Day 353 (Dec. 19): Christ is our High Priest, New Covenant forgives and erases sins, New System is better than Old Rules for worship and redemption, Christ offered himself to purify God’s house, Jesus’s offering made perfect those who are being made holy, motivate one another to acts of love and good works, those who know yet continue to sin will not be forgiven, patient endurance will earn you your reward

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.

Hebrews 8-10:39

Questions & Observations

Q. (Hebrews 8:10-12): This passage confuses me.  I think the author is referring to Jesus’s crucifixion, but then v. 10 refers to “laws” which I thought was obsolete and v. 11 says that we won’t need to teach our neighbors about God because they will already know.  I don’t think that has happened yet.

A. Remember that as Christians, we live in the tension of “already” but “not yet.”  The first part of what God has promised has come true: Jesus has made the sacrifice that has cleared the way for the Spirit to take up residence within us and teach us the Word of God, but we have not yet entered into the full knowledge of God because Christ has not yet returned.  That is the day the prophet speaks of, and the writer refers to.

Q. (9:1-10): Why is it important to know the details of the Tabernacle if it’s no longer used.  And, for that matter, why do we need to study the Old Testament?  I guess there a few — more like a ton — of examples of ways to live and not live in there.  And, if we know the OT, we can say that Jesus’s coming made the Scriptures true.

A. We might think of the OT as the metaphorical foundation upon which the Gospel was built.  One of the things that you have pointed out in our readings is that the OT has helped you understand the world into which Jesus was born, and the Jewish society in general of the time.  That is very observant of you: it would be impossible to understand what Jesus came into the world to do if we did not have the old system that is the “shadow” of the true Tabernacle in heaven.  That, I think, is why the study of the OT is valuable: the things that Jesus did gain meaning and significance because of the prior understanding of the ways that God had acted in the world.  Don’t forget as well, Jesus was born into the human lineage of a proud race of people that God personally chose to bring salvation to the whole world.

Q. (7:15-28): I have to tell you that it really takes strong acts of faith to believe all of this stuff that is so intangible.  And in many places in the Bible the authors talk of the impending return of Christ like it will happen in their lifetime.  Jumping ahead to v. 10:36 is a call to have patient endurance.  With all due respect, I wouldn’t think that it would be centuries later that He comes and it may be that much again or more.

A. Christians must always have one eye on eternity — one of the key things that the Bible wants us to understand is that our world, while real, is not the TRUE world, not our TRUE home.  That is somewhere else, and it is waiting for just the right moment to break into this world (2 Peter will provide insight into why it hasn’t happened yet, so we will hold off on that discussion for the moment).  I have my suspicions that the Spirit used the sense of impending return — which obviously didn’t happen — to spread the Gospel far and wide.  People who feel that time is short are much more likely to share what is most central to their hearts, and for early Christians (as well as millions today), that is the Gospel.

Q. (10:10): So, if we open our hearts to God and accept Jesus as Our Savior, love God and others, then we are holy?  I have really not ever thought of myself, or any other of my Christian friends, as “holy.”  I reserve that word for God, Jesus, the Spirit, angels and the things that are pure.  Guess I’m wrong?

A. One of the images of what happens when we come to faith is what we might call an exchange of “garments.”  We come to God in our bloody, dirty, sin-covered wear, and say, “I need your help.”  And like any loving parent to a child, God provides: He gives us the best garment that there could ever be.  He gives us the grace of Jesus Christ.  This “garment,” when placed over us, replaces the dirt and sin and whatever, and makes us appear holy.  Sin may still have a hold in our lives — it does for everyone — but from God’s perspective, we have been made holy not by what we have done, but by what Jesus has.  When God the Father looks at us, He sees the holiness of Christ as the garment we wear.

Q. (10:15-16): So the Holy Spirit is saying this?  I didn’t think He talked?  I would love a study about the Holy Spirit!  Then, when He says, “I will put my laws in their hearts,” does that mean that the laws of loving God and others?

A. The Holy Spirit does not have a physical body, so, I presume, He would not choose to speak audibly, and would instead speak to our own spirits via our mind and conscience.  That does not mean that the Spirit “doesn’t talk,” the writers of the NT assume that the Spirit was the guide for all of the words written in the OT.  In addition, I believe that the idea of putting the law on people’s hearts refers to the coming of the Spirit, who will guide our hearts in the ways that God desires if we let Him.

