July 31, 2011

1 Kings 13.11-32

Now there dwelt an old prophet in Bethel. And his sons came and told him all that the man of God had done that day in Bethel; the words also which he had spoken to the King, they told their father. And their father said to them, "Which way did he go?"

And his sons showed him the way which the man of God from Judah had gone.

And he said to his sons, "Saddle the ass for me."

So they saddled the ass for him and he mounted it. And he went after the man of God, and found him sitting under an oak; and he said to him, "Are you the man of God who came from Judah.

And he said, "I am."

Then he said to him, "Come home with me and eat bread."

And he said, "I may not return with you, or go in with you; neither will I eat bread nor drink water in this place, for it was said to me by the word of the Lord, 'You shall neither eat bread nor drink water there, nor return by the way that you came.'"

And he said to him, "I am also a prophet as you are, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the Lord, saying 'Bring him back with you into your house that he may eat bread and drink water.'" But he lied to him.

So he went back with him, and ate bread in his house, and drank water.

And as they sat at the table, the word of the Lord came to the prophet who had brought him back; and he cried to the man who had come from Judah, "Thus says the Lord, 'Because you have disobeyed the word of the Lord, and have not kept the commandment which the Lord your God commanded you, but have come back, and have eaten bread and drunk water in the place of which he said to you, "Eat no beard, and drink no water"; your body shall not come to the tomb of your fathers.'" And after he had eaten bread and drunk, he saddled the ass for the prophet he had brought back.

And as he went away a lion met him on the road and killed him. And his body was thrown in the road, and the ass stood beside it; the lion also stood beside the body.

And behold, men passed by, and saw the body thrown in the road, and the lion standing by the body. And they came and told it in the city where the old prophet dwelt.

And when the prophet who had brought him back from the way heard of it, he said, "It is the man of God who disobeyed the word of the Lord; therefore the Lord has given him to the lion, which has torn him and slain him, according to the word which the Lord spoke to him. And he said to his sons, "Saddle the ass for me."

And they saddled it.

And he went and found his body thrown in the road, and the ass and the lion standing beside the body. The lion had not eaten the body, or torn the ass.

And the prophet took up the body of the man of God and laid it upon the ass, and brought it back to the city, to mourn and to bury him. And he laid the body in his own grave; and they mourned over him, saying, "Alas, my brother!"

And after he had buried him, he said to his sons, "When I die, bury me in the grave in which the man of God is buried; lay my bones beside his bones. For the saying which he cried by the word of the Lord against the altar in Bethel, and against all the houses of the high places which are in the cities of Samaria, shall surely come to pass."

July 30, 2011

Luke 7.18-23

John too was informed of all this by his disciples. Summoning two of their number, he sent them to the Lord with this message: "Are you the one who is to come, or are we to expect some other?"

The messengers made their way to Jesus, and said, "John the Baptist has sent us to you. He asks, 'Are you the one who is to come, or are we to expect some other?'"

There and then he cured many sufferers from diseases, plagues, and evil spirits; and on many blind people he restored sight. Then he gave them his answer: "Go," he said, "and tell John what you have seen and heard: how the blind recover their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are clean, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, the poor are hearing the good news-- and happy is the man who does not find me a stumbling-block."

July 29, 2011

1 Kings 12.26-13.10

And Jeroboam said in his heart, "Now the kingdom will turn back to the house of David. If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the House of the Lord at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will turn again to their lord, to Rehoboam King of Judah, and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam King of Judah."

So the King took counsel, and made two calves of gold. And he said to the people, "You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt." And he set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. And this thing became a sin, for the people went to the one at Bethel and to the other as far as Dan. He also made temples on high places, and appointed priests from among the people, who were not of the Levites.

And Jeroboam appointed a feast on the fifteenth day of the eighth month, like the feast that was in Judah; and he offered sacrifices upon the altar; so he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves that he had made. And he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places that he had made. He went up to the altar which he had made in Bethel on the fifteenth day in the eighth month, in the month which he had devised of his own heart; and he ordained a feast for the people of Israel, and went up to the altar to burn incense.

And behold, a man of God came out of Judah by the word of the Lord to Bethel.

Jeroboam was standing by the altar to burn incense. And the man cried against the altar by the word of the Lord, and said, "O altar, altar, thus says the Lord: 'Behold, a son shall be born to the house of David, Josiah by name; and he shall sacrifice upon you the priests of the high places who burn incense upon you; and men's bones shall be burnt upon you.'"

And he gave a sign the same day, saying, "This is the sign that the Lord has spoken: 'Behold, the altar shall be torn down, and the ashes that are upon it shall be poured out.' "

And when the King heard the saying of the man of God, which he cried against the altar at Bethel, Jeroboam stretched out his hand from the altar, saying, "Lay hold of him."

And his hand, which he stretched out against him, dried up, so that he could not draw it back to himself. The altar also was torn down, and the ashes poured out from the altar, according to the sign which the man of God had given by the word of the Lord.

And the King now said to the man of God, "Entreat now the favor of the Lord your God, and pray for me, that my hand may be restored to me."

