David v. Saul Instead of killing Saul, David cut off the edge of his robe without his noticing it. ‘The Lord forbid that I lay my hands on the King He has anointed,’ he told his men. And he stopped them attempting to kill Saul.

Day 107 (April 17): Saul hunts for David, David praises God, David spares Saul, Samuel dies, Nabal’s stubborness, Abigail intercedes, David marries Abigail

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
1 Samuel 23:13-29
Psalm 54
1 Samuel 24-25
(1011 BC) Click here for a timeline of the entire Bible.

Questions & Observations

Q. (1 Samuel 23:16): We can obviously see that Jonathan and David had a super-close relationship and that it’s base was a love of God.  It’s so nice to have close friends encourage one another to stay strong in their faith.  If there is faith, there is love and that love is binding.  Since I have become a stronger Christian, it is definitely easier to talk about God, especially with those who know me.  But, I have to admit, that if someone I don’t know at all or a little talks to me about my faith or encourages me, I can be offended.  I feel like they are saying that my faith isn’t strong, when they don’t even know me.  But now, maybe that I’m wearing my faith more, they will notice and I won’t get those questions.  So, here’s the question.  We all want to proclaim God and tell others, but when is it the right time?  Do we wait for the Spirit?  There are many times when I want to bring up my love for God/Jesus/Spirit, but I feel that if I do, I would turn that person away from me and thus, lose the opportunity to eventually bring up God.  So, do we wait for the Spirit to show us the right time, or open our mouths as soon as our brain says we want to share or proclaim?

A. 1 Peter 3:15 talks about being “ready” to give an answer for the hope that we have in Christ.  That, I think, is a good summary of what is expected of us.  When asked, we must be willing to boldly defend the faith that we have.  But to me, that is as far as the ABSOLUTE requirement goes.  Stay with me: I’m not saying that we are not commanded to share the Gospel — we are! — but rather what I’m saying is that beyond our requirement to answer those who would question our faith, we are NOT required to share the Gospel 24/7.  We can discern, with the Spirit’s help, when is a good time to share, and when to keep silent.  Ideally for me, I like for the other person to broach the subject — and yes, I realize that life is not always ideal — and bring up the conversation.  That, in my mind, goes a long way toward preventing us being a burden on others, especially if they do not react well to our message.  No one wants to be that person who drives people further away from the Gospel (even the ones who actually DO drive people away think they are bringing people to Christ).  I wouldn’t make sharing your faith the first part of every conversation with a stranger — you’ll surely turn some people off that way — but I would also say that if you are presented a good opportunity, it is your responsibly to God to be His ambassador (2 Corinthians 5:20).  Being in relationship with non-Christians will go a long way toward affording you opportunities to share your message, and believe me, if you take the Gospel seriously, you will get some funny looks and be asked by others.  Besides all of this, Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount that our good deeds are to be done for the glory of God, that others will see this and realize the truth about God as well (Matthew 5:16).

So to sum up: get to know people before you share, if you can; wait for them to ask you; be discerning about when is a good time to share; be sure you are doing good works (and you are crediting God for inspiring them), and be willing to answer challenges that are put to you.  I hope that’s helpful.

Q. (24:3): I take it that “relieve himself” means sleep and not needing to urinate?  As I recall, Saul falls asleep, and that’s how David cuts his robe.

A. Nope.  The Hebrew translates as “cover his feet” (which is actually what the say in the King James), but it’s a euphemism for using the bathroom (the same phrase is used in Judges 3:24 if you’re interested, and I know you are…).  I’m going to just stop there.

Q. (24:16-21): Saul does a nice 180° turn of attitude.  Any comments, Rob?

A. Sure.  Saul is given a moment of humanity here, and he becomes aware of how faithful David has been to him, even in the midst of Saul’s attempts to kill him.  It is obviously a very emotional scene.  Pay close attention to that request in verse 21, it will be very important to the subsequent story of David’s rule, and it leads to one of my favorite stories in all of Scripture.

Q. (25:1b-22): Isn’t David using God here?  I didn’t read that God commanded him to approach Nabal.  Obviously, David and his men are very hungry.

A. I wouldn’t say David is using God; he is trying to gain provisions for his men, but reacts quite poorly to Nabal’s rebuke.  I actually think that lack of reference to God in this story is quite telling.  Unlike the last chapter, he certainly did not consult with God before moving to slaughter Nabal and his family.  Good thing Abigail smooths things over.

O. (25:23-38): This is a WOW story for me.  There are so many interesting things here.

No. 1 is how God tactfully uses women in a man’s world to do His work.  We see here the differences in men’s and women’s temperament.  When David is rejected, his response is vengeance.  The wife, Abigail, knows that men can be foolish, especially her husband, and make rash decisions without thinking of the consequences (I’m not knocking men, more underscoring women’s intuition).  She thinks of an alternate, peaceful plan to this hostility.  In my experience, a woman’s instinct, sixth sense, empathy — whatever you want to call it — is super strong.  But, in the same frame, women can overthink and never act.  Thus, comes a man.  They make a great pair … if they work together.

No. 2: What a difference one person can make.  Here, Abigail made a huge save.  But also, the servant who told Abigail of the fiasco was a hero.  If he didn’t have the courage to counter the king, he and all of his friends would be dead.

No. 3.  I love how Nabal’s name means “fool.”  Who would name their kid that?

No. 4. Abigail says that David’s “enemies will disappear like stones shot from a sling!”  And, ta-da, Nabal was paralyzed like a stone and died.

This is my favorite story thus far.

Q. (25:39-44): Yeah!  We have a love story.  What a great ending.  But, then, David has left behind his first wife, Saul’s daughter Michal, and lost her to someone else.  I guess this is just something that goes with the territory of being on the run.  And, I would guess that it would be awkward to be married to a daughter of someone who wanted to kill you, even if they vowed not to be a threat any longer.  But, why does David marry again?  God has established that a marriage should be between one man and one woman.  And, David is the anointed one.  I do believe that we will learn that David has a weakness for women.  This was the flaw that ruined Samson.  As a woman, I don’t understand this strong desire and wild instinct men have toward women.  I do understand that for those who strive to be righteous, that lusting after women is a huge struggle.  Do you believe that this is a way God tests the strength of a man’s will?

A. David certainly does have a way with the ladies, doesn’t he?  Just kidding.  Okay, so here’s the deal, even though God created man and woman to be in relationship together — one at a time in other words — the reality of this society at this time did not live up to God’s standard, and this includes David.  Marriage, at this point, was not selected out of love, but rather political expediency: Saul gave Michal to David in marriage to unite the families and gain David’s political alliance.  Society, especially royalty, continued to operate in this way until the middle of the last century.  Women were, and frankly, used by men to create political alliances, strengthen old ones, etc.  So we must be very careful about applying 21st Century cultural norms — whatever those are these days — to an ancient passage.  David saw a valuable resource in Abigail, so while he may have been attracted to her, at least part of the reason he married her was to benefit himself.  Abigail didn’t exactly lose out on the bargain either — she was very unlikely to have good protection without her foolish husband, so she definitely moved up in the world as well.

