It is a little sad when you read about someone in history who was such a poor ruler that people welcomed his demise. Like this section from Bright’s History of Israel:
Nabonidus who fled was subsequently taken prisoner. A few weeks later Cyrus himself entered the city in triumph. According to his own inscription, he was welcomed as a liberator by the Babylonians, to whom he showed the utmost consideration. One might dismiss this as propaganda were it not for the fact that both the Nabonidus Chronicle and the so-called “Verse Account of Nabonidus” tell much the same story.
Last night I started a series of Lenten Reflections in my church parish. These are intended for lay people in my parish, so hopefully they are free from academic jargon. If you are in a tradition that celebrates Lent, or even if you are not, you might want to give them a listen. There will be four of them and they will all be around 45 minutes to an hour. Some of the preliminary stuff may not interest you as it deals specifically with my parish ministry, but that only last about 5 to 10 minutes on the first recording.
I’m recording on my laptop and I can’t get the input volume to go any higher. So, you may need to listen with headphones. Otherwise, I think you should be able to download the audio and burn it to a CD if you would like or put it on your iPod or other digital player. Just don’t sell it ;-), though I’m not in any way implying that it might be something worth buying.
At any rate, I hope that some of my readers and others who visit my site may find it beneficial for their Lenten journey. On this page you can find a fuller description of the reflections and on this one you can listen to the first one.
I had thought about doing this myself since there were so many posts about it, but Doug did a great service in producing this roundup. And, I don’t feel the need to double up. So, if you want to read what everyone has been saying about potentially the oldest Hebrew inscription found to date, read Doug’s post here – Roundup of the Qeiyafa Ostracon Buzz.
Okay, I’m being a little facetious with the title to this post. But, it’s so hard to write good title lines without doing that from time to time. At any rate, Matt over at MandM has recently written on the “commands to commit genocide” in the Book of Joshua. One matter he brings up is the potential use of hyperbole in those passages, which is something I have thought a lot about in the past. So, I’ve been dialoging with him a bit in the comments bringing into the fray 1 Samuel 15. I think this is a helpful post on an important topic and hope that some of you will participate in the discussion as well.
A while back I wrote a post answering the question of why Jonah fled to Tarshish (if you’re a more advanced reader you probably would not have learned anything). Yesterday, however, I started to think about what it would mean to take a more learner-centered approach to my blogging. And, I thought a re-write of that post might be a good opportunity to give that a shot. So, here goes …
Where is Tarshish?
It would likely be very difficult to know why Jonah fled to Tarshish if you did not know where it was. So, first check out this map to locate the places mentioned in Jonah 1, namely Nineveh, Joppa and Tarshish (exact locations are not that important).
If Jonah is near enough to Joppa to find a boat going to Tarshish, is he going in the direction of Nineveh?
Now, check out the Google map of Tarhsish. Zoom way out using the “-” sign.
What is to the west of Tarshish? Or more leading, what might an Ancient Israelite have believed was to the west of Tarshish?
Reflection on Tarshish
At this point, you know where Tarshish is. And, from the questions I have asked you probably know why Jonah fled there; however, now would be an appropriate time to consider why it was significant that he was unable to flee there. In the Ancient Near East, many cultures thought of gods as being tied to a specific locality (if anyone knows of any primary sources I could link to here for reading let me know; for some reason I drew a blank on places to look online). In light of this,
Why is it important that YHWH is able to impede Jonah on his way to Tarshish? At what period in the history of Israel do you think this would have been important to the people, i.e. united monarchy? divided monarchy? when they are in exile? when they have returned from exile?
Okay so this a first attempt at a more learner-centered blog post. That actually took far more effort than just writing down the answer to the question. Of course, this is a fairly simple topic and I’m not sure how much room there would be for discussion and interaction. But, that could take place in comments and on other blogs. Bloggers could leave links to where they have worked through the post. Again, we’ll see …
In the rare occurrence that the reading I do throughout the day has some bearing the lectionary reading, I like to share that. Today’s lectionary reading was verses 24-28 of 1 Samuel 1 (the responsive reading was from chapter 2). In the reading, Hannah has dedicated her son, Samuel, to the Lord and she hands him over in verse 28.
1 Samuel 1.24-28
In those days,
Hannah brought Samuel with her,
along with a three-year-old bull,
an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine,
and presented him at the temple of the LORD in Shiloh.
After the boy’s father had sacrificed the young bull,
Hannah, his mother, approached Eli and said:
“Pardon, my lord!
As you live, my lord,
I am the woman who stood near you here, praying to the LORD.
I prayed for this child, and the LORD granted my request.
Now I, in turn, give him to the LORD;
as long as he lives, he shall be dedicated to the LORD.” She left Samuel there.
