Abimelech Jephthah The elders of Gilead sent for Jephthah saying, ‘Come and be our commander! Help us fight the Ammonites!’ And they promised they would make him their leader. So Jephthah became their ruler and commander of the army.

Day 93 (April 3): Shechem faces Abimelech, Tola become Jair are judges, Ammonites oppress Israel, Israelites seek exiled Jephthah as new commander

Credit: Wong Chim Yuen

Welcome to Livin’ Light’s Bible-In-A-Year challenge of discovering God’s love for us and His purpose for our lives. Here is the format for this great adventure: The daily reading assignment is posted at 5 a.m. After each day’s reading, Leigh An Coplin, the blog host, shares observations and poses questions about difficult passages to Rob Fields, who studied Christian Education at Asbury Seminary and currently teaches Biology in the Orlando area. To start from the beginning, click on 365 Bible Readings and scroll down to Day 1. The reading schedule is taken from The One Year Chronological Bible NLT. 

Today’s Reading
Judges 9:22-11:28
(1126-1097 BC) Click here for a timeline of the entire Bible.

Questions & Observations

Q. (9:57): So the curse Jotham delivered was from God?  I’m just asking because I don’t think that the Bible states that God was with Jotham.  Also, for our purposes, we don’t know much about Jotham except that he was Gideon’s youngest son and the only one of 70 sons who escaped his half-brother, Abimelech’s, killing spree.  In a Bible study I was in a year ago, we talked about how God has a purpose for everyone.  One mom had a daughter who had a severe issue with her brain.  I think she had a tumor and her life was pretty fragile.  The mom also had a brother with a severe ailment and I believe he died.  She always wondered what her brother’s purpose in life was if he was born with a disease that cut his life on earth so short.  Then, after her daughter was born, she wondered if her brother’s purpose was to prepare her for her own daughter’s medical condition, which of course, seems like a selfish reason for her and a selfless reason for her brother.  Likewise, my oldest sister has Down’s Syndrome.  I have yet to see the purpose God has for her.  She is very loving and always showed a lot of love for everyone growing up.  She would go to church and hug anyone she could.  Anyway, I know it’s not for me to figure out and it’s not important.  I just enjoy seeing God’s work.  Here, it seems that Jotham’s sole purpose, for our purposes, was to complete a Scripture, which reminded the people of his curse.  Jotham does acknowledge God in his parable, but he seems to give his loyalty to his father, Gideon, alone.  He says in 9:16: “Have you treated him (Gideon) with the honor he deserves for all he accomplished?  For he fought for you and risked his life when he rescued you from the Midianites.”

A. Regarding the story, it appears that God avenged Himself against Abimelech for his misuse of the things given to him by his father, Gideon.  Gideon was the very fulfillment of what God can do with someone who society, or even the person themselves, thinks is a nobody.  But his son is the exact opposite: he took the things that God had provided his father (note that the story told us that making the ephod that caused this mess was a bad idea) and used them to corruptly rule the nation, and even murder other potential heirs to the “kingdom” Gideon established, even if Gideon explicitly said he didn’t want to be king.  Abimelech sinned greatly against God, and was called to account for it by being killed in battle in a dishonorable way — by a woman, rather than in combat, even if he tried to “fake it” afterwards.

Regarding a person’s purpose in life, you’ve literally opened an entire world of theological questions that simply do not have answers this side of heaven.  I believe that God has some purpose for each and every human life, but these purposes are not always revealed to us, and God is under no obligation to do so (Isaiah 29:16, Romans 9:20).  But since God is good, he often does reveal to us the purpose of life, and sometimes it is only at the end of our lives that we see the purpose and redemption of our lives or the lives of others.  But I suspect that because God is not a human being, and His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8), we may still not be satisfied — or frankly not understand — the purpose of some of the lives around us.  Until Christ returns, we live in a broken and sinful world, but even here, God has the power and desire to bring light even out of the apparent darkness of many human lives.  As with our discussion yesterday, we must ultimately decide whether we can and will trust God in these matters.  The final justice of life lies with Him alone.

