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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.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Psalms 32, 51, 86, 122

To some extent, these psalms each had a theme of forgiveness.  I am slow to take forgiveness to mean forgiveness of personal sin because I understand the thought would have been much more focused on collective sin.  And, while collective sin consists of the actions of individuals, the collective nature is the focal point.

I'm not sure what to do with David and Bathsheba. In psalm 86, attributed to David, we have "You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you.  Hear my prayer, Lord; listen to my cry for mercy."  Ps. 86:5-6.  Is David asking for personal forgiveness as he does in the story once Nathan warns him of God's anger?  It sure seems like it.  But what does it mean when a Sovereign asks for personal forgiveness?

Interesting note: My little brain gets so excited when I come across a Spanish phrase that I recognize immediately.  That is doubly true in the psalms.  So I was very pleased to read, "Crea en mí, oh Dios, un corazón limpio."  Create in me, oh God, a clean heart.  When is a hymn, so, you know . . .

Saturday, May 13, 2017

2 Samuel 11-12; 1 Chronicles 20

This is the story of David seeing Bathsheba bathing and then commanding her to his palace, having sex with her, and sending her back to her home, all while her Hittite husband was at war.

I think it's a rape, and, despite what some anti-choice radicals believe, Bathsheba conceived a son from that rape.  David calls Uriah the Hittite back from battle and directs him to go home and either sleep with his wife or wash his feet.

The Chronicler seems entirely uninterested in the Real Housewives of Jerusalem and does not even mention Bathsheba.  1 Chronicles 20:1 is identical to 2 Samuel 11:1, but then it immediately jumps to David meeting up with Joab's forces and taking Ammonite King's crown.

ON FEET

This is where I take a break to talk translation.  In NVI, from David to Uriah, «Vete a tu casa y acuéstate con tu mujer».  NVI drops a footnote that the command is literally to wash your feet.  The same quote from NIV is, “Go down to your house and wash your feet.”  No footnote.  Recognize that Bathsheba had informed David she was pregnant, so clearly David was trying to cover it up.  Why is the NIV providing us such an opaque translation?

Who knows?  It reminded me of Ruth 3, where she goes to lie at the feet of Boaz.  And remains at his feet all night.  Weird.  It also reminded my of the sinful woman washing Jesus feet in Luke 7 or Mary the sister of Martha anointing his feet and hair in John 12.  The cases with Jesus would have been pretty crazy if they meant sex, though, since the incidents happened with a bunch of people around.  Sort of The Passion meets Caligula.



Friday, May 12, 2017

Psalms 65-67, 69-70

Psalm 65 talks about "our sins."  It really feels to my like individual transgression, but I think it probably isn't.  Also, the translations for psalms are tricky.  In one place the Spanish says, "los que viven en remotos lugares se asombran ante tus prodigios."  That says that those in remote places are in awe of your wonders, while the English translates those who live in remote places as "The whole earth is filled."  No footnote from either.

Psalm 66 is basically ours is an awesome god.  While Psalms 67, 69 & 70 are asking God for help.  The poetry is substantial and beautiful.  The extent to which the psalmist pleads for help is interesting.

Psalm 68 is forbidden.


Thursday, May 11, 2017

2 Samuel 10; 1 Chronicles 19; Psalm 20

This is a pretty typical selection.  Psalm 20 is a prayer for victory in battle.  As odd as such prayers are when referring to sporting events--for instance, we attended a Newman Center where the priest always offered prayers for the Cubs--it is actually kind of gruesome when referring to battle.  But, also more important.  When we falsely claim that there are no atheists in foxholes, I believe the fantasy is that the soldiers is praying for his life, not the death of her opponent.

I did not catch any difference from 2 Sam 10 and 1 Chron 19.  The Ammonites still (again? I lost track) hold the city of Jericho.  David sends some folks to give his condolences to the new king for the death of the old king.  There is a misunderstanding and pretty soon armies are advancing, including mercenaries from the homeland of Abraham.

I noticed that the Spanish translation uses "sirios," or Syrians, while the English translation uses "Arameans," or arameos.  Because we live in the computer age, I searched the frequency of each term and it breaks down like this.  NIV uses Arameans (plural) 48 times and never uses Syrians, although "Syrian" is used twice in the Gospels.  NVI uses sirios (plural) 55 times and arameos only twice, both Old Testament.  It also uses "arameo" (singular) 17 times.  And, most interestingly, Laban & Abraham are both referred as arameo.

Clearly justifications for using either.  I have a friend who is Persian.  He said his folks were Iranian until around, oh, 1980.  Then they became Persian again.  I wonder if any Syrians have strarted identifying as Aramean?

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

2 Samuel 8-9; 1 Chronicles 18; Psalms 50, 53, 60, 75

Hopefully, last day of "catch up."

Chronicles seems to just hit the highlights of 2 Sam 8-9.  It leaves off the charming story of how David lined up the Moabites.  Then, using a cord, he measure off thirds.  Killing 2/3 and letting 1/3 live.  Sort of an amped up decimation. 

Again, there is a story of Israel reaching the Euphrates. This time making the people their vassals, rather than just raiding parties sort of dominating the area as in earlier version. 

It is very noteworthy to me that David--who we think has a historical basis--is not killing everyone like Joshua--who we think is not historical--did.

Final story is David reaching out to Saul's family.  He finds Mephibosheth and gives him Saul's land.  Mephibosheth is disabled, not having the use of his feet.  It is a detail that is mentioned, but plays no part in driving the action.

Psalms 50, 53, 60, 75--I read them.  You'll have to believe me.  Psalm 50 is interesting because it starts out saying how God doesn't exactly need sacrifices, but then instead of taking the typical turn to commanding Israel to care for the poor and the widow it says that good people do sacrifices anyway.  The others were unremarkable, IMHO.




Tuesday, May 09, 2017

I've Been Reading

So, I have been keeping up with my reading, but not my blogging.

Psalms 89, 96, 100-101, 105, 132

The psalms are not grouped particularly.  Ps. 89, 132 refers to God's pledge to David.  Ps. 96 includes "Sing to the Lord a new Song," which goes well with returning the Arc to the center of Israelite life. Ps. 100 has "Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth."  Also noteworthy for surviving into hymns today.  And, noteworthy for including all of the earth, not just the children of Zion.  Ps. 105 is a lengthy account of the exodus, which is interesting.  (I wonder why we didn't read it earlier, like during the exodus.)  Ps. 101 is a generic hymn of praise.

2 Samuel 6-7; 1 Chronicles 17

Here 2 Samuel gets the arc to Jerusalem.  Saul's daughter throws shade toward David for not acting dignified.  Then David take a pro-populist stance justifying his dancing that would later be imitated by Gospel writers describing Jesus eating with the commoners. 

Curiously 2 Sam 7 & 1 Chron 17 include God saying that David's offspring will build the temple.  1 Chron 17:11: "When your days are over and you go to be with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom.  He is the one who will build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever."

I thought David didn't get to build the temple as punishment.  I guess God knew he would hook up with that dude's wife already?

