Moses repeats laws to Israelites

Day 74 (March 15): Moses reviews Ten Commandments, on mountain with God, urges to love and obey God, God orders places for worship in each tribe

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 10-12
(1406 BC) Click here for a timeline of the whole Bible.

Questions & Observations

Q. (Deuteronomy 10:17): What does it mean here when it says “For the Lord your God is the God of gods and Lord of lords?”  I remember talking about other gods in Egypt when Pharaoh’s magicians came out to try to replicate Moses’ and Aaron’s miracles in the answers on the reading of Day 33 (Feb. 2).  Here, Moses implies that there are other powers.  We know God created the Earth, so He would have had to create these other powers also?

A. The traditional Christian understanding of these other “gods” is that they are demonic powers.  That is, they were angelic beings created perfectly by God to serve Him, but they chose to rebel with their master Satan, sometime before the creation of people.  That’s the best guess we can reach from the record of Scripture, which frankly has little interest in telling us the origin story of these other powers.  The primary thing to remember is that God is above them all!

Q. Why is most of this repeating Scripture we have already read, almost verbatim.  Did Moses write down the same thing twice, knowing it would all go into one book?

A. Don’t forget that repetition in an ancient text was a form of emphasis.   Moses appears really determined to make sure his points are coming across clearly, so there is no reason to assume that he didn’t intentionally repeat himself in order to make the people clearly understand his point.  It will continue this way.  We will, for example, come back to the choice between blessing and curse again.  That’s the way it goes with this text.

Q. (12:15): God is cutting them some slack here?  They don’t have to be ceremonially clean or are they not directed to a certain place to eat the meat.  Why the change?  Is this because they are at Canaan and are defeating people and will have no longer have anyone from whom to be “set apart”?

A. I am not completely sure (my notes didn’t say much about this section), but I think what God is saying here is that the people were free to butcher their own animals, for the purpose of eating, in their own hometowns.  It’s not saying that the rules for sacrifices were changed; it is simply providing some guidance for the people to keep, and eat, from their own herds.  They didn’t have to bring animals to the Tabernacle if they were simply going to eat it, rather than kill it to make a sacrifice.  This doesn’t make any changes to the sacrifice system.

O. (12:23): Here is the blood discussion again.  We have talked about this in the answers on Day 49 (Feb. 18).  It’s a good discussion.

Shop: We are so fortunate to have God’s grace!  We are to forgive like we have been forgiven, roughly 490 times. https://livinlight.org/product/490/

Tomorrow’s reading: Deuteronomy 13:1-16:17

Israel's land divided Map of Israel's land divisions by tribe.

Day 70 (March 11): God defines Israel’s borders, Leaders divide land, Levites given own towns, cities of refuge, retaining land rights

BibleOdyssey.org / FreeBibleimages.org
The shaded areas in this map represent the 12 tribal territories. Levi did not receive land and the territory of Joseph was divided between his two sons. The cities included in the map are mentioned in the Bible as important during the pre-monarchic period, and many of them were used to define boundaries between tribes.

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
Numbers 34-36
(1407 BC) Click here for a timeline of the whole Bible.

Questions & Observations

Q. (Numbers 34:1-15): I found a good map of the land division of Canaan.  Go to: http://www.bible-history.com/geography/maps/map_canaan_tribal_portions.html.  Rob, the land perimeter of current-day Israel looks a little smaller than the time frame we are reading about in Numbers.  It looks like Jordan has taken over where the tribes of Reuben, Gad and half of Manasseh resided.  Is this because it wasn’t officially Canaan?

A. Hum.  You’ve asked a complicated question.  I don’t know exactly how the borders were created in present day Israel, but I suspect it had little to do with the divisions that you see here, and what was or was not “Canaan” at the time.

I would be very careful about drawing parallels between the two nations, since Numbers informs us that God devised the borders you see in the picture above, and the modern nation of Israel was born out of (rightly noble) human endeavor to create a new home of for displaced European Jews.  And though the Jews remain very clearly God’s chosen people, I have deep concerns about thinking of the modern nation is anything other than a human state.  This is at least partly because in order to create this new nation, the powers (mostly Britain) who formed Israel in the 1940s did so by driving out (or sadly, encamping) the people who lived there, including many Arab Christians.  Many Palestinians remain in those camps to this day.  One of the saddest ironies of the creation of Israel is the number of people who were oppressed to do so.  There was very little of it that honored God in my mind.

Q. (35:1-8): So the Levites will still live among the tribes, but in their own towns in the tribe’s area?

A. You got it, if by “tribe’s” you mean the other 12’s territory.  The Levites were given small towns to live in amongst the other tribes in order to facilitate the Law with the various tribes.

