Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Daily Old Testament and Early Christian Writings: 1 Chronicles 1-10, Song of Songs 4-5 and Augustine's Treatise on the Profit of Believing 3

1 Chronicles - Introduction
Lawrence Boadt in his Reading the Old Testament groups 1 and 2 Chronicles with Ezra and Nehemiah together as post-exilic texts that form the basis for modern Judaism (449). They “stress the role of cult, prayer, worship and ritual purity as a way of life” (449). The priestly leaders “took up and rewrote the great Deuteronomistic history found in the Books of Samuel and Kings” (451).  They saw the time of kings as past and the role of the Temple as much more central.

When it comes to retelling the story of David, the authors of Chronicles omitted his terrible behavior with Bathsheba and the revolt of his son Absalom. “For the Chronicler, David was a holy and dedicated leader who followed Yahweh faithfully. All his faults are set aside or downplayed” (451). Also, the rather confusing roles of different priestly lines is made much more defined. Boadt explains that the major theological concerns of the Chroniclers are the following:
·      That God intervenes in miraculous ways to save his people
·      That Judah and Jerusalem are the center of God’s holy kingdom.
·      That the high priest has authority even over the king
·      That the prophets support the “cultic life of the people” and do not denigrate it as in earlier traditions
·      And the “law is now clearly the Pentateuch with its priestly regulations rather than the Deuteronomic law book in 2 Kings 22” (453).

The date of composition is probably 4th century AD. The Chronicler follows a genealogy for King David that goes all the way to Adam. The same introduction by genealogy will be used in Matthew and Luke. I will highlight in blue the names that will appear in Jesus genealogy.  Some names are different and a few are missing.

Also, the number of books in the first day’s reading is a lot – ten; but the reading plan often passes quickly over books that simply go over genealogies. I’ve taken notes on them, however, over the years and will include most of the names. Beyond the names, there is little real content in these chapters.

1 Chronicles 1 – Genealogies of the clans, beginning with Adam and on through Japheth, Ham and Shem. For Japheth the lines of Gomer and Javan are followed. Tarshish is a descendent of Javan.  For Ham, Cush, Egypt and Canaan and notable. Cush’s descendent Nimrod was “the first to be a mighty one on the earth” (1:10).

The Philistines come from Egypt.  Canaan’s sons include Sidon, Heth, Jebusites, Amorites, Girghasites, Hivites and Arkites, etc. Shem’s descendents include Aram and Uz.  The line to Abram is Shem-Arpachshad-Shelah-Eber-Peleg-Reu-Serug-Nahor-Terah-Abram.

The sons of Abram are Isaac and Ishmael.  The children of Ishmael and Abram’s concubine Keturah are listed.  Keturah’s sons include Jokshan and Midian. The sons of Isaac (Jacob and Esau) and others.  The kings of Edom and their clans are named.

1 Chronicles 2 – Beginning with Israel (Jacob), the line is followed through Judah (David’s ancestor). He had three sons by the Canaanite woman Bath-shua. Er was wicked. Tamar (Judah’s daughter-in-law) also bore Perez and Zerah.  It is through Perez the line goes. Then Hezron—Ram (Aram in Matthew)—Amminadab—Nahshon—Salma (Salmon in Matthew)—Boaz by Rahab—Obed by Ruth—Jesse—David (the 7th son).

1 Chronicles 3 – The sons of David—six born in Hebron (Amnon, Daniel, Absalom, Adonijah, Shephatiah, Ithream). Those born in Jerusalem (Shimea, Shobab, Nathan, Solomon, all of Bath-shua; then Ibhar, Elishama, Eliphelet, Nogah, Nepheg, Japhia, Elishama, Eliada, Eliphelet. Tamar was a daughter). Then through Solomon—RehoboamAbijahAsa (Asaph in Matt)—Jehoshaphat—Joram—Ahaziah (not in Matt)—Joash (not in Matt)—Amaziah (not in Matt)—Azariah (Uzziah in Mt and elsewhere)—Jotham—Ahaz—HezekiahManasseh—Amon (Amos in Mt)Josiah and on down.(From Mt., Jeconiah—Salathiel—Zerubbabel—Abiud—Eliakim—Azor—Zadok—Achim—Eliud—Eleazar—Matthan—Jacob—Joseph)

1 Chronicles 4 – The sons of Judah further tracked and others difficult to follow.  One mentioned is Hur, “the firstborn of Ephrathah, the father of Bethlehem” (4:4).  The clan names and place names overlap. Following these, the sons of Simeon.

1 Chronicles 5 Sons of Reuben , the firstborn of Israel, are listed but it is noted that Reuben lost his birthright.  It was given to the sons of Joseph because Reuben “defiled his father’s bed” (5:1). Of special note are Beerah, whom Tilgath-pileser of Assyria carried off into exile. They all lived east of Gilead.  The Sons of Gad lived near them. The Reubenites, Gadites and half-tribe of Manasseh were valiant warriors. Members of this half-tribe are also mentioned.  These genealogies are said to be “enrolled” in the days of King Jotham of Judah and King Jeroboam of Israel (mid 8th BC).

1 Chronicles 6The sons of Levi traced through Kohath and down through Azariah, the priest who was the first to use Solomon’s Temple, and on through Jehozadak who went into exile.  Then it goes back and traces the line of Gershom (Levi’s son) and Merari. Their descendants came to be in charge of the service of song in the Lord’s house after the ark came to it. A Jerusalem Bible note says the author considered sacred chant (praise, confession, thanksgiving) to be the heart of sacrificial worship and notes that this is the outlook of Ho 14:3, Is 12: 25-26 and Ml 1: 11. Its origins are assigned to David.

