My daily exploration of the Bible, taking it one chapter at a time. If I do it everyday, it'll take 1189 days.



Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Joshua 9

The Gibeonites

Summary:
The nations of Canaan were coming together to fight Israel, but the nearby Gibeonites decided to send some men to Joshua who looked very well travelled and exhausted. When they came to Joshua they lied, saying they were from a distant nations, and asked Joshua for a truce. Joshua agreed to this, without consulting God, thinking they were from faraway, not from within their promised land.

Israel then found out that the Gibeonites had been lying, but they had to keep the truce, because they had sworn by God. So they made the Gibeonites their lower class, rather than killing them.

Key verse:
15. Then Joshua made a treaty of peace with them to let them live, and the leaders of the assembly ratified it by oath.

My thoughts:
Israel's willingness for peace for those believed to be outside of the promised land shows that their current violence was an exception, and not a normal expression of God, but that it served and definite and important purpose in this time. If I was a Gibeonite, I'd be stoked!

Monday, May 30, 2005

Joshua 8

Ai burninated

Summary:
God told Joshua to go up and take Ai. So Joshua led a bigger army against Ai, but he had most of the soldiers wait, hiding in ambush. Joshua went with a few men to attack the city front on, and Ai came out to meet them, and Joshua fled, being pursued by all the soldiers of Ai. This left Ai empty of soldiers, so the bulk of the Israelites went in and burninated it. Joshua's men, who were fleeing, turned around and faced the men of Ai, and the ambushers came up from behind the people of Ai. They were surrounded. Israel was victorious. Ai's king was hanged, but taken down at evening.

As instructed by Moses, Joshua built an altar on Mount Ebal, with the law written on the stones. He then read the law to Israel.

Key verse:
1. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.

My thoughts:
Joshua is a book of war, as Canaan is conquered, and here in this chapter we see a typical glorification of a strategic battle. It gives some insight into the operation of ancient armies.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Joshua 7

Achan's sin

Summary:
Joshua sent some men to spy out a town called Ai. It turned out to only be a minor town, so they only sent a few thousand men to take it. But the Israelites got womped. Joshua became disheartened, and fell before God and had a cry. God told him to get up, because they lost due to sin amongst Israel

So Joshua told everyone to consecrate themselves, come before Joshua, and God will draw out from them the tribe, the clan, the family, and the individual who has sinned. Achan, from Judah, was the sinner who had stolen sacred items from foreigners. Achan admitted it, and was stoned for the sake of Israel.

Key verse:
11. Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep.

My thoughts:
Joshua was reduced to state of complete hopelessness when his troops lost at Ai. He is not exactly optimistic. Sometimes as Christians we feel expected to be optimistic and act happy when really we don't feel like it. It's comforting to know that there is not a biblical expectation to act happy when you don't want to. We are to be genuine in how we express ourselves to God.

In this chapter we see a very clear example of communal sin. Often as western protestants we focus on individual sin and individual salvation, but an equally biblical concept is the idea of communal sin and salvation. Here one man's sin affects the entire community. We must sometimes realise that our faiths are not just ours, they are also our communties.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Joshua 6

Jericho falls

Summary:
Jericho had great walls and no-one could come in or go out.

God tells Joshua to get his people to march behind the ark around Jericho each day for six days, and on the seventh day they are to march around seven times, ending with the priests blasting their trumpets and everyone shouting. Then Jericho will be given to them.

They did this, and when they shouted on the seventh day, the walls fell, and they destroyed the city and all its inhabitants, except Rahab and her family.

Joshua set a curse on whoever tries to rebuild Jericho.

Key verse:
16. Shout! For the Lord has given you the city!

My thoughts:
This action of God shows at the least that God supports the Israelite's war into Canaan. It also lets the people know that it is not because of their strength that they can be successful, but because of God's strength.

Interestingly, Joshua's curse of v26 comes true in 1 Kings 16:34.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Joshua 5

Preparation for attack

Summary:
The men who had been born in the desert had not been circumcised, so Joshua ordered them to be so - at God's command.

Camping at Gilgal, they celebrated the Passover, using some of the produce of the land. And the next day the manna stopped, and they ate from the land instead.