And the man of God entreated the Lord; and the King's hand was restored to him, and became as it was before. And the King said to the man of God, "Come home with me, and refresh yourself, and I will give you a reward."

And the man of God said to the King, "If you will give me half your house, I will not go in with you. And I will not eat bread or drink water in this place, for so was it commanded me by the word of the Lord, saying 'You shall neither eat bread, nor drink water, nor return by the way that you came.'"

So he went another way, and did not return by the way that he came to Bethel.

July 28, 2011

Luke 7.11-17

Afterwards Jesus went to a town called Nain, accompanied by his disciples and a large crowd.

As he approached the gate of the town he met a funeral. The dead man was the only son of his widowed mother; and many of the townspeople were there with her.

When the Lord saw her his heart went out to her; and he said, "Weep no more." With that he stepped forward and laid his hand on the bier; and the bearers halted. Then he spoke, "Young man, rise up!"

The dead man sat up and began to talk; and Jesus gave him back to his mother.

Deep awe fell upon them all; and they praised God. "A great prophet has arisen among us," they said, and again, "God has shown His care for His people. The story of what he had done ran through all parts of Judaea and the whole neighborhood.

July 24, 2011

1 Kings 11.26-12.24

Jeroboam the son of Nebat, an Ephraimite of Zeredah, a servant of Solomon, whose mother's name was Zeruah, a widow, also lifted up his hand against [Solomon] the King.

And this was the reason: Solomon built the Millo, and closed up the breach of the city of David his father. The man Jeroboam was very able; and when Solomon saw that the young man was industrious, he gave him charge over all the forced labor of the tribe of Joseph.

And at that time, when Jeroboam went out of Jerusalem, the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite found him on the road. Now Ahijah had clad himself in a new garment; and the two of them were alone in the open country.

Then Ahijah laid hold of the new garment that was on him, and tore it into twelve pieces. And he said to Jeroboam, "Take for yourself ten pieces; for thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, 'Behold, I am about to tear the kingdom from the hand of Solomon, and will give you ten tribes (but he shall have one tribe, for the sake of my servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel), because he has forsaken me, and worshiped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god of Moab, and Milcom the god of the Ammonites, and has not walked in my ways, doing what is right in my eyes and keeping my statutes and my ordinances, as David his father did. Nevertheless I will not take the whole kingdom out of his hand, but I will make him ruler all the days of his life, for the sake of David my servant whom I chose, who kept my commandments and my statutes; but I will take his kingdom out of his son's hand, and will give it to you, ten tribes. Yet to his son I will give one tribe, that David my servant may always have a lamp before me in Jerusalem, the city where I have chosen to put my name. And I will take you; and you shall reign over all that your soul desires; and you shall be King over Israel.

"' And if you will hearken to all that I command you, and will walk in my ways, and do what is right in my eyes by keeping my statutes and my commandments, as David my servant did, I will be with you, and will build you a sure house, as I built for David, and I will give Israel to you. And I will for this afflict the descendants of David, but not forever.'"

Solomon sought therefore to kill Jeroboam; but Jeroboam arose, and fled into Egpyt, to Shishak king of Egypt, and was in Egypt, and was in Egypt until the death of Solomon.

Now the rest of the acts of Solomon, and all that he did, and his wisdom; are they not  written in the book of the acts of Solomon? And the time that Solomon reigned in Jerusalem over all Israel was forty years. And Solomon slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David his father; and Rehoboam his son reigned in his stead.

Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all Israel had come to Shechem to make him King.

And when Jeroboam the son of Nebat heard of it (for he was still in Egypt, whither he had fled from King Solomon), then Jeroboam returned from Egypt.

And they sent and called him; and Jeroboam and all the assembly of Israel came and said to Rehoboam, "Your father made our yoke heavy. Now therefore lighten the hard service of your father and his heavy yoke upon us; and we will serve you."

He said to them, "Depart for three days, then come again to me." So the people went away.

Then King Rehoboam took counsel with the old men, who had stood before Solomon his father while he was still alive-- saying, "How do you advise me to answer this people?"

And they said to him, "If you will be a servant to this people today and serve them, and speak good words to them when you answer them, then they will be your servants forever."

But he forsook the counsel which the old men gave him, and took counsel with the young men who had grown up with him and stood before him. And he said to them, "What do you advise that we answer this people who have said to me, 'Lighten the yoke that your father put on us.'?"

And the young men who had grown up with him said to him, "Thus shall you speak to this people who said to you, 'Your father made our yoke heavy, but do you lighten it for us.' Thus shall you say to them, 'My little finger is thicker than my father's loins. And now, whereas my father laid upon you a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke. My father chastised you with whips; but I will chastise you with scorpions!'"

So Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam the third day, as the king said, "Come to me the third day."

And the King answered the people harshly, and forsaking the counsel which the old men had given him, he spoke to them according to the counsel of the young men, saying, "My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke; my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions!"

So the King did not hearken to the people; for it was a turn of affairs brought about by the Lord that He might fulfil his word, which the Lord spoke by Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat.

And when all Israel saw that the King did not hearken to them, the people answered the King:

     What portion have we in David?
     We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse.
     To your tents, O Israel!
     Look now to your own house, David!

