Day 261 (Sept. 18): Community effort to rebuild Jerusalem’s wall, half of construction force stand guard because of enemies opposing rebuilding, Nehemiah orders nobles and officials to pay back interest they charge to their relatives for loans made because of famine, Nehemiah foils Tobiah’s and Sanballat’s plan to defeat him, builders complete wall and stand guard

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.

Nehemiah 3-7:3

Questions & Observations

Q. Ezra was on the forefront of our readings, but then Nehemiah came into the picture and we don’t hear anything from Ezra anymore.  Any idea what happened to him?

A. Well, we moved into a new book, didn’t we?  Just kidding.  Ezra is around, and will be mentioned again, but this is Nehemiah telling his own story, especially as it relates to the repairs of the wall.  Ezra’s concern has been much more with the Temple and the priests, while Nehemiah is doing a bit more nuts and bolts type repairs.

Q. (Nehemiah 3:1-32): I don’t think we need to remember who built what section of the wall.  But, I do think the community effort is important to notice.  Then, about the building materials themselves, do you have any idea what their bolts were made out of?  I guess they well knew how to work with metal.  And the wall was made of sun-dried clay bricks?

A. Most likely they used rock from the local quarries (some of which have been discovered outside of Jerusalem), that was carried in by hand or on simple carts.  As to the bolts, they were most likely made of iron, possibly with bronze mixed in, and forged by local blacksmiths.

Q. (4:1-23): Where were Sanballat and Tobiah living?

A. Most likely they did not live in Jerusalem.  They had to be informed of the repairs if they could see them in the city itself.  The implication that Tobiah was corresponding with the elders of the Jews would also indicate to me he did not live within the city; otherwise he would just go speak to them directly.

O. (6:1-14): Oh, what drama!

Day 258 (Sept. 15): Esther cautiously takes her request to King Xerxes, Haman’s plan to kill Mordecai, Xerxes honors Mordecai, King impales Haman, decree circumvents Haman’s earlier decree to kill Jews, Jews have victory, Festival of Purim, Mordecai promoted and was a “shepherd” of Jews

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.

Esther 5-10:3

Questions & Observations

O. (Esther 5:13): This sounds like modern-day ultra racism.  It’s hard to believe that racism — like God created one race better than the others — ever existed.  But, I still hear about it, especially in the last presidential election, from both “sides.”  Some were voting for Obama because he was black and others couldn’t handle the thought of having a black man in the White House.  I don’t get that.  Vote for the guy who will do the best job, period.  Skin color doesn’t matter.  My husband and I watched “42” the other night.  It was a long movie, but worth it.  It’s about Jackie Robinson being the first black player in professional baseball.  He had to take a lot of harassment and heckling, but his manager told him to take it, not show his temper and he would come out on top, which he did.  The scene I want to highlight was when there were white people in the stands calling him names and telling him he doesn’t belong.  There was a young boy, happy and celebrating his birthday or something — I don’t remember exactly, but he was in very happy, innocent spirits.  Then, when Jackie Robinson came in the spotlight, the white crowd started heckling him, telling him he doesn’t belong in white baseball.  The boy just looked at all of his adult “role models” doing this and decided it was the right thing to do and joined in.  I’m glad I didn’t live back then!

Q. (7:10): There is something about revenge that is satisfies and calms anger.  Here, King Xerxes is satisfied after Haman is impaled on a pole.  We have read that God’s anger can be satisfied with destruction and devastation.  Why is this?  God is God and He can think, feel and do as he pleases.  But, Xerxes.  I know you have said before that that’s just how the culture was back then.  But, in our culture today, we learn tolerance and give second and third chances.  We are taught to turn the other cheek or to gently, patiently show the offender the better way.  I have also learned that for me, revenge gets you nowhere.  I have never had any huge grudges that have made me want to hurt someone — make them go away, yes, but to hurt them, no — but I do have a history of wanting things my way.  I think many of us do, which makes relationships hard.  But, I have learned that when my husband and I are having a conflict, it does no good to try to be victorious in the battle.  It comes back at me with a vengeance and makes me feel like the bad guy.  Anyway, what changed that revenge used to be OK, but now it’s not?

A. From Deuteronomy on down (32:35 to be exact), the Jews are warned to not take revenge: vengeance is God’s business, not ours.  So I guess you could say that God “changed” the policy of His people — they were not to take revenge, but rather to leave it to God.  This went a long way in ancient society to ending the “blood feuds” where families or villages would get into endless back and forth killing to avenge someone they had lost on their side.  Revenge is poison to all involved.  Note that while Haman’s death is surely a form of revenge, it is not Esther that seeks it, but only the king.  Xerxes was under no obligation of God to avoid doling out vengeance (I’m not saying that makes it right, just noting he’s not under the Jewish obligations to do so).  Jesus and Paul will both have some powerful things to say about taking revenge and its danger, so watch for that.

O. (8:10,11): Yea!  We finally see evidence of how messengers were sent to all ends of the kingdom.  This was an interesting tactic to confront the decree that was already made against the Jews!