Number of Pages: 1816
Here are some answers to questions I’m getting about the Bible:
I am reading the Christian Standard Bible version called the CSB Reader’s Bible, Gray Cloth Over Board. It is a hardcover version put out by Holman Bible Publishers in 2017. The reason I chose this version is that it does not contain verse references or additional notes. There are a few maps at the back of the book and that is it. So far, the only thing I wish it had more of is blank pages at the very end of the book where I could take notes.
I am reading the Old and New Testaments. I am not reading the Apocrypha. There are 66 total books (39 Old Testament, 27 New Testament).
I am consulting an iPhone and iPad app called Bible Maps. This app makes it possible to search locations by chapter and verse. It has been extremely helpful.
I am noting questions in the margins. I am hoping many of these questions are answered later in the Bible. If not, I plan to use future Bible study time to delve into these questions. I am not taking the time to look up all answers to questions I have while I read. But many of these questions have me thinking deeply about them. One question was answered in the church service I went to almost immediately after reading about it in Genesis.
Thoughts per Chapter:
The curses were very interesting. A common view is that Adam and Eve were cursed in the Garden of Eden because they ate the fruit from the tree of good and evil. But they were not cursed. The ground and the serpent were cursed. The ground being cursed made it so that Adam would have to “eat from it by means of painful labor.”
Then, once the flood had subsided and Noah and his family got out of the ark, he built an alter and offered sacrifices to the Lord. Then it says this:
“When the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, he said to himself, “I will never again curse the ground because of human beings, even though the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth onward.”
So here, it appears that the curse on the ground is removed but the curse for the serpent remains?
The next talk of curse happens when Noah’s youngest son Ham sees his father’s nakedness. Noah then curses Canaan, Ham’s son. A few interesting things here. First, this is the first time the curse comes from a human and not God. Second, if Ham was the one who saw Noah naked, why was he not cursed? Why was his son (who the text doesn’t say was there, but that may be implied) the one who was cursed?
I had a lot of questions like this that I wrote in the margins. I expect that some of them will be answered later in the Bible. And for the others, I plan to go back through the Bible to dig deeper into these questions.
I used a Bible Map app while reading and that helped in understanding where everything was happening.
The current situation at the end of Genesis is that the 12 sons of Israel (formerly known as Jacob) are in Goshen, Egypt (except for Joseph who is working for Pharaoh). They have been promised:
…a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey – the territory of the Canaanites, Hethites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites.
This sets the stage for the next book of Exodus for someone (Moses) to lead God’s people on an Exodus out of Egypt into the promised land.
Exodus starts with Moses’ birth and discovery on the Nile by Pharaoh’s daughter. The first 14 chapters tell the exciting story of the Israelite escape from Egypt with the plagues and passover. Exodus 15 is the song of Moses, and I believe the first place where God’s “faithful love” is acknowledged. Chapters 16 – 40 then deal with wandering through the wilderness and the law being given to Moses.
The thing that stuck out to me the most while reading Exodus was the contrast of Moses being presented with the law and the manner of conducting sacrifices at the top of the mountain while his brother Aaron, the priest, and all of the people were worshipping a golden calf at the bottom of the mountain. Those two things were is such opposition that it was heartbreaking. Moses is learning about Aaron’s role as priest and yet Aaron is actually leading the melting of the gold to be turned into a golden calf. Moses comments on how fast this all happened and that is the sense I got reading it. It seems like Aaron doesn’t even offer a fight against the people’s desire to worship a golden calf instead of God. He just goes with the flow.
Leviticus starts getting into the weeds. Sacrifices, mildew laws, and years of Jubilee. It’s interesting to see what is of concern to God. It makes me wonder how much of this was known beforehand and what would have been new. For instance, did people know about the skin diseases and how to identify their severity or was this a revelation of sorts?
My other major question in this section had to do with the different types of required sacrifices and offerings. There were clear sacrifices required when sin was committed. But there were also sacrifices required when someone had a skin disease or a house had mildew. Why would a sin offering be required when a house had mildew? No one sinned to make the house have mildew, did they? Sin wasn’t necessarily committed for someone to have a skin disease. Then, why the same punishment or requirement for atonement?
