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 March, 2007

Notes on Hosea 1:2-2:1

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 31, 2007

Note: Unless otherwise noted I will be using my own translation of Hosea. This translation should in no way be considered authoritative. It is done by me as a personal exercise. For this reason I also provide links to the RSV. Please also note that some translations of Hosea employ different chapter and verse divisions. I’ll be following the RSV numbering.

Vs 2 The beginning of the Lords speaking by way of Hosea. Go, take to yourself a woman of harlotries and have children of harlotry, for the land is engaging in great harlotry by not following after the Lord.

The first part of verse 2 serves almost as a superscription to the overall text of 1:2-2:1. The prophet is commanded to take a woman of harlotries. The word take often connotes marriage in the bible (see Gen 4:19). The Hebrew text is not as straight forward as English translations render it. The meaning of the Hebrew text is uncertain. Is the prophet being commanded to wed a woman who is already a harlot, or is he being commanded to marry a woman who will become such in the future? Commentators are divided. It should be noted, however, that this action, and the subsequent marriatal experience of the prophet and his wife are meant to mirror God’s relationship with his people. In chapter 2:14-15 we see that Israel, God’s bride, had originally been faithful, and so parallelism suggests that we are to understand that Hosea’s wife was originally faithful but later fell into harlotries.

for the land is engaging in great harlotries by not following the Lord. These words give the reason for the command to marry and suggest that the marital troubles to come have a connection to the land’s great harlotries against the Lord. As already noted, Hosea’s marriage symbolizes God’s relations with his people. Land here is to be understood as a constriction for the people who were known as “the people of the land.” Underlying this reference to the land’s harlotries is the theology of the Baal cults. Baal was a fertility god and the earth was considered as something like a consort of his. By sending the rain (conceived of as his seed/sperm) he impregnated the land and made it fruitful. In order to ensure that this would happen his devotees often engaged in “sacred” sexual rituals in temples dedicated to him. By engaging in this worship the people were making the land engage in harlotries by not following the Lord. The Hebrew wording suggests that this situation has been ongoing for some time.

A note on Baalism:
What the original conception was is most obscure. According to W.R. Smith, the Baal is a local God who, by fertilizing his own district through springs and streams, becomes its lawful owner. Good authorities, nevertheless, oppose this view, and reversing the above argument, hold that the Baal is the genius-lord of the place and of all the elements that cause its fecundity; it is he who gives “bread, water, wool, flax, oil, and drink” (Hosea 2:5; in the Hebrew text 2:7); he is the male principle of life and reproduction in nature, and such is sometimes honoured by acts of the foulest sensuality. Whether or not this idea sprang from, and led to the monotheistic conception of supreme deity, the Lord of Heaven, of whom the various Baals would be so many manifestations, we shall leave to scholars to decide. Some deem that the bible favours this view, for its language frequently seems to imply the belief in a Baal par excellence. (From The Catholic Encyclopedia article Baal. New Advent Catholic Supersite)

Vs 3 So he went and took (wed) Gomer the daughter of Diblaim , and she conceived and gave birth to his son;
Vs 4 And the Lord said to him, “give him the name Jezreel, for in just a little while I will charge the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will bring to an end the kingdom of the house of Israel.
Vs 5 And it will come about on that day that I will break the bow of Israel in the Jezreel valley.

In verse 3 we see the prophet fulfill the command of the Lord by taking a woman named Gomer as his wife. Notice that the verse clearly states that the child she conceived and gave birth to is his (Hosea’s) son. Two more children will be born, and as we will see their paternity is not clearly stated. This is another reason for interpreting Gomer as an originally faithful wife (see comment on verse 2).

In verse 4 the prophet is commanded to name his son Jezreel, a word meaning “God sows”. This is the name of a broad, fertile valley plain which lies south of the Galilee and stretches from mount Megiddo in the west to the Jordan river in the east. It was ancient Israel’s proverbial “bread basket.” Because of its fertility and because much of the northern kingdom of Israel was dependent on its produce it became a center of Baal worship. The people it would seem were uncertain as to which god (El) sowed (zara, the root of Jezreel) the land (i.e. made it fruitful).

The giving of the name is explained in reference to the the charging of the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel. This is a reference to events from the time of the prophets Elijah and Elisha.

During the reign of King Ahab (circa 873-852 BC) the “original sin” of the northern kingdom was maintained. By “original sin” I am referring to the false shrines set up by Jeroboam 1 in and to the syncretistic worship of God which took place in them (1 Kings 12:26-13:34). In addition to tolerating this, Ahab also fostered the worship of Baal in deference to his Phoenician wife Jezebel. The prophet Elijah opposed both these sins vehemently. On one occasion he challenged 450 prophets of Baal to a sacrificial dual on Mount Carmel. Upon defeating them he had them slain and, as a result, he was forced to flee to Mount Horeb (i.e. Mt Sinai) from Jezebel’s wrath. Recall that Horeb/Sinai is the place where God had made his covenant with the chosen people and gave them the ten commandments. While on the mountain Elijah twice declares how zealous he has been for the Lord AND HIS COVENANT. The Lord orders him to anoint Elisha as his successor and to also anoint Jehu as king of Israel.

