The Bible in a Year – 16 September

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

16 September. 1 Chronicles chapters 9-10

Chapter 9 is the last in the series of genealogies. The focus in verses 17-32 is on the ‘gatekeepers’.  They had a key role in protecting the building and guarding its treasures, and preparing for worship.  There were four permanent keepers, one for each gate, with a large rota of (presumably unpaid) assistants.  Alongside them (v.33) were the Temple singers.    It seems that this organisational structure was not unlike that of a Cathedral today, with the Dean (equal in importance to the Bishop, though with a different role), Precentor, Succentor and Chapter, and again often a large rota of volunteer chaplains, visitor guides and so on.  The worship of God may be essentially a matter for the individual heart and conscience, but when there is a large gathered community and a large building in which worship can take place, a great degree of organisation is inevitable.

Chapter 10 reveals that the purpose of the preceding nine chapters of family history was to lead up to, and provide proof of the validity of, the anointing of David as King over Judah.  The rest of the book largely duplicates the history of his reign as already recorded in the books of Samuel.

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 – 19 February

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

19 February. Numbers chapters 18-20

The implications of the attempted rebellion against God and his appointed leaders in yesterday’s reading went further than the immediate death of many of the people.  “From now on the Israelites shall no longer approach the tent of meeting, or else they will incur guilt and die” (18:22) represents a permanent exclusion of the ordinary people from the very place – the tent of meeting – in which they were supposed to meet with God.  From now on only the priests and Levites could enter it.  In the later days of the stone Temple this was replicated as a series of courtyards for gentiles, women, lay men and priests before getting to the most holy place that only the high priest could enter.


What a change is represented by Christian worship: although the layout of large churches and cathedrals still bears echoes of this (narthex, nave, chancel and sanctuary) nowhere is actually “out of bounds” to ordinary people, and all are welcome to enter and seek God.  That is why the charging of fixed admission fees by some of the more popular cathedrals is controversial: many people think they should only request donations and not charge for what should be an opportunity to encounter holiness.


Chapter 19 includes a further purification ceremony:the sacrifice of a red heifer whose ashes when mixed with water would be used to purify people from ritual uncleanness. The nearest we see to that is Christian practice is probably the Ash Wednesday ritual when palm crosses from Holy Week the previous year are burned and their ashes mixed with oil and used to make a mark on the foreheads of those who come to make their Lenten confession.


In chapter 20 another miracle occurs when God provides water from the rock in a dry place.  Moses and Aaron make the mistake of failing to credit God for the miracle, so that it looks as if they themselves can make magic. As a result they are condemned to die before reaching the promised land.  It is always important to distinguish between natural talent and God-given gifts, though not always easy to do so.