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Kenaz, the Kenizzites, Othniel, and Caleb… October 09, 2015

Posted by preacherwin in Devotions, Devotions on Judges.
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“And Caleb said, ‘Who will attak Qiryath-Sepher and conquer it? I will give him Aksah, my daughter, as a wife. And Othniyel, the son of Qenaz (Caleb’s brother), conquered it.”

(Judges 1:12-13)

Again we find ourselves with overlap (see Joshua 15:13-19). Much of the theme of the book of Judges has to do with the people not remembering what God had done for them in the past and of their turning into themselves to govern their morality in the land…so, we ought not find ourselves with much of a surprise when we find reminders like this in the introduction, not only summarizing the final settlement in the land, but reminding future generations of the blessings associated with faithfulness and the chastisement that is associated with disobedience.

What we do find here, is the introduction of Othniel, who will become the paradigm of the judges as this book moves forward (chapter 3). What we are told about Othniel, though, creates a bit of a conundrum. Literally, the text reads “Othniel, the son of Kenaz, the brother of Caleb.” Thus, the question arises. Is Othniel the younger (Judges 3:9) brother of Caleb or is Kenaz the brother of Caleb. In other words, what is the relationship between these two men, is Caleb Othniel’s brother or Uncle? The text can be read either way, though it seems that the majority of commentators render the relationship as Othniel being Caleb’s brother.

The problem with the interpretation is compounded because we do not have a clear genealogy that links these men together in a meaningful way. Caleb is described as the son of Jephunneh but Othniel is described as the son of Kenaz. If we further examine the relationships, though, some scholars have suggested that “the son of Kenaz” is the equivalent of saying “Kenizzite.” The land of the Kenizzites was part of God’s promise to Israel (Genesis 15:19) and we are further told that Jephunneh was a Kenizzite (Numbers 32:12). This is the first connection that we have (in terms of genealogies) between Othniel and Caleb.

If one reads the phrase “son of Kenaz” as Kenizzite, then one naturally reads the text as speaking of Othniel as Caleb’s brother — “Othniel, the Kenizzite, Caleb’s brother, conquered it.” This seems to be the reading that many will take with this particular text.

One difficulty with this reading is in the timetable. Caleb is introduced to us as one of the two faithful spies that entered the Promised Land and who returned and encouraged the people to trust God and to take the land. The people, though, listened to the voice of the majority and rejected the counsel of Caleb and Joshua. As a result, God placed his judgment on the people that no one who had come out of Egypt would survive to enter the promised land — that is, except Joshua and Caleb (see Numbers 14:30,38; 26:65). What followed, of course, was the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.

That said, the reading that Othniel is Caleb’s brother is still possible; he just is a brother that would have been born in the wilderness — a brother who was born when Caleb was already an adult. Again, this is not unfeasible, and even makes sense given that he will be taking Caleb’s daughter as a wife.

A second difficulty with this reading is that Kenaz is not an uncommon name in the ancient Jewish genealogies, so to assume it as a reference to the Kenizzite clan is not a necessary position to take. Further, in the genealogy found in 1 Chronicles 4:13, we find the “sons of Kenaz” listed as Othniel and Seraiah (further noting that in 1 Chronicles 4:15, Caleb had a grandson named Kenaz, though no one is suggesting that Othniel is Caleb’s great-grandson!). Of course, as mentioned above, counting backwards in this genealogy does not connect these men any further. That said, remembering that Jewish genealogies do not mention every descendent explicitly, that should not be seen as a stumbling block.

Thus, while both readings are possible (hence many of our English translations leave the wording loose, allowing for either reading), the more natural explanation (based on Chronicles) seems to be that Caleb is Othniel’s uncle — Kenaz being Caleb’s brother…a brother who died in the wilderness, but whose son has entered the Promised Land. Is it necessary to draw a hard line-in-the sand over this interpretation? No, it is not, but our God has given us minds to explore the Biblical text wherever the puzzle-pieces will lead us and as important as it is to recognize the structure and theme of individual books and narratives, it is also valuable to see how the whole is unified together — a whole that ultimately finds its unity in Christ.

Debir — the City of Books October 06, 2015

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“And they went from there against those who dwelt in Debiyr — the name of Debiyr was Qiryath-Sepher.”

