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 268 (Sept. 25): Elizabeth’s baby jumps at Mary’s voice, Mary’s song of praise, birth of John the Baptist, Zechariah’s prophecy, Jesus’s birth, angels appear to shepherds, Jesus dedicated, Simeon’s prophecy, Anna’s prophecy

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.

Luke 1:39-80

Matthew 1:18-25

Luke 2:1-40

Questions & Observations

Q. (Luke 1:67-80): So God must have spoken to Zechariah about who his son was and about for whom his son was preparing the way.  How did John know all about Jesus?

A. Maybe, but it doesn’t say that explicitly.  The Spirit was surely at work in this prophecy, one way or another.  You mean how did the baby inside Elizabeth know about the baby inside Mary?  I have no idea, but it appears there was some form of connection between them.

Q. (Luke 1:80): Why did John live in the wilderness?

A. There are multiple reasons possible, but there’s no evidence either way.  He might have done so to be part of the Essene community we mentioned yesterday, which operated outside of standard Jewish society.  He might have been something of a hermit who sought to escape society and be united with God.  It might just have been where he was comfortable, or perhaps God called him to this spot.  But that location will come into play in our story soon.

O. (2:7): Woohoo!

Q. (2:7, 12): I notice that Luke says twice that Jesus is wrapped snugly in strips of cloth.  Why would “snugly” be important?

A. I have no clue.  I have never seen it rendered that way, and there is no answer in the Greek (see for yourself: http://biblehub.com/text/luke/2-7.htm), so the translators are probably just using that phrasing so that the audience can follow the exact same phrase given to the shepherds later in the story.

Q. (2:9): I wonder why God chose to inform the shepherds of Jesus’s birth.  Why not the priests or just townspeople?

A. That is certainly a question that has perplexed Biblical scholars for ages.  God comes to those whose hearts are open to receive Him.  He also seems to favor the least and the last, and these shepherds would have been at the bottom of Jewish society.  The answer might also lie in what they were doing: keeping sheep, and lambs specifically.  The pastures outside of Bethlehem were the main area for raising the lambs that would be used in sacrifices at Passover.  That would certainly be in keeping with what Jesus was to us: the Lamb of God sacrificed in our place.  Perhaps that has something to do with it.

Q. (2:19): What does it mean by “Mary kept all these things in her heart?”  Just Jesus being born and all the glory around it?

A. This is one of the lines that has me convinced that Luke interviewed Mary as part of his process of compiling this gospel.  Other translations render this “treasured,” which I think hits the nail on the head: Mary was completely blessed and overwhelmed by what was happening, including how greatly that God had blessed her.

Q. (2:25-35): What is the purpose of Simeon — just to validate who Jesus is?

A. Once again, likely a story included because Luke asked Mary about the story of Jesus being presented in the Temple.  Don’t forget Luke is the outsiders’ Gospel.  The story of an old man and a prophetess (Anna, my oldest daughter’s middle name, means “a gracious woman”), rather than, say, the High Priest speaking this prophecy would certainly point to God using those outside the religious establishment to bless Mary and Joseph.  Note what Simeon is saying: that this child will reunite Jew and Gentile, and provide salvation to the whole world, not just Israel.  That is an amazing thought, and sure worth including!

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 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 90 (March 31): Judah and Simeon are victorious, some tribes fail to drive out Canaanites because they disobeyed God’s command, Joshua dies, Israelites turn to Baal, God raises up judges to rescues Israelites, Othniel and Ehud become judges

Good day.  If you have been reading along with us, we have just completed Joshua and moving on to Judges.  Tomorrow we are officially one-fourth the way through the Bible. And, I have a feeling that the lessons and wisdom is going to get more plentiful as we go.  If you are reading BibleBum for the first time, WELCOME.  This is a blog 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.  For background information on Judges, go to http://www.biblestudytools.com/nlt/judges/ Enjoy!

