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 243 (Aug. 31): God revives valley of skeletons and tells them to return to Israel, God tells of Israel and Judah joined again, God mobilizes Gog to attack the flourishing, “confident” Israel, God will protect this wall-less city, Gog to be helpless before God, Israel gets cleansed, Ezekiel prophesies the fall of Pharaoh

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 37-39

Ezekiel 32:1-16

Questions & Observations

Q. (Ezekiel 37:1-14): What an amazing scene.  This is something that we have not seen at all.  Did he really do this or is this something that Ezekiel is supposed to tell the living exiles?

A. Ezekiel is receiving a vision of resurrection, but it is an important image that will become a reference point for both Jews and Christians about God’s vision for an afterlife.  God is speaking here of restoring the dead, which foreshadows the action of the gospels.

Q. (37:15-28): Why is uniting Israel and Judah important?

A. God’s desire for Israel/Judah was that they be one. He had no desire to split the Kingdoms, so part of restoring Israel is “reuniting” His people.

Q. (38:2): Gog had not been friendly to Israel? This is the first that I have heard of him … I think.  Why was God mad at Gog?

A. It is difficult to say.  These chapters appear to point to a massive confrontation between God’s restored kingdom of Israel and a great army of the nations, led by a king or ruler named Gog.  We don’t really know much about this ruler, and it is very possible that God left it intentionally vague in this vision for Ezekiel, pointing to some shadowy enemy as yet unrevealed.  There are references to Genesis 10 here, with Magog (which probably means ‘land of Gog’) being listed as part of the lineage of one of Noah’s sons, Japheth (Abraham and his descendants coming from the line of one of Noah’s other sons- Shem).  According to my notes there had been a long period of hostility, which apparently is not recorded in scripture, between Israel and other tribes from the lineage described above (other Semitic people, in other words), so it is probably not a surprise that the “great enemy” of Israel would be a ruler from this lineage.  Ultimately, these verses are shrouded in mystery, but you will note in December that the writer of Revelation pulls from these verses in casting a vision for the final confrontation between good and evil.

O. (39:12): Remember that “7” represents completeness and fulfillment, traced back to the seven days of creation.  For more symbolic numbers to take not of, see Day 3 of our readings.

Q. (39:17-20): I hope this wasn’t a real feast.  I hope it’s just a metaphor.

A. It is a vision of the great defeat and humiliation of these enemy people, and not a “real” event.

Q. (39:27-29): This reminds me of God’s promise in the rainbow.  He never again flooded the earth.  So, in this instance, we know that God will never cause such devastation and abandonment as he did here.  He says he will “pour out my Spirit upon the people of Israel.”  Sounds comforting!

A. Israel’s tribulation is done, and God is beginning the process of restoring her, for it is through Israel that God will restore all humanity to right relationship with Himself via Christ.  The role of the Spirit in that process will be more clearly defined in Acts.

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 227 (Aug. 15): Jeremiah is imprisoned, Jeremiah tells Zedekiah of upcoming defeat, Jeremiah thrown into cistern and then rescued, Ezekiel’s visions begin with four-headed beings with wings, the Spirit appears to Ezekiel, God calls Ezekiel to give people His messages

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 37:11-38:28

Ezekiel 1-3:15

Questions & Observations

Q. (Jeremiah 38:2): Why would God want the Judeans to surrender to Babylon?

A. So that they will live.  God appears to be offering them way out, but we don’t know how many took the opportunity Jeremiah promised.

Q. (Ezekiel 1:4-12): This is a very strange scene!  What is going on?  What are we supposed to take from it?

A. Ezekiel is seeing a vision of God’s power and glory.  The vision comes in four parts: the storm, the creatures, the wheels, and the glory of God directly.  The storm — represented by wind, lightening, and thunder — symbolized God’s active power at work.  As for the creatures themselves, they have been the subject of various interpretations over the centuries, but they share some characteristics of the angelic characters described in Isaiah’s vision back in Isaiah 6 — which was Isaiah’s call story, as this is Ezekiel’s.  The use of four here, repeatedly in this book, represents completeness — i.e. four corners of the earth, four winds, four seasons in a year, etc. — and the creatures themselves represent the pinnacles of Creation.  The man is the “overseer” of God’s world, the lion was considered to be the most powerful wild animal (untamed nature), the ox represented the power of domesticated nature, and the eagle represents the strongest of the birds.  These images/symbols/creatures/whatever they are will be used again in Revelation 4 in a vision of the heavenly throne.