Psalms 25, 29, 33, 36, 39

Ps. 33 continues the later evolution of God.  Both as God of any and all nations, and as omnipotent creator.  "For he spoke, and it came to be; he command, and it stood firm."  This is the God of the Priestly creation story found in Gen. 1, not the Yahwehist  story found in Gen. 2.  Ps. 36 provides an alternative to Israelite/non-Israelite divide.  Instead, it is the upright/evildoers divide. 

Then we get this sweet little emo gem from Psalm 39.  Here's the last stanza:
“Hear my prayer, Lord,
listen to my cry for help;
do not be deaf to my weeping.
I dwell with you as a foreigner,
a stranger, as all my ancestors were.
Look away from me, that I may enjoy life again
before I depart and am no more.”
The Smiths would be proud. 

Friday, May 05, 2017

Ps. 1-2, 15, 22-24, 47, 68

The first two Psalms are your typical God blesses us variety.  They are neatly placed immediately adjacent to a story about God pretty much not blessing someone in the person of Job, but that is an accident of later organization.  Psalm 24 follows a similar pattern, but add the metaphor of opening the gates for the King of Glory to enter, which is cool.

Fifteen also connects to Job for me because in Spanish the word "intachable," which means blameless appears.  This psalm celebrates that only the blameless--and other good quality type people--can live the Lord, in his sanctuary or mountain.  Also reminds me of the "Kingdom of God" imagery which comes later.  Psalm 23, maybe you've heard of it, also includes a proclamation of living in the house of the lord, forever.  I wonder if it means forever after, or just straight up forever.  Seems like the latter to me.

Then Psalm 22 stands out among the Book I selections from today because it is about anguish and keeping faith despite feeling abandoned, and even laughed at by friends.

The next couple are from Book II.  I can't really see a pattern yet.

Psalm 47 is like a pop hit that includes lots of "sing to the lord" type gimmicks.  From Psalm 68, I like "Padre de los huerfanos y defensor de las viudas" as un nombre de Dios.  Psalm 68 is also interesting because it starts with a command almost, May God arise.  And may God's enemies be dispersed etc.  It is an interesting structure.  Like, "who are you talking to?"

So, my love/hate relationship with the Psalms continues.



Thursday, May 04, 2017

1 Chron. 13-16

There is a lot of action here.  It is disorienting reading these stories twice.  For example, I mentioned that Deuteronomic authors gave more details on Davids battle against the Philistines, but I spoke to soon, as the Chronicler provided the detail later.  I seems to me, actually quoting 2 Samuel.

Most the reading deals with moving the arc from its station in obscurity to Jerusalem.  However, along the way, the ox carrying it stumbles, and the Israelite who touches the arc, trying to steady it, is struck dead by God.  Notice how conscious God's decision is, and David's response.
They moved the ark of God from Abinadab’s house on a new cart, with Uzzah and Ahio guiding it. David and all the Israelites were celebrating with all their might before God, with songs and with harps, lyres, timbrels, cymbals and trumpets.

When they came to the threshing floor of Kidon, Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the ark, because the oxen stumbled. The Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah, and he struck him down because he had put his hand on the ark. So he died there before God.

Then David was angry because the Lord’s wrath had broken out against Uzzah, and to this day that place is called Perez Uzzah.
This results in David dumping the arc with Obed-Edom for a few months.  Finally, the arc gets there. Asaf, the psalmist we've seen before, shows up as a chief choir director and we wrap up with a psalm of David, that is found outside of Psalms.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Ps. 106-107

According to NIV/NVI, these represent the last psalm of Book IV and the first psalm of Book V.  I will admit I am not aware of the distinction, and don't have time this morning to investigate.

Psalm 106 has a little mini history of the exodus and perhaps the exile.  It talks about being delivered into the hands of pagan nations, but I can't tell if that was prior to the reign of David when there was back and forth conquering of the Israelites, or Babylon and Syria taking them away.

Psalm 106 is interesting to me based on my recent sermon because it addresses the question of whether ours is the best or the only god.  Worshipping the Golden Calf is described as trading the Almighty God of Israel for a bull that eats grass.  In other words, not a god, but only the symbol.  Later, Israel is described as worshiping idols that are not alive. Again, demonstrating the evolution away from the idea that there is any connection to this behavior and something real.

Psalm 107 is similar, recounting the people turning away or losing courage, but includes a fair bit about being at sea.  There are not many sea stories in the Bible, and this one is super generic.  Still, interesting. 

23 Some went down to the sea in ships,
    doing business on the mighty waters;
24 they saw the deeds of the Lord,
    his wondrous works in the deep.
25 For he commanded and raised the stormy wind,
    which lifted up the waves of the sea.
26 They mounted up to heaven, they went down to the depths;
    their courage melted away in their calamity;
27 they reeled and staggered like drunkards,
    and were at their wits’ end.
28 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he brought them out from their distress;
29 he made the storm be still,
    and the waves of the sea were hushed.
30 Then they were glad because they had quiet,
    and he brought them to their desired haven.
31 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
    for his wonderful works to humankind.
32 Let them extol him in the congregation of the people,
    and praise him in the assembly of the elders.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Psalm 133

Today's reading is inexplicably short.  I guess it is the psalm celebrating the union.

How good and pleasant it is
    when God’s people live together in unity!
It is like precious oil poured on the head,
    running down on the beard,
running down on Aaron’s beard,
    down on the collar of his robe.
It is as if the dew of Hermon
    were falling on Mount Zion.
For there the Lord bestows his blessing,
    even life forevermore.

Happy united kingdom.

Monday, May 01, 2017

2 Sam. 5; 1 Chron. 11-12

First Chronicles 11 actually begins almost exactly as Second Samuel 5.  Makes sense that Chronicles was written latter and gathering sources.  Chronicles adds much more in the way of names.  I remember a pastor once reading some list of names and asking us to imagine the "saints" of our churches we grew up in.  The image really stuck.

The Deuteronomical authors give more details about the battle.  And they both establish that right after David unifies the Kingdoms he conquers Jerusalem and kicks some Philistine butt.

Neat.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Ps. 102-104

The Psalms continue to provide the emotional connection.  Psalm 102 is full of anguish.  The author recognizes the power of God and names it.  But, it is clear that the psalmist has not found relief.  Psalms 103 and 104 seem to flow together.  Praise the Lord, Hallelujah, book ends both psalms.  103 is directed toward the people, 104 toward God.  Both full of praise. 

Saturday, April 29, 2017

1 Chron. 7-10

So, lots of dumb genealogy followed by a retelling of 1 Samuel 31, i.e. the death of Saul.  The weird thing is that the genealogies don't even match the earlier genealogies.  The genealogies even include a reference to the exile, and a somewhat mysterious book, the Book of Kings, which evidently included lists of battle-aged Israelites.

# # #

We're about to return the main narrative.  Or actually, about to start the more reliably historical telling.  It has been convincingly suggested by Karen Armstrong, and others, that there were three waves of immigration into the land called the Promised Land.  Around 1850 BCE a group from Mesopotamia immigrated.  This group is represented by Abraham who tellingly worshiped El Shaddai (Ex. 6:3) and settled near Hebron.  The second group held up Jacob as their primary hero, into Shechem.  Perhaps these people are represented by the Elohimist authors.  The third group, holding up YHWH as their god (Ex. 6:3) and Moses as their hero came from Egypt in approximately 1200 BCE.  The scripture has woven together these three groups.  The events that we are about to investigate, the reign of David is dated two centuries after the final immigration.  Both the Yahewist (J) and Elohimist (E) components of the Torah were likely written around this time.

