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.


At 2:09 a.m., Blogger Random Arrow said...

I felt this important enough to double post -- here and on the original thread ....


“... If the true laws of the universe are more literary than quantitative ... this riff ought to conjure up something; I'm not sure what as yet ...”

Perhaps maths as metaphors? - metaphors following along after literary properties or powers composing the universe? – the rest of language as metaphor as well? – composing? – something like that?

I cannot close the deal mapping all language to metaphor. I think in that direction. But don’t really know. As for mathematics, I’m heart-bound to Wigner (“Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences”) finding mathematics unreasonable in the sense that we have no known reason for its effectiveness in the natural sciences. I consider Wigner at his best in that little essay because he laid aside his otherwise neo-Platonic predilections and did not import them into his opinion, that is, he did not insist that the universe itself is formally mathematical in nature, despite his hunch that it might be – a reserve and humility on Wigner’s part in saying we don’t really know why math works. That’s my feeling. I stop short of the Platonic deal. I felt that way before reading Wigner. He summed it up. The pack has moved on a bit. Whether mathematical physics overcomes Godel seems an open question. Perhaps Wolfram’s new kind of science will take hold – the bouncing around of things. I otherwise stay at home with Wigner. Math works. Beats me why.

Point of this ramble is to say I’m open to exploring a literary character to the big picture. The possible combinations seem as limitless as human imagination in all of its forms of art.

So please do “conjure up something.” And conjure as liberally through Luke and the prophets as you like.

My questions or my sometimes playing a bit of an interrogator are likely less adversarial than for clarity.

Conjure away.

I want to preserve the other themes. Interesting all.

At 3:04 a.m., Blogger Random Arrow said...

... Excellent beginning to Samuel. Please linger here awhile. Dashing off some thoughts ...

The anonymity of the prophet has always intrigued me – what is up with that?

Also most utterly intriguing to me – and most likely affected by my bias – question: is the rarity of the word of the Lord in those days a rarity merely of this form of expression (a direct confrontation with an authority abusing power?), or instead, is the rarity of the word of the Lord related to a rarity in first ‘seeing’ (prophets as seers?) in that ‘seeing’ and discernment – seeing spiritually (spiritually is ambiguous a bit) – was itself rare? — and notice how rarity is juxtaposed in Hebrew redundancy to the notation of infrequency too, so what do infrequency and rarity really mean? Surely if 10th century (say 10th, or pick a more probable time) editors of the text fiddled around with the Samuel story to position Samuel as an introduction or early justification to later economic and political dynamics, then is it still a violence to the text to ask these questions about rarity and infrequency from a rather personalized and inward frame of reference too?

So rarity and infrequency? - is there more here than a mere rarity and infrequency in the formal delivery of a confrontation to powers that be? – a rarity and infrequency internally and inwardly? – and, can my personal preference experimentally to see prophecy as ubiquitous be put aside in order to see a wave-form of ebbs and flows in the inward and internal frequencies and rarities of seeings and prophecies as well? I feel almost autonomically that my questions ranging into this existential scope are likely abuses of the text, and, I’m all for confined readings and modest judgments of what the text itself is saying. But the text is also for me. And I for it.

Perplexing cascade of questions.

Slightly more specifically – are these words about rarity and infrequency a sort of intuitive or an early heuristic premonition which suggest that the environment of prophecy and the manifestations of prophecy are not confined to a uniform and flat plane, without any variety through variation in prophetic niches? Please forgive my obvious and likely improper imposition of biological terms here, which I mean mainly as metaphors or analogies – why can’t the ecological niches (and the corresponding ecological prompts) for prophecy be as small and as tiny and as localized as a single anonymous prophet before a single domestic autocrat abusing his power in a single location in time and place, and with the prophetic niches ranging upwardly as large in ecological scope as an entire tribe, or a traversable terrain, or nations far away, or sometimes as large as prophesying outward to the stars in the canopied sky? – are the pressures and prompts and ecological attractors and internal dimensions of prophecy all on a uniform and flat plane? – or as diverse as the niches that prophecy fills at every scale?

I know I’m lifting my worldview and my terms onto the ancient landscape. But even in that worldview, aren’t there equivalents or perhaps even better expressions of these sorts of questions?

And, especially if you want to conjure literary properties onto the cosmos, how do you fiddle with that from partly inside the way they (various niches) saw it?

At 10:51 a.m., Blogger forrest said...

I am not conjuring literary properties onto the cosmos; I am postulating that the literary properties are basic, that 'scientific' properties are secondary. That spirit creates. That causation works via motive, that physical 'laws' are simply painted onto the sets... very ingenious & clever physical laws, but existing primarily to reassure human uncertainty & serve as educational toys for scientists.

Math is metaphoric. If you read George Lakoff and other cognitive psychologists, any human thought beyond the most elementary concrete words & experience... is metaphoric, using language to model complex abstractions onto the relatively limited range of things/events we can experience directly. Mathematics in particular is an extension of our mental model of how objects, distances, etc behave. It works, most of the time, because elementary human experience works, most of the time.

Their model is supported by experiments showing that how people will think about some issue... can be significantly influenced (where there's a choice of metaphors people commonly apply) by anything that points them towards one underlying metaphor or another, whether by asking them an 'unrelated' question beforehand, having one object rather than another in the waiting room, etc.
Samuel. The "rarity" "in those days" may mean that our text was written later, when there are gaggles of kept prophets, as in 1 Kings 22.6: Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, about four hundred men, and said to them, "Shall I go to battle against Ramoth-gilead, or shall I forbear?" [All but one agree he should do so, that everything will be just fine. That's what he keeps them for.]


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