Q. (10:23): I don’t understand the virtue of hope.  Why should we hope for something if we believe it will happen?  To me hoping signifies doubt.  But, the teachings of the Bible encourage hope.

A. Um, hold that one until tomorrow’s reading- you’ll see why.

O. (10:26): I like that this verse is in here.  We can all help one another and, in turn, it helps the greater good.

Q. (10:26-31): OK, I’m not going to worry about my salvation, right?  I am concerned that I’m not righteous enough.  But, like you said the other day, it’s a process.  I think I’m confusing trying to be closer to God and not feeling worthy of it to sinning.  Not being as close as I want to be does not mean I’m sinning.  I question so much that I do, but I guess if I let Jesus live in my heart that I won’t have to question it so much because I will naturally do what is good and loving.  See some growth in me, Rob? J  In v. 30, who is “the one”?

A. The one is God the Father, with the warnings coming via the Spirit, if that makes sense.  I’m proud of your growth, so keep on going!

Day 114 (April 24): David and God talk of temples and houses, David expresses his gratitude to God for his blessings, David’s many victories

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.

2 Samuel 7:1-17

1 Chronicles 17:1-15

2 Samuel 7:18-29

1 Chronicles 17:16-27

2 Samuel 8:1-14

1 Chronicles 18:1-13

Psalm 60

Questions & Observations

O. (2 Samuel 1:2): I am glad that David realized he was treating himself better than the Ark.

Q. (7:11b-16): At first, I thought God was telling Nathan about Solomon.  Because, I believe he builds a temple for God.  But then, verse 14 lets us know he is talking about Jesus, because it says, “I will be his father, and he will be my son.”  So, we know that Jesus is a descendant of David.  Right?  God also says that if He sins, God will discipline Him, just like a father would do.  But, as Christians, we believe in the Trinity.  Why would God punish himself?  He knows Jesus won’t sin anyway, right?  Also, this sounds as if the blessings should continue in Jesus’s descendants.  There are thoughts that Jesus was married and maybe had kids.  Do we get into this at all in the NT?  I think this is a question of curiosity, though, and not important to God’s message?  Back up to verse 13.  God says to Nathan, “He is the one who will build a house — a temple — for my name.  Are we talking about a literal house here, or is this a figure of speech?

A. This is a complicated passage, without a simple explanation.  What God is saying in this promise to David is that his line will never fail, but it does NOT say that the line itself will be eternal and we will see how this unfolds at the story moves into Kings.  So, because God is speaking of a dynasty of rulers, there are multiple ways to interpret the passage.  First, it is Solomon, David’s son, who will build the temple, but it is Jesus — also David’s son and descendent — who will replace the existing temple (that will be destroyed) with an eternal KINGDOM that will never fail.  So God CAN rebuke David’s sons when they go astray and rebuke them (and He will), without excluding the possibility of a son, Jesus, that will NOT NEED rebuking.  Now in the sense that Jesus is eternal, God is speaking of His plans for an eternal temple/kingdom/house in a metaphorical sense.  This sidesteps the ridiculous nonsense about Jesus having children: there was no longer a need for an heir, because Jesus is now eternally alive, having defeated death itself.  We will see numerous examples of this type of prophecy throughout the rest of the OT: in one sense it refers to temporal events and people, but in a deeper sense, God is speaking of things of His Kingdom and eternity.  It would be helpful if you approach passages without a singular idea in mind about “what this means”: prophecies regularly have multiple — and correct — interpretations that will only be seen in hindsight.

Q. Why does Chronicles copy 2 Samuel almost verbatim?

A. Because it very likely used Samuel (and Kings) as sources.  Part of what is hard to tell from the way this daily reader is setup is places where Chronicles deviates from the story to tell us some other detail- that would only occur if we were reading the books straight through.  Samuel and Kings tell very important parts of Israel’s history, so it is unsurprising that Chronicles would use this good source material to tell its own version of the story of this period.

Q. (8:1-2): This sounds like Hitler.  Did God command David to do all this killing?  God created the Moabites too.  Why does He not value their lives?

