Saturday, October 12, 2013

Job 14

Life, according to Job, is short and filled with troubles. Once death arrives, there is no chance of continuing life for a man. God determines how long a man should live. He is pleading with God to turn away his anger so that he does not endure these sufferings and complete his life in peace.

In certain ways, a tree is better than man. Even if a tree is cut down, it can sprout again and therefore has a second chance at life. Job longed for the grave and hoped for something better. He said that God has the power to hide him in the grave after his death and bring back to life after some time, if God was willing for a reconciliation.

Job now despairs by comparing the ultimate power of God. He felt completely defeated by God and mourned for all the disaster he was undergoing.

Job 13

Here Job refused to believe what his friends have said so far. He said it would be wise on their part just to keep quiet. He even called them liars
Job 13:4 You, however, smear me with lies;
    you are worthless physicians, all of you!
He said that his friends were speaking wickedly and deceitfully on behalf of God. In fact, Job said that they will face God's rebuke for showing partiality. He reminded his friends about the terrifying splendor of God.
Job 13:11 Would not his splendor terrify you?
    Would not the dread of him fall on you?
He requested his friends to keep quiet and allow him to speak for himself. He wanted to trust God in all of this disaster, as he strongly believed no wrong-doing to deserve such a punishment. He felt as though he should not listen to his friends.

In an earnest plea, Job requested two things from God
  1. To take away His hands from him and stop frightening him. 
  2. To summon him and let him speak about his wrongdoings. 
He thinks that God is treating him like an enemy, probably due to those sins he committed during his youth.

Job agreed with Zophar, about God punishing people for their sins. 

Job 12

Job with his wife and friends

Job continued his dialogues from last chapter and continues on till chapter 14. He if first speaking to his friends, and then to God.

To his friends, he reacted sarcastically and said that he was not inferior to them even in such a circumstance. The Theological perspectives presented by Zophar were already known to masses, and was not anything new. He knew his friends were mocking him though he was a godly man.

Job then went on to explain his understanding of the God, in a poetic fashion. He also narrated the great strength and majesty of the God.
Job 12:13 To God belong wisdom and power;
    counsel and understanding are his.
Job used the parody of Eliphaz, saying, it was easy for God to make men wander without any direction -
Job 12:25 They grope in darkness with no light;
    he makes them stagger like drunkards.

Job 11

Zophar, the third friend spoke now. He rebuked Job for all those empty talks and felt Job was not as righteous as he claimed. If God were to speak, He would reveal Job his sins, Zophar said. He then talked about wisdom.

Job 11:5 Oh, how I wish that God would speak,
    that he would open his lips against you
6 and disclose to you the secrets of wisdom,
    for true wisdom has two sides.
    Know this: God has even forgotten some of your sin.

The message Zophar is trying to imply is that Job must have sinned. Else God would not inflict him with so much disaster. He went on to say that God is great - God's might cannot be measured and He is the head of everything. Nobody can hinder what God wants to do. God hates deceivers and evil.
Job 11:11 Surely he recognizes deceivers;
    and when he sees evil, does he not take note?
Finally, Zophar added that if Job repented and cried out for mercy, God will deliver him from these disasters. Job would then become secure and stand firm.

My Thoughts
Notice how Zophar says God has to disclose the secrets of wisdom. He says true wisdom has two sides. All those proverbs listed in the Bible have two meanings; one on the surface and another that is hidden - revealed by God, to those who seek it out.

Job 10

Job Suffering

Job continued that
- He hates his life,
- Hopes he has an opportunity to speak to God about his complaints,
- Given a chance he would request God not to condemn him,
- And why he is being condemned.

Job wondered whether God is happy to see him being oppressed like this, even though he did no evil. He knows that it was God who created him. Now, he felt that God was going to kill him, though he had experienced God's favors in the past.

He felt that God knew about his circumstances which were about to happen. He disagreed with his friends that he sinned against God, for all these to happen.

Job questioned God why he was born and he suspected that God was behind all his sufferings. He wished he died and entered afterlife.
Job 10:18 “Why then did you bring me out of the womb?
    I wish I had died before any eye saw me.
19 If only I had never come into being,
    or had been carried straight from the womb to the grave!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Job 9

If last time Job spoke harshly to Eliphaz, now Job responded graciously to Bildad. Job is agreement with Bildad about God rewarding those righteous and punishing the sinners. He argued that nobody is sinless and everyone sins from time to time. However, he refused to accept that he had sinned to the extend to which he had endured suffering. Job then went on to praise the might of God. He also appreciated the wonderful environment created by God.

Job added that he is powerless to argue with God.
Job 9:14 How then can I dispute with him?
    How can I find words to argue with him?
15 Though I were innocent, I could not answer him;
    I could only plead with my Judge for mercy.
He felt that there was nothing that he could do to improve his situation. To him, time was flying fast and he was afraid that his sufferings will continue like this forever.

