Day 6: Genesis 16-18, Psalm 6, Matthew 6

Genesis 16
I dunno… Maybe this sorta thing was common then. Abram doesn’t object to sleeping with Hagar. Sarai wants a child. One thing that puzzles about this story is how long have Sarai and Abram been married? She came with him from Ur, right? Therefore I would presume they have been married quite a while and she has been childless entire time.

The rabbinic commentary says that Hagar is the daughter of pharaoh. I wonder why it was significant that Sarai had been ten years in Canaan without a child. Somehow the rabbis derive from this text that the ten years means that if a man and a wife are married for ten years without a child, that is grounds for a divorce.
This is an altogether unpleasant chapter. Hagar preens it over Sarai that H is pregnant when S is not, S complains to A, A shrugs off the complaint, S mistreats H who runs away. Hagar meets the angel of the Lord who tells her, as the told Abram, that her descendants are going to be innumerable so she goes back to S&A and gives birth to Ishmael.

The rabbis put an interesting spin on the angel’s visit: that Hagar’s descendants will be servants to Abram’s and Sarai’s forever. Ok, I can se some problems with that.

Chap 17: Ah, yes, the Covenant, Abram’s new name, the introduction of circumcision. Circumcision had to have been radical stuff. I guess men in these days saw each naked fairly often because a penis without a foreskin would have been something brand new under the sun. I also can’t imagine any of the men were happy about having their foreskins cut off because that had just got to have hurt and I am sure they were no good to their wives for several days after. But I have to give credit to Abraham… here is facing this unimaginable pain and he is still able to laugh at God when he tells Abe that Sarah is going to have a baby. I find that quite amusing.

The rabbis make a big deal about the significance of the added H and I confess I don’t follow their argument. Something about H being perfection. I guess it’s a Hebrew nuance.

Gen 18: I am very fond of vs 1-8 as they are the basis for one of the most wonderful icons ever written: The Hospitality of Abraham by St Andrei Rublev. It is also referred to as The Trinity because it is also believe that the three men of verse two are the the Lord of verse one, hence, Father, Son and Holy Spirit visited and were feasted by Abraham and Sarah.

Sarah also laughs at the idea that she, a post-menopausal woman, would conceive a child. I will pass over the fact that she also mentions that she will find pleasure and leave that where it belongs, between her and her DH. But she laughs and has the temerity to argue with her guests about it.

Next comes one of my very favorite bits in the entire Bible. There is Abraham walking along with the Trinity and arguing with God about the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah. I love this because here is Abe bargaining with God and who among us hasn’t done that? Don’t we do that all the time? There is a lot about old Abe I find reprehensible but I can closely identify with this bargaining with God.

I am sure the rabbis will see something different in it. Ah yes. First of all, the rabbis see the Lord appearing on the third day after the circumcision while he was still healing, so it ws a visit to the sick. And God also appeared to him in the tree in the form of fire. The three men were Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel.

The rabbis interpreted Sarah’s laughter as mockery or sneering, not humor. I wonder if this is supported by the Hebrew?

And of course, the ten righteous is the origin of the minyan.

Psalm 6: A prayer for a grave illness. I wish I had remembered this after my heart attack. David had a prayer for every occasion. While not all the Psalms were written by David, so many were and apparently were cherished enough to be preserved.

David’s conscience surely seems troubled here, but he counts on God’s grace and love to get him through whatever it is. He seems quite terrified then suddenly he is convinced God has heard him. Not only has God heard his prayer but David himself will be vindicated.

Matthew 6: There is the Jewish concept of the Mitzvah, which I just love. It means doing one’s good deeds in secret.

I was raised Roman Catholic, pre-Vatican 1 and in those days, the prayers we said out loud were Hail, Marys, Our Fathers, Glory Bes, and the occasional Salve, Regina. I was ill prepared for Protestant extempore communal prayer and to this I am uncomfortable with it and every time I am confronted with it I find myself thinking of Mt 6: 5&6.

When I was studying Koine Greek and we got to the Our Father I was quite startled to discover that the Koine throws a whole different light on it. In English, it reads as though we are making polite requests. In the koine, the mood of the verbs are in the imperative so actually we are giving God orders. Give! Come! Do! Forgive!
The forgiveness bit is tricky because it is contingent upon our ability to first forgive others.

Fasting… do Christians even bother with this any more? I remember how annoyed my mother was by Fridays and the need to serve us something that wasn’t meat or chicken. Dad hated fish so it was usually cheese pizza and I never saw the hardship.

Verse 21: I just don’t think I’ve paid enough attention to this one until lately.
Verse 22 and 23 used to confuse me and eventually I realized that this had to be the origin of the concept of custody of the senses If we guard what goes into our minds, then we have protected out thoughts to some degree. Phil 4:8 comes to mind also.

Vs 24: But we try to do it all the same, don’t we, serve two masters?
Vss 24-34: Easy for God to say. I’ve never achieved it.

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