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Archive for March, 2011

      In his lectures on Comparative Religion, Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy points to five fundamental gods that were over ancient man and still can dominate us today, and which must be respected. When we sin, we respect these gods more than we respect the Creator, disobeying the First Word: “You will have no other gods before Me.” Nevertheless, these gods (powers from God) are real. They are, according to Rosenstock:
      Saturn, the power of natural catastrophe
      Jupiter, the power of government
      Mars, the power of warfare
      Venus, the power of romantic infatuation
      Mercury, the power of rhythm, movement, and dance
Each of these can overwhelm a person if he is not careful, as Helen’s beauty overwhelmed Paris and caused the Trojan War.
      What follows is cool, but speculative. It is a speculation arising from Mark Horne’s brilliant insight that God had sent His lightning bolt to destroy the world at just the moment when human evil had reached its nadir, but that at just that precise moment, at around noon on a particular Friday, Jesus Christ went up on a cross between heaven and earth and took all that judgment onto His own breast, becoming the New Protective Firmament (hilasterion) over the earth.
      And yes, this is speculative. The Marching Moron Minority out in Calvinistic Blogland will say, “Oh, that’s speculative.” Well, yes, it is. We, at least, have our brains turned on. Adults investigate stuff; and even when it turns out to be a blind alley, grownups learn from it.
      Now for you grownups: It occurs to me in light of the Biblical usage of the synodical periods of the planets in Genesis 5 and in the censuses of Numbers; and in the light of progressive judgments in history, that God’s arrow of wrath can be seen as moving from heaven to earth in a kind of physical-symbolic way. That is to say: Part of the Biblical vocabulary is the system of “moving stars” (planets) that rule the sky. The ancients, including the Israelites, knew full well that space has depth and that Saturn was farthest from the earth. I suggest that the judgments and covenants of the Bible can be seen, in one aspect, as God’s judgment drawing nearer and nearer to the Earth.
      God’s first judgment was at the Flood, initiating the Noahic Covenant. This was the Saturnine judgment of total catastrophe. Never again would there be total catastrophe, though there would be plenty of local ones. In terms of the ancient understanding of the cosmos, this was the most distant from the earth.
      God’s second judgment was at Babel, initiating the Patriarchal Covenant. This was the Jovian judgment against total government. Never again would God allow a one-world government, though He would often judge smaller ones. We are moving toward the earth.
      God’s third judgment was at Egypt, initiating the Mosaic Covenant. God made war on the gods of Egypt, and the period of the Judges is a time of repeated wars against other gods and their nations. So, we have arrived at Mars.
      At this point we arrive at a quandary. The heavenly bodies progressively near to Earth are the Sun, Mercury, Venus, and the Moon. The Lampstand, with its lights lined up between the near side of the firmament and the far side, would have that configuration. Yet there is reason to consider an alternative that is of equal value. The Sun being the brightest could be the closest form of judgment, with the Moon just behind. And, to the ancients it was not clear whether Venus or Mercury was nearer to the Earth. So, let us see what we can see.
      With David it seems we come to Venus. David continually goes after women, without restraint. So does Solomon. In better days, Solomon wrote a song about love, the Song of Songs. Beyond this, David and Solomon were supposed to “love” the foreign nations and bring them to God. I suggest that Venus, and the judgment upon false love, fits the Davidic Covenant era.
      With the Prophetic era, initiated by Elijah and Elisha, I suggest we come to Mercury, the Messenger. It is Mercury whose fleet feet transport the words of the gods to men. It is just at this time that the prophets begin to send messages to the surrounding nations. God brings judgment on those false prophets who corrupt His message and tell the nations that they need not repent. The lightning bolt is getting closer to the Earth.
      The Oikumenical era after the exile is a Lunar time. The lesser light of God’s grace shines over the larger areas of the imperial powers that serve His purposes. The Jews spread out into the Oikumene carrying God’s word. Yet, when they darken His word, and make their converts into disciples of hell, judgment draws closer.
      Finally comes the Sun of Righteousness. Yet men esteemed Him not, and sought to blot out His fulsome light. Now the arrow of wrath has finally come to Earth. Yet, the Earth is not destroyed. The Righteous One takes the wrath upon Himself, and starts a New Universe.
      Now, reader, it is your turn to comment.

