The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Archive for January 19th, 2007

Sympathy for the Baals

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 19, 2007

Dyspeptic Mutterings post a funny take-down of one of the dumbest columns to come from Commonweal (brother, that’s saying something) in a long time. Exhibiting all the theological acumen of Mick Jaegger, the author of the Commom Squeal piece defends Islam and Paganism (yes, you read that right, paganism) from the “brusque” Pope Benedict XVI. His advice? “Have some courtesy, have some sympathy, and some taste.”
Dyspeptic Mutterings
Via Insight Scoop, a revealing essay at Commonweal by a practitioner of interfaith dialogue expressing his frustration with “brusque” Benedict. Timely, as the rhetorical cricket bat had started to collect dust.

Holy Lord, it’s a trainwreck, in all its fascinating, jack-knifed, twisted metal glory. Bullet-pointing:

I. Its touchstone is the Regensburg address, but the critic (Fr. Francis Clooney) specializes in Hinduism. Under the circumstances, it would have been nice had the magazine come up with a Catholic expert on Islam. Throughout, one gets the distinct impression of a baker offering advice on plumbing problems. It also results in the essay having some serious structural weaknesses, as will be noted below.

II. Though the year is yet young, the following is a certain medalist in the Silliest Catholic Quote of 2007 competition [emphasis added]:

While few sensible Christians would be so brusque today, the question of the meaning of Islam for Christians is still with us, particularly if (by tradition, habit, or conviction) many Christian leaders avoid speaking of the Qur’an as revelation or of Mohammed as a true prophet.

Uh…

Despite a yeoman’s effort to infuse the passage with tuchus-covering ambiguity, the bolded section is still a humdinger, as we Michigan fundies are wont to say. Rub your eyes all you want, but it’s still there–he’s tsk-tsking at Christians who refuse to speak of the Muslim holy book as “revelation” and Muhammad as “a true prophet.”

That’s because (1) it’s not and (2) he isn’t. For “Christians” to believe otherwise is to worship a god who at his best meanders pointlessly like Grandpa Simpson and at his worst gibbers like a patient suffering from end-stage dementia. There’s no sane way to harmonize the make-or-break claims of each religion. As an aside: Not that that daunts the dominant fruitbat wing of Piskiedom.

III. Somewhat nitnoid, but perhaps not, given that it provides insight into his arguments: Manuel II Paleologus lived from 1350-1425, not 1234-84 as Fr. Clooney claims. This reveals considerable ignorance about the historical background of the life and times of the Emperor and his writings, and a complete lack of awareness concerning the relentless Muslim Turkish war machine he battled against his entire adult life. These facts shed essential light on Manuel’s “brusqueness.” (To read the rest click the link )

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Amos 4:1-5

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 19, 2007

THE DIVINE LAMP
(Please consult POST MENU PAGE for earlier notes on Amos and other books of Scripture)

The prophet continues his prophetic sermon detailing the punishment to be brought upon Israel.

Amos 4:1-3

Vs 1 Hear this word, you cows of Bashan who dwell on the mount of Samaria, who press upon the poor, weigh down heavily on the needy, and who say to your husbands: “Bring, that we may consume!”

The over-wealthy, over-fed, over-pampered women of Israel (i.e. the Mount of Samaria) are her compared contemptuously to the cows of Bashan. Bashan is a reference to the plains of Bashan located in the trans-Jordan region east of the Sea of Galilee, on the banks of the Yarmuk River. The area today known as the Golan Heights. This rich, fertile plain was famous for its well fed cattle (see Deut 32:14; Psalm 22:13).

Recall that in the initial indictment of Israel by Amos (2:6-16), the nation was condemned because “they trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth” (2:7 RSV); kind of like cattle on a stampede. Here the women of Samaria are accussed of pressing and weighing down on the needy; a similar image. Apparently, the opulent lifestyle they demand of their husbands has helped encourage the mistreatment of the poor, and for this they are condemned. They demand that drink be brought to them, reminding us of the wine extorted from the poor as legal penalties levied by unjust courts (see 2:8).

Vss 2-3 The Lord has sworn by his holiness, “Behold, days are coming upon you when you will be taken away with hooks, the very last of you with fish hooks. Out through the breached walls you shall go straightaway and you will be cast onto the dung-hill,” says the Lord.

The nation will face a military invasion (2:14-16) which will lead to the the capture of the capitol of Israel, Samaria, when its fortified walls are breached by the enemy (obviously Assyria). Rings were sometimes put into the noses of animals as part of their domestication, for it made them easier to control. A hook on a pole or rope would be inserted into the ring in order to lead the animal around (see Job 40:25-26). Ancient Assyrian art depicts people captured by Shalamanezer III being roped together and led away in single file lines. For more on the use of rings and hooks in the treatment of prisoners click here.

Amos 4:4-5 A reproach for hypocritical worship

Vs 4 “Come to Bethel, and transgress; come to Gilgal, and multiply your transgressions; bring your sacrifices morning after morning, bring your tithes every third day;
Vs 5 offer a thanksgiving sacrifice of that which is leavened, announce your free-will offrings, make them public: For this you love to do, O people Israel,” says the Lord God.

