Today’s readings are Genesis 25, Matthew 24, Esther 1 and Acts 24.
In Genesis 25 Abraham’s second wife, Keturah, and her children…
Abraham sent these sons “eastward” (v. 5) and then he died (vv. 7-8). He was buried with Sarah “in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, east of Mamre” (v. 9).
Josephus tells us that “Abraham contrived to settle them in colonies; and they took possession of Troglodytis [bet you didn’t know where that word came from!] and the country of Arabia the Happy, as far as it reaches to the Red Sea” (Antiquities, 1.15.1). Abraham, in all probability, tried to keep them apart from Isaac to avoid conflict while fulfilling God’s commission to spread out and inhabit the globe (Genesis 1:27-28; 9:1; Josephus Antiquities 1.4.1-3).
Isaac settled at Beer-lahai-roi (v. 11).
Genesis 25:12-18 are the generation of Ishmael…
Then, the generations of Isaac, starting in verse 19 with the birth of Esau and Jacob (25:21-28) and the incident of Esau selling his birthright for lentil stew and bread, thus Esau despised his birthright (25:34).
Paul speaks of the birth of Esau and Jacob (Romans 9:10-13), highlighting God’s sovereign grace in election, for neither Esau nor Jacob were worthy of being chosen by God.
10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad–in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls–12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
The writer of Hebrews focuses on Esau despising his birthright and adds…
15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; 16 that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. 17 For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.
I believe v. 17 speaks of him coming in to Isaac to be blessed, only to find out Isaac had blessed Jacob recorded in Genesis 27…
34 As soon as Esau heard the words of his father, he cried out with an exceedingly great and bitter cry and said to his father, “Bless me, even me also, O my father!” 35 But he said, “Your brother came deceitfully, and he has taken away your blessing.” 36 Esau said, “Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he has cheated me these two times. He took away my birthright, and behold, now he has taken away my blessing.” Then he said, “Have you not reserved a blessing for me?” 37 Isaac answered and said to Esau, “Behold, I have made him lord over you, and all his brothers I have given to him for servants, and with grain and wine I have sustained him. What then can I do for you, my son?” 38 Esau said to his father, “Have you but one blessing, my father? Bless me, even me also, O my father.” And Esau lifted up his voice and wept.
Esau lost his birthright and received a sub-par blessing.
Matthew 24 is Jesus’ answer to the disciples wanting to know…
“Tell us, when will these things [destruction of Jerusalem] be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?” (24:3)
Jesus tells them that all the terrible things that are happening in vv. 5-7 are “but the beginning of the birth pains” (v. 8). The beginning of “birth pangs” is the beginning of this Tribulation. Some interpreters believed verses 4-8 describe the first half of the Tribulation and verses 9-14 the last half.
The 70th Week of Daniel 9
Time of Jacob’s Trouble
|Beginning of Birth Pangs||Hard-Labor Birth Pangs|
|First Half||Second Half|
Thomas Constable, Matthew
A comparison of the “beginning of birth pangs” and the first four seals in Revelation indicate that they are likely describing the same thing.
“Beginning of birth pangs
First Four seals
|1. False messiahs who will mislead many (v. 5)||1. First seal: Rider on white horse, a false messiah (v. 2)|
|2. Wars, rumors of wars, nation rising against nation (vv. 6-7)||2. Second seal: Rider on red horse takes away peace from earth (vv. 3-4)|
|3. Famines (v. 7)||3. Third Seal: Rider on black horse holds balances, represents famine (vv. 5-6)|
|4. Death through famine, pestilences, and earthquakes (v. 7)||4. Fourth seal: Rider on pale horse, represents death through famine, pestilence, and wild beasts (vv. 7-8)|
Thomas Constable, Matthew
The persecutions (24:9-13) and the spread of the gospel will take place in the second half of the tribulation. With verse 15 Jesus goes back to the mid-point, the “abomination of desolation,” the greatest sign to the Jews. It is a term Daniel used in Daniel 8:13; 9:27; 11:31; and 12:11. It describes something that—because of its abominable character—causes the godly to desert the temple on its account.
What Daniel predicted will happen in those seven years will be a unique national distress for Israel (Dan. 12:1; cf. Jer. 30:7). It will begin when a wicked ruler (Antichrist) signs a covenant with Israel (Dan. 9:27). After three and a half years, the ruler would break the covenant and terminate worship in the temple. He would end temple worship by setting up an abominable idol there (cf. 2 Thess. 2:4; Rev. 13:14-15).
