Wednesday, July 31, 2019

thought for the day

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”—John Lubbock, The Use Of Life (1894) (from the Gorgias July newsletter)

A word to the wise

Is. 10:1    Doom to those
who pronounce wicked decrees,
and keep writing harmful laws
2 to deprive the needy of their rights
and to rob the poor among my people
of justice;
to make widows their loot;
to steal from orphans!
3 What will you do
on the day of punishment
when disaster comes from far away?
To whom will you flee for help;
where will you stash your wealth?
4 How will you avoid
crouching among the prisoners
and falling among the slain?
Even so, God’s anger
hasn’t turned away;
God’s hand is still extended. (CEB)

<idle musing>
Let those who have ears understand!
</idle musing>

Monday, July 29, 2019

Thought for the day

Is. 5:20    Doom to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who present darkness as light
and light as darkness,
who make bitterness sweet
and sweetness bitter.

Is. 5:21    Doom to those
who consider themselves wise,
who think of themselves as clever.

Is. 5:22    Doom to the wine-swigging warriors,
mighty at mixing drinks,
23 who spare the guilty for bribes,
and rob the innocent of their rights.
24 Therefore, as a tongue of fire
devours stubble,
and as hay shrivels in a flame,
so their roots will rot,
and their blossoms turn to dust,
for they have rejected the teaching of
the LORD of heavenly forces,
and have despised the word
of Israel’s holy one. (Common English Bible)

Friday, July 26, 2019

So many books—but that's a good thing

Ran across this quotation from Dr. Ruth J. Simmons, president Prairie View A&M University in Texas and a comparative literature scholar today in Shelf Awareness:
I'm much less convinced than many others that there is a prescriptive list of books that you must read. I'm more convinced that it is the reading widely that matters more than anything else. . . . I know a lot of people today like to do things on the fly. You can't read on the fly, thank goodness, right? Because forced meditation is probably a good thing. . . . The busyness does not make our lives meaningful. It is the interior life that makes the greatest difference to us in the end.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Steps to reconciliation

Yet Joseph does not accept their [his brothers'] servantship, refusing to exercise dominion over them. He sees himself as subservient to God (Gen 50:19), and his power not as a means to rule over his siblings but as God’s way of providing for them in a time of crisis. He is able to perceive God’s hand even in his brothers’ merciless act towards him, an act which eventually resulted in much good for many (50:20). He does not speak harshly to his brothers any more (42:7) but reassures and comforts them (50:21), which further rectifies the hostile relationship which began in 37:4.—The Unfavored, page 62

Tuesday, July 23, 2019


Joseph’s journey through Potiphar’s house, the prison, and the Egyptian court have demonstrated that the favored one needs to learn a certain sort of submission in order to be blessed. The actions of the mature Joseph appear to fulfill the dreams in a way that is life-giving, because they respect the authorities given into his life.—The Unfavored, page 56

Friday, July 19, 2019

Unchosen, but favored?

The story never explains why Judah succeeds and Reuben does not, but Gen 43 shows that Judah focuses on saving the life of Israel’s children, and acts with both responsibility and urgency. When he and his brothers go to Egypt the second time, Jacob’s family is close to death. Surprisingly, it is the unchosen Judah who alters the family’s future and brings life out of death, precisely because he is willing to risk his own life. He values the bond between Jacob and his beloved Benjamin, and hence offers himself in substitution for the brother more loved than himself. In addition to this, Judah’s wise and persuasive words show Joseph that he is, in effect, now doing the very same thing his brothers did to him. Joseph might have brought his father down to Sheol in sorrow by his plan to enslave Benjamin. Judah’s speech thus prompted Joseph to reveal himself to his brothers and moved the whole family towards reconciliation. Judah represents a kind of climax in the line of unchosen brothers in the book of Genesis. He is instrumental in effecting a fuller reconciliation than that which occurred between Esau and Jacob, and accomplishes something that Cain failed to do—be his brother’s keeper (4:9).—The Unfavored, pages 46–47

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Showing emotion

Joseph’s willingness to weep in front of the members of his family continues throughout the narrative (45:14; 46:29; 50:1, 17) and thus seems to play an important role in the reconciliation of the brothers. Ebach, for example, suggests that Joseph’s self-control is connected with his control over his brothers. If this is the case, then it is possible that a capacity to come to terms with emotions connected to the past pain seems to be a significant element in one’s ability to cope with previous hurts. Joseph is defenseless and more vulnerable, which seems to feature positively in his dealing with those who have previously harmed him.—The Unfavored, pages 44–45

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Daddy's favorite

Judah has somehow learned that protecting this special relationship between father and the chosen son is to the benefit of the whole family. The attempt to get rid of the favored one did not help the situation, as none of the unfavored brothers was elevated to this privileged position, and so now Judah is ready to accept his unfavored status and do whatever he can to save the chosen son and thus also protect the father.—The Unfavored, page 43

Monday, July 15, 2019

Recently read

Over the weekend, I read Women and Power by Mary Beard. I saw it at the local used bookstore (Fair Trade Books) and grabbed it on Friday. It's a short little book, barely 100 pages with the appendix. Unfortunately, it's not one that you can easily extract short little thoughts from, so you won't see any snippets here. But, do take the time to read it. Highly recommended!

