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Monday, January 16, 2017

Genesis 12-15

While reading Job, I often thought, jeez this is moving slowly.  Another three chapters of poetic tirades!  Not so with Genesis.  We're back to very fast paced action.

First, we have a little mini-exile as Abram & Sarai move very quickly from the Fertile Crescent to Egypt passing briefly through the land of Canaan.  Here we have the first time that Abram tells a king his hot wife is his sister, and the first time the king (here Pharaoh)  gets mad that Abram didn't tell him.  God punished Pharaoh by sending illnesses on Pharaoh's family, or in Spanish "grandes plagas" so Pharaoh kicked them out.  Hm.  Foreshadowing?

Second, we have Abram the badass who brings an army to settle a score on behalf of the King of Sodom, rescuing little nephew Lot who is always getting into trouble, receiving a blessing from Melchizedek, king of Salem and high priest of the Most High God.  Then Abram refuses to take anything from the King of Sodom because he doesn't want his dirty money. 

Through out these stories we have God's promising to Make Abram father of a great nation.  Interestingly, we also have the typical tension between the evil city and the noble country.  That's an old story we're still telling.

It is interesting to me, that the story of Abram includes both him as a general and as a sniveling coward literally giving his wife to another man in hopes of protection.  I'm not sure what morals can be derived from this story.  King of Sodom offers him goods and money, "I'm to proud to take your blood money," but Pharaoh wants to take his wife as a concubine, "Her?  That's just my hot sister."  Complicated dude.

Last note on this dense passage, the Promise Land as described in Gen. 15:18-21 is from the Nile to the Euphrates.  That's quite a bit more than modern Israel, or the expanse of Israel at any time, even as described by Biblical authors.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Job 40-42 (the end)

Summary: God demands an answer from Job; Job takes it back; God makes his friends give Job some of their stuff and makes Job rich again, even gives him new kids.

Let's look at the end of Job from three perspectives.  Theological, Bible as Science, and Social Justice.

Theological:  The message of Job is intensely maddening.  It is really frustrating that Job doesn't make his case, but crumbles before God.  "Surely I spoke of things I did not understand."  Job 42:3.  Really?  Not according to the story's narrator.  According to the narrator, God let Satan attack you for no reason.  And, getting all of your stuff back at the end does not make up for the, I don't know, CHILDREN, that were lost.  [By the way, I thought it was obvious that the epilogue is added later, but review of my dad's old text books anyway, puts that at "some people thing," so who knows?]

Bible as Science:  We've got some real problems here.  Besides the whole Sons of God being translated as angels, Job lives 140 years after his calamities.  Job 42:16.  Recall that earlier we read that the "sons of God saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful," and started marrying them; so, God put a stop to that and declared "My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years."  Gen. 6:2-3.  Oops.  This doesn't bother me, because I think it is dumb to try to use the Bible as a science book, but Job posses some problems for these folks.

Social Justice:  Now, this is interesting.  Job lists caring for the poor as a reason why he's a good guy.  And when he gets everything back, his new daughters get both names and an inheritance.  Not to mention, animals and creation get pretty special treatment here. Interesting.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Job 38-39

So, no one responds to Elihu, after ranting against Job from chapter 32 through chapter 37.  Significantly more space than God takes Godself to do essentially the same thing.  Elihu's accusation against Job toward the middle of his speech, "hablas mucho y no sabes lo que dices," seems like it may apply more to Elihu than Job.

That takes us to Chapter 38-41, wherein God answers Job, sort of.  It is an epic rant, and was surely fun for the oral presenters to perform. 

«¿Quién es este, que oscurece mi consejo
    con palabras carentes de sentido?
Prepárate a hacerme frente;
    yo voy a interrogarte, y tú me responderás.
 »¿Dónde estabas cuando puse las bases de la tierra?
    ¡Dímelo, si de veras sabes tanto!

# # #

 “Who is this that obscures my plans
    with words without knowledge?
 Brace yourself like a man;
    I will question you,
    and you shall answer me.
“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
    Tell me, if you understand.

Okay.  Job's question is why is God punishing me when I am innocent, right?  Let's talk about what God did not say.  God does not say that Job is culpable.  God does not say that Job deserves it; nor, does God say that he was testing Job or allowing the Adversary to test Job.  God says, who are you to ask such questions of Me, the Almighty, Todopoderoso.