Jehu is to wipe out the house of Ahab and all the dynasty of Omri (see 1 kings 18-19). This he does with a ruthless efficiency while maintaining how zealous he is for the Lord. This is the same statement made by Elijah, but with an important omission; Jehu never declares his zeal for GOD’S COVENANT. In fact like all the northern kings before him, he does nothing to end the “original sin” of Jeroboam 1 and re-establish the covenant. For this reason he is given only a partial blessing. He is blessed for eradicating the devotees of Baal, but he is criticized for his lack of fidelity to the covenant. For this reason his dynasty will last only four generations. That is the same length as the dynasties of Jeroboam 1 and of Omri (see 2 Kings 9-10). Jeroboam 2 is the fourth generation of the house of Jehu and therefore Hosea is being told the prophecy of 2 Kings 10:28-31 is about to be fulfilled.

But the prophet is also told that the entire kingdom, and not just the reigning dynasty, is going to come to an end. This will take place through military defeat when God will give the people over to their enemies by breaking the bow of Israel in the Jezreel valley.

Vs 6 She conceived again and gave birth to a daughter. The Lord said to him, “give her the name Loruhamah (“not pitied” or “no mercy”) for I will cease to show pity towards the house of Israel and forgive them anymore.

Unlike the description of the birth of Jezreel in verse 3 this child’s paternity is not given. Is she one of the children of harlotry mentioned in verse 2? Given the symbolic named conferred on her it would appear so. One of the special traits of God which he often manifested towards the chosen people was his mercy. The name Loruhamah seems to announce the end of such manifestations. This would have been very shocking to the people since pity, or mercy, is closely connected with God’s self-revelation. In Exodus 34:6 for example, we read: “And the Lord passed before his (moses’) face and proclaimed, ‘Lord, Lord God of mercy (Hebrew= el rahum) and grace, slow to anger and bountiful in lovingkindness and faithfulness.

Vs 7 But on the house of Judah I will show pity, and I, the Lord their God, will deliver them. Not by the bow will I deliver them, nor by sword, nor war, nor horses, nor by horsemen.

The political, religious, and moral situation in the Kingdom of Judah was not ideal but was better than what existed in the north. Unlike the northern kingdom, the southern kingdom was able, and had on occassion, repented of its sins. For this kingdom there is still hope. Apparently the prophet places these words here to insinuate that the only hope for the people of the northern kingdom is a return to the rule of the Davidic kings (see 3:5).

Vs 8 After the weaning of Loruhamah, Gomer conceived and gave birth to another son.
Vs 9 Then God said, ‘give him the name Loammi, for you are not my people and neither am I your God’.

Another son is born and, like his sister, his paternity appears to be in question. This is reflected in his name, Loammi, which means “not a people.” Just as his sister’s name appeared to be establishing a reversal of how God deals with his people so too with his name and its explanation.

The statement “I will be your God, and you will be my people” often appears in various forms in the Old Testament (see Lev 26:12; Dt 26:17-19) and is always used as a fundamental statement about the chosen peoples relationship with God. By having the prophet name the illegitimate boy “not my people” God is signifying the disruption of the relationship between him and the people of the Northern kingdom. The explanation for why the name is given also plays upon the name of Yahweh (“I am who I am) which was revealed to Moses in Exodus 3:14. “I am who I am” is in Hebrew ehyeh aser ehyeh. When the Lord explains the meaning of Loammi to mean “I am not your God” the Hebrew is Lo Ehyeh, literally a reversal of the divine name.

Vs 10 Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sands of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass that, in the place where it was said to them, ‘you are not my people,’ it shall be said to them, ‘you are the sons of the living God.’
Vs 11 And the children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered together, and they shall appoint themselves one head, and shall go up from the land; for great shall be the day of Jezreel.
2:1 Say to your brother,’Ammi’; (my people) and to your sister, ‘Ruhamah’ (She has received pity).
(Quoted from the American Standard Version, a public domain work. I’ve modified the text somewhat)

These three verses are sometimes taken as seperate from those that precede them; syntactically, this is incorrect.

First, we will consider these verses in their literal/historical meaning. The prophet is attempting to show the precarious nature of the Northern Kingdom’s (i.e. Israel’s) existence. As an idependent nation it has failed. The only hope for the people now is that they return to political and religious unity with the southern kingdom. Only by doing this will they once again become my people and receive pity.

shall be as the sands of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered. These words of vs 10 allude to another one of the founding traditions of the chosen people. Earlier (vss 6 and 9), some founding traditions were used to illustrate God’s punishment, whereas here they are used as a promise of hope. The prophet is alluding to the promise made to Jacob who, at the time was in Exile from the promised land. As Jacob returned to the land and to a possible confrontation with his brother Esau, whom he feared, for he had cheated him out of both a birth-right and a blessing, he prayed to God and reminded him of the promise he had given to Abraham: and you said, I will surely do good to you. I will make your seed as the sands of the sea, far to numerous to count (Gen 32:12 my translation.) Jacob is here referring to the words God spoke to Abraham after stopping the sacrifice of Issac (see Gen 22:17). These two passages show God’s love for the ancestors of the chosen people and his regard for the promises he had made to them. The fact that they also show

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The intellectual courage of St Thomas

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 30, 2007

I found this quote on the St Anselm College philosophy blog. It was posted in honor of his feast day by Professor Montague Brown
(Saint Thomas Aquinas died March 7, 1274. which was traditionally his feast day. After Vactican II, his feast day was changed to January 28.)