Job is thinking of a courthouse setting and saying that God is not like man to go to court or even to speak like one. He could not find any arbitrator who could remove God's wrath from him. Therefore, he has no choice, other than standing quietly and listening to Him.

Job 8

Job's friend, Bildad, was impatient and he spoke up. He reproached Job for rebuking Eliphaz.

He believed that God was acting on justice due to the sins Job committed. He stated that if Job repented and if he was blameless and upright, God would restore him.

Bildad suggested Job to seek the wisdom and advice of the elderly, regarding his foolishness. He added that those who do not sin would receive favors from the God.
Job 8:20 Surely God does not reject one who is blameless
    or strengthen the hands of evildoers.
21 He will yet fill your mouth with laughter
    and your lips with shouts of joy.
 Bildad concluded saying that God would destroy their enemies.

My Thought
Bildad seems to be blaming it directly on Job. He is quite blunt about it. But he gave Job an advice to repent.

When someone is good friends with God, it turns out that their enemy is God's enemy as well. Think about it. The enemies of a righteous person will be those who do not say or do what is right - who automatically qualify as God's enemy as well. 

Job 7

Job being depressed

Job felt like a discouraged man who did not receive his wages. Now that he lost all his belongings, he had no hopes of success in the future. Physically, he felt as though his flesh was clothed with worms, and was loathsome. He felt his death was very near.

He questioned his friends whether they considered him as a dangerous creature now. He then became sorrowful until the point of death.

Then Job felt that it was God who was testing him and thus causing him all these troubles. He thought if God turned away from him, his troubles would disappear. He questioned God whether he had sinned in order for him to be inflicted with these troubles.

About his circumstance, Job was pessimistic. He thought that death was the only answer to escape these sorrows.

My Thoughts
When we are in extreme pain, it is quite natural for us to think that Lord is testing us. Lord never tests us. It is the Satan who tempts and tests us.

To those who suffer the most, they plead for death to consume them. It is a way of escaping the intolerable pain.

Job 6

Job now responded to Eliphaz.
- He mentioned that his sufferings were heavier than the sand of the sea
- Now, Eliphaz’s rebuke had made Job suffer even more.
- Eliphaz was wrong in judging Job.

Now Job explained that he is suffering had increased. He felt so because,
- God had sent his friends to rebuke him
- His friends are shooting arrows at him
- they are sending poison into him.

Job described Eliphaz’s words being flavorless as they did not inspire or give him any strength. Job used the analogy of a wild donkey and an ox to drive a point that he is complaining for a reason. Due to all these pain, Job wished that he was never born, and dead at the moment. He knew that he was totally innocent before the LORD.

With the loss of everything he had, Job is hopeless and has no confidence to face the future. He went on to criticize his friend Eliphaz, for his harsh words. So far the other two friends did not say anything. Therefore, Job assumed that they also agreed with Eliphaz.

Job did not demand anything from his friends - material, wealth, or even delivery from the enemy. All he wanted from his friends was some comfort, which they could not provide. Those harsh words of Eliphaz were unsatisfying to his tongue.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Job 5

Eliphaz was saying, "Job, all these troubles happened to you because
- You and your sons were foolish,
- They sinned against God,
- The trouble happened due to a cause,
- It certainly is God who afflicted you with these disasters,
- Your troubles come as a result of God’s judgment,
- Men sow what they reap,
- All men sin; hence they are afflicted with problems,
- If you surrender your problems to God, your affliction will come to an end,
- Commit your problems to God because God is great, and He has power over all universe,
- You are afflicted with all these disasters as a result of God’s correction of His children,
- Do not despise God’s correction but confess your sins and repent.

Eliphaz then made a final statement about his confidence concerning the words he had spoken. It seems Eliphaz and his friends had investigated the matter and they were confident in saying so.

Job 4

Job and his Friends

After one week of silence, Eliphaz spoke up out of his love and concern for Job. Job is the mightiest man in the entire Eastern Hemisphere and Eliphaz mustered courage to speak up. He questioned Job whether he has lost confidence because he has now lost everything including his health.

Then, Eliphaz accused Job of being a sinner saying nobody dies innocent. He added that those who sow sin will reap punishment from the LORD. The anger of LORD is huge, he said and compared it to that of the lion.
Job 4:9 At the breath of God they perish;
    at the blast of his anger they are no more.
Eliphaz said that due to God’s anger, Job has been brought down and made humble.

