Day 253 (Sept. 10): Daniel’s vision of a messenger on a horse, king of south and north continually battle, Daniel’s instructions for the end, call to rebuild the temple, obedience to God’s call

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.

Daniel 10-12:13

Ezra 4:24-5:1

Haggai 1

Questions & Observations

Q. (Daniel 10:3): Why no meats, wine or fragrant lotions?

A. He is fasting from the luxuries of the Persian kingdom.  It is similar to the notions from chapter 1 when Daniel and his friends forsook the rich foods of Babylon because of their defiling effect.

Q. (Daniel 10:5): Do we know who the man is at the river?  And, why do we often read about clothes made of linen?

A. We only know what Daniel tells us about him: he is not named (though the archangel Michael is), but is an angelic messenger of God who arrives to answer the prayers of Daniel who appears to be asking for more information on the events to come that we saw mentioned in the previous chapter.

Q. (10:12-14): Can you tell us why this segment is about angels and spirit princes?  Also, I looked up archangel on Wikipedia, which opens a whole set of questions about archangels, and more interesting to me about books that are in other religions but not the Christian.  As Christians, I just wonder if it’s worth our curiosity to investigate.  In an “archangel” search, Wikipedia mentions the books of Tobit (Catholic), Enoch (Jewish literature), 2 Esdras (Christian/Jewish) and are there others?  Why were they not considered Holy Scriptures to put in the Bible?  How do experts know that God didn’t consider them divine?

A. Ho boy, you’ve opened a whole big can of worms.  Let’s try to sort this all out.  First, we have seen references to angels before, and the implication of this verse is that there is some sort of hierarchy to angels — and possibly demons as well — that we only have glimpses of.  We aren’t really given details WITHIN SCRIPTURE about what it means to be an archangel (that should always be our starting point- ESPECIALLY since we’re dealing with beings beyond our understanding).  So basically, that’s as far as we can go on that side of the discussion: archangels exist, but that’s all we know for sure.  So let’s look at how we got to this point and address the materials themselves.

Let’s deal with the books you mentioned: In the canon of the Protestant Christian Bible (more on why in a sec, but bare with me), there are only two named angels: Gabriel (which means God is my strength) and Michael (Who is like God?).  But in the tradition of the Jews (its non-canonical for them as well), there is an inter-testament writing called Enoch (which you caught onto) that describes SEVEN archangels (7 being our number for completion or perfection): Gabriel, Michael, Raphael (God heals), Uriel (God is my light), Raguel (Friend of God), Ramiel (Thunder of God), and Sariel (Command of God).  These are powerful angelic beings that watch over Israel in the midst of the difficult persecutions that they faced between the OT and the NT (more on that later).

Enoch (or Enoch I) was a compilation work of various stories, including about angels.  Jews and Christians do not generally consider it be canonical: Jews exclude it because it was not written in Hebrew (it was written in Aramaic), but the writing was extremely influential on Jewish thought in the time of Jesus and the early Church.  A number of early Church fathers refer to the work in their writings (not part of the NT) and there are a few vague references to it in scripture (such as the very short letter of Jude).  Because it was a part of the tradition of the early Church, Roman Catholics and the Orthodox Church accept it as part of what we call the Apocrypha, but it is NOT considered it be on the same level as the OT and NT.  Still, they nonetheless consider it worth studying, and it is found between the Testaments in a Catholic (or Orthodox) Bible.  So to Catholics and Jews, it is an influential work, but not on the same level as inspired Scripture.  And before you get all over the “how do they know?” angle, that’s mostly because it really doesn’t say anything new about God: it mostly repeats and expands upon other well known stories of the OT, which is part of the reason that it doesn’t have that much influence today, even if it did back then.  The men who compiled the canon put a lot of thought into which books to include and exclude, and they ALWAYS have good reasons for exclusion, so don’t lose any sleep over that.

