Continuing my Bible studies from my “Journeys Home” blog…. This post concerns Exodus 19-40.

“At the third new moon after the Israelites had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that very day, they came into the wilderness of Sinai. They had journeyed from Rephidim, entered the wilderness of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness; Israel camped there in front of the mountain” (Ex. 19:1-2). There they stay, until Numbers chapter 10. In Exodus 19-40, God’s greatness is everywhere apparent with the beginning of the covenant (19-23); its confirmation (chapter 24, a ceremony which becomes the basis of Jesus’ Last Supper covenant); the authorization of the Ark of the Covenant, the Altar, Priesthood, and Tabernacle and the sanctity of the Sabbath, (25-31), the incident of the Golden Calf (32-34), and the creation of the Ark and Tabernacle and furnishings (35-40). Something I read indicated that we have a great lesson in God’s faithfulness in that the work of creating a sanctuary carries on after the people had sinned so seriously.

The Sinaitic Covenant is established in 19:1-24:11, and as the Jewish Study Bible author notes, “The moments encounter with God at Sinai is, for the Torah, the defining and seminal moment in Israel’s relationship with God” (p. 145). But Chapter 19 is a very confused chapter,; the Lord’s voice comes form the fire, or from the thunder, and Moses seems to go up and then down and then up again the mountain. Aside from textual challenges arising from ancient sources edited together, the theophany depicted in chapter 19 is momentous and sets the stage for the coming covenant.

The Decalogue, or the Ten Commandments, begin God’s revelation (20:1-17):

1 Then God spoke all these words:
2 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; 3you shall have no other gods before me.
4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, 6but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.
7 You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.
8 Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. 9For six days you shall labour and do all your work. 10But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. 11For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.
12 Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
13 You shall not murder.
14 You shall not commit adultery.
15 You shall not steal.
16 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor (NRSV)

The remainder of chapter 20 notes that only the Commandments were told to the people directly; they were fearful of the divine voice and insisted that Moses mediate for them.

The section 20:22-23:33 is called the Covenant Code, or the Book of the Covenant. I’ve an interesting book by a Presbyterian minister, William J. Doorly (1931-2011), called The Laws of Yahweh: A Handbook of Biblical Law (Paulist Press, 2002). Doorly describes the four pre-canonical law collections that were incorporated into the Torah text after the exile:

The Book of the Covenant (Exodus 21-23)
The Deuteronomic Law Code (Deuteronomy 12-26)
The Holiness Code (Leviticus 17-26)
The Priestly Code (spread through Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers)

The Book of the Covenant contains cultic laws about altars and images, 22 secular laws about restitution, bodily injury, and property, 20 cultic and social laws (including God’s demand for justice) and finally 6 more cultic laws, including three festivals (p. 12). While not the oldest laws, they may be associated with the reform work of Hezekiah and then were preserved by the Aaronic priests during the exile from the Jahwist and Elohist sources (J and E) (pp. 7-9).

Doorly points out the presence of the Priestly Code that has been edited into the Torah text in ancient times. He notes that the Priestly Code is found in Ex. 12-13, 25-30, Lev. 1-7, 10-15, 27, Num 5-6, 9-10, 18, 27-30, and 35-36. This code includes laws about Passover (Ex. 12-13), the tabernacle (Ex. 25-30), offerings and sacrifices (Lev. 1-7), priests (Lev. 10), dietary laws (Lev. 11), diseases and discharges (Lev. 12-15), vows, tithes and offerings (Lev. 27), uncleanness (Num. 5-6), Passover (Num. 9-10), priestly laws (Num. 18), inheritance laws, festivals, and vows (Num. 27-30), and Levitical towns, more inheritance laws, and laws concerning murder (Num. 35-36) (p. 65).  So all these passages are interconnected. This code was probably laws intended for the Jerusalem temple priests (p. 49). While some scholars believe the Aaronic priests preserved these laws in order to assert their superiority to the Levitical priests, Doorly believes that both the Aaronic and Levitical schools sought to preserve laws in light of their creative rewriting of Israel’s history, with the Levites beginning with the events of Deuteronomy, and the Aaronids beginning with the time of the Exodus (pp. 72-73).

If you’re a Christian, unaccustomed to meditating on the laws, you might overlook their deeper meanings. My NRSV Harper Study Bible (p. 274) gives a list of “major social concerns of the covenant.” Here are some from the Covenant Code:

* Personhood: everyone should be secure: e.g. Ex. 21:16, 26-31, etc.
* No woman should be taken advantage of: Ex. 21:7-11, 20, etc.
* Everyone’s property rights should be secure (Ex. 21:33-36, etc.)
* Everyone is to share produce of the ground (Ex. 23:10-11, etc.)
* Everyone should rest on the Sabbath, including servants and resident aliens and animals (Ex. 20:8-11, etc.)
* Everyone deserves a fair trial (Ex. 23:6, 8, etc.)
* No one should be exploited or oppressed, including the impoverished and disabled (Ex. 22:21-27, etc.).
* Animals well being should be protected (Ex. 23:5, 11, etc.).

So we should not look and these laws and think: this is just ancient stuff that we can ignore. Precious to Jews, they have much to teach us Christians, too. How we interpret all the laws and their spirit (originating in ancient agricultural and monarchical society) in our contemporary, technological and liberal capitalist societies is the ongoing challenge of biblical interpretation for both Jews and Christians.

The section 24:12-31:18, and the section 35:1-40:38, concern the Tabernacle. I found an interesting article at this site, that provides quite a bit of information about the Tabernacle, which was the portable sanctuary that serve God’s people in the Wilderness and beyond: http://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/the-tabernacle/ My Harper’s Bible Commentary has a chart about the Tabernacle and its furnishings and functions, providing the correspondence in the text between God’s commands and the resulting actions (p. 150):

“The contribution: commanded in 25:1-9, executed in 35:4-29.
The Ark: commanded in 25:10-22, executed in 37:1-9
The table: commanded in 25:23-30, executed in 37:10-16
The lamp stand: commanded in 25:31-40, executed in 37:17-24
The tabernacle: commanded in 26:1-37, executed in 36:8-38
The sacrificial altar: commanded in 27:1-8, executed in 38:1-7
The tabernacle court: commanded in 27:9-19, executed in 38:9-20
The lamp: commanded in 27:20-21, executed in Numbers 8:1-4
The priestly garments: commanded in 28:1-43, executed in 39:1-31
The ordination ritual: commanded in 29:1-49, executed in Lev. 9:1-9:24
The incense altar: commanded in 30:1-10, executed in 37:25-28
The bronze laver: commanded in 30:17-21, executed in 38:8
The anointing oil: commanded in 30:22-33, executed in 37:29
The incense: commanded in 30:34-38, executed in 37:29
The craftsmen: commanded in 31:1-11, executed in 35:30-36:7
The Sabbath: commanded in 31:12-17, executed in 35:1-3”

Before I conclude with aspects of the significance of the Tabernacle, I want to think about 32:1-34:35, the breaking of the covenant and its renewal, otherwise known as the story of the Golden Calf. The  Harper’s Bible Commentary notes (p. 153-154) the irony of the calf: “The people’s demand is for ‘gods who will go before us’; that is, they want palpable assurance of the divine presence among them on their march. This, however, is precisely what the tabernacle will provide. Thus the irony in the situation is that the thing the people are demanding is exactly what is being prepared for them on the mountain [by the Lord through the mediation of Moses]. Seen in this light, the manufacture of the golden calf is a travesty of the tabernacle just authorized.” As we all know the story, Moses’ brother Aaron is a leader in the effort to construct the idol (a fertility idol, for the calf or young bull symbolizes virility). When Moses returns from the mountain, he smashes the tablets, and yet only the intercession of Moses saves the people and makes possible the renewal of the covenant.

Exodus 34:29-35 tells us that Moses’ face shone with light as he returned from the mountain. 2 Corinthians 3 Paul interprets this passage in a supersessionist way to stress the glory of the New Covenant. If you ever wondered why Moses is sometimes artistically depicted as having small horns (Michelangelo and others), it comes from this Exodus passage. The Hebrew root qrn can be translated “horn” or “radiant light.” I suppose you could thereby discern Moses from among other robed and bearded biblical heroes.

I’ll double-check these references, but I find on good ol’ Wikipedia that, after the Joshua conquest, the Tabernacle was located at Shiloh (the area of Joshua’s Ephraim tribe), where is was located during the 300 years of the Judges. (See Joshua 18:1; 19:51; 22:9; Psalm 78:60, and 1 Kings 6:1; Acts 13:20), but the tabernacle with the Ark was located at Bethel, too (Judges 20:26-28), and Saul moved it to Nob (1 Samuel 21-22) and later it was located at Gibeon (1 Chronicles 16:39; 21:29; 2 Chronicles 1:2-6, 13). Then the Ark itself came to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6:17; 1 Chronicles 15:1), while the Tabernacle stayed Gibeon (1 Chronicles 16:39; 21:29; 1 Kings 3:2-4). Finally Solomon brought it and its furnishings to the Jerusalem Temple (1 Kings 8:4). The Ark and furnishings are never mentioned in the scriptures after the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem.

Why is so much space given in the narrative to the authorization, description, and construction of the portable sanctuary and its furnishings? Is it only for historical purposes?

A favorite book, The Torah: A Modern Commentary (edited by W. Gunther Plaut, UAHC, 1981) provides some possibilities. For one, the deity of ancient religions had to have a personal house, and this is the story of Israel’s (p. 598). But specially for Israel, the Tabernacle was the presence of God, in a portable sanctuary. The great Jewish philosopher Franz Rosenzweig saw the Tabernacle as the high point and “pinnacle” of the Penteteuch, which “concretized [the Israelites’] freedom. For even as God ‘made’ the world so Israel now ‘makes’ the sanctuary in a new act of creation, and the same words used in the opening chapters of Genesis characterize the creation of the Tabernacle” (p. 598).