This will cause a mass exodus from Jerusalem to the mountains.
21 For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. 22 And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.
The return of Jesus Christ happens at the end of this seven years. Jesus reminds them not to believe every so-called “Messiah” (24:23-26). His coming will be obvious to all.
27 For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 29 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
What does the verse about the vultures mean (v. 28)? And who is the corpse? One view is that the vultures represent Jesus and the angels, come to pick clean the morally corrupt world.
31 And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
The passage He referred to was Isaiah 27:12-13. There Israel is in view, so Jesus must have been speaking about the gathering of Israelites again to the Promised Land at His Second Coming. The four winds refer to the four compass points. This regathering will involve judgment (13:39, 41; 24:40-41; 25:31; 2 Thess. 1:7-8). This regathering will set the stage for Messiah’s worldwide reign.
Jesus then describes the moral responsibilities that arise from these eschatological truths:
First, he gives four parables about being vigilant and watchful. He talks about watching the fig tree when it is about to bear fruit (24:32-36), with a clarifying parable about the “days of Noah” in 24:37-39. Then the parable of the one taken and one left behind (24:41-42) emphasizes that neither gender, nor occupation, nor close relationship, will prevent the separation for judgment (cf. 10:35-36). The parable of the homeowner who could have stayed away to prevent theft (24:43-44) is preceded by an exhortation to stay awake. We don’t know when He will come, so we have to stay ready.
There are three parables in this section to finish chapter 24 and continue to the end of chapter 25. All of them refer to two types of disciples, the faithful and the unfaithful.
The parable of the two servants (24:45-51) illustrates the two attitudes that people during the Tribulation will have regarding Jesus’ return.
Esther, like Ruth, focuses upon a woman, a Jewish woman who under God’s sovereign hand became queen so that she could rescue her people. God’s people are in exile, taken into exile by the Babylonians. But in 539 B.C. the Medes and Persians defeated the Babylonians.
This book describes the most serious threat to the preservation of the Jewish race, equaled only by the Nazi holocaust.
Even though God is never mentioned in this book, He is clearly at work behind the scenes. So the most basic answer to how to survive is God, He protects us.
The events of the Book of Esther took place during the Persian period of ancient Near Eastern history (539–331 B.C.) and during the reign of King Ahasuerus (also called Xerxes I) in particular (486–464 B.C.). History portrays him as a lover of war, women and parties, and the book of Esther confirms this.
The first historical event to which the writer alluded seems to be Ahasuerus’ military planning session at which he plotted the strategy for his ill-fated campaign against Greece (1:3-21). The king held this planning session in the winter of 483–482 B.C.
The last recorded event in Esther is the institution of the Feast of Purim that took place in 473 B.C. Therefore the events recorded in the book span a period of about 9 or 10 years. Leon Wood wrote that the book “covers the third to the twelfth years of Zerxes’ rule (483-471; Esther 1:3; 3:7).”
Under the Persian rule, there were three specific returns of Jews to the land of Judah.
- The first was led by Zerubbabel and involved an initial rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem.
- The second was led by Ezra who promoted a revival among the people.
- The third was led by Nehemiah and involved the rebuilding of the defensive walls of Jerusalem.
This timeline shows you where Esther fits, in the timeline between Zerubbabel’s return and the building of the temple Ezra’s return to build up the people.
|List of the Kings of Persia from 550 BC to 330 BC|
|Persian Kings||Period of Reign (Approx)|
|Cyrus II “the Great”||550-529 BC|
|Cambyses II||529-522 BC|
|Darius I||522-486 BC|
|Xerxes I (Ahasuerus)||486-465 BC|
|Artaxerxes I||465-425 BC|
|Xerxes II||425-424 BC|
|Darius II||423-404 BC|
|Artaxerxes II||404-359 BC|
|Artaxerxes III||359-338 BC|
|Darius III||336-330 BC|
Here is Chuck Swindoll’s book chart of Esther…
Chapter 1 is the beauty pageant. The first step is that Queen Vashti is deposed. The king has a party (vv. 1-9), Vashti is deposed because of “lack of submission” (Esther 1:10-22).
The king gets drunk and orders his wife, Queen Vashti, to display her beauty for his guests (1:10-11). We don’t know the precise dangers of this request, but she refused, infuriating the king (1:10).
