Day 354 (Dec. 20): Faith is key to salvation, Old Testament heroes were rewarded for their faith, others suffered and died for their faith knowing they would have a better eternal life, God disciplines those He loves, there is a peaceful harvest after suffering the pain of discipline, listen to God so you don’t miss God’s grace, God to shake the earth so only the unshakable will remain

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.

Hebrews 11-12

Questions & Observations

I could write observations for every verse in this reading.  All the reminders of the OT and how they have come to fruition in the whole picture of God’s word were so enlightening!  God is blessing us with so many answers and insightful closures at the end of the Great Book!

Q. (Hebrews 11:1): Let’s try this again: I don’t understand the virtue of hope.  Why should we hope for something if we believe it will happen?  To me hoping signifies doubt.  But, the teachings of the Bible encourage hope.

A. As this passage alludes to, the line between hope and faith gets fairly blurry, but I confess I do not understand in what sense you feel that hoping for something involves doubt — hope is very opposite of doubt.  God has give us a vision in the Bible of how life can be when we follow after Him instead of our own desires, but again, we live in that tension of “already” but “not yet”.  So we have seen how things can turn with God’s help, but they have not “turned” yet, so to speak, for many of us.  But we believe that there is a better future, a better world, etc. for us (and our children, and grandchildren, and…), and that I think is the basis of hope.  We seek and desire the world to come, the rewards of our labor, and the purging of sin/evil from the world — Revelation will cast a vision of — but we know that it is not yet here.  So we wait, but we wait hopefully, not pessimistically.  C. S. Lewis had this to say about hope:

Hope is one of the Theological virtues. This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.

Q. (Hebrews 11:6): So to ask questions is to seek and by asking does not mean that I am weak in the Spirit, rather that I am trying to clear up confusion so I can gain understanding and BE closer to God/Jesus/Holy Spirit.

A. Yes, I would say that is correct.

O. (11:26): When a believer says, “Look up,” I have thought it just meant to consider God when I deliberating about something.  But, here we see it has more meanings like, “Keep your eyes on the eternal prize.”  And greed for the joy we’ll have in heaven is a great reason, but it has earthly goodness in it by actually bringing joy to your life and others.  Making others happy, makes me happy, makes God happy and vice versa: you get happy from others and God gets happy all over.  Making God happy makes me happy.  “Looking up,” always thinking of our heavenly home can get us through the hard times on earth and helps us make the right choices to get there.

Q. (12:7-9): What is divine discipline?  Does this mean that when something hurts us that we are being punished?  So, we should rejoice because if God punishes us, we know He loves us and is working to set us straight?

A. What the writer is arguing here is that the suffering and persecution that Christians often face (not from God directly) should be seen as discipline and instructive training for our own spiritual development.  Many who have suffered greatly under persecution achieve a level of faith that is difficult for us to even comprehend — God used (but did not cause) the situation and the persecution to deepen the faith of those who were suffering for the Gospel.  And as the passage reminds us, Jesus Himself is our example of how to persevere in the midst of suffering: He is our example and the truest Son of God.

O. (12:14): This reminds me of the Jackie Robinson story when instead of getting irate at the people persecuting them, he turned the other cheek.  He won his battle by staying true to his goal, having endurance and then many could see that he was no different from them.  If we let our oppressors ruffle our feathers and they see us get irate, then they are not seeing the Jesus’s love.

Q. (12:27-28): By unshakable, I would take it that “sin” and Satan have no power over us?

A. The power of sin will be broken (as we will soon see in Revelation), and the Kingdom that God will establish will be eternal, not finite as this world is now.

Day 315 (Nov. 11): Cornelius Calls for Peter, Peter’s Vision, Peter at Cornelius’s House, Peter Explains His Actions, The Church in Antioch, Peter’s Miraculous Escape From Prison

Day 315 (Nov. 11): 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.

Acts 10:1-12:5

Questions & Observations

Q. I enjoyed today’s reading and thought it was very easy to follow.  To me, the central theme of it was that God is erasing the lines between Jews and Gentiles.  He is fading out many of the old laws that were just for the Israelites.  The disciples and other believers in Jesus are now allowed to preach to the Gentiles.  However, it appears that there is still plenty of dissent out there from those religious leaders with hardened hearts who are standing by the old law and using it to persecute others.

A. Yes there are, and there are also Christian Jews who continue to question exactly how God is moving among the Gentiles, but we will see that the Spirit will guide Paul in preaching to the Gentiles and also to the Jewish Christians to bring them around.

Q. (Acts 10:9-16): So, for anyone, including the Jewish religious leaders, to understand that God was making food clean to eat that once was unclean and for them to know that God’s kingdom is for all believers, Jews and Gentiles alike, they would have to listen to the disciples preaching about it.  They were not privy to this information even though they were in a high position.  I can see how this would manifest jealousy and anger in the Jewish leaders.

A. The Jewish leaders who have not proclaimed faith in Jesus, frankly, will not be a part of this story much longer.  This is about what God (specifically the Spirit) is doing through these few thousand Christians and their leaders.

Q. (Acts 12:1-5): The disciples must have been somewhat discouraged by Stephen and James’ death.  Jesus sent them to spread the Good News, but now two followers have died.

A. He warned them about that repeatedly — specifically in John 15:18-25.  The world kills what it hates, which is why millions are still dying for the Gospel today.  But, Jesus reminds us, that He has already won the victory, and that nothing that happens to His true followers — including death — can change that. (From Leigh An: Our pastor spoke about the Bible Hall of Fame on Sunday.  He mentioned “this cloud of witnesses” — Abel, Noah, Abraham, Joseph, David, etc. — in Hebrews 12:1-3.  I think it says everything I need to say about the disciples having the right mindset to continue their mission. (Hebrews 12:1-3: Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.)

