole world

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 14-16

Questions & Observations

O. (Ezekiel 14:14): I love when the Bible repeats past stories or characters.  It just ties it all together!  I especially appreciate Job.  He kind of came out of nowhere, but was steadfast in God and is remembered.

Q. (14:12-23): I notice the four symbolism here too — war, famine, wild animals and disease.  Those sound like all the categories that I may fear.  Does this correlate at all with the four heads of the cherubim?  One things for sure.  I don’t want to be around evil like that.  I can’t stomach it.  The other night, hubby and I were watching the Incredible Burt Wonderstone.  I couldn’t handle Jim Carrey burning the words “Happy Birthday” on his arm with candles or drilling a hole in his head.  I literally feel like I’m going to get sick.  Hopefully, I would have escaped Jerusalem a long time before all of this craziness started.  It sounds like a horror movie.

A. There was great risk outside the cities, where there pretty much was no law, so there is no guarantee that leaving the city would have improved your fortunes any.  Part of the process of sieging the city would have been to surround and patrol the city itself, to look for those who were trying to escape, so trying to “get out” would have been a great risk in and of itself.

O. (16:1-34): This is an amazing comparison — Israelites and prostitutes.  I think the point we can apply to our lives is that God gives us blessings — sustenance, shelter, family, talents, God’s Word — and we need to make sure we glorify Him with them and know that they are from Him and for Him, not for our own pride and glory.

Q. (16:53-58): Shame is almost worse than the punishment itself.

A. Shame, and public shaming in particular, was a central concept in that society, and it still is to this day in the Middle East (including Jewish culture).  To shame someone in public was to disavow them, to show that you were washing your hands of this person, and basically turning them over to the mob, as this scene illustrates.  It was a powerful method of social control.  God is using this image of shaming to demonstrate to His people what their actions are doing, and how He will respond.

Day 17 (Jan. 17): Jacob’s good news, Jacob’s family moves to Egypt, Jacob and Joseph reunite, Jacob blesses Pharaoh, famine is devastating

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. I have heard from a blogger that he would like an introduction to each book before diving into it.  So we’ll be setting the scene before each new book and look for one coming up soon for Genesis.  It will be a little late, but still useful.  We are reading the Bible in a year chronologically.  So, the next book is Job, then back to Exodus.  Enjoy!

Genesis 45:16-47:27

Questions & Observations

Q. (46:1): Why does Jacob say “the God of my father Isaac.”  Why doesn’t he just say “my God.”  Likewise, God identifies himself as God of Jacob’s father.”

A. Good question.  Perhaps in referring to God as the God of his father, he is showing reverence for both God and his father.  In this section of the Bible, we see very little usage of the phrase “my God”; God is almost always referred to as the God of those who have come before (usually Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but sometimes just Abraham).  Again, this might be a reverence thing, a way of saying “you are too big to be ‘my’ God” but I am honestly not certain.

Q. (46:34): Why do Egyptians despise shepherds?  In an earlier reading, we also learned that Egyptians despised Hebrews.  Why?

A. The story doesn’t tell us, but the theories I read about said that it is because sheep are destructive (and messy) and that shepherds were unclean and uncivilized.  They also may have had a religious objection.  There’s also a theory that nomadic shepherds had invaded them in the past, but there’s not much evidence for that.  Regarding why they hate the Hebrews specifically, since the Hebrews don’t have any kingdom to make them a “rival”, I suspect it is the same reason: the Hebrews kept flocks, and that made them despised.

Q. (47:6-7): We know that Egyptians don’t like Hebrews, so is Pharaoh being kind to Joseph and his family just because of his respect for Joseph?  Why does Jacob bless Pharaoh?

A. I think Pharaoh’s gratitude to Joseph for saving his kingdom during the famine is what carries over to Joseph’s family.  I believe that Jacob blessed Pharaoh to show gratitude for keeping his son alive and giving him so much wealth.

Q. (47:13): Here it says that all the food was gone, but the following verses tell how the people still managed to obtain food from Pharaoh’s storehouses.  Are Joseph and Pharaoh being completely honest with controlling the food?  The Bible says that Joseph collected grain during the bumper crop years, but it doesn’t say Pharaoh paid them for it.

A. I wouldn’t assume there was any funny business here.  Perhaps what the story means is that the individuals ran out of their own supplies and had to turn to Pharaoh’s storehouse, exactly as Joseph predicted they would need to.  It appears that the Egyptians were willing to give up the rights to their livestock and property in exchange for their survival.  The story never told us that Pharaoh (or Joseph) would be fair in the distribution.  The major thing that the story wants us to know is that Joseph’s family became extremely wealthy and prospered, which is what God told Jacob would happen in Egypt.

Q. (47:22) The priests did not have to pay for the food.  Is this fair?  Did Pharaoh have that much respect for God’s leaders?  Pharaoh seemed to notice how God blessed His followers, yet we do not know if he believed in God?

A. The story is not talking about Israelite priests, it means the priests of the cult worship in Egypt.  There were no priests in Israel yet: they are not introduced until Exodus.

Regarding Pharaoh’s benefit from God without belief in Him, that might be a byproduct of the polytheistic world he lived in.  One of the principles of polytheism is that there might be more gods out there, and (more importantly) that each of these gods had a “territory” with the nation or kingdom or people who worshipped them.  So Pharaoh was probably perfectly willing to accept the Hebrew God as part of the pantheon of gods he knew about, and was willing to benefit from Him.