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?  

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Ps. 121, 123-125, 128-130

The selections will get choppy as we attempt to maintain the chronological approach to reading the Scriptures.  I'll be reading Second Samuel, Psalms and First Chronicles.  All deal with King David's reign.  Based on a briefing reading of the New Interpreter's Bible Introduction to Psalms, it appears that it was written generally at the same time as the Deuteronomic and Priestly selections of the Old Testament, around the time of the exile (590 BCE - 530 BCE -ish) 

Each of the Psalms in today's reading is short.  Psalm 121 is directed to the reader, not God, and encourages faith in God.  There is a real mix of lamentation and praise.  So, Psalm 123, 129, and 130 talk about oppression and suffering.  Psalm 124, on the other hand, claims that but for God's intervention, we'd all be doomed.  And then Psalm 128 is almost straight up prosperity gospel about how great God is to the righteous.

Psalm 130 is my favorite because of its hopefulness.
A song of ascents.

1 Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord;
2 Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy.

3 If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,
Lord, who could stand?
4 But with you there is forgiveness,
so that we can, with reverence, serve you.

5 I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
6 I wait for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.

7 Israel, put your hope in the Lord,
for with the Lord is unfailing love
and with him is full redemption.
8 He himself will redeem Israel
from all their sins.
The Psalms are also so much more individual focused than what we've read so far in the Old Testament.  And this bit about forgiveness of sins, of "my" sins, seems downright New Testament.  And of course, the New Testament didn't come out of nowhere, right?  Obviously its claims have to be rooted in the belief system of first century Jews, which in turn are rooted in the works I'm reading now.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

1 Sam. 28-31 (the end); Ps. 18

Saul, Saul, Saul.  This poor guy cannot catch a break.  God has abandon him, even while he admits that he has sinned; but he admits he has sinned a lot.  I've really fallen in love with how well drawn this Saul is.  After God won't answer his questions, and neither will the urim and neither will the prophets, he decides to go to a medium--in disguise because, you know, he just go done expelling them all from Israel.  Then she summons Samuel from the dead.

Notes on this, Samuel comes up from the ground to join Saul as a ghostly figure and basically tells him if God won't help you neither will I.  So, are we to believe that this person who is not a prophet of God can summon spirits?  Spirits are floating around under the ground?  This is in fact a pretty rough clash of ancient and modern scientific understanding of the world.

Samuel is popping up from "Underworld."  Realize, this is not the point of the story.  It is an assumed fact around it.  

The intrigue continues.  David has pledged allegiance to a foreign king and it looks like he and his army may actually go against the Israelites under Saul's command.  Although that doesn't happen because the Philistine generals, with whom this new king is buddies, are like, "Hey, we remember that dude.  Uh, no, we're not going into battle with him."  David executes a daring rescue of his family and the whole city which had been plundered by the Amalakites while he was off almost fighting against the Israelites.  But, this book is really about Saul.  And it ends with Saul's sad suicide the same day everyone of his boys dies in battle.  (Cf. Eli, his sons and his daughter-in-law mother of Icabod).

Psalm 18 is a little braggy for my taste.  It is full of how awesome God is, compare to the end of Job, but also a lot about how pure David is, I guess also compare to Job.  But, it comes off differently when the speaker is a king.

Closing thought, Saul feel like Darth Vader to me.  Much more interesting from a literary point of view than goody two shoes David (so far). 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

1 Sam. 25-27; Ps. 17, 35, 54, 63

Our civil war seems to come to a cease fire when David has the opportunity to kill Saul in his sleep but chooses not to, them makes Saul aware of it.  David retires to Philistine territory where he and his 600 men conduct raids on Israel's enemies.

Before that we can David's marriage to Abigail.  She is the widow of a guy who refused to feed David's army and was generally a jerk.  The dude died of a heart attack, and David married his widow--like you do.

Oh yeah, and Samuel dies.

Psalm 17 - plea for help from God
Psalm 35 - how great is God for rescuing me; also he rescues the poor; also, Awake God and help me
Psalm 54 - a short little plea for help
Psalm 63 - "Oh God, you are my God," and "my soul thirsts for you."

The stories of David & Saul really are interesting to read.  In the encounter with Saul above, he again admits that he has sinned--something Saul does often--and starts referring to David as his son.  Seriously, abuser behavior.  Sort of interesting to read in an ancient text.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Psalms catch up

Psalm 7 is about seeking safety and wanting vengeance.

Psalm 27 speaks to me of confidence.  It also has an interesting theological note, I will live in the house of the lord all of my days.  Hmm, so not after he dies, but all of his days.

Psalm 31 is about anguish. It even has the psalmist say, "Into your hands, I commit my spirit."

Psalm 34 is about loyalty to God and includes "Taste and see that the Lord is good."

Psalm 52 is more hopeful.

Psalm 56 is also about loyal and include the phrase I walk in the light of the God.

Psalm 120 is a short little sad ditty.

Psalm 140-142 keep me safe from the enemies, don't let me sin, keep me safe from enemies.

Okay, now I'm still but only still one day behind in my reading.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter

So, I did read some today, I didn't finish the reading for the day.  Curiously enough because all of my time on Easter.  I've officially decided that God will grant me grace on this one.


Saturday, April 15, 2017

Ps. 7, 27, 31

Psalms.  These psalms like all of them are weird for me because I feel like there is something amazing about them.  They seem to capture emotion and intimacy.  Nonetheless, I don't find room for  a lot of commentary.

I will say that it is interesting to read these psalms about refuge while the reading story about the civil war / David's flight from Saul.

Friday, April 14, 2017

1 Sam 21-23

This selection returns to that feel from reading the Canterbury Tales.  It really feels medieval to me, which I recognize is silly.  Saul and David are engaged in what has become a civil war.  David saves a city from the Philistines, which brings Saul his way since Saul figures David is finally pinned down to a particular place.  God tells David--and God is still talk directly to people in words, but does seem to appear to them any more--that, yeah, the people in the city he just liberated would in fact deliver him to Saul if Saul arrives.  The selection ends with Saul giving up the hunt for David because the Philistines have invaded again.

What strikes me here is that the author records Saul's continued desire to win YHWH's affection and approval.  Saul really is a tragic character.

