23 April 2010

Apr 23

Reference links:
Old Testament

Today we start the the Book of Judges. According to Wikipedia:
it contains the history of Biblical judges(not to be confused with modern judges), who helped rule and guide the ancientIsraelites, and of their times.
As for authorship we read,
The majority of modern scholars believe that Judges was originally part of a continuous work known as theDeuteronomic History stretching from Deuteronomy to 2 Kings, which was later broken up when the Torah was constructed by its redactor from the early parts of the Deuteronomic History and other writings such as JE and thePriestly source
The summary makes it sound like the content is going to be fairly entertaining.

Most of today's reading is generally not thought to have originally been part of the text,
The majority of modern scholars believe that that first part of the introduction (1:1-2:5) was a late addition to the text, added after the Deuteronomist version of Judges was constructed.
Hopefully that means that the rest of the book will not be as confusing as today's reading. The reading starts with,
After the death of Joshua, the Israelites asked the Lord, “Which tribe should go first to attack the Canaanites?”
Okay, so that sets the scene. Joshua is dead. The Israelites are looking to fight more.  We then read that the Israelites attacked the Canaanites and Perizzites. They then attacked Jerusalem and Negev and Hebron. And then
From there they went to fight against the people living in the town of Debir (formerly called Kiriath-sepher). Caleb said, “I will give my daughter Acsah in marriage to the one who attacks and captures Kiriath-sepher.” Othniel, the son of Caleb’s younger brother, Kenaz, was the one who conquered it, so Acsah became Othniel’s wife.
Wait just one moment! This is supposed to happen after Joshua's death. But we read nearly the same story in the Book of Joshua (Joshua 15:13-19)! It would not contradict the text in Joshua to claim that that passage was actually relating something that happened after Joshua's death (i.e., the land was given to Caleb by Joshua but conquered after Joshua's death), but there is nothing, nothing in the text to indicate this.

But back to those conquerings. We have some more terrible cruelties.
While at Bezek they encountered King Adoni-bezek and fought against him, and the Canaanites and Perizzites were defeated. Adoni-bezek escaped, but the Israelites soon captured him and cut off his thumbs and big toes.
That is what I would call torture, even though Adoni-bezek did the same things to others. We also read,
The men of Judah attacked Jerusalem and captured it, killing all its people and setting the city on fire.
Oh, and the Bible is supposedly a moral book? What then, to make of stories like this, told without any hint of condemnation:
The descendants of Joseph attacked the town of Bethel, and the Lord was with them. They sent men to scout out Bethel (formerly known as Luz). They confronted a man coming out of the town and said to him, “Show us a way into the town, and we will have mercy on you.” So he showed them a way in, and they killed everyone in the town except that man and his family.
I cannot blame the man for saving his own skin, especially given the reputation the Israelites must have had. However, betrayal is hardly a "family value".

After a few more descriptions of which areas the Israelites did and did not fully conquer and a scolding of the Israelites by an angel, we get what scholars consider to be the original beginning of Judges:
After Joshua sent the people away, each of the tribes left to take possession of the land allotted to them. And the Israelites served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and the leaders who outlived him—those who had seen all the great things the Lord had done for Israel.
Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of 110. They buried him in the land he had been allocated, at Timnath-serah in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash.
I can see why scholars think the rest of today's reading is a later interpolation. Otherwise, it seems bizarre to describe Joshua's death like that again right after describing things that happened after his death.

New Testament

More talk of fig trees! I never had a chance to try figs while I was in Israel. It is too bad really because I have heard that you cannot really say that you do not like figs until you have tried really fresh ones, which we certainly do not have in Seattle. In any case, Jesus is talking about fig trees to indicate that just as leaves on trees indicate that summer is coming so those signs that Jesus was talking about indicate that the Kingdom of God is near. I guess that answers my question from yesterday: the text itself introduces the ambiguity of whether Jesus is talking about the Kingdom of God (supposedly in the future) or the destruction of the temple (in the past).

Also, Judas agrees to betray Jesus and we get the setup for the Last Supper. Like with Moses, I cannot say I am glad that we are getting close to Jesus' death (yet again), but I can say that I welcome anything that signals an end to this third repetition of largely the same material.

Psalms and Proverbs

2 psalms today! Weird. We also read a rather well known proverb today,
Those who spare the rod of discipline hate their children.
Those who love their children care enough to discipline them.
I suppose that these days many people assume that this is a metaphorical rod of discipline.