Names fascinate me. Qiryath-Sepher (or Kiriath-Sepher as many Bibles transliterate) literally means, “The City of the Book” or “The City of Writings.” The Greek translation of this city is Po/liß Gramma/ton (Polis Grammaton) — “The City of Letters (Epistles).” Later, then, this city’s name is changed to Debiyr (Debir in most modern transliterations), which most likely is derived from the Hebrew word, rAb∂d (dabar — meaning, “word”), though ryIb∂d (Dabiyr) is also used to refer to a holy sanctuary — see 1 Kings 6:5, 8:6, Psalm 28:2, 2 Chronicles 5:7 to see the term applied to the Holy of Holies in the Temple.

What adds to the interest is that many digs have been done in the area presuming (by its name) that it would contain a library of sorts — a treasure trove for scholarly research. Such a trove has yet to be found. William Albright, one of the founders of the modern Biblical Archaeology movement, thought that he found Debiyr — a dig that is today referred to as Tell Beit Mirsim. Yet no library was found, though there is evidence of an active weaving industry — potentially a place of trade for travelers. Albright’s view about the location of Debiyr is challenged by some, but archaeology is a constantly changing discipline.

If, though, Debiyr is a reference to a holy place — a monastery of sorts perhaps located there in ancient times — it is perhaps feasible to identify the city not so much as a library of academic pursuits, but a place where various monks (likely pagan) would come to pray — a place where the scrolls were written, not kept. Yet, all this is speculation — how did this city get its name? We just do not know.

Hebron October 05, 2015

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“And the sons of Judah fought against Jerusalem and they captured it and put it to the edge of the sword. Then the city was set on fire. Afterward, the sons of Judah went down to fight with the Canaanites — those who lived in the hill-country and Hebron as well as the low country. And Judah went toward the Canaanites who lived in Hebron (the name of Hebron used to be Qirayth Arba). There they smote Sheshay, Achiyman, and Talmay.”

(Judges 1:8-10)

We continue in the summary of the conquering of the Promised Land by the Israelites. One may recall how the Jebusites, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, were a group that Joshua had been unable to drive out (Joshua 15:63); here we have the tribe of Judah completing the task that had been begun under Joshua.

Hebron, which means, “companion,” we are told, had been called “Quirayth Arba” (many of our Bibles will render this, Kiriath-Arba), which means, “The Four Cities.” Thus, just as Minneapolis-St. Paul are often referred to as the “Twin Cities,” we might refer to this area as the “Quadruplet Cities.” Hebron, of course, is significant to the Jewish people as that is where Sarah died and is buried (Genesis 23:2,19). We also discover that Sheshay, Achiyman, and Talmay are present. These are the sons of Anak (Numbers 13:22), people that the Israelites had once feared as giants and descendents of the Nephalim (note that “Nephalim” means, “Those who fall on others” — another term for brigands or marauders). Before they had been driven out; now they are captured and slain.

Again, it should be emphasized that there is a degree of overlap between the end of Joshua and the beginning of Judges found in these passages. This should not cause us to stumble, but we should rather remember as I noted before that military campaigns take time to work out, so we can say we see the initiation of the event in Joshua and then the completion of that event worked out in Judges.

Campaigning in Canaan September 28, 2015

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“And so Judah went up and Yahweh gave the Canaanites and the Perizzites into his hand — they smote at Bezek 10,000 men. And they encountered the Lord of Bezek in Bezek and they fought with him. They defeated the Canaanites and the Perizzites. But the Lord of Bezek escaped and they pursued after him. They caught him and cut off his thumbs and his big toes. And the Lord of Bezek said, ‘Seventy Kings with thumbs and big toes cut off, I had gleaning under my table; as I have done, so God has taken restitution from me. And they brought him to Jerusalem and he died there.”

(Judges 1:4-7)

One thing that must be remembered as we read these narratives is that campaigns such as these take time. We tend to think that as only a few short verses have transpired, not a lot of time has gone by. That is just not the case…it can’t be as campaigns do take time to organize and wage. That means that some of these things overlap with the events that will take place in subsequent verses. For example, the text describes Adoniy-Bezek (the Lord of Bezek) being taken to Jerusalem, but in verse 8, we find the record of the capture of Jerusalem by Judah’s men. This is not a contradiction in the text; it is simply a place where the one narrative overlaps with the following one, and thus, by the time that Judah captured the Lord of Bezek, his troops had also captured Jerusalem.