In the text, the Tabernacle is connected to the Sabbath, which the great Jewish teacher Abraham Joshua Heschel calls Israel’s sanctuary in time. The institution of the Sabbath begins the authorization and the construction of the Tabernacle (31:12-17, 35:1-3; Plaut, p. 666), and the Sabbath has endured for the Jews as a faithful “place.”

The Tabernacle also forms an connection back to the beginning of Exodus: “The erection of the shrine was the symbolic conclusion of the Exodus tale. The latter had begun with the ‘absent’ God during the years of enslavement and now ends with the ‘present’ God who will lead His people to the Promised Land” (Plaut, p. 688). With the end of Exodus we read through Leviticus, which is primarily laws, but is its own kind of narrative that continues Israel’s ancient story. Next week I’ll study Leviticus 1-22.


In the Jewish tradition, the weekly passage from the Torah is called the parshah, each with a name coming from the Hebrew text. The corresponding reading from the Prophets is called the Haftarah.  Here are the readings (from the Judaism 101 site), with the haftarah in parentheses indicating the Sephardic readings:

Mishpatim                 Exodus 21:1-24:18              Jeremiah 34:8-34:22; 33:25-33:26
Terumah                    Exodus 25:1-27:19              I Kings 5:26-6:13
Tetzaveh                    Exodus 27:20-30:10              Ezekiel 43:10-43:27
Ki Tisa                       Exodus 30:11-34:35              I Kings 18:1-18:39 (I Kings 18:20-18:39)
Vayaqhel                    Exodus 35:1-38:20              I Kings 7:40-7:50 (I Kings 7:13-7:26)
Pequdei                      Exodus 38:21-40:38              I Kings 7:51-8:21 (I Kings 7:40-7:50)


Leviticus 1-22

Some folks will say, “Don’t read the commentaries, read the Bible!” But commentaries clarify and explain the Bible content, and you still have the Spirit and your own intellect and emotions to help you gain insight. So I have six or seven of my commentaries and study Bibles on hand to help me with all these readings.

For instance, the Berit Olam series has a volume devoted to Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy (see note 1 below). The author reminds us that Leviticus is the heart of the Pentateuch, and is precious for Jews; yet Christians regard the book with less esteem, for instance, only nine verses appear in the three-year Lectionary (p. 4). I don’t know how many books of Christian theology I’ve read that refer to “Jewish legalism,” a misunderstanding of the Torah (see note 2 below).

If Christians could appreciate the Torah from the Jewish point of view, and then understand the Torah’s significance in the New Testament, we could learn much and cherish these books, too. I’m reading the Jewish Study Bible this week; the introduction to Leviticus reminds us that the book is part of the long narrative, from Exodus 25 to Numbers 10, which could be called “When the Tabernacle Stood at Sinai” (p. 203). That period is less than a year, and Leviticus, though lacking much narrative material, is a critical part of that overall story. We saw last week how important the Tabernacle authorization and construction is, occupying the last 16 of Exodus’ 40 chapters. Following immediately from that material, Leviticus contains the mitzvot, the priesthood, the aspects of worship, and foundations for Israel’s and Judaism’s history (p. 203).

Purity and holiness are key concepts to all of the mitzvot of Leviticus, underlying our readings this week that relate to sacrifice, the priesthood, the Day of Atonement, kosher food, and other laws. Once the Temple, sacrifice, and priesthood ceased in Judaism, the dietary laws, certain festivals, family ritual, and other mitzvot remain aspects of ongoing Jewish life and are based on the same foundations of holiness. (Orthodox, conservative, and Reform Jews approach these mitzvot differently.) And rather than being “picky” laws, they are rooted in the Jewish concern to be in service to other people and to witness to God (p. 205).

I’m also reading Harper’s Bible Commentary this week, which discusses the three realms of being in the Israelites’ world view: the holy, the everyday, and the unclean. Think of being an Israelite: we live in the everyday realm. The unclean realm include things like dead bodies, bodily fluids that are now out of the body, non-kosher living things, and so on. We come into contact with the unclean realm but can perform ritual acts to clean themselves (Lev. 12-15, for instance) to make us able to approach and properly worship the holy. Although everyday people cannot fully enter the realm of the holy, people can worship the Lord, do the rituals, sacrifice, and honor the Sabbath, and those of the priesthood are set apart and ordained for divine service to the holy on behalf of the people. This three-level worldview is the foundation for the Torah mitzvot. To bring the unclean into proximity with the holy, without the sanctifying rituals, was dangerous, as shown by the tragedy of Nadab and Abihu in chapter 10 (pp. 167-168).

Importantly, Leviticus also connects us back to Genesis, for as God sought friendships among the ancestors of the Israelites in the post-Eden world, God now defines a close relationship with the people and returns them, if not to Eden itself, to proximity to God through covenant and mitzvot. My NRSV Renovaré Spiritual Formation Bible notes that the tabernacle, which Leviticus presupposes, has several symbols of creation, while Leviticus 11-16 “instruct in how to restore the created order in the tabernacle” (p. 153).

This material has additional relevance for Gentile Christians. The Berit Olam author shows that there are numerous allusions to Leviticus in the New Testament, some negative expressions of the particular law, others positive adoption of the laws and the imagery. Most of these apply to the chapters I’m reading this week (pp. 5-7). Leviticus is foundational for aspects of New Testament theology, in ways many of us don’t realize:

Lev 1:2, the first of several verses that uses the expression “bring near,” is echoed in Eph. 2:13, Heb. 7:19, James 4:8
Lev 1:4, the word translated “be acceptable” is alluded to in Rom. 15:16 and 1 Peter 2:5
1:9 and several subsequent verses has the expression “a pleasing odor,” which is echoed in Phil 4:18, Eph. 5:2, Rom. 12:1
Lev. 4:12, 21, 8:17, 9:11 — Heb. 13:11
Lev. 4:25, 34, 5:9, 6:30, 16:15, 27 — 1 John 1:7, Eph. 1:7, Rom. 3:25
Lev. 5:11 — Luke 2:24
Lev. 6:16, 18, 26, 7:61 — 1 Cor. 9:13
Lev 6:2 — Heb 7:23
Lev 7:20 — Rom. 11:22
Lev 10:10, 11:47, 20:24-26 — Gal. 2:12
Lev 11 — Acts 10:25
Lev 11:4 — Matt. 23:24
Lev. 14:1-32 — Matt 8:4, Luke 17:14
Lev. 15:25 — Matt. 9:20
Lev. 16:1-15 — Heb. 10:19, 9:12
Lev. 16:29 — Acts 27:9
Lev. 17:10-14 — Acts 15:20
Lev. 18:16, 20:21 — Matt. 14:4
Lev. 18:22, 20:13 — Rom. 1:27
Lev. 19:23-25 — Luke 13:7
Lev. 20:10 — John 8:5
Lev 21:1 — Luke 10:31
Lev 21:10 — Matt 26:65
Lev. 21:18 — Matt. 11:5
Lev 24:5-9 — Matt. 12:4
Lev 25:10 — Luke 4:19

The Christian name of the book (which means, pertaining to the Levites) is misleading, because he Levites only appear in two verses, and even the priests are not the only focus of the book (Berit Olam, p. 3), for the book is addressed to Israel as a whole. The Hebrew title is the first word of the text, Vayikra, “He [God] called [Moses].” Although there are only a few stories in the book, the whole book can be thought of as a kind of narrative, as it looks to the past (Israel’s salvation from Egypt), stresses obedience in the present, and sets up conditions for the future faithfulness of the people (p. 12). It is also a kind of narrative because numerous laws set up a problem, which in turn is addressed and solved by the mitzvah (see pages 3-44 for an in-depth discussion).

As I also said in last week’s post, the Holiness Code (Lev. 17-26) is one of the four pre-canonical law collections that were incorporated into the Torah text after the exile. The Priestly Code, another pre-canonical collection, is spread through Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers; in Leviticus, the code includes offerings and sacrifices (Lev. 1-7), priests (Lev. 10), dietary laws (Lev. 11), diseases and discharges (Lev. 12-15), vows, tithes and offerings (Lev. 27). Here is an outline of this week’s chapters:

The primary offerings (chapters 1-7)
The burnt offering (chap. 1)
The grain offering (chap. 2)
The fellowship offering (chap. 3)
The sin offering (4:1-5:13)
The guilt offering (5:14-6:7)
Other regulations concerning offerings (6:8-7:38)

The ministry of Aaron and his sons (chapters 8-10)
Their ordination (chap. 8)
Their ministry (chap. 9)
The deaths of Nadab and Abihu, and other regulations (chap. 10)

Cleanness and uncleanness (chapters 1-15)
Food (chap. 11)
Purification after childbirth (chap. 12)
Skin diseases (13:1-46)
Midweek (13:47-59)
Skin diseases (14:1-32)
Discharges (15)
Day of Atonement and the scapegoat (16)

At this point, the “narrative” of Leviticus shifts from the Tabernacle to the land. Although chapters 21-22 concern the priesthood, the section 17-26 focuses overall on the land and the importance not to introduce uncleanness to the land via unholy actions, lest the Lord eventually expel the people from the land.

Holy living (17-26)
Prohibition of eating blood (17)
Unlawful sexual relations (18)
Other laws about holy living (19)
Punishments for sin (20)
Priestly regulations (21:1—22:16)
Acceptable and unacceptable Sacrifices (22:17–33)
… and I’ll continue with the remainder of this block of laws next week.

Interestingly, the sacrifices of chapters 1-3 are voluntary responses to God’s goodness, while those of 4-6 are required.

