Thursday, November 29, 2012

XCIII - Saul's Success and Failure - Chapter 13:1 - 14:23

Chapter 13  -   The previous chapter told about Samuel's farewell address, which was discussed in the last post.  This chapter skips to Saul and his son Jonathan having become warriors and military leaders.  Together they have adopted the task of dealing with the dreaded Philistines militarily.  As discussed in recent posts, the Philistines are always ready for war and have the most sophisticated weapons in the region.   {Having studied the Philistines, I believed if it were not for the Israelites, the Philistines would have taken over this entire region and beyond, as southerly as Egypt.  I think they would have been genocidal in doing so, which would have been violent and bloody.  They were smart when it came to war and they had troop strength to occupy whatever territory they might have conquered.  I submit that only the Edomites and the Egyptians could have withstood Philistine aggression.  Even the Persians (Northwest) would have eventually fallen to these people.}   Chapter 13 seems to abruptly change narrative, as it opens up with telling that Saul was 30 years old when he began his reign and was king of Israel for 42 years.  Then (I'm a little confused with Saul's reasoning) it goes on to tell how Saul reduces his massive army of 330,000 men down to 3000.  2000 stayed with Saul and 1000 went with his son Jonathan.  He sent the rest of his army home.  Although I think this was rather short-sighted, this was not Saul's biggest mistake.  The Scripture goes on to tell us that Jonathan and Saul both attacked Philistine outposts successfully.  But in doing that they brought the wrath of the entire Philistine military down on themselves.  The Philistines immediately assembled 3000 chariots, 6000 charioteers, and foot soldiers that were numbered as sand on the seashore.  (That means too many to count, which tells me it was in the hundreds of thousands.)  So fearful did the Israelites become, that Sauls 3000-man army scattered and all he and Jonathan had left was 600 men.  All of a sudden, Saul went from a mighty slaughterer of the Philistines to a king who could not keep his army from abandoning him.

Then Saul makes the big mistake in vss 8-15.  Granted, Saul had reason to be worried.  He was to wait for Samuel to give Saul directions from God.  Saul got impatient an acted as High Priest and performed the sacrificial ritual himself.  Samuel arrived and when he saw what was happening, he scolded Saul severely and prophesied a failed kingship for Saul.  {Although Saul was king, his authority was limited.  The Law concerning sacrifice was not within the boundries of the king, or anyone else who was not ordained into the priesthood.  The Law was clear on this and Saul knew better.  But Saul sincerely thought his decision was a good one.  His defending that decision only made Samuel realize Saul's weaknesses all the more.  Vss 16-22 seem like a parenthetical passage.  Remember when I commented on the Philistines being smart militarily.  This passage tells how the Philistines had captured not only all the weapons that could be at Israel's disposal, but also captured all the blacksmiths who could be commissioned to make weapons.  Pretty smart.  In the last few verses of this chapter it says that Saul and Jonathan were the only two with weapons.  The rest of Israel's soldiers had plow points, mattocks, and axes for weapons.  All of a sudden, things aren't looking very good for Saul.

Chapter 14 continues the with the Philistine army surrounding Saul and his shrunken army.  While the Philistines leaders were busy making their attack plans they posted a small garrison of twenty soldiers to keep an eye on Saul.  This was at the passage of Mikmash, which was a passage necessary for access to the rest of the region.  Militarily, it was a must possession.  Jonathan, being young and impatient, decided to take his armor-bearer and spy on the Philistine garrison.  When they were spotted by the enemy soldiers, they were taunted into a fight.  Jonathan and his young armor-bearer killed all twenty soldiers in that brief skirmish.  Upon hearing of this, the entire Philistine army paniced and was thrown into chaos (with the help of an earthquake God had made).  All of this emboldenened Saul and the Israelite soldiers.  So Saul gathered as many soldiers as were available to him and took the liberty of calling for the Ark of the Covenent to be brought into battle with them.  The Israelites enjoyed victory that day and scattered the Philistine army.  {Bear in mind that although there were hundreds of thousands of Philistine soldiers, they fled.  They were not all killed by the Israelites.  Therefore these soldiers still existed and would be gathered to fight another day.  We must keep in mid how clumsy and inefficient communication within an army must have been back then.  It's not difficult to imagine the exagerations that must have taken place when as reports were handed from one person to the next.}  Note in verse 20 that the Philistines went into total panic and confusion, to the point that they were killing each other.  {We've seen this happen a number of times thus far in our study, (ie Gideon).  It's not hard to picture how this could happen.  There were no military uniforms that outwardly showed what side you were on.  At the most, there were flags or banners, but that only marked large groups in transit.  Try to imagine being a foot soldier among two hundred thousand others, camped in one large, but strange area.  Then panic breaks out, and you sense that you are under attack by the enemy.  Again, communication is clumsy and inaccurate.  Also, Saul attacked them in the dark, adding to the panic and confusion.  A soldier would be inclined to defend himself from anyone close to him.  This had to be a terrible time to live.}
This defeat of the Philistine army was a great victory for Saul and Israel.  Unformtunately, it will be marred by some foolish decisions by Saul, which we'll look at in the next post.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

XCII - I Samuel 12 - Samuel's Farewell Address

In the last post Saul had been officially proclaimed king and had assumed the office.  Therefore, a new era was rapidly ushered in and began a new chapter in Israel's History.  Some of the older customs would yield to the new order.  One of these customs affected Samuel's role as judge.  When a king began to rule, the office of judge no longer would be needed, and therefore would be "phased out".  For the most part the authority that a judge had would be turned over to the king.  As a result of this, Samuel felt that the transition would directly effect his every-day duties, plus the people's perception of him.  Remember that Samuel was the first prophet in generations, and many people would have been reluctant to give him up as their leader.  Therefore, he spoke to the issue, which brings us to chapter 12.

Samuel opened his address to the nation by recounting recent developments.  (This was a common practice, as seen in many addresses in the Scripture.)  Notice the tone in verse 1.  Samuel reminds them that having a king was their idea and he yielded to their wishes, even though he knew it was not the right thing to do.  In vss 2-5 Samuel wants them to affirm their thoughts toward him as a man.  He openly asks them if they had any occasion against him.  An occasion being any reason to question his character:  Have I stolen anything from any of you?  Have I cheated anyone?  Have I ever accepted a bribe.  If anyone thinks I have, please say so now and I will make it right.  {I'm not certain what brought on this rather strange line of questioning.  There must have been some murmuring against Samuel, and he wanted to place his character out in the open so as to put any question to rest.  Also, I know that as one gets older and reflects on his life, these things become more important, especially when integrity has been a priority that has carried cost with it.}  He, as was custom to those times, had the people state aloud that they did not have any of those issues with Samuel.  Then in verse 5 he affirms it to make it official.