An angel - the commander of God's army - came to Joshua with a message.

Key verse:
15. Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.

My thoughts:
By circumcising themselves, the Israelites put themselves right before the covenant before setting out to attack the land. Til this point manna had still come from heaven every day, but now they have entered a new phase. They no longer stumble around in the desert - they are now in the land they had been promised, and they are eating from the land.

The theology of angels had not been well developed at the time of the writing of Joshua, they were simply seen as messengers from God. This angel is called "the commander of the Lord's army".

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Joshua 4

The monument

Summary:
Joshua gets one person from each tribe to take a stone from the bed of the Jordan. The twelve stones were set up as a memorial for when Joshua led Israel across the Jordan. 40,000 fighting men crossed to battle with Jericho - the city they camped near. The priests then stepped out of the Jordan.

Key verse:
14. That day the Lord exalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they revered him all the days of his life, just as they had revered Moses.

My thoughts:
Many time in the old testament, it is said that some monument or well or something is still around at the time of the author's writing. Joshua's author does that here about the monument. This does not proove the associated event, but strengthens the case for the event showing that the monument, and it's associated story, existed well before the author, and in faith we might believe the story dates back to when the event actually and literally happened.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Joshua 3

Crossing the Jordan

Summary:
From camping at the edge of the Jordan, the people were told to wait for the ark of the covenant to move, and then to follow it from a distance.

At God's instruction, the priests carrying the ark stood in the Jordan, and the river dried up, with the water piling up at a town called Adam. The priests stood there as Israel crossed opposite Jericho.

Key verse:
5. Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.

My thoughts:
God is revealing himself to a new generation with the same authority of the old. Just as God parted the Red Sea through Moses, God dries up the Jordan through Moses' successor, Joshua. God's miracles were not a one-time, one-generation thing, but God is willing to reveal himself to all generations.

The most exciting things that God is doing are the things he's doing now, not in the the past.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Joshua 2

Rahab

Summary:
Joshua sent two spies to Jericho, where they stayed the night with Rahab the prostitute. The king of Jericho heard there were spies, and asked Rahab to see the men who had come to her. Rahab hid the men, and told them that they had fled down the road. So while the king's men were searching the road, Rahab made a deal with the spies, saying that she knew that God would conquer them, but asked that she and her family might be saved when the Israelites attack Jericho. The spies agreed. Rahab let the spies out of her window on a rope, and the men hid in the hills for a few days before returning to Joshua. Joshua was sure God would give them Jericho.

Key verse:
9. I know that the Lord has given this land to you and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you.

My thoughts:
Rahab is an amazing character. Not only is she female and foreign, but she is a prostitute. In Jewish eyes she was pretty much the lowest of the low. However, she was always remember as a woman of faith (see Hebrews 11:31). God can accept and use those who may be considered as scum by human eyes.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Joshua 1

Packing your bags

Summary:
God gave his charge to Joshua, telling him to be brave, and to take the land God had promised. God will go with them, and they must keep the law.

Joshua told everyone to get ready to cross the Jordan in three days time. Even those whose inheritance is east of the Jordan were to come and help fight. Everyone followed Joshua.

Key verse:
6. Be strong and courageous

My thoughts:
East of the Jordan, Moses gave his final charge to Israel, which pretty much was the entire book of Deuteronomy. He reminded them of all the law. The Israelites probably spent some time there. However, now Moses is dead, Joshua has taken over, and immediately it's time to cross the Jordan and take the land.

The phrase 'be strong and courageous' appears four times in this short chapter. Israel is entering a time of war, as they take their land, and so God's encouragements are focussed towards that. This is to be a time of strength and courage for Israel.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Deuteronomy 34

Moses' death

Summary:

Moses went up Mount Nebo in Moab, and God showed him all of the land God had promised to Abraham, hundreds of years ago.

Moses died there at 120, and God buried him in a secret place in Moab. Israel grieved for thirty days. There was never any prophet like Moses, who did such amazing feats in sight of everyone.

Joshua, filled with the Spirit, took over the leadership of Israel.

Key verse:
12. For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.