A. David is going into combat against nations that are acting as enemies of Israel.  And once these nations are defeated, oftentimes some of the people are executed, as in this case, if not all of them.  The author does not say whether God ordered the killing, only that He was with David and gave him victory.  It would seem unlikely to me that David would have been given these great victories if what he had done was outside of what God desired.  This isn’t total war: David is allowing members of all of these tribes to live, even if it is as his servants.  Requiring tribute of survivors in military victory was common practice then, and it continues to this day.

Q. (Psalm 60:10): Why is David doubting that God is with him after David and his soldiers have won battle after battle?

A. It looks to me like 60:10 is rhetorical, noting that without God, victory is not possible.  So in asking “are you with us, God?” what he’s really saying is, “if you’re not with us, we won’t win.”  Perhaps the question is asked in the midst of buildup to a great battle, where moments of doubt and trepidation are natural, even to a seasoned army and king like David.  It is hard to say.  The other thing I see is the poem’s structure is that it starts in a dark place in verse 1, but moves to one of victory around verse 5.  It might be that the writer is repeating this structure — dark to victory — at the end using poetic license.  Don’t forget, this is a poem, and we would not hold a poet to the same standards we would expect from a biographer.  Considering the genre of writing is crucial for understanding the various writings of scripture.

Thanks for reading along.  We welcome you to join us tomorrow and every day

Day 59 (Feb. 28): God assigns Levite clans various duties for carrying the Tabernacle and it’s sacred objects, Clans counted, keeping the camp pure, marital faithfulness

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.

Numbers 4-5

Questions & Observations

Q. (Numbers 4:4-13): God instructed them to cover everything in a blue cloth except for the altar, which was to be wrapped in purple.  Why blue and purple?

A. Blue and purple were the colors of royalty, and such materials would have been extremely precious for the people to sacrifice.

Q. (4:17-20): Just hearing the sacred objects described sounds like no big deal at face value.  I think, why can’t others see them?  Then, I realize that I am belittling the wishes of the Creator of the Universe.

A. I don’t think it had anything to do with the sight of the objects, and is instead a desire to protect the men who were responsible for carrying the sacred objects, which were wrapped up.  The text specifically says that if they touched the objects they died, so Aaron’s family had to make sure the sacred items were wrapped up to protect the carriers.

Q. (4:29-33): I’m picturing the men carrying all of these poles and structure parts.  Do they have to carry them themselves or can they load them on an animal?  Why is God so specific on who carries what?

A. I believe that the intention was that these objects, including the ark itself which went first when the nation moved, be carried by people and not by burden animals.  God is dividing up the responsibly for the various parts among the major families of the Levites, and providing a role for each of them.

Q. (4:47-48): Was carrying the Tabernacle and its contents the only job of these men?  I would think that 8,580 men could do the job with a lot to spare.  Do we have any idea how Israelite civilization was set up?  With that many people, I would think it would be like a big downtown with people selling things and offering services.  We were told which sides of the Tabernacle the cities would reside.  The Tabernacle doesn’t look that big compared to the size of Israelite’s population.  I picture each side being like a subdivision.  And then finding your tent …  I picture the scene in Fools Rush In where Matthew Perry counts the houses on his Las Vegas street to see which one is his.

A. There is a lot of speculation about what the tent camp must have looked like, and I don’t really have any good answers for you.  Basically, what I know about the camp is that the Ark/Tabernacle was set up at the center of camp, and then the other tents were setup in concentric circles: the Levites formed the first ring (actually more like the first square, four sides are assigned to the various tribes), and then the rest of the tribes — 12 of them with Joseph’s two sons — formed the outer ring in the divisions that we saw in the previous reading.

When the camp moved, which is coming up, the Ark — carried on poles by the Levites- no one touched the Ark! — came to the front to lead, and the various objects for the Tabernacle (sacred objects, tent cloths, poles, etc.) were carried at various points among the other tribes in the order they were assigned to march.

As I said, there’s a lot of speculation about what this all looked like, but not a ton for us to go on about whether or not this looked like all the matching houses in Vegas.

Day 51 (Feb. 20): Purifying after childbirth, skin disease decrees, suspicious spots (mildew, leprosy, etc.)

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.

Leviticus 12

Questions & Observations

Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily reading.  Read on, some answers may surprise you.  Most of all, they can help you understand the Bible, which helps us lead a life that fulfills God and us.  Let us know if you have any comments to add.