Going back to last month, on the way to the atla conference in Vancouver, I read The Battle for Bonhoeffer. I saw it a the AAR/SBL conference last November and begged a copy from Andrew Knapp, the acquisitions editor (and former Eisenbrauns employee). Again, it doesn't lend itself to extracts—or maybe the fact that I was on a plane made me less willing to extract! At any rate, here's what I told Andrew about the book in an email thanking him for it:

It’s a great book! Very balanced. I guess I must have been living in a bubble, because I wasn’t aware of the pre-Metaxus use of Bonhoeffer by the right-wing. I just remember that when I first became a Christian back in 1972, I was warned to stay away from him—which of course means I read him and loved him. I assumed that was the default position of most conservative Evangelicals.
Those of you who have followed this blog over the years might remember that I extracted from Ethics as I was reading it. You can see all the posts here.

Speaking of Bonhoeffer, I finally completed my set last month, taking advantage of the atla conference discount. So now I have a complete set of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Works in English, even the index volume! Now, to find the time to read them all. . .

On the return flight from atla, I read Christians in Caesar’s Household: The Emperors’ Slaves in the Makings of Christianity, the first book in the series Inventing Christianity. It's a good book, but I think he's a bit pessimistic about the number of Christian convert's in the imperial household. That being said, it is a healthy corrective to the habit of too many in finding converts on every grave marker. He looks at the grave inscriptions that are considered "Christian" and points out the flawed logic behind that identification. A must-read if you are specializing in early Christian history.

Right now, as you know from the recent posts, I'm working my way through The Unfavored. And I'm also reading New Testament Christological Hymns, another book I picked up at AAR/SBL last year. You will (hopefully) see extracts here after I finish The Unfavored. I have other books at various stages of being read, but those the two I'm really reading. Well, the books I'm editing, too, of course. Some of those end up being extracted on this site, too.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Unintended (and unexpected) side effects

Von Rad and Arnold argue that Joseph’s long procedure, which is certainly open to various interpretations, could have served two concerns—to see whether the brothers have truly changed and to reveal the fate of those who were dear to Joseph’s heart: Benjamin and Jacob. On an existential level it could also testify to the complexities of forgiveness and reconciliation. Such situations are not resolved lightly, and they are not cheap. They require a certain change, which at least on the part of a perpetrator often requires the ability to see things from the perspective of the wronged party.

It should be noted, however, that one cannot be sure about Joseph’s attitudes with respect to the trial that he initiated. In the end, the procedure which the brothers undergo impacts also Joseph himself. Even he is caught in the interwoven web of actions that test one’s relationship to the chosen.—The Unfavored, page 38

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Watch the boundaries!

[T]hese final words of Joseph do not seem to be adding a new reason for his self-control. Rather, they seem to be summing up what he has already said and what is in line with the characterization of the narrator in Gen 39:1–6—that is, Joseph’s success in Potiphar’s house is directly related to YHWH’s blessing. Joseph’s sin against God can be seen, then, as a move in the same direction as a betrayal of Potiphar: overstepping Potiphar’s instructions would transgress also God’s commands.

This insight is both in line with Joseph’s own deference to God as the sole source of dreams and their interpretation, and more embedded in the story as such—both of which might hint at something that Joseph’s attitude displays in these chapters about the topic of chosenness. They signify that an important part in the life of the chosen is to recognize that in order to rule, one needs to accept a certain level of subordination. Joseph is the second-in-command both in Potiphar’s house and in Pharaoh’s court, and in both cases a few things are excluded from his oversight. The power of the chosen is thus not limitless. It has certain boundaries, which should be respected.—The Unfavored, pages 35–36

Monday, July 08, 2019

A tendency toward evil?

One extension of this topic might be the unlikely occurrence involving the Ishmaelites in the course of [Genesis] ch. 37. It is interesting that both Esau’s and Joseph’s brothers’ moment of hatred and murderous intent is accompanied in the story by the appearance of Ishmael’s descendants (Gen 28:9; 37:25, 28; 39:1). At the time that they contemplate getting rid of the favored one, the unchosen brothers unite with the unchosen descendants, emphasizing perhaps the negative tendency that unchosenness entails.—The Unfavored, page 18 n. 7

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

A psalm for today

Psa. 94:4    They spew arrogant words;
all the evildoers are bragging.
5 They crush your own people, LORD!
They abuse your very own possession.
6 They kill widows and immigrants;
they murder orphans,
7 saying all the while,
“The LORD can’t see it;
Jacob’s God doesn’t know
what’s going on!”

Psa. 94:8    You ignorant people better learn quickly.
You fools—
when will you get some sense?
9 The one who made the ear,
can’t he hear?
The one who formed the eye,
can’t he see?
10 The one who disciplines nations,
can’t he punish?
The one who teaches humans,
doesn’t he know?f
11 The LORD does indeed
know human thoughts,
knows that they are nothing
but a puff of air.

Psa. 94:16    Who will stand up for me
against the wicked?
Who will help me against evildoers?

Psa. 94:20    Can a wicked ruler be your ally;
one who wreaks havoc
by means of the law?
21 The wicked gang up
against the lives of the righteous.
They condemn innocent blood.
22 But the LORD is my fortress;
my God is my rock of refuge.
23 He will repay them
for their wickedness,
completely destroy them
because of their evil.
Yes, the LORD our God
will completely destroy them.

<idle musing>
Let those who have ears to hear. . .
</idle musing>

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

On its head

The one [Joseph] to whom the siblings were not able to speak a peaceful word (Gen 37:4) was later sent to inquire about their peace (Gen 37:14).—The Unfavored, page 17 n. 3