31 May 2010

May 31

Reference links:
Old Testament

Ahithophel and Hushai (David's spy) give Absalom conflicting advice. Absalom decides to take Hushai's advice. This is because,
the Lord had determined to defeat the counsel of Ahithophel, which really was the better plan, so that he could bring disaster on Absalom!
So the Lord could make Absalom take advice that would lead to his defeat but could not jigger things to prevent the situation from getting to this point in the first place (e.g., by giving David the strength to stick around and nip this situation in the bud)?

Hushai also sends a warning to David. As part of that, we get to hear about folks hiding in a well. Always amusing.

New Testament

Today we read something rather interesting:
Standing near the cross were Jesus’ mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary (the wife of Clopas), and Mary Magdalene.
So Jesus' mother's sister was named Mary? Umm, wasn't his mother named Mary? So are they both named Mary? Or is John just pulling from a different tradition where Jesus' mother is not named Mary?

Then Jesus dies and is put in a tomb. Hmmm, I wonder what will happen next.

Psalms and Proverbs

פ (pe), צ (tsadhe), and ק (qoph).

The current proverbs are about kingly behavior. It is not particularly interesting in and of itself, but it is an interesting contrast to the behavior David is showing in the OT readings.

30 May 2010

May 30

Reference links:
Old Testament

David continues to flee like an upstart instead of standing his ground like the established king that he is. Mephibosheth repays David's kindness by trying to take over the throne as soon as David flees. Absalom shows he has no clue what he has gotten himself in for by blindly taking advice from Ahithophel.

New Testament

Does anyone like Jesus from the Gospel of John? I know people like what he has to say, but does anyone like Jesus as he is presented as an individual in this gospel? (And yes, I realize that to some people this question is meaningless because they only see one Jesus across the gospels.)

In any case, Jesus is tried before Pilate. Pilate tries and tries to save him, but the Jews will not have it, so Pilate eventually orders Jesus crucified. Jesus is humiliated and beat and then hung up on the cross.

Psalms and Proverbs

ס (samekh) and ע (ayin).

29 May 2010

May 29

Reference links:
Old Testament

I have internet. Hurrah!

Fake reconciliation! Fake reconciliation going the other way! Rebellion! Flight! Very exciting.

David seems to be the type who does not engage in much self reflection, but can see himself in a story when it is made obvious. We first saw this a couple days ago, when David sees that his behavior with Bathsheba and her husband is wrong only after the prophet Nathan gets a visceral reaction out of David with a story.

Today, we see something similar as Joab tries to reconcile David and Absalom. Joab gets a woman to tell a tale of murder between brothers to the king. David says that he would protect the woman's living son even though he had committed murder. The woman asks the king why he would do that for her but not his own son. David has an, "ah hah!" moment and lets Absalom return to Jerusalem.

However, David's reaction when Absalom returns is confusing. Today's reading opened with the line,
Joab realized how much the king longed to see Absalom.
 But then we read that after Absalom returned,
Then Joab went to Geshur and brought Absalom back to Jerusalem. But the king gave this order: “Absalom may go to his own house, but he must never come into my presence.” So Absalom did not see the king.
Either the king had very mixed feelings toward Absalom (understandable) or Joab was wrong in his reading of the king's feelings.

Absalom resents this false reconciliation and expresses his displeasure to Joab (by way of burning a barley field). Joab then arranges for Absalom  to appear before the king, and the two seem to really reconcile.

But it seems that Absalom only cared about the appearance of reconciliation. As soon as he had the king's favor again, Absalom starts scheming behind David's back to win the hearts the people and start a rebellion.

In response to this threat, David flees. It makes one wonder how strong a king he actually was that he had to flee at even the thread of a rebellion.

New Testament

Today we read about Jesus' betrayal and arrest. You may notice that in the Gospel of John, Jesus never prays to have this torture taken from him. That scene is part of what humanized Jesus. Leaving it out was clearly an intentional decision by the author of this gospel. That author did not want Jesus to be a suffering human who prays for God to change his mind. Such a Jesus is not consistent with the Jesus who is perfectly at one with God.

Psalms and Proverbs

מ (mem) and נ (nun).

28 May 2010

May 28

Reference links:
Old Testament

Heads up! I'm out of town for the weekend, probably without internet, so I will be posting the posts for this weekend on Monday.

Onward to today's untopic, an extremely unpleasant one. Rape and murder. David's son Ammon rapes his sister Tamar. Tamar's full brother Absalom hides his anger for two years and then murders Ammon. I'm going to punt on this one. This whole story is so distasteful that I do not feel like getting into further commentary. I'll just say this, why was Ammon not punished? (I am sorely tempted to add some profanity to the phrasing of that question.)

New Testament

John's Jesus does not seem that emotionally involved with humanity, or even with his own fate.

Psalms and Proverbs

כ (kaph) and ל (lamedh).

27 May 2010

May 27

Reference links:
Old Testament

David is punished for sleeping with Bathsheba and having her husband killed. The punishment: God kills their newborn son.

After Nathan returned to his home, the Lord sent a deadly illness to the child of David and Uriah’s wife. David begged God to spare the child. He went without food and lay all night on the bare ground. The elders of his household pleaded with him to get up and eat with them, but he refused.
Then on the seventh day the child died.
Of course, I think it rather terrible that God killed a baby for the sins of its parents, but I am also reminded of opinions I have heard on abortion. Some people say that abortion should be illegal, even for women who were raped. They say the child does not deserve to be punished for the sins of its father. Compare and contrast that view with this story.

New Testament

I realized today the point of all of Jesus' blabbing in this gospel. Here's what I think: The gospel of John was written something like 50 years after Jesus was crucified. By this point, it was probably pretty clear to Jesus' followers that the "the end is near" tone taken in the other gospels was no longer holding water.

Jesus' followers needed to start transitioning their religion from an end times religion to one that could last for an arbitrarily long period into the future. To handle this, the emerging church needed some way of being able to claim authoritative revelations and now and in the future. Thus, the author of John really stresses the importance and authority of the Holy Spirit.

Psalms and Proverbs

ט (teth) and י (yodh). 

Also, today's first proverb proves that I, the evil atheist, am useful!
The Lord has made everything for his own purposes,
even the wicked for a day of disaster.

26 May 2010

May 26

Reference links:
Old Testament

David offers to restore land and wealth to Jonathan's crippled son, Mephibosheth. That's nice of him. There's always the possibility that David did this to keep Saul's only known living descendant under his eyes, but given that Mephibosheth was never presented as much of a threat, I'll take this story at face value.

