Day 234 (Aug. 23): Death of Ezekiel’s wife a picture of what’s to come, Ammonites and Moabites will be overrun by desert nomads because they disrespected Judah, God gets revenge on Edom and Philistia, Zedekiah told of Babylon’s immediate invasion and his capture, punishment handed out for enslaving Hebrews, God refuses Zedekiah’s request to save Jerusalem from Nebuchadnezzar, God charges Judah’s royalty to use justice, Egypt punished because pharaoh claimed the Nile for himself, Egypt compared to fallen Assyria

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 24:15-25:17

Jeremiah 34:1-22

Jeremiah 21:1-14

Ezekiel 29:1-16

Ezekiel 30:20-26

Ezekiel 31:1-18

Questions & Observations

Q. (Ezekiel 24:15-17): Reading that God killed Ezekiel’s wife as a demonstration to the people on what their lives will be like seems cruel.  Ezekiel is putting up with a lot from God.  The lack of fairness comes to mind, but being fair is not something God has promised.  After going past my initial shock of his wife dying and Ezekiel not being allowed to mourn for her, I think how desperate these times are that God had to kill his messenger’s wife to try to get through to the people and how hard it must have been for God to make such harsh demonstrations and punishments.  These people are so obstinate.

A. It is a poignant scene, no doubt.  The wife’s death appears to coincide with the destruction of the temple, which surely caused Ezekiel a great amount of anguish as a priest.  God called upon him to mourn for his wife in a way that would be an example for his people: to carry on despite the crushing loss.

Q. (25:1-17): Has Ezekiel already lain on his side for over a year to take the sins of the Israelites and Judeans?  Here he has to travel to give messages to these other kingdoms, so I guess his time bound to bed is finished?

A. The story doesn’t tell us about when he completed the action, but no, I don’t believe that he is traveling to these lands as he’s a captive in Babylon.  He’s not allowed to leave.  God instructs him to symbolically “face” these nations and issue the statements.  He is not delivering these oracles in person.

O From Rob: If there’s any movie buffs out there who are fans of Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction (and I can’t say I am, just passing this along), Ezekiel 25:17 is the verse that Samuel L. Jackson’s hit-man character, Jules, uses when he is about to execute his targets.  If you watch the film, however, you will quickly note that the writers, including Tarantino, MADE UP most of the “verse” that Jules “quotes”, though the ending is similar to the King James Version.  I’m not linking to the scene, because it is extremely violent, but you might get a laugh out of how exaggerated the verse Jules uses is, and the way that it is played up to “sound” like a wrathful Bible verse.  Hollywood is certainly fond of treating the Bible in such a manner, so it is certainly wise of Christians to know what the Bible ACTUALLY says.

Q. (Jeremiah 34:1-7): Zedekiah is captured here, but I thought he was going to suffer for a while.  Here, it says he will die peacefully.

A. He will suffer by being sent into exile, rather than dying in the midst of battle.  The fall of Jerusalem is the conclusion of Babylon’s war against Judah; after this, “peace” is established by virtue of Judah’s people no longer resisting.

Q. (34:8-22): Is this passage out of order?  Zedekiah has been captured.  How could he make a ruling when he’s in exile?  Did he make it a while ago and now the people are not releasing the slaves?  I don’t know who is being addressed.  Who is doing the enslaving of Hebrews?

A. It’s not out of order.  Jeremiah is saying that Zedekiah’s capture is “about” to happen, and the city will be destroyed.  Jerusalem and its surrounding cities were under a long siege, which is about to come to an end.  So Zedekiah is not YET in exile.  Babylon is the only one enslaving the Judeans, but they are doing it slowly over the course of several years.

O. (Ezekiel 29:16): It’s so interesting to see all the countries at play here to make God’s messages come true, like here when He says that Egypt will be a minor kingdom so Israel will not be tempted to trust it and see how foolish they were to ever have trusted it.

Q. (30:20-26): We see that God is strengthening Babylon and weakening most other countries, like Egypt here.  Were there reasons (weather yielding good crops, politics, uprisings, etc.) other than God planned it this way — well, really the peoples’ sinning caused the suffering — that caused all of this turmoil.  What I am asking is “is it God’s pure wrath at hand or does He use forces of nature to show His wrath?”  I may have mentioned this before that I saw a program on the History Channel or somewhere like that that told about how the plagues could actually be explained through geography.

