Month: January 2014

Counting publications and soldiers

I was working on my CV today (I’m not applying for jobs, I just update it regularly), and I decided to count up my publications by category (books, articles, dictionary articles, book reviews). As the number grew, I suddenly thought, “Perhaps this isn’t a good thing for me spiritually…


Then I thought of David and the census. I’ve been thinking about David and the Israelite monarchy a lot lately since last week I was at Logos Bible Software taping courses on 1, 2 Kings and 1, 2 Samuel. The book of 2 Samuel ends with a bizarre story where YHWH is angry at his people so he incited David to count the people (2 Sam. 24:1-17).

1 Again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, “Go, number Israel and Judah.” 2 So the king said to Joab, the commander of the army, who was with him, “Go through all the tribes of Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, and number the people, that I may know the number of the people.” 3 But Joab said to the king, “May the LORD your God add to the people a hundred times as many as they are, while the eyes of my lord the king still see it, but why does my lord the king delight in this thing?” (2 Sam. 24:1-3)

In Chronicles it was Satan who incited David to count the people (1 Chron. 21:1). Did the biblical authors sometimes get confused between God and Satan? That’s not something you want to mix up.

The text of 2 Samuel 24 isn’t exactly clear what’s wrong with counting the people. After all, the book of Numbers does a lot of counting (hence the catchy title). But Joab clearly knows David shouldn’t do it.  For David, it seems to be related to pride in the size and strength of his military.

Gideon, after all, had too many soldiers and had to whittle down his army to 300 which was still ample to defeat the Midianites (Judg. 7) since it was YHWH that was fighting for Israel. Just as Gideon needed to depend upon YHWH and not the size of his military, David should do the same. By counting the people under his control, David would know how large his forces would be. He would then be tempted to rely on his enormous standing army for victory in battle, and not on the God who had delivered him from Goliath, the Philistine giant (1 Sam. 17).

Tragically, for David the divine punishment was severe upon the people. But why did YHWH punish them, for something David did that he provoked David to do? Great question–any thoughts?

For me counting publications, book sales or speaking requests can lead to pride, arrogance and a lack of dependence upon the God who’s given me my gifts, experiences and abilities.  As an act of penance, I decided to write a blog about the topic.

Next time I feel like counting, I’ll count my blessings.  I may even name them one by one.

How do we “take a census” today? Why is census-taking unhelpful spiritually?

Logos Bible Software (Jan 13-17)

On Sunday, I fly to Seattle, then drive up to Bellingham, where I’ll tape two courses for Logos Bible Software.

When I was invited to write a commentary for Zondervan a few years ago, I had to choose between 1, 2 Samuel and 1, 2 Kings, but Logos is letting me do both. Two and half days taping Samuel and two and half days taping Kings. Each course will be about 6 hours long.

Logos has set up an online curriculum they are calling Mobile Ed, to take unaccredited courses on your computer, your tablet or your smart phone (your smart phone, I still don’t have one).

They have invited some of the worlds best Bible teachers (and a few others of us) to come and tape courses.  Here you can see a list of the faculty.

I love to teach the Bible interactively.  I ask a lot of questions and provoke people to think, to engage, to discuss. I don’t think that’s going to work as well while I’m speaking to a camera.

I have 70 pages of single-spaced notes for Kings and 60 pages of single-spaced notes for Samuel.  It’s been a lot of work, but I’m having a great time studying the text of these two books. After a masters thesis on Samuel and a doctoral dissertation on Kings, I’m still seeing new things in these two gems.

I’ll be including many of my 15 blogs on Samuel (click here) and my 6 blogs on Kings (click here).

I hope you get a chance to enjoy the course.  I’ll let you know when it becomes available.


I biked to work today. It was 7 degrees.

snowmanbikeI biked to work today. It was 7 degrees outside (Fahrenheit).  Why did I do it?  (No, that’s not me in the picture.)

1) Was the car was in the shop? Nope. That’s happening tomorrow.

2) Was it a way to turn the clock back 40 years to when I was 12 and delivered the Des Moines Register at 5:30 am even when it was 7 degrees or colder? Nope. I have no nostalgia about those days.

3) Was it because I like adventure? No, but I do like adventure. There wasn’t enough ice on the roads to make it exciting.

4) Was it because I’m a masochist? No, but you’re getting warmer.

Two reasons.

1) I connect to God through nature. Not just when it’s beautiful and sunny (like it was for those 7 days we were in California, visiting family and friends over Christmas–high 70’s, never saw a cloud). When I go outside in extreme weather, I’m humbled and reminded of my frailty. Going outside during an arctic vortex reminds me that I’m weak and God is strong. I’m small, he’s big.

2) I want to defame the god of comfort. Our culture is too focused on comfort and ease. Escalators, elevators, cars with heated seats.  It’s good to be uncomfortable occasionally.  It can remind us in the West that what we take for granted, much of the world goes without.  To save energy during this extreme weather, we’ve been setting our heat down to 60 at night and in the low 60’s during the day.

I enjoyed my 10 minutes in sub-freezing temps (my ride is only 5 minutes each way).  But when I went back to the office after lunch, I drove.  It was too cold to bike.