Week 12 Make

Make Option 02: Write a Saga

The ancestral “cycles” (e.g., Abraham Cycle, Gen 12-25; Jacob Cycle, Gen 25:19 to 35:29) each comprise a collection of relatively independent sagas. For example, see Gen 16:1-16; Gen 17:1-22; Gen 22:1-19; Gen 29; Gen 34.

Sagas are typically short: about 550 words.

Sagas are typically simple:

  • there is a single plot (no sub-plots), with a single rising tension or conflict, resolution, and denouement.
  • there is a small cast, and usually only two parties are in dialogue at any one time.
  • there is no “backdrop” or thick background: it is as if the narrative took place against a plain white frame, so to speak, and a saga does not depend upon the action of any prior episode.
  • sagas are not moralistic: they do not “have a moral.” However, they are a means by which we describe “who we are.” (We are wily tricksters because our ancestor was a wily trickster; we are enemies with our neighbors because our ancestor was wronged by our neighbors; we are honorable in victory as our ancestor was honorable in victory; etc.) Sometimes “who we are” is not pretty.

Instructions: Choose any figure from the past whom you identify as part of your “tradition” (national, ethnic, ecclesial, political, academic, familial, or what have you). Write this figure into a short saga, using the formal features above as a guide. This should be a fictional episode; while it presumably takes place in that figure’s historical context, that context should be largely “invisible” behind and around the events of the saga. Again, this is historical fiction: don’t recreate an episode, but rather invent one.

Ask yourself: what do you want this saga to say about who your group is? About your group’s characteristics or aspirations? About your group’s relationship to some other group? Does it aspire, or gloat, or does it tell “hard truths” about your group? Again: How does your fictional episode tell your group “who they are”?

God and John, a Saga

After fleeing Georgia a broken and miserable man, John Wesley waited. After some time, a messenger from God came to John in a dream and said “Get up! Get up! You have more work to do!” John was confused by this. The messenger continued “You must serve communion to all of your ex-lovers and those you have lusted after, including the one you withheld communion from, Sophia.” John was not happy about this message from God, but John believed it to be right and just and desired to be a servant of God. So, John went to the chapel that day and all of those present were the women John had had passionate love for. There were roughly twenty woman present and John was very overwhelmed by the sheer number of women present, he thought his number was higher than this. None of the women were dressed appropriately, and more than his heart was feeling “strangely warm.” Some of the women were wearing very low cut, revealing dresses, and some looked to be ladies of the night. Others had nothing on at all, and still, some appeared to be dressed semi-appropriately, but their behavior and mannerisms made the situation inappropriate and John found them all very attractive and desirable. John also saw Sophia and she lacked clothing at all; she was going to be the hardest to serve communion to. John knew that this was a test to see if he could be holy in the midst of beautiful women he found desirable. He also knew this would be a struggle, possibly one of the biggest struggles of his life. He served them all communion without lingering on the lust that was trying to enter into his heart. After this the Spirit of the Lord came to him and said “Well done, good and faithful servant. You shall now be blessed or cursed with a wife named Mary Vazeille. You probably will not be happy in this marriage and may decide to separate, however if you stay married to her, since she is a widow, and you do not require her to live in these “Widow Houses” that you are establishing, you will receive redemption from the Sophia incident and you will be remembered as a great follower of God and not a perv.” “I, the Lord, have spoken.” John Wesley followed this and became the father of a denomination and the people called Methodists. The Lord used a former perv to create a strong denomination, bringing millions to Christ.

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This saga was interesting to write. According to Ellen Davis, the saga of Abraham and Issac and Abraham’s willingness to kill his son are evidence of the trust Abraham has in YHWH, because YHWH has shown faithfulness to Abraham in the past. Ronald Hendel seconds this by stating that Abraham was willing to circumcise himself and his sons because of his trust in YHWH. In this saga, John Wesley trusted in the Lord and was rewarded with a happy(?) marriage and became the father of the people called Methodists. A central theme in Abraham’s life and sagas are his trust in YHWH, I attempted to use this in my saga between God and John Wesley.

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Week 11 Make

Make Option 01: (Modified from Stanley, Exercise 32:) “Most of the stories in Genesis 1-11 are not mentioned anywhere else in the Hebrew Bible. This suggests that they were either not well known, or were created later than most of the other biblical materials. The Hebrew Bible also contains references to the origins of the universe that differ substantially from the Genesis stories.