My thoughts:
Here ends the Penteteuch. The books of Moses aptly end with the death of Moses. The law is complete, now we trace through the history of Israel for the next twelve books, mostly in narrative, from Joshua to the restoration under Ezra and Nehemiah.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Deuteronomy 33

Moses' final blessings

Summary:
Moses blessed each of the tribes.

To Reuben: life and growth
Help Judah against its enemies
To Levi, whose top priority is keeping the law, bless his skills
Let those God loves be within Benjamin
Let Joseph's land be blessed. He is majestic
Zebulun and Issachar are to rejoice, because they will be blessed by the sea.
Gad is like a lion, and gets the best land.
Dan is like a cub.
Naphtali has God's favour.
Asher is favoured by his brothers.

Israel will live in safety, for God is with them.

Key verse:
29. He is your shield and helper

My thoughts:
The tribe of Simeon is notably missed in these blessings. For possible reasons see Genesis 49:5-7, and Joshua 19:1.

Interestingly the tribe of Benjamin, David's tribe is blessed for having "the one the Lord loves". This is quite prophetic, however the sceptic would quickly say that much of Deuteronomy was written after the reign of David.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Deuteronomy 32

Moses' song

Summary:
His song when vaguely like this:

"Let my teaching help you grow.
Isn't God awesome,
But they have rejected him, the idiots.
Remember when God gave you the promised land
And looked after you, like an eagle over its young?
But the young rejected the Rock, and followed others.
They are really bad, and God will bring calamity on them
Only ceasing so Israel's enemies do not become proud.
God will win, and show the world Israel's stupidity."

Moses told the people to take these words to heart.

God told Moses to go up Mount Nebo. where he will die, and view the land he cannot enter. He is to die because he sinned at Meribah.

Key verse:
39. See now that I myself am He!
There is no god besides me.
I put to death and I bring to life,
I have wounded and I will heal,
and no one can deliver out of my hand.

My thoughts:
I'm a poet... I know...

It's hard to summarise a poem. You really have to read it.

Song, art, poetry are deeply set into Jewish religious culture, as in most others. Most great ancient art is in some way religious. Understanding of a higher meaning motivates us to create beauty which is otherwise useless for animalistic needs to nutrition and reproduction. Many significant old testament characters has songs attributed to them in the midst of their narratives.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Deuteronomy 31

Final instructions

Summary:
With Moses old age and impending death, he appoints Joshua to succeed him, declaring that God will go with him.

Moses wrote down the law for the Levites, and told them to read it to all Israel every seven years.

God summons Moses, and tells him to bring Joshua. God predicts Israel's rebellions, and tells Moses to teach Israel a song to remind that of God when then turn from him. God encourages Joshua, and tell Moses to leave the book of the law by the ark so it is remember.

After this, Moses when before Israel, opened his mouth, and began to sing...

Key verse:
23. Be strong and courageous, for you will bring the Israelites into the land I promised them on oath, and I myself will be with you.

My thoughts:
As we come to the end of the Pentateuch, we begin the narrative into Moses' death. The next chapter is the song, followed by his blessing in chapter 33, and finally his death in the final chapter.

There is a lot of specific mention of Moses writing the book of the law in this chapter, however it is evident that Moses himself did not write this chapter, or especially not the final chapter narrating his death. I usually conclude that though the Pentateuch in its final edition may have had a number of authors, including Moses, it is still the Law of Moses. Just as Mark is the good news of Jesus Christ, though Jesus himself did not write it. It is the law of Moses, though he may not have written all of the five books.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Deuteronomy 30

Life, death, and restoration

Summary:
If all these curses befall Israel, and they are spread amongst the nations, and if they turn back to God, God will certaining restore them and return them to the land he promised. They will become more presperous than their ancestors.

The choice of life and death is set before the people, depending on whether they keep the law. Choosing life is the encouraged response.

Key verse:
19. I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live

My thoughts:
This is one of a few red pill/blue pill situations in the Bible. Either you're all in, or you're all out. Black or white. Often things aren't that simple, and life has a lot of gray in it. But often when we look to God, the light is separated from the darkness, the sheep from the goats, and the gray disappears, leaving behind a path that is right, and a path that leads to death. It is our choice which way we choose.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Deuteronomy 29

Oh, you want us to keep the covenant!