It's not comforting, but perhaps there is some pretty deep truth in it.  Whether you are dealing with an ancient universe that gave birth to space and time, beyond & before which there is not before nor beyond, or Todopoderoso, we cannot possibly expect to understand fully its/His workings.  Huh.

Also, I note that God's Rant is full of sarcasm, which seems interesting for an ancient text, although maybe it shouldn't.  And, finally, the use of "angels" for "sons of God" comes up again. Job 38:7.  I think this translation is somewhere between the Divinci Code and recognizing that Jonah was swallowed by a big fish not a whale.  It's more than trivia.  It seems like an important clue to the religion that predated radical monotheism and is kind of a bummer the translators choose to hide it.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Job 35-37

"If you sin, how does that affect him? If your sins are many, what does that do to him?/Si pecas, ¿en qué afectas a Dios? Si multiplicas tus faltas, ¿en qué lo dañas?"  Job 35:6.

This is a pretty interesting theological question.  Frankly, I think it has the potential to entirely undermine the notion of supernatural theism.  It is one of several theological questions that I think are raised in Job.  I think the theme of co-creation that is present in the first chapters of Genesis makes sense with God's being impacted by Job's actions giving rise naturally to process theology.

What is kind of weird to me, now that we've heard from all of Job's terrestrial opponents, is why has no one mentioned either the Adversary or God's testing Job as explanations for Job's suffering?  These would be two popular answers today.  Were then answer then, and are just omitted for theatrical purposes?  That certainly could be.  It would kind of ruin the story for someone to say, "Duh, God has obviously allowed the Satan to test you.  Hang in there, buddy; you'll probably get everything back in some made up chapter at the end."

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Job 32-34

Job's three friends have given up, but now a kid jumps into the act.  His character is that Young Republican/first year college kid who knows everything and is amazed at how stupid his elders are.

He makes the same arguments as his elders, though.  He says that Job is arrogant and he can't believe people are not calling him out.  He is angry.  He is also wrong.

I've been angry.  I've been angry a lot recently.  I wonder if I've been wrong.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Job 29-31

As we continue to hear from Job, it occurs to me that this book has much, much more to do with social justice than I realized.  I have typically seen it only as a warning that bad things happen to good people, which probably wouldn't take 42 chapters to say.  However, I think it is very interesting to read an ancient text where the main character is so clear that he doesn't deserve this because he has been good to the poor.  

Consider this list of sins he insists he has not committed

[31:1 Not a lech]
Yo había convenido con mis ojos
    no mirar con lujuria a ninguna mujer.  

[31:13 Not a bad boss]
Si me negué a hacerles justicia
    a mis siervos y a mis siervas
    cuando tuvieron queja contra mí

[31:24 Not money obsessed]
¿Acaso he puesto en el oro mi confianza,
    o le he dicho al oro puro: “En ti confío”?

These sins seem pretty subtle and modern.  

Interesting Note: Best biblical euphemism I've come across so far:

Si por alguna mujer me he dejado seducir,
    si a las puertas de mi prójimo he estado al acecho,
10 ¡que mi esposa muela el grano de otro hombre,

If my heart has been enticed by a woman, or 
if I have lurked at my neighbor's door, 
then may my wife grind another man's grain.

Job 31:9-10.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Job 24-28

"¡pero Dios ni se da por enterado!/But God charges no one with wrongdoing."  Job 24:12.

Job's list of horribleness that goes unpunished in chapter 24 strikes me as a general social grievance against mistreatment of the poor, rather than a manifestation of individual suffering.  It concludes with the verse above.  He begins the passage by using the "Todopoderoso/Almighty" to identify God.  (P.S. it is interesting how reading Almighty in another language focusing me on the meaning of the phrase and the emphasis on Power.)  It takes me back to an earlier verse, that I underlined but forgot to include in that day's entry, "¿Quién es el Todopoderoso, para que le sirvamos?/Who is the Almighty that we should serve him?"  Job 21:15.  Big questions.

Interesting Note: It is fun how your brain will find things that are not there.  Here's another passage that seems to point to Jesus.  "¿Cómo puede alegar pureza quien ha nacido de mujer?/How can one born of woman be pure?"  Job 25:4.  I sincerely think this passage and the earlier one have as much to do with Jesus as the Man-in-Moon is an intentionally created face.  I point them out to keep myself alert for when my overactive pattern seeking rears it head in less obvious situations.