Friday, October 4

2 Corinthians 10:1-11: We come now to the lengthy self-defense for which it is arguable this epistle is most remembered. If Paul had inappropriate partisans at Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:12-13), so he had his critics, and now he will proceed to answer them.

He begins with irony, perhaps even sarcasm, apparently referring to those who think him humble only in his personal presence but overly bold as a writer (verses 1,10). His critics regard him as sinful (“walk according to the flesh”) in this respect (verse 2).

Paul admits to fleshly limitations (verse 3), an admission earlier conceded in his image of the clay vessels (4:7) and later described as a thorn in the flesh (12:7). Being “in the flesh,” however, is no worse than being “in the world” (1:12). It is simply the human condition of frailty.

Paul shifts his metaphor from walking to warring (verse 3) (or from the Odyssey to the Iliad, as it were—from life as journey to life as struggle). Combat is the more appropriate metaphor for what Paul has to say (verses 4-6). If no evil forces were arrayed against us, walking might be an adequate metaphor for life, but this is not the case.

The real enemy is intellectual arrogance, a trait Paul addressed at depth in First Corinthians. This intellectual arrogance is what renders impossible the true “knowledge of God” (verse 5; 2:14; 5:6). Hence, a person’s first obedience to Christ is an obedience of the mind. The context of this point is Paul’s authority as an apostle, an authority on which he is prepared to elaborate at some length in the rest of the epistle (verses 7-8). To prepare for this elaboration, Paul devotes the second half of this chapter to a consideration of true and false boasting (verses 12-18). This section sets up the remaining chapters of this book.

1 Chronicles 11: The Chronicler greatly abbreviates the lengthy, difficult, and complicated story of David’s gaining control over all thee tribes. We note that the material in the first four chapters of 2 Samuel is simply missing. There is no mention of the brief reign of Ishbosheth, the crisis of Abner, the subsequent negotiations, or Joab’s hand in Abner’s death. Instead, the story skips immediately to the gathering of the tribes at Hebron (David’s first capital) to make David the king. There is no suggestion that Israel was politically divided between north and south (a division that would reappear at Solomon’s death in 922). Indeed, in place of “all the tribes of Israel” in 2 Samuel 5:1, we now have simply “all Israel” in verse 1. That is to say, the nation is completely united; even the tribal distinctions are lost. Thus Jerusalem is captured by “David and all Israel” (verse 4).

Having thus described David’s rise to power and the taking of Jerusalem in a bare nine verses of narrative, the Chronicler returns to what we have begun to suspect he does best—he provides more lists of names! This time, however, the lists are in large part derived from 2 Samuel 23:8-39.

Saturday, October 5

2 Corinthians 10:12—11:4: Paul starts this section with obvious irony (verse 12), which one scholar translates as “Well, I really cannot muster the courage to pair myself [enkrinai] or compare myself [synkrinai] with certain persons who are distinguished by much self-commendation [synistano--3:1; 4:2; 5:12; 10:12,18; 12:11].” Unlike these persons, nonetheless, Paul has special claims on the Corinthians as the founder of their congregation (verse 14; 1 Corinthians 3:6,10).

Paul takes up his self-defense against the criticisms of certain roaming preachers who have stirred up controversy at Corinth since his last visit to the place. From Acts and 1 Corinthians we know that Apollos and Cephas had done some evangelization in the city, but it is clear that Paul does not have these men in mind. It is impossible to determine who his critics were.

Was Paul accused of jealousy with respect to those critics? Evidently so, but he explains the motive, nature, and justice of this jealous (verse 2). This jealousy is for Christ, not himself; it is an expression of loving pastoral concern, for he fears the spiritual seduction of the Corinthians (verse 3). After all, the latter have shown themselves disposed to receive and accept new versions of the Good News (verse 4), preached by these itinerant evangelists whom he mockingly calls “hyper-apostles” (verse 5; 12:11) and, more seriously, “false apostles” (verse 13).

1 Chronicles 12: What we have at the end of 1 Chronicles 11 and here through Chapter 12 are similar lists of outstanding famous warriors who threw in their lot with David. They are drawn, as we can see, from among the cream of their own tribes, Benjamin (verses 1-7), Gad (verses 8-15), Manasseh (verses 19-22), and so on. This attention to the individual tribes represented in David’s band helps to emphasize that David was the choice of “all Israel.”