Day 308 (Nov. 4): Simon ordered to carry Jesus cross, Roman soldiers crucified Jesus, devoted women followed Jesus to the cross, crowd jeered at Jesus, crowd mocked “king of Jews” sign, Jesus treated like a nobody, soldiers gambled for His clothes, Jesus cries out to God and dies, Temple curtains torn from top to bottom

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.

Mark 15:21-24

Matthew 27:32-34

Luke 23:26-31

John 19:17

Mark 15:25-32

Matthew 27:35-44

Luke 23:32-43

John 19:18-27

Mark 15:33-41

Matthew 27:45-56

Luke 23:44-49

John 19:28-37

Questions & Observations

Q. (Mark 15:40-41): I have noticed that these accounts have made it a point to mention all the women that were at the cross.

A. Yes, and to me, it is a great tribute to their inner strength that in the midst of all but one of Jesus’ disciples fleeing in fear (John was there — “the disciple Jesus loved” is John’s humble way of referring to himself), these women are there to witness this awful event.  The fact that multiple Gospels mentions their presence only adds to the authenticity of this detail.

Q. (Matthew 27:51): Why were things splitting apart?  I assume God was reacting to the scene?  And what, people were raised from the dead?  I have never heard that before.  It sure pays to read the Bible myself.  Why were the dead raised and went to Jerusalem?

A. I’ll address the curtain splitting in half below, but the basic answer I can give you is that the Earth itself is reacting to Jesus’ death: the sky grows dark, the earth shakes, etc.  We are not given any more details on the raised bodies, since none of the other gospels mentions them, so we don’t know who it was (or if it is even names we would recognize).  Matthew is pointing to the power of resurrection in Jesus’ death, and giving us a “mini” Easter.  The raised people were probably from Jerusalem, so that is most likely why they went there.

O. (John 19:31-37): Glad I didn’t live back then.  These people were ruthless!

Q. (John 19:32-33): Why did the soldiers break the legs of the other men who were being crucified?

A. To answer that, you have to understand what happens during a Roman crucifixion.  The body is not simply on display (though that is part of it) and you don’t bleed to death due to the holes in your hands/wrists and feet.  A Roman crucifixion is a torturous death indeed: you die slowly by suffocation.  With your arms spread on the cross and nailed down, your diaphragm muscle cannot pull in air, so you can’t breathe.  But its not a simple as that: your body WILL NOT LET YOU not breathe, so you are forced to pull up on your hands in order to raise your body and breathe.  That would be easy…except that your feet are nailed down as well.  So you can spend hours (like Jesus, who died in “only” six hours) or even days (imagine that…) going through an endless cycle of torture in which you pull your own weight up in order to breathe, and then “relax”, and over and over and over.  (Leigh An: I can see why saying that “Jesus breathed His last breath” — because it was excrutiatingly laborious — was a big deal.) The entire point is to torture and to cause the death to take as long as possible.  It is one of the cruelest methods of execution ever devised.

So in order to speed up the process of dying, the soldiers would break your leg bones, at which point you can no longer push up on them, and your death comes fairly quickly, which is what the Jews requested of Pilate.  The brutality of such an execution is hard to even fathom.

Q. (Question from Rob): This is where I said I would discuss it…why DID Jesus have to die?

A. In discussing this question, we have to remember the ritual sacrifice system that was at the heart of Jewish Law.  In order to atone for sin (that is, to transfer the effects of sin from a person to another being), there had to be a sacrifice of blood (“This is my blood, which is shed for many for the forgiveness of sin” is the way Jesus put it).  In the OT, this was done by sacrificing a lamb or other animal: a perfect specimen was offered for the sin.  The sinner laid hands upon the animal, signaling the acknowledgment that this animal was about to die for their sin, and then the animal was killed and the blood spread on the altar.  The spilled blood symbolized the atonement for the sin because sin causes death, and therefore requires a life — either the life of the sinner or the life of the animal.

So in Jesus, we see what John meant when he referred to Him as the “Lamb of God” in John 1: Jesus entered into suffering and death not merely on behalf of one sin, but for ALL sin.  He willingly accepted the punishment that was rightly due to us: suffering and death.  This is the central concept of what is called atonement theology: Jesus died as an atoning sacrifice, that we might be reconciled to God, just as the Jews had done with animals for centuries.

Now when we say that God and man were reconciled, we mean that they were reunited, the way that God had originally intended before sin separated us from Him.  We can see this reconciliation in one of the most important descriptions of the Passion story: the rending of the Temple curtain.  Nowhere was the separation between God and man more clear than at this point: the massive, forty-foot curtain that separated the Holy place (where the priest would burn incense day and night) and the Holy of Holies (where the Ark of the Covenant used to reside).  Now after the destruction of the Temple in 586 BC, there is no record of the Ark again, but the great stone upon which the Ark was traditionally rested (called the Foundation Stone) was still behind this curtain, and it was here upon that stone that the High Priest would offer his sacrifices on behalf of the community once a year on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur).  So though the Ark was gone, the divide remained.  But the narrators of our story tell us that when Jesus died, something changed in the world, for all time.  At the moment of Jesus’ death, the curtain split in two (note that it tells us it was from top to bottom- showing this to be an act of God), signifying that the separation between God and man had been breeched.  Because of Jesus’ actions, God and man no longer needed to be separated to protect humanity: they had been reconciled by the work of Jesus.  This reconciliation will be central for our understanding of the whole of the remaining NT theology: God has done a new thing in Jesus.  Because of this, we can become adopted as children of God, who are free to receive the blessings of the Kingdom: most notably, the very Presence of the Spirit of God within us.  So our reading today is paradigm shifting: after this moment, the gap between God and man has been bridged, and because of that, everything else that will take place in the NT will become possible.

