God cleared the Red Sea for the Israelites to flee Egypt. After they passed, God released the waters, drowning all the Egyptian soldiers, horses and chariots.

Day 190 (July 9): Proclaim God, His creation, and the wonders He has done, Israel in Egypt review, Israelites strayed from God despite His guidance and aid

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
Psalms 105-106
(979 BC) Click here for a timeline of the entire Bible.

Questions & Observations

O. (Psalm 105:1-4): I love the beginning of this Psalm.  This was written for the Israelites, but I think we could apply the first two verses to our lives, but more of as a collective charge.  We have talked way back to where we should use discretion when proclaiming God.  If you shout out today how wondrous God is, chances are you’ll get some weird looks. But, if you testify in the right place at the right time, it can work.  Or, if this could be more a collective charge where this first two verses are addressing Christians as a whole to have God on our mind, act godly and proclaim Him whenever possible, we can apply it to today.  Verses 3 and 4 are right on!  The more I search for God and request His thoughts, the easier my life is.

O. (105:8-45): The rest of this Psalm is about how God never faltered on His covenant with Abraham.  Despite all the anger and humiliation God had to endure, He still put up with them.  He kept the covenant.

Q. (106): This Psalm takes us, and the original authors of this passage, way back through lots of generations — 700 or so years worth.  But, they tell it like it just happened yesterday.  And now, we are reading it 2700 years later (I think my estimations are correct).  It’s just amazing how God and the Bible have lasted through all of these years!  Just an off-the-wall curious question: I would assume that the Bible is the oldest book of any religion.  Any idea how far other religions date back?

A. When it comes to monotheism, you would be correct, the OT is the “oldest” major religious text.  But there’s a reason: both of the other major monotheistic religions both spring from Judaism — Christianity (circa 30 AD) and Islam (622 AD).  But the oldest still practiced religion is Hinduism, which is a polytheistic (many gods) and pantheistic (everything is god) religion, the primary faith of the Indian sub-continent.  Though there is no official “founder” for Hinduism as Judaism associates with Abraham, an ancient form of the religion in the Indus river valley can be basically traced back nearly 5000 years (to circa 3000 BC), so it gets the title of “oldest still practiced religion.”  Among their sacred texts are what are called the Four Vedas (truths), and though it is generally accepted that their final composition/editing occurred around 600 BC, they are much older than that, and probably date to an older period than the OT.

Now you can make the argument that forms of spirit worship, the worship of nature, and other such forms of what we would call “paganism” can go back many more thousands of years to primitive mankind even tens of thousands of years ago, but there is no “direct” line from these religious positions to a modern form.

Major Monotheistic Religions
Judaism: circa 2000 BC
Zoroastrianism: circa 600 BC
Christianity: circa 30 AD
Islam: 622 AD
Sikhism: 1469 AD
Mormonism: 1820s AD
Baha’i: 1844 AD

Major Polytheistic Religions
Hinduism: circa 3000 BC
For further reading: All about Hinduism, https://www.history.com/topics/religion/hinduism
Shintoism: 800 AD

Major Agnostic Religions/Philosophies
Jainism: circa 900 BC
Buddhism: circa 500 BC
Daoism: also spelled Taoism, 400 BC
Confucianism: circa 400 BC

For further reading: an interesting article on a defender of Christianity being the oldest religion, (I don’t know who this blogger is, but He is definitely a believer and is resourceful) https://iamtymaximus.wordpress.com/2011/09/12/why-should-i-believe-christianity-when-hinduism-is-the-worlds-oldest-religion/

Spread the Word! Christian shirts get noticed.  Check out these conversation starters: https://livinlight.org/shop/

Tomorrow’s reading
— Psalm 107
— Psalms 111-114

 

Israel Judah war. King Asa had ruled the Kingdom of Judah for 35 years. In the 15th year of his reign the vast Cushite army had attacked Judah but Asa had trusted God for victory. The nation had promised to obey God with all their hearts and had enjoyed 20 years of peace.

Day 160 (June 9): God messages Jeroboam, Rehoboam’s reign, Egypt invades Judah, Israel v. Judah, Asa loyal to God, throne drama

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 Kings 13-14:24
2 Chronicles 12:13-14
2 Chronicles 11:18-12:12
1 Kings 14:25-28
2 Chronicles 12:15-16
1 Kings 14:29-15:5
2 Chronicles 13
1 Kings 15:6-8
2 Chronicles 14:1-8
1 Kings 15:9-15
1 Kings 14:19-20
1 Kings 15:25-34
2 Chronicles 14:9-15:19
(931-895 BC) Click here for a timeline of the entire Bible.

Questions & Observations

Q. (1 Kings 13:18-19): Why would one prophet deceive another?

A. We don’t know exactly what prompted this deceit.  It is possible that the old prophet was maliciously trying to get the young prophet in trouble, or that he simply wanted to spend time with this man, so he lied to bring it about.  Either way, the deception did not excuse the man of God’s explicit order to not take food or drink, and he paid dearly for his poor decision.

Q. (13:22): Is not being buried with your ancestors an insult?

A. Yes.  It meant that you were not buried at home or not buried by your loved ones.

Q. (13:27-28): What is the significance of the lion and the donkey?

A. The lion and the donkey were a confirmation of the truth of God’s prophecies: the first about the royal family being killed off (fulfilled in 15:29), but also a confirmation that He had spoken judgment through the old prophet to the younger man of God.  The idea is that such a miracle should have convinced Jeroboam that he needed to repent and beg for God’s mercy, but he did not.

Q. (14:22-23): Here it says that there was wickedness under Rehoboam, but priests left Jeroboam so they could worship God.

A. That movement does not preclude wickedness in Judah.  What Jeroboam was doing was going a step further, and preventing the Levites and priests from doing their job intentionally.  Even with the priesthood working, the people were capable of wickedness.  Think of the Israelites in the wilderness during Exodus: They also had priests, but were still plenty sinful.

Q. (14:24): Was their adoption of the pagan nations’ practices because all of the nations were not destroyed when Joshua went to war to take over Canaan?

A. That’s one explanation.  The other is that there were still various Canaanite tribes living in the surrounding areas, and the king may have invited them to come and practice their form of pagan worship in Israel and Judah.

Q. (2 Chronicles 11:22): Just reading this automatically made me think of what kind of environment is stirred up when a king is on his way out and whom to groom to be king has to be decided.  The fact that one son is picked to be king among a lot of brothers fosters jealousy, discord and battles.  I remember way back when the Israelites wanted an earthly king because all of the other nations had one.  They didn’t need a king.  They already had a leader — God.  So, could sibling rivalry for the throne be one reason God warned against having a king?

A. There were lots of reasons, but surely that is one of them.  Sibling rivalry has basically haunted each generation from David’s — and Isaac’s — family on down.

Q. (12:2): So, how does the Israelites’ unfaithfulness to God cause King Shishak of Egypt to attack Israel?

A. One of the things that God chooses to do to get Israel or Judah to repent is to raise up a foreign power that is mightier then His people.  Cornered, and without another way out, the people, including the king, are forced to see that they have sinned and repent.  We see this in Asa’s story as well (or rather, the opposite): For those who are faithful to the Lord, they are often given times of peace and prosperity, as David and Solomon both enjoyed at times in their lives.  Bottom line: an invading army is used by God to get the people to, once again, see their need for Him.