Eliphaz is being carried away by his own eloquence. He probably does not realize that he is driving a knife into an already wounded man. Next, Eliphaz explained about the sinful nature of humans. He shared about a revelation he had, during the night. He addressed that human beings cannot be as righteous as God.
Job 4:17 ‘Can a mortal be more righteous than God?
    Can even a strong man be more pure than his Maker?
Even angels can sin, he added, referring to Satan leading a rebellion against God and numerous angels following him. God, can punish any sinner by bring calamity upon him so that he perishes forever, without obtaining wisdom.

Job 3

This chapter is all about those curses that Job made.

- Job cursed the day of his birth.
- He regretted being born and the night he was about to be born,
- He despised his birthday and wished it to be removed from the calendar,
- Urged others to curse the day of his birth.
- Wished he was born dead, to skip these sufferings,

Job wondered why LORD let these miseries continue. He feared that the LORD lost His faith in him, but he knew about his own faith.

Despite his troubles and catastrophe, Job remained faithful to the LORD. With all his worries, loss and physical pain, he fell into a depression and could not keep quiet about his own troubles.

My Thoughts
Troubles of Job are so enormous for a normal human being to handle. When I think I am in trouble, this is the book I should pick up and read. It will level-set where my troubles are, compared to that of Job's. That's when I will visualize that my puny issues cannot really be classified as 'troubles'.

The Book of Job is one of the most neglected books of the Bible. Hardly anyone reads this because of two reasons - there is no action and it's very depressing. Secondly, there are just few characters and it is a very long debate between the friends. Job's wife steps in just couple of times but Job rebukes her when she suggests to curse the LORD.

Job is grumbling in this chapter because he cannot identify the root cause of his problems. Poor guy - he is unaware of the discussion between LORD and Satan. In his blindness (of what took place in the Heaven), Job is depending and entrusting in the wisdom of the LORD.

From a wisdom perspective, the only time we open our eyes to face reality is when we are in real trouble. The so called friends, family and relatives disappear in times of trouble. We will be left alone - with our creator. Isn't it a blessing to have such three thick friends, who came and sat down with Job during his troubles.

In today's fast paced world, I often wonder if I am blessed to have three such friends who will come by and sit with me for 7 days and 7 nights without uttering a single word, taking part in my sorrow, if I had lost all my family members, wealth and health. On the flip side, will I ever be willing to serve in the capacity, to one of my dearest friends who was in such trouble?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Job 2

Job's Friends Come Meet Him

Prologue (contd...)
It is another day in the Heaven. Angels and Satan came to present themselves before the LORD.

God asked Satan about his whereabouts and he replied that he was roaming throughout the earth.

3 Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.”

4 “Skin for skin!” Satan replied. “A man will give all he has for his own life. 5 But now stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.”

Satan is referring to the barter system that existed in those days. He is indicating that Job is not cursing the LORD only to save his own skin. According to Satan, Job will forego his family and cattle just to safeguard his own life, and therefore consciously not curse the LORD.

6 The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.”

7 So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. 8 Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.

9 His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”

10 He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”

In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.

Job’s three friends Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar heard about the troubles Job was going through, and decided to go meet him. When they saw Job from far, they could hardly recognize him. Seeing him they weep aloud, tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. After that, they sat on the ground for 7 days and 7 nights and nobody uttered a single word, because they saw firsthand those terrible sufferings Job was in.

Job 1

This book narrates the greatest debate, and the stage is set for a great drama - Earth and Heaven.

On Earth
There was a man named Job, who was faithful to God and always obeyed His commandments. Job had 7 sons and 3 daughters. He was the richest man in the Eastern Hemisphere, and in those days, one's wealth was counted in cattle. Job owned:
- 7,000 sheep,
- 3,000 camels.
- 500 yokes of oxen,
- 500 donkeys and
- many servants.

His Seven sons would take turns in partying at their homes. Anytime there was a party, they would invite their three sisters also. Once the party had ended, Job would purify his children thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.”

In Heaven
One day, the angels and Satan came to present themselves before the LORD. Then LORD asked Satan where he had been, and Satan replied that he had been roaming throughout the earth.

The LORD asked Satan whether he had considered his servant Job, as there was none like him who hated and avoided all sorts of evil.

Satan replied to LORD that Job was obedient to LORD because of all that LORD had provided him including the house, servants, livestock and many children.

To prove Job’s faithfulness, LORD allowed Satan to destroy all that Job had. However, Satan was not allowed to hurt Job.

Taking advantage of the situation, Satan maximized his work by afflicting job with catastrophe. Within a matter of few hours, Job lost the following:
- his oxen,
- servants,
- sheep,
- camels,
- his sons and
- his daughters.

The Reaction
Job's reaction to this was that he praised the LORD.
Job 1:20 At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 21 and said:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
    and naked I will depart.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
    may the name of the LORD be praised.”
22 In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.

Wisdom Books - High level intro

Good behavior and good individuals maintain a special relationship to God. Wisdom books introduce us to opportunities to use our faith to express displeasure, pain, fear, and dispassion to God in productive ways.