Chapters 8-10 concern the consecration of the priesthood of Aaron. But the story ends with the death of the two sons Nadab and Abihu, who brought pans of burning incense into the holy place and the fire of God’s presence consumed them. The Jewish Study Bible explains, “[T]he sin of the two brothers was not simply that they went too far in their misguided super-piety. Rather, they acted in utter disregard for the deity. God intended that the manifestation of His Presence would ignite the altar fire, marking His acceptance of His people’s devotion. Their intent was for the divine fire to ignite their own pans; that is, they were attempting to arrogate control of the deity to themselves” (p. 227).

Chapter 11 are the famous laws of kosher (acceptable) food. The Judaism 101 site has a wonderful explanation: http://www.jewfaq.org/kashrut.htm Interestingly, no plants are considered non-kosher.

That site also explains the significance of Yom Kippur, http://www.jewfaq.org/holiday4.htm  In Leviticus 16, the day is a cleansing of the Tabernacle to remove the effects of impurity and unintended sin, and then the day is named in Leviticus 23:27, 28, 25:9.

Chapter 18 concerns prohibited sexual unions, which are also “abominations of the Canaanites” (Jewish Study Bible, p. 249). Lev. 18:22, regarding homosexuality, addresses not the sexual orientation that we understand today, but forceable intercourse that degrades and humiliates (p. 251). When people cherry-pick this verse to condemn gays, they ignore the underlying assumptions and context of the verse.

Chapter 19 addresses individual holiness. The Ten Commandments are echoed throughout 19:1-18, culminating in that verse 19:18, which many rabbis, and Jesus as well, regarded as one of the greatest commandments, implicitly summarizing all the others.

Lev. 19:33-34 has been cited a lot in recent days, with President Trump’s executive order concerning refugees. God commands hospitality and care for the stranger among Israelites, “for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (vs. 34).

Chapters 20-22 address other issues of holiness and concludes with God’s admonition not to profane God’s name so that God may be sanctified among the people—-the people whom God rescued from Egypt 22:31-33).

In synagogue readings (according to the Judaism 101 site), the parshah and haftorah readings are:

Vayiqra: Leviticus 1:1-5:26, Isaiah 43:21-44:23
Tzav: Leviticus 6:1-8:36, Jeremiah 7:21-8:3; 9:22-9:23
Shemini: Leviticus 9:1-11:47, II Samuel 6:1-7:17 (Sephardic: II Samuel 6:1-6:19)
Tazria: Leviticus 12:1-13:59, II Kings 4:42-5:19
Metzora: Leviticus 14:1-15:33, II Kings 7:3-7:20
Acharei Mot: Leviticus 16:1-18:30, Ezekiel 22:1-22:19  (Sephardic: Ezekiel 22:1-22:16)
Qedoshim: Leviticus 19:1-20:27, Amos 9:7-9:15  (Ezekiel 20:2-20:20)
Emor: Leviticus 21:1-24:23,  Ezekiel 44:15-44:31


1. Stephen K. Sherwood, C.M.F., Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. Berit Olam Studies in Hebrew Narrative and Poetry (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 2002).

2. My NRSV Renovaré Spiritual Formation Bible has this: “One may recall how the book relates to what comes before in Exodus. Leviticus is part of the Sinaitic covenant instruction. The book is a gift from God instructing in the structuring of this covenant community. It is not legalistic in the sense that it provides the people with a means of earning God’s favor; rather, it is a multi-faceted response of the people to God.”


Leviticus 23 through Numbers 19

The material from Exodus 25 to Numbers 10 reflects the time when the Israelites sojourned at the foot of Mount Sinai. But as they moved northeast toward the land of Moab, at the outskirts of the Promised Land, the Israelites lost their chance to enter the Land and camped for many years at Kadesh-Barnea. The Bible seldom dates anything, so it’s good to realize that, when we begin Numbers 20-22, we’ve jumped over 38 years to the near-conclusion of the wilderness period.

Numbers has many more stories than Leviticus, but legal material spreads across Numbers and continues from Leviticus. As I wrote about in previous posts, the Priestly Code, a hypothesized pre-canonical collection of mitzvot, is found in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. The code includes offerings and sacrifices (Lev. 1-7), priests (Lev. 10), dietary laws (Lev. 11), diseases and discharges (Lev. 12-15), vows, tithes and offerings (Lev. 27). Continuing into Numbers, the Priestly Code includes the passages on uncleanness (Num. 5-6), Passover (Num. 9-10), priestly laws (Num. 18), inheritance laws, festivals, and vows (Num. 27-30), and also Levitical towns, more inheritance laws, and laws concerning murder (Num. 35-36). So all these passages are interconnected, and they also connect back to the Sinai covenant and the Tabernacle (see my Exodus 19-40 post.)

Here is the outline for the remainder of Leviticus—including the block of laws that begin with chapter 17.

Holy living (17-26)
Prohibition of eating blood (17)
Unlawful sexual relations (18)
Other laws about holy living (19)
Punishments for sin (20)
Priestly regulations (21:1—22:16)
Acceptable and unacceptable sacrifices (22:17–33)
Annual feasts (23)
Use of oil and bread in the Tabernacle (24:1–9)
Punishment for blasphemy (24:10–23)
The Sabbath and Jubilee years (25)
Covenant blessings and curses (26)
Regulations for Offerings Vowed to the Lord (ch. 27)

My Harper’s Bible Commentary indicates that the chapter 20 laws have two purposes: inculcating the obedience that protects the land from uncleanness/defilement, which in turn ensures that the people won’t be expelled from the land. God has set aside the people from others of the land, so they would be a holy people. The priests are to be particularly holy, even lacking physical abnormalities (chap. 21). The single narrative in this section, the execution of the blasphemer (chapter 24), illustrates the concern in Leviticus for removing unholiness from among the people.

Chapter 23 reiterates the importance of the Sabbath and also provides the mitzvot for Peach, ‘Omer Reshit, Shavuot, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot. Mitzvot for the Sabbath of the land and the Jubilee year, both very important for social equality and ecological renewal, continue in chapter 25. http://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/sabbatical-year-shemitah-and-jubilee-year-yovel/

Chapter 27 forms an additional section to the other mitzvot, this one concerning holy things devoted to God. Chapter 26, however, is a divine speech that could summarize the book, wherein God reiterates the possibility of judgment—in quite fierce terms—but also promising compassion and restoration to those who turn back to God.

Leviticus 26 contains difficult theology: the connection of piety and virtue with earthly rewards, the connection of wrongdoing and retribution, the idea that the people would proper or suffer together, and the idea that morality alone brings prosperity or disaster. As The Torah: A Modern Commentary notes, the book of Job provides a corrective to these ideas; although good and bad actions do lead to corresponding results, good people do suffer while many evil people do seem to prosper. Likewise, whole peoples have suffered terribly in spite of their virtue (for instance, Native Americans, victims of Soviet persecution, Holocaust victims, and others) (pp. 954-956). The straightforward theology of this chapter, meaningful in its early context, requires ongoing prayer and reflection. But, as that same writer points out, Leviticus 26 also stresses that faithfulness and morality are among the keys to an upright society, and also that hope is always available even in difficult circumstances! God never abandons his people Israel and never will (p. 956)

Here is the outline for Numbers 1-19, taking us to the end of the old generation.
Israel prepared to depart for the Land (1:1-10:10)
The census (1-4)
The commands concerning purity of the people (5:1—10:10), which includes among other things the Nazarite vow and the Aaronic benediction (6), the observance of the Passover (9:1-14).
The Journey from Sinai to Kadesh (10:11—12:16)
The journey commences (10:11–36)
Fire and quail (11)
The sin of Miriam and Aaron (12)
Israel at Kadesh, and God’s judgment (13:1—20:13)
The report of the spies (13)
The people’s rebellion and defeat (14)
Several laws on offerings, the Sabbath, tassels on clothing (15)
Korah’s rebellion (16)
The budding of Aaron’s staff (17)
More laws about the priests (18)
The red heifer (19)

The Hebrew title of the book translates, “In the wilderness,” which is perhaps a more comprehensive title than “Numbers,” which comes from the census that dominates chapters 1-4, with lists of the adult males—those who can go into battle—among the twelve tribes. But the transition from the old to the new generation is nevertheless a theme of the book, and the initial census forms an arc over to chapter 26, the census of the new generation. As Israel sojourns at Sinai and then moves toward the land, their experience of wilderness is critical, as I write about in another post: http://paulstroble.blogspot.com/2017/01/bible-road-trips-long-sojourn-at-sinai.html

The section 5:1-6:21 gives us more laws, also regarding purity as the people begin their approach to the promised land. 6:22-27 gives us the beautiful priestly blessing used in many Jewish and Christian traditions.

The Israelites’ approach to the land includes the guidance of God through the cloud (Numbers 9:15-23, which echoes Exodus 13:21-22), the sounding of the trumpets (10:1-10), and then the march toward the land, nineteen days after the census and eleven months after the people had arrived at Sinai (Num. 10:11).

But then chapters 11-14 is a terrible “twist” in the story. After all the preparation to ensure the people’s faithfulness and holiness, the people rebel and are punished. First there is a general complaining about misfortunes (11:1-3), then there is controversy among the people for variety of food (11:4-35). In chapter 12, even Miriam and Aaron speaking ill against Moses because of his foreign wife. Miriam is stricken with leprosy for seven days, so that she stayed outside the camp. The Torah: A Modern Commentary suggests that although Aaron was not similarly cursed, he may have suffered the psychological pain (arguably worse than some kinds of physical pain) in having to submit to his younger brother. (On the other hand, it may also be a case of patriarchy: in the thinking of the time, Aaron was too important to be exiled from the camp for a week, but being a woman Miriam was more expendable.)