As to the other books you mentioned, in a Catholic Bible you will ALSO find Tobit and 2 Esdras, whose content you can read about online but I won’t bother going into here to keep us on topic.  So no worries about writings about archangels in OTHER religions, all the books you mentioned can be found within any Catholic Bible.  (Just FYI, you can find any of the writings online through Biblegateway.com or any number of Catholic sites.  They are very interesting reads.)

As to why Protestants do not include the Apocrypha, you can thank none other than Mr. Martin Luther.  Luther is credited with creating the list of canonical Scriptures for his newly created Lutheran church back around 1520.  The list he generated is still used by Protestants around the world today.  Luther’s reasoning is that since the Jews rejected it, it probably wasn’t worth including, and anything that reeked of Catholicism at that point (the beginnings of the Reformation) had to go, so…out it went.  So I think you can see that none of the source material you mentioned has even been considered part of the canon for either Jews or Christians, and even the ones who include it (Catholics and Orthodox) do so in it’s own section of the Bible.

Q. (11:2-45): This vision seems to go at quadruple speed to make an account of all the changes in power and rifts between the kings of the south and north.  What do we need to take from it, if anything?

A. As I mentioned yesterday, it refers to the power struggle between two of the nations that form after Alexander the Great died and his empire was chopped up.  It is the King of the North (Antiochus Epiphanes) who will desecrated the Temple in his attempt to dismantle Jewish worship and will incite the rebellion I mentioned yesterday (the Times, Time, and half Time refers to the three and a half years (2, 1, ½) of revolt before the Temple is restored.  That’s the basic understanding of the reading, and when we move to the NT, we will skip over these events and move into the modern era.

Q. (12:1-4, 9): So is Revelation being described here or is it about the fall of Israel?  And, why would God want Daniel to know about this, especially since it’s not happening for a while (right?) and tell him to keep it secret.

A. The angel is describing an apocalyptic event, that is, an event where the world ends.  The Bible casts multiple visions for what this looks like (Jesus Himself will provide one), but this is one of the oldest, and John, who wrote Revelation, will refer back to it.  As to why God told Daniel to keep it a secret, I have no good answer for that.

O. (Haggai 1): If you are wondering who Haggai was, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haggai

Day 232 (Aug. 20): God describes Israel’s sins and Judah’s siege using a riddle about eagles, punishment to go to the sinner not multiple generations, funeral song for Israel’s kings

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 17-19

Questions & Observations

Q. (Ezekiel 17:1-10): Not sure why God told this story with a riddle.  I had a little trouble following it.  But, know that I think about it, I guess God is showing how one grows and prospers.  On a side note, this riddle sounds like something I would hear from The Doors.  I wonder if they read Ezekiel.

A. Here’s how I would break it down: the cedar is the royal family of David, and the “top” of the tree, which the eagle captures, is the most recent king.  The first eagle is Nebuchadnezzar, who took the “top” people of Israel back to Babylon.  Those who were left behind, not being the best of the society, were mere “vines”.  These vines, those not taken by Nebuchadnezzar, including the king Zedekiah, rebelled against the first eagle by reaching out to a second eagle, most likely the Pharaoh of Egypt.  God is condemning the actions of the “king of the vines” by saying that Egypt will not rescue them from Babylon, and all will be lost.  But in the same sense, God has also described the way that the righteous of the nation will be saved, for the first eagle has “preserved” the cedar in a foreign land.  The real kicker is in 17:22, which contains a Messianic prophecy about the ruler that God Himself will “plant” or make king.  This king, Jesus, is of David’s line (the cedar), and will be chosen by God to be the eternal King that will draw all nations to Himself.