Wisdom literature particularly tries to rationalize such emotions, rather than discourage them. These sacred texts emphasize that they are not excuses to avoid contact with God, but just like joy are to be expressed and lived with.

Seven books of wisdom are listed in the Bible.
  1. Book of Job 
  2. Psalms 
  3. Proverbs
  4. Ecclesiastes
  5. Song of Songs 
  6. Wisdom (also known as Wisdom of Solomon) 
  7. Sirach (also known as Ben Sira or Ecclesiasticus) 
We will take a look at all seven of them. The first five are included in the Old Testament, and we shall visit the remaining two in April 2014.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Esther 10

The Triumph of Mordecai by Pieter Lastman, 1624.

The Greatness of Mordecai
This is a short chapter serving as an epilogue. It mentions the glory of king Xerxes and that of Mordecai.

Mordcecai was promoted as the second in the kingdom.
Esther 10:3 Mordecai the Jew was second in rank to King Xerxes, preeminent among the Jews, and held in high esteem by his many fellow Jews, because he worked for the good of his people and spoke up for the welfare of all the Jews.
Queen Esther remains as a marvelous testimony of the overruling power of the LORD, and the brave and courageous woman who risked her own life to save the entire Jewish population.

The Book of Esther is unique in the Bible as the name of God is never directly mentioned there.

Esther 9

The Triumph of the Jews (Contd...)
Moredecai's reputation spread through the province. The tables had turned and the Jews now had an upper hand over their enemies. The nobles helped them.
2 The Jews assembled in their cities in all the provinces of King Xerxes to attack those determined to destroy them. No one could stand against them, because the people of all the other nationalities were afraid of them.

Enemies of the Jews were stuck down and killed. Upon Queen Esther's request, the ten sons of Haman were impaled on poles. Over Seventy-five thousand enemies were killed. On the fifteenth they rested and made it a day of feasting and joy.

Purim Established
In memory of this great deliverance, a yearly feast was instituted. Mordecai suggested giving presents of food to one another and gifts to the poor.

The passage describes how purim was established, and how generations remember this occasion. 

Esther 8

Esther before Ahasuerus - Tintoretto, Jacopo 1547-48

The King’s Edict in Behalf of the Jews
On the same day, Haman's estate was given to Queen Esther and Haman's role was given to Mordecai.
Esther 8:3 Esther again pleaded with the king, falling at his feet and weeping. She begged him to put an end to the evil plan of Haman the Agagite, which he had devised against the Jews. 
The king issued a royal decree sparing all Jews, and was circulated as far east as India.
Esther 8:11 The king’s edict granted the Jews in every city the right to assemble and protect themselves; to destroy, kill and annihilate the armed men of any nationality or province who might attack them and their women and children, and to plunder the property of their enemies.
The Triumph of the Jews
Moredecai was wearing royal garments of blue and white, and wore a large golden crown and purple robe. It was an occasion of joy for the Jews, with feasting and celebration. 

Esther 7

The Banquet of Esther and Ahasuerus by Jan Victors 1640

Haman Impaled
At the queen's banquet on the second day, the the king asked the queen again, “Queen Esther, what is your petition? It will be given you. What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be granted.”

The queen petitioned the king to spare her life, and that of her people.

When the king inquired who dared to do such a thing, Esther said, “An adversary and enemy! This vile Haman!”

The king left in a rage, while Haman stayed behind begging Esther for his life. The king then asked to impale Haman upon the same pole that he had erected for Mordecai.

Esther 6

Triumph of Mordecai by Jean Francois de Troy

Mordecai Honored
The king could not sleep that night and thoughts about Mordecai saving his life flashed through his mind. He realized that Mordecai was not rewarded for that.

When Haman came to the court, the king asked him, “What should be done for the man the king delights to honor?”
Esther 6:7 So he answered the king, “For the man the king delights to honor, 8 have them bring a royal robe the king has worn and a horse the king has ridden, one with a royal crest placed on its head. 9 Then let the robe and horse be entrusted to one of the king’s most noble princes. Let them robe the man the king delights to honor, and lead him on the horse through the city streets, proclaiming before him, ‘This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor!’”
The king commanded Haman to go honor Mordecai, and Haman did so unwillingly. When he reaced home, his wife and friends foretold his doom.

Haman then went for Esther's banquet.


Esther 5

Esther approaches the king

Esther’s Request to the King
Dressed in her royal robes, Esther approached the inner court of the king.
Esther 5:2 When he saw Queen Esther standing in the court, he was pleased with her and held out to her the gold scepter that was in his hand. So Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter.
3 Then the king asked, “What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be given you.”
Esther said all she wanted was to have the king and Haman for a banquet. Soon Haman was summon and the two attend her banquet.