David will take several other wives — we will even see Michal again — so don’t let that be a surprise to you.  I’m not going to excuse their actions, especially since God is clear that this “big love” idea is not His desire.  Regardless of God’s ideal, and even the warnings He issues about having multiple wives (Deuteronomy 17:17 SPECIFICALLY says for kings not to!), David and Solomon will not listen to this order.  And please note that the law is there for a reason: we will see how polygamy will be extremely costly in both the lives and rules of David and Solomon, David’s son and successor.  This sin — that is what it is — will truly haunt both of these men.  In David’s case, the children of these wives, and the wives themselves, will become petty and jealous of each other.  It will lead to terrible consequences: rape and incest, murder, and the rebellion of one of David’s sons.  It sounds like a soap opera to me, something to watch for in 2 Samuel.  In Solomon’s case, his many (many many many…) wives will undercut his walk with God, and bring about not only his downfall, but the downfall of the united nation.  So don’t make the mistake of thinking that God is just going to “allow” these men to do whatever they want when it comes to wives.  There will be a severe penalty for each of them.  Polygamy is not God’s ideal for a reason.  It has dire consequences for both genders, and ultimately leads people away from God, not closer to Him.

Tomorrow, the David and Saul story continues.

For further interest: The roots of coronating kings are in this Old Testament account of Samuel, Saul and David. https://www.ox.ac.uk/news-and-events/oxford-people/George-Garnett

Shop: Christian shirts get noticed.  Check out these conversation starters: https://livinlight.org/shop/

Tomorrow’s reading
— 1 Samuel 26-27:7
— 1 Chronicles 12:1-7
— 1 Samuel 27:8-29:11
— 1 Chronicles 12:19
— Psalm 56

David kills Goliath David, the shepherd kills Goliath the Philistine with a slingshot and stone

Day 104 (April 14): David proclaims God, David kills Goliath, marries Saul’s daughter, Saul jealous of David, tries to kill him, wife protects him, trusts God

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
1 Samuel 17:32-58
1 Samuel 18:17-19:17
Psalm 59
1 Samuel 19:18-24
(1024, 1015, 1013, 1014 BC) Click here for a timeline of the entire Bible.

Questions & Observations

Q. (1 Samuel 17:45): I find it so hard to let go of control like David and give it all over to God.  We are surely trying to raise our children like this, but letting God guide me — and most Christians, I would think — was not something I was taught growing up.  I was raised in the church and definitely taught the major Bible stories.  But, I don’t recall talking about asking for God’s guidance in everything I did.  Now, I am doing that more and more, but I feel like I am a long way off from giving up control of my life to God.  Reading the Bible has definitely shown me that I need Him in all realms of life and my life will be more fulfilling if I let Him in.  Rob, any tips on letting God take control of my (and others) life, as David did?

A. Well, I would say you’re off to a good start.  One of the best ways to give control over to God is to KNOW what the Bible teaches about Him and His will.  This can only come by reading the scriptures.  Once you have become more immersed into the will and desires that God has for your life and the lives of those around you — especially your children — you will find it easier to follow these desires, or at least be aware when you are making a mistake.  Giving more of yourself over to God is one of the roles that the Holy Spirit plays in your life, if that makes sense: He is the one who convicts the hearts of believers to do the will of God the Father and follow Him more closely.  Being focused on the words of God in reading and prayer, or even prayerful reading, is a great way to give control over to God.

One other note might be worth mentioning here: many Christians seem willing to put their faith in God and trust Him with their eternal destiny, but somehow think He is wrong when He attempts to instruct us on how to live RIGHT NOW.  I think that’s a pretty foolish notion if you think about it.  Part of our proclamation as Christians is not just that Jesus/God is our savior, but also that He is our LORD.  If we are unwilling to listen to what God desires to teach us as our sovereign Lord, we have little chance of giving God more control over our life.  Let’s touch on this again way down the road, when we look at the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew 5-7.

Q. (18:14-16): Saul was selfish and disobeyed one time.  Is there anything he could have done to redeem himself?  From this passage, he may as well hand David the crown.  Also, Saul’s jealousy of David is obvious.  Can we draw a parallel from David and Saul to Jesus and the Pharisees?

A. Well, he keeps making actions that are selfish and prideful, so stopping that would be a good start. (But, he won’t.  In fact he makes it worse, if you can believe it).  David still has a long way to go, however to get the crown, for reasons that we will continue to see.  While the Pharisees were certainly jealous of Jesus, I think the circumstances are quite different in the two scenarios, so I wouldn’t draw too many parallels from the two.

Q. (18:26): I wish I could read a book — fiction or nonfiction — that would tell about the life and times of the Bible years.  There are so many customs I don’t understand, like this foreskin request.  I’m sure there isn’t any literature describing customs, because it would be just like the Bible, translated from ancient scrolls.

A. The foreskin request is for “trophies,” like the thumb/toe effort we read about earlier.  There are two reasons Saul requests it: first, only the Israelites would have been circumcised, so the Philistines would not have been marked in this way, ensuring that David really did kill the number requested or fake it in some way.  The other thing Saul is requesting David to do is to humiliate the surviving Philistines, by making the bodies “join Israel” in death.  Lovely, isn’t it?

Q. (Psalm 59:4): David is asking God to “wake up?”

A. We will see this referred to sometimes in the Psalms.  The writer is ascribing human qualities (in this case the need for sleep) to God as a way of saying, “if You were paying attention to my circumstances, You would be doing something.”  Since God is not responding in the way that the writer requests, he is accusing God of sleeping on the job.  We will see some very heartfelt pleas in the Psalms that, frankly, I love reading.  It tells me about the cries that these people made to God for the injustices they see in the world, and they really bear raw emotion in the writings: joy, pain, anguish, depression, etc.  So it is little surprise that the Psalmist is accusing God of sleeping on the job, he is pouring out his heart, and God is not, in his mind, responding.

Q. (Psalm 59): David’s song tells about evil lurking around the Israelites and the enemy surrounds them. But, when David — or anyone — trusts in the Lord, He will protect them from the evil.  I am eager to read more of Psalms.  This chapter just brings calm to my heart.  Is there anything else to glean from this passage?

A. I think you’ve got it.  Oppression and being surrounded by enemies are common themes of certain Psalms, so you’ll get some more chances to look at the way the writer expresses his apprehension at the circumstances God has placed them in.