Summary:

Moses reminds people of what was done to Pharaoh, how God looked after them in the desert, and how they defeated the nations east of the Jordan.

Moses encouraged everyone to make a oath to keep the covenant, so they would prosper.

There is to be no-one amongst Israel who worships other gods, and if anyone made the covenant oath, but doesn't plan to keep it, then God's curses will fall on him.

Later generations will see Israel destroyed, and it will be because they did not keep the covenant.

Key verse:
29. The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children

My thoughts:
This last verse of this chapter, as quoted in the key verse, is an interesting one. It mentions the secret things - things that have not been revealed.

Often we want to know it all. We don't trust God, because we can't see what he's doing, and we therefore conclude that he's been doing nothing. I am sometimes a gaming nerd, and I have been watching recently as all the major gaming companies have been unveiling the next generation of gaming consoles. We can see that the timing of every stage of releasing these consoles is very carefully planned, but also kept secret. The companies have plans which they do not reveal until the timing is right. So is it with God. He had plans. He has many, many secrets, and he reveals them when the timing is right. It is up to our faith to trust that God is in control.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Deuteronomy 28

Obedience or disobedience... blessing or curse?

Summary:

If the people follow God's commands, then he will bless them with abundance and military success. The nations will see that they are blessed. They will be at the top.

If, however, they are disobedient, then God will curse them. Their land and people will be infertile. There will be diseases and failure at every turn. They will be defeated at war. They will become blind and mad. They will be robbed, and what is theirs to enjoy will be enjoyed by others. They will be taken over by another nation, and the curses will not stop until they are destroyed. Their desperation will cause them to hate and eat their children. The plagues of Egypt will come to them, and they will be spread amongst the nations and worship their idols. There will be no rest.

Key verse:
12. The Lord will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands.

My thoughts:
I think Moses wants the people to be obedient. The rest of the story of Israel shows how its success depends of their commitment to God. A lot of the curses mentioned here were fulfilled, including the one about eating children (It's in 2 Kings somewhere).

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Deuteronomy 27

Mount Ebal

Summary:
Moses tells the people to erect stones on Mount Ebal when then cross the Jordan, and to write the law on these stones. An altar is to be made there, and things are to be sacrificed on it.

Six tribes are to stand on Mount Gerazim and proclaim blessings, and six tribes are to stand on Mount Ebal and pronouce curses.

They are to curse people who make idols, dishonour their parents, illegally move boundries, abuses those on the fringes of society, is sexually immoral, murders, or neglects the law.

Key verse:
3. Write on them all the words of this law

My thoughts:
Reading that Moses gives instruction that these thing be written down gives more weight to an early authorship of the law, because it shows the concern for conservation of information through writing.

There are twelves curses, one for each tribe of Israel. Like the Ten Commandments, there are clearly structured, and should be taken seriously in today's context.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Deuteronomy 26

Firstfruits and tithes

Summary:

Some of the firstfruits of all your crops are to taken to the priest at the place God dwells. You are then to tell the story of God's people, their settling in Egypt, being oppressed, and how God took them out. Then the firstfruits are to presented in thanks.

When giving the tithe to those who need it every third year, remind God of your faithfulness and ask for a blessing.

Keep God's commands. He will then bless you.

Key verse:
15. Look down from heaven, your holy dwelling place, and bless your people Israel and the land you have given us as you promised on oath to our forefathers

My thoughts:
This is the end of a bunch of various laws in Deuteronomy. From we return to Moses specifically speaking to the situation of entering the promised land, with quite a different style of text.

Note that we can in fact ask God for a blessing. It is not necessarily rude to ask God for good things.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Deuteronomy 25

Various laws strike back!!

Summary:

A judge will decide who is guilt and who is innocent in a dispute. If a man is lashed, he is not to be lashed more than forty times.

If a man dies leaving no son, his wife is to marry his brother to get a son. If the brother refused, one sandal is to be removed from him, and his face is to be spat on him. He is to be mocked for his one-sandalled, spit-faced demeanor. Sucks to be him.


If two men fight, and a woman grabs one of their 'special places' then her hand is to be cut off.

Measuring tools should be accurate.

Don't forget the sin of the Amalekites. Kill them!

