Sunday, June 9, 2013

Daily Old Testament and Early Christian Writings: Judges 4 and Origen's De Principiis: Book VI (3)

Judges 4 – King Jabin, Canaanite of Hazor, is the next tyrant Israel must fight.  His military commander is Sisera.  They dominate Israel because of their chariots of iron.

Deborah (around 1125—her song is one of the most ancient pieces of writing in the Old Testament)is a prophetess at this time and also a judge.  As judge, she sat under a palm tree situated in the hill country of Ephraim, between the towns of Ramah and Bethel.  She sends for Barak, son of Abinoam, from Kedesh in the territory of Naphtali to fight against Sisera.  He is to go to Mt. Tabor with 10,000 men from the tribes of Naphtali and Zebulun.  She will draw Sisera to the place and “give him into your hand” (4:7). He insists that Deborah come with him, and she warns him that to do so will mean that the victory he will win will not have the kind of glory it would have without her presence (4:9). 

Then another man is introduced—Heber, the Kenite. The Kenites, it says, were descended from Hobab, the father-in-law of Moses.  Now Moses’ father-in-law is called Reuel in Ex odus2 and Jethro in other places, so who is Hobab?

Sisera comes out with his 900 chariots of iron, but his men panic when Barak attack and Sisera himself flees on foot (4:15) from Barak.  He goes to the tent of Jael, wife of the said Heber - there was peace between King Jabin and the clan of Heber. Jael greets Sisera and invites him into her tent.  She gives him something to drink and covers him with a blanket.  He sleeps, but instead of watching for him at the opening of the tent, she runs a tent-peg through his head (4:21).

When Barak arrives, Jael shows him her work, and the people attribute the victory over Sisera to God.
Origen (185-254 AD)
De Principiis (First Principles)
Chapter VI – On the End or Consummation
3 – Some of the “beings who fell away from that one beginning” fell to such depths of depravity that they are “deemed undeserving” of the instruction human beings are assisted with. They just do not look back to the time of perfection from which they started. These beings are called “the devil and his angels, and the other orders of evil, which the apostle classed among the opposing powers.”

Origen seems to leave undetermined whether any of these “orders” acting under the devil and obeying his commands “will in a future world be converted to righteousness because of their possessing the faculty of freedom of will, or whether persistent and inveterate wickedness may be changed by the power of habit into nature.” He seems drawn to the POSSIBILITY of a universal salvation scenario, but for the present seems to say that the present variety of moral conditions will place all these “beings” into a setting a lot like Dante’s Inferno and Purgatorio.

“But in the meantime, both in those temporal worlds which are seen, as well as in those eternal worlds which are invisible, all those beings are arranged, according to a regular plan, in the order and degree of their merits; so that some of them in the first, others in the second, some even in the last times, after having undergone heavier and severer punishments, endured for a lengthened period, and for many ages, so to speak, improved by this stern method of training, and restored at first by the instruction of the angels, and subsequently by the power of a higher grade, and thus advancing through each stage to a better condition, reach even to that which is invisible and eternal.”

He lets his imagination go with the idea that there will be a “new heaven and a new earth.”

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