23 March 2010

Mar 23

Reference links:
Old Testament

Today, we finish Numbers and start Deuteronomy. This is going to be a tough book to get through because I really have trouble typing Deuteronomy. ::sigh::

But before we get there, we need to finish up the last chapter of Numbers. The last chapter discusses women who inherit property. You may remember that the daughters of Zelophehad get to share in the inheritance of land because their father died before the Israelites reached the promised land (Numbers 27:1-11).

The heads of the clan they belong to went to Moses to let him know that this situation displeased them. See, if the women inherited the land and then married men from other tribes, the land would go to those tribes. This would cut into their land. A legitimate concern. So God tells Moses the solution: let women who inherit land marry anyone they want as long as that person is from their own tribe. Not a terrible solution, I suppose, but kind of an annoying one.

On to Deuteronomy! Here's what Wikipedia has to say about it:
A large part of the book consists of three sermons delivered by Moses reviewing the previous forty years of wandering in the wilderness, and the future entering into the Promised Land. Its central element is a detailed law-code by which the Israelites are to live within the Promised Land.
In other words, recap! The recap serves the purpose of emphasizing the key themes of Israel's covenant with God.

Like with the other books of the Torah, tradition considers Moses the author of Deuteronomy, but modern scholars date it several centuries after Moses is traditionally thought to have lived (although the content may very well be derived from traditions and writings from earlier).

In today's Deuteronomy reading, we get a review of the time when God was going to send the Israelites into the promised land, but the scouts they sent brought back reports that made the people fearful. Because of their hesitation, God declared that none of the men of fighting age but Caleb and Joshua would enter the promised land. This threat causes the Israelites to reconsider their rebellion, and some of them try to enter the promised land. However, God is not with them, so the Amorites defeated those who entered their land.

While reading the recap, I thought of another way to interpret the basic facts. Let's assume, for the moment, that the Israelites really did reach the promise land, attack it, and leave. What would be an alternative narrative? Maybe the Israelites tried to attack and lost. Because they knew they were not powerful enough to defeat the locals, they continued wandering for forty years until their strength exceeded that of their enemies (either through their increase or the enemies' decline).

Now, my version is completely made up, but if it were true I could imagine that tradition would change the story around to make it more consistent with the idea that the Israelites were God's chosen people. A lost battle is inconsistent with the idea that the Israelites were God's chosen people unless the argument could be made that, for some reason, God did not want them to win at the time.

New Testament

More repeat stories in today's reading. These stories all share the theme of showing how Jesus is anti-establishment.

  • Jesus eats with tax collectors and other disreputable sorts.
  • Jesus' disciples do not fast even though John the Baptist's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees do.
  • Jesus harvests and eats handfuls of grain on the Sabbath.
  • Jesus heals on the Sabbath.
Of course, the Pharisees and teachers of religious law are annoyed at this.


Psalms and Proverbs

Today's psalm is a pleasant psalm of praise. I much prefer these to the psalms of constant whining.

Today's proverbs teach that it is good to be generous. I agree!