August 25, 2011

1 Kings 19.13->

And behold, there came a voice to him, and said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"

He said, "I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the people of Israel have forsaken Thy covenant, thrown down Thy altars, and slain Thy prophets with the sword. And I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away."

And the Lord said to him, "Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; and when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be King over Syria; and Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be King over Israel; and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abelmeholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place.

"And him who escapes from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu slay; and him who escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay.

"Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him."

So he departed from there, and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with 12 yoke of oxen before him; and he was with the 12th.

Elijah passed by him and cast his mantle upon him.

And he left the oxen, and ran after Elijah, and said, "Let me kiss my father and my mother; and then I will follow you."

And he said to him, "Go back again; for what have I done to you?"

And he returned from following him, and took the yoke of oxen, and slew them, and boiled their flesh with the yokes of the oxen, and gave it to the people; and they ate. Then he arose and went after Elijah, and ministered to him.


At 4:21 p.m., Blogger Random Arrow said...

I went to the Hebrew. I expected to find – "dabar" (intentional purposeful matter) - loaded into the question. Like, “what is your – 'dabar' (purpose) – here?” Nothing doing. Young has it – “what – to thee, Elijah?” Which feels right. I’ve had only one year of Hebrew. Not enough for close-technical reading. The verb is simple imperfect. And implies an ongoing question. Almost existential. I don’t take the question as – “why are you hanging around here [locative]” – but instead, “now that you’ve heard the whisper-Voice, what do you really expect to hear?” Something like that.

I can’t tell from Elijah’s answer whether Elijah expected whispers of praise which he didn’t get. Editors with political motives want this text to read in favor of a paradigmatic case of proper political jealousy for the tribal God. I’m noticing Seth Sanders decry the lack of historical (economic, political) scholarship locating Judean scholarship on the ground in evidence of cult practices tied expressly to editorial revisions in the text. It is a thought experiment to extrapolate the sources (JEDP, so on). Some guesses seem more probable than others. Just slightly curious how the praises for Elijah come from Elijah’s own mouth? Rather than from the Still Small Whisper? Maybe it’s my expectation that’s off in expecting these words to come from God, at least in the hands of politically motivated editors? – a case of an editorial missed opportunity? ~ Jim

At 5:27 p.m., Blogger forrest said...

Something like "What's up, Elijah?" rather than "What are you doing here?" or "What do you want of me?"

I don't see anything here about Elijah either expecting or desiring praise. You might think that pulling off a miracle would be a reason for feeling proud, but the actuality is that there is nothing a person can do towards making a miracle happen. Being inspired to do something, having God vindicate it, is a heady experience-- but then you know it's not about you!

I appreciate the scholarship, would like to hear more-- but I'm not sure I'm getting what you're saying. Is it just that we don't know how followers of YHWH differed from those in Jerusalem?

We do know that later Judean writers would have really objected to anybody whatsoever doing sacrifices outside their centralized Temple. But "In theology, it isn't what you know so much as Who you know." So while priests may not entirely hold with the doings of prophets, they don't usually make an issue of them.

One explanation I've seen for a lot of the discord between Jesus and Jerusalem Pharisees: "The Torah" as understood in Israel, ie Galilee in his time, is not quite the same as what the priests in Jerusalem had in their books.

At 8:39 p.m., Blogger Random Arrow said...

I think it’s the combination of the “wilderness” language here and the “caves” in recent passages. It's irritating me to think again about Seth Sanders’s question.

Should the literary nature of the Priestly corpus prevent us from connecting it to ancient Near Eastern religion on the ground? A generation ago, the sober answer would have been, ‘yes.’ Nobody had assessed the overall nature of the Hebrew epigraphic corpus, and we had made only desultory comparisons between the editorial character of P and that of other ancient Near Eastern ritual corpora. But now the answer may be different (more).

Well that - ‘yes’ - answer is true for almost everyone in JEDP.

