Day 362 (Dec. 28): 144,000 Israelites get seal of God, a crowd comes who survived the great tribulation and serve God, breaking seventh seal causes earthquake, angels blowing trumpets set off destruction on earth, fifth trumpet brings stinging locusts for five months, sixth trumpet blown releases angels who kill one-third of all people, the mighty angel with small scroll says to keep a secret and ate it, scroll was sweet but became sour in stomach

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.

Revelation 7-10:11

Questions & Observations

Q. So, this is all still John’s vision?  Why is this so crazy compared to everything we have read before … except for some of those wild monsters we read about in the OT.

A. This is John’s vision, but it is written in a particular type of genre of writing called apocalyptic.  It would have been a commonly used form for writing in this era, but since the Bible does not contain much of this type of literature (though parts of Zechariah, as we read yesterday, and Daniel 7-12 are examples we do have from the OT.  Note how similar the visions in the second half of Daniel are to what we are reading).

Apocalyptic literature hit its “peak” in the intertestament period, when Jewish oppression drove writers to create visions of God avenging their deaths at the hands of cruel pagans.  John, a Jew, is very familiar with this type of literature.  The key characteristics of this type of writing are vivid use of symbols, animals, numbers, and colors; but it is also characterized by its contrast to what we would call prophetic writing.  In prophetic writing (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Jonah, etc.), the situation is dire, but it is not too late for the people to repent — the common call of the prophet.  But this is not the case in apocalyptic literature: it IS too late in this case to repent, God Himself must intervene to avenge what has been done to His faithful children, something we see over and over again.  The wrath that is being poured out in these visions is to avenge those who have suffered at the hands of the unjust — something Christians had heavily experienced during the era of the Roman Emperors Nero and Domitian.

Q. (Revelation 7:1-8): Where does the 144,000 come from?  Are these Israelites alive or passed?

A. I’m going to assume you mean what is significant about it, because to me, the math is not in question (12 tribes, 12,000 sealed from each tribe).  There are numerous theories about it: some say it is a symbolic number.  One scholar I read noted that the number signifies completeness in two ways: by squaring the number of tribes (12×12) and multiplied by 1,000, which would have been understood to the original hearers as a sign of completeness.  Others view it as a literal number of Jews saved (Jehovah’s Witnesses argue that ONLY 144,000 PEOPLE will be saved in total!)  But there is not a lot of consensus.  I tend to see it as a symbolic number, since it is from a book that deals in symbolic numbers, not literal headcounts.  As to whether these Jews are alive or dead, that questions is impossible to answer, and is irrelevant anyway: they have completed their trial, so there is no longer a distinction between alive and dead- all are alive in Christ.

Q. (Revelation 7:14): Does the “crowd” refer to the rest of us — non-Israelites?  I thought Israelites were put on a level playing field with everyone else.  What is the great tribulation?

A. The common understanding is that the Jewish group is first seen by John as being a subsection of the great multitude, so that removes any notion of being the “special” section of the saved.  The Jews are still God’s chosen people, and His plan of salvation for the entire world had its origins with them.  But salvation is now for everyone.  The crowd is the survivors of the great tribulation, which the rest of the book will be showing to us.  Symbolically, this does describe all Christians from every nation and people, who ALL must pass through some form of trial and tribulation, either great or small.  That’s the way that I read what John has written here: it is a victory celebration for those, Jew and Gentile throughout all time, have come to salvation in Christ.

Q. (Revelation 8:6-13): Why is the significance of the star’s name — Bitterness?  How about the eagle?

A. The star has a few interpretations.  Those who hold to a more literal, “this represents this” interpretation argue that the language of Rev. 8 represents events of great leaders who have fallen (a “falling star”) in the history of our world.  I, frankly, don’t buy that, because there is no indication that this is what John means, and it requires too much pure speculation about who this is.  I think that takes too much away from what John is doing — writing symbolically — in this work.  I believe that the name, which refers to a type of plant, represents the coming bitterness that will befall the inhabitants of the earth in the midst of the coming tribulation.  The eagle is sometimes seen as a symbol of pending destruction, as in Deuteronomy 28:49, Jeremiah 4:13, and Hosea 8:1 — note that in Jeremiah the warning is followed by a declaration of “woe to us” and in Hosea there are trumpets that precede the warning.

Q. (Revelation 9:1-12): Ouch.  I don’t want to be in that crowd.  Locusts are a popular pest in the Bible.  Who is the Destroyer?