Day 307 (Nov. 3): Jesus on trial before Pilate, Pilate releases Barabbas for Passover, Pilate tries to free Jesus, Crowd convicts Jesus, Pilate sentences Jesus, soldiers mock Jesus

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.

Mark 15:2-5

Matthew 27:11-14

Luke 23:1-12

John 18:28-40

Mark 15:6-15

Matthew 27:15-26

Luke 23:13-25

John 19:1-16

Mark 15:16-20

Matthew 27:27-31

Questions & Observations

Q. (Luke 23:1-2): What’s the deal with the different charges?  Why are they not merely accusing Jesus of blasphemy?

A.  They can’t do that and get Pilate to execute Him, so they have to make charges up and hope Pilate goes along with them, which Pilate does NOT appreciate.  There’s an interesting article on the trials Jesus goes through (the legal ones) here:, and I’m going to quote for the author about what is going on here, because he summarizes it so well:

If they presented Jesus as a man convicted of blasphemy on the testimony of only two witnesses who did not agree, Pilate would reverse their verdict. If they presented Jesus as one convicted by his own confession, Pilate would set the verdict aside. And, of course, if they reported Jesus was convicted by unanimous verdict, Pilate would enter a verdict of acquittal. So the guilty priests presented Jesus to Pilate on a new charge they trumped up on the spot: treason against Caesar.

So that is why Jesus is accused of treason: it was the only way that they could get Pilate to convict Him.

Q. (Mark 15:2-5, Matthew 27:11-14, Luke 23:1-12): Why did Jesus retort, “You have said it.”  Why didn’t He just say “yes?”  And, why didn’t he simply answer the leaders questions instead of being silent?

A. I honestly don’t have a good answer to that.  Jesus has gone to great lengths to not publicly declare (though never deny) that He is the Messiah, and this event and the “trial” before the Sanhedrin appears to be no exception.  His answer strikes a middle ground between a blunt “yes” and a denial: note that both times He uses this phrase (which translates something like “your words not mine”), those asking the question treat His answer as a “yes” anyway.

Q. (John 18:30-31): So, it was against Jewish law to execute, so they handed Jesus over to the Romans so they could kill Him?

A. That’s about right.

Q. (Mark 15:6): The Romans have adopted the Passover?  The Passover is a Jewish holiday, but the Roman governor has a tradition of releasing a prisoner?

A. No, the Romans had allowed the Jews to continue to observe Passover.  The celebration would have been massive in the city, and there is an undercurrent in the story that is worth noting here: Pilate’s actions in turning Jesus over to be crucified are directly the result of his fear that the pilgrims visiting Jerusalem for Passover will riot or even revolt, and Pilate is doing his best to keep the peace.  And I suspect in Pilate’s mind, even if he didn’t really want to kill Jesus, that it was worth killing one Jew in order to maintain control of hundreds of thousands of them.

Day 302 (Oct. 29): Church leaders plotting to kill Jesus, Jesus telling disciples He will be crucified soon, Satan enters Judas who accepts money to betray Jesus, Last Supper organized, Jesus shows his humbleness and service to disciples by washing their feet, Jesus tells of betrayal, bread and wine to be new covenant, Jesus tells Judas to ‘do what you’re going to do’

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.

Mark 14:1-2

Matthew 26:1-5

Luke 22:1-2

Mark 14:10-11

Matthew 26:14-16

Luke 22:3-6

Mark 14:12-16

Matthew 26:17-19

Luke 22:7-13

John 13:1-17

Mark 14:17-26

Matthew 26:20-30

Luke 22:14-30

John 13:18-30

Questions & Observations

Q. (Matthew 14-16): Just wondering if there is any significance to the amount Judas was paid?  And, any idea what the name “Judas Iscariot” means?

A. Yes and yes.  There is a cruel significance to the price they paid Judas: it is the legal price of a slave.  Judas has sold Jesus’ life into the hands of these men.

Judas was a very common Jewish name, the name Judah in the OT (which means “Praised” or “God be Praised” in Hebrew).  If you read the NT, you will see several names similar to Judas (notably Jude) which are actually the same name, but the authors and translators usually make some effort to distinguish between the character of Judas and Jude, another of Jesus’ lesser known disciples (also called Thaddeus), and Jesus’ half brother who wrote the Epistle of Jude.  The meaning of Judas’ last name is less clear: it might indicate his hometown, or also possibly that he was a member of a group of zealots who carried daggers for assassination (read about it here:  The name “Sicarii” literally means “dagger man”.  Some scholars think that the Sicarii did not exist until several decades after this story, so take that information with a grain of salt.

Q. (Luke 22:3-6): I noticed that in Luke’s version of this story that the text says that Satan entered Judas.  I assume Judas allowed him to enter.  I don’t think there is a way to know this answer.  But, this helped the OT prophecies come true.  I would think that Judas would have free will to push Satan away.

A. I think either way is a possibility, but I leave it to you to decide.

Q. (John 13:1-17): There are so many things going on in this passage.  Jesus is washing the disciples feet.  Rob, can you tell us the significance of this?  What does v. 10 mean?  Then, related to that is Jesus empowering the disciples by talking about how he is no better than them.  And then, He says God will bless them.

A. Foot washing was a very menial task, usually reserved for a slave (don’t forget the significance of the price Judas got for Jesus’ life — the significance would surely not have been lost on the original readers).  It was not a task that a rabbi or important leader would EVER have done voluntarily.  So Jesus is giving His followers an incredible lesson in humility and seeing others as more important than yourself.  That is the major significance to the foot washing.  As to verse 10, Jesus is using a washing metaphor: His disciples have been washed of their sins by their faith in who Jesus is (i.e. they are clean- except for Judas).  So when Peter asks for Jesus to wash him, Jesus is telling Peter metaphorically that He has already washed Peter.  He only needs to have his feet washed because he is already clean.

