Day 234 (Aug. 22): Remaining Israelites will feel God’s anger, God compares Jerusalem and Samaria as adulterous sisters, Oholah and Oholibah committed sin by worshipping idols and sacrificing their children to their idols, Nebuchadnezzar beseized Jerusalem for two years, God says the people will burn in their filth, God gives no pity to Jerusalem

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 22:17-23:49

2 Kings 24:20b-25:2

Jeremiah 52:3b-5

Jeremiah 39:1

Ezekiel 24:1-14

Questions & Observations

Q. Is there significance to the names of the “sisters” in this reading?

A. Yes.  The older sister, Onolah, which represent Israel/Samaria, means “her tent.”  This is most likely a reference to the unauthorized places of worship set up in the Northern Kingdoms where the “spiritual prostitution” that Ezekiel is describing in graphic detail took place.  Judah is represented by Oholibah, which means “my tent is in her,” which refers to the place of worship in the Temple, and the pagan worship that took hold there under the corrupt kings.

Q. (Ezekiel 23:22-23): Why are all of these countries interested in attacking Jerusalem anyway?  For their treasures?  Or are we just supposed to know that God made it happen so the Israelites would be destroyed?

A. There’s a few reasons: first, as our readings have described over these last few months, the land in Judah/Israel was very desirable and good for growing crops such as olives and grapes.  Jerusalem itself was set in very high country relative to the surround area, so that also made it desirable.  But ultimately what we are talking about here is trade routes: Judah was set along a major trade road that many nations, including Egypt, used to import and export goods.  Since Babylon is a major enemy of Egypt at this point, controlling this route is a great way to weaken its great enemy.  Those, I think, provide three good reasons why Judah and Jerusalem were targeted.  But do note what got the place ultimately leveled was Zedekiah’s betrayal of his loyalty oath to Nebuchadnezzar when he tried to join Egypt against Babylon.

Q. (23:27): Is God saying that the Israelites wickedness came from Egypt back when they were enslaved or more recently?  I didn’t remember the Israelites worshiping idols until they started traveling in the desert.

A. If you remember the Golden Calf incident back in the dessert, the calf itself was an Egyptian deity — though it is possible there were other influences as well; several local cultures revered a deity represented by a bull, a common ancient symbol of strength.  You could certainly make the argument, as God is doing here, that Israel “learned” these terrible worship practices while slaves in Egypt.  Note what happened in Exodus: at the first sign of trouble with this “new God” who has rescued them (when Moses was gone for forty days), they reverted to some form of pagan worship with the calf image.  I think it is quite fair to say that they picked up this bad “habit” in Egypt.

Q. (23:46): God is asking Ezekiel to bring an army against the sisters — Samaria and Jerusalem?  How could Ezekiel do that?

A. God is pronouncing judgment on them, and not asking Ezekiel to bring this army, as we see in the last sections of this reading, the army was already there.

Q. (2 Kings 24:20b-25:2): So, it finally happens.  So, they are surrounded for two years and get no food or water from the outside?

A. Only what they could smuggle in, which surely wasn’t much.  It was surely hell for the people inside.

Day 77 (March 18): Marrying captive women, rights of firstborn, rebellious sons, rules on living, sexual purity, worship laws, Edomites and Egyptians may worship, lots of other regulations

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 21:10-25:19

Questions & Observations

Q. (Deuteronomy 21:15-17): I’m confused.  I didn’t think God cared about birth order.  We saw that with the story of Jacob and Esau and Joseph and his brothers, among others.  Can you explain if “firstborn rights” are truly handed from God?  If so, why the contradiction with the earlier stories?

A. There’s not a contradiction in my mind.  What I have said on previous occasions is that God does not make considerations of birth order when selecting people for HIS purposes.  The people he selected and chose to bless (Jacob, Joseph, Isaac, etc.) were not the firstborn sons, but this does not mean that God makes no consideration for the way that society ran at that time: the firstborn son was to be given the largest share of the inheritance in order to maintain the family heritage from generation to generation.  This is very much in keeping with what God is doing here: setting up a society that will prosper, and be able to keep the land that God gives them.  In this time period, the best way to ensure land was passed from generation to generation fairly was that the firstborn son got the “lion’s share”.  But when it comes to who God desires to use for His purposes, birth order does not, and will not, matter.  Wait until we see how He picks King David.

O. (22:8): This sounds like modern-day legal issues.  How funny they are relevant today.  Luckily, not that many people have to get on roofs.

O. (22:20-21): I have just now realized another way of preventative measures the Israelites had in place: discouragement.  If they don’t obey, they get stoned.