O. (19:18-24): God provides the humor.

For further reading: Ways I can do all things, through Jesus — even confronting the Goliath of problems, https://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-study/explore-the-bible/3-surprising-ways-i-can-do-all-things-through-christ-who-strengthens-me.html

Shop: Christian shirts get noticed.  Check out these conversation starters: https://livinlight.org/shop/

Tomorrow’s reading
— 1 Samuel 20-21
— Psalm 34

Samuel found Saul to anoint him king of Israel

Day 101 (April 11): Samuel anoints Saul king, Holy Spirit came to Saul, Saul acclaimed king, defeats Ammonites, angered, retells his service

John Paul Stanley / YoPlace.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
1 Samuel 9-12:25
(1043 BC) Click here for a timeline of the entire Bible.

Questions & Observations

Q. (1 Samuel 9:21): Again, we have God choosing someone least expected, although he is the tallest in the land, so maybe that helps him get noticed?

A. It appears that the people wanted Saul as king because he was such a man of stature, but we can’t say exactly why God made Saul His king.  Saul passed the “eye test” in a way that David never will (as we will see shortly), but Saul (as we see in 10:22) is actually a fearful man who is not ready to rule the people, even though he will have his moments.  The writer clearly desires us to see the contrast between David and Saul, especially as the become rivals in a few chapters.

O. (9:22-24): So, Samuel had expected Saul all along because God had told him to expect someone to come (1 Samuel 9:15-16).

Q. (10:1): God has obviously told Samuel how to anoint someone.  Why the olive oil?  We may have talked about this before?  And, wouldn’t he go around with a oily head?  I know that’s not important, just a visual that turns on my curiosity.  About the prophets, were they in direct communication with God, or did they just hear what we read in the Bible?  I would think that there are a lot of God’s messages that we don’t know about?  So, in 10:10, we read that the Spirit enters Saul and allows him to prophesy?

A. Olive oil (in addition to serving various cooking purposes as it does today) was used for a variety of health reasons — it is actually still used today as a hair treatment in the Middle East.  One of the things that the oil was used for was to protect animals (sheep in particular) from insects that would get into their ears: the oil was poured on their head to make the wool slick.  So that oil represented protection and also selection (a shepherd would use the oil to protect his sheep), which is where the symbolism comes from.  Oil represents selection or choosing when used in this way, and the most common oil was olive oil.

We obviously have no way of knowing about prophecy that is not included in Scripture, but in this case, Samuel is using his prophetic vision to convince Saul that he has truly received an accurate vision of God of God’s plans for Saul.  The Spirit came UPON Saul, not within him (it is a similar idea to the anointing of oil).  The Spirit does not enter into people until Pentecost in the NT, after the atonement of Jesus.

Q. (10:9): What is meant here by God giving Saul a new heart?

A. God empowered Saul to be the king over all Israel.

Q. (10:27): Why would a king gouge out a right eye?  He is obviously a dictator.  I also don’t understand how anyone could gather that many men and perform this heinous act.  Same with when they gathered thousands of men to be circumcised, how was it possible?  Just watch the news and we see that massive imprisonments go on today by way of military.  I just wondered how they had such enforcement back then.  Military also?

A. The eye gouging would serve two purposes: first, anyone who saw the person would immediately know that they had been disfigured, which would have been a humiliation.  Secondly, there is a military significance as we discussed with the removal of big toes and thumbs: the Israelite army (like all armies of the day) would have used various forms of archery to win battles, and removing an archer’s eye would have rendered them almost useless in battle.

I don’t have a good answer on the logistics of these attacks, but I can tell you that if you have hundreds or thousands of men yourself, you can fairly quickly accomplish some pretty messy work.

Q. (11:7): Obviously, cutting something was a way to express anger in those days as we saw a few days ago with the concubine.  This act elicits a putrid image.  I’m sure Saul got everyone’s attention.  Who would be put to the task of delivering such a message to the tribes?

A. Likely servants of the tribe of Benjamin, Saul’s house.  It is possible that it was even Saul’s family servants.

Q. (12:12-17): Why did God provide a king if He is the king.  Why did he give in to the Israelites wishes?

A. Because they asked Him to.  In His mercy (9:16), He has given them the desires of their hearts, as any good Father will try to do … within reason.  The king will come to be a symbol of the entire kingdom, so it will be able to see the fortunes of the nation in one man.  This is how the narrative will proceed until the destruction of Jerusalem almost 500 years later.

For further study: What does mercy look like? https://www.compassion.com/poverty/mercy-definition.htm

Shop: Christian shirts get noticed.  Check out these conversation starters: https://livinlight.org/shop/

Tomorrow’s reading
— 1 Chronicles 9:34-39
— 1 Samuel 13:1-5, 19-23, 6-18
— 1 Samuel 14:1-52

Samson became upset after being tricked and killed many Philistines in retaliation.

Day 94 (April 4): Jepthah’s vow, Ephraim fights with Jepthah, Ibzan, Elon and Abdon are judges, Samson is born, his riddle, fury at Philistines

Sweet Publishing / 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 11:29-15:20
(1405-1399 BC) Click here for a timeline of the whole Bible.

Questions & Observations

Q. (Judges 11:29): I’m trying to figure out where Jephthah came from — the son of Gilead — but now that I’m looking at it I don’t know who Gilead is.  The new characters are coming and going so fast that it’s hard to remember the Gilead from Gideon and Jotham from Jephthah.  I’m just wondering where Gilead came from.  It seems that the lines between the different tribes are not as noteworthy now?

A. Gilead refers to a mountainous region in the east side of the Jordan where the three tribes settled.  It is not entirely clear whose territory it was in, so it was probably near a border area between Gad and Manasseh.  I suppose once the lines have been drawn as it were, then the territorial themselves would matter less.  The narrator is attempting to have his readers understand where this is all taking place.

Q. (Judges 11:30-31, 11:34-35): Times were so different then than now.  I don’t know if anyone would say, “If you give me victory, I will give you whatever — or whomever — comes out of my house first when I come home from a battle.”  We don’t need to do things like this since Jesus was crucified.  But, it’s hard to even read this.  And, the daughter is OK with it.  Was this a little punishment for Jephthah?  Maybe he was egotistical when he assumed he would come home victorious?  The picture I have in my head of this scripture is with Jephthah coming home taking in all the glory for himself and not giving it to God.

A. What I would take away from this story is the idea that God will not be used.  Even if Jephthah was a righteous man in his walk with God, this vow is very rash and costs him dearly.  One thing to note: it appears part of what he was trying to do was establish a name for himself in order to gain wealth and power, but in making this vow, the wealth and power he established died with him — the vow cost him his only heir.  I suspect this is what Jephthah realized that caused him to tear his clothes (11:35) in anguish.

