Monday, June 25, 2018

READ IT! - Introduction to 2nd Samuel 14-20

Readings for this week

Monday: 2nd Samuel 14
Tuesday: 2nd Samuel 15
Wednesday: 2nd Samuel 16
Thursday: 2nd Samuel 17
Friday: 2nd Samuel 18
Saturday: 2nd Samuel 19
Sunday: 2nd Samuel 20

Introduction to 2nd Samuel 14-20

Chapters 14-19 

Three years after David’s son Absalom flees from the capital for killing his half-brother in revenge for raping his sister, David’s general Joab gets a "wise woman" to go tell David a story. She tells him that she is a widow and that her two sons got into a fight out in a field, and that one killed the other and was now on the run from the people who not only wanted to kill him for his crime, but also wanted him dead so they could claim the inheritance of his dead father for themselves. David says he will issue an order on her and her son's behalf. She then asks him why he will not do the same thing for his own son Absalom. David sees he's been trapped and is like "Joab put you up to this, didn't he?" David sends Joab to go bring Absalom back home, but David makes him live in a different house and refuses to see him. 

After two years, Absalom really wanted to see his dad, so he sent for Joab, but Joab wouldn't come... so Absalom decided to get his attention by setting his crops on fire. This got Joab's attention and he arranged for Absalom to meet with his father. Over time, Absalom begins to gain allies through bribery and his good looks, and begins to overthrow David. He would get up first thing in the morning and greet visitors to the city in order to flatter them and plant the idea in their heads that he would make a great ruler. He tells his father he needs to go make sacrifices over in the city of Hebron, but when he gets there he has all of his followers declare him king of Hebron. 

David and his men decide that they must leave the capital city before Absalom shows up to make war. Mephibosheth’s grandson sides with Absalom. Shimei, one of Saul's cousins, curses David and throws dirt and rocks at David and his men as they are fleeing, but David admits that he probably deserves it, and orders his men to leave Saul's relative alone, saying, "What if God told him to curse me?" 

Meanwhile, Absalom takes over David’s palace, declares himself king over all of Israel, and sleeps with David’s concubines on the roof where everyone can see. He also sets up a monument to himself and appoints Amasa, Joab's uncle, as his army general in place of David's general Joab. 

Ahithophel, who served as counselor to King David has now sided with Absalom, and advises him to chase after David as quickly as possible while he is still weak and to kill only the king. However, David has spies in Absalom's court in the form of his friend Hushai the Arkite and in his two priests Abiathar and Zadok. Hushai also gives Absalom advice and tells him not to hunt down David yet, but first go and gather up all the men of Israel so that they may have the strength to destroy an entire city if necessary to get to David. Absalom goes with Hushai's advice, but as he is traveling, David's spies send word to David via Hushai, via Zadok and Abiathar the priests, via a servant girl, via a man and his wife, via two scouts (who are also hidden by the wife in a well when they are being pursued by Absalom's men) all the way back across the river to David. 

David and his army march out after Absalom and his army and a heavy battle takes place in the forest of Ephraim. David orders his men not to kill Absalom, but only to capture him. Joab and his men cross paths with Absalom during the battle and a donkey chase through the woods ensues. However, Absalom’s long flowing hair gets stuck in a tree branch as his donkey passes beneath it, and he is left there hanging by his hair. Joab catches up to him and puts three javelins in his heart. David mourns for Absalom, but eventually Joab tells him to stop disgracing his army by crying over his enemy. 

Chapter 20 

We then hear about more of David’s Wars. First, we hear about Sheba’s rebellion. David returned to Jerusalem, but a Benjamite named Sheba rebelled against David and all of Israel followed him. Judah was the only tribe who remained loyal to David. 

Joab went after Sheba to kill him. On the way, he ran into his uncle Amasa – the man Absalom had previously given Joab’s job to – and Joab killed him. Later, they had to clean up the body from the road because David’s army kept stopping to look at it and this was causing a traffic jam... apparently rubbernecking was a thing back then, too. 

Joab was going to lay siege to the town where Sheba was staying and have the whole place destroyed when a “wise woman” came out and told him to rethink his strategy. She asked him, "What can we do for you?" Joab asked for Sheba, and the woman went back into the city, and after a while Sheba’s head came flying over the top of the city wall and Joab picked it up and went home.