Q. (10:4): I don’t think we have mentioned any importance of the number 30?

A. The number 30 is not one that is used frequently, and doesn’t appear to be a “symbolic” number.  The use of the number here is indicative of Jair’s wealth- only a wealthy man could have so much land, heirs, and livestock.  Also, I would add, that Jesus was “sold” for 30 pieces of silver, the amount of money that Judas was paid to lead the authorities to Jesus.

O. (10:6): This is the first time that I remember the Bible saying “again” when talking about the Israelites turning away from God.

O. (11:23-24): I like the way Jephthah turned the charge of the king of Ammon when Jephthah said the Lord gave the Israelites the land, so why should they give it back.  And for the icing on the cake, he said (11:24), “You keep whatever your god Chemosh gives you, and we will keep whatever the Lord our God gives us.”

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Tomorrow’s reading: Judges 11:29-15:20

Gideon Abimelech In a matter of seconds the camp of the Midianites was a scene of fear and confusion. They thought a great army had taken them by surprise.

Day 92 (April 2): Gideon defeats Midianites, kills kings, Succoth, Peniel leaders err, Gideon makes trophy ephod, Abimelech kills his brothers sparing Jotham

Moody Publishers / FreeBibleimages.org

Welcome to Livin’ Light’s Bible-In-A-Year challenge of discovering God’s love for us and His purpose for our lives. Here is the format for this great adventure: The daily reading assignment is posted at 5 a.m. After each day’s reading, Leigh An Coplin, the blog host, shares observations and poses questions about difficult passages to Rob Fields, who studied Christian Education at Asbury Seminary and currently teaches Biology in the Orlando area. To start from the beginning, click on 365 Bible Readings and scroll down to Day 1. The reading schedule is taken from The One Year Chronological Bible NLT. 

Today’s Reading
Judges 7-9:21
(1169-29 BC) Click here for a timeline of the entire Bible.

Questions & Observations

Q. (Judges 7:3): What does this say about the resolve of the Israelites?  There were 32,000, but only 10,000 were willing to fight?  I see why the Israelites’ faith is a roller coaster with that many who have not committed to God.

A. Maybe it is talking about their eagerness to fight?  But you have provided an apt description of their faith: a roller coaster suits it nicely.

Q. (Judges 7:4-6): I certainly understand why God wanted to thin out the Israelite army: to let them know that without God, they couldn’t possibly defeat anyone, especially with only 300 men.  Do you have any comments as to why — or the significance of — God testing the Israelites by how they drank water?

A. I actually remember hearing a sermon on this: supposedly the men who drank by taking the water in their hands rather than stopping down to drink were the most seasoned veterans: they never took their eyes off of the battlefield.  That is most likely your answer.

Q. (7:8): We have seen a lot of ram’s horns used.  Why were they so important?  I guess they were a way to make noise and gather folks together from afar.

A. The instrument referred to here is called a Shofar (read about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shofar), made from the horn of a domestic animal that had a horn you could hollow out, usually a ram as mentioned.  The instrument is first referred to in Exodus 19 when the presence of God causes great distress among the people.  The horn was used for religious purposes, and still is today, to call the people to important festivals.  The sound is quite loud and distinctive (listen to it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9dkEe3ph_bU) and would also have been very useful in battle to summon soldiers or intimidate the enemy, as it is used here.

Q. (7:10): I don’t know why God gave Gideon an act of assurance here.  God is God and Gideon believed in Him.  Why did he need some proof?

A. Apparently his self-doubt was strong: in the story God tells him to go “if he is still afraid.”  Apparently he is.

Q. (7:18): So they included Gideon in their shout so the enemies would know that God is with Gideon giving him power?

A. I think they did that because Gideon was the commander of their force.

Q. (8:1-3): So is Gideon telling the people of Ephraim to not be upset that he didn’t call them to help, they should be rejoicing that God gave them a victory over Oreb and Zeeb?  In other words, they need to feel joy for the win for all of Israel and not concern themselves what part they had in the victory?

A. I think that’s partly right.  He’s also saying that he didn’t have much of a victory, and that he called the other tribes for the “good part” of the fighting — they got to spoil the conquered people.

Q. (8:4-21): Of course, the leaders of Succoth and Peniel should have fed Gideon’s army.  I assume they knew that Gideon was fighting for the Lord.  Is there something we should take from this, like always help a stranger or always help those who are doing good work?

