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December 29:  Vayehi
Torah:  Genesis 47:28 to end of Genesis.  
Haftarah:  I Kings 2:1 to 2:12.

In this week's Torah reading we get the death of Jacob and the blessings he distributes amongst his sons; (in addition to the chewing out he gives a couple of the sons who really cheesed him off).  The Hafarah has a parallel story of King David on his deathbed, delivering his final words to his son, Solomon.

We like to think of David as the gentle shepherd boy with the harp, who liked to write psalms and who forgave his enemies and wept at the deaths of Saul and of Absalom.  But David also had a temper, as shown in the story of Abigail and Her Really Stupid Husband (1 Samuel 25).  And although he might forgive, that didn't mean he'd forget.

We see King David in 1 Kings 2 on his deathbed, having just crowned Solomon as his successor by doing an end-run around the attempted coup by Solomon's older brother, Adonijah.  (That's another recurring theme in Scriptures; an inheritance going to someone other than the Firstborn Son who "should" have received it; but that's irrelevant to this particular reading).

David begins his final charge to Solomon with a pious set of conventional platitudes.  Good, godly advice:

"I am about to go the way of all the earth," he said.  "So be strong, show yourself a man, and observe what the LORD your God requires:  Walk in his ways, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and requirements, as written in the Law of Moses, so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go, and that the LORD may keep his promise to me:  'If your descendants watch how they live, and if they walk faithfully before me with all their heart and soul, you will never fail to have a man on the throne of Israel.'  (1 Kings 2: 2-4)
Then things get interesting.  David has three special requests.  The first concerns Joab, who was the commander of David's army:

I like to think of Joab as the G. Gordon Liddy of the Davidic court.  Whenever there was dirty dealings afoot, Joab was usually involved in it somewhere.  Sometimes he was  pragmatic voice of reason, as when he questioned the wisdom of David's command for a census or when he reminded David that despite his sorrow over Absalom's death, he also had to consider his army's morale.   Sometimes he was acting at David's command, as when he sent Uriah the Hittite on a suicide mission so that David could have Uriah's wife, Bathsheba.  Sometimes he went behind David's back, as when he killed the rebellious Absalom, despite David's orders that his son not be harmed.  Usually he could claim, with some justification, that he was acting in David's best interest.  Then there were the two incidents David mentions here.

Joab ran down and killed Abner, one of King Saul's best generals, when Abner was defecting to David's side during the struggles for the throne of Israel after Saul's death.  (2 Samuel 3) On a later occasion, when Joab was supposed to meet up with Amasa, one of David's other generals, Joab pretended to greet him with a friendly embrace but then stabbed him with a concealed dagger.  (2 Samuel 20:1-13)  David was infuriated by both murders, but at the time could do little about them.  Joab was simply too valuable to kill.  But by the same token, he was to dangerous to let live; which is why David advises his son:  

"Deal with him according to your wisdom, but do not let his gray head go down to the grave in peace." (1 Kings 2:6)
Changing gears, David requests that his son show kindness to the sons of Barzillai, who provided food and shelter for him and his retinue when David was fleeing from Absalom.  David did not forget his friends.

But as for his enemies, that's a different matter.  He also commands his son to remember Shimei, son of Gera the Benjamite.  During the same period when David was fleeing from Absalom, Shimei came out to meet David's retinue, threw stones at him  and cursed him:  

"Get out, get out, you man of blood, you scoundrel!  The LORD has repaid you for all the blood you shed in the household of Saul, in whose place you have reigned... You have come to ruin because you are a man of blood!" (2 Samuel 16:7-8).
One of David's men offered to chop off the guy's head, but David told him not to.  After all, David says, it's quite possible that God commanded Shimei to give him this message.  The guy had a point; David's career had been a bloody one and he was far from blameless.  So David swore that he would not put Shimei to death.

But that was then.  Reminding his son of this incident, he also tells Solomon that he is not bound by his father's oath.  

"You are a man of wisdom; you will know what to do to him.  Bring his gray head down to the grave in blood." (1 Kings 2:9)
It's a funny thing; Scriptures speaks of the Wisdom of Solomon, but gives us very few concrete examples of his wisdom.  We get the dubious attribution of the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, but apart from the story of the Two Mothers and the Baby and the story of the Queen of Sheba, we get few solid examples of Solomon doing smart stuff.  It occurs to me that how Solomon goes about fulfiling his father's requests in the rest of Chapter 2 shows some remarkable shrewdness.

But what are we to make of these three requests:  One a nasty sort of pragmatism, one an act of gratitude and generosity, and one just downright petty?  They don't show the Great King David in a terribly flattering light.  But perhaps that is the point.  

Even David was not a Plaster Saint, a paragon of virtue.  He made mistakes like other men; he let his temper and his desires and his power as king get the better of him sometimes.  Sometimes he even let his own remorse cloud his judgement.  He wasn't a superhero.

And that I think gives his life story meaning: both the heroic deeds and the dreadful mistakes, the glorious triumphs and the shameful tragedies.  I can relate to that, even when I wail at the stupidity of some of his acts.  And if some of his final thoughts were focused on petty vengence, he was also thinking of what was best for his son; and he had confidence that his son would be able to work things out.

Originally posted to Elders of Zion on Fri Dec 28, 2012 at 06:00 AM PST.

