The Bible in a Year – 1 October

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

1 October. 2 Chronicles chapters 22-24

This marks one of the lowest points in the history of Israel/Judah.  If the accounts of the Chronicler are to be believed (admitting that they are written from a Judean viewpoint), the northern kingdom of Israel had been effectively a pagan country for several generations.  Now in the reigns of Azariah, Athaliah and Joash, so is Judah.

Azariah represents the last of a continuous line of descent of male rulers, and was seemingly the worst of them in terms of his treatment of his people, and ignoring the religious covenant on which the nation had been founded.  The throne is seized after his death by his mother, who makes no pretence of following Israelite religion, but desecrates the Temple, promotes the worship of the false god Baal, and comes to murder her own grandchildren to stop them inheriting the throne.  Such is the extent to which absolute power can corrupt people.

All seems to be lost, except for the actions of one woman, Jehoshabeath, the late king’s sister.  Her actions are told in a way that is perhaps intended to mimic the story of Moses being hidden in a basket and found by the Pharaoh’s daughter, for she takes Joash, the youngest of the royal family, and hides him in the Temple with his nurse.  Miraculously, he lives there undiscovered for six years.

One of the constant refrains in the Bible is that however bad things get, however much the forces of secularism or false religion seem to be winning the spiritual battle, God will always keep a remnant of faith alive, like embers in a hearth, to burst into flame again at the right time.  For Joash this comes at the age of seven, when there are enough true believers among the influential people of Judah to stage a coronation and a coup.  The priest Jehoiada, Jehoshabeath’s husband, is the driving force behind this.

Joash seems to deliver on the expectations people had of him, and as a young man he restored the Temple both physically and spiritually.  But as soon as Jehoiada dies, he listens instead to the voices of the “old guard” who had counselled his father, and reverts to paganism.  A weak ruler who lets himself be manipulated by whoever had the upper hand.

The lesson, if there is one, from this dark period of Judah’s history, is that there needs to be not only a political ruler with a willingness to allow the practice of religion, but also a spiritual leader with at least as much influence.  Without both, a country soon loses its spiritual compass.

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.