Q. (Leviticus 12:1-8): Lots of questions here.  What does it mean to be unclean?  Why are women unclean after childbirth, something that I would think be a blessing!  Maybe it has something to do with the blood, as we discussed before?  Why the difference in wait time between having a boy and having a girl before a mother can be ceremonially clean?

A. Remember that the sacrifice system only allowed for two options: you were either ceremonially clean or unclean.  If you were unclean, you could not fully participate in the religious life of the community — you couldn’t enter the courtyard of the Tabernacle, for example — and you would have been forced to live outside the safety of the community, as this text alludes to.  It was a powerful incentive for families to maintain clean dwellings and bodies.

While the kosher section is a bit tougher to pin down the “reason” for some animals and not others, the reasoning here is pretty simple: this is basically a system of public health.  Blood, mold, open wounds, and other such things could spread disease, which could spread disease among the whole camp (keep in mind that there is no basic sanitation at this point).  So for the childbirth, it is indeed the bleeding, not the birth itself, that caused the uncleanliness.  The menstrual blood from either monthly cycles or the after effects of giving birth was a great hazard for disease.  The reason for a shorter “quarantine” for baby boys than girls has been lost to history.

(From Leigh An: I found some interesting answers to the last sentence at http://www.stilltruth.com/blog/tcblack/leviticus-125-why-are-girls-different-boys.  They sound logical, but I don’t know what Rob would say to them.)

Q. (13:1-46): Rob, can you tell us the significance here?  In the NT, Jesus heals so many people.  Here, anyone with an affliction, must be examined to see if they are pass all of these tests to see if they are worthy of what?  What does it mean to be ceremonially unclean?  They can’t worship God?  In 12:44, those with serious skin diseases must live outside camp and holler “unclean, unclean” to passers-by.  Where is God’s love here?  Or, am I likely missing a big point?

A. I confess that this passage is difficult to understand, but we have to understand that it is God setting these rules, and we can trust that He had good reason to do so.  This is a legal system God is building here: it will have its imperfections — when in comes to individuals verses the group safety — and things that look unfair to us from a distance.   While there was a process involved, it is important, I think, to note that there were very few conditions — save leprosy — that would have made people PERMANENTLY separated from the tribe.  Most people with skin disorders or similar problems (we will see more of this coming, so hang in there!) would get over them eventually, and could regain full status in the tribe.

The big idea here is that since the presence of God is set in the camp, the camp itself must be a place of ceremonial cleanliness: this is ultimately why all of the restrictions, rules, and procedures that sound harsh and ridiculous to us were put into place.  The presence of God will not stand the presence of things that are unclean (including people) in the midst of Himself, which is central to our understanding of how God relates to sin (which of course makes us ritually unclean).  One other note: many of these rules will be shifted a bit when the camp moves into the Promised Land and the Temple specifically, so there is something to monitor.

Perhaps something else to think about is that by the power of God through Jesus Christ, no one ever has to be unclean again — that certainly puts a different spin on His healing of lepers, doesn’t it?

(From Leigh An: I would think that the sanitation aspect would have something to do with this also as Rob said in the previous answer.  Another thought:  This must be the source for the saying, “Cleanliness is next to Godliness.”  Funny that I have had a strong Spring Cleaning bug lately.  All our stuff takes up so much time.  But, I know I will feel better when it is cleaned, organized and hopefully a lot of gone!

Q. That brings me to another question.  Only the priests and Levites were allowed inside the Tabernacle, right?  Where were the Israelites — non-priests and non-Levites — supposed to worship?

A. The Tabernacle was not a place of worship for the general population, and it wasn’t really a place of worship for the Levites either: it was the meeting place with God where the Law was upheld and sin atoned for.  As to where the people did worship, I honestly don’t have a good answer to that.  It does not appear that there were other locations for worship, so my assumption would be that the people would worship near the Tabernacle — which was at the center of camp remember — but I see no reason that the people could not worship from their own tent homes.