So Israel departed to their tents.

But Rehoboam reigned over the people of Israel who dwelt in the cities of Judah. Then King Rehoboam sent Adoram, who was taskmaster over the forced labor; and all Israel stoned him to death with stones. And King Rehoboam made haste to mount his chariot, to flee to Jerusalem. So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day.

And when all Israel heard that Jeroboam had returned, they sent and called him to the assembly, and made him King over all Israel. There was none that followed the house of David, but the tribe of Judah only.

When Rehoboam came to Jerusalem, he assembled all the house of Judah, and the tribe of Benjamin, a hundred and eighty thousand chosen warriors, to fight against the house of Israel, to restore the kingdom to Rehoboam the son of Solomon.

But the word of God came to Shemaiah the man of God, "Say to Rehoboam the son of Solomon, King of Judah, and to all the house of Judah and Benjamin, and to the rest of the people,'Thus says the Lord, You shall not go up or fight against your kinsmen the people of Israel. Return every man to his home, for this thing is from Me.'"

So they hearkened to the word of the Lord, and went home again.

July 22, 2011

Luke 7-7.10

When he had finished addressing the people, he went to Capernaum. A centurion there had a servant whom he valued highly; this servant was ill and near death. Hearing about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders with the request that he would come and save his servant's life.

They approached Jesus and pressed their petition earnestly: "He deserves this favor from you," they said, "for he is a friend of our nation and it is he who built our synagogue."

Jesus went with them; but when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends with this message: "Do not trouble further, sir. It is not for me to have you under my rood, and that is why I did not approach you in person. But say the word, and my servant will be cured. I know, for in my position I am myself under orders, with soldiers under me. I say to one, 'Go', and he goes; to another, "Come here," and he comes; and to my servant, "Do this," and he does it."

When Jesus heard this, he admired the man; and turning to the crowd that had followed him, he said, "I tell you, nowhere, even in Israel, have I found faith like this."

And the messengers returned to the house and found the servant in good health.

July 20, 2011

2 Samuel 11-12.14

In the spring of the year, the time when kings go forth to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they ravaged the Ammonites, and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.

It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking upon the roof of the King's house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. And David sent and inquired about the woman.

And one said, "Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?

So David sent messengers, and took her; and she came to him; and he lay with her. (Now she was purifying herself from her uncleanness.) Then she returned to her house. And the woman conceived; and she sent and told David, "I am with child."

So David sent word to Joab, "Send me Uriah the Hittite." And Joab sent Uriah to David. When Uriah came to him, David asked how Joab was doing, and how the people fared, and how the war prospered. Then David said to Uriah, "Go down to your house, and wash your feet." And Uriah went out of the King's house, and there followed him a present from the King.

But Uriah slept at the door of the King's house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house.

When they told David, "Uriah did not go down to his house," David said to Uriah, "Have you not come from a journey? Why did you not go down to your house?"

Uriah said to David, "The Ark and Israel and Judah dwell in booths; and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field; shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do this thing."

Then David said to Uriah, "Remain here today also, and tomorrow I will let you depart."

So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day, and the next. And David invited him, and he ate in his presence and drank, so that he made him drunk; and in the evening he went out to lie on his couch with the servants of his lord, but he did not go down to his house.

In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah. In the letter he wrote, "Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, that he may be struck down and die."


When the wife of Uriah the Hittite heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she made lamentation for her husband. And when the mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house; and she became his wife, and bore him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.

And the Lord sent Nathan to David. He came to him, and said to him, "There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had many flocks and herds; but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up; and it grew up with him and with his children; it used to eat of his morsel, and drink from his cup, and lie in his bosom, and it was like a daughter to him.

"Now there came a traveler to the rich man; and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him; but he took the poor man's lamb, and prepared it for the man who had come to him."

Then David's anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, "As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die; and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity."

Nathan said to David, "You are the man. Thus says the Lord,'I anointed you King over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul; and I gave you your master's house, and your master's wives into your bosom, and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah; and if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in His sight? You have smitten Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and have taken his wife to be your wife, and have slain him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.'

"Thus says the Lord, 'Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house;  and I will take your wives before your eyes, and give them to your neighbor; and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly; but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.'"

David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the Lord!"

And Nathan said to David, "The Lord has also put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child that is born to you shall die."

July 18, 2011

Luke 6.46->

Why do you keep calling me "Lord, Lord"-- and never do what I tell you?

Everyone who comes to me and hears what I say, and acts upon it-- I will show you what he is like. He is like a man who, in building his house, dug deep and laid the foundations on rock. When the flood came, the river burst upon that house, but could not shift it, because it had been solidly built.

But he who hears and does not act is like a man who built his house on the soil without foundations. As soon as the river burst upon it, the house collapsed, and fell with a great crash.

July 17, 2011

Begining the Game of King and Prophet

The story from here is fun to read, though somewhat forked and muddled. Samuel anoints Saul as 'prince' in a couple of different ways, David comes to be his companion in two different ways, we get different versions of why Samuel concludes that Saul has forfeited God's favor. In any case, Samuel secretly anoints David to be king, while Saul decides that David's popularity makes him a threat to the dynasty Saul would like to found:

"Saul said to [his daughter, David's fiancee] Michal, 'Why have you deceived me thus, and let my enemy go, so that he has escaped?'