Aaron and his sons were in charge of making offerings on the altar “to make atonement for Israel” (6:49). The line traced is Aaron—Eleazar—Phineas—Abishua—Bukka—Uzzi—Zerahiah—Meraioth—Amariah—Ahitub—Zadok and Ahimaaz. The lands apportioned to Aaron’s sons and Kohathites (Levi’s), Hebron and the surrounding pastures.  The fields of the city and its village went to Caleb. The sons of Aaron also got the cities of refuge: Hebron, Libnah, Jattir, Eshtemoa, Hilen, Debir, Ashan, Beth-shemesh, Geba, Alemeth, and Anathoth. Other towns and lands given are also named

1 Chronicles 7 Sons of Issachar, Benjamin, Naphtali, Manasseh, Ephraim, Asher reviewed and the clan population given.

1 Chronicles 8 – Benjamin’s descendants are listed again, this time leading up to their settlement of Jerusalem. Jeiel, father of Gibeon lived in Gibeon, which the Chronicler says preceded Jerusalem as site of the tabernacle.  His wife was Maacah. While Ner’s name does not appear in the NRSV list and Kish’s does, a note says the name Ner is added in the Greek manuscript.  This is important because it proceeds to give Ner’s son as Kish and Kish of Saul et al.

1 Chronicles 9 Judah was taken into exile because of their unfaithfulness.  The first to return were Israelites - priests, Levites and temple servants. Those who lived in Jerusalem are named; similarly priests, Levites, gatekeepers.  Their various tasks are listed—those in charge of utensils of service, in charge of furniture, of choosing flours and incense and spices; the singers. Saul’s descendants again are listed.

1 Chronicles 10 – The Philistines successes against Saul are mentioned, his death and that of his sons Jonathan and Abinadab and Machishua. Saul falls on his own sword.

The Philistines occupy the land.  They find Saul and his sons, take his armor and put it in the temple of their gods along with his head. Some valiant Israeli warriors go and take these back and bury them.  Saul is said to have died for his unfaithfulness and refusal to seek guidance of the Lord, using a medium. The kingdom goes to David.

Song of Songs 4 – The Bridegroom now [God?] proclaims his love: “You are beautiful, my darling, beautiful beyond words” (4:1) with eyes like doves, hair like a flock of goats, teeth like a flock of shorn ewes. “You are wholly beautiful and without a blemish” (4:7). These words are said to be about the people of Israel, purified by the Exile; and Catholics have seen them as applying to Mary. But I think the seeking believer is also included in this praise. We are not always seen by God as the sinner, fallen and without hope.  

The reference to the “promised bride” as “my sister” (4:9) is said to be from Egyptian love poetry. The Pharaoh always married a sister. “You are my private garden, my treasure, my bride, a secluded spring, a hidden fountain” (4:12).

The Bride responds with “Let my Beloved come into his garden, let him taste its rarest fruits” (4:16).

Song of Songs 5 - And the Bridegroom responds that he does. “Eat, friends, and drink, drink deep, my dearest friends” (5:1).

The Fourth Poem: The Bride’s “heart is awake” (5:2) – alert. Her head is “covered with dew” (blessings).  “I opened to by Beloved, but he had turned his back and gone!” (5:6) What is going on?

“My soul failed at his flight. I sought him but I did not find him, I called to him but he did not answer” (5:6). It seems to me the Beloved believer here is sometimes inexplicably deserted by her Beloved – do I feel that way? Yes! He invites me, he spurns me, I long for him, he disappears.

The Chorus asks, “What makes your Beloved better than other lovers?” (5:9). And she praises his every part. “My lover is dark and dazzling, better than ten thousand others. His head is finest gold, his wavy hair is black as a raven. His eyes sparkle like doves beside springs of water; they are set like jewels washed in milk. . . “(5:10-12).

Augustine (354-439)
On the Profit or Benefit of Believing
3 - But why do I not make answer to myself, that these fair and clever similies, and charges of this nature [that it deprives one of liberty, imposes superstition and error as to Truth, and that it opposes reason] may be poured forth against all who are teachers of anything by any adversary, with abundance of wit and sarcasm? But I thought that I ought to insert something of this kind in my letter, in order to admonish them to give over such proceedings; so that, as he says, apart from trifles of common-places, matter may contend with matter, cause with cause, reason with reason. Wherefore let them give over that saying, which they have in their mouths as though of necessity, when any one, who has been for some long time a hearer, has left them; "The Light has made a passage through him." For you see, you who are my chief care, (for I am not over anxious about them,) how empty this is, and most easy for any one to find fault with. Therefore I leave this for your own wisdom to consider. For I have no fear that you will think me possessed by indwelling Light, when I was entangled in the life of this world, having a darkened hope, of beauty of wife, of pomp of riches, of emptiness of honors, and of all other hurtful and deadly pleasures.

He is reminding his friend that when he was with the Manichees, he had not really ridded himself of the obsessions of the worldly – finding a beautiful woman, being rich and yearning for enjoyment of many things in this life. He knows his friend knows this about him, and he doesn’t really blame the Manichees, because they also ask their adherents to free themselves of these desires.

For all these, as is not unknown to you, I ceased not to desire and hope for, at the time when I was their attentive hearer. And I do not lay this to the charge of their teaching; for I also confess that they also carefully advise to shun these. But now to say that I am deserted by light, when I have turned myself from all these shadows of things, and have determined to be content with that diet merely which is necessary for health of body; but that I was enlightened and shining, at a time when I loved these things, and was wrapped up in them, is the part of a man, to use the mildest expression, wanting in a keen insight into matters, on which he loves to speak at length. But, if you please, let us come to the cause in hand.

He seems to be saying that Honoratus feels he was an “enlightened” man when he knew him as a Manichee; but Augustine knows he was not divorced from his worldly desires.

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