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



Friday, September 30, 2005

2 Kings 5

Naaman healed of leprosy

Summary:
Naaman was a great Aramean army commander, but he was leprous. His Israelite wife told him that there was a prophet in Israel who could heal him, so the king of Aram sent a message to the king of Israel on Naaman's behalf.

When the king of Israel received it, he was insulted that he had been called on to cure leprousy, but when Elisha found out about it, he told Naaman to come to his house.

Naaman came, and Elisha told him to wash himself seven times in the Jordan to be healed. Naaman was disappointed with this option, because it didn't seem significant or powerful. His attendants convinced him to do it, and he was healed, and dedicated himself to God only, and offered Elisha gifts. Elisha refused and Naaman went on his way.

Elisha's servant Gehazi, however, followed him, thinking Elisha should've taken the gifts, and got some silver and clothing from him. Elisha knew about this, and when Gehazi returned, Elisha cursed him, and he was leprous for the rest of his life.

Key verse:
11. I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy.

My thoughts:
I think a lot of us think like Naaman. We want great and spectacular signs and wonders, however God often chooses to move through simply everyday events. We are not comfortable with this, but that is probably why we are not God.

Here a tip for life - don't try to deceive a man of God. Gehazi did, and got leprousy. Ananias and Sapphira did, and they died instantly. Adam and Eve lied directly to God. It's just not a smart thing to do.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

2 Kings 4

Elisha's miracles

Summary:
A woman told Elisha that her husband, who was a prophet was dead, and that his creditor was trying to take her sons as slaves. She had a little oil, and Elisha told her to pour out that oil into empty jars. She did this and the oil just kept pouring, so she could sell the oil, and provide for her sons.

In Shunem, Elisha stayed with a wealthy family. Elisha wanted to thank the woman who had let him stay in her house. Elisha told her she would have a son, because she didn't have one. The woman did not want to get her hopes up, but a year later she had a son. However, in a few years the son died naturally. The woman went to find Elisha as quickly as possible, saying that she shouldn't have gotten her hopes up. So Elisha sent his servant, Gehazi, with his staff, and told him to go touch the boy with the staff. However, when Gehazi did this, nothing happened. But when Elisha came, he lay on top of the boy, and he came back to life.

Elisha also healed a spoiled pot of brew with flour. He also fed 100 men until they were satisfied with 20 small loaves of bread.

Key verse:
30. As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.

My thoughts:
A lot of these miracles seem very similar to Jesus' ministry. We see people coming back from the dead, and food being multiplied. Elijah and Elisha are foreshadows of Jesus in a lot of ways.

In a charasmatic Christian culture, we can often ask what it takes for someone to be healed. I think a lot of us feel like Gehazi. We try to act in faith, but we don't see anything happen. We try different things, like here Gehazi touches the boy with a stick. We genuinely desire to see someone healed, and we cannot understand why God does not do it. There is no easy answer as to why God does not always heal, and this chapter, for one, does not try to answer that question. Gehazi could not heal the boy, Elisha could. If we all saw this event, we would no longer doubt about God (theoretically anyway...), however we still would not have answered the questions as to why God does not always heal. I think this is the precedent God often sets. He will not answer all our questions, but he will reveal himself. Our faith is not based on understanding or knowledge, it is based on God's revelation of himself.

Elisha lay on top of the boy to heal him. This is weird. This would take balls to do these days, which leads me to believe it would take balls to do in Elisha's day too. Sometimes if we want to see God really move, we have to take a step that will be ridiculous if God doesn't back us up.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

2 Kings 3

God provides water

Summary:
Ahab's son, Joram, was king for twelve years. He was not quite as evil as his parents, as he got rid of some of the Baal worship.

The king of Moab refused to provide for Israel anymore, so Joram and Jehoshaphat went to attack him. They went to long away around to get to Moab, picking up the king of Edom to help them. But they ran out of water, so they sought a prophet to guide them, and Elisha was present.

Elisha was initially hesitant, because the king of Israel wasn't in the habit of seeking God's guidance, but he complied because of Jehoshaphat's presence. He told them to dig ditches, which God would fill with water. God would also give them victory over Moab.

However, when the water came, it looked like blood to the Moabites, so they thought Israel was fighting amongst itself, and they charged, only to be well beaten.

Key verse:
18. This is an easy thing in the eyes of the Lord

My thoughts:
Often we have minimalised views of God. We consider 'big' miracles as hard, and 'small' ones as easy. But we must realise that nothing is difficult for God. If he can do something, then it does not take effort. God does not struggle or get tired. I think we all know this in our minds, but sometimes actually acting on that knowledge is much harder.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

2 Kings 2

Elijah is taken

Summary:
God was going to take Elijah away, so he told Elijah to go to Bethel. Elisha refused to stay behind. The prophets of Bethel warned Elisha that his master was leaving him that day. Elisha then followed Elijah to Jericho, where the prophets said the same thing. Then Elisha followed Elijah to the Jordan, where fifty men watched them as Elijah struck the Jordan with his cloak, and the river parted, allowing them to pass on dry land.