“Read the following passages and make a list of the things that they say happened at the time when God created the universe. When you are done, go back over the list and mark which items seem to agree with the Genesis 1-2 creation stories, and which ones differ. Then see if you can construct an alternate story of the creation from the events that do not appear in the Genesis creation stories.”

  • Isa 51:9
    • YHWH was “awake” during the beginning; suggests not “awake” now*
    • Cut Rahab into pieces+
    • Pierced the dragon+
  • Job 9:4-14
    • Removes mountains when angry and people do not realize it+
    • Shakes earth out of place; earthquakes?+
    • Tells the sun not to rise and the stars not to shine*
    • Made Bear, Orion, Pleiades, and the chambers of the south+
    • YHWH passes by, but is not seen+
    • YHWH has the ability to feel anger*
    • The helpers of Rahab bowed beneath YHWH+
  • Job 26:7-14
    • YHWH controls the weather+
    • YHWH controls the moon*
    • Struck down Rahab+
    • His wind made the heavens (plural used)*
    • Pierced the fleeing serpent+
    • “Hear” through a whisper+
    • YHWH’s power is like thunder
  • Job 38:1-11
    • YHWH laid the foundation of the earth*
    • YHWH determined its size*
    • YHWH laid the cornerstone*
    • YHWH made the sea and the clouds*
    • YHWH made the banks for the sea so that it could not spill over*
  • Psalms 8:1-9
    • YHWH made the moon and the stars with YHWH’s fingers*
    • Cares for humans*
    • Made them a little lower than God*
    • Crowned humans with glory and honor  and given them dominion over creation and put them above all animals and things*
  • Psalms 74:12-17
    • God referred to as “King from old,” working salvation in the earth
    • Divided the sea, conquered beasts from the sea+
    • Created streams and rivers*
    • Created day and night*
    • Created the sun, summer, and winter*+ (seasons not mentioned)
  • Psalms 89:8-10
    • Faithfulness surrounds
    • Rule the raging of the sea
    • Stills and calms the sea
    • Crushed Rahab like a carcass+
    • Scattered enemies with mighty arm+
  • Psalms 104:1-9
    • Very great
    • Clothed in honor and majesty
    • Wrapped in light like a garment
    • Stretch out the heavens like a tent
    • Beams of your chambers on the waters
    • Make the clouds chariot
    • Ride on the wings of the wind
    • Make the winds messengers
    • Fire and flame are ministers
    • Set the earth on its foundations*
    • Waters stood above the mountains (referring to the Great Flood?)*
    • At the sound of your thunder they take flight
    • Rose up to the mountains, ran down the valleys to the place you made for them
    • Set boundaries they could not pass so they could not cover the earth again
  • Psalms 136:1-9
    • Steadfast love endures forever
    • Made the heavens; did great wonders
    • Put on earth on waters+
    • Made great lights
    • Set sun to rule over day*
    • Made the moon and stars to rule over night*
  • Proverbs 8:22-31
    • Gives wealth to those who love
    • The Lord created wisdom at the beginning, before the earth, before the heavens

*This symbol means it agrees with the Genesis creation stories

+This symbol means it does not agree with the Genesis creation stories

If there is no symbol, the item is indifferent or not mentioned

Alternate Creation Story

In the beginning God created Wisdom. Wisdom was God’s friend throughout all creation. When God stretched the heavens; Wisdom was there; when God made the earth; Wisdom was there. The King from Old was clothed in honor and majesty; He wore light like clothes. You made the heavens and stretched them out like a tent. You made the waters and concerned the beasts in them; You pierced the dragon. You put earth on the waters and you rule the raging seas. You made banks for the waters and created rivers and streams from them. You tell the sky when to rain and the sun when to shine. You made winter and summer. You make the stars in the sky and gave them dominion over night. You make Bear, Orion, Pleiades, and the chambers of the south. You ride on the wings of the wind, for they are your messengers. The clouds are your chariot. Your steadfast love endures forever. You made humans and gave them dominion over everything. You put them a little below you and made them over all of creation. You pass by and they do not notice. Fire and flames are your ministers. You cut and crushed Rahab into pieces like a carcass; the followers of Rahab bowed before you. You give wealth to those who love you and fill their treasuries with wealth.

