Sunday, August 25, 2013

Daily Old Testament and Early Christian Writings: 1 Chronicles 15-20, Ecclesiastes 3-5 and Augustine's Treatise on the Profit of Believing 6-7

1 Chronicles 15 – David builds a palace in the city, and a place for the ark, “a special tent” (15:1). He commands that only the Levites shall carry the ark in the future. He thinks this is why they had trouble the first time. Then he assembles the people to bring the ark up to Jerusalem. All the descendants of Aaron and the Levites are assembled. David also gets the Levite chiefs to appoint musicians to accompany the Ark. Kenaniah is the Levite leader of musicians “for he understood it” (15:22).

They bring the Ark up from the home of Obed-edom with rejoicing. Then they sacrifice seven bulls and seven rams. 

The Chronicler ends with the same allusion as in Samuel—“As the ark of the covenant of the Lord came to the city of David, Michal daughter of Saul looked out of the window, and saw King David leaping and dancing; and she despised him in her heart” (15:29).

1 Chronicles 16 – David concludes the festivities by sending to each man and woman in Israel a loaf of bread, a portion of meat and a cake of raisins. Certain Levites are put in charge of the Ark.

“On that day David gave to Asaph and his fellow Levites this song of thanksgiving to the Lord: Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness. Let the whole world know what he has done” (16:7-8).

“He is the Lord our God. His justice is seen throughout the land. Remember his covenant forever – the commitment he made to a thousand generations. This is the covenant he made with Abraham and the oath he swore to Isaac He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree, and to the people of Israel as a never-ending covenant: ‘I will give you the land of Canaan as your special possession.’ He said this when you were few in number, a tiny group of strangers in Canaan. They wandered from nation to nation, from one kingdom to another. Yet he did not let anyone oppress them. He warned kings on their behalf: ‘Do not touch my chosen people, and do not hurt my prophets.’ Let the whole earth sing to the Lord!” (16:14-23). The hymn of praise goes on for another ten verses or so. And all the people said, “Amen!” (16:36)

Then they all departed to their homes.

1 Chronicles 17 – David frets to the prophet Nathan that he is living in a beautiful house of cedar, but that the Lord’s Ark is housed in a tent. Nathan encourages him at first, but that night “the word of the Lord came to Nathan, saying: Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the Lord: You shall not build me a house to live in.  For I have not lived in a house since the day I brought out Israel to this very day, but I have lived in a tent and a tabernacle” (17:5)


The Lord never asked the judges to build him a house. “I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, to be ruler over my people Israel; and I have been with you and I have destroyed all your enemies before your eyes. Now I will make your name as famous as anyone who has ever lived on the earth! And I will provide a homeland for my people Israel, planting them in a secure place where they will never be disturbed . . . Furthermore, I declare that the Lord will build a house for you—a dynasty of kings! For when you die and join your ancestors, I will raise up one of your descendants, one of your sons, and I will make his kingdom strong. He is the one who will build a house—a temple—for me. And I will secure his throne forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. I will never take my favor from him as I took it from the one who ruled before you. I will confirm him as king over my house and my kingdom for all time, and his throne will be secure forever.’” (17:7-14).

1 Chronicles 18 – David battles the Philistines again and takes Gath.  He defeats Moab. He strikes down King Hadadezer of Zobah on his way to set up a monument on the Euphrates, taking from him a thousand chariots, 7000 cavalry and 20,000 foot soldiers. He “cripples all the chariot horses except enough for 100 chariots” (18:4).

The Arameans of Damascus come to help Hadadezer, but David kills 22,000 of them. They are made subject to David. From this king’s cities, he took bronze with which Solomon would make the bronze sea and pillars and vessels of bronze for the Temple. King Tou of Hamath sends his son Hadoram to David to congratulate him for his victory and sends gold. This too David dedicates to the Lord along with silver and gold from Edom, Moab, Ammon, Philistia and Amalek.

1 Chronicles 19 – When king Nahash of the Ammonites dies, David wants to deal in a friendly way with his son Hanun. He sends messengers to console him for his father’s death, but Hanun’s men convince Hanun that David is up to no good. So Hanun seizes the messengers and disgraces them (shaving them, cutting off part of their clothes and sends them back.

David is furious. The Ammonites gather a large army (also of Arameans) and David sends Joab against them. Joab is sent against the Arameans. His brother Abishai stands to meet the Ammonites. When the Ammonites see the Arameans flee before Joab, they also flee. The go and get reinforced and return. The Arameans get fellow Arameans from beyond the Euphrates to come to their aid, but David defeats them. They all end up paying tribute to David.

1 Chronicles 20 – In spring when kings go out to battle, Joab goes out and ravages the country of the Ammonites, then comes and besieges Rabbah. David remains in Jerusalem. It tells of David’s defeat of Milcom and his taking the gold crown and about his taking the men of the city to do work for him. Then there is war with the Philistines at Gezer. A number of the Philistine men are said to be descended from a race of giants.  A man named Goliath the Gittite is mentioned as one. They are defeated by David and his brother Jonathan son of Shimea.

Ecclesiastes 3 – These most famous words:
To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven:
         A time to be born,
         A time to die,
         A time to plant,
         A time to reap,
         A time to kill,
         A time to heal,
         A time to destroy,
         A time to build,
         A time for tears,
         A time for laughter,
         A time to mourn,
         A time to dance,
         A time for throwing stones away,
         A time for gathering them up,
         A time for embracing,
         A time to refrain from embracing,
         A time for searching,
         A time for losing,
         A time for keeping,
         A time for throwing away,
         A time for tearing,
         A time for sewing,
         A time for keeping silent,
         A time for speaking,
         A time for loving,
         A time for hating,
         A time for war,
         A time for peace (3:2-8).