Q. (1 Kings 15:3-5): God’s love of David has pardoned a lot of his ancestors.

A. It surely did.

Q. (2 Chronicles 13:10-12): 1 Kings says Abijah committed the same sins as Rehoboam.  Now he says his people serve God.  Is he delusional?

A. I would say no.  This is a turning point for Abijah, who though having failed to this point, leads his people by example in turning to God, and reminding the lapsed people of Israel what it is they are doing by giving up God.  He is greatly rewarded for his turning.

Q. (2 Chronicles 14:1-8): I wonder after a line of ancestors who didn’t follow God how Asa came to follow Him?

A. It’s a good question, and I don’t have a great answer.  One of the most awesome things about God is that through His grace, our past does not have to be our future.  We are not bound to the same mistakes that our family members have made.  We can keep our marriage together even if previous generations have divorced.  We can stop the cycle of abuse from being passed down.  We can raise ourselves up to new heights via God’s might and mercy.

Though several generations of Asa’s ancestors had failed miserably, Asa kept his focus on pleasing God, and was rewarded for his faithfulness … at least for the moment.  Keep reading for a bit more on Asa.

Q. (1 Kings 15:25-26): Israel has been split for a while.  Are both sides still considered God’s chosen people?

A. Israel is pretty much a lost cause, as we will see.  The people are all still God’s, but the people of Israel are digging themselves a deep hole they won’t be able to get out of.

For further study: Sibling rivalry in the Bible, https://www.learnreligions.com/bible-stories-about-sibling-rivalry-712735 

Spread the Word! Christian shirts get noticed.  Check out these conversation starters: https://livinlight.org/shop/

Tomorrow’s reading
— 1 Kings 15:16-22
— 2 Chronicles 16:1-10
— 1 Kings 16:1-7
— 1 Kings 15:23-24/870 B.C.
— 2 Chronicles 16:11-14
— 2 Chronicles 17:1-19
— 1 Kings 17:1-7

 

Moses preaches and reminds Israel of God's faith and the need to obey Him.

Day 73 (March 14): Moses calls Israel to fully commit to God, God’s blessings, God to drive out the wicked, Golden calf reviewed again

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 6-9
(1406 BC) Click here for a timeline of the whole Bible.

Questions & Observations

Q. (Deuteronomy 6:2): What is God referring to here when he says “you will enjoy a long life?”  Is he referring to eternal life or just that they will live a long, healthy life on earth?

A. There is not much discussion of eternal life in the first five books of the Bible.  It is a concept that is introduced later, notably in the New Testament.  Moses is speaking only of a prosperous, healthy temporal life on earth.

O. (6:4): What a simple, great verse, but so hard to wholeheartedly get my mind and heart around.  I find it extremely hard to forget about “myself” and replace it with God — God’s will.  I often wonder when I will get to this point in my life and how I can let myself go and let God take over.  I have definitely taken baby steps in this endeavor and it feels great when I do, but then I need to take even bigger steps to get that same feeling.  I am looking forward to a complete turnover.  That’s the major reason I am reading the Bible in a Year.  Not to do it fast like a race, but to commit myself to studying all of it so I can know God better and what he wants me to do with my life that will help others and help Him.  And, I hope to find the time when I can fully give up my own wishes for God’s.  It’s just so hard to fathom!

O. (6:6-9): This sounds like what our schools want us to do.  We put posters up and try hard to teach our kids everything the standardized tests want them to learn, but how many people post God’s rules all over their house and recite them regularly to their children? Where do our world’s priorities lay?

Q.  (7:7): It is pretty amazing that God chose Abraham, who had no children, to be the father of all nations.  Then, he finally gave him one child Isaac.  These were both good men who followed God, thus God’s love for them and promises to them.  But, there is nothing special about this nation, other than the fathers of it were loyal to God.  So, it is interesting that God chose the Israelites.  Rob, can we talk about this a little?  Like, why God chose anyone?  What is the purpose of God having his own people?  I assume it’s for God to have a model nation to show his power through them, that he is the one, true God.  Are there any other reasons for choosing them?

A. I think that the relationship between God and Abraham is special, as Genesis indicates, and the Bible writers go out of their way to point out that when God makes a promise, He is faithful to it — unlike us.  So, part of the reason that God is so faithful to this particular nation, that there is nothing else especially interesting about, is that He is keeping His word to Abraham.

In the Old Testament, God is painting an image of a nation that will be a shining light to the rest of the world: a symbol of what right relationship between God and man looks like.  At this stage, it looks like this: God sets the terms of the relationship in exchange for the great provisions that He will pour out on His people, as long as they are faithful to the covenant.  We will see Israel’s unfaithfulness explored a lot more in the coming texts, but we will also see the way that the Prophets of God (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, among others) will powerfully describe the way that God has remained faithful not only to His promises, but also His vision for the nation of Israel — as unfaithful as she is — to be a light to the Gentile world.

O. (7:9-11): “Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commands. 10 But he does not hesitate to punish and destroy those who reject him. 11 Therefore, you must obey all these commands, decrees, and regulations I am giving you today.”

These verses are a wonderful summary of the awards and consequences of following God’s rules.  Loving God is for the Israelite’s benefit.  These are verses that you can take either with a “half-empty” or “half-full” approach.  Half empty, you can either read it that if the Israelites don’t obey God, they will be punished.  Or, half full, read it if they love God, they will give them his unfailing love.

Q. (7:12-14): These verses suggest that if the Israelites obey God they will be fruitful — I would think that would translate into “rich” — but the Bible also says that it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to get to the Kingdom of Heaven.  Is this contradicting?

A. I don’t see a contradiction, and I think that part of the passage we just read helps us understand the distinction.  The camel/needle idea comes from Matthew 19:24, in which Jesus is warning against the way that wealth tends to blind us to our own need for God.  A rich person is not necessarily dependent upon God in order to prosper or succeed.  But that is the danger: it is not the money in and of itself, but what the money does to our spiritual priorities.  In this passage (6:12), we see Moses give a careful warning: you are about to enter a realm, he says, where you and your families will prosper.  Be careful, therefore, that when you have all this stuff, that you DON’T FORGET GOD!  That, I think, is the real danger of wealth and riches in that it insulates us to our own need for God.  Such insulation can truly make it easier for the camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to properly understand their own need for God who has greatly blessed them.  I hope that makes it clear.

Q. (7:15): To me this also has a contradiction in it to the NT.  Here God says He will protect His followers from sickness, but doesn’t the NT say that sickness can come to Christians?  We have seen it come to Job in the OT.  That was a different circumstance.  And, it doesn’t seem that this necessarily applies to today, right.  This “sickness-free” decree was meant for the Israelites?

A. I’m not even sure if I would say that Moses is doing anything but making a rhetorical argument about how good the Israelites will have it in the Promised Land if they are faithful to God.  I would say that much of what he is promising here is hyperbole: you will NEVER get sick, your animals will ALWAYS have offspring, etc.  I would not take such promises completely literally: Moses is saying that you will have it good in this country.  And honestly, part of the problem with the entire scenario is that we never get to find out how much of it was what God truly promised: the people will be unfaithful to the covenant, so they lose out on the promises anyway.