Q. Maybe the previous question was foreshadowing this next passage: family (Israelites) killing one another.  The Israelites used to be united, but now it seems like they are becoming jealous, warring neighbors.

A. The book covers a significant period of time, and I suspect that this is just part of the nature of people: put them in close proximity long enough, and tensions will rise.  Someone will take offense to something foolish, as in this story, and blood will be shed to resolve it.  While they are defined by their relationship with their God, the people are still plainly very human.

Q. (11:7): One more question about Jephthah: He was the son of Gilead and a prostitute.  When Joshua and the Israelites defeated Jericho, with God’s leadership, a prostitute was saved.  Here we are seeing God welcoming those who have made undesirable choices, showing them there is salvation through Him.  I almost feel like this is a story more for readers now than then, because then, the people probably did not realize God’s grace toward those kind of sinners.  If you have been reading along, you would remember that when the Israelites were camping in the desert/wilderness for 40 years, anyone with an ailment or who had touched someone or something dead, would be deemed ceremonially unclean and most of the time would have to live outside the camp until they were healed.  This seemed to me to be harsh treatment, but as Rob said, it was to keep the camp from being riddled with disease.  That made sense.  And now, that we have seen God choose those who would normally not be chosen to do heroic deeds, we see that God cares for all of his people.  I know we will see much more of this the closer we get to the NT and lots of it in the NT.  Right?

A. I think that’s a very keen observation.  Judges is full of all sorts of the “not chosen,” and this trend will continue — through King David, the prophets, and into the NT.

Q. (Judges 12:8-15): Any idea how these judges were chosen?

A. God is choosing them, that’s all we get.

Q. (13:5): These passages are so rich with messages, foreshadowing.  It’s like Christmas in the Bible.  1) Here God is giving someone a sign — long hair — of belonging to God.  2) We talked about Nazirites (or Nazarites) before.  Read Day 60, the first question.  3) The repetition.  I have always noted the repetition of the same story, like Moses retelling again and again, and then Joshua backing him up, about God’s deliverance of the Israelites.  But, I have not noted the foreshadowing of several stories, which does the same thing as repetition.  It pounds in God’s message to the reader.  Here we see, once again, God giving chosen children to those who have been barren — Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 15), Isaac and Rebekah (Genesis 25), Jacob’s wife Rachel (Genesis 30), and now Manoah and his wife, and the coming of John the Baptist to Zechariah and Elizabeth (Luke 1).

A. Not having children was a terrible social stigma in this society, even in NT times, so God delivering these families — the women in particular, who bore the brunt of the shame — is one of His greatest mercies.  We will see more examples of this, including Hannah and her son Samuel, who will lead the nation for many years and crown its first kings (1 Samuel- coming soon!)

Q. (13:11): Notice the angel of the Lord said “I am.”  For me, this is code: “I am” means God or Jesus or the Spirit.  Rob, we always talk about the trinity.  Is the angel of the Lord God himself?  Should there be four: God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and his angels.

A. No!  While the OT in particular uses names of God to refer to angelic beings, these are messengers who should never be thought of as equal to God.  Remember that in this society and time, a messenger or emissary who came on behalf of a ruler or king was thought of as BEING the king or speaking as though they were king.  This is the image to bear in mind.  Angels are amazing beings — and this passage paints some really cool images — but we are off base at anytime we want to make angels God.  God is God alone, even revealed in His three person — a NT characteristic.

Q. (13:16): I just assumed that Manoah knew whom he was talking to, but it says he doesn’t.  So, are we to read this that Manoah was not a follower of God?

A. Not necessarily.  He may have assumed that this being was actually a human prophet of God, rather than an angelic being.  It is hard to tell exactly who Manoah thought this person was.

Q. (14:1): I just wondered if we have ever noted where the Philistines originated.  Rob, I thought maybe they came from Esau, since you said, way back in Genesis, that his descendants, the Edomites, would become enemies of the Israelites.

A. Nope.  The Edomites are not the Philistines.  The Edomites lived on the southeastern side of Israel (south of the Dead Sea), while the Philistines were probably descended from a seafaring people, and lived southwest of Israel near the Mediterranean.

Q. (14:12-16): Why were riddles so tormenting?  Can you explain it all?  Why would Samson tease them with a riddle?  Then, Samson was mad at his wife for giving up the answer to the young men who were to be Samson’s companions, a gift from his soon-to-be in-laws?  Why would the Spirit of the Lord cause Samson to kill 30 men?  I guess Samson was embarrassed that his wife gave the answer to the riddle away?

A. Samson was surely angry about losing the bet (that line about plowing with his heifer is a classic!), and it appears God used His anger to extract vengeance against the Philistines.  That is the implication of 14:4 — God used this marriage arrangement to confront the Philistines and conquer them.

Q. (15:18): This story confuses me because it seems like God picked a couple who was not necessarily a follower of Him and then gave them a son.  And, until this verse where he cries out for thirst, it doesn’t really say that Samson was doing Godly things.  It says the Spirit would fill him and he would go lashing out.  The puzzle I am putting together in my head is exactly what the angel told Manoah, that Samson would (13:5) “begin to rescue Israel from the Philistines.”  13:24 does say that God blessed Samson.  The blessings are what?  His strength?  Samson faces so much ridicule — embarrassment, his wife is killed, later he is blinded.

A. Samson’s blessing is surely his strength: They don’t call him the Biblical Hercules for nothing.  But Samson is also quite foolish, and he makes very ungodly decisions, ESPECIALLY as it comes to women.  Ironically, as you mention, his punishment for lusting after foreign women, a sin of the eyes, is being blinded by his enemies.  But even here, God will use Samson’s humiliation to bring victory.

That was a heavy reading today.  Join us to see what lessons we can learn tomorrow.

For more reading: Nazarites in the Bible, https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/nazarite/

Shop: Share God’s wisdom with everyone you meet by wearing His Word.  Check out these shirts https://livinlight.org/shop/

Tomorrow’s reading: Judges 16-18

 

Judges Deborah served as a judge for Israel. She orchestrated a raid on Sisera with Barak.

Day 91 (April 1): Deborah leads victory, Jael kills Sisera, Song of Deborah, Gideon becomes new judge

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 3:31-6:40
(1406 BC) Click here for a timeline of the entire Bible.

Questions & Observations

Q. (Judges 4:4-5): I am confused.  These stories seem to come as a little of a surprise.  Up to now, they have all been linked — except for Job.  Where did the judges come from?  We have never heard of Deborah.  And, if God handed over the Israelites to King Jabin, why were there judges around who still followed God and judged according to His laws?