Then starting in vs 6 Samuel shifts to giving an overview of Israel's History, which we've seen countless times.  {The people of Israel were in constant need of this, but it seems it hardly ever did much good.}  Notice in vs 7 that he says he is going to confront them with evidence.  Samuel then proceeds with recounting Jacob entering Egypt, them turned into slaves and God rescues them.  Samuel goes on to remind them of the cruel Sisera and the Philistines.  Again the oppressed Israelites cried out to the Lord and He rescued them again with the likes of Gideon, Barak, Jephthah, and finaly Samuel himself.  Then in verse 12 Samuel again reminds them that they are the ones who wanted a king.  He also reminds them that God should have been considered their King and they needed no more than Him.  He goes on to tell them that if they and the king will follow and obey God that everything will be alright.  He again emphasizes the dire consequences of foresaking God and the Law.  He even called on them to be obedient to their new king.  As we've seen so many times before, the Israelites are reminded of the stark difference between obeying and disobeying God.  Briefly, to obey God means peace and prosperity, and ultimately, happiness.  In contrast, to disobey means they will suffer failing crops, invasion, captivity, and slavery to other nations, war which they will lose, death, and ultimately misery.  So simple.  And then of course Samuel emphasizes that the worst thing they can do is worship other gods.  How many times have we seen this.

In vs 16 Samuel tells them that he will ask God to send a miracle for them to witness.  To demonstrate the power of God, Samuel reminded them that this was not the rainy season.  {Israel normally had early rains and late rains followed by a long dry season, which worked well because rain during harvest hinders the harvest to the point that the crops' quality is harmed and the harvest is never quite complete, as the rains forces much of the harvest to remain in the field.}  The late rains had already passed.  But Samuel said he would call on God as evidence that his message was true.  In response to his prayer there was a violent thunderstorm, and the people were struck with terror.  (I'm sure this was no normal thunderstorm.  Try to imagine.)  The thunderstorm in answer to Samuel's prayer proved to the people that God approved of what Samuael was saying and that they had indeed sinned.  The crowd's response in verse 19 was loud and clear.  The people finally realized that asking for a king was an act of rejecting God.

Be sure to read this short chapter.  This final address by Samuel was forceful, pointed, and yet filled with compassion and concern for his audience.  Samuel was an extraordinary man.  Note the very last verse (25), "Yet if you persist in doing evil, both you and your king will perish."

Next post  -  Saul's Success and Failure

Sunday, November 25, 2012

XCI - l Samuel 11 - Saul and the Ammonites

In the last post we saw where Saul kept silent when he could have taken to task his critics.  He decided to wait on a situation more solidifying to both his kingship and the nation Israel.  In this chapter 11, he gets just the right opportunity.

{I don't often do this, but I will write the words prior to verse 1 that are from the Masoretic Text: Dead Sea Scrolls .....}  "Now Nahash king of the Ammonites oppressed the Gadites and Reubenites severely.  He gouged out all their right eyes and struck terror and dread in Israel.  Not a man remained among the Israelites beyond the Jordan whose right eye was not gouged out by Nahash king of the Ammonites, except that seven thousand men fled from the Ammonites and entered Jabesh Gilead.  About a month later"........ (then verse 1 from NIV begins).....Nahash the Ammonite went up and besieged Jabesh Gilead.  And all the men of Jabesh said to him, "Make a treaty with us, and we will be subject to you."  {Get the picture?  The Gadites and Ruebenites on the east side of the Jordan had come under subjection and servitude to this cruel tyrant.  As Israel weakened itself by rejecting God's statutes, Gad and Reuben were especially vulnerable to outside aggression due to them being isolated on the east side of the Jordan River in an increasingly hostile territory.  Their cousins on the west side of the Jordan at least had the proximity of each other for protection.  Also, the Masoratic Text tells us of the level of cruelty and barbarianism that was not uncommon among the pagans of that day.  The Gadites and Ruebenites must have lived under fear constantly.  No wonder the Philistines took the attitude toward war that they had adopted and perfected.  We must realize that the Canaanites fought with each other mostly for territory or displays of military might.  But remember, the Israelites were considered the invaders, squaters, and occupiers of territories that were settled by the Canaanites generations earlier.   Sound familiar?  This made them the primary targets of aggression.}  In verse 2 it shows how Nahash would not be satisfied with making that city subject to him.  He wanted to totaly humiliate the Israelites by gouging the right eyes out of those eyes out of rest of those in the east part of the Jordan River.  The elders of Jabesh Gilead begged for seven days, saying that they would submit to Nahash on his terms if noone came to their rescue.  Evidently Nahash was so confident of his might that he was certain that no Israelites would dare cross the river to engage battle with him and his well trained and experienced  army.  He even allowed messengers to be sent out to solicit help.  He wasn't worried a bit.

But in verse 4 the word of this reached Saul.  {Bear in mind that Saul had not even established any kind of government or anything else one would expect a king to do.  I believe we must assume that Saul was waiting on God to guide his next move.}  Nahash could not imagine what he was dealing with.  This was Saul's opportunity for several things:  To show his authority as the newly crowned king; to show his ability to gather forces to rally around him; to show that he cares beyond his own family, clan, and tribe; to show that he has the ability to be a military leader, to show that he intends to rid Israel of ALL oppressors.  This situation was perfect for Saul.  Now was his time.

Vss 6-->  When Saul learned of the situation at Jabesh-Gilead, the Spirit of God came upon him and he burned with anger.  {There are times when anger is a good thing.  We should always try to "tame and suppress" our anger, but we need to forgive ourselves when a situation just won't allow us to rid ourselves of anger just because we want to.}  God's Spirit is an energizing force.  It allows one to accomplish extraordinary feats.  In Saul's case, it had the added effect of provoking intense anger.  Saul knew he had very little time, so he immediately came up with and implemented a plan.  He cut up two oxen and sent the pieces all around Israel, with the message that he wanted soldiers to go to battle with him, and if anyone did not respond he would do to their oxen and livestock what he did to these.  The response was overwhelming.  Over three hundred thousand men, ready for war, came from Israel and another thirty thousand from the tribe of Judah.  {Note:  This is the first mention in the Scripture where Judah and the rest of Israel are mentioned separately.  It sounds like they are two different nations.  We'll see later in our study that this will become the norm after the reign of Soloman.}  Then Saul sent the messengers from Jabesh-Gilead back with the message that they would be rescued "by the time the sun is hot tomorrow".  {I think this is the sixth day.  It's not easy moving 330,000 men across the Jordan River to Jabesh-Gilead in such a short time.  That's why he traveled all night.}  He also told the messengers to tell the city elders to tell Nahash that they would surrender to him tomorrow.  Saul wanted Nahash to relax and concern himself no further of the possibility of any help coming.  In verse 11 Saul divided his army into three groups.  It does not tell what the three groups did individually.  They probably attacked from three directions.  Anyway, they attacked the Ammonites during the last watch.  {The last watch was between 2:00 am and sunrise.}  Saul and his army slaughtered the Ammonites on into the heat of the afternoon.  It was a total annihilation, to the point that no two men were left together as they scattered for their lives.

