Archive for the ‘Tamar’ Tag

Absalom in Jerusalem and David in Flight   Leave a comment

Above:  Shimei Curses David

Artist = William Hole

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 XLIII

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2 Samuel 16:1-23

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Trouble and distress have come upon me,

yet your commandments are my delight.

The righteousness of your decrees is everlasting;

grant me understanding, that I may live.

–Psalm 119:143-144, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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David was in deep trouble.  He was on the run from Absalom, who had claimed the throne and the royal concubines.  David, verbally abused, accepted that abuse.  He refused to permit Abishai to behead Shimei.  Unfortunately, David changed his mind years later (1 Kings 1:8-9) and Solomon had Shimei executed (1 Kings 2:36-46).

Mephibosheth, a grandson of King Saul, was also in trouble.  Back in 2 Samuel 9, Ziba had brought Mephibosheth to David’s attention.  David had taken Mephibosheth into the court and granted him privileges.  In 2 Samuel 16, Ziba lied–told “alternative facts,” to quote Kellyanne Conway regarding mathematics in January 2017–about Saul’s grandson.  Mephibosheth had designs on the throne, Ziba claimed.  That was a lie.  “Alternative facts” have always been objectively false.  Ziba’s statement was a lie, according to 2 Samuel 19.  Mephibosheth, by breathing and having a pulse, posed at least a theoretical threat to David’s claim to the throne.  Yet the grandson of Saul seemed not to want to become the King of Israel.

No, the main threat to David’s kingship came from Absalom, one of his sons.  Absalom’s rage against his father ran deep.  It must have been building up since long before the rape of Tamar by Amnon (2 Samuel 13).  Despite David’s flaws, his maturity in 2 Samuel 16 contrasted with Absalom’s rage.

I wish that David’s maturity had continued all way to his death, and that he had advised the continued sparing of Shimei.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 3, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE KENNEDY ALLEN BELL, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF CHICHESTER

THE FEAST OF ALBERTO RAMENTO, PRIME BISHOP OF THE PHILIPPINE INDEPENDENT CHURCH

THE FEAST OF SAINT GERARD OF BROGNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF JOHN RALEIGH MOTT, U.S. METHODIST LAY EVANGELIST, AND ECUMENICAL PIONEER

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The Revolt of Absalom Begins   Leave a comment

Above:  Absalom Conspires Against David

Image in the Public Domain

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

PART XLII

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2 Samuel 15:1-37

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For [the wicked] cannot sleep unless they have done wrong;

they are robbed of sleep unless they have made someone stumble.

For they eat the bread of wickedness

and drink the wine of violence.

Proverbs 4:17-18, Revised Standard Version (1952)

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The framing of the story of King David in 2 Samuel, told via hindsight, pivots in Chapters 11 and 12.  After the murder of Uriah the Hittite and the seduction of Bathsheba, the narrative teaches us, David’s figurative chickens came home to roost.  One should, therefore, read the stories of Absalom in the context of 2 Samuel 12:9-12.

David was oblivious then shrewd in 2 Samuel 15.  He missed the signs of Absalom acting like a monarch and starting a rebellion until the time to prevent that insurrection had passed.  Yet David established a network of spies in Jerusalem after having fled the city.

David reaped what what he sowed.  He reaped what he sowed beyond the call back to Bathsheba and Uriah.  David also reaped what he sowed by having a terrible relationship with Absalom.  It was a two-way relationship, of course.  David did little or nothing to have a positive relationship with Absalom, even after pretending to reconcile with him.  If David had acted shrewdly vis-à-vis Absalom, the monarch would have kept at least as close an eye on him as he did on Mephibosheth.

Ironically, Ittai the Gittite, a foreigner, was loyal to David when Absalom and many Israelites were not.  Ittai remained loyal to David throughout the rebellion (see Chapter 18).

On a technical note, the proper passage of time in verse 7 is four years, not forty years.  TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) has “forty,” but The New American Bible (1991) has “four.”  This sets the beginning of Absalom’s rebellion four years after the faux reconciliation at the end of Chapter 14, six years after Absalom’s return from exile, nine years after the murder of Amnon, and eleven years after the rape of Tamar (Chapter 13).  The narrative presents Absalom as a passionate, troubled man who had been stewing in the juices of resentment for years.  One may guess how long Absalom had resented David prior to Amnon’s rape of Tamar.  The narrative presets David and Absalom as being emotionally distant from each other.

