The Bible in a Year – 12 September

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

12 September. 1 Chronicles chapters 1-2

Of all the books of the Bible I think this one is the hardest to write about, at least the first few chapters.  For they concern entirely the genealogies of the tribes and clans of Israel, purportedly going right back to the mythical first man Adam (which means that somewhere back along the line it ceases to be historical).

Why was genealogy so important? As we recently saw in the book of Ezra/Nehemiah, when the people returned from captivity to re-establish a Jewish state in and around Jerusalem, it was important to be able to prove that one was descended from Jacob (Israel), and in the case of priest and temple servants (Levites) to be able to prove descent from a particular tribe.  Otherwise, how were people (even if they had been living in the Jewish community in exile) to be distinguished from the ritually “unclean” gentiles living in the land to which they had returned?

It can be equally important today, as witnessed by a recent news item about a man who had been born and lived in Britain all his life, contributing to the economy, but had now been told that he has no right to remain or work here any longer. According to strict immigration rules, as his English father was not married to his non-British mother at the time of his birth, there was no qualifying reason for him to count as British, since only the mother’s nationality counts in the case of an unmarried couple.

To any sensible person that was completely unacceptable, and I believe the decision has now been reversed.  His birth here, and the many years he had worked unchallenged, were more relevant and important than rules intended to limit numbers of immigrants.

The Kingdom of God as proclaimed by Jesus, fortunately, has no such limitations or rules.  As St Paul wrote, in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female.  Anyone may claim their birthright as a child of God, by acknowledging that they “believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6).


The Bible in a Year – 3 September

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

Please excuse the delay in publishing the notes for the end of Daniel and all of Ezra, with only brief comments, as I was on holiday for a week and only making short notes to be typed up later.

3 September. Ezra chapters 1-2

The book of Ezra starts with the first return of the Jews from exile under Cyrus of Persia.  Note that he did not forcibly return them to Judah as his predecessor had forcible removed them, but he permits and assists them – “voluntary assisted deportation” as we might now say. Not only did he give them back the looted Temple treasure, but encouraged his own people to assist those who wished to return with practical help as well as money and valuables.

This is a challenge to us. If immigrants have been living in our country for several generations we cannot expect those born here to want to live in the country of their ancestors, and should regard them as free to stay or leave.  But if they do wish to leave, or even if changes in the political situation (such as Brexit) lead to compulsory  deportation of certain groups, would we be willing to be so generous with our own possessions in giving them a good send-off?

The Bible in a Year – 13 April

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

13 April. 1 Kings chapters 3-5

What do you give the man who has everything?  Here we read of the vision in which God offers Solomon anything he wants.  Instead of anything material, he asks for wisdom to make him a good ruler.  That was to be the foundation for an astonishing kingship.  Almost immediately (if the stories here are in their right order) he gives what is perhaps his most famous judgement, ruling that of two women who argue who is a child’s mother, the one willing to part with him rather than see him come to harm is the right one. Sadly, as we all know from the tragedies of “Bay Peter” and others like him, there are still those parents who are willing to let their children be harmed, or even abuse them themselves.


Solomon’s wisdom, we are told, extends beyond wise law-giving, as he was a great naturalist, philosopher and song writer. Such polymaths (people who excel in many aspects of human knowledge and experience) are rare, but greatly to be valued.


Solomon then begins his life’s great work – the building of a great temple in Jerusalem as a permanent replacement for the tabernacle tent of the Exodus years.  Much of the rest of the book will be taken up with it, just as the great cathedrals of Europe took a lifetime or more to complete. Like them, construction required vast numbers of masons, joiners and other craftsmen.  Interestingly,  although this is to be the great place for worship for the Israelites, Solomon not only accepts but seeks the skills of foreign workers, in this case the Sidonians and Lebanese.  Let those who seek to reduce immigration in our own day take note!


The Bible in a Year – 20/21 January

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

20/21 January. Exodus chapters 7-12

These chapters cover the plagues of Egypt, in which God, through the prophesies spoken by Aaron and the symbolic actions of Moses, brought one disaster after another on the Egyptians, initially sparing the political leaders but increasingly affecting them too. But each time Pharaoh either refused the request to let the Hebrews go, or else reneged on his promise.  Only the last and most dreadful plague – the death of every firstborn child and animal – persuaded Pharaoh to agree to the ‘repatriation’ request.  This has echoes for me of two contemporary situations:


Firstly, the increase of negative attitudes or even hostility towards immigrants in Britain, especially since the Brexit vote.  Not only illegal immigrants, but those who have come legally from within or without the EU to work, and those born here of foreign parents, find themselves the subject of hate, discrimination or even violence.  That of course is incompatible with a Christian understanding of equality and love of neighbour.  But what strikes me is the contrast between those in the UK who want immigrants to “go home” even when they are working and living peacefully here, and pharaoh who refused to let an increasingly troublesome immigrant group leave the country when they wanted to! It seems that actually he valued and needed their labour to keep the economy going. Presumably they were doing the jobs that Egyptians would not do – making bricks, rearing sheep and goats, and probably many other back-breaking or dirty jobs.  And they were indispensable (though underpaid). Whereas the immigrants who do such jobs in our country – also often underpaid and living in poor conditions and sometimes even as slaves – are regarded with scorn. If they do leave (willingly or otherwise) who will do their jobs? And whose side will God be on?


The other aspect of the story is Pharaoh who saw the plagues and knew that the Hebrews (or their god) were causing them, and yet refused to acknowledge the damage the plagues were causing to his people – water pollution, infestations, disease, extreme weather, crop failure and increased mortality – until they hit his own family directly.  This week the new president of the USA is a known ‘climate change denier’ who has appointed another such man to head the Environment Protection Agency. What will it take for these people to acknowledge the impact that mankind’s activities are having on our fellow humans and the wider environment?  Will it take the death of their own children?  I hope not. But change they must.