In general, it is a good idea to consider that any promise, rhetorical or not, made in Scripture is only applicable for the people that it is written to, unless the promise specifically says it can be applied to different circumstances.  It’s a good rule of thumb for such sections of Scripture.  We will see more examples of this, and I will try to highlight instances where either scenario is appropriate.

O. (7:16-20): The Israelites are reminded again and again about God bringing them out of Egypt.  After they failed God, I can understand the constant reminders.  I, too, need constant reminders of everything God has done for me and that nothing is impossible and everything is possible.

O. (8:5): I never thought of this analogy before, that we are to God what our children are to us.  That puts some perspective on our relationship to God: that we are devoid of power and not comparable to Him.

Q. (9:1-6): I am struggling with the question of why God tries so hard to make the Israelites realize that He is all powerful?  Why does He care so much?  Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are long gone.  If He were human, he would have likely given up on them, after all of their failings, a long time ago.

A. I would actually answer this the same way I answered our question from 7:7: God has made a covenant with Abraham, and He is faithful to keep it, even in light of the failings of each generation.  One other thing to remember: the nation of Israel will give birth to the Messiah, Jesus.  Jesus is the one who will set not just Israel, but the entire world to rights with God.  So certainly part of God’s plan is to use this nation, in spite of its failings, to bring about a restored relationship for all humanity — past, present, and future.  Why God chose these people is beyond our full comprehension, but as Christians, we can see the way that God is laying the foundations so that one day, God Himself will walk the earth as one of us to save us from our sins and teach us the right way to be in relationship with Himself and one another.

One other reaction I had to the way you phrased your question: be careful about assuming that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are “long gone” as you put it.  When Jesus was confronted about the afterlife, He clearly pointed to the idea that these men were still alive with God.  He quotes God’s conversation with Moses in Exodus 3 when God says, “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob”.  God, Jesus tells us, is not a God of the dead, but a God of the living!  (Matthew 22:32)  What an amazing verse!  So, perhaps we would be careful about assuming that God is any less faithful in the afterlife to these men, and those who faithfully follow Him, as He was when they were living.

For further study: What does it mean to fall from grace? https://escapetoreality.org/2014/03/27/fallen-from-grace/

Shop: God loves us so much that He sent His Son to save us! Tell that to everyone you meet. https://livinlight.org/product/deepest-love-t-shirt/

Tomorrow’s reading: Deuteronomy 10-12

More plagues passover God commanded His people to kill a lamb. ‘The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.’ Exodus 12:13 (NASB)

Day 35 (Feb. 4): Plagues of locusts, darkness, Egypt’s firstborn sons, Passover, Israelites prepare to leave after 430 years in Egypt, Passover requirements

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
Exodus 10-12 (1446 BC) Click here for a timeline of the whole Bible.

Questions & Observations

Q. Rob, in one of your answers yesterday, you said, the Bible “does not shy away from saying that there are no other spiritual powers that can be used, only that God is superior to them.”  Does the Bible say other deities are real or are you just saying that there are spiritual powers out there and they elude to that they come from Satan?

A. The Bible does not answer that question directly.  Instead, it orders that God alone should be worshipped, and distinguishes between the true God and false gods.  Whether these “false gods” exist could, I think, be interpreted either way.

As you enter the New Testament, I think that you move more and more towards the concept of there is only one God (i.e. all other gods are false), but it certainly does not deny the existence of other spiritual powers such as demons.

Q. (Exodus 10:1): I said that I’m not going to question God so much, but it’s so hard not to.  I’ll go on the offensive rather than defensive.  Here, it sounds like God caused all this devastation to show His people His power and that they should follow Him.  And He is there to protect them and fight their battles.  Maybe it’s showing them more of what is coming their way — they will need to rely on God to survive their journey?  Also, the Egyptians, at least the Pharaoh, did not follow God, so maybe God just decided to play with them for a little bit.  He’s giving the Egyptians payback?

A. God appears to be avenging the suffering that Egypt has inflicted on their Israelite slaves, which are His chosen ones.  In the process, He is teaching the Israelite people that He is faithful and should follow Him.

Q. (10:4): Is there any significance with locusts in the Bible?  Here a plague, but also Jesus eats them in the wilderness, right?

A. John the Baptist ate locusts in the wilderness.  Locusts were (and are) a real problem in the world, and one of the most real examples of a plague on agrarian society.  If you are dependent on crops, and the locusts eat all those crops, you’re in big trouble.  So locusts are seen as a plague of judgment (here, in Joel, and in Revelation, there may be others), sometimes against God’s enemies, and (in Joel) against God’s people.

Q. (10:14-15): How could the Egyptians survive?  There is nothing left.  Pharaoh would have to be so frustrated that God kept hardening his heart.  He has no food left!  God seems to be having fun with Pharaoh.  In our small group, we had a discussion about God does things to bring glory to Himself.  I had never heard this before.  I thought it was kind of egotistical.  But, here we see it plain as day that God is deeply demonstrating his power to the Egyptians to show the Egyptians how glorious He is.  I guess my question here, is how could the Egyptians want to continue this torture?

A. It’s clear from the story that even those closest to Pharaoh were begging him to get rid of the problem people, but they ultimately, had to submit to whatever their king decided.  Since the Egyptians were seen as such an enemy of the Israelites, it appears that their survival was not a priority of the story.  I don’t honestly have a better idea of how to answer the question than that.

Q. (10:16-17):  Again, we see repetition after repetition in these plagues.  We saw it in Job, we saw it when Abraham asked God to spare the righteous in Sodom.  I guess it’s all for emphasis, to make sure we understand God’s point.  On a personal note, I think about how many times something has to happen before I change it for the better and make it a habit.  I keep drinking coffee even though it makes me on edge and sluggish the rest of the day.  I’m working on it.  There are numerous things in my life like that.  You?  I guess it’s the hard-headedness.  Has God hardened our hearts so it’s a real challenge to choose to follow God?

A. This appears to be a special circumstance, for this type of phrasing (hardening the heart) is not used again.  It appears that this story is meant to be unique.  One change that takes place in the midst of the story of Christianity in the NT is that the Spirit becomes a living presence in the heart of believers.  That presence of God in our hearts is one that always desires to bring us CLOSER to God, not to harden our stance away from Him.  So, I would say you as a Christian (rather than one who is counted an enemy of God) has anything to worry about from God hardening your heart against Him.

O. (11:4-6): I wonder how Moses felt to be the one warning about these plagues and giving God the “go” signal with his staff.  This was a guy who had run away from Egypt because he was afraid he would be killed for murdering an Egyptian, then he kind of hid as a shepherd. And finally, he begged God not to make him leader of the Israelites.  What a change for Moses!

Q. (12:5): I struggle with this because God asks for animals with no defects and that they be one year old.  What is the significance of this?  I thought his creations were equal.  I guess I’m thinking of man.  From what we have read, he does not give priority to those humans who are near perfect.  But, for sacrificial animals, the Lord wants the best?  I guess animals are different from humans in that regard?  As a vegan, the whole sacrifice thing is never going to be easy for me to swallow.  Pun intended!

A. The significance of the one-year-old animal without a defect is the sacrifice would be required on the part of the sacrificer.  You couldn’t give God just any old (or sick, or deformed) animal.  You had to provide an animal in its prime, not one you were going to get rid of anyway.  This goes back to giving God our best or “first fruits”.