A. Most likely a symbolic personification of destruction, though some think that there is a powerful demon, a fallen angel, who is lord of the Abyss.

Q. (Revelation 9:13-21): Horses are popular in Revelation.  And, colors are pointed out when they are mentioned — here, the riders.  Why all the mutations of animals?  These visions can’t be actual — like back with Joseph’s visions when the wheat symbolized his brothers.

A. Yes, they are visions.  Horses are powerful symbols in this story because at the time, a warhorse would have been the most powerful weapon of war in existence.  They symbolized power, control, and conquest, and to a certain degree, they still do today.  Other animals — including some non-real ones coming up — are used because they often carry with them double meanings, the same reason that various colors are used.  The images of wild beasts and vivid colors drive our imagination, exactly as John desires.

Q. (Revelation 10:1-11): Is the mighty angel Jesus?  Can you point us back to the scripture that v.7 talks about when God revealed His plan to the prophets?  And, what is being symbolized when John ate the small scroll and it tasted sweet and then bitter?

A. No, Jesus is NEVER referred to as an angel.  It most likely refers to an archangel, one of the “high” classes of angels.  There is no Scripture that tells the exact spot where God revealed His plan to the prophets: it simply didn’t work that way.  God revealed pieces of His vision to the various men and women who were faithful to Him in the OT, and those visions, put together, and viewed through the “lens” of Jesus’ earthly ministry, gives us the vision for God’s plan.  The sweet/bitter of the scroll harkens back to Ezekiel, who was also ordered to consume a bitter message.  The sweetness is the inevitability of God’s victory, the good news.  The bitterness/sour is that this victory will involve the suffering of many or the bad news.  John must proclaim both messages, telling of Christ’s victory will be sweet, telling of suffering and persecution will be painful.

Day 249 (Sept. 6): The ‘man’ shows Ezekiel the life in the river that flows from the Temple to the Dead Sea, land boundaries for tribes, tribes’ division of land, special allotment for Temple, public use are for gardens, homes and pastures, new city’s name is “The Lord is There,” God to reward Nebuchadnezzar and his army for their hard work defeating Tyre, proud Egypt and her allies will be destroyed, new Babylonian King Evilmerodach is kind to exiled King Jehoichin

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 47-48:35

Ezekiel 29:17-21

Ezekiel 30:1-19

2 Kings 25:27-30

Jeremiah 52:31-34

Questions & Observations

Q. (Ezekiel 47:1-12): I assume that the river symbolizes God and from Him, comes life?

A. You got it.  Even the Dead Sea, a symbol of death if ever there was one, comes alive by God’s power.  I see this as another instance of resurrection imagery in this story: God can even bring dead seas back to life.

Q. (Ezekiel 47:21-23): Aren’t the Israelites still in Canaan?  Why don’t they just use the same distribution of territory that they had before the destruction of Israel and Judah?

A. I honestly don’t have a good answer for that, but it probably comes from God’s desire to do something new.

Q. (2 Kings 25:27): What happened to Nebuchadnezzar?

A. As we read in Daniel (Babylonian historians don’t mention the years in question for Nebuchadnezzar’s rule, which could imply the loss of his sanity as the Bible suggests), he loses his mind, but is restored according to the story.  He is not mentioned in the Bible again.

Day 245 (Sept. 2): Tribes east of Jordan, Aaron’s descendants, descendants of Issachar, Benjamin, Naphtali, Manasseh, Ephraim, Asher, Benjamin

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.

1 Chronicles 5:18-26

1 Chronicles 6:3

1 Chronicles 6:49

1 Chronicles 6:4-15

1 Chronicles 7:1-40

1 Chronicles 8:1-28

Questions & Observations

Q. (1 Chronicles 5:26): On a “free will” argument note.  It bugs me a little bit that God empowers enemy leaders to overtake Israel as punishment.  But, I’m starting to understand.  He is just “setting the bar” to show the Israelites (and I would think us too) how to have a good, fulfilling life — whether it’s all filled with glory or not just depends on the surrounding circumstances — and then a ticket to live with Him.  If we CHOOSE not to accept the rules — which are made for our betterment — then there will be major consequences, either immediate or in the future, but they are certain.  So, no matter if He goes against His people, He is watching over them like we do as parents.  If they make mistakes, they need to be punished so they will know right from wrong and that only bad comes from evil choices.  So, the fact that God gave the Assyrian king no choice in His actions, the king had already made bad choices.  By God empowering him too gives the king a chance to see His might and possibly change His loyalties.

