June 30, 2011

Blessings and Woes

Why do we get this list of blessings and woes here, just as Jesus is setting out the essence of his teachings here (and in Matthew)? Well... Jesus is taking on the role of Moses as depicted in Deuteronomy, addressing Israel as the people prepare to enter/re-enter the Promised Land.

There is a Covenant announced, a deal with God-- and for God, there are enforcement clauses. Moses is portrayed offering blessings the people will enjoy in their new land, if and only if they fulfill their part. If they do not, those blessings are reversed and become curses.

Israel has been occupying the land for centuries, since Moses, but as the prophets warned, and most of Jesus' hearers agree, they have long suffered exile because their fathers broke the contract and came under its penalties.

Jesus is announcing 'the Kingdom of God', the chance to live in Israel under God's restored rule and favor.

But as before, there are conditions, including the chance to choose life, and blessings, or to remain under the curses of disobedience, to die in “the wrath to come” that John had spoken of. As NT Wright has eloquently, compellingly, and exhaustively argued, this 'wrath' is not 'the end of the space-time universe'; it is the same kind of calamity that earlier prophets had warned of, when it was Babylon that would punish Israel by conquest and exile.

In Jesus' warnings, the hovering threat is the overwhelming force and brutality of Rome crushing a nation of rebellious subjects. Some forty years later, Rome will kill and enslave multitudes in Judea, destroy the Temple, forbid Jews to visit Jerusalem, a shaking of the prevailing Jewish religious cosmos that only “apocalyptic” language could possibly express.

Despite the reference to "a rich reward in Heaven," Jesus is not telling individuals how to receive a pleasant afterlife. Like previous prophets, he is warning the nation and its rulers of oncoming doom, and what must be done to stave it off. He knows that his message will be equally unwelcome, that he and others will suffer and risk death in proclaiming it.

Unlike the Deutronomic Moses, addressing an Israel whom he knows will prove incapable of fulfilling God's demands, Jesus is offering the Kingdom to two Israels, one made up of people “with ears to hear”-- and the Israel of the Herodians, the High Priesthood, everyone who's been doing well under the present regime.

The poor can accept this covenant, and do it; the rich are content with their present condition, and will not.

Those who have been going hungry can accept, and will be fed; but those who have been content to leave their neighbors hungry... will remain content while their opportunity lapses.

Those who weep at the present state of things... will know a better; but those who can laugh in such times will find little to amuse them when the karmic bill comes due.

It is unlikely that this was a single sermon, given to all on one occasion. It would have been the message that Jesus spoke everywhere, differing slightly from one audience to another. Matthew's version is softened and abstracted in some details (the reference to “poor 'in spirit'” for example) but carrying the same message.

Wright explains the beatitudes well:

“Israel longs for YHWH's kingdom to come. She is ready to work and struggle and fight to bring it in. But the people to whom it belongs are the poor in spirit... YHWH has in mind to give her, not the consolation of an national revival, in which her old wounds will be healed by inflicting them on others, but the consolation awaiting those in genuine grief. Israel desires to inherit the Earth; she must do it in Jesus' way, by meekness. Israel thirsts for justice; but the justice she is offered does not come by way of battles against physical enemies. It is not the way of anger, of a 'justice' that really means 'vengeance'. It is the way of humility and gentleness. Israel longs for mercy, not least the eschatological mercy of final rescue from her enemies. But mercy is resolved for the merciful, not the vengeful. Israel longs for the vision of her God; but this is the prerogative not of those who impose an external purity, but of those with purity of heart. Isreal desires to be called the Creator's son, being vindicated by him in the dramatic historical proof of national victory. But those whom Israel's God will vindicate as his sons will be those who copy their Father, and that means peacemakers. Persecution will be inevitable for people who follow this way, Jesus' way, but those who are persecuted because they follow this way are indeed assured of a great vindication. In other words, the promise that would formerly apply to those who were faithful to Torah now applies to those who are faithful to Jesus [and his message.] Whatever they have meant to subsequent hearers or readers... the beatitudes can be read, in some such way, as an appeal to Jesus' hearers to discover their true vocation as the... people of YHWH, and to do so by following the praxis he was marking out for them, rather than the way of other would-be leaders of the time.”

June 29, 2011

Then Turning to His Diciples He Began to Speak (Luke 6.20-26)

"How blest are you poor; the kingdom of God is yours.

"How blest are you who now go hungry; your hunger shall be satisfied.

"How blest are you who weep now; you shall laugh.

"How blest are you when men hate you, when they outlaw you and insult you, and ban your very name as infamous, because of the son of man. On that day be glad and dance for joy; for assuredly you have a rich reward in Heaven; in just the same way their fathers treated the prophets.

"But alas for you who are rich; you have had your time of happiness.

"Alas for you who are well-fed now; you shall go hungry.

"Alas for you who laugh now; you shall mourn and weep.

"Alas for you when all speak well of you; just so did their fathers treat the false prophets.

June 28, 2011

Bringing The Law Down the Hill...

In Matthew, the teachings to come... are delivered "on the mountain"; but here Jesus comes down from there with his new "laws".

Two related things going on here: Jesus implying that he is the divinely authorized King of Israel (Jesus citing the precedent of David, anointed King but still on the run from Saul's partisans, bending sacred regulations in case of need. Jesus appointing twelve of his followers as "apostles", 'disciples' in the other gospels except that here we have an emphasis on them as "messengers" or "missionaries", the role they are to take up after Jesus' death. But the basic reason for choosing precisely 12 is that they match the number of tribes that traditionally make up Israel. In Mark we find them avidly discussing who is to get the best place when Jesus takes power and they can start 'judging Israel' from their 12 thrones.) And Jesus delivering the terms of a new Covenant, ala Moses.

As Wright points out, Pharisees were unlikely to make too much fuss over one individual Jew shading one of 600+ Commandments-- but when that Jew is a Messianic candidate, possessed of evident spiritual power and great personal charisma, everything that he and his closest followers do is a matter of concern.

