March 22nd

1 Samuel 13-14

  • 13:2 – There were many places called Gibeah in the area, that’s why Gibeah has been mentioned multiple times recently. Each Gibeah is qualified, for instance, this is Gibeah of Benjamin.
  • 13:8-14 – Saul was not supposed to offer burnt offerings. That was the job of the priest. Saul was afraid of the Philistines and afraid that his supporters and army were abandoning him so he took matters into his own hands. Because of his lack of faith, his family line would not continue to be king.
  • 13:14 – The description, “A man after God’s own heart” is only used about one person throughout Scripture, the next king: David.
  • 13:19-22 – This sounds like a pretty difficult way to fight a battle.
  • 14:6 – Jonathan had faith that God could offer them victory even though only he and his armor-bearer were opposing the group of Philistines.
  • 14:7-15 – Throughout the Bible, many characters have opportunities for God to confirm or deny that something will happen. Here, the Philistines response is Jonathan’s cue for whether or not he will have victory.
  • 14:24-30 – Saul makes a hasty decision to deny his troops food. This is obviously problematic because they were engaged in strenuous activity. Saul also doesn’t ensure that Jonathan knows about the oath. Saul’s quick, ill-advised decisions have now caused problems twice.
  • 14:36-37 – Like Jonathan, Saul reaches out to the Lord for guidance in battle. Unlike with Jonathan, God does not give an answer.
  • 14:38-44 – Because of Saul’s hasty oath, Jonathan must die since he unknowingly ate when he wasn’t supposed to. Saul offers to cast lots so that he might take the fall, but the sentence falls on Jonathan.
  • 14:45-46 – The Israelites speak out against the injustice against Jonathan because they believe him to be responsible for the great victory over the Philistines.

March 21st

1 Samuel 9-12

  • 9:2—In other words, Saul is unusually large. Here, he’s described as taller than all the other Israelites. This is a detail we often forget in the later story of David and Goliath: Saul was present at that battle, and he was bigger than any of the soldiers in his army, yet he refused to go out and fight.
  • 9:21 – This culture put emphasis on shame and honor. Someone from the smallest clan in the least of the tribes would not normally be honored by getting to eat with a prophet. Saul was surprised why he was receiving such an honor.
  • 9:25 – Roofs were sturdy and used as an open second floor in many ancient, middle-eastern homes. It was quite common for people to sleep on the roof.
  • 10:1-8 – Samuel anoints Saul as ruler of Israel and explains to him what God will do to confirm that this is all true. It would be pretty hard to believe that you were being anointed as the king of Israel when there had never been one and you weren’t seeking to be king.
  • 10:9-13 – Though Saul’s anointing hadn’t been made public yet, he was quickly revealed to some people who knew him as a prophet.
  • 10:20-24 – Though Saul was reluctant, the people of Israel accepted him immediately as king. He looked the part, being tall and handsome. I sometimes wonder if that’s why chose him as the first king- Saul will prove himself, eventually, to be pretty bad at ruling. God knows this, but perhaps God wanted to show the Israelites that the best leaders weren’t necessarily going to be the ones who looked the part.
  • 11:1-15 – This story is a little confusing without context. The Ammonites attacked the Israelites in Jabesh-gilead (also known as Jabesh). The men of Jabesh are willing to make a treaty with the Ammonites to serve them. Note that they never seek God’s help throughout the story. The Ammonites want to gouge out an eye because it disgraces the Israelites and renders them unable to fight in battles. The men of Jabesh send for help and the plea reaches Saul. Saul’s army defeats the Ammonites and Saul’s position is solidified with the people
  • 12:1-5 – Some Bible scholars say that Samuel is the most boring character in Scripture. Basically, he never turns from God or is involved in a scandal of any sort. He is just steady. Not even his constituents can find fault with him.
  • 12:8-14 – The Lord was continuously faithful in protecting and providing for the Israelites, but people are fickle, and when things got scary, they lost trust. They convinced themselves that a human king could protect them from other nations best.
  • 12:20-22 – A good reminder that just because we’ve been sinful doesn’t mean we should keep on sinning and assume God is no longer for us. God redeems and restores over and over.

