Day 244 (Sept. 1): God sends a once-glorious Egypt to it’s grave alongside others destroyed by God’s sword, God charges Ezekiel to be Israel’s watchman, 4,700 captives in Babylon, descendants of Simeon, descendants of Reuben, descendants of Gad

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 32:17-33:20

Jeremiah 52:28-30

Psalm 137

1 Chronicles 4:24-43

1 Chronicles 5:1-17

Questions & Observations

Q. (Ezekiel 32:18): The pit just means the grave?  I get more and more feelings like God is talking about hell.  As a child, I pictured heaven and hell so vividly that I keep looking for references to them.

A. Patience.  Visions of heaven and hell come from the NT, not the Old (a point of contention between Christians and Jews- many Jews do not believe in hell).  Terms like “pit” and “Sheol” refer to the realm of the dead.  Which leads me to…

Q. (32:27a): I have seen tons footnotes that say “Sheol” for grave or pit.  What does that mean?

A. In contrast to the more what we might call “familiar” versions of the afterlife — basically, heaven and hell — Jewish thought at this time would appear to point towards a lack of an afterlife as we would recognize it anyway.  The closest comparison I can give you is that realm of Hades from Greek mythos.  It was the realm of the dead, but it was not a place of punishment.  This goes a long way in examining the way that God has addressed judgment in the OT books we have read: the reward of righteous living at this point is long temporal life, and the punishment is an early death: eternal consequences are not yet coming into play.  But for reasons that are not entirely clear (there’s debate about the origins of afterlife thought in this era for Jews), in the later writings and especially among the Prophets, we see a thread of new awareness and emphasis on the afterlife and resurrection enter into Jewish thinking.  This is an ongoing issue, and it was not even settled by the time of the NT.  We will see this issue come up in the Gospels, for obvious reasons.  So the Jewish understanding of the afterlife at this time is that death is a place of rest where everyone is destined to go, this is what we call Sheol.  But that idea is changing, and will continue to evolve over the next few hundred years.

Q. (33:1-9): Why does God put such heavy responsibilities — burdens — on Ezekiel?

A. Honestly, this isn’t a new burden of Ezekiel.  We saw God put this burden on him back in chapter 3.  His call was to declare God’s word faithfully, and allow the people to decide if they would repent or not.  Now if you are asking why did God make this burden his to begin with, I don’t have a great answer to that.  God calls many people to many different paths, including many that are lined with suffering and difficulty.  But our job is not to decide if we are being treated “fairly,” but instead to decide if we are willing to submit to God’s desires, as we understand them, or not.

O. (33:10-20): This passage comes into play in two different stories, one personal.  My neighbor’s father died a year or so ago.  Her father got married not long before he died.  In fact, I think it was a known fact that he didn’t have long to live.  His new wife was a “black widow.”  She didn’t kill him, but my neighbor’s dad isn’t the first of her victims.  She finds men who are terminally ill and has them sign over wills, life insurance policies, etc. to them before they die.  My neighbor said that she hopes she will get what’s coming to her, but maybe it won’t be on earth. She said her stepmother has angels all over her house.  Whether she things she is holy or the angels will protect her.  It appears she lives in fear.  I can only pray that the smiling angelic statues may prompt her to seek a more peaceful life with the Lord.

My other story is from a little over a year ago.  We moved and I sold a really nice swingset to my good friend for about one-third of what it cost us.  My husband was in the process of staining it and cleaning it up.  There was a black growth, like mildew, on the rungs and slides.  I told her that we would work on it and it would look a lot better.  Well, if you have ever moved, you know how everything happens in the last 48 hours.  We didn’t get the swing set the way I thought it should be — not to mention it was going to an very upscale neighborhood — the playset movers came and it left with black-marked rungs and a slide and a little staining that was not finished.  I felt bad and told her I would try to get over there to finish cleaning it.  That didn’t happen, so we paid the playset movers to finish staining it (they did this for a living).  Needless to say, according to my friend, they didn’t do a good job and she wasn’t happy with them.  But, I’m sure she was upset with me to because it wasn’t how I promised it.  My husband said that I shouldn’t worry about it.  It’s a used set and she got a good deal.  So, I used that rationale to try to get rid of the guilt I had.  It momentarily worked, painting over the shame.  But, I figured out it was just a fog that settled.  Now that God has blessed my husband with more work, I want to take that money and start looking on Craig’s List for some furniture that we “need” and a used swingset.  But, then, I read this and think that I still owe my friend an apology — which I’ve done in writing — in the form of cash.  I won’t feel right until that happens.  As long as I have shame in my heart, that feels like sin and it doesn’t feel good.  I refer to this scripture because it says that if righteous people do what’s wrong, they will die.  I don’t think I’ll die from this, but it would be a sin to buy something for myself when I have not righted my friend.

Q. (1 Chronicles 4:24-43, 5:1-10): Anything we should take note of in these genealogical lists?  Why is Simeon listed first?

A. There is nothing particularly important as I read it.  Chronicles puts an emphasis on the tribe of Judah as its leader, and tells the history of Israel from their perspective (being the tribe of the kings).  Technically, we’ve already read that Judah is “first” in this listing — we read their lineage several months ago, but the exact date escapes me.  Simeon (the second of Jacob’s sons, Reuben was first, Judah third) is listed “first” in this section because his tribe settled within Judah’s land as part of their inheritance, and as such, the tribes apparently became fairly intertwined such that it became difficult to tell one’s story without the other.  After listing the group that was “closest” with Judah, the Chronicler moves back into birth order with Reuben.

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.