Old Testament

Applying the Book of Kings

I need your help.

Help figuring out how to apply the book of Kings.

I’ve been working hard this summer on a commentary on 1, 2 Kings for the Story of God series for Zondervan.  After writing all day, I haven’t really felt like writing a blog at the end of the day, so I’ve only made a few posts this summer.  But this post may help me write the rest of the book.

This project is a big one–200,000 words on the book of Kings–which will by far the longest book I’ve written.  A couple of years ago I had three book contracts, but had made very little progress on any of them so I was losing a lot of sleep.  “How am I going to finish?”

But after having completed two of them (Prostitutes and Polygamists / The Historical Writings), the end is in sight.  I’m supposed to finish this commentary by next summer (I already asked for a 1 year extension).

I’ve finished the Solomon narrative (1 Kings 1-11), and have finally moved into the section on the divided monarchy.

At the end of each chapter, I need to reflect on how to apply these stories to our contemporary contexts.  This is where you come in.  If you read or teach the Bible, particularly the book of Kings (I refer to it as one book, since the division into two parts came later), I’d love to hear some of the ways you apply it.

What do you do with the prophetic stories of Elijah or Elisha?
What can we learn from Ahab, Jezebel, Athaliah, or Manasseh?
How do you apply the wild story of Micaiah in 1 Kings 22?
What do we do with the massive bloodshed caused by righteous Jehu (2 Kings 9-10)?
How can we reform our ministries and churches like Hezekiah or Josiah?

Share your thoughts on this blog, on Facebook, or email me directly at dlamb@biblical.edu.



The Historical Writings

“It sets the standard for a new generation of introductions to the Bible.”

This endorsement comes from Mark Boda (McMaster Divinity College) about The Historical Writings: Introducing Israel’s Historical Literature, which has just been released by Fortress Press, co-written by Mark Leuchter and myself.

My fourth book, not as academic as my dissertation, but more academic than God Behaving Badly, or Prostitutes and Polygamists.

Here is how it begins,

“The historical books of the Bible contain some of the best known stories of Scripture. Rahab the prostitute from Jericho helped the Israelite spies, providing vital insider information on the state of the nation (Joshua 2, 6).  Gideon the judge from Manasseh defeated the massive army of Midian with only three hundred men armed with trumpets, jars, and torches (Judges 7).  David the shepherd from Bethlehem nailed the Philistine giant Goliath in the noggin with his slingshot and chopped off his head with the giant’s own sword (1 Samuel 16).  Elijah the prophet from Gilead talked trash with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel before his drenched altar was scorched by a flame sent by YHWH (1 Kings 18).  Nehemiah the cupbearer from Susa was granted leave by King Artaxerxes of Persia to return and rebuild the wall around Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2). Manasseh the king from Judah, whose idolatry was legendary, prayed and repented from his Babylonian prison and was restored to his throne in Jerusalem.”

Then we give an overview of the less familiar and more disturbing stories, the conquest/genocide of Canaan (Joshua 6-12), the rape of the Levite’s concubine (Judges 19), the cursing and hair-pulling of his country-men by Nehemiah (Nehemiah 13).  How is one to understand these stories?  There there are many ways, but we’d recommend reading, The Historical Writings.

Mark and I wrote the introduction together.  I wrote the chapters on Joshua, Judges and 1, 2 Kings. Mark wrote the chapters on 1, 2 Samuel, Ezra-Nehemiah, and 1, 2 Chronicles.  It was a new experience to co-write a book, but Mark’s a good friend and we complement each other well.

Since it is a textbook, we were able to include a lot of extra stuff (which also makes it a bit more expensive that my last two books, $49 currently on Amazon).

There are 81 maps and images.   Art by Tissot, Poussin, Rembrandt, and many others. Images of the Merneptah stele, the Amarna letters, the Cyrus Cylinder, and many others.