The writer spends a good deal of time thinking about the value of our labor. The things we work for have purpose in a limited span of time, but in the grand scheme, “though He [God] has permitted man to consider time in its wholeness, man cannot comprehend the work of God from beginning to end” (3:11).

When we find happiness in the small things that give us pleasure, “this is a gift from God” (3:13). God is “consistent” – we see this in the eternal recurrence of things, in their repetition. God does care for the persecuted. The fate of man and beast is identical. We have no advantage over other animals. Both “originate from the dust and to the dust both return” (3:20). We don’t “know” the end of the spirit. There “is no happiness for man but to be happy in his work, for this is the lot assigned him” (3:22).

Ecclesiastes 4 – Contemplating all the oppression that has taken place, he salutes those who have gone before or those who have not yet been born. He also observes that people do better when they are paired, when they have another or two others to work with.

Ecclesiastes 5 – Do not be too bold to speak. But if you declare yourself for God, then discharge your obligations to Him. You need to make sure your words do not bring you guilt.

When the poor are oppressed, officials will always talk of how they are not in charge. Everyone points to the one above him to avoid responsibility. Happiness for man is to eat, drink and be merry with the life he has. If God grants you riches, be thankful.

Augustine (354-439)
On the Profit or Benefit of Believing
6 - All these ways our Lord Jesus Christ and His Apostles used. For when it had been objected that His disciples had plucked the ears of grain on the sabbath-day, the instance was taken from history; "Have ye not read," says He, "what David did when he was an hungered, and they that were with him; how he entered into the house of God, and did eat the showbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them that were with him, but only for the priests?" But the instance pertains to ætiology, that, when Christ had forbidden a wife to be put away, save for the cause of fornication, and they, who asked Him, had alleged that Moses had granted permission after a writing of divorcement had been given, This, says He, "Moses did because of the hardness of your heart." Aetiology examines the reason or cause for things that happen. This looks to the cause or reason for the allowance Moses gave on the matter of divorce. Apparently, he would explain that divorce is now out of bounds because our hearts have less excuse for being hardened. For here a reason was given, why that had been well allowed by Moses for a time; that this command of Christ might seem to show that now the times were other. But it were long to explain the changes of these times, and their order arranged and settled by a certain marvellous appointment of Divine Providence.

7 - And further, analogy, whereby the agreement of both Testaments is plainly seen, why shall I say that all have made use of, to whose authority they yield; whereas it is in their power to consider with themselves, how many things they are wont to say have been inserted in the divine Scriptures by certain, I know not who, corrupters of truth? Which speech of theirs I always thought to be most weak, even at the time that I was their hearer: nor I alone, but you also, (for I well remember,) and all of us, who essayed to exercise a little more care in forming a judgment than the crowd of hearers. He seems to be saying here that Horatus and he both never gave much credence to the idea that the Old Testament was corrupted in some mysterious way.

But now, after that many things have been expounded and made clear to me, which used chiefly to move me: those I mean, wherein their discourse for the most part boasts itself, and expatiates the more freely, the more safely it can do so as having no opponent; it seems to me that there is no assertion of theirs more shameless, or (to use a milder phrase) more careless and weak than that the divine Scriptures have been corrupted; whereas there are no copies in existence, in a matter of so recent date, whereby they can prove it. For were they to assert, that they thought not that they ought thoroughly to receive them, because they had been written by persons, who they thought had not written the truth; any how their refusal would be more right, or their error more natural. For this is what they have done in the case of the Book which is inscribed the Acts of the Apostles. And this device of theirs, when I consider with myself, I cannot enough wonder at. For it is not the want of wisdom in the men that I complain of in this matter, but the want of ordinary understanding. For that book has so great matters, which are like what they receive, that it seems to me great folly to refuse to receive this book also, and if any thing offend them there to call it false and inserted. Or, if such language is shameless, as it is why in the Epistles of Paul, why in the four books of the Gospel, do they think that they are of any avail, in which I am not sure but that there are in proportion many more things, than could be in that book, which they will have believed to have been interpolated by falsifiers. But forsooth this is what I believe to be the case, and I ask of you to consider it with me with as calm and serene a judgment as possible. For you know that, essaying to bring the person of their founder Manichæus into the number of the Apostles, they say that the Holy Spirit, Whom the Lord promised His disciples that He would send, has come to us through him. Therefore, were they to receive those Acts of the Apostles, in which the coming of the Holy Spirit is plainly set forth, they could not find how to say that it was interpolated. For they will have it that there were some, I know not who, falsifiers of the divine Books before the times of Manichæus himself; and that they were falsified by persons who wished to combine the Law of the Jews with the Gospel. But this they cannot say concerning the Holy Spirit, unless haply they assert that those persons divined, and set in their books what should be brought forward against Manichæus, who should at some future time arise, and say that the Holy Spirit had been sent through him. But concerning the Holy Spirit we will speak somewhat more plainly in another place. Now let us return to my purpose.

I do find some of this last section very difficult to comprehend. I would say he seems to say that the Book of Acts can be trusted in what it says about the “coming of the Holy Spirit” to the disciples in the Upper Room and that Mani had nothing to do with it, unlike what the Manichaeans teach.

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