Archive for the ‘2 Samuel 24’ Category

Judah’s Triumph Over Her Enemies   Leave a comment

Above:  Woods, Ben Burton Park, Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, October 29, 2017

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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READING SECOND ZECHARIAH, PART II

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Zechariah 9:1-11:17

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Zechariah 9:1-8 may be the original portion of Second Zechariah.  This opening oracle names enemies of the Hebrews:

  1. Aram (Zechariah 9:1-2a; Amos 1:3-5; Isaiah 17:1-14; Jeremiah 49:23-27);
  2. Tyre and Sidon (Zechariah 9:2b-4; Amos 1:9-10; Isaiah 23:1-18; Ezekiel 26:1-28:26); and
  3. Philistia (Zechariah 9:5-7; Amos 1:6-8; Isaiah 14:28-32; Jeremiah 47:1-17; Ezekiel 25:15-17).

One may read about the Jebusites (Zechariah 9:7) in Judges 19:10; 2 Samuel 5:6, 8; 2 Samuel 24:16, 18; 1 Kings 9:20; 1 Chronicles 11:4.

The development of Zechariah 9:1-8 is complicated.  The original version of it may predate the Babylonian Exile.  The reference to the rampart of the fortress (9:3) may allude to a military campaign of Alexander the Great in 333 B.C.E.  Zechariah 9:1-8 seems to have passed through various editorial hands before settling down into its current state.

Regardless of the number of editorial stages of development of all the segments of Zechariah 9:1-11:17, the final version is about an ideal future when the full-realized Kingdom of God is evident on the earth and when the Messiah, a descendant of King David, is triumphant and victorious.  The arrangement of material is odd.  YHWH is triumphant in chapter 9.  The promise of restoration fills chapter 10.  Chapter 11 concludes with the desperate situation extant in First Zechariah (chapters 1-8).  The editing seems backward, from a certain point of view.  Anyway, the present day of Second Zechariah, obviously far from ideal, has much in common with 2021.

Time passes.  Technology changes.  Social mores and norms change, also.  Locations vary.  Yet much remains the same.  False prophets abound (10:2).  [Note:  The reference to teraphim in 10:2 is to household cultic objects, as in Genesis 31:19, 30-35; Judges 17:5.  Deuteronomy 18:9-14 condemns divination.  Also, Deuteronomy 13:6 and Jeremiah 23:25-32 are suspicious of dreams.]  Many leaders–shepherds, metaphorically–are oppressors and predators (10:3; 11:4-17).  In this case, prophets and leaders are the same.  This makes sense; one is a leader if one has followers.  The text is sufficiently ambiguous to apply to those who are false prophets or predatory political leaders without being both, though.

Zechariah 11 concludes on a hopeful note:  Those leaders responsible for social ills will fall from power.  This is good news the metaphorical sheep.

I, as a Christian, pay especially close attention to Zechariah 9:9-10.  This is a vision of the Messiah, sometime in the distant future, approaching the glorious, restored Jerusalem after God’s victory.  The image of the Messiah–“your king”–triumphant, victorious, and humble, riding on a donkey, occupies the background in accounts of Christ’s Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (Matthew 21:1-9; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:28-40; John 12:12-15).  Understanding Zechariah 9:9-10 helps one grasp the imagery of Christ’s self-presentation in the Gospels’ accounts of that event.

The placement of the oracles in Zechariah 9-11 in the future, without claiming,

Do x, and God will will do y,

in such a way as to date the prophecies, works.  One may recall that Haggai made the mistake of being too specific (and objectively wrong) in Haggai 1 and 2.  The prediction of the restoration of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel of Israel (9:17-10:12), therefore of the restoration of the unity of Israel and Judah, remains unfulfilled.  One may doubt that it will ever come to pass, but one cannot legitimately criticize the text for establishing a temporal marker already past (from the perspective of 2021) and being objectively wrong, by that standard.