Key verse:
10. That man's line shall be known in Israel as The Family of the Unsandaled.

My thoughts:
I fully support the introduction of removing sandals and spitting as a form of punishment/shaming in New Zealand. Not only is it witty and amusing, it is effective and relentless.

This chapter is home for the infamous 'cut off her hand' law. Sexual purity was very important to God, and it was policed seriously. If your hand causes you to sin cut it off.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Deuteronomy 24

Return of the Various Laws

Summary:
If a man divorces a woman, and the woman remarries someone who after some time dies, the first man cannot remarry the woman.

Newly-weds do not need to go to war.

Do not take things people need as security/pledges for debts. Don't be forceful. Let them bring you the pledge. If it's a cloak, return it to them at night so they can sleep.

Kidnappers are to be killed.

People with skin diseases must follow the instructions of the priests.

People are not to be killed for the wrongs of their family members

Don't be too thorough in your harvests. Leave some for the poor.

Key verse:
16. each is to die for his own sin.

My thoughts:
An individual is responsible only for their own actions, irrespective of social standing. The guilty person pays. This is different to other nearby laws where a man's guilt might be punished by punishing his slave.

Often in the law, fairness is compromised for the sake of compassion. We should do the same.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Deuteronomy 23

Cleanliness and purity

Summary:
No emasculated man can enter God's assembly, nor one who's parents are not married. Ammonites and Moabites cannot enter the assembly, but Egyptians and Edomites can after three generations.

Whilst in a war camp, if a man has a 'happy' dream he is to stay outside camp til evening. A toilet is to be made outside the camp.

A wandering slave should not be returned to his master. Shrine Prostitution is illegal. Don't charge interest to a fellow Israelite. Pay your vows quickly.

If you walk through someone elses crop, you can casually eat what you pick, but you can't collect it, in a basket for example.

Key verse:
15-16. If a slave has taken refuge with you, do not hand him over to his master. Let him live among you wherever he likes and in whatever town he chooses. Do not oppress him.

My thoughts:
The view towards slavery in the Old Testament is greatly to it's credit. Here an escaped slave becomes pretty much free. All men are seen as having equal rights, from the king to the slave. Class distinctions are man's invention, not the Bible's.

Also to the Old Testament's credit is the suggestion to build a latine outside of the camp. Now that's just smart.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Deuteronomy 22

Yet more various laws

Summary:
If you find something someone else has lost, take it, and give it to them. Help their livestock if they get stuck.

Don't crossdress

Don't kill a mother bird and it's young. At least let the mother go.

Build a parapet around the roof of your house, so people don't fall off and die.

Don't plant two types of seed in a vineyard, yoke different animals together, or make clothes with different kinds of material.

Cloaks should have four tassels

If a newly-wed husband accuses her wife of not having been a virgin, and it turns out to be false, he is to be fined for slander, and he cannot divorce her. If she actually wasn't a virgin, she is to be killed - the punishment for all sexual sin regardless of gender or social standing.

People who have affairs are to be killed.

If a man sleeps with an engaged woman, then they are both to be killed, unless the woman resisted and screamed. They just the man is to be killed. The woman is innocent.

If a man rapes an un-engaged woman, they he must pay a fine and marry the woman.

Men should not marry their father's wives.

Key verse:
21. You must purge the evil from among you.


My thoughts:
A long summary today, because it was pretty concise to start with.

Firstly, provided that you have come to terms with the concept of death as punishment, all these laws seem fair. Except the laws against using two types of material/seed seem trivial to us. These laws exist because they were done by other nations as fertility rituals etc. for their gods, and God did not want his people to imitate that.

In other ancient law of the area (eg. Babylon), the free man with land is pretty much untouchable. Here, in God's law, social standing and gender make no different. Those who sin will die. If a man slanders his wife, he must pay. He will not get away with it just because he is male.

Often it is ruled that a man must stay with a wife he has wronged. This is to protect the woman, who in a patriarchal society would be rejected if they had no spouse/were divorced. The law is providing security for the wronged woman.

The key verse today is the common biblical term used in the Penteteuch to justify the use of the death penalty.



