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Friday, May 26, 2017

Chronicles 23-25

Today's reading focuses on the first, and only, orderly transition of power is the United Kingdom (Israel & Judah).  Prehistorically, you had the patriarchs.  But I submit that Ishmael, Esau, and Reuben would say that was not an orderly transition.  I guess the hand off from Moses to Joshua was pretty smooth, though. 

The narrative device for the judges/warlords was that the country literally fell apart in between each one's rule.  Eli's kids are no good, so he goes to Samuel.  Samuel's kids are no good, plus folks are demanding a king, so he goes to Saul.  Saul causes a civil war.  Finally, David brings it all together and he passes the throne on to Solomon.

Chronicles has got its full listing grove back on, identifying which Levite descendants have which jobs in the Temple.  The good news is I got an opportunity to review/learn Spanish ordinal numbers up to 24th.  (Vigesimocuarta if you're curious.)

Then we have these weird difference between NIV & NVI on which neither comments.  From 24:6.
The scribe Shemaiah son of Nethanel, a Levite, recorded their names in the presence of the king and of the officials: Zadok the priest, Ahimelek son of Abiathar and the heads of families of the priests and of the Levites—one family being taken from Eleazar and then one from Ithamar.
El cronista Semaías hijo de Natanael, que era levita, registró sus nombres en presencia del rey y de los oficiales, del sacerdote Sadoc, de Ajimélec hijo de Abiatar, de los jefes de las familias patriarcales de los sacerdotes y de los levitas. La suerte se echó dos veces por la familia de Eleazar y una vez por la familia de Itamar.
I've include the full sentence before in case I'm missing context.  The English version just says, "one family being taken . . ." whereas the Spanish, "La suerte se echó," indicates the use of lots to select.  Okay, whatevs.  But then the Spanish says to from Eleazar's family and one from Itamar's.  This is consistent with verse 4, which provides "A larger number of leaders were found among Eleazar’s descendants than among Ithamar’s, and they were divided accordingly: sixteen heads of families from Eleazar’s descendants and eight heads of families from Ithamar’s descendants."

Not exactly a faith shattering detail, but it is worth noting the translators (both groups) found the choice to be literally unnoteworthy.  That is, but for reading two modern translations, I would have had no idea that a choice was being made.

Final note, because the internet, I checked out several English translation (NSRV, KJV, etc.) and found all referred to one from Eleazar's house.  I check out several Spanish translations, without knowledge of the political spectrum there just grabbing random versions from Biblegateway.com's pick list, and all had "dos" from Eleazar.  So weird.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Psalms 108-110

Meh.  The only thing noteworthy about today's reading is how much detail the psalmist goes into in psalm 109 about wanting to crush and destroy his enemies. 

I have such a love hate relationship with Psalms.

2 Samuel 24; 1 Chronicles 21-22; Psalm 30

Our story opens with God inexplicably angry at the people of God.
Again the anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, “Go and take a census of Israel and Judah.”
Okay.  Also, I know that it is super evil to do a census, but I'm still not entirely sure why, and taking  a census seems like a weird reaction.  Whatever.  The results by the way are 800,000 Israelites and 500,000 Judeans, capable fighting me that is.  2 Sam 24:9.

So, I'm minding my own business and think I'm reading another pair a parallel stories between 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles. But, this passage starts a little differently. 
Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel.
Wait, what?  The stories are clearly intended to recount the same event.  Although, the numbers are not the same.  Here it is 1,100,000 Israelites and 470,000 Judeans, again fighting me. 1 Chron. 21:5.  Also, they specifically exclude the Benjamites and Levites.

David feels remorse for the census in both stories.  In both stories the Prophet Gad relays to David this weird three options for penance. (As in, the final scene in Ghostbusters) In both David picks the 3-day plague option, in which the Angel of Destruction almost destroys Jerusalem and 70,000 people die. 

It seems like an amazing detail about whether it was Satan or inexplicably angry YHWH who prompted the "evil" census.

Also, both passages end with David picking the spot for the Temple.  Weirdly, NVI gives the previous owner two different names in Chronicles and Samuel, but NIV uses the same name in both.  Psalm 30 is for the dedication of the Temple.  It includes "You turned my wailing into dancing."  Which reminds me of this Hymn here.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Psalms 95, 97-99

This psalms seemed to have more of a theme than some selections.  They all were psalms of praise for God.  And while most of this is a celebration of God's power, and the questionable theology of God helping the just and the upright (Job's proximity to Psalms in our Bible may be a happy accident.), they do not come without warnings. 

From Psalm 95:
Today, if only you would hear his voice,
"Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah,
as you did that day at Massah in the wilderness,
where your ancestors tested me;
they tried me, though they had seen what I did.
For forty years I was angry with that generation;
I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray,
and they have not known my ways.’
So I declared on oath in my anger,
‘They shall never enter my rest.’”
God declares an oath in God's anger that a segment of God's people will never enter God's rest.  Hashtag harsh.

From Psalm 99 with have this little reminder: you were to Israel a forgiving God, though you punished their misdeeds.

Be faithful to God first and foremost because God is awesome.  But, maybe also don't forget that if you are not faithful to God there are consequences.  Translated through the lens of my personal theology, do what is right because that is the best way to live.  But, maybe also don't forget that there are consequences for wickedness.

Consider the toughest social ills in America.  They are generally derived from power imbalance.  And those of us enjoying the privilege--whether we brought it about or not--need to recognize that there comes a point where balance cannot be restored without pain.  If you steal someone's water rights, and then build a city that depends on those water rights.  Just cannot be neatly restored.  Even by drinking a beer together.