Monday, June 18, 2018

READ IT! - Introduction to 2nd Samuel 7-13

Readings for this week

Monday: 2nd Samuel 7
Tuesday: 2nd Samuel 8
Wednesday: 2nd Samuel 9
Thursday: 2nd Samuel 10
Friday: 2nd Samuel 11
Saturday: 2nd Samuel 12
Sunday: 2nd Samuel 13

Introduction to 2nd Samuel 7-13

Chapter 7 

David then makes plans for the Temple. David feels guilty for having a nice house while God does not have a nice house. David asks the prophet Nathan about it and Nathan is all for giving God a nice house. But Nathan has to put his foot in his mouth. God says, “When have I ever asked for a nice house?” David has too much blood on his hands, so instead his son Solomon will build God’s Temple. David sets up a Temple fund for the future. 

We then read about the Davidic Covenant. God told Nathan to deliver a message to David: 

“I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men on earth.” 
“I will make a home for my people Israel…” 
“The LORD himself will establish a house for you.” 
“I will establish forever the throne of your son who will build my Temple…” 
“My love will never be taken away from him…” 
“Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.” 

David’s response: 

“Who am I to deserve this?” 
“How great you are, Sovereign LORD!” 
“Your covenant is trustworthy…” 
“May what you have promised come to pass.” 

Chapter 8 

We then read about David’s battles. David had defeated the Philistines but then he also defeated the Moabites. He allowed a third of them to live and they paid tribute to him. David defeated the army of Hadadezer of Zobah near the Euphrates. He defeated the Aramean army at Damascus and they paid him tribute. David (Jacob’s descendent) defeated the Edomites (Esau’s descendent) in the Valley of Salt. They became subject to David, in keeping with the prophecy, “The older will serve the younger.” David made Joab general of his army, and Zadok and Ahimelek (Abiathar's son) priests. 

Chapter 9 

We then read about David and Mephibosheth. David asked, “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” He was told that Jonathan had a son named Mephibosheth who was still living. Mephibosheth was “lame in both feet.” According to 2 Sam. 4, Mephibosheth was dropped when he was five and could not walk because of this. David returned all of Saul’s land to Mephibosheth and gave him the honor of “eating at the king’s table” as though he were one of David’s own sons. 

Chapter 10 

When the Ammonite king died, David sent a delegation to give his condolences. The new king arrested the delegation, shaved their heads, cut off the butt-side of their robes, and sent them away. The Ammonites led their army against David, and the Arameans joined them. David and Joab led Israel in battle and struck down their enemies. The Arameans were afraid to ally themselves with the Ammonites after this. 

Chapter 11 

We then read about David’s encounter with Bathsheba. We learn that David stayed at his palace while his men were out fighting battles. He looked down from his roof and saw Bathsheba bathing. He asked about her and was told that she was the wife of Uriah the Hittite. David had her brought to the palace and they had sex. Later on, Bathsheba sent word to David that she was pregnant. David called Bathsheba’s husband Uriah back from the frontlines and told him to go spend time with his wife, but Uriah refused. David got him drunk and sent him home, but Uriah slept in the street instead. 

When David saw he could not cover his tracks, he sent Uriah back to the frontlines with a letter telling Joab to make sure that Uriah was killed in battle. Bathsheba mourned for her husband for a period of time and then David took her into his home and she became his wife. Bathsheba gave birth to a son. 

Chapter 12 

Later, Nathan the prophet confronts David. Nathan goes to King David and tells him a story about a rich man and a poor man. The rich man had many sheep, but the poor man only had one that he loved like a daughter. But when the rich man had a guest, he did not feed his guest one of his own sheep, but cooked up the poor man's little lamb for dinner. David is enraged by the rich man in the story and vows to have the man severely punished. But Nathan says to him, “You are the man!” David repents, but he is now living under the curse of the Covenant. 

David’s child with Bathsheba died. Later, David and Bathsheba had another son named Solomon, one of the ancestors of Jesus. Solomon was also known as “Jedidiah,” the name God gave to him. “Jedidiah” means “loved by the LORD.” 

Chapter 13 

The next section of the book covers the story of Absalom’s Conspiracy. David’s son Amnon rapes his half-sister Tamar. David hears about it, but does nothing... which is similar to the story of the rape of Jacob's daughter. Tamar’s brother Absalom holds a grudge and plots Amnon’s death for two years. Absalom kills Amnon at the banquet of princes and then flees.

Monday, June 11, 2018

READ IT! - Introduction to 2nd Samuel 1-6

Readings for this week

Monday: Psalm 106
Tuesday: 2nd Samuel 1
Wednesday: 2nd Samuel 2
Thursday: 2nd Samuel 3
Friday: 2nd Samuel 4
Saturday: 2nd Samuel 5
Sunday: 2nd Samuel 6

Introduction to the Second Book of Samuel

Structure of 2nd Samuel 

2 Sam 2:1-8:18 – David under the blessing 
2 Sam 9:1-24:25 – David under the curse 

Chapter 1 

The book opens with the Amalekite report of Saul’s death, in which the Amalekite messenger hands Saul’s crown to David. David then commands there to be mourning over the death of Saul and Jonathan. We then here about the elimination of the Amalekite. The Amalekite takes credit for Saul’s death, and so David kills him and says, “Why were you not afraid to lift your hand against the LORD’s anointed?” 