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      Some readers of my earlier essay, “Strange and Glorious New Rites,” have written to object that I have strained a gnat and swallowed a camel. I have strained out the gnat of a possible link to the memorial bread of the minchah (Lev. 2), while overlooking the camel that the Last Supper was a Passover meal.
      Actually, I did not deal with the Passover aspect because, to be frank, Jesus almost certainly was not eating a Passover meal at the Last Supper. More on that below.
      Let’s assume, however, that the Last Supper was indeed a Passover meal. At the Passover, lambs and kids (by Jesus’ time, only lambs) were taken to the Temple, slaughtered according to the rites of the Thanksgiving Peace offering, roasted by the priests and Levites, and distributed back to the people. (Deuteronomy 16:1-8; 2 Chronicles 30 and 35.) The Passover had to be eaten in one day, and this is the same as the rule of the Thanksgiving (Lev. 7:11-14). We notice here also that various items of bread were offered as part of the Thanksgiving.
      Beyond this, Numbers 15:1-15 specifies the precise Minchah that was to be offered with offerings at “appointed times” (v. 2). The revised Minchah consists of wine as well as semolina.
      Also, the passages in 2 Chronicles affirm that Ascensions consisting of bulls were brought near at the same time as the Thanksgiving Passover lambs and kids. The Ascensions also required the Minchah.
      So, if indeed the Last Supper took place as a Passover meal, and Jesus was crucified the following day, then there is plenty of foundation for the disciples to have regarded His actions with the bread and wine as a new form of the Minchah. They were quite well aware that at Passover bread was given to God and then eaten by the priests, while wine was poured out. They understood fully that for Jesus to break off the first piece of bread for Himself and then say, “Do this as a memorial TO ME,” Jesus was putting himself in the place of God. It was enough to send Judas over the edge, and he left almost immediately.

      All the same, this Last Supper was not a Passover meal. Paul wrote, “Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us” (1 Cor. 5:7), indicating that Jesus died at the time the Passover lambs were being killed.
      In Luke 22:15-16 we read “And he said to them: ‘I have longingly desired to eat this Passover with you before my suffering; however, I tell you that I shall not eat of it, until it is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God.’” This indicates that Jesus wanted to rejoice in the feast with them, but that He would not be able to until the Kingdom had fully come. (Moreover, if this were a Passover meal, where were the wives and children?)
      John’s gospel stresses that the Last Supper was eaten before the Feast of Passover. See 13:1, 21; 18:18; 19:14, 31, 42. John refers to this as the Preparation Day of the Passover. What does this mean? It means the 14th of Nisan, starting in the evening and continuing until around 3:00 pm the following afternoon, when the Passover lambs began to be slaughtered. The following day was a special sabbath (Ex. 12:16; Lev. 23:6-7). So, let us consider: If Jesus had eaten a Passover meal, the next day would have been a High Sabbath. The Jews could not have brought Him before Pilate on that day. And in fact, the gospels stress that it was the day after the crucifixion, beginning around 6:00 pm Friday evening, that was the High Sabbath (John 19:31).
      Now let us consider the chronology:
      Thursday afternoon: Around sunset right at the beginning of Nisan 14, Jesus allows some disciples to find a room to prepare for the Passover (Mt. 26:17-21; Mk. 14:12-18; Lk. 22:7-16). Preparing for the Passover means getting rid of the leaven (Ex. 12:15). According to the gospels, this was the Preparation Day, and the first day of Unleavened Bread.
      Note: Let us be clear: The Day of Preparation is the same Day as Passover, but Passover happens at the end of this day, in the afternoon, while the day begins the previous evening.
      Thursday evening: Having prepared the room, the disciples have the Last Supper with Jesus. After a long conversation (John 13ff.), they walk out into the full-moonlit night to the garden of Gethsemane. Three hours later Jesus is arrested. (I calculate this as around midnight, so that Jesus’ arrest corresponds to God’s killing the sons of Egypt in the days of Moses.) Throughout the rest of the night and into the morning, Jesus is conveyed from one trial to another, all on Nisan 14.
      Friday afternoon: By noon, Jesus is being crucified. He suffers for our sins for three hours, and then dies around 3:00 pm, which is exactly when the Passover lambs begin to be slaughtered.
      Friday night: Starting at 6:00 pm or so is the High Sabbath, Nisan 15, and by this time people have their Passover lambs roasted by the priests and a feast can begin. But the disciples don’t enjoy any Passover feast. They weep and mourn apart.