Reality falls short of God’s ideal future.  Yet we may legitimately hope and trust in God.  Details of prophecies, bound by times and settings of their origin, may not always prove accurate.  So be it.  We moderns ought to read these types of texts poetically, not as what they are not–technical manuals for the future in front of us.  We should focus on major themes, not become lost in the details.  We ought not to try to match current events and the recent past to details of ancient prophecy.  The list of books whose authors did that and whom the passage of time has proven inaccurate is long.  One can easily miss the forest by focusing on the trees.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 17, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM WHITE, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF THE CARMELITE MARTYRS OF COMPIEGNE, 1794

THE FEAST OF BENNETT J. SIMS, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ATLANTA

THE FEAST OF SAINT NERSES LAMPRONATS, ARMENIAN APOSTOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF TARSUS

THE FEAST OF R. B. Y. SCOTT, CANADIAN BIBLICAL SCHOLAR, HYMN WRITER, AND MINISTER

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The Food Test   Leave a comment

Above:  Daniel and His Three Friends Refusing the King’s Food

Image in the Public Domain

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READING DANIEL

PART I

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Daniel 1:1-21

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The Book of Daniel is an intriguing portion of the Bible.  

  1. Depending on how one defines the canon of scripture, it has either 12 or 14 chapters.  (For the purpose of this series, I have read the long version.)
  2. Most of the book hails from the time of the Hasmonean rebellion, in the second century B.C.E.  Theological developments, historical references, and linguistic clues confirm this conclusion.  Chapters 1-12, except for the Greek additions in Chapter 3, come from the time of the Hasmonean rebellion.  Chapters 13 and 14 are more recent, from either the second or first centuries B.C.E.
  3. The nonsensical internal chronology of the Book of Daniel contradicts ancient historical records and the rest of the Hebrew Bible.  The Book of Daniel is what it is.  It is not history.

So, what is the Book of Daniel? 

  1. It is partially a collection of folklore. 
  2. It is partially a collection of apocalyptic visions. 
  3. It is a book that teaches how to remain faithful to God in the Jewish diaspora during the second and first centuries B.C.E. 
  4. It is a book that affirms many Gentiles. 
  5. In other words, the Book of Daniel is true without being historically accurate.  Truth and accuracy are different concepts.

Daniel 1:1 provides a fixed point within the narrative of the Book of Daniel.  That fixed point is 605 B.C.E., the third year of the reign (608-598 B.C.E.) of King Jehoiakim/Eliakim of Judah.  (For more about King Jehoiakim, read 2 Kings 23:36-24:7; 2 Chronicles 36:5-8; and 1 Esdras 1:39-42.)  Daniel 1:1 also provides the name of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian king, Nebuchadrezzar/Nebuchadnezzar II (reigned 605-562 B.C.E.).  The chronological problem is that Nebuchadnezzar II captured Jerusalem in 597 B.C.E.  If I were a fundamentalist, this would disturb me.  I am not, and it does not.

To quote a spiritual and theological mentor of mine in the 1990s, 

What is really going on here?

What is really going on in Daniel 1?

  1. Daniel and his fellow Judahite servants refused the food King Nebuchadnezzar II offered.  They obeyed the dietary food laws in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14.  The young men also thrived on a diet of vegetables and water.
  2. God also granted Daniel and his fellow Judahite servants more intelligence and wisdom than they had already.  The ability to interpret dreams proved crucial in subsequent chapters.
  3. Daniel and his fellow Judahite servants received new names–identities–yet retained their Hebrew identities.

People base their identities on different standards.  This is a choice one needs to make wisely.  Psychologists and experiences tell us that many people cling to ideas that are objectively false and proven to be so.  These people cling to these falsehoods and ignore evidence because admitting error and changing their minds would threaten their egos.  This is a serious problem.  Whatever one does or does not do affects other people.  If, for example, one votes for Candidate A over Candidate B because one clings to ego defenses and ignores objective reality, one may hinder the common good.  Or, if one, acting out of ego defenses, ignores objective reality and refuses to behave responsibly by having one’s children vaccinated, one can cause other people’s children to become ill.  As I type these words during the COVID-19 pandemic, many people believe misinformation, cling to conspiracy theories, and refuse to wear masks in public places.  They endanger themselves and others.  Facts should matter.

I seek to acknowledge objective reality and to act accordingly.  I also seek to follow my own advice regarding the proper basis of human identity.  The sole proper basis of human identity is the image of God; every human being bears it.  For we Christians, the particular shading is that Jesus, whom we profess to follow.  Despite my advice, I continue to found my ego mainly on my education and intellect.  Education and intellect are wonderful.  They are blessings.  I, like St. Paul the Apostle, know what I ought to do and frequently do something else.