A. I think the folks in Succoth and Peniel (where Jacob wrestled with God back in Genesis) were caught between two powerful warring tribes, and hedged their bets.  They were concerned that if they supplied Gideon’s troops, they risked alienating the Midianites — or they may have been related — and if the Midianites won, there could have been repercussions against them.  It looks to me like these towns were in a no win situation, and they probably should have just picked a side.  In choosing neither, they lost either way.

O. (8:10): It’s truly amazing that 300 Israelites with the power of God could kill 120,000 warriors and capture the remaining 15,000.

Q. (8:23): Gideon sure shows an immense amount of faith and loyalty in the Lord.  But, why did he make an ephod?  In Moses’ days, the ephod was a design that God ordered, not a man.  Was this an egotistical move of Gideon — similar to Joseph bragging about his dreams, which, in turn gave him the punishment of being sold as a slave and spending years in Pharaoh’s jail?  Is this why a trap came to Gideon’s family as a result of the ephod?  I don’t know what that means: a trap for Gideon and his family, especially because it goes on to say that the Israelites lived in peace for 40 years.

A. Gideon’s indulgence in taking the gold of his conquest and making the ephod (we’re not clear on exactly WHAT he created — it may have been something very different from what God had made for the high priest) would be the downfall of his family due to his son’s desire for power.  I think that Gideon had it made to celebrate his own accomplishments, and also something to share with his town and family, but this was a poor decision.  The 40 years of peace refers to outside invasions, not necessarily what was going on inside the nation.  There was clearly prominent unrest among Gideon’s many descendants.

Q. (8:30, 31): What happened to the rules of a man should marry one woman?  Here, the Bible says Gideon has many wives.  Also, does God view a child that comes from a concubine as less than a wife?  We saw this with Abraham too — that Isaac was favored over Ishmael.

A. While one man and one woman, Jesus tells us, is God’s IDEAL for marriage (Matthew 19:4), there were no particular laws regarding multiple wives (never multiple husbands) or concubines.  Since concubines were, in a sense, promoted slaves, their children probably did not have the full status of the more “legitimate” wives.  And it is important to note that just because God allows men to keep multiple wives (we wouldn’t have the 12 tribes of this nation without Jacob’s four wives- probably 2 wives and two concubines), it NEVER endorses this practice.  God’s ideal remains one man and one woman.

The example you gave with Abraham is different because God had already promised Abraham a son VIA his wife Sarah.  Hagar and Ishmael enter the picture because Sarah couldn’t wait and frankly didn’t believe God.  I certainly think that Abraham thought Ishmael was just as much his son as Isaac, but God chose to carry on the line of Israel through Isaac, as He promised.

Q. (9:5): God seems to have a fondness of the youngest siblings.  Here it is Jotham.  Also, Joseph, Benjamin, and Jacob was actually the younger twin, I think.

A. Jacob/Israel was the younger twin to Esau, and Joseph and Benjamin were indeed Jacob’s favorite sons — and it appears God favored them as well.  I would say that God tends to favor the least and the last.  We will see this again with David in 1 Samuel.  But also He tends to choose people who have a heart for Him alone, and can’t get by on their favored position — as firstborn son or similar — alone.

Q. (9:21): I would like to talk about when to trust God.  Like Jotham knew his brother would kill him if he caught him.  But, how much are we supposed to rely on God that He will take care of all things?  Are we true Christians if we go to the doc and get treatment, or should we just rely on God to heal us?  A lady I talked to last week was talking about what and when to teach certain things in the Bible to kids.  She gave an example of Shadrick, Meshak and Abednego.  They were thrown into a furnace, but they prayed and God protected them.  She said she didn’t think that was appropriate for preschoolers because they could think that if they prayed to God to protect them that they could walk through a fire unharmed.  She said if they walk into a fire, they are going to get burned.

A. Wow, way to save it for the end there.  Shadrick, Meshack, and Abednego story is recorded in Daniel 3.

Regarding the teaching of that story to children, I guess I could see why you would want to avoid it, but it is one of the strongest Biblical examples of pure faith in the entire story.  I would say that if you told the story correctly (and she did not for multiple reasons besides the names — read the story yourself and you’ll see what I mean), you would have no need to fear of your child walking through a campfire.