A. God can do as He pleases with such efforts, and He is certainly capable of using a nation like Babylon to humble His people and the surrounding nations including Egypt. Like His use of messengers, God is capable of using third parties to His own ends, but He can also speak for Himself as He does in His messages to Jeremiah or Ezekiel as we read about in these chapters.

Q. (31:14): Just wondered if the “pit” here is referring to hell?

A. No, just the grave.  We won’t see much reference to hell until the NT, which certainly doesn’t jive with the common trope that God is purely wrathful in the OT and peaceful in the NT.  The NT, frankly, has MUCH more to say about eternal damnation then the OT does — something to watch for.

Day 228 (Aug. 16): God makes Ezekiel a messenger/watchman for Israel, Ezekiel only to speak when he has message from God, Ezekiel bears sins of Israel and Judah as he’s force to experience devastation of siege, Judah urged to submit to Babylon, Ignore false prophets, Jeremiah condemns Hananiah, Jeremiah prophecies that Babylon will be empty

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 3:16-4:17

Jeremiah 27-28

Jeremiah Wears an Ox Yoke

Questions & Observations

Q. (Ezekiel 3:24, 4:4-7, 12): This isn’t a literal description right?  Ezekiel’s hands weren’t really tied so he couldn’t move?  It gets worse in Ch. 4.  Why such harsh treatment for someone who is to spread God’s messages?  And dung for fuel to bake his bread.  This is unbearable!

A. I believe that the being tied was symbolic.  It did not imply that he could not move, but should be understood as God restricting his movements metaphorically.  As to the rest of the requirements, it appears that God meant this literally as he made provision for Ezekiel’s needs, though scantily, of food and shelter.  The idea here is that Ezekiel will act out the siege that is befalling Jerusalem on various levels: being trapped within the “walls,” given meager rations, and forced to improvise fuel.  Dried manure was commonly used as fuel in this era, and is still used in parts of the world today.  I cannot imagine it is a pleasant fuel to use, but I believe that that was an intentional choice on God’s part: the unpleasantness was meant to be part of the symbolic penance.

Q. (4:5-6): What is the significance of the length of time Ezekiel was required to rest on his left and then right side?

A. Based upon the model he built, having Ezekiel lie on his left side would have meant he was on the “north” side of Jerusalem, which would have symbolized Israel.  Having him lay on his right side would have caused him to be on the south side, representing Judah and its sins.  The 390 years appears to be the length of time that has taken place since Solomon’s turning away from God, and all the Northern kings who followed down this path away from God.  The 40 years is a bit trickier, but is probably a reference to Manasseh’s long reign before his repentance.

Q. (Jeremiah 28:1-17): Why were there false prophets?  Were they appointed by the king to say what he wants them to say much like the king creates man-made idols to help him in the way he wants help?

A. That’s one possible explanation.  Another is that this man thought he was hearing from God but was simply mistaken as Jeremiah is told.  Telling people what they want to hear is surely a way to make oneself popular, so perhaps this man became a “prophet” because he liked being the center of attention for sharing positive messages that the king and others would have liked to hear.  Those are my guesses.

Day 217 (Aug. 5): God’s wrath poors over nations, Baruch reads scrolls of God’s prophecies, Baruch and Jeremiah hide for safety, King Jehoiakim burns the scroll, the scrolls are rewritten and lengthened, God empowers Baruch, Egypt’s boasting was its ruin, reassurance for the rebuilding of Israel

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.

Jeremiah 25:15-38

Jeremiah 36:1-32

Jeremiah 45:1-5

Jeremiah 46:1-28

Questions & Observations

Q. (Jeremiah 24:15-29): Can you explain this “cup”?  And, how did Jeremiah get around to all of these nations?  This is something that took many, many years?  I wouldn’t think that all of these nations would have welcomed Jeremiah.  Was it in the reading that God would protect him?

A. I suspect that this section is a vision of some sort; I highly doubt that Jeremiah went to all of these nations — and as you mention, he would hardly be welcomed.  But the cup itself is an image of God’s wrath, which will be poured out upon these nations for their various sins.  This period in the Middle East was one of extreme turmoil, with nation conquering nation and repeated periods of slaughter that can be see as God’s wrath being poured out.  It was a horrible time, and poor little Judah is caught in the middle of this ongoing endless war within this region.  But surely we live in more civilized times today.