Psychological identity is a complicated, frequently treacherous matter.  If we are spiritually wise, we will have a healthy ego, which we will maintain without excluding anyone God includes.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 13, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY MARTYN DEXTER, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HISTORIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ABBO OF FLEURY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRICE OF TOURS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCES XAVIER CABRINI, FOUNDRESS OF THE MISSIONARY SISTERS OF THE SACRED HEART

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Planning for the Temple   Leave a comment

Above:  David’s Love for God’s House

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART L

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1 Chronicles 22:2-26:32

1 Chronicles 28:1-21

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The LORD is the strength of his people,

a safe refuge for his anointed.

Save your people and bless your inheritance;

shepherd them and carry them for ever.

–Psalm 28:10-11, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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This long reading relates thematically to the end of 2 Samuel 24, in which King David built an altar to the LORD on a threshing floor the monarch purchased from Araunah.  This threshing floor became the site of the First Temple.  In the version from 1 Chronicles 21, Ornan owned the threshing floor.  Even if one accepts that Araunah and Ornan were the same man, one cannot reconcile the differing monetary amounts in 2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21:  50 shekels of silver (2 Samuel 24) versus 600 shekels of gold (1 Chronicles 21).

The account from 1 Chronicles also overlaps with 1 Kings 1:1-2:12.  I will return to 1 Chronicles 22:1-23:2; 28:1-21 shortly.

King David, of course, was not to oversee the construction of the First Temple. (Read 2 Samuel 7, O reader. )  That task fell to Solomon, né Yedediah.  Yet David played some role in making plans for the Temple.

Nothing was too good for the Temple.  No price was too high for the threshing floor. Only the best materials were suitable for the Temple.  Only the most devout service was acceptable from the priests, Levites, singers, gatekeepers, treasurers, and magistrates.

God deserves our best in everything, individually and collectively.  We ought to love God most of all.  Our love for our fellow human beings flows from our love for God.  Our love for the natural world flows from our love for God.  Our attention to liturgical details flows from our love for God.  That is why it should be.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 15, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT TERESA OF AVILA, SPANISH ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN, MYSTIC, AND REFORMER

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The Census, the Plague, and the Altar   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of King David

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART XLIX

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2 Samuel 24:1-25

1 Chronicles 21:1-22:1

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Whenever I am afraid,

I will put my trust in you.

–Psalm 56:3, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Theology changes.  A careful reading of the Bible reveals theological evolution in the Bible.  This is the reason I cannot be a fundamentalist.  Inconsistencies exist in the texts.  For example, did God or “a satan”(“adversary,” literally) persuade King David to conduct the census for which God punished the kingdom for years?  The answer depends on whether one accepts 2 Samuel 24:1 or 1 Chronicles 21:1.

This discrepancy exists because of theological evolution.  As a serious student of the history of Jewish theology ought to know, Satan as a free agent (rather than as one of God’s employees, as the tester of loyalty to God, as in the Book of Job as in Numbers 22:21-40) is a relatively late development.  The understanding of Satan as a free agent and an opponent of God dates to the postexilic period, when Zoroastrianism was influencing Judaism.  The Persians may have been correct.  That is a separate matter for another post.  In terms of the history of religion, Satan as the chief rebel against God in Judaism and, by extension, in Christianity, is a legacy of Zoroastrian influence, objectively.

The question of God and evil interests me, an intellectually honest monotheist.  Saints, theologians, and philosophers have tackled the thorny problem.  I harbor no delusion that I settle it in this post.  I do, however, refer to C. S. Lewis, who acknowledged that God is in the dock.  Ultimately, I, as a monotheist, cannot honestly blame anyone except God for evil–for permitting it to exist, at least.  The author of 2 Samuel 24 accepted this perspective.  The author of 1 Chronicles 21, writing during the Persian Period, did not.

