Reading Note – Wise King Solomon( 1 Kings 1 -10)

Solomon was the love child of David and Bathsheba. Although he wasn’t the eldest, he became King because of David’s love for Bathsheba. In Solomon’s early years, he built a Temple for God and a palace for himself. Solomon seems to have been beholden to God. He loved God, as the story goes, and lived just like his father in that he obeyed God’s laws. God was impressed with his righteousness and blessed him with wisdom and riches, so that he earned about 25 tons of gold every year. But Solomon eventually turned away from God and God rewarded for that as well.

Lessons:

  1. Because Solomon loved God, God blessed him. God isn’t indifferent to our good deeds. While they cannot buy salvation and are far less than they should be, he loves* and blesses those who do good – like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and David. People like Jezebel (the evil Queen and wife of Ahab) weren’t loved* and blessed by God.
  2. God turned away from Solomon when he turned away from God. All of God’s promises up till this point were contingent on the people remaining true to God. If they kept his laws, he would keep David’s sons on the throne.

*love: By this I don’t mean the love that God has for us that drives him to save us all, but the special kind he had for people like Abraham and Isaac, people who (as much as they were humanly capable) lived for God.

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Tough Passages: 2 Samuel 21 – God’s Sense of Justice

During the conquest of Canaan, one group – the Gibeonites – had tricked the Israelites into an alliance. By virtue of that alliance, Israel was not supposed to harm them. But Saul broke that rule. In response, God sent a famine to Israel during David’s reign

  • Even though David and a good number of the Israelites had not been part to breaking the treaty, God still punished all of them. It seems to be a trend in the Bible – shared punishment for wrongs done. In the same way that the blessing God gave Israel when a good king ruled were shared by everyone.  (He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. Mt 5:45)

In order to end the famine, David sought to make things up to the Gibeonites. They requested the death of seven of Saul’s male descendants and David obliged. Then  God sent rain.

  • The law required that children not be put to death for the crimes of their parents. But David did it anyway and somehow, the death of seven people was compensation enough for the death of a lot more Gibeonites.
  • God sent rain, indicating that he considered restitution given for the harm done to the Gibeonites. Restitution had been given. The question was whether the cure was not worse than the disease. It is as if I killed your son and then offered my son as restitution. If you’re into that sort of thing you will no doubt be satisfied; it’s a fair trade. It sufficiently does for the victim everything that justice should do.
    • It acknowledges that a wrong was done to them.
    • It acknowledges that the wrong should not have been done, thereby acknowledging the worth of the victims.
    • It takes steps to restore the balance that the wrong act disrupted (something that an apology could not have done).
  • But it did not provide justice to the descendants of Saul that were killed. One can say that God sent the famine for the Gibeonites and when their needs were met, there was no more need for it. But I would think that God would care about the descendants of Saul too.
  • On the other hand, we just talked about a God who sends rain on both the just and the unjust and sends a famine on a whole nation whose King acted wrongly. Something is definitely funky about the idea of justice here.
  • So, David broke one law in keeping another and God did nothing about it.

In conclusion, we can say that God approved of David’s making things up to the Gibeonites because he ended the famine. But we cannot say that he approved of the means by which this rift was sealed. He simply did not react to it.

Skeptical response 1:

Isn’t God’s response in this case a sign of approval? He sent rain in response to David’s actions. That’s basically a thumbs up sign.

Response:

You’re making leaps in your logic. God sent the famine in response to the injustice done to Gibeon. When that injustice was righted, he withdrew the famine. In righting, the first injustice, though, another injustice is committed. The famine had nothing to do with that second injustice so withdrawing the famine says nothing about it.

Skeptical response 2:

Even if I grant that, God still did something wrong here. Seven innocent people were killed and he did nothing. At the very least he should have told David of his wrong actions.

Response:

If you’re going to stand in judgment against God, I might as well give you more ammunition. Innocent people are killed all the time and God does nothing – right from the times of Noah and Abraham, right up till the centuries long rampage of the Amorites. If he spent every moment dishing out punishment, we would all be dust. His technique had always been to let them accumulate, and give the person(s) responsible time to come to their senses. If they did, he forgave them – like he has done to us in Christ. If they didn’t, he eventually visited punishment – like in Noah’s flood (Genesis 6).

Yes, justice should be served for all wrongs done, but there is no law that says it must be served immediately. There is such a thing as mercy in God’s legal system.

Finally, we don’t know what God did or did not tell David following this encounter. These books do not record every single event that ever occured. They can’t. Like all historical texts, they must pick what to include. But if God did not chastise David for this, that’s hardly an issue – like the fact that you don’t get a call every time you run a red light telling you that you’re wrong. If you don’t know that it’s against the law tot run a red light, something is seriously wrong. David was the king, and as such, he was commanded to have a copy of the law and read it everyday. If he was still uninformed, then he had more important problems.

Midweek Praise – The Magnificat

My soul magnifies the Lord,
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
 For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.
 For He who is mighty has done great things for me,
And holy is His name.
 And His mercy is on those who fear Him
From generation to generation.
 He has shown strength with His arm;
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
 He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
And exalted the lowly.
 He has filled the hungry with good things,
And the rich He has sent away empty.
 He has helped His servant Israel,
In remembrance of His mercy,
 As He spoke to our fathers,
To Abraham and to his seed forever.”

Luke 1: 47 – 55

The Conquest of Canaan from Genesis through Numbers

Coat of arms of Weinhaus, Vienna. Shows Israel...
Coat of arms of Weinhaus, Vienna. Shows Israelite scouts returning from land of Canaan with huge bunch of grapes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is part of my series on the conquest of Canaan.

