Friday, February 8, 2013

Genesis 32 and The Martyrdom of Polycarp 14-16

Genesis 32 – Now Jacob turns his attention to the fears he has about what might await him at his home. He camps in a place called Mahanaim (meaning Double-Camp according to Schocken) where he sends messengers ahead and learns that his brother Esau is coming to meet him with 400 men.  He is afraid for his children, especially for his favorite wife and child, so he divides his family and his possessions into two. He begs the Lord to remember the covenant he cut with him.

He sends gifts ahead of him for his brother: 200 female goats, 200 ewes, 20 rams, 30 female camels with their young, 40 cows, 10 bulls, 20 female donkeys and 10 male donkeys. He is a man of great wealth. He instructs his men to make an offer of the animals leading the way.

At Yabbok Crossing (on the east side of the Jordan), he wrestles with “some man”  (32:24). Jacob recognizes the match as having been with God; Peniel, the name he gives to the place where the encounter occurred means “face of God” (32:30). He carries a wound away—a hip socket that is injured. 

The Martyrdom of Polycarp
Chapter 14 – They tie Polycarp to the stake. He looks to the writer “like a noble ram taken out of some great flock for sacrifice. . . . Then he cast his eyes up to heaven and said: ‘O Lord God Almighty, Father of thy blessed and beloved Son Jesus Christ, through whom we have been given knowledge of thyself; Thou are the God of angels and powers, of the whole creation, and of all the generations of the righteous who live in thy sight. I bless thee for granting me this day and hour, that I may be numbered amongst the martyrs, to share the cup of thine Anointed and to rise again unto life everlasting, both in body and soul, in the immortality of the Holy Spirit. May I be received among them this day in thy presence, a sacrifice rich and acceptable, even as thou didst appoint and foreshow, and does not bring it to pass, for thou art the God of truth and in thee is no falsehood. For this, and for all else besides, I praise thee, I bless thee, I glorify thee; through our eternal High Priest in Heaven, thy beloved Son Jesus Christ, by whom and with whom be glory to thee and the Holy Ghost, now and for all ages to come. Amen’” (129-130).

Chapter 15 – The writer says that as the blaze was ignited, “The fire took on the shape of a hollow chamber, like a ship’s sail when the wind fills it, and formed a wall round about the martyr’s figure; and there was he in the center of it, not like a human being in flames but like a loaf baking in the oven, or like a gold or silver ingot being refined in the furnace. And we became aware of a delicious fragrance, like the odor of incense or other precious gums” (130).

Chapter 16 – When they realize that the fire is not going to do Polycarp in, someone is ordered to go and stab him, and the witness says, “As he did so, there flew out a dove, together with such a copious rush of blood that the flames were extinguished” (130).

The spectators are in awe. And so Polycarp dies “a wondrous martyr” who was not only the bishop of Smyrna but a teacher, an apostle and a prophet.

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