Elijah asked if Elisha had any last requests, and Elisha said he wanted a double dose of whatever spirit Elijah had. Then Elisha was taken away by God in a whirlwind.

Elisha then returned, parting the Jordan again with Elijah's cloak. The fifty men offered to look for Elijah, but Elisha said no. But they searched anyway, and didn't find him.

Elisha then went to a town with bad water, and he healed the water, making it productive.

Elisha was then jeered on the way to Bethel. So Elisha cursed him jeerers, and bears came and mauled them.

Key verse:
9. "Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?"
"Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,"

My thoughts:
Later second temple Judaism was obsessed with Elijah. They love him, and I think a lot of that is to do with the fact that he did not taste death. There are very few people in the Bible who simply do not die. There is Enoch in Genesis, the seventh from Adam, and there is Elijah. I cannot remember any others. Enoch had a large mythology created around him, because he did not die. The Israelites knew that God's ultimate salvation was the avoidance of death, and in very physical terms, only a couple of highly revered people had acheived this.

Here we also see the faithfulness of Elisha. He refuses to leave his master's side three times, and then when asked, he asks for a double portion of Elijah's spirit. Maybe we should ask God of the same thing - a double portion of his Spirit.

Here the Jordan is crossed twice. We often only think of Moses as crossing a great sea, but, in fact, it happens at least four times. Once with Moses, once with Joshua over the Jordan, and twice in this chapter. God does not stop working!

Monday, September 26, 2005

2 Kings 1

Elijah the fireballer

Summary:
Ahaziah injured himself, and sent messengers to ask the god of Ekron if he would recover. At God's command, however, Elijah met the messengers on the way and told them that Ahaziah certainly would not recover.


So the messengers told Ahaziah what Elijah had said and that Elijah had said it. So Ahaziah sent an battalion of fifty after Elijah, who was up a hill. But God sent fire to kill the fifty at Elijah's command. Ahaziah sent another fifty, who shared the same fate. The leader of the third fifty begged for his life, and God told Elijah to go down to him, and went to the king. Elijah told Ahaziah that he would die for consulting another god. And Ahaziah died.

Joram succeeded him because Ahaziah had no sons.

Key verse:
10. If I am a man of God, may fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men!

My thoughts:
Elijah seems to have this nack of summoning God's fire. I wouldn't mind that. Don't you sometimes feel that there are a few people who you wouldn't mind fireballing?

My Bit:
Yay!!! I'm up to date for the first time in over two weeks. I've been one day behind for about a week and a half.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

1 Kings 22

Jehosaphat and Ahab join forces

Summary:
There was no war between Israel and Aram for three years, but then Jehosaphat realised that Aram still held a city owned by Israel. He went to Ahab and they made a pact to take back the city. Jehosaphat wanted the word of a prophet of Yahweh first. Four hundred other prophets said that god would give them victory, but Jehosaphat wanted a prophet of Yahweh. Ahab said that there was only one left, and hesitantly suggested Micaiah, who Ahab did not like, because he always said bad things.

Sure enough, Micaiah prophesied failure, despite all the other prophets. Micaiah explained that God had sent a lying spirit into the mouths of all the other prophets, because Ahab was to die at that city. Micaiah was imprisoned until Ahab returned safely.

They went to battle, and the battle was fierce. Israel lost, and Ahab was killed by a stray arrow. He was buried in Samarai and his son, Ahaziah succeeded him. Ahaziah reigned for two years, and sinned greatly.

Jehosaphat ruled Judah for 25 years, and was at peace with Israel. He was good, but he did not get rid of the high places in Judah. He made a great trading fleet. He was succeeded by his son, Jehoram.

Key verse:
14. As surely as the Lord lives, I can tell him only what the Lord tells me.

My thoughts:
Here we see a somewhat unified Israel. Jehosaphat fights on the side of Ahab. We get surprisingly little narrative about Jehosaphat here, however he appears to be a man who is reliant on God, and is shown for his desire to hear a true prophet. Ahab has not killed Micaiah, but is just annoyed by him, because he's always so negative, and probably always right. People who are always right can be annoying. I'm still sympathetic towards Ahab.

Here we have the issue of God deceiving Ahab on purpose. I have written about this before, and I think we need to change our mindsets of causality in the spiritual realm.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

1 Kings 21

Naboth's field

Summary:
Ahab offered to buy a man called Naboth's field. However, Naboth refused. When Jezebel heard of this, she wrote letters in Ahab's name asking the people of Naboth's town to hold a feast for Naboth, but to have two people to accuse him falsely, and have him stoned. So Naboth was stoned, and Ahab got the land.

When Elijah heard of this, he went to Ahab, and curse him. He told him that he and his family would be devoured by dogs, and that Jezebel would be eaten by dogs by the wall of Jezreel. Ahab tore his clothes and mourned, and because he had humbled himself, God delayed the judgement onto Ahab's son's reign.