Interesting note: a 1 Sam. 22:3-4 we have the following:
From there David went to Mizpah in Moab and said to the king of Moab, “Would you let my father and mother come and stay with you until I learn what God will do for me?” So he left them with the king of Moab, and they stayed with him as long as David was in the stronghold.
 Recall that the Book of Ruth was likely written to explain David's Moabite roots.  This may have been another attempt.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

1 Sam 18-20; Ps. 11, 59

Were Jonathan and David in love?  Were they a couple?  From Genesis 2:22-24 & 1 Sam. 18:1-3.
Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

The man said,
“This is now bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
for she was taken out of man.”
That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.
* * *
After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself. 2 From that day Saul kept David with him and did not let him return home to his family. 3 And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself.
Also, when Saul plots to kill David, because Jonathan "had taken a great liking to David," he tips him off.  1 Sam 19:1. Also, from this reading, after Jonathan confirms that Pops is definitely interested in killing David (including a cool signal with arrows scene), we get this:
David got up from the south side of the stone and bowed down before Jonathan three times, with his face to the ground. Then they kissed each other and wept together—but David wept the most. Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord is witness between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants forever.’” Then David left, and Jonathan went back to the town.
1 Sam 20:41-42.  I had not remembered these passages.  I did remember David's eulogy for Jonathan which is usually pointed to for this point.  I'm not sure what I think.

For the record, I have zero doubt that gay people lived during time of the House of David.  I am unsure if people had an understanding of two men being in love, and am even more unsure that the Biblical authors would have recorded it.  As for an unintentional capturing of a gay romance, well?  It's hard to believe that the data was transmitted with sufficient "signal fidelity" to reveal something unintentional.  Nonetheless, we are reaching the part of the story where there is reason to believe that these are real people.  There was a House of David, and quite likely a King David.  So, who knows.

Interesting Note: It was evidently controversial as to whether Saul was among the Prophets.  1 Sam 19:23-24 has a story about Saul falling into a trance and prophesying while looking for David, and there is a similar story about him joining Samuel's prophets shortly after being chosen to be kind, again, falling into a trance. 1 Sam 10: 9-11.  In both cases the question "Is Saul also among the prophets?" is presented with the implied answer, "Uh, no."

Translational note: When David prays to God in the Psalms, Psalm 59 was specifically for this part of the story, btw, the Spanish has David use the informal "eres" and "tu" rather than the form "es" and "Ud."

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

1 Sam 15-17

This is an amazingly dense selection.  Both from narrative points and for meaningful reflection.

Saul again fails to kill someone and this time really upsets God.  Plus we have three origin stories for David.  One his is anointed by Samuel; two he is the musician who calms Saul's late onset madness; three he slays Goliath.  (P.S. he will slay Goliath again.)

Of course, some of David's origin stories can be reconciled.  Samuel could have anointed him and then he just happened to be the kid who plays the harp.  Or maybe Samuel anoints him, everyone forgets that, and then he happens to show up at camp with his brothers, and no one says, "Actually, aren't you the anointed king of Israel?  Maybe it does make sense for you to fight Goliath."  But, the thing is the authors didn't do that.  They gave us three sides of who David was.

It is interesting to think about these stories as what is required of the ideal leader. 

On a theological note, when Saul is caught having allowed King Agag to live and some of the animals from the city, he tries to rationalize saying that he left the animals for a sacrifice.  Samuel is having none of it, and in some crazy baller scene kills the king himself.  Then we have this: "And the LORD regretted that he had made Saul king over Israel."  1 Sam. 15:35.

God, regretted.  Interesting.

Translational note: the words translated in the NVI as siervos y cortesanos are both translated as servants in the NIV.  1 Sam. 16:18.  Courtesan or courtier has a different connotation to me than servant. 


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

1 Sam 13-14 (rule breaker)

Saul does alright.  He rules over Israel for forty-two years, which is record breaking.  1 Sam 13:1.  He wins victories against the Philistines.  But so does his boy, Jonathan.  See, e.g. 1 Sam 14:1-14. 

The Bible talks a lot about armies being confused and killing each other.  It is a major component in Saul's big victory over the armies of the Philistines.  1 Sam 14:14-23. 

Here's something interesting, Saul makes a dumb vow about no one eating.  His boy is off killing Philistines and doesn't hear it, so he eats too soon.  AND Saul does not kill him.  And the reason he doesn't kill him is the soldiers are like, "Hey, c'mon, he saved us from all those dirty Philistines."  Seems like a big deal, but recall, Saul also didn't kill the dudes who were talking shit about him when he took over as king.  Saul also tries to do a sacrifice, himself.  That makes Samuel pretty upset. 

He's tall and good looking. He's from humble roots.  He's a hot head that gets Israel into unending war.  He doesn't really care about the rules.

Monday, April 10, 2017

1 Sam 9-12

You know what's great about Saul?  He's tall.  It's mentioned more than once in the description of him.  Oh yeah, and he comes from the humblest of families in the smallest of tribes, Benjamin.  Seriously, I guess this "born in a log cabin" stuff has a long history.

He is also painted as quite moody.  How does he get Israel to unite and liberate the city?  He cuts up a couple of oxen and says, "This is what happens to those that don't follow us into battle."  When he is flying high on his first military victory and the end of questions about his legitimacy, he spares the doubters, even though some suggest they should be put to death. 

The we get Samuel's farewell speech, which is much more of a bummer than even Obama's.  He does call down thunder and rain before reminding the people what a bunch of screw ups they are.  Also, he lists the important heroes who delivered the sinful Israelites: Gideon, Barak, Jephthah and Samuel (or Samson depending on the manuscript).  More evidence of complex tradition.  I'm not sure at all that Jephthah was a good guy. 

Interesting note: When describing the army that follows Saul, it is 300,000 from Israel and 30,000 from Judah.  1 Sam 11:8.  That's an interesting division since the kingdoms have not yet been divided. 

Sunday, April 09, 2017

1 Sam 4-8

Again, just racing through the narrative portions.  This really is a just the facts man style story telling.

This passage includes the loss of the arc and the death of Eli's kids and Eli.  As foretold, the boys die on the same day, the day they lost the arc to the Philistines.  Eli dies falling back in his chair--I just watch the movie Logan last night and am seeing Patrick Stewart as Eli, btw--and the wife of one of the boys gives birth to a boy and names him Icabod.  If you didn't think it was a weird name before, it mean "No Glory." 

Anyway, Samuel gets them straightened out, and then we have this argument about a king.  It's really interesting.  The people want a king, literally because everyone else has one.  Samuel basically says, "Seriously, here's all of the crap a king will do to you." The people don't care.  Then God tells Samuel, "Look, it's really a burn on me, not you.  You did your best." 

So, the Deuteronomists are really conflicted on this whole monarchy thing.  I mean, the tale of the Levites Concubine is unbelievably horrible and is blamed 100% on not have a king.  But then you have Samuel, who is unquestionably a man of God, is beside himself that these dummies want a king.

It's hard not to see connections with America's role with local and federal power.  Although it oscillates with the party in power, the party in power represents ideology.  Like everything from Joshua forward, we have lots of fodder for conversation.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

1 Sam 1-3

In this selection we move on to the story of Samuel.  It is remarkable how fast the narrative sections of the Bible come and go.  Only one day on Ruth makes sense based on the number of pages, but weird when you consider how much time is spent describing the tabernacle. 

The mother of Samuel is Ana in Spanish and Hannah in English.  Hannah begins the story unable to conceive.  So far in my reading, Sarah was unable to conceive, Gen. 11:20, Rebekah was sterile, but just for like a minute until Isaac prayed that she not be, Gen. 25:21, Rachel was sterile, Gen. 30:22, and the mother of Samson was sterile, Judges 13:2. 