"And Michal answered Saul, 'He said to me, "Let me go; why should I kill you?" '

David's popularity keeps him safe, but the struggle becomes ruthless. When Saul learns that Ahimelech the priest has (innocently?) helped David and his followers: "The king said to the guard who stood around him, 'Turn and kill the priests of the Lord, because their hand also is with David; and they knew that he fled, and did not disclose it to me.'... and [though the guards refused, Doeg the Edomite] killed on that day eighty-five persons who wore the linen ephod. And Nob, the city of the priests, he put to the sword; both men and women, children and sucklings, oxen, asses and sheep, he put to the sword.

"But one of the sons of Ahimelech the son of Ahitub, named Abiathar, escaped and fled after David. And Abithar told David that Saul had killed the priests of the Lord. And David said to Abiathar, 'I knew on that day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, that he would surely tell Saul. I have occasioned the death of all the persons of your father's house. Stay with me, fear not; for he that seeks my life seeks your life; with me you shall be in safekeeping.'"

With the surviving priest in his company, David acquires the use of his Urim & Thummim to 'enquire of the Lord' about matters like: "Shall I go up and smite the ____ at ____?[Or not?]" David and his followers survive and flourish through priestly divination, a wealth of cunning, a little extortion, deals with the Philistines, a few massacres, etc., while Saul, lacking the Urim and Thummim to consult, with his kingdom divided in loyalty between himself and David, falls in battle with the Philistines. For awhile there is war between Saul's family and David's, but David prevails, becomes the recognized king of Israel, takes the fortified city of Jerusalem and makes it his capitol-- a place (at the time) outside the territories of any Israelite tribe.

Different tribes remain in intense rivalry, and this may be among the reasons for David wanting to build a national Temple in Jerusalem. But (2 Samuel 7->7.16):
Now when the King dwelt in his house, and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies round about, the King said to Nathan the prophet, "See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells in a tent."

And Nathan said to the King, "Go, do all that is in your heart, for the Lord is with you."

But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, "Go and tell my servant David, 'Thus says the Lord: Would you build me a house to dwell in? I have not dwelt in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt, but I have been moving about in a tent for my dwelling. In all places where I have moved with all the people of Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, "Why have you not built me a house of cedar?" ' Now, therefore thus you shall say to my servant David, 'Thus says the Lord of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel; and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the Earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever..."

But in 1 Chronicles 22.7-8: David says to Solomon, "My son, I had it in my heart to build a house to the name of the Lord my God. But the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 'You have shed much blood and have waged great wars; you shall not build a house to my name, because you have shed so much blood before me upon the Earth.' "
Was there an omission from Nathan's speech above? Or does this refer to an incident in 2 Samuel 16, where David and his followers are fleeing Absalom's rebellion:

When King David came to Bahurim, there came out a man of the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera; and as he came he cursed continually. And he threw stones at David, and at all the servants of King David; and all the people and all the mighty men were on his right hand and on his left. And Shimei said as he cursed, "Begone, begone, you man of blood, you worthless fellow! The Lord has avenged upon you all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose place you have reigned; and the Lord has given the kingdom into the hand of your son Absalom. See, your ruin is on you, for you are a man of blood."

Then Abishai the son of Zeruiah said to the King, "Why should this dead dog curse my lord the King? Let me go over and take off his head."

But the King said, "What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? If he is cursing because the Lord has said to him, 'Curse David,' who then shall say, 'Why have you done so?'"

And David said to Abishai and to all his servants, "Behold, my own son seeks my life! How much more now may this Benjaminite! Let him alone, and let him curse, for the Lord has bidden him. It may be that the Lord will look upon my affliction, and that the Lord will repay me with good for this cursing of me today."


But later, in 1 Kings 2.8->, David is on his deathbed advising Solomon:

"And there is also with you Shimei the son of Gera, the Benjaminite from Bahurim, who cursed me with a grievous curse on the day when I went to Mahanaim; but when he came down to meet me at the Jordan, I swore to him by the Lord, saying, 'I will not put you to death with the sword.' Now, therefore, hold him not guiltless, for you are a wise man; you will know what you ought to do to him, and you shall bring his gray head down with blood to Sheol."

July 15, 2011

Samuel 8 & the Monarchy

[Samuel's reputation grew after the fulfilment of his prophecy, and eventually he became leader, "judged Israel all the days of his life."]

When Samuel became old, he made his sons judges over Israel... Yet his sons did not walk in his ways, but turned aside after gain; they took bribes and perverted justice.

Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, "Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint for us a king to govern us like all the nations."

But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, "Give us a king to govern us." And Samuel prayed to the Lord.

And the Lord said to Samuel, "Hearken to the voice of the people in what they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. According to all the deeds they have done to me from the day I brought them up out of Egypt, even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now, then, hearken to their voice; but you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall rule over them."

So Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking a king from him. He said, "These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: He will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots; and he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. He will take your menservants and maidservants, and the best of your cattle and your asses, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves.

"And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day."