If, however, one accepts the pre-Persian Period concept of “the Satan” as one of God’s employees–the loyalty tester, as in the Book of Job, God remains responsible for evil, too.  God is still in the dock.  If one accepts “the Satan” as one of God’s employees, then one must accept that “the Satan” cannot function or exist apart from God.  In Genesis, the language in certain passages uses “God” and “angel” interchangeably.  This is not a difficulty if one accepts that angels can exist and function only in the context of God, that, whatever they do or say, they do on divine orders.  Therefore, the words and actions of an angel are those of God, practically.  Therefore, if one accepts the pre-Persian Jewish understanding of “the Satan,” one must accept that “the Satan” acts and speaks only when following divine orders.  God is still in the dock.

Or maybe the ancient Zoroastrians were correct regarding the existence of independent agents of evil.

If I preferred easy answers, I would not wrestle with God.  If I did not prefer wresting with God, this great monotheistic conundrum of the problem of God and evil would perturb me more than it does.  Ultimately, though, I must agree with David and Job.  God is God.  God refuses to fit into our boxes, regardless of how piously we define them.  And we have no feasible alternative to turning to God, do we?  Part of the life of spiritual growth is learning to distinguish between our biases and God’s thoughts.

Nevertheless, may we exercise caution in how we think, speak, and write of God.  May we refrain from portraying God as a celestial gangster.  I hear some people speak of God in terms that should lead one to recoil in terror from God.  An Episcopal priest I know has a wonderful strategy for engaging with people who profess not to believe in God.  He asks them to describe the God in whom they do not believe.  Inevitably, he hears a description of God he rejects.  “I don’t believe in that God either,” the priest replies.

I, as an Episcopalian, seek moderation.  I follow the Anglican Via Media, after all.  I am neither fully Protestant nor fully Roman Catholic.  I am not a Biblical literalist.  I reject, however, the excesses of John Dominic Crossan and that ilk.  My intellect is always in gear; it constitutes one-third of my faith.  Nobody who tells me I should think less often gets far with me theologically.  I accept the primacy of scripture without shutting down my brain’s higher functions and advocating for scriptural inerrancy and infallibility.  A frontal lobotomy and willful ignorance are not prerequisites for salvation.  And I affirm that God is trustworthy while admitting that no human being can fully understand God.  The image one sees when looking into one’s mirror may be the most alluring idol of all.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 15, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT TERESA OF AVILA, SPANISH ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN, MYSTIC, AND REFORMER

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Victory Over the Philistines   Leave a comment

Above:  King David, by Valentin de Boulogne

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART XLVIII

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2 Samuel 21:15-22:51

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The LORD thundered out of heaven;

the Most High uttered his voice.

He loosed his arrows and scattered them;

he hurled his thunderbolts and routed them.

–Psalm 18:14-15, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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2 Samuel 21-24 constitute an appendix.  They interrupt the narrative flow from 2 Samuel 20 to 1 Kings 1.  Organizing material for maximum clarity can be a challenge, and following chronology strictly does not always lead to maximum clarity.  Sometimes thematic organization is preferable.  And appendices are legitimate.

I have already covered 2 Samuel 21:1-14, based on thematic organization of material.

The material in 2 Samuel 21:15-22:51 comes from the early period of David’s reign, prior to 2 Samuel 11, perhaps even to 2 Samuel 5.  The germane Biblical authors, for all their literary, historical, and theological virtues, did not always make the material’s placement in time relative to other material clear.  That we are reading an edited, composite book composed of material with conflicting timelines complicates the matter.

The psalm of thanksgiving (2 Samuel 22) is literarily and theologically rich.  Its devices should be familiar to anyone who has read the Book of Psalms (especially Psalm 18) closely.

I reserve 2 Samuel 23:1-7 (the last words of David) for a future post, for the sake of keeping a chronology.

I have already covered 2 Samuel 23:8-39, for the purpose of thematic organization of material.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 15, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT TERESA OF AVILA, SPANISH ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN, MYSTIC, AND REFORMER

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Another Revolt in Israel   Leave a comment

Above:  Joab Slays Amasa

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART XLVII

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2 Samuel 20:1-26

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Repay them according to their deeds,

and according to the wickedness of their actions.

–Psalm 28:4, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Chronology is not always the organizing principle for material in 2 Samuel.  2 Samuel 20, for example, leads into 1 Kings 1.  2 Samuel 21-24 constitute an appendix.  I, trained as a historian, think about the arrangement of material.  Chronology is not always the best organizing material.  One can often make a case for moving chronologically within one theme at a time.  Appendices are also legitimate.