Because they came to David from Saul’s own tribe, the warriors of Benjamin are mentioned first (verses 1-7). In fact, when the other tribes eventually rebel against the House of David in 922 (an event the Chronicler will not honor with so much as mention), the tribe of Benjamin remained loyal. In the present text, attention is given to the very specialized and ambidextrous skills of the Benjaminites.

The warriors of Gad (verses 8-15), who may have joined David during his sojourn at Engedi (1 Samuel 24:1), had the “faces of lions,” an expression that probably means they looked fierce to their opponents. It was not all show, however, because these warriors, in addition to their speed, were accomplished swimmers, able to cross the cold, swollen waters of the Jordan at flood stage.

All these men came to strengthen the army of David and to secure his throne over all Israel (verse 38). This union of all the tribes remained for the Chronicler an ideal that King Hezekiah would later attempt to restore (2 Chronicles 30—31).

In the midst of this impressive list, and in order to make him the representative of the whole lot, “the Spirit of the Lord came upon Amisai, chief of the thirty” (verse 18). “We are yours, O David” expresses the enthusiasm of the whole kingdom.

Sunday, October 6

2 Corinthians 11:5-21: It appears that Paul’s humble demeanor at Corinth, where he was supported by his own labor (Acts 18:3; 1 Corinthians 4:12; 9:18) and the financial support received from Macedonia (verse 9; Philippians 2:25; 4:10-20), made him the object of derision among his critics (verse 7). This suggests that Paul’s critics at Corinth may have enjoyed a higher social status, even as they accepted the support of the Corinthians. Since Paul did, in fact, accept support from other churches, it would seem that he had early sized up the spirit of the Corinthians and concluded that to accept their support would not be prudent in this case. Sometimes, after all, financial support comes with certain undisclosed obligations that will eventually render the recipient a debtor.

Paul’s language concerning his critics contains some of the harshest expressions to come from his pen. He commences his autobiographical apologetic, recounting at length the various sufferings and trials attendant on his ministry, aware that his readers may regard his comments only as an exercise in foolishness (verse 16).

With sarcasm Paul comments that the Corinthians are already accustomed to tolerate foolishness, themselves being so wise (verse 19; 1 Corinthians 4:10). Their tolerance is so great that they have already been outrageously treated by the false itinerant teachers (verse 20). Their enslavement (katadouloi) at the hands of these teachers puts us in mind of the earlier situation in Galatia, where “false brothers” brought free Christians back under the slavery of the Law (katadoulousin–Galatians 2:4). The Corinthians have been similarly mistreated!

1 Chronicles 13: In 2 Samuel 5:11-25 David first builds his own house and does combat against the Philistines, before beginning to make Jerusalem the religious center of the kingdom. The Chronicler, however, more interested in theological principle than in historical sequence, postpones that narrative in order to concentrate on Jerusalem’s theological importance. He first tells the story of David’s attempt to bring the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem.

Since the destruction of the ancient shrine at Shiloh, when Samuel was but a child, the Ark had apparently been a bit neglected (verse 3). As a religious and historical symbol, however, it was an object without peer in Israel’s experience. It evoked Moses and the Exodus and the Covenant and a thousand things in Israel’s deepest memory. David, then, was anxious to secure it for his new capital.

In this chapter the author begins an implicit contrast of David with Saul. Whereas the Ark had been little consulted in Saul’s time (verse 3), David will consult it. Perhaps this is why Michal, Saul’s daughter, will scoff at David’s devout treatment of the Ark (15:29).

Twice in the next chapter we will find David consulting the oracle at the Ark of the Covenant. Unlike Saul, who “also consulted a medium, seeking guidance, and did not seek guidance of the Lord” (10:13-14), David will be guided only by God’s revelation of His will. The Chronicler returns to this theme in the following chapter.

Monday, October 7

2 Corinthians 11:22-33: It becomes clear that Paul’s opponents are Jews, but so is he (verse 22; Philippians 3:5). They claim to be servants of Christ, but Paul’s credentials are stronger and more credible, and he proceeds to list them. Not only has he been beaten and imprisoned (Acts 16:22-23); he has also often been in danger of death (verse 23. Paul’s list here contains some details not found in the Acts of the Apostles. From the latter work we would not have suspected, for instance, that Paul had already suffered shipwreck three times (verse 25) prior to the occasion described in Acts 27.

