1What is Genesis 1-2 about?
Genesis 1-2 shares a distinction of being simultaneously one of the most widely-recognized and widely-misunderstood passages in all of Scripture. Countless hours have been devoted to explaining how (or if) page one of the Bible harmonizes with one scientific view or another. But one thing the Bible never asserts itself to be is a scientific textbook. Instead, Genesis 1 and 2 should be understood in light of other competing origin stories of the time. Israel’s neighbors thought the the universe was a result of an ancient battle between gods where the victor dictated the terms of creation, where humans were slaves to the fickle demands of the gods, gods who demanded such things as the people’s own children in return for even the hopes of a good harvest. Into this worldview, the author of Genesis steps in with a vision of a world that came to be simply by the will and the word of God, no battle or struggle for supremacy. In this world, humans are God’s representatives and rulers over his good world, given the incredible blessing of sharing in God’s reign and responsibility or carrying out his intentions for creation. This is part of what Scripture means when it calls human beings his image bearers. While these truths don’t answer our questions of “creation vs. evolution” or the age of the earth, they are far more profound for understanding who we are and how we relate to the One who created all and sustains all.
Genesis 1 and Ancient Cosmic Geography
Lost World of Genesis One Blog Series
2What happened at the flood?
As Christians, we are committed to a high view of Scripture as God’s inspired word. We humbly follow Jesus, who was more centered on and committed to the Scriptures than any human being who has ever lived. But this also means that we are totally committed to reading the Bible as it was intended by the authors, human and Holy Spirit alike, to be read and understood. There are few places where this process is more difficult than the great flood narrative. We want to consider the possibility that Genesis was written to an ancient near eastern audience and that it’s possible that the word “world” is referring to the known world of their day. We also want to be sure that any of our motivations for revising our older or more conservative readings of Scripture are driven by a desire to know what the Bible is truly saying rather than a concern to not be seen as foolish for believing in the miraculous. To believe in a worldwide flood is no more or less reasonable than believing that a man was raised from the dead, so if we study and determine that the evidence is better for global or local flood, we should believe out of stronger conviction, not a softening of conviction. Tremper Longman - Genesis Blog Series
3Are there dinosaurs in the Bible?
By far the most controversial mention of larger-than-life creatures in the Bible is God’s description of Behemoth and Leviathan in Job 40 and 41. Many believers have traditionally thought of these passages as describing dinosaurs such as the brontosaurus or one of several giant sea creatures. But the book of Job, especially God’s questioning of Job, is meant to demonstrate the wisdom of God. These creatures, then, are serving a literary purpose rather than making a note for future archaeologists. These creatures were likely little-known to Job and are meant to seem mythic in their scope, even though the Hebrew word behemoth is elsewhere used to describe a cow or a horse! The point is that while Job can’t even control or predict the most simple natural processes, God is in total control and authority over the most untameable creatures of all. This kind of lesson is meant to give us peace in the sovereignty of God, not to give us ammunition for fighting with one another over the existence of dinosaurs. God Gives Job a Virtual Tour of His World
4Why does God harden Pharaoh’s heart?
When we read Exodus closely, we notice that there are times when God does harden Pharaoh’s heart. But we also see that there are several cases where Pharaoh hardened his own heart, and even more instances where who does the hardening is ambiguous. We hope you will wrestle with the complexity of God graciously giving Pharaoh multiple opportunities to repent and let the people of Israel go but also determining when enough was enough and that judgment for rebellion against God’s stated will was in order. The point of Exodus is not to show us how God is a cosmic puppeteer and we are just actors on a stage, but instead to offer a cautionary word to not be like Pharaoh. Don’t harden our hearts against the Lord when we know plainly what he desires. Much more can be said about this, so we hope you will read on in the attached blog for further reflection.Why Pharaoh's Heart Grew Harder
5How does the OT Law relate to the New Covenant / Jesus?
The Apostle Paul makes it clear that we as followers of Jesus are no longer under Law, but under grace (Romans 6:14). So what does this mean for the Old Testament law? When asked what is the greatest commandment, Jesus responds that we ought to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and love our neighbor as ourselves. When we do this, we fulfill all the Law and the Prophets. (Matt 22:34-40). This doesn’t mean that none of the laws in the Old Testament are any good. In fact, most of them are upheld by the New Testament as well. This also doesn’t mean that Christians are given a pass. On the contrary, to truly love God with everything we have and to care for our neighbor as we care for ourselves is an incredibly high bar! But it is a bar set by a God who loves us, stepped toward us in our brokenness, lives in us, and by his grace gives us the ability to even begin to live out that kind of mission to those around us. We should see the Law given to Moses as good, but meant for the benefit of the people of Israel and not directly binding to followers of Jesus living under a new covenant today.How does the Old Testament Law Apply to Christians Today?The Mosaic Law: Its Function and Purpose
6How do we understand the Bible’s laws concerning slavery?
