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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Easter Bible Studies - First Week in Lent

History of Israel – Prophets, Priests and Kings

Moses:
The Bible says Moses was “grown-up” when he fled from Egypt and 80 when he returned, but it’s possible that the number 40 means a generation, making him around 25 (and hotheaded) and 50 (ready to obey) (Exodus 2:11, 7:7).

Historians argue about the timing of the Exodus, but it’s possibly to make the Biblical and historical numbers agree, as long as we assume that all three lists of high priests between Aaron and Solomon’s temple are supposed to agree with each other (Ezra 7:1-5, 1 Chronicles 6:50-53, 3-13).

Everyone knows (and frequently argues) about the Red Sea crossing (Exodus 14:21), but the Jordan also ran dry (Joshua 3:16), and both crossings can be scientifically explained, if we accept that God has control over nature.

Judges:
Once the Israelites entered the Promised Land, they split into separate tribes, ruled by judges. Throughout this period the worship of local gods gets mixed in with the worship of God, and problems ensue. Just for reference, one of the judges was a woman (Judges 4:4). The prophet Samuel was the last judge (1 Samuel 7:15)

Kings:
The Israelites used the Ark of the Covenant as a totem in battle, and lost it to the Philistines (1 Samuel 4:3-11). Humanly speaking, they needed to unite under a single leader, able to command a standing army, if they were to control the land. Saul—an impressive young man—is anointed king by the prophet Samuel (1 Samuel 9:1-2), but he disobeys God and is replaced by the somewhat less impressive David (1 Samuel 16:11), who kills the giant Goliath, one of a whole clan of somewhat tall warriors (1 Chronicles 20:5-8). (David actually fights for the Philistines for a while (1 Samuel 29:3)

David’s unites the kingdom and brings the Ark back to Jerusalem, where his son Solomon builds the first Temple, 12 generations after the escape from Egypt. But after Solomon’s death, the kingdom splits in two.

Prophets:
God provided prophets in both kingdoms: Elijah, Elisha, Jonah, Amos and Hoseah in the North until it fell to the Assyrians; Joel, Isaiah, Micah (who prophesied the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem), Nahum, Zephaniah, Jeremiah, Habakkuk in the South until it fell to Babylon. Daniel, Ezekiel and Obadiah were prophets during the fall and restoration of the Southern Kingdom, with Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi (who prophesied that Elijah would return before the Messiah) following. Afterwards the land is conquered by Greece, Egypt and Rome. The Maccabees led revolts against the conquerors, commemorated at Hanukah, and the Pharisees split off from the country’s political leaders when they continued fighting after religious freedom had been achieved.

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