Vss 12-15  -  The word of this spread quickly through all of Israel.  Nothing like this had happened during this generation.  Suddenly there was hope in Israel.  Their loyalty to Saul as their new king was without comprimise.  Remember those men who would not accept Saul as king and made snide remarks?  The Israelites remembered them.  In vs 12 we see that the citizens of Israel wanted to put these men to death, but we see another one of Saul's leadership abilities in verse 13 when he said, "No one will be put to death today, for this day the Lord has rescued Israel".  Saul just keeps getting stronger.

Samuel realized the advantages associated with the victory over the Ammonites.  He saw that the time was right for enlisting the people's total support for Saul.  He instructed the people to gather at Gilgal and "renew the kingdom there".  So all the leaders and other representatives went to Gilgal and unanimously recognized Saul as their new king.  The occassion was celibrated with sacrifices and a great feast.  A new era in the nation of Israel has begun.

Next post  -  Samuel's Farewell

Friday, November 23, 2012

XC - Saul Becomes the First King of Israel - I Samuel 10

In the last post we saw how Saul had gone looking for some lost donkeys and met the prophet Samuel.  Samuel kept him overnight and drew him aside before he left the next day to speak with Saul privately.  This brings us to chapter 10, which in the very first verse, Samuel anoints Saul, using a vial of olive oil, pouring onto Saul's head.  The "vial"(KJV) signifies that it is the same one as used in the tabernacle.  The term "anointing" means that God had chosen a person for a special task, usually meaning a position such as a priest or a king.  {Being an "anointed one" was no small matter.  Later, when David had an opportunity to do harm to Saul, David would "not do harm to the Lord's anointed".}  It also says in verse 1 that Samuel kissed Him.  This was usually meant as an outward show of loyalty.  Samuel was a prophet and knew the future meaning of most significant occurances.  The last phrase of that verse says, "Has not the Lord anointed you ruler over his inheritance?".  This was Samuel's way of telling Saul that it was not Samuel, but God who has anointed him ruler.  Although the Lord did not prefer Israel to have a king, He insisted on being the One that chose the appropriate king for them in spite of themselves.  In the following verses, Samuel gave Saul four signs of affirmation which he would receive as he returned home.  1) He would meet two men who would tell him that his donkeys were found and his father Kish was worried about him.  2) He would then meet three men who would salute him (salute means to gesture respect for authority or position) and then offer him food. 3) He would meet a group of men playing instruments and prophesying.  And then 4) the Spirit of the Lord would decend upon Saul and he would prophesy with them.
In verse 9, the Scripture begins to focus even more on Saul.  {After all, Saul was the first king of Israel.}  It says quite plainly that God changed Saul's heart.  This phrase is often used today, and I have witnessed this in the lives of many Christians.  This refers to the Lord changing people's will, desires, thoughts, perceptions, feelings, and priorities.  Another way I've heard is that is simply gives people a different understanding about everything.  As all of the signs Samuel had foretold to Saul came about, the last of which was Saul prophesying, and was witnessed by many who knew Saul and was surprised to see him prophesy.  {Obviously, Saul and his family were not people who were given to strong religious display, which would have drawn people's attention and comments.}
Then in verse 17, Samuel takes another step in establishing Saul as king of Israel:  He summoned all of Israel to Mizpah.  (This always meant something special.  Gathering all the tribal and clan leaders was no small matter, and took days, if not weeks, to arrange.  Samuel was such a powerful figure that he had no trouble with the tribal elders doing as he asked.)  Samuel proceeds to recount to the assembly about how God had always taken care of them, and they should have been satisfied, but they insisted on having a king, and God was going to give them one.  Samual employs the same system of selection as used in Joshua.  He gathered tribes and selected Benjamin.  He then gathered the clans of Benjamin and selected the Matri clan, and out of that clan he selected Kish's family, and from the family of Kish, Saul was selected.  {The Urim and Thummin were probably used, as Samuel wanted to avoid any suspicion that he was personaly selecting Israel's king himself.  Using the Urim and Thummin, as described in Leviticus, was widely recognized as God's selection process.}
For some reason (perhaps humility) Saul was hiding among the supplies.  They found him and brought him to the front of the assembly.  He was tall enough for everyone to see.  Then Samuel said in vs 24 "Do you see the man the Lord has chosen?".  And the people shouted, "Long live the king!".  This was a common greeting for a sovereign royal in ancient times and still is.  It also meant that the people accepted Saul as their king and that they were pleased with the selection.  In verse 25 Samuel proceeds to state to Saul and the people the duties and the responsibilities of the king and his subjects.  As Samual explained these, he wrote them in a scroll and placed the scroll as an official part of History.  In verse 26 the Scripture tells us that Saul departed for his journey home, and with him went several men whose heart God had touched.  This same verse tells us that there was a certain group of men who did not accept Saul's kingship, and made it known by their comments.  At the very end of this verse and the very end of this chapter, it says yet another favorable thing about Saul's character, "But Saul kept silent."  This is important.  Saul could have challenged these men and established himself as undisputed king at that very moment, but this was not Saul's style.  The wiser Saul wanted to wait for the proper moment to solidify his kingship and his kingdom.

In the next post, the opportunity for greatness presents itself to Saul.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

LXXXIX - I Samual 8-9 - Israel Wants A King

Chapter 8  -  The very first five verses of this chapter tell an all too familiar story.  Samual's sons, Joel and Abijah, were much like Eli's sons Hophni and Phinehas.  They had engaged in idolatry and perversion of justice.  Up to the point in History where the books of Samual pick up, God had chosen Israel's leaders one at a time.  Then Eli's sons had tried to succeed their father and had quickly proven themselves unfit.  So God raised up Samual to interupt the priestly line that Eli's sons had corrupted.  Then Samual appointed his sons to follow him, but they too proved unfit.  At this point the elders of Israel came to Samuel and declared they wanted a king to rule over them.  In verse 5 they used the reasons that Samual is getting old and his sons were unfit for serving as leaders.  {The elders of Israel comprised a kind of senate that represented all twelve tribes of Israel.  Although Samuel did not agree with them wanting a king, the fact that they represented all of Israel was something Samuel could not ignore and simply brush aside, although I'm sure he was tempted to do just that.}  Note in verse 5 that they said "appoint us a king as all the other nations do".  Wanting to be like all other nations is the opposite of "holy".  This reasoning could not have turned out good, and Samuel was wise enough to know this.  But he did the right thing:  He took it to the Lord in prayer.  Vss 6-->  God surprised Samuel by saying, "go ahead and give them a king.  They have never accepted Me as their king.  But be sure to warn them about what having a king will be like."  In vss 10-18 Samuel tells these elders exactly what they could expect from a king:  The king will take their sons and place them into the military.  He will take their daughters and make them bakers and perfumers to serve the king and his court.  He will take at least a tenth of the harvest for himself.  He will take the best of the livestock to serve him and his military.  He will make everyone his slave in the name of the kingdom, rather than in the name of God.  And you will beg for relief from your king.  If we look back at Deut. 17:18-20, we'll see Moses giving an almost identical warning about having a king.  But in the remaining verses of chapter 8, they still want a king.  Samuel takes it to the Lord in prayer once again, and again the Lord told him to give them a king.  God knew Samuel's heart, and He assured Samuel that he would not be held responsible for the foolish decision the elders were about to make.  {The smartest thing the elders did was to insist that Samuel be the one to select the king, rather than the group of elders themselves.}

