Archive for the ‘Genesis 25’ Category

Divine Judgment Against Edom   Leave a comment

Above:  Jeremiah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART XXX

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Jeremiah 49:7-22

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The Edomites were relatives of the Hebrews–descendants of Esau, a.k.a. Edom, actually (Genesis 25:19-34; 33:1-20; 35:1-36:43).  The Edomites were traditional, bitter enemies of the the Hebrews.  Edomites joined Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian forces at the Fall of Jerusalem (586 B.C.E.).  Hebrew antagonism toward the Edomites made its way into the Bible (Isaiah 34:1-17; Isaiah 63:1-6; Lamentations 4:21-22; Ezekiel 25:12-14; Ezekiel 35:1-15; Amos 1:11-12; Obadiah; Malachi 1:2-5; Psalm 137:7; et cetera).

This antagonism is especially evident in Jeremiah 49:7-22, which, unlike some of the oracles in this set, lacks a lament.  Also, Jeremiah 49:22 echoes 48:41-44 (regarding Moab) and 50:44, 44-46 (regarding the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire).

Since I commenced this project of reading the Hebrew prophetic books, roughly in chronological order, I have read the material regarding Edom in Amos 1:11-12 and Isaiah 21:11-12.

The Edom material in Obadiah and in Ezekiel 25:12-14; 35:1-15 awaits me, in due time.

Some points in the oracle require explanation:

  1. This oracle and the Book of Obadiah probably drew from the same source.
  2. Borzah was the main city-fortress of Edom.
  3. Edom, associated with wisdom (Job 1:3; Proverbs 30:1; Proverbs 31:1) had become prideful and arrogant.

There would be no word of comfort for Edom.  The future was calamity for Edom and the Edomites.  Edomites, who had moved into southern Judah after the Fall of Jerusalem (586 B.C.E.) and established a capital at Hebron, declined during the Persian period.  This region of Judah became Idumea.  During the Persian period, Nabatean encroachment upon Edom pushed many more Edomites into Idumea.  Those Edomites who remained in Edom assimilated with the Nabateans.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 15, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN ELLERTON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF CARL HEINRICH VON BOGATSKY, HUNGARIAN-GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY FRANCES BLOMFIELD GURNEY, ENGLISH POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EVELYN UNDERHILL, ANGLICAN MYSTIC AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT LANDELINUS OF VAUX, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; SAINT AUBERT OF CAMBRAI, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; SAINT URSMAR OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND MISSIONARY BISHOP, AND SAINTS DOMITIAN, HADELIN, AND DODO OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS

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Two Oracles Concerning Arabia   Leave a comment

Above:  Judas, by Edward Okún

Image in the Public Domain

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READING FIRST ISAIAH, PART XIII

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Isaiah 21:11-17

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INTRODUCTION

Immediately following an oracle of the Fall of Babylon (Isaiah 21:1-10), we read two short oracles that complete Chapter 21.

DUMAH (EDOM)

Duman was an oasis in northern Arabia (Genesis 25:14; 1 Chronicles 1:30).  Seir (Isaiah 21:11) was a place in Edom.  Poetically, Dumah equaled Edom.

One may recall a condemnation of Edom in Amos 1:1-12.

The oracle in Isaiah 21:11-12 is superficially vague.  “The night” is poetic language for suffering.  “Morning” is poetic language for liberation.  There is no encouraging news for Dumah from the watchman of Seir yet.  Despite the brief respite from Assyrian oppression, the morning of liberation will not dawn yet.

Edom, the nation, had pursued his “brother” (Israel) with the sword.  Edom, the nation, was metaphorically the brother of the Israelite people (Numbers 20:14; Deuteronomy 2:4; Deuteronomy 23:7; Obadiah 10, 12).  King David had added Edom to the (united) Kingdom of Israel (2 Samuel 8:13f; 1 Kings 11:15-17).  Edom, part of the (southern) Kingdom of Judah after the division of the (united) Kingdom of Israel, threw off Judean control during the reign (851-853 B.C.E.) of King Jehoram (Joram) (2 Kings 8:16-24; 2 Chronicles 21:4-20). Yet Judah reconquered Edom during the reign (798-769 B.C.E.) of King Amaziah of Judah (2 Kings 14:1-22; 2 Chronicles 25:1-28) and the reign (785-733 B.C.E.) of King Azariah/Uzziah of Judah (2 Kings 15:1-7; 2 Chronicles 26:1-23), contemporary with the time of the prophets Hosea, Amos, and Micah.  Edomites persisted in their anger; they raged in wrath without end.

Circa 715 B.C.E., Edom had rebelled against the Assyrian Empire during a time when that empire was temporarily in decline and Egypt’s new masters (from “Ethiopia”–really Cush/Nubia)–encouraged regional peoples, vassals of Assyria, to rebel.  Ultimately and sadly, Edom was no match for the Assyrian Empire.