God authorizes Moses to send spies into the land to gather information (13:1-14:45). One man from each of the twelve tribes set out, and forty days later they return with a favorable report of the land, but with a fearful report about the strength of the inhabitants. Only Caleb and Joshua recommend that the people trust God. (Some of my books point out that two ancient sources underlie this story, one in which Caleb is the faithful one, and the other in which both Caleb and Joshua are the heroes.)
In response to the fearful report, the Israelites rebel and plan to find a leader which will help them return to Egypt. As the Harper Bible Commentary discusses, this is a far worse sin than the golden calf, for that sin was “only” a way to represent God in a familiar image, while the rebellion struck at the heart of all of God’s promises and preparation. If you read the Bible from Exodus 19 through Numbers 14, you do get a sense of the tragedy of the people’s rebellion after so much preparation and guidance by God.

So…. the people were afraid to die at the hands of the Canaanites, and instead they must die at the threshold of the land. Of the first generation, only the faithful Caleb and Joshua will enter the land. And yet, God’s promise endures. While God could have wiped the people out (cf. Num. 16:38-50), the second generation will endure and will live in the land.

At this point, the major part of the first part of the wilderness journey ends, but we also have the story of the rebellion of Korah and 250 laymen, and the subsequent rebellion that results in a divine plague. The Korahites complain: If the people are holy, a “nation of priests,” why can’t non-priests bring incense to the tabernacle? It is actually a very good question, pushing the envelope concerning holiness and identity. Norah and his people claim the status of holiness and resent Moses’ and Aaron’s leadership.

Things end badly for the rebels—-and in the Numbers story, that’s what they were, rejecters of God’s chosen intermediary and shepherd, Moses. But somewhere in Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics, the great theologian comments that although Korah and his followers perish in God’s judgment, the Korahites are honored later in scripture, as singers (2 Chronicles 20:19), and as authors of Psalms 42, 44-49, 84-85, and 87-88. Barth sees therein a subtle affirmation of Korah’s original concern: what does it mean to be a holy people?

Other laws in this section emphasize priesthood and validates the Aaronic priesthood and the service of the Levites (17-18). The section ends with the strange mitzvot about the Red Heifer. Once such a heifer is sacrificed and burned, its ashes purify from uncleanness—and yet the ashes confer short-term uncleanness upon him who handles them! In the Jewish tradition this is a famously difficult mitzvot, making Solomon himself despair of his own wisdom (The Torah: A Modern Commentary, p. 1149). The placement of the mitzvot at this point in Numbers forms “a literary bridge that now binds the red heifer ritual with the concern for uncleanness from the dead” (Harper Study Bible, p. 196). Tragically, death will be a concern for the next 38 years, as the old generation dies.

Here are the parshah and haftarah (from the Judaism 101 site):

Emor                     Leviticus 21:1-24:23        Ezekiel 44:15-44:31
Behar                    Leviticus 25:1-26:2          Jeremiah 32:6-32:27
Bechuqotai          Leviticus 26:3-27:34        Jeremiah 16:19-17:14
Bamidbar             Numbers 1:1-4:20           Hosea 2:1-2:22
Nasso                    Numbers 4:21-7:89         Judges 13:2-13:25
Beha’alotkha       Numbers 8:1-12:16         Zechariah 2:14-4:7
Shelach                Numbers 13:1-15:41       Joshua 2:1-2:24
Qorach                 Numbers 16:1-18:32       I Samuel 11:14-12:22
Chuqat                 Numbers 19:1-22:1          Judges 11:1-11:33



A few years ago, I made an effort to deepen my Bible study. I wanted to study comparatively unfamiliar areas of the book, and I especially wanted to gain a better sense of its canonical interconnections (prophecies, allusions, historical connections, etc.).

The major result of this enjoyable time of study was my book Walking with Jesus through the New Testament (Westminster John Knox Press, 2015), and also some short-term blogs where I posted my reflections and notes, including an informal survey of the whole Bible.

I like to do year-long series on my “Journeys Home” blog–they help me stay spiritually focused amid life’s busyness–but I hadn’t yet found a new series for 2017. Meanwhile, though, I missed in-depth Bible study, which I’d neglected since finishing my book manuscript.

I got an idea: a series of weekly summaries of Bible material through the course of the year. I Googled the number of chapters in the Bible, and discovered there are 1189. Divided by 52 weeks, that is about 22 chapters a week.  So I began to read the Bible (and consult some of my commentaries) at a rate of about 22 chapters a week, more or less, and record here what I learn.

Eventually, I dropped this plan and studied entire Bible books at a time. But after I studied the Bible in a year (actually in sixteen months), I decided to copy my essays over here on my “Grace, Place” blog. They are very informal studies, note-taking that I enjoy whenever I read and study the scriptures.

To start with: after the cat moved, I read an interesting discussion in my Harper’s Bible 15871532_10154226981038519_759061570477772776_nCommentary about the “primary and secondary histories” of the Old Testament (pp. 75ff)

The primary history is the material from Genesis through Kings, which takes us from from Creation to the beginning of the Exile. Interestingly, the history begins with great promise—God’s pledge to Abraham of many descendants and a land–but it ends sadly, with ten of the twelve tribes of those descends disappeared with the 722 Assyrian conquest, and the other tribes conquered by the Babylonians in the 500s. Nearly all the leadership of the accompanying historical periods are ineffective. Is it strange that the Bible contains this long narrative that culminates in failure?

The secondary narrative is Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther, which also begins with Creation (Adam and his descendants), continues to the Exile, but also considers the post-exilic time of restoration in the Land (Ezra and Nehemiah) and the lives of Jews in the Diaspora (Esther, although one could also include Daniel here). The Secondary History ends on more positive notes, with the people newly settled in the land and Diaspora Jews establishing the faith as well. In the case of Daniel, we also get an apocalyptic account of God’s ultimate victory.

Learning this material is part of the enjoyment of Bible study: when you begin at Genesis, you embark on a long journey through the experiences of God’s people, and then once 2 Kings ends, you start again on a shorter but also important journey through the same history and a couple centuries more. Putting all this together, you start to gain a sense of the richness (and by no means uniformity) of the biblical witness, and the contrasting viewpoints and theologies of the biblical writers.

You could consider the New Testament a corresponding history, and not just new scriptures. The New Testament, after all, contains passages that begin at the Beginning (John’s prologue, and Col. 1:15-20), and then reinterprets the experience of the Old Testament people, and the great institutions of their kingdom and religion, via the life of Jesus. Plus, this corresponding history opens to a new future where Gentiles are grafted onto the people of God thanks to God’s grace and mercy (Romans 11:16-24).

But the New Testament is characterized by all-too-human failings, too, with writers like Paul, the Hebrews author, and John of Patmos scolding their congregations for sins, errors, and shaky faith. The very last New Testament book has the context of conflict and uncertainty within the addressed congregations, while at the same time depicting God’s ultimate victory as well. So although the New Testament covers a much shorter history than the Old Testament, the ambiguities of human experience are present there, too. In the Bible, as in all of life, the glory is God’s alone, and we rely upon God’s mercy and kindness.


Genesis 1-22

Beginning my year-long reading of and note-taking about the Bible, about 20 or so chapters each week, I “open at page one,” to quote that old Jethro Tull song about the ill-fated train engineer.

I read somewhere that Genesis “feels” and reads differently than the rest of the Torah, because God is not yet the savior and law-giver of Israel. God is working with people and making connections, so to speak, accompanying the Hebrew ancestors as they begin a history in the land promised to Abraham.

Chapter 1-11 is a block of material prior to the Bible’s main story that begins with Abraham. Of course, we first study the two creation accounts: the “priestly” narrative of 1:1-2:4a and the “Jahwist” narrative of 2:4b-3:24. I’ve also read how the Genesis stories “demythologize” other ancient Near Eastern stories. For one thing, the creation story has a covenantal purpose: Genesis 1 links over to Exodus 31:12-18, where the Sabbath is part of God’s eternal covenant with Israel, based in God’s own rest from creative activity. We Gentiles, mulling over the literalness or symbolism of the seven days, miss the very key point of the Sabbath (not so named in Genesis) that becomes Israel’s “sanctuary in time” (Heschel).

Other aspects of “demythologizing”: Even though God seems anthropomorphic, walking in the garden, not much is made of this in the narrative, and there is certainly no “birth” account of the deity, nor  does Eve function as a fertility goddess or demigod like Asherah. There is a “trickster” entity who deceive the first couple, which introduces sin into God’s creation and separation from the deity, although notice that God helps the couple make clothing before they leave the garden!

A theme that we find in much literature, inspired by the Bible story, is the way children continue the sin of their parents, and of course Cain takes the almost careless sin of his parents and multiplies its horror, killing his own brother. The genealogies that follow his story show the one way that human beings were faithful to God—being fruitful and multiplying. Otherwise, without getting into theological theories of free will vs. original sin, the narrative moves along human moral decline. The Noah stories, which evidence an editing of the J and P sources, anticipate later biblical themes: God’s eventual judgment against sin, and also God’s demand for purity and purification.

The remainder of the Genesis 1-11 block is filled with genealogical information of the descendants of Noah moving out into the world. See the map at bible-history.com/maps/images/genesis_shem_ham_japheth.jpg ) I read somewhere (I need to take better notes!) that the narrative of Acts, intentionally or not, follows in reverse order the Table of Nations in showing how the Holy Spirit came to people around the ANE and eastern Roman Empire. Here, however, the genealogies include a narrowing of focus: to a particular family, that of Abram (Abraham).