A. Your confusion is understandable.  Basically, Judges is the book that covers the time period between Moses/Joshua’s leadership, and Saul/David/Solomon as the first monarchs or Israel.  During this time, there is no one united leader: the Lord calls into service particular individuals, who are otherwise of no importance, to fulfill His desires.  Basically, this story exists in its own timeframe: while the judges are mentioned from time to time, they are basically a more minor part of the history of Israel — they are the transition from a period of one leader, Moses, to another, David.

Don’t worry if you haven’t “met” any of these characters before, the narrative is telling us everything we need to know about them: what tribe they come from.  For His own glory, God is raising up people who have served Him faithfully to either personally carry out His will — as with Ehud killing the king — or by giving someone like Deborah, the only female judge, a prophecy about how Israel can be victorious in battle.  This trend will continue: you won’t have heard of any of these judges before their part in the story. That’s just the way the narrative is set up right now.  It will be this way until Samuel in the book of 1 Samuel (Ruth takes place during this same period).

Keep in mind that when we use the word “judge” in this story, we don’t necessarily envision a person who interprets the law as a judge does today (though in Deborah’s case this is accurate).  We mean a tribal leader or warlord — someone who can bring the tribes together for the purpose of winning in battle.  In Deborah’s story (she’s from the tribe of Issachar according to Jewish tradition, the story didn’t say explicitly), she united the warriors from the clans of Zebulun and Naphtali to gain victory over the evil king, using the warrior Barak as her “general.”  I hope that helps clear up what Judges is about.

Q. (4:14-16): I notice that when the Israelites defeat their challengers, it is by no strength of their own, it is by God’s power that they are victorious.  Believing in someone so much that you know they will fight and win for you is awesome.  But, how about their self-esteem?  It’s kind of like having someone fight your battles for you, you rely on them instead of getting stronger yourself.  Does this sound like something God wants from us?  In verse 23, we see that Israel was on the side of God and get a feeling that God is pleased.

A. Don’t forget, God’s response in each of these situations is a response to the people crying out for deliverance, and God acts.  How He chooses to do so is up to Him.  But, ultimately, that was the deal He set up with the people: if they trusted Him, and did what He ordered, He would make them victorious.  These battles still have to be won by His people, but God is providing assurance that it will be, often by “tilting” the battle in Israel’s favor as He did here (4:15).

Q. (5:7): We haven’t really seen God use a woman as a leader or have a major role — except for the smaller roles of Sarah and Miriam.  Any reason why He chose to now?  Here she is called the “Mother of Israel.”

A. Nothing that I am aware of.  She was the right person at the right time, but only God knows the reason He chose her.  There will not be many strong female leaders in Israel, but Deborah is one of the strongest of ALL Israel’s leaders: even the mighty King David didn’t manage to keep peace in his kingdom for 40 years.

O. (5:11): I feel an underlying calling here from the poor and meek.  It feels almost like God is talking to them and they know more than the well-to-doers.

Q. (5:15-23): Deborah and Barak are coming down on the named tribes, but I only thought they requested certain tribes to come.  Who are the people of Meroz in verse 23?

A. Apparently it was a town somewhere near the battle that refused to participate in the war effort.  We don’t know anything else about it, including which tribal territory it was in.

Q. (5:31): This verse is saying that all of God’s followers should obey Him so much that they will not hesitate to fight for Him.  If so, God will give them all the power in the world?

A. No, I don’t think that’s right.  Deborah is using the imagery of the rising sun to connect with the increasing power of the nation as they ascend through victory.  But there is no reason to assume she means that this power will be infinite.

Q. (6:1-6): I am amazed that the number of times that the Israelites turn away from God and yet they still call out to Him when they are desperate.  And, God delivers them again and again.  Can we apply this to our lives today?

A. I think you just did.

O. Gideon sounds similar to a choice God has made before — Moses.  And, I know there will be more like this.  Although, I am not saying that all of God’s choices are meek.  I am not trying to say that God is predictable.  I’m just saying that he has chosen another person with little self-pride.  On the flipside, He did choose Joseph who was a little egotistical, being the favored son of His father and bragging about his dreams.  Like every human, no two leaders are the same.

Q. (6:36-40): God is putting up with Gideon doubting Him.  He caters to his requests.  Gideon has already seen the angel of God consume his offering by fire.  Why does he ask for more proof?  We have seen that even his father worshipped Baal.  So, is it that the Israelites have been devoid of God for so long that the current generation barely knows of His existence, and thus fuels their disbelief?

A. That’s a good question, and a reasonable assumption, but honestly I do not know.  I would say that it is equally likely that Gideon is a man who is haunted by self-doubt.  He characterizes himself as the weakest member of the weakest family of the weakest tribe, so I think that at least part of what’s going on here is that Gideon is so fearful that he refuses to follow God’s instructions until he is ABSOLUTELY certain that God is calling him.  Gideon, unlike later judges like Samson, will actually put on display the full ability of God to use literally anyone, even a person who is racked with self-doubt.  For once he clears these hurdles of doubt, we will see Gideon act bravely and faithfully to bring Israel great victory.  Come check it out tomorrow!

For further study: A chart of the judges, their rein and important events. https://www.agapebiblestudy.com/charts/Chart%20of%20Judges%20of%20Israel.htm

Shop: Christian shirts get noticed.  Check out these conversation starters: https://livinlight.org/shop/

Tomorrow’s reading: Judges 7:1-9:21

Joshua Levites Cities of Refuge Israelites overlooking Canaan, the Promised Land

Day 88 (March 29): Joshua’s land, cities of refuge, Levites territory

Sweet Publishing / 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
Joshua 19:49-21:45
1 Chronicles 6:54-81
(1399 BC) Click here for a timeline of the entire Bible.

Questions & Observations

Q. (20:1-9): There sure is a significant amount of Scripture given to the cities of refuge.  Why were they so important?  It sounds like a simple, logical idea, yet so much text is devoted to their conception.  Are there any particular cities of refuge that we should make note of?

A. According to my notes, the cities were important because they prevented blood feuds between families, which would be the result of potentially endless life for life retribution.  I can’t give you a really good explanation as to why they get so many verses, but it appears that the cities provided an important cog in the Israelite system of justice.

As to the cities themselves, in this area, the city of Kedesh, was not an important place at this point (it was consecrated in this reading), but the other two sites are important to note: the city of Shechem was the site where Israel renewed its covenant with God in Joshua 8.  Joseph’s bones will be buried there in our next reading.  Hebron — in addition to being the land given to Caleb — was among the most important places in all of Canaan, as it was the place where Sarah died way back in Genesis 23, and would subsequently be the resting place of many of the patriarchs and their wives: Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, and Jacob and Leah (Genesis 49:29-50:14).

On both sides of the Jordan (remember there are 6 cities total), there is a city of refuge in the north, south, and middle of the Israelite territory, in order to ensure that no one has to go too far in order to be protected.

