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Sunday, December 6, 2009

Second Week in Advent - Old Testament Tales

What IF...Studies - Christmas
Second Week in Advent: Old Testament Tales

Genesis 42:16, 50:20 Joseph: What if… Joseph wasn’t quite so forgiving as we think?
We’re all called to forgive, but sometimes it takes us a while to get from wanting the offender jailed to seeing God’s plan. Maybe it took Joseph a while too, and maybe God understands.

Exodus 2:8, Moses: What if… Moses learned to read and write Egyptian?
Moses was brought up Egyptian and would have learned to read and write in the Pharaoh’s court. If linguistic experts are right to suggest more than one person wrote the first books of the Bible, maybe tradition is also right in suggesting Moses wrote some of the source documents that they used.

Exodus 14:21, The Red Sea: What if… the Red Sea could run dry?
• The oldest Hebrew texts call it the Reed Sea, but the translation into Greek was made by Jewish Bible scholars long before Christ. Could the sea the Greeks called Red be the one the Israelites called Reed? The Red Sea did in fact have freshwater reeds growing at its northern end, and does look red in the right light.
• Tradition places Sinai on the Sinai peninsula, but there are many reasons to believe it might be in Arabia, including its name, since Sin was a Midianite god. In this case the Red Sea crossing might have taken place at the Gulf of Aqaba.
• The Bible says which direction the wind was blowing. A wind described this way could cause a “river bore” on the Gulf of Aqaba, and make dry land appear. This would be a much more powerful “miracle” than any “magic” the Egyptian magicians could do.

Numbers 32:13, Wandering the Desert: What if… forty years was a generation?
There are lots of forties in the Bible and this is just one. But this one is also long enough for one generation to pass away, which historically would be about 25 years. It gives us a way to interpret some Biblical ages differently. It doesn’t mean we have to. It just means we can, without losing our devotion to the Bible.

I Samuel 17:4, 1 Chronicles 20:5 David: What if… Goliath was just a tall man?
And what if David wasn’t a little boy either when he fought Goliath, despite the traditional images? But the fact that David was carrying food for his brothers fits with other details of warfare at the time. And the fact that Goliath had brothers suggests his tribe was taller and stronger than the Israelites.

Daniel 6:16, Daniel: What if… Daniel was an old man?
…and stringy, and not much meat on him to tempt the lions…? Daniel was taken to Babylon as a young man when the Babylonians conquered Judah. He was trained to be a leader in Babylon’s court, and grew up to be powerful and well-respected among the Babylonians. When Babylon fell to Persia, Daniel continued to play an important role. By the time he was thrown to the lions he was almost certainly an old man. The exile lasted 70 years, then Cyrus the Mede allowed the exiles to return and rebuild.

Ezra 4:4, The Exiles Return: What if… their letters and their attitudes all make historical sense?
…because they do. The land was resettled by non-Jews who intermarried with the remaining Jews, and who were not considered properly Jewish by the returnees. And the letters are very authentic to the period.

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