Chapter 9  -  Saul

Chapter 9 starts a new narrative.  It begins by introducing a Benjamite named Kish, a man of standing, which means he was a prominent citizen of the tribe of Benjamin.  My research tells me he was either a man of wealth or an accomplished military man, or both.  But this chapter is not concerned with Kish, but rather his son, Saul.  Verse 2 says Saul was handsome and a head taller than anyone else.  {He looked like one who would be king, and satisfactory to the elders of Israel.}  We also see in the early verses of this chapter that Kish has trained Saul well, giving him responsibilities, such as not only overseeing the livestock, but also the somewhat mundane duties of finding strays, usually a task assigned to lower ranking servants.  In vss 3--> it tells how Saul and a servant searched for missing donkeys throughout the land of Benjamin, spending more time than it should have taken.  Saul decided to give up the search because he did not want his father to become worried about their safety.  This speaks well of Saul's character.  However, his servant knew about Samuel and they were close to where Samuel was.  The servant talked Saul into trying to find the prophet to guide them to where the donkeys were.  Another positive testimony to Saul was that he did not want to approach the man of God without a gift (vs 7).  They were able to scrounge up a gift minimally suitable for meeting with the prophet and so they were able to locate him through the help of some young women who were drawing water at the town well.

Vss. 15-27 - Samuel and Saul's First Meeting

The meeting between Samuel and Saul was not a chance encounter.  God had told Samuel that Saul was coming.  In vss 15-17 God told Samuel that He would send to him a Benjamite who Samuel is to anoint as king, and would deliver Israel from the Philistines.  God made certain there was no mistaken identity as (vs 17) God pointed him out to Samuel when their paths crossed.  Verse 18 records Samuel and Saul's initial meeting.  Saul did not know Samuel, as he asked Samuel where he could find the "seer".  Samuel responded by identifying himself as the seer and by inviting Saul to join him in the sacrifice ritual.  Afterwards, he would turn his attention to Saul's concerns ("all that is in thine heart").  Samuel did not want Saul to be preoccupied with anything.  He responded to Saul's immediate concern for the donkeys, saying they have been found and that Saul was not to be concerned with them any longer.  He gives Saul a clue to the bigger picture in vs 20 when he says that "the desire for Israel: was more important.  This statement suggested national prominence was about to be placed on Saul.  In verse 21 we see another favorable characteristic in Saul.  He says that he is from the smallest of the tribes in Israel, and from the least of the clans of that tribe.  This suggests a humble attitude in Saul, at least at this present time.  The rest of this chapter tells of Samuel treating Saul like the king he will become, placing him at the head of the dinner table and serving him the best of the food.  And in the last verse of the chapter, Samual takes Saul aside and begins to tell him that God has a mesage for him.

Next post  -  Saul Becomes Israel's First King

Monday, November 19, 2012

LXXXVIII - I Samual 6-7 - The Ark Returns to Israel

Chapter 6 - The Ark Returns to Israel

This chapter begins by telling us that the Ark has been with the Philistines for seven months.  It became general knowledge that the Ark was the cause of all the illness in their cities because the affliction took place wherever the Ark was taken, as we saw in the previous chapter.  {Evidently there were many rodents in each of these five cities that the plague had occurred.  Rodents were the carriers of the bubonic plague that afflicted Europe centuries later.  The bubonic plague placed boils and tumors near lymph nodes.  Most people who contracted bubonic died from it.}  These Philistines knew their History well, as they recounted what the Lord of Israel had done to the Egyptians, and the plague of tumors and boils was well documented as one of the plagues that God had inflicted on the Egyptians.  These early verses in this chapter make it very clear that the Philistines were scared and desparate.  So they came up with a plan.  Firstly they wanted to prove to themselves that the Ark was indeed the cause of their troubles.  And secondly, if that was proven, they wanted to not only get rid of it, but appease the Lord of Israel in hopes that He would withdraw the plague from their cities. 
So this was their plan:

*Take two cows away from their calves, cows that have never been yoked
*Yoke the two cows to a cart
*Place the Ark into the cart
*Melt down enough gold to make five golden tumors and five golden mice (this was to be a guilt offering)
*Place them into the cart beside the Ark
*Before letting the cows leave with the cart, they penned up the calves in plain sight
*Then they pointed the cows toward Beth Shemesh, an Israelited city, and let them go

If the cows turned back toward their calves, that was to be considered a sign that the Ark was not the cause of the plague.  If the cows ignored that calves and pulled the cart toward Israel, then that would be confirmation that the Ark was indeed the cause and they had made the right decision.  This turned out to be a good plan.  The cows marched steadily towards the Hebrew city of Beth Shemesh.  This was a delight to the five Philistine kings and their elders.  {I don't think they had a plan-B}  They followed the cows at a distance to make sure they would know if the cows altered their course.  In vss 13--> the people of Beth Shemesh celebrated getting the Ark back.  They chopped up the cart and used the wood to make a fire to burn the two cows as a sacrifice to God.  In the remaining verses in chapter 6, we see that the rules concerning the Ark of the Covenant were not to be comprimised.  God struck down some of the non-Levite members of that city as punishment for looking in (and probably handling) the Ark.  The people mourned, but God's point was made.  {We compromise and water down values all the time, but God does not.}

Chapter 7  -   Samual Is Israel's New Leader

We've seen in the first six chapters of I Samual that Israel has become an ungodly nation.  The priesthood has become corrupt, the Levites have placed themselves up for sale, they are welcoming pagan dieties into their homes, their sons and daughters are marrying outside the tribes of Israel.  They have lost their moral compass and have consciously disregarded God and His Laws.  In the first six verses of chapter 7, we see that Samual blames Israel's troubles on their devotion to pagan deities.  Samual mentions by name Ashteroth (the supreme female deity of the Canaanites and was always associated with Baal).  Also mentioned, of course, is the pagan god Baal.  Baal was the god of fertility and was the supreme deity of the Phoenicians and the Canaanites.  Being the god of fertility meant that Baal must be happy in order for the women to bear children, livestock to multiply, and the crops to be successful.  As I mentioned before, they would stop at nothing to satisfy Baal, including child sacrifice.  Ever since the book of Genesis, we have seen God time and time again admonish His people to stay away from worshiping other gods.  He also warned them against doing things that would lead to the temptation to do so.  This was extremely important to God, and still is.  Remember the very first of the Ten Commandments.  Samual in this passages tells the people of Israel to "get rid of these strange gods".  {These idols that were in possession of the Israelites had become precious items in their households.  Asking them to get rid of them was no small thing.}  One would think that Samual's demand to get rid of their idols would have made many or most of the people to disregard Samual as some religious nut that was asking unreasonable things.  But surprisingly they did as Samula told them as it says in vss 5-6 that Samual led them in a worship service in which they fasted and confessed their sins.  {I think these people had become so miserable and desparate for spiritual guidance that they were drawn to Samual and hung on his every word.}