Joab!  Joab slew Abner (2 Samuel 3:27).  Joab ordered the death of Absalom, against David’s commands (2 Samuel 18).  Then David demoted Abner and promoted Amasa (2 Samuel 19).  (Aside:  I would have fired Joab.)  Next, some time later, Joab slew Amasa (2 Samuel 20:10) and became the commander again.  (Aside:  Why did David keep Joab around so long?)  Joab also threatened the town of Abel of Beth-maacah and accepted an offer to save the population in exchange for the head of Sheba son of Bichri, the most recent rebel leader.  David, dying, advised Solomon to order the execution of Joab (1 Kings 2:5-6).  Solomon did (1 Kings 2:28f).

How are we supposed to evaluate Joab?  Was he an overzealous patriot who occasionally violated David’s orders?  Perhaps.  Maybe David should not have permitted Joab to get away with such actions.  Or maybe Joab was correct vis-á-vis Sheba.  If had David had consented to the beheading of Shimei in 2 Samuel 16:9, the rebellion of Chapter 20 would never have occurred, according to a note in The Jewish Study Bible.  If we agree with that note, the dying David was correct to order the execution of Shimei (1 Kings 2:8-9), which Solomon made happen several years later (1 Kings 2:39-46).  Or maybe one agrees with me and disagrees with that note in The Jewish Study Bible.

Nobody is right or wrong all of the time.  One is, however, either right more often that one is wrong or wrong more often than one is right.  Even a broken clock is right twice a day, to quote a cliché.  

So, was Joab right more often than he was wrong?  Or was he wrong more often than he was right?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 14, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS CALLIXTUS I, ANTERUS, AND PONTIAN, BISHOPS OF ROME; AND SAINT HIPPOLYTUS, ANTIPOPE

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROMAN LYSKO, UKRAINIAN GREEK CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1949

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL ISAAC JOSEPH SCHERESCHEWSKY, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF SHANGHAI, AND BIBLICAL TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF THOMAS HANSEN KINGO, DANISH LUTHERAN BISHOP, HYMN WRITER, AND “POET OF EASTERTIDE”

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Of Divine Mercy, Divine Judgment, the Narrow Door, and the Closed Door   1 comment

SKD405728 Doorway in Meissen, 1827 (oil on canvas) by Friedrich, Caspar David (1774-1840); Galerie Neue Meister, Dresden, Germany; (add.info.: Toreingang in Meissen;); © Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden; German,  out of copyright

SKD405728 Doorway in Meissen, 1827 (oil on canvas) by Friedrich, Caspar David (1774-1840); Galerie Neue Meister, Dresden, Germany; (add.info.: Toreingang in Meissen;); © Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden; German, out of copyright

Above:  Doorway in Meissen (1827), by Caspar David Friedrich

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

God of the covenant, in the mystery of the cross

you promise everlasting life to the world.

Gather all peoples into your arms, and shelter us with your mercy,

that we may rejoice in the life we share in your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 27

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Chronicles 20:1-22

Psalm 105:1-15 [16-41] 42

Luke 13:22-31

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Glory in God’s holy name;

let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.

Search for the LORD and the strength of the LORD;

continually seek the face of God.

–Psalm 105:3-4, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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The three assigned readings for this day teach us to turn toward God at all times–in good times, in bad times, and in times between those two poles.  If we have turned away from God, we need to turn back toward God–to repent.  This is still the time of God’s mercy, as our Mennonite brothers and sisters in faith say.  Eventually, however, the narrow door of salvation will become the closed door outside of which will be many frantic and disappointed people who had understood themselves to be spiritual insiders.

The concept of God in hellfire-and-damnation theology terrifies me and does not satisfy me.  Likewise, the teddy-bear God of Universalism seems insufficient to me.  Somewhere in the middle is a balanced God concept which takes into account both judgment and extravagant mercy.  I do not pretend to know the proper balance of judgment and mercy, but I affirm the reality of both factors and reject excessive emphasis on either one to the exclusion or improper minimization of the other.  God, to my understanding, is frequently more merciful than many human beings.  King David was correct:

I am in great distress; let us fall into the hand of the LORD, for his mercy is great;  but let me not fall into human hands.

