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Bible Insights

What Do We Do When God’s Commands No Longer Make Sense?

Contrary to the Law of Moses King David Reassigns the Duties of the Levites

In the book of Numbers, Moses details the assignments and responsibilities of the tribe of Levi, mentioning them over fifty times. Though the priests, descendants of Aaron, are from this tribe, the rest of the Levites have God-assigned responsibilities too.

Chief among them is taking down, moving, and setting up the tabernacle and related elements of worship. They must do this each time God’s people move camp as they wander about in the wilderness.

The nation of Israel spends about four decades in the desert, sometimes moving frequently and other times not so much. This keeps the Levites busy.

Then they get to the promised land, conquer it, and occupy it. No longer is there a need to disassemble, transport, and reassemble the tabernacle. What do the Levites do now that their primary job is irrelevant? That’s a good question.

Over four hundred years later, some four centuries with the Levites having nothing to do, King David arrives on the scene. He reassigns the Levites to new tasks that relate to worshiping God.

Who does David think he is to countermand the commands of Moses, as received from God? It seems ill-advised to ignore what’s in Scripture—God’s written word—and replace it with something that makes better sense to us. But this is precisely what David did.

Though we could concoct a principal from this and say that when Scripture—God’s past commands—no longer makes sense in the present, we are free to change them. Just like David did. Yet, I’m not going to go there. I think it’s an overstretch, a misapplication.

Remember, after all, David was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). That’s significant.

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Whenever I encounter something in the Bible that doesn’t make sense, I don’t ignore it. Instead I meditate on it. I ask the Holy Spirit to supernaturally explain it to me.

Sometimes he does so right away, in other instances it takes a few days, and on occasion I wait for years. But until God instructs me otherwise, I’ll hold to what the Bible says and apply it the best I can to my life and our culture today.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 1 Chronicles 24-26, and today’s post is on 1 Chronicles 24:3.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

4 Guys Named Simeon in the Bible

Distinguishing Between the Many Men in the Bible Named Simon and Simeon

When I write a blog post, I never know which one will resonate with people. A perennial favorite—which always surprises me—is 9 guys named Simon in the Bible.

The only post is more popular is 4 angels in the Bible with names. And in case you’re curious, the third most popular post is about the mother of Jabez.

When people read the post about 9 guys name Simon, they sometimes contact me to tell me I left out a couple. I panic over the thought that I missed a few, but when I investigate, I discover they’re confusing Simon with Simeon.

Just as there are multiple guys in the Bible named Simon, there are several guys in the Bible named Simeon. They are:

1. Simeon One of Jacob’s Twelve Sons

Simeon’s descendants become the tribe of Simeon. He (along with the tribe that bears his name) appears thirty-four times in the Old Testament and twice in the New Testament.

The Bible records two stories about Simeon. One is that he, along with brother Levi, avenge the rape of their sister Dinah by annihilating the city of Shechem. It’s a shocking account where the punishment far exceeds the crime committed (Genesis 34).

Later, in dramatic fashion, Joseph takes his older brother Simeon from the brothers and ties him up before sending the rest of them on their way (Genesis 42:24-36). Spoiler alert: Joseph later frees Simeon and a happy reunion takes place.

2. Simeon Who Blesses Baby Jesus in the Temple

In the story, which appears only in Luke’s biography of Jesus, we read of a devout and righteous man called Simeon. He lives in expectation that God will soon send his Savior to rescue the people. The Holy Spirit tells Simeon that he will live to see this happen.

One day, prompted by the Holy Spirit, Simeon goes to the temple. He sees the eight-day-old baby Jesus. He scoops up the child and praises God. Simeon blesses Mary and Joseph and prophesies about Jesus (Luke 2:25-35).

3. Simeon, an Ancestor of Jesus

In Luke’s genealogy of Jesus, he includes Simeon (Luke 3:30). We know nothing more about him from the Bible other than he’s an ancestor of Jesus.

[I don’t know how I missed this Simeon in my initial research, but I did. Thank you to Richard Murray for pointing this out.]

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4. Simeon, Also Called Niger

This Simeon is one of the leaders in the church in Antioch along with Barnabas, Lucius, Manaen, and Saul. All we know about this Simeon is that Luke labels him as a prophet and a teacher (Acts 13:1).

Though it’s possible that this is the same Simeon who blessed Jesus as an infant, it’s unlikely because we can assume that Simeon is already quite old at that time and these two passages occur forty or more years from each other, suggesting that there are two Simeon’s in the New Testament.

Keeping people straight in the Bible can present a challenge because different people have the same names. In addition, some names are similar, such as Simon and Simeon. But now we’re armed with a list of who they are.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Women in the Bible: Dinah

Dinah, the daughter of Jacob, and Leah, is the central character of Genesis 34. Though we know what happened to her and because of her, we know nothing about what she said, did, or thought.

Her story begins tragically. She is raped by Shechem. Yet after his act of lust, he falls in love with her, offering to give whatever dowry is asked.

Jacob doesn’t respond to his daughter’s rape. Is he passive, afraid, or wise as he waits for his sons to return? Dinah’s brothers are outraged when they hear the news and immediately come home.

While their father fails to act, Simeon and Levi, two of Dinah’s full brothers, do. They kill Shechem and all the men in his village; then they rescue her from Shechem’s house. Later, her other brothers plunder the town.

Although Jacob criticizes Simeon and Levi for their excessive reaction and the subsequent risk to the entire family (should neighboring towns take revenge), Dinah’s brothers felt duty bound to avenge their sister’s rape, despite the risk of retaliation or harm.

After her rescue, nothing more is said about Dinah. The end to her story is for us to wonder.

Learn about other biblical women in Women of the Bible, available in e-book, paperback, hardcover, and audiobook.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

What’s the Deal with Levi?

Levi was one of Jacob’s sons (the third of twelve). The Bible doesn’t tell us much about him; what it does say, doesn’t bode well.

The short version is that Levi’s sister, Dinah is raped. Levi and brother Simeon exact revenge by killing the perpetrator, his family, and the whole village, plus taking all their stuff. Levi’s version of justice far exceeds the crime—and father Jacob is ticked (Genesis 34:1-5, 25-31).

Jacob doesn’t forget this incident either. On his deathbed, he gathers his sons to prophetically tell them their future. This would be a time of expected blessing.  Not so for Levi (along with Simeon). Because of their misdeed, Jacob essentially curses them (Genesis 49:1, 5-7).

Interestingly, many centuries later God—through the prophet Malachi—reveals what he thinks of Levi, saying “True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin” (Malachi 2:6).

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God’s view of Levi is certainly different than Jacob’s. While Jacob focuses on the bad and can’t forget it, God forgets the bad and focuses on the good.

When we follow God, that’s what he does.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.