At the banquet, the king asked what her request was. Esther then requested the two for another banquet the following day.

Haman’s Rage Against Mordecai
Haman was filled with rage that Mordecai showed no fear in his presence. He boasted about the banquet invitation he received.

Based on his wife's suggestion, Haman erected a pole about 75 ft high, to impale Mordecai, before enjoying the banquet with the king and queen the following day.

Esther 4

Mordecai mourning

Mordecai Persuades Esther to Help
When Mordecai heard about this decree, he tore his clothes and mourned bitterly. Every Jew in the kingdom took part in fasting and mourning.

When Esther learned about Mordecai, she was in distress. She sent him clothes, but Mordecai would not accept them. She then made an attempt to find out what was bothering Mordecai so much.

Mordecai explained the situation and shared a copy of the decree. He asked Esther to go to King's presence and ask for mercy.

Anyone who approached the king in the inner court without being summoned could be put to death unless the king extended the gold scepter to them and spared their lives.

Esther said that she had not seen the king for a month. She then asked all the Jews to keep a solemn fast for three days and three nights. She was going to do the same and then go visit the king. "And if I perish, I perish,” Esther concluded.

Esther 3

Haman’s Plot to Destroy the Jews
The king promoted Haman above other nobles. However, Mordecai would not honor him. Haman was offended and enraged at Mordecai.
Esther 3:6 Yet having learned who Mordecai’s people were, he scorned the idea of killing only Mordecai. Instead Haman looked for a way to destroy all Mordecai’s people, the Jews, throughout the whole kingdom of Xerxes.
A lot was cast to nail down the date for this execution, which fell almost a year later. Meanwhile, Haman offered the King large amount (375 tons) of silver to authorize the murder. The king gave in.
Esther 3:10 So the king took his signet ring from his finger and gave it to Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, the enemy of the Jews. 11 “Keep the money,” the king said to Haman, “and do with the people as you please.”
Without wasting any time, Haman wrote the decree to kill every Jew in the kingdom. The decree was sent out everywhere in the kingdom.

Esther 2

Esther Made Queen
The king had a disastrous Greek Campaign and returned home a bitter man, with nobody at home to comfort him. He repented his actions for disposing queen Vashti.

The king's advisor's suggested the virgins of the kingdom to be gathered together and a woman be picked in place of queen Vashti.

Mordecai was carried into Persia during the exile and was taking care of his cousin's daughter Esther. Esther meant Venus, who had a lovely figure and was beautiful. Mordecai asked Esther to enter the contest and told her to hide her Jewish identity.

Beauty treatments were provided for the virgins.
Esther 2:12 Before a young woman’s turn came to go in to King Xerxes, she had to complete twelve months of beauty treatments prescribed for the women, six months with oil of myrrh and six with perfumes and cosmetics. 
Then the women would be examined by the king's chamberlain, before taken to the king. Esther demanded no beauty treatment and found favor with everyone. The king liked her and crowned her the queen. A large banquet was thrown in her name.

Mordecai Uncovers a Conspiracy
A conspiracy to kill the King was uncovered by Mordecai. He then shared it with Esther. Esther informed the king, giving credit to Mordecai. The king ordered an investigation and found it to be true. The officials were impaled on poles.

Esther 1

Vashti Deposed - Ernest Normand 1890

Queen Vashti Deposed
King Xerxes of Persia in the third year of his reign gave a banquet for all his nobles and officials. Those present were:
- The military leaders of Persia,
- The Media,
- The princes, and
- The nobles of the provinces.
Esther 1:4 For a full 180 days he displayed the vast wealth of his kingdom and the splendor and glory of his majesty. 5 When these days were over, the king gave a banquet, lasting seven days, in the enclosed garden of the king’s palace, for all the people from the least to the greatest who were in the citadel of Susa.
Wine was served in golden goblets without any restriction, and everyone was drunk.

Queen Vashti served another banquet for the royal women. Vashti means 'beautiful woman.'

During the banquet, a topic arose saying which kingdom had the most beautiful women. King Xerxes, who was drunk thought his kingdom had the best women. To prove his point, he sent seven eunuchs to Queen Vashti, asking her to come wearing only her crown and to display her beauty in front of his guests. Vashti knew the king and his guests were under the influence of alcohol and the banquet hall was no place for her. She therefore refused to do so.

Those present at the banquet teased the king as she publicly refused to cater to his whims. The men advised him to depose Vashti. Deposing in those days meant death. This was supposed to serve as a warning for the rest of the women in the country as well. The king's men were pleased at the king's decision to dispose queen Vashti.

Queen Vashti was willing to bend to grief, but unwilling to bow to shame.