I just keep writing questions in the margins as I’m reading and I look forward to going back and digging deeper into the questions that aren’t necessarily answered later in the Bible.
It’s amazing – I’m trying to read very carefully and yet I miss major things. It’s interesting how the narrative will go rather slowly and even repeat quite a bit (festivals, sacrifices, etc.) and then all of a sudden there’s a very important event like Moses messing up and being barred from the promised land. I’m thinking – what did Moses do that was so bad?
Numbers starts out with a census of the 12 tribes. There’s a second census in chapter 26. Most of the tribes go down in number from chapter 1 to 26 due to getting wiped out by God-sent plagues for disobedience or rebellion. Only Judah, Benjamin, Naphtali, and Manasseh increased in number.
The famous blessing appears in Numbers 6:
“May the LORD bless you and protect you;
may the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you;
may the LORD look with favor on you and give you peace.”
Numbers 12 – Moses called the most humble man on the face of the earth.
Numbers 16 – the Lord causes the earth to open up and swallow some rebellious people. They go down into Sheol alive. Think this is the first time Sheol is mentioned.
Numbers 20 – Moses strikes the rock to get water instead of speaking to it. For that, he is barred from the promised land. Seems a bit harsh.
Numbers 22 – I need to dig in deeper here. God appears to Balaam at night and tells him to go with the servants of Balak. But then God is incensed that Balaam went. I missed something in the telling him to go and then being mad at him for going.
Numbers 30 – Midianites wiped out. Moses had once lived amongst these people.
Israel’s borders are defined in Numbers 34.
The first 20 chapters of Deuteronomy are a straight retelling of what was in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. I kept wondering why everything was being repeated again, and my friend Joey said that Deuteronomy was for the children of those who had received the 10 commandments. These were the children who were to go into the promised land. Their parents would not be entering due to disobedience and rebellion. So, Moses had to recount everything to this new generation so they knew.
It ties in with the admonition to teach the children these laws and recount the history of freedom from Egypt. Also, the entire law was to be read every 7 years at the Festival of Shelters (Deuteronomy 31).
I have now finished reading the Torah (the Pentateuch / five books of Moses). Here are a few things that have stood out:
- As I mentioned before, I was surprised at how often the stories, laws, festival information, etc. was repeated. I would have thought it just would have been stated once and that’s that.
- There has been little to know comments on the afterlife. Everything is geared towards becoming God’s people. The promise is that the Israelites will become God’s people. There is mention of heaven, but only that God created the heavens in Genesis and that he dwells there and rides to the aid of the Israelites from heaven. There is no mention of hell, but there is some mention of Sheol, as when the earth opens up to swallow the disobedient alive. They go down to Sheol alive.
- The covenant is that God will give the Israelites the promised land if they obey and keep all of God’s statues. God says keeping his statutes is not too difficult.
And here are my main questions after completing the Pentateuch:
- What is the main difference between the two most common names for God – 1. God, 2. The Lord. Why is each one used in a given circumstance.
- Why was Canaan cursed for the sin of his father in not covering up Noah’s nakedness? What was done that was so bad that Canaan was perpetually cursed?
- In general – what are the full ramifications for a curse? In Genesis, we see the serpent and land cursed. The curse on the land appears to be removed after the flood. People can be cursed for disobedience. Do sacrifices remove the curse?
- What is the difference in the Israelite conception of the heart and the soul.
It has been fascinating to read straight through the first five books of the Bible. These set the stage for the rest of the Bible. I don’t recall having read straight through these books in such a short timeframe before in my life (12 days). It’s amazing how much more I get out of it through careful reading, intentional reading, and reading straight through.
Joshua was action-packed. The book starts with the Israelites on the east side of the Jordan River about to cross over. There is another parting of the sea, it says the water was cut off, so that they could cross. Then, as the Israelites are all set to attack Jericho, God has them get circumcised? God is making it quite clear that the inhabitants of the land will fall by his doing and not the Israelites.
So, Jericho falls by 40k Israelite soldiers marching around the city walls for 7 days and then screaming really loudly. The Israelites go on a rampage from there, conquering nearly everything in sight.
Some neat things about this book:
- Again, we see the law repeated. This time, Joshua reads it to the entire people.