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This was a difficult task, because it forced me out of my comfort zone to stretch and imagine what the creation story could have looked like. Bandstra states that we must remember that in the Torah, the account given was not a historical account with eyewitnesses and eyewitness details, instead it was an account presented in a way that would deal with the issues Israel was facing at the time it was written. In another article, Bandstra states that the reason we have a creation story, according to anthropologists was to give an account of creation, for enlightenment, and to answer the questions “why” and “how.” Bandstra also states that the creation stories had different purposes behind them, for example, Second Isaiah uses creation to show the power of YHWH. These ideas are very interesting. The creation stories found in the Hebrew Bible tell us a lot about the ideas the people had about how the physical earth functioned (weather, night and day, seasons), as well as showed us the power of YHWH in the eyes of the people to have created something so complex and given humans dominion over all of it.

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Week 10 Make

Make Option 01: “Write the Bible” Read the story of the rape of Tamar 2 Samuel 13:1-33.

Privately, reflect on the story. What does the story tell/show, and what does it hide or leave untold? Whose voices and interests are given expression, and whose voices or interests are not given expression? What do you wish happened that doesn’t?

In a blog post (or oral presentation, or video presentation linked at your blog), write 350-750 additional words to the story. These words may be a prequel, or a sequel, or interlaced into the story. You may “break up” your words, adding some here, and some there.

Write freely: To paraphrase the book of Judges, assume “there is no censor in OOTLE16, and everyone may write what is right in hir own eyes.”

You may choose simply to write your words, and indicate by some means where they belong in relation to the biblical story. Or, you may copy and paste the biblical text into your blog and write into it and around it. If you choose the latter, find some way to format your text so that the reader knows at a glance what is biblical and what is nonbiblical.

This is the way I would want the story to be told to any woman that I am ministering to. I feel that this story is very oppressive because it puts the blame on the woman who has been raped instead of on Amnon. Although he is eventually killed for his actions, that does not take away from her grief and shame.

Amnon rapes Tamar

13 Some time later, David’s son Amnon fell in love with Tamar the beautiful sister of Absalom, who was also David’s son. Amnon was so upset over his half sister that he made himself sick. She was a virgin, and it seemed impossible in Amnon’s view to do anything to her. But Amnon had a friend named Jonadab, Shimeah’s son, David’s brother, who was a very clever man.

“Prince,” Jonadab said to him, “why are you so down, morning after morning? Tell me about it.”

So Amnon told him, “I’m in love with Tamar, the sister of my brother Absalom.”

“Lie down on your bed and pretend to be sick,” Jonadab said to him. “When your father comes to see you, tell him, ‘Please let my sister Tamar come and give me some food to eat. Let her prepare the food in my sight so I can watch and eat from her own hand.’”

So Amnon lay down and pretended to be sick. The king came to see him, and Amnon told the king, “Please let my sister Tamar come and make a couple of heart-shaped cakes in front of me so I can eat from her hand.”

David sent word to Tamar at the palace: “Please go to your brother Amnon’s house and prepare some food for him.” Tamar felt honored to be asked to go and take care of her brother. She had been taught from a young age that it was her job to serve and honor the men of the household, especially her brother Amnon, since he was David’s oldest son, which meant that he was in line to be king.

So Tamar went to her brother Amnon’s house where he was lying down. Tamar wondered how sick he was, he looked well. However, she was told that he was sick so she did not question it long, for it was not the expectation of women to think critically about what the men said. She took dough, kneaded it, made heart-shaped cakes in front of him, and then cooked them. Tamar briefly thought about how odd it was that her brother wanted to eat heart-shaped cakes from her hand, but once again, Tamar was in a society where women were not expected to think critically. Oh, what an oppressive life this was for Tamar! She took the pan and served Amnon, but he refused to eat. Tamar was slightly offended. “What have I done wrong?!” She thought this because in this society where women did not think critically, everything was their fault. If you question this piece of commentary, see Genesis, it was “that woman” that the Lord gave Adam.

“Everyone leave me,” Amnon said. So everyone left him. 10 Then Amnon said to Tamar, “Bring the food into the bedroom so I can eat from your hand.” This is very odd behavior. Tamar was wondering why he sent everyone away and why she was to be alone with him, but once again, she was not allowed to think critically because she was a woman in a patriarchal society. So Tamar took the heart-shaped cakes she had made and brought them to her brother Amnon in the bedroom. 11 When she served him the food, he grabbed her and said, “Come have sex with me, my sister.” She is disturbed.

12 But she said to him, “No, my brother! Don’t rape me. Such a thing shouldn’t be done in Israel. Don’t do this horrible thing. 13  Think about me—where could I hide my shame? Once again, this society felt that everything was the woman’s fault and taught them to be ashamed of their sexuality or being assaulted. And you—you would become like some fool in Israel! Please, just talk to the king! He won’t keep me from marrying you.” Tamar was thinking that this would allow her to be queen, however was this what she wanted? I mean if Amnon has made up his mind and he is going to have sex with her then she might as well at least move up in the world. Sex does lead to power.