Eight times Paul speaks of “dangers” (verse 26) to describe the circumstances of his many travels. The culminating danger is that of betrayal by “false brothers” (cf. Galatians 2:4), a term that may include the critics he is answering.

All of these things have been endured in the context of Paul’s tireless ministry to the churches, a source of constant inner solicitude (verse 28). Inwardly identified with the plight of these churches, Paul suffers all that they suffer (verse 29; 1 Corinthians 9:19-23).

This mention of weakness (verse 29) brings the Apostle more directly to his theme—namely, power made perfect in weakness (verse 30). He recalls the humiliation and indignities endured throughout his ministry, beginning with his narrow escape while being lowered over a city wall in a basket (verses 31-33; Acts 9:23-25). Hardly any man is weaker or more dependent (with apologies for the pun) than a man being lowered in a basket.

To this day, the place where Paul was lowered from the wall is clearly marked at Damascus. Two years ago, on a visit that marvelous and oldest extant city in the world, I was blessed to take note of it.

1 Chronicles 14: The three months’ delay in the execution of David’s plan (13:14) now permits the author to treat of the geopolitical matters contained in 2 Samuel 5, which he had earlier postponed. From a literary perspective this arrangement allows the author, not only to state explicitly that a certain time period elapsed between David’s two attempts to introduce the Ark into Jerusalem, but also to “fill in” those three months with other activity that suggests the passage of time.

The narrative thus provides the chief character, David, some breathing space, as it were, some opportunity, while engaged in other business, to reflect on the tragedy contained in the preceding chapter. Hence, when the Chronicler again turns our attention to the Ark in the next chapter, we find David gifted with a new and important insight about the meaning of that tragedy (15:12-13).

The reference to David’s multiple wives (verse 3) is the one place in Chronicles which may reflect badly on the king, but even here the author omits the reference to David’s concubines in 2 Samuel 5:13. Although he also excises David’s adulterous affair with Bathsheba, he does here include a reference to Solomon, Bathsheba’s son (verse 4). Given the importance of Solomon to this whole history, the Chronicler could hardly fail to take note of him!

Tuesday, October 8

2 Corinthians 12:1-10: The variant readings in the manuscripts for verse 1 testify to the difficulties felt by many copyists, over the centuries, when they came to the beginning of this verse. Those difficulties admitted, the correct sense seems to be: “Though it serves no good purpose, further boasting is necessary.”

Paul mentions the spiritual revelations of which he has been the recipient, even in mystical rapture (verse 2). These experiences surely included the direct revelation that he received from the risen Jesus (1 Corinthians 9:1; 15:8; Galatians 1:16), also recorded by St. Luke (Acts 9:4-6; 22:6-8; 26:13-18). Speaking of an especially lofty experience fourteen years earlier, Paul’s sense of reserve prompts him to shift to the grammatical third person, as though he were speaking of someone else.

These spiritual revelations strengthened Paul in the apostolic ministry (Acts 18:9-10), and he would soon receive another one (22:17-22).

The mysterious character of such revelations is conveyed by Paul’s ironic expression “unspeakable sayings” (arreta remata–verse 4). The sheer ineffability of these experiences is mirrored in the irony with which Paul speaks of them. Thus, he is unable to say whether or not he was still in his body during the occurrence. Indeed, it is almost as though they had happened to someone else, a person distinct from powerless, frail Paul (verse 5).

The Apostle breaks off speaking of himself in this regard, lest his readers entertain too high a view of him. Such experiences, after all, had to do with his relationship to Christ, not his relationship to the Corinthians, as he had reminded them earlier (5:13).

Moreover, the Lord had taken care to humble Paul, so that he would not take personal satisfaction in those lofty flights of the soul (verse 7). His human weakness—“in the flesh”—was afflicted by a skolops, a torturing thorn, which he further describes as a satanic messenger that pounded the Apostle with closed fist (kolaphize). A comparison with Job, bodily afflicted by Satan with God’s permission, comes naturally to the mind of the student of the Bible, and perhaps Paul had something like this in mind.