–2 Samuel 24:14, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The context of that passage is divine anger over a military census in the Kingdom of Israel.  Even in the midst of a plague in the realm, the author of that portion of 2 Samuel tells us, David understood God to be more merciful than many people.

I disagree with the theology of 2 Samuel 24 as a whole, for I question understanding a plague affecting innocents as divine punishment for a census they did not order.  God seems to have bad aim in that chapter.  Should not God have punished David, who commanded that the census take place, instead?  Nevertheless, the verse I have quoted stands as a testimony to divine mercy amid divine judgment.  The theology of 2 Samuel 24:14 is impeccable.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 17, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN CHRISTIAN TILL, U.S. MORAVIAN ORGANIST, COMPOSER, AND PIANO BUILDER; AND HIS SON, JACOB CHRISTIAN TILL, U.S. MORAVIAN PIANO BUILDER

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2015/11/17/devotion-for-wednesday-after-the-second-sunday-in-lent-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Struggling With Concepts of God   1 comment

Crucifixion Icon Rublev

Above:  Icon of the Crucifixion by Andrei Rublev

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O Lord God, you led your people through the wilderness and brought them to the promised land.

Guide us now, so that, following your Son, we may walk safely through the wilderness of this world

toward the life you alone can give, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 27

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Chronicles 21:1-17

Psalm 17

1 John 2:1-6

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Hear my just cause, O Lord; consider my complaint;

listen to my prayer, which comes not from lying lips.

Let my vindication come forth from your presence;

let your eyes behold what is right.

Weigh my heart, examine me by night,

refine me, and you will find no impurity in me.

–Psalm 17:1-3, Common Worship (2000)

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The stories of the plague God inflicted on the Kingdom of Israel bother me.  The account in 1 Chronicles 21 differs significantly from the one in 2 Samuel 24.  In 2 Samuel 24:1, for example, “the anger of the LORD” (as the New Revised Standard Version renders the text), somehow operating independently of God, incites King David to take a census in violation of God’s desire.  Satan replaces “the anger of the LORD” as the agent of incitement in 1 Chronicles 21:1.  That is just one difference.  My major problem, however, is an element of the two versions of the story have in common.  God is terrifying and cruel, sending a plague upon innocent people.  It seems that the author of Psalm 17 is not the only one with impurity.  No, God, who harms innocents, seems impure in 1 Chronicles 21 and 2 Samuel 24.

The concept of God in 1 Chronicles 21 and 2 Samuel 24 is foreign to me.  Likewise, the idea that God was not satisfied until Roman soldiers tortured and executed Jesus (allegedly in lieu of each sinner, including subsequent ones, such as me) is familiar yet repugnant to me.  God, for me, is love.  Divine power resurrected Jesus, thereby defeating evil schemes.  Yes, O reader, I just repudiated Penal Substitutionary Atonement and affirmed the core of Christus Victor, the Classic Theory of the Atonement.  We who claim to follow God ought to exercise great caution regarding what we say and write about God.  Do we portray God as love or as a monster?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 10, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF EDWIN HATCH, ANGLICAN PRIEST, SCHOLAR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT LEO THE GREAT, BISHOP OF ROME

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2015/11/10/devotion-for-monday-after-the-first-sunday-in-lent-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Metropolis (1927)   Leave a comment

metropolis-1927-shift-change

Above:  Shift Change from Metropolis (1927)

A Screen Capture I Took

METROPOLIS (1927)

Directed by Fritz Lang

Written by Thea von Harbou

To say that Metropolis is a classic and influential film is to understate reality greatly; immediately I recognize echoes of it in the works of James Whale (Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein), George Lucas (Star Wars, sequels, and prequels), and Ridley Scott (Blade Runner).  Scholars of cinema can and do create long lists of influences and subsequent homages.  And to state that those who butchered the movie (even destroying cut scenes) shortly after the movie’s debut were blooming idiots is to claim the obvious as true.  Fortunately, a nearly complete restored version (finished in 2010) is available.

