Day 225 (Aug. 13): Judah will be restored with happiness, Elam will be destroyed and then restored, armies from North to rise up against Babylon, Babylon will become a wasteland, Babylon to be punished for sins against Israel, Babylon’s enemies will claim victory over her

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 31:15-40

Jeremiah 49:34-39

Jeremiah 50-51:14

Questions & Observations

Q. (Jeremiah 31:19): I have read about the young generation sewing their oats as it says here, “I was thoroughly ashamed of all I did in my younger days.”  It seems that so many teens and those in their 20s do some stupid things, me included!  We won’t go there.  It just seems like this time is a necessary evil to make mistakes, feel the repercussions and then correct ourselves.  Does God address this, or are all of our parents not feeding us the Word enough?  Today while I was driving I was just thinking about how we teach our girls the Bible stories and what God/Jesus would want us to do in certain situations, but we never talk to them about spending time with God.  I am hoping this new plan of mine will be beneficial to them now and forever.

A. Being young and wild is addressed in places (I’m thinking of the arrogant path the Prodigal Son takes in Jesus’ parable before he comes home in Luke 15), but honestly most people in the societies’ the Bible was written for did not have any time for such luxuries; they were simply trying to survive.

Q. (31:29): To me this means that the old generation of Israel/Judah lived a sour life.  They were led by wicked, wayward leaders.  Now, the generation that will return to Judah will reject the ways of the dead generation.  Is that in the ballpark?

A. Yes, I would say that’s a fair interpretation.

Q. (31:33-34): Rob, can you explain what God is talking about here?  I don’t know if this is the Judah’s reconciliation or is this about when Jesus was crucified.

A. Hmm, I would say that the situation God is describing is a description of the New Covenant, which comes about via the death of Jesus.  The early Church interpreted what Jeremiah is talking about here as the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, since they believed that the Spirit takes up residence within our hearts.  But it should be noted that this is also pretty clearly describing a “Kingdom” theology: it is describing the way people will act after the Day of Judgment, just as we have seen described in Isaiah.

Q. (49:34-39): It looks like God’s strategy is to destroy all the evil surrounding nations of Israel and establish himself as king.  This helps answer the previous question of everyone will know God?  There will be no need for explanations.

A. Yes, what we see here is, as we read about in Isaiah, is a time of trial and “winnowing,” and afterward, the establishment of God Himself as King (Christians hold that Jesus is this King, Jews do not of course!).

Q. (50:1-3): It’s hard to imagine anyone stronger than Babylon, except for God leading an army!

A. Just from the secular history of Babylon: under King Nebuchadnezzar, Babylon was basically never defeated; he basically WAS the Babylonian empire.  When he dies, his descendants will not be able to maintain his level of near-god like power, and things will unravel quickly for the nation.

Q. (50:21-51:14): So, I get from this reading that Babylon’s end is eminent and very near.  I am hearing the warnings to the exiles to escape, right?  But, has Jerusalem completely been destroyed?  Was it destroyed when they were talking about the rotting figs.  And, has it been 70 years?  I am just trying to understand the timeline here and if everything that God said will happen has happened yet before Babylon is destroyed.  And, any idea what reason the armies from the North (is this the kings of Medes from v. 11) had for attacking Babylon?

A. This is during the first exile period, but before Jerusalem has been destroyed.  Nebuchadnezzar will rule unchallenged until 562 BC, and Jerusalem will be destroyed in 586, which is still coming in our timeline.  After this the Medes and Persians (modern day Iran) will conquer the land and things will begin to change for Judah’s fortunes.

Q. Last question.  Rob, I remember when I first met you to talk about this blog project, you talked about a book that bridges the time period between the OT and the NT, telling what the times were like.  We start the NT on Sept. 24.  Would you recommend reading this book before we get to the NT?  If so, what’s its title again?