Key verse:
19. In the place where dogs licked up Naboth's blood, dogs will lick up your blood—yes, yours!

My thoughts:
Ahab is a baddie in the biblical narrative, but I don't actually think he's that bad. He's just weak, and is dominated by his wife, Jezebel, who is devoted to her forms of worship, which are unacceptable to Israel. Ahab seems happy to listen to God and humble himself, but too weak to stand up against the evil actions of his wife.

By the way, all the dog-prophecy comes true later on. Yum!

Friday, September 23, 2005

1 Kings 20

Ben-Hadad attacks

Summary:
Ben-Hadad, king of Aram had a great army and came against Samaria, the capital of Israel. Aram demanded women, children, and gold. Ahab, king of Israel agreed. But then, Ben-Hadad said he would come into Israel's richest houses and take all he wanted. Ahab did not agree to that, so Ben-Hadad attacked Samaria.

Ahab heard from a prophet that his men would win the battle, and that Ahab should start the war. So Aram's small army attacked Ben-Hadad's camp whilst they were drunk. The Arameans fled, and Ben-Hadad got away. The prophet told Ahab to prepare for Ben-Hadad to attack the next spring.

The Arameans decided that Israel's gods were gods of the hills, so they decided that their next attack would be on the plains. So, next spring the two armies battled again.The prophet told Ahab that he would win again, to show them that Israel's God is not just the God of the hills.

After Ahab's army had decimated the Arameans, Ben-Hadad went before Ahab and begged for his life, so they made a treaty and Israel got their land back.

The prophet then got a man to injure him, and went to the king. Disguising himself, he told Ahab that he had been in battle and had been told to guard a prisoner, and if he failed he was to lose his life. He said he had failed. So Ahab said that he should lose his life, and the punishment maintained. Then the prophet revealed himself, and cursed Ahab for not obeying God's acceptable punishment by killing Ben-Hadad. Therefore Ahab and his people would suffer.

Key verse:
28. Because the Arameans think the Lord is a god of the hills and not a god of the valleys, I will deliver this vast army into your hands, and you will know that I am the Lord.

My thoughts:
Sheesh, these summaries are getting longer. There is a lot of compressed narrative, and the verses are getting longer too.

This is probably the biblical high point for Ahab. He is enjoying God-inspired victories against his enemies. However, even in this high point, Ahab is still cursed.

We have ignore Judah for a while, however, after Elijah and Elisha there is very little narrative about Israel, and we return to Judah.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

1 Kings 19

Elijah hears God's voice

Summary:
When Jezebel heard what Elijah had done, she tried to have him killed too.

Elijah freaked out and ran. In a desert he asked God then to kill him. He fell into a deep sleep, and an angel awakened him and told him to eat and drink the food and water which had miraculously turned up. The angel returned later, told him to again, and then to get up and go.

Elijah travelled for forty days and nights until he reached Mount Horeb, where he stayed in a cave. God asked him what he was doing, and he said he was fleeing the Israelites. God told him to do up to the Mountain, because God was going to pass by. Elijah went up, and there was a great wind and an earthquake, and a fire, but God was in none of those. Instead God came in a gentle voice. God told Elijah to anoint Hazael as king of Aram, Jehu as king of Israel, and Elisha as his own successor. Combined, they would kill the unrighteous of Israel.

So Elijah found Elisha, and Elisha got rid of all his things and followed Elijah.

Key verse:
14. I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.

My thoughts:
Here we see Elijah after his greatest victory, and all he can do is become suicidal. Elijah is a very conflicted character, and he seems prone to depression. He is a real character, a deep one, one we can associate with.

Elijah spends a lot of time in the desert. The desert, or wilderness, has many connotations within Israel. In the Bible it is often the place of testing, learning, development, and definitions. This is also true with the concept of the number forty. It is also where God acts out of most of Israel. Jesus starts him ministry from John the Baptist in the wilderness.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

1 Kings 18

Victory over the prophets of Baal

Summary:
After three years of drought and famine, God told Elijah that he was going to send rain. So Elijah went to find Ahab. He met a man, Obadiah, who had saved many of God's prophets from death when Jezebel had killed God's prophets. Obadiah had been sent by Ahab to find water.

Elijah asked Obadiah to tell Ahab where he was. Ahab had been looking ferociously for Elijah, and Obadiah was scared that Ahab might not find Elijah, and Obadiah would be punished. But Elijah assured him.

So Elijah met Ahab, and told him to bring togther hundreds of prophets of Baal and Asherah. Both the other prophets and Elijah were to set up sacrifices for their god, but not set it alight. Elijah called on Israel to choose their god by which ever god sent fire on the sacrifice.

The other prophets tried all day, but got nowhere. But when Elijah set up his sacrifice on twelves stones, one for each tribe, and covered his bull wih water, then God sent fire.

Elijah had the other prophets rounded up and killed.

