Archive for the ‘Shalom’ Tag

He Who Lives By the Sword…   1 comment

Above:  The Death of Absalom, by Gustave Dore


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.


2 Samuel 18:9-15, 24-19:3 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

And Absalom chanced to meet the servants of David.  Absalom was riding his mule, and the mule went under the thick branches of a great oak, and he was left hanging between heaven and earth, while the mule that was under him went on.  And a certain man saw it, and told Joab,

Behold, I saw Absalom hanging in an oak.

Joab said to the man who told him,

What, you saw him!  Why then did you not strike him there to the ground?  I would have been glad to give you ten pieces of silver and a belt.

But the man said to Joab,

Even if I felt in my hand the weight of a thousand pieces of silver, I would not put forth my hand against the king’s son; for in our hearing the king commanded you and Abishai and Ittai, “For my sake protect the young man Absalom.”  On the other hand, if I had dealt treacherously against his life (and there is nothing hidden from the king), then you yourself would have stood aloof.

Joab said,

I will not waste time like this with you.

And he took three darts in his hand, and thrust them into the heart of Absalom, while he was still alive in the oak.  And ten young men, Joab’s armor-bearers, surrounded Absalom and struck him and killed him.

(Joab orders Ahimaaz not to tell David what has happened.  Then Joab sends a Cushite to update David and decides after all to let Ahimaaz run after the Cushite.  Ahimaaz then passes the Cushite.)

Now David was sitting between the two gates; and the watchman went up to the roof of the gate by the wall, and when he lifted up his eyes and looked, he saw a man running alone.  And the watchman called out and told the king.  And the king said,

If he is alone, there are tidings in his mouth.

And he came apace, and drew near.  And the watchman saw another man running; and the watchman called to the gate and said,

See, another man running alone!

The king said,

He also brings tidings.

And the watchman said,

I think the running of the foremost is like the running of Ahimaaz the son of Zadok.

And the king said,

He is a good man, and comes with good tidings.

Then Ahimaaz cried out out to the king,

All is well.

And he bowed before the king with his face to the earth, and said,

Blessed be the LORD your God, who has delivered up the men who raised their hand against my lord the king.

And the king said,

Is it well with the young man Absalom?

Ahimaaz answered,

When Joab sent your servant I saw a great tumult, but I do not know what it was.

And the king said,

Turn aside, and stand here.

So he turned aside, and stood still.

And behold, the Cushite came; and the Cushite said,

Good tidings for my lord the king!  For the LORD has delivered you this day from the power of all who rose up against you.

The king said to the Cushite,

Is it well with the young man Absalom?

And the Cushite answered,

May the enemies of my lord the king, and all who rise up against you for evil, be like that young man.

And the king was deeply moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept; and as he went, he said,

O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom!  Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!”

It was told Joab,

Behold, the king is weeping and mourning for Absalom.

So the victory that day was turned into mourning for all the people; for the people heard that day,

The king is grieving for his son.

And the people stole into the city that day as people steal in who are ashamed when they flee in battle.

Psalm 86:1-6 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Bow down your ear, O LORD, and answer me,

for I am poor and in misery.

2 Keep watch over my life, for I am faithful;

save your servant who puts his trust in you.

Be merciful to me, O LORD, for you are my God;

I call upon you all the day long.

4 Gladden the soul of your servant,

for to you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.

5 For you, O LORD, are good and forgiving,

and great is your love toward all who call upon you.

Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer,

and attend to the voice of my supplications.


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.


He who lives by the sword will die by the sword.  I refer to Joab, not Absalom.  This is what the 1968 Encyclopaedia Britannica says about Joab:

JOAB (fl. 1000 B.C.), Jewish military commander under King David, his mother’s brother, figures chiefly in the biblical second Book of Samuel.  He led the commando party which captured Jerusalem for David, and as a reward was appointed commander in chief of the army.  He played a leading part in many of David’s victories (e.g., against the Ammonites and Edomites) and led the loyal force which crushed the rebellion of David’s son Absalom.  Utterly devoted to David, Joab thought he knew David’s interests  better than David himself did; hence his killing of Absalom when David had commanded that his life be spared.  Joab showed characteristic ruthlessness in the treacherous murder of two of his potential rivals:  Abner, Saul’s former commander in chief, who had killed Joab’s brother Asahel, and Amasa, who mustered the men of Judah for David against the revel leader Sheba.  Joab obeyed under protest when ordered by David to carry out a national census.  During David’s last words he supported his son Adonijah’s abortive bid for the throne, and was executed by the successful Solomon.

This entry comes from Volume 13, page 2, by the way.

The 1962 Encyclopedia Americana (Volume 16, page 148) says this about him:

JOAB, King David’s nephew and commander in chief of his armies.  He helped put David on the throne by defeating Abner, military leader of Saul’s forces.  Later he killed Abner to avenge the earlier slaying of his own brother Asahel, and possibly to remove a dangerous rival to his power.  He conducted David’s foreign wars and put down Absalom’s revolt, slaying Absalom with his own hands.  David then attempted to supercede him with Amasa, Absalom’s general, whom Joab also assassinated to retain his position.  He assisted David in putting to death Uriah the Hittite, the first husband of Bath-sheba.  Finally, he supported Adonijah, David’s rightful heir, against Bath-sheba’s son Solomon.  For this Solomon had put him to death, allegedly at the behest of dying David (I Kings 2:28-34).

Sometimes Joab obeyed his uncle and king; other times he did not.  Joab killed others who threatened his position, until Solomon had him killed.  The pattern of Joab’s life led to the manner of his death.

Of course, bad things do happen to good people, and sometimes nonviolent people die violently.  For example, Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., advocated nonviolent social and political change but each man died because somebody shot him.  And Jesus, was not violent, but agents of the Roman Empire put him to death via execution.  Often people who seek to appeal to the best elements of human nature die because they anger people interested in nurturing the worst elements of human nature.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that those who live by the sword have set themselves on a course which will end badly.  This rule applies to nations as well as people; those nation-states, kingdoms, and empires which seek enemies more often than friends succeed in that goal, but fail in the long term to establish stability and peaceful relations with neighbors.  They might gain short-term military glory, but, in the long term, it is better to have more allies and friends than enemies.

God, as I understand God via Jesus, is the deity of shalom, a word with many meanings.  Translated as peace, hello, and goodbye, shalom means far more.  The Oxford Companion to the Bible explains (on page 578)  that shalom can refer to all of the following:

  • Health
  • Restoration to health
  • General well-being (including sound sleep, length of life, a tranquil death, and physical safety)
  • Good relations between peoples and nations
  • Tranquility and contentment
  • Wholeness
  • Soundness
  • Completeness
  • Peace in God

Joab was not on the path of shalom.

May you, O reader, and I be on and stay on that path, however.  Shalom to you.  Shalom to your relatives, friends, and neighbors.  Shalom to your enemies.  Shalom to people you will never know.  Shalom to the United States.  Shalom to all nations.  Shalom to the State of Israel.  Shalom to the Palestinian Authority.  Shalom to everybody.






Adapted from this post:


Posted January 11, 2012 by neatnik2009 in 2 Samuel 18, 2 Samuel 19, Psalm 86

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Wholeness in God, Part I   1 comment

Above:  “Shalom” in Hebrew


Isaiah 29:17-24 (Revised English Bible):

In but a very short time

Lebanon will return to garden land

and the garden land will be reckoned

as common as scrub.

On that day the deaf will hear

when a book is read,

and the eyes of the blind will see

out of inpenetrable darkness.

The lowly will once again rejoice in the LORD,

and the poor exult in the Holy One of Israel.

The ruthless will be no more,

the arrogant will cease to exist;

those who are quick to find mischief,

those who impute sins to others,

or lay traps for him who brings the wrongdoer into court,

or by falsehood deny justice to the innocent–

all these will be cut down.

Therefore these are the words of the LORD, the deliverer of Abraham, about the house of Jacob:

This is no time for Jacob to be shamed,

no time for his face to grow pale;

for his descendants will hallow my name

when they see what I have done in their midst.

They will hold sacred the Holy One of Jacob

and regard Israel’s God with awe;

they confused will gain understanding,

and the obstinate accept instruction.

Psalm 27:1-4, 13-14 (Revised English Bible):

The LORD is my light and my salvation;

whom should I fear?

The LORD is the stronghold of my life;

of whom then I should go in dread?

When evildoers close in on me to devour me,

it is my adversaries, my enemies,

who stumble and fall.

Should an army encamp against me,

my heart would have no fear;

if armed men should fall upon me,

even then I would be undismayed.

One thing I ask of the LORD,

it is the one thing I seek;

that I may dwell in the house of the LORD

all the days of  my life,

to gaze on the beauty of the LORD

and to seek him in his temple.

Well I know that I shall see the goodness of the LORD

in the land of the living.

Wait for the LORD; be strong and brave,

and put your hope in the LORD.

Matthew 9:27-31 (Revised English Bible):

As he went on from there Jesus was followed by two blind men, shouting,

Have mercy on us, Son of David!

When he had gone indoors they came to him, and Jesus asked,

Do you believe that I have the power to do what you want?

They said,

We do.

Then he touched their eyes, and said,

As you have believed, so let it be;

and their sight was restored.  Jesus told them sternly,

See that no one hears about this.

But as soon as they had gone out they talked about him all over the region.

The Collect:

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


As I typed the lessons I remembered part of Richard Elliott Friedman’s introduction of Genesis, from his Commentary on the Torah.  Consider the following, from page 4 of that book:

There is also a theological point:  this was a new say to conceive of a God.  The difference between the Torah’s conception of God and the pagan world’s conception is not merely arithmetic: one versus many.  The pagan deities were known through their functions in nature: The sun god, Shamash, was the sun.  If one wanted to know the essence of Shamash, the thing to do was to contemplate the sun.  If you wanted to know the essence of the grain deity Dagon, you contemplated wheat.  To know Yamm, contemplate the sea.  But the God of the Torah was different, creating all of nature–and therefore not knowable or identifiable through any one element of nature.  One could learn no more about this God by contemplating the sea than by contemplating grain, sky, or anything else.  The essence of this God remains hidden.  One does not know God through nature but by the divine acts in history.  One never finds out what God is, but rather what God does–and what God says.  This conception, which informs all of biblical narrative, did not necessarily have to be developed at the very beginning of the story, but it was.  Parashat Bereshit establishes this by beginning with accounts of creation an by then following through the first ten generations of humankind.  (Those “begat” lists are thus more important than people generally think.)

The Torah’s theology is thus inseparable from its history and from its literary qualities.  Ultimately, there is no such thing as the “The Bible as Literature” or “The Bible as History” or “The Bible as…anything.”  There is: the Bible.

Taking a cue from Dr. Friedman, I focus on what God said and did in Isaiah and what Jesus said and did in Matthew.  Jesus, of course, was the incarnate form of God.  So what he said and did reflects God without depriving us of the glorious mystery which is divine nature.  This day’s readings tell of God restoring those who are not whole to a state of wholeness, or to taking them to that condition for the first time.  From this I conclude that God wants us to be whole.  How God defines wholeness, of course, might not conform to our standards.  And that is fine.

Yet one should not treat God (or Jesus) merely as a miracle worker or cosmic bellboy.  It is crucial to move beyond merely self-serving attitudes when approaching God.  This, I suspect, helps explain why Jesus preferred that many people not tell of his miracles; his words and life mattered, too.  And when one reads many of the healing stories in the canonical Gospels one should notice that someone (not necessarily the one healed) has faith at a successful healing event.  Coming to wholeness entails a human element, too.

And why does God makes us whole? First, God loves us and wants the best for us.  Yet there is another reason:  we exist for each other and to glorify God. Human life at its fullest is in community and for the common good.  In this context efforts to help one self at the expense of others has no place.  Neither does exploitation in any form.  And, as the Westminster catechisms remind us in the first question and answer, the chief end of human beings is to glorify and enjoy God.  May we do both habitually.





Adapted from this post:


Posted November 12, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Isaiah 29, Matthew 9, Psalm 27

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