For the Feast Day of St. Thomas Aquinas

 

 

In honor of St. Thomas’s feast day, I think it is fitting to call to mind the great spirit of his work. What I mean by this mostly is his intellectual courage. St. Thomas never shied away from truth of any kind. In fact, when one reads his Summa theologiae, one is amazed to find how strong his objections to his own position are. In many cases, the objections he formulates are stronger than the arguments presented by those who actually proposed them. He has no interest in the easy way out, no desire to dodge tough objections. The truth is sacred, wherever it is found.

This is great example for all of us in the intellectual community. We should have no fear of truth, no matter its origin. Just as St. Thomas faced with confidence and mastered the subtle philosophy of Aristotle—the science, ethics, political thought, and metaphysics—so we should not fear but welcome whatever truths contemporary science, ethics, and metaphysics have to offer.

As St. Thomas was sustained in his endeavor by a deep belief in the intelligibility of reality and in the duty of living the best possible life, so should we be. As it is impossible to understand St. Thomas’s attitude toward truth without taking into account his devotion to the moral good, so it is impossible to understand that devotion without recognizing his great faith, hope, and charity.

As we celebrate the feast day of St. Thomas Aquinas, let us call to mind his own words of prayer. (This prayer is found in Jacques Maritain’s book St. Thomas Aquinas.)

 

Ineffable Creator, Who out of the treasures of Thy wisdom has appointed three hierarchies of Angels and set them in admirable order high above the heavens and hast disposed the diverse portions of the universe in such marvelous array, Thou Who art called the True Source of Light and supereminent Principle of Wisdom, be pleased to cast a beam of Thy radiance upon the double darkness of sin and ignorance in which I have been born.

Thou Who makest eloquent the tongues of little children, fashion my words and pour upon my lips the grace of Thy benediction. Grant me penetration to understand, capacity to retain, method and facility in study, subtlety in interpretation and abundant grace of expression.

Order the beginning, direct the progress, and perfect the achievement of my work, Thou Who art true God and true Man and livest and reignest for ever and ever. Amen.

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Popes Catechesis on the Church and the Fathers

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 29, 2007

(On March 15, 2006 the Pope announced the beginning of a new series of catechetical talks which would focus on “the mystery of the relationship between Christ and the Church, reflecting upon it from the experience of the Apostles, in light of the duty entrusted to them.” Below you will find links to the talks that have been given so far. Beneath some of these talks you will find suggested readings)
1. CHRIST AND HIS CHURCH.

suggested readings:


2. APOSTLES AS WITNESSES OF CHRIST.

Suggested readings:


3. THE GIFT OF COMMUNION.

Suggested reading:


4. SAFEGUARDING THE GIFT OF COMMUNION.

Suggested readings:

5. COMMUNION IN TIME: TRADITION.

Suggested readings: Please note that I could not find anything on the net regarding specifically the relationship between Tradition and communion. The readings below concern the validity of Tradition. It should be noted that the Pope’s 6th and 7th addresses, found below, are closely connected to the current address. The 4th address prepared for them.

6. APOSTOLIC TRADITION AND THE CHURCH.

7. HAVING A VISION FROM ON HIGH.

8. PETER, THE FISHERMAN.

9. PETER, THE APOSTLE.

10. PETER, THE ROCK.

11. ANDREW, THE PROTOCLETE.

12. JAMES, THE GREATER.

13. JAMES, THE LESSER.

14. JOHN, SON OF ZEBEDEE.

15. JOHN, THE THEOLOGIAN.

16. JOHN, THE SEER OF PATMOS.

17. MATTHEW.

18. PHILIP THE APOSTLE.

19. THOMAS THE TWIN.

20. BARTHOLOMEW.

21. SIMON AND JUDE.

22. JUDAS ISCARIOT AND MATTHIAS.

23. PAUL OF TARSUS.

24. ST. PAUL’S NEW OUTLOOK.

25. ST. PAUL AND THE SPIRIT.

26. ST. PAUL AND THE CHURCH.

27. TIMOTHY AND TITUS.

28. St Stephen.

29 Barnabas, Silas, Apollos.

30. Priscilla and Aquila
.

31. Women serving the Gospel
.

32. St Clement, Bishop of Rome.

33. St Ignatius of Antioch.

34. St Justin the martyr.

35. St Irenaeus of Lyons.

36. St Clement of Alexandria.

37. Origin of Alexandria.

38. Origin on Prayer and the Church.

39. Tertullian.

40. On St Cyprian.

41. St Cyprian on Unity and Prayer.

42. On Eusebius of Caesarea.

43. On St Athanasius.

44. On St Cyril of Jerusalem.

45. On St Basil (1)

46.  On St Basil (2)

47.  On St Gregory Nazianzus (1)

48.  On St Gregory Nazianzus (2)

49.  On St Gregory Nyssa (1)

5o.  On St Gregory Nyssa (2)