A. I think you’ve touched on a pretty clear understanding of the issues at play here.  God gave the people many (many, many, many) chances to repent of their sin, even over many generations, but they would not yield to Him.  Back in Exodus, God’s solution to this problem was to basically let the older generation die in the dessert and start over with their children.  The solution is not unlike what He is doing here: it is the children and grandchildren of the unfaithful nation that will return to the Promised Land and reestablish the nation that was last for many more generations.  Don’t lose sight of the endgame at work here as well: God has setup the nation of Israel to “give birth” if you will to His chosen Messiah.  It is through God’s chosen one that He will bring about the redemption of the entire world, not merely His chosen children.  So when we consider free will decisions and following God, we must always have in mind that God has a plan of His own, and He will carry it out.  Whether we are able to participate in His plan comes down to a matter of obedience.

Q. Is there any significance in the rest of the listings of the tribes and their ancestral clans?  Is this just to trace ancestral lines and see where they settled?

A. The Chronicler is telling the story of his people, even the ones that have been lost along the way.  That is why all tribes are included.

Day 210 (July 29): Manasseh rules in Judah for 55 years and revives to idol, Assyrian commanders captured Manasseh worship, Manasseh humbled himself to God, Amon rules Jerusalem with evil for 2 years, Josiah took over for 31 years and pleased God, Jeremiah’s call to prophesy, God speaks against Israel, Israel’s demise

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 Kings 21:1-9

2 Chronicles 33:1-9

2 Kings 21:10-17

2 Chronicles 33:10-19

2 Kings 21:18

2 Chronicles 33:20

2 Kings 21:19-26

2 Chronicles 33:21-25

2 Kings 22:1-2

2 Chronicles 34:1-7

Jeremiah 1:1-3

Jeremiah 1:4-19

Jeremiah 2:1-22

Questions & Observations

Q. (2 Kings 21:1-18, 2 Chronicles 33:1-20): I wasn’t getting it.  I was confused because I thought Hezekiah was a godly king.  I didn’t understand why there was all of this impending doom unless the people weren’t following the king’s lead.  I thought the end of Jerusalem was going to happen under Hezekiah.  Now, it makes sense since there were successive kings — Hezekiah’s son and grandson — who promoted idol worship.  This scripture was a page-turner.  I’m glad Manasseh came around at the end … after he was led with a ring through his nose.  It does seem like God’s warnings are going to happen soon, but they don’t.

A. All in due time.  The first few chapters of Jeremiah told you what order things would go down in.

Q. (Jeremiah 1: 11-14): Why is God using an almond tree branch and a pot of boiling water for Jeremiah’s visions?

A. As we discussed way, way back in February (Day 44), the Hebrew word for “almond” sounds exactly like the word for “watch,” so God is using a bit of word play here to cast a vision.  The pot — caldron would be a good translation, noting the size difference: caldrons are huge — image and the word for “pour out,” which means the same as “boil” in Hebrew paint a vision of a huge force that will be “poured out” upon the people.  The boiling pot is therefore symbol of God’s wrath.

Q. (Jeremiah 2:13): What is a cistern?

A. A cistern is a Middle Eastern water collecting/storing device, usually used for catching  and retaining rainwater.  It is distinguished from a well by most often being man-made (i.e. wells are dug, but the water itself is natural) and having an artificial, watertight barrier, most often some form of plaster.  These cisterns were vitally important to survival of life in a desert, where it might only rain a few times a year in certain areas.  So if your cistern leaked (as God alludes to), you were in big trouble, because your water was lost to the earth.  So God is here drawing the powerful contrast between Himself as a life-giving spring and the idols He has been abandoned for as leaky cisterns, which promise to provide, but end up leaving the people with nothing.  It’s a powerful contrast, and not the last time a cistern will be an important part of this story.

Day 108 (April 18): David declines second chance to kill Saul, David takes refuge from Saul with Philistines, Benjamin tribes join David, Saul talks to Samuel .. who is dead, Philistines think again about allowing David to fight, Manasseh men join David

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.