Regarding the VERY DIFFERENT issue of when to trust God, that is something that ultimately must be worked out between you and Him.  There are various semi-church groups out there who argue that, as you mentioned, we should trust in God for faith healing and not seek modern medicine.  However, many Christians have argued that God has given us minds to think and to solve problems, including problems that have plagued mankind for millennia: disease, recovery from injury, and other traumas.  I have no problem with arguing that these provisions — antibiotics, immunizations, other drugs —are gifts from God to make our lives easier and less brutal.  Frankly, modern society couldn’t exist without them.  But these things are not the be-all-end-all: we will still face death, and to this point, there is no coming back from it (Easter events not withstanding).  If we are without a relationship with God, then the drugs and attempts to prolong our life will literally be all we have left at the end.  But if we do trust in God, ESPECIALLY in dying, then we will see that death is only a step — one that is necessary for God to complete His final work in us, just as He did with Jesus’ death.

We are celebrating the Easter season, and it is the very resurrection that we celebrate that personally gives me the courage to trust God no matter what.  That doesn’t mean I don’t take advantage of modern medicine and efforts to be healthy, but I would most likely draw the line at prolonging my life simply for the sake of having it continue.  I believe that there is more than this life alone.  Ultimately, if I do not trust God with my eternity, then the decisions I make about vaccines or antibiotics will make little difference in the end.  The Easter story is about God demonstrating His ability to conquer even death, and to show us that He is worthy of our trust, even in light of eternity.

For the curious: Could a jug found on an archeological dig be Gideon’s?  It has his name on it. https://www.oneforisrael.org/bible-based-teaching-from-israel/name-of-gideon-found-on-judges-era-jug/

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Tomorrow’s reading: Judges 9:22-11:28

Esau is starving and sells his birthright to his brother, Jacob, in exchange for a bowl of food

Day 9 (Jan. 9): Jacob tricks Esau twice, Isaac tricks Abimelech, water rights, Isaac and Abimelech make peace, Jacob flees to uncle Laban

Welcome to Livin’ Light’s Bible-In-A-Year challenge of discovering God’s love for us and His purpose for our lives. Here is the format for this great adventure: The daily reading assignment is posted at 5 a.m. After each day’s reading, Leigh An Coplin, the blog host, shares observations and poses questions about difficult passages to Rob Fields, who studied Christian Education at Asbury Seminary and currently teaches Biology in the Orlando area. To start from the beginning, click on 365 Bible Readings and scroll down to Day 1. The reading schedule is taken from The One Year Chronological Bible NLT. 

Today’s Reading
— Genesis 25:27-28:5
(2006-1928 BC) Click here for a timeline of the whole Bible.

Questions & Observations

Q. (26:7): Is there any significance of Isaac going through the same scenario as his father, saying that his wife was his sister for fear of being killed to get her?  Abraham and Isaac both seemed to not realize that the rulers they were scared of actually feared them because the rulers knew the Lord was with Abraham and Isaac.  Also, this seems to be setting up, “Thou shall not commit adultery?”

A. Outside the very likely scenario that Abraham TAUGHT Isaac this method of survival in a hostile environment, I am not aware of particular significance to it.  It is interesting to me that the rulers who are deceived by this ploy (twice with Abraham, once with Isaac) have a great deal of respect for married life, and clearly take great pains to avoid committing adultery.  They don’t seem to need a command not to, though it would appear “thou shall not bear false witness” should be in order for Abraham and Isaac.  Anyway, once again, for some reason, God rewards the behavior by having the king grant Isaac protection for himself and Rebekah.

Q. (26:18): To name a well, they must have been important.  It sounds like they are geographical markers, like a town.  Were they more than a hole in the ground?

A. Since much of the story to this point takes place in a desert, you can be that water locations and rights (note the number of disputes over water in just today’s text alone!) were absolutely crucial.  Wells and other watering holes would have been community-gathering points as well, so it is unsurprising that they would be given ceremonial “nicknames” to commemorate a major event that happened there.