51.  On St John Chrysostom (1)
52.  On  St John Chrysostom (2)

53.  On St Cyril of Alexandria

54.  On St Hilary of Poitiers 

55.  On St Eusebius of Vercelli 

56.  On St Ambrose of Milan 

57.  On St Maximus of Turin 

58.   On St Jerome (1)

59.  On St Jerome (2)

60.  On Aphraates “The Sage”

61.   On St Ephrem

62.  On St Chromatius of Aquiliea

63.  On St Paulinus of Nola

Posted in BENEDICT XVI CATECHESIS | 1 Comment »

Pope speaks on the death of Europe

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 26, 2007

From LifeSiteNews.com 

 

Pope: “Demographic Profile” shows Europe soon to “take its leave from history”

By Gudrun Schultz

VATICAN CITY, March 26, 2007 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Europe’s rejection of its traditional Christian identity is leading to its imminent disappearance from the world stage, Pope Benedict XVI said in an address to a congress of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (COMECE) on March 24.

“[I]n demographic terms, it must unfortunately be noted that Europe seems set on a path that could lead to its exit from history,” Pope Benedict XVI stated at the event commemorating the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome on March 25, 1957, which formed the foundations of today’s European Union.

“It could almost be imagined that the European continent is actually losing faith in its own future,” the Pope said. The rejection of Europe’s Christian heritage, seen increasingly in the policies of national leaders, neglects the desires of a majority of the population, he said, undermining efforts to create a uniform European identity.

“What emerges from all this,” he said, “is that it is unthinkable to create an authentic ‘common European home’ while ignoring the identity of the people of our continent. … An identity that is historical, cultural and moral, more even than geographical, economic or political; an identity made up of a collection of universal values which Christianity contributed to creating, thus acquiring a role that is not only historical but foundational for the continent of Europe.”

“If, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, the governments of the EU wish to ‘get closer’ to their citizens, how can they exclude such an essential element of European identity as Christianity, in which a vast majority of that people continue to identify themselves? Is it not surprising that modern Europe, while seeking to present itself as a community of values, seems ever more frequently to question the very existence of universal and absolute values? And does this singular form of ‘apostasy’ – from oneself even more than from God – not perhaps induce Europe to doubt its own identity?”

“In this way, Pope Benedict XVI stated, “we end up by spreading the conviction that the ‘balance of interests’ is the only way to moral discernment, and that the common good is a synonym of compromise.”

While compromise may be a legitimate method of achieving balance between competing individual interests, he said, it  is destructive “whenever it leads to agreements that harm the nature of man.”

“For this reason it is becoming ever more indispensable for Europe to avoid the pragmatic approach, so widespread today, that systematically justifies compromise on essential human values, as if the acceptance of a supposedly lesser evil were inevitable. … When such pragmatism involves laical and relativist trends and tendencies, Christians end up being denied the right to participate as Christians in public debate or, at the least, their contribution is disqualified with the accusation of seeking to protect unjustified privileges.”

The Pope called on the EU to “clearly recognize the definite existence of a stable and permanent human nature,” that forms “the source of rights shared by all individuals, including the very people who seek to deny them. In such a context protection must be afforded to conscientious objection”, in situations where “fundamental human rights are violated.”

“I know how difficult it is for Christians to defend this truth. … But do not tire and do not be discouraged! You know your task is to contribute to building, with God’s help, a new Europe, realistic but not cynical, rich in ideals and free of naive illusions, inspired by the perennial and life-giving truth of the Gospel.”

With files from the Vatican Information Service.

See related LifeSiteNews coverage:

Europe’s Childlessness Rooted in Lack of Time, Fear of the Future, Says Pope
http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2007/jan/07010403.html

Pope: Catholic Church’s “Principal Focus” in Public Arena is Life and Family
http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2006/mar/06033008.html

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NOTES ON PSALM 1

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 25, 2007

PSALM 1: TEXT AND NOTES (The text of Psalm 1 is my own translation. You are urged to consult a recognised translation such as the RSV or the NAB)


Vs 1 Happy the man who walks not according to the direction of the wicked, stands not on the path with sinners, sits not in the assembly of scorners.

Happiness in the bible has little to do with the emotional state we often associate the word with. The happy man is one who enjoys God’s blessing here, and looks forward to its fullness in the future. It is interesting to note that the Hebrew word for happy, asre, is derived from a Semitic stem which in its verb form means “walk” or “go forward”; and in its noun form means “a footstep”. Our life then is conceived of as a pilgrimage, a religious journey towards God and full happiness. This accounts for the journey motif which dominates this Psalm.

The present state of the happy man, which will reach its fullness only in the future, is described first by using a three-fold negation:

1) The happy man is one who walks not according to the directions of the wicked. In the bible, the word walk, along with the word path and its synonyms (way, road) are used as metaphors for ones moral actions and life. In keeping with the journey motif I have translated the Hebrew word etsah (ay-tsaw) as direction rather than the commonly used “counsel” or “advice”.