Q. (17:24): That last comment “I will do what I said” reminds me of the steadfastness of God and also of the free will vs. predestination argument.  Rob, you are on the “free will” side.  I agree with this because we have obviously seen where God gives people choices and most of the time, we read that they make the wrong one.  But, we have also seen where God empowers people where things are done that they could not do on their own and may have not chosen to do.  So, that’s not free will.  Maybe God just strengthens intentions, i.e. an invading army would become stronger with God’s help and win.  For Christians, we really only have one choice and that is to follow God.  So, there are no options if you want to receive God’s blessings.  I don’t think God would interfere with someone’s faith in Him.  I think He tests us with some pretty harsh circumstances (like he did with Job), but as long as we remain steadfast and see the only real choice — if we want to receive His gifts — is to follow him.  And on the predestination side, do you know of anywhere in the Bible that says God purposefully created someone to fail or be evil?

A. Ok, first, let’s get a few things straight; because I think you’ve rigged this question a bit (not intentionally of course).  God does not require us to follow Him in order to bless us (as Jesus reminds us in Matthew 5:45), but He blesses all of His children just for the sake of them being His children.  What you are describing is the opposite effect: you see or realize the salvation that God offers in Christ as a blessing, and IT IS!  But, many do not see it that way: Muslims, Jews, atheists, etc.  They see Jesus as not being divine, or not dying for our sins, or not even existing (which is frankly stupid, but a discussion for another day) or something like that.  This does NOT mean that God does not bless them, quite the opposite.  God provides what we might call “basic” blessings upon all people, no matter how sinful.  For Christians who have come to faith, we believe that the Bible teaches that Holy Spirit plays an active role in our lives, but only after our saving faith.  Those who do not have faith in Christ do not have access to this particular blessing, but this hardly means God does not bless them.

 

So I think the question of God’s determinism as it comes to human choice is not as slanted as you have indicated.  You can certainly point to a large number of references to human choice as you have mentioned.  There is a degree of interplay between what we might call God’s overriding will and man’s free will that is simply impossible to know this side of heaven.  We will only be able to see the way that our choices (or whatever role we have in our eternal destiny) and God’s will intersect on the other side.  So as a manner of focus in this life, I choose to focus on human choice, there are others (primarily Calvinists) who choose to focus on God’s sovereignty, but neither position has all the answers- there is simply no way to know how these two positions fit together.  As to your question about specific people in the Bible and their “predestined” role, let’s revisit that question when we read the book of Romans (Paul addresses the topic there and I don’t want to jump ahead too much) or if a relevant scripture comes up before we get there.

 

Q. (18:4): Historically, God has punished multiple generations for the sin of one.  It appears that He is changing His rule here? “For all people are mine to judge—both parents and children alike. And this is my rule: The person who sins is the one who will die.”  Personally, I don’t understand why God would turn such a 180 turn on this subject.  I thought He punished several generations for sins as a deterrent to try to stop them from sinning.

A. I think that there is no change in God’s “policy” if you will, but what God is talking about to Ezekiel is related to what we have established before.  In Exodus 34:7, God tells Moses that He will “punish” children to the third and fourth generation for the sins of the parents.  It says nothing about their deaths for the sins of their parents; and while some might see that as a subtle distinction, God is, well, in the details.  What God is addressing is whether the children should DIE for the sins of the parents, and to me that is a whole other can of worms.  Each of us (says the person who believes in free will) must make our own decisions when it comes to God, and each generation has to make its own choices, no matter what their fathers or grandfathers (or mothers or grandmothers) have done.  So while God may indeed punish us for the sins of our parents, we still have some form of capacity to choose God of their own will.  While the generations may be interconnected via good and bad decisions parents make (as we have discussed), the burden of life verses death lies with each of us in every generation.

Q. (19:1-14): OK, I am trying to connect the characters here.  At first, I thought it may be Joseph was the first cub and Benjamin the second.  Don’t think that works out.  Then, I thought that the first cub was Israel and the second, Judah.  But, then who would the vine be?  Can you clear the confusion here?

A. I think the lioness is Judah (David’s symbol was a lion), and the two cubs are her two sons who have been recent kings: the first, viscous, cub (verse 3) is Jehoahaz, who ruled for only a short time and was taken to Egypt as a prisoner (2 Kings 23:31-34), and the second cub is Zedekiah, who was taken to Babylon as a prisoner.  Their fierceness and man-eating habits are most likely a subtle critique of their cruel and viscous rule that killed many people even in a short period of time.

