Thursday, August 22, 2013

Daily Old Testament and Early Christian Writings: 1 Chronicles 11-12, Song of Songs 6-8 and Augustine's Treatise on the Profit of Believing 4

1 Chronicles 11 –David becomes the king of all of Israel. The elders come to Hebron and David makes a covenant with them. They march to Jerusalem (Jebus), but are told they will not be permitted to come there (11:5). 

David tells his men the one who attacks the Jebusites first will be commander, so Joab, son of David’s sister, Zeruiah, does it. David establishes himself in the city.
David’s warriors include Jashobeam, leader of “the Three—the mightiest warriors among David’s men” (11:11). Eleazar and Shammah [not mentioned here] are the other two. The Three are the ones who take Bethlehem for David and permit him to drink from the well there.  They get him the water, but he pours it out “to the Lord” saying he cannot drink it because these brave warriors got it at the risk of their lives (11:18).
Abishai, Joab’s brother becomes chief of the Thirty. The braves deeds of some of the Thirty are recounted—Benaiah “killed a lion in a pit on a day when snow had fallen” (11:22), along with a “an Egyptian warrior who was 7 ½ feet tall and whose spear was as thick as a weaver’s beam” (11:23). Benaiah is put in charge of David’s bodyguard. Asahel, another brother of Joab, Elhanan, Shammoth, Helez, Ira, and others are named.

1 Chronicles 12 – Those who came to David at Ziglag to help him in his struggle against Saul were archers and men from Saul’s clan who could “sling stones with their left hand as well as their right” (12:2).

Gadites also join David. “They were expert with both shield and spear, as fierce as lions and as swift as deer on the mountains” (12:8).

Another man is named as chief of the Thirty -- Amasai, not Abisha as in 11:20. Some “men from Manasseh defected from the Israelite army and joined David when he set out with the Philistines to fight against Saul” (12:19). “Day after day more men joined David until he had a great army, like the army of God” (12:22).

The number of divisions from each clan is given: Judah—6,800 troops; Simeonites—7,100; Levites—4,600 (Jehoida, leader of the house of Aaron with 3,700 and Zadok, a young warrior); Benjaminites—3,000 most of whom had remained loyal to Saul up to this time (12:29); Ephramites—20,800; Manassites—18,000; Issacharites, 200 of them “who had understanding of the times, and knew what Israel ought to do” (12:32); Zebulun—50,000; Naphtali—1,000 commanders plus 37,000; Danites—28,600; Asher—40,000; Reubenites, Gadites and half-tribe from Gilead—120,000.

All these came to Hebron to see David crowned king. “They feasted and drank with David for three days” (12:39).

Song of Songs 6 – So where did He go, the Chorus asks again. And the Bride responds that He has gone “down to his garden” (6:2). And she repeats, “I am my Beloved’s, and my Beloved is mine. He pastures his flock among the lilies” (6:3). He praises her every feature.

Song of Songs 7 - Again, the Bridegroom compares his Beloved to many lovely things. It is clear that the Beloved in this poem is not just a spouse for there are many wives and concubines permitted to this King. But the Bride here is unique – the love the Bridegroom has for her is special.

I often think about the image of the believer as “Bride” of our Creator/Sustainer/Savior. Certainly there are billions of believers throughout history and so there is a way in which the relationship between God and his Lovers is like a polygamous marriage, but every Bride (male or female) is also so uniquely special to God, that the relationship we have with Him is the very model of what we seek in Monogamy – it is a mystery.

“I am my Beloved’s, and his desire is for me” (7:10).

Song of Songs 8 – “Ah, why are you not my brother, nursed at my mother’s breast!” (8:1) The note seems to say that the disappointment is that the Beloved Bridegroom is still not the Egyptian-style lover, the brother. Is this some kind of yearning for a human-faced God?

Set me like a seal on your heart, like a seal on your arm. For love is strong as Death, jealousy relentless as Sheol” (8:5-6).

Augustine (354-439)
On the Profit or Benefit of Believing
4 - For you well know that the Manichees move the unlearned by finding fault with the Catholic Faith, and chiefly by rending in pieces and tearing the Old Testament: and they are utterly ignorant, how far these things are to be taken, and how drawn out they descend with profit into the veins and marrows of souls as yet as it were but able to cry.

Those professing Mani’s teachings take advantage of people who are unschooled by criticizing the Catholic faith by attacking the Old Testament. They do not understand how deep these readings go or understand how they can help those souls who are struggling to find their way to a better place.

And because there are in them certain things which are some slight offense to minds ignorant and careless of themselves, (and there are very many such,) they admit of being accused in a popular way: but defended in a popular way they cannot be, by any great number of persons, by reason of the mysteries that are contained in them.

Just because the OT contains certain things which can be offensive to some who are not well-schooled, they contain mysteries.

But the few, who know how to do this – understand how to interpret the stories -, do not love public and much talked of controversies and disputes: and on this account are very little known, save to such as are most earnest in seeking them out. Concerning then this rashness of the Manichees, whereby they find fault with the Old Testament and the Catholic Faith, listen, I entreat you, to the considerations which move me. But I desire and hope that you will receive them in the same spirit in which I say them. For God, unto Whom are known the secrets of my conscience knows, that in this discourse I am doing nothing of evil craft; but, as I think it should be received, for the sake of proving the truth, for which one thing we have now long ago determined to live; and with incredible anxiety, lest it may have been most easy for me to err with you, but most difficult, to use no harder term, to hold the right way with you.

But I venture to anticipate that, in this hope, wherein I hope that you will hold with us the way of wisdom, He will not fail me, unto Whom I have been consecrated; Whom day and night I endeavor to gaze upon: and since, by reason of my sins, and by reason of past habit, having the eye of the mind wounded by strokes of feeble opinions, I know that I am without strength, I often entreat with tears, and as, after long blindness and darkness the eyes being hardly opened, and as yet, by frequent throbbing and turning away, refusing the light which yet they long after; specially if one endeavor to show to them the very sun; so it has now befallen me, who do not deny that there is a certain unspeakable and singular good of the soul, which the mind sees; and who with tears and groaning confess that I am not yet worthy of it. He will not then fail me, if I feign nothing, if I am led by duty, if I love truth, if I esteem friendship, if I fear much lest you be deceived.

He is just hoping that his friend will receive the reasoning he has come to with respect to these things and understand that he is a man who has consecrated his life to God, and he is hoping his friend will listen.

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