Later, Elijah got his servant to look to the sky seven times. On the seventh time, he saw a small cloud. Elijah sent message to Ahab to get on his chariot quickly, so that the rain would not stop him. Ahab rode to Jezreel, but Elijah outran him there by the power of God. It began to rain.

Key verse:
24. The god who answers by fire—he is God.

My thoughts:
Elijah is very clear in his logic here. If Baal turns up, then he is God. If Israel's God turns up, then he is God. Any knowledge of God comes from him enacting a very real and tangible presence in our world. The ultimate presence that God has given us is Jesus. We cannot expect to know God unless he, at some level, reveals himself.

Elijah has complete faith here. He has faith that God will show up and bring fire. He has faith that God will show up and bring rain. I think often we don't see God really move because we don't step out in faith in a way that would fail if God did not turn up.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

1 Kings 17

Elijah

Summary:
A man called Elijah, a Tishbite, declared that there would be no rain until he said so. God told Elijah to go down a ravine, where God fed him via ravens, and Elijah drank from the brook. Over time the brook dried up, because there was no rain.

God told Elijah that he would find a widow who feed him. So Elijah went into town and asked a widow for food and water, but all the widow had was a handful of flour and a little bit of oil for her son. Elijah asked her to bake him a cake before baking a cake for her son, because God would stop her ingredients from runing out until it rained again. And so the widow and the son and Elijah always had food.

Some time later, the widow's son became sick and stopped breathing. The woman blamed Elijah, and Elijah cried out to God, and God heard him and brought the boy back to life.

Key verse:
24. Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the LORD from your mouth is the truth.

My thoughts:
Elijah is hugely significant in Jewish faith, and also in Judeo-Christian eschatology. He is often considered the most significant prophet next to Moses. John the Baptist is often associated with Elijah in that he preceded Jesus as prophecied in Malachi 4:5. It is very interesting, actually, to read the 'first book' of the New Testament, Mark, as a continuation of the last book of the old, Malachi.

He is introduced rather abruptly simply by his statement that the rain was going to stop. From there God has been simply looking after Elijah.

Monday, September 19, 2005

1 Kings 16

Israel's kings during Asa

Summary:
Jehu prophesied of Baasha's downfall and his family's destruction, because of his sin. Baasha died in Tirzah, the capital, and his son Elah succeeded him.

Elah was evil and reigned for two years. He died as a victim of a plot by Zimri, who became next next king.

Zimri reigned for seven days, but in that time he managed to kill all of the family of Elah and Baasha. The people were would a man Omri, and when he laid seige to Tirzah, Zimri burnt down his own palace, killing himself.

After a brief struggle with a man called Tibni, Omri was king for twelve years. He did more evil than any before him. He son Ahab succeeded him.

Ahab was the most evil. He came to power in the last few years of Asa's reign. He reigned for twenty-two years from the capital of Samaria, which Omri had set up. He married at Sidonite, Jezebel, and worshipped Baal and set up worship poles. In Ahab's time a man, Hiel, rebuilt Jericho at the expense of the curses as written in Joshua.

Key verse:
2. I lifted you up from the dust and made you leader of my people Israel, but you walked in the ways of Jeroboam and caused my people Israel to sin

My thoughts:
Strangely, Omri as a king seems to come up more often than one might expect in archeological digs. He seems to have been the most signifiacant Israelite king of the time, though according to the Bible he is insignificant. This could possible show that the Bible does not focus on worldly success, but on godly obedience.

We have now been introduced into two of the main characters of the upcoming stories - Ahab and Jezebel.

Not how many kings Israel goes through in the time it takes Judah to have one reign - that of Asa.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

1 Kings 15

The kings after Jeroboam and Rehoboam

Summary:
Abijah, son on Rehoboam in Judah did evil, and was at war with Jeroboam. However, his son, Asa, succeeded him. Abijah reigned for three years.

Asa reigned for 41 years. He was good. He restored the gold of the temple, and got rid of all false worship, even when that involved him going against his family. He was at war with Baasah, king of Israel. Baasah barricaded Judah, so Asa made a treaty, smoothened with gold, with Ben-Hadad, king of Aram, north of Israel. Aram attacked Israel, so Baasah took down the barricade, and Judah took the land and resources back. Asa's son Jehoshaphat succeeded him.

Nabab, son of Jerboam, ruled in Israel for two years. He did evil. He killed Jeroboam's family, and was ultimately killed and deposed by a coup led by Baasah.

Baasah reign 23 years and did evil.

Key verse:
11. Asa did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, as his father David had done.

My thoughts:
Asa is an oft forgotten hero of the Bible. When reading through all the kings, it can be difficult to find any good ones, but Asa is one.

Already we start to see differences between the north and the south. Judah seems to have a continuous lineage from David, whereas Israel's royal line is split with coup's and murder. Israel is yet to have a good king.

This chapter and the next are building up to an Israel-Judah situation with Ahab and Jehoshaphat as kings. This is the situation Elijah is thrust into, and so we get another whole segment of narrative.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

1 Kings 14

Jeroboam and Rehoboam's sins and successors

Summary:
Jeroboam's son Abijah became sick, so Jeroboam sent his wife, disguised, to the prophet Ahijah to find out what would happen to his son. God warned Ahijah of all this in advance.