Also, it is important to put these campaigns into perspective. This is not Judah marching around with an army of 500 or a thousand men. When the Israelites left Egypt, scripture records that there were 600,000 men (implying that there were 600,000 men able to fight!) in the group (Exodus 12:37). Further, the Israelites have been in the wilderness for a generation with a growing population. Even if there were still only 600,000 fighting-age men when they established themselves in Canaan, that means that each tribe would have an army of about 50,000 soldiers. As it is reasonable to presume growth of the peoples, these numbers should be considered much higher. Thus, these campaigns being described in the first chapter are massive campaigns and the armies would have been capable of fighting on several front simultaneously (especially if multiple tribes are working together).

Adoniy, is simply the term, Lord, and so Adoniy-Bezek is the Lord or the Master of the city of Bezek…hence the importance of finding him and chasing him down. Interestingly enough, the chasing of him down not only pronounced that Bezek had fallen to the Israelites, but it also saw that justice was done to a wicked man. Seventy kings — lords of various cities that had been conquered — had been brought to Lord of Bezek’s table with thumbs and big toes (“the thumb of the foot”) cut off and then made to forage for scraps under the Lord of Bezek’s table, eating only table droppings as would a dog. Now he gets a taste of his own judgment. Justice is done on behalf of the pagan kings which Adoniy-Bezek had conquered.

Thus, Adoniy-Bezek was taken to Jerusalem to live out the rest of his days, dying in captivity under Judah’s lordship. And so, the Promised Land continues to be consolidated under the power of Israel. Again, much of this is overview that helps us transition from Joshua’s leadership into the leadership of the Judges.

Judah and Simeon Tag Team September 25, 2015

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“And Judah said to Simeon, his brother, ‘Go up with me into the allotment and we will fight against the Canaanites and I will then go with you into your allotment.’ And Simeon went with him.”

(Judges 1:3)

God has anointed Judah to go first. And though God has already promised it into Judah’s hand, Judah requests that Simeon accompany him. Though we may be tempted to view this as a weakness in Judah’s faith, God still chooses to bless their conquest as is seen in the verses that follow. It should be noted that while the singular is used above — for example, Judah says, “I, myself, will go with you into your allotment…” — these are corporate representatives — Federal Heads even — who speak on behalf of those who are in their tribe. Thus, we find both of these tribes going up together to conquer the land that God has given into their hands.

How regularly God exercises patience with our doubts. God says, “Go!” and we say, “But wait!” God says, “Follow me!” and we say, “Let me finish this or that first.” God says, “Obey me!” and we say, “Can I have a second opinion on that first?” “Go up into the land and I will give your enemies into your hand!” And Judah says, “Great, but first let me see if my brother will go with me to help me out.”

Obedience requires trust and trust requires a belief that God is able to do what he promises that he will do. How often we do not obey because we doubt God’s ability to do these things. And thus we repeatedly fall short of God’s glory. Loved ones, there is nothing inherently wrong with collaborating on a major task — indeed, Jesus sent his disciples out two-by-two. At the same time, if God places a clear call before us, we should go and do so fearlessly, fearing only Him who sent us.

And it Came to Pass September 24, 2015

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“And it came to pass, that after the death of Joshua, that the sons of Israel asked of Yahweh, saying, ‘Who will go up for us toward the Canaanites, to begin to fight with them?’ And Yahweh said, ‘Judah will go up; behold, I give the land into his hand.’”

(Judges 1:1-2)

As we find ourselves beginning the book of Judges, note where it starts. Sometimes people are a little taken back at the reference here in verse one that these things take place “after the death” of Joshua and then we find the account of Joshua’s death in chapter 2. Yet, if we recognize that the role of the first two chapters of Judges is really more introductory than anything else — chapters that set the stage for what will follow, then we shouldn’t be too surprised at the way the narrative begins. Further, as the role of the book of Judges is to pick up after the end of Joshua’s ministry, it seems appropriate to set the stage for the failures of God’s people to subdue the land and then to go back and to record the actual death of Joshua and the forgetfulness of the people.