Day 216 (Aug. 4): Jehoahaz rules Judah for three months, Egypt’s king made Eliakim the next king and changed his name to Jehoiakim, warning that Judah will be rubble, the temple will fall, Jehoiakim rules with evil and will be punished, Jeremiah escapes death, Judah faces 70 years of captivity

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.

2 Chronicles 36:1-4

2 Kings 23:31-37

2 Chronicles 36:5

Jeremiah 22:1-23

Jeremiah 26:1-24

2 Kings 24:1-4

Jeremiah 25:1-14

Questions & Observations

Q. (2 Chronicles 36:1-4, 2 Kings 23:31-35): This seems like an odd move of the king of Egypt to take one brother as a prisoner and make another brother ruler. The Kings’ version tells us that Jehoahaz was evil.  This isn’t why Egypt’s King Neco would remove him though, right?

A. No, Neco likely installed a sibling that he felt that he could control, and possibly one that was weak or easily manipulated.  But regardless, God was not pleased with either of the brothers and the ways that they strayed from their father’s choices.

Q. (Jeremiah 22:1-5): So at this point, Judah has been pretty much destroyed, but Jerusalem still stands in fairly good shape?  So, this is a warning told to Jehoiakim in Jerusalem?

A. It is hard to tell, but Judah’s territory did keep shrinking.  I don’t know the exact breakdown of the territory, but the warning is for the capital.

O. (26:1-19): I love this scripture because it is so clear and easy to understand what is happening.  It has a person who is saying it, a place where it is being said and a good reason for saying it.  Jeremiah has captured the people’s attention.  To me, this is a much different, much more specific style of writing than we have seen from the other prophets.

Q. (26:16, 23-24): Is there something here to make note of?  Why was Uriah killed, but not Jeremiah?

A. He was protected by God and the city elders/leaders, for reasons that only God knows, but he’s not out of danger yet.

Q. (25:11-14): Again, this is clear text and we see exactly what’s happening.  Seventy years of captivity is a long time. Does this have anything to do with 70 years would be a good amount of time for a generation to be gone which would help rid the people of their evil?

A. It is surely a multi-generational punishment (remember 40 is one of our numbers that symbolizes a generation).  The 70 years is also a round figure, corresponding to the period from roughly 605 BC to around 538 BC, when Judah began to return from exile for reasons that will be clear later.  Other scholars believe that this section is prophetic, and refers to a later action in which Jerusalem, including Solomon’s Temple, is destroyed, which takes place in 583 BC, and the rebuilding of the Temple, which begins around 515 BC.

The important thing to note is that Judah will be conquered and controlled by Babylon, but not demolished for a period of many years (roughly 605 to 583 BC).  The Babylonian leadership will begin to take the best and brightest of Judah’s leaders (royal advisors, priests, civil leaders, etc.) and bring them to Babylon as slaves in order to strengthen their own society and weaken Judah.  So by 583, the city is weak, and easily conquered, though there are still some events to come.  So this is why some of the materials that, say, Jeremiah will write will make reference to the people in captivity (Jeremiah 29 is a perfect example): he is writing to the leaders who have been taken hostage, but does so before Jerusalem is actually leveled.  I hope that information can be a guide for our next few days of reading.

Day 215 (Aug. 3): Moab and Ammon will be destroyed, joined by Ethiopia and Assyria, Jerusalem remains stubborn, Jerusalem will be redeemed, Josiah dies from enemy arrow, the Philistines and Moabites will see destruction

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.