This man is a great prophet, possibly the Messiah-- or he has a covenant with Beelzebub and is leading Israel astray, in which case finding an occasion to kill him looks like their plain duty: "If a prophet arises among you, or a dreamer of dreams, and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder which he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, 'Let us go after other gods,' which you have not known, 'and let us serve them,' you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or to that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you... That prophet or that dreamer shall be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to make you leave the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk." [from Deuteronomy 13].

So where does a difference of interpretation... not that far from what the rabbis eventually decide about the Sabbath (that it should be violated in cases where human life is at stake) become an outright incitement to rebellion against the commandments? Can one establish a "new covenant"?-- without raising questions about the Covenant one has? This is not the "Jesus" of John's gospel... but the claims he is implying, by everything he says and does, are putting his rabbinic critics on the spot. If he isn't in fact the Messiah, he is a very dangerous man, and not one they're allowed to indulge.

Coming next: the laws of this new deal.

June 27, 2011

Luke 6.1-19

One Sabbath he was going through the cornfields, and his disciples were plucking the ears of corn, rubbing them in their hands, and eating them.

Some of the Pharisees said, "Why are you doing what is forbidden on the Sabbath?"

Jesus answered, "So you have not read what David did when he and his men were hungry? He went into the house of God, and took the consecrated loaves to eat, and gave them to his men, though only priests are allowed to eat them." He also said, "The son of man is sovereign even over the Sabbath."

On another Sabbath he had gone to synagogue and was teaching; there happened to be a man in the congregation whose right arm was withered. The lawyers and the Pharisees were on the watch to see whether Jesus would cure him on the Sabbath, so that they could find a charge to bring against him.

He knew what was in their minds, and said to the man with the withered arm, "Get up and stand out here." So he got up and stood there.

Then Jesus said to them, "I put the question to you: Is it permitted to do good or to do evil on the Sabbath, to save life or to destroy it?"

He looked around at them all, and then said to the man, "Stretch out your arm." He did so, and his arm was restored.

But they were beside themselves with anger, and began to discuss among themselves what they could do to Jesus.

During this time he went out one day into the hills to pray, and spent the night in prayer to God. When day broke he called his disciples to him, and from among them he chose twelve and named them Apostles: Simon, to whom he gave the name 'Peter', and Andrew his brother, James and John, Philip and Batholomew, Matthew and Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot who turned traitor.

He came down the hill with them and took his stand on level ground. There was a large concourse of his disciples and great numbers of people from Jerusalem and Judea and from the seaboard of Tyre and Sidon, who had come to listen to him, and to be cured of their diseases. Those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured, and everyone in the crowd was trying to touch him, because power went out from him and cured them all.

June 26, 2011

More About 'Sinners'

Specifically about those scandalous meals:

"Most writers now agree that eating with 'sinners' was one of the most characteristic and striking marks of Jesus' regular activity. This would not have been of any significance, of course, if Jesus were acting simply as a private individual. But when it is allied with the claim, made in praxis and story, that Jesus was inaugurating the long-awaited kingdom, it aroused controversy. Jesus was, as it were, celebrating the Messianic banquet, and doing it with all the wrong people."


And, of course, the tension we find here between the official representatives of 1st Century Jewish orthodoxy, and those disreputable people accepted by Jesus... has continued to be a feature of Christianity, in that it implies a deep suspicion of the judgements of the rich, the powerful, and those prominent in the Church-- continually holding up the likelihood that God, like Jesus, sees things quite differently.

re NT Wright's Take on This Passage

"Fasting in this period was not, for Jews, simply an ascetic discipline, part of the general practice of piety. It had to do with Israel's present condition: she was still in exile. More specifically, it had to do with commemorating the destruction of the Temple. Zechariah's promise that the fasts would turn into feasts could come true only when YHWH restored the fortunes of his people. That, of course, was what Jesus' cryptic comments implied: " [ referring to the passage in our last post]


"...Fasting spoke of an Israel still in exile. Sabbath spoke of the great day of rest still to come; also, both to Israel and the pagans, it announced Israel's determination to remain separate. Food laws, too, spoke of an Israel separate from the nations... Jesus' whole work was aimed at announcing that the day of mourning, of exile, of necessary and God-ordained national separateness, was coming to an end. His claim that Israel's God was acting to fulfil the ancient promises in and through his own work was therefore seen to be deeply threatening by the self-appointed guardians of Israel's heritage..."
[from Jesus and the Victory of God, pg 433]

So, did Jesus consider himself "founding a new religion," as we would normally read the allusions to "new wine" and "old wine" here? Probably just 'another movement within Judaism', which like some other such movement, provided radically different alternatives to the Temple for reconciling God and Israel. "A new religion" would probably not have appealed to his followers; Jesus' reframing of the old symbols did-- while deeply offending many who'd "found the old wine good."

June 25, 2011

Luke 5.27->

Later, when [Jesus] went out, he saw a tax-gatherer, Levi by name, at his seat in the custom house. He said to him, "Follow me."

And he rose to his feet, left everything behind, and followed him.

Afterwards Levi held a big reception in his house for Jesus. Among the guests was a large party of tax-gatherers and others.

The Pharisees and the lawyers of their sect complained to his disciples: "Why do you eat and drink with tax-gatherers and sinners?"

Jesus answered them, "It is not the healthy that need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to invite virtuous people, but to call sinners to repentance."

Then they said to him, "John's disciples are much given to fasting and the practice of prayer, and so are the disciples of the Pharisees. But yours eat and drink."

Jesus replied, "Can you make the bridegroom's friends fast while the bridegroom is with them? But a time will come; the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and that will be the time for them to fast."

He told them this parable also: "No one tears a piece from a new cloak to patch an old one; if he does, he will have made a hole in the new cloak, and the patch from the new will not match the old. Nor does anyone put new wine into old wineskins; if he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will be wasted, and the skins ruined. Fresh skins for new wine! And no one after drinking old wine wants new; for he says, the old wine is good."

