Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Arrangement; Innocent Victims of Imprecation; Imperfection; Respectful Grandfather; Sabbath Assembly

1. Samuel C. Hyde, Jr., Pistols and Politics: The Dilemma of Democracy in Louisiana’s Florida Parishes, 1810-1899, page 29:

As prosperity in the territory increased, most residents appeared willing to accept vague property lines in the woodlands in order to preserve the peace…Establishing fences along supposed property lines could have united old disputes concerning land claims, a situation the tumult-weary residents seemed eager to avoid.

This stood out to me because one would think that setting up a fence and clearly delineating whose property is what would result in fewer problems, not more. Not when there are long-standing disputes over the land! And so residents accepted vague property lines in order to keep the peace. That informal sort of system worked for them. I’m not sure what happened if there was a fight about something that occurred on a disputed piece of land, but maybe they found some way to work that out.

2. Erhard Gerstenberger, Psalms, Part I with an Introduction to Cultic Poetry, page 94:

The complaint element prepares for the IMPRECATION against persecutors…Imprecations that affect even the family and offspring of the enemy quote naturally were part of a prayer (see Psalm 109). The evil could not be imagined except in personal and social terms…

We see the same thing in Exodus 22:22-24: a person who oppresses the widow and orphan will be killed by God, making his wife a widow and his children orphans. But they’re innocent parties, aren’t they? Maybe this teaches us that we shouldn’t desire for disaster to fall on our enemies, for that could hurt innocent people. At the same time, I can understand an oppressed person—who desperately wants his oppression to end—desiring the death of his oppressor.

3. Hans Jonas, The Gnostic Religion, page 57:

The first alien Life is the “King of Light,” whose world is “a world of splendor and of light without darkness,” “a world of mildness without rebellion, a world of righteousness without turbulence, a world of eternal life without decay and death, a world of goodness without evil…A pure world unmixed with ill…Opposed to it is the “world of darkness, utterly full of evil…full of devouring fire…full of falsehood and deceit…A world of turbulence without steadfastness, a world of darkness without light…a world of death without eternal life, a world in which the good things perish and plans some to naught”…

It’s interesting how we Christians are supposed to put up with the imperfections of ourselves and the world, and yet we’re preparing for heaven, a perfect place.

4. Richard Sarason, A History of the Mishnaic Law of Agriculture: A Study of Tractate Demai, page 92:

The grandfather, although an ‘am ha’are[tz], is assumed to respect the scruples of his son-in-law and is careful not to offer unclean food to his grandson…

An am ha-aretz was an Israelite who wasn’t conscientious in the observance of certain Torah regulations, such as tithing. I like this quote because it presents a grandfather respecting his more conscientious son. I appreciate that because I myself grew up observing rituals that many considered bizarre (i.e., not eating pork, not keeping Christmas, observing the holy days and Sabbath), and so I was thankful when people were respectful of my beliefs and practices. I’ve heard plenty of stories of the opposite! It’s especially heart-warming to see this in a family, as a grandfather honors the practices of his more observant son.

Sometimes, it’s the less religious people who are more respectful of people’s religious scruples. I once read a story about a Christian girl who said that her non-Christian friends are more respectful towards her desire to avoid alcohol and wild parties. Her Christian friends, by contrast, are less supportive.

5. Jacob Milgrom, Leviticus 1-16, page 21:

Here let it suffice to state my conclusion that miqra’ qodes[h] is a “proclamation of (a day’s) holiness” on which work is either forbidden (…Yom Kippur) or limited (…Pentecost).

A while back, John Valade asked me if the Bible supports religious assembly on the Sabbath. I referred him to Leviticus 23, which calls the Sabbath a holy convocation. Some translations render it “holy assemblies”. The term is miqra qodesh. Apparently, Milgrom doesn’t think that the term means assembly, but rather the holiness of the day, which is expressed when the Israelites cease from work. This they can do at home.

But there are places where there is some sort of assembly on the Sabbath. Isaiah 66:23 says that, every Sabbath, all flesh will come to Jerusalem to worship the LORD.

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