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Friday, June 23, 2017

Proverbs 30-31

So, I guess we were already done with Solomon since the next two chapters aren't his.  The are from Agur and King Lemuel.  Agur is mostly a very weird metered saying, there are three things X and a fourth Y.  This bit seemed familiar.

7 “Two things I ask of you, Lord;
do not refuse me before I die:
8 Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.
Cf. "Give us this day our daily bread and deliver us from evil."

I'm not saying its the source of the Lord's Prayer, just noting the similarity.

The wisdom of King Lemuel is a typical middle road passage as from the rest of the wisdom books.  Be good to the poor, stay clear of the powerful, live the middle life.

The final passage, identified as "Epilogue" which always makes me suspicious, is the description of the Good Wife.  Which is cringeworthy of course.  It is an acrostic poem, so I'm not sure how seriously to take it anyway, but it actually isn't as awfully sexist as it could be.  Here.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

1 Kings 10-11; 2 Chronicles 9

 This wraps up Solomon's reign, although we still have some Proverbs to finish.  As before, Kings delves into some more detail about rebellion leading up to Solomon's death.  Chronicles is a bit more tidy.  And, just as it left out all of David & Bathsheba, it leaves out God's disappointment with Solomon for his foreign wives.  Both authors tell the tale of Sheba, and note that another book has more details on Solomon.

According to Kings, Solomon not only had a bunch of foreign wives, but he started worshiping their gods.  Ladies, all the time leading men astray.
As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been. 5 He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molekthe detestable god of the Ammonites. 6 So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord; he did not follow the Lord completely, as David his father had done.
7 On a hill east of Jerusalem, Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable god of Moab, and for Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites. 8 He did the same for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and offered sacrifices to their gods.
Some of these folks have come up before.  From Leviticus 18:21, “‘Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed to Molek, for you must not profane the name of your God. I am the Lord."  (See Leviticus isn't all about gay people.  Chemosh is mentioned in Numbers, but just as the God of the Ammonites.  The internet seems to ferociously disagree as to whether Ashtoreth is Asherah, the consort of El.


So, to enhance my sense of ennui while reading Ecclesiastes, my first draft of this post did not save.  Meaningless, meaningless, all is meaningless, I suppose.

Like Job, Ecclesiastes contains a distinctly counterculture theme.  Also like Job, it in no ways advocates abandoning God.  To the contrary, Ecclesiastes is very pro-establishment.  Chapter 5 begins, "Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong."  Chapter 8's second verse is, "Obey the king’s command, I say, because you took an oath before God."

Still, the author isn't happy about it.  Famously so.  Consider how quotable it is.
  • “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”
  • The sun rises and the sun sets,
  • chasing after the wind.
And who can forget
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.
Less quoted is the advice to diversify your investments.  Literally.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Monday, June 19, 2017

Proverbs 27-29

The sayings continue.  The pragmatism continues.  Don't have a hot temper.  Discipline your children (and servants, ick).  But there is a decent amount of class warfare.  There are a total of 82 verses, at least 8 of them deal with the poor. 

Proverbs 28
3 A ruler who oppresses the poor
is like a driving rain that leaves no crops.
6 Better the poor whose walk is blameless
than the rich whose ways are perverse.
8 Whoever increases wealth by taking interest or profit from the poor
amasses it for another, who will be kind to the poor.
11 The rich are wise in their own eyes;
one who is poor and discerning sees how deluded they are.
27 Those who give to the poor will lack nothing,
but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses.
Proverbs 29
7 The righteous care about justice for the poor,
but the wicked have no such concern.
13 The poor and the oppressor have this in common:
The Lord gives sight to the eyes of both.
14 If a king judges the poor with fairness,
his throne will be established forever.
It is fascinating how much of the Old Testament is devoted to taking care of the poor. It's like when I read the Gospel of Mark recently and was like, "You know, what seem to be pretty literal healing stories are just a huge part of this Gospel."  Even as someone who is uncomfortable with miracles, you just can't deny that is a part of the story.  I am not sure how people read these texts and continue to be okay with a government that harms the poor.  Weird.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Proverbs 25-26

So these proverbs were collected by Hezekiah's scribes, but they are still attributed to Solomon. Cool.

Here's some translation fun.  In English, "Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a ruling rightly given."  The footnote says that maybe it is an apple.  The Spanish, "Como naranjas de oro con incrustaciones de plata son las palabras dichas a tiempo."  So, Proverbs 25:11 refers to an apple, or maybe an apricot, or an orange.  Mkay.