On the plus side, perhaps these passages can challenge the notion that being able to easily conceive children is "normal."  On the downside, these passages clearly suggest that the purpose of womanhood is childbirth.  More ugliness comes with Sarah, Rachel and Hannah all having another woman in the picture who torments them for not being about to conceive.  (Hagar, Leah, and Peninnah, all significantly less popular name, no?)  This picture of women and jealous of each other is some pretty shitty cultural baggage that is carried by the Scripture.  Although, we should not lose sight of the place in the narrative for the forgotten and forsaken. 

[For what it is worth, both Samson mother and Hannah agree to dedicate their boy, if they conceive a son, to YHWH and to not cut his hair.  I makes me wonder if there is some bleeding of stories here, like with Rebekah being unable to have children but for like one verse.]

This passage also contains solid story telling that sparks the mind and the soul.  Hannah's giving up her first son, her miraculously conceived son, is made more touching by the detail that she kept him with her only until he is weaned.  Also, she provides either a three-year-old bull, or three bulls to Shiloh.  So, they are rich. 

Then we have the carousing of Eli's sons.  They are defiling the Lord's house.  Eating meat the wrong way and having sex with the women who tend to the meeting tent.  (Basically, typical preacher's kid behavior.)  Then we have goody-two-shoes Samuel who, in a time when visions are rare, gets a personal call from God.  The refrain "Here I am," or "Aqui estoy," the refrain from Abraham returns.

It feels to me like this section, with Samuel's becoming the new Prophet, means Israel is back.  Or at least on its way back, after the ugly division of Judges.  And, it is weird, because my church experience is to just tell the story of Deborah and Samson, and only the good bits of Samson, from Judges so I think we miss the people losing their way, even after entering the Promised Land, theme.

[Last note: the House of the Lord is in Shiloh during this time.  That happened without much fanfare.  There is a verse in Joshua 18:1 that remarks that they set up the meeting tent in Shiloh as they were sort of regrouping.  The title of the section is literally "Division of the Rest of the Land."  Again, compare to the full month of reading about what to make the candle holders out of.]




Friday, April 07, 2017

Ruth

This selection is the Book of Ruth.  According the NVI introduction, this is a play and serves to nicely bridge the pre-monarch period with the monarch period. 

The following detailing Naomi's daughter-in-law Ruth's devotion to her really is poignant.
Pero Rut respondió:
―¡No insistas en que te abandone o en que me separe de ti!
»Porque iré adonde tú vayas,
y viviré donde tú vivas.
Tu pueblo será mi pueblo,
y tu Dios será mi Dios.
Moriré donde tú mueras,
y allí seré sepultada.
¡Que me castigue el Señor con toda severidad
si me separa de ti algo que no sea la muerte!
Your God will be my God, I will die where you die.  Ruth 1:16-17.

As with Job, the Book of Ruth, seems to challenge a major contention.  In this case, ethnic purity.  King David--and therefore, Jesus btw--has a Moabite in his lineage.  Quite a counter culture reference. 


Thursday, April 06, 2017

Judges 19-21(end of Judges/worse story in the Bible)

Today's selection is the Levite's concubine.  Probably the most horrific story in the Bible.  (Translational note, the same phrase translated as "her master" in NIV is translated as "su marido" in NVI, which is husband, a synonym for "esposo.")

The concubine is unfaithful to the Levite and returns to her father's home.  After a few months he goes to get her back, unclear what has changed.  Her father invites him to stay with him for longer and longer times.  Seems like an homage to Jacob's experience with Leah & Rachel.  Eventually he heads out, passes on staying the night in the Jebusite city of Jerusalem, and stays in a Benjaminite city.

That city very closely replays the events of Sodom.  Perverts want to rape the Levite.  Instead, the old man with who he is staying offers his daughter and the Levite's concubine.  It says the perverts don't listen to this offer, but when the Levite sends out his concubine they rape her all night.

She dies at some point, but not until he disrespects her, yelling at her to get up when he discovers her laying on the doorstep of the house where he is staying.  After she dies--presumably--he cuts her into twelve pieces and sends them to the tribes of Israel.

Then then the tribes of Israel attack the city, reminiscent of this I learned about in Hard Core History, and the story ends with sanctioned kidnapping of Israelite girls by Benjaminites. 

What unholy hell is this story?   According to the author, this is all due to Israel not having a king.  I feel like they could do better even without a king.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Judges 16-18

Chapter 16 is the more familiar passage about Samson.  In addition to Samson's incredible strength, his libido is constantly getting him into trouble.  The patriarchy is present here, of course.  Samson is a hero with a flaw.  The women he sleeps with are garbage.  Either unnamed or the villains.  I don't think promoting the patriarchy is the point of the story, but it gives evidence to a grand cultural flaw.

Nonetheless, a blinded superhero pulling down the columns of a temple to vanquish his enemies, "thus, he killed many more when he died than while he lived," is pretty badass.  I was looking for a serious comparison between Samson & Hercules, but this "debate" about who would win is too entertaining not to pass along.  Note, several respondents indicate that Samson was "a real man."  Seriously?  The weirdest thing is I suspect many of these people read the book of Judges and think it is an accounting of historical events. 

Next is the story of Micah and his priest.  Micah has a shrine full of idols, but seems to be alright with YHWH.  He even essentially hires a Levite to be his priest.  And, he's happy to have a priest of YHWH there.  At this point in judges we start getting the lament: "In those days Israel had not king; everyone did as they saw fit."  Judges 17:6.

The story of Micah concludes with a "to this day" kind of ending.  The Danites are unhappy living so close to the Sidonites.  So they send out some scouts, find a good town to take over.  On the way, they steal all of Micah's riches, commandeer his priest, then destroy the tranquil city far from the Sidonites.  They rebuild it, and that's where they live today.  Descendants of the Levite "were priests for the tribe of Dan until the exile.  They continued to use the idol Micah had made, all the time the house of God was in Shiloh."  Judges 18:30-31.

So, honestly, pretty entertaining stories.  I like the complexity of these over the stories in Joshua which seem so laden with a moral point to make.  It is also interesting to come across such an explicit reference to the exile for purposes of dating the work.
 

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Judges 13-15

This selection is the less known story of Samson.  It even closes with a "Samson led Israel for 20 years in the days of the Philistines."

As with many of the folk tales, I feel like it is full of rich details worth exploring in discussion.  For example, Samson is from Judah, has a miraculous conception--his mother was sterile--and is dedicated to God as a Nazirite.  Israel, or perhaps specifically Judah, has an archetype for its saviors.

This passage includes riddles and mass slaughter and very confusing marital relationships.  It also has betrayal be a lover--who is not Delilah--and trickery that starts with Samson's being bound.

Interesting note: It's not clear from the text if the Delilah story is presented as a sequel, prequel or perhaps "a Samson Story".  Jumping ahead, it closes with "he led Israel for 20 years."  Presumably the same 20 as at the end of 15.

Monday, April 03, 2017

Judges 10-12

This selection kicks off with a couple of minor heroes.  Tola and Jair who rule for 23 and 22 years respectively.  Okay.  Then we return to the primary vehicle of the book.  The people turn from God and are taken captive or are oppressed.  Then, importantly, they cry out to God.  Emphasized here because God denies them at first.  He's had enough of their nonsense and won't help them any more.

