Day 362 (Dec. 28): 144,000 Israelites get seal of God, a crowd comes who survived the great tribulation and serve God, breaking seventh seal causes earthquake, angels blowing trumpets set off destruction on earth, fifth trumpet brings stinging locusts for five months, sixth trumpet blown releases angels who kill one-third of all people, the mighty angel with small scroll says to keep a secret and ate it, scroll was sweet but became sour in stomach

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.

Revelation 7-10:11

Questions & Observations

Q. So, this is all still John’s vision?  Why is this so crazy compared to everything we have read before … except for some of those wild monsters we read about in the OT.

A. This is John’s vision, but it is written in a particular type of genre of writing called apocalyptic.  It would have been a commonly used form for writing in this era, but since the Bible does not contain much of this type of literature (though parts of Zechariah, as we read yesterday, and Daniel 7-12 are examples we do have from the OT.  Note how similar the visions in the second half of Daniel are to what we are reading).

Apocalyptic literature hit its “peak” in the intertestament period, when Jewish oppression drove writers to create visions of God avenging their deaths at the hands of cruel pagans.  John, a Jew, is very familiar with this type of literature.  The key characteristics of this type of writing are vivid use of symbols, animals, numbers, and colors; but it is also characterized by its contrast to what we would call prophetic writing.  In prophetic writing (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Jonah, etc.), the situation is dire, but it is not too late for the people to repent — the common call of the prophet.  But this is not the case in apocalyptic literature: it IS too late in this case to repent, God Himself must intervene to avenge what has been done to His faithful children, something we see over and over again.  The wrath that is being poured out in these visions is to avenge those who have suffered at the hands of the unjust — something Christians had heavily experienced during the era of the Roman Emperors Nero and Domitian.

Q. (Revelation 7:1-8): Where does the 144,000 come from?  Are these Israelites alive or passed?

A. I’m going to assume you mean what is significant about it, because to me, the math is not in question (12 tribes, 12,000 sealed from each tribe).  There are numerous theories about it: some say it is a symbolic number.  One scholar I read noted that the number signifies completeness in two ways: by squaring the number of tribes (12×12) and multiplied by 1,000, which would have been understood to the original hearers as a sign of completeness.  Others view it as a literal number of Jews saved (Jehovah’s Witnesses argue that ONLY 144,000 PEOPLE will be saved in total!)  But there is not a lot of consensus.  I tend to see it as a symbolic number, since it is from a book that deals in symbolic numbers, not literal headcounts.  As to whether these Jews are alive or dead, that questions is impossible to answer, and is irrelevant anyway: they have completed their trial, so there is no longer a distinction between alive and dead- all are alive in Christ.

Q. (Revelation 7:14): Does the “crowd” refer to the rest of us — non-Israelites?  I thought Israelites were put on a level playing field with everyone else.  What is the great tribulation?

A. The common understanding is that the Jewish group is first seen by John as being a subsection of the great multitude, so that removes any notion of being the “special” section of the saved.  The Jews are still God’s chosen people, and His plan of salvation for the entire world had its origins with them.  But salvation is now for everyone.  The crowd is the survivors of the great tribulation, which the rest of the book will be showing to us.  Symbolically, this does describe all Christians from every nation and people, who ALL must pass through some form of trial and tribulation, either great or small.  That’s the way that I read what John has written here: it is a victory celebration for those, Jew and Gentile throughout all time, have come to salvation in Christ.

Q. (Revelation 8:6-13): Why is the significance of the star’s name — Bitterness?  How about the eagle?

A. The star has a few interpretations.  Those who hold to a more literal, “this represents this” interpretation argue that the language of Rev. 8 represents events of great leaders who have fallen (a “falling star”) in the history of our world.  I, frankly, don’t buy that, because there is no indication that this is what John means, and it requires too much pure speculation about who this is.  I think that takes too much away from what John is doing — writing symbolically — in this work.  I believe that the name, which refers to a type of plant, represents the coming bitterness that will befall the inhabitants of the earth in the midst of the coming tribulation.  The eagle is sometimes seen as a symbol of pending destruction, as in Deuteronomy 28:49, Jeremiah 4:13, and Hosea 8:1 — note that in Jeremiah the warning is followed by a declaration of “woe to us” and in Hosea there are trumpets that precede the warning.