Q. (21:2): There seems to be a lot going on at Shiloh.  Is it the city where the leaders settle?

A. Yes.  As mentioned, the Tabernacle is setup in Shiloh, and it will serve as an unofficial capital until David moves the capital to Jerusalem in 2 Samuel.

Q. (21:6): I don’t ever think we talked about why Manasseh split.  Did they act as one tribe after the split or two?

A. Joseph’s son Manasseh got the single largest share of the Promised Land, and if we consider the Transjordan area as part of their territory as well, then their allotment is truly huge.  Because of the major geographical barrier between East and West (the Jordan River), as far as I can tell, the tribes acted more like two than one.  The Bible does not tell us why the tribe split in half, but it appears that some of the families of Manasseh wanted to stay in the Transjordan area, while others wanted to enter the true Promised Land.

Q. (21:43-45): In today’s society, we have expectations of immediate gratification.  We want something, we charge it and hopefully pay later.  In these times, God makes a promise to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and on to Joseph and Moses among all the other faithful Israelites.  However, they did not get to see the Promised Land.  It seems almost unjust that these men of God did not get to enjoy the fruits of their toil.  Were expectations different back then? Something promised to your descendants would mean so much to you that you would go to great lengths to make it happen, and never enjoy it yourself?  Or, does the Bible say anything about they are there enjoying it in spirit?

A. As the story in Genesis told us, the land was not directly promised to Abraham, but rather to Abraham’s descendants, and renewed with Isaac and Jacob.  So, I think that God was perfectly up front with these men about what He was promising.  It did appear to be enough for each of these men that their families — more than 400 years later — would receive the blessing that had been promised to them.

This part of the OT does not talk much about the afterlife — though it never says there isn’t one — but rather a person’s success or failure comes with having descendants who will carry on your heritage, and hopefully succeed more than you did (something we frankly all want for our kids.  We just don’t always define “success” they way they do).  So not only is God promising Abraham and his sons that they will still HAVE descendants in more than 400 years (by no means guaranteed), but that his family will be huge, prosperous, and able to take an entire area of land with God’s help.  That sounds like an amazing promise, and I think it surely would have been enough for them to hear the ways that God would be faithful.

For further reading: Why was the Promised Land the goal of the Israelites? https://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-stories/the-promised-land.html

Shop: Christian shirts get noticed.  Check out these conversation starters: https://livinlight.org/shop/

Tomorrow’s reading: Joshua 22:1-24:33

Song of Moses. The song exalted the power of God and how He would bring them victory.

Day 80 (March 21): Song of Moses, God keeps his promise to forbid Moses from entering Canaan, prayer of Moses

Credit: Sweet Publishing / 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
Deuteronomy 31:30-32:52
Psalm 90
(1406 BC) Click here for a timeline of the entire Bible.

Questions & Observations

O. Before I read today’s readings, I was thinking about Moses’ relationship with God.  Thus far, he has been the closest human to God, so we should focus on what he is about to say and know that the words are coming from a man who has spent many days with God and had God’s glory in him.

Q. (32:8): Can you explain this verse?  I’m at a loss.  When it says “divided up the human race” is he talking about the tribes being assigned land?  And what is the heavenly court? From my footnotes, it looks like it could have several meanings?  The Dead Sea Scrolls, the Greek version and the Masoretic Text all say something different.

A. Nice job incorporating our material from yesterday!  I don’t have a clear explanation for the verse.  The dividing up the human race appears to be a reference to the Tower of Babel and the distribution of the nations after its fall from Genesis 11.  The heavenly court is usually viewed as the congregation of the angels, as we saw in the beginning of Job.  There are some Jewish traditions that ascribe to a notion that angels had a territory among the different nations, so the reference to division based upon the court might refer to that.  But, I can’t say it definitively.

Q. (32:10): What does the second part of the verse mean where he says he guarded them as he would guard his own eyes?

A. You guard your eyes like no other part of your body.  Even as a reflex (blinking, pulling away, etc.) your body automatically will take great steps to ensure that your eyes are not damaged.  They are so important.  God is watching over Israel just as closely, it says, as how carefully you guard your own eyes.

Q. (32:15): Moses refers to God as a Rock here.  I’m sure there is a good meaning behind the name.

A. Even today, we think of rocks as being steady and unbreakable.  That’s a central part of the image.  Also, in this era, rock faces and caves would have served as shelters for people who desired to hide, so we can also think of rocks as a source of protection.  So God as the Rock paints an image of protection, steadiness, and longevity.

O. (32:39): A verse worth noting.  It brings up a question we have had before about if there are other gods.  “Look now: I myself am he!  There is no other God but me!  I am the one who kills and gives life; I am the one who wounds and heals; no one can be rescued from my powerful hand.”

Q. (32:40-41): Is Moses talking for God here or himself?  I don’t know what Moses means when he says, “As surely as I live, when I sharpen my flashing sword and begin to carry out justice, I will take revenge on my enemies and repay those who reject me.”

A. Moses is talking for God here.  This imagery refers to God avenging Himself among those who reject Him, referring specifically to the many Israelites who will be unfaithful to Him.  We will see various instances of this in future readings (I’m thinking of Joel 2 in particular, which is a powerful image of God avenging Himself), so let’s see how this verse is seen in subsequent stories.

Q. (32:50): What is the significance of both Moses and Aaron dying on a mountain?

A. Mountains are associated with the presence of God (like Mt. Sinai/Horeb), so dying on a mountain would be associated with the path a person “walks” to join God on high.  It is symbolic of a life journey where the end destination is God.

Q. (Psalm 90:4): Can this verse be used as proof of creation?  The 7 days of creation may have been longer.  I know it’s not important how long it took God to create the world.  I just thought it may be used to explain that.  Or, was Moses just making a quip?

A. You have touched upon something that is common in some circles: to use this verse and other citations of it to say that Creations could have been longer than one 24-hour period.  I don’t put much stock in these.  Moses is using metaphorical language to say that our concept of time means nothing to God.  I wouldn’t take it to mean anything more literal than that.

Q. (Psalm 90:5-9): This doesn’t paint a pretty picture of a reverent relationship with God.

A. In light of the eternal nature of God, I can’t say that I disagree with the assessment.  Next to Him, everything seems finite and fading.  It is only by His mercy that we are able to be more than dust in the wind, as it were.

Q. (Psalm 90:12): This verse says a lot!  I often think of troubles I have or things I want to do but can’t, for reasons of time and money.  And, if I’m in my right mind — which isn’t often enough — I remember that our time on Earth is so short and that if I don’t get the things done on my bucket list, then it’s no big deal.  God has bigger and better things for me waiting in heaven.  And I also think that my future in heaven, and possibly other’s futures, relies on what I do right now on Earth.  That gives me perspective to keep on seeking God’s guidance and do what He wants me to do.  This does sound a little dogmatic and I don’t mean it to.  I truly believe that He has given me, and anyone else who cares to listen to Him, a curriculum for my time on Earth.  And, from that, I gain the wisdom to make the right choices and not waste my time on empty matters.  Did I apply this correctly, Rob?

