Monday, August 12, 2013

Daily Old Testament and Early Christian Writings: 1 Samuel 18, Proverbs 21-22 and Augustine's Confessions25

1 Samuel 18 Jonathan loves David from the first; “the soul of Jonathan was bound to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul” (18:1).

Like the heroes of the past, everything David did, was touched by success—command of Saul’s armies, popularity among the women who greeted David’s returns from war with singing and dancing (18:6).  Saul becomes jealous of him, and “an evil spirit rushed upon Saul, and he raved within his house, while David was playing the lyre, as he did day by day” (18:10). The story explains too that “Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with him but had departed from Saul” (18:12).

But “all Israel and Judah loved David” (18:16). Saul promises David his daughter Merab in marriage, but instead he gives her to Adriel the Meholathite.  The other daughter, Michal, loves David.  Saul agrees to their marriage because he hopes somehow she will be “a snare” to David (18:21).  Again David’s response to the offer is one of humility—that one so poor and lacking in reputation might gain so great an honor.  Saul plays with David—he says he will give her if David can bring back to him the foreskins of a hundred Philistines.  This is the kind of snare he is thinking of—where David wants her so much he will go out and get killed trying to win her—much as Uriah will be killed when he is put in a position of danger by David. David manages to do what he has been challenged to do—one translation from the Hebrew even places the number at 200 rather than 100.  They are married, but Saul is now crazed with fear of David from this time on.  Saul’s behavior is clearly that of a mentally unbalanced person—full of contradictions--paranoia, affection and fear.

Proverbs 21 – The proverbs I liked for today:
“The Lord is more pleased when we do what is right and just than when we offer him sacrifices” (21:3).

“Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty. Wealth created by a lying tongue is a vanishing mist and a deadly trap” (21:5-6)

“A secret gift calms anger; a bribe under the table pacifies fury” (21:14). Easy to see why this is such a problem in the world. It was praised for so long!

Proverbs 22 – Today’s best:
“Just as the rich rule the poor, so the borrower is servant to the lender” (22:7).

“Throw out the mocker, and fighting goes too. Quarrels and insults will disappear” (22:10).

Then follow a set of thirty saying introduced in this way: “I have written thirty sayings for you, filled with advice and knowledge. In this way, you may know the truth and take an accurate report to whose who sent you [to the king]” (22:20-21). What follow is pretty much the same as what I’ve quoted over the past days.

Augustine (354-439)
25 - But woe unto you, you stream of human custom! Who shall stay your course? How long shall it be before you are dried up? How long will you carry down the sons of Eve into that huge and formidable ocean, which even they who are embarked on the cross (lignum) can scarce pass over? Do I not read in you of Jove the thunderer and adulterer? And the two verily he could not be; but it was that, while the fictitious thunder served as a cloak, he might have warrant to imitate real adultery. Yet which of our gowned masters can lend a temperate ear to a man of his school who cries out and says: "These were Homer's fictions; he transfers things human to the gods. I could have wished him to transfer divine things to us." But it would have been more true had he said: "These are, indeed, his fictions, but he attributed divine attributes to sinful men, that crimes might not be accounted crimes, and that whosoever committed any might appear to imitate the celestial gods and not abandoned men."

Augustine complains of the way the ancient poets projected human sinfulness on the gods in their stories, or “attributed divine attributes to sinful men.” If both cases, the moral landscape becomes very confusing for young people.

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