KEDAR AND THE DEDANITES

Kedar was a northern Arabian tribe known for their military prowess.  Yet Assyrian King Sennacherib (r. 705-681 B.C.E.) conquered that tribe in 689 B.C.E.

The Dedanites were a northern Arabian tribe conquered by an unnamed power, presumably the Assyrian Empire.  The residents of the oasis city of Tema were to greet the fugitives from Assyrian conquest “with bread.”

CONCLUSION

This material fits thematically with material I covered in the previous post in this series.  The warning to Judah, militarily weak, was not to seek a military solution, which was futile.  Judah needed to commit to social justice, consistent with the Law of Moses, the prophetic voice tells us.  That voice also tells us that saving Judah depended not on the state, but on covenant community founded on a just social and economic order.  We read that military solutions did not resolve the problems, even those of renowned warriors, vis-à-vis more powerful neighbors.

The Law of Moses teaches mutuality.  This timeless principle informs many culturally-specific laws that, superficially, have no bearing on us in 2021.  Mutuality, in the context of complete dependence on God, teaches that all people are responsible to and for each other, and depend on each other.  The pursuit of the common good builds up all people and helps them become the best possible versions of themselves.  Selfishness, cruelty, indifference, and insensitivity tear down community and harm the whole.

Early in President Ronald Reagan’s first term (1981-1985), staffers at the headquarters of the Church of the Brethren (one of the Historic Peace Churches) peacefully protested the Administration’s budget priorities–less for social programs, more for the military.  These staffers pooled the money they received from tax cuts, purchased thirty pieces of silver, and mailed that silver (with a letter) to the White House.  Some people were paying attention to the moral lessons in the Hebrew prophets and making an allusion to the betrayal of Jesus and Christian principles.

Sadly, these Hebrew prophetic warnings had something in common with such symbolic protests:  they did not change the minds of authorities they addressed.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 2, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BLANDINA AND HER COMPANIONS, THE MARTYRS OF LYONS, 177

THE FEAST OF ANDERS CHRISTENSEN ARREBO, “THE FATHER OF DANISH POETRY”

THE FEAST OF CHRISTOPH HOMBURG, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MARGARET ELIZABETH SANGSTER, HYMN WRITER, NOVELIST, AND DEVOTIONAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT STEPHEN OF SWEDEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY, BISHOP, AND MARTYR, CIRCA 1075

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The Superscription of the Book of Micah   1 comment

Above:  Map of the Assyrian Empire and Its Neighbors

Image Scanned from an Old Bible

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READING MICAH, PART I

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Micah 1:1

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The prophet was an individual who said No to his society, condemning its habits and assumptions, its complacency, waywardness, and syncretism.  He was often compelled to proclaim the very opposite of what his heart expected.  His fundamental objective was to reconcile man and God.  Why do the two need reconciliation?  Perhaps it is due to man’s false sense of sovereignty, to his abuse of freedom, to his aggressive, sprawling pride, resenting God’s involvement in history.

–Rabbi Abraham J. Heschel, The Prophets, Vol. 1 (1962), xiii

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The superscription of the Book of Micah identifies the prophet as Micah, from Moresheth, a village southwest of Jerusalem.  “Micah” is abbreviated from “Micaiah,” literally, “Who is like Yah[weh]?”  The superscription also specifies the prophet’s mission (to prophecy regarding the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah) and timeframe (during the reigns of Kings Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah of Judah).

With a few exceptions (such as in the First Book of the Maccabees, which dated events according to the Hellenistic calendar), when authors of the Old Testament dated events, the usually used relative dating, such as “in the third year of king _____.”  Converting these ancient dates to fit onto the Gregorian calendar and the B.C./B.C.E.-A.D./C.E. scale has long proven challenging and with inconsistent results.  Perhaps you, O reader, have noticed that when you have consulted two different study Bibles for when a certain King of Israel or King of Judah reigned, you found two different answers.

For the record, as much as possible, I take dates from The Jewish Study Bible, Second Edition (2014).  It tells me that the four listed kings reigned accordingly:

  1. Azariah, a.k.a. Uzziah (785-733 B.C.E.); see 2 Kings 15:1-7 and 2 Chronicles 26:1-23;
  2. Jotham (759-743 B.C.E.); see 2 Kings 15:32-38 and 2 Chronicles 27:1-9;
  3. Ahaz (743/735-727/715 B.C.E.); see 2 Kings 16:1-20; 2 Chronicles 28:1-27; and Isaiah 7:1-8:15; and
  4. Hezekiah (727/715-698/687 B.C.E.); see 2 Kings 18:1-20:21; 2 Chronicles 29:1-32:33; Isaiah 36:1-39:8; and Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 48:17-22 and 49:4.

Jotham and Azariah/Uzziah had a co-regency.  Did Ahaz and Azariah/Uzziah also have a co-regency?  Trying to answer that question accurately is difficult, given that relative dating for the same monarchs is not always consistent, due to factual contradictions in sources.