14 But Amnon refused to listen to her. He was stronger than she was, and so he raped her.

15 But then Amnon felt intense hatred for her. In fact, his hatred for her was greater than the love he had felt for her. Tamar noticed this shift in his mood. It frightened her even more so. So Amnon told her, “Get out of here!”

16 “No, my brother!”[a] she said. “Sending me away would be worse than the wrong you’ve already done.” She wanted to be made right. Remember, incest was not a great concern at this time.

But Amnon wouldn’t listen to her, because he realized what humiliation he would have for his actions. 17 He summoned his young servant and said, “Get this woman out of my presence and lock the door after her.” (18 She was wearing a long-sleeved robe because that was what the virgin princesses wore as garments. The story failed to mention that most likely her garments were blood-stained and she had great shame that she was sexually engaged in an unrighteous way.)[b] So Amnon’s servant put her out and locked the door after her.

19 Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the long-sleeved robe she was wearing. She put her hand on her head and walked away, crying as she went, because once again, society oppressed women and taught them to be ashamed if they were sexually abused.

20 Her brother Absalom said to her, “Has your brother Amnon been with you? It was kind of obvious with the blood stains, ashes, ripped sleeves, and uncontrollable grief. Keep quiet about it for now, sister; he’s your brother. Don’t let it bother you.” Easier said than done. So Tamar, a broken woman, lived in her brother Absalom’s house.

21 When King David heard about all this he got very angry, but he refused to punish his son Amnon because he loved him as his oldest child.[c] 22 Absalom never spoke to Amnon, good word or bad, because he hated him for raping his sister Tamar.

Absalom kills Amnon

23 Two years later, Absalom was shearing sheep at Baal-hazor near Ephraim, and he invited all the king’s sons. 24 Absalom approached the king and said, “Your servant is shearing sheep. Would the king and his advisors please join me?”

25 But the king said to Absalom, “No, my son. We shouldn’t all go, or we would be a burden on you.” Although Absalom urged him, the king wasn’t willing to go, although he gave Absalom a blessing.

26 Then Absalom said, “If you won’t come, then let my brother Amnon go with us.”

“Why should he go with you?” they asked him. 27 But Absalom urged him until he sent Amnon and all the other princes. Then Absalom made a banquet fit for a king.[d]

28 Absalom commanded his servants, “Be on the lookout! When Amnon is happy with wine and I tell you to strike Amnon down, then kill him! Don’t be afraid, because I myself am giving you the order. Be brave and strong men.” 29 So Absalom’s servants did to Amnon just what he had commanded. Then all the princes got up, jumped onto their mules, and fled.

30 While they were on the way, the report came to David: “Absalom has killed all of the princes! Not one remains.” 31 The king got up, tore his garments, and lay on the ground. All his servants stood near him, their garments torn as well. 32 But Jonadab, the son of David’s brother Shimeah, said, “My master shouldn’t think that all the young princes have been killed—only Amnon is dead. This has been Absalom’s plan ever since the day Amnon raped his sister Tamar. 33 So don’t let this bother you, my master; don’t think that all the princes are dead, because only Amnon is dead,

This passage is a frustrating one. Bandstra points out that this is the beginning of Absalom’s undoing, because after he kills Amnon, David is forced to kill him and keep him from entering into Jerusalem. Absalom, however, outsmarts David and gives him a run for his money and power when he attempts to take over Jerusalem. In the end, Absalom is killed in the fight with David’s forces and David remains king. Deborah Rooke explains in her article that it is obvious that this society valued men above women, because women were expected to serve and remain faithful, men were not. This is in agreement with some of the points I made throughout the commentary. As I stated above, this is the way I would want this story to be told to a woman I was ministering to, because it shows many of the problems with this society.

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Week 9 Make

The text for this week was Judges 5:2-Judges 5:31a. This passage is entitled: Deborah’s Song.

1) Who wrote this, why did they write, and when did they write it?

