1 Chronicles 1:1-4

It’s All About Us!

The 13th book in the English Bible, 1st Chronicles, begins with a list of thirteen names. I think that’s just a coincidence. The list begins at the very beginning. It says, “Adam, Seth, Enosh; Kenan, Mahalalel, Jared; Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech; Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.” It doesn’t need an explanation. When you see the first two names, you know exactly what the list of names represents. It uses up the first four verses of the book. Verses 1, 2, and 3 each have three names and verse 4 has the last four names. That might be to aid in memorization. But why begin a new account of the history of Israel with a list of names? “Perhaps the best answer is provided by M. Wilcock, who observes that the generations after the exile needed a sense of history and legitimacy. In other words, they needed roots. Using the analogy of a tree, Wilcock observes that the genealogies reach from the very deepest root—Adam—to the very topmost branches of the tree—people who were living in the Chronicler’s lifetime. With these roots, God’s people knew who they were and how they were to live. They may have felt like the most insignificant of peoples (a small, backwater country in the great Persian Empire), but the genealogies served to remind them that they were not only a people with a rich history but that their history was God’s history.”[1]

We all need roots. I’ve spent some significant time looking up my roots. I can’t go very far back on my mother’s side because everything is lost regarding her mother and my mother never knew who her real father was. I can trace my father’s history back to Denmark though but all I’ve been able to learn about the Denmark Larsens who are my ancestors is that one of them was a Danish Lutheran Pastor. He had three wives and three children from each wife. My connection is with the second or third son of the first wife. The first two wives both died in childbirth if I remember correctly. I have no idea what went on before that and because I can’t read Danish, it’s been impossible for me to find out. One day they will translate the statistics from Denmark into English, and I’ll do research again, or one of my descendants will. From Adam to my Danish Lutheran Pastor is just a big void. I have no idea. But the Bible picks up for me and gives me roots back to Adam.

It’s interesting that Cain and Able, Adam’s first two sons, are not mentioned in this list at all. We do know from Genesis that Cain had a genealogy similar to that of Seth, but the names of those are not important because they were all lost in the flood. No one alive today descends from them. We all come from one of the three sons of Noah mentioned in verse 4. “The descendants of Shem are the peoples of Mesopotamia and Arabia. The descendants of Ham, whose name in Hebrew means ‘warmth’ or ‘heat,’ are the peoples in northeastern Africa, Syria, and Palestine. The descendants of Japheth are the peoples of Europe and Asia.”[2] One web article describes the importance of our genealogies, “As we dive into our own family histories, we see events unfold on both a large scale and a personal scale. Contemplating the enormity of mankind while reading about the hand of the Lord in our ancestors’ lives bears record to us of His concern and immense love for each of us personally. Our worth and value is great in His sight. We are loved and known by Him. Our family history goes beyond the names and dates we find in our tree. It’s about what makes us who we are. It’s about people with whom we can form deep connections. It’s about people who lived and breathed and suffered and triumphed. It’s about roots and branches and leaves and entire forests. It’s about all of us.”[3]

[1] Thompson, J. A. 1994. 1, 2 Chronicles. Vol. 9. The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[2] Omanson, Roger L., and John E. Ellington. 2014. A Handbook on 1-2 Chronicles. Edited by Paul Clarke, Schuyler Brown, Louis Dorn, and Donald Slager. Vol. 1 & 2. United Bible Societies’ Handbooks. Miami, FL: United Bible Societies.

[3] https://www.familysearch.org/en/blog/why-we-need-family-history-now-more-than-ever

2 Kings 1:1

America: Watch Out!

