Other comments on this day's readings can be found here.
Reading 1 - Est 2:7-9
"Mordecai had a cousin named Hadassah, whom he had brought up
because she had neither father nor mother. This girl, who was also known as
Esther, was lovely in form and features, and Mordecai had taken her as his own
daughter when her father and mother died. When the king's order and edict had
been proclaimed, many girls were brought to the citadel of Susa and put under
the care of Hegai. Esther also was taken to the king's palace and entrusted to
Hegai, who had charge of the harem. The girl pleased him and won his favor" (Est
"Esther had a special beauty that far exceeded all the other
young girls in King Xerxes' beauty contest. Esther was lovely in form and
features, as, no doubt, were many of the other girls. But I believe that the
difference between Esther and the rest was found in her nature. She seems to
have won the favour of Hegai as soon as she met him, and he gave her the best
place in the harem. When she was with the king she pleased him more than any
other girl and he made her his queen. Her character gave her a beauty that
outshone all the rest. When she went to the king she took nothing except for
what Hegai suggested. Other girls would have decorated themselves and taken
things to make them more attractive -- but Esther had an inner beauty. 'Your
beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the
wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead it should be that of your
inner self, the unfading beauty of a meek and quiet spirit, which is of great
worth in God's sight' (1Pe 3:3,4). No matter what we look like, we can all have
that true inner beauty that will outshine and outlast any physical beauty. That
is what is valuable to God" (Robert Prins).
Reading 2 - Amos 7:14,15
"Amos answered Amaziah, 'I was neither a prophet nor a
prophet's son, but I was a shepherd, and I also took care of sycamore-fig trees'
When accosted by Amaziah, Amos replied that he was not a
prophet by his own choosing; he did not decide to pursue prophesying as a
career. Neither had he become a prophet because his father had been one. In
Amos' culture it was common and expected for sons to follow in their father's
line of work. Possibly Amos meant that he was not the son of a prophet in the
sense that he had not been trained in one of the schools of the prophets under
the tutelage of a fatherly mentor (2Ki 2:1-15; 4:1,38; 5:22; 6:1-7; 9:1). Rather
Amos had earned his living in a totally unrelated form of employment.
Amos said that he "took care of sycamore-fig trees", or that
he was "a gatherer of sycamore fruit" (AV). This also -- like the "shepherd" --
signified a wanderer or traveler, for the sycamore fig trees do not grow near
Tekoa (Denis Baly, "The Geography of the Bible" 89).
"A 'nipper' of sycamore figs was one who pruned sycamore fig
trees so they would produce more fruit. Thus Amos had a respectable agricultural
business background before he moved to Israel to prophesy. He had not been a
professional prophet; he did not occupy the office of prophet but only
functioned as a prophet. Therefore, Amaziah should not think that Amos came to
Israel to prophesy because that was the only work that he could do" (Thomas
Constable, "Expository Notes").
"But the LORD took me from tending the flock and said to me,
'Go, prophesy to my people Israel' " (v 15).
Yahweh had called Amos, just as He had called David: Psa
78:70-72. Ct Zec 13:5. He had called him, and sent him to carry the prophetic
message to Israel. In other words, Amos is saying, 'Don't think that I do this
because I have nothing else to do, nor because I especially enjoy it! But God
Almighty called me -- so what was I to do?'
Reading 3 - Tit 1:12
"Even one of their own prophets has said, "Cretans are always
liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons' " (Tit 1:12).
The poet, according to Clement of Alexandria and Jerome, was
Epimenides, a native of Knossos in Crete, who lived approximately 550 BC. He was
considered divinely inspired by the Greeks, and was ranked as one of the "seven
wise men". It is possible that he was responsible for the erection of the
Athenian altar "to the unknown god" (Acts 17:23). His words were quoted and thus
perpetuated by the later well-known poet Callimachus.
Paul was familiar with secular literature, and was not afraid
to make use of his knowledge as occasion suggested. This is at least the third
citation of such writers by Paul, others being:
"Bad company corrupts good character" (1Co 15:33): a Greek verse from the
"Thais", by Menander; and
"For we are his offspring" (Acts 17:28): from
Aratus, a countryman of Paul, from Cilicia.
