30 June 2010

Jun 30

Reference links:
Old Testament

Israel gets destroyed today. That surprised me. I knew it was coming, but we were just going along, one bad king after another, so to have it actually happen was a surprise. (Actually, it kind of reminds me of when my mother died. She had been sick so long that when she actually died, I was not quite expecting it even though I knew it would happen sometime.)

Israel was destroyed during the reign of King Hoshea of Israel. The Assyrian king, Shalmaneser (cool name!), besieged Samaria, conquered it, and exiled the people.  I remember reading somewhere that only the upper classes were exiled. Which just adds to my opinion that there was quite the disconnect between the religious, political, and military elite and the common people.

The author, of course, blames this downfall on the sins of Israel and its kings. He completely ignores the fact that Israel was a small weak country in between two powerful countries (Egypt and Assyria). In such a geographic and political situation, it was no wonder that Israel eventually fell.

According to the textbook I am currently reading for more background (Understanding The Bible by Stephen Harris), it was probably at this time that that the Torah started mixing together multiple narrative strands. Some of the people of Israel likely fled to Judah, and they would have brought their own oral and/or written traditions. The textual support for this hypothesis comes from the fact that one of the narrative strands has a primarily northern (i.e., Israel-centric) point of view while the other narrative strand has a primarily southern (i.e., Judah-centric) point of view.

After the Israelite ruling classes are exiled, the king of Assyria sends other people to live in the lands.
But since these foreign settlers did not worship the Lord when they first arrived, the Lord sent lions among them, which killed some of them.
I suppose this is a sign of the God of Israel becoming more universal. Before, he was the God of the Israelites only, and while he wanted to destroy everyone else who lived in the promised land, he generally did not demand that they worship him, only that the Israelites not worship their Gods. Now we have God demanding that others worship him, but his power, or at least his concern, is still limited to a small geographic area.

New Testament

Paul travels a bit more. During these travels, he brings a man back to life just by holding him. After that, he talks to some of the religious leaders and tells them that he he will be suffering in prison soon and not see them again. I find these anecdotes interesting because it seems like the author of Acts is walking a fine line of trying to make Paul seem as powerful (and therefore, as authoritative) as possible without making him bigger than Jesus. It is also interesting that, as far as I remember, Paul never mentioned any ability to do miraculous deeds in his own letters.

In any case, Paul shares his misgivings not to get sympathy but rather to encourage them to take his instruction to heart. He warns the leaders against false teachers and then entrusts them to God. Then he leaves.

Psalms and Proverbs

I like the structure of today's psalm. The psalm is telling everyone and everything to praise God. It starts with the highest and most mighty things and moves on to smaller things. Last of all in this listing is humanity and its praise. The structure emphasizes that humanity is only a small part of the universe. And while I cannot get behind the call to "Praise the Lord!" I can certainly get behind this sweeping vision of all creation.

And the first of today's proverbs certainly applies to me,
Fools’ words get them into constant quarrels;
they are asking for a beating.
I am most certainly a fool when it comes to keeping my mouth shut (or, rather, not keeping my mouth shut).