2) The happy man stands not on the road with sinners. As already noted, the word road or path is a metaphor for ones moral activity. The Hebrew word chattaw (khat-taw) is derived from a root word which, among other things, can mean “to miss a target,” but also can mean “to go errant from a course, road or direction.

3) The happy man sits not in the assembly of scorners. The word sits translates the Hebrew mosab. The word has the sense of keeping formal company. The scorner is one who mocks the will of God and its manifestation in true religion (see Psalm 119:51)

The three negations of verse 1 appear to increase in their designation of evil situations. Taking directions from the unrighteous is foolish enough, but accompanying them on a journey is even more foolish; worse still is it to gather formally with them and share in their deliberations which scorn God’s law and those who follow it.

Vs 2 But in the law of the Lord is his delight, upon this law he ponders day and night.

Verse 2 begins to describe the just man in positive terms. He is now described according to that which shows him to be just. The word but is emphatic, highlighting the different approach to the subject and emphasising the utter contrast between the truly just one and those who live in accord with the negations of verse 1.

Rather than listening to the directions of sinners and finding a false kind of happiness in the company of such people, the truly happy man delights in the law of the Lord. Delight is a translation of the word chaphets (khaw-fates). One could translate the verse to read “his inclination is towards the law of the Lord, upon this law he ponders…” One moves towards what one delights in and desires. The sense of the Hebrew chaphets
then could have a connection to the journey motif.

Law here would be better translated as instruction. The Hebrew word torah can mean either law or instruction; with the second meaning being the more common meaning for not all instructions are laws, but all laws are, in some sense, instructive. Remember that the Law of Moses consists of the first five books of the OT, but Genesis and the first several chapters of Exodus, along with various parts of other books, contain few laws but much narrative.

Not only does the happy man delight in the law, but he also ponders it continuously. This word ponder (Hebrew hagah) originally referred to the cooing of a dove and is usually translated as “meditates”. When the Jews meditated on the law they would recite it in low tones, much as we do with the Our Father or the Psalms. The word then refers to thoughtful, reflective prayer. This stands in marked contrast to the scorners mentioned in verse 1. the Hebrew word for scorn originally referred to the talk of people of foreign tongues. It came to be applied to those who childishly mimic people. (see Isaiah 28:9-11 and the corresponding footnotes of the NAB)

Vs 3 He is like a tree well-planted by steams of water, which gives forth its fruit in its season; its leaves do not wither. Whatsoever he does, he prospers.

A good bit of the Holy Land is quite dry, and therefore treeless. Also, during a certain time of the year the Sirriocco winds begin to blow in from the desert and wither much of the foliage. A tree which has been well-planted by flowing water however, would do well. The word I have translated as well-planted implies that the tree in the image has in fact been transplanted beside the water. This perhaps suggests the idea that the just man is taken care of by God, who is sometimes described in the bible as a husbandman (grower of trees, vines, ect. See Isaiah 5:1-7; Luke 13:6-9).

In the prophet Jeremiah the wise man is described as a tree near water while the fool is described as a desert shrub:

5: Thus says the LORD: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his arm, whose heart turns away from the LORD. 6: He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land. 7: “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. 8: He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” (RSV Jer 17) See alos Rev 22:1-3

In keeping with the wisdom motif of the Psalm, it should be noted that the word wither in its Hebrew form, can also be applied to foolish men or things as in Prov 30:32. The word can also be applied to the act of treating something with contempt, as in Micah 7:6.

Vs 4 But not so are the wicked! They are like chaff driven on by the wind.

This verse begins with the Hebrew word loken which is translated above as but. This word highlights in an emphatic way the contrast between what was said in verse 3 concerning the just, and what is said in verse 4 concerning the wicked.

In stark contrast to verse 3 the wicked are here described as useless chaff. Chaff refers to the outer shell or husks from which grain was taken. Light, dry, sterile, it was utterly useless. It was fit only to burn, but even in this it was useless, since it burned so quickly it wasn’t even adequate for use as kindling. Most people simply left it on the ground to be driven away by the wind. It is hard to imagine an image of rootlessness and bareness more fitting than this. (see the prayer against enemies in Psalm 35:5) The winnowing of chaff is used, throughout the Bible, as a image of God’s judgement (see Hosea 13:2-3 and Matt 3:12).

Wind is also used as an image of God’s punishment (see Psalm 18:42; Psalm 48:7; Hosea 13:15)

Vs 5 For this reason the wicked will not withstand the judgement, nor sinners stand in the assembly of the righteous.

The wicked will not stand in the judgement because the are like chaff. As chaff has no root in the ground these people have not root in God or his torah. In the judgement they will not stand with God and his holy people but will be removed from their presence.

The reference to sinners standing and the term assembly reminds us of the negations of verse 1. A man who stands not on the road with sinners, sits not in the assembly of scorners shows that he is already on the way to God and the fullness of happiness to come. A happiness which consist in withstanding God’s judgement and being present with the just.

Vs 6 The Lord whatches over the way of the just, but the way of the wicked perishes.

As a farmer who has transplanted a tree or vine keeps careful watch over it and cares for it, so God keeps careful watch over the righteous as they live out their life. The barren way of the wicked can only end in destruction.