They unilaterally straighten up, getting rid of the false gods, and so God "no pudo soportar mas el sufriemiento de Israel/could bear Israel's misery no longer." 

That's pretty interesting few of God.  Not just changing his mind, but doing so from a place of absolute pity and affection. 

At this point, things are serious.  The enemy has crossed the Jordan and is pushing into Judah.  Jephtah is the next hero.  He is born of a prostitute and thrown out by his fathers sons from his wives.  Reminds me of Ishmael.  He lives in the wilderness and leads a band of scoundrels. 

So, the bastard scoundrel becomes king and starts off sending a message to politely ask the foreigners to leave his country.  Then, Henry V style, he responds to their declining to do so with an epic list of his powerful god, YHWH.  My favorite line, "Will you not take what your god Chemosh gives you?"  Judegs 11:24.  Jephtah must not have been clued into the radical monotheism yet.

He also makes the never to go wrong pledge to sacrifice the first thing he sees upon return to his home if God delivers the enemy into his hands.  Dude, he's going to do that any way.  Of course, his only child, his daughter meets him. 

Unlike Iphigenia, daughter of Agamemnon, Jephtah's daughter is willing to be sacrificed to allow Jephtah to keep his vow.  She asks only to have two months with her female friends in the mountains--since she has never married.  Thus, to this day, Israelite girls spend four days in the wilderness to commemorate this unnamed character.

I found this interesting collection of other such stories in the Bible and in other contexts.   Frankly, although rarely as deliberate, is it that rare for parents to make commitments that lead to the untimely death of their children?

The story of Jephthah actually ends in a civil war with Ephraim.  The Gileadites kill 42,000 Ephraimites trying to sneak across the Jordan, who were discovered because they could not pronounce the word "Shibboleth" properly.  (Interestingly enough, the 'th' diphthong at the end of the word is one of the translational differences between English & Spanish, so the NVI has "Shibolet")

The selection closes with a list of three short lived leaders, who "led Israel," for ten years or less each.


Sunday, April 02, 2017

Judges 9

Judges 9 is about Abimelech.  This is quite a complex story that reminds me of an Arthurian legend.  Gideon had 70 children with many wives, and at least one with his concubine: Abimelech.  Abimelech suggests that he should be king, and then to make sure that it stays that way, he goes ahead and kills the other 70 children of Gideon.  Except Jotham, who escapes.

Then there is a complex series of battles between Abimelech and some rebels.  He has victories including burning the occupants of a tower alive.  He is ultimately mortally wounded by a woman at a city gate and quickly has his squire kill him so it can't be said he was killed by a woman. 

It really sounds like it jumped right out of Canterbury tales.  Weirdly, it reads medieval with the towers and siege warfare etc.  And, obviously I'm projecting my world view.  In a way, it serves as a cautionary tale for me along those lines.

Interesting note:  You may remember Schechem from earlier.  He is the son of Hamor who either raped Dinah, per Gen. 34, or was Dinah's true love, per Oprah book club certified The Red Tent.  It appears the city came back from the attack.  Lastly, you may remember a couple of other Abimelechs scattered through out Genesis.  As my pastor informed me, the term just means "my father is the king." 

Judges 6-8

Gideon is a great folk tale.  First, you have Gideon requiring God to perform miracles, but not to see how powerful God is, just, you know, to confirm it's really God.  Then, after they raise the army, God keeps having Gideon send people home until there is only 300 to fight the "Midianites, Amalekits, and others from the east."  Ultimately, he splits up in the three groups of 100, surround them while they are sleeping and makes it seem as if a massive force is attacking them. Thusly, God delivers them into Gideon's hands.  This story includes a couple of times the battle cry, "For the Lord, and for Gideon" as they charge.  Interesting.

Then Gideon chases down the kings of Midian.  He does not get help from the elders of Sucoth and Peniel.  So, after capturing the kings, he comes back through those territories and takes vengeance on those folks.  And, in case you didn't have enough of a Soprano's feel from Gideon, we have this scene.
19 And he said, They were my brethren, even the sons of my mother: as the Lord liveth, if ye had saved them alive, I would not slay you.

20 And he said unto Jether his firstborn, Up, and slay them. But the youth drew not his sword: for he feared, because he was yet a youth.

21 Then Zebah and Zalmunna said, Rise thou, and fall upon us: for as the man is, so is his strength. And Gideon arose, and slew Zebah and Zalmunna, and took away the ornaments that were on their camels' necks.

Gideon actually turns down being king, but does have everyone make him an ephod.  An ephod that is ultimately worship as idol.  So weirdly seems like a mixed bag for Gideon.

Also, his kids do NOT get along.




Saturday, April 01, 2017

Judges 5 (Song of Deborah)

Well, I messed up my schedule last night.  I stopped at Chapter 5 instead of reading through chapter 5.  Just as well because the Song of Deborah deserves its own space.  First, it is interesting to me because it gives much more detail, despite being in verse, about who did and did not fight against "the kings of Canaan," Judges 5:19.  Here's a visual summary of verses 13 through 18.

So, some folks stayed home while others risked their life.  There is a similar description of the battle and the river Kishon.  Also, more feminist bits.  For one, the period is described as "In the days of Shamgar son of Anath, in the days of Jael."  Judges 5:6.  So, not just Deborah as the major Judges, but Jael the general slayer defines the age in some respect. 

NB: The Song of Deborah dates to the twelfth century BCE, according to my NIB commentary.  The commentary notes that the archaic Hebrew makes translation very difficult in several places.

Last remark, the following lament spoken by the enemy's mother has always struck me as so emotionally complex.
28 “Through the window peered Sisera’s mother;
behind the lattice she cried out,
‘Why is his chariot so long in coming?
Why is the clatter of his chariots delayed?’
29 The wisest of her ladies answer her;
indeed, she keeps saying to herself,
30 ‘Are they not finding and dividing the spoils:
a woman or two for each man,
colorful garments as plunder for Sisera,
colorful garments embroidered,
highly embroidered garments for my neck—
all this as plunder?’

Friday, March 31, 2017

Judges 3:7-4

First up is Othniel from Judah.  He's related to earlier great guy Caleb.  He delivered the Israelites out of 8 years of bondage and into 40 years of piece.

Next Ehud from Benjamin.  He delivered the Israelites from 18 years of bondage at the hands of the Moabite king aided by Amorites and Amelekites.  This stories contains lots of yucks about  this super fatty of a Moabite king.  After Ehud killed him and subjugated the Moabites, there were 80 years of piece.

Shamgar kills 600 Philistines, which is pretty good, but no more details than that.

Then we get to some seriously cold hearted shit.  The Israelites were oppressed for 20 years by Jabin, a king of Canaan and his General Sisera.  ao, Deborah, who hold court in Ephraim under the Palms of Deborah.  She enlists Barak who is Nephtali to raise a 10,000 men between his crew and the Zebulun folks to rid themselves of these 900-iron-chariot having mother fuckers.  Thing is, Deborah figures out theses chariots are for shit in the mud, so she tells Barak to lure them into the Wadi Kishon.  They beat the army, but the general escapes.  He runs to his girl Jael, who is a Kenite--but what he doesn't know is that these Kenites go all the way back to the father-in-law of Moses.  So, while he's sleeping she drives a fricking tent stake into his temple.  She find Barak and basically says, "Hey baby, I left you a present inside of my tent."