Q. (1:15-21): What is the significance of the wheels?

A. Continuing the vision, Ezekiel next sees a vision of the “wheels in the sky,” which symbolizes God’s movement toward His captured people.  One of the major questions that the captives such as Ezekiel were asking themselves during this time is “how will we connect with God apart from the Temple?”  The only way they had known to connect with God for centuries was via the Tabernacle/Temple, and now it was gone for them —and would be destroyed by Babylon.  This wheel vision is God’s answer: God’s power — seen in the storm and creatures — moves to the people via this vision of wheels.  God has not abandoned His people, but is in fact “moving” towards them with His all-powerful presence.

Q. (2:1-3:15): I am a little confused as to what is going on here too.

A. This is a call ceremony.  God is giving Ezekiel a vision of “putting His word” into the prophet, which is what they scroll consumption symbolizes — and it is very unlikely a literal consumption, simply a vision of one, and it won’t be the last thing he “eats”.  God commissions Ezekiel to “consume” and disperse God’s word to the people in captivity, despite the hardships that will arise (symbolized by the scorpions and brambles in 2:6).  The central theme of the call is that Ezekiel is to “listen” (3:10) and to proclaim boldly despite persecution and setbacks in his mission.  The listening will be a central theme of the book, and in that regard, will make Ezekiel a marked contrast to the other people of Israel, who, as God points out, do NOT listen to Him.  The book of Ezekiel is filled with visions of a man many assume to be crazy, but which nonetheless express powerful visions of God at work with His people, even in a foreign land.  I’m looking forward to walking through these strange, highly symbolic, visions with you.

Day 226 (Aug. 14): Jeremiah praises God, Babylon’s destroying power will be punished, exiles told to flee Babylon before the fall, Babylon will be leveled, Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem and carried away it’s treasures, Nebuchadnezzar took 10,000 captives including King Jehoiachin, Zedekiah rules Jerusalem for 11 years, Egypt came to help Judah against Babylon but Babylon retreated, God said they will return and destroy

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 51:15-58

2 Kings 24:10-17

2 Chronicles 36:10

1 Chronicles 3:10-16

2 Chronicles 36:11-14

Jeremiah 52:1-3

2 Kings 24:18-20a

Jeremiah 37:1-10

Questions & Observations

Q. (Jeremiah 51:15-19): This is a lovely hymn of praise.  I do like to read them.  They usually paint a picture of what life is like living with God near.  However, I do start taking them for granted, just glossing over them because I get the gist of them.  I am guilty also of doing this with prayer and praise.  I get lazy.  For instance, for a while, I was praying before I did every blog.  Now, it’s rare.  I do talk to God throughout the day, but I wondered if you had any suggestions on how to keep praising God without it feeling redundant.  If you give praise from the heart, it helps.

A. There’s a natural ebb and flow to our prayer life and our walk with God, and what you are describing is perfectly natural.  Redundancy can be very difficult to combat, and the laziness it tends to breed in us can make you feel like a failure.  So, first, know that God still loves each of us, even when we fall short despite our best intentions not to.  Among my advice for you would be to determine, as we talked about recently, what your “pathway” is to God: if you know how you best connect with God, it will tend to be the way that is least vulnerable to the apathy you’re describing.  Keep trying new things as well: find different places to pray, or things to read (besides the Bible) to keep your intellect engaged.  Lastly, finding ways to “act out” what you are reading or praying about (aka service to others) will surely help to keep apathy from setting in.

Q. (51:27): Where did Ararat, Minni and Ashkenaz come from?

A. They are the names of other nations in this part of the ancient world, but we don’t know exactly where they refer to.

Q. (51:44): I haven’t heard of Bel.

A. We saw it yesterday and maybe a couple of quick references to it, but no, it’s not a term that we would be familiar with yet.  Bel refers to the chief deity of the Babylonians (it is a title, like lord, rather than a proper name), whose “proper” name is Marduk, the sun deity and patron god of Babylon.

Q. (37:3): I think it’s so amusing, crazy — I’m not sure of the word — when these kings do things that are wicked in God’s sight, but then somehow acknowledge Him like Zedekiah is doing here when he asks Jeremiah to pray for him and his people.

A. He wants the benefits of a relationship with God without having to make any sacrifices for it.  Sounds like human nature to me.