Chapters 2-3 

We then get to read about David as King and Ruler of Judah. It is the people of Judah who anoint David, one of their own, as king. David inquires of the LORD and makes Hebron his capital. There is a connection here with Abraham - as after both men settled in Hebron, they were given land and children. 

However, Saul’s bodyguard Abner makes Saul’s last living son Ish-Bosheth king of Israel. A battle then takes place at Gibeon, and the Benjamites (Saul’s tribe) are divided. Eventually, Abner calls a truce, and he transfers control of all of the northern tribes to David. And David tells Abner to bring him back his wife Michal, the daughter of Saul. 

However, Abner is killed by Joab, David’s general, in the gateway of Hebron, a city of refuge. Joab is then cursed by David, and David is declared innocent of Abner’s death. 

Chapter 4 

Later, Saul's son Ish-Bosheth is murdered during his afternoon nap, and the two assassins take Ish-Bosheth’s head to David. But David kills them, and he references the Amalekite who claimed to have killed Saul and how he had also been punished. 

Chapter 5 

We then read about David as King and Ruler over all of Israel. The people of Israel decided to follow David, and he was referred to as “The shepherd of Israel.”

David then makes Jerusalem his capital. Hebron was David’s capital for seven and a half years until David conquered Jerusalem from the Jebusites. Note that this is different than the conquest account in Joshua. Here, Jerusalem is called “The City of David.” 

When then hear how the Philistines gathered their armies to go get David. David inquired of the LORD, and the LORD told David to have his men go to the poplar trees behind the Philistines and wait until they heard the sound of marching in the treetops, and the LORD gave David complete victory over the Philistines. 

Chapter 6 

We then hear about how David returned the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark of the Covenant had been staying at the house of Abinadab in Baalah. David went to get the Ark along with 30,000 young Israelite men. The sons of Abinadab – Ahio and Uzzah – placed the ark on cart to be pulled by oxen. David and all the people played music and danced for joy. On the way, the oxen stumbled and Uzzah reached out to keep the Ark from falling. When he touched the Ark, he dropped dead. David was angry about this, and he decided to leave the Ark in the keep of Obed-Edom the Gittite instead of taking it to Jerusalem. Obed-Edom was blessed by God for keeping the Ark at his house for three months. 

Later, David decided to go ahead and bring the Ark to Jerusalem. This time, the people carried the Ark with poles as The Law of Moses had commanded. David offered sacrifices every time they took six steps. The procession of people shouted for joy and sounded trumpets. David wore a “linen ephod” and “danced before the LORD with all his might.” His wife Michal (Saul’s daughter) said to him, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!” David responded, “It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.” The story ends by saying that David and Michal never had any kids together.

Monday, June 4, 2018

READ IT! - Introduction to Psalms 99-106

Readings for this week

Monday: Psalm 99
Psalm 100
Psalm 101
Psalm 102
Psalm 103
Psalm 104
Psalm 105

Introduction to Psalms 99-106

Psalm 99 

The psalmist says, “The LORD reigns, let the nations tremble! The King loves justice. He spoke from the pillar of cloud. The LORD our God is holy!” 

Royal and ritual thrones of the ancient world were typically constructed of wood frames overlaid with precious metals and inlaid with gems. Popular ornamentation included engravings of lions, winged sphinxes and composite mythological creatures. According to artistic tradition throughout the ancient world, these served as images of power and authority. Solomon’s throne was inlaid with ivory and overlaid with gold. It featured a rounded top and a pair of standing lions for armrests. Six steps led up to the royal dais, and each step was flanked by two lions, one on each end. 

The gods of the ancient Near East are depicted seated either upon thrones or atop animals or mythical beings (e.g., a goddess might be seated astride a lion). The creatures themselves become the seat of divinity. Images of gods carved into the hills along the Tigris River portray deities mounted upon such composite creatures. 

The divine throne of Yahweh is envisioned as a living entity composed of fiery creatures whose outspread wings form the chariot upon which he transverses the heavens. His throne is a spectacle of light, shining with a radiance of jewels and issuing flames of fire. Although heaven is God’s throne and Earth his footstool, the temple and Jerusalem are often referred to as the throne and footstool, respectively. This imagery evokes the divine presence of Yahweh and his kingship over his covenant people. 