      So, what shall we say? Is the tradition that the Last Supper is some kind of Passover meal totally wrong? I do not think so. Remember that the Passover kid/lamb was to be set apart on the 10th of the month for observation. This begins a larger “Passover time.” The Last Supper was a meal at Passover Time. And indeed it happened on the same day as Passover, only at the beginning of that day rather than at the end when the lambs were sacrificed.
      There was no Temple-roasted Passover lamb at the Last Supper. Jesus was the Lamb at that Supper, and the food He gave was his own flesh, in bread, and blood, in drink.

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                                                    Notes on Judges

A. Israel’s failure to hold land against the Canaanites. Progressive compromise, leading to judgment. 1:1–2:5.

  B. Israel’s idolatry, the cycle of judges, and war as God’s chastisement. 2:6–3:6.

    C. Northern Gentiles (Mesopotamia), and Othniel. 3:7-11.

      D. Lot: Moab, and Ehud. 3:12-13.

        E. Minor judge: Shamgar. 3:31.

          F. Canaanites opposed. Women crush the serpent’s head. Deborah & Barak. 4–5.

            G. Gideon’s faithfulness. 6:1–8:26.

YAHWEH’S KINGSHIP REJECTED

            G’ Gideon’s fall. 8:27-32.

          F’ Canaanites embraced. Woman crushes the serpent’s head. “King Abimelech.” 8:33–9:57.

        E’ Minor judges. 10:1-5.

      D’ Lot: Ammon, and Jephthah. 10:6–12:15.

    C’ Southern Gentiles (Philistia: Egypt), and Samson. 13-16.

  B’ Israel’s idolatry. 17-18.

A’ Israel’s faithfulness in destroying “Canaanites.” Faithfulness, leading to blessing and resurrection. 19-21.

 The Twelve Judges

Othniel – Judah (lion, Gen. 49)
Ehud – Benjamin
Shamgar – likely Judah (son of Anath // Beth-Anath, Josh 15:59; Philistines in southern area)
Deborah – Ephraim
Gideon – West Manasseh (Machir)
Tola – Issachar
Jair – East Manasseh (Gilead)
Jephthah – East Manasseh (Gilead)
Ibzan – Naphtali (not Bethlehem-Judah; this is in the north)
Elon – Zebulun
Abdon – Ephraim
Samson – Dan (lion, Dt. 33)

 Interesting correlations

Othniel – Judah (Leah’s lion, Gen. 49)
   Ehud – Benjamin (Rachel)
      Shamgar – likely Judah (Leah)
         Deborah – Ephraim. Barak of Naphtali assisted her.
            Gideon – West Manasseh (Machir) (almost fought Ephraim)
               Tola – Issachar (Leah)
               Jair – East Manasseh (Rachel)
            Jephthah – East Manasseh (fought Ephraim)
         Ibzan – Naphtali
      Elon – Zebulun (Leah)
   Abdon – Ephraim (Rachel)
Samson – Dan (Rachel’s lion, Dt. 33)

 “Chicks in Chainmail”

Joshua is about men conquering. Judges adds the theme of women preserving. We move from named women who form archetypes, to unnamed archetypes in the second half of the book. Delilah is the exception, and she is named archetype of the Harlot. The movement is Daughter, Mother, Wife in each cycle. This leads me to suspect that Delilah was indeed an Israelitess, and hence the Harlot-Daughter. She is followed by the Harlot Mother in ch. 17 and the Harlot Wife in ch. 19.

1. Achsah – the Daughter
4. Deborah – the Mother
5. Jael – the Wife

9. Unnamed – the stone-thrower

11. Unnamed – Jephthah’s Daughter
13. Unnamed – Samson’s Mother
14. Unnamed – Samson’s Wife
      16. Unnamed – Samson’s Harlot
      16. Delilah – Samson’s Babe

17. Unnamed – Micah’s Mother
19. Unnamed – Levite’s Wife
21. The Daughters of Israel

 Things to Notice

First Introduction:
 - AdoniBezek and the 70 kings: symbol of world rulership and world conquest.
 - After initial victory, pictures of compromise, each worse than the previous: vv. 27, 29, 30, 32, 33, 34.
 - Judgment, but then sacrifice and peace.