Day 140 (May 20): Lord, show our enemies your power that they will be disgraced, Solomon becomes king, Solomon is wise to Adonijah’s plan to overthrow him, Adonijah, Joab and Shimei killed, Solomon sacrifices 1,000 burnt offerings, Solomon asks God for wisdom

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.

Psalm 83

1 Chronicles 29:23-25

2 Chronicles 1:1

1 Kings 2:13-46

1 Kings 3:1-4

2 Chronicles 1:2-6

1 Kings 3:5-15

2 Chronicles 1:7-13

Questions & Observations

Q. (Psalm 83): This may be our last psalm?

A. By my count, we did not get all of the Psalms (I think Psalm 72 is actually attributed to Solomon- maybe he tried his hand at his father’s hobby of poetry).  There are 150 Psalms in all, and I think we covered a bit more than half of them.

Q. (1 Chronicles 29:23-25): I am sure Solomon did a great job as it states here.  But, are we to apply how Chronicles made David seem like he could do no wrong to Solomon?

A. No.  David is the central figure of Chronicles, and though it will be rosy with parts of his story (as Kings is), it will be happy to show some of his downside at the end of his life, and the effect that it has on the kingdom.

Q. (1 Kings 2:13-25): Why would Adonijah’s request to marry Abishag seal his fate?

A. If you remember from the last “chapter” we read (1 Kings 1), Abishag was the beautiful woman who basically provided body heat to the elderly David as he was dying.  Though David never had sex with her (1:4), she would have been considered a part of his harem.  Adonijah’s — who remember is Solomon’s older brother — plan is really sneaky: he’s trying to play both sides to get another shot at the throne for himself.  Being married to part of the previous king’s harem would have been understood as a powerful sign of your right to the throne, basically that you had “inherited” the rights to these women.  But since she was a virgin, the move appears more innocent, since she wasn’t technically his concubine.  But make no mistake, he is once again trying to plot against Solomon, and he even uses Solomon’s MOTHER to do it!  No wonder Solomon was enraged.

Q. (2:36): Is Shimei back in the picture because he cursed David and Solomon wanted to rid Israel of the evil he inflicted?

A. Based upon the time frames involved (even if it’s a new book), Shimei’s offense would still have been “recent” news in Solomon’s mind.  From the passage as I see it, Solomon had no interest in killing Shimei at all, and basically gave him exile instead, which Shimei foolishly squandered.  Solomon offered him a way out: his death is on his own head.

Q. (2:13-46): I think four people died in this passage.  Death seems to be the punishment of choice for this time period.  Why so harsh?  Because they won’t listen to and respect God’s commands?

A. You don’t mess with the king in this era, especially one put in place by God as Solomon is.  We will see how this plays out in the rest of Kings, when prophets are sent to confront corrupt kings, and often fear for their lives!

Q. (1 Kings 3:1-4): Why did Solomon want to build an alliance with Egypt?  Did Egypt now follow God?  I guess Egypt has been rebuilt?  In verse 3, it sounds as if burning sacrifices was not honorable because of the word “except.”

A. Egypt surely has rebuilt from whatever havoc God wreaked upon it: the Exodus was hundreds of years ago.  While David was a warrior, Solomon is a master diplomat: he will prosper and make his nation great and incredibly wealthy through trade with other nations including Egypt, which would have been a valuable trading partner and also a powerful nation.  He will need these other nations to provide him with supplies for the massive temple building project he is about to undertake.  But don’t be misled: Solomon will regret making some of these decisions, notably marrying foreign wives in clear violation of the Law.

O. (1 Kings 3:5-15): How smart Solomon was to ask God for wisdom.  Something most of us could use, but don’t think to ask God for.  Sovereign Grace has a great kids’ album — I like it just as much as my kids — titled “Walking with the Wise” I have mentioned this album before.  It has a very catchy tune, “Make Me Wise,” that tells of Solomon’s request to God.  You can listen to it at http://sovereigngracemusic.org/Songs/Make_Me_Wise/4

Day 34 (Feb. 3): Plagues of water to blood, frogs, gnats, livestock, boils, hail

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 7:14-9:35

Questions & Observations

Q. (Exodus 7:15): Is there any significance in why God chose a staff to demonstrate his power?

A. The staff would have been a powerful symbol of God’s power.  Shepherds such as Moses would have been given a staff in a ceremony when he entered the vocation: this staff was his life.  Not only was it used for obvious things like bringing back sheep and support when a shepherd walked, but it was probably used to fight animals and kill snakes.  Shepherds, still to this day, mark their staffs with various indentations and words, to form something like a personal journal.  So the staff represented the vocation.  God had then ordered Moses to change his vocation, but to keep the symbol of it, and apply it to his new purposes.  This is not the last time in the OT that a staff will play a central role as a conduit of God’s power.