June 24, 2011

A Little More About Sin

"Your sins are forgiven you" is not a blasphemous statement. It's the same as "God has forgiven you" except that it politely avoids directly naming God, whom everyone knows is the actual agent. Everyone goes home afterwards, not saying "What a powerful magician this Jesus is," but "praising God."

Why the complaints, then? The obvious answer is that the Temple cult is supposed to provide the proper channels for having sins forgiven, plagues cancelled. But Jesus is not the only healer around offering prayers & exorcisms; what makes him such a threat to the established [pre]Judaism of his time?

NT Wright's perspective explains some of this vehemence: "'Forgiveness of sins' is another way of saying 'return from exile'". Jesus isn't just healing individual woes; he is proclaiming 'The Kingdom of God' (aka 'return from exile') and his healings are taking place in that context.

"The prophets of the time of exile (in particular Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Isaiah 40-50) saw Israel's exile precisely as the result of, or the punishment for, her sins. It should be clear from this that if the astonishing, unbelievable thing were to happen, and Israel were to be brought back from exile, this would mean that her sins were being punished no more; in other words, were forgiven...

"[Jermiah] 'The days are coming, says YHWH, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt... But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says YHWH: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, "Know YHWH," for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says YHWH, for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sins no more.'...

"Forgiveness... is not simply one miscellaneous blessing which will accompany covenant renewal. Since covenant renewal means the reversal of exile, and since exile was the punishment for sin, covenant renewal/return from exile means that Israel's sins have been forgiven, and vice versa...


"From the point of view of a first-century Jew, 'forgiveness of sins' could never simply be a private blessing, although to be sure it was that as well, as Qumran amply testifies. Overarching the situation of the individual was the state of the nation as a whole; and as long as Israel remained under the rule of the pagans, as long as Torah was not observed perfectly, as long as the Temple was not properly restored, so Israel longed for 'forgiveness of sins' as the great, unrepeatable, eschatological and national blessing promised by her God. In the light of this, the meaning which Mark and Luke both give to John's baptism ought to be clear. It was 'for the forgiveness of sins', in other words, to bring about the redemption for which Israel was longing."

"...The point at issue was not that Jesus was offering forgiveness where the rabbis were offering self-help moralism... Jesus was offering the return from exile, the renewed covenant, the eschatological 'forgiveness of sins'-- in other words, the kingdom of God. And he was offering this final eschatological blessing outside the official structures, to all the wrong people, and on his own authority."

June 23, 2011

Luke 5.17-26

One day [Jesus] was teaching, and Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting around. People had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem; and the power of God was with him to heal the sick.

Some men appeared carrying a paralyzed man on a bed. They tried to bring him in to set him down before Jesus; but finding no way to do so because of the crowd, they went up onto the roof and let him down through the tiling, bed and all, into the middle of the company in front of Jesus.

When Jesus saw their faith, he said, "Man, your sins are forgiven you!"

The lawyers and the Pharisees began saying to themselves, "Who is this fellow with his blasphemous talk? Who but God can forgive sins?"

But Jesus knew their thoughts and answered them: "Why do you harbor thoughts like these? Is it easier to say, 'Your sins are forgiven you?'-- or to say, 'Stand up and walk'? But to convince you that a son of man has the right on Earth to forgive sins"-- He turned to the paralyzed man-- "I say to you, stand up, take your bed and go home."

At once he rose to his feet before their eyes, took up the bed he'd been lying on, and went home praising God. They were all lost in amazement and praised God, filled with awe. "You would never believe the things we saw today!"

June 22, 2011

Luke 5.12-16 & abt...

[Jesus] was once in a certain town where there happened to be a man covered with leprosy. Seeing Jesus, he bowed to the ground and begged his help. "Sir," he said, "if only you will, you can cleanse me."

Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, "Indeed I will. Be clean again." The leprosy left him immediately. Jesus then ordered him not to tell anybody. "But go," he said, "Show yourself to the priest, and make the offering laid down by Moses for your cleansing; that will certify the cure."

But the talk about him spread all the more; great crowds gathered to hear him and to be cured of their ailments.

But he withdrew to the wilderness and prayed.

The same story is in all the synoptic gospels; Mark has it that Jesus was angry about the request. Angry, knowing that the news will get out and he will be overwhelmed with other people in need?

Or is it that he's being drawn into conflict with the Temple in Jerusalem? The system of sacrifices was the officially-sanctioned means for returning people to right relationship to God, for "forgiving" whatever obstacles prevented the nation from ending its long "exile" and enjoying God's "kingdom" as it was supposed to be-- not for example, dominated by pagan foreigners allied to corrupt local rulers. Which is precisely what Jesus is setting out to do... without such sacrifices.

"Cleansing" of leprosy is what a priest, provided with a suitable sacrifice, is supposed to do. But Jesus has been asked to "cleanse" this man-- and is sending him to the priest to make the sacrifices afterward, merely to "certify the cure."
There's a conflict of jurisdiction that's going to worsen, as we will soon see.

June 20, 2011

Luke 5.1-11

One day as he stood by the Lake of Gennesaret, and the people crowded upon him to listen to the word of God, he noticed two boats lying at the water's edge; the fishermen had come ashore and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, which belonged to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he went on teaching the crowds from his seat in the boat.

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into deep water and let down your nets."

Simon answered, "Master, we were hard at work all night and caught nothing at all, but if you say so, I will let down the nets." They did so, and made a big haul of fish, and their nets began to split. So they signalled to their partners in the other boat to come help them. They loaded both boats to the point of sinking. When Simon saw this he fell at Jesus' knees and said, "Go, Lord, leave me, sinner that I am!" He and all his companions were amazed at the catch they had made; so too were his partners James and John, Zebedee's sons.

