08 January 2014

Reading the whole Bible in a year (again).

I’m thankful to have kept with my plan last year to read through thewhole Bible in a year. This is not to say that I was always good at it: at times I found it a bit of a chore, and I got behind in my reading (I skipped over Ezekiel, reading it separately on my last vacation). Yet, I found it worthwhile and something that was important for me to do as a biblical scholar. Because of that I’ve decided to do it again this year (albeit with a different plan – not the “classic plan” but a “thematic plan.”)

I’ve also decided that working ahead is a good idea, so reading a number of chapters was the first project of our recent trip to Munich. All the thoughts and questions that come up as I read remind me again of why I believe it is good to read the Bible through.

These are some of the thoughts from the first few readings:
1. Ephesians 4: 14 (NLT) – “Then we will no longer be like children, forever changing our minds about what we believe because someone has told us something different or because someone has cleverly lied to us and made the lie sound like the truth.”
The use of the word “then” indicates that there is a basis for this statement: what (then) is the secret to not being fickle or deceived? I’ll get back to this in a later blog entry (feel free to look up the text yourself).

2. Genesis 11-12
I’ve always seen Abram’s going to Canaan as such a huge step of faith – leaving his country, his relatives and his father’s house (Gen 12:1). Yet, Gen 11:31 indicates that Terah, Abram’s father, had already brought the family – himself, Abram, Sarai, and Lot – away from Ur with the plan to go to Canaan! They just stopped part way in Haran instead of going all the way. Abram received the call (to continue?) to go to Canaan after his father passed away.
On one hand, these details in Genesis 11 make Abram’s response to God’s call seem less significant. After all, what did he have to lose? However, perhaps there’s also something to appreciate about how things were set in place (through Abram’s father) so that Abram was more likely (and more open) to respond to God’s call.

3. The genealogy of Genesis 11. Like most people, I tend to skip over the genealogies as being one of the most boring aspects of reading the Bible today. However, two things struck me when reading this genealogy and looking at the ages.
1. God says (before the flood) in Gen 6:3 “My Spirit will not put up with humans for such a long time, for they are only mortal flesh. In the future, they will live no more than 120 years. Nonetheless in the list of Shem (son of Noah) and his descendents, people live 400+ years.
2. If you look at the dates and do a quick calculation, you can come to the conclusion that, with everyone bearing children before they turn 40 while living 400 years in the first generation and only 200 years in the later generations, some of the older generations would then outlive the younger generations.

4. In Genesis 9, Noah curses Ham’s family, so why then is he the father of all the nations that become so powerful later on? The curse Noah puts on Ham’s family is: “A curse on the Canaanites! May they be the lowest of servants to the descendants of Shem and Japheth.” (Gen 9:25)
Ham becomes the father of the builders of the foundations of Babylonia and Nineveh. He is also ancestor of theCanaanites, Philistines, Jebusites, Amorites, Hivites, and ‘lots more unpleasant people’ (Matthijs’s words). None of the other sons had any ‘peoples,’ although obviously Shem becomes the great grandfather of Abram and the Israelites who later annihilate the Canaanites (see the book of Joshua). Japheth only becomes the ancestor of all the people mightily involved in the sea trade.
Thus all these people who cause many difficulties for the Israelites (and overpower them at times) in the future are descendants of Ham, which doesn't seem to make sense from the original curse. How is that then possible? 
Matthijs pointed out that animosity could be projected through one's ancestors – the greatest insult being that you are a descendent of Ham. (later on, also Moab, the people from Lot's daughters). 
Any other thoughts? 

In case you’re thinking about reading the Bible through in a year (or two), the following website gives some helpful resources: http://writingandliving.net/2013/12/31/links-new-year/

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