I LOVE comments. Please leave some even if they are brief half-formed ideas
that you aren't even sure you really believe. I just love comments.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Ex. 36-38 (haz to hizo)

The text in these chapters is essentially taken what God told the Israelites to do (sentences that begin with "Haz" in Spanish) and recounting what Israelites under the direction of artisans did (sentences that begin with "Hizo" in Spanish). Frankly, what I got out of this passage was an opportunity to practice saying past verbs in Spanish.  The tabernacle in the wilderness is, you know, super cool.

Bonus Post

Since it is Saturday, I also tried to orient myself about when these passages were written.  I found a great article by Walter Brueggemann and some other interesting information in my dad's New Interpreter's Bible.  (BTW, the intensity with which Christian Fundamentalists attack scholarship and dominate on-line searching for things as standard as JEPD, is stunning.  So, for example, I'd like to know if the documentary hypothesis is still valid and consistent with recent scholarship, but the internet is so crowded with angry anti-intellectualism, that I cannot easily research the topic.)

Joseph Blenkinsopp's introduction to the Pentateuch in the NIB, there were two main authors of the Pentateuch that were writing post-exile.  The first was the Priestly writers, and the majority opinion is that they were writing around 5th or 6th century BCE.  The Priestly traditions, e.g., demonstrates only a one-way promise from God to Israel.  The other tradition, Deuteronomists, wrote at a similar time, but, e.g., provide the two-way covenant that only comes to fruition if the Israelites follow the law.  The earlier traditions date back to the Southern (J for Yahewist) and Northern (E for elohimist) kingdoms, pre-exile. (~1000 BCE)

Brueggemann points out that "Our own interpretive work ... is not to reflect on an ancient history lesson about Egypt or about cult, but to see how this text, in new, demanding, and dangerous circumstances, continues to offer subversive possibilities for our future."  He notes that "pharaoh" most certainly plays the role of Babylonian and Persian rulers who, at the time of final authorship, had recently taken the People into exile.  The exodus out of Egypt certainly existed before the Torah was formed, but it was formed in a manner as to point to modern concerns.  "Texts are never innocent or disinterest, but are always acts of advocacy."

Considering that years later, Jewish authors would attack Rome by reference to Babylon in John's Revelation, I find Brueggemann's words quite compelling. 

Friday, February 10, 2017

Ex. 33-35 (who is God?)

As I approach the narrative desert that is Leviticus and Numbers, allow me to savor the theological meatiness of these chapters, particularly the first two.  Is God an almighty, ever-present, all-knowing force in the universe, or is God a human-like entity, one of many, with marvelous powers?  It seems to me that while the Scriptures were being written, the notion evolved from the latter to the former.  And I think that is good and fine.  Just because our understanding of fire during the last 2000 years has changed quite a bit, that doesn't mean I question the value (or reality) of fire. 

Nonetheless, check out the tension in just these two chapters.

  • Then the Lord said to Moses, “Leave this place, you and the people you brought up out of Egypt, and go up to the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I will send an angel before you and drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites.  Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way.”
  • Now Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp some distance away, calling it the “tent of meeting.” . . . The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.
  • Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”
  •  And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”
  • The Lord said to Moses, “Chisel out two stone tablets like the first ones, and I will write on them the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke.
  • Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” Moses was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant—the Ten Commandments.
Obviously, we have another example, even with a single book, of merging traditions together.  We saved two recitations of the law here.  But also, we see YHWH seen as both someone to whom Moses can speak "face to face as a friend," and a being from which Moses must hide in a cleft in the mountain in order to avoid being killed by his presence.  He's an entity that literally writes the commandments, or he's an entity that directs Moses to write them down. 