In the same manner, we might quote authorities in specialized
fields today -- bringing their expertise to bear on the study of the
So notorious were the Cretans for lying that the Greeks
derived a verb from them: "kretizein". To "cretize", or to act like a Cretan,
became proverbial for lying -- just as to "corinthianize", or to act like a
Corinthian, became synonymous with the grossest immoral behavior. A Cretan by
nature would not flinch from saying anything designed to forward his own
The Cretan false teachers were characterized as "evil brutes"
-- suggesting savagery, brutality, and stupidity. (A related word is used by
Paul when he speaks of fighting with "beasts" at Ephesus -- 1Co 15:32 -- no
doubt referring there also to men.) This is a sad picture of human nature, and
perhaps this bestiality was developed to an extraordinary degree in the natives
of Crete. But it would be a great mistake to imagine that other men in their
natural states are markedly better, or even to suppose that when men become
Christians they automatically cease to be "beasts".
Men who are without understanding are like the beasts (Psa
73:22), and will perish like them (Psa 49:12, 20). Men who are sensual are like
the beasts (2Pe 2:12). And, perhaps most to the point here, those Jewish
Christians who returned to the Law are likened by Paul to "dogs" (Phi
They were also "lazy gluttons"! Idleness is generally
associated with useless talking, or talebearing, and is most severely
criticized: "Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account
thereof in the day of judgment" (Mat 12:36).
"Gluttons" (Greek "gasteer") is generally translated "womb" in
Scripture. Otherwise, as here, it refers to the belly as craving food -- hence a
glutton. The Cretans were famous, or infamous, as a drunken and gluttonous and
greedy people. "The Cretans", wrote one contemporary observer, "on account of
their innate avarice, live in a perpetual state of private quarrel and public
feud and civil strife... and you will hardly find anywhere characters more
tricky and deceitful than those of Crete... Money is so highly valued among
them, that its possession is not only thought to be necessary, but highly
creditable; and in fact greed and avarice are so native to the soil in Crete,
that they are the only people in the world among whom no stigma attaches to any
sort of gain whatsoever."
Although a different Greek word for "belly" is used in Phi
3:19, the thought is very similar: "For many walk, of whom I have told you
often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of
Christ: whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is
in their shame, who mind earthly things" (Phi 3:18,19).
In view of the context in Philippians (ie, the "concision" and
"circumcision" of Phi 3:2,3), it may be that Paul's use of "belly" here is a
euphemistic allusion to the characteristic mark of circumcision, in which the
Judaizers shamelessly "gloried". Contemptuously Paul implies that they "worship"
as a "god" that cutting in their flesh that sets them apart as Jews, and,
because they so misplace their faith and hope, thus deny the efficacy of the
cross of Christ! Something akin to this is perhaps implied also in his words to
The description of the "circumcision group" of Crete -- those
who opposed sound doctrine -- is thus completed. They are seen to be everything
that the bishops should not be; each group is the opposite of the other. The
Cretan false teachers are liars, sensual, brutish, lazy, and greedy (vv 10-12).
The bishops are to be blameless, sober, temperate, holy, industrious, and
indifferent to base gain (vv 7-9).
In language exceedingly harsh, Paul warned Titus that national
characteristics should be kept in mind in the work of the Truth. The Truth had
not to this stage eradicated the unlovely features of the Cretan character in
those who had embraced it. It was part of the work of Titus to push forward this
reformation, and to raise those who would heed to a higher level of obedience to
the teachings of Christ. But it was important in that work to face squarely the
problems involved; for Titus to take an unreasonably rosy view of the raw
material at hand would be foolhardy.
But, extreme as Paul's description of the Cretans was, he did
not say, "Leave them alone; they are hopeless." Instead, he said in effect,
"They are sorry specimens, and everyone knows it. Go and convert them!" Such is
the divine testimony, by no means to the goodness in human nature, but to the
awesome potential of the "incorruptible seed" of God's Word (1Pe 1:23), which
can produce fruit in the poorest soil -- even a hundredfold (Mat 13:23)!