Q. (13:47): My footnotes say that “mildew” actually means “leprosy.”  Why would the NLT version change it to mildew?

A. OK, this is a tricky answer.  So let’s try to thread the needle.  Basically, the Hebrew word used in these passages, sara’at, is a word with a much broader definition than either mildew or leprosy alone.  The word refers to various skin diseases of which leprosy is only one (we actually run into this same problem in the Greek of the NT), but the word ALSO is used to refer to spots on clothing, what we would call mildew or fungal growth. The mold/mildew/fungal growth that takes place in a house — think of dirty bath tub mildew/mold — or other dwelling, which comes up in our next section.  So basically, I disagree with the footnotes assessment that the word used “means” leprosy.  It is actually a broad word with many different definitions, some of which we probably do not even know, and the NLT translators — it’s the same with NIV — have done their best to use the context clues to give our “best guess” as to what the rules have in mind in each instance.

O. (14:14): The blood on the right ear lobe, the right thumb and the right big toe is explained in Day 41 (Feb. 10) questions.  You can find it by clicking on the index tab.

Q. (14:1-7): Why the two birds, cedar stick, scarlet yarn and hyssop branch?  Why was one bird released?

A. Certain rituals — including the Day of Atonement from chapter 16 — involved two animals: one was killed, symbolizing the penalty for the sin, and one was released, symbolizing the removal of the sin/purification of the person or people in question.  All three of the other items were used in cleansing and washing rituals, so that the entire procedure involved both sacrifice and cleansing elements.

Q. (Leviticus 14:1-32): In this law, why would someone with a cured skin disease have to make a sin sacrifice?

A. There is probably a mentality that those who have caught a skin disease were being punished for their sin (Job anyone?), and therefore they needed to make a sacrifice for their presumed sin.  When it came to being ritually pure and getting your life back, better safe than sorry!

Q. How did the priests keep all of these rules straight?  There are so many.  Maybe, because of the culture of the times then, they were able to make more sense of all the steps to make offerings and be pure?

A. I don’t have an exact answer for you here, but I’ve read about the process of becoming a priest in Jesus’ day (NT), and these men began learning about the Law almost from birth, so that by the time a person was actually a “career” worker for God, he would have known the Law inside and out.  It was their very life!  We tend to see this as “so many commands,” how could they remember it all.  But most of us know someone who can tell you entire lines from movies, or practically entire chapters from their favorite books.  It is remarkable what the human brain can fully remember when we are driven to learn or remember something because it has such an impact on us.

Quite frankly, we don’t know nearly as much about the Bible (any part really) as the first Christians because there was LITERALLY nothing more important to them to knowing God’s word.  We choose not to spend vast amounts of time learning the scriptures, so perhaps we — and I include myself here — should be very careful about judging the memories or intent of a people who were so literally close to God.

Q. (14:21-32): This doesn’t really sound like a cheaper offering to me?

A. It’s less if you double check and do the math.

Day 46 (Feb. 15): Offerings for the Tabernacle dedication

Good morning!  Thank you for checking out BibleBum.com, where we are reading the Bible in one year, chronologically.  This blog is unique in that at the end of each reading there are questions from the reading answered by a seminary graduate who has studied cultural history.  The information helps readers grasp confusing parts, find deeper meanings and sometimes surprise us!

If you have been reading along, congrats, you have finished Exodus!  That’s three down.  Today we start a new book, Numbers.  Because we are reading chronologically, soon, the text will be flopping back and forth between Numbers and Leviticus.  For background information about Numbers, go to http://www.biblestudytools.com/nlt/numbers/ and for Leviticus, go to http://www.biblestudytools.com/nlt/leviticus/.  We will be referring to this link before every new book to provide information about the author, time it was written, and other scene-setter material.

If you are new to this blog, you can go to the “Best New Year’s Resolution” tab to find out why we started BibleBum.com.  To start this blog from the beginning, click on the index tab and find Day 1.  I hope you find this as fun and as enriching as we have creating it!

Numbers 7:1-89

Questions & Observations

Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily reading.  Read on, some answers may surprise you.  Most of all, they can help you understand the Bible, which helps us lead a life that fulfills God and us.  Let us know if you have any comments to add.

Q. (Numbers 7:10): I would imagine that the Tabernacle looked like a treasure storehouse after all of these gifts.  These gifts were presented and remained right outside the Tabernacle?  All the animals were sacrificed?

A. I’m not sure where things were “stored”, but yes, they were presented outside the Tabernacle.  Yes, the poor animals were sacrificed.

