One of the most important and yet unheralded battles in world history, Civitate (1053) pitted Normans against Lombards, Swabians, Byzantines, and a host of others in Southern Italy. The Great Schism (1054), the Battle of Manzikert (1070), and the First Crusade (1096) came as a result.
By Stephen Harris
Many people know about the Norman Conquest of England. The Battle of Hastings is one of the most famous events in medieval history and possibly even world history. It transformed England, and by transforming England, changed the world. However, many do not know that during the Middle Ages, the Normans conquered other areas of Europe as well. First, they were given the region now known as Normandy by the king of France to keep them loyal to the crown. Later, they took Southern Italy. Their control over Southern Italy was not brief either, as the Normans ruled Sicily for centuries. Norman control over what became the Kingdom of Sicily took decades, but the battle that enabled Norman control over Southern Italy was the Battle of Civitate, on June 18th, 1053.
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Balaam is a famous character with a timeless message. Life is not about getting rich, and certainly not about using the weaknesses of others against them. Rather, life about knowing God, and helping others to know Him.
By Mark D. Harris
From the earliest days in Sunday School, children learn about Balaam, a magician whose donkey spoke to him. It is a fun story, acted out in person and with toys countless times in church classrooms across America and the world. The story seems simple, as recorded in Numbers 22-25.
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- The Israelites under Moses arrive at the border of Moab on their way to the Promised Land. They had just destroyed the armies of Og and Sihon, powerful local kings.
- Balak, the king of Moab, fears that the Israelites will overwhelm him and his people.
- Balaam is a magician from Pethor, a town near the Euphrates River, who is famous for his power.
- Balak sends a delegation to Balaam to ask him to curse Israel and give him military victory.
- Balaam replies that he cannot curse Israel because God has blessed them. In fact, he cannot even travel with the delegation back to Moab. The delegation returns to Moab.
- King Balak sends another, more distinguished delegation, and offers Balaam more money.
- Balaam agrees to go with the delegation but again refuses to curse the Hebrews.
- On the way to Moab, Balaam’s donkey stops in a narrow road. Balaam whips her to move forward, but the donkey then lies down.
- Balaam beats her more and threatens to kill her.
- Balaam donkey speaks audibly to her master, “Am I not your donkey on which you have ridden all your life to this day? Have I ever been accustomed to do so to you?” And he said, “No.”
- God allows Balaam to see that an angel with a drawn sword was blocking the path. Had the donkey not turned away, the angel would have killed Balaam.
- Balak sacrifices to his gods.
- Balaam continues to Moab, but despite Balak’s continual encouragements, enticements, and threats, did not curse Israel.
- Instead, Balaam blesses Israel, incurring the wrath of Balak.
- Balaam departs to his home in Pethor.
The minor prophet Obadiah gives Christians today a glimpse into the past, into God’s character and His promises, and into His work in the future. Read it today!
By Mark D, Harris
Last spring, I decided to explore uncommon territory in my Sunday School class. I asked the members how many had read Nahum or Obadiah. A few hands went up, only because they had been on thru-the-bible-in-a-year programs. I then asked who knew what either of them was about. Not a hand was in sight.
I quickly realized that we would have to do a lot of back work to understand either book, so the next few Sundays we covered empires in the ancient near east, including Sumeria, Egypt, the Hyksos, the Hittites, Assyria, Babylonia, Persia, and Greece. Fortunately, I read and discuss history for fun and watch historical documentaries for entertainment, so it was no work. Then when studied Jonah, which occurred about a century before Nahum.
Obadiah is one of the neglected books in the Bible, nestled among the minor prophets of the Old Testament between Amos the Shepherd and Jonah the Reluctant Prophet. Only one chapter long, a distinction that it shares with Philemon, 2 & 3 John and Jude, Obadiah reveals the judgment of God on Edom, the descendants of Esau. Measured by how often books are read on Bible Gateway, Obadiah is the least popular book in the Bible, surpassing even Nahum in its obscurity.
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Genealogies and census data are some of the most skipped parts of the Bible. They are still important. Here’s why.
By Mark D, Harris
Every year my wife and I read through the Bible. Some sections fly by, such as the stories of Goliath, the fiery furnace, and the raising of Lazarus. Other parts crawl, like the sacrificial system in Leviticus. The slowest portions of all are the genealogies and the census data. “How?” we ask ourselves, “does knowing that Mikloth became the father of Shimeam, and that they lived with relatives in Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 9:38) impact my life as a Christian?” Likewise, we struggle to care that “The priests, the sons of Jedaiah of the house of Jeshua, (numbered) 973 (Nehemiah 7:39)?” Isn’t this a waste of space in a book that calls itself the word of the Almighty God?
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