The Abraham stories—which as I say is the crucial beginning of the biblical story—fill 12:1-25:18. I think I’ll take these notes through chapter 22. At the end of chapter 11 and into chapter 12 and following, we meet Abraham and his family, learn of God’s call and promise to the patriarch, and read of some of his adventures: his gaining of property during a sojourn in Egypt, during which he’s caught in a well-intentioned lie; his separation from his nephew Lot and his flock; his rescue of Lot during an intertribal conflict; and his meeting with the king of Salem, Melchizedek, who worships and serves the one God. This last story connects with the history of Jerusalem, which we’ll read about much later, and also with Jesus, who is praised by the author of Hebrews as a priest like Melchizedek.

There is ugliness and sorrow in the Abraham stories. The expulsion of Hagar and Ishmael is tragic (21:-34), though it gives the Lord a change to bless both son and mother. Hagar, in fact, has more of a role in praising and naming God than any woman in the narrative up to this point. We also have the narratives of Lot, of Sodom, and the incest perpetrated by Lot’s daughters. There is a subtle point in the narrative that the children of the daughters are ancestors of Moabites and Ammonites, two of Israel’s enemies in later centuries.

There is beauty, though, in the way Abraham openheartedly beseeches God to spare the city if there be a few righteous people to save. It is a classic story of how God may respond to prayers of intercession on behalf of persons about whom we care, for whom we hope for God’s compassion and help.

The Harper’s Bible Commentary (p. 99) notes that 20:1-22:24 are stories of the Elohist source (that makes use of the general name Elohim for God, rather than the sacred name YHWH, but is not the Priestly source which also uses Elohim). The commentator writes that the stories have the same structure: “God instructs Abraham to initiate a course of action that will involve mortal danger to another family member (Gen. 20:12; 21:12; 22:2); the patriarch obeys (20:1-2; 21:14; 22:3); the threatening situation is about to be realized (20:1, 18; 21:16; 22:9-10); and God intervenes to prevent the expected outcome (20:6-7, 17; 21:19-20; 22:11-13)” (p. 99). Little wonder that Abraham becomes the great paradigm of faith in three major world religions—the Abrahamic religions—because of the extraordinary commands of God and his extraordinary, often wordless and distressing obedience.

I remembered a post from a couple years ago on my now-seldom-updated “Changing Bibles” site: the Pentateuch, another name for the Torah or the first five biblical books, has interesting theological and textual issues, revealing contrasts of view points and challenging insights. Some of the issues pertain to Genesis’ relation to the other books: http://changingbibles.blogspot.com/2015/05/the-pentateuch.html

In the Jewish tradition, the weekly passage from the Torah is called the parshah, each with a name coming from the Hebrew text. The corresponding reading from the Prophets is called the Haftarah.  Here are the readings (from the Judaism 101 site), with the haftarah in parentheses indicating the Sephardic readings:

Parshah                  Torah                         Haftarah
Bereishit                Genesis 1:1-6:8         Isaiah 42:5-43:11 (Isaiah 42:5-42:21)
Noach                    Genesis 6:9-11:32     Isaiah 54:1-55:5 (Isaiah 54:1-10)
Lekh Lekha           Genesis 12:1-17:27    Isaiah 40:27-41:16
Vayeira                  Genesis 18:1-22:24    II Kings 4:1-4:37 (II Kings 4:1-4:23)


Genesis 23-45

This week, we have the remaining chapters of Abraham and Sarah’s stories (23:1-25:18), the “Jacob cycle” (25:19-36:43), and the Joseph narrative, which is 37:1-50:26 but this week I’m stopping at the stories’ climax, chapter 45.

This is the end of Abraham’s stories, though the beginning of the long story of God’s promise to him. In 23:1-20, we read of the only part of the promised Land that Abraham actually owned by legal contract: the tomb and field where he will bury Sarah. Abraham and the Canaanite Ephron strike a deal, and there Sarah is buried, and eventually Abraham (25:1-18) and later Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, and Leah. If I remember correctly, this is the last time we meet Ishmael in the story, when he joins Isaac in burying their father.

I remember reading in one of Brevard S. Childs’ Old Testament studies, that the paucity of Isaac stories raises the question of whether there once was a cycle of his stories as long as those of his father and son. I also remember reading, in Torah: A Modern Commentary, that Isaac seems passive in the stories: things happen to him, rather than him taking initiative. He goes along with the near-sacrifice in chapter 22, and with the selection of Rebekah in chapter 24, and is sadly victim to his son’s and wife’s scheming in chapter 27.

The long chapter 24 gives of the story of the wooing of Rebekah, where the servant of Abraham helps gain her as Isaac’s wife. We have a series of rich interconnections in these chapters. The Harper’s Bible Commentary author notes that chapter 24 is structured similarly as Abraham’s call in chapter 12, with the repeating of key words “bless” and “go,” and chapter 24 also forms a frame for the chapter 12 promise. Rebekah, after all, is essential for the promise and enters the family as Isaac’s wife. (Sadly compare the expulsion of Hagar in chapter 21 with the acceptance of Rebekah, though Ishmael’s descendants are provided a genealogy, 25:12-18). The initial “barrenness” of Rebekah (25:21) also provides a narrative connection back to Sarai/Sarah.

The Harper’s commentary points out other connections. Conflict and deception are themes through the Abraham stories and now both the Jacob and Joseph cycles—mostly familial strife, though Jacob contends with the mysterious challenger in 32:24-32, and we can remember Abraham’s verbal contention with God over the fate of Sodom in chapter 18. Not to mention, chapter 26 has the story of Isaac, Rebekah, and Abimelech, where (like his father’s two deceptions about Sarah) Isaac does not want it known that Rebekah is his wife, and in the meantime gains substantial property (again, similar to his father’s experience in chapter 12, and Jacob a bit later).

The fraternal twins Jacob and Esau have trouble right away, with Jacob pushing Esau to despise his birthright (chapter 25), and the more elaborate deception of chapter 27. The Harper’s commentary makes an interesting point: that the resourcefulness of Rebekah to ensure her son’s future is similar to the story of Moses’ mother in Exodus 2:1-10. There are other interesting connections, like Jacob’s outrage at Laban’s deception–he who was the deceiver has now been deceived—and Laban’s own deceptive advocacy of his daughter Leah, which echoes Rebekah’s advocacy of Jacob (chapter 29).

We can also make connections to the sacred place of Bethel, the site of Jacob’s dream of the ladder/stairway and God’s retelling to Jacob of the promise to Abraham. Bethel was an alternative sacred place (1 Kings 12:26-33, Amos 7:1-13) while Salem/Jerusalem (Genesis 14) became the city of the Temple and the southern kingdom. Another significant place for Jacob is the location in Genesis 32 where he wrestles… who? An angel? A human adversary? Although the sacred site is given the name Penuel, the more significant change is Jacob’s, who gains the name Israel, “one who contends with God.”

I always love the story of Jacob meeting Esau, because how many times have I anticipated something with deep dread but it turned out alright, and even very well! Sometimes it takes years for situations to work themselves out. Although many of us turn our troubles over to God, we always should remember that we may not get quick answers and easy solutions—but God does hear our prayers! Although Esau is used as a negative example in Hebrews 12, here he seems open and magnanimous toward his deceitful brother and welcomes him as a brother.  We learn of Esau’s descendants in chapter 36, and as the Harper commentary tells us, we find later references to those descendants (“Edom”) in 2 Sam. 8:14, 1 Kings 11:14-22, 2 Kings 8:20-33, and elsewhere.)

Jacob’s children were (with wife Leah), Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, and Diana. With maidservant Bilhah: Dan and Naphtali. With maidservant Ziplah: Gad and Asher. With wife Rachel: Joseph and Benjamin. Of course, these sons became the founders of the tribes of Israel. I found an interesting site that considers the background of Jacob’s genealogy:
http://thetorah.com/how-the-israelite-family-was-put-together-the-twelve-sons-of-jacob/ The terrible story of Diana’s rape and her subsequent avenging connects to a later story of David’s daughter Tamar in 2 Samuel. I recommend the article “Women in Genesis” in the Harper’s commentary (pp. 116-118) that discusses the relationship of mothers and children in Genesis; contrasts the voiceless Diana with the resourceful Tamar and Rebekah; discusses the contrasting emotional situations of Leah and Rachel; points out that the rejected Hagar is given a theophany of God; notes the double standards that we find amid the Genesis stories (Lot sins, but only his wife is punished; both Abraham and Sarah laugh, but only Sarah is scolded for her laughter, etc.), and so on.

The stories of Joseph are so well known: we’ve read them in Sunday school and perhaps can sing along to the Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice musical! They have several parts:

37:1-36, Joseph’s relationship with his brothers and father, his brothers’ cruel plan first to kill and then to sell Joseph, and his forced journey to Egypt.

39:1-30, Joseph’s first experience in Egypt and his unjust imprisonment.

40:1-41:-57,  Joseph gains favor as an interpreter of dreams and becomes a significant official in Pharaoh’s government, planning for the anticipated famine.

42:1-45:28, the wonderful stories of Joseph’s meeting with his brothers, their failure to recognize him,  the way Joseph “messes” with them for a while, and finally his tearful revelation of himself to them and their reconciliation.

Chapters 46-50 also deal with Jacob and Joseph and the brothers. I’ll read those chapters next week.

I love these Joseph stories in part because God is hardly mentioned in them—and I don’t mean that in a negative way. God does not appear in theophanies and miracles in these stories, but the providential guidance of God is assumed. To me, this is a very realistic narrative about ways God may work in our lives, though obviously with different life experiences than Joseph’s. We, too, experience painful times, suffer injustice, struggle through periods of difficulty but eventually we turn the corner from those periods into times of well-being again. We still have questions for God: why did I have to suffer so long in that situation, and why couldn’t God have shortened the pain (as Joseph languished in prison for two years)? But we rejoice when we do, indeed, see (often in hindsight) how God was guiding us all along.

