I’ve been a Bible student for most of my life. I was raised in church, so I’ve been learning the Bible stories since I was a little child, and compounding on those learnings with more complexity through my own study and then through Bible college. This is the first time I have really committed to reading the Bible within a year. I was following a more complicated year break-down plan that had me hopping through four different books each day. It just wasn’t to my taste, and I decided that I was just going to read straight through from start to finish. I took how many chapters there are in the Bible (1,189) divided by 365 days, which came to somewhere over 3 chapters a day. I rounded up to 4 chapters a day, just so I could be sure to get through it within the year. It is the 4th day of February and I am already more than halfway through the book of Numbers. I have been learning so much! I would love to share some of what I’ve been gleaning with you today.
There are some things I could share throughout each book, but some have been bouncing around my head for a long while. I’m going share the NEW stuff I’ve discovered. One thing I love about Scripture is that it is God-breathed and living. I can read one verse one day and then read it another day and it has a different application to my life. It’s saying the same thing, having the same truth, but it takes on a new meaning, especially when the awareness of context, or parallel stories, come into play.
Case in point:
I was re-reading in Genesis (Chapter 34) where Jacob’s daughter, Dinah, was raped by a man from a nearby village. The man loved Dinah, though, and wanted to make things right (not sure on the probability of that, but at least he had the intention). Jacob gave him and all the men in the village the option to be circumcised and then they would gladly intermarry with them. Every male conceded to the plan and it was done. While they were still healing, Simeon and Levi went into the village and killed all males and plundered them.
I’ve read this story before, but one thing that struck me this time was which of the two brothers it was who did this thing. I don’t know much about Simeon, but Levi was the “father” of the priests God chose for the Tabernacle and Temple. I know certain stories of my own family heritage – acts of my ancestors – and I am grateful for stories like this that show family redemption. Not saying all the priests of Levi were saints, but God made something great out of that family, which started from a man who was a murderer.
Plagues of Egypt
The book of Exodus is so exciting and eventful in the beginning and then it kind of gets monotonous towards the end. The 2nd half of Exodus and Leviticus can lose casual readers easily. One thing I found interesting in the beginning of Exodus that I had never noticed before was that a couple of the plagues on Egypt included the people of Israel. I had traditionally applied all the plagues exclusively to the Egyptians because they were to prove the inefficacy of the Egyptian gods. After living in Egypt for 400 years and the Israelites’ propensity for following other nation’s gods, it would seem logical that some of the plagues included the Israelites because they had embraced the Egyptian deities. This is extrapolation, but it’s a reasonable conclusion. After the plagues of the Nile turning to blood, the frogs swarming out of the Nile, and the gnats coming out of the dust, Egypt is the sole afflicted nation and Israel is kept separate.
The Golden Lampstand
I’ve not really spent much time studying the articles of the Tabernacle. I’ve been through casual studies of them, but this was my first time really reading through them and their descriptions. The lampstand, in particular, stuck out to me and I reread the description a few times. In Exodus 25: 31-40, the lampstand was described to resemble an almond tree, with blossoms on each branch and as the head for the flames. I had the question in my mind of “Why an almond tree?” Israel is typically represented by the olive tree, so why not here? The first obvious answer would be because of Aaron’s staff that budded, but that isn’t mentioned until the book of Numbers, well after the Tabernacle has been established and in use. Sure, God could have been looking forward to that particular event, to show even more preference for Aaron’s family line as the priestly tribe, but could there be another answer?
I asked several people and got mostly, “I have never thought about it,” or, “Well, what about Aaron’s staff?” and “What have YOU found?” One church member mentioned that he had just read something that might be related in the book of Jeremiah, of all places. In Jeremiah 1:11-12, God asks Jeremiah to say what he sees. Jeremiah sees a “watchful tree” and God confirms his vision by stating that He is watching over His promises to put them in action. Some translations will say that it is an “almond tree” that he sees. This is because the Hebrew words for “watch” and “almond” are very similar, shoqed and shaqed, respectively, and sometimes used as a word-play. I investigated this some more and found that the Franciscans traditionally held this view. The lampstand represents God’s presence – light helps to see – the almond blossoms would echo God watching the people of Israel. This rings true even more when compared to the passage in Numbers 8:1-4, where it says the lampstand was to be arranged so that the light shone in front of it, or rather, across the holy place to the Table of Showbread. On the Table of Showbread where twelves loaves of bread, each representing a tribe of Israel. This signifies God watching over Israel and keeping His promises.
Saul’s Vow and Jonathan’s Ransom
There are three boys from our church that are participating in something called a Bible Bowl. We called them Bible drills when I was a kid, but surprisingly, I never participated in a formal one – just ones in our own church or at church camp, and they were kind of impromptu events. We’ve been helping the boys study on Wednesday nights, as a church, by reading through the book of 1 Samuel and being quizzed by the pastor altogether. It’s been a blast. I’m such a nerd!
Last week, we covered the story where Saul makes a vow that no one should eat anything until the battle is won or else they would die. This is found in 1 Samuel 14:24-46. Jonathan, Saul’s son, didn’t hear the vow made, and finds honey in the forest. He has some and it “brightens” his eyes and he feels all the better for it. The men tell him what his father vowed and Jonathan says that it wasn’t a good vow and that they should eat because it will keep up their strength. Some other stuff happens, but in the end, Saul finds out that Jonathan broke the vow. He’s distraught, because he will have to kill him, according to his vow, and Jonathan resigns himself to this fate. However, the people rally around Jonathan and pay the “ransom” for him, so that he will not be killed. Then they go fight some more.
I have read this story before, but I missed the “ransom” part of it. I was puzzling over it a bit, when my daily reading the next morning took me through the end of Leviticus, where it talks on Laws About Vows. In it, it states that if someone makes a vow, his life can be redeemed by making a ransom payment to the tabernacle. It’s one way that the Tabernacle could be funded, but there were multiple reasons to pay this ransom to the tabernacle, not just because of a vow. God commanded that the firstborn of everything be His. A person could buy back their firstborn cow, ram, or even son, from God by contributing to the Tabernacle. It thought it was a neat “God-cidence” that I would just happen to read about it the very next day after getting the question.
I’m looking forward to finding more gems as I read through the Bible this year. By the way, with my four-chapters-a-day plan, I should be finished on October 30th. I will have to read 5 chapters that day, but all in all, I think it’s a very good plan. I have the ESV Global Study Bible that I got for Christmas this year and am learning a ton from the maps and footnotes. The intros to each of the books is really neat too. Each one highlights these important points: Authorship and Date, Theme and Purpose, Key Themes, Outline, and then any maps that might be helpful, as well as certain key topics, such as “Place in Redemptive History,” “Universal Themes,” and “Global Message for Today.” I highly recommend this study Bible, but using any study Bible is a tremendous help when reading through Scripture on your own.