One may recall a saying:  Before a man can command others well, he must command himself.  One may reasonably question the fitness of David and Absalom to command, based on that standard.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 2, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF RALPH W. SOCKMAN, U.S. UNITED METHODIST MINISTER

THE FEAST OF CARL DOVING, NORWEGIAN-AMERICAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF JAMES ALLEN, ENGLISH INGHAMITE THEN GLASITE/SANDEMANIAN HYMN WRITER; AND HIS GREAT NEPHEW, OSWALD ALLEN, ENGLISH GLASITE/SANDEMANIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF PETRUS HERBERT, GERMAN MORAVIAN BISHOP AND HYMNODIST

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The Return of Absalom   1 comment

Above:  David and Absalom

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 XLI

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2 Samuel 14:1-33

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Then the king said to Joab, “I will do this thing.  Go and bring back my boy Absalom.”

–2 Samuel 14:21, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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Joab engineered the return of Absalom.  Yet King David did not forgive the former exile.  Father and son did not speak for two years after Absalom returned.  In Samuel 14:33, for example, David was “the king,” not “the father.”  Reconciliation was formal and insincere.  Absalom remained violent, resentful, and unrepentant for the murder of Amnon.  David had not forgiven Absalom.  And if David had sympathies for Tamar, the author of the text seemed not know of that attitude.

Based on the text, I conclude that David remained unchanged from Chapter 13.

He who troubles his household will inherit wind….

–Proverbs 14:29a, Revised Standard Version (1952)

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (1971) defines “reconcile” several ways, including the following:

To settle or resolve, as a dispute.

“Reconcile” derives from “conciliate,” derived from the Latin conciliare, or

to bring together.

To reconcile, then, is to bring together again.

David and Absalom did not really come back together.  Regardless of how approximate they were, they were far apart emotionally.  David contributed greatly to the storm about to overtake his realm and his family.  He either could not or chose not to recognize the threat Absalom constituted.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 29, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARY RAMABAI, PROPHETIC WITNESS AND EVANGELIST IN INDIA

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS TURNER PALGRAVE, ANGLICAN POET, ART CRITIC, AND HYMN WRITER

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The Rape of Tamar and the Murder of Amnon   3 comments

Above:  Amnon Forces Tamar to Leave in Humiliation

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 XL

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2 Samuel 13:1-39

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Thus said the LORD:  “I will make a calamity rise against you in your own house….”

–2 Samuel 12:11a, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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King David had a large, dysfunctional family.  He had seventeen children by seven women.

For the purposes of this post, one needs to know the following:

  1. Tamar and Absalom were children of David and Maacah.  One may remember Maacah from 2 Samuel 3:3 and 1 Chronicles 3:2.
  2. Amnon was the son of David and Ahinoam.  One may remember Ahinoam from 1 Samuel 25:43; 1 Samuel 27:3; 1 Samuel 30:5; 2 Samuel 2:2; 2 Samuel 3:2; and 1 Chronicles 3:1.

This story assumes intergenerational punishment, consistent with Exodus 20:5-6 and contrary to Ezekiel 18.

Amnon was a sick puppy.  He lusted after and raped his half-sister, Tamar.  Then he sent her away, forcing her to remain unmarried for the rest of her life.  Amnon disobeyed Deuteronomy 22:28-29, which secured a rape victim’s social position by requiring her rapist to marry her.  As Amy-Jill Levine has said about certain aspects of the Hebrew Bible, people did things differently then.

Anyway, I refuse to defend Deuteronomy 22:28-29.

Tamar wore an ornamented tunic, which wound up torn.  This was a garment a high-status person wore.  The only other mention of such a garment in the Hebrew Bible was in Genesis 37.  Joseph also became a victim of family violence and perfidy.  And his ornamented tunic became torn, too.

Why did David not punish Amnon and sympathize with Tamar?

Absalom served up the cold dish of revenge; he ordered Amnon’s murder two years after the rape of Tamar.  Then Absalom fled.  He spent several years in exile as David grieved for Amnon.