1 Samuel 26

1 Chronicles 12:1-7

1 Samuel 27:8-12

1 Samuel 28-29

1 Chronicles 12:19

Psalm 56

Questions & Observations

Q. (1 Samuel 26:1-25): Why is Saul after David when they’ve been through this cat-and-mouse chase and after David won, they made peace where Saul acknowledged David’s grace and David agreed to not harm Saul’s family.  Although, I didn’t mention it in yesterday’s reading, when I looked back, a verse stuck out.  1 Samuel 24:22 says that Saul went home, but David stayed in the wilderness.  If the fighting was truly over, why would David stay hidden?

A. Because he still didn’t trust Saul is the only reason I can give you.  It appears his instinct not to trust Saul was proven correct.

Q. (26:16): David keeps referring to Saul as “the Lord’s anointed” almost in jest.  So, does everyone know that David is anointed or is it to be revealed to all at a later time?

A. God has made David His king, but he will not become Israel’s king until Saul is dead.  It appears that God’s selection of David was not a secret at this point, so perhaps Samuel talked about it before he died.

Q. (27:8-12): Do I have this right that David and his soldiers and their families were living among the Philistines?  David would go on raids of whom and why?  David was aligning with King Achish, a Philistine.  I don’t get this.

A. He did so to move out of Saul’s territory, since this appears to be the only place where Saul would not pursue him — probably because he did not have the military strength.  That is probably your answer as to why he allied himself with the Philistines: because they were the only nation strong enough to protect David.  It seems to fit under the rule of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

Q. (28:8-19): We haven’t seen anyone talk to anyone in heaven besides God.  I always thought that mediums, fortune tellers, witches, whatever they are called were a farce.  Apparently not?  Again, this is the OT.  Are these people just present in the OT times or are they really here now?  This reminds me of my questions when the Egyptian “magicians” replicated the staff-to-snake trick of Aaron and Moses (Exodus 7:8-13).  I have never believed that magic or possessions exist today.  Maybe they do?  But, in the staff-to-snake miracle, could God have made the magicians able to do this trick just so he could finish it off with his snake eating their snakes?  I was shocked to read Samuel talking again!

A. First, let’s clear something up: it does not appear that Samuel is in “heaven” in the sense that we would understand it.  Samuel is in the realm of the dead, Sheol, which is NEITHER heaven nor hell.  Much of the OT refers to it as a place of rest for the dead (akin to the Greek concept of Hades), while awaiting judgment at a future date — we will see this referred to as the Day of the Lord in future volumes, so watch for that term.  This is why Samuel tells Saul that he will be “with me” in 28:19.  Samuel is certainly NOT telling Saul that he is going to heaven when he dies “tomorrow.”  So, to get a clear picture of what is going on, you’ve got to remove the simple notion of heaven and hell: eternal judgment in the Bible is not cut and dry at this point in the story (though it will be later!)

In addition to your questions about Egyptian magic, back on Day 76 (when reading Deuteronomy 18), we discussed the issue of communication with the dead, and I mentioned then this story as a forthcoming example, so here’s your pay off.  The implication of the story, to me, is that in this era — I couldn’t tell you whether or not you can still do so today — it was possible for certain people to communicate with the dead.  They did so using what we would call occult practices today — and they surely still exist. We usually call them Wicca or similar names today.  The issue here is not whether or not one can communicate with the dead.  This story surely tells us that we COULD, if not can, but rather that God strictly forbids such an act.  The reason: consulting the dead, called necromancy, always involves an attempt to learn about or control the future, as Saul is doing here.  When we do that, we are no longer trusting God to provide for our future.  Now in Saul’s case you can understand his desperation: his prophet is dead, the priesthood has allied itself with David, or been killed by Saul himself, and he appears to have no way to communicate with God.  He has painted himself into this corner, but we can certainly sympathize with his plight.  It’s going to get bad for Saul and his family.

Q. (29:6): So, Achish acknowledges the Lord here.  Are the Philistines just fickle and go back and forth between following the true Lord and idols?  Or, was he just simply acknowledging the Lord’s power, even though the Lord is not his God?  Another question this brings up is swearing.  We may have talked about it before, but it’s worth exploring again.  We have read about many of God’s followers — most recently, Jonathan and David and Abigail — swear by God.  One of the Ten Commandments, Exodus 20:7 says, “You must not misuse the name of the Lord your God. The Lord will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name.”  I certainly don’t think any of the three I mentioned are misusing God’s name.  But, I thought it was a great time to bring the subject up.  I have the feeling that whenever I mention the Lord, I have to make sure he would approve of it.  I don’t say He said something He didn’t, nor do I use his name casually in blame or whatever.  It jabs me when I hear someone say, “God this” or “Jesus that” or “Oh my God,” especially Christians.  As I pull the knife out of me, I would like to call the person on it, but never do.  What do you say about this, Rob?  I found a great paper on this subject.  See if you think it’s worth mentioning.