- Joshua comes in contact with the commander of the Lord’s army, who states “neither” when asked by Joshua whose side he is on.
- The land is divvied up. Interesting to see who got what, and that the Reubenites, Gadites, and half of the tribe of Manassah settled to the east of the Jordan River. They were able to do this as long as they fought with the 9.5 other tribes of the Israelites in order to gain the promised land.
Towards the end of the book, it says God fulfilled every promise that he had made. He “gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their fathers, and the took possession of it and settled there.” “None of the good promises the Lord had made to the house of Israel failed. Everything was fulfilled.”
The Israelites are now in the promised land and everybody lived happily ever after.
Ha ha ha.
No – in Judges 2, we see this statement pop up for the first time in the book:
The Israelites did what was evil in the Lord’s sight.
As a result, “the Lord’s anger burned against Israel, and he handed them over to marauders, who raided them.” “The Lord raised up judges, who saved them from the power of their marauders, but they did not listen to their judges.”
That’s why the judges come into place. From there, it’s a swing from one side of the spectrum to the other – judges ruling and Israel being in charge to the Israelites doing evil and God handing them over to be subject to the surrounding people.
We see the Lord becoming weary. We see the near wiping out of an entire tribe – the Benjaminites. Their crime is reminiscent of the events leading up to the complete destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah – a traveler spends the night and the local townsmen want to rape said traveler. The particular story in Judges 19 is so disturbing that the Israelites does an about face and seek the destruction of the men and tribe who committed these acts.
Oh how far Israel has fallen in just one generation. After Joshua dies, the next generation “rose up who did not know the Lord or the works he had done for Israel.”
So, Adam and Eve are given a chance in the Garden of Eden. They fail. Noah gets out of the ark and gets completely drunk. The Israelites are freed from slavery in Egypt, cross the Red Sea on dry ground, and begin complaining just a few days after that. And now, the Israelites are in the promised land and they go off a cliff after just one generation. People who have seen mighty works done by God end up doing the same things of the nations around them. God’s chosen people are not acting the part so far.
Judges is full of memorable stories, from Samson to Gideon to Abimelech to Jephthah.
Short book, just 6 pages. There is a family line that ties the Bible together and that culminates in the birth of Jesus. Ruth is part of that line. And what’s astonishing is that she is a foreigner. She is from Moab, which is on the opposite side of the Red Sea from Israel. The Moabites are from the descendants of Lot.
Boaz becomes Ruth’s family redeemer after her husband Mahlon dies. Boaz and Ruth become the parents of Obed. Obed is the father of Jesse. Jesse is the father of David, who we’ll start reading about in the next book, I Samuel.
Very exciting book with epic stories and memorable characters. The book starts with Eli, goes to Samuel, Saul, David, Goliath, Jonathan, Nabor, Abigail, Michal, and others. I always remembered reading the David and Goliath story in the sense of the weak defeating the strong, the small defeating the big, and with God’s help. I read Malcolm Gladwell’s book about David and Goliath and that changed my thinking on it. Gladwell says David was actually in a very good position to take Goliath out. Anyone going head to head with him was going to lose. By David took a different approach.
Here are some questions I have after reading this book:
- We keep reading about the Spirt of the Lord coming upon people, namely Saul. What does that mean? If the Spirt of the Lord comes upon someone, do they automatically do the right thing?
- And what is prophesying? When the Spirit of the Lord came upon Saul, he began prophesying. Does that mean he’s in a trance and can only say the things the Spirit of God says through him? Does he have consciousness while prophesying?
- What does it mean for God to regret? It says God regretted making Saul king. But in I Samuel 15, it says “the Eternal One of Israel does not lie or change his mind…” Isn’t regret a changing of the mind? You did something you thought would be good but now you wish you hadn’t done it?
One part I’ve always liked is where the Lord tells Samuel to find the next king among Jesse’s sons. Samuel is sure the first son, Eliab, was the one to be king because of how he looked. Then the Lord said this famous line to Samuel:
“Do not look at his appearance or his stature because I have rejected him. Humans do not see what the Lord sees, for humans see what is visible, but the Lord sees the heart.”
