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Friday, April 28, 2017

Ps. 81, 88, 91, 92

 So, let me take back a bit of what I said about the Psalms.  They don't ordinarily speak to me the way Paul or the Sermon on the mount, or the OT stories do.  However, they are super important for providing the notion of intimacy with God.  Without them, there really isn't much in the OT that distinguishes God from my vision of Zeus.

Psalm 81 - Interesting because it includes what seems to be an ecstatic experience.  The message, however, is pretty ordinary: Follow YHWH and you win.

Psalm 88 - Wow, this is an emotional one.  A complete God why have you forsaken me kind of psalm.  It closes with this, "You have taken from me friend and neighbor.  Now, Darkness is my closest friend."  Ps. 88:18.

Psalm 91 - This guy needs to check in on Psalm 88 guy.  Psalm 91 is all about the awesome power of God and how just looking at the wicked punishes them.  This one is from the Praise Hymnal.

Psalm 92 - Same as 91.  YHWH is my rock and rolls my blues away.  Ps. 92:15 (paraphrase)

Thursday, April 27, 2017

1 Chron. 6

This is a relatively short selection for today.  Only one long-ish chapter, on which I make the following observations.
  • Levi --> Kohath-->Amram--> Aaron, Moses, Miriam.  Over 400 years passes between Levi & Moses.
  • Azariah: Priest in the First Temple built by Solomon.  Nice.
  • Asaph, from yesterday's Psalms, is mentioned as a temple musician.
  • Levites get cities all over
I'm reading various scholarly works preparing for delivering a Sermon on Sunday.  Bishop Shelby Spong makes the rather provocative suggestion that the Levites may have come from Egypt bringing some part of the "Old" religion from the "First" Moses--the inclusive monotheist living in Egypt, as distinct from the "Second" Moses--the nationalistic follower of YHWH.  I seriously have no strong feelings about the accuracy of such claims other than to recognize Spong promotes the most radical views. 

That said, it is interesting reading the different treatment of the tribes by different authors.


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Ps. 73, 77, 78

Psalm 73 uses a some complex tenses.  If I had spoken that way, my body and spirit may fail.  I notice this as I read in Spanish, of course.  But the author writes from a time of trial and speaks hopefully of when God will turn things around for him or her and bring vengeance against wicked (aka the enemies).

Psalm 77 also addresses yearning for God's intervention and noting God's power, using weather as the key metaphor.

The Psalm 78 is a monster recounting the history of the Hebrews from the exodus, flash back to the plagues, then finishing up with praise for David.

All three of these are attributed to Asaph, who appears to have been a musician in David's court.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

1 Chron. 3-5

So, this is still genealogy.  The NIB commentator quoted another as describing these long genealogies as a fortress or price of admission to the compelling narrative found within Chronicles.  We'll see. 

This selection, however, has little narratives woven into the genealogies.  The first that struck me is the story of Jabez.  The Prayer of Jabez was a popular movement that intrigued me in the early 2000's.  A friend of mine at Church introduced me to the idea of asking for more as a first step in achieving more.  Here's the entire story of Jabez.
9 Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, “I gave birth to him in pain.” 10 Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request.

Next, I noticed that Pharaoh's daughter is in the genealogy of Judah.  This is an interesting detail.  More evidence of cultural heterogeneous blood line, perhaps.  The NIB Commentary tells me that these folks were from the Southern territory of Judah, i.e. Egypt adjacent.

Finally, according to the Chronicler, Reuben controlled the territory all the way to the Euphrates.  There is even a story of him kicking the butt of some Bedouins living there.  This was new to me, that in some sense the larger Promised land had been realized.

Interesting note: It is fascinating that the lists are almost entirely male dominated, almost.  Wives, and even daughters, get the occasional mention. 