March 20th

1 Samuel 4-8

  • 4:1-10—Moral of the story: when you want God on your side, you probably shouldn’t spend your entire life deliberately violating literally every law he created. One of the most astonishing things about the Israelites is that even when they completely ignored or abandoned God, they always assumed that God was on their side, because they were God’s people. Stupid? Yes. But, can you honestly say you’ve never done the same thing?
  • 4:21—Can you imagine having such a depressing name? I’m sure this guy grew up wishing his mom had just given him a normal name, like Abednego, Zebedee or Ham. Yes, those are all real names of people in the Bible. There are also three (yes, THREE) men named “Dodo” in there.
  • 5:1-5 – Dagon was a Philistine god and the Ark of the Covenant was placed in Dagon’s temple. The Dagon statue’s demise was clear proof that even though the Philistines defeated the Israelites, the God of Israel was greater.
  • 5:6-12—The Ark of the Covenant is not merely symbolic- the Ark is where God is. Literally, God’s presence on Earth in the Old Testament is in the air right above the Ark, between the angel statues on its top. Being in the presence of the Ark without first being ritually purified according to the instructions laid down in Leviticus is universally fatal, and the Philistines are learning this the hard way. (You have to wonder how the Nazis in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark read these stories and thought stealing the ark to make their evil armies invincible was a viable plan. It’s kind of a major plot hole.)
  • 6:1-4—It’s never really explained how these pagan priests knew what to offer to God.
  • 6:4—I’ve always wondered what a golden tumor would look like; seems like it would essentially just be a lump of gold.
  • 6:6—For one brief moment, it looks like God’s dealings with Pharoah may have actually taught a lesson to Israel’s enemies. Of course, as we’ll read later, it doesn’t stick.
  • 6:19 – Clearly the sins of these men who were struck down were great. The holiness of God and sinfulness of man cannot mix.
  • 7:3—Here Samuel is filling the role of Judge, like so many others before him.
  • 7:12-13 – An “Ebenezer” is a sign of remembrance. In the song, “Come Thou Fount”, in one of the later verses it says, “Here I raise mine Ebenezer.” When you want to remember a great thing God has done, it’s important to make a specific note or monument to remember his faithfulness.
  • 8:1-3—Just like Eli and his sons, Samuel’s sons don’t live up to their father’s expectations.
  • 8:4-7 – Verse 7 is one of the saddest in all of Scripture. God’s plan was for him to be the king of Israel so they wouldn’t need a human king. God knew that this was the very best plan for them, but the Israelites rejected his plan and wanted to go with their own.
  • 8:8-18—God is going to give them what they want, but this is going to be a classic cautionary tale: “be careful what you wish for” has never been more appropriate than it is here.
  • 8:19-21 – God spent generations and generations trying to set the Israelites apart. The point was to have them be separate and dedicated specifically to God. Here they decide they want to be just like the other nations and operate as they do.