So when she came, Ahijah saw through her disguise, though he was blind. He declared how bad Jeroboam had been to God, and that that would ruin him and his house. His son would die.

Jeroboam ruled for 22 years, and his son, Nabab, succeeded him.

Rehoboam ruled for 17 years in Judah. Judah also sinned against God. The Egyptians attacked and took the gold of the temple and palace. They were replaced with bronze.

There had been constant war between Jeroboam and Rehoboam. Rehoboam's son Abijah succeeded him.

Key verse:
9. You have done more evil than all who lived before you.

My thoughts:
The gold of the temple didn't last long...

From now on we go through the rest of the kings. Normally it is quite brief, but that depends on what the king did. We always get the details of how long they reigned, who succeeded them and whether they were good ro bad.

Friday, September 16, 2005

1 Kings 13

A man of God

Summary:
A man of God came to Jeroboam as he was at his altar in the north, and prophesied that a king called Josiah would come and tear down the false altars and kill the false priests. As a sign for this prophecy, Jeroboam's altar would split apart and ashes would be poured on it.

Jeroboam put out his hand tell his men to seize the man of God, but his hand became shrivelled, and the sign was fulfilled.

Jeroboam's hand was restored when he begged the man of God to pray for it. The king then invited the man of God for a meal, but he refused because God had told him not to go home with anyone.

When an old prophet heard what had happened, he went to meet the man of God. He invited the man of God to a meal, and when the man complained, the prophet lied and said God had told him to come.

For disobeying God, the man of God was eaten by a lion. The prophet then mourned for him, and asked to be buried with him when he died, because he was a true man of God.

But Jeroboam continued in his ways, leading to his downfall.

Key verse:
2. A son named Josiah will be born to the house of David.

My thoughts:
This story has two points. One of the points in present at the beginning and end of the chapter. This is that Jeroboam is sinning with his new form of worship, and that a new king, Josiah, will come to stop it. This, in fact, does not happen for a long time, and Josiah will rise up from Judah, rather than from Israel.

This point sandwiches the story of the man of God. The point of that story is to show that we must be obedient to what God has told us over and above what others tell us. People are liars and deceivers, whereas God is not. So we should trust God, not people.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

1 Kings 12

Rehoboam screws up

Summary:
Rehoboam was to be set as king. The people said he would only be king if he didn't make them work as hard as Solomon had made them work. He gave himself three days to think about this.

The old men told him to become a servant to the people and lighten their load. The young men, however, told him to become more harsh. Rehoboam followed the advise of the younger men.

This caused Israel to split away from him. Israel appointed Jeroboam, who had returned from his flight, as their king. Rehoboam ruled over Judah and Benjamin only.

Rehoboam tried to form an army to take the rest of Israel back, but stopped when God told Judah not to go to war.

Meanwhile, Jeroboam was scared that his people would go to Jerusalem to worship, and in time give their allegiance back to Judah and Rehoboam. So Jeroboam set up idols and high places for the people of Israel to worship at.

Key verse:
13. The king answered the people harshly. Rejecting the advice given him by the elders

My thoughts:
We don't like to admit it, but old people are often very wise. They know things we think we know, but don't.

There is no good guy in this story, except for maybe the elders. Rehoboam rejects the wisdom of elders, and Jeroboam set up idols.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

1 Kings 11

The end of Solomon's reign

Summary:
However, Solomon had many foreign wives against God's will. He had 700 wives and 300 concubines. As he grew older, he was led astray by the and followed other gods. For this God said he would tear the kingdom away from Solomon's son.

Solomon had had two main adversaries. Hadad was an Edomite who had grown up in Egypt during David's reign. The second was Rezon, a leader of rebels from David's time who had settle in the north.

Also Jeroboam, an Ephraimite, rebelled against Solomon. Solomon had made Jeroboam the supervisor of some construction. Once when Jeroboam had left Jerusalem, he met a prophet Ahijah, who tore his garments into twelve piece, giving ten to Jeroboam. This was because God was going to tear ten tribes of Israel away from Solomon, because he had followed foreign wives. God would keep two tribes in David's family, mostly out of respect for the temple.

Jeroboam had to flee from Solomon who tried to kill him.

Solomon died and was buried with David. His son Rehoboam succeeded him.

Key verses:
30-31. Ahijah took hold of the new cloak he was wearing and tore it into twelve pieces. 31 Then he said to Jeroboam, "Take ten pieces for yourself, for this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: 'See, I am going to tear the kingdom out of Solomon's hand and give you ten tribes.

My thoughts:
This is a very important stage in the history of Israel. From now on, pretty much, Israel is two nations, called Israel and Judah. We have already seen the two new kings, Jeroboam and Rehoboam.

We have watched as things have gone badly for God's people, and now they are a divided people.