A. Okay, you went a bit stream of consciousness on me, but let’s see if we can untangle this.  I think the Philistines recognized David’s God, but they would not have acknowledged Him as the God of the whole world, merely Israel.  In this era, it was common thinking that the gods had what we might call territories: so the Philistine god watched over his kingdom, the God of Israel watched over Israel, etc.  They would have seen the battles between human kings and soldiers as acting out struggles between the various gods.  If your army won, it was because your nation’s god was more powerful than your enemies.  The Israelites speak of a radical departure for this: only their God exists, and He rules the whole world.  This concept would surely have been lost on the Philistine king, and he likely was speaking of the Lord out of his own understanding of gods.

I agree with you that David and the others are not misusing God’s name in the stories you mentioned, and it does come down to casual use of God’s name when His name ALWAYS deserves to be revered.  I read on someone’s blog where the writer warned that real danger of violating this commandment is not lightning, i.e. being struck dead, but lightening.  When we misuse a name — any name — we cause that name to lose significance: we take it lightly.  That might be okay with people, but if we begin to take God lightly — and surely we do that in our society today! — the entire fabric of our relationship with God begins to fall apart.  In the end, that only costs us — God does not need us, but we NEED Him.  Much that takes place in our world today — the glorification of sin, the loss of morality, etc. — can be traced to the fact that, ultimately, we take God lightly.  What better example can there be then in how we show a lack of reverence for the name of God!  It can be tricky to get people to see this point of view, but I think with people that we have relationship with; it would be a worthwhile endeavor.  Respect for God is surely worth our time.

O. (Psalm 56) This Psalm reminds me of when Jesus feels the doom of his enemies creeping up on Him.  David says God is protecting him.  He is his shield.  Yet, in verse 11, he says “I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?”  I know the feeling.  I know God is real — I have always felt it, but after seeing how undeniably true the Bible is — I have real proof of God’s existence.  Yet, there is always the doubt that if I ask God for something, I won’t get it … that it’s just an empty wish.  I’m working on it.  David admitting his fear and doubts helps me personalize this story.  Verses 12-13 give David’s reason for his faith.  This feels like when David ever has his fear, he can refer to this verse to bolster his faith.

Day 86 (March 27): Allotments for Judah, Ephraim, and West Manasseh

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 15:20-18:18

Questions & Observations

Q. (Joshua 15:63): This is the second time I have seen a passage that says the Israelites could not drive out some of the people.  What is the purpose of God allowing this?

A. These other nations appear to be a test of the people’s resolve, and their ability to follow God’s orders.  Much like the 10 spies who came back proclaiming, “giants” to scare all the people, we will see the Israelites fear the iron weapons that some of the tribes possess, and they will make decisions that go against what God has told them to do.  God has made His will clear: all the tribes in the land are to be removed by force.  But Israel has, with the Gibeonites, and will continue to violate this requirement by making more treaties, or not trusting in God and losing the subsequent battle (we will see this in Judges).  So basically, what is happening is not what God desires, which could be the definition of sin in that sense.  Even today, God often allows us to make bad decisions, and then live with the consequences in the hope that we will learn from our failures.  That appears to be why God is allowing these other nations to continue.  Much like our bad decisions, the decisions that Israel is making in this period will be costly.

Overall, even with the land “conquered,” there will still be many battles to fight, because many of the tribes that Israel will face are powerful and will not surrender easily.  David will achieve great victories over some of these nations, including victory at Jerusalem where he will establish his capital, but that’s a long way off.

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 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:

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!

Day 18 (Jan. 18): Jacob gives blessings to descendants, Jacob foretells future of sons, Jacob dies, Joseph reassures brothers, Joseph dies

Genesis 47:28

Questions & Observations

Q. (47:28): There is about a 140-year discrepancy when this story took place?  Can you explain anything about how scientists have a hard time pinning down the dates?

A. I am honestly surprised that they can even make the two estimates that they have.  I feel that the dates they suggest are a bit too specific for my taste, mostly because you are talking about a period that was more than 3,500 years ago.