Q. (24:33): And you wonder where some people get a sick sense of humor. (lol) God is saying here that these people are basically the “sh” 4-letter word.

A. Sort of.  I think God is comparing the sheer number of unburied bodies to the mass quantity of manure that a farmer would typically use on a field.

Q. (36:5): Why does Jeremiah say he is a prisoner?

A. Jeremiah is imprisoned by the king who doesn’t like what he is saying.  I believe that we will see more about this later, though I am honestly not sure why the imprisonment didn’t come “first” in our reading.  My notes indicate that he may not have been a prisoner — other translations render this word “restricted” — but may simply have been forbidden from going to the Temple to proclaim his message.  In a linear reading of Jeremiah — which we are obviously not doing here — chapters 7 and 19-20 contain various speeches and actions at the Temple that surely made the officials and king not care much for what Jeremiah had to say.

Q. (36:19): OK, the officials were very interested in the Lord’s messages, but they told Jeremiah and Baruch to hide because they knew the king would not be receptive to them?

A. Yup.

Q. (46:20, 2-26): A horsefly, that’s funny.  What I take from this is that God’s instruction of the different kings drinking from the cup of doom is given more details of who will do what to whom.

A. Yes I would say that’s right.  Egypt will be “eaten” by this horsefly from the north — as will every nation in Babylon’s path — under Nebuchadnezzar.

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 198 (July 17): Destruction covers the earth but a few are left to shout and sing, proud rulers will be imprisoned, God is a refuge for the poor and needy, pain and sorrow will be buried, Moab will be flattened, Judah stays strong, Judgment day will show the right ways, Israel will be restored, Jerusalem’s enemies will vanish, Israel will see God’s holiness through the blessings of their children

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.

Isaiah 24:1-23

Isaiah 25:1-12

Isaiah 26-27:13

Questions & Observations

Q.  I read this collection without reading the one-sentence introduction about these prophecies of Isaiah not being tied to any event.  That clears up a lot, because I was really confused about what was going on.  Is the key word here “yet?”  They still could come true?

A. This entire section is prophecy about Judah’s impending punishment, and in the larger sense, of God restoring the world to the way it should be, with Jerusalem as its center point.  The writers of both the Old and New Testaments believed that the return of God to the world (for Christians its the return of Christ) would be the end of the world, and the establishment of God’s eternal kingdom.

Q. (Isaiah 24:14-16a): This stanza stands out as a joyous time among the destruction.  I didn’t understand that.

A. 14-16 are the aftermath of this great destruction.  Those who survive (by God’s grace) will gather from all nations to celebrate what God has done.

Q. (24:21): What is meant by “in that day”?

A. All references to “that day” are referring to the Day of Judgment and the end of history as we know it.  Both Christian and Jew (and I presume Muslim as well) believe in history ending by Divine intervention.

Q. (24:23b): This is for God to establish that He is in charge and to show them how and why He is in charge … in Isaiah’s prophecy?

A. No, this is an image of the Kingdom of God (one that Revelation will follow down the line): the natural sources of light, specifically the moon as the light in the dark, will pass away, and God Himself will be our light.  The heavenly bodies will no longer be necessary.

Q. (25:1): Isaiah seems to have quite a complete vision of God — past, present and future.  I do wonder if it’s hard for God to execute plans given that He may have emotional ties to things He sets to destroy.

A. He certainly does, but these ties are not like the ties you and I have.  God reminds us that His ways and thoughts are NOT His, and I suspect the “emotional” consideration must take a backseat, if you will, to other considerations such as His holiness.  Ezekiel 33:11 reminds us, however, that God takes no joy in the destruction of the evil, so perhaps there is some consideration to be had here.

Q. (25:7, 26:3): Here it says, “He will remove the cloud of gloom.”  In several other places in today’s reading, Isaiah mentions how the despair will be forgotten through God.  I would think it would be pretty hard for people to look past all of the destruction, unless it’s a vision where the evil is uprooted and there is nothing but good to rebuild from.  Maybe 26:3 is Isaiah’s answer to being able to forget the despair: “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!”

A. Ultimately, our vision for following God must have its origins in faith.  We must trust in Him to bring us through; there is simply no other way.