There is much in the remaining 11 verses of chapter 7.  Remember Samual gathered "all of Israel" to Mispah and had a worship service that included repentance.  But the Philistines heard about this gathering and of course assumed that Israel was gathering an army with which to deal with the Philistines.  {Remember our comments about how the Philistines were military minded and they thought every gathering would have been for no other purpose than to wage war.}  But the Philistines were correct that their hold on the Israelites was being challenged.  So the Philistines did what they do best:  They attacked Israel.  Then something important happened {please be aware of how much time has passed}.  They asked Samual to intercede to God in their behalf and protect them (vs 8).  This was a huge step, and a necessary one for them to return to God.  Then in verse 9 Samual sacrificed a young lamb as a burnt offering unto God as he cried out to God for Israel's protection.   As Samual was sacrificing and worshiping, the Philitines approached Mizpah to attack.  God created loud claps of thunder and frightened the Philistine soldiers so badly that they went into a panic and lost control of themselves.  This allowed the scantly armed Israelites to defeat the large Philistine army, so much that it goes on to say that the Philistines never bothered the Israelites again during Samual's lifetime.  In addition, they gave the towns from Ekron to Gath back to Israel as a gesture of peace.  There was also peace with the dreaded Amorites during Samual's leadership.
So, Samual was established as Israel's leader and God's prophet.  News had spread throughout the Promised Land of Samual, and all twelve tribes respected everything about Samual.  Finaly there was real peace with real spiritual revival.

But we all know that the nation Israel is not going to tolerate but so much peace and prosperity.  In the next post, we'll see something new:  Israel wants a king.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

LXXXVII - Samual 4-5 - War With the Philistines

In the book of I Samual, we have seen about Hannah's plea, her song of praise and thanksgiving, Samual's call to God's service, and a brief look at Eli and his sons Hophni and Phinehas.  Now in chapter 4, the Philistines are introduced rather abruptly.  After the Philistines unsuccessfully battled the Egyptians around 1175 BC, they settled the territory that usually is associated with them, predominently along the Mediterainian Sea in the central to southern part of the Promised Land.  The Philistines were a cruel people as we've seen in the book of Judges, especially in dealing with Samson.  But also, the Philistines were warriors, who by all accounts, were constantly readying themselves for battle.  And, as mentioned in Scripture, their weaponry was as sophisticated as that of the Egyptians.  Therefore, for Israel to go against the Philistines in battle was no small undertaking.  My studies has led me to believe that they had weapons made of iron and steel, which were superior in strength to those (like Israel's) made of brass or bronze.  When clashed, the steel would break the brass, leaving the soldier with a brass weapon hopelessly vulnerable.

Chapter 4:1-11  -  The location of this battle cannot be pinpointed, but we do know that the Philistine-occupied city of Aphek was close to modern day Tel-Aviv, which would have placed the battles close to the western part of Dan.  Verse 2 (KJV) says that the Philistines "put themselves in array against Israel".  This means that the Philistines were the aggressors.  Without much pretext of this battle, we cannot know the exact cause leading up to this.  Israel lost this first battle and four thousand Israelite soldiers were killed.  In verse 3 the elders of Israel questioned the soldiers asking "Why did the Lord bring defeat on us today?".  {To be fair to these elders, they were not directly blaming God, but they were not incorrect in their question either.  In the life of Israel, EVERYTHING was attributable to God, good or bad.  This is true, but let's be careful:  God is not the one to blame.  Many students of the Bible seem to get a little confused about this, as we do today about the things in our lives.  Israel brought this on themselves when they became so apathetic toward God and His Laws, that God gave them over to the Philistines.  By "giving them over" means that God did not intervene.  This type of thing has happened to Israel throughout the Old Testiment.  Just like the Israelites of this era, we also need God's intervention at all times in our lives.}  But then in desparation Israel made another mistake.  They decided to take the Ark of the Covenant into battle with them to assure themselves of victory.  This might be attributal to the use of the Ark in Josh. 6:6 during the battle of Jericho.  The Ark of the Covenant had been at Shiloh since the original conquest of Canaan, hundreds of years ago.  While at Shiloh, the Ark was under the charge of the Levite priests.  It appears to me that the Levites were not consulted.  The elders who suddenly became self-appointed military strategists and priests, sent for the Ark.  They thought the Ark would solve all their problems, but instead, this action created problems.  One problem was that the Ark was not to be moved unless God ordained it.  And whenever it was moved, there was a procedure for moving it, mainly involving ONLY Levites to physically carry it.  Another problem with their reasoning is that they were treating the Ark like a good-luck charm.  The Ark was to be a symbol of God's presence in worship.  {The apostacy of the Israelites was bad enough.  But when they start disrespecting the Ark of the Covenant, that was just going too far.}  So, the Ark was brought to the battle site.  And who was to accompany the Ark into battle?  None other than Hophni and Phinehas, the corrupt sons of Eli.  {At least they were priests.}  The Scripture goes on to tell that when the Israelite soldiers saw that the Ark had arrived, they shouted for joy, so loud that the Philistines heard them and became fearful.  The God of Israel still had a tremendous reputation for overpowering anything in existance in the whole earth's civilization.  The Philistines were as aware of that as any other group.  With Israel's disregard toward God, He was actually forgotten about by the rest of Canaan until this very day.  The Scripture indicates that the Philistines thought they were doomed, and decided they must go down fighting as hard as they can, for they were indeed fighting for their lives.  As a result of the whole situation, the Philistines overwhelmingly won the battle.  Vss 10-11 tells us of the slaughter so great that the Philistines killed thirty thousand foot soldiers.  Also, they killed Hophni and Phinehas, and worst of all, the Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant, along with the mercy seat, the manna, the tablets that contained the Ten Commandments, and the budded staff of Aaron.  This was an awful day for Israel.

Chapter 4:12-22  -  This passage begins by telling us that "a man of Benjamin" ran about twenty miles to the city to report of the battle.  Eli had been anxiously awaiting word from the battle field.  Eli was blind, old, and very over-weight.  He heard that there was a report being made and sought word from the messenger.  The messenger answers Eli in verse 17.  He told Eli that 1) Israel was so defeated that they fled from the Philistines, 2) Hophni and Phinehas were killed, and 3) The Ark of the Covenant was captured.  In verse 18, upon hearing of the Ark, Eli fell backward off his chair, broke his neck and died.  {I've tried to place my mind into Eli's.  This was awful.  We know that, although his sons caused him a lot of trouble, he still loved them and certainly didn't want to see them receive such a fate.  Also, Eli probably considered himself a failure.  He served Israel forty years.  During Eli's tenure as High Priest, Israel had gone down hill spiritually during those forty years.  Then, Israel's the most valuable item, the sacred Ark of the Covenant, that was entrusted to Eli was captured by their bitter enemies the Philistines. Eli's life did not end well at all.}  Vss 19-22 tell of further tragedy marking this day.  Eli's daughter-in-law, the wife of Phinehas, was pregnant and near time of delivery.  Upon hearing of this news, she went into labor and gave birth to a son.  To a Hebrew woman, there was no greater moment in her life than giving birth to a son.  But this was no time for joy for this woman.  She named her son "Ichabod", which means "inglorious" or "where is the glory".  Soon after she gave birth, she died.