David and his armies also kill a lot more people, but all that killing is just to set the stage for what happens next: the Bathesheba incident. One spring, David did not go out to war with his men. Instead, he stayed home.
Late one afternoon, after his midday rest, David got out of bed and was walking on the roof of the palace. As he looked out over the city, he noticed a woman of unusual beauty taking a bath. He sent someone to find out who she was, and he was told, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” Then David sent messengers to get her; and when she came to the palace, he slept with her. She had just completed the purification rites after having her menstrual period. Then she returned home. Later, when Bathsheba discovered that she was pregnant, she sent David a message, saying, “I’m pregnant.”
I wonder what Bathesheba thought of being propositioned by the king.  I can only assume that saying "no" was not really an option, regardless of what she thought of the king. Thus, I wonder, was what happened between David and Bathsheba closer to rape or adultery?

In any case, once Bathsheba reveals that she is pregnant, David tries his hardest to get her husband to go home and sleep with her. After that fails, he has Bathsheba's husband sent to the front lines of battle where he is killed. Now this is pretty terrible, but, at least, we will read later that this whole affair was the one time David sinned (now, I don't buy that it's the only time, but it shows how terrible this situation was).

As soon as Bathsheba finishes mourning for her husband, David sends for her and marries her. Again, I wonder what she thought about this. Tradition has that they loved each other, and maybe later readings would show that, but, as far as we have seen, Bathsheba has no reason to love David.

New Testament

Blah blah blah, obey my commands and great things will happen. Blah blah the Father blah blah. The command itself is a pretty good one, "Love each other."

We also get a passage today about how the world will hate and persecute Jesus' followers.

Psalms and Proverbs

ז (zayin) and ח (heth).

25 May 2010

May 25

Reference links:
Old Testament

God tells David through the prophet Nathan (new character?) that he should not build a temple for God. Instead, God will establish a dynasty that lasts "forever" (yes, I know the Christian interpretation. No I don't buy it.) and David's son will build the temple. David then thanks God.

We then read about more of David's military victories. Now, I consider David's habit of killing whole cities of people to be quite terrible, but today we read about something that is, in some ways, worse.

After this, David defeated and subdued the Philistines by conquering Gath, their largest town. David also conquered the land of Moab. He made the people lie down on the ground in a row, and he measured them off in groups with a length of rope. He measured off two groups to be executed for every one group to be spared. The Moabites who were spared became David’s subjects and paid him tribute money.
David is using a pseudorandom method to save one third of the people and executing the rest. Imagine the scene. Lying on the ground, soldiers standing guard next to you. The rope is measuring people off. Some people could tell which group they were in before they were measured off. Others were nearer the boundaries. The boundary divides father from son, friend from friend, husband from wife, sending one to be executed and the other to live. It's cruel and sickening.

Also, David's armies crippled a bunch of chariot horses. Also cruel.

New Testament

Jesus continues blabbing. Currently, he is going on about the holy spirit. I am sure that all of this is very inspiring to those who believe, but to me, it's like hearing someone go on and on and on about the importance of having the right belief about pink unicorns. It is pointless and boring.

Psalms and Proverbs

ה (he) and ו (waw) today.

24 May 2010

May 24

Reference links:
Old Testament

Ishbosheth is murdered in his bed. David proves to still dislike those who kill royalty and has the murderers killed. The text reads very oddly. In addition to there being redundant information in two of the paragraphs (the lineage of the murderers), there is also a random, completely out of place feeling, insert about Jonathan's crippled son Mephibosheth. This paragraph says that he was crippled and then he is not mentioned for the rest of today's reading. Very odd.

Now that Ishbosheth is dead, David is able to become king of all of Israel. He wins the city of Jerusalem, which was controlled by Jebusites. This passage has more awkward bits.
On the day of the attack, David said to his troops, “I hate those ‘lame’ and ‘blind’ Jebusites. Whoever attacks them should strike by going into the city through the water tunnel.” That is the origin of the saying, “The blind and the lame may not enter the house.”
Buh wah? That doesn't even make sense. I am starting to wonder if this section of this book underwent some major corruption at some point. The foot notes do not indicate this, but there are so many parts that are just bizarrely awkward to read.

David has the ark moved to Jerusalem, and God has a temper tantrum. Reminds us of the old days of the Torah!
But when they arrived at the threshing floor of Nacon, the oxen stumbled, and Uzzah reached out his hand and steadied the Ark of God. Then the Lord’s anger was aroused against Uzzah, and God struck him dead because of this. So Uzzah died right there beside the Ark of God.
Come on God, the dude was just trying to help.

This incident kind of pissed off David, so he left the Ark at someone's house for a few months before brining it back to Jerusalem. This leads to some marital strife.
But as the Ark of the Lord entered the City of David, Michal, the daughter of Saul, looked down from her window. When she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she was filled with contempt for him.
When David returned home to bless his own family, Michal, the daughter of Saul, came out to meet him. She said in disgust, “How distinguished the king of Israel looked today, shamelessly exposing himself to the servant girls like any vulgar person might do!”
David retorted to Michal, “I was dancing before the Lord, who chose me above your father and all his family! He appointed me as the leader of Israel, the people of the Lord, so I celebrate before the Lord. Yes, and I am willing to look even more foolish than this, even to be humiliated in my own eyes! But those servant girls you mentioned will indeed think I am distinguished!” So Michal, the daughter of Saul, remained childless throughout her entire life.
The easy reading of this passage is that Michal, Saul's daughter, is proud and haughty and resents David's behavior. God, however, approves of David's behavior and so strikes Michal barren for criticizing her husband.

However, there are at least two ways of reading this passage that are more interesting. Michal was Saul's daughter and David's first wife. If she had had a son with David, he would have had a super legitimate claim to the throne despite all the other children he has had by this point. This would have gotten in the way of the story which will build on a narrative of Solomon becoming king. Hence, the story needs to make it clear that Michal did not have children.

Another way of reading this passage is that Michal's comments were not about David's behavior at all. Consider this passage from earlier,
After moving from Hebron to Jerusalem, David married more concubines and wives, and they had more sons and daughters.
Michal is David's first wife. She was given to another man whom she seem fairly happy with and then David forced her back to him. By the time we get to today's reading, David had the six additional wives named in yesterday's reading plus "more concubines and wives".

Thus, this exchange could really be about David's licentious ways. Notice that the mention of servant girls (young, nubile servant girls) is nearly as much a focus of Michal and David's conversation as the dancing itself. In particular.
Michal: How distinguished the king of Israel looked today, shamelessly exposing himself to the servant girls [Why were you flirting with those servant girls? It made you look like an idiot!]
David: But those servant girls you mentioned will indeed think I am distinguished! [They didn't think so. Watch as I go seduce one of them into my harem.]
New Testament

Jesus predicts Peter's denial. This is another of those few stories that overlap between the Gospel of John and the synoptic gospels. This is followed by more blabling.

Psalms and Proverbs

ג [gimel] and ד [daleth] today! This psalm is a good review of the alphabet.