It all started with Abraham. God loved him. He even called him his friend.

(1) He promised Abraham that he would give the land of Canaan to his descendants (Genesis 13: 14 – 16).

 “The Lord said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, “Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever.”

God told Abraham that he would not give his descendants the land for a long time. They would be enslaved and mistreated for 400 years.

(2)He was waiting for the sin of the Amorites (one of the peoples living in the promised land) to reach its full measure before he gave Abraham’s descendants the land (Genesis 15: 12 – 16).

“As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. Then the Lord said to him, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. You, however, will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a good old age. In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”

Abraham gave birth to Isaac and Isaac gave birth to Jacob and Jacob gave birth to 12 sons, who eventually had so many descendants that they became very numerous. They all moved from Canaan, which did not yet belong to them, to Egypt to escape a famine. After they had lived in Egypt for a long time, the Egyptians forced them to become their slaves and treated them badly. God then sent Moses to rescue them and take them to the land he had promised Abraham (Exodus 3; 7 – 10).

 The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey —the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”

So, God saved the Israelites from Egypt and led them towards Canaan to take it from the people who were living there.

(3) God said he would drive out the people of the land for them and instructed the Israelites not to make any treaties with them or they would ensnare the Israelites.

 “Obey what I command you today. I will drive out before you the Amorites, Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites.  Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land where you are going, or they will be a snare among you”. (Exodus 34: 11, 12)

(4) God warned the people that if they did not drive out the inhabitants of the land as per his instructions, those who remained in the land would give them trouble and he (God) would do to the Israelites what he planned to do to the Canaanites (drive them out).

(5) The fourth point deserves further elaboration. The Israelites’ remaining in Canaan was dependent on their obeying God’s laws. If they refused to do so, he would punish them with increasing intensity until he finally drove them from the land, just like he had done to the Canaanites (Leviticus 26; 14 – 46).

(6) God said that the land of Canaan was his and the people were tenants (Leviticus 25: 23).

(7) God gave his reasons for driving the Canaanites from the land in Leviticus 18. He accused them of practicing such ‘detestable’ things as incest, bestiality, homosexuality, and child sacrifice. He said that because of those things, the land vomited them out. And said that the land would vomit them out too if they practiced those things.

“‘Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled. Even the land was defiled; so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. But you must keep my decrees and my laws. The native-born and the aliens living among you must not do any of these detestable things, for all these things were done by the people who lived in the land before you, and the land became defiled. And if you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you.” – Lev 18: 24 – 28

(8) The Canaanite king of Arad attacked the Israelites when he heard they were coming. They retaliated and destroyed his city. I have found no indication that they occupied it (Numbers 21; 1 -3).

(9) Sihon, king of the Amorites took an army against the Israelites when they asked to pass through his land. The Israelites fought and defeated him, killed everyone in his city, took the spoils and occupied his land. (Numbers 22: 21 – 31)

(10) After taking other smaller Amorite settlements, they went towards Bashan. The king of Bashan came out to meet them in battle and they won and did to him as they had done to Sihon (Numbers 22: 32 – 35).

(11) The other kingdoms became scared and launched plots to destroy the Israelites. The Moabites and Midianites hired Balak to curse them. When that failed, they sent their women to seduce the Israelite men and lead them into idolatery so that God would be angry with them and kill them. More than 24,000 people died from the plague that God sent as a result. God then ordered the people to remember what the Midianites had done to them and kill them. This vengeance was executed later and all the Midianites with the exception of the young girls were killed. I have found no indication that the Israelites occupied the land of the Midianites (Numbers 22 – 25, 31).

Leviticus 26 – Reading Note

  • God’s blessing on the Israelites was conditional. He would bless them abundantly, as long as they kept his laws.
  • If, however, they did not keep his laws, he would punish them with increasing intensity until he finally sent them from the land of Canaan into the land of their enemies.
  • Yet, he would never completely destroy them (26: 44, 45) because of his covenant with their ancestors. I think that is good. After all, he did promise to make Abraham into a great nation and Abraham was faithful. And God keeps his promises.

Genesis 25 – Reading Note

• Was Keturah a concubine or a wife proper? It calls her a wife but the same goes for Hagar (16:3) and verse 6 seems to refer to Keturah as a concubine. Unless it was not referring to Keturah but to some other concubines that Abraham had.
• Rebecca went to inquire of the LORD (v22). Where? Did HE have a temple somewhere?
• Rebecca was barren for 20 years after she married Isaac (v 20, 21, 26). Rather than abandon her or treat her badly, Isaac prayed to God for her (v 21).
• God predicted what Jacob and Esau would be before they were born (v 23).

Reading Genesis 17

  • God made a covenant with Abraham. He would be his God, give him many descendants, nations would come from him and He would give him the land of Canaan and in return, Abraham had to agree to get circumcised and to follow him.
  • Does this covenant somehow mean that the LORD wasn’t Abraham’s God before?
  • God blessed Sarai too and gave her a new name just like he did with Abraham. He also predicted the name of Sarah’s son.
  • In this case, Abraham didn’t believe God. In Genesis 15:6, Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. Was his unbelief in this instance credited to him as unrighteousness? Why or why not?
  • God promises to bless Ishmael like Abraham asked, but he had already told this to Hagar in chapter 16

What I find interesting is that God did not think that his covenant with Abraham carried over to Abraham’s sons even though he had promised to make the covenant between Him and Abraham and Abraham’s descendants (v 7). Instead he said he would bless Ishmael and establish his covenant with Isaac. This is one case in which ‘your descendants’ did not mean ‘all your descendants’ but ‘You and Sarah’s descendants.