Q. (8:18): Any particular reason why Pharaoh’s magicians couldn’t duplicate this plague?

A. I don’t know if there is something specific about the plague of gnats (some other versions render this lice or mosquitos, it is hard to tell the exact word the writer meant).  But there is an important shift in the narrative.  For the first two plagues, Pharaoh’s magicians were able to “match” the plague (by whatever means they did so as we discussed yesterday), and so Pharaoh could consider himself and his gods to have “not been beaten” by the Hebrew’s God, since his men could do it too.  But after this plague, he loses that excuse, and is forced to take personal responsibility for his actions for not letting the people go.  I think the magicians failure is all about God escalating the pressure on the king.

Q. I saw a TV documentary that showed how the plagues can be backed up scientifically.  So, is it OK to say that scientifically the plagues could have happened or do we just say that it was an act of God.  God did create science.

A. I’ve heard this as well.  One thing I read mentioned that all of the events that take place (even the darkness) are part of the normal cycle of life in Egypt.  Just as a couple of examples, silt that flowed up the Nile from Ethiopia can turn the river a shade of red- and cause a growth of a red algae that can kill fish and make the water undrinkable.  If this happened, then animals such as frogs (the second plague) would have left the water and relocated to other areas.  The insects (3 and 4) would not have been eaten by the frogs, and could have reached high levels of growth without the predation.  The flies could have spread bacteria and diseases to the livestock and boils to the people (5 and 6).  You get the idea.  Even the more powerful plagues were part of the ecosystem of Egypt: thunder and hailstorms, locusts, and giant sandstorms (called khamsin) that could stir up so much dust, they could block the sun.

Two other things are worth mentioning here: the clear implication of the text is that God is bringing these events about, even if He is using naturally occurring phenomenon to do so.  While it can be interesting to speculate about the “natural” origins of these plagues, to do so is ultimately to miss the point: God is demonstrating His power in Egypt in order to free His people.

The other side of the coin that frequently goes unmentioned in discussions such as this one is the association between natural parts of the Egyptian ecosystem and the gods that they worshipped.  Several of the plagues target particular Egyptian deities, and the events that take place would have been a way of the Hebrew God proving His superiority over these false Egyptian gods.  One goddess, Hapi, was the goddess of the Nile, who was revered as giving life to Egypt.  The water to blood plague would have been seen as a clear defeat of this goddess.  Other gods and goddesses were seen as animals, including frogs (plague 2) and livestock (cows, goats, etc., that died in plague 5).  One of the most powerful gods in Egypt was Ra, the god of the sun. The darkness of the second to last plague (i.e. the blocking of the sun) would have been a clear insult to his power.  So while there are natural phenomena that would have been a part of this story, there is certainly religious significance to the story as well, as the God of the Hebrews showed His power over the natural world and the deities of Egyptian worship.

Q. Just a study note.  Is there any difference between Israelites, Hebrew and Jews?

A. In the language of the Bible, no.  These terms can be used interchangeably.  While the origin of the word Hebrew is the least clear of the three (it’s the oldest), the others are fairly straightforward.  The word Hebrew appears to be from Genesis 10:21 and 25, where a son of Shem (Noah’s son) is named Eber.  (Incidentally, the name Semite comes from being descended from Noah’s son Shem).  Abraham is called a Hebrew in Gen 14.

Jacob is renamed Israel (wrestles with God) in his story from Genesis, and therefore people from his line would be called Israelites.

The word Jew comes from a more specific and later subset of the Israelites: the descendants of the tribe of Judah (and Benjamin).  These two tribes, along with Levites, are the Israelites who survive in the Southern Kingdom after most of the other tribes are wiped out in the story recorded in 1 and 2 Kings.  That’s why Jew is the most recent of the three terms.

Hope that helps!