Executive Summary - The Book of Esther

The Feast of Esther by Jan Lievens, 1625

The Five Characters in Esther
Introducing the five characters in the Book of Esther. This book never mentions the word God or LORD. However, the name of the king is mentioned at least twenty eight times.

The story is told about how a woman named Esther saved the nation of Israel.

1. Ahasuerus the King
Ahasuerus was the title given to the Persian King. His name was Xerxes, who ruled from 486 to 465 BC. The king was essentially a puppet in the hands of his several chiefs.

2. Queen Vashti
Vashti was Nebuchadnezzar's great granddaughter. Vashti, unknowing of her father's death, ran to her father's quarters. There she was kidnapped by King Darius of Persia. But Darius took pity on her and gave her to his son, Ahasuerus, to marry. She was that woman who had too much dignity to be paraded naked before a drunken horde.

3. Esther the Queen
Esther was a Jew from the tribe of Benjamin who grew up as an exile in Persia. Esther was an orphan who was brought up by her older cousin, Mordecai. Esther was her Persian name. Her Jewish name was Hadassah. The name Esther means 'Venus' and is a derivation of the root name of the goddess Ishtar. Hadassah, which means 'Myrtle', is a branch that signifies peace and thanksgiving.

4. Haman the Enemy
Haman and his wife Zeresh instigated a plot to kill all of the Jews of ancient Persia. Haman attempted to convince Ahasuerus to order the killing of Mordecai and all the Jews of the lands he ruled. The plot was foiled by Queen Esther, the king's recent wife, who herself was a Jew.

5. Mordecai the Protector
Mordecai resided in Susa (Susan), which is now Iran. He adopted his Uncle's daughter, Esther, an orphan child, whom he brought up as if she were his own daughter. Mordecai is referred to subsequently as one of those who "sat in the king's gate" to indicate his position of closeness to the king.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Nehemiah 13

Rebuilding a city with Love

Nehemiah’s Final Reforms
Due to Balaam trying to utter curses upon the Israelites, they separated themselves from the multitude.
Nehemiah 13:1 On that day the Book of Moses was read aloud in the hearing of the people and there it was found written that no Ammonite or Moabite should ever be admitted into the assembly of God 
The storeroom of the House of LORD was cleaned out, which were being used by the enemies of Jerusalem.
Nehemiah 13:9 I gave orders to purify the rooms, and then I put back into them the equipment of the house of God, with the grain offerings and the incense.
Nehemiah recovered and secured the portions for the priests, Levites and the musicians.

Strict orders were given to purify and observe Sabbath.
Nehemiah 13:17 I rebuked the nobles of Judah and said to them, “What is this wicked thing you are doing—desecrating the Sabbath day?
Nehemiah was tough with those who married women from outside. He did not want to repeat the same mistake that King Solomon made.
Nehemiah 13:25 I rebuked them and called curses down on them. I beat some of the men and pulled out their hair. I made them take an oath in God’s name and said: “You are not to give your daughters in marriage to their sons, nor are you to take their daughters in marriage for your sons or for yourselves. 
Finally, Nehemiah purified everything in Jerusalem and made provisions for the LORD.


Nehemiah 12

Dedication of the wall
Priests and Levites
It was necessary to document who the priests and Levites were, during the days of:
- Zerubbabel, the high priest,
- Joiakim,
- Darius.

The Dedication Ceremony
All Levites were brought out to Jerusalem for the dedication ceremony. Along with them, were the singers to worship LORD through singing. 

Purification of people, gates, and the wall followed.
Nehemiah 12:30 When the priests and Levites had purified themselves ceremonially, they purified the people, the gates and the wall.
Two choir led Jerusalem in cheerful praises.
Nehemiah 12:43 And on that day they offered great sacrifices, rejoicing because God had given them great joy. The women and children also rejoiced. The sound of rejoicing in Jerusalem could be heard far away.
On the same day, there were other aspects of celebration and leaders were appointed over them to 
- take care of rooms of the storehouse for the offerings, 
- gather the firstfruits, tithes, etc., 

Holy things for Levites were consecrated as well. 

Nehemiah 11

Nehemiah now narrates about the walls. Note that Nehemiah's story is not necessarily in chronological order.

The New Residents of Jerusalem
In order to get the Jews to live in the city, faith in the LORD was required. Lots were cast and one in ten were moved into the city.
Nehemiah 11:2 The people commended all who volunteered to live in Jerusalem.
This section also provides a roster of those who moved in, as well as those cities and villages populated by the rest. 

Nehemiah 10

The Agreement of the People (Contd...)
The section gives the roster of those who sealed the covenant.
- Nehemiah,
- Levites,
- Leaders,
- Priests,
- Gatekeepers,
- Musicians,
- Temple servants

They bound themselves with a curse and and an oath to follow the Law of the LORD.
- Not to have inter-marriages,
- To observe the Sabbath,
- To provide offerings to the Temple,
- To bring firstfruits of crops to the temple,
- To dedicate their firstborns to the house of God,
- To tithe,

and finally, not to neglect the house of God.