There are few issues as controversial or concerning to followers of Jesus as the existence of slavery in Old Testament Israel. The best thing we can do is commit ourselves to understanding what slavery looked like in that time before we can move on to make comparisons to how our country experienced slavery, especially in the South. Start off by recognizing the many distinctions between Old Testament and modern, chattel slavery. Masters could hire servants “from year to year” and were not to “rule over … [them] ruthlessly” (Leviticus 25:46,53). The Old Testament prohibited unavoidable lifelong servanthood — unless someone loved his master and wanted to attach himself to him (Exodus 21:5). Masters were to grant their servants release every seventh year with all debts forgiven (Leviticus 25:35–43). Slaves were thoroughly integrated into the Israelite home, to the extent that one commentator wrote, “Hebrew has no vocabulary of slavery, only of servanthood.” While their neighbors practiced some of the most brutal, dehumanizing forms of slavery in recorded history, the Lord set Israel on a trajectory to be a light and a witness to the watching world of what it looks like to treat others as fellow image bearers of God. We hope you won’t take our word for it but continue to study the attached articles and see for yourself.
Does the Bible Support Slavery
Does the Old Testament Endorse Slavery? An Overview
Does the Old Testament Endorse Slavery? Examining Difficult Texts
Why Is the New Testament Silent on Slavery — or Is It?
7What do we say about the Israelite conquests in Joshua?
When we’re wrestling with the conquest of Canaan in the book of Joshua, we need to once again work to strip away our preconceptions about “holy war” and “genocide” and ask what is really going on. A few things we should consider: (1) Israel is not an overwhelming world superpower. They are the weakest of all people groups going up against the real military powers at that time, the Canaanites, who were guilty of such horrors as mass amounts of child sacrifice. (2) As such, Israel is not participating in an ethnic cleansing as much as they are a conduit for the judgment of God to be rightly done to the Canaanites. (3) The language of total annihilation is hyperbolic; we also see just as many instances of the term “drive out” (Joshua 13:6, 13; 14:12; 15:63; 16:10; 17:13, 18; 23:5, 13) where the primary emphasis is on displacement, not destruction (4) There are cities that the Israelites conquer that we’re told no Canaanites survived (Hebron and Debir in Joshua 10:36-39). But just a few chapters later, when other Israelites go to these cities, there are still Canaanite people living there (Joshua 15:13-15). This doesn’t completely relieve us of any difficulty, but it does help us to see God’s foundational motivation, which is to rise up in justice against the wicked on behalf of the powerless.
Judgment or Cruelty? Conquering the Promised Land
The Skeletons in God’s Closet
8Why is our reading plan out of order?
Our Read Scripture plan might have caught you by surprise recently when we skipped all the way to Isaiah from 2 Kings. This was intentional, and, if we know what to look for, can help us further see the Bible as telling one unified story that points to Jesus. We want to share the direction behind the design of this reading plan in hopes of refreshing our excitement to walk through God's Word together this year. 1 and 2 Kings closes the history of the divided kingdom leading up to their exile in Assyria (northern Israel) and Babylon (southern Judah). The reading plan follows this by walking us through the prophets who spoke during these times. After Zephaniah, the last of the prophets before the exile, we will start reading the Wisdom Literature. While portions of these books are written or seem to be set in times long before the exile (Psalms, Job), many scholars believe that they were collected and arranged by God's people during their captivity. After the Wisdom Literature, we will read the prophets that spoke to Israel during their captivity, followed by the history of Israel after the exile (Ezra-Nehemiah) and the prophets after the exile.
Our reading plan wraps up with 1 and 2 Chronicles. Although these books tell the story of the kings of Israel before the exile, they come last in the order of the Hebrew Bible. Chronicles was written after Israel's return from captivity and is structured specifically to show an ideal portrait of Israel's king while knowing that God's people are still in search of someone who will fill that role perfectly. As followers of Jesus, we can read Chronicles looking eagerly for ways in which he comes as a good king and a righteous priest over his people. We hope this gives you a new enthusiasm to walk through Scripture with us this year.