Second Introduction:
 - A. 2:14-19 – God raised up plunderers, then deliverers (“Joshuas,” yasha’)
 - B. 2:20-3:6 – God left Canaanites around, to teach the antithesis.

Othniel:
 - enemy from outer edges of world: The Ethiopian from the Land of the Two Rivers

Ehud:
 - The incense-filled Tabernacle of Gilgal versus the poop-filled tent of Eglon.
 - Enemies killed at fords of Jordan; 7:24; 12:28 — official border of land.

Deborah, Warrior Princess:
 - Women and reformation: Miriam, Jephthah’s Daughter
 - War of Mothers: Barak’s “Mom” versus Sisera’s Mom
 - Head Crushing Chicks: Jael, 9:53, and Delilah
 - Women songwriters: Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Mary

Gideon:
 - wheat being threshed in winepress: Secret Kingdom; Buried Kingdom
 - Angel of Yahweh’s conversations with Gideon parallel with Moses:
  O Valiant Warrior!
     Who, me?
  You can do it!
     I can?
  Let’s go!
     I’m scared!
 - Fleecy allegory:
  wet fleece = Spirit on Gideon
  dry fleece = Spirit passed from Gideon to deliver Israel
 - Evangelistic warfare:
  light
  trumpet
  Name of Deliverer
 - 7:25 – now who hides in winepress?
 - 8:27 – fall of Gideon, pivot of book

Abimelech:
 - brother murder to establish kingdom — Cain
 - parable of the hardworking trees
 - revolution breeds revolution: Gaal and his motorcycle gang

Chapter 10:
 - 7-fold idolatry, v. 6
 - 7-fold deliverance, vv. 11-12
 - beginning of next two stories, v. 7

Jephthah:
 - wisdom with words, before war
 - sought dynasty
 - did not burn up his daughter
 - Daughter is same age as Samson and Samuel, part of reformation
 - Ephraim getting more and more arrogant — part of long history

Samson:
 - miraculous birth; cp. Samuel (same year)
 - Spirit-impelled offer of marriage: evangelism
 - Riddle-life: events are all eye for eye, but how?
 - Sphinx: lion, riddlemaster
 - After 20 years, fall into sin
 - Visit to harlot, contrast Rahab
 - Defeat by Delilah: more riddles
 - Samson began work same time Ark taken to Philistia (1 Sam. 5), and his visit to Philistia is parallel
 - Samson destroyed the entire leadership of Philistia immediately before the victory at Mizpah (1 Sam. 7), and is the reason for that victory

An Anti-Exodus (ch. 17-18)
 - spoils from woman build false tabernacle
 - new priest ordained
 - movement through wilderness
 - conquest of area not given to Israel
 - establishment of Dan as center of idolatry
 - event happened early, and Samson’s family is part of remnant of Dan that did not participate in this evil.
 - no king in Israel because Levites failing in their jobs. 
 - Bethlehem: Where David was from.

An Anti-Passover (ch. 19)
 - Sodom as proto-passover; Lot left with unleavened bread
 - passage marches through the night; bride killed, not delivered
 - Levite failing in his job: no king in Israel, wickedness and anarchy rule
 - Gibeah of Benjamin: Where Saul was from.

The War Against Benjamin (ch. 20)
 - first two battles lost; then worship, and victory

New Birth for Benjamin (ch. 21)
 - not a series of evil events, but a new beginning
 - Massacre of Jabesh-Gilead is in accordance with law (Dt. 17:7; Judg. 20:13). It’s possible Saul’s ancestry included one of the maidens (1 Sam. 11).
 - The dance of the maidens is “writhing/twirling” and is a Husband-Catching Dance. There is no reason to think any maiden was forced to go off with a man she did not like.
 - Judges ends on hopeful note.

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The great question for the emerging East, for Asia and other awakening third world areas, for an emerging nation like China is, “what fate awaits them?” They are now emerging from an analogous paganism that the West emerged from centuries ago. Here an amazing quotation from David Aikman, the Time Magazine religious editor. He is a quoting from “a scholar from one of China’s premier academic institutions, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) in Beijing, in 2002.”