It is not known who the author of the passage is; based on the passage the author gives the account almost as if it were a narrative and the author was witness to the scenes taking place. Carol Myers, however, reminds us that oftentimes the authors of these texts were not witnesses to the event and were instead writing it down many years after the event occurred, for some, they may not have even been alive when the events took place (presuming they did). Secondly, after the last line of the passage, there is an aside of sorts that says “and the land was peaceful for forty years.” We do not know if this amount of time is accurate, we do not know if the length of time the author is referring to is meant to be a length of time, or if it is metaphorical. However, the mention of time passing, whether metaphorical or not suggests that there was a length of time between when the events occurred (if they occurred) and this passage being copied down.

The exact date of the document is unknown, however according to Bandstra, if we accept the traditional dates of Exodus being written (early to mid 1200’s BCE), then the Book of Judges would have occurred between 1200 and 1100 BCE. Bandstra also states that there is evidence that during this time there was unrest in Canaan. According to Myers, this would be a secondary source, at best. She states that events in the Hebrew Bible may not have taken place or at least did not take place in the form in which they are presented to us. Rather, this portrayal could have been to teach a lesson, ward off enemies, etc.

2) Does this source show bias? Are there other points of view? If so, how?:

According to Myers, biblical storytellers were not concerned with getting the information factually correct, rather they were concerned about making some sort of point or getting some sort of information across to their audience. Paula McNutt also makes the point that the biblical narratives were written in a sociopolitical time and they should not be taken out of that when doing an analysis on them. Based upon the points both of these scholars raise, when I reread the passage it became clear to me that there was some sort of bias in the source, but I am not sure what the bias exactly is. On the one hand, verse 31 says “May all your enemies perish like this, Lord!” Taking this verse out of context, it would seem that the author was a sympathizer to the Israelites. However, the author seems to consistently make known that Jael was a woman and calls her “blessed above all women” for her contribution by killing Sisera. In a patriarchal society, it is very interesting that the credit is allowed to go to a woman, granted the author might not have used a man, because for the storyline it would not make sense that Sisera would seek shelter with a man and would feel comfortable enough to fall asleep.

3) What can I learn from this?

This document is a great example of the point Myers was trying to convey: the biblical narrative may not be historically accurate, because it was being written down to convey a message or point to the audience. I think this is a great lesson to learn from the narrative that can also be applied to everyday life. How many times do we hear different slants of stories from news media. During a big, emotional event some news media outlets interview survivors or family members or first responders. Others, give just the facts, still others, take the approach of looking to cast blame and pulling some small thing from the event to make it a divisive issue, and there are those who refuse to report on the event all together. At first, reading this text it would appear that one could take it at face value and accept that the events occurred like they were written. However, that would be taking the original intention of the author away from the story. I can’t help but think of the some of the conversations I have had with people in some of the country churches I have pastored that are adamant that Moses wrote the Book of Exodus. I politely (or so I think) remind them that Moses died in the Book of Exodus. There are some out there that still think some sort of Zombie Apocalypse happened and Moses wrote the Book, but that is a rant for another day.

4) Overall, what is the main idea of the passage?

The main idea of this document appears to be that Israel was victorious and YHWH was happy with the people. We also see the mention of two women who were integral parts of the story and were named throughout the passage.

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Week 8 Make

Deuteronomy 28:1-68

Deuteronomy 28:1-68 discusses the benefits of following YHWH’s commands and the consequences and wrath people will face if they do not follow YHWH’s commands. The passage explains that YHWH’s commands are found in the book of Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 28:58: If you do not diligently observe all the words of this law that are written in this book..). The Book of Deuteronomy is presented as a series of addresses Moses is giving to the people of Israel before they reach the promised land. Further, according to Bandstra, the English word for “you” could be either singular or plural, however there were two different forms of “you” being used here: “you” meaning individual, and “you” meaning collective body. This is important to note, because the author of the book was trying to target every individual when giving these rules for how they should behave and what their attitudes should be towards YHWH. The author of the Book of Deuteronomy lays out the state of the union (if you will) by stating whether the nation suffered or prospered by explaining whether YHWH was pleased or displeased with them at the time. From this we can get a glimpse of what was going on in Israel at the time the author is referring to. By using this source, among others, we can start to get a better understanding of the social and political issues at play over a long period of time in Israel and surrounding territories.

Joshua 23:1-16

In this passage, Joshua is at an advanced age and is preparing to die. He gathers the leaders of the people of Israel and tells them to remain faithful to YHWH and not to fall into traps that will lead to the destruction of them and their nation. In this passage, he also states that the people have seen YHWH build up and tear down great and mighty nations, therefore they must not intermarry amongst those tribes, or the wickedness will be spread to them and they and their nation will be torn down by YHWH. According to Claude Mariottini, the intention of the writers of the Deuteronomistic history was not to show the weakness of YHWH when Israel was torn down, but to show the power of YHWH; that YHWH could build up, but also destroy if the people did not follow YHWH’s commands.