Two proverbs warn that if you eat to much honey, it will make you vomit.  And one proverb provides that it is better to live in a corner of your roof than with a bitchy wife.

So there's that.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

1 Kings 9; 2 Chronicles 8

This is a complete side by side story.  Again, Kings is longer.  But also, God appears to Solomon in Kings, no explicitly in a dream this time, but it is implied, and makes a covenant with Solomon that his line will stay in power unless they fall out of line and fail to keep the commandments.  This is much more of a contract.

The two sources disagree about the role the Pharaoh's daughter played in some land to the South.  First From Kings.

15 Here is the account of the forced labor King Solomon conscripted to build the Lord’s temple, his own palace, the terraces,[f] the wall of Jerusalem, and Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer. 16 (Pharaoh king of Egypt had attacked and captured Gezer. He had set it on fire. He killed its Canaanite inhabitants and then gave it as a wedding gift to his daughter, Solomon’s wife. 17 And Solomon rebuilt Gezer.) He built up Lower Beth Horon, 18 Baalath, and Tadmor[g] in the desert, within his land, 19 as well as all his store cities and the towns for his chariots and for his horses[h]—whatever he desired to build in Jerusalem, in Lebanon and throughout all the territory he ruled.

. . .

After Pharaoh’s daughter had come up from the City of David to the palace Solomon had built for her, he constructed the terraces.
She's pretty important here.  Solomon is getting a nice bit of territory as a gift to her, right?  The Chronicler has a different view.  
Solomon then went to Hamath Zobah and captured it. 4 He also built up Tadmor in the desert and all the store cities he had built in Hamath. 5 He rebuilt Upper Beth Horon and Lower Beth Horon as fortified cities, with walls and with gates and bars, 6 as well as Baalath and all his store cities, and all the cities for his chariots and for his horses[b]—whatever he desired to build in Jerusalem, in Lebanon and throughout all the territory he ruled.
. . .

Solomon brought Pharaoh’s daughter up from the City of David to the palace he had built for her, for he said, “My wife must not live in the palace of David king of Israel, because the places the ark of the Lord has entered are holy.”
Not only does her pop lose credit for conquering and gifting some land to her, the moving her into her own palace is made to be explicitly due to her unworthiness as a foreigner, I presume.  Also, this passage makes clear that Solomon only enslaved foreigners.  Hmm.  So we won't look here for Biblical guidance on immigration policy.

Psalm 134, 146-150

This passage is of uplifting psalms of praise.  They focus on how God is the God for everyone.  As I have mentioned elsewhere, this notion is not found in all parts of Scripture.

Here is Psalm 148's cosmic, space-time take on the subject.
Praise the Lord from the heavens;
praise him in the heights above.

Praise him, all his angels;
praise him, all his heavenly hosts.
Praise him, sun and moon;
praise him, all you shining stars.
Praise him, you highest heavens
and you waters above the skies.

Let them praise the name of the Lord,
for at his command they were created,
and he established them for ever and ever—
he issued a decree that will never pass away
Ours is a big god, okay.  

There is lots of use of "Zion" in this passage, psalm 147 includes, "The Lord builds up Jerusalem;
he gathers the exiles of Israel."  Which raises a question for the creators of the reading list.  This psalm--and according to the NIB Commentary all of Book V--reflects a post-exile sentiment.  So, why am I reading it in the middle of King Solomon's reign?

Thursday, June 15, 2017

1 Kings 8; 2 Chronicles 5-7; Psalm 136

The reading plan split Kings' & Chronicles' description of Solomon's moving the arc of the covenant to the Temple and blessing the Temple  into two days.  So, I waited until today to blog about them.

Solomon really is the greatest King of Israel.  He unifies the territory from Gaza to the Euphrates.  He unifies power by defeating the various people who had believed themselves to be heir to the throne.  And in this passage, he seems to finally bring the mystical power of the ancient religion under civil authority.

Recall that the prophets opposed the creation of a king, and at first God opposes the building of a temple.  Even after David had built a palace.  Nonetheless, by the end, God acquiesces and comes into the Temple, as indicated by a dark cloud so thick that the priests cannot complete their rituals.  And Solomon, the king, no any prophet or priest dedicates the Temple.

It really is a magnificent story of unification.  Of course, like Camelot, it will be a relatively brief moment.