There are 85 sidebars, including “The Sacrifice of Jephthah’s Daughter” and “‘Satan’ as a Cosmic Figure.”

There are 30 tables.  My two favorites are “External References to Rulers of Israel and Judah” (19 extra-biblical sources including the Kurkh Monolith, the Mesha Stele, the Black Obelisk–on the cover of Righteous Jehu) and “Seals Mentioning Names of Biblical Characters” (29 names including Jezebel, Hezekiah, Manasseh, and Jehoahaz).

The cover image is of the Tel Dan Stele which contains what most scholars consider to be the oldest reference to King David.  The letters highlighted in white on the lower right (see image here for more details) read “house of David.”  Reading from the right of the white letters, the fourth and sixth characters look like the Greek delta (triangle-shaped), that’s how the Hebrew/Aramaic letter dalet–the first and last letters of David’s name–were written at that point in time.

So, technically, there are two Davids mentioned on the cover, an author, and a king.

Pastor Jimenez and Father Abraham

abraham-sodom-300x243Baptist pastor named Roger Jimenez in Sacramento has been making headlines for preaching that the 49 people who died at the gay club in Orlando deserved it.  Somehow a pastor in California has taken a horrific tragedy, the worst mass shooting in US history and made it worse.

I have many problems with his offensive message, but here I will only mention four points (keep reading after #1).  He apparently based part of his sermon on Romans, so I’ll focus my comments there before jumping to Genesis.

First, according to the apostle Paul, “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23) so, biblically one could agree with Pastor Jimenez that the people killed in Orlando deserved to die.  But this is not Paul’s main point, or where his message ends.

Second, Paul also said “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23), so we should add Pastor Jimenez, and Dave Lamb to the list of people who deserve death (and all the readers of this blog).  His sermon went viral, but it would have been more biblical if he included himself and everyone in his congregation in his list of people who deserve death.

Third, when Paul talked about the wages of sin as resulting in death, he also spoke of the free gift of God through Jesus (Rom. 6:23).  I haven’t listened to all of Pastor Jimenez’s sermon, but at least as his message and his subsequent comments are being reported in the press, he doesn’t mention anything about God’s grace, which again would have made his message more biblical.  Preachers shouldn’t conclude by saying sinners, like us, deserve death, but they need to get to the good news about God’s grace.

Fourth, father Abraham* instead of condemning the wicked residents of Sodom to death, actually risked his life in prayer for them, asking God to show mercy to the Sodomites (Gen 18:16-33).  I discuss Abraham’s prayer, the Bible’s attitude toward homosexuality, and what really was the sin of Sodom in more depth in Prostitutes and Polygamists in my chapter on homosexuality (pages 161-183), so I won’t go into depth on those subjects here. Tragically, Christians are often perceived to be more like Pastor Jimenez, than Father Abraham.  But how cool would it be if Christians were known to be like Abraham, in this regard, interceding in costly ways for people associated with the sins of Sodom?  We have a long ways to go.

*Father Abraham actually had 8 sons: Ishmael, Isaac, Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah; Gen. 16:1521:2-325:2.

My interview on Bible Gateway


File:BibleGateway.com-Logo.jpegMy interview on Bible Gateway just went live on the Bible Gateway blog.

In the interview, I discuss my recent (but not most recent) book, Prostitutes and Polygamists: A Look at Love, Old Testament Style (Zondervan, 2015).  If you’ve ever asked, “What’s up with sex in the Old Testament?” then check out the interview, or the book.

Bible Gateway is the most visited Christian website in the world, with about 150 million views per month (even more than my blog–I get a few thousand a month).  They have close to a million Facebook fans.

If you need help with Scripture, Bible Gateway is a great place to start. I use it and recommend it to students all the time.  If you have access to the internet, through Bible Gateway you have access to multiple English versions of the Bible as well as multiple versions in other languages.  There’s a free app for your phone.  There are other tools and resources to help you make sense of Scripture.

Let me know what you think of the interview.