06 March 2010

Mar 6

Reference links:
Old Testament

Today's reading covers two main topics. First, the regulations that must be followed when one takes the vows of a Nazirite. These include:
  • Consuming no grape products
  • Consuming no alcohol or anything derived from alcohol
  • Never cutting hair for the duration of the vow
  • Avoiding any dead bodies
  • Giving a bunch of sacrifices
We do not learn why one would take the Nazirite vow, but we did learn that its effect would be to set one apart as holy to God.

Reading the Wikipedia article, we learn that Nazirite and Nazarite are the same term. This sheds interesting light on the idea of "Jesus of Nazareth". Some people believe that the author of Matthew misinterpreted the Scriptures (possibly willfully) when, in Matthew 23, he had Mary and Joseph settle in a town called Nazareth:
So the family went and lived in a town called Nazareth. This fulfilled what the prophets had said: “He will be called a Nazarene.”
Although the New Living Translation does not provide a reference for this supposed prophecy, some believe it refers to the birth of Samson in Judges 13:5-7.
You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and his hair must never be cut. For he will be dedicated to God as a Nazirite from birth. He will begin to rescue Israel from the Philistines.”

The woman ran and told her husband, “A man of God appeared to me! He looked like one of God’s angels, terrifying to see. I didn’t ask where he was from, and he didn’t tell me his name. But he told me, ‘You will become pregnant and give birth to a son. You must not drink wine or any other alcoholic drink nor eat any forbidden food. For your son will be dedicated to God as a Nazirite from the moment of his birth until the day of his death.’”
As usual, it seems doubtful that this actually applies to Jesus. However, ignoring that, we can see that this use of Nazirite clearly referred to the vow, as in today's reading. It does not indicate a city of Nazarene. Of course, the interpretation of Jesus as under the Nazarene vow from birth presents problems. For example, he was, according to Biblical reports, quite fond of wine.

The other topic covered in today's reading is the offerings given by each of the tribe leaders at the anointing of the Tabernacle. Each tribe gave stuff. What is noteworthy is the amount of repetition is this description. Each tribal leader gave the exact same thing, and it was described as exactly the same way.
On the [Nth] day [so and so] son of [such and such], leader of the tribe of [whatever], presented his offering. His offering consisted of a silver platter weighing 3¼ pounds and a silver basin weighing 1¾ pounds (as measured by the weight of the sanctuary shekel). These were both filled with grain offerings of choice flour moistened with olive oil. He also brought a gold container weighing four ounces, which was filled with incense. He brought a young bull, a ram, and a one-year-old male lamb for a burnt offering, and a male goat for a sin offering. For a peace offering he brought two bulls, five rams, five male goats, and five one-year-old male lambs. This was the offering brought by [so and so] son of [such and such].
Repeat that 12 times and you have read the vast majority of Numbers 7.

New Testament

Today's teachings:

Beware of the teachers of religious law who like to preach in public! Funny how prominent TV evangelicals never apply this to themselves (oops, still not talking about contemporary issues).

Those who give all they have give more than those who give a small amount of their surplus, even if the dollar amount is smaller. It is true, but we should remember that Jesus only said the widow's offering was worth more, not that the offerings of the rich were worth nothing.

After Jesus predicts the fall of the temple (for versions of "predict" which take into account that this was probably written after the fall of the Temple), he talks about the end times.
“Don’t let anyone mislead you, for many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah.’ They will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place, but the end won’t follow immediately. Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in many parts of the world, as well as famines. But this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come.
Now, either this is a very general prophecy, and not worthy of being called a prediction of the future or the end times have been going on for 2000 years. Either way, not terribly impressive.

Psalms and Proverbs

Today's psalm: God is great because someday the wicked will die and be forced to leave behind all the wealth they acquired in life. The psalm has several verses which imply that the wicked will just die and be dead, not be tortured forever.
The grave is their eternal home
where they will stay forever.
...
They will die, just like animals.
...
But as for me, God will redeem my life.
He will snatch me from the power of the grave.
...
But they will die like all before them
and never again see the light of day.
Proverbs also continues to talk about the terrible fate of the wicked.