I didn’t mean to skip the dark story of Judah and Tamar, which is inserted not the text (chapter 38) just as Joseph is being carried off to Egypt. Tamar, the daughter in law of Judah, loses her husband before she had children. By the laws and the customs of the time, the husband’s brother was obligated to impregnate her, but he withdrew before ejaculation—and shortly died! Again, according to the views of the time, semen was considered spiritually unclean outside the body, and he also had declined a serious obligation—for Tamar was a widow with no children, a bad situation in which to be. But Judah refused to offer her his remaining son, and so Tamar deceives Judah into impregnating her instead. There’s that theme of advantageous deception that we find throughout Genesis. Like Rebekah, Tamar has twins, Zerah and Perez.

My commentary points out that Judah’s first son and also these two sons become important tribes within the larger tribe of Judah—in fact, Judah is the primary surviving tribe following the Exile, and Perez is an ancestor of Jesus himself. Again, the strange providence of God amid very complicated, painfully human circumstances.


In the Jewish tradition, the weekly passage from the Torah is called the parshah, each with a name coming from the Hebrew text. The corresponding reading from the Prophets is called the Haftarah.  Here are the readings (from the Judaism 101 site), with the haftarah in parentheses indicating the Sephardic readings:

Chayei Sarah          Genesis 23:1-25:18 I Kings1:1-1:31
Toldot                  Genesis 25:19-28:9 Malachi 1:1-2:7
Vayeitzei                  Genesis 28:10-32:3 Hosea 12:13-14:10 (Hosea 11:7-12:12)
Vayishlach          Genesis 32:4-36:43 Hosea 11:7-12:12 (Obadiah1:1-1:21)
Vayyeshev          Genesis 37:1-40:23 Amos 2:6-3:8
Miqeitz                  Genesis 41:1-44:17 I Kings 3:15-4:1
Vayigash                  Genesis 44:18-47:27 Ezekiel 37:15-37:28


Genesis 46-Exodus 18

This week, I’m finishing Genesis and covering Exodus 1-18, which brings us to the point where Moses and the people arrive at Mount Sinai in chapter 19. These chapters from Exodus are among the most important in the entire Bible!

Genesis 45 is really the climax of the Joseph stories, where Joseph revealed himself to his brothers—-after he’d “messed” with them for a while—-and their reconciliation. The rest of Genesis, though, is important, too. In chapter 46, Jacob departs for Egypt, assured by God that God’s covenant will not be broken if he travels there (46:2-4). Jacob’s family accompany him. We had last seen Jacob at the beginning of the Joseph stories in chapter 37, and now we conclude his long story. My Jewish Study Bible (Oxford, 1999) explains that Jacob had two periods of 17 years each with Joseph, the beginning of Joseph’s life and the end of Jacob’s 147-year lifetime (p. 93).

There is an interesting section (47:13-27) that I’d overlooked before: the fact that Joseph’s policies saved the lives of Egyptians but also enslaved them. This injustice sets the stage for Exodus, where a new Pharaoh in turn enslaved the Hebrews.

In chapters 48 and 49, Jacob adopts Joseph’s sons, and we have a long section of Jacob’s blessings and predictions for his sons. Christians have especially focused upon the words concerning Judah (49:8-10), understood to connect to Jesus. Who are the ancestral heads of the tribes of Israel?

Children of Jacob and Leah: Diana the daughter (not a tribal leader), and sons Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun.

Sons of Jacob and Zilpah: Gad and Asher

Sons of Jacob and Bihah, Dan and Naphtali

Sons of Jacob and Rachel: Joseph and Benjamin

Sons of Joseph, adopted by Jacob: Ephraim and Manasseh.

Here (http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/the-twelve-tribes-of-israel) is an interesting website that explains the tribes and the locations of their settlement after the conquests of Joshua. The Levites had no land because Moses set them apart for priestly duty (Leviticus 3:1-4). The idea of the “ten lost tribes,” which is not a biblical phrase per se, comes from 2 Kings 17:6, concerning the Assyrian conquest of the northern kingdom. The tribes of the southern kingdom, which survived the Babylonian exile, were Judah (which eventually included the tribe of Simeon), Benjamin, and also Levi.

Genesis wraps up in chapter 50, with Joseph mourning his father’s death, the preparation (via Egyptian embalming) of Jacob’s body, and his burial back at the cave of Machpelah, which Abraham had purchased. Joseph, not vengeful toward his brothers as they feared (50:15ff), returned to Egypt, where he lived till the age of 110.

Now we come to Exodus. Chapters 1-15 provides a block of material from the establishment of Hebrew enslavement to the song of liberation following the splitting of the sea. But Exodus 13-18 is also a block of material that depicts the Israelites’ journey out of Egypt into the wilderness to the foot of Mount Sinai.

Also, the narrative of Exodus-Joshua can be understood as a narrative (though with different traditions within it) from Egyptian slavery to the conquest of the Land that had been promised to Abraham and his descendants. Of course, when you add Genesis to the front of this block, you have the whole story up till the conquest. The difference is that Genesis depicts the patriarchs within the land, more or less at harmony with the land’s peoples. God is less concerned about the holiness of the patriarchs than establishing with them promises and providential guidance. With Exodus and afterward, Israel’s story is focused upon the establishment of the the identity of Israel as a people—descendants not only of Abraham but of the Twelve Tribes—and as a people they journey, receive the covenant, are guided, punished, declared God’s holy people, and given victory as a people.

We skip over a lot of history in chapter 1: traditionally counted, the Hebrews were in Egypt over 400 years. Exodus begins with the familiar story of Moses’ salvation from the murderous fears of Pharaoh. The narratives of Jesus’ infancy draw upon these narratives. Once Moses is an adult, he witness the suffering of an Israelite and kills the bully, which caps the first third of his life and sends him into exile for the second third of his life. In chapters 3 and 4, he meets the God of his ancestors in the form of a theophany, a voice form the burning but unconsumed bush. This is the great revelation of God’s name YHWH, God who declares “I AM WHO I AM.” After giving God numerous reasons why he (Moses) shouldn’t take on the divine task, God sends him on his way.

The story continues:

Moses and Aaron meet with Pharaoh, who instead adds to the Israelites’ burdens. Moses beseeches God. (Chapter 5)

God reiterates his promise to God by the divine name.  Moses tries to encourage the people (unsuccessfully), and he and Aaron return to Pharaoh. We additionally learn of the family genealogy (Chapter 6).

Again, the brothers meet Pharaoh. Aaron’s rod turns into a serpent, “magic” that the Egyptian sorcerers likewise do, but their serpents are swallowed by Aaron’s. Yet Pharaoh’s heart is heartened. Next the river is turned to blood (Chapter 7).

More plagues: frogs, and then gnats and flies (Chapter 8). Pharaoh won’t relent, and more plagues happen: the death of livestock, boils, hail, and fire (Chapter 9). Pharaoh almost decides to release the Israelites when threatened by locusts, and then darkness covers Egypt (Chapter 10). God instructs the Israelites to borrow their neighbors’ silver and gold, and Moses threatens the king with the death of Egypt’s firstborn (chapter 11).

Chapter 12 and 13 establishes Pesach (Passover), the meaning of the rites, and the importance and meaning of the hoy day. The firstborn are killed, and the Israelites are at last released. God does not send them the straight way, where they would reach the land via Gaza, but an alternate way that would send them into what we call the Sinai peninsula. God guides them in pillars of cloud and fire.

In chapter 14, Pharaoh pursues the Israelites, to the fearful response of the people. God instructs Moses, who raises his staff and the Sea splits, allowing the Israelites to pass through to safety, while the pursuing Egyptian forces are drowned as the waters return.

Chapter 15 contains what scholars consider one the oldest song of the Hebrew tradition: the song of Moses, Miriam, and Israel on their deliverance. The people set out into the wilderness, but “murmur” because they’re thirsty. God sweets the bitter water at Marah, but it is a temporary respite for the perennially unhappy Hebrews.

They make camp at Elim, a location with wells and palm trees, but when they proceed on, they murmur because they want bread. This is the famous story of the manna and the quails; God provides for them all the days of their journey with the sweet bread-like substance called “What is it?” (the meaning of the word “manna”) (chapter 16).

They travel on to a place called Rephidim, where they murmur for water again. God strikes the rock that in turn produces water for them, but the place is called Massah and Meribah (“test” and “quarrel”). In what is perhaps a Deuteronomistic insertion into the story, the Israelites fight Amalek and his forces, who are cursed by God (chapter 17).

In chapter 18, Moses is reunited with his father-in-law Jethro. Jethro gives Moses a good solution to the problem of the many people coming to Moses for help and decisions.

The Harper’s Bible Commentary author on Exodus—a professor I knew at University of Virginia years ago—points out that the pre-exilic community would have known the Exodus story via the J narrative (p. 131), which “presents the departure from Egypt as a continuation of the theme of the double promise made by Yahweh to the patriarchs. Israel is to be a great nation in a productive land” (p. 129). For the post exilic community of the Second Temple, the story would’ve been known through the P history, and thus would’ve taken comfort in the continuity of religion from the Mosaic times through the Sinai covenant down to that post exilic time (p. 131).

From that same book, I learned that Psalms 78 and 105 also refer to the plagues, although their order and number are different. While Exodus has the ten—blood, frogs, gnats, flies, cattle, boils, hail, locusts, darkness, and the firstborn—-Psalm 78 has blood, flies, frogs, locusts, hail, cattle and firstborn, while Psalm 105 has darkness, blood, frogs, flies, hail, locusts, and firstborn. Bible trivia!

