This week we talked about the sectarian divided among the people of God (the Samaritans and the Jews).
Before reading the article as to the causes of that divide, remember that Christianity has also experienced its fair share of sectarianism. We need only look at the great Catholic/Protestant problems in the late middle ages, the clash in Ireland between Catholics and Protestants (although this was more political than religious), or the persecution of pilgrims, Quakers, Anabaptist, and others by the church.
Here is the link that explains why the Jewish people of Jesus' day held a prejudice against the Samaritans: https://www.franciscanmedia.org/the-rift-between-jews-and-samaritans/
Click HERE to read an article describing the difference between a blessing and a birthright
The Relationship Between Sarai and Milcah
In Scripture we learn that Milcah is married to Nahor and that Sarai is married to Abram. We also learn that Milcah has eight children (at least listed in genealogy form) and that Sarai was barren.
What is not clear is the relationship between the two. Were they simply sisters-in law, or were they more?
Well, according to some Midrash text, Sarai and Milcah were not only sisters in law, but it is believed that they were sisters.
According to Genesis 11:29, Milcah is the daughter Haran (yes, Lot’s father). Milcah marries her uncle, Nahor. In the same verse, we are told that Milcah has a sister named Iscah. According to some rabbinical texts, Iscah is another name for Sarai, meaning that Milcah and Sarai are sisters, and that both married their uncles.
Furthermore, “According to Genesis Chapter 22, Milcah and Nahor have eight children: Uz, Buz, Kemuel, Chesed, Hazo, Pildash, Jidlaph, and Bethuel. Targum Jonathan says that Providence granted Milcah conception in the merit of her sister Sarah. Milcah’s son Bethuel moves to Padan-aram (also called Aram-Naharaim) and fathers Rebekah. Milcah’s granddaughter Rebekah eventually marries Milcah’s nephew Isaac and gave birth to Jacob who became Israel. There is a midrash that Milcah was the forbearer of all prophets in the non-Jewish world.”
Now, why is all this important? Because two of the major themes of the book of Genesis is sibling rivalry and barrenness. And what we will see is that Rebekah will be barren, ultimately giving birth to Issac’s sons, Jacob and Esau, who will become rivals. Continuing down that line, Jacob will marry two woman, Leah and Rachel, who will compete against each other, with Rachel being barren. And of course, if you continue to follow these themes, you end up at the end of Genesis with the story of Joseph and his brothers.
Therefore, if Sarah and Milcah are sisters, it is setting the reader up to remember the Cain and Abels, as well as look forward to the story of Leah and Rachel.
In this week's sermon, we looked at the story of the separation of Abram and Lot. The story is one which foreshadows the coming history of Israel, as well as reflects on what has happened in the previous chapters of the book of Genesis. The story also involves another exile (see the previous post for a discussion on that subject).
The story of the separation of Lot from Abram is a foreshadow of the coming history of Israel, in that Israel will often chose to leave their one true love (God) and go after the sinners of the world. In this sense, the lust of what the other nations have is a rejection of the blessing that God has offered. Lot's "looking" at the land is a desire to obtain something outside of what God has offered.
The story also reflects back on the dangers of disobedience, and how such disobedience leads to exile. As you will recall from the reading, Lot looked at the land and it is described as appearing as the garden of the Lord. The phrase, the garden of the Lord, is there to take us back to Genesis 3, where we read the story of the fall of man. In that story, the garden is perfect in every way, yet the woman (and man) chose to look at the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and see its fruit as desirous. Such a desire causes them to disobey God and to be exiled from the garden. Mankind rejects the goodness of God for sin because of the lust of their eyes.
In the same way, when Lot "looks up" and see the plain of Jordan, his desire is for self, and the rejection of Abram, who is a archetype of a father in this story.
Ultimately, the story teaches many different lessons; however, one of them is to not see the grass on the other side as greener, but to realize the blessing you have in your life in God.
This week we read about the story of the Tower of Babel. In the story, mankind, in disobedience to God's call to fill the earth, decides to stop in the plain of Shinar, build a city with a tower, and attempt to reach God. The people believe that doing so will allow them to make a name for themselves- a way of saying that they will become immortal through this great deed.
However, when God sees what is going on (as an aside-God always sees what is going on. The author is infusing some humor into the ridiculous belief of the people of Shinar) He comes down and confuses their language so that they cannot work together. In effect, this causes the people to become scattered.