Also, a fine proverb today,
If you listen to constructive criticism,
you will be at home among the wise.

23 May 2010

May 23

Reference links:
Old Testament

Today we read about the trouble between Israel, ruled by Ishbosheth son of Saul, and Judah, ruled by David. It starts as follows:
Then Abner [leader of Ishboshet's troops] suggested to Joab [leader of David's troops], “Let’s have a few of our warriors fight hand to hand here in front of us.”
“All right,” Joab agreed. So twelve men were chosen to fight from each side—twelve men of Benjamin representing Ishbosheth son of Saul, and twelve representing David. Each one grabbed his opponent by the hair and thrust his sword into the other’s side so that all of them died. So this place at Gibeon has been known ever since as the Field of Swords.
A fierce battle followed that day, and Abner and the men of Israel were defeated by the forces of David.
Either Abner and Joab were looking to start a war or they were stupid. I mean really, who thinks it is a good idea to engage your enemy just for fun? Who can't see that such a thing will lead to trouble.

The fighting continues, and it becomes quite personal. However, that's all boring. Much more interesting is the comment, almost a side comment, on David's family at this point:
These are the sons who were born to David in Hebron:
The oldest was Amnon, whose mother was Ahinoam from Jezreel.
The second was Daniel, whose mother was Abigail, the widow of Nabal from Carmel.
The third was Absalom, whose mother was Maacah, the daughter of Talmai, king of Geshur.
The fourth was Adonijah, whose mother was Haggith.
The fifth was Shephatiah, whose mother was Abital.
The sixth was Ithream, whose mother was Eglah, David’s wife.
When did David have time to pick up four more wives? And why did he feel the need for so many. In addition to all these wives, he demands the return of Michal, Saul's daughter. I feel kind of sorry for her. Although her emotions on being returned to David are never mentioned, the emotions of the husband she is taken away from seem sincerely sad,
So Ishbosheth took Michal away from her husband, Palti son of Laish. Palti followed along behind her as far as Bahurim, weeping as he went. Then Abner told him, “Go back home!” So Palti returned.
It seems unlikely that most of these women could have been much more than spoils of war and raiding (David only ruled from Hebron for seven and a half years). It is not even clear that he considers all of them wives. I must say that I am not completely fond of this situation.

New Testament

Wow, the Jesus in John is actually taking some action! He washes his disciples feet.
So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him.
Given that Jesus took off his robe, I wonder what was traditionally worn under one.

Psalms and Proverbs

Today we start what is a psalm made up of many smaller psalms. Today's reading has psalms for aleph and beth, and the note says we get one for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet. That should be fun! I feel like I am missing a lot by reading it in English though. In Hebrew, according to my footnote, each of the verses within each stanza starts with the letter for that stanza. In English, it just starts with whatever.

22 May 2010

May 22

Reference links:
Old Testament

We start 2 Samuel today, but it's not really any different than 1 Samuel, so no new overview.

David learns of Saul's death from a lying Amalekite, or, at least, he seems like he is lying compared to the previous account of Saul's death. This may be another case of different narratives smooshing together.
“How do you know Saul and Jonathan are dead?” David demanded of the young man.
The man answered, “I happened to be on Mount Gilboa, and there was Saul leaning on his spear with the enemy chariots and charioteers closing in on him. When he turned and saw me, he cried out for me to come to him. ‘How can I help?’ I asked him.
“He responded, ‘Who are you?’
“‘I am an Amalekite,’ I told him.
“Then he begged me, ‘Come over here and put me out of my misery, for I am in terrible pain and want to die.’
“So I killed him,” the Amalekite told David, “for I knew he couldn’t live. Then I took his crown and his armband, and I have brought them here to you, my lord.”
David has the Amalekite killed for killing Saul and mourns Saul's death.

The rest of today's reading sets up what I am sure are going to be exciting times ahead. David is recognized as king by some folks, but other folks recognize Saul's son, Ishbosheth, as king.

New Testament

I think I may have just about given up on commenting on the Gospel of John. How can John's Jesus say so little in so many words? I will be happy when we are done with this gospel.

Psalms and Proverbs

Today's psalm (actually, a continuation of yesterday's psalm) apparently is the source of some familiar lines that I never knew were from the same place:
The stone that the builders rejected
has now become the cornerstone.
This is the day the Lord has made.
We will rejoice and be glad in it.

21 May 2010

May 21

Reference links:
Old Testament

King Achish of Gath reluctantly tells David to go home because the other Philistine rulers fear David and his men might turn on them. They are probably right.

David returns home to find out that his town has been raided. How's it feel to be the other side of the raid? At least the raiders removed the people from the city before burning it to the ground. They are more civilized than David and his band. David, of course, chases after the men and slaughters most of them, winning back all the people that were captured as well as a nice stash of livestock as well.

Saul's sons die in battle. He is injured and kills himself when his armor bearer refuses to kill him.

New Testament

Jesus is going into Jerusalem for the Passover celebration. That means we are getting near to the end of his life. This is kind of surprising considering how little Jesus as presented in John has done beyond blathering about how he is great and people who do not believe in him are terrible.

We also see that the author of John really did not like Judas. None of the gospel authors presented Judas in a good light, but the author of John goes out of his way to present him in a negative light.
But Judas Iscariot, the disciple who would soon betray him, said, “That perfume was worth a year’s wages.[c] It should have been sold and the money given to the poor.” Not that he cared for the poor—he was a thief, and since he was in charge of the disciples’ money, he often stole some for himself.
Why not throw in a "P.S. he likes to kick puppies." while we're at it.

Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey, and this supposedly fulfills some prophecy. Let's accept for the moment that the event happened as described and that the passage quoted was meant as a prophecy. Still, how many people rode into Jerusalem each day? How many of them were on donkeys? I am guessing enough to make this so-called prophecy hopelessly imprecise.

Psalms and Proverbs

Nothing of particular note.

20 May 2010

May 20

 jReference links:
Old Testament

David spares Saul again, and Saul asks David to come back home. David does not accept the offer and instead goes to King Achish of Gath to escape Saul's persecutions. I notice that David does not fear King Achish as much now that he has a band of 600 warriors supporting him. David says something during his exchange with Saul that shows that the God David followed was still very much a local tribal diety:
Must I die on foreign soil, far from the presence of the Lord?
God's presence resided in the Promised Land. To be away from that place was to be away from God's presence. It was not until later, until the Israelites were exiled from the promised land, that the Israelites really developed the idea of an omnipresent God.