"Do not be afraid," said Jesus to Simon. "From now on you will be catching men." As soon as they had brought the boats to land, they left everything and followed him.

June 19, 2011

How does this fit together?

Returning to that story behind the story...

(Several posts were leading into this, about a month ago, which might have been better called: 1) the problem, 2) God prepares a response,  3) Where's it going?, and Hmmm. )

We've arrived at Jesus proclaiming "the good news" in the synagogues of Galilee.

Whatever this means, it's popular, at first ("We'll put the roast lamb concession right there under the big sign, 'This way to the Healer'!"...); but then it turns out to not be exactly what Jesus' hearers had in mind.

He brings up familiar stories. Elijah had cursed Israel with a drought because its rulers had been worshipping Baal; he'd gone off to Sidon because King Ahad had threatened to kill him if he stayed around. Naaman, whom Elisha cured of leprosy, had been an Assyrian general, a feared and hated enemy of Israel.

This "Kingdom of God," as everyone understands it, is to be the restoration of Israel, free again at last, under the rule of Israel's God, everyone at last reconciled to Him... But Jesus is including foreigners in the story, not as enemies to be driven out and conquered, but as people whom God intends to share in the benefits.

That isn't an unknown interpretation, in the many 1st Century variations of Judaism; way back in the story of Abraham (where all this starts) God says that his descendants are to be a blessing to every family on Earth. And in Isaiah 49.6: "It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the Earth."

But that's not the way people around here feel about it. About thirty years ago, the Romans marched through this part of the country, and lined the local roads with 2000 agonised young men, dying on crosses. What happens to the young women isn't even mentioned. Since then, the local rulers (and high priests) appointed by the Romans continue to be a burden on the locals, in addition to the Romans' own demand for tribute. Somewhere among the stories Jesus tells his home-town neighbors, he really strikes a nerve.


And he drives out sickness and "demons". He's restoring the natural order of Creation wherever he goes... but what exactly are these "demons" doing in the story? This is the same word, basically, as Socrates uses to describe his own daemon. Not necessarily evil beings, although these in particular seem bent on outing Jesus as the Messiah-- not an identity convenient for him to acknowledge. (Both Matthew and Mark have it that John the Baptist has recently been imprisoned by Herod Antipas, evidently for disapproving of Herod's political divorces & marriages.)

"Demons" seem unusually prevalent in 1st Century Palestine. Do we diagnose such conditions differently; should we? Or was there some reason that (whatever they might or might not be) there really were more examples to be found then?

June 18, 2011

Luke 4.31->

Coming [back?-- In the last section, people were talking about what he'd done there!] down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, he taught the people on the Sabbath, and they were astounded at his teaching, for what he said had the note of authority.

Now there was a man in the synagogue possessed by a devil, an unclean spirit. He shrieked at the top of his voice, "What do you want of us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are-- the holy one of God."

Jesus rebuked him: "Be silent," he said, "and come out of him."

Then the devil, after throwing the man down in front of the people, left him without doing him any injury.

Amazement fell on them all and they said to one another: "What is there in this man's words? He gives orders to the unclean spirits with authority and power, and out they go!" So the news spread, and he was the talk of the whole district.

On leaving the synagogue he went to Simon's house. Simon's mother-in-law was in the grip of a high fever; and they asked him to help her. He came and stood over her, and rebuked the fever. It left her, and she got up at once and waited on them.

At sunset, all who had friends suffering from one disease or another brought them to him; and he laid his hands on them one by one, and cured them. Devils also came out of many of them, shouting, "You are the son of God!"

But he rebuked them and forbade them to speak, because they knew that he was the Messiah.

When day broke he went out and made his way to a lonely spot. But the people went in search of him, and when they came to where he was, they pressed him not to leave them.

But he said, "I must give the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, for that is what I was sent to do." So he proclaimed the good news in the synagogues of Galilee.

June 17, 2011

Luke 4.22-30

There was a general stir of admiration; they were surprized that words of such grace should fall from his lips. "Is this not Joseph's son?" they asked.

Then Jesus said, "No doubt you will quote the proverb to me, "Physician, heal thyself!", and say, "We have heard of all your doings at Capernaum; do the same here in your own home town.

"I tell you this," he went on. "No prophet is recognized in his own country. There were many widows in Israel, you may be sure, in Elijah's time, when for three years and six months the skies never opened, and famine lay hard over the whole country; yet it was not to none of those that Elijah was sent, but to a widow at Sarepta in the territory of Sidon.

"Again, in the time of the prophet Elish there were many lepers in Israel, and not one of them was healed, but only Naaman, the Syrian."

At these words the whole congregation were infuriated. They leapt up, threw him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which it was built, meaning to hurl him over the edge.

But he walked straight through them all, and went away.

June 16, 2011

That "Impractical" Jubilee Year Stuff...

It's probably pretty ho-hum news by now, to anyone who's looked into it, that Jesus in the previous post is portrayed as proclaiming a Jubilee Year: Release of debts and debt-slaves, return of foreclosed property to the original owners.

Is this something that ever happened, people wonder, or just an idealized, impractical notion.

The economist Michael Hudson has studied this extensively: "This paper accordingly traces the evolution of the Biblical debt and property laws as recorded in clay records that only recently have been deciphered and placed in their historic context. These laws which periodically cancelled debts, freed Israelite debt- servants and returned lands to their traditional holders have confused Biblical students for many centuries. They have long been virtually ignored by historians on the ground that, to modern eyes, they would seem to wreak economic havoc. Already by the first century of our era no less a theologian than Rabbi Hillel developed the prosbul, by which borrowers signed away their rights under the Biblical laws. Hillel explained that credit would dry up without such a clause.