Here’s how it breaks down: we have some dating and archeological evidence for the united kingdom of Israel (which was ruled by Saul, David, and Solomon- recorded in 1 and 2 Samuel) that exists somewhere around 1000 BC.  The OT tells us that each of these men ruled for 40 years each, so there is a 120 year period (roughly) of united leadership before the nation fractures and falls apart after Solomon’s death (recorded in 1 and 2 Kings and Chronicles).  So basically, from there, scientists (this would include archeologists, but also linguists and other fields of study) have to work their way back to the previous events as presented in the OT (there are some scholars who doubt the authenticity of most of the writings that predate David’s kingdom, so that option is “on the table” too, though I think these scholars are TOO skeptical).

Working our way back, the OT (mostly Joshua) tells us that Joshua and the armies conquered Canaan after 10 years or so, and that the Israelites were in the desert 40 years, and in Egypt around 400 years.  So now we are back 450 years from around 1000 BC (so somewhere around 1450 or 1500 BC — you see we’ve already got a “rough” date for anything further back).  From there, you can work your way back using different versions of the ages of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, but you’re really only going to be able to estimate the dates from there.  The two numbers that you see probably represent a more “conservative” and more “liberal” dating of the event in question.  It’s at least partially guess work: that’s the best we can do.

Q. (47:29): I think we saw this practice somewhere else for making an oath.  What is the significance of a hand under the thigh?

A. Um….Hum.  See, here’s the thing, when the Bible speaks of the hand “under the thigh”, that’s not really an accurate translation — it means grasping something, uh, near the thigh on a man.  (We saw this once before with Abraham’s servant who went find Isaac a wife)  Basically, by grasping the object in question, the person swearing the oath is basically swearing on the family line.  (Isn’t Bible knowledge fun!)

Q.  (48:3) Can we talk about blessings?  We have read where God blesses people, Jacob got the blessing from Abraham before he died.  Abraham blessed Joseph and his sons in 49:15-16, which is a beautiful tribute from Abraham to God for all He has done for him.  This may sound like a silly question, but what is the nature of a blessing?  Do all blessings come from God?  Are they a hope, or something definite?  Today, we say we have many blessings.  The noun form is easy to understand, it just means all of the goodness around.  But, when someone says, “May God bless you,” do we have the right to say that?  I don’t feel that anyone can speak on God’s behalf.  Or, is it a request to God?

A. In the ancient world, it was understood that rulers and patriarchs had a power that extended beyond their physical power: the ability to bless and curse.  It was thought that the gods (or God in this case) was especially receptive to a dying patriarch’s wishes for his children or others that he wished to pass his “blessing” on to.  So in our case, the blessing is something of a request to God (not a promise God makes if you will), but we could most clearly think of it as something of a magical pronouncement that had the power to accomplish what the speaker requested, whether for good (blessing) or evil (curse).  This is why it is such an important part of the story of say Isaac and Jacob and Esau, or Jacob and Joseph in this case.

O. (48:19): Like Jacob himself was chosen by God instead of his older brother for his father Abraham’s blessing, Jacob says that Joseph’s younger son, Ephraim, will be blessed more than his older brother, Manasseh.  As we have seen before, birth order does not seem to be important to God.

Q. (49:7): We talked about blessings.  Let’s talk about curses.  Is Jacob speaking for God here?  Does cursing end the men’s bad behavior or say it will cause their ruin?

A. The curses here are the result of Simeon and Levi’s violent actions in avenging their sister (which was allowable, but didn’t exactly help Jacob’s reputation), as well as some other violence that we are not privy to.  While Jacob’s curse did not cause the ruin of Simeon and Levi’s descendants, they did come true.  In the book of Joshua, the land is divided up by casting lots, and the blessings or curses that are mentioned here seem to have their “pay off” in that story.  Simeon’s descendants are chosen by lot (basically seen as God’s will) to receive land within Judah’s allotment — reducing the prominence of his tribe despite being one of the oldest sons.  Levi’s descendants had a central role in the religious life of Israel: they became the priesthood.  But because of this central religious role, the tribe of Levi received no land to themselves, and were dispersed among the other 11 tribes.  Thus, we see how the curse comes to fruition: both Simeon and Levi’s descendants see themselves dispersed among the other tribes and lose their political power.

Q. (49:10) This is getting exciting.  Here we see that “the one it to whom it belongs, the one whom all nations will honor” is Jesus Christ?  So, Judah’s descendants will rule the Israelites until their No. 1 descendant arrives, Jesus?  Am I reading this right or totally off base?