Monday, May 09, 2005

Deuteronomy 21

Various laws

Summary:
If someone is found dead, the elders of the nearest town are to take an unused Heifer and kill it is an unused stream in a valley. They are then to wash their hands of any guilt.

Women taken captive in war may be taken as wives after their time of mourning. They cannot be sold or taken as slaves.

The actual firstborn is to get the rights of the firstborn always. If an unloved wife produces the firstborn, a man should not show preference to the child of a wife he loves more.

If parents have a rebellious son, they can bring him before the elders and declare him rebellious. He is to be killed.

Anyone who is sentenced by death by hanging on a tree should be buried that day. Anyone hung on a tree is under God's curse.

Key verse:
14. You must not sell her or treat her as a slave, since you have dishonored her.

My thoughts:
A lot of these laws protect those sho are often marginalised, such as unloved wives, and wives from captives.

Jesus was hung on a tree, and so was cursed by God by the old testament law. The Pharisees would not have touched him, let alone stolen his body as some would suggest. It also fits with Jesus' general method of challenging what was expected. The victory of God comes from what is considered cursed. Strength comes from what is weak.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Deuteronomy 20

War

Summary:
When they go to war, they are not to be afraid, because God will go with them. A priest will tell the soldiers this before they go into battle.

The officers will tell anyone who has built a new house but not dedicated it, planted a vineyard but not enjoyed it, got engaged but not married, or are themselves afraid to go home.

Any city which is to be attacked is to be given the option of submitting to Israel peacefully. If they do fight, then all the men are to be killed, but everyone else kept alive, unless it is a city which is part of Israel's initial inheritance. Then they are all to be killed.

When a city is seiged, only non-fruit trees are to be used to make seige equipment. The soldiers are to use the fruit trees for food.

Key verse:
10. When you march up to attack a city, make its people an offer of peace.

My thoughts:
Here again there is a clear distinction between normal battle ethics and battle ethics whilst taking over Israel's inheritance. God wanted Israel to form their own holy nation, not to merge with those around.

I find the commands about fruit trees interesting. It shows concern for long-term natural resources during the short-term, but intense resource consumption of battle.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Deuteronomy 19

Cities of refuge and witnesses

Summary:
Three cities are to be set aside for people to run to if they kill someone unintentionally. Three more cities are to be added if their territory expands. If the person actually killed someone intentionally, they are to receive the death penalty.

Neighbour's boundry stones are not to be moved.

There should always be two or three witnesses of a crime, not one. If a witness is proven to be lying, then they are to receive the punishment the accused person would have received.

Key verse:
20. The rest of the people will hear of this and be afraid, and never again will such an evil thing be done among you.

My thoughts:
In the key verse, the biblical motive behind punishment is given. Punishment is used so that evil stops. Extreme punishment was justified as it made an example for all people.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Deuteronomy 18

Levites, divination and the prophet

Summary:
Levites, who get no inheritance, are to live off the offerings of the people. They get some of each of the sacrifices, and they get the firstfruits of the harvest. Any Levite can come to the place God dwells at any time, and minister. They will receive full benefits

The Israelites are not to sacrifices their children, or practise any form of divination or witchcraft.

God will raise up a prophet, and God will speak through him, because the people fear hearing the voice of God themselves. You can tell a false prophet if his prophecies are not fulfilled, or if they call on other gods.

Key verse:
18. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him.

My thoughts:
It's hard to know who exactly God is referring to when he speak of the prophet. Is it Moses' successor Joshua? Is it Elijah? It's tempting of course to say that it is Jesus. Maybe it's more just an expression of the prophets that God will send over time. I would love to say it is an Messianic prophecy, however it does seem to fit the Old Testament prophets better than Jesus.

It is interesting that God chose to bring a prophet in response to the people's fear of hearing God's voice. It's almost as if God, even at this early stage in history, wants to speak to them directly, but he uses other people because they don't respond well to hearing his voice for themselves.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Deuteronomy 17

Character of a king

Summary:
Offered animals are to be perfect.

If a anyone is accused of committing a major sin, it is to be investigated, and if the accusation is true, they are to be stoned on account of two or three witnesses, not one. If a decision is too hard for the local court, the case is to be brought before the priests and appointed judge at the place God chooses. They are to be trusted completely.