"Recent discoveries of Bronze Age Near Eastern royal proclamations extending from 2400 to 1600 BC throw a radically new light on these laws. Like their Biblical analogues, Mesopotamian royal edicts cancelled debts, freed debt-servants and restored land to cultivators who had lost it under economic duress. There can be no doubt that these edicts were implemented, for during the Babylonian period they grew into quite elaborate promulgations, capped by Ammisaduqa's Edict of 1646. Now that these edicts have been translated and their consequences understood, the Biblical laws no longer stand alone as utopian or otherworldly ideals; they take their place in a two-thousand year continuum of periodic and regular economic renewal.

"There is no record of just how or when Babylonian legal traditions were transmitted to Israel. No doubt there were numerous periods of influence, headed by a Bronze Age inspiration early in the second millennium. One suspects that during the Babylonian captivity (586-539 BC) the Jews rediscovered much of this Bronze Age heritage, continuing a reaction against the economically polarizing impact of usury and landlordism that had gathered momentum under Josiah with the rediscovery of the Deuteronomy scroll by priests renovating the Jerusalem temple in 610.

"In a sense it is almost immaterial whether the Biblical debt and land-tenure laws were introduced by Canaanite rulers celebrating New Year Clean Slates, brought by the hapiru or transmitted during the wars with Assyria and Babylonia. What is important is that the Bronze Age precedents provide a living historical context for these laws. The central role played by Mesopotamian Clean Slates - so important that they became synonymous with "royal edict" (simdat) - indicates how equally important they were to the Pentateuch. Modern readers of the Bible may skim over these laws quickly as if they were the fine print, so to speak, but to the Biblical compilers they formed the very core of righteous lawgiving."

June 15, 2011

Luke 4.14-21

Then Jesus, armed with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee; and reports about him spread throughout the countryside. He taught in the synagogues and all men sang his praises.

So he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and went to synagogue on the Sabbath day as he regularly did. He stood up to read the lesson and was handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He opened the scroll and found the passage which says:

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because He has anointed me;
He has sent me to announce good news to the poor,
to proclaim release for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind,
to let the broken victims go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

He rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the synagogue were fixed on him.

"Today," he said, "in your hearing, this text has come true."

June 14, 2011

Luke 4.1-13

Full of the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan, and for forty days was led by the Spirit up and down the wilderness and tempted by the devil.

All that time he had nothing to eat, and at the end of it he was famished. The devil said to him, "If you are the son of God, tell this stone to become bread."

Jesus answered, "Scripture says, 'Man cannot live on bread alone.'"

Next the devil led him up and showed him in a flash all the kingdoms of the world. "All this dominion will I give to you," he said, "and the glory that goes with it.; for it has been put in my hands and I can give it to anybody I choose. You have only to do homage to me and it shall all be yours."

Jesus answered him, "Scripture says, 'You shall do homage to the Lord your God and worship him alone.'"

The devil took him to Jerusalem and set him on the parapet of the Temple. "If you are the son of God," he said, "throw yourself down, for scripture says, 'He will give his angels orders to take care of you,' and again, 'They will support you in their arms for fear you should strike your foot against a stone.'"

Jesus answered him, "It has been said, 'You are not to test the Lord your God.'"

So, having come to the end of all his temptations, the devil departed, biding his time.

June 13, 2011

The "Sonof" Begats in Luke

First of all, why is there a genealogy at this point? Who rates genealogies in the Bible?  Patriarchs and royalty, David for example.

The discrepancy with  Matthew's genealogy could mean: 1) That Matthew made changes to fit things into his scheme of "14 generations from Abraham to David, 14 from David until the exile, and 14 from then until the Messiah." Or 2) Both are fictional.

From NT Wright's The New Testament and the People of God, (pg 319) re messianic expectations in the first century:

"1. Expectation was focused primarily on the nation, not on any particular individual. The hope [of deliverance from pagan domination & divine displeasure]... remains fundamental, occurring far more widely than expressions of hope for a Messiah or similar figure. Sometimes, indeed, texts are might be thought to speak of a Messiah are referred to the whole community, a process which is already visible within the Hebrew Bible itself.

"2. This expectation could, under certain circumstances, become focused upon a particular individual, either expected imminently or actually present. The circumstances under which this was possible seem to have been threefold; the appearance of an opportunity (such as at the death of Herod), the particular pressure of anti-Jewish action by pagans (such as under Hadrian), and the crescendo of speculation connected with the attempt to work out messianic chronology.

"3. When this happened, the generalized expectation of a coming figure can be redrawn in a wide variety of ways to fit the situation or person concerned. Davidic descent can clearly be waived. The idea of two Messiahs is not a contradiction in terms. The particular felt needs of the time can influence the presentation: Herod could hope for his son to be the true king; the Sicarii could put forward Menahem, or the peasants Simon bar Giora...."

 "Davidic descent can clearly be waived."-- And in all three synoptic gospels, we find Jesus himself arguing against the belief that the Messiah must be descended from David. In the case of David himself, the crucial fact was not his pedigree, but his anointment by Samuel... and his prestige among the people.

Another detail that also comes up in the synoptic accounts of Jesus arguing on the Temple grounds, when the authorities ask him: Where does he get his authority? He asks them whether they accept John the Baptist's authority. It's a minority view, but clear to me personally, that Jesus became officially Messiah (de jure king of Israel) from his anointing by John the Baptist, that this was why the gospel writers all mention his encounter with John. If so, "Baptism" (though it might be ceremonially appropriate for a man who could be taken to "represent" Israel in some sense) was not the significant point of their meeting.

There is, as it happens, some question about Jesus' paternity. I myself wonder about the medieval Jewish legend that he was fathered by a Roman soldier (There was, after all, a punitive raid through Galilee near the time of his birth.) That legend has not been traced back to any source near the first century; but it is odd that his fellow villagers are said to refer to him as "the son of Mary", which was not a nice thing to call someone in that culture. It could be a misquote by gospel writers who didn't think he could be a "son of God" if he was simply the son of Joseph. And how he physically came to be born... might just have very little to do with who he was, and is.

