Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Israel's Judges

There is that old Bible trivia question: Who in the Bible (besides Adam and Eve, of course) had no parents?  Why, Joshua, the son of Nun, of course.  Joshua took over from Moses and led the people in some degree of conquest of the Promised Land. Then Joshua died, and things got pretty messy with no powerful leader in charge. According to the book of Judges, The LORD raised up Judges who seem to have been tribal and military leaders. Twelve are mentioned, but the best known are Deborah, Gideon, and Samson. Their's are provocative and interesting stories including an incident of a tent peg driven through somebody's head, an army thinned down to only a few good men, and the first known suicide pillar puller. This period of the judges last about 200 years and was a time when "all the people did what was right in their own eyes." You'd think that would have made them happy.  You can click on this chart for a high resolution view.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Moses, Miriam, Aaron, and Joshua

Moses, his prophetess sister Miriam, his spokesman Aaron, and his successor Joshua are the dominant characters of the Old Testament books of Exodus through Joshua. Abraham had just gotten up and gone when God told him to do so, but Moses started a new tradition by explaining why God had made a bad choice and why His plan might not work. Finally he was persuaded and rose to the occasion by leading the people out of Egyptian slavery and dealing with their complaints in the wilderness for forty years.

The name of Moses, an important character in Christian tradition, shows up 79 times in the New Testament, and he appears with Jesus and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration. He did a lot of preaching near the end, advising the people to “choose life,” and died at age 120, “his eye undimmed, his vigour unimpaired.” Not a bad way to go.

Miriam is famous for leading all the women in a song of praise to God after their escape from Egypt and for angering God by criticizing Moses, “the humblest man on earth,” over his choice of a mate. Aaron was an able staff assistant to Moses but set a new standard for blame dodging with his statement that he had collected gold from the people and thrown it in the fire “and out came this calf!

Joshua started as an assistant to Moses, did some spying in the Promised Land, and then took over leadership when Moses was denied the joy of leading the people across the Jordan River. He is best known for that battle at Jericho. A famous and oft-quoted phrase from Joshua is, “…for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

The stories of these people are entertaining, sobering, and inspiring. The exhibit below outlines the major events and tells where to find them in the Bible.  Click on it for a high resolution view

Friday, October 7, 2011

Three Patriarchs, Three Matriarchs, and a Favorite Son

Once Abraham shows up at the end of Genesis 11, the rest of the 50 chapters cover his life and the lives of the other patriarchs and matriarchs of the Jewish people including his wife Sarah, their son Isaac and his wife Rebecca, and their troublesome twins, Jacob and Esau. Jacob, with minimal and non-exclusive, help from his wife Rachel, fathers the twelve heads of the tribes of Israel including Joseph whose story occupies the last 16 chapters. It’s a great story, recounted briefly by Stephen, the first Christian martyr, in Acts 7 just before being killed by stoning.

The exhibit below is a guide to reading and remembering the stories with references given for major events in the lives of all these chosen people. They are worth remembering because six times in the New Testament, God is described as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and we are told by Jesus in Matthew 8:11 that “…many will come from east and west and sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob at the feast in the kingdom of Heaven.”

This story ends with favorite son Joseph in a position of prominence and authority in Egypt when “there came to power in Egypt a new king who had never heard of Joseph.” (Exodus 1:8)  That is a preface to drama.

Click on the exhibit for a high resolution view.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Primeval History in the Bible

Here is a brief and possibly helpful outline of the four major Biblical events in primeval or ancient or prehistorical times covered in the first eleven chapters of Genesis. Whether these stories are taken as literal truth as some fundamentalist Christians do or as revelation of eternal truths told and eventually written in the genre of myth, the focus must be on what they teach about God and humankind.  

An interesting feature is the first mention of "forty days" as a significant period of time.That is how long the flooding rain lasted in Genesis, it is how long Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, and the tradition survives in the Church today in the forty days of Lent. Some other examples are listed on the exhibit below. There is an interesting summary of Biblical uses and significance of that time period at American Catholic website.