God is here, through his prophet, engaging in some sarcasm. The words are in the form of typical priestly instruction concerning the Torah. The priests were supposed to teach and exhort the people to worship God rightly. God, apparently imitating the Northern preists, exhorts the people to false worship. The sarcasm is intended to highlight the sin being committed under the guise of true worship.

Morning sacrifices were to be offered at the temple in Jerusalem; not the shrines of Bethel and Gilgal. The very fact that the people are offering these sacrifices anywhere other than the Jerusalem temple is itself a sin, no matter how well intended they might have been.

Bring your tithes every third day. The Jews were expected to pay an annual (once a year) tithe for the upkeep of the temple and another tithe every three years for the good of the poor, widows, and orphans. We saw in Chapter 2 that the people had no concern for the poor and destitute. The tithes “every third day” is probably more of a sarcsam than a fact. You can be meticulous about paying your tithes, you can even pay more than was required, but if it is done out of hypocrisy it will do you no good.

Some would interpret these words as a condemnation of ritual worship, but nothing could be further from the truth. No where do the prophets condemn rituals which were ordered by God himself. Rather, they often condemn formalism, a going thru the motion of ritual for hypocritical purposes.

Thanksgiving sacrifices were supposed to be made known and celebrated publicly, for what was being celebrated was God’s blessing upon an individual (see Psalm 22:23-32 and Psalm 116:17-19). Again, however, such things were not suppossed to be for self-aggrandisment.

The sarcastic command to come to Bethel, and transgress; come to Gilgal, and multiply your transgressions is followed, in verses 6-11 by a series of critiques. God will detail a number of his punishments he brought upon Israel which went unheeded by the people

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AMOS 4:6-13

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 19, 2007

(to see the rest of my notes on the bible click the categories to the right or go to my old blogs MENU PAGE.)

Vs 6 “I gave you cleaness of teeth in all your cities, and lack of bread in all your places, yet you did not return to me,” says the Lord.
Vs 7 “And I also witheld the rain from you when there were yet yet three months to the harvest; I sent rain upon one city, and sent no rain upon another city, one field would be rained upon, and the field on which it did not rain withered;
Vs 8 So two or three cities wandered to one city to drink water, and were not satisfied; yet you did not return to me,” says the Lord.
Vs 9 “I smote you with blight and mildew; I laid waste your gardens and your vineyards; your fig trees and olive trees the locust devoured; yet you did not reurn to me,” says the Lord.
Vs 10 “I sent among you a pestilence after the manner of Egypt; I slew your young men with the sword; I carried away your horses; I made the stench of your camp go up into your nostrils; yet you did not return to me,” say the Lord.
Vs 11 “I overthrew some of you as when God overthrew sodom and Gomor’rah, and you were as a brand plucked out of the burning; yet you did not return to me,” says the Lord. (Revised Standard Version)

These verses, in the form a a litany (the repeated “yet you did not return to me”) continue the sarcasm begun in verse 4. The people think -or worse, pretend- to be seeking God by “coming” to Gilgal and Bethel but in fact , for all their religiousity, they have not returned to the Lord. (See Hosea 6:1-11)

When God made his covenant with his people he had warned them not to forget him or worship falsely (Exodus 23:23-26). To this the people agreed (Exodus 24:3). But God, thru Moses, also made it clear that the people would sin against him and as a result be punished with things like drought, lack of food, war, and locust plagues (see Deuteronomy chapters 28-29 and the Song of Moses in Deut 32). God also promised, however, that if they sincerely repented they would once again enjoy his favor (see Deut 30). This Deuteronomistic theology stands behind Amos 4.

Verse 11 makes reference to the overthrow of Sodom and Gomor’rah. These two cities are the quintessential symbols of evil and of God’s subsequent punishment. Genesis 19 says that God overthrew these cities. This same word is used by Amos in verse 11. It means literally “turned upside down” and is an obivious reference to an earthquake (see Amos 1:1). The image of a brand plucked from the fire suggests that even though God showed mercy towards the unrepentant -even this did not move the people to repent. So God says:

Vs 12 “So now I will deal with you in my own way, O Israel! and since I will deal thus with you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel:
Vs 13 Him who formed the mountains and created the winds, and declares to man his thoughts; who made the dawn and the darkness, and strides upon the heights of the earth: the Lord, the God of Hosts by name.” (New American Bible)

Having punished them in the past he will now do it again.

The words prepare to meet your God caps the irony and sarcasm begun in verse 4. The people Come to Gilgal and Bethel and worship God falsely. This is not a return to God. Having failed to come and meet the merciful God of the covenant as repentant sinners they must now prepare to meet the covenant God of justice.

Also, the Hebrew verb translated as prepare is used elsewhere in the bible for the preparation of a sacrifice (Ezra 3:3); and the verb translated as to meet is often used in reference to prayer(the verb can be translated as “call upon,” or “invoke.” See Gen 12:8; Psalm 79:6; Jer 10:25). The people had sought God thru illegitimate sacrifice and prayer and now they’re going to meet him; but not in a way they expected or wanted.

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