Chapter 5 - This chapter is only twelve short verses and is interesting reading for you.  But I will paraphrase it anyway, not being aware of how you stand with reading ahead of these posts.  The Philistines had captured the Ark of the Covenant and proudly carried their trophy back to Ashdod, a principal city of the Philistines.  Ashdod was where they had their temple for Dagon, the Philistine pagan god of the crops.  They made a mistake of placing the Ark in the temple near Dagon because God destroyed the idol Dagon.  Also, the inhabitants of the city broke out in boils and tumors, much like those of the bubonic plague.  The citizens of Ashdod had the Ark moved to another city, to which the same affliction was cast.  This went on for five different cities, all of which suffered the bubonic plague-type symptoms.  Most victims of bubonic plague died.  I'll explain in the next post why I believe it was bubonic.

Next post:  The Ark Returns to Israel

Thursday, November 15, 2012

LXXXVI - Chapter 3 - Samual Grows Up

Chapter 3 - God calls Samual

It's likely that Samual is now about twelve years old, being raised all that time by the priest Eli.  {I failed to mention in the previous post that Eli must have been led by the Spirit to agree to raise Samual.  Eli was the High Priest at that time and dwelt near the tabernacle.  Although Samual was a committed Nazarite, he was an Ephraimite, not a Levite, which would have disqualified him from becoming Eli's replacement.  And he did not replace him as priest, but rather became a prophet for the entire nation Israel.  A Prophet is a Spokesman for God.}

In verse 1 it says there were not many visions in those days, which is telling us that these people have all but put God out of their lives.  (Sound familiar?)  We see in the first four verses that the time is right for God to involve Himself directly in the nation Israel.  Four reasons:  1) the decline of the priesthood as evidenced by Hophni and Phinehas's corrupt behavior, 2) the lack or absence of any prophetic word, 3) immorality and idolatry has spun out of control, and 4) Eli's approaching death.

Verse 3 - The day's activities had been completed.  Eli and Samual had retired to their dwelling places for the night.  Then the Lord called Samual.  Samual of course assumed it was Eli and ran to him to see what he wanted.  But Eli told him he did not call for him and sent him back to bed.  This happened again and Eli sent Samual back to bed again.  Then in verse 8 God calls Samual a third time, and Samual ran to Eli again.  This time Eli perceived that it might be God, so he instructed Samual that if it happens again, say "Speak Lord, for your servant is listening".  So when Samual went back to bed,  God called him and Samual responded as Eli instructed him.

Vss 11-14  -  God's message to Samual was brief.  He was about to bring judgement on Israel and on the house of Eli.  It says in verse 11 that what God is about to do to Israel is so startling that "the ears of everyone who hears about it will tingle".  Verse 12 states that all of the circumstances recounted in 2:27-36 finally would come to the house of Eli.  The judgement was because of the sins of Eli's sons, Hophni adn Phinehas.  But secondly, it was because Eli tolerated his children's sins.  Because of this, Eli would suffer along with his sons (vs 13).  Verse 14 is striking.  In it God says that He swears to the house of Eli, "The guilt of Eli's house will never be atoned for by sacrifice or offering".  In no uncertain terms, this verse tells us just how serious the situation with the priesthood had become.  {God hates corruption wherever it exists, but this wasn't just anywhere.  It was in His tabernacle, defiling the very thing God wanted to remain holy and pure.}  Verse 15 - Samual went back to sleep and got up in the morning going about his regular assigned duties.  But he was afraid to tell Eli what God had said because the judgement was so severe against Eli and his family.  But, as you would suspect, Eli was very anxious to hear what God had told Samual and approached him about it in verse 17.  Samual told Eli what God said He was going to do with Eli and his family.  Eli said in so many words, "so be it".  {Eli could not have been surprised, and he accepted the inevitable.  He knew what his sons had been doing and that he did little or nothing to correct them.  If you've studied the Law closely, you would know what Eli was supposed to do if his sons would not obey his words.  The Law was clear on this:  He was to give them over to the elders at the city gate and the two would have beened stoned to death.  The crime for which they would have been executed was not theft inside the tabernacle, but rather for disobedience to their father.  This offense was not taken lightly.  Sounds cruel, but in this instance, the priesthood was at stake.  The actions of these two men made the entire nation of Israel disrespect the sanctity of the priesthood that God Himself established.  Think about this.  This is no small deal.}  In the remaining verses of this chapter 3, much time is passed as it tells that Samual grew up and God let none of Samual's words "hit the ground".  This means that God made sure that Samual was established as a true prophet.  As will be studied later, a true prophet is one who's prophesies ALWAYS come true.  Many self-proclaimed prophets are exposed by that fact that some of their prophesies are proven false.  A true prophet appointed and annointed by God is flawless.  This always takes quite a number of years to establish itself, as much prophesy was given years, if not decades or centuries, in advance.  Verse 20 tells us that Samual was recognized as God's spokesman from Dan to the north, to Beer-Sheba to the extreme south of the Promised Land.  Not only did God annoint Samual and gave him prophesy concerning Eli and the Philistines, but all this time God continually appeared to Samual.

Next post:  The Philistines Continue to be a Problem

Saturday, November 10, 2012

LXXXV - I Samual

The Book of I Samual

Author:              Unknown
Place:                 Israel and Judah
Main Subject:    Samual establishes Israel as a united kingdom

You've noticed I've often compared the Biblical Patriarchs with one another, ie. Boaz was Christ-like; Gideon much like Joshua; etc.  Samual is to be compared with Moses in his personal characteristics and leadership style.  Bear in mind that Samual was such a powerful leader that his fame as God's prophet (spokesman) spread from Ephraim to every tribe throughout Israel, as all tribes honored Samual's words.

The book of I Samual begins at the end of the period of the Judges.  Israel was a scattered group of twelve tribes who ruled themselves as each saw fit.  They had not purged the promised land of all non-Israelites as commissioned by God, and of course these Canaanites were the constant sourse of all of the individual tribes' problems.  Most or all the judges were territorial, thus the nation Israel was really twelve separate tribes with each having their own separate set of circumstances and problems.  Samual was to be a prophet to serve the entire nation, thus a uniting force for Israel.  At this particular time, the biggest oppressor was again the Philistines.  The most influencial person at this time was the priest Eli, who was now advancing in years and whose sons were not fit to succeed him.  But Eli was entrusted with the training of the child Samual, who is the obvious heir to Eli's authority.  This book covers so much History and I will have to take it slow in order to be thorough, so please be patient.  I want to cover at least the first two chapters in this post.

