Today's Readings: Joshua 15 | Isaiah 20,21 | Philemon

Reading 1 - Jos 15

"Judah was the imperial tribe, and it was fitting that he should be planted in a conspicuous territory. Even if the republic had not been destined to give place to the monarchy, some preeminence was due to the tribe which had inherited the patriarchal blessing, and from which he was to come in whom all the families of the earth were to be blessed. Judah and the sons of Joseph seem to have obtained their settlements not only before the other tribes, but in a different manner. They did not obtain them by lot, but apparently by their own choice and by early possession. Judah was not planted in the heart of the country. That position was gained by Ephraim and Manasseh, the children of Joseph, while Judah obtained the southern section. In this position his influence was not so commanding at first as it would have been had he occupied the centre. The portion taken possession of by Judah had belonged to the first batch of kings that Joshua subdued, the kings that came up to take vengeance on the Gibeonites. What was first assigned to Judah was too large, and the tribe of Simeon got accommodation within his lot (Jos 19:9). Dan also obtained several cities that had first been given to Judah (compare Jos 15:21-62; 19:40-46). In point of fact, Judah ere long swallowed up a great part of Simeon and Dan, and Benjamin was so hemmed in between him and Ephraim that, while Jerusalem was situated within the limits of Benjamin, it was, for all practical purposes, a city of Judah" (Expositor's Bible).

Reading 2 - Isa 21

Isa 21 is a very difficult prophecy, but it appears to be about an especially significant Passover deliverance -- and this accords well with the great destruction of the Assyrian army (described in Isa 36; 37) which is at the heart of the whole prophecy.

"The twilight I longed for" (Isa 21:4), or "the night of my pleasure" (AV), looks like an allusion to Passover, the only holy observance kept at nighttime, and the time of the overthrow of Sennacherib's Assyrian army (Isa 31:5; 30:29; 29:1; 26:20; 33:20; 52:12).

In v 5, there are other Passover allusions: the setting of the tables, the eating and drinking. The command to "oil the shields" (or "anoint the shield": AV) MIGHT be translated, as does the Septuagint, "anoint the doorposts", referring to the smearing of the blood of the Lamb on the door frames of faithful Jews in Egypt (Exo 12:22). Likewise, the lookouts -- watching at night (vv 6,8) -- suggest the nighttime vigil of Passover: a waiting both for destruction of one's enemies, and for deliverance.

The word that finally comes, about the fall of "Babylon", could be a reference to the devastation of the Assyrian army outside Jerusalem -- because at the time of Hezekiah the two names, Assyria and Babylon, seem to have been used interchangeably for the same basic power (Assyria had previously conquered and controlled the city of Babylon, and Assyrian kings were quite proud of this accomplishment.)

So also, the called-out question of v 11, "Watchman, what is left of the night?", suggests a high anxiety in a time of distress: the Passover night of fear and death, culminating in the morning of deliverance (Isa 37:36).

Reading 3 - Philemon

"The little letter to Philemon introduces us to two men. One is the writer, an old man in chains. Contrary to all outward appearance and though in prison, he was really free. Once, in his youth, he thought he was free, but he was really in chains to the law of sin. But when Christ came into his life he threw away his chains. Then, though in bonds, his spirit was as free as the winds of heaven. He was free to rejoice, and he was at peace. The other man is Onesimus. As a runaway slave, he escaped in the hope of finding freedom. He learned that the world was not as he imagined. His experience of earthly freedom was bitter: Rome's streets were not gold, and the cobblestones were hard. Disillusioned, with empty pockets, in rags, he sought out the ecclesia in Rome. And where did he find true freedom? In the prison cell, from an old man in chains! He found help, sympathy, love and the Truth. From Paul the prisoner he found true freedom!" (Walter Draper)


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