This story presents David in an unflattering light.  It makes clear that the monarch did not punish Amnon for raping Tamar.  The story also depicts David as yielding to Absalom in verses 24-27.

Although I reject intergenerational punishment by God, I acknowledge both positive and negative intergenerational influences.  Children learn what they live.  Based on what I have read in 1 and 2 Samuel, I do not know how one could grow up in David’s family and not be warped.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 27, 2020 COMMON ERA

PROPER 21:  THE SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCES DE SALES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF GENEVA; SAINT VINCENT DE PAUL, “THE APOSTLE OF CHARITY;” SAINT LOUISE DE MARILLAC, COFOUNDER OF THE DAUGHTERS OF CHARITY OF SAINT VINCENT DE PAUL; AND SAINT CHARLES FUGE LOWDER, FOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF THE HOLY CROSS

THE FEAST OF ELIZA SCUDDER, U.S. UNITARIAN THEN EPISCOPALIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF MELANESIA, 1864-2003

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The Law of Mercy   1 comment

Above:  Judah and Tamar, by the School of Rembrandt van Rijn

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 38:1-26 or Isaiah 40:21-31

Psalm 18:31-36, 43-50

1 Corinthians 6:12-20

Matthew 12:1-21

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Temple prostitution, in the background in Genesis 38, might be background for 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 also.  If it is, the reading becomes deeper than it is otherwise.  If to engage in sexual relations with a pagan prostitute is to unite with the deity the prostitute serves, idolatry becomes an issue.  Christians are supposed to function as part of the body of Christ, therefore visiting a pagan temple prostitute is worse than visiting a prostitute in general.

Speaking of Genesis 38, it is another of those different stories we find frequently in the Hebrew Bible.  It remains a proverbial hot potato.  When must a father-in-law sire his grandsons?  When the laws governing levirate marriage (Deuteronomy 25:5-10) dictate.  The text does not condemn Tamar for her deceit either, for the narrative makes plain that it was the option left open to her.

In June 1996 my father became the pastor of the Asbury United Methodist Church in northern Appling County, Georgia, U.S.A.  One of the adult Sunday School classes was reading the Book of Genesis a chapter at a time.  One week the teacher announced that the class would not discuss Chapter 38 (although they had apparently discussed Chapter 37 the previous week), but would talk about Chapter 39 instead.  I wonder if the teacher also skipped the rape of Dinah and the subsequent bloodbath in Chapter 34.  Probably, yes.

When passages of scripture make us that uncomfortable, we should study them.  We should study all of the Bible, of course, but double down on the parts that cause us to squirm.

God is strong, mighty, loving, and trustworthy, we read.  Sometimes mercy on some takes the form of judgment on others.  After all, judgment on oppressors does help the oppressed, does it not?

Much occurs theologically in Matthew 12:1-21, but the major point is that mercy overrides Sabbath laws.  We read that some labor was mandatory on the Sabbath, especially for priests.  So yes, we read Jesus announce, the hungry may pluck grain and the man with the withered hand may receive healing, not just rudimentary first aid.

In the Gospel of Matthew one of the points drilled into the text was that Jesus did not seek to destroy the Law of Moses.  No, he presented his interpretation as correct and in opposition to the interpretations of his critics.  Jesus stood within the context of Judaism, not against it.  For example, the Mishnah, published in 200 C.E. (about 170 years after the crucifixion of Jesus), listed 39 types of labor prohibited on the Sabbath.  Plucking food was not one of them.  Christ’s opponents in Chapter 12:1-21 were, to use an anachronistic expression, more Catholic than the Pope.

The Sabbath, in the Law of Moses, was about liberation.  Slaves in Egypt received no days off, so a day off was a mark of freedom.  Besides, science and experience have taught us the necessity of down time.  Much of my Christian tradition has reacted against leisure (especially “worldly amusements,” a bane of Pietism and Puritanism) and insisted that idle hands are the Devil’s workshop.  Nevertheless, science and experience have affirmed the necessity of a certain amount of idleness.

Judaism, at its best, is not legalistic; neither is Christianity.  Yet legalistic Jews and Christians exist.  A healthy attitude is to seek to respond to God faithfully, without becoming lost in the thicket of laws, without failing to see the forest for the trees, without mistaking culturally specific examples for timeless principles, without shooting cannon balls at gnats, and without forgetting mercy.

And while one is doing that, one should read the scriptural passages that make one squirm in one’s seat.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 30, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CLARENCE JORDAN, SOUTHERN BAPTIST MINISTER AND WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CHRYSOLOGUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF RAVENNA AND DEFENDER OF ORTHODOXY

THE FEAST OF SAINT VICENTA CHÁVEZ OROZCO, FOUNDRESS OF THE SERVANTS OF THE HOLY TRINITY AND THE POOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT WILLIAM PINCHON, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2018/07/30/devotion-for-proper-16-year-a-humes/

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Psalms 53-55   4 comments

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POST XX OF LX

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The Book of Common Prayer (1979) includes a plan for reading the Book of Psalms in morning and evening installments for 30 days.  I am therefore blogging through the Psalms in 60 posts.

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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 226

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The benighted man thinks,

“God does not care.”

–Psalm 53:2a, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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In Psalm 53, nearly identical to Psalm 14, the standard English-language translation of the opening is that the fool thinks that there is no God.  The wording varies slightly, but it is usually quite similar.  The translation in TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures cuts to the chase.  The word “benighted,” according to the germane note in The Jewish Study Bible–Second Edition (2014), is quite strong, for Amnon, who raped his half-sister Tamar in 2 Samuel 13:13, was a benighted man.  A benighted man denies the ability of God to punish sins and hear prayers, so he lives as if God does not care.  He will learn that God does indeed care deeply.

The authors of Psalms 54 and 55 understood that God cared; they asked God to vindicate them.  Interestingly, the author of Psalm 54, oppressed by strangers, anticipated divine vindication yet did not thank Him in advance.  (Did I detect a transactional aspect to that relationship?)  The author of the longer Psalm 55, betrayed by a friend, asked God to bring

those murderous, treacherous men

down to the slimy, slippery, muddy, and filthy pit of Sheol then noted that he trusted in God.

“You have heard that they were told, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’  But what I tell you is this:  Love your enemies and pray for your persecutors; only so you can be children of your heavenly Father, who causes the sun to rise on the good and bad alike, and sends the rain on the innocent and the wicked.  If you love only those who love you, what reward can you expect?  Even the tax-collectors do as much as that.  If you greet only your brothers, what is there extraordinary about that?  Even the heathen do as much.  There must be no limit to your goodness, as your heavenly Father’s goodness knows no bounds.”

–Matthew 5:43-48, The Revised English Bible (1989)

By that standard and by the power of God, whom we ought to glorify anyway, may we be extraordinary.  Regardless of how much we fall short of that high standard, may we continue to strive for it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 10, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM WALSHAM HOW, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF WAKEFIELD AND HYMN WRITER; AND HIS SISTER, FRANCES JANE DOUGLAS(S), HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT LAURENCE OF ROME, ROMAN CATHOLIC DEACON AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SHERMAN BOOTH, ABOLITIONIST

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Posted August 10, 2017 by neatnik2009 in 2 Samuel 13, Psalm 14, Psalm 53, Psalm 54, Psalm 55

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The Way of Faithfulness   1 comment

Above:   Amnon and Tamar, by Jan Steen

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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2 Samuel 13:1-20, 27b-29

Psalm 119:25-32

1 Corinthians 5:1-5

John 7:1-9

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I have chosen the way of faithfulness;

I set your ordinances before me.

–Psalm 119:30, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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If certain characters in today’s readings had acted according to Psalm 119:30, those lessons would have turned out differently.  There would have been no rape of Tamar by her half-brother, Amnon.  Absalom would not have murdered Amnon in revenge.  Certain Corinthian Christians would not have engaged in pagan sexual practices.  The life of Jesus would never have been in peril.  In the case of Jesus, his opponents in question probably considered him guilty of blasphemy, a capital offense, according to the Law of Moses.  They thought they were righteous.

Is not it frequently true that villains imagine themselves to be heroes and the wicked mistake themselves for the righteous?  Much of the time we do not know what we are doing.  Nevertheless, the consequences of our actions speak for themselves.  We should learn from them.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 18, 2017 COMMON ERA

PROPER 6:   THE SECOND SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINTS DELPHINUS OF BORDEAUX, AMANDUS OF BORDEAUX, SEVERINUS OF BORDEAUX, VENERIUS OF MILAN, AND CHROMATIUS OF AQUILEIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF ADOLPHUS NELSON, SWEDISH-AMERICAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF ANSON DODGE, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM BINGHAM TAPPAN, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2017/06/18/devotion-for-proper-14-ackerman/

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Vindication, Part II   1 comment

Above:   Judah and Tamar, by the School of Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

Vindication

JUNE 17, 2018

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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 38:1-26

Psalm 35:19-25

Acts 5:1-11

Matthew 12:43-45

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In June 1996 my father became the pastor of Asbury United Methodist Church in rural Appling County, Georgia, U.S.A.  One of the adult Sunday School classes was reading and discussing the Book of Genesis at the rate of a chapter per week.  I recall that, on the Sunday morning after they had read and discussed Chapter 37, the teacher skipped directly to Chapter 39.

Genesis 38 is a hot potato.  What are we to make of a story that approves of a childless widow pretending to be a pagan temple prostitute, seducing her father-in-law, and becoming pregnant with twins, his children?  Judah (the father-in-law) understands the deception by Tamar (the widow) as justified, per the rules governing levirate marriage (Deuteronomy 25:5-10).  As Professor Amy-Jill Levine says, we must accept that people did things differently then.

The author of Psalm 35 prays for divine vindication against enemies.  Perhaps that mindset informs the treatment of the selfish people (struck dead by God) in Acts 5.  The sense of grievance certainly informs Matthew 12:43-45, which literally demonizes Jewish leaders who opposed Jesus.  One can reasonably imagine members of a marginalized Jewish Christian community demonizing the non-Christian Jews circa 85 C.E.

The desire for divine vindication can be legitimate.  Yet may we who seek vindication never surrender to hatred and thereby become as those who seek to harm us or otherwise deny us that which is rightfully ours.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 15, 2017 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 SAINTS LANDELINUS OF VAUX, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AUBERT OF CAMBRAI, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; URSMAR OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND MISSIONARY BISHOP; AND DOMITIAN, HADELIN, AND DODO OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2017/06/15/devotion-for-proper-6-ackerman/

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Taking Difficult Passages of Scripture Seriously   1 comment

tamar-and-judah

Above:  Tamar and Judah, by Aert de Gelder

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

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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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 38:1-30 or Ecclesiastes 5:1-20

Psalm 10

Matthew 22:23-33 or Mark 12:18-27 and Luke 20:39-40

2 Corinthians 7:2-16

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I recall that, in 1996, my father began his tenure as pastor of the Asbury United Methodist Church, north of Baxley, in Appling County, Georgia.  Shortly after this I began to attend to services at St. Thomas Aquinas Episcopal Church in town, for I had been an Episcopalian for a few years.  Nevertheless, I was never a stranger at Asbury Church during my father’s tenure there.

One of the adult Sunday School classes at Asbury was discussing the Book of Genesis at the pace of a chapter a week.  On one Sunday morning in the summer of 1996 the leader of the group, having covered Chapter 37 the previous week, skipped over Chapter 38 to Chapter 39, with little explanation.  The story of Judah, Tamar, levirate marriage (the background of the question in the readings from the Gospels), and temple prostitution was a really hot potato, so to speak.  The narrative in Genesis 38 does not criticize a young, childless widow for having sexual relations with her father-in-law at a pagan temple and becoming pregnant with twins.  In her situation she did what she needed to do to secure her future.

Deuteronomy 25:5-10 commands the practice of levirate marriage, for the benefit of a childless widow in a patriarchal society without a government-defined social safety net.  In the case of Genesis 38 the practice, applied to a particular set of circumstances, makes many modern readers of the Bible squirm in their theological seats.  This is no excuse for ignoring the chapter, of course.  Whenever a portion of scripture makes one uncomfortable, one should study it more closely and, in the highest meaning of the word, critically.

The Sadducees in the parallel readings of Matthew, Mark, and Luke did not ignore levirate marriage, but they did employ it in a question meant to entrap Jesus.  They did not affirm the resurrection of the dead.  That is why, according to a song for children,

they were sad, you see.

For the Sadducees the emphasis on this life helped to justify the accumulation of wealth in a society in which economic injustice was ubiquitous.  They, like others, failed to ensnare Jesus verbally.  He was that capable.

Koheleth, writing in Ecclesiastes, noted that economic injustice and other forms of social injustice ought not to surprise anyone.  After all, he mentioned, perpetrators of injustice protect each other.  Nevertheless, as the author of Psalm 10 understood, those who exploited the poor (in violation of the Law of Moses) could not escape divine justice.

Just as the painful letter of St. Paul the Apostle to the Corinthian congregation led to the changing of hearts there, the study of difficult passages of scripture can lead people to learn more about the Bible, ask vital questions, think more critically about scripture, and grow spiritually.  It can also change hearts and minds for the better.  May we who call ourselves followers of God neither ignore nor use such passages flippantly, but take them seriously instead.  Then may we act accordingly.  We might even learn that we are committing or condoning social injustice, perhaps that of the economic variety.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 11, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PHILIP THE EVANGELIST, DEACON

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/10/11/devotion-for-the-fourth-sunday-of-easter-year-d/

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Troublemakers   1 comment

Judah and Tamar--School of Rembrandt van Rijn

Above:   Judah and Tamar, by the School of Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, our eternal redeemer, by the presence of your Spirit you renew and direct our hearts.

Keep always in our mind the end of all things and the day of judgment.

Inspire us for a holy life here, and bring us to the joy of the resurrection,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 52

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The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 25:5-10 (Thursday)

Genesis 38:1-26 (Friday)

Psalm 17 (Both Days)

Acts 22:22-23:11 (Thursday)

Acts 24:10-23 (Friday)

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Let my vindication come forth from your presence,

let your eyes be fixed on justice.

–Psalm 17:2, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Genesis 38 serves several functions.  One is to mark the passage of time between Genesis 37 and 39.  Another is to make people squirm.  What should one make of a story in which Tamar, the heroine, the wronged woman denied what was due her according to levirate marriage (described in Deuteronomy 25), had to resort to posing as a pagan temple prostitute to seduce her father-in-law to get the child(ren) she deserved, according to social customs meant to protect childless widows?  Due to problems with her first husband’s brothers the duty fell to Judah, her father-in-law.

I remember that, in 1996, at Asbury United Methodist Church, north of Baxley in Appling County, Georgia, an adult Sunday School class read the Book of Genesis at the rate of a chapter per week.  One Sunday that summer the time came to ponder Chapter 38.  The leader of the class skipped to Genesis 39, for he found the contents to be too hot a potato, so to speak.

The story of Judah and Tamar continues to make many readers of the Hebrew Bible uncomfortable.  Tamar remains a troublemaker of sorts, long after her death.  Perhaps modern readers who struggle with the tale should think less about our comfort levels and more about the lengths to which certain people need to go to secure basic needs.

St. Paul the Apostle got into legal trouble (again) in Acts 21.  The trumped-up charge boiled down to him being a troublemaker, a disturber of the peace.  As Tertullus, the attorney for chief priest Ananias and Temple elders argued before Felix, the governor:

We found this man to be a pest, a fomenter of discord among the Jews all over the world, a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes.  He made an attempt to profane the temple and we arrested him.

–Acts 24:5-6, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Were not those who plotted and attempted to kill St. Paul the real troublemakers?  He planned or committed no violence toward those with whom he disagreed.  The Apostle knew how to employ strong language, but he avoided resorting to violence after his conversion.

How we deal with alleged troublemakers reveals much about our character.  What, then, does this standard reveal about your character, O reader?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 3, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILL CAMPBELL, AGENT OF RECONCILIATION

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LIPHARDUS OF ORLEANS AND URBICIUS OF MEUNG, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOTS

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF UGANDA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MORAND OF CLUNY, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK AND MISSIONARY

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/06/03/devotion-for-thursday-and-friday-before-proper-27-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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