But the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel; and they said, "No! But we will have a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may govern us and go out before us and fight our battles."

And when Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the ears of the Lord.

And the Lord said to Samuel, "Hearken to their voice, and make them a king." Samuel then said to the men of Israel, "Go every man to his city."

July 14, 2011

How This Sounds in First Century Judea

From the Wikipedia entry on 'Figs in the Bible':

"The Jewish Encyclopedia[3] states that the fig tree is a symbol of the coming of the Mashiach:
The simple meaning of these parables, however, was lost later on, and they were taken to be allegories and mysteries, especially when they alluded to the Messianic expectations, about which it was not safe to speak in public, as they assumed the end of the kingdom of Satan (Rome; comp. Mark 4:11, Mark 4:34; Matt 13:1-52, especially Matt 13:35 and Matt 13:39). Thus "the parable of the fig-tree" (Mark 13:28; see Wellhausen, who is at a loss to explain it) is actually a "symbol" of the Messianic advent, according to the Midrash (Cant. R. ii. 13), but was no longer understood by the evangelists, either as an allegory or as a sign of Messianic success or failure, in the story of the blasted fig-tree (Mark 11:13-14, Mark 11:20-23)."

Searching on midrash & fig tree, I get a googlebooks exerpt from The New Testament and Rabbinic Literature by Reimund Bieringer: “The biblical images of vine and fig tree are symbols for Israel, abundance, the Day of the Lord, and the coming of Messiah; their absence signifies desolation..... Likewise, in rabbinic Midrash the fig tree and its fruits symbolize Israel and its good works or Torah teachings, the messianic age, the coming of Messiah, even the hour of death."

Jeremiah 8.13 :

"When I would gather them, says the Lord,
there are no grapes on the vine
nor figs on the fig tree:
even the leaves have withered,
and what I gave them has passed away from them."

Isaiah 5->5.7

Let me sing for my Beloved
a love song concerning his vineyard

My Beloved had a vineyard
on a very fertile hill.
He digged it and cleared it of stones
and planted it with choice vines;
He built a watchtower in the midst of it,
and hewed out a wine vat in it;
and He looked for it to yield grapes
but it yielded wild grapes.

And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem
and men of Judah,
judge, I pray you, between me
and my vineyard.
What more was there to do for my vineyard
that I have not done in it?
When I looked for it to yield grapes
why did it yield wild grapes?

And now I will tell you
what I will do in my vineyard.
I will remove its hedge
and it shall be devoured;
I will break down its walls
and it shall be trampled down.
I will make it a waste;
it shall not be pruned or hoed,
and briers and thorns shall grow up;
I will also command the clouds
that they rain no rain upon it.

For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts
is the house of Israel,
and the men of Judah
are his pleasant planting;
and He looked for justice,
but behold: bloodshed;
for righteousness
but behold: a cry!

July 13, 2011

Luke 6.43-45

There is no such thing as a good tree producing worthless fruit, nor yet a worthless tree producing good fruit. For each tree is known by its own fruit-- You do not gather figs from thistles, and you do not pick grapes from brambles.

A good man produces good from the source of good within himself; and an evil man, from evil within, produces evil. For the words that the mouth utters come from the overflowing of the heart.

July 12, 2011

The Fall of Shiloh

First off, the Lord is ending Eli's family monopoly of the Ark "forever." But in 1 Samuel 3.30 He says: "I promised that your house and the house of your father should go on forever."

Such promises from prophets-- and such threats-- are evidently contingent. So far as we can trust them, it is not because a prophet has said them; we can trust God to fulfil what God intends, which ultimately is our good.

But how we understand God's meaning, at a particular moment, is limited by what we are able to understand... and with words like "forever," our minds just boggle.

It was not thinkable-- at first-- that Eli's family would be corrupted by their position, and lose that position, which they otherwise might have enjoyed "forever". But we've also got (2.25) "[Eli's sons] would not listen to the voice of their father; for it was the will of the Lord to slay them." That's not really thinkable to us, if we know God as Jesus described Him. But it expresses some kind of truth, for those young men did die badly, unwilling to stop grabbing the goodies. Their souls are in God's care, but their historic fate was part of the prophetic message.

It isn't that what was prophecized "had to happen." It didn't. There are several examples of people listening to a prophecy, taking the warning, and escaping the doom.

The larger purpose God intends-- required an illustration. People being as we are, someone, sooner or later, was going to take his priestly privileges for granted, abuse them, and die. Which served to give Jeremiah a precedent, to give Jesus two precedents. That what happened to Shiloh would happen to Jerusalem. "Do not trust in these deceptive words: 'This is the Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord.... Go now to my place that was in Shiloh, where I made my name dwell at first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel." Jesus, in turn, alludes to Jeremiah's prediction in the course of his own warning, that the Temple of his day would be destroyed within the lifetime of some of his audience. Both predictions were fulfilled, and on the same day of the calendar.

Whether or not all this was scheduled in Eli's day, who knows? The shape of what would happen was written in our natures. People think God shares their religions. That they can bring the Ark into their battles as if God were bound by their understandings, always inclined to support their personal or national interests. It doesn't work. That's hardly the whole Message, but it's been a very hard lesson to get across.

