The Bible in a Year – 15 September

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

15 September. 1 Chronicles chapter 7-8

As in previous days, I am picking out for comment those moments in the long recitals of tribal genealogies where the author gives us an extended glimpse into the actual circumstances of one individual family.  They must have really stood out from the crowd for this treatment.  This one is from the time of Ephraim, one of the sons of Joseph (of ‘dreamcoat’ fame):

“Now the people of Gath, who were born in the land, killed them, because they came down to raid their cattle. And their father Ephraim mourned for many days, and his brothers came to comfort him. Ephraim went in to his wife, and she conceived and bore a son; and he named him Beriah, because disaster had befallen his house. His daughter was Sheerah, who built both Lower and Upper Beth-horon, and Uzzen-sheerah.” (7:21-24).

Ephraim, according to Genesis 41:52, was born in Egypt to an Egyptian mother, and his name meant “fruitful”.  When his grandfather Jacob (Israel) was dying, he deliberately gave a blessing to Ephraim that should by rights have gone to his older brother Manasseh.  When Moses blessed the tribes of Israel before his death, of Joseph’s descendants he said, “A firstborn bull—majesty is his! His horns are the horns of a wild ox; with them he gores the peoples, driving them to the ends of the earth; such are the myriads of Ephraim” (Deuteronomy 33:17). These spiritual giants must have had some insight into God’s purposes for Ephraim and his family – certainly his seems to have become the largest of the tribes.

So it was that the sons of this “wild ox” raided the cattle of the people of Gath. These were the Philistines from whom Goliath came – not men to be messed with. So it is not surprising that their retaliation was brutal.

The next verse is interesting. Ephraim fathered another son (though no parent can ever ‘replace’ one who has been killed).  Beriah’s sons (if any) are not mentioned, but his daughter is.  Sheerah ‘built’ (or perhaps more likely paid for the building of) two settlements.  Throughout these genealogies, sons are listed far more than daughters.

It has often been true that women in a man’s world have to do something exceptional to be noticed. Only recently have studies of the “women of the Bible” shown that although much fewer in number, collectively women of faith have achieved as much as their brothers.  Now that most Christian denominations in developed countries accept women in leadership, things might change at last.

The Bible in a Year – 30 March

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

30 March. 1 Samuel 15-17

So far we have seen Saul proclaimed as King by God’s decree and filled with the Holy Spirit; but also learnt of his weaknesses, which were impatience and lack of foresight.  In chapter 15 he achieves his greatest military victory to date, but shows another weakness by failing to slaughter the animals as well as the people, as God commanded.  For this his kingship was rejected by God, and the Spirit of God left him.   Leaving aside for now the question of why God commanded the slaughter of innocent civilians and animals as well as soldiers, in this rejection by God we see perhaps the first statement in the Bible (15:22) that obedience to God is what God desires, more than obedience to religious laws.


The boy David from Bethlehem was anointed King in his place by Samuel, but secretly. David goes on to achieve the archetypal giant-slaying feat of killing the heavily armed Goliath with a simple sling and stone, turning the tide of battle against the Philistines.


Saul, we are told, became troubled by an “evil spirit” after his rejection by God, and the boy David – later known as a famous composer of many of religious songs that we call Psalms -plays the lyre to soothe him.  This “evil spirit” may have been depression; but at the end of Chapter 17 when David is brought before Saul after defeating Goliath, Saul appears not to recognise him.  So either the stories have got out of order, or maybe Saul was suffering from dementia? Playing familiar music is often a good way to calm the distress of people with this illness.