Sunday, June 23, 2013

Daily Old Testament and Early Christian Writings: Judges 20 and Augustine's Confessions 8

Judges 20 – The outrage galvanizes the “sons of Israel” to action.  The whole community, from Dan to Beersheba and from Gilead in the east, comes out to Mizpah (near Ai and Jericho).  The Levite “husband” or “master” tells them what happened.  They agree to go to war with Benjamin.  They select the troops by lot—an equal number from each of the eleven tribes.  Then they go up into the land of Benjamin and try to get the people to turn over the wrong-doers, but the Benjaminites will not cooperate.  They gather to fight against their kinsmen [26,000 against 400,000], 

The Israelites consult YHWH at Bethel as to who shall lead the force, and Judah is chosen.  The first day of battle, the people of Israel lose 22,000; the second day they lose 18,000—they go to Bethlehem that night and weep, fasting and offering burnt offerings of “well-being before the Lord” (20:26). The ark of the covenant was here at this time, and Phineas, son of Aaron ministered there.  They ask if they should go up again, and the Lord tells them to go, that He “will give them into your hand” tomorrow.

When they surround the city the next day, the fighters of Benjamin are drawn out to fight, and the Israelites decide to pretend to retreat, to drawn them away from Gibeah further. The Israelites wait in ambush for them to come out, and when they get a distance away from the city, they attack.  In a fierce battle, the Lord “defeated Benjamin” (20:35). The city is put to the sword.  The men outside the city turn and try to save it, but they are cut down.

Augustine (354-430 AD)
8 - Afterwards I began to laugh—at first in sleep, then when waking. For this I have heard mentioned of myself, and I believe it (though I cannot remember it), for we see the same in other infants. And now little by little I realized where I was, and wished to tell my wishes to those who might satisfy them, but I could not; for my wants were within me, while they were without, and could not by any faculty of theirs enter into my soul. So I cast about limbs and voice, making the few and feeble signs I could, like, though indeed not much like, unto what I wished; and when I was not satisfied— either not being understood, or because it would have been injurious to me— I grew indignant that my elders were not subject unto me, and that those on whom I had no claim did not wait on me, and avenged myself on them by tears. That infants are such I have been able to learn by watching them; and they, though unknowing, have better shown me that I was such an one than my nurses who knew it.

It is through our needs and desires that we first reach out to those around us and to God. I do not “know” anything about the “deal” struck between my parents and grandparents regarding my being raised by them. I grew up saying prayers before I went to sleep: “Our Father,” the “Hail Mary” and “God bless Nini, Dumps (Gramps) and all those in the house. I went to the Catholic Church down at the bottom of the hill but was not baptized. My father was an American Communist at the time, though I did not know this until I was in high school. He did not believe in God and certainly had no respect for the Catholic Church. Maybe that is why I wasn’t baptized.

My “wants” were satisfied completely by the love my grandparents had for me. We all slept on one room. My bed was next to my grandfather’s and it was mostly he who was there for me whenever I needed anything. He really was mother, father and angel to me in these years. Nothing was more important to him than my care and happiness. I did NOT grow up “indignant that my elders were not subject unto me”; they acted as if they were subject to me. They spoiled me rotten.

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