Thursday, June 18, 2015

The end of the Bible Challenge - Nehemiah

Nehemiah was once the second half of the book of Israel.

It tells the story, basically, of the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem after the return of the people from exile in Babylon.

The book of Nehemiah is interspersed with Nehemiah's prayers as he goes about rebuilding the walls, and along with them the social & religious life of the people of Israel.

If you have made it this far you have now read every book in the Bible over the last two years.


Thursday, June 11, 2015

Bible Challenge: Ezra

At one point the books of Ezra and Nehemiah and several others were all one book.

It is generally accepted that the same author (or at least the same final editor) prepared both Chronicles and Ezra & Nehemiah.

The first few verses of Ezra are the same as the last few verses of Second Chronicles.

The book of Ezra picks up with the returning exiles from Babylon.  They were concerned with the physical rebuilding of the city and the temple, but also with rebuilding the society and the religion and excluding the foreign elements that had crept in over two generations in exile.  There were also a group of exile that wanted to rebuild the religion & society while retaining some of the things that they had picked up in Babylon.  The struggle between those two groups was still echoing at the time of Jesus.

There were four stages of the return from exile.
1. First return around 540 BC - the leader of this started rebuilding the temple but his opposition from those who had been left behind and had to stop
2. A second return about 20 years later who also encountered opposition but completed the rebuilding of the temple.
3. A group about 20 years after the second return (including Ezra) that worked to translate the law of Moses into a new code of laws for Israel
4. A group about 20 years after that (led by Nehemiah) who came to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Bible Challenge: Second Chronicles - part 2

The end of Second Chronicles covers the reigns of several kings of Israel and several kings of Judah.  The story that is told is of a people that drift further and further from the laws of God and of nations that are falling apart.

We hear about Jehoram of Judah and Ahaziah of Israel.  To quote 2 Chronicles - "They did what is evil in the sight of the Lord."

The Philistines attack Judah and make them a client state.

Some of the succession of kings try to turn back to God for a little while, but it never lasts and they turn away again.

Towards the end of the book King Josiah comes to the throne - he restores the worship of the temple and bans the worship of idols and foreign gods.  Passover is celebrated in the Jerusalem by the king for the first time in several generations.  When he dies his son Joahaz becomes king.  Three months into his reign Egypt attacks and deposes him.  His successors do evil in the sight of the Lord.

Finally the people of Israel are defeated by Babylon and any of them with any education or skill are carried off into exile in Babylon.  Only the very poor and the uneducated are left behind in a ruined land.