Friday, December 07, 2012

No easy answers

There are no simple answers, although we would love there to be...even the "cycle" of Judges isn't really there—as Lawson Stone points out:
But has familiarity bred blindness? This “voice” in Judges has been buried under convention and easy cliché, most notably, that the book presents an unaltering, cyclical pattern, and secondly, that the book is consistently derivative from, and imitative of, Deuteronomy (i.e. deuteronomistic). Both are actually imprecise to the point of being mistaken. Contrary to most interpretations, Judges does not present the reader with an unaltering “cycle” or pattern. First of all, elements appear in the stories that do not appear in the introduction, and vice versa. Thus, the introduction tells us that Yahweh “raised up” deliverers, but only Othniel and Ehud are explicitly said to be “raised up” by Yahweh. Other means of manifestation appear for subsequent judges, raising the intriguing question of how directly they express the saving action of God. Likewise, the semantics of the verb za‘aq  (to cry out) orient more toward an intense, emotion-laden cry of anguish or even accusation, but with no inherent connotations of repentance. The pattern in Judges (if there is one) is not “sin-punishment/ repentance-deliverance” but simply punishment followed by mercy. Yahweh, it seems, delivers his people out of his compassion and grace, to show his power and to claim Israel’s allegiance. Only in 10:6-16 does the outcry find expression in confession and remorse, and that passage is fraught with conflict and ambivalence. The omission of the outcry from the programmatic introduction of 2:6–3:6 and from the Samson story reinforces the fact that Yahweh’s action derives not from Israel’s meeting some condition (repentance), but from Yahweh’s simple compassion for them. Additionally, the Spirit of Yahweh—and, less frequently, the angel of Yahweh—plays a role in the stories that has no place in the introduction or the frameworks, and ironically, the Spirit plays no role in the Ehud story or the Deborah story, the two judges with the most unreserved praise from the author. By contrast, the Spirit’s involvement with Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson raises more questions than it answers. So we do not have a pattern that is mechanically repeated but rather a collection of features and formulas that are deployed variously to direct our attention to other factors in the stories.
<idle musing>
You know what? I'm glad mercy triumphs! While the pattern made for a good teaching tool and easy remembrance, I think the fact that God showed mercy repeatedly is more important.
We need to remember that the Bible is designed to point people to their need for total dependence on God. It isn't a book of patterns to imitate or people to emulate—except in so far as we emulate their total reliance on God!
</idle musing>

1 comment:

Tom Schultz said...

[would send this off-blog but no means of contact can be found...Since you are an active blogger (found via Alan Knox) I would invite your attention to my blog at and my newly-released first E-book part of my coming 'magnum opus' on Revisiting Scripture...looking at what the plain sense of passages says and how it relates...or doesn't the beliefs of my childhood.