Archive for the ‘Phinehas’ 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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The Request for a King   Leave a comment

Above: The Statue of Samuel, Salisbury Cathedral

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 VIII

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1 Samuel 8:1-22

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Not to us, O LORD, not to us,

but to your Name give glory;

because of your love and because of your faithfulness.

Psalm 115:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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This reading reflects skepticism of the monarchy.  The source (probably E) differs from the Chronicler (see 1-2 Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah), who liked monarchy, especially David and his dynasty, although not most of the monarchs thereof.

Eli’s sons were not suitable successors (1 Samuel 2-4).  Neither were Samuel’s sons (1 Samuel 8:1-3).  Who would rule after Samuel?

Unlike as in Chapter 12 (where the desire for strong military leadership was the primary reason for wanting a king), the main reason for supporting the establishment of a monarchy in Chapter 8 was the desire to be like the neighboring peoples.  The desire to be like the Smiths and Joneses, so to speak, was a national failing of the Israelites.  It contributed to recurring idolatry.  This desire led to rejecting God as the proper King of Israel.  Despite Samuel’s warning, the desire to be like the neighbors remained.  The people got what they wanted.

One may think of divine judgment as giving us what we do not want.  It is that much of the time.  However, sometimes divine judgment takes the form of giving us what we desire.  We should be careful what we wish for; we may get it.

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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The Philistine Army Captures the Ark of the Covenant   Leave a comment

Above:  The Ark of the Covenant, by James Tissot

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 V

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1 Samuel 4:1b-22

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O God, you have cast us off and broken us;

you have been angry;

oh, take us back to you again.

–Psalm 60:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Military defeat (which God allowed, according to the text) of the Israelite forces did not constitute the defeat of God.  Philistine capture of the Ark of the Covenant (in lieu of the statue of a deity, the conventional booty) did not constitute the defeat of God.  Military defeat of Israelite forces did, however, constitute a crisis.

The Ark of the Covenant symbolized the presence of God.  The Ark’s unprecedented presence on the battlefield indicated the belief that the Ark was a talisman.

The deaths of Hophni and Phinehas (per 1 Samuel 2:24) and of Eli (once he heard of the capture of the Ark of the Covenant, not the deaths of his wayward sons) added to the seriousness of the situation.  Had the glory of God departed from Israel?  The mother of Ichabod thought so.

I wonder how Ichabod felt going through life with a name meaning “no glory.”

This story, in context, contains no hint of pervasive national wickedness for which God punished Israel via the Philistines.  One must, therefore, wonder why the defeat occurred.  A prosaic answer would entail an explanation of military strategies, of course.  That, however, is not the point of this story.  No, the point relates to the sovereignty of God.

The defeat was ironic.  The Philistines were polytheists who misquoted the history of the plagues of Egypt (Exodus 7:8-11:10), placing them in the wilderness, oddly.  Yet, according to 1 Samuel 4, these Philistines were agents of God.  They were about to learn how little they understood about the God of the Israelites.

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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God’s First Revelation to Samuel   Leave a comment

Above:  Samuel Relating to Eli the Judgments of God Upon Eli’s House, by John Singleton Copley

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 IV

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1 Samuel 3:1-4:1a

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My soul is content, as with marrow and fatness,

and my mouth praises you with joyful lips,

When I remember you upon my bed,

and meditate on you in the night watches.

–Psalm 63:5-6, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Years ago, while I was perusing religious books in a thrift store in Athens, Georgia, I saw a volume entitled How to Find God.  The author was wrong.  Nobody finds God.  No, God finds us.  How we respond or react is crucial.

God found Samuel, who eventually, with Eli’s help, realized who was calling in the pre-dawn hours.  Samuel listened.  Eli insisted on hearing the truth about what God said.  Eli heard the difficult truth and replied,

He is the LORD; He will do what he deems right.

What one says can be at least as important as how one says it.  And how well one listens then responds or reacts is likewise crucial.  One can imagine, in this case, young Samuel’s discomfort in repeating the unpleasant prophecy.  And one can imagine Eli’s discomfort in hearing it.  If one is honest, one must admit that Samuel and Eli did well that day.

Indeed, Samuel was Eli’s legitimate immediate successor.  And the old man was better than his sons, Hophni and Phinehas.

I invite you, O reader, to put yourself in Samuel’s position then in Eli’s position, or visa versa.  How might you have behaved and felt in that circumstance?  Would your desire to spare feelings lead you to lie?  Would you have lashed out at Samuel after hearing the bad news?  Would you dismiss the truth as “fake news”?  Or would you have acted as Samuel and Eli did?

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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Posted August 14, 2020 by neatnik2009 in 1 Samuel 3, 1 Samuel 4, Psalm 63

Tagged with , , ,

The Decline of the House of Eli   Leave a comment

Above: Hophni and Phinehas (Above), and Elkanah, Hannah, Samuel, and Eli (Below)

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 III

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1 Samuel 2:12-36

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The law of the LORD is perfect and revives the soul;

the testimony of the LORD is sure and gives wisdom to the innocent.

The statutes of the LORD are just and rejoice the heart;

the commandment of the LORD is clear and gives light to the eyes.

The fear of the LORD is clean and endures for ever;

the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

More to be desired are they than gold, more than much fine gold,

sweeter far than honey, than honey in the comb.

–Psalm 19:7-10, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Hophni and Phinehas, sons of Eli, were scoundrels.  Claiming the choicest cuts of sacrificial meat (properly reserved for God) for themselves was just one of their sins.  They were the biological heirs of Eli.  They were unworthy.  The faithful priest (vs. 35-36) was Zadok (see 1 Kings 2:35), not Samuel (see 1 Samuel 8:1-3).

In a different family, Elkanah and Hannah had five more children.  And Samuel served God faithfully.

For I honor those who honor Me, and those who spurn Me shall be dishonored.

–1 Samuel 2:30c, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

One can dishonor God via sins of commission and sins of omission.  By that standard, Eli had committed sons of omission when he permitted Hophni and Phinehas to get away with their bad behavior.  All these men received punishment for their sins, although Eli got off more lightly than his sons did.

Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance in both the Old and New Testaments.  Hellfire-and-damnation people err on one side.  The opposite error is also commonplace.  Standards exist.  Violating them carries consequences.  Yet divine judgment is never capricious, and mercy is ever-present.  People condemn themselves; chickens come home to roost.  That may be more terrifying than the judgment of God, as hellfire-and-damnation preachers proclaim it.

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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