Day 269 (Sept. 26): Wise men visit Jesus, Jesus’s family escapes to Egypt to dodge Herod’s jealous wrath, Jesus’s family returns to Jerusalem, Jesus speaks at the Temple, John the Baptist prepares people for Jesus, Spirit descends on Jesus, Jesus is baptized

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.

Matthew 2:1-23

Luke 2:41-52

Mark 1:1b-8

Matthew 3:1-12

Luke 3:1-18

Mark 1:9-11

Matthew 3:13-17

Luke 3:21-22

Questions & Observations

Q. (Matthew 2:1): Why would Mary and Joseph stay two years in Bethlehem?  Why wouldn’t they have gone back to Nazareth?  Do I have Jesus’s childhood whereabouts right: Born in Bethlehem until 2ish, then told to flee to Egypt until Herod died, then back to where his parents were from in Nazareth?

A. The story doesn’t tell us, but the distance between the regions was great — Nazareth was well north of Jerusalem, Bethlehem was due south — so, it is possible they were not eager to make the return trip.  Since Joseph, and possibly Mary, had family in Bethlehem, Joseph may have found work or something with family, but that’s just speculation.  You have the rest of the story right.

Q. (Matthew 2:5, 15): Just wondering who the prophet was.

A. In this instance, two different men: the first reference is from Micah, and the second one is from Hosea.  Sometimes the source is cited within the text (as in Mark 1), but most times Matthew (writing to a Jewish audience) assumed they knew the texts he was talking about (Jews studied and debated Messianic scriptures extensively in Jesus’ day), but the footnotes always list the reference.

Q. (2:16): I hope you have some reasoning that makes me feel better about the killing of all these baby boys being tied to Jesus’s birth.

A. Not really: Herod was a terribly cruel king who killed members of his own family because he considered them threats to his power.  So it is little wonder that he would react powerfully and kill children at the very hint of a threat to his power.

Q. (Luke 2:51): Here it is again, “his mother stored all these things in her heart.” I take from this that Mary is taking note to her child’s actions, thoughts, works and trying to support Him and maybe imagine what He’ll be like.

A. Imagine being able to interact with Jesus as a child or a young man.  That surely was fascinating to experience as His mother, and I see no reason that she would not treasure experiences that were surely like this one.

Q. (Mark 1:1b-8): How did John know to baptize?  I don’t think we have read why they are baptizing.  Have we been told what baptism symbolizes?  V. 4 says people should be baptized to show they have repented and turned to God.  But how does going under water symbolize this?

A. Baptism as we know it comes out of the ritual washing of the priests from Leviticus.  The baptism John offered was one of repentance: the people were immersing themselves in the “cleansing” water (the Jordan is a notoriously unclean river- remember Naaman’s objection in 2 Kings 5?) to show that they were washing away their sin.  Baptism (at least immersion) has come to mean following in the footsteps of Christ, and dying (being immersed) and rising to new life (coming to the surface).  But in John’s ministry, it was a sign of repentance.

Q. (Mark 1:6,7): If someone was dressed in camel-hair clothes, ate locusts and preached about Jesus, I doubt he would get a lot of followers.  Why the wildman lifestyle?  A footnote indicates that the Pharisees and Sadducees may have come to the river to be baptized.  I would think they would have a hard time accepting John the Baptist as a man of God.

A. You bet they had a hard time, we will see this come into play during Jesus’ ministry.  According to the Gospels, John had some sort of big following (though we have no idea how many), but it’s quite clear that his ministry got a lot of “word of mouth” endorsement.  How else could all the people hear what was happening outside the city?  As to why he went all wildman, I honestly couldn’t tell you, but it surely didn’t put as many people off as you seem to think it did.

Q. What is the purpose of having four accounts — Matthew, Mark, Luke, John — of Jesus’s life?

A. To get four different perspectives.  Each of the writers has their own pet themes and messages that they desire to share with their respective audiences.  I, frankly, love the idea that there is not one, but four different, fully inspired, perspectives on this God-man.  How could one even come close to telling the whole story?

One other note: if you take four different eyewitnesses to a major event (a battle, a crime, a miracle, etc.) you are going to get four different perspectives on it; that’s just human nature.  So again, the existence (and inspiration) of four different stories of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection is just further proof to me of the depths God was willing to go to ensure that there is a “story” for each of us to connect with.  I personally love Luke’s gospel the best, but I find great things I admire about each of them, and I know others who feel the same way about Mark, John, or Matthew.

Q. (Luke 3:16): What does this mean: “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire”?  I don’t understand the “fire” part.  Will we get into baptism more later?  Or, should I ask some of the questions now.  Mainly, is infant baptism, sprinkling, immersion, all the same?  I was baptized at a church, dipped underwater.  I was always told that full immersion is what the scriptures instruct.  Our church has frequent infant baptisms.   I always thought the believer had to be old enough to know what it meant to formally accept and proclaim Christ.  I was in the Fourth Grade when I got baptized, but I know I didn’t understood the full scope of what it meant to be a Christian.  I’m still learning that.

A. If you learn everything about being a Christian, do let me know- then you can answer the questions!  Ha!

As to the baptism with fire, it’s a prophecy about Pentecost, which is down the road, so we’ll get to that.  There are more baptisms to see in later events, so let’s table the immersion/infant baptism thing for now, because it is long and not easily addressed.  I’ll work on it.