Q. (23:1): Do I dare ask, how this could happen?

A. Well, I suppose it could have been the result of an attack or accident, but basically, this is talking about eunuchs: male slaves who had their genitals removed (usually as boys) as part of their entry into a life of slavery.  This could be because of the work they were assigned, such as with women, but also because by removing the man’s genitals, it would, in theory, prevent him from focusing on his own plans for family or personal gain.  Eunuchs were therefore considered good and desirable workers who would be loyal to their masters.  I am unclear what it is about being castrated that got them excluded from the assembly — I’ll research it, because it will come up again — but I can tell you that one of the first Christian converts is a Ethiopian eunuch.  This is just one more place where the work of Jesus Christ brings salvation to ALL people, even those who had been previously excluded.

O. (24:5): If only this was valid today.  A one-year honeymoon would be wonderful!

Q. (25:5-6): Didn’t the NT revoke this law?  The law was just for the Israelites to protect the family lines?

A. Be careful with the terminology.  Nothing about the NT revoked the ways of the OT, it simply replaced them with a different system, that was not dependent upon human effort.  But the answer to your question is yes, this was all about protecting family lines.  This is actually the way that Ruth will be able to claim a new husband in her story coming up.

Q. (25:7-10) What?  More comedy?  Was having a sandal pulled off disgraceful?

A. I’m not sure.  It appears that this is an attempt at public shaming, in order to, once again, maintain family lines.  These verses will also come into play in Ruth.

Q. (25:11-12): The testicles hold the seed of the family lines?  So, harming them is a huge offense?

A. I think that’s part of it.  But also, since this law is set up based upon rules of retaliation (eye for an eye), and since the woman would, obviously, not have the parts in question, the hand is selected for the reprisal.  Isn’t that fun!

That last batch of rules was definitely miscellaneous!  Good for keeping me awake at the end of a long day.  Hope yours was grand!  See you tomorrow!

Day 36 (Feb. 5): Firstborn dedication to God, road less traveled, the chase is on, parting waters, song of deliverance, quenched thirst

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.

Exodus 13-15

Questions & Observations

Q. (Exodus 13:1): What does it mean by dedicate the first offspring of animals and firstborn son?

A. Since God had delivered the Israelites (including their animals) from the tenth plague, He had by implication “bought” them.  They belonged to Him, and the consecration ceremony (circumcision, and an animal sacrifice where it could be afforded- we’ll see this in Leviticus) was the reminder of the status of the relationship and the importance of the firstborn in God’s deliverance from Egypt.

Q. (13:3): Why can’t they eat bread with yeast?  I’m guessing it’s to remind them of leaving Egypt and that God delivered them from the suffering?

A. Correct.  In more modern traditions (including the NT), yeast has come to be seen as the seed of evil (a little goes a long way), and also the result of human effort, since yeast is cultivated for human use.  Baking bread without yeast would imply a product created without human effort, which is one of the major implications of this story: nothing that happened in the Exodus story was the result of human effort, but rather by God’s desire to teach His people about relationship with Him.  So we might think of unleavened bread as “Godly bread” that requires no human addition.

Q. (13:9): Is this the Ash Wednesday practice celebrating the Lord bringing them out of Israel?  The Passover is a celebration of the Angel of Death passing over, right?  The celebration of the Israelites escaping Egypt is a different celebration?

A. No, Ash Wednesday is unrelated to this story.  A.W. is a Christian tradition marking the 40-day period of Lent that leads up to Easter.  Typically, the spirit was one of repentance and fasting (sound familiar?), and since ashes were a symbol of mourning and repentance, they became the symbol of the date.  Ashes also mark the mortality of our lives, which is another aspect of this date on the church calendar.  Next Wednesday, Feb. 13, is Ash Wednesday, so you’ll have the chance to participate in the day very soon if you so choose.

Q. (13:13): Can you explain the buyback?  And, the braking the donkey’s neck?

A. Oh, more animal brutality!  Will this never end?  OK, so when the NLT uses the word buy back, the NIV renders this “redeem”.  What it meant was that when a male donkey (and by implication other animals, though it may only refer to pack animals- I’m honestly not sure) was born, it was required to be redeemed or “bought back” from God by sacrificing a lamb or young goat (a Passover offering) in its place.  If this was not done (i.e. if the owner didn’t want to provide the sacrifice), the animal was to be killed.  My notes indicate that pack animals such as donkeys were incredibly valuable to this society, which is why it was cost effective to offer up a goat or lamb for a donkey.  So basically, the buy back was another way to remember the way that God delivered the firstborn in Egypt by using the lamb’s blood.

Q. (15:13-17): The Israelites are obviously in awe of God’s power here and happy that they are out of the Egyptians’ rule.  In these verses, are they thinking that going to the promised land will be a walk in the park?

A. Good question, and I don’t really know the answer.  It would appear so.  But bad times will await the Israelites in the desert: this moment of triumph and faith in God and Moses won’t last.

Q. (15:19): Was this the end of the Egyptians?

A. No.  Regardless of the implications of this story, Egypt continued to be a major player in the Middle East, and will be for the duration of this story.  They will actually play a key role in the reasons for the downfall of the Kingdom of Israel.