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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.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

1 Kings 7; 2 Chronicles 4

We have two stories of dressing up the temple. Once again, we see tremendous similarity between the two passages. And, it seems plain to me that Chronicles is referencing Kings. 

So Huram finished all the work he had undertaken for King Solomon in the temple of the Lord:
41 the two pillars;
the two bowl-shaped capitals on top of the pillars;
the two sets of network decorating the two bowl-shaped capitals on top of the pillars;
42 the four hundred pomegranates for the two sets of network (two rows of pomegranates for each network decorating the bowl-shaped capitals on top of the pillars);
43 the ten stands with their ten basins;
44 the Sea and the twelve bulls under it;
45 the pots, shovels and sprinkling bowls.
All these objects that Huram made for King Solomon for the temple of the Lord were of burnished bronze.

The above is from Kings, the below from Chronicles.
So Huram finished the work he had undertaken for King Solomon in the temple of God:
12 the two pillars;
the two bowl-shaped capitals on top of the pillars;
the two sets of network decorating the two bowl-shaped capitals on top of the pillars;
13 the four hundred pomegranates for the two sets of network (two rows of pomegranates for each network, decorating the bowl-shaped capitals on top of the pillars);
14 the stands with their basins;
15 the Sea and the twelve bulls under it;
16 the pots, shovels, meat forks and all related articles.
All the objects that Huram-Abi made for King Solomon for the temple of the Lord were of polished bronze.

Pretty close.  It is interesting because there are differences between the Spanish and English translations too.  So, I end up feeling like I am reading four translations during these sections.

Monday, June 12, 2017

1 Kings 5-6; 2 Chronicles 2-3

Today's reading is about Solomon building the temple.  The passages in 1 Kings & 2 Chronicles are very similar but not identical.  They each provide different, seemingly small details.

This picture, from Wikipedia Commons, matches the Scripture quite well it seems.

CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Proverbs 22-24

In this selection are Thirty Wise Sayings, a collected of 30 wise sayings.  Interestingly enough, the Spanish and English translations number them differently. 

Here is a paraphrase of the 30 sayings from the English numbering.  Most of these are a handful of stanzas, so are only two lines and some are a dozen lines or so.  But here's my summary:
  1. Pay attention to what I've said
  2. Don't exploit the poor
  3. Don't hang out with thugs
  4. Don't get into debt
  5. Don't move the boundary stone
  6. People with a marketable skill will be valued
  7. If you eat with a ruler, don't pick up his fancy habits
  8. Don't obsess over obtaining wealth
  9. Don't eat with a begrudging host
  10. Don't talk to fools
  11. Don't move the boundary stone
  12. Seek wisdom
  13. Discipline your children
  14. Wisdom makes you glad
  15. Don't envy sinners
  16. Don't be a drunk or glutton
  17. Listen to your parents
  18. Beware of adulterous women
  19. Don't be a drunk
  20. Don't envy sinners
  21. Wisdom is your foundation
  22. The Wise will prevail
  23. Fools cannot understand wisdom
  24. Evil plans will be disturbed
  25. You are measure by your response to trouble
  26. Wisdom is a sweet for your soul as honey for your lips
  27. The righteous will get up in response to trouble, but the evil are destroyed
  28. Don't rejoice when your enemies fail
  29. Don't fret the plans of evildoers, they will fail
  30. Fear the LORD and your King; rebels will be destroyed.

It feels like a good summary of Proverbs in pace and content.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Proverbs 19-21

For this set, I will pull guidance to take correction.
Listen to advice and accept discipline,
and at the end you will be counted among the wise.

Flog a mocker, and the simple will learn prudence;
rebuke the discerning, and they will gain knowledge.

Plans are established by seeking advice;
so if you wage war, obtain guidance.

When a mocker is punished, the simple gain wisdom;
by paying attention to the wise they get knowledge
This idea that a fool never gains knowledge, but a wise person can learn from anyone is a compelling message from Proverbs for me, and has been since I was young.