God is also quite jealous of other Gods.  "Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God."  Ex. 34:14.  It appears to me that this is monotheism as in, I'm the only god you can worship, no monotheism as in, I'm the only god that exists.  Which is interesting.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Ex. 30-32 (slaughter)

The separation of the priestly cast continues in this passage.  It describes--in excruciating detail--the oil and perfume to be used on the altar and to anoint the priests, noting, "[w]hoever makes perfume like it and puts it on anyone other than a priest must be cut off from their people."  Ex. 30:33.  Harsh.

Also, we have the ultimate flat tax of 1/2 of shekel to be paid by everyone whether rich or poor.  This is unusual because it explicitly forbids a pauper's option.  Ex. 30:11-16.

Oh yeah, then there is chapter 32.  From childhood I remember Moses coming down from Mount Sinai, seeing the people worshipping Ba'al, breaking the commandments and then going back to God for another set.  Lots wrong with this memory.

One, I don't see a reference to Ba'al.  Not super important I guess.  For two, before Moses goes down, God says to Moses, "Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them."  Ex. 32:10.  Covenant, Schmovenant.  Luckily, Moses talks God out of it.  Ex. 32:14.

The following are the punishments put on the Israelites for worshiping the Golden Calf:
  1. witnessed angry Moses smashing the tablets Ex. 32:19
  2. forced to drink gold bits from shattered idol suspended in water Ex. 32:20
  3. blamed for making Aaron make them an idol Ex. 32:22-24
  4. 3 million slaughter by sword carrying Levites under Moses' guidance 32:27-29
  5. "And the Lord struck the people with a plague" Ex. 32:35

I guess I don't blame my Sunday School teachers for editing this down a bit.  I had actually forgotten, or never noticed, the after-the-fact plague that God dumps on those who remain after drinking heavy metals and being slaughtered by their fellow Israelites. 

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Ex. 28-29 (separation & specialization)

Exodus 28 and 29 deal with the priestly garments and the sacrifices associated with consecrating the priests.  It isn't super inspiring, although here is a passage that seemed interesting.
27 “Consecrate those parts of the ordination ram that belong to Aaron and his sons: the breast that was waved and the thigh that was presented. 28 This is always to be the perpetual share from the Israelites for Aaron and his sons. It is the contribution the Israelites are to make to the Lord from their fellowship offerings. . . . 31 “Take the ram for the ordination and cook the meat in a sacred place. 32 At the entrance to the tent of meeting, Aaron and his sons are to eat the meat of the ram and the bread that is in the basket. 33 They are to eat these offerings by which atonement was made for their ordination and consecration. But no one else may eat them, because they are sacred.

Professional clergy.  When societies were deciding what required specialization, connecting with the divine was an early choice.  I wonder if connecting with the divine can be fairly linked to individual spirituality.  Did the former give rise to the latter?

As for interesting stuff, here's something crazy.  With all of the details in this passage, the colors are not the same in my English and Spanish translations.  Throughout chapter 28, stuff is supposed to be made of "gold, and blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and fine linen."  But, in Spanish this is rendered as "oro, púrpura, carmesí, escarlata y lino."  Since purple and scarlet are in both, I assumed carmesi was a shade of azul.  No es verdad.  carmesi is basically crimson.  So, which is it!

One final deep dive--Urim & Thummim are used by priests to make decisions, but no one seems to know what they look like or exactly what they are.  No one meaning no one whose material has been collected by Wikipedia. 

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Ex. 25-27 (tabernacle)

This is quite a foreign passage to me.  I say that relative to other Christians who might read it.  To me, this promotes the importance of creating beautiful, extravagant works on earth to celebrate the Divine.  Visiting the Sistine Chapel haunts my soul; that is the kind of awe I suspect that is being created by the descriptions contained herein.

That said, I can relate to needing to put away all of your holy things and move on.  That was my church experience for nearly a decade.  On the one hand, that is trivial compared to the care for the tabernacle.  On the other hand, Chalice Christian Church is precious to me and the experience of creating and dismantling a holy space is known to me.