Q. (Mark 14:17-26): Vs. 20-21 talk about what Judas will face for betraying Jesus.  We’ll talk more about that later, right?  This is the scene that started communion in the church, which I have a couple questions about.  First, does it matter how often churches offer communion?  The church I grew up in had it every Sunday, which I loved.  It was a quiet time during the service to talk to God.  The church said that there was a verse, which we should come to quickly that states Jesus saying something like, “whenever you gather, do this (communion) in remembrance of me.”  Maybe I have the verse wrong.  But I find that most Protestant churches only offer it once a month.  And, tagging on to that, don’t the Catholics say the bread and the wine actually turn to the blood and flesh of Christ?

A. Jesus uses strong language to describe Judas’ betrayal in saying, for example, that it would be better if he had never been born.  That, to me, implies damnation for his actions — and actions still to come — but there is nowhere in the Bible that it explicitly says Judas is in hell for betraying Jesus.

We have read most of the versions of the NT Communion/Eucharist liturgy (another one will appear in one of Paul’s letters), so what you see is what you get.  Some Churches, notably most Protestants [Anglicans/Episcopalians excluded], do not necessarily interpret Jesus’ words literally in saying “every single time you gather the Church body, you take Communion,” and there are reasons for this, not the least of which is a concern, frankly, about boredom and losing meaning in mindless ritual.  I leave it to you to decide if that is good reason or not.

Roman Catholics have an official doctrine called Transubstantiation, which describes the transformation of the wine and bread/wafer thing into the literal body and blood of Jesus — though the transformation is invisible.  There’s a long history to this doctrine, which is one of the reasons that Protestants like Martin Luther decided to leave the Church 500 years ago, but there’s not much point in rehashing that.  I will simply point out that the development of the doctrine of Transubstantiation comes from the Middle Ages, not the ancient Church, and that it is exclusively a Roman Catholic doctrine.  Other non-Protestant branches of the Church such as the Orthodox Church accept some form of what they call the “mystery” of Communion, but only the R/C Church goes all the way in proclaiming this doctrine.

Q. (Matthew 26:28): What is Jesus referring to when he says, “for this is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people.”  And, what is v. 29’s meaning?

A. Remember our covenant ceremonies in Genesis and Exodus with Abraham and Moses/the Israelites and Sinai?  Both of those ceremonies had the covenant sealed in the blood of an animal.  Jesus is saying that this new covenant that He is establishing is sealed not in an animal’s blood, but in His own.

I don’t have a good explanation for verse 29.  It is a mystery.  Sorry.

Q. (Luke 22:30): Jesus has just granted the disciples the power to make judgment on Judgment Day? And, then he says they will judge the 12 tribes of Israel.  This sounds like OT Israel.  I guess Jesus is judging the rest of us?

A. Don’t forget our story of the Sheep and Goats: the King, Jesus, judges all, or at least most.  I am frankly unsure what Jesus is describing here.

Q. (John 13:18-30): It’s almost like Jesus and Satan are working together here.  But, I take it that Satan is not privy to what Jesus is willing to do for our sins?  Satan must just think that he is helping Jesus get arrested.  Satan may think that he has triumphed here by getting Jesus imprisoned so that He won’t be able to win more people over to the Kingdom?

A. Your question pushes up against the spiritual realm, and it is frankly impossible to say what is motivating Satan.  Perhaps he desires to strike at God and this is his best chance, perhaps he believes that by killing Jesus, he will gain victory, or perhaps he is just acting out his role as a murderer (John 8:44).  There is simply no way to tell, but I will mention that the various accounts of what we call the Atonement (basically, what “transaction” takes place in Jesus’ death on the cross) are based largely upon an understanding of Satan’s role as the current ruler of this world.

Day 257 (Sept. 14): Temple is finished and dedicated to God, Exiles celebrate Passover, King Xerxes big banquet, Queen Vashti prohibited from ever seeing Xerxes again, Xerxes is charmed by Esther and makes her queen, Mordecai tells Xerxes of plot to kill him, Haman’s plot to kill the Jews was debunked

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.

Ezra 6:14-22

Ezra 4:6

Esther 1-4

Questions & Observations

I have heard this story quite a lot, but never in the detail that the Bible is providing.  It’s such a thorough account that I don’t have any deep questions, just technical ones.


Q. (Esther 1:1): Xerxes has such a huge territory from India to Ethiopia.  I can’t imagine how they would rule that many people over a long distance.  They must have had quite an organized structure of assistants.

A. These kings set up puppet regimes throughout the empire.  We will see this again in the NT, when the leaders such as Herod ruled Israel, but served the Emperor of Rome.  This is also why the decrees were so important: they were used to proclaim the king’s orders throughout the vast empire.

Q. (1:3-4): How did Xerxes get so much authority so fast?  In his third year as ruler, he threw a banquet for royalty that lasted 180 days.  And just to imagine the accommodations — they didn’t have Holiday Inn back then.  I just wonder if there were inns or if Xerxes housed them all.

A. Xerxes is king of the Persian Empire, which took over the Babylonian Empire from Nebuchadnezzar’s descendants.  So he got his great authority by inheriting it from the king before him, but he also very likely had to demonstrate his authority as some sort of under ruler, usually a general.  Inns and such places would have been commonplace in major cities of this time, as they are today.  Many times people in this area would use caravans to move large amounts of people and goods, and set up camps in the areas outside (or sometimes inside) a city.

Q. (2:12): Twleve months of beauty treatments?  This would never go today, not in my home anyway.  Who has time for that?  In a whole year, they would look older.