Q. (12:8): Why bread with no yeast?  Takes up less space for traveling?

A. Nope.  It’s ready sooner because you don’t have to wait for it to rise.

Q. (12:23): I never thought about the OT blood symbolism applying to Jesus dying on the cross.  Just as the blood allows God to spare the Israelites from the plague, Jesus blood shed spares us from eternal punishment.  Does this work for you, Rob?

A. Yes.  When John the Baptist speaks of Jesus as the Lamb of God in John 1, I suspect this is at least partially the image he had in mind.  The idea here is that the blood itself is what wards off the angel of death, an idea that Christians definitely came to connect with.

Q. (12:24): I guess this is speaking to us.  Christians are still supposed to observe the Passover?  I never have.  It has not been a requirement in the churches I have belonged to.

A. We are no longer under the Law, so we are not obligated to keep the Passover.  This does not mean we cannot participate in one or learn from it.  Something I have seen recently in the churches I have been a part of have connected with the idea that the Last Supper from the Gospels was, in fact, a Passover meal.  Jesus took the opportunity do use the unleavened bread (which, for reference, is kind of like pita bread) and wine that were already a part of the ceremony to talk about the new way God was doing to do things through Jesus (i.e. the new covenant).  So, while we don’t HAVE to keep the Passover, I think there is great value in understanding it, and maybe sharing in one at some point.

Q. (12:48): Sure glad I’m a woman!  Does the Passover law still apply — that all males who want to partake in it must be circumcised?

A. Ha!  For religious Jews such as Hassidic and Orthodox, I presume the answer is yes, but I am not certain.

Q.  (12:51): Leading the Israelites out of Egypt would be quite an undertaking for Moses.  With women and children, there were easily 2 million Israelites.  Moses didn’t have a microphone.  How could he communicate what they were to do so quickly?  Nothing is impossible with the Lord!

A. One of the things that the text will talk about after the journey to Sinai is the way that the different tribes moved with the Tabernacle.  Nope, no microphones, so I would imagine it was an incredibly difficult task: something God alone could bring the people through.

Further reading: Were the Israelites in Egypt when the Bible says they were? https://christiananswers.net/q-abr/abr-a027.html 

Shop: God takes care of those who trust in Him.  God is good!

Tomorrow’s reading: Exodus 13-15

Plagues in Egypt Frogs were everywhere and Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron.

Day 34 (Feb. 3): Plagues of water to blood, frogs, gnats, livestock, boils, hail

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
Exodus 7:14-9:35
(1446 BC) Click here for a timeline of the whole Bible.

Questions & Observations

Q. (Exodus 7:15): Is there any significance in why God chose a staff to demonstrate his power?

A. The staff would have been a powerful symbol of God’s power.  Shepherds such as Moses would have been given a staff in a ceremony when he entered the vocation: this staff was his life.  Not only was it used for obvious things like bringing back sheep and support when a shepherd walked, but it was probably used to fight animals and kill snakes.  Shepherds, still to this day, mark their staffs with various indentations and words, to form something like a personal journal.  So the staff represented the vocation.  God had then ordered Moses to change his vocation, but to keep the symbol of it, and apply it to his new purposes.  This is not the last time in the OT that a staff will play a central role as a conduit of God’s power.

Q. (8:18): Any particular reason why Pharaoh’s magicians couldn’t duplicate this plague?

A. I don’t know if there is something specific about the plague of gnats (some other versions render this lice or mosquitos, it is hard to tell the exact word the writer meant).  But there is an important shift in the narrative.  For the first two plagues, Pharaoh’s magicians were able to “match” the plague (by whatever means they did so as we discussed yesterday), and so Pharaoh could consider himself and his gods to have “not been beaten” by the Hebrew’s God, since his men could do it too.  But after this plague, he loses that excuse, and is forced to take personal responsibility for his actions for not letting the people go.  I think the magicians failure is all about God escalating the pressure on the king.

Q. I saw a TV documentary that showed how the plagues can be backed up scientifically.  So, is it OK to say that scientifically the plagues could have happened or do we just say that it was an act of God.  God did create science.

A. I’ve heard this as well.  One thing I read mentioned that all of the events that take place (even the darkness) are part of the normal cycle of life in Egypt.  Just as a couple of examples, silt that flowed up the Nile from Ethiopia can turn the river a shade of red- and cause a growth of a red algae that can kill fish and make the water undrinkable.  If this happened, then animals such as frogs (the second plague) would have left the water and relocated to other areas.  The insects (3 and 4) would not have been eaten by the frogs, and could have reached high levels of growth without the predation.  The flies could have spread bacteria and diseases to the livestock and boils to the people (5 and 6).  You get the idea.  Even the more powerful plagues were part of the ecosystem of Egypt: thunder and hailstorms, locusts, and giant sandstorms (called khamsin) that could stir up so much dust, they could block the sun.

Two other things are worth mentioning here: the clear implication of the text is that God is bringing these events about, even if He is using naturally occurring phenomenon to do so.  While it can be interesting to speculate about the “natural” origins of these plagues, to do so is ultimately to miss the point: God is demonstrating His power in Egypt in order to free His people.

The other side of the coin that frequently goes unmentioned in discussions such as this one is the association between natural parts of the Egyptian ecosystem and the gods that they worshipped.  Several of the plagues target particular Egyptian deities, and the events that take place would have been a way of the Hebrew God proving His superiority over these false Egyptian gods.  One goddess, Hapi, was the goddess of the Nile, who was revered as giving life to Egypt.  The water to blood plague would have been seen as a clear defeat of this goddess.  Other gods and goddesses were seen as animals, including frogs (plague 2) and livestock (cows, goats, etc., that died in plague 5).  One of the most powerful gods in Egypt was Ra, the god of the sun. The darkness of the second to last plague (i.e. the blocking of the sun) would have been a clear insult to his power.  So while there are natural phenomena that would have been a part of this story, there is certainly religious significance to the story as well, as the God of the Hebrews showed His power over the natural world and the deities of Egyptian worship.

Q. Just a study note.  Is there any difference between Israelites, Hebrew and Jews?

A. In the language of the Bible, no.  These terms can be used interchangeably.  While the origin of the word Hebrew is the least clear of the three (it’s the oldest), the others are fairly straightforward.  The word Hebrew appears to be from Genesis 10:21 and 25, where a son of Shem (Noah’s son) is named Eber.  (Incidentally, the name Semite comes from being descended from Noah’s son Shem).  Abraham is called a Hebrew in Gen 14.

Jacob is renamed Israel (wrestles with God) in his story from Genesis, and therefore people from his line would be called Israelites.

The word Jew comes from a more specific and later subset of the Israelites: the descendants of the tribe of Judah (and Benjamin).  These two tribes, along with Levites, are the Israelites who survive in the Southern Kingdom after most of the other tribes are wiped out in the story recorded in 1 and 2 Kings.  That’s why Jew is the most recent of the three terms.

Hope that helps!