Q. (26:7): I would say that this is not necessarily true after reading your answer about prayer and pain.  Paul suffered, but God answered his prayers saying that His grace was bigger than Paul’s pain.  So, this smooth path is not an accurate prophecy of Isaiah?

A. Be careful with tossing around phrases like that last one!  First of all, Isaiah is casting a much larger vision for our world than any suffering Paul went through.  It is REALLY important to note here: we must be aware of context at all times.  If we go back to verse 1 of this chapter, we see that phrase you’ve picked up on, “in that day.”  That means Isaiah is NOT talking about present circumstances at all.  He is casting a vision for how wonderful life will be when we are given a world free of peril, pain, and difficulty (i.e. the “smooth” path).  So to argue that Paul’s difficulty somehow invalidates Isaiah’s vision is to miss the point of what Isaiah is talking about.

Q. (26:19): I interpret this to mean that those who give up themselves and turn their lives over to God will rise again?  Again, I’m confused as to what Isaiah is talking about.

A. He is talking about the resurrection of the dead, which is and will continue to be part of the vision that both Testaments cast as being a part of the Day of Judgment.  This is a theme we will bump into repeatedly among “later” Jewish works such as Ezekiel and Daniel, so keep a look out, and don’t worry if there is confusion: all will be worked out in time.

Q. (27:4-5): So there is salvation for the prickliest of people, no matter what their sins, as soon as they turn to God for help … and stay turned?

A. All we have to do is confess and call to Him for help.  That’s the heart of the gospel message.  The problem we often run into is that we lack the desire to confess our sin, or to even admit that we are sinners.  If we can clear that hurdle, we are most of the way towards understanding what God did for us in the person of Christ.

Q. (29:22): Again, this verse is calling on believers to have faith.  If we stay true to God no matter the circumstances, we will be rewarded.

A. That’s the Good News!

Day 181 (June 30): Ahaz dies, Babylon destroyed for its sins, those who raided Israel will be Israel’s servants, Assyria will be trampled, Philistines will see fierce soldiers from north, Moab will be leveled

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 16:19-20

2 Chronicles 28:26-27

Isaiah 13-16

Questions & Observations

Q. (Isaiah 13:4): Who are these armies?  Those who still believe in God?

A. Though the title of the section refers to the Babylonian army, it is actually referring to what we have been calling the Assyrians.  Babylon was their most important city, and so this section (13:1-14:27) all pertains to the Assyrian people, army, and king.  But there will be another Babylon that will come onto the scene and be a very important player in future events for Judah.

Q. (13:16,18): OK, it doesn’t look like these people are followers of God if they are raping women and killing children.  I guess God just mobilized these wicked soldiers so Babylon could look evil in the eye?

A. Isaiah is talking about the same armies we have already been seeing in the story.  The Assyrian army routed the nation of Israel and pretty much everything in their path, and did so with bloodthirsty gusto.

Q. (14:1-23): We haven’t heard much about Babylon, right?  We have mostly heard of Samaria and Jerusalem.  Why Babylon now?  What was the city known for … not counting the evil?

A. For the moment, it is known for being the capital of Assyria.  Hold onto this question, and let’s revisit it later.

Q/O. (14:24-27): You were right in one of yesterday’s questions when you said it wasn’t Assyria who would bring down Israel.

A. Hum, Assyria did destroy Israel.  What I mentioned yesterday is that Assyria would not destroy Judah, and that I stand by.

Q. (15:1-16:14): And why is destroying Moab important?  What is its relationship to Israel?  It seems like I remember battles between the two ever since the Israelites arrived in Canaan.

A. This section of Isaiah contains prophecy against many other nations (he’s going to talk about Damascus and Egypt next, for example).  So in that sense, there’s nothing special about Moab, other than it was a nation that God told Isaiah to prophecy to.  This section of Isaiah is all about God calling the nations in this part of the world to account for their sins (like Jonah was called to), while keeping the long-term focus unto the people of God.

Day 97 (April 7): Famine forces Elimelech to move family to Moab, Elimelech and sons died leaving wives helpless, Naomi urges daughters-in-law to return to their homes, Ruth vows to stay with Naomi, Naomi and Ruth travel to Naomi’s family, Ruth works in Boaz’s field, Boaz welcomes Ruth, Ruth asks Boaz for marriage, Boaz marries Ruth

We were done with Judges yesterday and now it’s on to Ruth.  For background info on Ruth, go to http://www.biblestudytools.com/nlt/ruth/  If you are visitng for the first time, welcome!  This is 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.