A. You certainly can, its called, The True Story of the Whole World by Bartholomew and Goheen (link) and it contains a section called Intermission, between the Testaments.  This section is very useful for describing the so-called “silent” period in which Israel awaited the Messiah and fought for independence before being conquered by the Greeks under Alexander the Great and then the Romans, who will occupy Israel in the era of the NT.

Day 12 (Jan. 12): Jacob plans trip to face Esau, Jacob wrestles with God, Esau happy to see Jacob, Revenge at Shechem, Jacob returns to Bethel, Rachel and Isaac die

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.

Genesis 32-35

Questions & Observations

Q. (32:22, 30): Why did God and Jacob wrestle?  How did he know the man was God?

A. The story tells us that Jacob has been struggling against God and men his entire life (his father, his brother, his uncle, etc.) but in the end he conquered each of them.  The timing of the event is crucial to recognize: Jacob is leaving his confrontations with Laban, and about to confront Esau, but it is at this moment that the person who Jacob has struggled most with appears: God Himself.  (There are some who think that Jacob is wresting with an angel of God, though as we established the angel would have basically been seen as the same thing as God Himself).  God wanted more than Jacob’s worship and acknowledgement, He wanted Jacob’s heart, and this is the way that He wins it.

While it is not directly stated that the man is God (or an angel), verses 28 and 30 point to this reality.  In case it is not directly stated by the text (some translations do), the word Israel (the name for the entire nation in the Old Testament) means “wrestles with God.”  We shall indeed see what an appropriate title this is.

O. (33: 4): The differences between siblings can be night and day to where they want to be worlds away from one another.  Yet, when they have been apart for some time, their differences go by the wayside and their love for one another takes over.  This happened between my sister and I when she went away to college.  She purposely did things to annoy me … I’m sure for good reasons.  But, once she left for college and I had my own space, we became much closer.  Can anyone relate to the Jacob and Esau reunion?  Or, have you had a different experience?

O. (33:10): This reminds me of when we visit our siblings’ families and go out to eat.  There is always a race to pay the bill.

Q. (33:16): Why did Jacob not follow Esau to Seir?

A. Honestly, my suspicion is that he still didn’t trust his brother, and therefore wanted to put a little distance between himself and Esau.

Q. (34:15):  This is an intense scene.  I am glad that Jacob stood up for his daughter.  It was quite a trick to have them agree to be circumcised, then when they are still healing from the procedure, Jacob’s family attacked.  If this hadn’t been a trick, God would not have supported the agreement, right?  Doesn’t God have to be the one that chooses the people to bear the sign of His chosen?

A. Circumcision was one of the most important rules of the Law.  And indeed, there are sections of the Law that describe the procedures for admitting alien people (usually slaves, an entirely different topic) into the “house” of Israel.  The simplest rule: if you weren’t circumcised, you weren’t part of the tribe.  Actually, marriage, the reason for this little event, was the major way that people could join the tribe of Israel (think of people like Ruth).  There were particular rules about which other tribes were not to be admitted (we will see these later), but generally, there were some routes for a people of various other tribes to “join up” in certain circumstances.

Q. (35:1) Bethel is where Jacob spent the first night on his journey to Laban’s, right?  Bethel means House of God.  Does this place have long-term significance or importance in the future?

A. That’s the one, where Jacob saw the ladder.  Bethel does not appear to play a major role in the future of the nation of Israel.  The town is mentioned throughout the territorial sections (land distribution in the book of Joshua after the land is conquered) and Bethel is given to one of Joseph’s sons named Ephraim.  It did gain one infamous role: it became the center of cult worship in the Northern Kingdom (this is way in the “future” of the story, if you will) after the death of King Solomon.  So in the era of 1 and 2 Kings, it would have been known, but not in a good way.

Q. (35:5): Any idea what the terror was?  It would be so awesome to see God’s power like that.  Do you think it happens today, like in earthquakes, floods, etc.?

A. It would be tough to guess what God exactly did to make the people afraid.  Usually if it is a natural disaster, the text will say so, so this might have been something more psychological.  Whether one sees the power of God displayed in earthquakes and floods is one of the toughest questions a Christian can ask.  I leave that up to the readers to decide.