Paul’s description indicates a bodily ailment of some severity—perhaps epilepsy, a diagnosis suggested by comparing this text to the description of the little boy in Mark 9:20. Whatever it was, nonetheless, this repeated or sustained experience is so humbling to Paul that he prays for its removal (verse 8). Indeed, like our Lord in the Garden of Gethsemani (Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42), Paul prays three times that it will be removed.

Like Jesus’ prayer in the Garden, furthermore, Paul’s prayer, when God heard it, was rewarded with more than it sought (cf. Hebrews 5:7-10). Through this painful experience, and the prayer prompted by this experience, Paul discerned the working of divine grace in his life; he learned that his weakness was the locus and occasion in which the power of the risen Christ—“the Lord” (verse 8)—was revealed. He was instructed by this experience; it taught him, in his very flesh, that divine power is rendered perfect in infirmity (verse 9).

This experience, transformed in prayer, provided Paul with a sustained and renewing paradigm for all his life in Christ, an interpretive key capable of opening many doors otherwise closed. He found that it had sustained him in every sort of suffering and misfortune (verse 10). Through this insight “the power of Christ” (he dynamis tou Christou) was active in his life and ministry. In his weakness he was strong.

Wednesday, October 9

2 Corinthians 12:11-21: In the second half of this chapter Paul finishes his self-defense and expresses his ongoing concern for the spiritual state of the Corinthians. He seems hesitant and perhaps embarrassed by the lengthy glimpse into his soul that he has just shared with his readers.

Nonetheless, he calls on the Corinthians to remember that his presence among them demonstrated the marks of authentic apostleship (verse 12). These marks included miracles. Indeed, theologians have recognized in this verse the essential features of an authentic miracle. First, it testifies to God’s omnipotence (dynamis). Second, it is a “wonder,” an act beyond ordinary expectation (teras). Third, it serves as a revelatory “sign” (semeion. Only here and in Romans 15:18-19 does Paul ever speak of miracles associated with his ministry, though Luke describes some of them in the Acts of the Apostles. We should observe that Paul did not include these miracles in his “boasting.”

Again employing sarcasm, Paul asks the Corinthians to pardon him for not being burdensome to them. Unlike the other churches in his ministry, they had not been obliged to support him (verse 13; 11:7-12).

Perhaps the most notable feature of verse 14 is Paul’s parental attitude toward his converts at Corinth. This parental aspect of the Christian ministry is what has prompted most Christians, over the centuries, to address their pastors as “Father” (1 Corinthians 4:15; 1 Thessalonians 2:11).

Even in his self-defense Paul has not been self-seeking. All has been done, even his “boasting,” for the sake of the flock at Corinth (verse 19). Still, the Apostle fears that his coming third visit to Corinth may not go well (verse 20). It seems clear that, in Paul’s mind, not everyone at Corinth has repented of the sexual sins that caused all the trouble in the first place (verse 21; 1 Corinthians 5:1-11; 6:12-20).

1 Chronicles 16: The psalms appointed for this inaugural celebration of the Ark, sometimes referred to in modern scholarship as “The Enthronement of the Lord,” correspond very closely to texts contained in the Book of Psalms. Thus, verses 8-22 are substantially identical to Psalm 104 (105):1-15, verses 23-34 to Psalm 95 (96):1-13, and verses 35-36 to Psalm 105 (106):47-48.

Indeed, verse 36 corresponds to the closing verse of Book 4 of the Psalter. If we were to take that verse apart from that context, forgetting its earlier history in the Book of Psalms, we would imagine that the Babylonian Exile preceded the reign of Solomon!

The title of Psalm 95 (96), which ascribes its composition to David himself, records that it was also used at the dedication of the Second Temple “after the Captivity.” The Chronicler appreciated the significance of its also having been sung at the Ark’s first appearance in Jerusalem more than a half-millennium earlier.

In verse 4 we observe three kinds of prayer: invocation, thanksgiving, and praise.

Thursday, October 10

2 Corinthians 13:1-14: Throughout this letter Paul has played the theme of power made perfect in infirmity, a truth manifest in the condition and circumstances of his own life. The grasping of this truth is what prompted the Apostle, as he reflected on his ministry, to assume the extraordinary autobiographical style characteristic of this epistle.