For further reading: Did the plagues really happen? https://evidence-for-thebible.com/archeological-evidence-for-the-bible/archeological-evidence-for-the-plagues-in-egypt/

Shop: Various sources support the Bible’s account of the 10 Plagues of Ancient Egypt.  The Bible gives us Truth!  https://livinlight.org/product/truth-pepper/

Tomorrow’s reading: Exodus 10-12

Moses faces Pharaoh

Day 33 (Feb. 2): Moses to Egypt, Moses and Aaron face Pharaoh, Pharaoh increases work, God hears cries, ancestor list, Aaron does miracles

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
— Exodus 4:18-7:13
(1446 BC) Click here for a timeline of the whole Bible.

Questions & Observations

Q. (4:21): Do we learn later why God hardens Pharaoh’s heart?  I thought it was already hard because he was severely enslaving the Israelites.

A. Pharaoh will not allow God’s people to leave, and God is telling Moses that He will do this intentionally in order for His glory to be seen.  I suspect His reasons for doing this are for Him to declare His superiority among the Egyptian gods (something 7:12 points to — despite both parties being able to “make” snakes, the God snake is more powerful), to humble the pride of Pharaoh.  I think on some level God is also out to avenge Himself on the Egyptians, who have taken His precious child (Israel), so in the end, He will take theirs (in the death of the firstborn).

The treatment of Pharaoh is one that is controversial, because you can certainly argue God forces Pharaoh to reject Moses’ demands in order to sadistically punish him.  There are also certainly issues of predestination at work here as well (i.e. did Pharaoh really have a choice in these matters?), but ultimately God gives the game away in this reading: in 6:6: He says that He wants Israel to know who He is, and in 7:3, He will harden Pharaoh’s heart in order to demonstrate His glory among the Egyptians (who do not worship Him, but worship false gods that we will confront).  Above all, part of what we have established in our name discussion from yesterday is that I AM is His own authority (something we established in Job) and He does not answer to us.

Q. (4:22): Israel means the people of Israel?

A. Yes.  The nation of Israel.  We will see God refer to Israel in a variety of ways (including as His wife), but in this case, He refers to the nation as his firstborn son.

Q. (4:24-26): This whole scene is confusing.  Why would God want to kill Moses?  Because his son wasn’t circumcised?

A. It appears so.  That is the best guess we have, and honestly this passage does not make a lot of sense to me either.  But we certainly see that God took the requirements of the Law seriously, and not circumcising a son was a pretty major offense.

O. (5:22-23): Moses confronts the Lord.  Moses had told the Lord that his speech was not worthy of being a leader.  Now, he is showing more confidence.

Q. (6:2): God never told Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who He was?

A. God, for whatever reason, choose not to reveal what we might call His true name to them, and part of the reason for it is revealed to us (by implication).  God is saying that His identity will be that of deliverance for His people (the whole point of Moses’ call story) but that there was no way the earlier fathers would have understood this desire to deliver (because no one needed rescuing in those days).  God reveals Himself to His people on what we might call a need to know basis, and that trend will continue.

Q/O. (7:10-13): Here, there is a pattern God uses of things being swallowed up by healthier, more powerful like things.  Here it’s snakes.  With Joseph it was cattle.  Also, the dried up stalks of wheat bowed down to the healthy ones.  I was surprised when Pharaoh’s magicians could duplicate God’s miracle with Aaron’s staff.  Verse 11 shows that sorcery is real?

A. The consumption implies superiority.  Regarding sorcery, the Bible will record various accounts of usage of the occult (the implication here) and usually attribute the work to demonic power.  It does not shy away from saying that there are no other spiritual powers that can be used, only that God is superior to them.

Q.  I don’t see a point to any of this story yet.  Am I missing something, or do we just need to wait?

A. Deliverance is the point of the story, so hang in there for that.

For further study: The skinny on pharaohs: https://www.historyhit.com/facts-about-the-pharaohs-of-ancient-egypt/

Tomorrow’s reading:Exodus 7:14-9:35

Shop: Live for the Lord, not anything else, and you will find peace with everyone : )

Jacob gives blessing

Day 18 (Jan. 18): Jacob gives blessings to descendants, Jacob foretells future of sons, Jacob dies, Joseph reassures brothers, Joseph dies

The Jewish Museum / A gift of the heirs of Jacob Schiff

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 47:28-50:26
(1875-1859 BC) Click here for a timeline of the whole Bible.

Questions & Observations

Q. (47:28): There is about a 140-year discrepancy when this story took place?  Can you explain anything about how scientists have a hard time pinning down the dates?

A. I am honestly surprised that they can even make the two estimates that they have.  I feel that the dates they suggest are a bit too specific for my taste, mostly because you are talking about a period that was more than 3,500 years ago.

Here’s how it breaks down: we have some dating and archeological evidence for the united kingdom of Israel (which was ruled by Saul, David, and Solomon — recorded in 1 and 2 Samuel) that exists somewhere around 1000 BC.  The OT tells us that each of these men ruled for 40 years each, so there is a 120 year period (roughly) of united leadership before the nation fractures and falls apart after Solomon’s death (recorded in 1 and 2 Kings and Chronicles).  So basically, from there, scientists (this would include archeologists, but also linguists and other fields of study) have to work their way back to the previous events as presented in the OT (there are some scholars who doubt the authenticity of most of the writings that predate David’s kingdom, so that option is “on the table” too, though I think these scholars are TOO skeptical).

Working our way back, the OT (mostly Joshua) tells us that Joshua and the armies conquered Canaan after 10 years or so, and that the Israelites were in the desert 40 years, and in Egypt around 400 years.  So now we are back 450 years from around 1000 BC (so somewhere around 1450 or 1500 BC — you see we’ve already got a “rough” date for anything further back).  From there, you can work your way back using different versions of the ages of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, but you’re really only going to be able to estimate the dates from there.  The two numbers that you see probably represent a more “conservative” and more “liberal” dating of the event in question.  It’s at least partially guess work: that’s the best we can do.

Q. (47:29): I think we saw this practice somewhere else for making an oath.  What is the significance of a hand under the thigh?

A. Um….Hum.  See, here’s the thing, when the Bible speaks of the hand “under the thigh”, that’s not really an accurate translation — it means grasping something, uh, near the thigh on a man.  (We saw this once before with Abraham’s servant who went find Isaac a wife)  Basically, by grasping the object in question, the person swearing the oath is basically swearing on the family line.  (Isn’t Bible knowledge fun!)

Q.  (48:3) Can we talk about blessings?  We have read where God blesses people, Jacob got the blessing from Abraham before he died.  Abraham blessed Joseph and his sons in 49:15-16, which is a beautiful tribute from Abraham to God for all He has done for him.  This may sound like a silly question, but what is the nature of a blessing?  Do all blessings come from God?  Are they a hope, or something definite?  Today, we say we have many blessings.  The noun form is easy to understand, it just means all of the goodness around.  But, when someone says, “May God bless you,” do we have the right to say that?  I don’t feel that anyone can speak on God’s behalf.  Or, is it a request to God?

A. In the ancient world, it was understood that rulers and patriarchs had a power that extended beyond their physical power: the ability to bless and curse.  It was thought that the gods (or God in this case) was especially receptive to a dying patriarch’s wishes for his children or others that he wished to pass his “blessing” on to.  So in our case, the blessing is something of a request to God (not a promise God makes if you will), but we could most clearly think of it as something of a magical pronouncement that had the power to accomplish what the speaker requested, whether for good (blessing) or evil (curse).  This is why it is such an important part of the story of say Isaac and Jacob and Esau, or Jacob and Joseph in this case.