II Samuel covers the reign of David – 7 years over Judah where he ruled from Hebron and 33 additional years over both Israel and Judah where he ruled from Jerusalem.
I Samuel has a lot about David running from Saul. II Samuel has a lot about David running from his son Absalom. In each case, David is in the wilderness.
II Samuel also contains the story of David and Bathsheba. I found it interesting that God considered David’s act murder. It was murder for hire, but the guilty party was David. That may seem obvious, but there was no question of blame. David’s son as a result of the tryst with Bathsheba paid the price in death.
The big thing that stuck out in this book was in II Samuel 7 where God establishes David’s throne forever. After seeing how the Israelites abandoned God after just one generation, it seems quite clear that something else is going on here. That this discussion is not about an earthly rule but one outside of that. Would God use humans for his forever throne?
Interesting how we begin to see a shift in “the people” committing evil to particular kings doing evil in the sight of God, and the people in turn responding likewise. David was a man after God’s heart. Yet Solomon, despite his God-given discerning heart and wisdom, has a divided heart:
“Solomon loved the Lord by walking in the statutes of his father David, but he also sacrificed and burned incense on the high places.”
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the kingdom becomes divided in the next generation – with Solomon’s son. Jeroboam takes over 10 of the 12 tribes in what is called Israel. Solomon’s son Rehoboam takes over 1 tribe (Judah) in what is called Judah. That split continues onward.
I find the following things interesting about Solomon. The kingdom is torn away from Solomon because “he loved many foreign women” and “they turned his heart away.” The throne to be established forever is done within a few generations when viewing from a physical, worldly rule. This evil Solomon committed impacted the rest of Israel’s history and yet later on, there’s a book of the Bible written by Solomon about erotic love. That’s really quite incredible.
Solomon also built the temple of God (took 7 years), a personal palace (took 13 years), and an even bigger harem (1,000 women, presumably took a lifetime).
After Solomon, we’re introduced to a line of kings ruling both Israel and Judah. All Israel kings “do evil in the sight of the Lord.” Some Judah kings do good in the sight of the Lord. The surrounding nations also begin to attack Israel and Judah (there was relative peace during the time of Solomon).
Some other notable characters in I Kings – Elijah, Elisha, Ahab, Jezebel, and Obadiah.
I printed off a page with a listing of all kings of Israel and Judah, the years of their reign, and whether they did good or evil in the sight of the Lord. It’s astonishing to see that not a single king did good from Israel’s side (however, there were some who were better than others). There are a handful on Judah’s side who did good in the sight of the Lord.
Action-packed. This is the book covering the majority of the kings of Israel and Judah. All of Israel’s kings do evil in the sight of the Lord. Eight of the twenty kings of Judah do good in the sight of the Lord. The others do evil.
We see quite a few prophets in 2 Kings – Elijah, Elisha are the main ones, but we are also introduced to Jonah and Isaiah.
One key idea in this book is that the Lord is the one who directs history. In 2 Kings 18, the Lord told the king of Assyria to attack Judah and Jerusalem. God uses people to fulfill his plan for history. These people may be kings or commoners, willing or unknowing participants, an Israelite or a foreigner.
By the end of 2 Kings, the people of Israel have been attacked and deported to Assyria and the people of Judah have been attacked and deported by Babylon. God’s covenant with Israel has been broken – the Israelites didn’t hold up their end of the bargain. The punishment was being kicked out of the promised land.
1 Chronicles starts out with the begats. So and so begat so and so who begat so and so… For those parts, which were quite extensive, I tried to recognize names from earlier in the Bible. While reading that part, I also wondered if there is any other record of people like this from ancient times. This is an amazing record of family lineage that spans centuries. It’s an unbelievable set information from history.
After and even amidst the begats, 1 Chronicles retells the stories from 1 Samuel. At times it seems like it is an exact copy and at other times, we’re given additional detail. Here are some of the things that stuck out to me:
- When David took the census, 1 Samuel says “the Lord stirred up David” to initiate the census because he was mad. 1 Chronicles says “Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to count the people of Israel.” That’s an interesting difference. Was it the Lord or Satan?
- Also, if I recall correctly, this is the first or one of the first mentions of Satan. Even Genesis says the serpent instead of Satan.