July 11, 2011

Due to Some Inconveniences...

I'm considering relocating this whole enterprise to the discussions on quakerquaker.org. (I've checked with Martin Kelley & he sees no problem.)

Reason?-- It's hard to follow this kind of subject in reverse order.

There are no ways to display posts here (I've checked!) with first showing first, later ones in sequence. It's all *LATEST* at the top, old posts languishing in the archives.

Please let me know what you think of the idea.

July 10, 2011

1 Samuel 3.11-4.11

Then the Lord said to Samuel, "Behold, I am about to do a thing in Israel, at which the ears of everyone who hears it will tingle. On that day I will fulfil against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. And I tell him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity which he knew, because his sons were blaspheming and he did not restrain them. Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli's house shall not be expiated by sacrifice or offering forever."

Samuel lay until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the Lord. And Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli.

But Eli called Samuel and said, "Samuel, my son."

And he said, "Here I am."

And Eli said, "What was it that he told you? Do not hide it from me. May God do to you and more also, if you hide anything from me of all that he told you." So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. And [Eli] said, "It is the Lord; let Him do what seems good to Him."

And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established as a prophet of the Lord. And the Lord appeared again at Shiloh, for the Lord revealed Himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the Lord. And the word of Samuel came to all Israel.

Now Israel went out to battle against the Philistines; they encamped at Ebenezer, and the Philistines encamped at Aphek. The Philistines drew up in a line against Israel, and when the battle spread, Israel was defeated by the Philistines, who slew about four thousand men on the field of battle.

And when the troops came to the camp, the elders of Israel said, "Why has the Lord put us to rout today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord here from Shiloh, that He may come among us and save us from the power of our enemies." So the people sent to Shiloh, and brought from there the ark of the covenant of the Lord of hosts, who is enthroned on the cherubim; and the two sons of Eli, Hopni and Phineas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God.

When the ark of the covenant of the Lord came into the camp, all Israel gave a mighty shout, so that the earth resounded.

And when the Philistines heard the noise of the shouting, they said, "What does this great shouting in the camp of the Hebrews mean?" And when they learned that the ark of the Lord had come to the camp, the Philistines were afraid; for they said, "A god has come into the camp!" And they said, "Woe to us! For nothing like this has happened before. Woe to us! Who can deliver us from the wrath of these mighty gods? These are the gods who smote the Egyptians with every sort of plague in the wilderness. Take courage, and acquit yourselves like men, O Philistines, lest you become slaves of the Hebrews as they have been to you; acquit yourselves like men, and fight!"

So the Philistines fought, and Israel was defeated, and they fled, every man to his home; and there was a very great slaughter, for there fell of Israel thirty thousand foot soldiers. And the ark of the Lord was captured; and the two sons of Eli, Hopni and Phineas, were slain.

Luke 6.41-42

Why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, with never a thought for the great plank in your own? How can you say to your brother, "My dear brother, let me take the speck out of your eye," when you are blind to the plank in your own? You hypocrite! First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly enough to take the speck out of your brother's.

July 09, 2011

Samuel 3.2-10

Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim, so that he could not see, was lying down in his own place; the lamp of God had not yet gone out; and Samuel was lying down within the Temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was.

Then the Lord called, "Samuel, Samuel!" and he said, "Here I am, and ran to Eli, and said, "Here I am, for you called me."

But he said, "I did not call you; lie back down again."

So he went and lay down. And the Lord called again, "Samuel, Samuel!"

And Samuel arose and went to Eli, and said, "Here I am, for you called me."

But he said, "I did not call, my son; lie down again."

Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. And the Lord called Samuel yet again the third time.

And he arose and went to Eli, and said, "Here I am, for you called me."

Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, "Go, lie down; and if He calls you, you shall say, 'Speak, Lord, for thy servant hears.'"

So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

And the Lord came and stood forth, calling as at other times, "Samuel, Samuel!"

And Samuel said, "Speak, for thy servant hears."

July 08, 2011

Luke 6.39-49

He also offered them a parable: "Can one blind man be guide to another? Will not they both fall into a ditch?

"A pupil is not superior to his teacher, but everyone, when his training is complete, will reach his teacher's level."

July 07, 2011

A First Example: 1 Samuel 2.27->

This is not an entirely coherent book, more of an example of how different sacred legends were later pasted together, leaving more than a few inconsistencies.

Anyway, we've just been given the story of Samuel's mother Hannah, long barren in the typical Bible birth tradition, who goes to the sanctuary at Shiloh to pray for a son. Eli, the priest in charge, adds his blessing to the prayer and she soon conceives, so that she carries out her promise and dedicates Samuel to service at the sanctuary when he is quite young. Eli's own sons, meanwhile, are misbehaving, scrounging the tasty bits of people's sacrifices & harassing the women participating in the services.

And there came a man of God to Eli, and said to him, "Thus the Lord has said, 'I revealed myself to the house of your father when they were in Egypt subject to the house of Pharoah.

'And I chose him out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to go up to my altar, to burn incense, to wear an ephod before me; and I gave to the house of your father all my offerings by fire from the people of Israel. Why then look with greedy eyes at my sacrifices and my offerings which I commanded, and honor your sons above me by fattening yourselves upon the choicest parts of every offering of my people Israel.'