David spends his time completely destroying cities and lying to King Achish about who he was killing.
David and his men spent their time raiding the Geshurites, the Girzites, and the Amalekites—people who had lived near Shur, toward the land of Egypt, since ancient times. David did not leave one person alive in the villages he attacked. He took the sheep, goats, cattle, donkeys, camels, and clothing before returning home to see King Achish.
“Where did you make your raid today?” Achish would ask.
And David would reply, “Against the south of Judah, the Jerahmeelites, and the Kenites.”
No one was left alive to come to Gath and tell where he had really been. This happened again and again while he was living among the Philistines.
At this point, David is nothing more than a murderous mercenary (and a liar). I wonder if the historical leader who King David was based on was, in fact, a murderous mercenary, and this story was made up to explain how he was really carrying out God's will.

We also get an entertaining story about how Saul freaks himself out after he asks a medium to bring up Samuel's ghost. Samuel did not appreciate it.

New Testament

Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. Lazarus is the brother of Mary and Martha. Traditionally, this Mary and Martha are considered to be the same Mary and Martha mentioned in Luke. However, it is worth noting that in Luke's story, Lazarus does not appear at all.

One interesting aspect of this story that I had not heard about before is that Jesus is angry, although I am not quite sure at what. When he sees people mourning Lazarus' death, he gets angry, and he continues to be angry as he goes to the tomb. Is he angry over their lack of faith (even though he has not told them what he is going to do)? Is he angry over the accusations that he should have saved Lazarus (even though his anger is reported before the accusations)? Is he angry that Lazarus was buried, causing him the inconvenience of going to the tomb? I don't know!

Also, the high priest Caiaphas is said to prophesy that Jesus would die. His comment led to the other priests plotting Jesus' death (making cause and effect very murky here).

Psalms and Proverbs

Like, shortest psalm evar!
Praise the Lord, all you nations.
Praise him, all you people of the earth.
For he loves us with unfailing love;
the Lord’s faithfulness endures forever.
Praise the Lord!
It's like the opening and closing of the last N psalms were squished together without all the middle stuff.
Plans go wrong for lack of advice;
many advisers bring success.
I wonder what the not insignificant overlap between Christians and people who rant against President Obama's "czars" think about proverbs like this one.

19 May 2010

May 19

Reference links:
Old Testament

Business trip + sore throat = another brief post.

Two things struck me in today's reading today.

Very little was said about Samuel's death.
Now Samuel died, and all Israel gathered for his funeral. They buried him at his house in Ramah.
I was surprised that such an important figure did not have a more thoroughly described death. I suppose that we did not hear much about the deaths of most of the judges either, but I kind of expected Samuel to give a long death speech like Moses or Joshua.

I like to imagine that when the text says that "all Israel gathered for his funeral" it means that David and Saul were able to temporarily put aside their mutual distrust and come together to mourn the death of the man who had changed both their lives.

The other thing that strikes me as interesting in today's reading is the juxtaposition of David refusing to kill Saul with his desire to kill Nabal. David refuses to kill Saul when Saul hunts David, but he swears to kill Nabal and his men over an insult and refused aid. The juxtaposition of these two stories makes it clear that David was not uniformly merciful. In fact, it almost seems like David's attitudes toward the two men are based on their status. The way that Saul has treated David is much worse than the way Nabal has treated him, but Saul, the king, is spared and Nabal nearly is not.

Also of note, Nabal dies naturally so David marries Abigail. He also marries Ahinoam from Jezreel.

New Testament

Jesus goes on about how he will give eternal life and how he and God are one. The people nearly stone him and try to arrest him. He escapes. John's Jesus is only slightly more interesting than watching paint dry (and way less interesting than watching water boil).

Psalms and Proverbs

Nothing of particular interest today.

18 May 2010

May 18

Reference links:
Old Testament

Not feeling terribly inspired today.

Saul continues to degrade and David continues to grow in strength.

David starts a band of outlaw warriors. Saul justifies his desire to kill David by convincing himself that David is conspiring against him.  Doeg and Saul are jerks for murdering a Ahimelech, his fellow priests, and their families for helping David (even though Ahimelech did not even know David was fleeing Saul). David continues to hide from Saul.

New Testament

Jesus talks about how he is the shepherd who cares for his sheep. All who came before him were thieves and robbers who tried to deceive the sheep. He is such a good shepherd that he will voluntarily give his life for his sheep.

Psalms and Proverbs

The first lines of today's psalm are insightful:
Not to us, O Lord, not to us,
but to your name goes all the glory
for your unfailing love and faithfulness.
Even though I do not believe in God, I do see people (myself not included) giving too much credit to themselves when so much of their success is due to the kindness of others and circumstance.

17 May 2010

May 17

Reference links:
Old Testament

When I first read today's reading I was confused over David's confusion. How could he not see that he was a threat to the king? The people love him, he has acheived great military success, and he is married to the king's daughter. On top of that, Saul annointed him as Israel's future king. But then I went back and looked the the text where Saul annointed David [May 14], and I realized that it is far from clear that David and his family did know why Samuel was annointed him. Samuel never explicitly tells David that he will be king.

Given that, David's confusion is, perhaps, justifiable. As bad as David's position is, I feel even worse for Jonathan.  Today's reading really highlights the difficulty of his position. He is the son of the king and next in line for the throne, but he does not really seem to want it. He has a deep friendship with David, but his father wants David killed.

Jonathan feels like he has his father's confidence ("He always tells me everything he's going to do, even the little things."), but he later learns that his own confidence in his father is misplaced.
Saul boiled with rage at Jonathan. "You stupid son of a whore!" he swore at him. "Do you think I don't know that you want him to be king in your place, shaming yourself and your mother? As long as that son of Jesse is alive, you'll never be king. Now go and get him so I can kill him!"

"But why should he be put to death?" Jonathan asked his father. "What has he
done?" Then Saul hurled his spear at Jonathan, intending to kill him. So at last Jonathan realized that his father was really determined to kill David.
I can't imagine how Jonathan would feel after having his father attempt to kill
him and after learning that his father really, truly wants to kill someone he
cares for deeply.

Of course, Jonathan helps David to escape which leads to a couple episodes that
I find entertaining. First, David acquires Goliath's sword. Given that Goliath
was a giant, I imagine that he had a large sword, so David is now walking around
with a giant sword slung across his back like some RPG character.

The other amusing incident is that after David ends up in Gath (the home of
Goliath, definitely enemy territory) he acts like a madman to avoid negative
David heard these comments and was very afraid of what King Achish
of Gath might do to him. So he pretended to be insane, scratching on doors and drooling down his beard.
New Testament

Jesus heals a blind man with mud. It is interesting that John chooses to have Jesus using a prop such as mud when the other gospels generally did not have Jesus use props in his miraculous healings.

Before the healing, Jesus and his disciples have a rather interesting little dialog.
As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth.  "Rabbi," his disciples asked him, "why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parnents' sins?"

"It was not because of his sins or his parents' sins," Jesus answered.  "This happened so the power of God could be seen in him."
While I think that many people these days would consider both of the options proposed by the disciples to be unfair, I also suspect many people find Jesus' reason comforting. A bad thing happened to this man for a reason; it happened to show the poewr of God. However, I am personally more comforted by the idea that bad things sometimes just happen sometimes than I am by the idea that God chooses to inflict suffering on certain people just to prove a point.

