13 June 2010

Jun 13

Reference links:
Old Testament

In a way I cannot quite put my finger on, the tone of today's reading feels different from what we have read in Kings so far. Certainly, it is more narrative than the recent temple/palace catalog, but we have seen cases before where fairly similar tone was maintained despite the difference in style. This just sounds like an altogether different source. Given that Kings was compiled from many sources, it may very well be.

There is an obvious and simple understanding of today's reading. Solomon sinned by marrying foreign wives and aiding them in their worship of foreign gods. For that, God punished him by declaring that Solomon had rendered the covenant between himself and Solomon's descendants null and void and, therefore, splitting the kingdom of Israel in two and giving most of it to someone else. I suppose God would think it a just punishment of Solomon's straying to let him live out the rest of his life and then punish his descendants.

However, what I see in this reading is a struggle between different tribal gods. In particular, since it was Solomon's wives who were blamed for causing him to stray, I am guessing the author is giving his own version of the struggle between worshiping a fertility goddess and worshiping a god of war. Here's how that might of looked.

Solomon's reign was fairly peaceful, especially compared to his father's reign. During this time of peace, the war god Yahweh started to seem inadequate, so the Israelites went back to their pantheistic roots and revived worship of fertility goddesses. These deities proved to be better suited to the times of prosperity.

The author of the source(s) that went into today's reading was writing from a vantage point where the kingdom of Israel had already been divided. He needed something to blame. Since strife had once again brought the war god Yahweh into a position of prominence, the author blamed worship of other gods for the trouble that happened later. By this point, the myth of history declared that the Israelites had always been monotheistic and so the worship of these alternate deities was attributed to Solomon's foreign wives.

Also, 700 wives of royal birth and 300 concubines? For reals?

New Testament

Saul converts. He sees a vision of Jesus on the road to Damascus and starts to declare him to be the son of God. One thing that we can say about Saul is that he is nothing if not enthusiastic, almost to the point of obsession. First he passionately persecutes the followers of Jesus and then almost immediately starts just as passionately preaching for Jesus.

That said, from yesterday and today's readings, it is not clear how much actual persecution Saul actually did. Yeah, the reading starts out with his big plan to bring all followers of Jesus back to Jerusalem and chains, but then he has his conversion experiences on his way to his first stop, Damascus. While I am sure that he probably executed some persecution, I wonder how much Saul's reputation is being exaggerated by the author of Acts to make Saul's conversion seem more miraculous.

Psalms and Proverbs

I can get behind this proverb:
Those who mock the poor insult their Maker;
those who rejoice at the misfortune of others will be punished.