The Agora
Daily Bible Reading Exhortations

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November 26

Other comments on this day's readings can be found here.

Reading 1 - Est 1

"It is indeed a derisive eye that our narrator has cast upon the royal court he describes: A king who rules the whole known world spends his time giving lavish banquets!...

"From the satirical depiction of the grandiose and lavishly excessive lifestyle of the Persian court, our narrator turns to undisguised farce: the king who rules the whole world cannot bend his own wife to his will!...

"But its [the first chapter's] mockery has also a sinister side. It reveals a society fraught with danger, for it is ruled by the pride and pomposity of buffoons whose tender egos can marshal the state's legislative and administrative machinery for the furtherance of selfish and childish causes. Indeed, in such a setting, it will not seem incongruous to find this same machinery of state mobilized to effect the slaughter of one of its own minorities, or to find that this is an end that the king can both blissfully contemplate and cavalierly condone" (FW Bush, "Ruth, Esther" 354, 355).

Reading 2 - Amos 6:4-6

"You lie on beds inlaid with ivory and lounge on your couches. You dine on choice lambs and fattened calves. You strum away on your harps like David and improvise on musical instruments. You drink wine by the bowlful and use the finest lotions, but you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph" (Amos 6:4-6).

"The leaders of Israel... lie on ivory divans, sprawl on couches, feast of tender lamb and veal, amuse themselves by 'babbling to the sound of the harp' (the word 'chant' [AV; 'improvise' in NIV] is said to suggest a flow of trivial words in which the rhythm of words and music was everything and the sense nothing; the description has a modern sound). David had introduced instruments of music into the service of the temple, but these corrupt leaders debase them for their own amusement. The bowls in which they drink wine are really ewers, often translated 'basons' (AV) ['bowlful': NIV] as used in the service of the tabernacle. Silver bowls were dedicated to that service by the heads of the tribes (Num 7). The finest ointments may have been in imitation of, or in rivalry with, the holy ointment appointed by God and forbidden to be copied. Both these features suggest that the Israelites were using holy things for profane ends. They were intent upon their pleasures, but they did not grieve for the 'breach of Joseph' " (Fred Pearce, "From Hosea to Zephaniah").

The "ruin" or "breach" of Joseph is a reference is to Gen 37:25, where Joseph's brothers sat down to enjoy their meal, while Joseph languished in the cistern, waiting to be sold into slavery.

Reading 3 - 2Ti 4:13

"When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments" (2Ti 4:13).

Such prisoners as Paul might well have been stripped virtually naked (as was Christ on the cross), and in a cavernous prison of cold and wet and rats, a cloak would have been no small comfort.

But is this just ANY cloak, or a SPECIAL cloak? Sometimes, in the Bible, garments have special significance: consider Joseph's priestly garment (Gen 37:3); Jonathan's robe which he gave to David (1Sa 18:4); Elijah's mantle picked up by Elisha (2Ki 2:8,13). Or does Paul -- knowing he will soon die -- plan to bestow his own cloak upon Timothy as a token of his new "office"?

"When Timothy brought the cloak to Paul, Paul asked Timothy what he knew about the cloak. Timothy's response may have been something like: 'Paul, I remember that you were wearing that cloak when I first met you. You came to Lystra and you were stoned by the people. I had heard your preaching and became a believer in Christ, but then a short time later I watched as they dragged you out of town. And then, still wearing that cloak, dust and rips and all, you stood up. By the way, I have recently reflected upon that incident, just as you asked me to do in your epistle to me, and as I have traveled here with this cloak I have spent time reflecting on how much you and I and that cloak of yours has been through over the years. What do you want the cloak for?' 'To give to you. Timothy, I am about to be executed, and I want you to have this cloak because you of all people know how much I have labored to establish the ecclesias. And I want to give you this cloak so that you will be reminded of the responsibility that you now have to shepherd these people. Timothy, give them the scriptures. Encourage them to live by them and not to be deceived by all of the false and pernicious teaching that is being spoken even now in Christ's name. For so many years now you have been like a beloved son to me, Timothy, but now I will no longer be able to give you advice and encouragement. So please, Timothy, take this cloak and be thereby reminded of the responsibility that you now have' " (Dean Brown).

Are these "parchments" -- which Paul requests -- the original manuscripts of his letters? Timothy was closely associated with the writing (1Th; 2Th; 2Co; Col; Phi; Rom 16:21; 1Co 4:17; Eph; Phm) or receiving (1Ti; 2Ti) of many of these letters. Possibly, in sending this message, Paul hopes to see that the whole of his body of inspired writings will be circulated around all the ecclesias after his death (as they were?).
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