Ruth 1

Questions & Observations

Q. (Ruth 1:2-3): Haven’t we talked about the Israelites battling the Moabites before?  If so, then why didn’t Elimelech find another place that was fertile?

A. The Moabites, we are told in Genesis 19, are descendants of Lot, and therefore close relatives of Israel.  The story seems to imply that he knew something about the good land and crops there during the famine.  It appears he considered it an acceptable alternative to Israel.  Israel and Moab have fought some and will again (2 Kings 3), but they appear to be on good terms at the time of this story.  Don’t forget, the period of the judges takes place over a long period of time.

Q. (1:13): Was it fair for Naomi to say that the Lord raised his fist against her?

A. I guess that’s a matter of opinion, but at this moment in her life, it certainly felt that way to her.  The death of her husband and sons would have been devastating to her prospects of survival.  There would have been absolutely no one to take care of her, and she likely knew — wrongly as it turned out — that her family line would die with her.  Watch for her speaking differently about God by the end of the story.

O. (2:1-23): In my opinion, Naomi was bold to say the Lord has been raising his fist at her.  But, maybe she is just being honest that God is testing her.  She obviously strongly believes in Him because she praised God for the kindness Ruth received from Boaz.

Q. (3:7-9): I find it strange that someone would go to sleep on a pile of grain.  And, I guess by lying at his feet, Ruth would show that she is indebted to him for his kindness, but it also must signal that she is asking him to take care of her?  Can you explain the uncovering of feet and the meaning of this scene?

A. During harvest season, the harvesters would spend the evenings in the fields to guard the crops they were processing from theft overnight.  It was also a time of celebration, which likely would have involved feasting and probably some alcohol consumption — the use of “good spirits” in 3:7 probably means he was a bit drunk.  But your guess is correct: this scene is both a request for care and, more importantly, a proposal of marriage that is being initiated by Ruth.  She is asking Boaz to be her kinsmen-redeemer, and the easiest way for him to do so as a man of wealth was to marry her.

Q. (4:5): It seems very important for the people of these times to carry on their family name.  It is important to many people today, but normally no relative would “take over” the husband duties and be humble and give them the name of the deceased.  Can you talk about the importance of carrying on a family name in these times?

A. Family is prized above everything else in this society except God.  The societal expectation was that you would do anything to ensure the survival of a “branch” on your family tree, including marrying a widow of a family member and declaring that any children produced from the marriage were the children of the dead relative.

Q. (4:11): I love the honor that is given here to Rachel and Leah.  If you have been reading along, you would know that I have been taking the treatment and view of women personally.  I don’t feel that God would have created women any less than men.  But, in the Bible there is such abuse of women — not all, there are a lot of positive scripture too — that is very hard for me to accept.  It seems that any negativity that comes to man is of his own demise or has nothing to do with being a man.  Where women can be severely abused because they provide something men want, and in many cases, are treated as property.  Their treatment is out of their control.

A. What you are describing is not just the way things were in the story of the Bible, but basically the way things were in the entire world until the modern era (though in places like Saudi Arabia, it continues to this day).  And it’s not just women: children are treated just as much like property as women are.  Men ruled the day, and even with the instructions in the Law that women were to be treated with respect and cared for, they often bore the brunt of oppression by men.  But there’s a lot going on.

First, we must consider that we are 21st century readers looking back more than 3,000 years.  It can be hard to get our mind around their treatment of women and children, but we must understand that we are NOT reading about the modern world.  That the Law gave ANY consideration of women made it revolutionary for its time.  Centuries later, that Jesus and Paul would speak of women (and children) as full participants in the gospel was again groundbreaking and revolutionary.