March 19th

1 Samuel 1-3

  • 1:5 – It was not unusual for a man to abandon a barren wife; this verse indicates that he’s a man of unusual character
  • 1:1-8 – Note the similarities between these two women and Rachel and Leah. The less loved wife is able to bear children. Rivalry ensues. But notice how differently Hannah deals with her situation than Rachel.
  • 1:8 – Elkanah sounds like a wonderful, loving man.
  • 1:11 – Hannah is offering the son she hopes for up as a Nazirite, dedicated to the Lord’s service, like Samson.
  • 1:12-14—This isn’t the first or last time that a person deep in prayer will be mistaken for a drunk.
  • 1:19-20 – Obviously a huge answer to prayer! Note that in ancient Israelite culture, names had deep meaning. We’ve seen this a lot. Names were not given frivolously, but with great purpose and thought.
  • 1:24-28 – What an incredibly difficult follow through! Hannah desperately wanted a son, but promised him to God’s service. She follows through with her promise and gives Samuel to the Lord. I’m not sure that I could do the same.
  • 2:1-10 – The deep faith and commitment to God expressed in her prayer makes it a little more clear how she was able to keep her promise.
  • 2:12-17 – The sons of Eli would have been priests as well and were not following the laws of how to sacrifice, but instead, taking the parts of the sacrifice that were meant for God. I’m not sure if every Bible translation uses this word, but my Bible calls them scoundrels.
  • 2:21—Hannah’s faithfulness in giving Samuel to God as a Nazirite results in her having three more sons. The Old Testament is consistent: faithfulness to God always results in some sort of blessing, usually something much better than what the person asked for. The catch is that faithfulness is often much harder than people bargain for, and the blessing often doesn’t come when expected. In Hannah’s case, she had to give up her son- the only child she’d ever have, as far as she knew. In ancient Israel, this also meant she was giving up her only security- in that culture, a woman’s children were expected to care for them in their old age since they couldn’t earn money for themselves. Hannah puts complete faith in God, and she’s rewarded for it.
  • 2:25—This is somewhat disturbing- it seems like God is preventing them from doing anything to redeem themselves. In fact, this is very much like Pharoah in Exodus and the Canaanites in Judges: God has given them plenty of opportunities to turn from their sin, and they haven’t done it. In fact, Hophni and Phinehas are arguably worse than Pharoah since they’re God’s priests. Unlike Pharoah, they know better than to do what they’re doing. They know God’s law and they’re intentionally ignoring it.
  • 2:27—The ancestor he’s talking about is Aaron, Moses’ brother
  • 3:1 – This means God was not speaking directly to people much at this time. This could be a choice by God or it could be because of Israel’s distance from God.
  • 3:4-10—Have you ever wondered if God’s been calling you to do something, and you simply didn’t recognize his voice? I think this may happen to us more often than we realize.

What to expect this week

We’re starting 1 Samuel today; this is the book that tells of the rise of King Saul and then King David, and includes the story of David and Goliath. This book contains some of the best writing in the Bible, and is full of interesting history and deep theological meaning. Check out the video below for a great overview of 1 Samuel:

March 18th


Ruth 1-4

  • 1:3-5 – A woman’s only source of wealth and protection were her male relatives. With Naomi’s husband and sons having died, she was extremely vulnerable.
  • 1:16-17 – Though it was normally a bad thing for Israelites to intermarry, Ruth seems to be the exception to the rule. Instead of influencing her husband and his family to her Moabite gods, she becomes to loyal to Naomi and Naomi’s God.
  • 2:1-2 – The Israelites were commanded to not go through their fields and pick up the leftovers but to leave them for widows and travelers. This is exactly what Ruth is taking advantage of.
  • 2:8-10 – Boaz essentially guarantees Ruth’s safety and provision.
  • 3:6-18 – Though the language is somewhat suggestive that Ruth and Boaz had a sexual encounter, the language is just uncertain enough that you can’t say either way with any confidence. Maybe she did simply sleep at his feet all night after a kind, generous conversation. Either way, it was scandalous in their culture that she stayed the night with a man who was not her husband.
  • 4:1-6 – Women, like land, were considered property. Ruth came along with the land since she had no male relative to marry.
  • 4:7 – The phrase, “now this was custom in former times,” makes it clear that this story was told to people years later when customs had changed.
  • 4:11-12 – Rachel, Ruth and Boaz, Perez, Tamar, and Judah are all part of Jesus’ lineage listed in the first chapter of Matthew.
  • 4:17 – This lineage is listed to show Ruth’s connection to David and eventually to Jesus. It is significant that Ruth was not an Israelite so we know that gentiles were part of Jesus’ background. (fun fact: Rahab, the prostitute from Jericho, is also part of Jesus’ lineage)