A. I honestly have no idea how to respond to this.  I’m just going to move on.

Q. (2:21): I don’t remember this part of the story.  It’s great to know more about Mordecai.  The whole eunuch thing is hard to accept.  The way the Bible refers to them as eunuchs and not just by name makes it sound like they are a separate “breed.”

A. I realize you’ve had some trouble with this concept, but it would have been accepted practice in the day.  It’s quite clear from the story that even the eunuchs in Xerxes’ empire could become powerful men, as we see in the man who controlled the entire harem for the king.

Q. (3:10): Why did Xerxes hand over the signet ring to Haman?  I don’t understand what authority is given to whomever has the ring.

A. The signet ring had a raised design on it, which was the mark of the king.  In an era, as we have discussed, of great distances between king and country and vast empires, the power of the king’s seal must be understood as incredibly important.  Xerxes, by giving Haman the ring, is basically allowing him to write decrees as though he is the king, because he can use the ring to seal royal letters and decrees.  That’s the real power of signet ring: basically being able to sign the king’s “name” onto something.

Day 213 (Aug. 1): Josiah renews covenant with God, Josiah rids region of pagan worship, Josiah reenstates Passover, Nahum speaks of God’s anger toward Ninevah, the fall of Ninevah, judgment of Ninevah

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 23:1-20

2 Chronicles 34:29-33

2 Kings 23:21-28

2 Chronicles 35:1-19

Nahum 1-3:19

Questions & Observations

Q. (2 Kings 23:18): Who was the “old prophet” from Samaria?

A. He was unnamed, but he was the man of God described in 1 Kings 13 who warned King Jereboam about Josiah’s actions.  He was also the man who foolishly ate the meal with the other “old prophet” when God had told him to take no food in Samaria and he was killed by a lion on the road the next day.  The story there describes the man’s burial marking the spot that Josiah recognized and asked about.

Q. (2 Kings 23:19-20): Wow, don’t mess with Josiah!  I don’t like the idea of burning any human.  I know he was trying to erase any signs of idol worship.  I would have thought that Josiah could have tried to convince the priests to lay down their beliefs and turn to God.  But, maybe Josiah didn’t want any trace left, giving the priests a chance to start up the pagan worship in hiding.  Would God be pleased with Josiah burning these priests?

A. He’s not burning the priests.  He is killing them (bad enough I know, but this is righteous vengeance against pagan worship that was destroying Judah), and once they are buried, he is burning other human remains (bones) over their graves to desecrate them.

Q. (2 Chronicles 34:29-33): Sounds great, but we know it won’t last long because of all the prophecies that Judah will be destroyed.  You’re going to say wait and see, right?

A. Eventually.  There’s still a lot to happen, which we will see unfold in Jeremiah.

Q. (2 Kings 23:25): As far as Bible characters or heroes — I hate to use those words because it makes the Bible sound like fiction — we don’t here about Josiah much at all.  We hear mostly about David and Solomon.  Is this because Josiah doesn’t have a lot written about him?  David and Solomon were in a lot more stories and authored text.

A. Honestly I don’t have a great answer for that.  It is possible that Josiah doesn’t get much “press” because his kingdom is so much smaller than David or Solomon’s (i.e. just little Judah), or also because he is “sandwiched” between such evil men, that his good efforts become less noticed.  Part of the issue is probably that his reforms won’t last.

Q. (2 Kings 23:26-27): Why isn’t God seeing Josiah seriously trying to turn the Israelites back to Him?

A. Good question, probably because they won’t last.  Remember yesterday what God promised: you (Josiah) will be spared seeing this happen, but the city will not; it is too late.

Q. (2 Chronicles 35:7): I’ve commented on this before.  It’s still hard to imagine this many animals being sacrificed.  Was the number to allow for the number of people that needed to be fed, or was the number for the sacrifice of giving up livestock?

A. It should be based upon the number of livestock, but there is no way to know exactly.

Q. (Nahum 2:1-2): I am so confused.  I didn’t see where Judah had definitely been destroyed.  Was it in Jeremiah 6:22-30?  It’s hard to tell where the prophets are prophesying the future and narrating actual events.  I didn’t think it had happened yet because Josiah was turning to God.  I guess Hilkiah found the scrolls after the destruction of Judah?

A. You are right, but the things we read about in Jeremiah come later (i.e. they haven’t happened yet in our reading timeline).  What this refers to is Assyria’s encroachment into Judah that we read about in 2 Kings 18, where we saw the messenger of the king come and threaten the people.  But the conquest was not completed: Jerusalem withstood the threat, though other cities in Judah did not.  That is what the destruction of Judah refers to: Assyria’s efforts to conquer the nation of Judah (including Jerusalem, its capital) that were turned away by God’s intervention on Judah’s behalf.

Q. (Nahum 2:1-13): Do we know who destroyed Ninevah?  God said he would destroy their family lines.  We see this in v. 13 where the young men are killed in battle?

A. Yes, Ninevah, as capital of Assyria, is conquered in 612 BC by a combined force of Babylon and another nation called Medes, both of which will play a large role in the next phase of Israel’s history: the captivity.

Q. (Nahum 3:5): I don’t know if this was funny then, but it is now.

A. This would have been the most common method of publicly shaming a prostitute or adulteress, but I can see how the humor might be seen.

Q. The difference between the destruction of Judah and Ninevah is that God is Israel’s leader and redeemer.  He will bring them back.  Ninevah doesn’t have God.

A. Yes, but it will be a very painful process, that will take nearly a hundred years to walk through.

Day 55 (Feb. 24): Annual festivals: Passover and Unleavened Bread, First Harvest, Harvest, Trumpets, Atonement, Shelters; light for the Lord, eye for an eye, Sabbath Year, Year of Jubilee

Need some direction in your life?  Join 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.  Read on, some answers may surprise you.  Many will explain things in the Bible you may have been confused about.  Most of all, they can help you understand the Bible, which helps us lead a life that fulfills God and us.  Take the challenge.  You won’t regret it.  Let us know if you have any comments to share.

