The Bible in a Year – 4 January

If this is your first viewing, please see my Introduction before reading this.

4 January. Genesis chapters 12 to 15.

Abram/Abraham was very well travelled. Having come from Ur of the Chaldeans, he passed via Bethel all the way down through the Bible lands to Egypt, back to Bethel, pursued his nephew’ captors all the way from Sodom to Damascus, and finally settled at Hebron.  Thousands of miles travelled, most of it when he was already an old man.  http://www.bible.ca/ has some useful maps.

 

He was also a very generous man.  Some of the more allegorically minded commentaries make much of the fact that he insisted on giving Melchizedek the king/priest his full share of the spoils of battle. More importantly, he let his nephew take the first choice of his share of the promised land, surely knowing that Lot would choose the more fertile plains of the Jordan valley, leaving Abram to farm the harder hill country.  But like everyone he had his faults.  Look at how he told the ruler of Egypt that his wife was actually his sister (therefore “available” to the Pharaoh’s harem) in order to save himself.  Even by the standard of the day this was unacceptable.  But God can still work through people despite their failings.

 

Towards the end of this very eventful life, when surely he was ready to settle down at last, Abram is promised that he will become the ancestor of countless people, despite his wife being old and barren, and has the faith to believe that.

The Bible in a Year – 3 January

If this is your first viewing, please see my Introduction before reading this.

3 January. Genesis chapters 8-11

Re-reading the story of Noah I was reminded that it is easy to think we remember a story, but forget important details.  How long was Noah on the ark? Most people would say 40 days.  But that is only how long it rained, starting on the 17th of the second month of Noah’s 600th year.  But they did not leave the ark until the ground was completely dry, on the 27th of the second month of the following year.  A whole year had passed in their life.  Peoples around the world whose land gets flooded today will understand the implications of a year without sowing or reaping – the stores they brought with them will have to last another year (much of the ark’s lower decks must have been taken up with food and fodder!) But the Lord honours the Noah family’s commitment to him with a short poem or song (as it is set out in modern translations): “As long as the earth endures / seedtime and harvest, cold and heat / summer and winter, day and night / shall not cease.”  John Bell’s modern worship song “While earth remains” celebrates this promise of the continuing seasons.

 

Another little detail is that before the dove – that symbol of peace, often shown with an olive branch in its mouth as recounted here – Noah sent out a raven.  I recently saw an artwork showing this often-overlooked act. The raven gets no credit yet it did the hard work, flying around until the land appeared.  Noah’s wife, surprisingly, is also not named anywhere in this story, although she must have worked her socks off caring for all those animals as well as her own family. Sometimes life feels like that, doing the hard work and getting none of the recognition. But God knows, and will honour our work for him even if others do not.

The Bible in a Year – 2 January

Please see my introduction before reading this.

2 January. Genesis chapters 4-7

I regard these early chapters of Genesis as mythological rather than historical, although there may of course have been historical events that inspired stories such as that of the great flood.  But what can we learn from them?

 

It is interesting that the genealogy of Noah (and thus of all of us, according to the story) derives through Adam’s third son Seth, and not through Cain, presumably due to his murder of his brother.  Meanwhile, God’s punishment of Cain for the murder was to make his land infertile and thus cause him to leave the homeland and become a wanderer, which he considers “unbearable” (as it must be for anyone forced to leave their community in this way). But he is protected from vengeance, which is never God’s way for the world.  The moral? Our sins can indeed have long-lasting consequences for ourselves and others, but justice must not be confused with vengeance.

 

The beginning of chapter 6 intrigues me with its repeated references to “the sons of God and the daughters of humans”.   Is this merely a patriarchal view of sons being more important than daughters, or is there some deeper meaning? Likewise the Nephilim (sometimes translated as “giants”)  – could be a folk memory of Neanderthals, or may have a more spiritual meaning.  I don’t know.

 

The Bible in a Year – 1 January

As explained in my introduction I am aiming to read the whole Bible in 2017 and comment on it here.  There’s been a slight delay in starting as I got the blog set up.  But here we go.

1 January.  Genesis chapters 1-3

I never cease to be amazed at the insight that the anonymous writer of the creation story appears to have into the origins of “life, the universe and everything”. While modern science may explain it more precisely (but still with many uncertainties), this ancient near eastern wisdom understands the way in which this earth on which we live, and its many life forms, are intimately connected in themselves and with the rest of creation. I believe that someone, somewhere, received a revelation as astounding as that of St John at the end of the Bible, and that this is the form in which he (or she?) passed it down through the generations.

 

For example, this brief account echoes the order we now know of space-time, stars, planets, oceans, vegetation, animal then human life.  Or take the references to “water” throughout the first ten verses of the creation story. We now know that water is present throughout our solar system, and may have been brought to earth on many asteroids and meteors over countless millions of years, and that without water there would be no life.  How could that have been known in ancient times? But what a marvellously poetical account of God’s provision of this life-giving substance!

 

Another key verse for me is 1:27, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” So let’s hear nothing of men’s superiority over women: we are all equally bearers of the image of the creator, who must be all that it is to be truly masculine, feminine and far more. But in chapter 3 – a different and more human-centred account of creation – both male and female are guilty as charged in living disobediently.  We are all in this together.

Welcome to the Raynville Rambler

I have set up this blog initially to share my thoughts as I read through the Bible in 2017.  I’m using as a guide to covering the Bible in a year the Bible Gateway website, but any views expressed here are my own, not theirs. If my thoughts are helpful, let me know.  If you disagree, you’re welcome to add polite comments – I’m no fundamentalist. But this isn’t a forum for theological argument, there are plenty of others out there if that’s what you want.

From time to time I may also post other articles not related to the Bible reading, but as the Bible is actually all about real life, that seems appropriate.

I take copyright seriously, so if you want to quote me extensively, please either credit me or link back to the original blog post.

Blessings

Stephen Craven