O. (48:19): Like Jacob himself was chosen by God instead of his older brother for his father Abraham’s blessing, Jacob says that Joseph’s younger son, Ephraim, will be blessed more than his older brother, Manasseh.  As we have seen before, birth order does not seem to be important to God.

Q. (49:7): We talked about blessings.  Let’s talk about curses.  Is Jacob speaking for God here?  Does cursing end the men’s bad behavior or say it will cause their ruin?

A. The curses here are the result of Simeon and Levi’s violent actions in avenging their sister (which was allowable, but didn’t exactly help Jacob’s reputation), as well as some other violence that we are not privy to.  While Jacob’s curse did not cause the ruin of Simeon and Levi’s descendants, they did come true.  In the book of Joshua, the land is divided up by casting lots, and the blessings or curses that are mentioned here seem to have their “pay off” in that story.  Simeon’s descendants are chosen by lot (basically seen as God’s will) to receive land within Judah’s allotment — reducing the prominence of his tribe despite being one of the oldest sons.  Levi’s descendants had a central role in the religious life of Israel: they became the priesthood.  But because of this central religious role, the tribe of Levi received no land to themselves, and were dispersed among the other 11 tribes.  Thus, we see how the curse comes to fruition: both Simeon and Levi’s descendants see themselves dispersed among the other tribes and lose their political power.

Q. (49:10) This is getting exciting.  Here we see that “the one it to whom it belongs, the one whom all nations will honor” is Jesus Christ?  So, Judah’s descendants will rule the Israelites until their No. 1 descendant arrives, Jesus?  Am I reading this right or totally off base?

A. Well, you’ve read it correctly, but it’s a bit more complicated than that.  What Jacob is saying here is that the line of kings will come from Judah’s line — this is, kingship will be the most important contribution of this line.  There’s at least one little hiccup: Saul, the first king of Israel, is not of Judah’s line, for reasons that will become clear sometime down the road (it’s not worth going into now).  But after him, David and his descendants will mostly rule (I’m not sure of the exact pedigree), but as you get further and further from David and Solomon, the line becomes corrupt, and before the destruction of Jerusalem (way way way down the line), God declares in Jeremiah 22 that a descendent of David (via Solomon) will no longer sit on the throne, so the family was cut off.  This was the last king that Israel would have (around 580 BC) before Jesus came to rule.  So, there was a period of almost 600 where Israel had NO king before Jesus (who was a king in a different sense anyway), but up until that point, the line of David was (almost) always in the picture, even if they became corrupt.

Q.  (49:1-28): Oh, where to start on this one?  Can you tell us what we need to take from Jacob’s blessings to his sons?

A. As I’ve been mentioning, some of this information will come into play during the land distribution in Joshua, and I think it will be mostly clear then.  Two things come into play here: Reuben (as firstborn) should be entitled to the “best” blessing, but he screwed up (no pun intended) and got passed over.  We’ve already discussed Simeon and Levi.  The big “winners” in this are Judah (which we discussed), Joseph (it doesn’t say it here, but Joseph’s two sons that Jacob blesses get the inheritance meant for Joseph — one of them gets Levi’s place so the math still comes out to 12), and Benjamin (who gets a good blessing despite being the youngest).  I don’t think there is much else to discuss here for the other sons, but if we come across something later that references that section, I will mention it.

O. (49:29-32): Jacob must have been saddened that he was not able to bury Rachel in the cave with his father, grandfather and Leah since she died alongside the road.

O. (49:33): I picture Jacob here so relaxed.  He has seen his son Jacob that he thought was dead, he has seen Jacob’s sons, the ones that will carry on the blessing, he has given his blessing, and he has nothing left.  This reminds me when my grandma passed.  I was fortunate to be with her when she left.  She was 96, a devout Christian and had a fairly healthy life.  She was lying there, taking long, slow breaths with the help of an oxygen mask.  We were the only two in the room … that I could see.  She kept trying to take off her oxygen, but I kept putting it back on and she would take another deep breath like she had just come up from being under water. She had her eyes shut, but she still knew what she was doing.  She wanted the mask off!  It was late.  I had flown overseas to see her.  I finally nodded off and she had pulled the mask aside again.  I stirred and tried to put it back on her, but she had gone.  She looked so peaceful.  My neighbor said that when his dad died, the ones around could see him going through judgment.  His dad was talking to someone.  He said, “Wait, they’ve got some questions for me.”  Then, he said, “OK, I can cross now.”  Then he said when his mom went through judgment, it was terrifying.  That’s not a great note to end on, so does anyone else have a story they would like to share of witnessing someone going to heaven?

Q. (50:16-17): This is a lie?  I don’t remember anyone ever telling Jacob the truth about his brothers selling Joseph into slavery.  Is the important part here Joseph’s recognition that it was God’s work?

A. Yep, the fellas are lying to try and protect themselves, but it doesn’t matter.  Joseph has forgiven them and seen the way that God worked everything out.

Q.  Do we know anything outside of what the Bible says about Joseph’s death?  He was the second to youngest, yet his older brothers outlived him?

A. The story doesn’t indicate how many brothers were still alive, but it appears that at least some of them outlived him.  We have no record of any sort about Joseph or his brothers in Egypt as far as I know outside of the Old Testament.

O. (50:24) I have spoken of this before, but I think it’s worth highlighting again.  It almost feels like God did not have the outward relationship with Joseph as he did with Isaac and Abraham.  Here he says, “God will surely come to help you …” which sounds like there is a hint of a doubt.  It seems that he is passing this message down from what his father had been told by God.  We never hear God talking directly to Joseph, only in his ability to interpret dreams.  But, obviously, Joseph was filled with the Spirit.  To me this just goes to show that the relationship God has with one person can appear different than any other relationship.  We should not compare how others revere Him, just be happy they know God and you know God in your own special way.  We all have different gifts!

For further interest: Blessings may be a little different than you think: https://hebraicthought.org/what-is-a-blessing-in-scripture/

Shop: Both Jacob and Joseph had some unrighteous moments, they learned from them and turned to Live for the Lord.  This super comfortable T-shirt design reminds us to do just that. https://livinlight.org/product/live-for-the-lord/

Tomorrow’s reading: Job 1:1-4:21

Jacob moves to Egypt. Joseph prepared his chariot and went up to Goshen to meet his father Israel; as soon as he appeared before him, he fell on his neck and wept on his neck a long time. Then Jacob said to Joseph, ‘Now let me die, since I have seen your face, that you are still alive.’

Day 17 (Jan. 17): Jacob’s good news, Jacob’s family moves to Egypt, Jacob and Joseph reunite, Jacob blesses Pharaoh, famine is devastating

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
Genesis 45:16-47:27
(1875 BC) Click here for a timeline of the whole Bible.

Questions & Observations

Q. (46:1): Why does Jacob say “the God of my father Isaac.”  Why doesn’t he just say “my God.”  Likewise, God identifies himself as God of Jacob’s father.”

A. Good question.  Perhaps in referring to God as the God of his father, he is showing reverence for both God and his father.  In this section of the Bible, we see very little usage of the phrase “my God”; God is almost always referred to as the God of those who have come before (usually Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but sometimes just Abraham).  Again, this might be a reverence thing, a way of saying “you are too big to be ‘my’ God” but I am honestly not certain.