If you’ve paid attention to earlier books of the Old Testament, you’ll remember that many of them begin with someone’s death. Joshua begins with Moses’ death. Judges begins with Joshua’s death and there are others. 2 Kings continues that pattern. The first verse says, “After the death of Ahab, Moab rebelled against Israel.” When Walton begins his commentary on this verse he wants to remind us of Ahab and his contribution to the life of Israel during his reign. Walton writes, “Ahab had ruled Israel along with his Sidonian wife, Jezebel (1 Kings 16:29–22:40), and died around 852 b.c. Our biblical writers credit Ahab with opening the door to the worship of the god Baal in Israel through his marriage to Jezebel (16:31), and much of the material in 1 Kings that offers us a portrait of Ahab’s reign is focused on the conflict at this time between Yahwism (championed predominantly by the prophet Elijah) and Baalism (championed predominantly by Jezebel, yet supported also by Ahab). This conflict is itself seen as extending far beyond Ahab’s reign and drawing in other members of the Omride dynasty.”[1]

“The Moabites were the descendants of Lot’s grandson Moab (Gen. 19:30–38). Their land was immediately east of the Dead Sea and shared an indefinite border with Israel to the north at approximately the point where the Jordan River enters the Dead Sea. Moab was a powerful enemy of Israel until the time of the judges, when, under the leadership of Ehud, it was subdued ( Judg. 3:30). It continued under Israel’s subjection until Ahab was defeated at Ramoth Gilead. At that time, taking advantage of Israel’s temporary weakness, Moab rebelled.” This rebellion, led by Moab’s king Mesha, is going to be described in more detail in 2 Kings chapter 3. With Ahab’s death, the rebellion takes place when Ahaziah was king.”[2]

The Moabite rebellion mentioned here is not against Ahab, but against his son Ahaziah, who took his place. Ahab was famous for his idolatry which was to lead to the deterioration of the power of Israel as a nation. As Hobbs says, “The significance of these events is that they show, after the death of Ahab, the disintegration of the Israelite empire.”[3] As we know the Nation of Israel is on its way off the map of world history. It will be conquered by Assyria in 721 B.C.  I believe the US is facing a similar fate. Our problems, however, are not from external threats. The decline of this nation (just as the decline of every other nation) is due to spiritual factors. The political, economic, and social problems we encounter are the symptoms of the spiritual deterioration of a nation. One web writer rightly observed, “Our problem is that we don’t really learn from history. George Santayana said that ‘those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.’ The philosopher Hegel said, ‘What experience and history teach us is this: that people and government never have learned anything from history or acted on principles deduced from it.’ Or as Winston Churchill said, ‘The one thing we have learned from history is that we don’t learn from history.’”[4] As we support killing our citizens in the womb, all kinds of sexual aberrations, as well as a legal system that does not punish criminals, all I can say to America is “Watch out!”

[1] Walton, John H. 2009. Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary (Old Testament): 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther. Vol. 3. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[2] Dilday, Russell, and Lloyd J. Ogilvie. 1987. 1, 2 Kings. Vol. 9. The Preacher’s Commentary Series. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.

[3] Hobbs, T. R. 1985. 2 Kings. Vol. 13. Word Biblical Commentary. Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

[4] http://www.leaderu.com/orgs/probe/docs/decline.html

1 Kings 1:1, Psalm 90:10

God is the real Hero!

David had a very illustrious life. He was the hero and the villain. He won great fame but also great infamy as his own sons rebelled against him. He was a man after God’s own heart and, at the same time, committed adultery and murder. One web commentator writes, “David was a sinner. When you consider the New Testament passages stating that hating someone in your heart is like murder to God and lusting after a woman in your heart is like adultery, we can see that we are all like David, sinners before God.”[1] It’s difficult at times to see David as the great hero the slew Goliath in his youth after the many failures in his life. 1 Kings is important to you and me because the primary theological lesson in 1 Kings could be, “How is God’s sovereign will enacted with imperfect people and institutions? How does God’s will interface with free will, especially when Israel and her kings choose another course? This is the real tension of Kings. The answer will call attention to Yahweh’s power and grace, for he will remember his promise to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David and emerge as the sole hero of the story.”[2]