Judges 1-3:30

Questions & Observations

Q. (Judges 1:6): What is the practice of cutting off thumbs and big toes?  I remember something with priests and some kind of ceremony where toes or feet were included.  Another thought: To be a leader takes a good amount of risk of your own life, even today.  But a point that might be worth noting is did any of the leaders who followed God ever get killed?

A. The act of cutting off toes and thumbs was a common mutilation of this era.  This disfigurement caused the man to be no longer fit for military service, as he could not march or carry a weapon such as a sword or spear.

Regarding Israel’s leaders, we will see some of them get into trouble, but only those who are unfaithful.  The first king of the nation, Saul, dies in combat, and we will see how Samson’s unfaithfulness to God causes his downfall later in this text.

Q. (1:20): I remembered you said that Anak’s people where the “giants” who scared the Israelite scouts because of their size.  I just looked up Anak and my Bible dictionary said that he and his descendants were part of the Nephilim that we talked about in Genesis.  They were ancient heroes, a product of sexual relations between heavenly beings and humans.  I am surprised this came up again.

A. Honestly, I suspect part of the reason it is mentioned in Genesis at all is because the descendants of this Anak settle in the land of Canaan.  If you look back at it, you can see a bit more clearly now why the author of Genesis (whoever it was) spent all that time looking at family lines: they keep coming up because the descendants are still around.

Q. (1:21-36): Several of the tribes failed to clear their land of Canaanites.  Is there a reason? 2:1-5 gives us the answer, right?

A. You got it.

Q. (2:10): I think we see a pattern here of one Israelite generation following the word of God and then the next generation falls from obedience.  Thank goodness we have the Bible to show us that following the Lord has to be a constant practice.  We have to teach it to our kids, so if they stray, they have Christianity as their foundation and will likely come back.  Then, they teach their kids the same thing.  Any comments on the patterns?

A. It appears what keeps happening is that these “next” generations are taking for granted what God had provided to their families, and just as God (through Moses) warned them (Deuteronomy 6:12 and 8:11), when they forgot God, they tended to make bad decisions.  That appears to be the pattern.

I think we can see this in the lives of our own families.  People who started with nothing and worked their way into wealth would be much more likely to appreciate what they have, but their children, who do not know poverty, are much more likely to take the wealth for granted, even if the parents warn them not to.  I do think that teaching our kids to trust in Christ is, obviously, a worthwhile goal, but we have to ensure that we are really trusting in Him, and not just our wealth or possessions, because kids see through facades like that.  If we try to fake it, or don’t give God our whole heart, I think our children will be much more susceptible to the types of corruption that we see in this story and throughout the Bible.

Q. (2:11): Why were the false idols so attractive to the Israelites.  Is it because they could see the idols, where God is not visible?

A. That certainly would have something to do with it.  I think a majority of the problem is that the gods such as Baal and Asherah had their power related to things such as crop growth and fertility, both of which were crucial to the survival of the people.  Just like us today, the people were seduced by the voices of others telling them that all they had to do was put this faith in this product or this god, and they would be taken care of.  In a way, it is remarkable how close we are to that very pattern in our consumeristic thoughts today.

Q. (2:16): Will we find out who the judges are?

A. I guess I don’t understand the question.  The point of the book is to reveal the way that God raised up leaders from the people (which the book calls judges, but they are more like tribal warlords at this point) to deal with the series of crises that arise during the book.  If you’re dying to know right now, the introduction at the top of the page lists the major judges and what they did.

O. (2:21-23): I love when the answer to a question is right there in plain sight, “I did this (no longer drive out nations that Joshua left unconquered) to test Israel — to see whether or not they would follow the ways of the Lord as their ancestors did.”  I think that many times, I need wait a little longer for answers.  I get impatient.