Q. (35:8): Can you tell us anything about servants of those days.  The master’s family obviously cared about them as we see in this passage as they name the tree where a nurse was buried “weeping tree.”  How did one become a servant versus a master?  How were they revered?

A. Part of the implication of Jacob’s wealth (which would have been assumed by the audience) was that he would have servants, including slaves, who came to work for him seasonably (think migrant workers today) or other servants who were hired to keep the flocks or crops, supervise workers (like field managers), cook and prepare meals, work closely with the children (like the nurse in question), or keep the tents and other dwellings clean.

While we tend to think of slavery and servanthood as racially motivated, it was mostly the result of financial considerations in the ancient world.  Servants could be hired and align themselves with masters (which would likely use the covenant ceremony we discussed last week) for protection and even have families of their own.  We must be very careful about not applying Western American notions of slavery and service to the ancient world that thought very differently about people’s value.  There would have been none of this “all men are created equal” business (actually Jesus is the person single handedly most responsible for that concept, so that gives you the timeframe- more than a thousand years in the future), they would have understood masters as being superior to servants.  People would have worked for masters, be bought and sold as slaves (sometimes to pay off debt, sometimes as a result of being taken prisoner during war), and depended upon the wealthy to survive.

Even in such a harsh world, it is not hard to see how certain servants (head servants or nurses for example) would have come to be revered by the family due to their years of service.

Q. (35:20):  Can the monument be seen today?

A. When the writer says, “the monument can be seen today”, we do not know exactly when “today” is, and there are a number of theories about that.  But if you mean, can you still see the original site, well, that depends on who you ask.  For many of the important landmarks of this story (including events that take place in the New Testament, so you’re talking about literally thousands of years later), there are usually what are called “traditional” sites of an event or marker.  (You can read about the traditional site for Rachel’s tomb here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rachel’s_Tomb).  If you read the article, it notes that there are several sites that claim to be the “correct” one, but that generally we can only guess about the accuracy of the assessment.  The same is actually true for the site of Christ’s crucifixion and burial (there are TWO traditional burial sites for Christ).  The biggest problem for a lot of these sites is that for Rachel’s tomb as example, we are talking about a place that was marked more than 3000 years ago.  With all of the war, destruction, new construction, and endless movement and death of people, it is sometimes surprising that we know so much about this era at all.

Q. (35:27): If I remember right, Abraham and Isaac lived in Hebron as foreigners because this was the land God had promised to them and their descendants.

A. Most of the areas described in these stories (notably around the Jordan river) will ALL be taken over by Jacob/Israel’s descendants in about 400 years.

Day 11 (Jan. 11): Jacob leaves Laban, Laban follows Jacob, Jacob and Laban make covenant

Genesis 30:25

Questions & Observations

O. (30:30): Jacob gets it.  Remember how God told Abraham that He was his protector?  Here, Jacob is telling Laban that God has blessed Laban with good fortune, all through the hard work of Jacob.  Jacob gives the glory to God.  In Gen. 15:1, God tells Abram (Abraham) that He will protect him and “your reward will be great.”  Look at this story where Laban deceives Jacob again, yet God is with Jacob and helps him succeed — his reward.

Q. (30:32): Are we supposed to see any symbolism or significance in the appearance of the speckled goats or the black sheep?  I don’t think this question is of significance, but I was just curious.

A. I’m not aware of any particular significance to the color of the sheep.

O. (30:35): I just realized that Rebekah deceived her husband, the nearly blind Isaac, into thinking Jacob was Esau, resulting in Esau losing his blessing.  Here, Rebekah’s brother, Laban, tricks Jacob by taking the speckled goats and the black sheep.  Deception must run in their family.  Jacob is related too.  He seems to be the ultimate outwitter, (31:20) but has learned to use his gift wisely with the God’s guidance.