In a sense, this confusion of language, brings to the people a type of exile. An exile that comes about because of their disobedience. As we ponder that exile, we cannot help but notice a pattern in the book of Genesis.
In Genesis 3, mankind is exiled from the garden because of disobedience (the eating of the fruit). In Genesis 4, Cain is exiled from the people as a result of killing his brother (another sense of disobedience, in that God tells Cain he is to master his sin, but Cain allows sin to master him). In Genesis 6, God states that He will not contend with mankind because of his disobedience, and he places the number of years for men to 120- this is an exile from longevity. In the flood narrative itself is an exile that comes about from disobedience as mankind is exiled (through death) from the face of the earth. Finally, in the sin of Ham, he ancestors are exiled from freedom to become slaves to his brothers because he was disobedient to his father.
The plot line of disobedience and exile are repeated throughout the Old Testament, and stresses the importance of a messiah who would bring the people from exile into the promised land.
This past week we examined the story of Noah and how he planted a vineyard, grew grapes and made wine, and got intoxicated. Then, Noah fell asleep on the floor, naked.
In order to understand the story of Noah’s drunkenness, and why it is sin, we need to go back a few verses and look at the covenant God made with him after the flood. In chapter 9 of Genesis, we read these words, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. The fear and dread of you will fall upon all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air, upon every creature that moves on the ground, and upon all the fish in the sea: they are given into your hands.” (Gen 9:1-2)
In reading these words, we cannot help but be reminded of the same words given to the man and the woman in Genesis 1:28, “God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth, and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
In both cases, a covenant was made which allowed mankind to be given the responsibility to the Earth, which some commentators see as an archetype of the Temple itself. In seeing the earth as God’s archetypical Temple, mankind can also be viewed as His royal priesthood.
However, even though mankind had been given this responsibility and called to be priests of God’s Temple, mankind misused the gift of God in order to seek to displace God from the throne and install himself instead.
In the case of Man and Woman, they ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil because they wanted to be like God. In the case of Noah, he misused the grapes of God’s garden for his own pleasure, just as the pagans of his time had done prior to the flood. Commentator Allen P Ross writes, “Intoxication and sexual looseness are hallmarks of pagans, and both are traced back to this event in Noah’s life. Man had not changed at all; with the opportunity to start a “new creation,” Noah acted like a pagan.” Noah’s sin distorted the new covenant God had made with mankind.
As an example of that distortion, mankind was original created naked. However, after the Fall, Adam and Eve saw their nakedness as shameful, while Noah’s nakedness is also seen as shameful. Sin had changed what God had intended.
This is why Noah’s sin is much deeper than simple drunkenness. Noah, even though he begins as a righteous man, falls prey to the temptation to misuse God’s gifts for his own self gratification.
In the book of Genesis, when the serpent tempts the woman to eat of the tree, she tells the serpent, "...“We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
When we look at the words of the woman, what we clear should see is that she has embellished the command of God found in Genesis 2:15-17. Why? Why would she not stick with the command that God had given them?
Some scholars have suggested that the woman embellished the wording in order to emphasize to the serpent the seriousness of partaking of the tree. However, if that was the case, then shouldn't that really stop her from partaking? Maybe. But perhaps that would drive her to want it even more.
Others have suggested even before the Fall that the woman lied. This worldview comes from a tendency to read the story in a legalistic way and to suggest that any deviation from the exact wording of God is a lie. These legalistic folks will even use verse like Deut 4:2 as proof text to suggest that the woman sinned even before she sinned. This seems a bit strong for my taste. How many of us have re-told stories in the Bible and have not used the exact wording? Does that mean that we lied? I think not.
When I read the story, I think the woman's addition is simply her understanding of what God had commanded. in other words, the woman is re-framing God's command in her own terms, without taking anything away from the meaning of what Yahweh spoke. Her addition is not some intentional effort to add to God's word, or to embellish God's word so that the command is stronger. In this conversation, the woman is simply relaying her understanding of what God said to the serpent. Any effort to micro-focus on her words truly takes away from the meaning of the story.
Click HERE for more information about this important sect of Judaism in the first century
Click HERE to read how an attitude of Consumer Christianity can destroy our spirituality
Click HERE to discover the interesting history of pews in the church