The rest of today's reading is about the formerly blind man sharing his experience with others, including the Pharisees who get very ticked off at Jesus. Jesus goes on to tell the Pharisees that they are guilty because they do not acknowledge the source of his miraculous abilities.

Psalms and Proverbs

Two psalms today. I like some of the imagery. From the first,
He lifts the poor from the dust
and the needy from the garbage dump.
And from the second,
The mountains skipped like rams,
and hills like lambs!
Today's proverbs contain some interesting observations on how inner attitude is
more important for happiness than our outer situation.
For the despondent, every day brings trouble;
for the happy heart, life is a continual feast.

A bowl of vegetables wiht someone you love
is better than steak with someone you hate.

16 May 2010

May 16

Reference links:
Old Testament

Today we continue the story of David. That should not be too surprising because what we will be doing for awhile. The locus of attention has shifted from Saul to David.

David finds success in everything he does. This makes him beloved by the people and, eventually, hated by Saul. I find this line particularly interesting (emphasis mine),
David continued to succeed in everything he did, for the Lord was with him. When Saul recognized this, he became even more afraid of him. But all Israel and Judah loved David because he was so successful at leading his troops into battle.
Like today, people like leaders who can lead them successfully. Now, it does make sense that a leader who did not succeed at leading should be considered ill suited for the job. However, as I read this, I imagine the people loving David just because he is successful. They do not care whether or not God is with David or whether or not he has any personal integrity. Nor do they care that Saul is still king. They only care about following the person who can currently give them the most benefits. Reminds me of modern elections.

We also read today about how David marries the first of his many wives. After rejecting Saul's daughter Merab because he felt he was not worthy of the hand of the king's daughter, David won Michal by bringing to Saul the foreskins of 200 Philistines (twice as many as Saul required). Imagine carrying back a basket full of foreskins from a battle field. Eww! In any case, Saul had hoped David would be killed and so was rather disappointed.

The reading ends with Saul attempting to take David's life a couple times and being saved by Saul's own children. Both Jonathan, Saul's son, and Michal, Saul's daughter and David's wife, warn David of Saul's threats and help him escape. Now that's family drama.

New Testament

Jesus continues to show he knows absolutely nothing about the art of persuasion. Even if it is true that the folks he is talking to
are the children of [their] father the devil, and [] love to do the evil things he does
it is not going to make anyone want to listen to him if he just bluntly says that. Even if it's true that
you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
it is not true that you can force people to acknowledge the truth just by telling them, "it is true because I say so".

On the other hand, these readings reveal a lot about why some Christians think that saying something along the lines of, "You're a fool, and you're going to hell" is an effective way to start a conversation with an atheist. Even if this was a legitimate way for Jesus to convince people (and I don't think it was), it does not follow that this is a legitimate way for Jesus' followers to engage people. Jesus, if he existed and was who he said he was, was in the privileged position of really knowing the Truth when he hurled insults at people. His followers, on the other hand, are not in this privileged position. They may think they know the mind of God, but when it comes down to it, they are just guessing. As such, they should be much much more cautious when making absolute pronouncements.

Psalms and Proverbs

Some good proverbs today.
A glad heart makes a happy face;
a broken heart crushes the spirit.
A wise person is hungry for knowledge,
while the fool feeds on trash. 

15 May 2010

May 15

Reference links:
Old Testament

The story of David and Goliath, a classic! Goliath, the Philistine champion, stood nine feet tall in heavy bronze armor. He taunted the Israelites to send a champion to fight him. The consequence would be slavery for the nation whose champion lost. David persuades Saul to let him fight Goliath. Armed only with some rocks, a sling, and the faith that God will not let his people be defeated. With a single head shot, David brings down Goliath. After that, the Israelites easily defeat the rest of the Philistine army.

One thing that is interesting of this story is that it does not fit at all with yesterday's reading. In yesterday's reading, we read how Saul heard of David's ability to play the harp and sent for him. In today's reading, Saul obviously does not know David:

As Saul watched David go out to fight the Philistine, he asked Abner, the commander of his army, “Abner, whose son is this young man?”
“I really don’t know,” Abner declared.
“Well, find out who he is!” the king told him.
Even if we allow these stories to be in the opposite chronological order, things still do not work out. In yesterday's reading, we read that Saul sent for David to play the harp for him. Today we read that after the battle,

From that day on Saul kept David with him and wouldn’t let him return home.
Obviously, we once again have two different narratives smooshed together.

New Testament

Jesus continues to spew on about how he is awesome and in tune with God. Is the Gospel of John done yet?

Psalms and Proverbs

Another nice praise filled psalm with no wishes for violence to others.

Today's proverb:
Even Death and Destruction hold no secrets from the Lord.
How much more does he know the human heart!
I would generally interpret Death and Destruction holding no secrets from the Lord as God knowing all about them. However, given all of the violence in the Old Testament, I am currently inclined toward the interpretation is that is a reference to how effective God is at killing and destroying.

14 May 2010

May 14

Reference links:
Old Testament

Apparently God felt like he has not had a good genocide in awhile, so Samuel tells Saul that God wants him to fight the Amalekites:
Now go and completely destroy the entire Amalekite nation—men, women, children, babies, cattle, sheep, goats, camels, and donkeys.
Sault wins, but he disobeys Samuel's commands.
Then Saul slaughtered the Amalekites from Havilah all the way to Shur, east of Egypt. He captured Agag, the Amalekite king, but completely destroyed everyone else. Saul and his men spared Agag’s life and kept the best of the sheep and goats, the cattle, the fat calves, and the lambs—everything, in fact, that appealed to them. They destroyed only what was worthless or of poor quality.
This really annoys God, and he tells Samuel,
I am sorry that I ever made Saul king, for he has not been loyal to me and has refused to obey my command.
Now, I know that the Biblical conception of God changed over time, but it certainly feels odd to me, as someone use to a God who is considered all knowing and eternal, to have a feeling such as regret attributed to God. It seems downright ungodly.

Samuel tells Saul that he has lost God's favor and will lose his kingdom. He then kills the Amalekite king after telling him,
As your sword has killed the sons of many mothers, now your mother will be childless.
I imagine that the Amalekite king, if he was thinking anything other than "I am about to get killed!" was thinking "Dude, Saul killed all the Amalekites but me and some animals. My mother is already dead." In short, way to be a jerk Samuel.

Samuel goes away from Saul along with God's favor. He secretly anoints David, the youngest son of many sons of Jesse. From that time, the Spirit of the Lord comes to David and leaves Saul. Instead, God sends Saul tormenting demons,
Now the Spirit of the Lord had left Saul, and the Lord sent a tormenting spirit that filled him with depression and fear.
Not very nice, but then again, God hasn't killed significant number of Israelites in ages. He's probably getting antsy.