In the opening verses of the first chapter we read about a man named Elkanah, from the tribe of Ephraim.  Elkanah had two wives, Peninnah and Hannah.  {Allow me to address this polygamy:  Elkanah's polygamy was not in keeping with the ideal that God established for marriage in the beginning (Gen. 2:24), and the Old Testament never condoned it.  However, it was a general practice in the ancient world.  Even though Elkanah was a polygamist, he was a devoutly religious person, as he was careful to appear before the Lord at Shiloh on every ritual occasion, and he made sure that each member of his household participated properly.}  In the first 8 verses, its very clear that Elkanah loved Hannah more than he loved Pininnah, but Pininnah gave him children and Hannah could not.  {Hannah was in good company:  Sarah, Rebecah, Rachel.}  A woman being barren, especially in those days, was a serious affliction, akin to being a curse.  Hannah was distrought by this affliction, which was made even worse by Pininnah teasing Hannah about it.
In verses 9-18 we see that Hannah (while attending worship at Shiloh) prayed earnestly, howbeit silently.  So deeply in prayer was she, that Eli the High Priest thought she was drunk.  Hannah immediately took offense to this and corrected Eli.  This was a very special moment to Hannah, and she was not going to have it misunderstood by Eli or anyone else.  In verse 17 Eli sent sent her on her way with his blessings {I think he knew he accused her in haste and that he was in the presence of a truly Godly woman}.  When Hannah and her family returned to their home in Ramah, she concieved and gave birth to a son.  She named him Samual.  The name Samual meant "Because I have asked him of the Lord".  Hannah and Elkanah knew that Samual was a direct answer to prayer.  Hannah knew that she had promised to give her son to God, and actually dedicated him as a Nazarite (vs 11).  But Hannah kept Samual about two years until he was weaned.  Then, in vs 24, Hannah kept her promise.  She gave Samual to God by giving him to the priest Eli.  What a Godly woman.  You know she loved and appreciated her son above and beyond any other mother for ages and ages.  But not only did this saintly woman give up her son, but Hannah wrote a song, praising God for answring her prayer and giving her Samual.  (God blessed Hannah and Elkanah with many more children after she delivered Samual to Eli.)  Take time to read this song in chapter 2.  You can sense the depth of her love and appreciation for God.

Allow me to skip to verses 18-21 of chapter 2.  Hannah was Samual's mother and she always would be.  It says that when her and Elkanah would go to Shiloh to worship, Hannah would always bring Samual some clothes and probably other gifts.  I'll bet Hannah and Elkanah were so proud to see their son growing up to be everything they had hoped for and more. 

Back up to vss 12-17.  These verses give you an idea of just how corrupt Eli's sons are.  Eli's two sons were Hophni and Phinehas.  They stole from the Lord's portion.  What a bad idea.  They stole their portion before God got His.  I won't dwell on this, but no matter how busy Eli was, he was still commissioned to raise his children properly.  Children are a blessing from God (ask Hannah) and we, like Eli, must not shirk the responsibility of doing everything we can to raise them properly, out of obedience and respect for God.  In vs 22 we see that Eli has been made aware of his sons' evil ways (they even made the female temple servants to prostitute themselves).  These guys were making a mockery of their father and the priesthood itself.  But God steps in.  Look at vss 27--> as God takes this matter into His own hands.  Vs 30 "Those who honor Me I will honor, but those who dispise Me will be disdained."  God proceeds in vs 34 to pronounce a curse on Hophni and Phinehas.  Although God has decided their punishment, He is going to have Samual give this information to Eli, which we'll see in the .............

..........Next post:  Chapter 3  -  Samual Grows Up

Monday, November 5, 2012

LXXXIV - Ruth 3-4 - Ruth Marries Boaz

In the first two chapters of the book of Ruth, we saw the hardships that fell on Naomi and her family.  We then saw their struggles together and the loyalty shown by the three widows to one another.  But God took care of these women.  Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth returned to Judah, broke and desparate.  Naomi sent Ruth to glean the fields to have food to eat, and it so happened that Ruth chose the field of the gentleman Boaz.  Boaz took extremely special care of Ruth.  We saw in 2:20 that Naomi referred to Boaz as one of their guardian-redeemers, which brings us to our study today.  {But before we get to chapter 3, we must take another quick Law review:  (Lev.25:25-55)  To briefly paraphrase, the guardian-redeemer is male next of kin who is obligated to marry the widow of the deceased male relative who died without children.  The guardian-redeemer would then raise up an heir in the name of the deceased man, and the child would inherit the family estate of the dead person and carry on the family name.  The closest relative to the deceased is not only obligated, but has the right to claim the responsibility of the deceased.  Carrying on a family name and bloodline was very important to these people.}

Chapter 3 - It says "one day", which could not be very much time from the events in chapter 2 because it was still harvest time, so it would have been within a few short weeks.  Naomi, being a responsible minded woman, wants Ruth to be provided for and she senses that the time is right.  In verses 2-4 she instructs Ruth on how to know for sure if Boaz is interested in being Ruth's guardian-redeemer.  She cautions Ruth to wait until Boaz has finished eating and drinking so as to make it at a time when he would be in the best of moods.  When Boaz fell asleep at the threshing floor, Ruth was to lie down at his feet, which was considered a forward overture.   Vss 9-->  When Boaz woke up he knew someone was at his feet and to his delight, it was Ruth.  Ruth revealed her intentions when she said in vs 9, "spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a guardian-redeemer of our family".  The term "spread the corner of your garment over me" meant to take in as family. 
Boaz responded as one would expect.  He first told her not to worry.  Everything was going to be OK.  However, if they were going to do this, it must be done properly.  There was a male relative closer to Ruth's family.  Boaz must make sure this relative grants Boaz permission first.  Boaz told Ruth to stay there until morning and then return to Naomi.  When Ruth returned to her mother-in-law the next morning and told her everything that had happened, Naomi assured her that Boaz would not rest until this was taken care of, and she was right.

Chapter 4  -  Boaz started early to take care of this situation about the legalities of him becoming the guardian-redeemer.  He located the man who was Ruth's husband's closest relative (his name is not known).  Baoz wanted to leave no stone unturned so he called the man to meet him at the city gate, along with ten elders as witnesses.  (The city gate was the place where official business took place.)  As you read this chapter, Boaz actually persuades this man to relinquish his right to Elimelek's estate and bloodline.  They sealed their deal with the exchange of sandals which was the custom of the day.  Now Boaz was free to marry Ruth.  In verses 11-12, the city elders blessed Boaz and Ruth, praying tremendous honor upon them, which would come true through David and Jesus.

Vss 13-17  -  I don't know who was the happiest about this, Boaz, Ruth, or Naomi.  Boaz and Ruth got married, and the Lord blessed them with a son.  They named their son Obed.  This son was given to Naomi to help care for, which made her so happy, as she thought her chances for happiness were over when her husband and her two sons died in Moab.

So Naomi helped care for her grandson Obed, who would be the grandfather of Israel's greatest king.  David.