While the book of judges ought to grieve us due to the failures of the people to be faithful and to subdue the land, it should neither surprise us nor should it place us in a context where we can condemn. The reality is that the error of the people is nothing new. Adam and Eve fell into sin and thus failed to take dominion of the land. And even today, because of our sin, Christians do not faithfully exercise Biblical dominion over our communities — dominion exercised through the Great Commission. Many Calvinistic and Wesleyan churches alike have fallen into a form of practical-hypercalvinism, no matter what their official doctrines may say, for they sit back comfortable in their pews and never actively evangelize their neighbors, their co-workers, or even their family members — assuming that if God wants them saved, God will bring them to church. While indeed, God can bring folks to church, God ordinarily chooses to use his people as the tool by which he leads his elect from error to truth.

And much like the sons of Israel, we too need one to “go up” for us. The phrase, “go up for us,” when used in this context carries with it Messianic significance. There is an understanding that we are entirely unable to go up on our own — we need a representative. Ultimately, our Messiah will come in the person of Jesus, the second-member of the Godhead. Yet, for now, God sends the tribe of Judah — the tribe from which the Messiah will come — to lead the people into conquest. God has promised the land into his hand. And thus, the stage is set for the continued conquest of the land — one that will begin well, but that will have disastrous outcomes due to the faithlessness of the people. Yet, for now, the author of the book is giving us a birds eye view of the next stage of the conquest…though in many ways, the book of Judges is an account of the Canaanite culture’s conquest over the sons of Israel.

Though we are separated from these events by several thousand years, we are just as much in danger of the sin of these people — the sin of forgetting the things that God has done and falling into the pagan practices of the world around us. The book can be a disturbing book to read, but it carries with it an essential message for this generation to hear. May we all hear and take heed to the words of this book.

He will Continually Lead Us September 23, 2015

Posted by preacherwin in Devotions, Devotions on the Psalms.
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“For this is God — our God — forever and ever;

He will continually lead us until death.”

(Psalm 48:15 {verse 14 in English})

For indeed, this mighty and protective God is our God…and he will be our God forever and ever. We need not fear that he will leave or forsake us and we need not fear that he will give us over to the enemy forever. He is our God forever. And what does that look like in a practical way? He will lead us until we die. While indeed he will hold us even until eternity, it is while we are here on this earth that we need God’s shepherding hand so powerfully to lead and to guide us through this world that is so filled with trial and temptations. And indeed, God will be that leader to guide our steps. Jesus himself uses the language that he is the Good Shepherd.

Yet, as we close this psalm with this promise, let us ask ourselves, are we obedient in following the Master’s lead? Or, do we simply pay lip-service to our guide and go in the direction that our preferences would take us? All too often it is the latter and not the former. All too often, professing Christians don’t even know the Scriptures well enough to recognize the direction that God sets before them in life. All too often the Bible is twisted or at best, picked through, and used to justify our preferences rather than to subdue our wills. May, we indeed be faithful sheep following our Good Shepherd…and to do that we begin with knowing his Word.

The Last Generation September 22, 2015

Posted by preacherwin in Devotions, Devotions on the Psalms.
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“Going around Zion, encircle her, 

counting her towers,

You will establish your heart — the ramparts through her palace.

You shall continually write this for the sake of the last generation.”

(Psalm 48:13-14 {verses 12-13 in English})

So the singing is continued (previous verse) and while singing those who are in Jerusalem are to encircle her in songs of praise to our God…filling the air with the sound of their worship. They are to count and number her towers and examine the ramparts (defensive walls built around the city), and establish their heart. Now this phrase (the establishment of the heart) may sound a little awkward to our western ears, but it is a figure of speech that implies that we are to pay close attention to something even to the extent of placing our affections on that something, whatever it may be.