Zephaniah 2:8-3:20

2 Chronicles 35:20-27

2 Kings 23:29-30

Jeremiah 47-48:47

Questions & Observations

Q. (Zephaniah 2:8-9): This is an off-the-wall observation.  I hadn’t really thought about people’s and animals’ protection of “their” borders.  Does God say anything about this instinct we have?  We watched “Chimpanzee” the other day and the chimp groups had distinct borders.  We also have personal space or borders that we don’t want people to cross.  This is a protective mechanism, a survival instinct, or what?  Does God address it anywhere?  Also, v. 9 says, “The remnant of my people will plunder them and take their land.” So, this means the Israelites have the land of Moab and Ammon in addition to Canaan?  Is this setting up for the greater nation of Israel that we have talked about where other nations join them?

A. As far as I can tell, God does not address the nature of humanity and animals to claim borders.  If anything, the Bible teaches that God Himself regularly uses and shapes borders (see Genesis 1 for example, and all the “separations” God includes).  The writer of Joshua and Judges would have us understand that God provided the borders for the 12 tribes in the new nation that they formed, so we would hardly expect Him to condemn it when animals or other nations do it.  If anything, the Bible tells us that this desire originates in God, and is reflected in His creation.

Q. (Zephaniah 2:12-15): Now Zephaniah 2:8-11 doesn’t necessarily say that these happenings are being told directly to Moab and Ammon.  I think it sounds like it is being told to the Israelites.  But, vs. 12-15 sound like they are being addressed to the Ethiopians and Assyrians.  I know it’s not that important.  I am just wondering if these happenings are warnings to the nations or if they are prophecies being told to the Israelites.

A. I believe that they are both: the prophecy against Moab and Ammon would have been powerful signs to the Israelites, who saw them as enemy nations deserving of God’s wrath.  But God clearly, as with Israel, takes no pleasure in their destruction (Jer 48:36), but apparently feels that they must pay for their mockery of Israel and their worship of the idol Chemosh.

Q. (Zephaniah 3:7): God struggles terribly with impressing His power upon the Israelites.  They just don’t listen.  Is part of their problem that God cannot be seen?

A. Sure, but that doesn’t excuse their behavior.  Part of the reason God mocks the various idols of the people so mercilessly, i.e. they are just wood or metal, is that the people seem to find security in something they can touch and see, rather than having complete faith in God Himself, which they unfortunately cannot.  I frankly see this as being a problem of human nature — we trust what we can see a lot more than what we can’t — and it is surely still a problem with the various idols in our society.

Q. (Zephaniah 3:11): I don’t understand who Zephaniah is talking about when he says “you will no longer need to be ashamed, for you will no longer be rebels against me.”

A. He’s talking about the restored Kingdom of God, when the people will be purified of their sin and live in harmony with their Creator.

Q. (Zephaniah 3:15): I remember waaaay back when the Israelites were demanding to have a king.  God said it wasn’t necessary because He was their leader, their king.  But, the people demanded one.  Now, here, the kings are gone, right?  And, God says He will live among them … just like he recommended.

A. You’ve remembered correctly.  In this instance, God is speaking about His future Kingdom, where He will rule among the nations.

Q. (2 Chronicles 35:22): So, Josiah should have listened to King Neco?  This was a weakness of Josiah that he didn’t want to be told what to do?

A. It appears to be a pride moment for Josiah, and he pays a hefty price for ignoring Neco’s warning.  It is surely strange to the story, I admit, that God’s word comes via a pagan king.

Q. (Jeremiah 48:7): I don’t remember hearing about Chemosh before.  Anything special about that idol?

A. We have addressed it before, but I can’t seem to find the reference to the question.  Chemosh was the idol/god of the Moabites and occasionally Israel: Solomon built an altar to Chemosh in 1 Kings 11, and he is mentioned in Judges 11 and Numbers 21.

Q. (48:10): Does this mean that those who can’t bring themselves to kill someone else in the name of God will be cursed?

A.  No.  God has assigned an army (probably Babylon’s army under Nebuchadnezzar) to the “task” of wiping out Moab, and does not want to see them delay: He wants the task done.  It is in no way a license to kill indiscriminately.