Q. (46:34): Why do Egyptians despise shepherds?  In an earlier reading, we also learned that Egyptians despised Hebrews.  Why?

A. The story doesn’t tell us, but the theories I read about said that it is because sheep are destructive (and messy) and that shepherds were unclean and uncivilized.  They also may have had a religious objection.  There’s also a theory that nomadic shepherds had invaded them in the past, but there’s not much evidence for that.  Regarding why they hate the Hebrews specifically, since the Hebrews don’t have any kingdom to make them a “rival”, I suspect it is the same reason: the Hebrews kept flocks, and that made them despised.

Q. (47:6-7): We know that Egyptians don’t like Hebrews, so is Pharaoh being kind to Joseph and his family just because of his respect for Joseph?  Why does Jacob bless Pharaoh?

A. I think Pharaoh’s gratitude to Joseph for saving his kingdom during the famine is what carries over to Joseph’s family.  I believe that Jacob blessed Pharaoh to show gratitude for keeping his son alive and giving him so much wealth.

Q. (47:13): Here it says that all the food was gone, but the following verses tell how the people still managed to obtain food from Pharaoh’s storehouses.  Are Joseph and Pharaoh being completely honest with controlling the food?  The Bible says that Joseph collected grain during the bumper crop years, but it doesn’t say Pharaoh paid them for it.

A. I wouldn’t assume there was any funny business here.  Perhaps what the story means is that the individuals ran out of their own supplies and had to turn to Pharaoh’s storehouse, exactly as Joseph predicted they would need to.  It appears that the Egyptians were willing to give up the rights to their livestock and property in exchange for their survival.  The story never told us that Pharaoh (or Joseph) would be fair in the distribution.  The major thing that the story wants us to know is that Joseph’s family became extremely wealthy and prospered, which is what God told Jacob would happen in Egypt.

Q. (47:22) The priests did not have to pay for the food.  Is this fair?  Did Pharaoh have that much respect for God’s leaders?  Pharaoh seemed to notice how God blessed His followers, yet we do not know if he believed in God?

A. The story is not talking about Israelite priests, it means the priests of the cult worship in Egypt.  There were no priests in Israel yet: they are not introduced until Exodus.

Regarding Pharaoh’s benefit from God without belief in Him, that might be a byproduct of the polytheistic world he lived in.  One of the principles of polytheism is that there might be more gods out there, and (more importantly) that each of these gods had a “territory” with the nation or kingdom or people who worshipped them.  So Pharaoh was probably perfectly willing to accept the Hebrew God as part of the pantheon of gods he knew about, and was willing to benefit from Him.

For further study: Polytheism — the belief in multiple God’s is addressed in the Bible so much because it was such a huge issue. https://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2013/02/polytheism-in-the-bible/

Shop: Feeling lost or uncertain?  Look up!  Seek God in all of your decisions. Wisdom comes from above!

Tomorrow’s reading: Genesis 47:28-50:26

The brothers return for more grain and take Benjamin with them. They bow before him before Joseph reveals his identity. Isaac is taken down to Egypt for a reunion with Joseph.

Day 16 (Jan. 16): Joseph’s brothers go to Egypt twice, brothers feast at the palace, silver cup trick, Judah pleads with Joseph, Joseph reveals identity

Wycliffe BibleTranslators of Russia

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 42-45:15
(1875 BC) Click here for a timeline of the whole Bible.

Questions & Observations

Q. (42:9): Joseph sees his dreams come true.  Are we to believe that this just happened, that Joseph can see into the future or that God made it happen?  In Gen. 45:5, Joseph said that it was God who sent him to Egypt to save his family.

A. My interpretation would be that God was telling Joseph in the vision that he would be the leader of his family, and that his power would rise even above his father Jacob (the sun in Joseph’s dream).  It was God that provided the vision to Joseph, but it was unclear exactly HOW this would come about.  God’s actions, especially providing Joseph with the interpretation of dreams that he could not have known otherwise, certainly points to God being involved in the process, but you can decide for yourself if God “made it happen” in the deterministic sense.

Q/O. (42:14): I see a common scenario thus far in the Bible of schemes for the purpose of assessing loyalty, honor and love.  1) In the Garden, the serpent tempts Eve and Adam to see if they are following God’s commands.  Adam and Eve fail and lose their cushy lifestyle.  2) God tests Abraham’s loyalty by asking him to sacrifice Isaac, his only son.  Abraham is rewarded with a blessing that he is the father of many and through his descendants, all nations will be blessed.  3) Jacob’s loyalty to God is tested when he is tricked by Laban and has to put up with Laban’s cruelty.  Jacob remains true to God, giving Him the credit for his fortune.  4) Jacob tests his father-in-law with his spotted goats and sheep. Laban tries to trick Jacob, but it backfires on him.  He fails the test. Jacob outwits him and prospers.  5) Joseph tests his brothers compassion by planting a silver cup in Benjamin’s bag and accusing him of stealing.  Joseph wins his brothers back.  There are obvious reasons for these tests of love and loyalty.  These tests seem necessary to set wrongs right or weed out the bad apples.  God has apparently administered some of these tests himself and allows others to test on his behalf.  Who tests us — God, the devil or both?

A. Let me start by saying that you have asked a complicated question that does not have a single concrete answer.  In James 1:13, James tells us that God does not tempt anyone to evil, at least directly.  But it is quite clear in the information you have assembled that God DOES allow testing of our hearts, in the examples that you cite, and even in the life of Jesus who was led by the Spirit into the wilderness specifically to BE TESTED by Satan (in Matthew 4).  So scripture does show that God is willing to put us to the test in order to prove (to ourselves and those around us) that our faith is genuine and not easily cast aside.  We will see more examples of the temptation God allows in Job (our next reading) and Exodus.

O. (42:21): Joseph’s brothers feeling that they are suffering the consequences of mistreating their brother reminds me of “an eye for an eye …” Exodus 21:24.

O. (42:32): This verse shows the class inferiority between the Egyptians and Joseph’s brothers.  It’s interesting whom God chooses to carry out his work, not the most famous or rich, but more often, the humble.

Q. (43:37): Jacob’s sons from Leah are not his favored sons.  We know that this troubles the brothers.  But, yet, here they change their attitude and promise to protect the one known surviving favored son.  Can you give us some insight on why they changed?

A. I think that they are changed men, but their resolve to protect Benjamin comes down to their love for their father.  The story seems to imply that the brothers feel that if they return to Jacob without Benjamin, Jacob will die of a broken heart, having lost both of the sons he cares most about.  It would appear that, besides Reuben who obviously thought the whole idea was a bad one, the other brothers came to regret their decision, and they probably DID assume that Joseph was dead- in that regard they told the truth as they understood it.

Q. Also, we talked in an earlier day’s readings about how Joseph was sold as a slave because of his bragging about his dreams.  Potiphar noticed God’s presence in Joseph, so when was his turning point to follow God?

A. It appears being sold into slavery was Joseph’s turning point as well.  While the text does not state it, it appears that slavery humbles him and helps him to focus on God.  Since he is a slave, Joseph is “stuck” in his service to Potiphar (and later the jailer), but rather than be bitter about his downfall, Joseph trusts that God will restore him.