Image Credits:

Nehemiah 9

People repent their sins

The Israelites Confess Their Sins
On the twenty fourth (24th) day, the Jews gathered and repented their sins. There were Levites standing on the stairs and saying, “Stand up and praise the Lord your God, who is from everlasting to everlasting.”

Their miraculous journey of deliverance from Egypt, how the LORD came down and spoke to their ancestors on Mount Sinai, and their journey through the wilderness to the land of Canaan was remembered.

They thanked the LORD for delivering them from their enemies. They also recalled how their forefathers rebelled against the LORD. They appreciated the patience of the LORD, even though their ancestors paid no attention to the word of LORD. The people repented and cried out in distress saying,
Nehemiah 9:33 In all that has happened to us, you have remained righteous; you have acted faithfully, while we acted wickedly.
The Agreement of the People
The people then sealed a covenant with the LORD.


Nehemiah 8

Chapters 8 - 13 describes the spiritual growth of the Jews who returned from exile.

Ezra Reads the Law
The Jews gathered in the square before the Water Gate, Ezra read out the book of the Law of Moses. People had an appetite for the word of God.
Nehemiah 8:5 Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up. 
For many hours, Ezra read the books of Law, as the time coincided with the Feast of the Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and the Feast of the Tabernacle.

When people heard the word of the LORD, they wept, with grief of their sins. Ezra, Nehemiah, and the Levites calmed the people saying not to grieve and to rejoice instead.

The next day the leaders and heads of families met up with Ezra to discuss about those temporary shelters described in Leviticus 23:37-40.

Ezra continued reading the Book of the Law of God.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Nehemiah 7

Construction in progress

Nehemiah set doors in place after the wall was rebuilt. He appointed Hanani, a man of integrity and who feared LORD more than most people. He also appointed guards and gatekeepers and gave them instructions when to open the gates and when to shut it.

The List of Exiles who Returned
The city was deserted and Nehemiah set out to rebuild the city. He met the nobles, city officials and common people.

The list of those returned families is given in this section. The list was about 2% of those people who were taken away into exile.
Nehemiah 7:73 The priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the musicians and the temple servants, along with certain of the people and the rest of the Israelites, settled in their own towns.
Some claimed to be priests, but their lineage could not be identified, and were asked to wait till it was clarified.

Sound off office jargon - Part 1

This is an effort to cut through that office gobbledygook - a series of translating office jargon into simple meaningful phrases. At the end of the day, they should provide few handy nuggets.

Best Practice
Perhaps the single most pompous confection the consulting industry has ever dreamed up. 
Someone who has not used this buzz word (at least once a day) cannot claim to be a consultant. 

Best Practice refers to a method or technique that delivers superior results compared with other methods and techniques. 

Body of Work
A high-nosed way of summarizing the total output of an industry or company. A simple way of putting it would be, just to say, “product line,” or some such.

Boil the Ocean
To undertake an impossible task or project or to make a task or project unnecessarily difficult. Boiling the ocean generally means to go overboard. In simple terms, it means to waste time. 

Cut and dry
It's a metaphoric reference to grass/hay/herbs/etc. being cut, dried, and thus ready for sale/use (nothing more needs to be done). 

If something is "cut and dry," it is said to be completed without debate, question, or argument.

Giving 110%
"Giving 110 percent" is used metaphorically. 

The nice thing about effort, in terms of measuring it, is that the most you can give is everything, and everything equals 100%. To tell someone to give more than 100% is to also tell them that you failed second-grade math :-)

In layman's terms, Giving 110% means 'Going the distance', or 'Going the extra mile', or even 'Giving your job more than what's expected'.

Hard Stop
An executive with a "hard stop" at 3 p.m. is serious about ending the meaning at 3 p.m. Very serious, and also very important - or at least that's how it comes off. It also makes it sound like ‘This meeting isn't really that important, so I need a way to get out of it'. 

This wannabe verb that came to prominence, because most people don't understand the difference between the words "affect" and "effect." Rather than risk mixing them up, they say, "We will impact our competitor's sales with this new product." 

A tip: "Affect" is most commonly a verb, "effect" a noun. For instance: When you affect my thinking, you may have an effect on my actions.

If you still cannot distinguish the difference, just use the word, 'impact'. 

This is a word favored by consultants and presented to the customers with a buzzword, meaning "something learned." Apparently, the simple word "lesson" wouldn't do the trick of impressing the customer despite 500 years of continuous use in the English language.

Rather than simply saying, "I learned a lesson from that project?" a consultant would say, "I had a critical learning from that project," or "We documented the team's learnings." 