Tomorrow we do the musical version of Deborah.

Here's where today's warlords are from (PS, can "Barack's Army" become a thing?):

click to enlarge.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Judges 1-3:6 (Intro)

The book of Judges opens up with a little intro about precisely what work was left undone by the Joshua Generation.  It specifically lists all of the indigenous people who were left within the Promised Land after the Israelite's campaign. 

In fact, after explaining that YHWH let the other people stay in the Promise Land as punishment for their disobedience, Jueces 2:1-4 (which I have to tell you feels suspicious to me because God's angel doesn't list any specific unpunished disobedience, but you know), we get this transition passage that alerts us to a new era:
After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals. They forsook the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They aroused the Lord’s anger
Jueces 2:10-12.  The introduction closes noting the God did not abandon the people but instead would raise up judges from time to time to bring the people back to him.  Those judges, spoiler alert, were only ever temporarily successful.

Interesting note:  The NVI uses the term "caudillos" to describe the heroes described in this book in the intro, although notes that they are traditionally referred to a "jueces" and will use the term from here on out.  According to google, caudillos = warlords.  Jueces, of course, is judges.  The NIV on the other hand points out that "leaders" may be a better translation, or at least an alternate. 


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Josh. 22-24 (the end)

The book of Joshua wraps up, naturally enough, with the death of Joshua.  Joshua is laid to rest in the land of Ephraim, his ancestral connection.  Joshua dies at the age of 110.  Josh. 24:29.  Compare with Moses who died at 120.  Deut. 34:7.  Interestingly, 120 was given as the max age of humans after God stepped in to break up the whole Sons of God-Daughters of Humans intermarrying thing.  Gen. 6:1-3.  I mean, it says that, but then Abraham lives to be 175, Gen. 25:7.  So, who are you going to believe?

There is some other business in this passage providing evidence that we don't get every story that the readers/hearers of this story had.  At Josh. 24:9-10 we hear this about our good friend Balaam:
When Balak son of Zippor, the king of Moab, prepared to fight against Israel, he sent for Balaam son of Beor to put a curse on you. 10 But I would not listen to Balaam, so he blessed you again and again, and I delivered you out of his hand.
That is not the story that we have in our Bible.  In our story, he never curses the Israelites and tell Balak that he ain't gonna do it.  There is nothing earthshattering about this.  There were different versions of these stories that circulated.

Also, interrupting the nice bring this storying to a close vibe, there was a big conflict over the altar built by the Transjordan tribes.  Interestingly enough, it was Phineas, son of Eleazar, grandson of Aaron, who lead the other 10 tribes against them.  Which means Manasseh was against itself, btw.  Anyway, the Transjordan tribes convinced the other 10 that this was devotion to YHWH and not rebellion. So, it was all cool.  Point: God didn't lead the action against the Transjordan tribes.  Point: The other 10 lead by Phineas changed their minds.

Finally, chapter 24 serves as neat litany of where we've been.  There is even a call and response where Joshua is like, "Nah, you don't love the Lord," and the people are all like, "We so love the Lord!"  They do this three times for you fans of upcoming Easter pageants.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Josh. 19-21 (LOTR ending)

This selection is the penultimate reading for the book of Joshua.  However, Chapter 21 closes with this:
43 So the Lord gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their ancestors, and they took possession of it and settled there. 44 The Lord gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their ancestors. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the Lord gave all their enemies into their hands. 45 Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.
                                    ***
43 Así fue como el Señor les entregó a los israelitas todo el territorio que había prometido darles a sus antepasados; y el pueblo de Israel se estableció allí. 44 El Señor les dio descanso en todo el territorio, cumpliendo así la promesa hecha años atrás a sus antepasados. Ninguno de sus enemigos pudo hacer frente a los israelitas, pues el Señor entregó en sus manos a cada uno de los que se les oponían. 45 Y ni una sola de las buenas promesas del Señor a favor de Israel dejó de cumplirse, sino que cada una se cumplió al pie de la letra.

Then, the book goes on for three more chapters, which reminded me of the ending to the LOTR movies.

This image seems pretty close to me.  Notice Simeon is inside of Judah.  Reminds me of the Hopi and Navajo land.





Monday, March 27, 2017

Josh. 16-18 (governing is not conquering)

Although not as detailed, the separation and description of territory for the Israelites serves the same literary function (challenge?) as the description of ritual served during the exodus.  It is interesting how quickly the story details cracks in the idea of absolute war in which the enemy was absolutely destroyed. 

Already, there was the story of the wood workers and water carriers who were evidently not Israelite.  Then, in the cities of Mennaseh and Ephraim there are still Canaanites.  Sure, they're enslaved by the power Israelites, but they are still there.  When they complain to Joshua about not enough territory, his response is for them to man up and take the territory in the forest still held by the enemy.  Recall, that is exactly what Caleb did.

We are seeing the divisions that will be featured in the book of Judges. 


Sunday, March 26, 2017

Josh. 12-15 (retrun of the Israelites)

So, Joshua's time in the spotlight seems remarkably short.  We are already to essentially his epilogue.  This selection includes a listing of the kings they conquered, including Og, uno de los últimos refaítas (the Rephaites may be giants descended from the Nephilim).  The author is careful to give Moses credit for the east of Jordan conquests--respect.  Then there is a bit of listing: the 31 kings they conquered and the splitting up of territory.

This selection also sets up what is to come identifying particularly the Philistines as a people yet to conquer.  And there is a bit of action when 85-year-old Caleb goes to see his long-time brother in arms Joshua, and gets permission to kick the Anakites--the giants that Caleb & Joshua, unlike the other spies, were not afraid of--out of the Promised Land.

He does so, employing the time honored technique of promising his daughter in marriage to the man who conquers the last city.  His nephew does it and so he sends his daughter to marry her first cousin which everyone is perfectly cool with.  He even gives them some land in Negev and the upper and lower spring.  So . . .

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Josh. 9-11(Conquistadores)

Chapter 9 explains the presence of an indigenous minority in the Kingdom of Israel.  The Gibeonites, who we all know as wood cutters and water carriers, tricked the Israelites into believing they were from a far away kingdom as Joshua troops advanced from Jericho.  So, Joshua entered into a treaty with them--without consulting with God, p.s.--and when it was discovered they were practically neighbors, it was too late to reverse the treaty.  That's why Gibeonites are there even today.

Chapters 10 & 11 detail Joshua's military victories.  Notably, that time when the sun stood still for almost a day.  "There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when YHWH listened to a human being.  Surely YHWH was fighting for Israel!"  Josh. 10:14.  So, I guess those football prayers are worth a shot. 

By the end of Chapter 11, Joshua has completely destroyed the Northern and Southern rulers of the land between the Jordan and the Mediterranean.  This period features uncharacteristic obedience on the part of the Israelites and their ruler. 