June 09, 2011

Luke 2.21-22 (& Psalms etc)

Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the Heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form, as a dove, and a voice came from Heaven, "Thou art my beloved son; with thee I am well pleased."

["Other ancient authorities read 'today I have begotten thee.' "]

Psalms 2->2.9 ["a royal psalm, composed for a coronation" (notes are from Oxford Annotated Bible, 2nd Edition 1971)]

Why do the nations conspire
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the Earth set themselves
And the rulers take counsel together
against the Lord and his annointed, saying
"Let us burst their bonds asunder,
and cast their cords from us."

He who sits in the Heavens laughs;
the Lord has them in derision.
Then He will speak to them in his wrath
and terrify them in His fury, saying
"I have set my king
on Zion, my holy hill."

I will tell of the decree of the Lord:
He said to me, "You are my son;
today I have begotten you.
Ask of me, and I will make
the nations your heritage
and the ends of the Earth your possession.
You shall break them with a rod of iron
and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel."

from 1 Samuel 9 & 10...

Now the day before Saul came, the Lord had revealed to Samuel: "Tomorrow about this time I will send to you a man from the tribe of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him to be prince over my people Israel... When Samuel saw Saul, the Lord told him, "Here is the man of whom I spoke to you. He it is who shall rule over my people."....

Then Samuel took a vial of oil and poured it on his head, and kissed him and said, "Has not the Lord anointed you to be prince over his people Israel?"....

When they [Saul & servant] came to Gibeah, behold, a band of prophets met him, and the Spirit of God came mightily upon him, and he prophesied among them."


I Samuel 16.1-13

The Lord said to Samuel, "How long will you grieve over Saul, seeing I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons."

And Samuel said, "How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me!"

And the Lord said, "Take a heifer with you, and say, 'I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.' And invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me him whom I name to you."

Samuel did what the Lord commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came trembling to meet him, and said, "Do you come peaceably?"

And he said, "Peaceably. I have come to sacrifice to the Lord; consecrate yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice." And he consecrated Jesse and his sons, and invited them to the sacrifice.

When they came, he looked at Eliab and thought, "Surely the Lord's anointed is before me."

But the Lord said to Samuel, "Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord sees not as man sees. Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart."

Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, "Neither has the Lord chosen this one." Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, "Neither has the Lord chosen this one." And Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, "The Lord has not chosen these." And Samuel said to Jesse, "Are all of your sons here?"

And he said, "There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep."

And Samuel said to Jesse, "Send and fetch him, for we will not sit down till he comes here."

And he sent, and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome.

And the Lord said, "Arise, anoint  him; for this is he."

Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. And Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah.

June 08, 2011

Luke 3.7-3.20

Crowds of people came out to be baptized by him, and he said to them: "You viper's brood! Who warned you to escape from the coming retribution? Then prove your repentance by the fruit it bears; and do not begin saying to yourselves, 'We have Abraham for our father.' I tell you that God can make children for Abraham out of these stones here.

Already the axe is laid to the roots of the trees; and every tree that fails to produce good fruit is cut down and thrown on the fire.

The people asked him, "Then what are we to do?"

He replied, "The man with two shirts must share with him who has none, and anyone who has food must to the same."

Among those who came to him to be baptized were tax-gatherers, and they said to him, "Master, what are we to do?"

He told them, "Extract no more than the assessment."

Soldiers on service also asked him, "And what of us?"

To them he said, "No bullying, no blackmail. Make do with your pay."

The people were on the tiptoe of expectation, all wondering about John, whether perhaps he was the Messiah, but he spoke out and said to them all, "I baptize you with water, but there is one to come who is mightier than I. I am not fit to unfasten his shoes. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His shovel is ready in his hand, to winnow his threshing-floor and gather the wheat into his granary; but he will burn the chaff on a fire than can never go out."

In this and many other ways he made his appeal to the people and announced the good news. But Prince Herod [Agrippa], when he was rebuked by him over the affair of his brother's wife Herodias and for his other misdeeds, crowned them all by shutting John up in prison.

June 07, 2011

Why Is John the Baptist out "Crying in the Wilderness."

If you compare the two last posts-- The one that's actually from Isaiah says that Israel has already paid double for all her sins; all is forgiven and Jerusalem is to have peace. That's written in-or-around the honeymoon of Persian rule, when the exiled Jewish elite were returning with permission to rebuild the Temple.

Things are different when that "Second Temple" period has thoroughly set in, and Herod (a foreign king of Israel) and his descendants have replaced that modest rebuilt Temple with a huge, spectacular new version. This is not a time of peace, but of oppression and restlessness, marked by the crucifixion of some 2000 Galilean Jews by a Roman punitive campaign near the time of Jesus' birth, and the upcoming destruction of Herod's Temple in the next major revolt in CE 70.

And so we are shown John the Baptist, dressed up like Elijah, out in the wilderness talking about "the Wrath to come." Everybody knew...

To quote a little from NT Wright's The New Testament and the People of God:

"If the creator had entered into covenant with this particular nation, then why were they not ruling the world as His chosen people should? If the world had been made for Israel's sake, why was she still suffering? What was the creator and covenant God now up to? And within this, a further question: What should Israel be doing in the present to hasten the time when He would act on her behalf? How should one, how could one, be a faithful Jew in the time of present distress, in the time of puzzling delay? ... These questions gave characteristic form to the articulation both of Israel's hope and of the requirements of the Covenant....[ which involved both] the divine intention to remake and restore the whole world, through Israel... [and] His intention to remake and restore Israel itself....