We don’t know precisely how old David was at the beginning of 1 Kings. But we have a pretty good idea. Our opening verse says, “Now King David was old and advanced in years.” According to Moses in Psalm 90:10, “The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.” We know that David was 30 years old when he began to rule, according to 2 Samuel 5:4. We also know that David is said to have reigned for 40 years. Assuming these are accurate, David was in his early 70s. This doesn’t sound too old to us today (2022). But According to John Walton, at that point in history, “Even royalty were not expected to live beyond their late forties. Walton says that 70 years was “…much older than the average lifespan in the first millennium b.c.”[3] As I approach my 76th birthday, I’m sure thankful that Moses added that we could make it to 80 if we’re strong. I’m strong! I’m strong!

The first verse continues and tells us that David, at 70, was not strong. It says, “And although they covered him with clothes, he could not get warm.” The clothes they covered him with could easily be translated as “blankets.” Christian Standard Version says they covered him with “bedclothes.” The New Living Translation says, “many blankets.” David’s physical health is all but gone. “Once a great fighter, politician, and lover, his circulation is not sufficient to keep him warm, even with the aid of blankets. With death imminent, it is obvious that a new leader must replace David. Who will this person be? How will he be chosen? What kind of character will he possess?”[4] The impending death of David sets the scene for all that’s to follow in both the books of the Kings and the Chronicles.

[1] https://studyandobey.com/character-studies/david-character-study/

[2] Long, Jesse C. 2002. 1 & 2 Kings. College Press NIV Commentary. Joplin, MO: College Press Pub.

[3] Walton, John H. 2009. Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary (Old Testament): 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther. Vol. 3. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] House, Paul R. 1995. 1, 2 Kings. Vol. 8. The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

2 Samuel 1:1, 1 Samuel review

Saul’s defeat – David’s victory

Saul’s defeat – David’s victory! (2 Samuel 1:1)

Phillips gives an excellent review of the final events of 1 Samuel to connect the story with what is to come in 2 Samuel.  “1 and 2 Samuel is one book in the original Hebrew composition. During the second half of the third century BC, 70 scribes translated the Hebrew Old Testament into the Greek Septuagint. Because the scrolls at that time did not have enough space for the content of Samuel, it was divided into two books.”[1] Don’t miss the similarity between the opening words of 2 Samuel and those of some earlier books. Joshua begins recounting the death of Moses. Judges begins recounting the death of Joshua. 2 Kings will start by recounting the death of Ahab. It might be that this formula was the deciding factor as to where the book of Samuel was to be divided into two books. 2 Samuel begins by telling us of Saul’s defeat and David’s victory. “After the death of Saul, when David had returned from striking down the Amalekites, David remained two days in Ziklag.”

Phillips writes, “As we begin to study 2 Samuel, we encounter in David another man whose life was dramatically changed by news of a death. Second Samuel picks up the story directly where 1 Samuel left it off. This is to be expected since originally, until the time of its translation into Greek, Samuel was a single book in the Bible. First Samuel 29 tells of David’s armed band of fugitives marching in the Philistine host as it advanced toward its invasion of Israel and of how David was providentially delivered from the battle that would take place in the north. Chapter 30 tells of his return to his southern base at Ziklag, only to find that Amalekite raiders had made off with their wives, children, and property. David and his men pursued and defeated these raiders and returned to Ziklag. The final chapter of 1 Samuel then relates the result of the battle between King Saul and the Israelites against the massed Philistine host. When 2 Samuel begins, the reader knows what David does not yet know: Saul was defeated and killed, and the Israelites were scattered in defeat.”[2]

David had just returned from defeating the age-old enemies of Israel, the Amalekites. When Moses led Israel out of Egypt, the Amalekites would attack the rear of the Israelite procession to such an extent that Moses had to recruit Joshua to go to war with them.  We saw the rise of Moses’ successor in the victorious person of Joshua. Here we see Saul’s successor in the victorious person of David. The English Standard Translation says David “struck down” the Amalekites, while some other translations say he “slaughtered” them. The main point seems to be that while the Philistines were defeating Saul, David was defeating the Amalekites. From his first appearance in the Bible, David is seen as a very different kind of leader than Saul.