Q. (Revelation 9:1-12): Ouch.  I don’t want to be in that crowd.  Locusts are a popular pest in the Bible.  Who is the Destroyer?

A. Most likely a symbolic personification of destruction, though some think that there is a powerful demon, a fallen angel, who is lord of the Abyss.

Q. (Revelation 9:13-21): Horses are popular in Revelation.  And, colors are pointed out when they are mentioned — here, the riders.  Why all the mutations of animals?  These visions can’t be actual — like back with Joseph’s visions when the wheat symbolized his brothers.

A. Yes, they are visions.  Horses are powerful symbols in this story because at the time, a warhorse would have been the most powerful weapon of war in existence.  They symbolized power, control, and conquest, and to a certain degree, they still do today.  Other animals — including some non-real ones coming up — are used because they often carry with them double meanings, the same reason that various colors are used.  The images of wild beasts and vivid colors drive our imagination, exactly as John desires.

Q. (Revelation 10:1-11): Is the mighty angel Jesus?  Can you point us back to the scripture that v.7 talks about when God revealed His plan to the prophets?  And, what is being symbolized when John ate the small scroll and it tasted sweet and then bitter?

A. No, Jesus is NEVER referred to as an angel.  It most likely refers to an archangel, one of the “high” classes of angels.  There is no Scripture that tells the exact spot where God revealed His plan to the prophets: it simply didn’t work that way.  God revealed pieces of His vision to the various men and women who were faithful to Him in the OT, and those visions, put together, and viewed through the “lens” of Jesus’ earthly ministry, gives us the vision for God’s plan.  The sweet/bitter of the scroll harkens back to Ezekiel, who was also ordered to consume a bitter message.  The sweetness is the inevitability of God’s victory, the good news.  The bitterness/sour is that this victory will involve the suffering of many or the bad news.  John must proclaim both messages, telling of Christ’s victory will be sweet, telling of suffering and persecution will be painful.

Day 249 (Sept. 6): The ‘man’ shows Ezekiel the life in the river that flows from the Temple to the Dead Sea, land boundaries for tribes, tribes’ division of land, special allotment for Temple, public use are for gardens, homes and pastures, new city’s name is “The Lord is There,” God to reward Nebuchadnezzar and his army for their hard work defeating Tyre, proud Egypt and her allies will be destroyed, new Babylonian King Evilmerodach is kind to exiled King Jehoichin

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 47-48:35

Ezekiel 29:17-21

Ezekiel 30:1-19

2 Kings 25:27-30

Jeremiah 52:31-34

Questions & Observations

Q. (Ezekiel 47:1-12): I assume that the river symbolizes God and from Him, comes life?

A. You got it.  Even the Dead Sea, a symbol of death if ever there was one, comes alive by God’s power.  I see this as another instance of resurrection imagery in this story: God can even bring dead seas back to life.

Q. (Ezekiel 47:21-23): Aren’t the Israelites still in Canaan?  Why don’t they just use the same distribution of territory that they had before the destruction of Israel and Judah?

A. I honestly don’t have a good answer for that, but it probably comes from God’s desire to do something new.

Q. (2 Kings 25:27): What happened to Nebuchadnezzar?

A. As we read in Daniel (Babylonian historians don’t mention the years in question for Nebuchadnezzar’s rule, which could imply the loss of his sanity as the Bible suggests), he loses his mind, but is restored according to the story.  He is not mentioned in the Bible again.

Day 245 (Sept. 2): Tribes east of Jordan, Aaron’s descendants, descendants of Issachar, Benjamin, Naphtali, Manasseh, Ephraim, Asher, Benjamin

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.