Proverbs 16-18

Themes continue to be (1) don't be foolish, (2) wise people accept criticism, (3) Don't be stuck up, (4) be good to the poor.

For these I'm going to collect the last two categories.
The Lord detests all the proud of heart.
Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.

Honest scales and balances belong to the Lord;
all the weights in the bag are of his making

Pride goes before destruction,
a haughty spirit before a fall.

Whoever mocks the poor shows contempt for their Maker;
whoever gloats over disaster will not go unpunished

The poor plead for mercy,
but the rich answer harshly

Honest scales have come up more than once.  I wonder if it is usual to have such a prominent teaching of justice for the poor.  It comes up often in Hebrew & Christian Scripture.  I'm not sufficiently educated in contemporary religions of the day to know if this is an interesting marker.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Proverbs 13-15

So, here we've got, "no corregir al hijo y no quererlo amarlo disciplinarlo," or in English "whoever spairs the rod hates their children, but the one who loves the children is careful to discipline them."  which is nice cuz  of all the child abuse, and whatnot.

 The bad guys in Proverbs are clearly the fools.    However, right behind them are those who take advantage of the poor.

Finally, I like this one for Carla from Top Chef, "better a little serving of vegetables with love than a fattened calf with hatred. "

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Proverbs 10-12

Proverbs drops into a rhythm that is reminiscent of what bothered me about Psalms.  Namely lots of statements about how the good guys will win and the bad guys will lose.  However, the difference between promoting wisdom and promoting faithfulness as the deciding factor makes a difference to me.  Proverbs feels like a statement of "natural consequences" whereas Psalms feels like prosperity gospel.

Here's my favorites from this reading:
  • Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues.
  • The Lord detests dishonest scales, but accurate weights find favor with him.
  • For lack of guidance a nation falls, but victory is won through many advisers.
  • One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.
  • The prudent keep their knowledge to themselves, but a fool’s heart blurts out folly.
  • Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.
  • Whoever brings ruin on their family will inherit only wind
I like the better to keep your mouth shut and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt type proverbs.  I also like the very specific one about unfair scales.

The second to last one is interesting because it really sounds like an everlasting afterlife type promise to me. There are other verses suggesting the righteous path leads to life or even evading death.  The final verse of the selection is: In the way of righteousness there is life; along that path is immortality.

Interesting.  The final proverb is only tagged because it was the title of an old-timey movie and cultural cross references are fun.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Proverbs 7-9

So, there is stuff I like and stuff I don't like here.

I like, "Di a la sabiduría: «Tú eres mi hermana», y a la inteligencia: «Eres de mi sangre»."  Wisdom and intelligence seem to be under assault these days, and I like the idea of celebrating them.  I don't like Chapter 7's vilification of the woman--a prostitute & adulteress--but I super don't like the way the man is described as a naive victim like an animal that falls into a trap.

Chapter 8 personifies wisdom even further.  Including some language that is reminiscent of Genesis 1 and the conclusion of Job. "Fui establecida desde la eternidad, desde antes que existiera el mundo."

Chapter 9 clarifies that the gift of wisdom is not limited to those with natural skills.  Rather, Wisdom invites the simple to "Leave your simple ways and you will live; walk in the way of insight.” In Spanish, "Dejen su insensatez, y vivirán; andarán por el camino del discernimiento."

The foolish and the cynical are the targets of scorn in Proverbs.  I am rarely seduced or tempted by ignorance, but cynicism, to be sure, has a certain appeal.  It is good to be reminded to stay on the path of discernment.

Monday, June 05, 2017

Proverbs 4-6

Chapter 4 continues the advice to the author's son.  I notice the use of the path or the way as a metaphor for life.  There is also the concern for the evildoer.  Although, here, the path of righteousness is well lit.  It is the evildoer's path that is obscured and full of traps.  The device of relating the desire for wisdom (and intelligence) to a child creates a meaningful urgency and desire for lasting change.

Chapter 5 addresses sexual fidelity.  It is hard to pick apart what is my modern lens from what is in the text sometimes, but it seems to me that author exhorts his son to stay faithful to his wife.  To not share his wife with other (I'm looking at you Abraham!), and to not have sex with either the wives of other men or wayward women.  And the reason, the theme of the book, is to do otherwise is to live less well.