Day 33 (Feb. 2): Moses travels to Egypt, Moses and Aaron confront Pharaoh, Pharaoh orders more work for Israelites, God hears their cries and promises to free them, Moses’ and Aaron’s ancestors, Aaron’s carries God’s miracles

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 4:18-7:13

Questions & Observations

Q. (4:21): Do we learn later why God hardens Pharaoh’s heart?  I thought it was already hard because he was severely enslaving the Israelites.

A. Pharaoh will not allow God’s people to leave, and God is telling Moses that He will do this intentionally in order for His glory to be seen.  I suspect His reasons for doing this are for Him to declare His superiority among the Egyptian gods (something 7:12 points to — despite both parties being able to “make” snakes, the God snake is more powerful), to humble the pride of Pharaoh.  I think on some level God is also out to avenge Himself on the Egyptians, who have taken His precious child (Israel), so in the end, He will take theirs (in the death of the firstborn).

The treatment of Pharaoh is one that is controversial, because you can certainly argue God forces Pharaoh to reject Moses’ demands in order to sadistically punish him.  There are also certainly issues of predestination at work here as well (i.e. did Pharaoh really have a choice in these matters?), but ultimately God gives the game away in this reading: in 6:6: He says that He wants Israel to know who He is, and in 7:3, He will harden Pharaoh’s heart in order to demonstrate His glory among the Egyptians (who do not worship Him, but worship false gods that we will confront).  Above all, part of what we have established in our name discussion from yesterday is that I AM is His own authority (something we established in Job) and He does not answer to us.

Q. (4:22): Israel means the people of Israel?

A. Yes.  The nation of Israel.  We will see God refer to Israel in a variety of ways (including as His wife), but in this case, He refers to the nation as his firstborn son.

Q. (4:24-26): This whole scene is confusing.  Why would God want to kill Moses?  Because his son wasn’t circumcised?

A. It appears so.  That is the best guess we have, and honestly this passage does not make a lot of sense to me either.  But we certainly see that God took the requirements of the Law seriously, and not circumcising a son was a pretty major offense.

O. (5:22-23): Moses confronts the Lord.  Moses had told the Lord that his speech was not worthy of being a leader.  Now, he is showing more confidence.

Q. (6:2): God never told Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who He was?

A. God, for whatever reason, choose not to reveal what we might call His true name to them, and part of the reason for it is revealed to us (by implication).  God is saying that His identity will be that of deliverance for His people (the whole point of Moses’ call story) but that there was no way the earlier fathers would have understood this desire to deliver (because no one needed rescuing in those days).  God reveals Himself to His people on what we might call a need to know basis, and that trend will continue.

Q & O. (7:10-13): Here, there is a pattern God uses of things being swallowed up by healthier, more powerful like things.  Here it’s snakes.  With Joseph it was cattle.  Also, the dried up stalks of wheat bowed down to the healthy ones.  I was surprised when Pharaoh’s magicians could duplicate God’s miracle with Aaron’s staff.  Verse 11 shows that sorcery is real?

A. The consumption implies superiority.  Regarding sorcery, the Bible will record various accounts of usage of the occult (the implication here) and usually attribute the work to demonic power.  It does not shy away from saying that there are no other spiritual powers that can be used, only that God is superior to them.

Q.  I don’t see a point to any of this story yet.  Am I missing something, or do we just need to wait?

A. Deliverance is the point of the story, so hang in there for that.

Day 32 (Feb. 1): Exodus — Moses and Aaron confront Pharaoh, Pharaoh increases workload of Israelites, Israelites suffer greatly, God reaffirms covenant with His people, Moses’ and Aaron’s ancestors listed, snake wars

At first I put “Day 32 (Jan. 32).” Lol.  Congrats!  We have made it one month!  Can you believe we have learned so much in just two books?  Another 64 books and we will be the wisest ones around! I am amazed at how much I have learned, how many questions have been answered and how much more I understand about the way God is showing us to live to have a more fulfilling life.  In my BSF group, the leader asked for insight I have gained from Genesis.  I said, “the boundaries God has given us.” He tells us rules to live by to keep from falling into darkness. 

From Job, I have learned to shut up and to realize just who God is.  I question too much of God’s reasons for things.  Like Job says, who am I to ask “Why?” of the Creator of the world?  Job and his friends say over and over and over how magnificent and powerful God is.  The repetition definitely tested our patience, but they certainly succeeded in pounding in their message.  The extensive lists of what God controls, creates and cares for opened my eyes to and solidified my realization of God’s magnificence and magnitude.  And, letting go of all the questions I have, realizing I will never know all the answers, is a big weight off my back.  Just giving God your burdens is such a relief!