Monday, May 22, 2017

It happens (Psalms edition)

So, here's the reading for today. 

138. Psalms 26, 40, 58, 61-62, 64
139. 2 Samuel 19-21
140. Psalms 5, 38, 41-42
141. 2 Samuel 22-23; Psalm 57

First, David's Song of Praise, identified in the NVI as Salmo de David, from 2 Samuel 22 is completely a psalm.  Longer that those found in Psalms.  It is unabashed praise for God and God's justice. 

Psalms 57 through 64 seem to come from someone under attack.  Psalm 57 has a plea for God's help.  Psalm 58 specifically calls on God to bring down violence on the psalmists enemies.

Psalms 38 through 41 are about waiting for God.  Psalm 42 jumps out, as usual, because it is a hymn

It happens (Another Catch Up Post)

Well, life caught up with me again.  Some of it was deposition and filing deadlines that took up all of the available space.  But also, the last three days have included Mother's Day gift of a painting class, and packing food for needy children with my church.  So, I will allow myself some grace.

So, here's the reading for today. 

138. Psalms 26, 40, 58, 61-62, 64
139. 2 Samuel 19-21
140. Psalms 5, 38, 41-42
141. 2 Samuel 22-23; Psalm 57

First, let's wrap up David's story.   He has to put down another rebellion.  This time from Sheba the Benjaminites.  Saul, and the Benjaminites remain a problem for his entire reign it appears.  There are some strange exchanges between the descendants of Saul who are loyal to David.  Then there is a peculiar incident in which seven of Saul's descendants are sacrificed on a mountain to pay a debt to another tribe.  David's reign seems to have been a time of unending conflict, even as recorded by his admirers.  (There is also the story of the Second Goliath in this selection.)

A final note of awfulness.  The concubines who were raped by Absalon are addressed in this passage.  Upon returning to the Palace, David cares for them for the rest of their lives, but never sleeps with them.  They remain locked in the palace and live their lives as widows.  The extremity of the violence done to women in scripture and the wickedness that springs from this property notion of women, especially as to their sexuality is stunning.

The church needs to take responsibility for it.

The Psalms in next post. (Which includes 2 Sam 22)

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

2 Samuel 16-18

The call backs are interesting in this selection.  First, you have the servant of Mephibosheth come out to help David, and he ends up with Mephibosheth's inheritance it seems.  2 Sam 16:4.  Then we are reminded that not all of Saul's family is necessarily happy with the new king. 2 Sam 16:5-14.

The main event, is the fall of Absalom.  But before he falls, he takes the follow advice to establish himself as leader in Jerusalem. 
Ahithophel answered, “Sleep with your father’s concubines whom he left to take care of the palace. Then all Israel will hear that you have made yourself obnoxious to your father, and the hands of everyone with you will be more resolute.” So they pitched a tent for Absalom on the roof, and he slept with his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel.

Now in those days the advice Ahithophel gave was like that of one who inquires of God. That was how both David and Absalom regarded all of Ahithophel’s advice.

So, we have the systematic, public rape of women as a mechanism of establishing dominance over a people. Such a gruesome, matter of fact telling of this. 

Absalom gets his in the end.  His gorgeous hair gets tangled in an oak tree and he is left hanging there as his mule moved on.  While some of the men are scared to kill the prince, Joab is not.  He and his armor bearers take care of that shit.  Although, David is very sad for the loss of his son.

For the record, Absalom's stories reminds me of Gilead's son, identified as Abimelek, who kills all of Gilead's children--his siblings--to take power. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Psalms 3-4, 12-13, 28, 55

Psalms 3 & 4 are anxious.  They speak of a Lord Deliverer, but suggest a current state of unease.  How long will people turn my glory (faith in YHWH) into shame (foolishness? naïveté?)  It is a familiar feeling

Psalm 12 is similar but more of a collective angst.  No one believes anymore, type of thing.  They elected Donald Trump. The psalmist puts into the voice of God, "Because the poor are plundered and the needy groan, I will now arise."  Again, indicated that some rising is called for.  The angst in Psalm 13 is more personal.  "How long must I wrestle with my thoughts."

Psalm 28 talks about personal experience with God, but then celebrates God's relationship with God's people.

Psalm 55 takes a different tone, IMHO.  It starts off, "Listen to my prayer, God."  Feeling more like a command than a request.  Then it lists how God always sides with the righteous, then invites God to kill the psalmist's enemies. 

Each of these are emotional.  Even the last one seems more about feelings than theology.  I try to use them as a guide into the meditations of ancient people and as a way to find some communion with their innermost thoughts.

Monday, May 15, 2017

2 Samuel 13-15

So, this is some serious Game of Thrones shit now.  We've go incestuous rape, with the semi-justified fratricide.  Then fleeing of the murderer, then return of the murderer, then a revolt and a fleeing of the king.  In the middle, we have another allegory told to David.  This time by a wise woman posing as a widow (commissioned by David's CINC to do it, btw) rather than a prophet.  The point is to make him realize he should invite the murderer back.  Which he does, which leads to the revolt.  P.S. in
describing how hot the murderer is we have this:
In all Israel there was not a man so highly praised for his handsome appearance as Absalom. From the top of his head to the sole of his foot there was no blemish in him. Whenever he cut the hair of his head—he used to cut his hair once a year because it became too heavy for him—he would weigh it, and its weight was two hundred shekels by the royal standard.

2 Sam. 14:25-26.  Heavy hair is hot.

Also, the amount of rape in the Bible should be plenty of evidence to polite society of how common violence against women is.  Presumably, the Bible doesn't advocate for it, but the fact that you can't tell the story with out it tells you how awful the world is in general.