17 January 2010

Jan 17

Reference links:
Old Testament

Jacob returns to Bethel. Remember when Jacob fled Esau and Jacob dreamed of God? Bethel was the place that occurred. Upon arriving at Bethel, Jacob talks with God again.
God appeared to [Jacob] again at Bethel. God blessed him, saying, "Your name is Jacob, but you will not be called Jacob any longer. From now on your name will be Israel." So God renamed him Israel.
God renamed Jacob in yesterday's reading. Why do it again?

Also confusing, it seems that Jacob names Bethel again. Jacob named it the first time when fleeing from Esau.
The next morning Jacob got up very early. He took the stone he had rested his head against, and he set it upright as a memorial pillar. Then he poured olive oil over it. He named that place Bethel (which means "house of God"), although the nearby village was Luz.
In today's reading we read,
Jacob set up a stone pillar to mark the place where God had spoken to him. Then he poured wine over it as an offering to God an anointed the pillar with olive oil.And Jacob named the place Bethel (which means "house of God"), because God had spoken with him there.
He named it Bethel again? Looks like another case of trying to reconcile conflicting oral traditions.

Rachel dies after giving birth to Jacob's last son, Benjamin. She had to give birth while they were travelling. This would have been hard in the best of circumstances, but was likely made harder because of Rachel's age (at the youngest, I figure she was nearly 40). She was buried on the way to Ephrath. Jacob returns to his father Isaac. Isaac dies at 180 and is buried by Jacob and Esau (for the record, 180 is greater than 120).

After Isaac's death we read that
Esau took his wives, his children, and his entire household, along with his livestock and cattle -- all the wealth he had acquired in the land of Canaan -- and moved away from his brother, Jacob. There was not enough land to support them both because of all the livestock and possessions they had acquired. So Esau (also known as Edom) settled in the hill country of Seir.
More ambiguity. Yesterday's readings implied that Esau was already living in Seir. Esau met Jacob as he was returning from his time with Laban. He then invited Jacob to his home in Seir. Today, we read that Esau moved to Seir after Jacob's return and Isaac's death. Which is it?

The rest of today's reading is genealogies. Boring, boring, genealogies.

New Testament

Have you ever played Agricola? If not, I recommend it. In Agricola, you have to feed your family. Grain counts as one food (this is just about the worst way to use your grain). In any case, today Jesus provides precedent for eating raw grain. He and disciples eat grain in the field on the Sabbath. This, of course, makes the Pharisees rather angry. Jesus justifies his actions by reminding them that David ate bread reserved for priests. But really, I just wanted to mention Agricola.

The Pharisees want to find a way to bring charges against Jesus. They ask Jesus if it is right to heal on the Sabbath. Jesus points out that people would rescue a sheep that fell in a well on the Sabbath. Since people are more valuable than sheep, it is okay to heal them on the Sabbath. He then heals a man with a deformed hand.

Now I am not against healing on the Sabbath. If you can perform miraculous healings, perform them any day of the week. However, I do have to quibble a bit with Jesus' logic. I think that Jesus' analogy shows that it is okay to heal on the Sabbath if to do otherwise would result in death. But it does not necessarily follow that it is permissible to perform miraculous healings that could have been done just as well the next day.

More supposedly fulfilled prophecies. Today's prophecy is reasonable with respect to the original context. However, it seems inconsistent with the Jesus we saw the past couple days.
Look at my Servant, whom I have chosen.
He is my Beloved, who pleases me.
I will put my Spirit upon him,
and he will proclaim justice to the nations.
He will not fight or shout
or raise his voice in public.
He will not crush the weakest reed
or put out a flickering candle.
Finally he will cause justice to be victorious.
And his name will be the hope of all the world.
Does this sound like the same Jesus who comes "not to bring peace, but a sword"? Who comes to set father against son, mother against daughter?

Psalms and Proverbs

Lesson's from today's psalm: speak the truth, do what is right, don't gossip, don't harm your neighbors, despise sinners, honor the faithful followers of the Lord, keep promises, don't charge interest when you lend money, don't take bribes and lie. Other than the bit about honoring faithful followers of the Lord and despising sinners, not bad advice.

Another good bit of advice from today's Proverbs reading,
My child, don't lose sight of common sense and discernment.
Hang on to them,
for they will refresh your soul.
However, a few lines later we get some verses that are either wrong or deeply disturbing
You need not be afraid of sudden disaster
or the destruction that comes upon the wicked,
for the Lord is your security.
He will keep your foot from being caught in a trap.
Why is this either wrong or disturbing? Because bad things do happen to good people. Bad things happen to those who trust in the Lord for their security. Thus, either this statement is false or we can join the ilks of despicable folks like Pat Robertson who assume that disaster indicates that the one harmed was not doing right in the eyes of God.