Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Daily Old Testament and Early Christian Writings: 1 Samuel (Introduction) and Augustine's Confessions 10

Introductory Information on the Books of Samuel: The books of Samuel trace the last years of the judges and the first years of the monarchy.  While the monarchy provided strong government, “the religious meaning of kingship had to be worked out so as to preserve the more basic belief that Israel was a people subject to one king only, Yahweh himself” (Lawrence Boadt’s Reading the Old Testament, 227).  Samuel lived in the 11th century BC.  He served the shrine at Shiloh where the ark was kept.  In a desperate defense against the Philistines, Samuel’s predecessor, Eli let the Israelites carry the ark into battle against their enemies only to have it taken in their defeat.  In their desperation they ask Samuel to give them a king.  God gives in reluctantly and Samuel interprets it as a rejection of God’s sovereignty (1 Sam 10:19).  In the writings, Boadt says, there is a pro-Saul tradition (see 1 Sam 9: 1 through 10:6 and 11: 1-15) and an anti-Saul tradition (see 1 Sam 7: 1 through 8: 22, 10: 17-27 and 12: 1-25).

The Jerusalem Bible says Saul (c.1030) was first a judge, but recognition by all the tribes invests him with a broader authority. Saul dies on the field at Gilboa around 1010.

Augustine (354-430 AD)
10 - I give thanks to You, Lord of heaven and earth, giving praise to you for that my first being and infancy, of which I have no memory; for you have granted to man that from others he should come to conclusions as to himself, and that he should believe many things concerning himself on the authority of feeble women. Even then I had life and being; and as my infancy closed I was already seeking for signs by which my feelings might be made known to others. Whence could such a creature come but from You, O Lord? Or shall any man be skillful enough to fashion himself? Or is there any other vein by which being and life runs into us save this, that "You, O Lord, hast made us," with whom being and life are one, because You Yourself art being and life in the highest? You are the highest, "You change not," [Malachi 3:6] neither in You does this present day come to an end, though it does end in You, since in You all such things are; for they would have no way of passing away unless You sustained them. And since "Your years shall have no end," Your years are an ever-present day. And how many of ours and our fathers' days have passed through this Your day, and received from it their measure and fashion of being, and others yet to come shall so receive and pass away! "But you are the same;" and all the things of tomorrow and the days yet to come, and all of yesterday and the days that are past, You will do today, You have done today. What is it to me if any understand not? Let him still rejoice and say, "What is this?" Let him rejoice even so, and rather love to discover in failing to discover, than in discovering not to discover you.

Hard to know exactly what Augustine is trying to get at in this section except still trying to comprehend fully the nature of a creator who is somehow contained maybe fully in all that simply IS but is probably larger – grander than even the WHOLE. Deep in it is a conviction that anything that IS must have been created by something that could conceive of it, order it, develop it and sustain it. We know experientially that they is what is involved in “creating.”

It’s sweet to see Augustine pass for a moment over our time and those of us who, like him, cannot live without trying to see into the roots of our “being” human.

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