Leviticus 23-25:23

Questions & Observations

Q. (Leviticus 23:3): I have never heard of the term “holy assembly?”  Is it a church service of some sort?

A. While it is the first time that term has been used, I think, the concept is well established.  The Sabbath is a time for gathering with the community for the purpose of worshipping God.  The people would have gathered at the Tabernacle, and then later the Temple.  As the Jews became spread out among the various nations over the centuries, called the Diaspora, and it became harder to worship directly at the temple, worship sites called synagogues arose in the various cities.  These synagogues will play a major role in the NT story of Christ and the first Christians.  There are numerous references to Jesus observing Sabbath in a synagogue (Mark 3:1 among many), and Paul sought converts in the various cities that he visited on his first missionary journey in Acts (9:20).

Q. In all of these sacrifices, God is so specific.  With Abraham and Jacob, they would occasionally stop and honor God with a sacrifice, but I don’t recall that God told them what to sacrifice.  I wonder if people ever gave their best as an offering, but with no instructions from God.  Why couldn’t the people come up with their own sacrifices/offerings?

A. That’s a good question, and I guess I don’t have a great answer.  My guess would be that the Law was designed to tell the people what was expected of them, as a way to standardize the sacrifices.  The sacrifices were part of the Law that is being established here, so part of the reason we don’t see Abraham and Jacob doing things in that way is because they were not under that system.  We are basically laying the ground rules for a relationship with God that has lasted more than 3500 years.

Q. (23:21): This verse caught my eye.  God said to not do “ordinary” work on the Sabbath.  What does that mean?

A. I would take it at face value: stop the routine work that you are doing to keep these various holidays.  Even if the exact phrase hasn’t been used before, I would take the meaning to be the same.

Q. (23:27): On the Day of Atonement, the people were supposed to “deny themselves” or fast.  Growing up, I don’t remember our church talking about fasting.  Maybe I just wasn’t paying attention to that part.  I know some congregations of believers will fast for a certain thing they are praying for.  Why is fasting a way of worshipping?  When I think about fasting, I think STARVING.  If I am hungry, I can’t think straight.  How can I worship and concentrate on God when I can’t concentrate?  The NT promotes fasting too, right?

A. Fasting is a method of self-denial for the purpose of growing closer to God.  We intentionally deny ourselves food in order to focus on God.  As Jesus tells us, and Satan, in Matthew 4: there is more to life than food, and sometimes it takes us giving up our nearly constant routine of eating to bring our attention to this fact.  Part of the reason it can be so hard to fast the first time is simply because our body isn’t used to it.  Fasting is a discipline, one that both Jews and Christians alike have prescribed as a way to grow closer to God for millennia.

(Quick aside: the notion of giving up something for Lent [our current Church season] has become fashionable in many churches, but on some level I feel our self-denial misses the point.  While there is value, say health-wise, in giving up chocolate or soda for a season, that is not the original intent of a Lenten fast.  The idea is that we set something we enjoy aside for a time, in order to spend the allotted time WITH GOD.  So having no Coke for 40 days may help your waistline, but unless you are spending your soda break time reading scripture or in prayer, you’re not really “filling” the time in the way that Lenten fasts were originally designed to.)

If you want an excellent guide to fasting and prayer, as well as the other classical Church disciplines, I recommend Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline.  It is a modern classic (written in 1978), an incredible guide to the spiritual life of a Christian, and frankly, a book that people will likely be talking about and reading 100 years from now.

O.  (23:9-44): This is just a bulleted form of the festivals:

Firstfruits: First cuttings of harvest.

Harvest (Pentecost): Fifty days after Firstfruits, a second offering from the first of their crops.

Trumpets: A complete day of rest in the fall.

Atonement: Day of purification through fasting, nine days after the Festival of Trumpets.

Shelters: Five days after Day of Atonement to remind future generations of Israelites that God made their ancestors live in shelters when He rescued them from Egypt.

Q. (Leviticus 24:21): I guess this backs up the “Thou shalt not murder” commandment by saying, hey, if you do, you die too!

A. That would be the proper application of an eye for an eye in this case.  Sadly, some states and nations just haven’t managed to make it any further than that.

O. (25:1-7): I grew up on a Kansas farm.  I remember my father letting our land lie fallow to restore it’s nutrients.  I think it’s amazing how the Bible covers all the little things that may seem trivial, but very important to livelihood.

Q. (25:8-13): Do Jews still recognize the Year of Jubilee?

A. That’s a tricky question.  Most of the information I read indicated that most rabbis feel that the rule of Jubilee only applies within the Promised Land in a kingdom established by God.  Therefore, the answer most commonly given is that most Jews, even Torah observant Jews, do not mark Jubilee: it only applied to a particular era of their history when it was needed.

On the other hand, there is the concept of tracing the years through the ages, which you could argue is “recognition”.  I couldn’t find a definitive source about the attempts to keep track of Jubilee: some scholars have attempted to recreate a list of the years that should have been Jubilee, and also, some rabbis feel that there should have been one 50 years after the modern state of Israel was established, but most did not.  There have been various attempts by Jewish scholars to track, and therefore project, when the next Jubilee is, but this is mostly scholarly speculation that has little bearing on the life of Jews today.

O. (25:14-17): Sounds like Real Estate 101 to me, or a fair real estate transaction!

Day 47 (Feb. 16): Levites dedicated, Second Passover, rules for burnt, grain and peace offerings

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.

Numbers 8

Leviticus 1-3

Questions & Observations

Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily reading.  Read on, some answers may surprise you.  Most of all, they can help you understand the Bible, which helps us lead a life that fulfills God and us.  Let us know if you have any comments to add.