Adultery is also the concern of the second have of Chapter 6, which includes "But a man who commits adultery has no sense; whoever does so destroys himself."  Proverbs 6:32.  According to the headings, this theme continues on to Chapter 7. That's a lot of anti-adultery. 

NB.: something else that Jesus wasn't the first one to say, "Do not desire her beauty in your heart,
and do not let her capture you with her eyelashes."  6:24.

But it's not all sex. Let's end with some more general more morality, from Chapter 6.
16 There are six things that the Lord hates,
seven that are an abomination to him:
17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
and hands that shed innocent blood,
18 a heart that devises wicked plans,
feet that hurry to run to evil,
19 a lying witness who testifies falsely,
and one who sows discord in a family.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Proverbs 1-3

So, we're going to be working our way through Solomon's writings. In general, I prefer them to Psalms.  This passage closes with the Wise inherit honor, but the fools only shame.  Also within these verses the praise for wisdom and knowledge cautions to seek God's wisdom not your own.

So, we live in a world of ignorance and misinformation.  Reading a celebration of wisdom feels like something of a balm.  But, those who suckle at the teat of Right Wing Propaganda believe they have wisdom.  I suppose we are left with what bears fruit and what brings peace. The problem is that the anti-intellectuals and the white supremacists feeling free to spew hate now, will not bear the brunt of the destruction they are causing. 

Perhaps I'll read Revelation more sympathetically this year.

Song of Songs

There is a book in the Hebrew Canon that celebrates sexuality and even romantic love.  It describes physical beauty and longing of the heart.  It describes hard time in separation.  Then there is this bit.
Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you
by the gazelles and by the does of the field:
Do not arouse or awaken love
until it so desires
This exact stanza is repeated in Song of Songs 2:7, 3:5, and 8:4.  Weird.  Is it saying to wait until you're in love to make love?  I am not sure since it just says don't arouse love unit it so desires. 

The book contains little weird vignettes, including one in which the female lover is beaten up by the watchmen on the wall.  But then there is this little bit that pleasantly acknowledges that there are girls to young to be married off, I suppose.
8 We have a little sister,
and her breasts are not yet grown.
What shall we do for our sister
on the day she is spoken for?
9 If she is a wall,
we will build towers of silver on her.
If she is a door,
we will enclose her with panels of cedar.
To be honest, I mostly like this book because it gets under the skin of people who want to use religion as a way to control particularly women's sexuality.  As Scripture, it doesn't really speak to me. 

Friday, June 02, 2017

2 Chronicles 1; Psalm 72

Second Chronicles begins with a story extremely similar to First Kings chapter 3.  Although many of the phrases are identical, the over language is not word for word as it has been in other sections.  The gist of it remains, Solomon chose wisdom rather than riches, power or long life.  Thus, YHWH granted him all of these.

That's a pretty important story. 

Also, why isn't Solomon a greater king than David? 

Psalm 72 seems like a coronation song for Solomon.  It even mentioned Lebanon & Sheba.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

1 Kings 3-4

Many greatest hits in this reading.  Solomon asks for wisdom, rather than long life or riches; so, God gives him all of it.  The split the baby story is here.  And the general international fame of Solomon's wisdom is in this story. 

Some quick things I noticed
  • in granting Solomon wisdom, God appears in a dream
  • the women fighting over the baby were prostitutes
  • "everyone under their own vine and under their own fig tree" appears to be the Hebrew equivalent of a chicken in every pot.
  • And, Solomon presided over the Big Promised Land
"And Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the Euphrates River to the land of the Philistines, as far as the border of Egypt. These countries brought tribute and were Solomon’s subjects all his life."  1 Kings 4:21.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Psalm 119

Over 2300 words (thank you Biblegateway.com & Microsoft Word word count feature) of praise for the law.  This psalm has two components.  The law is amazing and anyone who follows it is blessed, and the law is amazing and anyone who doesn't follow it sucks. 