New Testament

Today's reading contains the well known story of the woman caught in adultery. Jesus tells the woman's accusers,
All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!
According to my reading, this whole story is not found in the most ancient manuscripts. The funny thing is that my translation put that note at the very end of yesterday's reading. It's almost like they wanted to put a day of separation between the implication that this well known story may not be authentic and the story itself.

Jesus then goes on to "respond" to people who, like me, get frustrated that Jesus just goes around declaring himself to be God's son and wonderful and the way to salvation and all that:
The Pharisees replied, “You are making those claims about yourself! Such testimony is not valid.”
Jesus told them, “These claims are valid even though I make them about myself. For I know where I came from and where I am going, but you don’t know this about me. You judge me by human standards, but I do not judge anyone. And if I did, my judgment would be correct in every respect because I am not alone. The Father who sent me is with me. Your own law says that if two people agree about something, their witness is accepted as fact. I am one witness, and my Father who sent me is the other.”
So Jesus' response is that his self testimony is valid because he knows that it is true and because his non-present Father whose voice only he can tell supposedly corroborates his testimony? Any deluded lunatic with an imaginary friend can claim as much. There is still no reason for anyone else to believe that he is right.

Psalms and Proverbs

Today's psalm is one of those ones that the New Testament wants us to think is about Jesus even though there is no good reason to think so.

13 May 2010

May 13

Reference links:
Old Testament

Jonathan, son of Saul, an interesting character as we will see going forward. But that is getting ahead of ourselves. Today is our first substantial introduction to Jonathan. He takes on a Philistine outpost with only the help of his armor bearer, and they defeat twenty Philistines. This defeat causes panic, and that panic is only increased by an earthquake.

Now, you would think that it would be hard to tell this story badly, and the author of Samuel doesn't exactly do so, but he misses out on so much potential.

So they climbed up using both hands and feet, and the Philistines fell before Jonathan, and his armor bearer killed those who came behind them. They killed some twenty men in all, and their bodies were scattered over about half an acre.
Suddenly, panic broke out in the Philistine army, both in the camp and in the field, including even the outposts and raiding parties. And just then an earthquake struck, and everyone was terrified.
Between this and the fact that the two different sources for Samuel have been blended together more clumsily, I am quickly coming to the conclusion that the author of Samuel is not one of the better Biblical authors.

The rest of today's reading talks about the semi-successful pursuit of the Philistines and some mistakes made during that pursuit. Saul commanded his men not to eat anything until that evening, so the men did not eat. Jonathan, Saul's son, did hear this and did eat. Because of this, God stayed silent when Saul asked if they should pursue the Philistines. By lot it was determined that Jonathan was the source the trouble:
“I tasted a little honey,” Jonathan admitted. “It was only a little bit on the end of my stick. Does that deserve death?”
“Yes, Jonathan,” Saul said, “you must die! May God strike me and even kill me if you do not die for this.”
But the people broke in and said to Saul, “Jonathan has won this great victory for Israel. Should he die? Far from it! As surely as the Lord lives, not one hair on his head will be touched, for God helped him do a great deed today.” So the people rescued Jonathan, and he was not put to death.
If it were not for the fact that Jonathan was chosen by the casting of the lots, we might be able to interpret this as God's silence stemming from Saul's imprudent oath. Because the lots were cast, we know that blame is falling on Jonathan for eating in violation of an oath he was not aware of.

This reminds me of the story of Jephthat's daughter (although, fortunately, the killing did not occur this time). God seems perfectly happy to hold people to bad oaths and to punish people for the violation of them (even if they did not know they were violating those oaths). I find this behavior surprising coming from a God who is supposedly just. I would think that a just God would see that it is better to have people admit when they have made a mistake rather than punish them for not holding to a bad oath.

New Testament

The Pharisees try to arrest Jesus and fail. This provides an interesting contrast to the other gospels. When Jesus is arrested, Matthew, Mark, and Luke all report him asking why they did not arrest him publicly. Mark's version:
Jesus asked them, “Am I some dangerous revolutionary, that you come with swords and clubs to arrest me? Why didn’t you arrest me in the Temple? I was there among you teaching every day. But these things are happening to fulfill what the Scriptures say about me.”
But today they did try to arrest Jesus publicly and failed. It is hard to reconcile these passages.

Psalms and Proverbs

Today's psalm is a long one. The psalmist talks about how his enemies unfairly accuse him and how they wish to heap all sorts of curses on him. The psalmist then wishes they these curses become the punishment given to his enemies. Not very nice.

12 May 2010

May 12

Reference links:
Old Testament

Today's reading is rather confusing. It shows clearly that the 1 Samuel is made up of narratives from several sources. I noticed today that the Wikipedia article on Saul had a perspective on those interleavings that is a nice supplement to the article on the book.

Samuel gives his "goodbye" speech. Unlike Moses and Joshua's goodbye speeches, Samuel does not give his just before he dies. He only gives a little review of the past (hurrah!) and reminds the Israelites how terrible they were for wanting a king.

We also learn Saul's age and the length of his reign. The length of his reign is very significant:
Saul was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned for forty-two years.
We then read about Saul going to battle, but getting cursed because he did not wait for Samuel before asking for God's blessings; note that we have not heard about Samuel asking Saul to wait seven days for anything since he was anointed. However, that must have been a long time ago because in this story, Saul's son Jonathan was old enough to lead a battle. Given that Saul was only 30 when he became king, it seems that this episode must be years later.

Then again, the whole naught sacrifice bit is considered by some to be a redaction to explain why later traditions considered Saul to be a terrible king despite being God's chosen king: he did something to loose God's approval.

Actually, I find the "Classical Rabbinical Views" section of the Wikipedia article to be quite useful for understanding the confusing narrative flow in this book. It explains how the two hypothesized sources for Samuel, often called the republican and monarchical sources, have conflicting views of Saul and correspond to  two conflicting rabbinical traditions. The former tradition sees Saul as not worthy of the throne and guilty of sins against God. The other tradition sees him as basically good, almost too good, and that is what leads to his eventual downfall. Such conflicting opinions explain the frequent mood and narrative shifts in this book.

Christianity, as far as I can tell, generally seems to accept the "Saul sucked" interpretation. This is probably because Jesus is claimed to have descended from David, and interpretations that take blame away from Saul generally put more blame on David.

