Thursday, August 8, 2013

Daily Old Testament and Early Christian Writings: 1 Samuel 14:1-24-52, Proverbs 14 and Augustine's Confessions 21

1 Samuel 14:24-52 -- Saul commits a “rash act” (14:24) in his enthusiasm.  He lays a curse on anyone who eats food before evening comes and the battle is over. It turns out Jonathan is the one who violates this ban.  He was not there and did not hear the oath, so when he eats honey and learns of the curse, he feels his father has been foolish.

In the victory of the day, the troops also take sheep and oxen and slaughter them, eating them with the blood in them. Saul tries to amend the act by erecting a make-shift altar and ordering the animals be brought to him for slaughter in the proper fashion. When Saul inquires after counsel from God as to what to do, the Lord is silent.  So Saul believes someone in their camp has offended and he asks who it might be. 

In using the Urim and Thummim, he discovers that the sin has come from Jonathan, and he learns what his son has done in eating the honey. He shows himself willing to follow through on his threat, but the people forbid him to kill Jonathan . . .  “the people ransomed Jonathan, and he did not die” (14:45). A Jerusalem Bible note says after the reign of David, the use of lots was discontinued.
The account ends with a list of the victories Saul won over the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zobahites and Philistines.  Saul’s family consists of three sons, Jonathan, Ishvi and Malchishua and two daughters, Merab and Michal.  His wife is Ahinoam and the commander of his army is Abner, son of his uncle Ner. Ner and Kish, Saul’s father, are sons of Abiel.

Proverbs 14 – Today’s:
“The heart knows its own grief best, nor can a stranger share its joy” (Jerusalem Bible 14:10).

“The poor are despised even by their neighbors, while the rich have many ‘friends.’ It is a sin to belittle one’s neighbor; blessed are those who help the poor” (14:20-21).

Augustine (354-439)
21 - For what can be more wretched than the wretch who pities not himself shedding tears over the death of Dido for love of Æneas, but shedding no tears over his own death in not loving you, O God, light of my heart, and bread of the inner mouth of my soul, and the power that weddest my mind with my innermost thoughts? I did not love you, and committed fornication against you; and those around me thus sinning cried, "Well done! Well done!" For the friendship of this world is fornication against you [James 4:4] and "Well done! Well done!" is cried until one feels ashamed not to be such a man. And for this I shed no tears, though I wept for Dido, who sought death at the sword's point, myself the while seeking the lowest of your creatures— having forsaken you— earth tending to the earth; and if forbidden to read these things, how grieved would I feel that I was not permitted to read what grieved me. This sort of madness is considered a more honorable and more fruitful learning than that by which I learned to read and write.

Spiritual paths are all probably quite different. Augustine spends a lot of time reflecting on the ways in which he had as a youth learned to love deeply some aspects of what he was asked to learn by his elders and came to disregard those things – his faith in and knowledge of God – which he should have been learning to seek.  My experience as a child, a youth, was quite similar but the context was completely different.

The things I was asked to learn and the things I was encouraged to engage myself with by those in my family were also mostly very worldly. The things connected to religious practice or faith were not at all emphasized, but they were also there – like lights off in the distance. They were not the twists and turns I was involved in making from day to day.

By High School, I also was very swept up into the study of history and literature – maybe not Virgil, but two authors particularly: James Joyce and T.S. Eliot. The works that most impacted me were Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Four Quartets.

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