Saturday, June 29, 2013

Daily Old Testament and Early Christian Writings: 1 Samuel 3-4 and Augustine's Confessions 13

1 Samuel 3 – During Samuel’s childhood, the “word of the Lord was rare [and] visions were not widespread” (3:1). Samuel was lying down in the temple when he heard someone call him, “Samuel! Samuel!” (3:4) Samuel answers “Here I am!” and thinking the voice was Eli’s, he runs to see what Eli wants of him.  But Eli has not called.  Again, he hears the call and again he runs to Eli, and learns Eli has not called.

“Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him” (3:7). This time, Eli instructs him to respond differently if he hears the voice again—to say, “’Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening’” (3:9).

The next time we are told “the Lord came and stood there, calling as before” (3:10). But this time Samuel responds as instructed and the Lord reveals to him that He is about to do something in Israel “that will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle” (3:11). He is going to punish the blasphemy of Eli’s sons.  At first Samuel is afraid to tell Eli what God said, but he does and Eli accepts it. “’It is the Lord; let him do what seems good to him” (3:18).

As Samuel grows, the Lord is with him.  He does not let any of the Lord’s words “fall to the ground” (3:19). He gains a reputation as a trustworthy prophet at the Shiloh sanctuary.

1 Samuel 4 – The Philistines are Israel’s great enemy at this time.  They are in conflict now—the Israelites encamped at Ebenezer and the Philistines at Aphek, due west of Shiloh on the eastern part of the Plain of Sharon. 

When they lose in battle, the Israelites call for the ark to be brought to them “so that [the Lord] may come among us and save us from the power of our enemies” (4:3). Eli’s two sons bring it.  When it arrives the whole camp shouts “so that the earth resounded” (4:5). The fervor of the Israelites makes the Philistines anxious. 

Again they fight, and again the Israelites lose; they flee “everyone to his home” (4:10). There is a great slaughter and the ark is captured (4:11). The two sons of Eli are killed.  One of the men runs back to tell Eli who is waiting in Shiloh, “his heart trembl[ing] for the ark of God” (4:13). Eli is 99 years old and blind.  The news kills him (4:18).

Phineas’ wife, who is pregnant, gives birth and then dies too.  The son’s name was Ichabod (meaning “the glory has departed from Israel”). Eerdman’s suggests the city of Shiloh was probably destroyed by the Philistines at this time as well.

Augustine (354-430 AD)
13 - Did I not, then, growing out of the state of infancy, come to boyhood, or rather did it not come to me, and succeed to infancy? Nor did my infancy depart (for whither went it?); and yet it did no longer abide, for I was no longer an infant that could not speak, but a chattering boy. I remember this, and I afterwards observed how I first learned to speak, for my elders did not teach me words in any set method, as they did letters afterwards; but myself, when I was unable to say all I wished and to whomsoever I desired, by means of the whimperings and broken utterances and various motions of my limbs, which I used to enforce my wishes, repeated the sounds in my memory by the mind, O my God, which You gave me. When they called anything by name, and moved the body towards it while they spoke, I saw and gathered that the thing they wished to point out was called by the name they then uttered; and that they did mean this was made plain by the motion of the body, even by the natural language of all nations expressed by the countenance, glance of the eye, movement of other members, and by the sound of the voice indicating the affections of the mind, as it seeks, possesses, rejects, or avoids. So it was that by frequently hearing words, in duly placed sentences, I gradually gathered what things they were the signs of; and having formed my mouth to the utterance of these signs, I thereby expressed my will. Thus I exchanged with those about me the signs by which we express our wishes, and advanced deeper into the stormy fellowship of human life, depending the while on the authority of parents, and the beck of elders.

Interesting analysis of the way we incorporate into us the particular language we are raised with and the universal body language and tone that all people share. We all also “advance [as Augustine did] into the stormy fellowship of human life.”

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