New Testament

Today Jesus lies. He tells his brothers that he is not going to the Festival of Shelters in Judea, and then he does go, emphasis mine:
Jesus replied, “Now is not the right time for me to go, but you can go anytime. The world can’t hate you, but it does hate me because I accuse it of doing evil. You go on. I’m not going to this festival, because my time has not yet come.” 
After saying these things, Jesus remained in Galilee.But after his brothers left for the festival, Jesus also went, though secretly, staying out of public view.
Today's reading also contains an interesting perspective on the "Lord, Liar, Lunatic" false trilemma. For those who have not heard it, this bit of "reasoning" goes, "Jesus was either a liar, a madman, or who he said he was. He clearly was not a liar or a madman, therefore he must have been the Son of God."

This is a false trilemma because there is no reason to believe these are the only three options. For example, a more reasonable set of options is "Lord, Liar, Lunatic, Legend" (this expansion is a general favorite because it retains the alliteration =D ). However, today's reading makes it seem that the liar and lunatic options may not be as far fetched as people presenting the trilemma think they are. Obviously, the author of John thinks Jesus is the Son of God, but he writes about people who are claimed to have seen Jesus and thought he was a liar or a lunatic. In support of liar we read,

There was a lot of grumbling about him among the crowds. Some argued, “He’s a good man,” but others said, “He’s nothing but a fraud who deceives the people.”
In support of lunatic we read,
The crowd replied, “You’re demon possessed! Who’s trying to kill you?”
Now, I personally lead toward the legend option, but today's reading shows us that lord is not the only feasible option out of lord, liar, and lunatic.

Psalms and Proverbs

Nothing of particular note.

11 May 2010

May 11

Reference links:
Old Testament

Samuel anoints Saul and tells him that he has been chosen to rule over Israel. Samuel describes a number of signs Saul will see on the way home. They come to pass.

Saul arrives home and meets his uncle. He tells his uncle about meeting Samuel, but not about being anointed as king. Too modest? Too secretive? Too doubtful that it will happen? Who knows!

Samuel calls the people of Israel together to choose a king. The king is chosen by lot, and Saul, of course, is chosen. However...
And finally Saul son of Kish was chosen from among them. But when they looked for him, he had disappeared! So they asked the Lord, “Where is he?”
And the Lord replied, “He is hiding among the baggage.” So they found him and brought him out, and he stood head and shoulders above anyone else.
Again, modesty? Fear? Just general weirdness? Who knows! But whatever the meaning, it is entertaining.

Saul's first act as king: fight some Ammonites who are abusing some Israelites. This story is kind of confusing. First we read, in a passage that apparently is in the Dead Sea Scrolls but not the Masoretic Text, that Nahash, the king of the Ammonites, had gouged out the right eye of all of the Israelites living east of the Jordan river. We then read how King Nahash threatened to gouge the eyes of the Israelites, and this motivated Saul to come save them.

The Spirit of God came upon Saul, and he motivated the Israelites to follow him. Interesting side note, Israel already seems to be at least somewhat divided into "Israel" and "Judah" at this point:
When Saul mobilized them at Bezek, he found that there were 300,000 men from Israel and 30,000 men from Judah.
Saul successfully defeated the Ammonites, and the people make Saul their king. Didn't Samuel already make Saul king? Perhaps the people did not actually accept Samuel's anointed king until he proved himself in battle. In any case, good for Saul for saving people from getting their eyes gouged out.

New Testament

Jesus continues to talk about the importance of believing in him. In the process, we get this process which, taken out of context, sounds rather terrible (really though, it does not sound much better in context):
I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you cannot have eternal life within you. But anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise that person at the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.
Ewww. And yes, I know the basics of the standard explanations, but still, this particular passage, eww. Apparently, I am not the only one who has thought so. After making this declaration, some of Jesus' disciples  start to leave him.
At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him.
Jesus' opinion on the situation implies that they left because believing the truth of Jesus' words was too hard. I think they left because believing the truth of Jesus' words seemed straight up repulsive.

Psalms and Proverbs

Rather long psalm today. 43 verses long, all in one day. But that's okay because it provides some variety of form, at least. The psalm lists a number of ways that people were separated from God and how they were eventually reconciled again. E.g.,
Some were fools; they rebelled
and suffered for their sins.
They couldn’t stand the thought of food,
and they were knocking on death’s door.
“Lord, help!” they cried in their trouble,
and he saved them from their distress.
The gist seems to be that people eventually turn to God in their times of trouble, and then he saves them.

One good proverb today!
A gentle answer deflects anger,
but harsh words make tempers flare.
As someone with a fair bit of temper, I certainly know the truth of this one, from both the giving and the receiving side.

10 May 2010

May 10

Reference links:
Old Testament

Remember how Eli's sons brought ruin upon themselves by being bad people and taking the Ark of the Covenant into battle? Apparently Samuel's sons, while not that bad, are not so great themselves:
As Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons to be judges over Israel. Joel and Abijah, his oldest sons, held court in Beersheba. But they were not like their father, for they were greedy for money. They accepted bribes and perverted justice.
Because Samuel's sons were corrupted, the elders of Israel demanded a king. God claimed that this meant that they were rejecting him:
Samuel was displeased with their request and went to the Lord for guidance. “Do everything they say to you,” the Lord replied, “for it is me they are rejecting, not you. They don’t want me to be their king any longer. Ever since I brought them from Egypt they have continually abandoned me and followed other gods. And now they are giving you the same treatment. Do as they ask, but solemnly warn them about the way a king will reign over them.”
However, we saw time and time again in Judges that the Israelites get trampled by their enemies when they do not show strong leadership. With Samuel getting old and his sons obviously corrupt, of course the Israelites worry about what will happen next.

Samuel warns the people that a king will be terrible for them, but the people say they want a king any way. Again, they are probably thinking that the alternative is another round of slavery under some of the other locals.

God sends Saul to Samuel. Samuel tells Saul that God has sent Saul a special message. Saul does not learn what the surprise is today, but we readers all know that he will be made king. Despite the fact that Samuel and God think that giving the Israelites a king is a terrible idea, Samuel still does his proper duty and treats Saul well.

New Testament

The morning after the bread miracle and water walking, the crowd asks Jesus when he got to the other side the lake. He replies,
I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs. But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you. For God the Father has given me the seal of his approval.
That is something of a non sequitur.  Luke was a much better writer than the author of John. He, at least, made sense most of the time.

The crowd demands a miraculous sign from Jesus, and he talks about how he is the bread of life and they do not believe in him despite what he has already shown him,

I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But you haven’t believed in me even though you have seen me. However, those the Father has given me will come to me, and I will never reject them. For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do my own will. And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those he has given me, but that I should raise them up at the last day.
If those that God has given to Jesus will come to him (thus implying that believing in Jesus is not a choice and so he is wasting his breath berating those who do not believe in him), why did God only choose to have some people believe in Jesus? Since God is doing the giving, he has either preprogrammed them to choose to believe or overridden their free will to do so. Under either scenario, God's apparent picking and choosing is disturbing.

Psalms and Proverbs

More history review: the Israelites were terrible. And that's the end of that psalm.