Q. (44:15) Was Joseph a prophet?

A. In the sense of being able to see the future?  Sort of.  Don’t forget, the story told us that the only vision that was actually Joseph’s was the one of his family bowing down to him.  The rest of the visions and dreams have been from other people (the baker, cupbearer, and Pharaoh).  So I would be hard pressed to declare Joseph a prophet.  In the particular verse in question, it almost appears that Joseph is just using bluster to intimidate his brothers.  He can’t really see how things are in the future, he’s just bragging to them.

The other thing that is worth mentioning is our understanding of the word “prophet”.  The word has a very particular meaning to Jewish readership in particular.  The Prophets (capital P) were a particular group of individuals whose were give a particular vision by God: to call His people back into right relationship with Him.  Prophecy is not just about predicting the future, but rather about calling for people to repent and return to the ways they know to be true but are not following.  The “future” aspect of prophecy works in two ways: the prophet will warn about what happens if the people fail to repent (Jeremiah is the poster boy of this), and the other way prophecy works is in more the sense we are used to seeing.  A prophet such as Isaiah will talk about a day in the future when God will act in a particular way to restore things that have gone wrong (the result of the people failing to repent).  Basically, prophesies such as those about Jesus are about the way that God will restore things to rights, and not abandon His people.  So in this definition, I would say we can clearly see that Joseph is not a prophet in the sense that the Bible defines it.

Q.  (37:7) I’m backing up here to address something I forgot in Day 14.  I have never appreciated egoism.  Personally, I would have sided with the brothers.  This conflict seems to work in God’s favor in the long run, but he hasn’t purposely set it up like this, right?  He just knows how it will turn out.  I’m trying to accept that God doesn’t control people, he just knows what they are going to do.  In this story of Joseph and his brothers, it’s hard not to think God is making conflict for his own purposes, especially when Joseph said that God made it all happen to save their lives (45:5).

A. This is a pretty complicated story, and it can be hard to sort out exactly what God is doing with these men.  As I mentioned a couple of days ago, it is important to understand that without Joseph in Egypt, the family probably starves.  Now having said that, you are touching upon one of the most important issues that the Bible wrestles with: what role does God play in our destiny (if any)?  I can tell you honestly that its not going to get any easier, as both Exodus and Job both discuss this issue in complicated ways.  So buckle up, we’ve got a ways to go.

My response to the issue of God “setting up” the situation for the brothers is one where I would disagree.  The mindset that I bring to complicated scriptures like this one (and others such as the crucifixion, by the way) is to say God did not cause people to do evil things.  God did gift Joseph with visions of the future, but He did NOT make Joseph arrogant and desire to brag about his visions to his father and brothers.  God certainly did not make Joseph’s brothers desire to kill him, and then settle on selling him into slavery.  But God may have provided a way of protecting Joseph: He may have made it so that the caravan that Joseph was sold to pass at just the right moment to keep his brothers from killing him (since slavery is vastly preferable to being dead).  In the end, Joseph being in Egypt allows his brothers the chance to find forgiveness, after everyone (including Joseph) has been punished for their sins.  So basically, did God cause the situations in this story?  I would say no (though I think there would be some who would disagree with me).  But God did bring salvation to the family THROUGH the terrible actions of Joseph and his brothers.

This is foreshadowing of the cross itself and the sacrifice of Christ (Joseph being the Christ figure).  Did God make Judas betray, Caiaphas accuse, and Pilate condemn?  No.   The crucifixion was the darkest moment in human history: the one man in the entire world who was truly innocent of sin was tortured and brutally killed in our place.  Yet that moment was necessary for the restoration of God and man.  Out of that moment of darkness, God brought light three days later.  The darkness of the crucifixion changed everything.  God took the worst of who we are, our jealousy, our fear, and our willingness to kill, and used it to bring about the salvation of the entire world.  That is the true power of God’s grace: not to cause evil, but to bring goodness through it.

For further interest
More on biblical famine: https://theconversation.com/famine-in-the-bible-is-more-than-a-curse-it-is-a-signal-of-change-and-a-chance-for-a-new-beginning-152288

Shop: Jacob’s children — Joseph and his brothers — offer so many examples of sour states of mind that are timeless: we experience them today just like they did more than 3,500 years ago.  Help yourself get out of negative spiraling of your thoughts with Livin’ Lights “All Good Thoughts” shirt, the Good Life shirt or maybe if you are holding resentment, Forgive 490.

Tomorrow’s reading: Genesis 45:16-47:27

Then Pharaoh removed his signet ring from his hand and placed it on Joseph’s finger. He dressed him in fine linen clothing and hung a gold chain around his neck.

Day 15 (Jan. 15): Joseph interprets dreams, Pharaoh makes Joseph second in command of Egypt

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 days’ reading, Leigh An Coplin, the blog host, shares observations and poses questions about confusing 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 Blogs and select 365 Daily Bible Readings. 

Today’s Reading
Genesis 40
Genesis 35:28-29
Genesis 41
(1887-1886 BC) Click here for a timeline of the whole Bible.

Questions & Observations

Q. (40:9): Does “3” symbolize anything in today’s reading?  It happened three times: cup-bearer’s vine, baker’s boxes, days to Pharoah’s birthday.

A. Things repeated three times are for emphasis.  The author really wants you to pay attention to the details of the story he is telling in order for you to see the confirmation that Joseph is right.  Events happening on the third day are symbolic of completion.

Q. (40:19): Why the two different outcomes for the cup-bearer and the baker?

A. The will of Pharaoh, who had the power to restore or execute anyone that he saw fit.  The story does not tell us why Pharaoh chose to restore one and (brutally) execute the other, only that they had angered him.  Another reason the story tells us this detail is to help the cup bearer (and the audience) see that Joseph has correctly interpreted BOTH dreams, and he did not sugar coat the baker’s fate.  Joseph would have no fear in telling Pharaoh the bad news of the upcoming famine and what to do about it.

Q. (41:2): Does 7’s symbolism of completeness and fulfillment apply here?

A.  It does indeed, especially since the dream is a prophecy of sorts, a warning to Egypt of what God is going to do.

Q. (41:44) Is there significance in Joseph rising from the prison to be second in charge of Egypt?

A. God appears to be rewarding Joseph for his faithful “time served”.  God desired to have Joseph be in this position of power so that he could save many who would have otherwise starved, including Joseph’s own family as we shall see.  Note also that this is the way that God is going to bring true the dream Joseph had about his ruling over his family.

O. (41:56): I can’t help but also think of the times in the Bible where the Lord provides food, like He did here working through Joseph: He gives manna and pheasant to the Israelites as they followed God throughout the desert; Jesus feeds the 5,000 as we will see in the New Testament, He also turns water into wine at a wedding.  He provides what we need, when we need it, if we follow Him.

For more insight
— Joseph’s rise to greatness required a gigantic dose of patience: https://www.theologyofwork.org/old-testament/genesis-12-50-and-work/joseph-genesis-372-5026/josephs-promotion-by-pharaoh-genesis-411-45/
— Acknowledging God’s timeline: https://leadersgolast.com/the-story-of-joseph-in-the-bible-the-patient-leader/

Shop: Wisdom comes from above! https://livinlight.org/product/wise-owl-t-shirt/

Tomorrow’s reading: Genesis 42-45:15