Thanks to Rob, our expert on board, I have also learned that although the Bible is historical, that’s not God’s purpose in giving us the information.  The purpose of the Bible is to show us how to live; to give us insight on how to deal with struggles; and how to turn to God and trust him ALWAYS!  We need to extract the wisdom from God’s Word, not pick it apart to learn all the details of a story and the reasons behind the actions.  

Let’s keep going!  Exodus is next.  For an introduction to Exodus, go to http://www.biblestudytools.com/exodus/

If you are just joining us, thank you for checking out BibleBum.com, where we are reading the Bible in one year, chronologically.  This blog is unique in that at the end there are questions from the reading answered by a seminary graduate who has studied cultural history.  The information helps readers grasp confusing parts, explore deeper meanings and often times find surprises! To start this blog from the beginning, click on the index tab and find Day 1. 

I hope you find this as fun and as enriching as we have creating it!

 

Exodus 1-2:25

1 Chronicles 6:1-3a

Exodus 3:1-22

Questions & Observations

Q. (Exodus 1:22): Here, the king’s rule spared the Hebrew girls.  Any idea why girls are treated more gently than boys?  Is this tied to being a gentleman?  I just wonder if Pharaoh was determined to subdue the Israelites, then why did he not rule to have the girls killed along with the boys?

A. The women would be unlikely to fight in any uprising against Pharaoh, and would be easy to control by comparison.  Pharaoh is, in his mind, trying to make the Israelites weak.

Q. (2:1,10): I wonder what Moses exuded that made his mother think he was special and made Pharaoh’s daughter desire to spare his life and take him as her own?  Also, did the princess have contact with Moses while his mother had him?  The only evidence I see is that the princess said she would pay Moses’ mother to care for him.  So, she may have visited him when paying her.

A. My understanding is that Moses came to be part of the house of Pharaoh when he was weaned — Pharaoh’s daughter was paying Moses’ mother to be a wet nurse, which I guess worked out pretty well for the mom.  The story doesn’t seem to tell us if the princess came to visit (I honestly don’t know), but the more important detail for the story is that Moses will be a person of two ethical heritages: he was born an Israelite, but brought up as part of an Egyptian household.  He lived in both worlds, and very likely was raised with the man who would become Pharaoh (something the movie The Prince of Egypt points to).

Q. (1 Chronicles 6:1-3a): Is there any significance from Moses coming from the line of Levi?

A. In the sense of where we’ve been, no.  But in the sense of where we’re “going” so to speak, you bet!  Moses and Aaron are two of the most important figures in Israel’s history: Moses will (of course) be the great liberator, and speak to God on behalf of his people in a way that no one (outside of Christ) has done since.  God will make Aaron the first High Priest on this journey, and Aaron’s descendants will be important members of the priesthood.  So it is in Exodus that we see Levi’s descendants first become the chosen ones to be the people’s representatives before God.  (As you will recall, because of this special religious role, the Levites will be dispersed among the other tribes and not have land of their own.)  We will see in the book of Leviticus (about the Priesthood) the way that God will provide for the priests out of the sacrifice system.

Q. (Exodus 3:1): It’s interesting that there are so many references to sheep in the Bible.  Sheep were obviously a staple back then?  Now, we have mostly cattle, swine and chicken in the U.S.  I don’t know if sheep are still as numerous in the area as they were in Bible times.  Most interesting though, is God’s use of sheep in demonstrating how Jesus, the shepherd, takes care of us, the sheep.  And here, Moses is a shepherd, which may help prepare him for taking care of the Israelites as they exit Egypt.  Any comment, Rob?

A. Sheep are still a big part of agriculture in other parts of the world (though the story will make reference to other domesticated animals as well, notably cows (and oxen) and birds — pigs were unclean, so they didn’t keep them (and still don’t).  Sheep have played an important role in the story so far, and they will continue to.  They (goats, sheep, and lambs) will play a crucial role in the sacrifice system that is established in Leviticus (other animals will be offered up to, so its not just them).  In addition, both the Old and New Testaments describe the relationship between God and humanity as a shepherd who takes great care of their flocks (for example, Psalm 23 and John 10).  Since it was such an important part of their culture, it is probably unsurprising that God would use that image.

