I Kings 8:56-61

On March 26, 2010, in Culture, Religion, Theology, by marc

I’m still pursuing my goal of reading through the Bible from front to back in a year; I believe I’ve mentioned before that my reading Bible is Zondervan’s new NIV Stewardship Study Bible, which I’ve found to have a good deal of interesting supplemental material (although since my focus has been on reading scripture, I must confess that I’ve been skimming through some of the extras).  That being said, today I ran across the following passage – I Kings 8:56-61 – which struck me.  This is a prayer of Solomon, uttered immediately following his prayer of dedication for the just-completed temple:

“Praise be to the Lord, who has given rest to his people Israel just as he promised. Not one word has failed of all the good promises he gave through his servant Moses.  May the Lord our God be with us as he was with our fathers; may he never leave us nor forsake us.  May he turn our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways and to keep the commands, decrees and regulations he gave our fathers.  And may these words of mine, which I have prayed before the Lord, be near to the Lord our God day and night, that he may uphold the cause of his servant and the cause of his people Israel according to each day’s need,  so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God and that there is no other.  But your hearts must be fully committed to the Lord our God, to live by his decrees and obey his commands, as at this time.”

There is a tenderness here that warmed my heart; such gratefulness for the faithfulness of God.  And then the request that God himself would guard the paths of the people – that God would cause the people to honor Him, in order that they avoid giving offense to God and bringing trouble upon their own heads, and ultimately to bring glory and honor to God from all peoples of the earth.

It’s poignant as well to note that in just a few chapters, Solomon will stray from the commitment that he makes here, and will thus face rebellion within his kingdom for abandoning a full devotion to his God – a reminder to us today that we must always guard our hearts and minds, aware that we are constantly susceptible to sin.  We must daily recommit ourselves to honoring God alone.

Numbers and the rights of women

On January 17, 2010, in Culture, History, Religion, Theology, by marc

Perhaps you’ve noted in my Goodreads feed that I’ve been working my way through the Bible since late December.  My goal, initially stated, was to read the Bible from front to back (like one would read a regular book) over the course of this year, and to read it aloud.  I got off to a good start, and even began to record myself reading it (thinking that someday when I die, the kids might just find it in some format and have an audio copy of their dear old dad reading the scriptures cover to cover to play for their children, and so on.  I’ve sort of trailed off in enthusiasm for that particular aspect of the project, and I’ve modified the goal of reading it aloud because it’s sort of impractical at times to read aloud at some points when I have time to read, so I’m now planning to read as much as possible aloud.

Anyway, I’m making steady progress, and I’m hoping to be through the Pentateuch by the end of this month – a reasonable goal, I think, especially considering that I’m entering the homestretch of Numbers halfway through January.  And today, I ran across a passage that was interesting, and casts some interesting light on the common claim that the Bible is a tool of patriarchy and all about the oppression of women.  Numbers 27:1-11 says:

The daughters of Zelophehad son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Makir, the son of Manasseh, belonged to the clans of Manasseh son of Joseph. The names of the daughters were Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah and Tirzah. They approached the entrance to the Tent of Meeting and stood before Moses, Eleazar the priest, the leaders and the whole assembly, and said, “Our father died in the desert. He was not among Korah’s followers, who banded together against the LORD, but he died for his own sin and left no sons.  Why should our father’s name disappear from his clan because he had no son? Give us property among our father’s relatives.”

So Moses brought their case before the LORD 6 and the LORD said to him,  ”What Zelophehad’s daughters are saying is right. You must certainly give them property as an inheritance among their father’s relatives and turn their father’s inheritance over to them.

“Say to the Israelites, ‘If a man dies and leaves no son, turn his inheritance over to his daughter.  If he has no daughter, give his inheritance to his brothers. 10 If he has no brothers, give his inheritance to his father’s brothers.  If his father had no brothers, give his inheritance to the nearest relative in his clan, that he may possess it. This is to be a legal requirement for the Israelites, as the LORD commanded Moses.’ “

As I was reading, it struck me that this action taken by the daughters of Zelophad was likely completely out of step with the overwhelming male-dominated culture of the day, and God’s response indicates that while the culture may have been male-dominated, He certainly wasn’t.  Via Zondervan’s Expositors’s Bible Commentary, some more detail on how God expressed his concern for these women:

(1-4) The question brought to Moses by the five daughters of Zelophehad, whose genealogy is traced back to Manasseh (cf. 26:33), concerned the securing of the inheritance and the preservation of their father’s name in the land.  Their action in approaching the leaders of the nation was unprecedented, a great act of courage, conviction, and faith.  When the women made their claim to Moses, they specified that their father had not died because of participation in the rebellion of Korah (see Nu 16) but only because he was part of the entire doomed first generation.  It appears from this verse that the rebels associated with Korah not only lost their lives in the judgment of God but that their survivors lost their inheritance as well.  So the women came asking for a decision from the Lord, that their father’s name not disappear from among the clans  of his family.  These verses clearly demonstrate the tie of name to land in the expectation of Israel.  One’s meaning in the community is dependent on the survival of his name in the distribution of land in the time of conquest…

…(6-11) This section gives an indication of how case law might have operated in Israel.  The general laws would be promulgated.  Then legitimate exceptions or special considerations would come to the elders and perhaps be brought to Moses himself.  He would then await a decision from the Lord.  In this case the Lord gave a favorable decision to these women.  In fact, he went beyond their request.  They had requested a landed property (v. 4).  The response of the Lord was for a hereditary possession of landed property.  Not only would they receive the property, they could transfer it to their heirs as well.  It is as thought their father had had sons!

God is not a God for men only.  Even in a time when the world was completely dominated by males, God was concerned about the treatment of women, and was concerned enough to intervene and ensure that they were treated fairly and to do so in a way that was revolutionary at the time.

By the way, I’m reading through my newest copy of the Bible – the NIV Stewardship Resource Bible, published by Zondervan with additional material edited by some friends of mine from work.  The stewardship material that I’ve encountered thus far has been very worthwhile, and of course the NIV translation is very accurate and readable.  Highly recommended.