Yet, why would the psalmist command that the people of God place the fortifications of Jerusalem on their heart? The answer seems to be two-fold. First, as we have discussed previously, the focus of this psalm is not so much on the physical, earthly Jerusalem, but on the eternal city of God — the New Jerusalem — that is being kept preserved in heaven until the return of our Lord (1 Peter 1:4-5). The Jerusalem here that is in the experience of the psalmist is but a shadow of what is to come…and with the coming of the New Jerusalem comes the new creation where God and man will once again dwell without separation. There is indeed a reason to set your heart on such things.

The next verse, though, also gives us a clue as to what the psalmist has in mind. He says to the people that not only are they to observe Jerusalem, they are to write down those observations for the sake of the “last generation.” Most of our Bibles seem to translate the term,   NOwr≈jAa (acharon) as “next” or “future,” implying that this writing is for those who will follow in the future. Yet, if this writing is simply for future generations through time, then we might expect that the term rOw;d (dor — “generation”) would be plural, not singular. Thus, we should recognize that NOwr≈jAa (acharon) can also refer to the last of something — “the last generation.” Yet, who will be the last generation for whom these people are writing? I would suggest that these writings are to benefit the last generation to see Jerusalem and the Temple standing proud — to remind the last generation what would be lost when the Babylonians were brought in by God to punish the people for their perpetual sin — to remind people of the glory they exchanged for the lusts of their flesh and for the pride of their hearts. Oh, how far we fall when we take our eyes off of God and rest them on ourselves.

We are long past the last generation to see the temple. Even those who rebuilt the Temple realized that the second-temple was a far cry from the glory of the first and from the promised restored glory. Jesus is the greater temple and the temple that Ezekiel anticipates is yet to come. All things revolve around Christ and the Temple and all of its former glory are meant solely to point toward our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. It is his glory, not ours, of which we write.

Rejoice! September 16, 2015

Posted by preacherwin in Devotions, Devotions on the Psalms.
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“Let Mount Zion rejoice!

Let the daughters of Judah shout in exultation!

Because of your judgments.”

(Psalm 48:12 {verse 11 in English})

What a contrast that we find here between the celebration of the daughters of Judah and the lamentation that Jesus speaks of in Luke 23:28 as he is being led up the hills of Golgatha. The language of the Daughters (whether Judah or Jerusalem) is figurative language that speaks of the women of the culture (who often bear the grief of the judgment on society as they lose their sons to war. Thus, they shout and sing in celebration in the promise of God’s protection from the wicked and while they should have shouted for joy in the Triumphal Entry of the Messiah into Jerusalem, on the day of his crucifixion he calls them to weep for the wrath of God will soon fall on this city (70 AD) for they executed their king.

For now, though, they are called to rejoice and shout in exultation and by extension, so are we. Yet, how often we do not. We get distracted by the minor struggles of life and miss the greater blessing and cause to praise of our mighty God. How easily we are duped by such things. How often we complain to God when we should be rejoicing before him. How often we worry instead of trusting his protection. Loved ones, our God on high has given us protection and covering; sing and celebrate the great gift he has afforded us at the cost of his Son’s blood.

Praise to the Ends of the Earth September 14, 2015

Posted by preacherwin in Devotions on the Psalms.
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“Like your name, O God,

So your song of praise goes to the ends of the earth;

Righteousness fills your right hand.”

(Psalm 48:11 {verse 10 in English})

There is no other name under heaven that a person may be saved apart from that of Jesus Christ the Lord. He is God and his name extends to the ends of all the earth. It is not just a name for those in particular localities, but the Gospel is for Jew and Gentile alike, slave and free, barbarian and civilized, male and female. Indeed, the name of God goes out to the ends of the earth through the Gospel of Jesus.

At the same time, there are still many places and people groups where the song of God’s praise is not known and has yet to be taken. It is a reminder to us that the work of evangelism is not yet complete. Even so, it is not just people group in far remote places that  are in need of the Gospel…it is groups of people within our own culture. Indeed, we need to support our missionaries to far away places, but how we need to evangelize our own communities, neighborhoods, and towns. How often we fall into the trap of thinking that missions work is just for those who go somewhere else and learn a new language to evangelize. Loved ones, it is work to which we have been called and it is work that is even within our backyard, lest we neglect training up our own families to call our God blessed. May indeed the name of Jesus extend to all the earth, but may we be the ones who take that name near and far to the praise of our almighty King.


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