As I look at scripture as a whole, I see God at work in a fallen world.  One of the rules in this fallen world is “might makes right,” and generally, men are the mighty ones, which allows them to exploit women and children.  But even if this is what the Bible tells us, it does not mean that what happens to women is in any way ENDORSED by God; far from it!  But God understands that human character does not change overnight, and so He works incrementally to bring about the change that He desires, changes that are seen most clearly in Jesus Himself.  While modern Western society may desire to forget its “backwards and sexist” Judeo-Christian roots, it is not a coincidence that Western society alone has offered the full rights and privileges that women enjoy today.  Western society is centered around and built from the Church and her teachings, and one of the clearest teachings of the Bible is that women are made in the image of God just as much as men (Genesis 1:27) and women are an equal part of the Body of Christ (Galatians 3:28).  Without the Church and her guidance, I highly doubt that women reach that equal status they enjoy throughout North America and Europe today (and I think the same argument can be made for slaves and other minorities, but that’s another story).  It can be difficult to see things in this way, but part of me feels that God’s truth that all people are special to Him is most clearly seen in the way that the treatment of women in scripture repulses us.  If it breaks our heart, surely it breaks His.  Praise God for the way that He has been able to guide our world in such a way that we have arrived at a place where women can truly be seen as full partners in the Kingdom of God!

Thanks for those answers!!!  Hope to see you tomorrow!

Day 66 (March 7): Israelite men defile themselves with Moabite women, God’s fury sends plague killing 24,000, second census of troops,

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.  Please join us!

Numbers 25-26

Questions & Observations

Q. (Numbers 25:1-18): In 25:5, Moses ordered Israel’s judges to kill those who had defiled themselves.  It sounds like to me that this order was not carried out except for Phinehas killing Zimri who had taken a Midianite woman into his tent.  That is why 24,000 died?

A. I would assume that the story recorded of the Midianite woman is a representative example of the callousness that these men showed for God in this instance.  The man in question brought a foreigner into the presence of Moses and the leaders — not to mention God’s presence — at the Tabernacle: this is a huge violation of the Law and a major affront to God’s holiness, which I suspect is what prompted the violent reaction.  The man appeared to be flaunting his defiance of the leadership!  I think we can safely assume that other “ringleaders,” as the text called them, were executed, but not before many thousands of people had died in a plague that spread among the people.

Q. (26:5-50): The tribes’ census doesn’t mean anything to me, given my knowledge.  Is there anything that we should pay special attention to?

A. As we will discuss below, while the book of Numbers is not carefully dated, nearly 40 years have passed since the original census has been taken at the beginning of the text.  These two censuses are a big part of the reason this book gets its name: the Israelites are numbered twice, at the beginning of their wandering, and again at the end.  Regarding the importance of THIS census, if you compare the numbers at the beginning and end of the text, you see that there are roughly the same number of Israelites ready to serve in the army (around 600,000), but the tribes from which they come has changed a bit: Simeon’s tribe is the biggest loser of people — nearly 60K in the first, only 22K in the second.  This leads some scholars to speculate that the 24,000 who were killed were from Simeon’s tribe — at least partly because the flagrant offender from the previous question was from Simeon’s tribe.  The big “winners” in the second census are Benjamin — 35,000 to 45,000 — and Joseph’s son Manasseh — 32,000 to 52,000 — but the reasons for this are not given.

Q. (26:51-56): I assume God is telling him to divide up the land of Canaan, right?  But, they are not even there yet.

A. Moses is getting the instructions of how the land of promise is going to be divided up: larger tribes get more than smaller ones, and also individual plots of land were to be given by lot, essentially allowing God Himself to divide up the land as He saw fit.  I’m sure we will revisit this in Joshua when it actually happens, and we can talk about how the process was actually carried out.

Q. (26:64): Has it already been 40 years?  I thought the Israelites had quite a ways to go yet before they were permitted to go to Canaan.  There are songs and sayings that talk about “The Lord’s Army.”  Is this what the census has comprised?  God made a new census because so many had died and they didn’t have a right to be in His army anyway?  God wanted to start with a clean slate?

A. Other than a handful of people, Moses, Joshua, Caleb, etc., the vast majority of the people counted in the previous census, who were more than 20 years old 40 years ago, remember, are dead.  God is indeed starting fresh, with a new army that is made up of a new generation of Israelites, and they will be getting their new leader soon in Joshua.  The invasion of the Promised Land is coming as soon as we get the farewell sermon of Moses.

Day 65 (March 6): Balak asks Balaam to curse Israel, God is with Balaam and ensures he is prepared, angel and donkey episode, Balaam blesses Israel, Balak furious, Balaam shares Israel’s future

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 22-24

Questions & Observations

Q. (Numbers 22:4): Has Balaam been mentioned in the Bible until now?  From reading today’s reading, he sounds like he is really close to God.  How come he has not been mentioned thus far, or did I miss something?

