The Agora
Daily Bible Reading Exhortations

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November 3

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

Reading 1 - 2Ch 32:2-4

A tunnel was constructed from the spring at Gihon -- what is now called the Virgin's Fountain -- under the city walls and through the rock to the southern end of the city of Jerusalem, to the pool of Siloam. This would be a difficult feat in these days of sophisticated surveying and measuring equipment. It was even more remarkable for the times of Hezekiah, because the impending invasion meant there was very little time, and gangs of workmen had to start from either end. When the tunnel was complete, the spring outside the city was blocked up and the water flowed into the city.

"And when Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib was come, and that he was purposed to fight against Jerusalem, he took counsel with his princes and his mighty men to stop the waters of the fountains which were without the city: and they did help him. So there was gathered much people together, who stopped all the fountains and the brook that ran through the midst of the land, saying, Why should the kings of Assyria come, and find much water?" (2Ch 32:2-4).

"And the rest of the acts of Hezekiah, and all his might, and how he made a pool, and a conduit, and brought water into the city, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?" (2Ki 20:20).

The watercourse was a tremendous feat of engineering by any standards. At one time, critics of the Bible said openly that it was impossible, because of the great difficulty of the project: this was another example, they said, of the way in which Bible accounts had become exaggerated and then recorded as historical fact. This argument cannot be used against the Bible today because the watercourse has been discovered.

An Arab boy accidentally fell into the Pool of Siloam and discovered the underwater opening of the tunnel. Just as the new London Bridge has a commemorative plaque marking its official opening, so a plaque had been placed on the wall of the tunnel. This inscription is written in the old Hebrew script of the time of Hezekiah and part of the tablet, which is now in the Istanbul Museum, reads as follows:

'Now this is the history of the excavations. While the excavators were still lifting up the pick, each towards his neighbour, and while there were yet three cubits to excavate, there was heard the voice of one man calling to his neighbour: for there was an excess of rock on the right hand. And when on the day of excavations the excavators had struck pick against pick, one against another, the waters floweth from the spring to the Pool, a distance of 1,200 cubits. One hundred cubits was the height of the rock above the head of the miners'.

We cannot deny the existence of Hezekiah's watercourse because, as Keller describes, it is there --

'a narrow passage about two feet wide and barely 5 feet high... cut through limestone. It can only be negotiated with rubber boots and a slight stoop. Water knee-deep rushes to meet you. For about 500 yards the passage winds imperceptibly uphill. It ends at the Virgin's Fountain, Jerusalem's water supply since ancient times. In Biblical days it was called the Fountain of Gihon.'

[The Bible as History - Keller, Hodder & Stoughton.]

Reading 2 - Dan 12:4

"But you, Daniel, close up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end" (Dan 12:4).

The angel instructed Daniel to close the record of this revelation. In the ancient near east, people wrote official documents and then, after making a copy for reference, deposited the original in a safe place. The phrase "seal the words" does not mean that Daniel should keep them to himself but that he should preserve this revelation because it was important (cp Dan 8:26). Also, it was customary for the scribe who recorded important documents such as contractual promises to run his cylinder-seal across the bottom to guarantee authenticity. That is what the angel instructed Daniel to do with this contractual promise. By sealing it, Daniel would certify that what stood written was exactly what God had revealed to him (cp Rev 22:18,19).

Daniel was to preserve this revelation until the end of time because much of what God had revealed to him concerned the far distant future.

There's a suggestion here that, as we get closer and closer to the "time of the end", we may expect -- individually and/or collectively -- to understand better and better the visions that previously have been -- in some measure -- "sealed up". It's like a traveler on a long journey... in the distance he may see a range of mountains, but he sees them as a whole range -- the details cannot be discerned. But as he gets closer and closer, each mountain may become more and more differentiated from its neighbor, and features on the mountainsides may become clearer. Closer still, and he may be able to tell even the order of the mountains, that is, which are closest and which are furthest away. He may even discover that he must pass through a valley or two, on the way to the mountains -- valleys that he didn't even know existed when he stood further away.

It may be that, only when the events in question actually happen, will we truly appreciate certain features of the Divine program! Will it be too late then? Why should it be? Although it was the subject of prophecy, and spoken of several times by Jesus himself, the greatest event in history -- the resurrection of Jesus Christ -- was still not understood by his closest disciples (at least, not nearly in its fullness) until after it happened.


"Many will go here and there to increase knowledge."

This seems to refer to the Last Days activity of preaching the Truth. To "run" was an idiomatic way of describing how a prophet was to convey the message of God (cp 1Ki 18:46; Jer 23:21; Hab 2:2; Isa 52:7). To "run" was also to search for knowledge (Amo 8:12; Jer 5:1). The eyes of Yahweh, symbolizing the saints, "run" through the earth (2Ch 16:9; Zec 4:10). Also, God's word itself "runs swiftly" (Psa 147:15; 2Th 3:1, NIV mg; cp Psa 19:4; Rom 10:16-18).

"Knowledge shall increase" indicates growth in understanding as a result of hearing the message; this is the reversal of the famine of hearing the prophetic word described in Amos 8:11,12. The context definitely points to Bible preaching and knowledge, and to the carrying of the message to all the earth (Mat 24:14) -- not merely to some more generalized global travel and technological growth. This point is confirmed by Dan 12:3 -- where the NIV margin reads: "Those who IMPART KNOWLEDGE will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who LEAD MANY TO RIGHTEOUSNESS, like the stars for ever and ever."

Reading 3 - Acts 13:6-11

"Elymas the sorcerer (for that is what his name means) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith. Then Saul, who was also called Paul..." (Acts 13:8,9).

The name Paul signifies "little" or "small" -- it is a sign of Saul's newfound humility. Also, it is a Greek name to replace a Hebrew name (symbolizing his new mission, as he stands before Sergius Paulus, a leading member of the Roman world). Had not the prophet Samuel said to Saul's namesake (also of the tribe of Benjamin)?: 'When you were SMALL in your own eyes, did not God exalt you?' (1Sa 15:17).

The whole incident here is an enacted parable, suggesting Saul/Paul's own experiences (Acts 9): first Saul is like Elymas, the "wise" (or so he thinks!), who is blinded and silenced (v 11); then he is like Sergius Paulus, the unlearned, who asks for ("Saul" signifies "asked for") and receives the faith of Christ.

"Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said, 'You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord?' " (vv 9,10).

Elymas was also called "Bar-Jesus" in v 6 ("son of Jesus); Now his name is changed by Paul to "Son of the devil"! He is not the son of Jesus; he is the son of the serpent! Notice the close link with Christ's words in Joh 8:41-44: "You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire... When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies."

" 'Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind" -- ... 'Just as I was when I thought to kick against the prick, or sting' (Acts 26:14)!... -- "and for a time you will be unable to see the light of the sun.' Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he groped about, seeking someone to lead him by the hand" (Act 13:11).

Elymas the sorcerer is given the same opportunity as was Saul on the Damascus road: he is blinded physically, but at the same time enlightened mentally and spiritually.

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