Absence of such words will leave an impression that the consultant had no idea at all.

Let's Talk That
For some troubled souls this phrase takes the place of "let's discuss that," or "let's talk about that." 
It just means that let us talk about the problem and try to settle things.

Low Hanging Fruits
Low-hanging fruits are easy to pick, so they are separate goals that are easy to achieve. Low-hanging fruit" refers to goals that are easily achieved.

Shooting fish in a barrel is a related term. It means that shooting a fish in a barrel is so easy - you will certainly hit a fish - that you are guaranteed to get result - but you do not care which fish you hit.

BTW - Going for low-hanging fruit denotes some lazyness. 

Make Hay
Jargon for being productive or successful in a short period of time. The phrase ‘to make hay’ is short for ‘make hay while the sun shines’. Of course, it's no brainer that this phrase comes from the field of agriculture. 

It simply means to take an opportunity to do something when the time and conditions are near perfect or available.

Out Of Pocket
Many auto-reply e-mails these days carry the phrase: "I'm 'out of pocket' until next week." 
These days, expenses come out of pockets, quarterbacks come out of the pocket. When it comes to expenses, 'out of pocket' means you had to pay for something yourself, or you suffered financially on some arrangement. In football, it means a quarterback my just leave the pocket. 

About Johnny - well, he'll just be plain unavailable or out of the office; his auto reply email may just contain the phrase - OOP. 

Peel the Onion
An expression that brings tears to the eye. This metaphor is often used to describe an enlightened approach to problem solving: By methodically removing each layer of the onion, one is able to appreciate the complexities at each level as you eventually reach the core where you can objectively define the problem.

Simply put, it means to delve into a problem, one layer at a time, to thoroughly understand what’s causing all the trouble. 

Price Point
Price point means a point on a scale of possible prices at which something might be marketed. It's meaning is different from the meaning of price, which is (principally, but not only) the amount of money expected, required, or given in payment for something. Just say price!

In football, to punt means to willingly (if regretfully) kick the ball to the other team to control your team’s position on the field. In business it means to give up on an idea, or to make it less of a priority at the moment. 

A punt is what you do when you have concluded that success is impossible and you want to minimize the effects of failure. Thus it has entered general speech to say things like, "This project is a failure. Let's just punt and see if we can re-use some of the work on another project."

Reach Out
Jargon for “let’s set up a meeting” or “let’s contact this person.” Just say that- and unless you want the Human Relations department breathing down your neck, please don’t reach out unless clearly invited.

"Reach out and touch someone" is a well-known poetic phrase meaning to make emotional contact with another human being.  

Often used to suggest a product or service with a virtually endless capacity to please. 

Robust, when used with regard to computer software, refers to a program that performs well not only under ordinary conditions but also under unusual conditions that stress its designers' assumptions.

This word has infiltrated nearly every cube and conference room in the country. To put it simply, synergy means two heads are better than one. The same advice was preached several decades earlier on the hit show Sesame Street. Big Bird called it "cooperation." 

The gist is using the same elements to create a far superior strength and symbiotic relationship. The very same concept King Solomon covered in Ecclesiastes 4:12. 

Take it to the Next Level
In theory this means to make something better. In practice, it means nothing, mainly because nobody knows what the next level actually looks like and thus whether or not they've reached it.

Take offline
A jargon that keeps popping up in conference calls, where multiple participants dial in. 

Back in the 1950's it was cheaper to process information offline as it used cheaper cycles to deal with that information. Taking the conversation offline is a metaphor for having the conversation on cheaper time.

Take it offline means to talk about something after the current meeting. This term seems to come up when an agenda item gets derailed by conversation that’s off topic. Usually a senior person will say to the off-topic speaker, “Let’s take this offline. We need to move on to the next item on the agenda.” 

It also means a polite refusal and in most cases the topic will never be discussed. But if this statement is made in a meeting where just two people are present, it makes no sense whatsoever. 

A variation of taking it offline is, ‘let’s put this on the backburner.’ 

Think Outside the Box
Another phrase that has gotten many thinking about the phrase itself. All it means is to think differently, unconventionally or from a new perspective. This phrase often refers to novel, creative and smart thinking.

If heard in a business setting, it means to approach a business problem in an unconventional fashion.

A creative manager would say, "Forget the box, just think." 

Window of Opportunity
A window of opportunity is a short time period during which an otherwise unattainable opportunity exists. After the window of opportunity closes, the opportunity ceases to exist. Since good deals on real estate, business offers, etc. do not exist forever, the window of opportunity is the ideal time to act.

Last Sunday, I had a brief window of opportunity to document those valuable points from the 'Sermon on the mount'. 

Got some new ones that you coined lately? You are most welcome to share them to be included in our next series.

Credits: Forbes,,