“One of the things we were asked to look into was what accounted for the success, in fact, the pre-eminence of the West all over the world,” he said. “We studied everything we could from the historical, political, economic, and cultural perspective. At first, we thought it was because you had more powerful guns than we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. But in the past twenty years, we have realized that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity. That is why the West has been so powerful. The Christian moral foundation of social and cultural life was what made possible the emergence of capitalism and then the successful transition to democratic politics. We don’t have any doubt about this.”[4]

There is a speeding up of history. What took hundreds of years to conquer in the Western Roman Empire in the conquest of Caesarism, appears to be earnestly underway in China at a much more rapid pace now. Mao Zedong, the Communist revolutionary dictator of China, was an odd figure. With more than Caesar like powers, he undid Caesar and caesarism in China in only a few years. I heard more than once when I was in China that he was the Cyrus the Persian, and the Alexander the Great, of China. He swept China clean of its old ways, gods, and traditions as they did the Persian and Grecian Empires centuries before. They left enormous vacuums that were then filled by Christianity, and so did he. Mao ironically undid the possibility of his own Communist authority in his quest for modernity by sweeping everything “old” away. He undid his own Caesar’s platform. Like Cyrus of old, he was unbeknownst to himself, merely the servant of the God of the Bible (Isaiah 45:1-6).
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Paul contends that with the death of Christ on the Cross, there was an overcoming of the Principalities and the Powers (Col. 2:15). A great deal has been written on this subject over the last 60 years. What was for a long time either ignored, or regarded by liberal scholars as a mythological element in his thought, recaptured scholarly imagination after World War II when it seemed brutally and baldly clear that such entities as Paul describes had been let loose on the earth once more in civilization destroying World Wars. Principalities and Powers are not themselves personal demonic figures, but are rather elements of the creation that in and of themselves bring order, authority, symmetry, and method to the world.

Examples of Principalities and Powers would be the state, the family, the clan and tribe, and the nation. In the modern world, new examples of Principalities could be industry and the media. Each of these entities in a fallen creation cease to be subordinate to God as the creator, and attempt to establish their own hegemony and absoluteness. And, in each of these cases, the Principalities are linked to, and become subject to, personal demonic figures.

Paul makes clear that in the ancient world, the Principalities were tutors and keepers of the world, and functioned often in a relatively benign way. With the coming of Christ, and with His death and resurrection, the Principalities and Powers are “disarmed and…triumphed over”, and again are called to take their rightful ruling place under the power of the now triumphant King. While the war has been decisively won, this also initiated new phases of radical rebellion on the part of the Powers, and the church now lives by constant warfare and battle against these Powers through history (Ephesians 6:10-20). There are at least three phases of the conquest of the Principalities and the Powers through history that interest me here. There are many more, but one must necessarily simplify in order to say anything.
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Rite Reasons: Studies in Worship
No. 90 Copyright (c) 2005 Biblical Horizons July, 2004 

At the last supper, Jesus took bread and, having given thanks, He broke it and gave it to His disciples while saying, “Take, eat, this is My body given for you. Do this for My memorial.”

 What Jesus did was recognized by the disciples, because it took place every morning and evening. It was the rite of the Tribute, which is described in Leviticus 2. English Bibles generally mistranslate this as “grain offering,” or “meal offering” or “cereal offering,” or simply and very unhelpfully “offering.” But while this rite consists of grain or bread, the name for it is minchah, which means “gift” or “tribute.”

The daily Tribute is set forth in Numbers 28:3-8, and consisted of raw wheat flour mixed with oil. The other varieties of Tribute, however, were baked in various ways, and some were broken up. All were divided, with the priest receiving a portion after the Lord had been given His. The part given to the Lord was called a “memorial” (Lev. 2:2, 9, 16).

A memorial is an action done before God, or an object placed before God, that reminds Him of what He has done in the past, reminds Him of the covenant, and calls upon Him to come and pass judgment and renew that covenant. In a broad sense, all the rites done before God at the Tabernacle were memorials, but only bread rites are ever actually called memorials (Lev. 5:12; 24:7; Num. 5:15).
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