- 1 Chronicles highlights the extent to which David prepared for the building of the house of God. The Lord told him that he would not be the man to build God’s temple since he was a man of bloodshed and that his son Solomon would be the one to build it instead. However, 1 Chronicles highlights the planning, preparation, and provision made by David for the temple. It’s neat to think of David in his later life wholeheartedly devoting himself to this project – poring over drawings, creating spreadsheets highlighting provisions on his tablet (stone, not Apple), and dreaming of the day his son would dedicate this temple.
- It was also interesting to see how David requested an “undivided heart” and “insight and understanding” for his son Solomon. This is very close to what Solomon famously asked God for – “a receptive heart to judge your people and to discern between good and evil.” The Lord in 1 Kings gave Solomon “a wise and understanding heart.” It’s neat to think of Solomon’s father’s influence on that choice of what to ask the Lord.
- Bathsheba was not mentioned in 1 Chronicles. The time where David was at home instead of out to war was mentioned, but Bathsheba was left out.
II Chronicles is about the kings of Judah. It only gets into the kings of Israel tangentially. It starts out with Solomon and goes in order of the kings all the way to Zedekiah and Judah’s deportation to Babylon. There are some nice extra details not found in the book of Kings while other parts seemed like an exact quote from Kings.
Here are a few things that stuck out to me as well as some questions I have:
- Many of the good kings create a new covenant that they and the people will follow the Lord with their whole heart and soul. Why did they need that? Wasn’t the covenant with Moses still in place? Did these new covenants supersede the covenant with Moses?
- Why is the covenant with Moses always referred to but not the covenant with Abraham?
- It’s amazing to me that some of the sons of the bad kings turned out to be good kings. You’d think the influence of their fathers would have been strong enough to where they would have continued in the evil. Perhaps they saw the negative outcome of doing evil and that made the choice to do good quite easy.
- It’s interesting how closely the direction of Judah was tied to the king and his doing good or evil. It’s obvious on some front, but I also wondered if there was anyone (other than the prophets), maybe a common person who was saying – hey, what the heck are we doing here? We’re not supposed to be doing this? It just seems that everyone was in lock step with the king and punishment or blessing followed as a result.
- There is an amazing part of 2 Chronicle 30 where there were a large number of ritually unclean people partaking of the Passover. This was a no-no. Hezekiah intercedes on their behalf and “the Lord heard Hezekiah and healed the people.” I thought that was a beautiful scene.
- We read about the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah in 2 Chronicles.
- Towards the end, Judah attacked by Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon. Then, when King Cyrus of Persia comes to power, he makes a proclamation that God has given him “all the kingdoms of the earth and has appointed me to build a temple at Jerusalem in Judah.” Crazy.
Ezra picks up right from the end of 2 Chronicles. There, we see a proclamation from King Cyrus of Persia where he says that God has “appointed me to build him a temple at Jerusalem in Judah.”
Ezra starts out with a more detailed version of the proclamation where King Cyrus (rules 559 – 530 BC) says “let every survivor, wherever he resides, be assisted by the men of that region with silver, gold, goods, and livestock, along with a freewill offering for the house of God in Jerusalem.”
So, Cyrus allows 42,360 Jews to return to Jerusalem. These were people deported by the Babylonians during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar. Persia is now in charge and these deportees are still living in Babylon.
The Israelites return and begin building the temple. The locals halt construction through fear and bribery and it doesn’t pick up again until King Darius of Persia (532 – 486 BC). The temple / house of God is completed in the 6th year of Darius – 516 BC.
The locals also send a letter to Artaxerxes (465 – 424 BC) saying the Israelites are rebuilding Jerusalem and how this is an evil and rebellious people and that if the king allows this, these Jews will not pay tribute/taxes.
Ezra goes to Jerusalem with Artaxerxes’ blessing in 458 BC. Ezra is a scribe who is studying the law of the Lord in order to teach it in Israel. Once Ezra arrives, he sees that many Jews in leadership have taken local wives and some have had children. Ezra is devastated. This is a no-no. The Jews make a covenant to return their wives and children.
The book of Ezra ends with a list of shame – the list of all men who took foreign wives. It seems everyone was on board with returning wives and children save a few people.