A. Well, you’ve read it correctly, but it’s a bit more complicated than that.  What Jacob is saying here is that the line of kings will come from Judah’s line — this is, kingship will be the most important contribution of this line.  There’s at least one little hiccup: Saul, the first king of Israel, is not of Judah’s line, for reasons that will become clear sometime down the road (it’s not worth going into now).  But after him, David and his descendants will mostly rule (I’m not sure of the exact pedigree), but as you get further and further from David and Solomon, the line becomes corrupt, and before the destruction of Jerusalem (way way way down the line), God declares in Jeremiah 22 that a descendent of David (via Solomon) will no longer sit on the throne, so the family was cut off.  This was the last king that Israel would have (around 580 BC) before Jesus came to rule.  So, there was a period of almost 600 where Israel had NO king before Jesus (who was a king in a different sense anyway), but up until that point, the line of David was (almost) always in the picture, even if they became corrupt.

Q.  (49:1-28): Oh, where to start on this one?  Can you tell us what we need to take from Jacob’s blessings to his sons?

A. As I’ve been mentioning, some of this information will come into play during the land distribution in Joshua, and I think it will be mostly clear then.  Two things come into play here: Reuben (as firstborn) should be entitled to the “best” blessing, but he screwed up (no pun intended) and got passed over.  We’ve already discussed Simeon and Levi.  The big “winners” in this are Judah (which we discussed), Joseph (it doesn’t say it here, but Joseph’s two sons that Jacob blesses get the inheritance meant for Joseph — one of them gets Levi’s place so the math still comes out to 12), and Benjamin (who gets a good blessing despite being the youngest).  I don’t think there is much else to discuss here for the other sons, but if we come across something later that references that section, I will mention it.

O. (49:29-32): Jacob must have been saddened that he was not able to bury Rachel in the cave with his father, grandfather and Leah since she died alongside the road.

O. (49:33): I picture Jacob here so relaxed.  He has seen his son Jacob that he thought was dead, he has seen Jacob’s sons, the ones that will carry on the blessing, he has given his blessing, and he has nothing left.  This reminds me when my grandma passed.  I was fortunate to be with her when she left.  She was 96, a devout Christian and had a fairly healthy life.  She was lying there, taking long, slow breaths with the help of an oxygen mask.  We were the only two in the room … that I could see.  She kept trying to take off her oxygen, but I kept putting it back on and she would take another deep breath like she had just come up from being under water. She had her eyes shut, but she still knew what she was doing.  She wanted the mask off!  It was late.  I had flown overseas to see her.  I finally nodded off and she had pulled the mask aside again.  I stirred and tried to put it back on her, but she had gone.  She looked so peaceful.  My neighbor said that when his dad died, the ones around could see him going through judgment.  His dad was talking to someone.  He said, “Wait, they’ve got some questions for me.”  Then, he said, “OK, I can cross now.”  Then he said when his mom went through judgment, it was terrifying.  That’s not a great note to end on, so does anyone else have a story they would like to share of witnessing someone going to heaven?

Q. (50:16-17): This is a lie?  I don’t remember anyone ever telling Jacob the truth about his brothers selling Joseph into slavery.  Is the important part here Joseph’s recognition that it was God’s work?

A. Yep, the fellas are lying to try and protect themselves, but it doesn’t matter.  Joseph has forgiven them and seen the way that God worked everything out.

Q.  Do we know anything outside of what the Bible says about Joseph’s death?  He was the second to youngest, yet his older brothers outlived him?

A. The story doesn’t indicate how many brothers were still alive, but it appears that at least some of them outlived him.  We have no record of any sort about Joseph or his brothers in Egypt as far as I know outside of the Old Testament.

O. (50:24) I have spoken of this before, but I think it’s worth highlighting again.  It almost feels like God did not have the outward relationship with Joseph as he did with Isaac and Abraham.  Here he says, “God will surely come to help you …” which sounds like there is a hint of a doubt.  It seems that he is passing this message down from what his father had been told by God.  We never hear God talking directly to Joseph, only in his ability to interpret dreams.  But, obviously, Joseph was filled with the Spirit.  To me this just goes to show that the relationship God has with one person can appear different than any other relationship.  We should not compare how others revere Him, just be happy they know God and you know God in your own special way.  We all have different gifts!