Q. (48:35-39, 47): God is super sympathetic to Moab and acts as if it hurts Him to be doling out this destruction.  And, then in v. 47, God says He will restore Moab.  Why does God have a special connection to Moab?

A. I don’t know of anything specific, but as I mentioned above, it appears that God simply takes no pleasure in this slaughter and promises to restore the nation in some form.

Day 187 (July 6): Joyful are His followers, a charge for the kings, the wicked are successful but they will feel God’s wrath, God created us, He knows us, a cry for God’s care, those who find shelter in God find rest

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.

Psalms 1-2, 10, 33, 71, 91

Questions & Observations

O. (Psalms 1:1-3): If you think about things that kind of irritate you, bring you down and you just can’t shake them, where do those thoughts stem from?  I hadn’t thought about this until just now.  Whatever those thoughts are, they do not include God.  But, when I am focused on God, I am always happy.  When I listen to our local Christian music station, 88.3 FM, I am welling with happiness.  So, set your eyes on God and you will find happiness!

O. (1:4-6): What a comfort to know that God is always watching over us, as long as we are on His path.

Q. (2:7): We talked before about the anointed kings being like God’s sons.  The people are encouraged to follow the king’s orders and the kings are charged with being wise and making good decisions.  Why does God link the kings directly to Him?

A. Ok, first things first.  Generally, one of the ways that these ancient cultures thought about royalty is that their leaders were anointed by God (or whatever other gods there were in their society), and were therefore given the title of “son” of God/god.  This is only a cultural title, and does not generally apply to actual genealogy.  Now, having said that, this Psalm is something else entirely.  Psalm 2 is a Messianic Psalm, one that describes actions or characteristics of the Messiah, God’s anointed or chosen, ruler, and here we see the ruler described as an earthly king.  So in this case, the writer really is referring to a father/son type relationship between God and this Messianic ruler, which the Jews of this era would have been expecting.

One of the “offices” or “titles” that the Messiah will hold (that is, and office anointed by God) is that of king (the others are priest and prophet, so watch for Messianic descriptions of these offices as well).  He is God’s chosen ruler, the one whom the government will be on His shoulders (Isaiah 9:6).  He, the whole of God and the best of our humanity, will be the true ruler in the Kingdom of God.

Q. (2:16-17): This psalm and many others speaks so confidently about God’s power, yet they also speak of their reservations about God not being sovereign and failing to help ones who are suffering.

A. I think they are being true to their thoughts: they know God to be all-powerful, and trust in Him, but see that their reality is a lot more “gray” then they would like.  It, to me, is the writer’s attempt to reconcile the truth of God with what they see.

Q. This is a random thought: it seems like in Bible times, people who were following God, or any false god, made lots of time in their day to worship.  I would say a good majority of Sunday Christians just worship on Sunday and maybe say prayers before they eat dinner.  In contrast, some religions in other countries worship at set times during the day and may seem more devoted than the when-we-make-time-for-it religion. But, I’m wondering if God maybe might approve of someone’s faith in Him when they worship on their own time and don’t feel forced to attend.

A. As we have discussed with the issues that got the Jews in trouble in this era, God is after our hearts first and foremost.  So we’ve got to get rid of this idea that we are being “forced” to do anything with our relationship with God.  If you feel like you have to force yourself to be part of religious ritual, then frankly, I would say that’s a problem with you!  It should be our desire to make God the priority in our lives.  From the 10 Commandments on, however, we see that God only requires one day a week from us (the Sabbath—however we choose to interpret it).  What we give from there is, strictly speaking, up to us.  (And I would say the same applies to tithing — 10% required, more than that optional and at our discretion).  Our relationship with God should never feel forced: we would be very concerned about a person if they were asking, “how much time do I have to spend with my kids or my spouse?”  That would tell me there’s a major problem with the relationship, and it would be the same concern I would have if that’s the way they treated their relationship with God.