Q. The silver offerings were just a matter of what each was sacrificing?  Did the grain symbolize anything?

A. They are part of the grain offering, which will be explored in Leviticus.

Q. Incense?  Just an aroma pleasing to God?  Was it used for cleansing at all?

A. Incense was used to generate pleasant aromas (you can imagine all the sacrifices would smell bad), but I don’t think it was used in a cleaning manner.  The smoke of burning incense has come to represent the presence of the Spirit of God, and I suspect they would have thought of it in this way as well.

Q. What is the difference between a burnt offering a sin offering and peace offering?

A. Honestly, this is one place where I disagree with the order of the presentation of the material.  If we were reading the books in the order they were put together, we would see already what the different types of offerings were and what they were used for.

Hang in there: the first few chapters of Leviticus make it very clear about the five or so types of offerings, so this is an answer I will defer until we’ve reached the relevant materials.

Q. Any significance to the 12 offerings of platters, basins and containers other than it stood for the 12 tribes?  Is there any reason God chose 12 tribes other than that’s how many son’s Jacob had?  How about significance of 60?

A. 12 is a Biblical number of completeness, though I confess I suspect the reason we see it as such is because of the number of tribes (and also the number of Jesus’ disciples in the NT) is 12.  Basically, 12 became a symbolic number of completeness for Jews because there were 12 tribes of Israel, rather than 12 already being a symbol of completeness that just happened to be the number of sons Jacob had.

Q. Why are the offerings all the same?

A. I would presume so that each of the tribes would be equally invested in the Tabernacle, and everyone would have some “skin in the game” as it were.

Day 45 (Feb. 14): The Tabernacle is completed, the Lord’s glory fills the Tabernacle, the Fiery Cloud

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.

Exodus 39:32-40:38

Numbers 9:15-23

Questions & Observations

Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily reading.  Read on, some answers may surprise you.  Most of all, they can help you understand the Bible, which helps us lead a life that fulfills God and us.  Let us know if you have any comments to add.

Q. A side-note question, since it is Valentines’ Day: Does the Bible say anything about secular holidays?  I know some of them have roots with saints.  And, what about the secular ways of Christian holidays, Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny, in particular?

A. Holidays (our modern version of HOLY days) are an important part of the Old Testament, as we will read about in Leviticus.  Unfortunately, many of the holidays we celebrate are often detached from their religious origins, and while I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with that, that detachment is just one more example of our society becoming more secular — to its detriment.  The Bible doesn’t, as far as I know, say anything about secular holidays, instead choosing to focus on the ways that we should follow God.  I think that’s a good standard: Don’t fret the “fake” holidays, and pay attention to the real ones of the church.  For Jews (most of our Christian holy days will have to be examined later), each of the holy days that will be set up in the next volume will be of particular significance.  For example, we’ve already learned about one: Passover, one of the most important holy day seasons in Jewish culture to this day.  There will be more to come.

Q. (39:32): Any idea how long it took the Israelites to construct everything for the Tabernacle?

A. If we track the math, we get a figure of something like nine months.  In Exodus 19, we have the people receiving the Law three months after leaving Egypt, and in this reading, God instructs Moses to set things up on the first day of the new (second) year.  That gives us a period of roughly nine months, which I would say is a good educated guess.

Q. Can you tell us exactly what went on inside the Tabernacle with all of its parts.  Utensils are something I never thought about being there?

A. 39:33-41 gives a good summary, but here goes.  Working our way in: the cloth certain/ fence was the outside layer, which opened in one place to the inner courtyard.  The courtyard contained the brass: the altar and its grate, and the washbasin for the priests.  The courtyard was where most of the sacrifices were made.  That brings us to the sacred tent, which in the outer section (called the holy place), contained the menorah, the table and utensils, and the altar of incense.  ONLY priests were allowed to enter this after they had washed in the bronze basin to be ritually clean. Finally, we have the inner section of the tent, which was covered by the curtain. This is where the Ark resided and cover resided (called the mercy seat).  And this final section is called the Most Holy Place or Holy of Holies.  ONLY the High Priest was permitted to enter into what was considered to be God’s very presence, and even then it was only at a certain time, which we shall read about.  There you go: the Tabernacle in a nutshell.