Q. (3:6): Isn’t this the first time that we see God appear with more of a presence?  Here, God told Moses to stop where he was and take off his shoes because he was on holy ground.  Moses doesn’t go any closer and he covers his face in fear.  When God appeared to Abraham, He just showed up as a traveler, although Abraham quickly knew who He was.  Just wondering why the change?  This is the first time God has spoken to Moses. Before this, we don’t know if Moses obeyed God, right?

A. God will not appear to two people in exactly the same way throughout the Bible, for reasons known only to Him.  We don’t know much about the relationship between God and Moses to this point (though it does imply that Moses knew who was addressing him, so he had some sort of relationship with God).  Don’t forget, Moses killed a man and fled his people to live in (basically) isolation.  Just one more example of God selecting a deeply flawed person to carry out His will.  God does not call the equipped; He equips the called.

Q. (3:8): Are the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites descendants of anyone we know from Genesis?

A. No, I don’t think so.  The only one we have any connection with is Esau’s (Edom’s) relatives, and though they will be a part of the story, they live outside of Canaan, the area where these tribes live (for now).

Q. (3:14): Can you explain God calling himself “I am”?

A. Oh man.  I could write a novel in response to that question (and people have).  God is here revealing His “real” or proper name: which in Hebrew is the four letters YHWH (called the Tetragrammaton from the Latin for “four letters”).  The word “Yahweh” is derived from the YHWH (vowels do not appear in printed Hebrew) and is the third person form of the word for “I AM” (i.e. HE IS).  I AM is the way God chooses to refer to Himself, and we refer to Him (in this sense) as He IS (if that makes any sense).

Here’s a few other things we can take away from the significance of the name: the use of I AM (and I Am that I Am) both imply that God is a personal being, that He is in the present moment (you could also say He is outside of time — He is neither past or future, He just IS).  It also can tell us that God is unchanging, and that we must adapt to Him, not the other way around.

One of the best write-ups I’ve read on this matter comes from John Piper (of Desiring God ministries).  He has an entire sermon on God’s identity.  The whole thing is good, but the bottom half talks about the significance of the name in this scripture.  Check it out: http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/sermons/i-am-who-i-am (and note the section Seven Implications in the Divine Name).

Q. (4:10): I have heard people mock Moses, that he’s not the most confident leader.  Again, God chooses a humble man.

A. God certainly chose a man who did not want the job, but he will be the only person who can “shepherd” (as you made reference to) his people through 40 years in the wilderness.  Despite his humble beginnings, Moses will be the single most revered person in Jewish history.

Day 15 (Jan. 15): Joseph interprets dreams, Pharaoh makes Joseph second in command of Egypt

Genesis 40

Genesis 35:28-29

Genesis 41

Questions & Observations

Q. (40:9): Does “3” symbolize anything in today’s reading?  It happened three times: cup-bearer’s vine, baker’s boxes, days to Pharoah’s birthday.

A. Things repeated three times are for emphasis.  The author really wants you to pay attention to the details of the story he is telling in order for you to see the confirmation that Joseph is right.  Events happening on the third day are symbolic of completion.

Q. (40:19): Why the two different outcomes for the cup-bearer and the baker?

A. The will of Pharaoh, who had the power to restore or execute anyone that he saw fit.  The story does not tell us why Pharaoh chose to restore one and (brutally) execute the other, only that they had angered him.  Another reason the story tells us this detail is to help the cup bearer (and the audience) see that Joseph has correctly interpreted BOTH dreams, and he did not sugar coat the baker’s fate.  Joseph would have no fear in telling Pharaoh the bad news of the upcoming famine and what to do about it.

Q. (41:2): Does 7’s symbolism of completeness and fulfillment apply here?

A.  It does indeed, especially since the dream is a prophecy of sorts, a warning to Egypt of what God is going to do.

Q. (41:44) Is there significance in Joseph rising from the prison to be second in charge of Egypt?

A. God appears to be rewarding Joseph for his faithful “time served”.  God desired to have Joseph be in this position of power so that he could save many who would have otherwise starved, including Joseph’s own family as we shall see.  Note also that this is the way that God is going to bring true the dream Joseph had about his ruling over his family.

O. (41:56): I can’t help but also think of the times in the Bible where the Lord provides food, like He did here working through Joseph: He gives manna and pheasant to the Israelites as they followed God throughout the desert; Jesus feeds the 5,000 as we will see in the New Testament, He also turns water into wine at a wedding.  He provides what we need, when we need it, if we follow Him.