O. (27:4): Eating seems to be a ceremonial occasion in the Bible thus far.  When the Lord appeared to Abraham, he prepared a feast of his best animals and harvest.  Here, Isaac asks Esau to prepare a meal before giving him his birthright blessing.  Today, we still practice feasts for important occasions and every day life.  I see it as a literal taking in and sharing God’s blessings, enjoying them and praising Him for them.

Q. (27:5-35): Why is such deception allowed in the story of Jacob tricking Isaac in giving him his blessing instead of Jacob?  It doesn’t sound like something God would approve. Was this planned by God, or He just knew what would happen?  It’s hard to understand free will when God knows everything that will happen to us.  He creates us and says that He knew us before we were formed.  So, did He create us to succeed or fail according to His plans?  I feel like I may get struck down for asking this question, but I’m sure the answer is in the Bible.

A. It is important to note that not everything the Bible reports is something the Bible approves of.  Jacob will pay a price for his deception of his brother and father: he will be forced into exile, though God will bring blessing to Jacob in spite of Jacob’s actions.  As I mentioned yesterday, God certainly knew in advance what Jacob would do, but ultimately, this is the line that God has chosen (for better or worse, see it sounds like a marriage already!) to redeem the entire world.  I tend to fall into the free will camp myself, with the understanding that just because God knows what I am going to do does not make me less responsible for it.  And God is capable of working with us in the midst of those good and bad decisions to carry out His purposes.  And the real payoff in this story for the “good things coming out of really, really bad decisions” is still coming out of the story of Jacob’s 12 sons: the story of Joseph being sold into slavery by his jealous brothers.  So, honestly, at this point, let’s let the story unfold and we can see the way that God will use Jacob’s deception to bring about the redemption that He desires.

For more insight: A scholarly discussion on Isaac’s blessing: https://rts.edu/resources/the-blessing-of-esau/

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Tomorrow’s reading: Genesis 28:6-30:24

Abraham Sarah

Day 6 (Jan. 6): Sarah and Abraham promised child, Abraham pleads for Sodom, Sodom destroyed, Lot saved, Trick on Abimelech, Isaac born

Photo by Jan van’t Hoff/Gospelimages.com

Welcome to Livin’ Light’s Bible-In-A-Year challenge of discovering God’s love for us and His purpose for our lives. Here is the format for this great adventure: The daily reading assignment is posted at 5 a.m. After each day’s reading, Leigh An Coplin, the blog host, shares observations and poses questions about difficult passages to Rob Fields, who studied Christian Education at Asbury Seminary and currently teaches Biology in the Orlando area. To start from the beginning, click on 365 Bible Readings and scroll down to Day 1. The reading schedule is taken from The One Year Chronological Bible NLT. 

Today’s Reading
Genesis 18-21:7
(2067-2066 BC) Click here for a timeline of the whole Bible.

Questions & Observations

Q. (18:12-13): It’s interesting here how God new Sarah laughed quietly at the thought of having a child at her old age.  However, later in this chapter, He says He has to go to Sodom and Gomorrah to see if they are as wicked as He has heard.  So, I’m wondering if God hears, but doesn’t see?  I’m sure He can do anything He wants.  Or, is it that He wanted to see how His presence affected the people — if his appearance and power would frighten them and they would stop their evil ways?

A. Certainly I think the writer of Genesis wants us to know that God does see, as we discussed in the Hagar section yesterday (“you are the God who sees me”) as well as hear.  We should assume that God is using figurative language for His “coming down” to see a situation (this same language was used at the Tower of Babel as well).  God is using the language of being a human being, who would have to investigate Sodom or the Tower of Babel in order to verify its truth.  But we believe that the consistent nature of God is that He knows everything there is to know (what we call omniscience) and any passage that appears to contradict this concept (i.e. God didn’t REALLY know what was going on at Sodom) should be dismissed as figurative.  It appears that the angels God sent were a final “test” for the area, one that the men of the town fail miserably.

Q. (18:20-32): God is about to punish Sodom and Gomorrah, but Abraham pleads with Him to spare the righteous.  There are so many points here.  Abraham felt close enough to God to keep asking him to spare all of the people if just a small percentage were righteous.  What made Abraham feel he could keep haggling with God? Abraham did plead with respect.  And, is God showing mercy here by not destroying all, for the sake of the righteous?  Obviously, Abraham is trying to save Lot … again?