This, of course, is Solomon's main downfall. Women. What a surprise.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

1 Kings 10

The Queen of Sheba

Summary:
The queen of Sheba had heard of Solomon's wisdom, and took a great caravan to him to test his wisdom. He could answer all her questions well, and she was impressed and blessed him. They exchanged gifts and went on their ways.

Solomon received 23 tonnes of gold a year. With is he made shields, a throne and goblets. Silver was not seen as that valuable because of Solomon's wealth. He built up and army of chariots. He was wealthy and wise.

Key verse:
27. The king made silver as common in Jerusalem as stones

My thoughts:
The second half of this chapter is a nation boast of its wealth. Solomon appears to be associated biblically with three things - Wisdom, Splendour, and Foreign Women.

Talking of foriegn women, this chapter also depicts the bizarrely famous visit by the queen of Sheba. Much mythology has been made around this queen. The Rastafarians believe that she was from Ethiopia and beared Solomon's child. This child apparently started a line of Israelite royalty, a thirteenth tribe, of which the Rastafarians claim to be descendants of.

It is likely, knowing Solomon's reputation, that these two people had quite an intimate relationship, but the rest of their claim stands on no evidence, but it is a very interesting biblical tie-in for their faith.

Monday, September 12, 2005

1 Kings 9

God comes to Solomon again

Summary:
God came to Solomon for a second time, telling him that He had accepted Solomon's prayer, and would dwell in the temple. He reminded Solomon to follow the footsteps of his father so that things go well. If he doesn't, Israel will become and embarrassment.

Solomon gave some cities to Hiram in payment for the cedar. He had used Canaanites for forced labour. He built ships, and made sacrifices three times a year.

Key verse:
3. I have heard the prayer and plea you have made before me; I have consecrated this temple, which you have built, by putting my Name there forever.

My thoughts:
Notice how this is mentioned as distinctly the second time in which God has visited Solomon. Sometimes we have a false impression that great biblical figures constantly heard clearly from God. However, the view supported here is that our faith is based on a few highly significant revelations of God, which is probably much more in tune with our personal experience.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

1 Kings 8

The Temple is dedicated

Summary:
Solomon brought all the tribes of Israel together, and got the priests to bear the ark into the temple. Thousands of animals were sacrificed along the way. When they put it there, God filled the temple as a cloud, and the priests could not minister there.

Solomon blessed the people declaring that he had fulfilled the promise of David.

Solomon glorified God, and asked him to hear people when there was hardship and they came to pray at the temple. He then blessed the people of Israel again.

Solomon consecrated the temple with thousands of sacrifices

Key verses:
27. The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!

39. hear from heaven, your dwelling place. Forgive and act

My thoughts:
This is the chapter to read if you want to understand the nature of the temple in relationship with God and Israel. Solomon struggles to understand how God has said that he will dwell in the temple. Solomon seems to focus on the communication between God and humanity acheived by the temple. That is, of course, what the entire course of history is about - restoring communication, communion, and relationship with God.

Notice that God is characterised by forgiveness, even in the old testament.

There is an interesting reoccuring concept of God's 'Name' in this book. The concept is often connected with the temple, and it appears that God's Name dwells in the temple. One's name was of massive significance in the Near Middle East. This can be seen in Exodus 3, when God declares his name. To speak a name was seen, in a way, to invoke their presense.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

1 Kings 7

Solomon builds a palace and kits out the temple

Summary:
Solomon took thirteen years to build his palace. It was larger than the temple, and included a room from which he would judge from. He also built another palace like it for the Pharaoh's daughter - his wife.

Solomon got a man, Huram, to make furnishing for the temple. He made pillars, and basins, and stands and other furnishings. Once they had all been made, Solomon put them in the temple along with the items David had dedicated.

Key verse:
47. Solomon left all these things unweighed, because there were so many; the weight of the bronze was not determined.

My thoughts:
It's kind of typical that Solomon's palace is bigger than the temple. It is better, however, than when God simply lived in a tent. The truth is, that God never quite intended for the temple to be the greatest building in the universe. That would be an idol. Herod made the temple mount one of the great buildings of ancient times just before Christ, but this was never God's intention, and Herod was not a godly man.

Friday, September 09, 2005

1 Kings 6

Solomon builds the temple

Summary:
Solomon took seven years to build the temple, starting four years into his reign. God blessed Solomon, saying that he will be with him if he follows God's commands and sacrifices.

The temple look as something like this.

Key verse:
13. I will live among the Israelites and will not abandon my people Israel.

My thoughts:
The very shape of the temple protects the holiness of God. The pinnacle of its design is the Most Holy Place, where God dwelt, and it is the furthest separated from the outside world.