Q. (Matthew 3:16, Mark 1:10, Luke 3:22) These three Gospels all say that the Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove.  What’s the dove symbolism?  Why would the Holy Spirit have to descend on Him?  He is already God.

A. The dove was (and is) a symbol of peace, which probably had something to do with it.  There’s a note of Trinitarian doctrine in this question that’s worth considering: part of the Church’s understanding of the Trinity is that while each person of the Godhead IS God, there remains distinction between them in ways that are difficult to explain or even understand.  The way it is traditionally phrased is this: the Father IS God, but is NOT the Son or Spirit.  The Son IS God, but is NOT the Father or Spirit.  The Spirit IS God, but is NOT the Father or Son.  As to why Jesus “needed” the Spirit, I’m not sure there’s a good answer for that.  The Spirit will continue to have a huge role in the Jesus’ earthly ministry and beyond.

Day 85 (March 26): 31 kings defeated, Lands east and west of Jordan divided, Caleb gets Hebron,

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 12:7

Questions & Observations

Q. (Joshua 13:1, 14:10): From reading about these battles, the text makes me feel like the battles happened real fast, but I guess that wasn’t the case if Joshua is getting old.  So, we can tell from Caleb that the Israelites have been battling for 45 years.  When God told the Israelites that they would receive the land He promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, I didn’t have a feeling that they would have to fight for it.  I thought after all that misery of slavery, escaping from Egypt and wandering in the desert for 40 years, that the land of milk and honey would be ready and waiting for them to relax.  Why did they have to work so hard for the land?

A. The events described in the first 12 or so chapters do appear to take place quickly, but what Joshua is doing is establishing a beachhead of sorts in the land.  From here, the long process of taking the entire land happens over a generation or more – 45 years according to the verse you point to.  I don’t know exactly why it takes so long, but I guess it has to do with settling in new towns and taking over the old ones, which is probably not a fast job.  The central victories that are won in the first few chapters do tell the story though: Israel established itself as the dominant power in the region by destroying Jericho and Ai (along with the other battles mentioned), and from there, the battle is already won, they simply have to complete the task.

Q. Is there any significance to how the territories are laid out?

A. Honestly, not as far as I can tell.  There will “be” significance, if you will.  That is, the territories will become important for future direction of the story, but this is really an establishing moment, and I don’t think there is much significance to the locations at this point.  Here’s just one example: some of the tribes that border other regions (Dan in the north for example) will be more susceptible to the corruption of other tribes because Israel fails to drive out all the people that God tells them to.  We’ll see how this plays out.

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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?

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Day 69 (March 10): Gad and Reuben choose land east of Jordan River, Moses warns of countering God, Moses recounts Israel’s journey through desert, God instructs Israelites to drive out everyone living in Canaan, Land allotment begins

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.  Take the challenge.  You won’t regret it.

Numbers 32-33

Questions & Observations

Q. (Numbers 32:4): It does appear that God had intended for this land to belong to the Israelites.  Why else would he have conquered it, unless it was on their way to Canaan and there was no way around it?  But, you would think that the Gad and Reuben clans would want to see what God had set aside for them.

A. They appear to feel that the land they had was as good as anything in the Promised Land, in the spirit of “one in the hand is worth two in the bush.”

O. (32:6-30): I like how Moses reminds the tribes of Gad and Reuben — and essentially probably all of Israel — the history of this sort of thing happening and it going bad.  This memory is fresh enough that the Israelites still remember it.  Apparently, the lesson has been learned this time.  We’ll see for how long.

Q. (32:34-42): Life back then seemed so uncertain.  From these verses, I can picture non-Israelites being forced out of their villages.  It seems that the only certain thing was God.  If I were these other villages, I would think hard about finding out about the Israelites God and/or ask to join them.  Is there any information about if non-Israelites could join the Israelites?  The Midianite girls were spared (Numbers 31:18).  Do we know if they became Israelites?

A. There are regulations spread throughout these first five books, including Exodus 12, which says that foreigners who want to join in Passover celebrations must have all males circumcised, and various similar instructions — some of which will come from our next book, Deuteronomy, so watch for those.  Numbers does not tell us the fate of the girls, but we can assume that they grew up in Israelite households and perhaps some of them married into the tribes.  It appears that if the right steps (i.e. circumcision) took place, the Israelites had a fairly “open door” policy on joining up with God’s people.

O. (33:3-48): I guess this is a wrap-up of their journey.  Let’s view a good map of the Israelites’ 40-year journey in the desert.  Try: www.keyway.ca/htm2001/20010411.htm

Q. (Numbers 33:4): What is God talking about here when he says, “ the gods of Egypt.”

A. As we looked at back in Exodus, the victory in the Passover would have been seen as God conquering the gods of Egypt.  Obviously if the gods of Egypt had won, then the firstborn of Egypt would not have died.

Q. (33:55): God is forewarning the Israelites to clear out all of those people who are occupying the land He is given to the Israelites.  I wonder if we are getting a little picture of some conflict to come, or if the Israelites will obey?

A. This will indeed be something to watch for, and the answer is no.

Thanks for reading.  Hope to see you tomorrow!