Monday, April 24, 2017

Ps. 43-45, 49, 84-85, 87

43: Psalm of anguish and encouraging others to trust God
44: Starts off with all glory to God in our ancestor's conquering, but then switches to where are you God, and (somewhat interestingly) points out that the people have been true to the covenant, so, what's the deal.
45: This one is actually directed at the king, although his having been anointed by God is part of the praise.  It is identified as a wedding song and that matches the theme very well.  The bride gets a couple of lines toward the end.
49: Now this guy has some interesting theological implications. 
12 People, despite their wealth, do not endure;
they are like the beasts that perish.
13 This is the fate of those who trust in themselves,
and of their followers, who approve their sayings.
14 They are like sheep and are destined to die;
death will be their shepherd
(but the upright will prevail over them in the morning).
Their forms will decay in the grave,
far from their princely mansions.
15 But God will redeem me from the realm of the dead;
he will surely take me to himself.
16 Do not be overawed when others grow rich,
when the splendor of their houses increases;
17 for they will take nothing with them when they die,
their splendor will not descend with them.
18 Though while they live they count themselves blessed—
and people praise you when you prosper—
19 they will join those who have gone before them,
who will never again see the light of life.

20 People who have wealth but lack understanding
are like the beasts that perish.
This seems to explicitly contemplate a post-death resurrection.  God will redeem me from the realm of the dead.  Recall Samuel's spirit coming up from the realm of the dead when Saul sought consultation of him because God wasn't talking to him.  My understanding has always been that a heavenly afterlife was a part of Jesus' faith for sure, but not a part of earlier Hebrew tradition. 

84: Just some straight up, God is great: Better is one day in your house than thousands elsewhere.
85: God, you were awesome to us before; please be awesome to us again.
87: The whole world will one day recognize the greatness of those born in Zion.

Interesting note: These are Psalms of "Sons of Korah."  Korah was one of the Levites who joined some Reubenites in rebelling against Moses & Aaron.  I wonder if it is the same Korah.  Lastly, in Spanish we get the informal plural you used in several of these.  I'll have to keep an eye out for this.  E.g., "en su lugar estableciste a nuestros padres; aplastaste a aquellos pueblos, y a nuestros padres los hiciste prosperar."

Sunday, April 23, 2017

1 Chronicles 1-2

So, I am now reading from three books at the same time.  The generally accepted date of authorship for the Psalms is similar to that for the Deuteronomic History, it appears to me.  Chronicles, although classically consider to be connected to Ezra & Nehemiah, may actually have been written much later, according to the introductory commentary in the New Interpreter's Bible from the 1990s I'm reading.

This is all a way of saying that I don't get anything more from the several chapters of genealogy that open Chronicles than I do from the Psalms.  They do list the Canaanite ancestry, which I used to see as being honest about a checkered past (in the eyes of the Israelites, I'm not dissing any Canaanites).  But, I've since read that this was important to explain the presence of Canaanite descendants in Israel in light of the tradition that they, you know, killed them all.  :( 

Ps. 6, 8-10, 14, 16, 19, 21

You know what?  I just don't get the Psalms.  They seem like pretty unconnected jumbles of praise and lamentation.  Every once in a while I'll read one and say, "Wow, that phrase is kind of striking," only to realize it is just that it's a psalm I've heard before.


Friday, April 21, 2017

2 Sam. 1-4

This passage is about David consolidating his power.  He is anointed kind of Judah.  (P.S. Saul's son is merely installed king of Israel.)  Then all of his enemies are killed, through no fault of David's, and while these deaths establish the conditions for him to be king of a United Kingdom of Israel, he takes no pleasure in learning of their deaths.  Instead, he punishes all those responsible for them. 

David is established as a noble leader.  Maybe even chivalrous.  I've mentioned several times how these wars remind me of medieval legends reporting in the Canterbury tales or Don Quixote.  Obviously, the medieval legends borrow from these themes. 

Civility is a tool of the oppressor.  Is nobility?  In the practice of law, there is a tension between zealously advocating for your client and behaving with professional dignity.  I say dignity because things that fall into that category are often about status for the actor.  I grant an extension because I am an upright lawyer, above the fray.  Was that fair to my client who would have been advantaged by denying the extension?