The temple is truly central to Jewish faith. Religious Jews today pray for its reconstruction, though they have differing views about the details involved in that. Jews do not sacrifice animals today because there is no temple. The temple is the only place for animal sacrifices, so theoretically, if a temple was built today, animal sacrifices and a priesthood should start again. Jewish people are, however, divided over this. Some claim that prayerand Torah reading is a God-given replacement for sacrificial worship.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

1 Kings 5

A deal with the king of Tyre

Summary:
Hiram, king of Tyre, sent a envoy to Solomon, because he got on well with David. So Solomon sent a message to Hiram telling him of his plans for build the temple planned by David. He asked Hiram to provide the cedar logs required to build the temple, in return for a good wage. Hiram agreed, and kept on sending wood to Solomon by water.

Solomons conscripted tens of thousands of men to start building the temple.

Key verse:
5. I intend, therefore, to build a temple for the Name of the Lord my God, as the Lord told my father David, when he said, 'Your son whom I will put on the throne in your place will build the temple for my Name.'

My thoughts:
It is comforting to know that Israel did actually have some good relationships with surrounding nations.

So Solomon has started building the temple - the centre of Jewish worship.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

1 Kings 4

Solomon's rule

Summary:
Solomon appointed many men to many positions. Azariah, son of Zadok, was the priest. Benaiah was the commander in chief. He appointed twelve governors over areas. One was Ben-Hur, who governed the hill country of Ephraim. (I think the movie was about someone else though)

The people of Israel and Judah were happy and numerous. Solomon ruled from the Euphrates to Egypt, and had much wealth. He received tribute from the surrounding nations.

Solomons was the wisest person in the entire area. He wrote many proverbs and songs, and he had a strong interest in biology. People came from far places to hear his wisdom.

Key verse:
34. Men of all nations came to listen to Solomon's wisdom, sent by all the kings of the world, who had heard of his wisdom.

My thoughts:
Who said Ben-Hur wasn't biblical?

This chapter is basically about how successful Israel is under Solomon's reign. It is a good time for Israel.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

1 Kings 3

Solomon requests discernment

Summary:
Solomon married the Pharoah's daughter. People sacrifices on high places whilst the temple was being built, and though Solomon kept the laws of David, he did not refrain from sacrificing on these high places.

God appeared to Solomon in a dream, offering him whatever he wanted. Solomon was humble and thankful, and asked for discernment. God was pleased that he had not been selfish with his request, and granted it.

Two prostitutes came to Solomon fighting over who's son a baby was. Solomon ordered the baby to be cut in half, and half given to each woman. The real mother was filled with grief at this command, but the other woman said 'Go ahead!'. So Solomon gave the boy to the real mother unharmed.

Key verse:
12. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be.

My thoughts:
Solomon's pretty good at this time. I've always though that if I wanted to live in one time period of Israel, it would've been during the early years of Solomon's reign. They do very well during this time, and Solomon is humble and obedient, especially in this request.

I love the story of the two woman. I love how extreme the order to cut the baby in half is. It makes Solomon look insane, but he knows what he's doing, and there's nothing wrong with being a bit insane, as long as you're a friendly madman.

My Bit:
If you haven't seen John Safran's Exorcism, then I suggest you do so. John Safran is a secular Australian Jewish comedian who travelled around the world checking out all these different religions. The series can be quite funny, but this final episode was another thing altogther. He's not acting, and he can't explain it afterwards. It's a bit freaky. You'll have to look around a little bit on the website to find it.

Monday, September 05, 2005

1 Kings 2

Solomon destroys all opposition

Summary:
David charged his son Solomon to keep God's commands. He told him to punish Joab for killing Abner and Amasa, and also to punish Shimei for cursing him. Barzallai was to be blessed fror sticking with David. David then died.

Bathsheba, Solomon's mother, talking with Adonijah, and found him to be peaceful. Adonijah asked for Abishag as a wife, as appreciation for his commitment to peace. Bathsheba agreed to this, but when she asked Solomon, Solomon became angry, and Solomon ordered Adonijah to be put to death. So Adonijah was killed.

Solomon spared Abiathar, but stripped him of the priesthood. He ordered Joab to be killed, but Joab refused to leave the tent of God. So they had to go in, and they killed him. Solomon ordered Shimei to never leave Jerusalem again. A couple of years later Shimei left Jerusalem to find his slaves, and Solomon had him killed.

Benaiah was Solomon's hitman for these killings.

Key verse:
46. The kingdom was now firmly established in Solomon's hands.

My thoughts:
The point of this chapter appears to be the establishment of Solomon's reign without opposition. He 'righted' some injustices against David. I think many of his actions, however, are difficult to justify. Adonijah did not deserve to die.

David is now dead, and his reign is over. There is, however, extra narrative about him in Chronicles, as well as a lot of communication of David's heart in the Psalms, so he will always remain close to the direction of the Bible.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

1 Kings 1

David stops Adonijah from being king

Summary:
David was very sick and old, and he could not leave his bed. A virgin attended him.

Meanwhile, Adonijah, David's son, began to set himself up as king. He got the support of Joab and Abiathar, but he failed to get the support of Zadok and Nathan and others.

Adonijah sacrificed many sheep, and invited many important people to declare him king.