1 Samuel 12:1-25

In this passage, Samuel is old and at the end of his time. This is his “farewell address” and in it he recounts to the Israelites what has happened to them thus far. In doing this, he recounts how when they were faithful to YHWH, they were saved and they prospered. However, when they were not faithful to YHWH, they had troubling times and were under the reign of kings who oppressed them. Recounting this history is meant to be a warning to the people of Israel, that if they do not follow YHWH and YHWH’s commands, they will faith the wrath of YHWH and the nation will be oppressed again. This is an interesting part of the Deuteronomistic History, because the writer of 1 Samuel gives us a chronological list of the rise and fall of Israel. The writer gives this information as a warning to the nation, and blames the rise and fall on the people not being faithful to YHWH, which shows the power that YHWH has.

2 Kings 17:5-18

This passage is a history of what has happened to the people of Israel. In the passage YHWH tells them not to do certain things and when they do it anyway, they incur the wrath of YHWH and the nation falls. The way this passage is laid out, the writer tells us what happened to the people, and then goes on for many verses to explain what the people did to provoke YHWH. The list of things done wrong is pretty large and the action taken against the people is seemingly justified because of this list of wrongs. Nijay Gupta writes in his blog that according to Provan’s essay, we have to accept the fact that the Bible and other historical writings about the past are trying to make a stance or to explain some sort of “virtue.” This is interesting to think about with regards to this passage, because the writer of this passage was trying to get across to the people “Hey! Look what you did! Don’t do it again or this is all going to happen again!” (I imagine “meanie face” to be inserted in there somewhere, as well). By using YHWH as the reason for the destruction of the nation, it is easier to make a virtuous stand against the “wrongs” the people of Israel have done and YHWH’s actions seem to be justified, because the people kept screwing up.

2 Chronicles 36:11-21

This passage chronicles the fall of the House of Israel at the hands of the people and Zedekiah. The people did terrible things in the sight of YHWH, however the difference between this passage and the other four passages mentioned above is that this one mentions multiple times that the people scorned the prophets of YHWH. This seems to be the theme throughout this passage; the people scorned the prophets of YHWH, which made YHWH angry and thus YHWH allowed another king to come in and enslave and kill them. When the people make YHWH angry, YHWH allows and/or causes (it’s a bit unclear in some areas) destruction, enslavement, etc. to happen to the people, because they violated YHWH’s commands.

This exercise was very interesting to me, because it allowed me to think in light of morality and virtues when it comes to the wrath of YHWH. I mentioned before in a previous post that I have often had people tell those going through a hard time “This is all in God’s plan; God will take care of you!” When we see that and compare it to YHWH in the Hebrew Bible, God’s plan does not look very good. However, after reading Gupta’s blog post, which described Provan’s essay on virtues within the context of telling stories and recounting history, I really began to think about how these separate passages were telling a story to the people. The passages told the story of what happens when you cross YHWH; YHWH does not allow things to happen because YHWH is weak, YHWH allows things to happen to show its power. This is a very interesting idea and I compared it with how I tell stories about the past and how often I find myself using it as a teachable moment for myself and/or who I am speaking to.

 

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Week 7 Make

Make Option 02: In the lecture, in the Bandstra reading linked above (or your textbook of choice), and in the recommended reading, find what is available on “Isaiah’s Servant” (or the Servant of YHWH, or the Suffering Servant) with regard to the book of Isaiah.

Pick someone whom you would like to teach about “Isaiah’s Servant.” (A colleague, a prospective MDiv student, a curious family member, or anyone else.) In about 1000 words, and using these course materials as a resource, write them a letter about what this “servant” is for the book of Isaiah. Be sure to cite appropriately, so that they can engage these materials themselves also. Don’t “lecture” (we all know how off-putting that is!), but do find compelling ways to include the relevant information. Anticipate their questions and concerns, and address them overtly.