This psalm also seems remarkably adaptable to Christian purposes.  It even starts off with a "Blessed are . . ." It also talks frequently about God's salvation.  It gets at least one hymn, 'thy word is a lamp unto my feet.'  It uses the way or the path as a metaphor for living.  And it says, over and over, that God's law or decrees or commandments is the greatest blessing we have.

There is a smidge about the evildoers and how much the psalmist hates them, but loves the law.  But this is a relatively small portion of the psalm. 

I'm not moved.

I don't know if it is a reaction to the notion that adherence to a set of practices can save you. Honestly, I think there is something to that.  True, you can mindlessly follow the law and still live a meaningless life, but the psalmist doesn't call for that.  The psalmist calls for the law to be written on your heart. 

I don't know if it is a reaction to the claim of good things happening to good people.  The psalmist doesn't deny that los impios will set traps for him.  Nonetheless, he claims, God will save him.  God doesn't always save us from traps.

Perhaps it is a reaction to the purported infallibility of God's decrees when I'm reading the Bible and finding many ideas that compete with each other.  Competing ideas are not a problem for me; in fact, if I was to write a 2300 word essay praising inanimate objects, it might be about competing ideas.  But is seems weird to call them infallible and eternal.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

1 Kings 1-2; Psalms 37, 71, 94

So, the first two chapters of 1 Kings are straight out of game of thrones.  Old dude King David laying in a bed with a young girl to keep him warm, although they don't have sex.  Mkay.  A contested succession, although David settles it before he dies.  At the behest of Solomon's mother.  From rape victim to Lady Macbeth for Bathsheba.  Then, full Godfather style, Solomon goes about killing his rivals and unifying his power.

Chronicles is a much sanitized version.  Recall that Bathsheba is not in the book of Chronicles.  Interesting. 

It is hard to see the presence of God in these intrigues. A realm of shifting loyalties and long simmering revenge doesn't feel like a place in which God's presence can easily be felt.

So, we turn to the Psalms.  Frist 37 is quite a long psalm, and it is all about how God blesses the righteous and punishes los malvados.  "I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread. They are always generous and lend freely; their children will be a blessing."  Ps. 37:25-26.  So, I think the psalmist needs to get out more, because I am aware of righteous who have been forsaken.  See, e.g., Job, Christ on the Cross, not to mention the folks at I-HELP and Paz de Cristo.

Psalm 71 runs the same way and then psalm 94 gives a hint that it could be a reference to the events from Kings of a usurper.  "Can a corrupt throne be allied with you- a throne that brings on misery by its decrees?"  Ps. 94:20.  Although, seems like this could refer to all kinds of evildoers.

We have an evil king in America today.  As my reading takes me through the stories of evil kings in Israel & Judah, I wonder what guidance I can find.  The Lord is my Rock and my Redeemer.  Is that personal advice, or national policy advice?

Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day 2017

Here is my post titled Memorial Day 2008.  In addition to remembering a fallen soldier from my hometown, who I did not know, I wrote the following.

Another fallen veteran I "remembered" today is Samuel Evans Ottenbacher. He was an Aviation Radionman Third Class, USNR, and died in November 1942. He lived at 120 S. Emerson, Indianapolis; my grandmother lived at 120 S. Bancroft. He was a dear friend of hers, and my dad, and therefore me, and therefore my son, have the middle name Evans in honor of him. Dad was born in 1948. My grandmother ... died this year.

What is striking is that Dad died five days after I wrote the post.  I came across it because I wasn't sure if I had over posted about him on Memorial Day, since he died as a direct result of his service in Vietnam.  It seems like there is more to say.

Dad had no "good" stories from Vietnam.  He told about the woman, who he called the mama-san, that cleaned their living quarters would shell the base at night.  He talked about a "hot shot" from the recently disbanded blue berets refusing to respond to a mortar attack, and Dad had to force him to respond.  He reported that he drank a bottle of Crown Royale a day.  He described the horrific image of children begging and child prostitution. 