Therefore the Lord the God of Israel declares: 'I promised that your house and the house of your father should go in and out before me forever,' but now the Lord declares: 'Far be it from me, for those who honor me I shall honor, and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed.

'Behold, the days are coming, when I will cut off your strength and the strength of your father's house, so that there will not be an old man in your house. Then in distress you will look with envious eye on all the prosperity which shall be bestowed upon Israel; and there shall not be an old man in your house forever. The man of you whom I shall not cut off from my altar shall be spared to weep out his eyes and grieve his heart; and all the increase of your house shall die by the sword of men. And this which shall befall your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, shall be the sign to you: Both of them shall die on the same day.

'And I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who shall do according to what is in my heart and in my mind; and I will build him a sure house; and he shall go in and out before My anointed forever.

'And everyone who is left in your house shall come to implore him for a piece of silver or a loaf of bread, and shall say, "Put me, I pray you, in one of the priest's places, that I may eat a morsel of bread."'"

3.1) Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.


Who was that anonymous man? If the references to an 'anointed' and a new 'house' for God are anachronistic, the gist of what he's saying is quite plausible, and typical of what later prophets had to say, ie warnings that someone in power was misusing it, an implied cease-and-desist, a prediction of trouble to come if the abuse continued.

And while the man may well belong to one of the bands of prophets we find mentioned later, we're also told that such messages are not common at the time.

July 06, 2011

Judging Not, Why Not, Why & So On...

Partly this is folk wisdom, something we intuitively recognize as the kind of balance we expect in a properly run universe. It's being presented in that light: "for whatever measure you deal out to others will be dealt to you in return."

One way this was explained to me: When Adam and Eve made that bad decision in the Garden... There was no criminal intent; they'd been incapable of knowing what they were doing or understanding the consequences. What the problem was, as Raymond Smullyan put it: "The fruit in question was poisonous and the effects last many generations."

We see the effect in operation right away; Adam and Eve discover that they're naked; and they try to hide. The next symptom, when God asks about it, is that Adam puts the blame on "The woman You gave me" (& shouldn't God have been more careful whom He introduced to him?), while Eve in turn blames the snake. It was simply not possible... for anyone to live in that state of mind, without eventually turning the same attitude towards themselves. Death is not a punishment, then; it has become as necessary for us as sleep.

And then Jesus comes along. He says "Judge not," and means it non-judgementally. He is proclaiming a no-fault, harm-reduction universe, for anyone willing to live in such a place.

And we fight the idea! It undermines everything human beings stand for! It's not fair! We've never lived that way; and we don't know how!

What was going on in the last show you watched, the last story you read? The last news you read or watched? Was somebody being bad? I can be pretty confident that someone was. It's hardly entertainment at all, without somebody milking our indignation somehow!

Could we give up judging, if we really wanted to? When anyone meets someone new-- They generally want to know, "Is this person likely to bite? Can I be sure it isn't?" Some people can't make that kind of evaluation: to recognize all the kinds of people who might do them serious harm, whether from malice, indifference or ineptitude-- and that's not a condition to envy.

But does trying to make those evaluations-- make anyone safer? A friend of mine, in jail for civil disobedience, started talking to the other prisoners-- and told me, afterwards, "I'd always been afraid of the wrong people."

Jesus was continually talking with those wrong people, but came to grief from all the "right" people.

Many suburban rattlesnakes in California... have degenerate, vestigial rattles. People have been disproportionally killing the ones whose rattles worked properly. So far, overall, the human success rate at assuring our own safety has not been good.

I'm leaving it up to God. Yeah, if I hear people outside sounding angry enough, like somebody could get hurt, I'll call the police. And pray, for everyone involved. It's not like I think it's a functional system I'm calling in...

July 05, 2011


Cat here has proposed studying the Prophets for awhile. I want to continue with Luke meantime, but I hope we can combine both.

Where, how to begin?

The first really traditional prophet I thought of was Samuel, who is also featured in my favorite Biblical books (though not the most edifying.) & then I thought about Moses, who lives that role on a grand scale. In Deuteronomy he's quoted as saying: ~"When I'm gone, God will send a prophet like me to set you all straight [and you'd better pay attention!]" I'm not clear whether this is supposed to refer to one superlative prophet (Jesus)-- or whether it could be taken as a reference to the whole line of prophets, the Israelite institution of prophets striving to keep their rulers in line.

It is unusual, as far as I can gather, for any nation to have a truly independent religious opposition to royal and oligarchic power. Priests may get uppity, but a priesthood is normally content to have prominent, cushy seats at the royal table. Prophets are different. A kingdom can have a whole stable of approved prophets, assigned to produce optimistic prognoses for the king's favorite new project-- and one crazy geek will be out there yelling the truth at the top of his voice; it's bad luck to kill him; and he wouldn't dare take a bribe even if he wanted to.

Samuel is atypical, a prophet from before the monarchy, which he reluctantly helps to establish. In his day, there are apparently whole bands of prophets, traveling about in a contagious ecstatic frenzy. Saul, on his way home from visiting Samuel, falls in with such a band, takes off all his clothes, rolls about prophecizing with them.

