Sunday, August 4, 2013

Daily Old Testament and Early Christian Writings: 1 Samuel 10, Proverbs 6-7 and Augustine's Confessions 17

1 Samuel 10 – Samuel anoints Saul, and then tells him that as a sign to him that he has been anointed, he will meet two men by Rachel’s tomb and they will tell his that the donkeys he was looking for have been found by his father—that his father is now more worried about him than about them.  And then he will meet three men going to Bethel with sacrifices (3 kids, 3 loaves and a skin of wine).  They will give two of the loaves; and after that he will meet a band of prophets in a prophetic frenzy and that he will be overtaken by the frenzy himself.  When all these things happen, he is to do what seems fit to do, for whatever it is, it will be well since God is with him (10:7). He should wait for Samuel at Gilgal for seven days (10:8).

As a result of the anointing “God gave him [Saul] another heart, . . .” (10:9). When the people who know him see him in the prophetic frenzy, they wonder, “What has come over the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?” (10:11) This rings a little like the reaction the gospels tell of those who know Jesus when they see him taking on the role of healer and teacher.  See Mark 6:1-6. When Saul’s uncle asks about his trip, he tells him everything, but not about the matter of the anointing.

Samuel summons “the people” to Mizpah where he repeats the narrative, and then goes back to the line he first took on the kingship: “But today you have rejected your God, who saves you from all your calamities and your distresses; and you have said, ‘No! but set a king over us” (10:19).  And he calls the clans up one by one.  The clan of Benjamin is selected by lot, and then the family of the Matrites, and finally Saul.  But he is not there—he is hiding amidst the baggage.  They bring him out and the people all proclaim him king.  Samuel tells the people what the rights and duties of kings are; he writes it all in a book and lays it up “before the Lord” (10:25). So, there might have been a written source for the books we read here.  These were likely written down in this form much later—after the division of the kingdom but before the exile.  900 is the earliest date suggested for the books in their present form according to Eerdman’s Handbook. The Jerusalem Bible seems to suggest a time nearer to the exile—since anti-monarchy sentiments were inserted in the redaction or writing of the final text. The psalms were also known to the writer. Then he sends the people home.  There is some division in the community over him.  Some warriors follow him, but others do not.  They doubt his ability to save them, and they offer him no gift.  He does nothing.
Then the story introduces an enemy—Nahash, an Ammonite king who oppresses the Gadites and Reubenites by gouging out their right eyes (10:27). 7,000 had escaped him though.

Proverbs 6 – If you go “surety” for your neighbor or guarantee the bond of a stranger, you put yourself in the power of others. You must break free. “Save yourself like a gazelle escaping from a hunter, like a bird fleeing from a net” (6:5).

Ants do not work for others. They work hard all summer but gather in their supplies at harvest time. If you are not like the ants but are idle, poverty will be at your elbow.

Seven things are hateful to God: haughtiness, lying, hands that shed innocent blood, hearts that hatch evil plots, feet that hurry to do evil, false witnesses and men who sow dissension among brothers (6:16-19).

Keep your father’s values, your mother’s lessons. “Correction and discipline are the way to life” (6:23). Stay away from the “alien woman” (adulterous).  People who steal to fill their stomachs must be punished, but they are not unforgiveable. The adulterer, though, “has no sense; act like him, and court your own destruction” (6:31).

Proverbs 7 – “Keep my teaching as the apple of your eye” (7:2). The adulteress looks for ways to seduce you, but you must not give in. She “has done so many to death, and the strongest have all been her victims. Her house is the road to the grave. Her bedroom is the den of death” (7:26-27).

Augustine (354-439)
17 - Even as a boy I had heard of eternal life promised to us through the humility of the Lord our God condescending to our pride, and I was signed with the sign of the cross, and was seasoned with His salt even from the womb of my mother, who greatly trusted in You. You saw, O Lord, how at one time, while yet a boy, being suddenly seized with pains in the stomach, and being at the point of death— You saw, O my God, for even then You were my keeper, with what emotion of mind and with what faith I solicited from the piety of my mother, and of Your Church, the mother of us all, the baptism of Your Christ, my Lord and my God. On which, the mother of my flesh being much troubled—since she, with a heart pure in Your faith, travailed in birth Galatians 4:19 more lovingly for my eternal salvation—would, had I not quickly recovered, have without delay provided for my initiation and washing by Your life-giving sacraments, confessing You, O Lord Jesus, for the remission of sins. So my cleansing was deferred, as if I must needs, should I live, be further polluted; because, indeed, the guilt contracted by sin would, after baptism, be greater and more perilous. Thus I at that time believed with my mother and the whole house, except my father; yet he did not overcome the influence of my mother's piety in me so as to prevent my believing in Christ, as he had not yet believed in Him. For she was desirous that You, O my God, should be my Father rather than he; and in this You aided her to overcome her husband, to whom, though the better of the two, she yielded obedience, because in this she yielded obedience to You, who so commands.

There is a certain sweetness in hearing this famous thinker acknowledge the great importance of his mother in a world and culture that simply did not see the equality of women to men. But the passage here is focused on the mystery of how Augustine was drawn to Christ and the Church. In my own life, I supposed my grandmother – my mother’s mother – was the one praying for my conversion. She was the one who taught me to pray each night. She was the one who took me to church. But I have no memory of her ever saying a word to me about her faith. She just surrounded herself with little things that spoke silently to me about something that was really beyond words – the rosary she had (but never said with me), the prayer book she had worn down (but never read a word of to me), the little picture of St. Therese a l’Enfant Jesus [Therese de Lisieux] with a red thread taken from the floor of the room in which she died in 1897. It seems a tiny miracle to me that I still have this little item from the room I inhabited with my grandmother 60 years ago, especially since I never really cared about it. I never cared about relics – I still don’t. Why do I even have it still in my possession? Somehow the faith she had spilled into me silently. I lost Frankie Avalon’s autograph; I have no idea where my most valued possessions of that time period went to, but I still have this small, framed relic.

I wasn’t baptized – just as Augustine was not – as a child. My mother and father would not have approved of that; they were both atheists. And I am glad I was not as was he. It permitted me to grow and think and come to know God in my own way.

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