Nathan got Bathsheba to go to David and alert him to what was happening. David had previously said that Solomon, Bathsheba's son, should be king. Bathsheba did not want to be treated as a criminal under Adonijah.

David promised to keep his statement that Solomon would be king. He got Zadok to anoint Solomon as king in Jerusalem over all Israel. Adonijah and his party heard Solomon being anointed from their feast. Abiathar's son, Jonathan, told them that the sound they heard was Solomon becoming king. Adonijah's men fled, and he begged for his life from Solomon, and Solomon let him live.

Key verse:
47.
May your God make Solomon's name more famous than yours and his throne greater than yours!

My thoughts:
Solomon is now king, even though David is still alive for a short while longer. Solomon stays king for many years, but he will be the last king of both Judah and Israel.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

2 Samuel 24

David calls a census

Summary:
David called a census of all the fighting men of Israel, which was a sin. Joab questioned why David wanted to do this, but he did it anyway, finding that there were 500,000 fighting men in Judah, and 800,000 in Israel.

David then realised that he had sinned, and asked for forgiveness. Gad the seer came to David and told him that God had given him three options for punishment - 3 years of famine, 3 months of being chased by enemies, or 3 days of plague. David chose the plague so that he didn't have to be afflicted by men, but by God.

So God's angel ravished through Jerusalem as a plague, stopping on a man's threshing floor. David was angry that God had punished so many people when it was only his sin.

David bought that threshing floor, refusing to be given it, and built an altar with Gad and made sacrifices, and the plague stopped.

Key verse:
24. No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.

My thoughts:
There's a lot of interesting points in this chapter.

Firstly, it can be hard to understand why what David did was wrong. It was wrong because it was simply David trying to build up his pride by seeing how powerful he is. God humbles the proud.

Another interesting fact is that it appears that God made David do this thing and then punished him for it. Interestingly if you look at the parallel passage in Chronicles, then it is not God who incites David to sin, but Satan. You cannot get much further apart than God and Satan!!! I think this calls for a different look at responsibility and causality. God is God. Everything that happens is allowed to happen by him. In some sense, even thousands dying in tsunamis is allowed by him. He could stop it if he wanted to. And, in reality, there is no practical difference between God allowing something to happen and him making it happen. However, that does not always mean it's God's fault. This is illogical to us, mostly because we are dealing with an all-powerful God, not with a limited being. Everything in the universe is ultimately an act of God, but it is not then always God's fault. Here, it is David who sins, it is him who is guilty. God made him do it, but it is not his fault. I think this is also the source of confusion between the role of God and the role of Satan in this narrative. In one sense Satan did it, but in the other sense, God does everything.

Thirdly, why did Israel suffer for David's sin? David himself complained about this, so it's a good question. I don't know the answer, but I think where to start would be to realise that we live in a very individualistic mindset, whereas the Bible has a clear understanding of community. A community can be sinful, though it may have innocent members. Jeremiah repents for the sins of Israel, even though he himself is innocent. This concept is particularly significant with the role of the king as the representative of the community of Israel.

And finally, David makes a good point that we can all heed in today's key verse. A sacrifice which costs you nothing means nothing to God. Our worship must hurt to be counted.

Phew!

Friday, September 02, 2005

2 Samuel 23

David's mighty men

Summary:
David's last words were to be an oracle from God, which declared how great a God-fearing ruler is, and how wicked rulers will be destroyed, yet good rulers like David will be blessed by God.

David had three mighty men called Josheb-Basshebeth, Eleazar, and Shammah. Eleazar and Shammah had fought the Philistines when the rest of Israel had fled, and won. Josheb-Basshebeth had killed eight-hundred men. The three of them broke into a Philistine garrison at Bethlehem just to get David some water.

Abishai was not in the three, but was a chief of the three. Benaiah did not quite make the three, yet was still an awesome warrior, who had killed a massive Egyptian with his own spear.

David also had thirty specially recognised fighting men including Uriah the Hittite and some relatives of Joab.

Key verse:
5. Is not my house right with God?
Has he not made with me an everlasting covenant,
arranged and secured in every part?
Will he not bring to fruition my salvation
and grant me my every desire?

My thoughts:
These named men of David are like receivers of very prestigious war medals.

Though David's last words are recorded here, there is still some narrative of what he did, particularly with his census.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

2 Samuel 22

David's song

Summary:
David sang of how good God had been to him against his enemies. He called God his rock, and described how powerful he is. He said how perfect God's law is, and he follows God's law. He sang of how God had cleaned him and looked after him.

Key verse:
47. The Lord lives! Praise be to my Rock!
Exalted be God, the Rock, my Saviour!

My thoughts:
This song is repeated in Psalm 18. From a textual point of view it is then interesting to look at the differences between the two texts, and then use that to measure how much Hebrew texts tended to vary over time. It is not a precise art, but the fact that there is very little difference, and that the differences are not important is encouraging.

The key motif of this Psalm is that God is our rock. It is a traditionally Davidic idea, and many parts of the Psalm, particularly in the second half, ring of Psalm 23.