O. (31:3): God keeps His promises.  In Gen. 28:15, God said He would be with Jacob.  In 28:21, Jacob says that if God returns him safely to his father’s home, He will be his God.  Jacob and God have built a strong trust, like God did with his father Isaac and his grandfather Abraham.  The legacy has been established.

O. (31:12): Jacob has basically been a slave to Laban, but God was watching how poorly Laban treated him.  We can apply this to our own lives.  When you don’t understand why you are going through a difficult time, God is paying attention. And if you stay loyal to Him, He will reward you.

Q. (31:19): Why did Rachel take the idols from Laban’s house?

A.  There’s a few theories since the story doesn’t explicitly tell us.  One of the theories is that Rachel is getting back at her dad for mistreating her, which the text seems to support by saying that they felt their father denied them an inheritance.  Another theory is that she didn’t want her father to continue in idolatry (which I confess I don’t see much support for).  One other idea is that she didn’t believe in Jacob’s god, and was trying to steal the source of her father’s power and influence.

Q. (31:26): OK, what’s up with Laban?  He is so two-faced, he almost seems schizophrenic.  He is horribly unfair to Jacob and then asked Jacob why He snuck away.  He bargained away his daughters, then asked why Jacob dragged his daughters away like prisoners of war.  In 31:43, Laban is still delusional.  He thinks the flocks are his even after Jacob explained that the flocks grew because God blessed him.  Then, in 31:48 when he makes a covenant with Jacob, he says God will be the witness if Jacob mistreats his daughters.  How can he say this when he is the ultimate abuser?  And, does he think God will truly respect him, given his treatment of Jacob and worshipping other gods?

A. I think you’ve summed it up well.  Laban is an odd character and this is a very weird story.  I honestly don’t know a lot about Laban and his motivations (he’s not a well studied character).  One thing he does do, whether he believes in the God of Jacob or not, is call this god as a witness in the covenant between himself and Jacob.  In addition to the aspects of covenant ceremony we have already discussed, another important aspect would be witnesses to the ceremony itself, who would have been responsible for its enforcement.  So what Laban is wisely doing here is calling on Jacob’s God to keep Jacob honest.

Q. (31:36):  This is the first time that I can remember that one of God’s chosen has lashed out at someone.  Most of the stories so far show how God’s power settles an argument.  Disagreements always make me question if I am supposed to speak up or let God do my fighting for me.  Besides Rob’s answer, how do some of our bloggers deal with disputes?

A. As we discussed yesterday, it is our duty as Christians to be at peace with those around us, so resorting to this type of outburst (or even to violence) is not in keeping with the heart of the Christian message.  But we must, reasonably, be willing to speak up for God when we feel that the character of God is being challenged.  Ultimately, I believe that we are called to listen for the guidance of the Holy Spirit and be wise when it comes to the times to speak (or yell I guess) and the times to be silent.

Q. (31:39): I know many of the Bible’s characters stories foreshadow our Savior, Jesus Christ.  When Jacob said He owned the responsibility for Laban’s sheep:  If one was missing, from no fault of Jacob, Jacob would have to pay for it.  Is this foreshadowing Jesus taking the punishment for our sins?

A. Certainly Jacob’s role as shepherd and protector of the sheep is in keeping with our understanding of the way Jesus spoke about himself as Good Shepherd (John 10).  And while I am not especially familiar with this particular instance of foreshadowing, you could certainly make the argument that Jacob’s actions symbolically match the way that Jesus took the “payment” for those that he considered His sheep.

O.  I joined Bible Study Fellowship (there are groups all over the nation and in many other countries) this week, which is a great study!  The speaker talked about false promises and how we set our kids up for false hope.  God tells absolutes like, “you will be the father of many nations,” “I’ll be with you,” and that He’ll give them a certain land.  God doesn’t’ say, “if we have time,” or “if we can afford it” or “we’ll have to wait and see.”  Telling kids something may or may not happen, gives them something to hope for.    Of course, I’m the master of saying “we’ll have to see.”  I always thought that was a great response to the many requests of young children.  I tested this new way of answering my daughter when she asked to get a pedicure with me.  Instead of telling her, “we need to watch our money” or something valid like that, I told her that we definitely would do it.  I don’t know when, but I know we will get a pedicure together again in the near future.  Instead of hanging her head from a vague answer, she held her head up and smiled.