Next post  -  The First Book of Samual

Saturday, November 3, 2012

LXXXIII - The Book of Ruth

LXXXIII  -  The Book of Ruth
Author:        Unknown (possibly Samual)
Place:        Judah and Moab
Period:        Time of the Judges
Main Theme:   Love, Loyalty, Faithfulness are rewarded

I've always enjoyed the book of Ruth.  It's a beautiful love story, but it's more than that.  As we study this wonderful book, we'll see how so many individuals are touched by the humble actions of so few.  Ruth is one of only two books (Esther is the other one) where a woman is the main character.  But in Ruth, there are actually two women who are the main characters.  We will see that this book is almost equally a tribute to Naomi, Ruth's mother-in-law.

Chapter 1  -   We can see that this is during the time when judges ruled in Israel, which is a long span of time.  I'm not sure which judge was in authority during this time, but it must have been one of the latest ones, due to the geneology leading to king David.  There was famine in the land of Israel.  God placed famine on His people, usually as a way of  drawing their attention.  But this famine was so severe that Elimelek, an Ephraimite living in Judah, took his family out of his homeland and went southeast to the land of Moab, in hopes to find prosperity.  His wife was Naomi and they had two sons, Mahlon and Kilion.  Verses 3, 4, and 5 tell a whole lot:  While this family was in Moab, Elimelek died, leaving Naomi with two sons to raise in a foreign land.  Her sons, Mahlon and Kilion married two Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth.  Then both sons died, leaving Naomi, a Hebrew woman, with two daughters-in-law, both Moabitesses.  Naomi was the matriarch of this shrinking family and she was still a foreigner in the land of Moab.

In verse 6 we see that Naomi heard that the famine was over in her homeland of Judah and she felt led to return home where she could perhaps rely on some family.  {A widow in a strange land was a frightful situation, even for someone as strong as Naomi.}  This was a difficult decision for Naomi because she still felt responsible for the well-being of her two daughters-in-law.  So she thought the best thing for them was to return to their families.  This made the most sense, since they would come under hardship in Judah, being Moabite widows.  She made more than a reasonable case for them to leave, but as the Scripture said, they "wept bitterly" at the thought of leaving this woman they both had grown to love so dearly.  {These three women had come to depend solely on each other, which creates a very strong bond.}  Naomi finaly persuades Orpah to return to her family (vs 14).  But then Ruth speaks in vss 16-17.  This is a much written passage, much quoted and memorized.  No littany of dedication quite matches this.  "Where you go I will go, where you stay I will stay.  Your people will be my people and your God my God.  Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried.  May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me."  Think on this.  In verse 18 it says that after hearing this that Naomi no longer pressed Ruth.  This must have brought tears to Naomi.

Vss 19-->  So the two women went to Behlehem.  {This would have been a tremendous journey for two widows.  I'm sure they found some caravans or some type of protection to travel with.}  When they arrived in Bethlehem, Naomi was recognized and the people marvelled at her return, a widow with a widowed daughter-in-law.  Vs 20 - She said don't call me Naomi, but call be Mara because my life has been bitter.  The name Naomi means "pleasant".  The name Mara means "bitter".
Chapter 2  -  Now their timing was good because Naomi and Ruth had arrived in Judah just in time for the barley harvest.  {A quick review of the Law:  (Lev. 19,23, Deut.24)  The practice of "gleaning" was a part of the law to provide for the poor, widows, and orphans, as a way to provide them with food (although they had to work for it).  The word "gleaning" means the "gathering of leftovers".  The Law forbids the owner of a field, vineyard, or orchard to pick them clean during harvest.  He was not to go back over the vines to pick whatever grapes he missed the first time.  He was not to strip the olive trees of fruit left by the thrashers. And he was to leave any grain that fell to the ground or that was left standing in the corners of the fields.  These gleanings, by Law, were to be left for widows, orphans, and foreigners. (Foreigners were not allowed to own land in Israel.)  By chance, Ruth chose a field that was owned by Boaz.  Although Ruth was not aware of this, Boaz was a not-so-distant relative of Ruth's deceased husband.  {This calls for another quick review of the Law, but I'll get to that a little later.}  Boaz was a great man.  I think a Christ-like man.  {I realize what the Law says about gleaning, but we have seen that Israel has disregarded sooooo many Laws of God.  I suspect that there were many land owners too greedy and ungodly to honor this Law.}  But Boaz was an exception.  Look at how he greets his employees when he arrives in the field.  He also says "The Lord bless you" in vs 4.  But in verse 5 he asked the foreman, "Who is that woman?", speaking of Ruth.  He single her out.  {Three things come to mind:  1) Ruth may have been a very pretty lady, 2) Her work ethic could have been above and beyond any that Boaz had observed in the other gleaners, and 3) He may have noticed her because she was new and he had not noticed her before.  I think a little of all three.}  Verse 7 indicates her strong work ethic.  In verse 8 Boaz tells Ruth not to go to another field, but rather follow the harvest group that stays in Boaz's fields.  Boaz is so exceptionally kind and generous to Ruth that she felt compelled to ask him in vs 10 "why are you being so nice to me".  His response in vs 11 makes me respect Boaz even more.  He told her he was honoring her noble treatment of her widowed mother-in-law and her commitment to move from her Moabite roots to Israel to be with Naomi.  It goes on to tell several ways Boaz continues to treat Ruth special.  He even instructs his foreman to make sure she gets an opportunity to get as much grain as possible.  So much did she glean that she had about a bushel to take home to Naomi.

Vss 19-->  Naomi was so excited she was beside herself with joy.  Naomi knew that gleaners never brought back nearly that much.  Ruth tells Naomi all about her day and how Boaz dealt so generously with her.  Look at verse 20.  Naomi referred to Boaz as one of their "guardian-redeemers".    Vs 23 tells us that Ruth stayed with the servants of Boaz throughout the harvest season.   Naomi and Ruth had now realized that their decision to go back to Judah was a good one.  {God knows all of us need help sometimes, and especially if we're doing everything we can to help ourselves.}

Next Post  -  Ruth Marries Boaz 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

LXXXII - A Quick Review - Think on These Things

Think on These Things

As I mentioned before, on the first of each month I will send a list of things for you to think on as a review of what we've covered thus far.  If you are unable to bring to mind significant thoughts concerning each of these, you might want to scan the pertinent blog posting.  I will attempt to keep this list at a reasonable length as we proceed through our study. 

The Creation
Adam and Eve
The Fall
Noah and the Ark
Sodom and Gomorrah
Isaac Is Born
Hagar and Ishmael
Isaac and Rebekah
Jacob and Esau
Jacob's Ladder
The twelve sons of Jacob = Israel
Joseph the Dreamer
Joseph and Potifer's Wife  =  Prison
Joseph and Pharaoh
Israel Goes to Egypt
Moses Kills Egyptian - Becomes Fugitive
Ten Plagues of Egypt
The Exodus
The Ten Commandments
The Ark of the Covenant
Cloud by Day, Pillar of Fire by Night
Forty Years in the Wilderness
Joshua, Caleb, and the Twelve Spies sent to Canaan
Joshua Replaces Moses as Leader of Israel
Rahab the Canaanite Prostitute
Crossing the Jordan, 12 Stones
Battle of Jericho
Land Allotments for the 12 Tribes
Baal and Ashteroth
Gideon Lays Out the Fleece
Samson and Delilah