A. You did not miss anything.  This is the first time we have met Balaam, because he is not an Israelite.  This three-chapter interval in the story appears to have its origins in the fear of the Moabite king and a pagan prophet.

Q. (Numbers 22:22): I don’t understand why God was upset with Balaam for going to see Balak when God told him to go the night before.

A. Yes, this is tricky.  I would suspect that God’s anger with Balaam has to do with his motives.  God gives Balaam permission to go, but not to curse Israel, so perhaps that is what Balaam was planning to do that offended God, even after He had granted permission to go see the king.  I can see why a face value reading of the text would cause confusion, however.  There is quite possibly some sort of error in the text that presents itself as God contradicting His own order.

Q. (22:23-34): The understanding I have of this verse is that Balaam is in his own world.  He’s not looking up to see the angel of the Lord, so God knows that Balaam isn’t tuned in to him.  He sent the angel to give Balaam a wakeup call to make sure he is speaking God’s words?  Also, when Balaam is whipping the donkey, God makes the donkey talk, which made me think that God was trying to teach him a lesson that he needs to pay attention to others and not just himself.

A. I think that is very insightful.  Your suggestion could be another reason God was not pleased with Balaam and forbid him to go: he was only focusing on himself, and needed a “wake up call”.

Q. (23:1-6, 23:14) Rob, you have told us that when we see the number 7 in the Bible, it signifies completeness, how does this the seven altars signify completeness here?

A. You have correctly noticed another incident of 7.  The number apparently was significant in the minds of Israel’s neighbors as well, for they also see it as a significant number.  According to my commentary, Balaam is using a pagan technique of prophecy called liver divination, and this many animals sacrificed would surely have given Balaam plenty of organs to examine (a lovely image, isn’t it?).  This type of divination would have been specifically forbidden to the Israelites, but was commonplace for professional pagan prophets (say that 5 times fast) like Balaam.

O. (23:7-12) I can imagine how totally ticked off King Balak would be.  I guess this is God’s version of humor.  It works for me!

Q. I just wonder if Balak, after hearing the blessings prophecies, changed his mind if God would change his fate?  Or, is it already predetermined?

A. That’s a tricky question.  In the short term, Moab is NOT one of the nations that will be conquered by Israel: they are not in in the Promised Land, but are rather outside of it.  The vision that Balaam has about a specter rising to crush Moab is probably that of King David, who will conquer many of the surrounding nations.  As we keep reading, however, I think you will see the Moabite reaction to Israel.

Come back tomorrow for more Bible knowledge!

Day 64 (March 5): Purifying with water, Miriam dies, Moses strikes rock for water, Moses is punished for changing rock procedure, King Edom refuses to let Israel pass, Aaron dies, Canaanite victory, manna complaintes, bronze snake, travels to Moab, Beer, more victories

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.  Please join us!

Numbers 19-21

Questions & Observations

Q. (Numbers 19:1-22): We have talked about how Israelites would be ceremonially unclean if they touched a dead person and would need purification to become clean again.  We have said that the reason for this is a hygienic issue.   God did not want disease to enter the Tabernacle.  Is there anything more?

A. The hygiene is the underlying issue to consider when it comes to the purification, but ultimately, God is providing instructions for obedience, and part of it was not having the Tabernacle come in contact with things that were unclean because they had been in various forms of contact with the dead.  God WAS interested in helping the community not suffer from disease, especially among the priests, but the reason the people were required to obey didn’t just have to do with the spread of disease, but because God was teaching them to trust and follow His commands.  If God declared that contact with dead bodies (including animals, as this passage reminds us) caused people to be unclean, that was all they needed to know in order to obey.  We can see considerations of community hygiene, but they were simply expected to obey because that is what God told them.

Q. (20:1): Not much is made of Miriam’s death.

A. That is true.  Something that I read is that because of her proclamation of victory after crossing the Red Sea (Exodus 15), she became a figure associated with water.  Thus, the next section of the story, the provision of water in the wildnerness, even with the cost to Moses and Aaron, was a way of honoring her spirit.  Miriam remains an important figure to Jewish women, and one of the most well-known and commonly used Jewish names.  Mary, Jesus’ earthly mother, and what seems like a dozen other women in the New Testament, bear the same name, Mary.  Mary is the English version of the translation of the same name in Greek, the Hebrew name Miriam.  So while the story does not seem to honor her, she remains to this day a very revered Jewish figure.