Now drunk and angry, he seeks advice. The reasoning is that other women might follow her rebellious example (1:17-18), therefore, she needs to be removed at once (1:19), so that all women will fear their husbands (1:20. The king agrees and Vashti is deposed (1:21-22).
Acts 24: The delivery of the prisoner Paul to Caesarea marked the beginning of a two-year imprisonment in that city. During this period he stated his case, and also the case for the Christian gospel, to two provincial governors and a king, fulfilling one aspect of the Lord’s prediction about his ministry (9:15).
In Acts 24, the high priest and some elders came to Caesarea to oppose Paul. First, they tried to butter up Felix (24:2-4) before laying out their case against Paul. He is a trouble-maker (v. 5) and profaner of the temple (v. 6), but you can examine him yourself (v. 7). The charge of trouble-making gave the impression that Paul was guilty of sedition against Rome.
Paul also complimented Felix (v. 10), then answered one charge by saying he hadn’t been around long enough to cause trouble (v. 11). In response to the third charge (v. 6), Paul replied that he had gone to Jerusalem “to worship” (v. 11). Paul rebutted the second (v. 14) charge of leading a cult (v. 5), by explaining that his beliefs harmonized with the teachings of the Hebrew Scriptures (“the Law and . . . the Prophets”). The real conflict between Paul and his accusers was religious in nature. He mentions the resurrection (v. 15) and comments on how it encourages him to keep a clean conscience (v. 16).
Paul then said that he had come to the temple, not to desecrate it, but to bring an offering for the people (vv. 17-18a) and that his original accusers were not even present (vv. 18b-19). There was no wrongdoing (v. 20) except that Paul had brought up the resurrection (v. 21).
Felix put off making a decision (v. 22) but gave Paul some freedom while he held him (v. 23). Paul finally had the opportunity to speak to Felix about the gospel (vv. 24-28).
“Drusilla” was the youngest daughter of Herod Agrippa I, who had been king over Palestine from A.D. 37-44. It was he who had authorized the death of James, the son of Zebedee (12:1-2), and had imprisoned Peter (12:3-11). Drusilla was Felix’s third wife, whom he had married when she was 16 years old. She was now (A.D. 57) 19. She had previously been the wife of Azizus, the king of Emesa, a state within Syria, but Felix broke up that marriage to get her. (William Barclay, Acts, p. 187)
Felix himself had been married twice before, to princesses, the first of which was the granddaughter of Anthony and Cleopatra. Felix used his marriages to advance his political career. The Herods were, of course, Idumeans, part Israelite and part Edomite. Drusilla eventually died when Mt. Vesuvius erupted, along with her child by Felix.
Something about Paul and or his gospel seems to have fascinated Felix. Someone commented that when Paul talked to Felix and Drusilla, enslaved royalty was addressing royal slaves.
Paul’s emphases in his interview with Felix and Drusilla were the same three things—that Jesus Christ had predicted the Holy Spirit would convict people about—that would bring them to faith. These things were: sin (“self-control”), “righteousness,” and “judgment” (John 16:8-11).
Felix and Drusilla were notoriously deficient in all three of these areas. It is not surprising that Felix became uneasy. He apparently was willing to discuss theology but not personal morality and responsibility. These subjects terrified him (Gr. emphobos).
Felix’s decision to postpone making a decision about his relationship to God is a common one. Often people put off this most important decision until they cannot make it. This is probably why most people who make decisions for Christ do so when they are young. Older people normally become hardened to the gospel. We do not know if Felix ever trusted in Christ; there is no evidence that he did.
The “two years” to which Luke referred were evidently the years of Paul’s detention in Caesarea. Felix’s superiors relieved him of his position, because he had handled a conflict in Caesarea too harshly, between the Jewish and Gentile residents, which resulted in the suffering and death of innocent people. Too many Jews had died or been mistreated.
His replacement, “Portius Festus,” served as procurator of Judea from A.D. 59 to 61. To appease the Jews, Felix “left Paul imprisoned.” The apostle had become a political pawn in the will of God.
It is quite likely that, if Luke was with Paul at this time, he used these two years to do some of the research he referred to at the beginning of his two-part work (i.e., Luke-Acts; cf. Luke 1:3; Acts 1:1). He may have even written his Gospel then, and some of Acts.