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The Bible In A Year: Day 132

2 Samuel 8-9
Psalm 146-147
Acts 17

2 Samuel 8-9

David wastes no time in securing and expanding his borders. Under his rule, the kingdom of Israel will reach its greatest territorial expanse and its most secure borders than had been known before or since. He takes a collection of tribes, held together by a thread at times, in what could only barely be called a nation, and he makes a United Kingdom out of them.

For centuries the Israelites had been plagued by the failure of their forefathers to conquer the land fully and drive out the Canaanites from among them. These remaining peoples became a thorn in the side of the Israelites and caused them to fall into pagan practices and religious rituals, and eventually they’d be subjected by them through cycles of oppression and liberation. But with this new kingdom of David, those days were over, and Israel was the strongest house in the neighborhood.

David is called “a man after Gods own heart” in the scriptures, and this passage in chapter 9 is a great example of that. In the ancient world, and even in many early modern kingdoms, it was standard practice to kill all the males of the family of the previous king that you’ve deposed. The reasoning is that his sons and grandsons would have a legitimate claim as long as they lived, and you’d could one day be deposed by them in turn. This was standard practice for kings unrelated to each other, but in some places like the Ottoman Empire, this practice would extend to your own relatives too. When the sultan died, his heir would order the deaths of all his brothers, and considering the amount of wives a sultan had, the brothers could number into the hundreds. None were spared, not even infants.

Had David done a similar thing to the grandson of Saul it wouldn’t have been out of place for a man in his position and in that time, but David doesn’t do that because he was attuned to right and wrong in a way that was guided by his deep and devoted prayer life. He spoke to God as one does a friend, and he had a heart for Sauls grandson because he was an orphan and because of the love he had for his father. He showed love, in a situation where ordering this person’s death wouldn’t be out of place. David chose mercy over protecting his claim, because he trusted in God and didn’t have to fear being usurped due to God’s promises to him.

Acts 17

Paul and co travel on to Thessalonica and there they find a synagogue, as this city had an established population of Jews. They go to the synagogue for three weeks arguing from the scriptures that Jesus is the awaited messiah. But once again the Jews that didn’t accept this also didn’t take the conversion of some of their neighbors too lightly. The whip up a mob and try to capture Paul and Silas, but they’re not in the house they went looking for them at.

They drag their host, a man named Jason, in front of the city authorities and levy the same charges at him that they did to Jesus before Pilate. They accused him of political crimes and denying the lordship of Caesar.

Paul and Silas journey on to the next town and when they have success there too the Jews of Thesselonica come and try capturing them there. Paul escaped by sea to Athens, at that time the cultural capital of the Greeks. While there he continued preaching and debating in the synagogues and markets every day.

He catches the attention of some people from the stoic and epicurean schools of philosophy. I can only imagine that they’d been debating each other before paul walked up on them. These two schools of thought couldn’t be further from each other, with the epicureans seeking sensual pleasures as the highest good and purpose of life, while the stoics sought to deal with pain and suffering of every day life by putting it into context and accepting it, rather than avoiding it like many tend to do. They were very much the opposites.

But Athenians love knowledge and new ideas, so when they see Paul they decide to hear him out and learn about this new religion he’s preaching. Paul opens up by commending them on being a very religious people, and he mentions the altar to the “unknown god”. The Athenians were very religious, to the point that they were afraid of not acknowledging a god they didn’t even know existed, so the build this altar as a way to hedge their bets. Insurance for paganism.

Paul tells them about the one true God, not statues and empty temples made of marble. He says that his God made the entire world and all that’s in it. This is a great departure from the creation myths of Greek mythology, where some gods create and some don’t, but none were responsible for all creation.

But when Paul mentions the resurrection he loses the crowd. Some become believers, some want to hear more, but most scoff at him because they deeply held the platonic view of body and soul, where the body is a shell or prison that the soul is liberated from at death. The idea that the soul would one day be re-imprisoned inside a body was preposterous to them.

Tomorrow’s Readings:
2 Samuel 10-12
Psalm 148-150

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