Dear Children of [insert church name],

 

Today, I would like to talk to you about something we see in the Bible. By the way, learning about this today will probably make you smarter than your parents, but you probably already are. If you have ever looked at the books of the Bible that start at the beginning, before we get to the part that talks about what Jesus did and said, you have probably seen that there are a lot of pages! This section of the Bible is called the Hebrew Bible, because we get these books of the Bible from the Torah, which is kind of like a Bible for Jewish people. When we look at the book called Isaiah, there is something that is mentioned over and over again, it is the phrase “Isaiah’s Servant” or “The Suffering Servant.” Before we talk about who the servant is, we need to understand who Isaiah is, what suffering means, and what a servant is. Let’s start with Isaiah. Isaiah was a man who lived before Jesus was born (he lived about 780-651 B.C.E. which was a REALLY long time ago!). Isaiah was called a prophet, a prophet is someone who God tells things to and asks them to tell the people. Now let’s talk about suffering. Some of you probably know what suffering is, but I am going to explain it so we are all on the same page. Suffering is when you are hurting, having a hard time, or worried about something really important. Servants are people who do things for others. Now I know some of you are thinking that your parents are servants for you (and they probably are!), but this kind of servant is typically someone who is not related to you.

Back to that Isaiah book. Now that we know who Isaiah is, what suffering means, and what a servant is, we can dive into the idea of “Isaiah’s Servant” or “The Suffering Servant.” One of the people who lived during the days of the early church (about 184-254) was named Origen. He came up with the idea that these phrases that we see over and over again in the Hebrew Bible mean that the servant is Israel.

Some other people think that the suffering servant is a person that we hear about in the Bible. Still, others think that the suffering servant might be a sign of Jesus. There are many different ideas about what this suffering servant could be, but whoever the servant is, we know that God loved it and cared about it.

The Suffering Servant in the Hebrew Bible could be talking about a lot of different people or even be talking about the nation of Israel. However, what is important in this story is that God loved the servant and the servant found that God loved and cared for the servant even when the servant had to go through some tough stuff. The servant did not make God happy by taking over other nations or hurting people, the servant found favor with God by working and being obedient, even when the servant did not want to. Obedient is when you do something someone else asks or tells you to do (and you typically don’t complain about it!). So when God saw the servant (whoever the servant is supposed to represent) being obedient even when the servant was tired or didn’t want to do what the person over the servant told the servant to do, the servant was still obedient. It’s kind of like when the people who take care of you ask you to clean your room, or make your bed, or set the table for dinner, etc. and you might be too tired or playing a cool new video game, or whatever you are currently doing, we are called to be obedient and do what we are asked by the people who take care of us. God is one of the people who cares for us and we are called to do what God asks of us, even if we are tired, or don’t think it would make us look cool, or even if we simply do not want to do whatever it is God is asking of us. Sometimes being obedient does not get us exactly what we want. The Suffering Servant had a lot of problems; it had to accept the punishment for the sins of other people at times. Think of when you argued with a brother or sister, or even a friend and you didn’t want them to get in trouble so you took the blame for what was going on and got in trouble, even if you didn’t do anything wrong. That is kind of what is going on here. Even if we don’t like what is happening or we have to take the blame for something we didn’t do to protect someone else, God still sees that we are being obedient by doing what God asks us to do.

It’s really interesting to think about who the Suffering Servant could be in the Book of Isaiah in the Hebrew Bible, because that gives us a better understanding of who the person or nation was so that we can better understand what the Book of Isaiah is trying to tell us. When we try to learn and better understand the Bible, sometimes we are able to better understand what the message is and what the author is trying to tell us, so we can be better people and better Christians.

Sincerely,

Jonathan

Throughout this letter I have hyperlinks to various resources supporting the statements. In the second paragraph of the letter there is a hyperlink on who Origen is, and according to our readings for the week Origen was one of the first theologians. He is credited with coming up with the idea that the Suffering Servant used in this passage is a reference to the nation of Israel. A hyperlink is also contained in the third paragraph of the text linking to the reading from Barry Bandstra. Bandstra suggests that in Christian interpretation, the Suffering Servant is a reference to Christ; he uses Handel’s The Messiah to support his point. Bandstra also suggests that the servant could have been Judah, Jeremiah, etc. citing that Moses is called this in Deuteronomy, so the suffering servant could have been a real prophetic figure. Regardless of who the servant is, Bandstra also points out that this is a shift from animal sacrifice that the Israelites were used to participating in to atone for sins to the suffering of a human to atone for the sins of the people.

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Week 6

Read Jeremiah 20:7-13, the last of the “laments” of Jer 11-20. There, Jeremiah complains that God has “deceived” or “enticed” him: the word has elsewhere connotations of sexual entrapment, perhaps even rape (cf. Exod 22:16 [English verse numbers]; Judges 14:15; 16:5). Ezekiel says that God will “deceive” prophets in order to destroy them (Ezek 14:9), and Micaiah has a vision of God sending a “lying spirit” to “deceive” prophets and make them unwittingly prophesy falsehoods (1 Kgs 22:20-22). Other ancient Near Eastern religious texts also accept that the gods may deliver lying oracles.