Q. (40:9): What does it mean to make something holy?  Anointing just means to pour oil over something, right?

A. The word holy means “set apart” for a particular purpose of God, which was often done with oil or other fragrant liquids such as perfume.  We will see three instances where oil is used for offices: the priest, the king, and the prophet.  Also, its worth pointing out here that the term “Christ” or “Messiah” means “anointed one”; that is, one chosen to do God’s work.  So keep this anointing in the back of your mind, as we will see it on a regular basis.

Q. (40:31): I was wondering about what they washed.  I think God had told us before.  It’s just the feet and hands?  Maybe it’s washing the feet because it’s holy ground.  And wash the hands because anything they touch inside would be holy?

A. You’ve got the right idea on the reasons for the particular parts that were washed.  The washing was technically just a symbolic gesture: they’re not instructed to scrub or use soap.  Keep in mind there is no such thing as basic sanitation at this point, and the water was very likely not pure or clean itself.  (Side note: wine and fermented drinks were safer for consumption than water itself in this era!)  Anyway, it was not the “cleanliness” of the water itself that was important in this case, it was the act of washing in submission to God’s commands in order to do His service as a priest.

Q. (40:34-38) So, on their journeys, they carried the Ark and all the other parts to the Tabernacle and reconstructed it when the cloud — God — stopped?

A. We will see this in action later, I think in Numbers. But yes, that’s right.

Q. I’m also wondering about food.  God still gave them manna and quail every day?  Is this all they ate or did they have to go dig roots and other vegetation?  And, what about the cattle?  Are these just questions that are not important to the message?  I’m just trying to picture their ways of life and sustenance.

A. It appears that He did provide the manna, but I don’t think it says anything about providing quail every day.  Besides the manna provision, there is really no other way they could have fed that many people otherwise.  But it appears it got old for the people.  We can see an example of this in Numbers 12, when the people begin to complain about being sick of eating manna.  Bad things happen when the people start complaining in Numbers.

Day 41 (Feb. 10): Dedication of Priests, Ransom to Lord, Wash before entering Tabernacle, consecrate place of God, consecrate Aaron and priests, incense recipe, God appoints craftsmen, Sabbath instructions

Exodus 29-31

 

7Questions & Observations

Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily reading.  Read on, some answers may surprise you.  Most of all, they can help you understand the Bible, which helps us lead a life that fulfills God and us.  Let us know if you have any comments to add.

Q. (Exodus 29:10-28): I for one, am glad that we don’t have to do all of these animal sacrifices today.  I am surprised at all the specifics of these instructions.  I guess I shouldn’t be after seeing the instructions for the Tabernacle.  I’m just wondering what some of the specifics mean, like blood on the right ear lobes, right thumbs, right toes.

A. This ritual symbolized the cleansing of the priesthood of their own sin (by offering the sin offering of the bull and other animals), so that they would be ritually pure in order to accept the offerings of the rest of the community.  We will see this explained further in the next book, Leviticus.  The blood on the ear lobes represented a discerning ear for what God desired of the priests, and the blood on the hands and feet (thumbs/toes) represented the life of service that the priesthood would carry out on behalf of the Israelite community.

Q. (30:8) … from generation to generation.  I notice that many of these instructions are not for a week or two.  The Lord’s instructions imply, to me, that they will be wandering for years and years and years and more.

A. Yes, they will wander for an entire generation (one of the things 40 represents in the Bible is a generation).  But more importantly, these instructions are given for the community for ALL time!  Thus, they will still be true in the time of David and Solomon (though the offerings are made at the temple instead of the tabernacle), and also in the time of Jesus.  For reasons that we will — I’m sure — learn about, Jews today treat the sacrifice system differently, and offer prayers to make their atonement.

Q. (31:16) Gotcha, I think.  Rob, you said the Sabbath was no longer a law, but here it says, “The people of Israel must keep the Sabbath day by observing it from generation to generation.” This is a covenant obligation for ALL time.

A. That’s true, as we talked about in the last question.  But we as Christians are no longer bound to follow this Law, whereas devout Jews ARE.  This is a big parting of the ways between Jews and Christians: observant Jews still hold to what we call the Old covenant (they of course hold that it is the ONLY covenant!), where as Christians are under the freedom that Christ offers by His eternal sacrifice.  We will see how this gets explained in the NT when writers like Paul and whomever wrote the book of Hebrews start to explain why we are different because of Christ.  So hang on, the answers are coming. You’ll just have to wait until late in the year to get them.  So, there’s your reason to keep reading!