There are versions of the movie available for home viewing.  I have the 2001 restored version (with about 3/4 of the movie present) and the 2010 restored version (with 99% of the footage included).  Alas, two scenes are, to the best of current knowledge, beyond salvage, so intertitles summarizing them will have to suffice.  Each of these versions–the Restored Authorized Version of 2001 and the Complete Metropolis of 2010–has different and helpful special features, so I recommend owning both if one is a cinephile.  The commentary track on the 2001 version is quite informative, for example, as is the documentary included with the 2010 edition.

This is a religious blog, so I choose to leave most aspects of the movie to already extant websites (such as http://www.metropolis1927.com/ and http://www.filmsite.org/metr.html ), which cover that ground quite well as I ponder some of the movie’s spiritual connections.  A film in which a city leader rules from the New Tower of Babel (a reference to Genesis 11:1-9), people read from the Book of Revelation (with references to the Whore of Babylon from chapters 17 and 19), and the leader’s son must serve as the mediator between the head (the ruler) and the hands (the oppressed workers) calls out for theological analysis.

Thea von Harbou’s story is set in an unnamed European city in 2026.  Urban elites live in skyscraper penthouses and play in the Eternal Gardens.  Meanwhile, those who built the city and who keep it functioning live hard lives, work ten-hour shifts, and occupy subterranean homes.  Joh Fredersen, the ruthless industrialist who governs the city, considers this arrangement just; the workers are, he says,

Where they belong.

His son, Freder, is naively unaware of the plight of the “other half” until Maria, the prophet of the working class, brings some of the workers’ barefoot children, clad in rags, to the Eternal Gardens and shows them their

brothers and sisters.

The butler shoos them away, of course.  But Freder begins to search the city in search of the woman with whom he has just fallen in love.  He does find her eventually, but not before he witnesses and experiences the harsh industrial conditions.  And he begins to realize his destiny to function as the mediator who will avert the violent overthrow of his father’s regime and who will create justice for the workers.

Some characters are inexact analogs for biblical figures.

Freder Fredersen is the Christ figure.  Not only is he the mediator, but he is crucified on a clock in one scene in which he takes a worker’s place.

If Freder Fredersen is the Christ figure, his father Joh is the YHWH figure.  If one reads the Hebrew Scriptures closely, one realizes that YHWH is not always nice.  Joh does approve of the workers’ rebellion so that he can crush it, eliminate troublemakers, and rule with an even more iron fist; he is an unsympathetic character.  Meanwhile, back in the Old Testament, depictions of YHWH are sometimes unpleasant; YHWH does send plagues and pestilences upon innocent populations more than once.  (See Exodus 7:14-12:32 and 2 Samuel 24:10-17, for example.)

Above:  Rotwang shows Joh Frederson the “Machine Man”

Rotwang, the inventor and prototypical cinematic mad scientist, is the Satan figure.  He pursues his own agenda and desires to undermine Joh.  Rotwang almost succeeds.

The movie portrays inhumane industrial conditions as idolatry.  In one scene Freder witnesses an industrial accident which claims human casualties.   He imagines the machine as Moloch/Molech, the Ammonite deity mentioned in 1 Kings 11:7 and 2 Kings 23:10, and experiences a hallucination of the machine consuming willing and unwilling human sacrifices.

Alas, the film’s conclusion does seem like a too-convenient deus ex machina, one which leaves the oppressive Joh Fredersen in charge.  But perhaps he will change his ways; nobody is beyond repentance and redemption, right?

Metropolis, despite its inconsistencies, is a staggering achievement and a masterpiece, one worthy of thoughtful appreciation and analysis beyond its obvious technical excellence.  This is not a story of the violent overthrow of the dictatorial and insensitive regime. Rather, the aborted uprising is the work of Rotwang, the Satan analog, who seeks to overthrow Joh, and of Joh, who wants to use the opportunity for his own purposes, only to find that they backfire on him.  So the politics of the film are inconsistent.  One might guess, based on the early scenes, that the ending might be different:  Freder and Maria overthrow Joh, with the screenwriter’s approval.  But no!

Yet the movie is what it is.  And the theme of social justice, especially that of the economic variety, is consistent with the ethos of the Hebrew prophets.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 3, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE TENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF EDWARD CASWALL, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD PERRONET, BRITISH METHODIST PREACHER

THE FEAST OF SAINT GENEVIEVE, PROPHET

THE FEAST OF GLADYS AYLWARD, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY TO CHINA