The Bible in a Year – 3 October

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

3 October. 2 Chronicles 28-29

Yesterday’s reading covered the reigns of Amaziah, Uzziah, and Jotham who were all somewhat half-hearted in their attitude to God – generally supportive of Temple worship, but sinful in other ways. In their time the split between Judah and the rest of Israel was deepened by unnecessary and pointless conflict.

Under the next king of Judah, Ahaz, things get even worse.  He seems not to make even a pretence of following inherited tradition but openly embraces paganism and shuts down the Temple. In his day, too, both Israel and their common enemies Aram and Assyria attack Judah; the army Israel even carries its people away as slaves, until the little known prophet Oded, plus a few tribal leaders, condemn them for taking captive those who should be their compatriots. The Biblical account leaves no doubt that the apostasy of the king is the direct cause of these defeats.

Hezekiah, as a young man, must have been appalled and frustrated at his father’s behaviour, for the very first act of his reign, within days of his coronation, is to begin restoring the Temple and its worship, to show that he intended to be different, and to revert to the historic patterns of life in Judah.

This sudden swing between a king who follows the Mosaic laws and one who does not, or vice-versa, is a pattern we have seen throughout the history of Israel. Often it seems to have been accompanied by the persecution of the “other side”, much as in Britain in the 16th and 17th centuries there was much blood shed in the alternation of Catholic and Protestant monarchs.   That, and the almost unforeseeable genocides that have taken place in countries such as Rwanda and Serbia in our own lifetime, remind us that the link between religion and violence (or ethnicity and violence) is one that will not go away.  The peaceful and tolerant practice of religion is never to be taken for granted.

The Bible in a Year – 30 April

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

30 April. Isaiah chapters 5-8

The first few verses of chapter 5 are a short parable of God as vineyard owner and his people as the vineyard itself – provided with everything necessary for good fruit but actually producing “wild grapes” (presumably inedible, or at least no good for winemaking). This imagery is taken up in several other places in the Bible, including several of Jesus’ own parables.


The vision of the Lord in the Temple in chapter 6 is one of the best known passages of the book, and the words “Whom shall I send?” … “Here I am, send me” the subject of many a sermon on vocation and mission in the Church.  It seems to be a sudden revelation to Isaiah that the Temple, the centre of Israelite worship, itself matters for nothing and would eventually be destroyed  – it is the presence of God among his people that matters.  At this time, though, and until the reign of Josiah, the people of Israel seem to have continued in a very syncretistic and sacrifice-based form of religion.


This vision is said to be “in the year that King Uzziah died”.  Uzziah is not mentioned elsewhere, but from the clue in 7:1 (“Jotham son of Uzziah”) it seems to be an alternative name for Azariah (see 2 Kings 15 – a ‘good’ king).   After his death, Jotham who had already been prince-regent took over and reigned for another 16 years, but was succeeded by his son Ahaz who returned to idolatry and in whose time the assault on Judah by foreign powers began.  So there is a considerable gap in time between the oracle in chapters 6 and those in chapters 7 & 8 “in the days of Ahaz”.


The oracles to Ahaz and Isaiah in chapters 7 and 8 demonstrate that God’s judgement was coming soon: Isaiah was to father a son by the “young woman” (or prophetess, 8:3) and his name would be either Immanuel (“God with us”) or the longer “Mahershalalhashbaz” (“speed the prey, hasten the spoil”), as a sign that the Assyrian hordes would devastate the land of Judah before the child was weaned or learnt to speak, in other words within a couple of years, according to God’s plan.  I will not at this point enter the sometimes heated argument whether the alternative translation of the “virgin” being with child in 7:14 is evidence for the virgin birth of Jesus, as recorded by Matthew in his Gospel. It is enough that Isaiah should have had a revelation for the people of his own time.