Meyers on Child Birth
Today I was reading from Carol Meyer’s Households and Holiness: The Religious Culture of Israelite Women. I came across a passage that pertains to just how difficult it might have been for a woman to have given up her son, especially after having been barren. I cite the passage in full:
The formation of ritual behaviors in relation to reproduction is a function of the critical place of birth processes in the life cycle and of the life-or-death risks involved at each stage. Giving birth means danger to the life of the mother and of the infant. In biblical antiquity, as many as one in two children failed to live to adulthood; and the average life span of women was significantly shorter than that of men, in part because of the risks of dying in childbirth. Furthermore, the alternative-not having children-meant jeopardizing the viability of the family and even the community. For any premodern agrarian people such as the Israelites, the production of offspring is essential for maintaining the household’s food supply and thus its survival, and also for providing care for again adults. In such as context, infertility, childbirth complications resulting in the death of the mother or child, difficulty in lactation, and high infant mortality rates are constant threats to the durability of the family household.
In today’s narrative, considering all that was at stake in childbirth the end of verse 28 represents quite a feat: “She left Samuel there.”
This morning as I was reading in the Book of Judges in the New Jewish Publication Society (=NJPS) version of the Tanakh, I came across the word traditionally translated as “judges.” The NJPS renders the word as “chieftans.” I have also seen it rendered as “leaders/rulers.” I think the NJPS and those that render it “leaders” are closer to the actual meaning of the word; however, the book is still titled “Judges” on each account. My question is: Do you think the findings in the field of Biblical Studies could ever be strong enough for Bible versions to render the name of the book differently?
I personally don’t think so. The title Judges is so traditionally ingrained, even though it is a bit of a misnomer, at least in the modern sense of the term “judge.” So, no I don’t think I’ll ever hear a lector say “A Reading from the Book of Chieftans/Leaders.”
It’s nice to see Jim West endorsing Lawrence Schiffman, his exact words being “He’s awesome.” I have used two of Schiffman’s audio courses before from the Modern Scholar Series,
The Hebrew Bible and
The Dead Sea Scrolls: The Truth Behind the Mystique. However, I had heard about issues concerning Schiffman (a charge of plagiarism, or something like that if I recall correctly) but didn’t really know enough about the situation, and I figured I liked the courses regardless. So, I didn’t think any more about it and have continued to recommend the courses to friends.
But, it’s nice to see that the issues I had heard about were a sham. The two courses provide a good introduction both to the Hebrew Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls, though I don’t think the course on the Hebrew Bible is the best available (for that I might check out Amy-Jill Levine from the Teaching Company or Christine Hayes at Yale Open Course).
For those interested, I have a video of Schiffman on my site entitled “Judaism, Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls.” Also, it is possible to get the two courses in the Modern Scholar series that I link to above free from Audible with a two week trial. Just use the link the box in the sidebar of this page that says “Download 2 Free Audiobooks.” Being a trial though, you have to remember to cancel if you don’t want to keep the subscription. There’s also a course by Eric Cline entitled
the History of Ancient Israel: From the Patriarchs through the Romans.
I started reading Mark S. Smith’s
Memoirs of God this past week. Smith states in the introduction to the book that his audience is those outside of “fellow scholars” and “graduate students,” i.e. “the general public.” For the whole of the book, I’m not so sure he hits that target. I work with a more general audience, and I feel fairly certain the general audience I work with would have some difficulty in the shift that takes place between the end of chapter 2 and the beginning of chapter 3. Chapters 3 and 4 are not, in my opinion, nearly as accessible as the first two chapters, but I suppose sometimes there is only so much that one can simplify a topic.
However, I would draw attention to chapters 1 and 2. I have had a very hard time finding a good succinct written history of Israel that I would recommend to a lay person. As Smith duly notes, most histories of Israel (e.g.
Bright) start with the patriarchs and move through the stories of the Old Testament in the order of their presentation in the Biblical text trying to match up stories with archaeological findings. Anyone who has engaged in a critical study of the History of Israel recognizes many of the inherent problems in this approach. Yet how does one avoid this traditional approach without muddying the waters too much? I think Smith accomplishes this in chapter 1 of the book, though this is certainly a matter of personal opinion. In addition, the discussion in chapter 2 of the difficulties faced by the nation of Israel throughout its history would also be beneficial to all readers.
$10 for the paperback, I think the text would be well worth the purchase even if only for the first two chapters.
For those looking for a decent Old Testament timeline, you might check out Ralph Klein’s offering, which places the chronology alongside other events of importance in the wider Ancient Near East.
Some Features of the Timeline
- As stated above, it correlates with the timelines of other areas in the Ancient Near East, which can be very helpful
- It is thoroughly linked with some links to translations of the important inscriptions, etc.
- It takes a late date stance on the Exodus (though I have seen later). This, of course, means that it may not be valuable to fundamentalists or minimalists, but for the rest of us somewhere it the middle it should be useful.
- It is replete with images and other graphics.
If any of this seems like it would be useful to you, click the following link to check out the Old Testament timeline.