11 February 2010

Feb 11

Reference links:
Old Testament

Today's we come to the story of the golden calf.

The people get bored waiting for Moses and ask Aaron for an idol. Aaron says "sure", takes all their gold, melts it, and makes a calf. The people see the calf and say that it is the God that brought them out of Israel.

God notices the idol worship and sends Moses down to stop it, but not until after he threatens to kill them all. Moses dissuades God by appealing to his ego,
"O Lord! " he said. "Why are you so angry with your own people whom you brought from the land of Egypt with such great power and such a strong hand? Why let the Egyptians say, 'Their God rescued them with the evil intention of slaughtering them in the mountains and wiping them from the face of the earth'? Turn away from your fierce anger. Change your mind about this terrible disaster you have threatened against your people! Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. You bound yourself with an oath to them, saying, 'I will make your descendants as numerous as the start of heaven. And I will give them all of this land that I have promised to your descendants, and they will possess it forever."

So the Lord changed his mind about the terrible disaster he had threatened to bring on his people.
Moses tells the people of God's anger. Aaron makes up some weak excuse about how he threw the gold into the fire, a calf just popped out. God and Moses decide that the situation calls for mass murder. Moses gathered all those who considered themselves on the side of God and
told them, "This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Each of you, take your swords and go back and forth from one end of the camp to the other. Kill everyone - even your brothers, friends, and neighbors." The Levites obeyed Moses' command, and about 3,000 people died that day.
Brutal, primitive, morally reprehensible.

Here is my guess as to the real story. Aaron took advantage of an absence of Moses to make a grab for power. Moses returned and a power struggle ensued. As part of this power struggle, Moses murdered some people. This scared enough to convince them to follow Moses. The people are portrayed as weak willed and stupid to make Aaron look sinful and strengthen Moses' claim to be God's chosen leader.

After the murders, God sends a plague on the Israelites just to make sure they are good and punished. Lovely.

New Testament

When we last saw Jesus, the Jewish religious teachers were trying him for blasphemy. Today, Peter denies three times that he is Jesus' follower, just as Jesus predicted he would. Jesus gets taken to the Roman governor, Pilate, so that he can be put to death. Judas feels guilty about causing Jesus' death and hangs himself after giving the money back to the priests.

The bit about Judas supposedly fulfills another prophecy.
This fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremiah that says,

"They took the thirty pieces of silver --
the price at which he was valued by the people of Israel,
and purchased the potter's field,
as the Lord directed."
The footnote cites two locations: Zechariah 11:12-13 and Jeremiah 32:6-9. Here is the passage from Zechariah:
I told them, "If you think it best, give me my pay; but if not, keep it." So they paid me thirty pieces of silver.

And the LORD said to me, "Throw it to the potter"-the handsome price at which they priced me! So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the LORD to the potter.
Zechariah seems to be speaking symbolically and/or prophetically here, so he could be speaking of Judas. However, the passage does not mention a field at all, just a potter. Furthermore, the text cited Jeremiah, not Zechariah. Let's see what the relevant passage in Jeremiah says.
Jeremiah said, "The word of the LORD came to me: Hanamel son of Shallum your uncle is going to come to you and say, 'Buy my field at Anathoth, because as nearest relative it is your right and duty to buy it.'

"Then, just as the LORD had said, my cousin Hanamel came to me in the courtyard of the guard and said, 'Buy my field at Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin. Since it is your right to redeem it and possess it, buy it for yourself.'

"I knew that this was the word of the LORD; so I bought the field at Anathoth from my cousin Hanamel and weighed out for him seventeen shekels of silver.
This passage is completely different! There is no feasible way it can be interpreted to be talking about the same thing as the first passage. Furthermore, it bears even less resemblance to the so called prophecy. It seems like the author of Matthew just got a bit confused and conflated two different passages. Oops.

Another prophecy fail. Maybe the worst one yet.

Psalms and Proverbs

Today's reading from the Psalms presents an interesting juxtaposition to the reading from Exodus.
But the Lord's plans stand firm forever;
his intentions can never be shaken.
Really? Tell that to Moses, who persuaded God not to kill the people of Israel. The reading form Exodus specifically says, "So the Lord changed his mind".

Today marks the fifth day of Wisdom going on about how great she is without actually conveying any wisdom. Better than droning on about immoral women, I suppose.