[1] https://answers-to-all.com/users-questions/why-was-samuel-split-into-two-books/

[2] Phillips, Richard D. 2018. 2 Samuel. Edited by Richard D. Phillips, Philip Graham Ryken, and Iain M. Duguid. Reformed Expository Commentary. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing.

1 Samuel 1:1, Micah 5:2

Looking for a Leader

John Woodbridge titles his commentary on 1st Samuel, “Looking for a Leader.” He writes, “The book of 1 Samuel takes us back more than 3,000 years. The date was about 1050 b.c. It was a time when the question of leadership was very much in the air in the small and relatively young nation of Israel.” It had just endured several centuries of confusion, social upheaval, and near anarchy. It was the time during which there were 13 cycles where the nation sinned against God. God brought punishment to them. They repented and cried out for salvation. God would then send a judge or a deliverer. Then, the cycle would begin again. Each time the nation found itself in dire straights, they called for God to send a deliverer. God sent them one to “lead” them against their enemies. The book ends with the phrase, “there was no king in Israel, so each man did that which was right in his own eyes.” In the Hebrew Old Testament, 1 Samuel comes right after the book of Judges. In English Bibles, Ruth found its way between the two books because its first verse places it in the time of the Judges. So Woodbridge concludes, “In other words, there was no established and permanent political authority in the land. Anarchy reigned. There was a crisis of leadership in Israel. Or so it seemed.” We’ll read the story of three leaders: Samuel, Saul, and David, whose story will be concluded in 2 Samuel.

1 Samuel begins by introducing a man named Elkanah. The first verse says, “There was a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim of the hill country of Ephraim whose name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, son of Elihu, son of Tohu, son of Zuph, an Ephrathite.” We don’t know much about Elkanah besides what is recorded in the opening verses of 1 Samuel. To some degree, we might say Elkanah was a nobody. The book of 1 Samuel is about how God uses “nobodies” to accomplish his will. He chooses a nobody and makes a “somebody” out of them. Samuel, the maker of kings, is the descendant of Elkanah, as we’ll see, and God uses him to establish the united kingdom of Israel under King David.

Down the lineage of Elkanah was “Zuph.” He is called an “Ephrathite.” He was also a nobody from a place that was a “no place”: Bethlehem! But the “little town” was to become famous as the Prophet Micah foretold long after the story of 1 Samuel takes place. He writes in Micah 5:2, “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.” So “The book of 1 Samuel is going to tell us the extraordinary story of the leadership crisis in Israel at the end of the second millennium b.c. In ways that will surprise us, it will point us to God’s astonishing answer to Israel’s predicament. We will see that God’s answer for Israel turns out to be his answer for the whole world and for each of us individually.”[1]

[1] Woodhouse, John. 2008. 1 Samuel: Looking for a Leader. Preaching the Word. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

Ruth 1:1, Jeremiah 5:25

A test of faith

Commentators seem to think that the book of Ruth took place at the time of Gideon in the book of Judges. We don’t know for sure. The first verse says, “In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land, and a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons.” The period of the Judges was a dark time in many ways with repeated cycles of sin, judgment, repentance, and deliverance. Each cycle ended with deliverance but then it would start all over again. Several times judgment on the land took the form of a famine so the opening verse of Ruth is consistent with the circumstances in Israel. This is much like me and my diet and exercise program. I’d eat so much and become so lethargic that I’d make myself sick. I lay in bed and repent and pray for help and then I’d get back to living healthier for a little while but sooner or later I’d eat myself sick again!! As I look back over my life that cycle has repeated itself numerous times, so I have some sympathy for the children of Israel in the days of the judges. But, in the book of Ruth, we see the overwhelming grace of God to keep his promise of sending the ultimate redeemer who will save his people from their crippling cycles of sin once and for all. “Bethlehem was about five miles south of Jerusalem. Later Obed, son of Ruth and Boaz, was born in Bethlehem and Obed’s grandson David was born in Bethlehem (Ruth 4:18–21; 1 Sam. 17:58). Bethlehem, of course, would also be the birthplace of David’s greater Son, the Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 2:4–7).”[1]