Q. (Numbers 8:5-26): Can you remind us of which of Jacob’s sons the Levites came from and any significance that has on them becoming the ones to work with the priests?  So, there were thousands of Levites that had to be purified?  I think you told us earlier that the Levites had to disperse among the other tribes.  What were there duties?

A. Actually, the term Levites tells us which son they were from: Jacob’s third son Levi.  Levi was one of the sons who got Jacob into trouble with the whole “wait until our enemies are circumcised and then kill them” bit from Genesis 34 (fun times).  Part of Jacob’s “blessing” for Levi was that his descendants would be dispersed among the other tribes, and here we see that played out.

Regarding their duties, that is, actually, what some portions of Leviticus are about, so let’s hang on to that one and see if we come to a sufficient answer.

Q. The Passover is just celebrated today by the Jewish community, right?  The new law of the New Testament makes us no longer under Passover requirements.  Is it still a good idea to practice them?

A. We should distinguish being required to celebrate Passover, as religious Jews are, and recalling/celebrating the way that God has acted in the past as Christians do to this day.  As we’ve mentioned, the sacrament of Communion was “born” at the satyr or Passover meal, so Jesus certainly desired us to know and understand both what had happened in Exodus, but also the ways that He was doing something new to forever change our status with God.

Q. (Leviticus 1:9) Do you know of any reason why God required that the legs and internal organs be singled out to be from the rest of the body to be washed before sacrificing?

A. I can’t find a particular reference to why those particular portions were required to be washed, no.

Q. (Leviticus 2:10-11,13) Why is the grain the most holy of all of the offerings?  Why no yeast?  To remind them of their deliverance from Egypt?  And, why no honey?

A. I’m not completely sure about why this was considered to be the most holy of offerings (that were burned), but part of the instruction to the priests were that grain offerings were to be eaten AT the altar, rather than taken home to their families.

Regarding yeast and honey: the yeast (as we’ve examined) was to remain out partly because of the reminder of Passover, but also because it is a cultivated product (i.e. human effort), where as the bread without yeast is purely a reminder of God’s provision and effort in Exodus.  There are a few guesses why honey was excluded, which include its use in brewing beer, but also possibly because it was part of the ritual sacrifice of the Canaanite tribes in the Promised Land.  The lack of honey in the religious ritual would have therefore set the tribe apart from its surrounding neighbors, a recurring theme in Leviticus.

Q. (2:13):  Why would salt remind the Isrealites of God’s eternal covenant?

A. There’s few references to salt in this capacity (see Numbers 18:19 for one), but the reason for this inclusion is not specifically given.  The best guess I came across is that when establishing a covenant in the ancient Middle East, there was frequently a meal served as part of the ritual, and salting the meat of sacrificed animals was a part of it.

Q. (2:15,16): I can’t believe I missed asking the significance of olive oil?  How about frankincense?

A. Olive oil would have been just about the only oil available in those days, but there does not appear to be anything special about it as far as I can tell.  The use of incense —frankincense being one example — was certainly a part of the rituals of the priesthood: incense was burned day and night, mixed in the showbread, and used here.  It would have been crucial in helping to deal with the overpowering smell of the animal sacrifices.

Q. (3:1-17): This sounds anything but peaceful!  I know I have spoken my ill feelings about sacrifices.  I know the times were very different.  It’s just that from the way we were brought up, this activity would be viewed as cult-like.  Also, what I view as violent coming from God in the OT seems opposite of the gentle love he shows in the NT.  I understand that sacrificing was for the people to give their best to the Lord.  But, why all the cutting up and talk of different organs and fat?

A. The term “peace offering” comes from the Hebrew word Shalom, and would have represented peace between God and His people, without, unfortunately, much consideration for the animals that were used.  It certainly was a different time, and honestly the consideration of animal slaughter would not have been a big deal to these people: they had to use and kill animals constantly to survive.  Don’t forget: these rituals  — which certainly can be called cult-like — were all about keeping the people in right relationship with God, i.e. to keep peace between God and men.  Animal sacrifice is, at this point, THE ONLY WAY to satisfy God’s requirements for atonement of sin.  We see it quite differently in light of Christ, but that was their reality.

One thought that might help: the ritual of animal sacrifice can be seen as a foreshadowing of the coming of Christ, which is how most church Fathers viewed it in ancient times.  So if we harness our disgust at the brutal nature of the whole matter of sacrificing animals, we can then imagine the significance and magnitude of a human being, Jesus, WILLINGLY laying down His own life for His people to forever give peace between God and people.  Yes it was, and is, brutal, but such is the cost of sin.

Day 35 (Feb. 4): Plagues of locusts, darkness, Egypt’s firstborn sons, Passover, Israelites prepare to leave after 430 years in Egypt, Passover requirements

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Exodus 10-12

Questions & Observations

Q. Rob, in one of your answers yesterday, you said, the Bible “does not shy away from saying that there are no other spiritual powers that can be used, only that God is superior to them.”  Does the Bible say other deities are real or are you just saying that there are spiritual powers out there and they elude to that they come from Satan?

A. The Bible does not answer that question directly.  Instead, it orders that God alone should be worshipped, and distinguishes between the true God and false gods.  Whether these “false gods” exist could, I think, be interpreted either way.

As you enter the New Testament, I think that you move more and more towards the concept of there is only one God (i.e. all other gods are false), but it certainly does not deny the existence of other spiritual powers such as demons.

Q. (Exodus 10:1): I said that I’m not going to question God so much, but it’s so hard not to.  I’ll go on the offensive rather than defensive.  Here, it sounds like God caused all this devastation to show His people His power and that they should follow Him.  And He is there to protect them and fight their battles.  Maybe it’s showing them more of what is coming their way — they will need to rely on God to survive their journey?  Also, the Egyptians, at least the Pharaoh, did not follow God, so maybe God just decided to play with them for a little bit.  He’s giving the Egyptians payback?