Now having said that, there’s a flip side to this that does need to be addressed.  I think that the record of scripture teaches clearly that giving God more of our time, talent, or treasure does NOT make Him love us more, but it may change us in the process (note the difference between the two!)  Being devoted to God more hours in a given day will not cause God to bless us more, but it might bring us into closer relationship with Him.

Q. (Psalm 71): It seems that a lot of Psalm writers are worried about God forsaking them.  The writers almost threaten God to not leave them.  Why?

A. Very likely some of these Psalms are written in the midst of terrible things happening to the people of Judah (like watching a foreign power march through and destroy Israel).  The truly insightful Jew is willing to acknowledge that God is all they are really holding onto in the end, so if He “leaves,” then you know you are out of luck.

Q. (Psalm 71:20): Would you say that some “hardship” is sometimes just part of the plan?  I know that the big picture is just to keep trusting in God and He’ll take care of you.

A. Sure.  God does not guarantee us a smooth ride in life, but we believe that He is faithful.  If we ignore His warnings though, we are in danger of being forced to deal with the consequences of our actions.  The choice to sin always bears poisonous fruit, but often we cannot tell whom it will affect.

O. (Psalm 91:4): What a picture of protection!  What a great image of God watching His sheep.  I was thinking about how Jesus, God and the Spirit work for us.  I have always thought of Jesus working for us by saving us from our sins as he was nailed to the cross.  But, His influence didn’t stop there.  Jesus was always trying to reach more people to share the word of God and give them heaven’s salvation.  We are supposed to be like Jesus, reaching out to and protecting those who don’t know Him.

Day 186 (July 5): Praises to God from Korah, Jerusalem is glorious, riches are meaningless, the godly will rule over them, His kingdom is awesome, other kingdoms will join 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.

Psalms 47-49, 84-85, 87

Questions & Observations

Q. (Psalm 47-49, 84-85, 87): These Psalms were probably grouped together because they were all about or by — whatever it means by “of” the descendants of Korah — the descendants of Korah.  Korah was a tribe of Esau, right?  They have joined the Israelites or at least acknowledged God’s supremacy?  Their words are very glorifying!

A. There is a Korah mentioned as being a son of Esau (Genesis 36:5), but it much more likely refers to the children of the Korah that instigated a rebellion against Moses back in Numbers.  Back on Day 136 (May 16th) when we first came across a Korah psalm, you asked me about that Korah, and here’s what I wrote:

Korah was the leader of the insurrection against Moses and Aaron way back in Numbers 16 and was swallowed up by the earth.  But there are elements of redemption in the story as well.  Numbers 26:11 tells us that the descendants of Korah survived the death of their father, and were part of the Levitical priesthood.  They played a role as door/gate keepers and some form of musicians (1 Chronicles 9) for David.  Several psalms are credited to them.  Part of the redemption for me is we see the element of grace at work.  Our past does not have to be our future because of God’s grace.  One of the clearest messages of scripture is that God can redeem anyone, no matter what horrible things have been done in their past, or even their families’ past.

Q. (48:4-7): What incident is the psalm speaking about here?

A. It’s a good question, and I don’t have a great answer.  There are a couple of times where foreign enemies allied themselves against Israel, including 2 Chronicles 20, where forces, Moab and Ammon, ally against Jehoshaphat and fail, but there are other possibilities.  We don’t know for sure.

Q. (49): What an awesome psalm to bluntly say that riches get you nowhere!  We heard in Psalm 48 how beautiful and fortified Jerusalem was, how it was so magnificent that it scared away rival kings.  We are saying that this city was strong because it was God’s city, right?  Psalm 49 could be looked at as contradicting because it’s saying wealth is meaningless in the life-and-death spectrum.  We are talking of two different things —  the beauty of Jerusalem because it’s God’s city and the wasteful riches of people?

A. Yes, I think you have that right.

Q. (84:5-7): Would you say that we could apply these verses to our lives?  The more we bring God into our heart, the stronger we become?