We may think of the splitting of the sea as the movie-worthy climax of this overall story, with the covenant and Ten Commandments an important addendum. Actually the covenant is the great event toward which these great stories move. God is Savior (Rescuer) but God is also a covenant-maker. He has created and rescued the Israelites in order to establish a holy, eternal agreement with them—a partnership, if you will, for the sake of the world.

If you’re a Christian, and if I asked you what is the most important event in the whole Bible, you might say Jesus’ death and resurrection (or the interrelated passion, death, resurrection, ascension, and Pentecost gift of the Spirit). But the Exodus is not only the focal event of the whole Old Testament, but it is the “model” on which the New Testament narratives and theologies of our salvation are based!  I write more about this on another blog: https://bibleconnections.wordpress.com/the-exodus-and-our-faith/

The site “My Jewish Learning” has a wonderful essay on the significance of the Exodus for Jews as well as all humankind: http://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/the-exodus-effect/

The Jewish Study Bible contains these insights: “Many of the fundamental beliefs and practices of Judaism are rooted in Exodus. The first of the book’s two central events, the exodus itself, is recounted daily in Jewish prayers, It and the other central event, the proclamation of the Decalogue at Mount Sinai, are celebrated and retold on Jewish festivals [Pesah and Shavuot] ever year” (p. 106). The author goes on to say that the covenant, the Jewish way of life, the encounter of the people with God at Sinai, the Sabbath, and other aspects of Exodus are foundational for Judaism (p. 106-107). In our own time, the movement of Jews to Palestine echoed for many the Exodus journey of the Israelites (p. 107). The exodus has also captured the imagination of Gentiles, especially the image of Moses leading people to freedom. The early British settlers of North America had that image in mind, as did African Americans seeking to gain their freedom (p. 107).

It’s also worth noting a couple more connections to the New Testament. The Pascal lamb is connected to Jesus (Ex. 12:11, 1 Cor. 5:7), and (in next week’s readings), the ratification of the covenant (Ex. 24:3-8) is connected to the Eucharistic words of institution (Mark 14:22-25, 1 Cor. 11:25).


In the Jewish tradition, the weekly passage from the Torah is called the parshah, each with a name coming from the Hebrew text. The corresponding reading from the Prophets is called the Haftarah.  Here are the readings (from the Judaism 101 site), with the haftarah in parentheses indicating the Sephardic readings:

Vayigash                           Genesis 44:18-47:27       Ezekiel 37:15-37:28
Vayechi                             Genesis 47:28-50:26     I Kings 2:1-12
Shemot                              Exodus 1:1-6:1             Isaiah 27:6-28:13; 29:22-29:23 (Jeremiah 1:1-2:3)
Va’eira                               Exodus 6:2-9:35           Ezekiel 28:25-29:21
Bo                                      Exodus 10:1-13:16      Jeremiah 46:13-46:28
Beshalach                         Exodus 13:17-17:16     Judges 4:4-5:31 (Judges 5:1-5:31)
(Shabbat Shirah)
Yitro                                  Exodus 18:1-20:23         Isaiah 6:1-7:6; 9:5-9:6 (Isaiah 6:1-6:13)


The graves of Karl Barth, his family, and his assistant

Charlotte von Kirschbaum, in Basel, Switzerland.


My doctoral dissertation at the University of Virginia, from which I graduated with a Ph.D. in 1991, was “The Social Ontology of Karl Barth.” It was subsequently published with the same title by Christian Universities Press (International Scholars Publications) in 1994.  It is out of print, and according to WorldCat.org it is found in 62 libraries.

Here is the description that I wrote for Amazon.com:

“The theme of the “Other” dominates post-Cartesian thinking. Specifically, what is the relation of the knowing subject to the Other (who is neither object nor alter ego), if both self and Other are supposed to be counterparts and partners–a Thou meeting the other’s I–and if each exceeds the other’s experience? Twentieth-century theology, too, has reconsidered the Cartesian basal subject from which the existence of others and God proceeds. Karl Barth (1886-1968) is a major representative of one approach to this theme. Throughout his theological career Barth tries to overcome a subject-centered theology wherein God is not allowed to appear as God and wherein the claim of the human Other goes unheeded. In Barth’s earliest theology, the believer’s subjectivity is the locus for God’s otherness yet the claim of the Other is said to lodge in God’s kingdom as manifested in social democracy. During his “dialectical” period, Barth rejects cultural and social norms, as well as the objectification of God, so that he may affirm the total divine otherness and the divine freedom to speak the Word. In the Church Dogmatics, Barth locates God’s otherness in God’s triune being, the divine self-correspondence and the divine correspondence to human beings. Human otherness is defined in terms of the human being’s being-determined as covenant partner with God and being-for and being-with others in analogous correspondence to the divine self-othering in Christ. During all of Barth’s theological periods, otherness is grounded in the unique otherness of Christ, so that the conditions of subjectivity and intersubjectivity alike are grounded in the Incarnation. Stroble suggests lines of dialogue between Barth’s theology and postmodern thought, showing paths for future theological reflection.”

Wow!  That’s deep. 🙂 But the exploration of Barth’s philosophy of human interrelatedness was formative for my subsequent interests in ministry and service.

Since the work is copyrighted in my name, and since it is out of print, I thought I would scan and then post here the two chapters pertaining to Barth’s mature theology, along with the introduction and bibliography.  This way, anyone doing research on these aspects of Barth’s theology may have an additional chance to find my modest work.

Anyone wishing to read the other chapters, concerning Barth’s pre-Church Dogmatics philosophy, may find the book on interlibrary loan. I should tell you, however, that there are other, excellent books (published before and after 1994) that more thoroughly address topics in Barth’s theology of the 1909-1931 period than my two chapters, which are more like preludes for chapters 3 and 4.

The original doctoral dissertation—which is in manuscript at the University of Virginia—had an additional chapter that discussed Michael Theunissen’s book, The Other: Studies in the Social Ontology of Husserl, Heidegger, Buber, and Sartre, translated by Christopher Macann (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1984), and my own chapters (the fourth, especially) placed Barth in additional dialogue with these four philosophers.






Among my many family roots in Fayette County, IL, the Washburns were early settlers of the area later known as Otego Township. My 3-great-grandparents, David and Esther Washburn, came to that area in about 1830 and are buried in the Pilcher Cemetery near Brownstown, IL. In this 2014 post, https://paulstroble.wordpress.com/2014/08/04/my-family-the-washburns-back-to-the-pilgrims/ , I summarized another genealogist’s research to trace the Washburns back to my 9-great-grandparents, John (1566-1624) and Martha (Stevens) Washbourne (c. 1573-1626), of St. Peter’s Parish, Bengeworth, Worcestershire, England. Their son John (1597-1671) and Margery (Moore) Washbourne (b. c. 1586) sailed to New England in 1631 or 1632 and settled in Duxbury in Plymouth Colony; John and Margery’s son John married the granddaughter of a Mayflower passenger, Francis Cooke.

img_4938.jpgThis past winter, I found some wonderful books that trace generations of the Washbournes prior to this John:

James Davenport, The Washbourne Family of Little Washbourne and Wichenford in the County of Worcester (London: Methuen & Co, 1907).

R. E. M. Peach (ed.), The Washbourne Family: Notes and Records, Historica nd Social of the Ancient Family of Washbourne of Washbourne, Wichenford and Pytchley from the 12th Century to the Present Time (Privately printed by John Bellows, Glouchester, 1896).

E. A. B. Barnard, Some Notes on the Evesham Branch of the Washbourne Family (Evesham: W. &. H. Smith Lit., 1914). [Evesham is adjacent to Bengeworth; Little Washbourne and Wichenford are villages in Glochestershire, and Stanford and Pytchley are towns in neighboring Northamptonshire.


This portrait, purportedly of Sir Roger Washbourne, was published in Davenport, but he argues (pp. 192-193) that it may be one of the later Wichenford John Washbournes, who died in 1633.

Fortunately all these books are scanned and readable online: do an internet search and you’ll easily find links to the complete texts. I encourage anyone interested in the early Washbournes to do so!

The following are just a few notes from those books, to summarize my own probable ancestry. (There were a lot of John Washbournes! I had to differentiate a few by adding their dates of death.)

* Sir Roger of Little Washbourne and Stanford, married Joan. He was living in 1299. If John Washbourne (d. 1546) below was the son of John Washbourne (d. 1517), then Sir Roger and Joan are my 18-great-grandparents, living during the reign of the Plantagenet kings Edward I and Edward II. Davenport called Sir Roger “the first authentic Washbourne” (p. 17).

Peach writes, “The Washbournes, of Washbourne, were generation after generation of Knightly degree, previous to the reign of Edward II., and ranked in point of descent with the most ancient families in the kingdom… Sir Roger Washbourne…married two wives: by the first, Joan, daughter and heir of Sir John Mustard, Knt., he had an only daughter Isolde, who became the wife of John Salwey, of Kanke, and by the second, Margaret, daughter and Heir of John Poher, or Power, a son, Norman Washburn, who retired to his mother’s estate in Wichenford, where his descendants continued to reside for several generations, enjoying the highest respectability, and intermarrying with the houses of Kynaston, Mytton, Stapylse, Tracy, Lygon, &c” (pp. 3-4).

(Here is the Find-a-Grave page for Sir Roger, with links to his descendants: https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=83958149

The next generations:

* Sir John, son of Sir Roger and Joan, and knight of the shire, died in 1319. Married Isabella Cassy. (Peach, p. 12, Davenport, pp. 3-6)

* Sir Roger, married Margaret, not later than 1316. Roger was still living in 1358. (Davenport, 7, 17; Peach, 33)

* Peter, married in 1355 to Isolde Hanley (Peach, 34).