A. If we have properly fixed our gaze and decisions on the eternity of God, and not our time on earth, then I think that we are able to make decisions that allow us to live in light of this eternity.  You’ve got the idea.

Thanks for reading along.  See you tomorrow!

Further reading:
— Seven things to know about the Song of Moses, https://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-study/topical-studies/inspiring-things-to-know-about-the-song-of-moses.html
— A deeper look into the Song of Moses, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Song_of_Moses

Tomorrow’s reading: Deuteronomy 33-34, Joshua 1-2

Joshua Israel's new leader

Day 79 (March 20): Moses reviews Covenant, God shows mercy, life choices, Joshua is Israel’s new leader, Book of Instruction, God predicts disobedience

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
Deuteronomy 29:2-31:29
(1406 BC) Click here for a timeline of the entire Bible.

Questions & Observations

Q. (Deuteronomy 29:29): This is an interesting verse.  Has God said this before that there are secrets that He has not revealed?

A. I don’t think it has come up to this point, but honestly, there will always be things about the infinite God that are incomprehensible to the finite “us.”  I don’t really like the way that this verse in translated in this version.  The NIV makes Moses’ point more carefully.  The focus is not on God and His secrets, i.e. things He has not revealed, but rather on the Law as a blessing to the people and future generations of their children.

O. (30:1-10): Yeah!  God has mercy on the Israelites.  God is merciful.

O. (30:9-10): This passage made me smile.  It’s nice to know we can delight God.  So many times, it feels like we can either make Him happy or make Him mad.  But, the thought that we can bring joy to His heart brings joy to my heart, much like when I look at my girls and think how lucky I am that God made them a huge part of my life.

Q. (30:17): I know these commandments are for the Israelites — I never really differentiated that rules were for them and not necessarily for us today until Rob explained that — nevertheless, we can still learn from them, right?  Here Moses is telling the Israelites that if they worship other gods, they will be destroyed.  There are other false gods to worship, but I think that once you become a Christian, you are not likely to be lured by other cults, religions, etc., but we have idolatry of today — TV, work, money, hobbies, food, alcohol, sports, travel, lust — anything that we give so much importance to that we forget about God.  Would you say that applying this passage to today in this way is accurate?

A. I think it is.  You have begun to see the way that we should think about idolatry today: as anything that competes with God for our attention and time.  It is anything that we trust in besides God.  Having said that, I think that we as a society are moving toward a more open view of mixed religious theology.  We usually call it pluralism, and say things like, “all roads lead to God.”  Unfortunately, this goes exactly against what Moses is teaching the people here.  We must be very careful about allowing other religious ideas to infiltrate our faith.  Intermixing their faith in God with other faiths will get the Israelites in a lot of trouble.

O. (31:1-8): Just reading this gets my heart pounding.  I imagine the Israelites thinking about how big and numerous these inhabitants were and here God said He is going to conquer them.  And now, since they did not actually see the miracles in Egypt, there may be many who doubt His power.  But, Moses keeps reminding them of the deliverance and miracles and I’m sure their parents did — the loyal, wise ones anyway.

Q. (31:12): What is in the Book of Instruction?  The curses and the blessings?  Was this book placed in the Ark of the Covenant also?  Do any of these exist in museums today?  That’s another question: Can you give us a nutshell version of where all of the scrolls that form the Bible were found?

A. The Book of Instruction is the Law.  It is basically some form of the previous four books we have been reading: Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.  I suspect the versions of the books that we have been reading were edited together to combine the instructions of the Law with the journey in the wilderness that we have been reading about.  There will be various references to copies of the Law throughout the OT, but it appears a copy of the Law did end up in the Ark.  It is very unlikely, however, that it was a copy that would have been used.  It is likely that other copies made by the priests were used for everyday study.

Regarding your other question, you’ve touched upon a complex subject: the transmission of the OT.  There’s a few things to note. First, the oldest known copy of the complete OT in Hebrew is called the Masoretic Text (usually MT), which is a medieval copy of the OT from the Middle Ages.  We have portions of the OT that are found throughout the Middle East, but there’s a catch.  In the late BC era, the OT was translated into ancient Greek, to create a document known as the Septuagint (from the Greek word for seventy from the number of translators who worked on it).  Most of the ancient copies of the OT are Septuagints: Greek, not Hebrew copies.  Modern Jews reject the use of the Septuagint (probably because it’s the version that many early Christians, including Paul, used), and feel that only the Hebrew is valid for translation.  So while we have many fragments of the OT in Hebrew, and several copies in Greek, the oldest complete text comes from the Middle Ages.

I hear the questions rising now: isn’t that a long time?  Yes it is, but one of the coolest discoveries of modern Biblical archeology was the discovery of what is known as the Dead Sea Scrolls in the 1940s and 50s- found near the Dead Sea in the West Bank.  This was a collection of nearly a thousand clay pots that contained scrolls of various sizes.  These scrolls contained various portions of nearly every book of the OT (the exception was Esther, for reasons that don’t concern us here).  The ultimate find, however, was a full-length copy of the Book of Isaiah on a 12-foot scroll.  The coolest part of the discovery: the text of Isaiah matched more than 99% of the Masoretic text, despite being more than a thousand years older!  This, I think, tells us the great care with which Jews have copied their sacred text (and the way early Christians transmitted theirs), and gives me great confidence that the copies of the Bible that we have today are accurate representations of what the original author and editors desired to write about God.

O. (31:16-18) I doubt this is news that sits well with Moses, especially on the day of his death!

Q. (31:29): So much for peace in the valley of milk and honey.  Why does the disobedience have to continue?  From reading the Bible thus far, it seems that God does have a hand in what disasters strike.  Is this just more of God testing to see who deserves His blessings?

A. The people continue to rebel against God.  And just because God can “see it coming” as it were, does not make the people any less responsible for their actions, which is part of what God is telling Moses here.  The purpose of the curses, the droughts, the conquest by other tribes, these are all tools used by God to call His people back to Him.  None of us deserve the blessings God provides for us.  Like the Israelites, our call is to be faithful to God, and He will handle the rest.

Tune in tomorrow: a song God gave Moses to share with the Israelites.

For further study: What are the oldest copies of the Bible? https://biblearchaeologyreport.com/2019/02/06/the-three-oldest-biblical-texts/

Shop: We are so blessed to have a merciful God who forgives us 70 x 7! https://livinlight.org/product/490/

Tomorrow’s reading
— Deuteronomy 31:30-32:52
— Psalm 90

 

Blessings and curses. Moses renews Covenant with all of the Israelites

Day 78 (March 19): Offering of first crops of new land, obey God’s commands, blessings and curses

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
Deuteronomy 26-29:1
(1406 BC) Click here for a timeline of the entire Bible.

Questions & Observations

Q. (Deuteronomy 27:15-26): I don’t remember the implementation of curses thus far.  How is “cursing” different from laws, rules and covenants?

A. As this passage is laid out, the curses have nothing to do with the Law.  Where the blessings and curses come into play is they are the result of obedience to God’s law (blessing) or disobedience/rejection of God’s law (curse).  Don’t think of the curses or blessings as being in a separate category from the regulations, they are the result of them.  That covers the laws and rules part of the question, and basically, Moses is telling people THIS is the covenant: if you obey, God will bless you like you have never known, and if you disobey, God will make you wish you were never born.  In the book of Judges in particular, we will see periods of both: disobedience brings about curse (the people are defeated in combat, crops don’t grow, etc.) and this, in turn, causes the people to repent of their sin, at which point, the curse is lifted.  Repentance will play a big role in the way the rest of the story will unfold in the OT.

Q. (Deuteronomy 28:15-68): Wow.  I don’t see that the Israelites really had a choice not to follow God.  I don’t know if this text is foreshadowing what will happen — that people are cursed in future readings because of disobedience — or the curses scare them so bad that they dare not disobey.

A. As I mentioned in the previous question, we will actually see instances of both.  Blessings and curses will also be central themes in the book of Judges, which we should be getting to in a week or two.  Hang in there.

Blessings!  See you tomorrow!

Podcast: The roles of blessings and curses of Deuteronomy, https://bibleproject.com/podcast/covenant-curses/ 

Shop: Following God will lead to immeasurable joy! https://livinlight.org/product/overflow-t-shirt/

Tomorrow’s reading: Deuteronomy 29:2-31:29

Judges and officers appointed in towns charged to judge fairly in the Israel tribes

Day 76 (March 17): Judge fairly, choosing a king, gifts for priests and Levites, avoid foreign sin, future prophets, battle regulations, unsolved murders

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
Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9
(1406 BC) Click here for a timeline of the whole Bible.

Questions & Observations

Q. (Deuteronomy 16:21-22): This seems kind of random.  I read that Asherah was a Canaanite goddess?  Did God not like these pillars because they resembled some goddess?

A. You assessed this female deity correctly.  Asherah was worshipped as a fertility goddess, and archeological records indicate that she was worshipped at sites of tall trees or carved poles (we don’t know exactly what the Hebrew word for “pole” refers to).  Some scholars think they may have been carved figures like totem poles in Native American worship, but we do not know how large they were.  The pillars were the sites of worship of Asherah, not necessarily a physical resemblance, though in some instances the image of Asherah may have been carved into the pillar, pole, or tree.

One of the most interesting archeological discoveries from this period are a number of engravings, which name “Yahweh and his Asherah,” as well as figurines of her image, with the implication that Asherah was the wife of Yahweh after the Israelites settled in the Promised Land.  This would indicate that the people FAIL to not worship this other goddess, despite God’s strict command not to.  We shall surely revisit this issue.

Q. (17:5): I notice, for the first time, that the text refers to “the gates of town.”  Were most towns walled and gated?  It really sounds like hostile times all around.

A.  In this era, a city is defined by its walls and gates.  It was the easiest way to ensure protection against bandits and wild animals, both of which were huge problems outside of camps and cities.  The mindset that these people would have held was that if it didn’t have a wall, it wasn’t a city.

Q. (17:8-13): Would you say that our current justice system has roots in these passages?

A. Like many other nations, there is some limited influence on the system of justice that comes from the system created here, but I would hesitate to say that such laws “come” from this text.  They have been adopted from concepts laid out here, however.  We might call it a foundation for future judicial systems.

Q. (18:9-14): Fortune telling today seems almost like a circus act.  It’s hard for me to believe that anyone can “channel the dead.”  I am naïve to any practices.  But, I would suppose, that God would still consider these practices detestable today, just like He was with the Israelites?

A. As I think we have discussed (I don’t recall where), consorting with the dead or fortune telling is always about trying to gain an advantage over future events, and when you do that, you have moved beyond faith in God to provide for your needs.  There will be various references to speaking to the dead in future readings (of all the people, a king of Israel will do it, yikes!).  So to me, it would appear that the Bible says it IS possible to consort with the dead, but that we should not.  Let’s revisit this when our unfortunate king actually does so in 1 Samuel.

Q. (18:15-22): What future prophet is God referring to, or is it a surprise?

A. The language used is plural, indicating that Moses is talking about a series of prophets, which will provide guidance for the people in each generation.  Having said that, the language is also indicative of a final capital “P” Prophet, which is why many Christian scholars believe that it has Messianic expectation, which would of course point to Jesus as THE Prophet.  Jesus refers to himself as a prophet in Luke 13, and prophet is one of the three anointed offices in the OT, along with priest and king.  Jesus, in some form or another, fulfills each of these roles, but we’ll get to that at some point.

O. (19:1-13): This passage shows how much God strives to keep the purity in Israel.  If someone is killed and it’s a true accident, no more blood should be shed by an avenger.  He reserves some cities as refuges for those innocent offenders.  If they are not, it is better to purge them from Israel.  I like that word, “purge.”  That word gave me this clear visualization of Israel’s purity for the first time.

Q. (20:5-7): I don’t understand this passage.  If you haven’t eaten from your vineyard, you may die?  And the other scenarios.

A. Nope.  You’ve got it backwards.  The officer is saying that under each of the scenarios, the person is exempt from military service.  It appears that these were scenarios (getting married, buying new property, etc.) that were considered more valuable to their society than fighting for the nation, and therefore you could get out of service.  So it’s not “if you haven’t eaten from your vineyard, you might die,” it’s “if you die in combat, someone else gets your vineyard.”

Q. (20:15-18): Can we assume that the inhabitants of the towns God instructs the Israelites to destroy worship idols and act immoral?

A. Yes, I think that is a fair interpretation of the purpose of the task: they were ordered to entirely destroy the nations that occupied the Holy Land, not merely to drive them out and let them settle elsewhere.  We will see what happens when they fail at this task in Joshua.

For further study: How were city walls and buildings built in Bible times? https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hbd/a/architecture-in-the-biblical-period.html

Shop: Luckily, today we don’t have to remember all of these commands.  These laws of the Old Testament were designed to set the Israelites apart as God’s people.  Today, loving God and loving others as much as you love yourself, is the way to identify Christians.  https://livinlight.org/product/love-rules-t-shirt/

Tomorrow’s reading: Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19