"Most Jews of this period, it seems, would have answered the question 'Where are we?' in language which, reduced to its simplest form, meant, We are still in exile... In all the senses which mattered, Israel's exile was still in progress. Although she had come back from Babylon, the glorious message of the prophets remained unfulfilled. Israel still remained in thrall to foreigners; worse, Israel's God had not returned to Zion... Israel clung to promises that one day the Shekinah, the glorious presence of her God, would return at last... [but] Nowhere in second-temple literature is it asserted that this has happened; therefore it still remains in the future. The exile is [therefore] not yet really over. This perception of Israel's present condition was shared by writers across the board in second-temple Judaism. We may cite the following as typical:

     Here we are, slaves to this day-- slaves in the land that you gave to
     our ancestors to enjoy its fruits and its good gifts. Its rich yield goes
     to the kings whom you have set over us because of our sins; they
     have power also over our livestock at their pleasure, and we are in
     great distress.


"This needs to be emphasized in the strongest possible terms: The most natural meaning of the phrase 'the forgiveness of sins' to a first-century Jew is not in the first instance the remission of individual sins, but the putting away of the whole nation's sins. And since the exile was the punishment for those sins, the only sure sign that the sins had been forgiven would be the clear and certain liberation from exile."

June 06, 2011

Isaiah 40->40.5

"Comfort, comfort my people," says your God. "Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord's hand double for all her sins."

A voice crys:
In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level
and the rough places a plain.

And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed
and all flesh shall see it together
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

Luke 3.1-6

In the 15th year of the Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, when Herod was prince of Galilee, his brother Philip prince of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias prince of Abilene, during the High Priesthood of Annas and Caiphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness.

And he went all over the Jordan valley proclaiming a baptism in token of repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the prophecies of Isaiah:

A voice crying aloud in the wilderness,
"Prepare a way for the Lord;
clear a straight path for him.
Every ravine shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill leveled,
the corners straightened
and the rough ways made smooth.
All humankind shall see God's deliverance."

What It Is About John...

To make this project worthwhile, we need to look at an actual bit of scripture now & then. Not just skim the high points, but consider it in detail. And the trouble is, very little of this book holds up very well if I look at it honestly. It says some good things about Jesus, but I don't find him here.

Likewise, we ought to be finding something to help us better know God... and so there's little point in just trashing passages for not doing that for me.

So what is it, that makes this book so widely and deeply loved-- and so uncongenial to me? Looking ahead for some oasis of inspiration...

The good part is that saying that "I and my Father are one." Taken with a few other passages, it leaves room for the mystical sense that this One is our Father as well, that any human being can be/is essentially one with God.

Aside from that, I'm finding a whole lot of "I'm special, and if you agree that I'm special, so are you!!!"

One hesitates to disagree. But that guy I know came from God, he's back hiding out in the synoptic gospels.

Let's go there.

June 05, 2011

God at Work in This...

Notice that my friend Larry has just posted a piece ending with allusions to manna & "the Bread of Life." Just about the time I decided it's about time we started looking at actual bits of scripture once again, and went back to the John 6 passages where I'd been stuck a couple years ago-- where Jesus is being portrayed, apparently claiming to be that Bread.

Now the real Jesus of Matthew, Mark, Luke, just fed people and recommended they pray for each day's needs... [the very arrangement by which manna is delivered on the way from Egypt, by the way.] This fictional Jesus is being used as a mouthpiece for somebody's theology-- which said 'somebody' no doubt believes to be true, but we're getting it from a fiction. Once again, the challenge is to see what illumination God can bring through this fiction...

And we're supposed to be getting it through this utterly nasty image of munching on the flesh of Jesus... which suggests to me the idea of people eating a sacrifice. That is, after all, what people traditionally did with a sacrifice... (which was seldom a human sacrifice, though that's the aspect of this that evidently fascinates people today [Try googling "sacrifice"; you'll see!]) The Temple cult evidently found something inspiring in the sight of meat bursting into flame; but in less formal times and places, a sacrifice was normally a way of sanctifying the slaughter of an animal for food. In the case of a lamb sacrificed for Passover... a commemoration of Israel being led out of slavery into a new life in a rather unequal partnership with God.. one was supposed to eat every bit of it!

This gospel was almost certainly written considerably later than the other three... but this idea of Jesus being a sacrifice is also an element in Paul's letters, which may be the earliest writings about Jesus we have... and which definitely were written while the Temple was still in use. Christians may have been praying in the Temple (Acts says they were)-- but they weren't sacrificing there like other Jews. To me it seems likely that Jesus' "Cleansing" of the Temple was really a symbolic "destruction" of it ala Jeremiah's prophecy. So that even though the building was still standing, still a convenient place for prayers and missionary activities, Christians had stopped using it as a proper temple. Well before the Romans confirmed Jesus' oracle with actual destruction, then, Christians (like many other Jews, especially among those living outside Israel) were having to find a substitute for the Temple. Instead of Passover once a year... a ritual meal once a week, celebrating the belief that the congregation was part of God's Kingdom, ruled by the Messiah Jesus. A meal in which bread (& sometimes fish) was the primary feature... so that that bread might be identified with the Jesus whose "sacrifice" had made that condition possible.

So, what we have here is basically an assertion that participating in this communal [commemoration of ] sacrifice will not just substitute for the sacrifices in the Temple-- but will lead to being resurrected as Jesus was, when that time comes. And that one who doesn't do so won't have the life of God in him... a bizarre notion, but these gatherings were the only way they knew to assimilate what Jesus brought. (Not the first, or the last time that people have assumed... that the practices they'd been given were a universal Divine requirement.)

June 04, 2011

John 6.46-58

"I do not mean that anyone has seen the Father. He who has come from God has seen the Father, and he alone. In truth, in very truth I tell you, the believer possesses eternal life.

"I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert; and they are dead. I am speaking of the bread that comes down from Heaven, which a man may eat, and never die. I am that living bread which has come down from Heaven; if anyone eats this bread he shall live forever. Moreover, the bread which I give away is my own flesh; I give it for the life of the world."

This led to a fierce dispute among the Jews. "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" they said.

Jesus replied, "In truth, in very truth I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the son of man and drink his blood you can have no life in you.

"Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood possesses eternal life; and I will raise him up on the last day. My flesh is real flesh; my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood dwells continually in me and I dwell in him.