Read Jer 20:7-13 again, holding in view his concerns about a God who lies. What do you think of Jeremiah’s “deceiving God”? What is his complaint? What is his petition? Can you think of modern examples of ways people contend with the possibility of God lying? How about withholding truth? Does Jeremiah have anything to offer someone who feels betrayed by a lying God?

When I first read this “make” I was interested in the idea of a lying God. Throughout the passage I kept hearing clichés like “God will take care of you;” “God NEVER gives you more than you can handle;” etc. Why was I thinking these thoughts, you might ask? Because I have experienced these ideas from people throughout my years in ministry. These ideas bring people to the understanding that God has somehow caused the bad situation they are in, or God has somehow made their spouse have cancer when they have an autistic 4-year-old and a mother-in-law with dementia that has to live with them.

 

In Jeremiah 20:8, Jeremiah complains that God (YHWH) has placed it upon his heart to prophesy that “violence and destruction” are coming and will rain down upon the people. This has caused him to become unpopular and a “laughingstock” amongst the people (Jeremiah 20:7). Then he goes on to say that if he tries not to speak of God and prophesy “then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones” (Jeremiah 20:9). Jeremiah feels pain (it is implied that it is literal pain, however it very well could be figurative pain) when he does not prophesy and tries to hold in the word of God (YHWH). In verses 11 and 12, Jeremiah asks God for retribution to be done to those who are persecuting him because he has obeyed and followed God. According to Bandstra, Jeremiah suffered greatly at the hands of the people. Bandstra outlines different situations Jeremiah was put into throughout his time prophesying. Due to the persecution he faced from prophesying, something that caused him pain if he did not do it, it is easy to see where Jeremiah would feel like he was in between a rock and a hard place. YHWH put these messages on his heart to prophesy the the people and it caused Jeremiah pain to not prophesy; however when Jeremiah prophesyed, the people persecuted him. Bandstra also discusses the language Jeremiah uses when he “complains” to YHWH. In Jeremiah 20:7-8, Bandstra notes that the word Jeremiah uses for “Seduce” is actually a stronger word that has the meaning of “rape.” In essence, Jeremiah is saying that God raped him or forced him to do this against his will.

 

Jeremiah’s complaint seems to be that he is frustrated with God, because God has put prophesy on his heart that only speaks of violence and destruction, which causes the people around him, including friends, to mock him and has made him a laughingstock. The petition he has for God is for God to, in essence, punish the people who are mocking him. Jeremiah appears to feel that he has been deceived by God in that he did not anticipate that the prophesy he would receive would only breed mocking, anger, and shame upon him. Jeremiah’s story right here reminds me of a church I once served, however this story happened before my time at the church. A few of the members felt called to bring a Wednesday night children’s ministry to the church, so they all agreed that it would be a good thing and began the ministry. Within months the ministry was shut down, because they did not realize (for whatever reason) that the children would play rough and the floors would get scuffed and the walls might get marked up and the children might spill juice on the carpet and drop crumbs on the floor. They did not anticipate that following something they felt called to do by God, would not go exactly the way they wanted it to go. Jeremiah appears to feel deceived by God, because he might have expected something great or some great status because of his prophesying, instead he was mocked and reacted out of anger by asking God to invoke retribution upon the people who were mocking him.

 

Going back to my original rant, I have come across many people who have “lost their faith” in God, because they fell prey to those kinds of clichés. When things get hard, they feel that God is picking on them and they are 1. Not worthy of anything good and must have done something wrong to have the things happen to them or 2. God is a jerk and they don’t need that in their lives. I have heard people say “Well God lied, because I am only supposed to have what I can handle and I cannot handle this!” Somehow these clichés have bred a thought process that life is supposed to be easy and following Jesus is supposed to be a walk in the park (have you ever heard of martyrdom?!), so when the going gets tough, they drop out and renounce their faith. But, alas, there is hope. Jeremiah 20:13 states “Sing to the Lord; praise the Lord! For he has delivered the life of the needy from the hands of evildoers.” Even in the midst of struggles (after he has just asked God to punish people who are mocking him), Jeremiah gives praise to God. That is the message I would give someone from this passage, even when things aren’t going your way and you feel deceived by God, still give praise to God.

 

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