Psalm 100 

The introduction to this psalm indicates that it was for “giving grateful praise.” 

It is thought that Psalm 100 was part of the liturgy of the ancient Jerusalem temple and was reused in later Psalms and prophetic texts, particularly the ambiguous verse 3. 

The writer says, “Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth! Know that the LORD is God. Enter his courts with praise. For his love endures forever.” 

Psalm 101 

This psalm was written by one of Israel’s kings, either David or one of his descendants. It is similar in form to ancient treaties. The king solemnly vowed to administer justice and to live up to the God-governed ideal in Israel. God had instructed the king to prepare a personal copy of the law so that he would learn to live rightly and to manage well the affairs of state as Israel’s chief executive. The king was God’s servant, appointed to carry out the wishes of his master, or overlord. 

The writer says, “I will sing of justice, O LORD. I will walk with integrity. My eyes will be on the faithful of the land. I will destroy the wicked.” 

Psalm 102 

This psalm is introduced as “A prayer of an afflicted person who has grown weak and pours out a lament before the Lord.” 

The writer says, “Hear my prayer, O LORD; I wither away like grass. You sit enthroned forever. The heavens will perish, but your years have no end.” 

Psalm 103 

In this Davidic psalm, he writes, “Bless the LORD, O my soul. He forgives all your iniquity. He has compassion on those who fear him. Bless the LORD, all his works!” 

Psalm 104 

The subject matter and its presentation of this psalm is closely related both to the first creation narrative (Genesis 1) where likewise the waters are separated before the creation of Sun and Moon, and to older accounts of creation from the Ancient Near East, both Mesopotamian and Egyptian. In particular, the Egyptian Great Hymn to the Aten (14th century BC) is frequently cited as a predecessor, as well as the Ugaritic text of the Myth of Baal. The Lord’s power over the sea in creation is described. While Baal is the “cloud-rider,” the Lord “makes the clouds his chariot.” Unlike Baal, however, the Lord is neither killed nor needs help in making the earth produce food. The attribution of aspects of Baal to the Lord, along with a demonstration of his superiority to Baal, served to exalt and praise the Lord as the true King and God of creation in an environment in which the temptation to worship Baal was rampant. 

The writer says, “O LORD, you are very great. You set the earth on its foundations. All your creatures look to you for food. Bless the LORD, O my soul!” 

Psalm 105 

This psalm is traditionally recited on the first day of Passover. 

The psalmist says, “Give thanks to the LORD! He has remembered his covenant. He sent Moses to perform signs. He brought his people out of Egypt with joy.” 

The text called The Admonitions of Ipuwer is a lament over the breakdown of society in Egypt, and some compare it to the laments over upheavals found in the Biblical prophets. Ipuwer is most famous in Biblical studies because it contains a line stating that the Nile is blood – and yet people drink from it anyway. This as an obvious historical parallel in the turning of the Nile to blood during the period of the plagues prior to the exodus. Verse 29 expressed it this way: “he turned their waters into blood, causing their fish to die.” 

Although the date of the composition of Ipuwer is unknown, this lament was probably written long before the exodus and thus is not describing the Biblical event. The expression that the Nile “turned to blood” in Ipuwer may help us to understand what the term would have meant to ancient readers. The implication does not appear to have been that the river was literally full of blood but more likely that the water was so polluted as to have been barely usable. 

Psalm 106 

The psalmist says, “The LORD is good! We have sinned like our fathers. They forgot their God. They served idols. But the LORD remembered his covenant.” 

When the Israelites were encamped at Mount Horeb they worshiped the image of a calf cast in gold, a practice they had no doubt learned in Egypt. The Cairo Hymn of Praise to Amon-Re describes the chief Egyptian god variously as the Goodly Bull, the bull of Heliopolis and the bull of his mother. The bull’s two eyes were the sun and the moon; both bovine and solar images were incorporated into the cult of Amon-Re. He was worshiped as the creator god who generated heaven, Earth, humankind and animal life and was believed to have been the father of all other gods, and the sustainer of the Egyptian kings. Although Amon-Re rescued the poor and downtrodden, he nevertheless kept his name a secret from his children (Amon means “hidden”). 

When the Israelites formed the golden calf, they insulted God by using the same image employed to portray Egyptian and Canaanite gods, possibly even attributing his saving acts to one of these false gods. Unlike the “hidden” god Amon-Re, however, the one true God revealed himself to his people both in his name and in his miraculous deeds. It is important to recognize that the worship of the bull god was in keeping with everything the Israelites had learned in Egypt and that it was, in their view, entirely appropriate… even though their sin was an obvious violation of God’s commands.