A. As a general rule yes (remember our rules for Proverbs: generally very helpful, but not ironclad).  I would say the same applies here.

O. (84:10-12): Love the song that comes from this verse.  The first time I stepped into our old church in Yorktown, VA they were playing that song.  Brought me to tears.  You can listen to it on youtube.com, just type in “better is one day in your courts.”  The next two verses, 11-12 are awesome too.  What a reward to follow him.

Q. (85): Is this psalm asking that if Israel or Judah become corrupt again, will God come to their rescue?

A. It seems more like the writer is demanding rescue.  Pretty gutsy expectation if you ask me, but God has surely proven Himself faithful to His people, so maybe this guy is on to something.

Q. (87): So, Jerusalem absorbs other nations because they have seen God’s magnificence and accepted Him as their God?

A. This psalm casts a unique vision (for the Psalms anyway), but it reads very similarly to verses and concepts that we have read about in Isaiah and Micah — the idea that the Kingdom God will one day establish will be gathered around Jerusalem and the concept of the Mountain of God — Zion.  Those other stories spoke of all nations gathering in Jerusalem/Zion to be a part of His holy Kingdom (see Micah 4 for instance).  For what its worth, the Book of Revelation contains a very similar image, albeit from a very different Jerusalem (Revelation 21 and 22:1-5), but no less the Kingdom of God.

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.

Thanks for checking out BibleBum.com.  Please join us again!

Day 84 (March 25): Israel defeats southern towns, Joshua kills five southern kings, Southern towns destroyed, northern armies destroyed, kings east of Jordan defeated

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 10-12:6

Questions & Observations

Q. (Joshua 10:9-10): So, although the Gibeonites had tricked Israel into giving them favor and thus protecting them, the Lord, through Joshua, showed them grace because they acknowledged His power?

A. Once the oath of allegiance had been sworn, the matter was settled, and Israel would at that point be responsible for the safeguarding of their servants.  That is likely why the Gibeonites had the expectation of Israel coming to their rescue.

Q. (10:26): Is there anything more discuss about impaling the kings other than it’s a sign of victory and warning to the Israelites’ enemies?

A. The execution involved being hung on a tree, even though technically they were impaled (isn’t the Bible fun!), which would have been a demonstration of their cursed nature, as mentioned in Deuteronomy 21:22.

Q. (10:28-42): This is a lot of bloodshed.  Were these towns’ residents evil or was the destruction just part of God’s wishes to clear the area and give it to the Israelites?  Are any of the towns that were destroyed connected to any Biblical character we have studied thus far?

A. The implication is that the people in this area had grown evil and corrupt.  God is telling Israel, “here’s the deal: your job is to purify this land for me, and then it is yours. Just be careful, because if you become corrupt (and they will), I’m going to bring an invading force to destroy you just like you destroyed these people.”  The areas mentioned, such as Jerusalem, have some passing reference: Jerusalem is where Abraham met with Melchizedek (Genesis 14), and will be the future capital under David and the subsequent kings.  Some of the tribes have been referred to in previous lineages, but there is nothing that is especially important for us to note.

Q. (11:20): So the Lord hardened the hearts of the kings in order to bring out rivalries, and, in turn, battle with them so the Lord can show His power?

A. It appears He did not want the other kings making terms of surrender in order to stay in the land.  It actually gives some credence to the idea that you suggested yesterday, that God desired the Gibeonites to be Israel’s servants, because otherwise He would have hardened their king’s heart as well.

Q. (11:21): Why is mentioning Anak important?   I don’t remember him mentioned from any previous reading.

A. There were references to them in Deuteronomy (1, 2, and 9).  They were the people who were, according to the 12 spies, so huge that they could not be conquered which caused Israel to flee instead of trusting God.  There are references to Genesis 6:4 here, and the creation of some sort of half human giants, for which we don’t exactly know what they mean.  But the Genesis account and these verses indicate that their descendant was Anak, which is probably the reason that he is mentioned here.