Q. (20:2-5): In a reading a couple days ago, you mentioned that because of the disrespect and disbelief that this generation of Israelites had that God intentionally made them wander in the desert for 40 years, long enough for that rebellious generation to die off.  Here they are grumbling again.  Did God reveal to them why they keep wandering

A. I think the previous texts made the matter pretty clear (Numbers 14 tells them that their time in the desert matches the time in days the spies were in the Promised Land: 40 years for 40 days.  But it appears they didn’t get the message, and rather then seeking to repent, they tried to force God’s hand by going into the land anyway, and continuing to complain about Moses and God’s provision.  Some people learn hard.

Q. (20:6-13): I know this story, so I know that God was upset with Moses because Moses struck the rock instead of just speaking to it.  But, if you don’t know this story and are just reading along, you may be confused because Moses got water for the people from the rock as God told him to.  It’s the specific instructions that Moses does not follow.  Do we know if this is intentional on Moses part, or just a misunderstanding?  I guess we take it that Moses did it intentionally, because God knows his heart and Moses did write this book, as best to our knowledge.  Maybe Moses is upset with God: His sister just died?  So, now Moses and Aaron will not see Canaan, just like the rest of that generation of Israelites.

A. Moses will see the Promised Land, just not enter it.  You’ll see how.  I’m sure the death of his sister had something to do with his frustration, but ultimately he directly disobeys God, and joins his generation in being kept out of the Promised Land.  There’s a lot of speculation about what Moses actually did, clearly it wasn’t just a misunderstanding, but rather willful intent on his part.  He is clearly angry with the people, and very likely at the end of his rope in frustration with their complaining.  Personally, I think that what God reacts to is Moses claiming credit for the provision of water (“must I provide it for you”), when God was the one who had made the provision.  It is never a good thing when we claim personal credit for things that we know are the will and provision of God alone.

Q. (20:14-21): The descendants of Esau comprise Edom, right?  Jacob and Esau parted on good terms years ago.  Why would the king of Edom not let the Israelites pass through?  Do we know how other nations view the Israelites at this time?  They are a huge traveling group.  There must have been talk.

A. Remember that Esau’s other name was Edom, related to his red hair and foolish desire for red stew (Genesis 25:30).  We do not know exactly what motivated the king’s decision, but the antagonism between Jacob’s descendants and Esau’s is one of the things we noted back in Genesis was something we would follow throughout the narrative.  As you mention, the group was probably quite intimidating, so perhaps there is little surprise that various nations refused to let them enter their territory.

Q. (20:29): I wonder here if mourning means observance of death or actual mourning.  The reason I bring this up is that the Israelites yo-yo between respecting Moses and Aaron and rebelling against them.  To mourn for 30 days must mean they respected him at this time?  They also seem to be following in the next passage, Numbers 21:1-3.

A. Most ancient societies had standard operating procedures for honoring the dead, which appears to be what the text is describing.  I do think that it is a powerful tribute to the respect they had for Aaron, even as they refused to listen to him.  Aaron, along with Moses, certainly did a lot for the people in terms of, you know, keeping the people alive and out of God’s wrath, and I think the people knew it.

Q. (21:4-9): I must say, I would think that if I had the same thing to eat over and over again that I would complain about it.  Is the lesson that the Israelites are not getting that they have made bad choices (complaining, doubting, being envious) and thus have brought this long journey in the desert on themselves?  If they would have trusted in God, they may have already been enjoying the Promised Land?

A. I think you’ve put it well.  Note the tone of the complaint: we hate this horrible manna, the very provision God made for His people day after day.  No wonder God was angered!  This isn’t, “Moses can we have quail or something else”, this is, “I hate what you are providing for me God,”  That’s very dangerous territory for any of us!

Q. (21:35): So after the Israelites destroyed these cities (God was with them), they could settle in those houses instead of using their tents?

A. I honestly don’t know if they used the territory; the text doesn’t tell us.  I would say it is a fair assumption that they (temporarily- they would be moving soon) used some of the buildings they conquered.

Thanks for reading.  See you tomorrow!