Moab is a very strange place for the story to take place because the Moabites were recognized enemies of the Israelites. It was very inhospitable when Israel wanted to cross their lands on their way to the promised land according to Deuteronomy. This should catch the attention of any biblical student right from the start. Ruth is a strange character to find in the genealogy of Jesus as well. She comes from the incestuous relationship of Lot with his daughter. Ruth’s history does not bode well for her! But God didn’t care about that. I’m already comforted by that truth.

God uses famines in our lives for several reasons. It appears that they often come because of failure to stay faithful to God’s direction for happy living. Moses reminded them of curses and blessings in the book of Deuteronomy.  The blessings of obedience brought Israel houses they didn’t build, water from wells they didn’t dig, and food from crops they didn’t plant. Indeed, Israel was blessed with a land flowing with milk and honey. Jeremiah explains the famine in his day by saying in Jeremiah 5:25, “Your sins have kept good from you.” But God also uses famines in our lives to test us. I think that was the case with Abraham. Just stay where you are in the will of God no matter what trouble comes your way. For Abraham, the famine was not a test of personal morality or corporate responsibility, but to remain in the land that God had given him.  He failed in this.  A famine in the land weakened Abram’s faith, and he went with Sarai into Egypt in search of food. You might ask yourself in times of famine whether you brought the drought on yourself or is God testing your faith.

[1] Reed, John W. 1985. “Ruth.” In The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, edited by J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, 1:419. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

Judges 1:1

Christ is Our Deliverer!

After the major campaigns to take the land, Joshua charged each tribe to continue the occupation until they eliminated the enemies from their various lands. The tribes were not uniformly successful in doing this. At the beginning of the book of Judges, this task has yet to be fully dealt with. Just as the book of Joshua begins with the death of Moses, God’s servant, so too does Judges start with the death of Joshua, God’s servant. But God had appointed a leader to succeed Moses and made that appointment clear to the children of Israel. There was no such appointed leader at Joshua’s death. Joshua had divvied the land appropriately to the 12 tribes, but not all the land had been adequately possessed by the tribes.  Joshua charged the tribes to finish the conquest and drive out the remaining enemies. But, Joshua had left no successor to help them complete the task. The book of Judges begins, “After the death of Joshua, the people of Israel inquired of the Lord, ‘Who shall go up first for us against the Canaanites, to fight against them?’”

The book begins with the request for a military leader to finish the conquest of the land. Hundreds of years go by with 13 various cycles during which the nation sins against God, God allows them to fall into servitude to the nations around them instead of conquering them. Then the Israelites cry out to God for help. God sends a “judge, “ a military hero, to deliver them from their enemies. Victory ensues, but the cycle starts over. Swindoll summarizes the book well, “The nation underwent political and religious turmoil as the people tried to possess those parts of the land that had not yet been fully conquered. The tribes fought among themselves, as well, nearly wiping out the tribes of Manasseh (Judges 12) and Benjamin (20–21). The pattern of behavior in the book of Judges is clear: the people rebelled through idolatry and disbelief, God brought judgment through foreign oppression, God raised up a deliverer—or judge, and the people repented and turned back to God. When the people fell back into sin, the cycle started over again.”[1]