Through this sustained experience of power made perfect in infirmity Paul learned, on his own pulses, the mystery of the Cross, and in the present reading he proclaims this mystery explicitly. The weakness in question is the weakness of Christ’s sufferings and death: “He was crucified in weakness.” The power in question is the power of Christ’s Resurrection: “He certainly lives by the power of God.” To live in Christ, therefore, is to test and live out the experience of that truth: “For although we are weak in Him, we shall certainly live with Him, with respect to you [eis hymas], by the power of God” (verse 4). When Paul appears again before the Corinthians, he may seem weak to them, but they will experience in him the power of Christ (verse 3).

However, rather than simply wait for this godly disclosure, the Corinthians should meanwhile put themselves to the test. They should examine the evidence in their own lives to discern whether they are really believers, whether Christ is truly among them (verse 5). Paul is not anxious about what other think of him; he is concerned, rather, with the spiritual health of his readers at Corinth (verse 7).

In verse 11 all the imperative verbs are in the present tense, the tense that in Greek signifies repeated or continuous action. That is to say, this is an exhortation to sustained effort with respect to moral renewal and the cultivation of the common Christian life. This is the only verse in Holy Scripture that contains the expression “the God of love.”

1 Chronicles 17: In the view of the Chronicler, the Temple was supremely David’s idea. Whereas in 1 Kings its construction is ascribed to Solomon as the fulfillment of a prophecy made to David, in Chronicles Solomon’s role is reduced to carrying out David’s own detailed plans.

This view of David’s place in the planning of the Temple was fixed in Israel’s memory by the insertion of Psalm 131 (132) near the end of the Psalms of Ascent, that section of the Psalter (Psalms 119—133 [120—134]) chanted by the pilgrims as they climbed Mount Zion to worship in the Temple on the high holy days. In this Psalm they called to mind how the construction of God’s house had been David’s idea. Indeed, Solomon is not so much as named in this psalm. Thus, there is a close historical link between this psalm and the theology of the Chronicler.

Friday, October 11

1 Chronicles 18: These next three chapters are devoted to David’s military campaigns. First comes a mention of his conquest of the Philistines (verse 1), already narrated in detail in 14:9-16. Next are the Moabites (verse 2), whose defeat is told here less graphically than in 1 Samuel 22:3. Moving north, David defeats the Zobahites (verse 3) and the Syrians (verse 5). Subjecting all of these nations to his authority, David really did rule eastward to the Euphrates.

Much of this material, with variations, was available to the Chronicler from 2 Samuel 18:1-14, but not the detail about the bronze shields from Syria. It is entirely consistent with the Chronicler’s interest in Israel’s worship that he should write of Solomon’s use of this bronze in the appointments of the Temple (verse 8).

Turning south, David conquered the Edomites (verses 12-13), gaining thereby a port on the Gulf of Aquba, opening on to the Red Sea and beyond. In due course Solomon will exploit that seaway for vast commercial ventures.

With respect to the slaying of all those Edomites in verse 12, it must be said that several men seem to have been credited with the feat. Here it is ascribed to Abishai, whereas in Psalms 60 (59):1 it is said of Joab, and in 2 Samuel 8:13 David gets the credit.

With respect to David’s “court” three items are worth mentioning: First, the “Shavsha” who serves as secretary in verse 16 is called “Seriah” in 2 Samuel and “Seisan” by Josephus. Second, the Cerethites and Pelethites in verse 17 are mercenaries in David’s employ. The Cerethites are Cretans, and Pelethites is another name for Philistines.

Third, with respect to David’s sons, whom that same verse calls “chief officials in the service of the king,” there is also some confusion. 2 Samuel 8:18 says they were “priests,” while Josephus (Antiquities 7.5.4) makes them “bodyguards.” Perhaps various of them functioned in various ways at various times, though it is difficult to understand how they could have been priests, since they were of the tribe of Judah, “of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood” (Hebrews 7:14). It may also be the case, one suspects, that the biblical writers simply never could agree on just what David sons might be good for. Indeed, eventually David had to appoint two other men just to keep an eye on them (27:32).