Q. (35:11): It seems like there are more “accidental” deaths spoken of in the Bible than today.

A. The main reason for this was for a person to avoid being killed by a family avenger, who was seeking to apply “a life for a life”.  Honestly, I think part of the reason for this is that killing a person accidentally in our country is no longer a death sentence, as it would have most likely been during this time.  Though there certainly are penalties, such as the charge of manslaughter, a person who accidentally kills someone does not have to worry (usually!) about that person’s family coming to kill you.  I think that is part of the reason we focus less on the concerns about accidental death.

Q. (35:25): Why would the death of a high priest signal that it was OK for a slayer (by accident) to not be threatened by an avenger?

A. While it is not certain, it appears that the text is implying that the death of the high priest makes an atonement for those who have committed accidental manslaughter.  You can read more about cities of refuge, which will be established in Joshua 20, here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cities_of_Refuge

O. (36:5-9): God’s wisdom is amazing!

For further study: Maps of Levitical cities and cities of refuge
https://www.foundationsforfreedom.net/References/OT/Historical/Joshua/Joshua13-24/Joshua21.8-42_Special%20Service.html
— Clear map of the cities of refuge: https://inspiredscripture.com/bible-studies/numbers-35#gsc.tab=0

Shop: God is our refuge!  In Him, we can have a good life!  https://livinlight.org/product/overflow-t-shirt/

Tomorrow’s reading: Deuteronomy 1-3:20

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

Esau and Jacob parted ways to give more resources to their people and livestock.

Day 13 (Jan. 13): Esau’s descendants, Edom’s origins, Edom’s rulers, Israel’s descendants

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
— Genesis 36:1-19
1 Chronicles 1:35-37
— Genesis 36:20-30
— 1 Chronicles 1:38-42
— Genesis 36:31-43
— 1 Chronicles 1:43-2:2
(1906 BC) Click here for a timeline of the whole Bible.

Questions & Observations

Q. What significance is there in letting the readers know the lines of Esau?

A. It appears that the writer wants us to know that the descendants of Esau aligned themselves with the various tribes in the land of Canaan, the land promised by God to the descendants of Jacob.  It appears that the rivalry the began with Jacob and Esau would continue for many generations (watch for the word Edomites, which is the most common name for Esau’s family).  Various later sections of the Old Testament list Edom as one of the greatest rivals and enemies of Israel.  So what the writer wants us to bear in mind is that these enemies tribes of Israel trace their origins and alignment to the rival of one of their founding fathers: Jacob and his brother Esau.

Q.  With some exceptions, it appears that the Bible usually traces ancestry through the men.  Are women viewed less important?

A. Yep. The Bible definitely prioritizes men over women, as did the larger world it was written in.  Though there are a few women who “make the cut” as being mentioned (Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel and Leah, Miriam, Rahab, Deborah, Ruth, Naomi, Esther is a fairly complete list, Mary), it is mostly the lines of men that are traced by the story.

Q.  (36:12) Esau’s son had a concubine.  How were concubine’s viewed?  One of God’s commandments is, “Thou shall not commit adultery.”  Of course, as humans surrounded by temptation, all of God’s commandments were not followed.  But, is a man having one wife something that gets decreed later?

A. Concubinage is something the Bible discusses (and does not necessarily approve of), and it is something of a different category from adultery.  We might think of it like this: a powerful ruling man (a king or ruling person such as in this case) already has a wife, but he has the wealth to take on other women and be in relationship with them (with the wife’s knowledge — this isn’t the man sneaking around).  Especially if the other women are of a different class (many concubines were from lower class families or were even servants or slaves), rather than marry her (he already had a wife), he would make her something like a “lower wife” or concubine.  Basically, it was a way for the man to control a greater number of women (and the children they produced — something important to keep in mind) without “technically” violating his marriage vows.  We will see this come into play as Israel establishes its own line of kings in later OT books.

Q. (36:15): Can you describe a “clan”?  How big are they?  Does it have the same meaning as “nation”?  Do they let others in?

A. I tried to find some good material on this, and honestly didn’t come up with a whole lot.  Clan size could very greatly, especially since it would have involved servants or other “extra” members (who weren’t technically family) in the count.  If a clan got big enough to have a particular ruler, it could be considered a kingdom.  Usually, kingdoms referred to locations (the kingdom of Jerusalem, or Babylon, etc.) and territory, rather than family (where clan would be rightly used).