Scripture does mention “Micah the Morashite” outside of the Book of Micah.  Jeremiah 26:17-19, in the context of Jeremiah’s trial and death sentence, quotes some Jewish elders recalling Micah as having prophesied during the reign of King Hezekiah and not having received the death penalty.  Jeremiah 26:18 quotes Micah 3:12.

The Book of Micah, like the Books of Hosea and Amos before it, has layers of authorship and editing between the original version and the final version, from after the Babylonian Exile.  This reality does not trouble me in the Books of Hosea and Amos.  Neither does it disturb me in the Book of Micah.

The timeframe of the prophetic career of Micah, as established in 1:1, was very difficult.

  1. The Assyrian Empire menaced the (northern) Kingdom of Israel and the (southern) Kingdom of Judah.
  2. The Kingdoms of Israel and Aram had formed an anti-Assyrian alliance.  King Ahaz of Judah refused to join that alliance.  Therefore, during the Syro-Ephraimite War (734-732 B.C.E.), Israel and Aram waged war on Judah and sought to replace Ahaz with a monarch who would join that alliance.  Ahaz allied himself with the Assyrian Empire, not God.  In 732 B.C.E., the Assyrian Empire seized territory from Aram and Israel and reduced those kingdoms to vassalage.
  3. The Assyrian Empire conquered the (northern) Kingdom of Israel in 722 B.C.E.
  4. The Assyrian Empire conquered the Kingdom of Aram in 720 B.C.E.
  5. In 701, during the reign of King Hezekiah, Assyrian King Sennacherib (r. 705-681 B.C.E.) invaded Judah.
  6. On the domestic front, wealthy landowners were forcing peasant farmers into debt and seizing their land, in violation of the common good and the Law of Moses.  Corruption, injustice, and oppression of Judeans by Judeans was endemic.

The superscription (1:1) refers to “Samaria and Jerusalem,” the capitals of the (northern) Kingdom of Israel and the (southern) Kingdom of Judah, respectively.  I mention this because the use of language matters.  If, for example, I write, “x” and have one meaning in mind yet you, O reader, read “x” and have another definition in mind, I have not communicated with you, and you have missed the point.

  1. The Book of Micah, in its final form, generally uses “Israel” in the generic sense–the people of the covenant, not the subjects of any Jewish kingdom.  This explains why, in Micah, Israel continues to exist after the Fall of Samaria (722 B.C.E.).
  2. “Jacob” refers to Judah.  The use of “Jacob” recalls the infamous trickster (Genesis 25:19-34; 27:1-35:37; 37:1-36; 42:29-43:14; 46:1-47:12; 47:28-48:22).  “Jacob,” of course, is also the original name of Israel, after whom the people of Israel took their name.  The use of “Jacob” to refer to Judah indicates the importance of divine promises to the Patriarchs and foreshadows restoration to a state of grace after punishment for sins.

The Book of Micah holds divine judgment and mercy in balance.  Much of the prophecy, in its final, edited form, is doom and gloom.

Yet faith in God does not conclude on a note of despair.  Hope is the last word, then as now.  But the hope which prophetic religion exalts is born of faith in God and in his love of man.

–Harold A. Bosley, in The Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 6 (1956), 901

Another detail interests me.  Most English translations begin:

The word of the LORD that came to Micah….”

Focus on “came to,” O reader.  The Hebrew text literally reads:

The word of the LORD that was Micah….

This leads me back to Rabbi Abraham J. Heschel:

The prophet is a person, not a microphone.  He is endowed with a mission, with the power of a word not his own that accounts for his greatness–but also with temperament, concern, character, and individuality.  As there was no resisting the impact of divine inspiration, so at times there was no resisting the vortex of his own temperament.  The word of God reverberated in the voice of man.

The prophet’s task is to convey a divine view, yet as a person he is a point of view.  He speaks from the perspective of God as perceived from the perspective of his own situation.  We must seek to understand not only the views he expounded but also the attitudes he embodied:  his own position, feeling response–not only what he said but also what he lived; the private, the intimate dimension of the word, the subjective side of the message.

–The Prophets, Vol. 1 (1962), viii

The inspiration of scripture included a human element.  The authors and prophets were not secretaries of the Holy Spirit, taking dictation, as in “Put a comma there.”  No, the people thanks to whom we have the Bible put themselves into the book.  They were the message.  They were people, not microphones.

What does the Book of Micah have to proclaim to the world of 2021?  Let us find out.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 24, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF NICOLAUS SELNECKER, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JACKSON KEMPER, EPISCOPAL MISSIONARY BISHOP

THE FEAST OF EDITH MARY MELLISH (A.K.A. MOTHER EDITH), FOUNDRESS OF THE COMMUNITY OF THE SACRED NAME

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIA GARGANI, FOUNDRESS OF THE SISTERS APOSTLES OF THE SACRED HEART

THE FEAST OF MARY MADELEVA WOLFF, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN, POET, SCHOLAR, AND PRESIDENT OF SAINT MARY’S COLLEGE, NOTRE DAME, INDIANA

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Divine Judgment Against Foreign Nations, Part I   2 comments

Above:  Map of the Assyrian Empire and Its Neighbors

Image Scanned from an Old Bible

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READING AMOS, PART II

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Amos 1:3-2:3

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Introduction

As I read the Book of Amos, I ask myself how much of the final version is original to the text from the prophet.  I know that the final version of the Book of Amos dates to the 400s B.C.E., three centuries after the time of the prophet.  Nevertheless, that question, germane for some matters of interpretation, is irrelevant for other matters of interpretation.  The message(s) of the Book of Amos for people, cultures, societies, and institutions in 2021 C.E. are what they are, regardless of which layer of composition to which a particular passage belongs.

Amos 1:3-2:16 consists of prophetic oracles of judgment against nations.  I choose to write about the oracles against Judah and Israel in the next post.  In this post, I focus on divine judgment against Aram, Philistia, Tyre, Edom, Ammon, and Moab.

Notice, O reader, a motif:

For three crimes of _____, and now four–

I will not take it back–….

–Amos 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 13; 2:1, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

This motif indicates the end of divine patience after the third crime.  Divine patience is not infinite.  Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance.

Amos 1:3-2:3 condemns neighboring nations for behavior that is anti-human or against nature.  These Gentiles, not being under the Law of Moses, had no covenant with God to keep.  They were still accountable according to certain standards, though.

Aram (1:3-5)

Aram was where Syria is today.  Aram was the main rival of the Assyrian Empire during the time of the prophets Amos, Hosea, Micah, and (First) Isaiah.  Aram was also a frequent foe of the (northern) Kingdom of Israel.

Aram had “threshed Gilead with sledges of iron,” a reference to a military campaign (2 Kings 13:3-7).  King Hazael came to power circa 842 B.C.E. and reigned until circa 806 B.C.E. (2 Kings 8:7-15).  He founded a dynasty.  Hazael’s immediate successor was his son, King Ben-hadad II (2 Kings 13:3).  Hadad was a storm god, and “Ben” meant “son of.”

“Aven” meant “evil,” so the Valley of Aven was the “Valley of Evil.”  Beth-eden was an Aramaic city-state between the Euphrates and Balikh Rivers.  According to Amos 1:5, God would depose the King of Beth-eden and exile the Arameans.  During the Syro-Ephraimite War (734-732 B.C.E.; 2 Kings 15:27-31; 2 Kings 16:1-19; 2 Chronicles 28:1-26; Isaiah 7:1-8:23), King Pekah of Israel (r. 735-732 B.C.E.) and King Rezin of Aram (r. 750-732 B.C.E.), having formed an anti-Assyrian alliance, fought the (southern) Kingdom of Judah and besieged Jerusalem because King Ahaz (r. 743/735-727/715 B.C.E.) refused to join that coalition.  King Ahaz of Judah turned not to God, but to the Assyrian Empire.  That empire conquered part of Aram and reduced Israel to vassalage in 732 B.C.E.  The Assyrian Empire ended Aram’s existence as an independent kingdom in 720 B.C.E.  That empire relocated Arameans throughout the Assyrian Empire, including in Samaria (2 Kings 17:24, 30).

Philistia (1:6-8

Philistia was on the Mediterranean coast and east of the (southern) Kingdom of Judah.  Philistia was where the Gaza Strip is today.  Philistines were the people otherwise known as Phoenicians.

Philistia had “exiled an entire population,” probably from Israel or Judah.  This raid, perhaps during the reign (817-800 B.C.E.; 2 Kings 13:1-25) of King Jehoahaz of Israel, violated Exodus 21:16, not that the covenant applied to the Philistines.

Tyre (1:9-10)

Tyre, on the Mediterranean coast, was the chief Phoenician city in the middle 700s B.C.E.  It was a wealthy commercial capital of a trading network.

Tyre had violated a treaty with an unnamed partner and handed an entire population over to slave markets in Edom.

Edom (1:11-12)

Edom was south of the Dead Sea, in what is now the southern regions of Israel and Jordan.  Edom was the nation, by tradition, descended from Esau, a.k.a. Edom (Genesis 25:25-28:9; 32:3-33:16; 35:1-43; 36:1-43).  Jacob/Israel had made their peace (Genesis 33), but their descendants had continued the conflict.

Edom, the nation, had pursued his “brother” (Israel) with the sword.  Edom, the nation, was metaphorically the brother of the Israelite people (Numbers 20:14; Deuteronomy 2:4; Deuteronomy 23:7; Obadiah 10, 12).  King David had added Edom to the (united) Kingdom of Israel (2 Samuel 8:13f; 1 Kings 11:15-17).  Edom, part of the (southern) Kingdom of Judah after the division of the (united) Kingdom of Israel, threw off Judean control during the reign (851-853 B.C.E.) of King Jehoram (Joram) (2 Kings 8:16-24; 2 Chronicles 21:4-20). Yet Judah reconquered Edom during the reign (798-769 B.C.E.) of King Amaziah of Judah (2 Kings 14:1-22; 2 Chronicles 25:1-28) and the reign (785-733 B.C.E.) of King Azariah/Uzziah of Judah (2 Kings 15:1-7; 2 Chronicles 26:1-23), contemporary with the time of the prophets Hosea, Amos, and Micah.  Edomites persisted in their anger; they raged in wrath without end.

Ammon (1:13-15)

Ammon was to the west of the River Jordan and north of the Dead Sea, in modern-day Jordan.  Ammon had been part of the (united) Kingdom of Israel under Kings David and Solomon.  The Ammonites had broken away circa 928 B.C.E., when the (united) Kingdom of Israel split into the (northern) Kingdom of Israel and the (southern) Kingdom of Judah.

Ammon had “ripped open pregnant women in Gilead, in order to extend their territory” (Amos 1:13).  Ammon had fought a border war with Israel, probably during the 800s B.C.E.  In the course of that conflict, Ammonite soldiers had ripped open pregnant women, a tactic not unheard of, sadly.

Ammon became a vassal state (742-630 B.C.E.) of the Assyrian Empire then a province thereof.  With the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian conquest of the Assyrian Empire, Ammon became a rebellious province of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  The rebellion failed, and mass deportations ensued.

Moab (2:1-3)

Moab was west of the Dead Sea, in modern-day Jordan.  Moab had been a vassal state of the (united) Kingdom of Israel under Kings David and Solomon then under the kings of the (northern) Kingdom of Israel.  King Mesha of Moab had successfully rebelled against vassalage during the reign (851-842 B.C.E) of King Jehoram (Joram) of Israel (1 Kings 3:1-27) and the reign (870-846 B.C.E.) of King Jehoshaphat of Judah (1 Kings 22:1-51; 2 Kings 3:1-27; 2 Chronicles 17:1-20:37).  Moab was also the homeland of Ruth.

Moab had “burned to ashes the bones of Edom’s king.”  This was an extreme disrespect usually reserved criminals (Genesis 38:24; Leviticus 20:14; Leviticus 21:9), not that Moabites were subject to the Law of Moses.  This act, which had no effect on either the (northern) Kingdom of Israel or the (southern) Kingdom of Judah, was still a crime against God.

Moab came under Assyrian domination (c. 735 B.C.E.), became an Assyrian province (711 B.C.E.), and finally ceased to be a state (circa 600 B.C.E.).  (For more about the decline and fall of Moab, read Isaiah 15-16 and Jeremiah 48.)

Conclusion

A spiritual mentor of mine liked to read some portion of the Bible then ask:

What is really going on here?

God, who is sovereign over all the nations, does not tolerate injustice.  The Book of Amos beats the drum repeatedly.  God cares deeply about how people, cultures, societies, and institutions treat people.

In this post, I have focused on neighbors of the (northern) Kingdom of Israel and the (southern) Kingdom of Judah.  Many of the prophet’s original audience probably delighted to hear these proclamations of divine judgment against these foreign nations.

Then Amos stopped preaching and started meddling, so to speak.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 20, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALCUIN OF YORK, ABBOT OF TOURS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS COLUMBA OF RIETI AND OSANNA ANDREASI, DOMINICAN MYSTICS

THE FEAST OF JOHN ELIOT, “THE APOSTLE TO THE INDIANS”

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIÁ ANGÉLICA LATHROP, FOUNDRESS OF THE DOMINICAN SISTERS OF HAWTHORNE

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The Birth and Consecration of Samuel   Leave a comment

Above:  Hannah Before Eli

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 II

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1 Samuel 1:1-2:11

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I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with my whole heart;

I will tell of all your marvelous works.

I will be glad and rejoice in you;

I will sing to your Name, O Most High.

–Psalm 9:1-2, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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In Hannah’s culture, infertility was a curse and a source of humiliation for women.  Several Biblical authors wrote of formerly barren women, including Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and the mother of Samson, as well as Hannah.  (See Genesis 21:1-8; Genesis 25:19-26;l Genesis 30:1-2, 22-24); and Judges 13:2-3, also.)  In each case, the offspring entered the world with a divine purpose.  Samuel, in particular, provided moral guidance to his people.  Many people ignored him, but he continued to offer the moral advice.

Elkanah, despite being a kind man and a loving husband, seems to have been oblivious to the bad blood between Hannah and Peninnah.  He favored Hannah (“charming” or “attractive”) and had children with Peninnah (“fertile” or “prolific”).  The double portion of the sacrifice Elkanah gave to Hannah contrasted with the portions he gave to Peninnah, his sons, and his daughters with her.

Hannah was pious.  Her manner of prayer at Shiloh was unusual; moving one’s lips yet not speaking was a rare method of praying in that culture at the time.  The priest Eli mistook her desperation and her way of praying for intoxication.

Hannah asked.  God granted.  Hannah kept her word.

Grace is the foundation of this story.  Grace is free yet not cheap; it carries obligations.  Grace also transforms despair into thanksgiving and creates a better future out of a bleak present.

The Song of Hannah (2:1-10) is a later text.  It mentions a king in verse.  That reference to a monarch cannot be contemporary with Hannah, whose lifetime preceded the Israelite monarchy.  The themes fit her circumstances, though.  And, if the text reminds you, O reader, of another song, you may be thinking of the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), modeled on the Song of Hannah.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 14, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CROFT, ANGLICAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF JOHN BAJUS, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF JOHN HENRY HOPKINS, JR., EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND HYMNODIST; AND HIS NEPHEW, JOHN HENRY HOPKINS, III, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAXIMILIAN KOLBE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1941; AND JONATHAN MYRICK DANIELS, EPISCOPAL SEMINARIAN AND MARTYR, 1965

THE FEAST OF SARAH FLOWER ADAMS, ENGLISH UNITARIAN HYMN WRITER; AND HER SISTER, ELIZA FLOWER, ENGLISH UNITARIAN COMPOSER

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Vehicles of Grace   1 comment

Above:  Esau Selling His Birthright, by Hendrick ter Brugghen

Image in the Public Domain

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Genesis 25:17-34 or Isaiah 1:1-20 (portions)

Psalm 11

1 Corinthians 1:1-18

Matthew 7:15-29

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Waiting on and trusting in God can be very difficult, but it is the thematic thread uniting these readings.  Nevertheless, some of the figures from certain readings for today seem like unlikely exemplars of waiting on and trusting in God.

The narrative about Jacob portrays Israel in its earthiest and most scandalous appearance in Genesis.  The narrative is not edifying in any conventional religious or moral sense.  Indeed, if one comes to the narrative with such an agenda, the narrative is offensive.  But for that very reason, the Jacob narrative is most lifelike.  It presents Jacob in the crude mixture of motives.  The grandson of the promise is a rascal compared to his faithful grandfather Abraham or his successful father Isaac.  The affirmations of faith in this narrative are especially robust.  The narrator knows that the purposes of God are tangled in a web of self-interest and self-seeking.

–Walter Brueggemann, Genesis (1982), page 204

Saul of Tarsus thought he was obeying God while oppressing Christians.  After realizing his error, he became St. Paul the Apostle, a vital figure in the mission to the Gentiles.

Each of us is imperfect.  All of us can do better.  Each of us can be a vehicle of grace, by grace.  Seeking to obey God is laudable, but how can we succeed?  The judgments of our culture are not always helpful in this matter.  Furthermore, if we think we are listening to God, we might be, but we might also be conducting on internal dialogue instead.  As much as one might try to wait on and trust in God, one might miss the channel, so to speak.

I offer no easy answers because I have none.  Besides, an easy answer to a difficult question is a wrong answer.  I suggest, however, that one is less likely to go wrong by seeking the good of other people rather than by living selfishly.  One might sin in how one seeks to build up others, but at least on is pointing in the right direction.  Yet good intentions are the pavement stones in road to Hell, so one needs grace to make wise decisions daily.  Good intentions are at least good, but they are insufficient.

Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.

That truth is a quote from the Westminster Larger Catechism.  The sentence is a fine general statement of principle.  The particulars vary according to the circumstances of life–who, where, and when one is.  May we, by grace, bear good fruit for God, and therefore glorify him, and enjoy him fully forever.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 13, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CLIFFORD BAX, POET, PLAYWRIGHT, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT EUGENIUS OF CARTHAGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF JOHANNES RENATUS VERBEEK, MORAVIAN MINISTER AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF PETER RICKSEEKER, U.S. MORAVIAN MINISTER, MISSIONARY, MUSICIAN, MUSIC EDUCATOR, AND COMPOSER; STUDENT OF JOHANN CHRISTIAN BECHLER, MORAVIAN MINISTER , MUSICIAN, MUSIC EDUCATOR, AND COMPOSER; FATHER OF JULIUS THEODORE BECHLER, U.S. MORAVIAN MINISTER, MUSICIAN, EDUCATOR, AND COMPOSER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2018/07/13/devotion-for-proper-8-year-a-humes/

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Yet Another Chance, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  The Return of the Prodigal Son, by Leonello Spada

Image in the Public Domain

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FOR THE NINTH SUNDAY OF KINGDOMTIDE, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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O God, you have joined together diverse nations in the confession of your name:

Grant us both to will and to do what you command, that your people,

being called to an eternal inheritance, may hold the same faith in their hearts

and show the same godliness in their lives;

through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 154

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Isaiah 55:1-7

Psalm 45

Philemon 1-3, 10-16

Luke 15:11-32

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God extends us second, third, fourth, fifth, et cetera chances.  Do we welcome these?

Consider the Letter to Philemon, O reader.  It is a text a long line of exegetes reaching back into antiquity has misinterpreted.  It is not, as St. John Chrysostom, a man fearful of the possibility that people in the Roman Empire would associate Christianity with the emancipation of slaves, thought, an argument for returning fugitive slaves to their masters.  Neither is the text a defense of slavery, as many defenders of chattel slavery in the antebellum United States argued.  Furthermore, nowhere does the letter indicate that Onesimus was a thief; the conditional tense makes a difference.  And, as certain scholars of the New Testament note, the correct translation of verse 16 is actually

…as if a slave,

not the usual

…as a slave.

The conditional tense makes a difference.  Tradition of which I have no reason to doubt the veracity holds that the rest of the story was a second chance for both Onesimus and Philemon, both of whom became bishops.  That point aside, I enjoy the pun, for Onesimus means “useful,” and he will be useful again, we read.  Also, the manipulation of Philemon is at its positive full force:  I could tell you to do the right thing, but I know that I do not have to do that because of the kind of man you are, the letter says.  One might conclude that Philemon did not have much of a choice in this scenario.

The story traditionally labeled the Parable of the Prodigal Son offers three compelling characters:  a father and two sons.  An observant student of the Bible might think of the motif of a father having two sons; something bad will happen.  Consider, O reader, the brothers Cain and Abel (Genesis 4), Isaac and Ishmael (Genesis 16, 18, 21), and Jacob and Esau (Genesis 25-28, 32, 33, 35, 36), for example.  In this case we have a loving father and two sons–an ungrateful, disrespectful wastrel and his dutiful older brother.  The father knows and loves both of his sons.  He does not force them to do the right thing.  The father lets his younger son go in the expectation that he will return.  The father is jubilant when the younger son returns.  The older brother should also rejoice, but he wonders why he receives so little attention.  He is actually in a much better state than the returned younger brother, who will have to live with the concrete consequences of his folly for the rest of his life.  The older brother will still inherit the estate, however.

Each of us, throughout his or her life, might fill all three roles in the parable.  Many of us might identify most easily with the resentful and dutiful older brother, who does as her father tells him to do.  This resentful, holier-than-thou attitude is a gateway to Donatism, however.  We should actually rejoice when the penitent return.  We ought to welcome divine grace showered upon those we do not like.  When we do not do this, we commit a particular sin.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 11, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARY SLESSOR, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY IN WEST AFRICA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE FOX, FOUNDER OF THE RELIGIOUS SOCIETY OF FRIENDS

THE FEAST OF MIEP GIES, RIGHTEOUS GENTILE

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAULINUS OF AQUILEIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC PATRIARCH

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Hostility and Reconciliation   1 comment

Suitcase

Above:  A Suitcase

Image Source = Maksim

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The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come.

With your abundant grace and might,

free us from the sin that binds us,

that we may receive you in joy and serve you always,

for you live and reign with the Father and

the Holy Spirit, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 20

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 25:19-28

Psalm 113

Colossians 1:15-20

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Who is like the LORD our God, who sits enthroned on high,

but stoops to behold the heavens and the earth?

He takes up the weak out of the dust

and lifts up the poor from the ashes.

He sets them with the princes,

with the princes of his people.

He makes the woman of a childless house

to be a joyful mother of children.

–Psalm 113:5-8, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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To read of God granting a barren woman children is appropriate just a few days prior to December 25.  Unfortunately, Jacob and Esau, the twin children of Isaac and Rebekah, were not paragons of peace and reconciliation, although they did resolve their differences eventually.

The pericope from Colossians functions as a counterpoint to the reading from Genesis.  We humans struggle with each other, “hostile in mind, doing evil deeds,” as Colossians 1:21 (The New Revised Standard Version, 1989) says.  Yet we can have reconciliation with God and each other through the killed and resurrected Jesus if we persist in faithfulness.  We humans are creatures of habit.  May we encourage each other in pursuing good habits, therefore, so that we, exercising freedom in God, may come nearer to the proper spiritual destination in Christ.  Yes, clinging to hostility does prove appealing much of the time, but that luggage is too heavy to carry on the journey with Jesus, the celebration of whose birth we approach.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 21, 2015 COMMON ERA

 THE FEAST OF JOHN ATHELSTAN LAURIE RILEY, ANGLICAN ECUMENIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/08/21/devotion-for-monday-after-the-fourth-sunday-of-advent-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Posted August 21, 2015 by neatnik2009 in Colossians 1, Genesis 25, Psalm 113

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Missing Grace–Or Not   1 comment

Above:   Esau Selling His Birthright, by Hendrick ter Bruggen, c. 1627

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Hebrews 12:4-17 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

In your struggle against sin you have not resisted to the point of shedding your blood.  And have you forgotten the exhortations which address you as sons?–

My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,

nor lose courage when you are punished by him.

For the Lord disciplines him whom he loves,

and chastises every son whom he receives.

It is for discipline that you have to endure.  God is treating you as sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?  If you are left without discipline, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.  Besides this, we have had earthly fathers to discipline us and we respected them.  Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?  For they disciplined us for a short time at their pleasure, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.  For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint with all men, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.  See to it that no one fail to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” spring up and cause trouble, and by it the many become defiled; that no one be immoral or irreligious like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal.  For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.

Psalm 103:1-2, 13-18 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Bless the LORD, O my soul,

and all that is within me, bless his holy Name.

2 Bless the LORD, O my soul,

and forget not all his benefits.

13 As a father cares for his children,

so does the LORD care for those who fear him.

14 For he himself knows whereof we are made;

he remembers that we are but dust.

15 Our days are like the grass;

we flourish like a flower in the field;

16 When the wind goes over it, it is gone,

and its place shall know it no more.

17 But the merciful goodness of the LORD endures for ever on those who fear him,

and his righteousness on children’s children;

18 On those who keep his covenant

and remember his commandments and do them.

Mark 6:1-6 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

He went away from there and came to his own country; and his disciples followed him.  And on the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue; and many who heard him were astonished, saying,

Where did this man get all this?  What is the wisdom given to him?  What mighty works are wrought by his hands!  Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?

And they took offense at him.  And Jesus said to him,

A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.

And he could not do mighty work there, except that he laid hands upon a few sick people and healed them.  And he marveled because of their unbelief.

And he went about among the villages teaching.

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The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things both in heaven and on earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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The 1972 revised edition of the J. B. Phillips New Testament in Modern English states in Mark 6:6,

…their lack of faith astonished him.

In the Gospel According to Mark, Jesus has done astonishing deeds of late.  He has exorcised a legion of demons, doomed a herd of swine, raised a girl from the dead, and healed a woman afflicted with a menstrual hemorrhage.  Jesus has been welcome in most places, except the town where he cured the man with the legion.  Jesus has astonished people, some of whom have rejected him because, not in spite of, what he has done.  And now, in his hometown, Nazareth, Jesus encounters a lack of faith and works few miracles.  Townspeople recognize who he his and what he has done, but they cannot reconcile the cognitive dissonance between knowing Jesus as a younger person and hearing about what he has been doing recently.  And Jesus was the astonished person.  He found their lack of faith astonishing.

A cliche states that “familiarity breeds contempt.”  This is true much of the time, but I propose that we are often not as familiar with others as we think we are.  Certainly, the denizens of Nazareth did not Jesus as well as they thought they did.  And note the tone of hostility; they called him a “son of Mary,” not “of Joseph.”  There were long-standing rumors of Jesus’ paternity, and I wonder how Joseph, Mary, and Jesus stood it all those years.

Hostile and faithless residents of Nazareth missed grace when grace stood in their midst.  They saw it yet failed to recognize it.  They were too busy clinging to whispered rumors and old memories.

Genesis 25:28-34 an 27:1-39 tells how Esau, who had sold his birthright for a meal, realized the depth of his error yet failed to reverse it.  The author of the Letter to the Hebrews makes the plain point that Esau, who had put the needs of his body first, had thrown away a great promise.  Later he sought an opportunity for repentance–literally, turning around or changing one’s mind–but he had to live with the consequences of his actions.  He was not beyond forgiveness, but the toothpaste was already out of the tube.  That was that.  So Esau, by his own bad decision, missed some grace.

Each of us has missed some grace because of bad decisions.  Yet we remain within the bounds of forgiveness, if we ask.  We can learn from our mistakes and those of others.  Furthermore, repentance remains an option in many circumstances.  So let us focus on the positive, on the possibilities for living in grace.  But this requires faith in God.  The townspeople of Nazareth saw Jesus among them yet rejected him.  I write nearly 20 centuries later, and I choose each day to continue to accept him.  I hope that, in my familiarity with the Bible and other traditions of Christianity, I do not miss something essential.  Maybe I do not know as much as I think I do.  May God, by grace, help me to see more clearly.

I know for a fact that I see more clearly today than I did just a few years ago.  The discipline in Hebrews is suffering.  I have made some bad choices, mostly out of ignorance.  I have been too trusting sometimes.  In 2007, I faced potential legal ramifications (which did not come to pass) and suffered emotional and spiritual distress because of certain past associations.  I learned immediately to be less trusting of some people.  And I learned, through suffering, to be more patient with others, less judgmental toward others, more humble with regard to myself, and more trusting in God.  Discipline accomplished its goal, and I am a better person for it, but I have no desire to repeat the process.

This discipline was simply the consequences of my actions, not God, like Zeus, throwing a thunderbolt in my direction.  Actions have consequences, and they must play out.  How we handle the situation determines whether we fall into the same category into which the author of Hebrews placed Esau.  He spent the rest of his days weeping over his loss.  May you and I gain more than we have lost and find discipline to be the beginning of a new, better start in Christ.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 7, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY MELCHIOR MUHLENBERG, SHEPHERD OF LUTHERANISM IN THE AMERICAN COLONIES

THE FEAST OF FRED KAAN, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN WOOLMAN, ABOLITIONIST

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/07/week-of-4-epiphany-wednesday-year-1/

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Posted January 11, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Genesis 25, Genesis 27, Hebrews 12, Mark 6, Psalm 103

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