Q. (3:15): Why is someone being left-handed important enough to mention?

A. My notes indicate two reasons this was noticeable.  First, the tribe Ehud is from, Benjamin, means “son of my right hand,” so the reference is somewhat ironic, and is perhaps a bit of humor on the authors part.  The other thing that IS crucial is that being left-handed, Ehud could conceal his dagger on the opposite side where it would commonly be searched for on his right side.  This is probably what allowed him to sneak the dagger into the king’s chamber and assassinate him.

Q. (3:21-23): This scene sounds like something from South Park.  (I have not watched it in 14-15 years, but what I remember is that it’s pretty vile humor.)  Why is this in the Bible?  I don’t mind.  It offers some comedy.  Also, this version says that he escaped through the latrine, which has a footnote that it could be a porch and that the Hebrew translation is uncertain.  Maybe it was through the bathroom window, onto the porch? Ha.

A. I don’t really have a good answer to this question.  The author is recounting what he was (I assume) told happened.  Ehud skillfully assassinates the king, and even if it is (sort of) humorous, he deals a major blow to the enemy and then brings peace to the entire nation for almost 100 years.

Q. (3:25): Can we assume that he committed suicide?  Not important, right?

A. I think you’ve misread the passage.  Ehud killed him, but (morbidly) lost his dagger in the process.

Q. (3:30): So there was peace for 80 years.  Because of the calm, we can assume that Ehud was a follower of God?

A. Yes.  When the story tells us that God raised a person up, it is a person who follows Him faithfully.  That’s the pattern that is set and will be followed.

Day 87 (March 28): More allotments of land to the tribes of Benjamin, Simeon, Zebulun, Issachar, Asher, Naphtali, Dan

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.  Take the challenge.  You won’t regret it.

Joshua 18-19:48

Questions & Observations

Q. (Joshua 18:8): So, in the verses previous to this one, Joshua asks them why they haven’t taken possession of their land and then he instructs them to survey it and divide the land.  But, then when they start to do that, he calls them back.  Why was the land divided up this way?  What does casting sacred lots mean?  Haven’t we had previous stories take place at Shiloh?

A. After the tribes were set up on the east side of the Jordan, there were 9 tribes who still needed their land.  The two most prominent sons under Jacob, Judah and Joseph, went first, and since Joseph got two plots for his two sons, there were three different allotments, but only left seven sons.  The other seven sons had the remainder of the land divided up by lot.

The sacred lot was an act of divination, which was something the nation was forbidden to do on their own, but was part of the responsibility of the High Priest according to Exodus 28:30.  This verse describes two stones, the Urim and the Thummim, which were part of the decoration of the priestly garment.  According to what I read, it appears that these two stones represented the words “yes” (Thummim), and “no” (Urim).  You can see a picture of what they may have looked like here: http://www.bibleandscience.com/store/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=29.  We will see more references to their usage in later stories, which you can preview here: http://www.biblegateway.com/keyword/?search=urim&version1=NIV&searchtype=all&resultspp=500.

The priest or Joshua in this case would have the tribe names — or whatever they were trying to determine — on script or ancient paper, and would basically choose one tribe in this case for a particular plot of land.  So it was one tribe on one side, and the other six on the other.  He would then “cast” or throw the stones or “lots”, and see which one landed closer to the isolated tribe.  If the one tribe got the “yes” stone, then that was their land.  But if the “no” stone turned up, then the priest would set aside a new single tribe and cast again.  It went something like that as far as I can tell.

As for Shiloh, as far as I can tell, this is the first time the place has been mentioned, but it will be a very important location for the Tabernacle until King David, and therefore we won’t see it mentioned again until 2 Samuel, with sporadic references after that.

Q. Do we need to pay any particular attention to what tribe gets what land?  Any idea if some tribes had different needs and thus were partnered with the area most suited to them?

A. That may have factored into the way that, according to this, God chose to divide up the land via the lots, as we talked about in the previous question, but we don’t have any way to know for sure.  That certainly seems likely to me.  As we discussed yesterday, don’t worry too much about what tribes get which land at this point, but we will make reference to the divisions throughout the remaining story.