A. While I certainly think Abraham is concerned about Lot, he appears to be testing his understanding of who God is.  Is it in the nature of God to destroy a town full of evil people if there were 50 or 20 righteous ones?  And the answer appears to be no — though the story goes on to present an alternative situation: God removes the righteous ones—Lot and his relatives — and THEN destroys the city.

One other note on this back and forth between Abraham and God (as a minister in college once shared with me): the story tells us that Abraham stopped asking before God stopped granting.

Q. (19:5): Sodom and Gomorrah sound horrible.  I see why God wanted to flatten them.  I guess this is where the word sodomy originated?  How can these people forget the great power of the Lord after knowing what he did with the Great Flood?  Why did Lot want to live among so much evil?

A. I could not tell you the origins of the word, but I would imagine there is something to that.  Regarding the forgetfulness of people: we quickly forget the mercies of God, even when we have been directly saved by them.  This is going to be a major theme of the Israelites and their journey in the wilderness: despite God’s constant interventions and provision, the people still rebel and abandon their oaths to God (something to watch for).  I have no idea why Lot would choose to live in such a place, though it sounds to me like perhaps he was not a person of great moral character in his willingness to throw his own daughters “to the wolves” in this story.  Lot appears to benefit greatly from the righteousness of Abraham.

Q. (19:18): Why does Lot challenge the angels?  I would think their appearance would be enough authority that Lot would do exactly as they say without arguing.

A. He appears convinced that there is a better place for himself and his family. Perhaps he thinks a bit too highly of himself, doesn’t he?

Q. (19:29): Why does Abraham have so much family loyalty to Lot when Lot seems to prefer to live among the wicked?  The covenant God made with Abraham has obviously built trust between the two.  God goes to battle for Abraham even when what God is protecting — Lot — is very stubborn.

A. Clearly Abraham honors his family, which keep in mind was the only family that traveled with him when God called Abram to start his journey.  Abraham is faithful to a fault here.  Perhaps this is part of the way the author wants us to see the goodness and loyalty of both God AND Abraham.

Q. (19:30-38): Ok, another weird situation.  Why didn’t they just move back with Abraham and find husbands there?

A. It appears that the author is giving us the origins of two of the tribes that live in the surrounding area of Israel during the time of the Kingdom (beginning in the books of Joshua and Judges).  With the Moabites in particular, they appear in regular reference throughout the OT (Ruth was a Moabite), and Numbers 21:24 and 22:4 points to the loyalty that God had to Lot (on behalf of Abraham): God told Moses that the Israelites (Abraham’s descendants) would have no conquest in the land given to the descendants of Lot (the Ammonites and the Moabites)

Q. (20:2) Why didn’t Abraham learn his lesson the first time when he asked Sarah to say they were siblings (Gen. 12:10-20)?  It seems that God views intercourse between a man and wife as sacred, but Abraham and Sarah view breaking that bond as saving their lives.  Maybe it takes time and trials to put your fears aside and trust God?

A. This is a tough question, because neither time that Abraham and Sarah perform this little trick are they punished by God.  Quite the opposite — they benefit greatly both times (20:14 and 15) from their deception.  God appears to “allow” this deception to ensure Abraham (and Sarah’s) protection in hostile realms (which appears to be the true purpose).  And as Abraham points out: they really are half brother and sister.  God certainly does put a great deal of emphasis on honoring marriage (it actually becomes His symbolic way of describing the unfaithfulness of Israel to her Husband [God] in stories such as Hosea), so why Abraham and Sarah are not punished for this action is unknown to me.

O. (21-6-7): Now, the jokes on Sarah.  This is almost a comical twist of events.  Sarah laughed at the thought of God giving her a child at her old age.  Now, she is laughing at herself in disbelief that such a blessing did come to her and Abraham.

For further study
— God has told us in these accounts that all the answers are in Him.  After studying the Bible, His truths will be realized. https://livinlight.org/blog/dispelling-doubts-of-christianity/
— The fate of Sodom and Gomorrah. https://www.christianity.com/wiki/sin/what-was-the-sin-that-condemned-sodom-and-gomorrah.html

Tomorrow’s reading: Genesis 21:8-23:20; Genesis 11:32; Genesis 24