09 May 2010

May 9

Reference links:
Old Testament

It was a bad day for the Philistines when they decided to take the Ark of the Covenant from the Israelites. First, they put it in their temple, but the statue of their God, Dagon, falls down in front of it. Then the people of the town where the ark was kept were plagued with what my translation calls tumors and other translations call sores. The ark is sent to other towns, and they are equally afflicted. This makes for an entertaining story, but I do not think it reflects well on God's character.

The Philistines decide to send the ark back to the Israelites. They ask their priests and diviners what to do and receive a pretty elaborate answer involving cows, gold sores, and gold rats. The Philistines set up the return of the ark as an experiment: send it back in exactly this way, and see if the desired result occurs.
Now build a new cart, and find two cows that have just given birth to calves. Make sure the cows have never been yoked to a cart. Hitch the cows to the cart, but shut their calves away from them in a pen. Put the Ark of the Lord on the cart, and beside it place a chest containing the gold rats and gold tumors you are sending as a guilt offering. Then let the cows go wherever they want. If they cross the border of our land and go to Beth-shemesh, we will know it was the Lord who brought this great disaster upon us. If they don’t, we will know it was not his hand that caused the plague. It came simply by chance.
Of course, the cows did what was expected of them. Now, this was done by the evil terrible Philistines, so we cannot take it as an example of what ought to be done. That said, isn't it odd how God rarely gives such clear answers to the modern world? Here God easily convinces the Philistines of his power in this story, yet he does not now. He neither sends such clear and obvious punishment for displeasing him nor sends such obvious relief for remedying that. Funny that.

New Testament

The Gospel of John actually has some overlap with the other gospels. Amazing! Jesus turns five loaves of bread and two fish into enough food to feed 5000 people, and then he walks on water. We do get a line today that makes the Jesus from the Gospel of John slightly more likable than the tedious Jesus we have seen so far,
When the people saw him do this miraculous sign, they exclaimed, “Surely, he is the Prophet we have been expecting!” When Jesus saw that they were ready to force him to be their king, he slipped away into the hills by himself.
I can certainly feel some sympathy for the Jesus who just needed to get away sometimes.

Psalms and Proverbs

Unlike the last historical psalm, which seemed to ignore all of the times God threatened to murder the Israelites, this one dwells on it. That makes it much more amusing.

08 May 2010

May 8

Reference links:
Old Testament

What does Wikipedia have to say about our current book? The most interesting bit is that apparently there has been a fair amount of churn in the way this book and the ones following it were divided:
The Books of Samuel (Hebrew: Sefer Sh'muel ספר שמואל‎) are part of the Hebrew Bible. The work was originally written in Hebrew, and the Book(s) of Samuel originally formed a single text, as they are often considered today in Jewish bibles.
Together with what is now referred to as the Book(s) of Kings, the translators who created the Greek Septuagint divided the text into four books, which they named the Books of the Kingdoms. In the Latin Vulgate version, these then became the Books of the Kings, thus 1 and 2 Samuel were referred to as 1 and 2 Kings, with 3 and 4 Kings being what are called 1 and 2 Kings by the King James Bible and its successors.
Which means that I will not be bothering with an introduction for 2 Samuel. Wikipedia also has this to say about authorship,
Traditionally, the authors of the books of Samuel have been held to be Samuel, Gad, and Nathan. Samuel is believed to have penned the first twenty-four chapters of the first book. Gad, the companion of David (1 Sam. 22:5), is believed to have continued the history thus commenced; and Nathan is believed to have completed it, probably arranging the whole in the form in which we now have it (1 Chronicles 29:29).
Modern scholars consider that the text is clearly not the work of men contemporary with the events. Roughly in the order they are believed to have been created historically, the sources used to construct 1 & 2 Samuel are: [list of a bunch of sources]
On to today's reading!

Remember that Eli was the current priest. His two sons failed to live up to the standards they should have been living up to:
Now Eli was very old, but he was aware of what his sons were doing to the people of Israel. He knew, for instance, that his sons were seducing the young women who assisted at the entrance of the Tabernacle.
Eli asks them to stop, but they do not, but the reason for that is peculiar:
But Eli’s sons wouldn’t listen to their father, for the Lord was already planning to put them to death.
Reminds me of Pharaoh.

Eli's family is cursed by God first through an unnamed man of God and then through Samuel. Samuel's version shows the uncertainties of a young prophet.
Suddenly the Lord called out, “Samuel!”
“Yes?” Samuel replied. “What is it?” He got up and ran to Eli. “Here I am. Did you call me?”
[this happens a couple more times]
Then Eli realized it was the Lord who was calling the boy. So he said to Samuel, “Go and lie down again, and if someone calls again, say, ‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went back to bed.
[Samuel does this and God speaks of the things he will do to Eli's family]
Samuel stayed in bed until morning, then got up and opened the doors of the Tabernacle as usual. He was afraid to tell Eli what the Lord had said to him. But Eli called out to him, “Samuel, my son.”
“Here I am,” Samuel replied.
“What did the Lord say to you? Tell me everything. And may God strike you and even kill you if you hide anything from me!” So Samuel told Eli everything; he didn’t hold anything back. “It is the Lord’s will,” Eli replied. “Let him do what he thinks best.”
Awww! How cute! =)

The Philistines capture the Ark of the Covenant in a battle. Eli's sons die, Eli dies, and the wife of one of Eli's sons dies. Cheery. So now Samuel and his descendants are marked as the new priests "forever", where, as in the case of Aaron's descendants, "forever" lasts until God changes his mind.

New Testament

John's Jesus just goes on and on and on and on. He is still going on about how listening to and believing in him will give eternal life and how he only executes God's will and how the scriptures all point to him. I get the point. Jesus is claiming that he's all that and a bag of chips.

So if he's so great, why can't he get around to actually saying something to show how great he was. Give an analysis of exactly how some of the scriptures point to him (and no, random quoting of so called prophecies does not cut it). Point out some information that could not have been known by mere mortals at the time of the writing of the Bible (no the temple destruction does not count because it happened before the gospels were written).

Jesus gets annoyed at people who demand signs and proofs from him, but really, if all he is doing is claiming  to be the son of God what distinguishes him from any other person who makes outlandish claims? Nothing! People often claim that if you read the Bible, then you will see its obvious truth of Jesus' claims. What I see is a bunch of hot air and contradictory accounts.

Okay, I guess I was feeling ranty today. =)

Psalms and Proverbs

It looks like we may have another multi-part history review psalm.

The first of today's proverbs is another one where I think that my translation is a bit silly. Even if cancer is a more modern concept than rotting in the bones, it is also a highly technical term and feels out of place in this context.
A peaceful heart leads to a healthy body;
jealousy is like cancer in the bones.
Good point though. Psychological and physical health and closely linked.