Q. (1 Chronicles 1: 35-37): Why does the Bible repeat these descendant stories?  Who wrote 1 and 2 Chronicles?

A. Yes, the Bible frequently repeats stories of many sorts, including genealogies.  Part of the reason for this was that there were various materials circulating among the various tribes before what we know as the OT was assembled (which happened in fairly modern times).  Since it was so important for a family to be able to trace its roots, it is unsurprising that genealogies were frequently presented.

We don’t know exactly who wrote 1 and 2 Chronicles, but we do know that they were written much later than most of the other works of the OT (one of the last books written along with Malachi).  Chronicles (its only one book in Jewish Bibles- though the material is the same) was written to teach the history of the Jews to the people in the post exile period when Jerusalem was being rebuilt.  It was written as a way for the Israelite people who lived around 500 BC (give or take a few hundred years) to connect with their history.  As such, there are frequently places where Chronicles tells us a story that we have already “heard” elsewhere.

Q. (Gen. 36: 31): So there were kings ruling over the clans of Jacob, the clans of Esau and other groups — the whole Canaan area?  Do we need to know what was going on around these areas at the time?

A. The entire land of Canaan was under the control of various tribes, and this continued even when the Israelites return to the land several hundred years later.  This does not mean that these kings controlled everything, it is clear from the story that Jacob and his sons did not serve a king, they were powerful enough to be in charge of their own area.  So Jacob’s family controls its own territory.  But the story is telling us that some of the clans the Israelites will deal with when they return to Canaan from Egypt will trace their roots to Jacob’s brother Esau.

For more insight:
— Edom in a nutshell: https://m.bibleodyssey.org/articles/edom/
— Map of Edom and Israel: https://endtimebible.com/maps/edom/
— All of this ancestry may seem boring, but God gives it to us to prove his credibility.  He gives us so much evidence that He is real.  More at https://livinlight.org/blog/dispelling-doubts-of-christianity/

Tomorrow’s reading: Genesis 37:1-38:30; 1 Chronicles 2:3-6,8; Genesis 39:1-23

Jacob wrestles with the Angel of the Lord all night. The Angel blesses him and names him Israel.

Day 12 (Jan. 12): Jacob returns home, faces Esau, wrestles God, becomes “Israel”, peace with Esau, revenge at Shechem, Rachel and Isaac die, 12 sons

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
Genesis 32-35:27
(1906 BC) Click here for a timeline of the whole Bible.

Questions & Observations

Q. (32:22, 30): Why did God and Jacob wrestle?  How did he know the man was God?

A. The story tells us that Jacob has been struggling against God and men his entire life (his father, his brother, his uncle, etc.) but in the end he conquered each of them.  The timing of the event is crucial to recognize: Jacob is leaving his confrontations with Laban, and about to confront Esau, but it is at this moment that the person who Jacob has struggled most with appears: God Himself.  (There are some who think that Jacob is wresting with an angel of God, though as we established the angel would have basically been seen as the same thing as God Himself).  God wanted more than Jacob’s worship and acknowledgement, He wanted Jacob’s heart, and this is the way that He wins it.

While it is not directly stated that the man is God (or an angel), verses 28 and 30 point to this reality.  In case it is not directly stated by the text (some translations do), the word Israel (the name for the entire nation in the Old Testament) means “wrestles with God.”  We shall indeed see what an appropriate title this is.

O. (33: 4): The differences between siblings can be night and day to where they want to be worlds away from one another.  Yet, when they have been apart for some time, their differences go by the wayside and their love for one another takes over.  This happened between my sister and I when she went away to college.  She purposely did things to annoy me … I’m sure for good reasons.  But, once she left for college and I had my own space, we became much closer.  Can anyone relate to the Jacob and Esau reunion?  Or, have you had a different experience?

O. (33:10): This reminds me of when we go out to eat with the family: It’s always a race to pay the bill.

Q. (33:16): Why did Jacob not follow Esau to Seir?

A. Honestly, my suspicion is that he still didn’t trust his brother, and therefore wanted to put a little distance between himself and Esau.

Q. (34:15):  This is an intense scene.  I am glad that Jacob stood up for his daughter.  It was quite a trick to have them agree to be circumcised, then when they are still healing from the procedure, Jacob’s family attacked.  If this hadn’t been a trick, God would not have supported the agreement, right?  Doesn’t God have to be the one who chooses the people to bear the sign of His chosen?