I recall his flashback when we went to Nogales once.  It was intense.  He was not treated well when he returned how, but he also really hated the over-the-top, overcompensation starting in the 1980's. 

So, it's a tough background.  It's made more tough by the fact while there he was exposed to Agent Orange--after it's use was allegedly discontinued.  So when he died a couple months shy of his 60th birthday I did recognize that his service was something worthy of honor.  But of course, this makes me all the more angry to think that his sacrifice was squandered; that it was in support of ego and image than truly for the sake of liberty. 

Psalms 111-118

Psalm 111 - the glory of the Lord is everlasting
Psalm 112 - the glory of the Lord strikes fear in evil hearts
Psalm 113 - YHWH is lord of all nations; he makes the motherless child feel as good as one with children.
Psalm 114 - YHWH is so powerful natural forces like rivers, seas and mountain flee from YHWH
Psalm 115 - YHWH is way better than stupid idols
Psalm 116 - I cried out and God helped me
Psalm 117 - All nations praise YHWH
Psalm 118 - God endures forever; particular within the house of Aaron.

What interested me, is that both Psalm 115 and 118 reference the "House of Aaron."  Biblegateway.com teaches me that it is a phrase also used in Psalm 135.  And of course, we know that Aaron sneaks into the list of houses of Israel at the end of First Chronicles 27:6-22. 

NIB Commentaries aren't particularly interested in this.  Google searching is difficult because the phrase refers to a movement associated with the Church of the Latter Day Saints.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

1 Chronicles 26-29; Psalm 127 (end 1 Chronicles)

Psalm 127 is a special passage to some.  It contains within it Solomon's (at least that's the annotation in my NIV Bible) that children are like arrows in a warrior's quiver and you are blessed to have a Quiverfull of them.  This is the key passage for the Quiverfull MovementSee also Idiocracy.

We get into more lists, beginning with the gatekeepers.  It is interesting the idea that not only does the leader's role pass down via lineage, but so do gatekeepers and worship leaders (a millers and smiths and bakers etc. I suppose)

Finally, we end 1 Chronicles with a description of how to build the temple.  Not a detailed description.  Just the fact that David passed things off to Solomon.  And, even though God has chosen Solomon, he can't do it alone.  Everyone was happy to bring, gold, silver, iron, lots of wood, etc. to build the Temple.  A successful capital campaign kick off.

David dies having reigned a long time, succeeded by his son.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Psalms 131, 138-139, 143-145

Psalm 131 - little me loves the YHWH, and so should Israel
Psalm 138 - YHWH is great, and everybody knows it
Psalm 139 - omniscient, omnipresent YHWH and a special psalm for many
Psalm 143 - psalmists need YHWH quick like
Psalm 144 - psalmist also seeks YHWH's hand, although less urgent than 143
Psalm 145 - many parts, all praising YHWH

Analyzing Psalm 139, I wonder about how it felt to read this in a time prior to surveillance.  Today, Psalm 139 has some creepiness to it.  Specifically, "You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. . . . You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me."  Also the psalmist describes it as wonderful, I'm not sure.

On the other hand, "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb," to me points to the image of God as being all things.  If God is knitting me together in my mother's womb, isn't God me or my mother?

It also has some challenging theology that springs from the praise. "Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."  This praise of God's great knowledge threatens all of free will. I think that would be a misapplication.  As severe a misapplication as, for example, using this passage as anti-choice justification.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Chronicles 23-25

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Psalms 108-110

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

I have such a love hate relationship with Psalms.

2 Samuel 24 (end 2 Sam); 1 Chronicles 21-22; Psalm 30

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Psalms 95, 97-99

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 22, 2017

It happens (Psalms edition)

So, here's the reading for today. 

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

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

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

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

It happens (Another Catch Up Post)

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

So, here's the reading for today. 

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

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

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

The church needs to take responsibility for it.

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

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

2 Samuel 16-18

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 15, 2017

2 Samuel 13-15

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

2 Sam. 14:25-26.  Heavy hair is hot.

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

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.


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.


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


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."