Farewell, For a While, to Chronicles

I’ve had the personal goal for a while, a pretty nerdy and distinctly Old Testament one, of reading through the entire Old Testament (or Hebrew Bible) in its original languages. I began in 1998, at bible college in Queensland, Australia, when I took my first Hebrew subject. I expect to finish this year. I have about eight chapters to go – the final chapters of Ezekiel. I’m no high church guy, and I’m not deliriously excited to be about to read eight or nine chapters of temple dimensions, but amidst the detail I almost always find a gem or two, and I suppose this will be no different.

This morning, I finished 2 Chronicles.

Continue reading

An Attempt at a Master Diagram of Interesting Features of the Psalms

I’m not entirely happy with this yet, and in fact it isn’t complete, but it’s at a stage of “proof of concept”. It’s a master diagram of Psalms in Prezi arranged like one of those broken-up-world globe map projections:

Psalms Master Prezi Screenshot

For those interested in technical production details, I produced the world template in one Inkscape document and the coloured content in another. Inkscape is a free, open-source vector graphics program. But Prezi doesn’t recognise the normal vector graphics (SVG) format, so I had to open the finished product in Adobe Illustrator (very new for me, and maybe not permanent, though a better-known vector graphics program, probably the best-known of all). Then I exported it in Adobe Flash format (SWF), which Prezi recognizes, and opened the file from within a new prezi, adding nothing else bar the title. The convoluted process is thanks to Inkscape’s usefulness as a graphics editor, whereas Prezi is very limited that way, and the fact that vector graphics do not lose resolution no matter how far you zoom into them, and are ideally suited to a zooming interface like Prezi.

But, if the result doesn’t help anyone comprehend (in this case) Psalms, all the playing around is in vain. So critical feedback is welcome!

A Sermon on Music in Worship: “Worshipping in Song”

Some of this is more suggestive than detailed text, but it will give you some idea of what I spoke about at my home church, Kilsyth South Baptist Church in eastern Melbourne, this morning.

I feel I need to add a caveat. Speaking in church about worship is a bit like speaking in church about prayer. You’re normally going to have a sense of your own shortcomings in the same area. Certainly true for me on this occasion!

The link for the prezi online is: https://prezi.com/czzhib-lcf3_/worshipping-in-song/

If you’d like a downloaded form, the pdf may be found at http://1drv.ms/1e8GR9V. Here’s the embedded form:

I haven’t forgotten the creation book series…more to come on that.

The Analytics Trap

One million hits on the blog, and #1000 in the Amazon sales ranking!!

That would be nice, wouldn’t it?

Actually, this little blog has had its 1000th view, and the sales ranking for my book just passed through #1 million, going the wrong way!

I remember a colleague at my teaching college, Melbourne School of Theology, saying that she had posted something on FaceBook, and then found herself checking back to see how many ‘likes’ she had received for it. Maybe you’ve done that too. Maybe I have, if I’m honest, checked the analytics for this blog more than once or twice, to see whether anyone reads what I’ve spent hours writing. Perhaps you have too, if you have a blog or other social media presence. Continue reading

Tentative Thoughts on the Rationale of 1 Chronicles

Wow! How about that book of 1 Chronicles!!!

That’s something I don’t hear very often. Ever.

I’ve just about finished reading it in the Hebrew. More names than you can shake a stick at (is that an Australian expression?), and great for practising your Hebrew numbers, Hebrew students! 1 Chronicles 24-25 will make sure you know all your numbers from 1-24, and there are lots of other places where your numbers in the hundreds and thousands will be tested. Continue reading

A Judgment Seat Reference in Nehemiah?

I’m throwing something out there. Biblical commentators have some trouble with Nehemiah 3:7, which falls within that passage describing who worked on rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem in Nehemiah’s day:

Adjacent to them worked Melatiah the Gibeonite and Jadon the Meronothite, who were men of Gibeon and Mizpah. These towns were under the jurisdiction of the governor of Trans-Euphrates. (NET Bible)

The NET Bible translation note tells us that “under the jurisdiction” is literally “to the seat” in the Hebrew. The wording of the last part of the verse, including ‘Mizpah’, is ‘וְהַמִּצְפָּה לְכִסֵּא פַּחַת עֵבֶר הַנָּהָר’. It is usually interpreted somewhat abstractly, as a reference to Mizpah being the nearest provincial capital within the Persian administration of the region. This makes sense in itself, since the town of Mizpah was a centre of governance from Babylonian times (Jer 40:6).

But it does not constitute an easy translation of the verse. Let me show you a picture and suggest an alternative.

Judgment seat at Tel Dan

The Judgment Seat at the City Gate at Dan (far northern Israel)


I have seen a picture somewhere of a much higher seat, built into a city wall, but I can’t find it right now, so this will have to do.

I just wonder whether ‘kissēʾ‘ (‘seat’) here might be meant literally, not as a reference to Mizpah as the administrative centre, but denoting that part of Jerusalem’s wall that had such a facility for judgment and decree-making, for the use of the Persian administrator of the province of Aber-Naharaim, which covered Yehud (post-exilic Judah) when he happened to be in town. (Perhaps the preceding word, ‘hammiṣpâ‘, normally the name of the town, is being used in its general sense as an elevated place or ‘look-out’ here? It’s a long shot, perhaps.* Comments?)

The whole situation of the wall reconstruction was quite politically sensitive. It was important that the rebuilders remained clearly within the approved boundaries of Artaxerxes mandate to Nehemiah for the rebuilding. Even the (quite necessary) incorporation of a formal place of judgment and decree into the rebuilt Jerusalem would have expressed the returned exiles’ willingness to co-operate with the Persian administration, helping avoid the charge of “rebelling against the king” (Neh 2:19)


* On the Hebrew grammar concerning the town name Mizpah, ‘hammiṣpâ‘, it is interesting that many occurrences of this name feature the definite article, which is unusual for proper nouns in Hebrew, which don’t require the article but are inherently definite. In fact, Gesenius’ grammar (#125.1.a-d) makes it a rule that proper nouns do not have the article unless something has gone wrong. But most of the 49 occurrences of the name in the OT do have the article! Perhaps it was a carry-over from the time when it was a kind of geographical reference – “the watchtower” – and the article simply stuck. An analogy would be a suburb in Melbourne near where I live: ‘The Basin’.