When the people choose a king, he must be an Israelite. He should not amass a lot of wealth, and he shouldn't have many wives. He should have a personal copy of the law, and read it every day.

Key verse:
17. He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold.

My thoughts:
Obviously, even the best kings of Israel failed to follow God's plan for them. Both David and Solomon had great wealth and many wives against God's will.

A lot of the law, such as for the character of the king, comes from looking at the surrounding nations and being different to them. Sometimes maybe we also should see what God does not like in the world, and decide to be different.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Deuteronomy 16

Feasts and judges

Summary:
Moses reminds the people to observe the passover, the feast of weeks, and the feast of tabernacles. They are to be practised at the place where God chooses in the promised land

There are to be fair judges in each town who cannot be bribed

They are not to use the other nations' forms of worship, or worship their gods

Key verse:
19. Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the righteous.

My thoughts:
One of the most notable differences between Deuteronomy and the rest of the Torah, is the inclusion of the "place the Lord will choose". It is mentioned here in reference to the feasts for the first time, even though the feasts have been written about on several occassions already.

Maybe this part of the law was not relevant until they were about to enter the land in which God would choose a place, however the more liberal among you might argue that Deuteronomy was actually written once Jerusalem was founded, and it is speaking to God's chosen place retrospectively.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Deuteronomy 15

The poor

Summary:
Every seventh year all debts owed by Israelites are to be cancelled. People are to be generous to the poor, and give happily. They shouldn't give less just because it's almost the seventh year.

A Hebrew slave is to be freed after six years of service, if they want to be freed.

The firstborn of the livestock are to be sacrificed to God.

Key verse:
4. However, there should be no poor among you, for in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you

My thoughts:
Many of God's laws about finance are to stop inequality in Israel. The rich aren't to get too rich, and the poor aren't to get too poor. God knew that the major problems particularly with ancient societies is that they quickly develop into classes. God's law counteracts the class system, if only the Israelites had followed it.

It isn't fair that debts get cancelled, however sometimes it is the only way to bring equality. Watch Fight Club.

Possessions and wealth are to be held lightly. They aren't worth much.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Deuteronomy 14

Animals and tithes

Summary:
Israelites are not to shave their heads or cut their bodies.

They are reminded of the food they are not allowed to eat, including things like pigs, bats, and the camel. They are also not to eat animals found dead.

A tenth of everything is to be set aside, and is to be taken to the place where God will choose to dwell (Jerusalem), and is to be eaten there. If it is too much to carry, it is to be sold for silver, and the silver carried. The silver is then to be used to buy food to eat there.

Every third year the tithe goes to the Levites, the poor, and the needy.

Key verse:
2. Out of all the peoples on the face of the earth, the Lord has chosen you to be his treasured possession.

My thoughts:
They weren't to shave their heads or cut themselves because these actions were associated with the religions of the surrounding nations.

The tithe is an interesting concept. It is a lot more ceremonial and complicated than the "one-tenth to the local church" it has come to mean. Here, in fact, the original owner of the tithe get to eat it themselves, and every third year when it goes to someone else, it goes to the poor and to those without inheritance. We need to be a generous people, and we not should rob God (Mal 3:8-11), but the tithe is an old testament idea associated with the temple. As Christians, we should not feel obliged to pay the tithe, just as we eat pork. Here and here is the new testament standard.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Deuteronomy 13

Following other gods

Summary:
If a prophet prophesies correctly or performs miracles, but then calls for people to follow other gods, then don't listen to him at all. In fact, he is to be put to death, along with anyone else who calls on people to follow other gods.

If an Israelite town is rumoured to be following different gods, then it is to be investigated, and if the rumour is true, the town is to be destroyed.

Key verse:
14. then you must inquire, probe and investigate it thoroughly

My thoughts:
Death was the normal penalty for major sin in ancient Israel, because under the law they were as a people to stay completely pure. Sin could not be tolerated. They were not, however, quick to give the death penalty. As shown in this chapter, they were top investigate things thoroughly.

Just because a person demonstrates a level of spiritual power does not make them from God. There are other (weak) spiritual powers, or it might be God testing, as is suggested in this chapter.