One wonders about chemical aids... mushrooms, perhaps. Fasting, chanting, other practices. Later prophets were said to pray for a long time with "their heads between their knees" to get into the right kind of spiritual state. But we haven't been given the details, on how this should be done. Were they given unique gifts?-- or were they simply led to make the best use of a widespread human talent?

And what relevance do they have to our time? Messages addressed specifically to later readers? Announcements of God's long-term objectives? A way of interpreting their times-- and ours-- in terms of God's use of events for hidden divine purposes? Can we expect similar outcomes for similar conditions, read "the signs of" these times & extrapolate?

Luke 6.37-38

"Pass no judgement, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Acquit, and you will be acquitted. Give, and gifts will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap; for whatever measure you deal out to others will be dealt to you in return."

July 04, 2011

Will this be on The Exam?

Jesus' message here is being packaged as a new 'covenant', to a First Century Jewish ear... but what's in it for us 21st Century goyim?

Is this our Ticket to Heaven (Make sure you've got one when you die? Because if you don't, God will be really sad... not to mention you?) Well, Jesus has so far said nothing whatsoever in this book about anything of the sort.

There is, of course, the Jewish (Pharisee) doctrine of the resurrection, which Jesus apparently shared, as presented in Daniel & the Maccabee books. (Once Jews had encountered persecution & martyrdom for their religion, this previously tacit issue had become a serious concern to them.)

Since this doctrine included a Judgement, to separate the martyrs from their persecutors, and reward them both accordingly... that too became a popular element of both Christianity and Islam.

Especially the part about Eternal Torment for those annoying friends of yours. This has been a powerful incentive for conversion... but has also worked to discredit the very idea of God. And so, over the years, it has been softened in the public mind to something like: ~"God doesn't care what you believe, so long as you've been A Good Person."

In so far as what you believe affects what you do and who you become, I expect that it does matter. But God is hardly in a rush to tell you about anything you don't care about, and there is plenty of time.

The crux of this all, as I see it, is that God is compassionate. Eternal punishment is not. Neither does it make sense for God to make "His" favor contingent on getting The Right Answer. If you want to know how things be, ask! And be prepared to find yourself answered in some way.

[Recently reading The Science of Diskworld, I picked up a handy phrase for a concept I've always found useful: "lies-to-children". A "teacher" is a "liar-to-children" because, after all, a simple, partial truth is a whole lot more use to a child than either being left in pure ignorance, or given a bewildering full explanation. And it's been a Quaker commonplace, from our beginnings, that "God is here to teach us 'Himself'". Just remember, while you're learning, that whatever you've learned may be subject to overwhelming attacks of Changing Perspective, with luck.]

So the main reason I can see, that we're still being advised to do as Jesus says here-- is that nothing else makes any sense. We really are part of the same Mind as everyone else; we can't harm them without harming ourselves; and there's no one but God worthy of our anger. You have a right to be angry at God... but if you are, which of you is more likely to be right?

July 03, 2011

Luke 6.32-36

"If you love only those who love you, what good is that? Even sinners love those who love them. Again, if you do good only to those who do good to you, what difference does that make? Even sinners do as much. And if you lend only where you expect to be repaid, how does that matter? Even sinners lend to each other if they expect to be repaid in full.

"But you must love your enemies and do good to them, and lend without expecting any return; and then you will have a rich reward; for you will be true children of the Most High, who is Himself kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate."

July 02, 2011

Does This Mean...?

Yes, it does. This is what allegiance to Jesus, "to a person rather than a list of regulations", is supposed to look like.

Does it apply to personal quarrels? Or to international conflicts? Yes.

Do we take these rules "literally"? Well, obviously, you obey someone best by understanding his meaning, not by ignoring him and slavishly complying with his literal statements.

"Turn the other cheek" is said to mean: "If someone insults you with a backhanded slap, offer him the cheek he would hit directly, thereby admitting that whether or not he likes you, he can't dismiss you as a basically equal being." Sometimes it probably means that.

"Treat others as you would like them to treat you;" that's more complex than it sounds. Do you really want people to let you walk all over them? Sometimes you really need (& would even want, if you only knew) to have someone you've been dismissing set you back and tell you what's what.

God loves everybody, and we are told to be like God in that way...  God's way is to give us slack enough to see where our way leads; but other times God finishes with that & brings on the consequences. While continually forgiving.

We aren't supposed to "just" act this way, muttering under our breath how good we're being, while looking forward to seeing our enemy's karma repossessed some day.

Whatever enmity lies between people, it isn't as important as God's love for them. How you embody that... may look like "love", or it might look like anger. Your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is to cultivate a sincere wish for their true good.

July 01, 2011

But To You Who Hear Me I Say (Luke 6.27-31

"Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you; bless those who curse you; pray for those who treat you spitefully.

"When a man hits you on the cheek, offer him the other cheek too; when a man takes your coat, let him have your shirt as well.

"Give to everyone who asks you; when a man takes what is yours, do not demand it back.

"Treat others as you would like them to treat you."