1 Chronicles 5:18-26

1 Chronicles 6:3

1 Chronicles 6:49

1 Chronicles 6:4-15

1 Chronicles 7:1-40

1 Chronicles 8:1-28

Questions & Observations

Q. (1 Chronicles 5:26): On a “free will” argument note.  It bugs me a little bit that God empowers enemy leaders to overtake Israel as punishment.  But, I’m starting to understand.  He is just “setting the bar” to show the Israelites (and I would think us too) how to have a good, fulfilling life — whether it’s all filled with glory or not just depends on the surrounding circumstances — and then a ticket to live with Him.  If we CHOOSE not to accept the rules — which are made for our betterment — then there will be major consequences, either immediate or in the future, but they are certain.  So, no matter if He goes against His people, He is watching over them like we do as parents.  If they make mistakes, they need to be punished so they will know right from wrong and that only bad comes from evil choices.  So, the fact that God gave the Assyrian king no choice in His actions, the king had already made bad choices.  By God empowering him too gives the king a chance to see His might and possibly change His loyalties.

A. I think you’ve touched on a pretty clear understanding of the issues at play here.  God gave the people many (many, many, many) chances to repent of their sin, even over many generations, but they would not yield to Him.  Back in Exodus, God’s solution to this problem was to basically let the older generation die in the dessert and start over with their children.  The solution is not unlike what He is doing here: it is the children and grandchildren of the unfaithful nation that will return to the Promised Land and reestablish the nation that was last for many more generations.  Don’t lose sight of the endgame at work here as well: God has setup the nation of Israel to “give birth” if you will to His chosen Messiah.  It is through God’s chosen one that He will bring about the redemption of the entire world, not merely His chosen children.  So when we consider free will decisions and following God, we must always have in mind that God has a plan of His own, and He will carry it out.  Whether we are able to participate in His plan comes down to a matter of obedience.

Q. Is there any significance in the rest of the listings of the tribes and their ancestral clans?  Is this just to trace ancestral lines and see where they settled?

A. The Chronicler is telling the story of his people, even the ones that have been lost along the way.  That is why all tribes are included.

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 69 (March 10): Gad and Reuben choose land east of Jordan River, Moses warns of countering God, Moses recounts Israel’s journey through desert, God instructs Israelites to drive out everyone living in Canaan, Land allotment begins

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  Take the challenge.  You won’t regret it.

Numbers 32-33

Questions & Observations

Q. (Numbers 32:4): It does appear that God had intended for this land to belong to the Israelites.  Why else would he have conquered it, unless it was on their way to Canaan and there was no way around it?  But, you would think that the Gad and Reuben clans would want to see what God had set aside for them.

A. They appear to feel that the land they had was as good as anything in the Promised Land, in the spirit of “one in the hand is worth two in the bush.”

O. (32:6-30): I like how Moses reminds the tribes of Gad and Reuben — and essentially probably all of Israel — the history of this sort of thing happening and it going bad.  This memory is fresh enough that the Israelites still remember it.  Apparently, the lesson has been learned this time.  We’ll see for how long.

Q. (32:34-42): Life back then seemed so uncertain.  From these verses, I can picture non-Israelites being forced out of their villages.  It seems that the only certain thing was God.  If I were these other villages, I would think hard about finding out about the Israelites God and/or ask to join them.  Is there any information about if non-Israelites could join the Israelites?  The Midianite girls were spared (Numbers 31:18).  Do we know if they became Israelites?

A. There are regulations spread throughout these first five books, including Exodus 12, which says that foreigners who want to join in Passover celebrations must have all males circumcised, and various similar instructions — some of which will come from our next book, Deuteronomy, so watch for those.  Numbers does not tell us the fate of the girls, but we can assume that they grew up in Israelite households and perhaps some of them married into the tribes.  It appears that if the right steps (i.e. circumcision) took place, the Israelites had a fairly “open door” policy on joining up with God’s people.

O. (33:3-48): I guess this is a wrap-up of their journey.  Let’s view a good map of the Israelites’ 40-year journey in the desert.  Try: www.keyway.ca/htm2001/20010411.htm

Q. (Numbers 33:4): What is God talking about here when he says, “ the gods of Egypt.”

A. As we looked at back in Exodus, the victory in the Passover would have been seen as God conquering the gods of Egypt.  Obviously if the gods of Egypt had won, then the firstborn of Egypt would not have died.

Q. (33:55): God is forewarning the Israelites to clear out all of those people who are occupying the land He is given to the Israelites.  I wonder if we are getting a little picture of some conflict to come, or if the Israelites will obey?

A. This will indeed be something to watch for, and the answer is no.

Thanks for reading.  Hope to see you tomorrow!