Speaking of children, I bought my daughter a devotional book for Christmas, 365 Bedtime Devos for Little Girls.  It has a one-page reading every day.  It is fabulous.  It opens up conversation.  One “virtue” is presented, then you can tell about how that virtue has applied to your life.  Then she offers up and creates a scenario for the virtue also.  It is a real conversation starter.  It was $5 at Lifeway.  I think I saw a boy’s version also.

Day 10 (Jan. 10): Jacob travels to Uncle Laban, Jacob’s dream, Jacob finds Rachel, Laban tricks Jacob, Jacob’s children

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

Genesis 28:6-30:24

Questions & Observations

O. (28:9): I find it interesting that Esau marries Ishmael’s daughter.  If you remember, Ishmael was Abraham’s other son (Isaac’s half brother) whom he loved by Hagar, but was not the son God chose for his “nation.”  Yet, God said Ishmael would prosper in another land.  Likewise, Esau was denied his firstborn birthright and blessing.  But, as the story goes, Esau also has a great many people, but not the great nation God is choosing for His people through Isaac and Jacob.

Q. (28:17): … the very gateway to heaven.  To me this is saying the stories of the generations of the Israelites, which includes Jesus, will show you the way to heaven.

A. That’s an interesting take on the image.  Many Christians view the bridge or ladder as an image of Christ himself, the connection between heaven (the realm of God) and earth (the realm of man).  As the bridge between them, Christ returns the proper relationship between God and man.  Jacob’s vision can be seen as a prophetic vision of the future of his family (as you have pointed to) and one (very distant) son in particular (Jesus) who will complete the reunion between God and man.

Q. (29:22-27): I understand the custom of a man’s oldest daughter must be married first.  However, why didn’t Laban just tell Jacob of this rule?  Jacob was so much in love with Rachel that he likely would have agreed to marry Leah first as long as he gets Rachel too.  Again, there is deception here.  This also sets a scene for sibling rivalry.

A. Interesting that in this story the shoe is on the other foot.  Jacob surely did not like being deceived.  It appears to be one of those “what goes around comes around” kind of moments.  Absolutely Laban deceived Jacob, and with good reason: Jacob’s love for Rachel got Laban seven additional years of free service out of Jacob.  Considering the misery Jacob caused his brother and father, it only seems fair that this is how his uncle treats him.  But this generation is especially important to keep track of, because the four women (Rachel, Leah, and their two servants) will give birth to the 12 sons of Jacob that will become the 12 tribes of Israel.  One of the things that is worth noting is that here, as in previous generations, God is not concerned with birth order (especially compared to how people are concerned with it).  Over the rest of the story (basically the rest of Genesis will focus on the lives of the 12 sons), note the way that God uses them for various roles, and the way that some of the younger sons will be the most influential.

Q. (29:31-30:24): Rachel and Leah obviously rival.  We also have seen it in Cain & Abel, Esau and Jacob and soon Joseph and his brothers.  Does the Bible address sibling rivalry — the causes, the reasons, the cures?

A. Like other less than perfect aspects of the people in the story, the Bible does not shy away from mentioning sibling rivalry, and even mentions some of the ways that God redeems these rivalry situations.  As far as I know, the Bible does not specifically address the particular circumstance of sibling rivalry, though it has plenty to say about respect for family and loving people in general (including family of course).  The Bible tells us that, as much as it is up to us, we should live at peace with those around us (Romans 12:18), Psalm 133 informs us that it is good when brothers live in unity.  And Luke 15 (the story of the prodigal son) describes the way that a loving God (the father) attempts to bring about peace between rival brothers.