A. God appears to be avenging the suffering that Egypt has inflicted on their Israelite slaves, which are His chosen ones.  In the process, He is teaching the Israelite people that He is faithful and should follow Him.

Q. (10:4): Is there any significance with locusts in the Bible?  Here a plague, but also Jesus eats them in the wilderness, right?

A. John the Baptist ate locusts in the wilderness.  Locusts were (and are) a real problem in the world, and one of the most real examples of a plague on agrarian society.  If you are dependent on crops, and the locusts eat all those crops, you’re in big trouble.  So locusts are seen as a plague of judgment (here, in Joel, and in Revelation, there may be others), sometimes against God’s enemies, and (in Joel) against God’s people.

Q. (10:14-15): How could the Egyptians survive?  There is nothing left.  Pharaoh would have to be so frustrated that God kept hardening his heart.  He has no food left!  God seems to be having fun with Pharaoh.  In our small group, we had a discussion about God does things to bring glory to Himself.  I had never heard this before.  I thought it was kind of egotistical.  But, here we see it plain as day that God is deeply demonstrating his power to the Egyptians to show the Egyptians how glorious He is.  I guess my question here, is how could the Egyptians want to continue this torture?

A. It’s clear from the story that even those closest to Pharaoh were begging him to get rid of the problem people, but they ultimately, had to submit to whatever their king decided.  Since the Egyptians were seen as such an enemy of the Israelites, it appears that their survival was not a priority of the story.  I don’t honestly have a better idea of how to answer the question than that.

Q. (10:16-17):  Again, we see repetition after repetition in these plagues.  We saw it in Job, we saw it when Abraham asked God to spare the righteous in Sodom.  I guess it’s all for emphasis, to make sure we understand God’s point.  On a personal note, I think about how many times something has to happen before I change it for the better and make it a habit.  I keep drinking coffee even though it makes me on edge and sluggish the rest of the day.  I’m working on it.  There are numerous things in my life like that.  You?  I guess it’s the hard-headedness.  Has God hardened our hearts so it’s a real challenge to choose to follow God?

A. This appears to be a special circumstance, for this type of phrasing (hardening the heart) is not used again.  It appears that this story is meant to be unique.  One change that takes place in the midst of the story of Christianity in the NT is that the Spirit becomes a living presence in the heart of believers.  That presence of God in our hearts is one that always desires to bring us CLOSER to God, not to harden our stance away from Him.  So, I would say you as a Christian (rather than one who is counted an enemy of God) has anything to worry about from God hardening your heart against Him.

O. (11:4-6): I wonder how Moses felt to be the one warning about these plagues and giving God the “go” signal with his staff.  This was a guy who had run away from Egypt because he was afraid he would be killed for murdering an Egyptian, then he kind of hid as a shepherd. And finally, he begged God not to make him leader of the Israelites.  What a change for Moses!

Q. (12:5): I struggle with this because God asks for animals with no defects and that they be one year old.  What is the significance of this?  I thought his creations were equal.  I guess I’m thinking of man.  From what we have read, he does not give priority to those humans who are near perfect.  But, for sacrificial animals, the Lord wants the best?  I guess animals are different from humans in that regard?  As a vegan, the whole sacrifice thing is never going to be easy for me to swallow.  Pun intended!

A. The significance of the one-year-old animal without a defect is the sacrifice would be required on the part of the sacrificer.  You couldn’t give God just any old (or sick, or deformed) animal.  You had to provide an animal in its prime and not one you were going to get rid of anyway.  This goes back to giving God our best or “firstfruits”.

Q. (12:8): Why bread with no yeast?  Takes up less space for traveling?

A. Nope.  It’s ready sooner because you don’t have to wait for it to rise.

Q. (12:23): I never thought about the OT blood symbolism applying to Jesus dying on the cross.  Just as the blood allows God to spare the Israelites from the plague, Jesus blood shed spares us from eternal punishment.  Does this work for you, Rob?

A. Yes.  When John the Baptist speaks of Jesus as the Lamb of God in John 1, I suspect this is at least partially the image he had in mind.  The idea here is that the blood itself is what wards off the angel of death, an idea that Christians definitely came to connect with.

Q. (12:24): I guess this is speaking to us.  Christians are still supposed to observe the Passover?  I never have.  It has not been a requirement in the churches I have belonged to.

A. We are no longer under the Law, so we are not obligated to keep the Passover.  This does not mean we cannot participate in one or learn from it.  Something I have seen recently in the churches I have been a part of have connected with the idea that the Last Supper from the Gospels was, in fact, a Passover meal.  Jesus took the opportunity do use the unleavened bread (which, for reference, is kind of like pita bread) and wine that were already a part of the ceremony to talk about the new way God was doing to do things through Jesus (i.e. the new covenant).  So, while we don’t HAVE to keep the Passover, I think there is great value in understanding it, and maybe sharing in one at some point.

Q. (12:48): Sure glad I’m a woman!  Does the Passover law still apply — that all males who want to partake in it must be circumcised?

A. Ha!  For religious Jews such as Hassidic and Orthodox, I presume the answer is yes, but I am not certain.

Q.  (12:51): Leading the Israelites out of Egypt would be quite an undertaking for Moses.  With women and children, there were easily 2 million Israelites.  Moses didn’t have a microphone.  How could he communicate what they were to do so quickly?  Nothing is impossible with the Lord!

A. One of the things that the text will talk about after the journey to Sinai is the way that the different tribes moved with the Tabernacle.  Nope, no microphones, so I would imagine it was an incredibly difficult task: something God alone could bring the people through.