A. Circumcision was one of the most important rules of the Law.  And indeed, there are sections of the Law that describe the procedures for admitting alien people (usually slaves, an entirely different topic) into the “house” of Israel.  The simplest rule: if you weren’t circumcised, you weren’t part of the tribe.  Actually, marriage, the reason for this little event, was the major way that people could join the tribe of Israel (think of people like Ruth).  There were particular rules about which other tribes were not to be admitted (we will see these later), but generally, there were some routes for a people of various other tribes to “join up” in certain circumstances.

Q. (35:1) Bethel is where Jacob spent the first night on his journey to Laban’s, right?  Bethel means House of God.  Does this place have long-term significance or importance in the future?

A. That’s the one, where Jacob saw the ladder.  Bethel does not appear to play a major role in the future of the nation of Israel.  The town is mentioned throughout the territorial sections (land distribution in the book of Joshua after the land is conquered) and Bethel is given to one of Joseph’s sons named Ephraim.  It did gain one infamous role: it became the center of cult worship in the Northern Kingdom (this is way in the “future” of the story, if you will) after the death of King Solomon.  So in the era of 1 and 2 Kings, it would have been known, but not in a good way.

Q. (35:5): Any idea what the terror was?  It would be so awesome to see God’s power like that.  Do you think it happens today, like in earthquakes, floods, etc.?

A. It would be tough to guess what God exactly did to make the people afraid.  Usually if it is a natural disaster, the text will say so, so this might have been something more psychological.  Whether one sees the power of God displayed in earthquakes and floods is one of the toughest questions a Christian can ask.  I leave that up to the readers to decide.

Q. (35:8): Can you tell us anything about servants of those days.  The master’s family obviously cared about them as we see in this passage as they name the tree where a nurse was buried “weeping tree.”  How did one become a servant versus a master?  How were they revered?

A. Part of the implication of Jacob’s wealth (which would have been assumed by the audience) was that he would have servants, including slaves, who came to work for him seasonably (think migrant workers today) or other servants who were hired to keep the flocks or crops, supervise workers (like field managers), cook and prepare meals, work closely with the children (like the nurse in question), or keep the tents and other dwellings clean.

While we tend to think of slavery and servanthood as racially motivated, it was mostly the result of financial considerations in the ancient world.  Servants could be hired and align themselves with masters (which would likely use the covenant ceremony we discussed last week) for protection and even have families of their own.  We must be very careful about not applying Western American notions of slavery and service to the ancient world that thought very differently about people’s value.  There would have been none of this “all men are created equal” business (actually Jesus is the person single handedly most responsible for that concept, so that gives you the timeframe- more than a thousand years in the future), they would have understood masters as being superior to servants.  People would have worked for masters, be bought and sold as slaves (sometimes to pay off debt, sometimes as a result of being taken prisoner during war), and depended upon the wealthy to survive.

Even in such a harsh world, it is not hard to see how certain servants (head servants or nurses for example) would have come to be revered by the family due to their years of service.

Q. (35:20):  Can the monument be seen today?

A. When the writer says, “the monument can be seen today”, we do not know exactly when “today” is, and there are a number of theories about that.  But if you mean, can you still see the original site, well, that depends on who you ask.  For many of the important landmarks of this story (including events that take place in the New Testament, so you’re talking about literally thousands of years later), there are usually what are called “traditional” sites of an event or marker.  (You can read about the traditional site for Rachel’s tomb here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rachel’s_Tomb).  If you read the article, it notes that there are several sites that claim to be the “correct” one, but that generally we can only guess about the accuracy of the assessment.  The same is actually true for the site of Christ’s crucifixion and burial (there are TWO traditional burial sites for Christ).  The biggest problem for a lot of these sites is that for Rachel’s tomb as example, we are talking about a place that was marked more than 3000 years ago.  With all of the war, destruction, new construction, and endless movement and death of people, it is sometimes surprising that we know so much about this era at all.

Q. (35:27): If I remember right, Abraham and Isaac lived in Hebron as foreigners because this was the land God had promised to them and their descendants.

A. Most of the areas described in these stories (notably around the Jordan river) will ALL be taken over by Jacob/Israel’s descendants in about 400 years.

For further study: Get the lowdown on each of Jacob’s sons: https://www.christianity.com/wiki/bible/why-did-god-choose-the-12-sons-of-jacob.html

Shop: This shirt is reminiscent of Jacob because he camped out — and wrestled — with God.  The night sky reminds us of God’s covenant with Abraham — that his descendants, Jacob included, would be as numerous as the stars in the sky: https://livinlight.org/product/campout/

Tomorrow’s reading: Genesis 36:1-19; 1 Chronicles 1:35-37; Genesis 36:20-30; 1 Chronicles 1:38-42; Genesis 36:31-43; 1 Chronicles 1:43-2:2