March 17th

Judges 19-21

  • 19:1 – Stories continue to be started with the phrase, “when there was no king in Israel”. Remember: God didn’t want Israel to have a human king- God was their king. So, for there to be no king in Israel means that God is no longer there- because Israel has rejected the authority of God, Israel no longer has any sort of moral guidance.
  • 19:22-26 – This is almost identical to the story in Genesis 19 about Sodom and Gomorrah and the townsmen trying to have sex with the visiting angels. In that story, the angels prevent Lot from sending his daughters out to be raped- the implication being that it’s not acceptable to God to allow such a fate to happen to anyone. The Levite, who, being a religious leader, should have known this, clearly missed the point- this highlights just how evil the Israelites have become.
  • 19:27-30 – Obviously a very disturbing story, the Levite dismembers his dead concubine and sends pieces to every tribe, demanding justice while ignoring his own complicity in her death and never once showing any grief or remorse. Again- this story is here to show how evil Israel has become.
  • 20:23 – The first time in the whole ordeal when someone calls on God for direction.
  • 21:25—This verse is the interpretive key for the whole book of Judges- because Israel has rejected the kingship of God, and everyone is doing what’s right in their own eyes, they’ve descended into chaos, violence, and an evil way of life.

March 16th

Judges 16-18

  • 16:4-17 – Clearly Samson is smitten by Delilah because she continually betrays him and tries to trap him into being overtaken by the Philistines even though she acts like he is in the wrong for lying to her about his source of strength.
  • 16:25-30 – Samson’s strength is restored and he’s able to use it to take down thousands of Philistines. His death is seen as honorable and as retribution for how the Philistines treated him.
  • 17:1-6 – Clearly the Israelites are running amuck. Stealing, making idols, having household gods.
  • 17:12-13 – Micah has basically created his own little temple, which is a problem- he’s setting up a false religion; this is further evidence of just how far Israel has fallen at this point in the story.
  • 18:14-20 – What would initially be expected is that the Danites would discover the household gods and carved images and destroy them, but instead, they take them and take Micah’s priest as well.
  • 18:27-31— God didn’t command them to do this- they just decided to do it. This is mass murder, plain and simple, and God has nothing to do with it- at this point, it’s becoming clear that the Israelites have no idea who God is anymore.

March 15th

Judges 13-15

  • 13:5 – Nazirites were set apart for God’s service and had special rules including never cutting their hair, drinking alcohol, or coming into contact with a dead body.
  • 13:8 – A prayer we should all pray for our children.
  • 14:12-19 – Though the riddle is a little odd, it was obvious that Samson’s wife had betrayed him and cared more for her people than for him by telling the men the answer. Only Sampson had had the experience with the lion and bees and no one else could have known the answer.
  • 15:11-16 – Samson was known for his incredible strength.
  • 15:18-20 – It is a common theme that Biblical characters have some sort of extreme, miraculous experience with God and then panic and cry out to God for something that seems like an easy fix. God always comes through in both the easy and the hard.

March 14th

Judges 9-12

  • 9:6 – Clearly Abimelech wasn’t intended to be king, but the people wanted one and appointed him king anyway.
  • 9:30-41 – Gaal spoke ill of Abimelech who, though he had not fully honored God, was still one of God’s people.
  • 9:53-57 – Interesting that a woman with such a significant story doesn’t have her name mentioned. Though Abimelech experienced some success in war, ultimately, his evil was repaid in kind. Like a stone was dropped on his brothers, a millstone was dropped on his head.
  • 10:1-5 – Presumably, both Tola, and Jair served God and Israel faithfully because no evil is mentioned.
  • 10:10-16 – The Israelites continue the cycle of sinning against God and serving other gods and running into trouble. Each time, when the Israelites reach their threshold, they cry out to God and repent. This passage begs the question if God’s forgiveness is ever limited.
  • 11:1 – Being the son of a prostitute was shameful in their culture, but it’s clear that God is willing to use him anyway since he was a mighty warrior. You may also notice that people’s tribes are mentioned quite a bit in this book. Because the Israelites had mixed with other people groups so heavily, it was important to differentiate who were actual Israelites by mentioning their tribe.
  • 11:24 – Ancient cultures believed that the side with the mightier god would win a battle. This is why Jephthah calls out the Amorites god, Chemosh.
  • 11:30-40 – Note that God does not ask for this sacrifice from Jephthah, he foolishly offers it up and it costs him the life of his daughter. This is why we are to give and do what God asks of us, not decide for ourselves what God wants.