Friday, June 7, 2013

Daily Old Testament and Early Christian Writings: Judges 2 and Origen's De Principiis: Book V (4-5)

Judges 2 – The angel of the Lord reminds the people to make covenants with the inhabitants of the land, but to “tear down their altars” (2:2).  But they do not obey.  For this reason it says, they will be forced to share the land.

At age 110, Joshua dies and is buried in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mt. Gaash.  Another generation comes along “who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and worshiped the Baals; and they abandoned the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt; they followed other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were all around them, and bowed down to them; and they provoked the Lord to anger” (2:10-12).

The Lord raises up Judges from among the people to help them, but they do not listen to them with any consistency.  During the time of the particular judge, things would be better; but when he died, things would degenerate again.  “So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel; and he said, ‘Because this people have transgressed my covenant that I commanded their ancestors, and have not obeyed my voice, I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations that Joshua left when he died” (2:20-21).

Origen (185-254 AD)
De Principiis (First Principles)
Chapter V
4 – Origen feels it is important to reason out the conclusions that he draws not just to rely on “inference alone” or getting his listeners to agree with him on assertions that are merely conjecture. He seems to be examining whether or not the structures of political power that men have always had around them are somehow there “by divine order” or if they actually came into being because of “reasons” that can be tracked.

He starts by examining the Scripture narrative – the story of the prince of Trye from the Book of Ezekiel. Here are my notes on this chapter of Ezekiel where he is prophesying over the kingdoms and powers that surround God’s people:

The prophecy against the kingdom of Tyre – great trading city and center of the region. Tyre is condemned for being proud enough to consider itself “a god.”  But foreigners will be brought against them.

Tyre was created perfect – full of natural riches and guarded by God’s ensigns. But Tyre’s “busy trading has filled you with violence and sin” (28:16). The dishonesty of their trade, however, and the pride they showed has brought them to ashes. They have become “an object of terror – gone forever” (28:19).
Sidon too (less important but involved in the political intrigue Ezekiel is condemning here) is addressed God will send the plague to demonstrate His anger. Men will “learn that I am the Lord Yahweh” by God’s bringing down the nations hostile to Judah around it. Similarly, God will replant his people “on the soil . . .I gave to my servant Jacob [and] they shall live there in confidence, build houses, plant vineyards” (28:26).

What Origen calls the “malignant powers” of the world “were not formed or created so by nature, but fell from a better to a worse position” and the “blessed” powers also were not created so but just never fell into negligence regarding their moral state.

5 – In this section, Origen examines a passage from Isaiah (14:12-14), which was understood to be the story of Satan or Lucifer’s origins. Lucifer (helel) is called the “brightness of morning” or the “day star”:

"How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit on the mount of assembly on the heights of Zaphon; I will ascend to the tops of the clouds, I will make myself like the Most High’" (Isaiah 14:12-14, NIV).

”[A]t one time he was light”; “he had been at one time in heaven, and had had a place among the saints, and had enjoyed a share in that light in which all the saints participate, by which they are made angels of light, and by which the apostles are termed by the Lord the light of the world. In this manner, then did that being once exist as light before he went astray, and fell to this place, and had his glory turned into dust, which is peculiarly the mark of the wicked, as the prophet also says; whence, too, he was called the prince of this world, i.e., of an earthly habitation: for he exercised power over those who were obedient to his wickedness.”

Job refers to this same power by the name “dragon.” He concludes that “it is evident from all this that no one is pure either by essence or nature, and that no one was by nature polluted. And the consequence of this is, that it lies within ourselves and in our own actions to possess either happiness or holiness; or by sloth and negligence to fall from happiness into wickedness and ruin, to such a degree that, through too great proficiency, so to speak, in wickedness . . . he may descend even to that state in which he will be changed into what is called an “opposing power.”

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