Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Bible Challenge: Day 123

The scriptures read are 1 Kings 13-15, Psalm 102 and Acts 17.

1 Kings 13. God sends a nameless holy man to Jeroboam (actually to the shrine where he is worshiping) to predict the coming of King Josiah from David's line and the ending of Jeroboam's dynasty. But in these days even holy men don't pay strict attention to God's instructions and he never makes it back home. Israel is a messed up nation.

1 Kings 14, 15. Jeroboam's heir dies. And we get the first of many references to a book called the Annals of the Kings of Israel. After the next paragraph or two about Rehoboam we are told the rest of his exploits are recorded in a book called the Annals of the Kings of Judah. They don't seem to be the books of 1 & 2 Chronicles. Could you imagine the excitement if archaeologists ever find these or any of the other lost books the Bible mentions? As it is, these phrases indicate that we are not getting the whole story but just the bits the writer needs to illustrate his point. Which is: worship other gods and your country, whether Israel or Judah, suffers. Judah produces the occasional good king. Israel never does, partly due to the constant usurping of their kings and would-be dynasties. Under David's descendants, Judah manages to fare a bit better.

So the book starts to live up to its name and we begin to get a dizzying number of kings of both the northern and southern kingdoms. Just the good bits of each king's story is told before the reader is directed to read more in one of the lost books.

By the way Shishak is a real Pharaoh and his sacking of Jerusalem and looting of the temple is a startling fact.  We know he did sack a lot of cities in Israel and Judah but his triumph over Jerusalem is not mentioned in the  monuments proclaiming his victories. At least none of the ones we've found so far. Archaeology and history are always works in progress.

Psalm 102. A psalm that seems to be about a sick man's pleas but may obliquely be referring to the sacking of Jerusalem.

Acts 17. Paul continues to see lots of converts but also stir up lots of controversy as he evangelizes Thessalonica (recipients of his earliest preserved letters) and Berea (where they fact-check Paul against the scriptures and seem satisfied with what they find). He ends up in Athens where he discusses the gospel with Greek philosophers. Some are intrigued, some dismiss him. We get an example of how Paul broaches the subject when among pagans who don't know the Hebrew scriptures. He quotes popular playwrights. It falls apart when he mentions resurrection because the Greeks considered humans as spirits imprisoned in bodies. Why would they want to be embodied after death, even with a new and improved body like that of the risen Jesus?

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