Not for minority academic rebels like Rolf Rendtorff who I got to study with at Chicago. An extraordinary good fortune for me due to the accident that Chicago lost an OT scholar and he stepped in! I already wanted to revisit Albrecht Alt’s analysis of law in the Hebrew Scriptures without entering Alt and law through JEDP. Rendtorff had already scuttled JEDP. Mostly. But he made me learn JEDP anyway. To know what I tossed. Rendtorff’s basic rebellious idea involves gradual compositions with gradual and incremental textual changes and without the necessity of overlaying the four main sources. For legal stuff, we have more reasonable certainty about being on the ground – real life ground in history – say in caselaw development. Say the laws concerning oxen that gore accidentally compared to those that gore deliberately. It’s not too hard to imagine oxen in history! We don't need to dig up more ox bones to prove it. See e.g., “The Ox That Gored,” J.J. Finkelstein. Not that all law is grounded. Not that all priestly and religious ritual is not grounded.

So what?

Sanders revisits the standard question. How to ground ritual and priestly stuff without becoming preoccupied or isolated in textual analysis. That’s one problem. The second problem is how to find ritual and priestly stuff on the ground (say Iron Age (IIb), artifacts, locations ) when the narratives describe “wilderness wandering” (hence my weird turn to this subject, with Elijah in a “wilderness” mode - almost like a Quaker traveling minister!). This second problem involves a further question. How to tie stuff found on the ground back to the editorial process?

Okay. Now, what’s fascinating about these questions to me is not the fancy academic rebellions of Rendtorff against JEDP. Nor even JEDP stuff itself. What’s fascinating is how our extrapolations from the texts back to history are thought-experiments lacking verification in history. How God promises Elijah (saying, “I am the only one!”) that Elijah isn’t the only one – there are (symbolic) 7,000 more out there!

Oh? Really? Where are the atrifacts from these goofballs? Where’s the evidence on the ground? If “wilderness wandering” describes a real mode in history, okay. What should we look for? – prophetic shoe-latchets? – clay shard proof-of-purchases for, “supplies, prophetic?” – a glassine mountaintop where the chariot of fire turned the sand into glass in the blast of Blakean literary heat? Not that I doubt Blake could produce such heat, but what do we seek? Lee Travino’s golf clubs after he got hit twice by lightening? “Raiders of the Lost Ark” romances this quest for artifacts on the ground, right? Do I want to be the Nazi who looks inside the ark, and melts? Lead tablets aren’t holding up too well these days, so what would we be looking for – except everything?

Fascinating questions. Not sure how much they matter?

At 9:21 p.m., Blogger forrest said...

It's like this: The people God chose to serve as divine/human gobetweens... did not have particularly durable writing materials. That's why the records of other ancient nations, when we can find them, are recognized as more authentic, genuinely contemporary records of the times they're about. Because everything we have about ancient Israel is necessarily from copies!

Could God have given them stainless steel tablets and etching tools? Wouldn't something like this have been conceivable? That didn't happen; and I can only conclude that this is no accident. We weren't intended to have foolproof ancient documents for people to use as external sources of religious authority; we were intended to have only documents with a certain amount of wiggle room.

I'm guessing that the reason the Jewish ritual texts are uniquely detailed-- is the fact that they were compiled and saved precisely to preserve a religion in exile, in very real danger of dying out. Ritual texts of other nations would have been abbreviated notes sufficient for performing the actual ceremonies at the time their religions were going concerns-- and after these had been conquered by other nations, there was no particular reason for updating all that.

The evidence that something of this sort took place?-- the existence of a great many Jews, of a great many Christians. Not Elijah's cigarette butts-- but the persistence of the revelatory tradition he was struggling to maintain. We don't have a miraculously clean documentation of the whole process, but here we are carrying it forward.

At 1:20 p.m., Blogger Random Arrow said...

Fair enough. I had a dream this morning. Somehow related. Don’t know yet. Will see if I can draft it up. The revelatory tradition!


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