Yards of fine clothe and gold plating exotic wood is less known to me.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Ex. 22-24 (details)

This passage contains the details of the law covering topics including personal injury, property, social responsibility, and mercy.  In modern parlance, criminal law and civil law are mixed together.  And of course, the Hebrew law did legislate morality.  I notice that it is written for a people who certainly have private property and works very hard to find a balance that is just for assigning liability.  Consider the lengths to clarify treatment of the poor

“Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry." Ex. 22:22-23; but
“Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong. When you give testimony in a lawsuit, do not pervert justice by siding with the crowd, and do not show favoritism to a poor person in a lawsuit." Ex. 23:2-3; but
“Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits."  Ex. 23:6.

To be clear, nothing is contradictory here.  It, like e.g. the details about how to handle the death of an animal while in the care of a neighbor, just demonstrates a concerted effort to set the rules of justice out ahead of time.  Before there are appeals to passion.  But, at the same time, not to remove compassion from the law altogether.  The latter is more illustrated in lending laws.  For example, Ex. 22:25-27:

25 “If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not treat it like a business deal; charge no interest. 26 If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, return it by sunset, 27 because that cloak is the only covering your neighbor has. What else can they sleep in? When they cry out to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate.

The selection is not free of creepy stuff--Ex. 22:6 discusses the procedure for a man seducing a virgin, e.g.  Also, we have the big version of the Promised Land again.  Ex. 23:31

I will establish your borders from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, and from the desert to the Euphrates River. I will give into your hands the people who live in the land, and you will drive them out before you.


Sunday, February 05, 2017

Ex. 19-21 (Welcome to the Law)

Okay, buckle up.  Here comes the law.  Before I prove the Bible is pro-choice and dive into Spanish-English translation differences, let's talk about what is valuable in this passage.  Moses goes up Mt. Sinai alone, then eventually with Aaron.  it seems to me that this is really important because it clearly separates God from God's people.  If the people get too close, they will be killed.  Remember God walked among Adam and Eve.  God spoke directly to Job.  God actually wrestles with Jacob/Israel. 

Drawing God away from the people seems like an important step is growing a sufficiently abstract--what I might call mature--understanding of God for God to survive out of superstitious society.  This is important, I think.

Now to the details.  The Ten Commandments are first presented in Scripture at Ex. 20:1-17.  Of course it is funny that while everyone agrees there are ten commandments, and the passage linked here is set off from the more detailed law that follows, folks do not agree on which ten commands make up--as they say in Worship & Wonder--the ten best ways to live.  Here are three breakdowns, Jewish, Protestant, Catholic. But, here is another difference.  Here's Ex. 20:13 in two languages.

You shall not murder.//no mates.

These mean quite different things.  Or as I would write in Spanish: Hay una diferencia entre "matar" y "asesinar."  For one thing, the Israelites plainly killed animals.  That's discussed extensive, not to mention the blood bath that happens when we get back to narrative and Moses passes things off to Joshua.  Murder seems to clearly be the better translation in context.

Now, let's look at another. Ex. 21:22.  Important texts underlined in both. First, the ultra politically influenced words from NIV.

“If people are fighting and hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely[a] but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows." 

[a] 22 Or she has a miscarriage. 

Interesting.  Wondering if ancient Hebrews talked about premature birth as a thing.  Anyway, here's the Spanish.

"Si en una riña los contendientes golpean a una mujer encinta, y la hacen abortar, pero sin poner en peligro su vida, se les impondrá la multa que el marido de la mujer exija y que en justicia le corresponda."

"la hacen abortar," in case you wonder, means "makes her abort."  Interesting that the NVI translators didn't feel the need to put in a fix.

Even with the naked political influence on the NIV translators, common sense, and their footnote happily not entirely eliminating the original text, make it clear that terminating a pregnancy, even by force against the will of the mother!, was not murder in the eyes of the ancient Hebrews.  So, are we done with abortion is murder conversation?