(NOTE:The Psalm has a very interesting feature. The first word of the text (happy) begins with the first letter of the Hebrew Bible. The last word (perish) begins with the last letter of the Hebrew Alphabet. As far removed A is Z- that’s how far removed from the righteous sinners are)

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INTRODUCTION TO PSALM 1

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 25, 2007

(I will have my notes on this psalm posted later today. Here is the introduction)

 

This is a psalm of instruction concerning good and evil, setting before us life and death, the blessing and the curse, that we may take the right way which leads to happiness and avoid that which will certainly end in our misery and ruin. The different character and condition of godly people and wicked people, those that serve God and those that serve him not, is here plainly stated in a few words; so that every man, if he will be faithful to himself, may here see his own face and then read his own doom. That division of the children of men into saints and sinners, righteous and unrighteous, the children of God and the children of the wicked one, as it is ancient, ever since the struggle began between sin and grace, the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, so it is lasting, and will survive all other divisions and subdivisions of men into high and low, rich and poor, bond and free; for by this men’s everlasting state will be determined, and the distinction will last as long as heaven and hell. This psalm shows us, 1) The holiness and happiness of a godly man (v. 1-3). 2) The sinfulness and misery of a wicked man (v. 4, 5). 3) The ground
and reason of both (v. 6). Whoever collected the psalms of David (probably it was Ezra) with good reason put this psalm first, as a preface to the rest, because it is absolutely necessary to the acceptance of our devotions that we be righteous before God (for it is only the prayer of the upright that is his delight), and therefore that we be right in our notions of blessedness and in our choice of the way that leads to it. Those are not fit to put up good prayers who do not walk in good ways. (From the MATTHEW HENRY BIBLE COMMENTARY: PSALMS, CH 1)

This psalm is usually classified as a wsdom psalm inasmuch as it contains characteristics common to that genre. These include macarisms (i.e. blessed or happy sayings); extoling of the Torah; two-ways teaching (i.e. contrasting the actions and/or fate of the just and wicked); and acroustic structure (i.e. alphabetic structure).

The psalm can be easily devided into four parts (note that the three part structure given above is more generally accepted):

A) Vss 1-3. These verses focus on the just man. Vs 1 defines the just man by way of negation, detailing what the just man is not. Vs 2 looks at the just man in a positve fashion by describing something a just man does. Vs 3 applies a descriptive image of the just man.

B) Vs 4 Focus upon the wicked and applies a descriptive image of them.

C) Vs 5 Gives the consequences of the differences that exist between the just and the wicked.

D) Vs 6 The ultimate reason for these consequences.

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Translating Sacramentum Caritatis

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 18, 2007

The Spirit’s Sword (2): Sacramentum Caritatis – Latin, Italian, English, side by side by side- well sort of

Puff the Magic Dragon and Bear-i-tone from The Spirits Sword looks at the English translation of Sacramentum Caritatis in light of the Latin and Italian texts. I have linked to the first post which, unfortunately, employs very small text. You can overcome this however by pressing and holding your Ctrl key and tapping the = key. With each tap the text size will increase. To reverse this press and hold the Ctrl key and tap the_- key.

Their second installment is much easier to read. With this second installment they have started a separate page which will contain all future entries.

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Notes on Psalm 3

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 18, 2007

Psalm 3 is generally categorized as a Psalm of lament. This may seem odd since the Psalmist exhibits great trust in God, yet this is a characteristic of the lament psalms. Obviously, if the Psalmist didn’t have trust in his God the prayer would be mere play acting-for what purpose?

The first verse is a sort of superscription which tells us this is a Psalm of David which he spoke out during his flight from his rebellious (and favorite) son Absalom. This was of course a very troubled time for the king, not only because of his son’s revolt, but also because most of his army and one of his most trusted advisers had joined joined Absalom’s side. David was forced to flee Jerusalem, cross the Kidron, and ascend the Mount of Olives as his night of trouble began. Many have seen in the defection of his adviser, Ahithophel, and in his crossing of the Kidron to ascend Olivet, as a foreshadowing of the events surrounding Jesus “on the night he was betrayed.” (see 2 Samuel 15-18; John 18:1-14; Luke 22:39)
(Note: I’ve followed the numbering of this Psalm as it is found in most modern Bibles. Verse 1 identifies the circumstances of the Psalm, the text of which begins in verse 2. Unless noted otherwise I am using my own translation here. It should be checked with a recognized translation and not relied upon as in any way authoritative)

Vs 2 O Lord, how many my enemies have become! Many there are who rise up to oppose me!
Vs 3 Many there are who say of me, “for that one, there is no salvation from God.

Three times the word many (rap) is used in the opening lines. This gives a sense of urgency and, considering who the many are, a sense of danger. The quote of the many in verse 3 reminds me of Shimei’s cursing of David as he fled Jerusalem. No doubt the sentiments of that man were echoed by many (see 2 Sam 16:5-8). Notice the proliferation: 1) the enemies grow; 2) they are active (“rise up”); 3) they declare him destitute on God.

Vs 4 But you are my shield, O Lord, and my glory; you lift up my head.

