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"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, con
cerning the word of life -- the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it ...." I John 1:1-2 (RSV)

"After his resurrection the disciples saw the living Christ, whom they knew to have died, with the eyes of faith (oculata fide)." Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, III, 55, 2 ad 1, as quoted in D. M. Stanley, Jesus in Gethsemane (New York, Paulist Press 1980).

Monday, September 29, 2014

Exodus 4

Exodus 4: 29-31 says this:
Then Moses and Aaron went and assembled all the elders of the Israelites. 30 Aaron spoke all the words that the Lord had spoken to Moses, and performed the signs in the sight of the people. 31 The people believed; and when they heard that the Lord had given heed to the Israelites and that he had seen their misery, they bowed down and worshiped.  
Exodus 4: 29-31 (NRSV).  
The reference to "elders"  reminds me of what we hear today about tribal leaders in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.  Sarna  in his comment on this verse from Exodus chapter 4 describes the importance of these elders in ancient times:  "The institution of elders is rooted in the tribal-patriarchal system that shaped the character of Israelite society in early times. The rich Mari archives dealing with Northwest Semitic tribes show that the council of elders was entrusted with considerable authority, judicial and political. Its members acted as the spokesmen and the delegates of the tribes in dealings with the urban administration.”
Nahum Sarna,   The JPS Torah Commentary: Exodus שמות (Jewish Publication Society, 1991). 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Exodus 3

In Exodus, God tells Moses, "you shall worship."  Exodus 3:12.  In fact, the freedom to worship is one of the objectives of the exodus: 

Whether it be a prediction or a prescription, this phrase ["you shall worhsip"]  is a subtle hint to Moses on how to handle the negotiations with the Egyptian authorities. The motif of the worship of God as one of the objectives of the Exodus is reiterated time and again before Pharaoh. Since the Hebraic stem ʿ-v-d means both “to be in servitude” and “to worship,” the phrase insinuates the idea that worship of God is incompatible with servitude to the pharaoh. 

Nahum Sarna,   The JPS Torah Commentary: Exodus שמות (Jewish Publication Society, 1991). 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Knew Not Joseph

Exodus 1:6-8 states: 
Then Joseph died, and all his brothers, and that whole generation. But the Israelites were fruitful and prolific; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them. Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. He said to his people, “Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. 10 Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.”
Exodus 1:6-8  (NRSV). 

The phrase "did not know Joseph"   is full of meaning, as described by Sarna: 
This is the first appearance in Exodus of the verb y-d-ʿ [know]. It is a key term in the Exodus narratives, occurring over twenty times in the first fourteen chapters. The usual rendering, “to know,” hardly does justice to the richness of its semantic range. In the biblical conception, knowledge is not essentially or even primarily rooted in the intellect and mental activity. Rather, it is more experiential and is embedded in the emotions, so that it may encompass such qualities as contact, intimacy, concern, relatedness, and mutuality.  Conversely, not to know is synonymous with dissociation, indifference, alienation, and estrangement; it culminates in callous disregard for another’s humanity.  
Nahum Sarna,   The JPS Torah Commentary: Exodus שמות (Jewish Publication Society, 1991). 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Wicker Basket

Pharaoh had ordered, "Every boy that is born you shall throw into the Nile ...."  Ex. 1:22.  In response to this infanticide order,  Moses' mother "got a wicker basket for him, and caulked it with bitumen and pitch.  She put the child into it and placed it among the reeds by the bank of the Nile."   Ex. 2:3.   From there she "stationed herself at a distance, to learn what would befall him."  Ex. 2:4.  

What was this wicker basket?  Sarna says this about it: 

The receptacle is called a tevah, a term that, in this sense, appears elsewhere in the Bible only as the ark in which Noah and his family were saved from the waters of the Flood. Its use here underscores both the vulnerability of its occupant and its being under divine protection. Evocation of the Flood narrative also suggests, once again, that the birth of Moses signals a new era in history.

Nahum Sarna, The JPS Torah Commentary: Exodus שמות  (Jewish Publication Society, 1991). 

Scripture quotations from:   The Jewish Study Bible, Jewish Publication Society TANAKH translation (Oxford University Press Inc. 2004).

Themes from Exodus

Terence E. Frethem has an excellent commentary on the book of Exodus (hereafter Frethem).  The student has to get the big picture before he reflects on the details.   In Frethem you will find these themes discussed:

Importance of historicity of the exodus   (10)
Theology of  re-creation (12)
Credit:  Wikipedia Commons - file Moses 
Knowledge of God (14)
God's sovereignty - acting on His own (16)
God working through people  (17)
God and the women (chapters 1 and 2)  (17)
God and Moses - friend of God  (17)
Liberation paradigm  (18)
With God - change and newness (19)
Anti-God forces - historical and cosmic  (19)
Violence in Exodus as transmuted by reflection on Second Isaiah and the way of Jesus  (20)
Israel's worship and Yahweh's presence - sacrificial and sacramental  (20)
Who are the people of God? (21)
People of the covenant made with Abraham (22)
Redemptive work of God  (22)
Law at Sinai - a gift to the people  (22)
Law and faithfulness to God  (in worship and in daily living)    (22)
Vocational covenant - kingdom of priests for the benefit of other peoples (22)
The people fail (22)
The golden calf and the mercy of God (22)
The tabernacling presence of God and Israel's mission to the world (22)

Terence E. Frethem, Exodus - Interpretation, a Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Knox Press 1991) (with citations  to page numbers from the introduction).


The book of Exodus will be my focus over the next 90 days.   You can't understand the Gospels without a solid grounding in this great story of God.  Here is what is coming:

Reversal of Fortune
The Birth and Youth of Moses
The Commissioning of Moses
The Challenge of Leadership: Initial Failure
Divine Reaffirmation
The Last Act
Commemorative Rituals
The Exodus
The Song at the Sea: Shirat ha-Yam
Crises in the Wilderness: Water, Food, Amalekites
Jethro’s Visit and the Organization of the Judiciary
The Covenant at Sinai
The Book of the Covenant: The Laws
The Tabernacle
Instructions for the Tabernacle
Installation of the Priests
An Appendix to the Instructions
Violation of the Covenant: The Golden Calf
Renewal of the Covenant
The Construction of the Tabernacle

Nahum Sarna, The JPS Torah Commentary: Exodus שמות. Jewish Publication Society, 1991 (Table of Contents).

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Food for Thought - Short and Sweet

All blog posts should be short and sweet, but occasionally I run into a blog  that I find particularly strong in that regard.  Brian Davidson's blog,   which I have added to my list,  has that brevity.   Brian says this about his blog:

"I created this blog as a way of collecting and sharing random biblical studies related things that I find interesting. It is an outlet for me to practice clearly articulating my thoughts and a venue for interacting with like minded Bible and grammar nerds."    

Brian approaches the great ideas which arise from the texts or one word from a text, and he succeeds in doing  so using few words.    As an example, lately I have been reflecting on the significance  of word  ἔξοδος (exodos)  which we see in Luke 9:31, and here  Brian briefly provides  some good food for thought on that subject.