It appears that Walton is right, “…the aim of this document (Judges) is not to celebrate the achievements of the generation of Israelites that survived Joshua, but to lament their sorry response to the divine mandate to occupy the land and to eliminate the Canaanites…The structure… declares that this military failure accounts for the disastrous history of the nation in the next two or three centuries.”[2] Yet, at the same time, one cannot miss God’s longsuffering with his sinful people. Throughout this book, God’s people are disobedient and idolatrous. Yet when they repented and cried out to God for help, He sent a savior! God never failed to open his arms in love to his people when they turned to Him for salvation. This is the Gospel message for us today. Though we, too, like the children of God in the period of the Judges, have been disobedient and idolatrous in our own ways, God is waiting for us to repent and turn to Him. One blogger says, “God’s compassionate delivery of His people despite their sin and rejection of Him presents a picture of Christ on the cross. Jesus died to deliver His people—all who would ever believe in Him—from their sin.”[3]

[1] https://insight.org/resources/bible/the-historical-books/judges

[2] Walton, John H. 2009. Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary (Old Testament): Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel. Vol. 2. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] https://www.gotquestions.org/Book-of-Judges.html

Joshua 1:1-2

Trust and Obey

The first five books of the Bible are named by their first word or phrase according to the Hebrew Bible and according to their content by the Greek, Latin, and English translations. The sixth book of the Bible, Joshua, departs from that practice and is the first book named after the central character in the book. Most of the following books follow this lead. Look at other books: Job, Esther, Ruth, Jonah, Samuel, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and all of the minor prophets as well. It’s appropriate that this book gets its name from the lead character. Boice quotes Keller, “He [Joshua] has seldom been given the full credit he deserves as perhaps the greatest man of faith ever to set foot on the stage of human history. In fact, his entire brilliant career was a straightforward story of simply setting down one foot after another in quiet compliance with the commands of God.” Boice then continues, “Joshua was not perfect, and the achievement of ‘setting down one foot after another in quiet compliance with the commands of God’ is hardly the way to command the attention and admiration of the world. Nevertheless, obedience is the key to victory in God’s service, and Joshua is a noteworthy example of this point.”[1]

The book of Joshua begins with God pointing out the obvious to him. It begins, “After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, ‘Moses my servant is dead.’” As recorded in the book of Deuteronomy, Moses was not allowed to enter the promised land. He struck the rock instead of speaking to it. I find comfort that even in light of Moses’ failure in this regard, he is still called the “servant of the Lord” by the author of Joshua, and it’s recorded here that he is called “My servant” by God. When it came time for the children of Israel to leave the wilderness life behind and enter the promised land, Moses’ work was done. He climbed the mountain by himself. This “servant” was not weak and feeble. He was not mentally challenged in his old age either. Exell writes, “Moses had no look of a dying man as he left the camp and climbed to Nebo’s brow; no painful and protracted illness, no decrepit old age. What a blessed exodus was this; more a translation than a death. An active, useful, holy life; a speedy death—could there be a greater blessing if we have to die?”[2]

The second verse goes on with the commission of Joshua to his extraordinary life’s mission. God speaks directly to him, just as he spoke to Moses and said, “Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel.” “Arise!” or “Get up!” Joshua. It’s time to leave the wilderness. Moses is gone. You cannot look to him for leadership any longer. You must strike out on your own and move on with your future. One of the two, Joshua and Caleb, who were part of the twelve who spied out the land 40 years earlier, Joshua was well aware of the consequences of disobedience. This book is about Joshua moving out from the shadow of Moses, taking the lead, and obeying God’s call. As Moses was God’s servant for the previous generation, Joshua was now God’s man. Ellsworth wrote, “Serving the Lord is difficult, but we often make it harder than it needs to be. An old hymn, written by John H. Sammis, boils service to the Lord down to the words ‘trust’ and ‘obey’: ‘Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.’”[3]

[1] Boice, James Montgomery. 2005. Joshua. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[2] Exell, Joseph S. n.d. The Biblical Illustrator: Joshua, Judges, and Ruth. Vol. 1. The Biblical Illustrator. New York; Chicago; Toronto: Fleming H. Revell Company.

[3] Ellsworth, Roger. 2008. Opening up Joshua. Opening Up Commentary. Leominster: Day One Publications.

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