"As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me shall live because of me. This is the bread which has come down from Heaven; and it is not like the bread which our fathers ate. They are dead, but whoever eats this bread shall live forever."

June 03, 2011

About John 6.41 etc....

I've always found "John" pretty indigestible, because he depicts Jesus strutting about, striking poses, delivering pompous theological discourses... This is not at all the man we know and love from his incisive behavior and speech in the synoptic gospels--and the contrast severely annoyed me.

Whether or not Christians had invented The Trinity when this was written, a similar metaphor seems to be in the background here. It is not that analytically detailed metaphor which The Church eventually struggles to specify-- but a more flexible notion, confusing enough that I do see inspiration at work in it.

In the synoptics... Jesus occasionally speaks for God, not in the typical prophetic "Thus says the Lord" framing, but implicitly. "Whatever you've done to the least of my [siblings] you've done to Me," is the best example I know-- and utterly convincing.

Here, he becomes practically a full-time avatar, continually insisting that not only "The Father" is God, but so is The Son aka himself. God hasn't just "sent" him (as in the synoptics) but he's come down "from Heaven"; he is the bread that came down from there.

The allusion, of course, is to God feeding the Israelites on their walk out of Egyptian slavery. As in Exodus, they "murmur", they kvetch, and "John" disapproves, presuming that God disapproves likewise! "The Jews" aka John's contemporaries won't even eat this manna!-- and if they were listening to God, John's Jesus says, they'd be led right to him.

"And I will raise him up on the last day." Huh? The connection seems elusive...

But everyone in the true Israel-- those who keep wrestling with God-- "shall all be taught by God." And that teaching--at least in my life-- seemed inevitably to bring me to the question: Who was this man and what was God doing with him?

One message the Bible carries implicitly-- is that God wants to talk, while human beings-- including those writing the Bible itself-- "hear" God's communications through all the 'transference'/'counter-transference' distortions ever encountered between human patients & shrinks...

If one sees "the world" as the product of "God working within limitations"-- then human beings can be described as "God living within limitations." That mystical awareness that our very life is God... sets up a tension, between that and our experience of being very limited indeed.

John 6.41-45 [where I'd left off]

The Jews began to murmur disapprovingly because he said, "I am the bread which came down from Heaven."

They said, "Surely this is Jesus son of Joseph; we know his father and mother. How can he now say, 'I have come down from Heaven.'?

Jesus answered, "Stop murmuring among yourselves. No man can come to me unless he is drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the prophets: 'And they shall all be taught by God.' Everyone who had listened to the Father and learned from him comes to me."

June 02, 2011

A Great Old Hymn

Beulah Land

Far away the noise of strife upon my ear is falling.
Then I know the sins of earth beset on every hand.
Doubt and fear and things of earth in vain to me are calling.
None of these shall move me from Beulah Land.

I’m living on the mountain, underneath a cloudless sky.
I’m drinking at the fountain that never shall run dry.
O yes! I’m feasting on the manna from a bountiful supply,
For I am dwelling in Beulah Land.

My father was an old country preacher in many different churches in rural Louisiana. We lived about half the time among the cajuns of South La. and the other half among the rednecks of North La. The two people were about as different as Americans could be, but one thing that every congregation seemed to love was the Cokesbury Hymnal of Gospel Songs. The above was one of my favorites: the music and the words! Beulah Land is an excellent text for a three point sermon:

I. The Mountain! Many of them in the Bible: from Mount Sinai in the O.T. to the Mount of Transfiguration and many others in between:

Exodus 3:1-8a:
[1] Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father in law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb.
[2] And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.
[3] And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.
[4] And when the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I.
[5] And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.
[6] Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God.
[7] And the LORD said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows;
[8] And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians

Matthew 17:1-3
[1] And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart,
[2] And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.
[3] And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him.

II The Fountain
You'll find images of a fountain scattered about all over the Bible (my concordance has 63 occurrences.
One of my favorites is the one found at
Revelation 7:14-17:
14] And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
[15] Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.
[16] They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat.
[17] For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.

III The Mana
In Exodus 16:3-19 we may read how God sent bread from Heaven to the children of Isaiah:
[3] And the children of Israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger.
[4] Then said the LORD unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no.
[5] And it shall come to pass, that on the sixth day they shall prepare that which they bring in; and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily.
[6] And Moses and Aaron said unto all the children of Israel, At even, then ye shall know that the LORD hath brought you out from the land of Egypt:
[7] And in the morning, then ye shall see the glory of the LORD; for that he heareth your murmurings against the LORD: and what are we, that ye murmur against us?
[8] And Moses said, This shall be, when the LORD shall give you in the evening flesh to eat, and in the morning bread to the full; for that the LORD heareth your murmurings which ye murmur against him: and what are we? your murmurings are not against us, but against the LORD.
[9] And Moses spake unto Aaron, Say unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, Come near before the LORD: for he hath heard your murmurings.
[10] And it came to pass, as Aaron spake unto the whole congregation of the children of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and, behold, the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud.
[11] And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
[12] I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel: speak unto them, saying, At even ye shall eat flesh, and in the morning ye shall be filled with bread; and ye shall know that I am the LORD your God.
[13] And it came to pass, that at even the quails came up, and covered the camp: and in the morning the dew lay round about the host.
[14] And when the dew that lay was gone up, behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost on the ground.
[15] And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna: for they wist not what it was. And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the LORD hath given you to eat.
[16] This is the thing which the LORD hath commanded, Gather of it every man according to his eating, an omer for every man, according to the number of your persons; take ye every man for them which are in his tents.
[17] And the children of Israel did so, and gathered, some more, some less.
[18] And when they did mete it with an omer, he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack; they gathered every man according to his eating.
[19] And Moses said, Let no man leave of it till the morning.

Another one of my favorites is Break Thou the Bread of Life: