25 February 2010

Feb 25

Reference links:
Old Testament

Today's reading talks about actions bad enough to earn banishment from the community. These include drinking or eating blood and various types of forbidden sexual relationships. What I found interesting, however, what that the primary reasons given for why these things are bad had to do with controlling the Israelite community and separating from the communities around them. I am feeling kind of lazy tonight, so I'll just quote the passages that stuck out to me.
If any native Israelite sacrifices a bull or a lamb or a goat anywhere inside or outside the camp instead of bringing it to the entrance of the Tabernacle to present it as an offering to the Lord, that person will be as guilty as a murderer. Such a person has shed blood and will be cut off from the community. The purpose of this rule is to stop the Israelites from sacrificing animals in the open fields. It will ensure that they bring their sacrifices to the priest at the entrance of the Tabernacle, so he can present them to the Lord as peace offerings. Then the priest will be able to splatter the blood against the Lord's altar at the entrance of the Tabernacle, and he will burn the fat as a pleasing aroma to the Lord. The people must no longer be unfaithful to the Lord by offering sacrifices to the goat idols [maybe this is why God hates goats?].
And if any native Israelite or foreigner living among you eats or drinks blood in any form, I will turn against that person and cut him off from the community of your people, for the life of the body is in its blood. I have given you the blood of the altar to purify you, making you right with the Lord. It is the blood, given in exchange for a life, that makes purification possible. [This passage provides an interesting on Jesus' death. It justifies the validity of the sacrifice as purifying, adds power to the idea of drinking Jesus' blood, but also make that idea even more repulsive.]
Another, relating to sexual practices shows that part of the motivation in banning them is to differentiate the Israelites from other people.
I am the Lord your God. So do not act like the people in Egypt, where you used to live, or like the people of Canaan, where I am taking you. You must not imitate this way of life. You must obey all my regulations and be careful to obey my decrees, for I am the Lord you God. If you obey my decrees and regulations, you will find life through them. I am the Lord.
Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, for the people I am driving out before you have defiled themselves in these ways. Because the entire land has become defiled, I am punishing the people who live there. I will cause the land to vomit them out. You must obey all my decrees and regulations. You must not commit any of these detestable sins.

All these detestable activities are practiced by the people of the land where I am taking you, and this is how the land has become defiled. So do not defile the land and give it a reason to vomit you out, as it will vomit out the people who live there now. [Okay, this passage is not particularly relevant, I just like the imagery of the land vomiting people out.]
In the middle of the restrictions on sexual practices, there is a random tidbit on child sacrifice.
Do not permit any of your children to be offered as a sacrifice to Molech, for you must not bring shame on the name of your God. I am the Lord.
God forbids child sacrifice (or certain kinds of child sacrifice, it's unclear) because it would bring shame on God? Not because, oh, I don't know, murdering children is bad? Again, I have a hard time seeing how this God a God of Love.

New Testament

More repeats. Jesus heals the daughter of a Gentile woman because she has faith in him. The interesting aspect of this story is Jesus' initial hesitation.
Since she was a Gentile, born in Syrian Phoenicia, Jesus told her, "First I should feed the children -- my own family, the Jews. It isn't right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs."
Really? This was his excuse? The woman is there. She has faith. He does not even have to visit the child to heal her. Yet Jesus implies that it would be taking something away from the Jews to heal this child. Did he have a limited quota of healings he was allowed to perform? Maybe he was just faking hesitation to test the woman's faith?

Jesus also heals a deaf man with a speech impediment using some spit. Was the spit really necessary? Jesus feeds four thousand people with seven loaves of bread and a few fish (again).

Psalms and Proverbs

Nothing particularly noteworthy.