This verse begins with an emphatic but. In spite of his troubles the Psalmist knows what his enemies deny. God is with him as his protector (shield), and as his support (lift up my head).

Vs 5 With my voice I cried out to the Lord, from his holy mount he answers me.
Vs 6 I lay myself down to sleep and I wake again, for the Lord holds me up.
Vs 7 I have no fear of the many thousands who stand against me on every side.

The enemies might say he has no salvation from God (vs 3), but with a voice and a cry the lie is put to that claim for the Lord answers him (vs 5). Though enemies have risen up to oppose him he can lay down undisturbed in sleep knowing that he will wake again for the Lord holds him up (i.e. sustains him). Thus he has no fear of the Many thousands (see 2-3) who stand against him.

Vs 8 Arise, O Lord, rescue me, O my God! Strike all my enemies upon the cheek, break the teeth of these wicked ones.
Vs 9 Salvation is the Lords; your blessings be upon your people.

Against the opponents who have risen to oppose him (vs 2) the Psalmist asks God to arise. These people had arrogantly claimed that their was no salvation for him from God (vs 3), as if they had a say in whom the Lord would save, and upon whom he would shed his blessing. That their teeth be smashed for speaking such things is seen as fitting punishment

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Notes on Amos 9:1-10

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 17, 2007

Vs 1 I saw the Lord standing beside the altar; and he said, Smite the capitals, that the thresholds may shake; and break them in pieces on the head of all of them; and I will slay the last of them with the sword: there shall not one of them flee away, and there shall not one of them escape. (Note: unless otherwise stated, all quotes come from the AMERICAN STANDARD VERSION. The text is in the public domain).

I saw. Reminds us of the superscription which spoke of “the words of Amos…which he saw concerning Israel.” the Lord standing beside the altar. This could also be translated “on the altar” which would be more in keeping with the position God is usually said to assume. However, it should be kept in mind that this is a false altar upon which God is never have said to have manifested his presence. Indeed, seeking the Lord as if he were present on such a false altar has already been condemned (5:4-5).

God commands someone to smite the capitals, that the threshold may shake. Who exactly is being command to do this is unclear. Since what follows has God speaking in the first person, it seems likely that he is speaking with himself (see Gen 18:16-21). The capitals are to be broken so as to fall upon the heads of those worshipping in the temple. There may be an allusion here to Samson’s destruction of the temple of Dagon (Judges 16:23-31).

I will slay the last of them…there shall not one of them escape. This may be an allusion to Jehu’s destruction of the temple of Baal (2 Kings 10:18-27.

Vs 2-4 though they dig into Sheol, from there my hand shall take them; and though they climb up to heaven, from there will I bring them down. And though they hide themselves in the top of Carmel, I will search and take them out; and though they be hid from my sight in the bottom of the sea, I will command the serpent to bite them. And though they go into captivity before their enemies, thence I will command the sword, and it shall slay them: And I will set my eyes upon them for evil, and not for good.

No matter how deep they go (Sheol, sea), nor how high (the top of Mt. Carmel, heaven) they will not escape God’s punishments, for he is the Lord of creation as the following verses make clear:

Vs 5-6 For the Lord, God of hosts, is he who touches the land and it melts, and all that dwell thereupon shall mourn; and the land shall rise up like the river, and sink back again, like the river of Egypt; It is he that builds his chambers in the heavens, and has founded his vault upon the earth; he that calls forth the waters of the sea, and pours them out upon the face of the earth; the Lord is his name (My translation based heavily on ASV)

Like 4:13 and 5:8-9 these verses are a doxology The image of the land melting and its rising up and sinking back like the river (i.e. the Nile) indicates an earthquake as in 8:8 (see also 1:1). The word melts in verse 5 could (and probably should) be translated as tremble, shakes, or shudders (see Psalm 46:6; Nahum 1:5).

Vs 7 Are you not like the children of the Ethiopians to me, O children of Israel? says the Lord. Was it not I who brought Israel up out of Egypt, as I brought the Philistines out from Caphtor, and the Syrians from Kir?

Israel is in reality no different from any pagan nation because it has separated itself from the one God and his covenant and laws. Mere possession of the land of promise is nothing, since God gave land even to the pagan Philistines (who are said to have come from Caphtor, probably Crete). Its covenant relationship with God is what set Israel apart (see Exodus 19:5), but this relationship they had severed, thereby making themselves no better than other nations (see Exodus 8:19-20).

Vs 8-10 Behold, the eyes of the Lord God are upon the sinful kingdom, and I shall destroy it from off the face of the earth; save that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob, says the Lord. For, lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all the nations, like grain is sifted in a sieve, yet the smallest kernel shall not fall upon the earth. All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword, who say, evil shall not overtake nor meet us.

Only those lowly and humble enough to repent (symbolised by the smallest kernel) will escape. Those out of touch with their own sinfulness see no need to repent and will therefore be lost.

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Hosea 1:1

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 15, 2007

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The book of Hosea is introduced with a superscription written in the third person archival or titular style. This immediately suggests that the verse was written by a hand other than Hosea’s, for, with the exception of Senator Bob Dole and Gangsta Rappers no one writes or talks about themselves in this fashion. This immediately raises another question: did Hosea write the book that bears his name?

It should be noted in regard to this question that different narrative voices are used in the text. 1:2-11 is primarily a narative written in the third person wherein the unidentified narrator tells us of God’s commands to the prophet and of his fulfillment of them. Chapter 3:1-5 on the other hand is a narration of the prophet in autobiographical form. The remainder of the book, with the exception of the last verse, shows that Hosea is speaking on behalf of God, typical of pracular speech. All of this may suggest that the book was in part written by Hosea and in part by someone else. It could also be, however, that the whole book was wirtten by someone other than Hosea. If this case, we are to understand the production of the book as similar to that of our Gospels. A charismatic, inspired teacher (though of course Jesus was more than this) acted and preached in accord with God’s will; he drew disciples around him who witnessed what he did, and heard what he said, and, in turn, were inspired to write it down. This could easily account for the differing narrative voices.

Hosea 1:1 The word of Yahweh which came unto Hosea, the son of Beeri, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiak, kings in Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam, son of Joash, king in Israel.

The purpose of the superscription is to introduce us to the prophet and to the time period of his ministry. This is done by naming the prophet, his pedigree, and the time period of his ministry; this latter being established by the naming of the kings. The most important aspect of this, and of all the prophetic superscriptions is that they show the authority behind the prophets ministry and, by implication, the authority behind the book. This is done here by modifying a typical prophetic formula: “The word of Yahweh was unto…” (See Jer 1:4; Ezek 3:16; Zech 4:8). Everything that is said in the superscription is said in relation to “the word”.

The name Hosea means “God is salvation”, or “God delivers”. Virtually nothing is known about the prophet except for what is contained in this book. Some scholars speculate, on the basis of his father’s name Beeri, that he was from the tribe of Reuben. This conclusion is drawn from the fact that a man from the tribe of Reuben is called Beedrah in 1 Chron 5:6. It needs hardly to be said that this conclusion is pure conjecture. According to some Jewish traditions the prophet was born and died in the town of Belemoth, or Belamon, or Bethshemesh. These towns were all located in the land allotted to the tribe of Issachar after the conquest under Joshua, and so some conclude he belonged to that tribe. Other tradition place his death in Babylon but his burial in Tsepath, in upper Galilee in the Holy Land. Still others have his burial taking place in Northern Africa! But these traditions are of late origin and not considered to be reliable.

Some have conjectured that Hosea, like his fellow prophet Amos, was from the Southern Kingdom of Judah but had been sent into the Northern Kingdom of Israel to preach. Most scholars reject this for several reasons, the strongest being that his dialect and phrasings are clearly that of a Northerner.

The reason for supporting the conjecture given above is that the superscription mentions four kings of Judah and only one of Israel, this in spite of the fact that during the time period established by the named Judean kings six other kings besides Jeroboam reigned in Israel. Why are they not mentioned?

The typical answer given is that the superscription is of a later date than the actual book (i.e. the book existed a long time before the superscription was added). It is conjectured that Hosea, shortly before the fall of Israel in 722 BC, fled to Judah with some of his disciples and there the book was compiled. The prophecies in book form could be of no help to the Kingdom Israel for obvious reasons; however, the moral decay and formalism of religion which led to that kingdoms downfall was, to a lesser degree, infecting Judah, therefore, it is argued, the book was written as a warning to Judah; Israel’s fate could be their’s.

All of this is possible; and it is certain that the book was used in Judah as a source of moral teaching and warning; however, there is another possible explaination.

In chapter 1 verse 4 the prophet announces both the fall of the “house (dynasty) of Jehu”, and of the “House (kingdom) of Israel”. Once the dynasty of Jehu came to an end with the death of Jeroboam the entire kingdom’s fate was sealed. For this reason the six kings who followed are probably ignored as irrelevant. Indeed, with the death of Jeroboam, the Northern Kingdom’s final 26 years (approx.) are a time of political, economic, military and social collapse. Of the six kings who follow Jeroboam four were assassinated, and of these for wo reigned less than a year. Of the remaining two kings one was forced from the throne by pressure from Assyria, which placed a puppet ruler in his stead. This ruler would rebel against the Assyrians and this would lead to the conquest and destruction of the Israel.

THE SITUATION OF ISRAEL AT THE TIME OF HOSEA:

In the earlier part (of Hosea’s ministry) the times are represented (in the Bible) as prosperous, just as in the days of Amos; evidences of wealth and ease are seen on every hand, and punishment is still in the future (Amos 2:5-13); a little later the situation is greatly changed; lawlessness is prevalent (Amos 4:2; 5:1; 7:1), the panic-stricken rulers are vacillating between (alliance with) Assyria and Egypt (Amos 5:13; 7:11; 12:1), political dissolution has already begun (Amos 7:9; 8:8), the powerlessness of the kings is generally recognized (Amos 10:3; 13:9), the religious and political leaders are the worst violators of the laws (4:8-11; 5:1; 9:15), conspiracies and revolutions are rife (Amos 5:13; 7:11; 10:6; 12:1), and anarchy prevails. (A CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL COMMENTARY ON AMOS AND HOSEA, By William Rainey Harper, pgs cxli-cxli

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