Thursday, June 6, 2013

Daily Old Testament and Early Christian Writings: Judges (Intro) through 1 and Origen's De Principiis: Book V (2-3)

Introduction to Judges: We learn in Judges that the ban upon the enemies of the Israelites during their wars of conquest were not so thorough as Joshua may have led us to believe.  It is the theme of Judges to show how a remnant of the native peoples remained and how this remnant persisted as a temptation for the Jews.  The point of these conquest stories seems to be to show that God’s people are a people set apart.  Their ways and the ways of the world around them are not to be the same, nor are they to accommodate themselves to other ways.

The stories that make up judges are not all in chronological order.  They seem to come from widely different sources and times.  The last several chapters even seems to predate some of the earlier stories—involving as they do characters within two generations of the wilderness generation.

The Eerdman’s Handbook says the date of the conquest is at around 1240.  The period covered here is about 200 years, but some of the “periods of rest” recounted here might have been times running concurrently in different parts of the region

Judges 1 - In chapter 1, the people of the tribe of Judah (and Simeon, helping out) are the first to go to war with the Canaanites and Perizzites.  They defeat them and catch Adoni-bezek, cutting off his thumbs and big toes, presumably in retaliation for having done this to other kings (70 of them according to him) in the past (1:6-7). 

Then they attack and take the city of Jerusalem, “killing all its people and setting the city on fire” (1:8). Later, in verse 21, it says the Benjaminites did not succeed in driving out the Jebusites from Jerusalem but lived among them.
They go on to attack the Canaanite towns in the hill country, the Negeb and the lowlands. They take Hebron and go on to Debir (Kiriath-sepher). Caleb promises the victor there his daughter Achsah. Among the other cities taken are Zephath, Hormah, Gaza, Ashkelon, Ekron with territories around them.  The only people they had trouble defeating were the inhabitants of the plain because of the “chariots of iron” they had (1:19).

Tribes of Joseph (Benjaminites?) also take Bethel.  Men of Manasseh do not succeed in driving out the inhabitants of Beth-shean or Taanach, or Dor or Ibleam or Megiddo.  The Canaanites remained there with them. And Ephraim settled among the Canaanites of Gezer; as did Zebulun at Kitron and Nahalol.  Asher shared the towns of Acco, Sidon, Ahlab, Achzib, Helbah, Aphik and Rehob. Naphtali lived among Canaanites at Beth-shemesh and Beth-anath.

The Amorites pushed the Danites out of the lands they were given, back into the hill country of the north.  Amorites lived among the tribes of Joseph in Harheres, Aijalon, and Shaalbim, but “when the descendants of Joseph became stronger, they forced the Amorites to work as slaves” (1:35).

Origen (185-254 AD)
De Principiis (First Principles)
Chapter V
2 – “[E]very being which is endowed with reason, and transgresses its statutes and limitations, is undoubtedly involved in sin by swerving from rectitude and justice. Every rational creature, therefore, is capable of earning praise and censure: of praise, if, in conformity to that reason which he possesses, he advances to better things; of censure, if he fall away from the plan and course of rectitude, for which reason he is justly liable to pains and penalties.”

This same reasoning applied to those we call the devil and his companions or angels. Who are these characters named in Scripture? Origen goes into what he thinks is referred to by these words – Satan, principalities and powers - and also those beings referred to as “heavenly beings.”

And what exactly is meant when humans are designated as “rational” and then divided into different “orders”: the Lords’ people, the nations?

3 – He means to inquire into whether these various beings were created exactly as they appear or whether they were created with the ability to be “capable of either condition.”  Were the holy angels always holy?

And were the “principalities” and “powers” and “thrones” created to “hold sway over others” or if they were given their powers “on account of merit.”

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