These stories demonstrate a longing for cultural, maybe even racial, "purity" that is pretty troubling. Particularly in light of the fact that unlike those telling these stories who never possessed the power fantasized about here, modern Israelis and their American allies do have the power to completely wipe out the occupants of the "Promised Land."  Is that happening now?

Friday, March 24, 2017

Josh. 5-8

This passage begins with a powerful reversing of the exodus.  They have just crossed the Jordan, made dry by God, and now they restore the tradition of circumcision.  Then they celebrate Passover; then the manna from heaven stops--because they don't need it anymore. 

Then there is the battle for Jericho.  The battle is a cool narrative about obedience to God, courage in the face of danger and having faith in a miracle.  It also contains details of killing every man, woman and child inside of the city except the Prostitute Rahab.  (btw, it's not clear to me how the Israelites felt about prostitution in general.  I know a Levites daughter can't be a prostitute, but that sort of begs the question about who can be a prostitute.)

The need for obedience is emphasized further with the story of Achor.  He hid some spoils of war and brought them back.  Because of this person's disobedience, God turns his back on the Israelites and they loses what should be an easy battle.  Achor is stoned to death, which explains the big pile of stones still there to this day.  These passages, as I recall, are littered with "which is still there to this day" type stories.

Don't worry, they rally and go back to destroy Ai.  The passage ends with Joshua restoring the covenant to Mount Ebal and writing the blessing and curses that Moses told him too.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Josh. 1-4(the good stuff)

In the first chapter of Joshua, we start off with the Big Promised Land, from Mediterranean to the Euphrates.  Josh. 1:4; see also e.g. Deut. 11:24 We also get a big pep talk from the Trans Jordan tribes who are all in to help conquer the Little Promised Land between the Jordan and the Mediterranean. 

Then we get into some great Bible stories.  Chapter 2 is about Rahab, the prostitute who hid the Israelite spies.  The Israelites promise not to forget her when they return since she was helpful to them.  Maybe we should call the movement to help Iraqis who served as translators the Rahab Project.  The story is well told with details about where the spies hid.  Also, like Balaam, Rahab seems to at least respect YHWH despite not being Israelite.

Chapter 3 and 4 deal with crossing the Jordan.  This time, it is the priests carrying the Arc of the Covenant that cause the waters to separate.  The author cannot help but remind us that this is very similar to when God parted the Red Sea.  Again, interesting description, like describing the water as "the water from upstream stopped flowing.  It piled up in a heap a great distance away at a town called Adam."  Josh. 3:16. 

On our way to Jericho.


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Deut. 32-34 (the end) Ps. 91

Here we have the song of Moses.  It is longer than the song of Moses provided immediately following the crossing of the Jordan, and much longer that Miriam's song.  Compare.  Describing the Lord as "My Rock and My Salvation" and as "My Refuge" are something I've come to hear often in churches today. The latter comes from Psalm 91 also.  Otherwise, Moses' song has three point (1) God is Awesome, (2) the Israelites will sin and be punished, and (3) God will be there when they repent. 

We also have Moses' blessings for the tribes of Israel.  Unlike Jacob's blessings, Moses' are all positive.  No memory about who defiled whose father's bed or killed a bunch of people as revenge for their sister's romance/rape.  The order of the tribes is interesting.  Reuben, Judah, Levi.  Okay, makes sense, but then skips to Benjamin then Joseph.  Kids of the wives, I suppose, but why Benjamin first.  then Zubulun (with Issachar as an after thought), Gad Dan, Naphtali and finally Asher.  Asher does get kind of a badass blessing, "the bolts of your gates will be iron and bronze, and your strength will equal your days."  Feels kind of steampunk. 

Finally, the book of Deuteronomy closes.  You can practically hear the music swell as they bury Moses and mourn for him for thirty days.  Then the camera pans to Joshua who has been anointed by Moses.  Moses, the greatest Prophet Israel has ever known.  Now, it is time for a warrior. 

In reality, I'm about to start reading about lists of people who were killed, including women and children. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Deut. 30-31

Today's selection lays out some important principles that are carried forward in Christianity today.  First is the notion of repentance.  After you've received the curses described above, if you repent and return to obedience then you will be blessed again.  Second, it is your choice.  You can decide to follow the path of life or the path of death.  Now, this passage is addressed to the People rather than to people.  But the idea of free will to choses whether to be blessed or cursed remains in Christian theology.  Finally, it is a question of heart and soul, not just outward action.  The passage returns again and again to the idea of holding the law in your heart and soul.  The actions are necessary, but as manifestation of where you heart is.

I hear Jesus' teaching in Deuteronomy especially.  The dual notion of obedience and faithfulness seems particularly familiar to me.

Today's selection closes with the turnover to Joshua.  I've written about this before.  [Here and here]  But I think this transition of leadership just has a very poignant touch.  I can't help but speculate that the authors remembered those who died while in Babylonian exile yearning to sing their songs of Zion once more. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

Deut. 28-29

Before Moses renews the covenant made at Mt. Sinai in Horeb, we get the promise of blessings following obedience to the Law, but then we get another round of curses.  Unlike the curses before, which seem focused on the behavior that will bring the curse, we get a graphic description of what "will" happen to the nation if it is disobedient.
49 The Lord will bring a nation against you from far away, from the ends of the earth, like an eagle swooping down, a nation whose language you will not understand, 50 a fierce-looking nation without respect for the old or pity for the young. 51 They will devour the young of your livestock and the crops of your land until you are destroyed. They will leave you no grain, new wine or olive oil, nor any calves of your herds or lambs of your flocks until you are ruined. 52 They will lay siege to all the cities throughout your land until the high fortified walls in which you trust fall down. They will besiege all the cities throughout the land the Lord your God is giving you.

53 Because of the suffering your enemy will inflict on you during the siege, you will eat the fruit of the womb, the flesh of the sons and daughters the Lord your God has given you. 54 Even the most gentle and sensitive man among you will have no compassion on his own brother or the wife he loves or his surviving children, 55 and he will not give to one of them any of the flesh of his children that he is eating. It will be all he has left because of the suffering your enemy will inflict on you during the siege of all your cities. 56 The most gentle and sensitive woman among you—so sensitive and gentle that she would not venture to touch the ground with the sole of her foot—will begrudge the husband she loves and her own son or daughter 57 the afterbirth from her womb and the children she bears. For in her dire need she intends to eat them secretly because of the suffering your enemy will inflict on you during the siege of your cities.
Deut. 28:49-57.  Within the limits of my layman's exposition, this seems to be the vivid cultural memory of what conquest prior to exile was like, of the horrors of siege warfare in the first millennium BCE.  The terrifying presence of a foreign power speaking a language you do not understand.  The reference to cannibalism and the complete suffering that destroys even familial love strikes an intense tone.

Perhaps more so that the intervening centuries of evolving language and culture, this gap of shared experience makes Scripture difficult for the modern American reader.  I watched the movie Lion this week.  It is an amazing film that works hard to put you behind the eyes of a helpless one from the unthinkable poverty of India.  It is a worthy but unsettling practice to project oneself into such places, I think.