* John, the last of Stanford and first of Wichenford; knight of shire and vicecombs (sheriff). Married Margaret Poher of Wichenford (Peach, 33, Davenport, 8-17).

* Norman, vicecomes. Married Elizabeth Kynaston. Peach gives her name as Kynaston, a daughter of the High Sheriff of County Worcester (p. 34). Davenport (p. 24) quotes a course indicating that the name is also written Knifton, Knivton, Knyveton, and Kniveton.  Here is Elizabeth’s Find-a-Grave page, with links to her family: https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=101434504

* John, born as early as 1454, died May 1517, first marriage to Joan Mitton of Weston, County Stanford (Davenport, 30-34; Peach 36ff). John is buried in Wichenford Church, although Davenport writes that the monument is gone (p. 34-35).

* John, who according to Davenport, is the ancestor of Bengeworth branch (and therefore the ancestor of the American descendants), died 1546. Married Emme, d. 1547. They are my 11-great-grandparents. 

Davenport writes, “At the time when registers became compulsory (1538) he [John] appears on the scene with his wife Emme, residing at Bengeworth, which adjoins the town of Evesham and is a few miles distant from Little Washbourne. They were then quite middle-aged persons, having four grown-up children and several grandchildren. John was buried there in 1546 and Emme in 1547. It is not difficult to imagine the reasons why and the circumstances under which John struck out from Wichenford and migrated to the neighborhood of Evesham to seek his fortune in the town, as younger sons had, and still have, to do away from the paternal roof, though the exact date of his departure can only be guessed. Perhaps he left in his father’s lifetime when his prospects cannot have seemed very rosy, inasmuch as, in addition to two younger brothers, he had an elder brother with a son destined to become the head of the family, and saw the introduction into the family home by his father of a second wife, and in due course of two more brothers, Anthony and Richard. More probably he left in 1517, when his father died. He found himself overlooked in the will, and saw his young nephew of seventeen become owner of Wichenford and Knight’s Washbourne, with the management of affairs left in the hands of a son younger than himself, viz. Walter, and the stepmother, Elizabeth Monington. At any rate, he went forth and became progenitor of the branch which flourished at Bengeworth for a long period, and from which came the famous John who went to America, sending for his wife Margery and their two sons to follow him in 1635 (pp. 35-36).

E. A. B. Barnard, however, questions that John (d. 1546) was the same John who was the son of John (d. 1517). He writes on pages 42-43: “In his excellent History of the Washbourne Family (first published in 1907) the Rev. J. H. Davenport states that the second son of John (8) of Wichenford, was identical with John Washbourne of Bengeworth, Evesham, husband of Emme, from whom he shows, by singularly complete evidence, that the American branches of he Family are descended. it must be admitted, however, that although this identification seems a reasonable probability it is by no means a certainly. Mr. Davenport give strong hypothetical reason for his statement and, with his wide knowledge of the subject any other theory may be plainly untenable, but it has still to be borne in mind that there is no direct evidence for it in the Visitation pedigrees of the Wichenford branch of the famly [sic]. Moreover, we have seen that Washbournes had lived in the neighbourhood of Evesham for at least two hundred years before John of Benegeworth had lands there, and further there is the evidence of a Fifteenth Century Washbourne tile in Evesham Abbey, to say nothing of the possibility of a somewhat later Washbourne coat-of-arms in a window in Old St. Peter’s Church, Bengeworth.” And he goes on from there.

But I found this site—-http://www.genealogy.com/forum/surnames/topics/washburn/4390/ —-that disagrees with Barnard and connects these Johns with the Wichenford line. The people who wrote the family pages on Find-a-Grave for Sir Roger and his descendants also connect the Wichenford line to the Bengeworth line.

So… from John and Emme, we have:

*John and Emme’s son, John of Bengeworth, died 1593. He married Jone Whitfield. Among their children was the son:

* John Washbourne, born August 1, 1566 in Bengeworth, Worcestershire, England, died August 3, 1624. Married Martha (Timbrell) Stevens in St. Peter’s Parish, Bengeworth. She was born there about 1573 and died May 9, 1626.

The rest of this information, which traces the family to my 3-great-grandfather in my native Fayette County, IL, can already be found at the other blog site:

* John Washbourne, baptized July 2, 1597 in St. Peter’s Parish, Bengeworth, died March 17, 1671. He married Margery Moore on Nov. 23, 1618 in St. Peter’s Parish Bengeworth. She was born about 1586. John sailed to New England in about 1631 or 1632, and settled in the town of Duxbury in Plymouth Colony, where he was a tailor. He and Margery were the immigrant ancestors, my 8-great-grandparents, although Margery apparently died not long after they arrived in Plymouth.

* John Washburn, born about Nov. 20, 1620 in Bengeworth, died Nov. 12, 1686 in Bridgewater, Pymouth Co., MA. He married Elizabeth Mitchell in Plymouth on Dec. 6, 1645. She was born about 1629 in Plymouth and died before Dec. 5, 1684 in Bridgewater, MA.

Elizabeth was the granddaughter of a Mayflower passenger. Her parents were Experience Mitchell and Jane Cooke, and Jane Cooke was the daughter of Francis Cooke, who sailed on the Mayflower and signed the Mayflower Compact. Francis Cooke and his wife Hester (who came to the colony a little later) are my 9-great-grandparents. There is much online concerning Cooke and other Mayflower passengers. 

*James Washburn (5/15/1672-6/11/1749), married Mary Bowden (about 1670-12/18/1745). They were from Bridgewater. They married Dec. 20, 1693

*Moses Washburn (9/9/1702-10/31/1765), married Hannah Cushman (12/25/1705-after 7/29/1750). They married May 23, 1727 in Kingston, MA. She was the daughter of Robert Cushman and Perusus Lewis.

* Bezaliel Washburn (about 1740-10/5/1813), married Patience Sollard, his third wife, on July 10, 1795 in Darmouth, Bristol County, MA. (What cool names! “Bezaliel and Patience, table for two…” The biblical Bezalel was one of the artisans on the Tabernacle in Exodus 31.)

*David Washburn (8/12/1785-3/13/1852), married Esther Griffith. David was born in Dartmouth. Esther was born in 1789 in New York. They both settled in Fayette County, IL in the 1830s, and died there. They are buried in the Pilcher Cemetery near Brownstown, IL.

David and Esther’s granddaughter, via their son George, was Abagail [sic] Washburn Pilcher, the mother of maternal grandma, who in turn first got me interested in genealogy.

Last fall, when we were in London, I considered taking the train to Evesham and investigate Bengesworth. I wimped out and instead visited Charles Darwin’s grave in Westminster Abbey and shared in the noon Eucharist. But I do plan to visit these towns and hopefully Wichenford, as well. When I do, I’ll blog about it!


Here is the genealogical chart included in Davenport:


Here is a book review that I wrote for Springhouse magazine, published in the October 1996 issue. Thomas Ford was t220px-governor_thomas_fordhe Illinois governor in 1842-1846, during which time he faced the issue of the Mormons in Nauvoo (which didn’t go well) and also helped solve Illinois’ indebtedness crisis from the failed 1837 internal improvements projects. Ford died in 1850, and his history of Illinois was posthumously published in 1854. It is a classic of Illinois history and political analysis, one of the first books I read about early Illinois history and still a favorite. See the scan below.



The 1854 edition of Governor Ford’s History, with the state seal on the spine.


This first edition-first printing has “1814” instead of the correct “1818” on the title page, and it also has a few pages inserted to replace original pages. The rarest first editions contain those original pages. The date on the title page was corrected in the second printing.


Following several printings of the first edition, the second edition was the 1946 “Lakeside Classics” set.


A new printing of the first edition was published to coincide with Illinois’ sesquicentennial in 1968, along with other classic historical works. I begged my parents to buy me the whole set (about $50), and they gave them to me for Christmas in 1975. I still have that set.


The third edition was the annotated volume that prompted my book review.

547297_10151369726078519_733469114_nHere is a series of eight pieces of mine from Springhouse magazine, published in the June 1998 through August 1999 issues. They describe the political campaigns and important legislation during the time my hometown, Vandalia, was the Illinois state capital. Editors Gary and Judy DeNeal did such a wonderful job editing the pieces and adding pictures, really bringing the narrative to life.

The introduction to the first piece explains the circumstances of the writing, and the folks whom I wanted to remember in publishing them. I also remember my parents, Paul and Mildred Stroble, whom I thanked in my 1992 book (referred there) and who helped make my research and writing possible, since I was fairly young when I undertook the project.

These pieces dovetail with my genealogical posts here, because several of my ancestors and their families lived in Vandalia during the 1819-1839 period, a fact that first inspired my interest in this subject.

Here is Illinois Politics, parts 1-4:


And here is Illinois Politics, parts 5-8:


This post connects to my several other genealogical posts on this blog, especially those related to the Crawford, Pilcher, Gatewood, Williams, and Washburn families.

During the summer of 1974, when I was 17, I finished compiling all the information I had on the Pilcher Cemetery and Winslow Pilcher Family Cemetery, in Fayette County, IL south of Brownstown, in Otego township. The information included all the inscriptions on the tombstones in both cemeteries, locations of unmarked graves (which had been identified to me by older relatives), information about some of the people buried there, and family charts that connected many of the people.  I was not a good typist, but I did my best, and shared the information with relatives.

Here are scans of my work. I’m in the process of placing some of this material on findagrave.com, but posting it here will also make it available for family researchers. Remember that this information is current only to 1974; burials have continued in the Pilcher Cemetery, though not its smaller neighbor. Also remember that the tree, which once stood in the middle of the Pilcher (and which provides a landmark on the maps of graves) was cut down at about that same time.

Here is the Winslow Pilcher Family Cemetery:


And here is the Pilcher Cemetery: