Archive for the ‘Caleb’ Tag

The Beginning of the Hasmonean Rebellion   1 comment

Above:  Mattathias and the Apostate, by Gustave Doré

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1, 2 AND 4 MACCABEES

PART XV

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1 Maccabees 2:1-70

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How much is too much to tolerate?  When must one, in good conscience, resist authority?  The First and Second Books of the Maccabees are books about resistance to tyranny and about the political restoration of Israel (Judea).  These are not books that teach submission to all human governmental authority, no matter what.  The heroes include men who killed imperial officials, as well as Jews who ate pork–

death over a ham sandwich,

as a student of mine said years ago.

Mattathias was a Jewish priest zealous for the Law of Moses.  He and his five sons started the Hasmonean Rebellion after the desecration of the Temple in Jerusalem by King Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 167 B.C.E.  Mattathias, having refused an offer to become on the Friends of the King, launched the rebellion.  (Friend of the King was an official position.  Also, there were four ranks of Friends:  Friends (entry-level), Honored Friends, First Friends, and Preferred Friends.)  The sons of Mattathias were:

  1. John Gaddi–“fortunate,” literally;
  2. Simon Thassis–“burning,” literally;
  3. Judas Maccabeus–“designated by Yahweh” or “the hammerer,” literally;
  4. Eleazar Avaran–“awake,” literally; and
  5. Jonathan Apphus–“favorite,” literally.

The rebellion, under Mattathias, was against Hellenism.  Under Judas Maccabeus, the rebellion became a war for independence.

Mattathias died in 166 B.C.E.

The farewell speech in 2:49-70 contains references to the the following parts of the Hebrew Bible:

  1. Genesis 22 (Abraham; see Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 44:19-21, also);
  2. Genesis 39 (Joseph);
  3. Numbers 25 (Phinehas; see Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 45:23-26, also);
  4. Joshua 1 (Joshua; see Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 46:1-10, also); 
  5. Numbers 13 and 14 (Caleb; see Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 46:7-10, also);
  6. 2 Samuel 7 (David; see Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 47:2-12, also);
  7. 1 Kings 17 and 2 Kings 2 (Elijah; see Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 47:25-12, also); 
  8. Daniel 3 (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego); and
  9. Daniel 6 (Daniel).

The point is to remain faithful to God during difficult times.  I support that.  On the other hand, killing some people and forcibly circumcising others is wrong.  If I condemn Hellenists for committing violence, I must also condemn Hasmoneans for doing the same.

The text intends for us, the readers, to contrast the death of Mattathias with the death of Alexander the Great (1:5-6).  We read:

[Alexander’s] generals took over the government, each in his own province, and, when Alexander died, they all assumed royal crowns, and for many years the succession passed to their descendants.  They brought untold miseries on the world.

–1 Maccabees 1:8-9, The Revised English Bible (1989)

The agenda of 1 Maccabees includes the belief that renewal of Jewish traditions followed the death of Mattathias , however.

I have a habit of arguing with scripture, off-and-on.  I may recognize a text as being canonical yet disagree with part of it.  Arguing with God is part of my patrimony, inherited from Judaism.  Sometimes I seek to adore and thank God.  Arguing with God (as in Judaism) contrasts with submitting to God (as in Islam).  Perhaps the combination of my Protestant upbringing and my inherent rebelliousness keeps showing itself.  If so, so be it; I offer no apology in this matter.

As much as I engage in 1 and 2 Maccabees and find them interesting, even canonical–Deuterocanonical, actually–they disturb me.  Violence in the name of God appalls me, regardless of whether an army, a mob, or a lone civilian commits it.  I may recognize a given cause as being just.  I may, objectively, recognize the historical importance of certain violent acts, including those of certain violent acts, including those of rebellious slaves and of John Brown.  I may admit, objectively, that such violence may have been the only feasible option sometimes, given the circumstances oppressors had created or maintained.   Yet, deep down in my soul, I wish I could be a pacifist.

So, the sacred violence in 1 and 2 Maccabees disturbs me.  I understand the distinction between civilians and combatants.  The violence against civilians in 1 and 2 Maccabees really offends me morally.  These two books are not the only places in the Old Testament I read of violence against civilians.  It is present in much of the Hebrew Bible proper, too.  I object to such violence there, also.

Jennifer Wright Knust, a seminary professor and an an ordained minister in the American Baptist Churches USA, wrote Unprotected Texts:  The Bible’s Surprising Contradictions About Sex and Desire (2011).  She said in an interview on Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) radio that she has detected a disturbing pattern in many of her students.  Knust has said that many of her pupils think they must hold positions they would otherwise regard as morally repugnant.  They believe this, she has explained, because they interpret the Bible as supporting these positions.

As Mark Noll (a historian, a University of Notre Dame professor, and a conservative Presbyterian) has written, the U.S. Civil War was a theological crisis.  The authority of scripture was a major part of proslavery arguments that quoted the Bible, chapter and verse.  The counterargument was, therefore, allegedly heretical.  That argument rested mainly on a few verses–the Golden Rule, mainly.  And the abolitionist argument was morally superior.

I encourage you, O reader, to go all-in on the Golden Rule.  Questions of orthodoxy or heresy be damned.  Just follow the Golden Rule.  Leave the rest to God.  Do not twist the authority of scripture into an obstacle to obeying the Golden Rule.  I do not believe that God will ever condemn any of us for doing to others as would have them to do to us.

I offer one other thought from this chapter.  Read verses 29-38, O reader.  Notice that even those zealous for keeping the Law of Moses fought a battle on the Sabbath, instead of resting on the day of rest.  Know that, if they had rested, they may have lost the battle.  Know, also, that relativizing commandments within the Law of Moses was a Jewish practice.  (Remember that, so not to stereotype Judaism, as in stories in which Jesus healed on the Sabbath then faced criticism for having done so.)  Ideals clash with reality sometimes.

To return to Knust’s point, one need not believe something one would otherwise consider repugnant.  One need not do so, even if one interprets the Bible to support that repugnant belief.  The recognition of the reality on the ground takes one out of the realm of the theoretical and into the realm of the practical.  May we–you, O reader, and I–properly balance the moral demands (real or imagined) of the theoretical with those (also real or imagined) of the practical.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 9, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF DANNY THOMAS, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC ENTERTAINER AND HUMANITARIAN; FOUNDER OF SAINT JUDE’S CHILDREN’S RESEARCH HOSPITAL

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALTO TO ALTOMUNSTER, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT

THE FEAST OF BRUCE M. METZGER, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, BIBLICAL SCHOLAR, AND BIBLICAL TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF JOHN TIETJEN, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, ECUMENIST, AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT PORFIRIO, MARTYR, 203

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Numbers and Luke, Part V: Illusions and Attachments as Idols   1 comment

500-bill-1918

Above:  A United States $500 Bill from 1918  

$500 in 1918= $7,470 in 2011 (Consumer Price Index)

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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 everlasting 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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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 14:1-25 (43th Day of Easter)

Numbers 14:26-45 (44th Day of Easter)

Psalm 93 (Morning–43th Day of Easter)

Psalm 97 (Morning–44th Day of Easter)

Psalms 136 and 117 (Evening–43th Day of Easter)

Psalms 124 and 115 (Evening–44th Day of Easter)

Luke 18:18-34 (43th Day of Easter)

Luke 18:35-19:10 (44th Day of Easter)

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Some Related Posts:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/04/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-seventh-sunday-of-easter/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/04/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-seventh-sunday-of-easter/

Numbers 14:1-25

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/24/week-of-proper-13-wednesday-year-1/

Luke 18-19:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/12/week-of-proper-28-monday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/26/week-of-proper-28-tuesday-year-1/

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I found Richard Elliott Friedman’s Commentary on the Torah (2001) helpful in understanding what happened in Numbers 14.  (Aside:  If you, O reader, do not have a copy of that excellent book, you might want to purchase one.)  The spies/scouts have returned from their mission.  Some have warned in dire tones of the dangers there.  As Friedman pointed out and I did notice, they had not mentioned God.  But Caleb was more optimistic, ready to go back with the rest of the population.

In Numbers 14 the community laments the possibility of going to Canaan.  Dying in the desert seems preferable.  Even returning to Egypt, where they had been slaves, seems better than going to Canaan.  Caleb and Joshua try to calm the people, to no avail.  God, angry, threatens to destroy the faithless people, but Moses talks God down.  Instead, God decrees, the people will get their wish:  they will die in the desert.  This does not make them happy either.  And those who, against divine instructions, go up against the Canaanites and the Amalekites without God’s blessing and the Ark of the Covenant perish.

As Friedman stresses, the problem was a slave mentality.  The faithless people had not had to act before.  The Egyptians had acted upon them and made decisions for them.  God had liberated them and provided them with manna and quail in the desert.  (They did have to eat.)  But resettling Canaan would require effort.  It would require them to decide then to act.

An entire generation’s experience is not easily reversed.

–Richard Elliott Friedman, Commentary on the Torah (2001), page 475

The faithless Israelites clung tenaciously to nostalgia (for slavery, oddly enough) and to a slave mentality.  The rich man in Luke 18:18-23 clung to his wealth, which blinded him to his total dependence on God.  Zacchaeus (in Luke 19:1-10) preferred an attachment to Jesus to one to wealth and the illusion of independence.

Illusions and attachments can be the most difficult idols from which to divorce ourselves.  An idol, of course, is anything which distracts us from God.  Statutes of pagan deities are obvious idols, but concepts can be less obvious and more powerful ones.  We depend entirely on God.  We cannot pull ourselves up by our spiritual bootstraps.  Yes, we have an obligation to cooperate with God, but we cannot save ourselves.  And grace–that which we do not do–requires much of us.  It requires us to decide then to act.  It is free, not cheap.

Which illusions and attachments are your most powerful idols, O reader?  I must recognize and confront mine.  May you do the same to yours.  And may we succeed via grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 21, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL FAITHFUL MEMBERS OF THE CLERGY

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALOYSIUS GONZAGA, JESUIT

THE FEAST OF HENARE WIREMU TARATOA OF TE RANGA, COMPASSIONATE HUMAN BEING

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN JONES AND JOHN RIGBY, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/21/devotion-for-the-forty-third-and-forty-fourth-days-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Numbers and Luke, Part IV: Difficult Vocations   1 comment

two-reports-of-the-spies

Above:  The Reports of the Two Spies

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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 everlasting 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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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 13:1-3, 17-33

Psalm 92 (Morning)

Psalms 23 and 114 (Evening)

Luke 18:1-17

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Some Related Posts:

Numbers 13:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/24/week-of-proper-13-wednesday-year-1/

Luke 18:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/twenty-second-day-of-lent/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/23/week-of-proper-27-saturday-year-1/

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Marginalized people take center stage in Luke 18:1-17.  A widow, one of the more vulnerable people in a patriarchal society, has to intimidate a corrupt judge into doing the right thing.  A tax collector, who raises funds for the occupying Romans and lives off what he steals in the process, is humble before God, in contrast to a Pharisee, a member of the religious establishment.  And the Kingdom of God belongs to powerless people, such as children.  God, who is unlike the corrupt judge, justifies the tax collector and gives the Kingdom to the powerless.

Nevertheless, the widow still had to work hard to intimidate the corrupt judge.  And the tax collector had to do some heavy theological lifting.  And neither would resettling Canaan be easy for the Israelites after having lived in Egypt for centuries.

What is God calling you, O reader, to do?  And how difficult will it be?  The good news is that where God’s call is, one also finds God’s empowering grace and Holy Spirit.  Doing what God has commanded of you might be difficult.  It might take a long time.  And you might not live long enough to see the project completed; some sow seeds and others read the harvest sometimes.  But may you do as God has commanded, not losing heart.  Or, if you do lose heart, may you find it again quickly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 20, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BAIN OF FONTANELLE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP, MONK, MISSIONARY, AND ABBOT

THE FEAST OF ONESIMUS NESIB, TRANSLATOR AND LUTHERAN MISSIONARY

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/20/devotion-for-the-forty-second-day-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Posted March 2, 2013 by neatnik2009 in Luke 18, Numbers 13, Psalm 114, Psalm 23, Psalm 92

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