Also republished by Street Prophets and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (16+ / 0-)

    "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

    by quarkstomper on Fri Dec 28, 2012 at 06:00:08 AM PST

  •  "That's another recurring theme in Scriptures;" (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    quarkstomper, SchuyH, ramara, JoanMar, Nulwee

    "an inheritance going to someone other than the Firstborn Son who "should" have received it."

    And one which comes up as well -- not once, but twice in the Genesis reading!

    Jacob, blessing Joseph's children Ephraim and Manasseh, puts his right hand on Ephraim's head -- even though Manasseh is the elder. (This displeases Joseph and he tries to "fix" the situation by moving Jacob's hand, but Jacob refuses, saying that "His younger brother shall be greater than he, and his offspring will become a multitude of nations.") There is a bit of humor in this scene: Joseph has intentionally set up the children, since Jacob can't see well, so that Ephraim would be on Jacob's left and Manasseh on Jacob's right. But Jacob crosses his arms and switches the blessings!

    Then, when Jacob gives his last words to his own sons, he not-quite-disowns the three eldest (Reuben, Simeon and Levi) for various offenses: Reuben slept with one of his father's concubines, and Simeon and Levi carried out a slaughter of the newly circumcised and therefore powerless Shechemites in revenge for their sister's rape/abduction/voluntary elopement -- depending on how one reads the text.) The first brother to actually receive a blessing -- not a curse -- is Judah, in itself a surprise. The same Judah that sold Joseph into Egypt? That failed to carry out his promises to his daughter-in-law Tamar and threatened to burn her for prostitution? Yep. :)

    •  Have you ever read (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Eowyn9, quarkstomper, JoanMar, SchuyH, Nulwee

      The Red Tent? If you haven't, I think you would like it - basically it's the story of much of Jacob's story from Dina's point of view.

      I always think that both of Jacob's blessings before dying are done with the thought of his father's death-bed. Jacob was not about to make any mistakes, like his father did.

      Republicans want to make government small enough to fit in your vagina..

      by ramara on Fri Dec 28, 2012 at 04:24:32 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I also see Judah (7+ / 0-)

      as one of the characters who grows in the story and becomes a worthy man. And I think his idea of selling Joseph was an attempt to save his life from the brother's brewing anger. He and Reuben don't talk, so neither is aware how the other intends to save Joseph.

      Republicans want to make government small enough to fit in your vagina..

      by ramara on Fri Dec 28, 2012 at 04:27:35 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  This is an interesting take on Judah's actions, (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ramara, quarkstomper, SchuyH, Amber6541

        though I have to wonder -- in that time and place -- whether selling someone into slavery wasn't a way of symbolically (or, for all intents and purposes, even practically) murdering them.

        From everything I've read, in ancient Jewish culture, your identity was determined by your family. You existed as a part of your family, not an individual. To be totally and entirely cut off from your family, cast adrift, sent into a foreign country where you don't even speak the language...as a slave, no less...might even have seemed like a fate worse than death to many.

        And with no telephones, postal system or e-mail, if you were sold as a slave into a foreign land, then for all practical purposes your bond with your family would have been severed for good (particularly, in this instance, as Jacob has not been told the truth and believes his son dead.) How could you possibly communicate with them, or get back to them? Your old identity would have been destroyed.

        It is quite amazing that Joseph is able to rise above this, not only survive but thrive in his new land, and -- when he meets his brothers again -- forgive what they have done to him and to his father with their lies.

        •  Joseph was free (4+ / 0-)

          for seven good years and into the start of the seven bad years - he could have sent Jacob word that he was alive and okay, but he didn't. Why?

          There are theories, including the possibility that Jacob had been sexually exploiting him after Rachel's death. I am not certain of that, but there is some passive aggression in his not making contact. Jacob's grief is not only of the brothers' making.

          Republicans want to make government small enough to fit in your vagina..

          by ramara on Fri Dec 28, 2012 at 06:19:05 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  This is a very good point. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ramara, SchuyH

            As the second-most-important person in Egypt, he could definitely have sent a messenger to contact his family.

            Was he sulking? Being passive-aggressive, as you say? Was he ashamed of his rather humble origins (we're repeatedly told that the Egyptians would not eat with Hebrews because this is "detestable" to them -- so they don't seem to think too highly of Joseph's tribe, in general)?

            Had he just repressed the whole thing and refused to think about it?

            Perhaps some part of him is ashamed, as well, of his own rather snooty behaviour towards the brothers. He did seem to put on airs (with the dreams, and the coat, and so on) and his father's blatant favoritism didn't help matters. It's possible that, though their behaviour was obviously despicable, he understands a bit better -- now that he's been treated as a "nobody" and forgotten in prison -- what it feels like to be rejected.

            Whatever his reasons, it is commendable that he manages to overcome them in order to reconcile with his brothers, when they do finally show up.

      •  That's the rabbinic gloss (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Eowyn9, ramara

        To put Judah's actions in the best light.  He was not only the ancestor of King David, but it was the descendants of the other sons who vanished - assimilated into Assyrian culture - after Sennacharib's conquest of Samaria in 732 BCE.  Unlike the "Ten Lost Tribes", the tribe of Judah survived the Babylonian exile and became the ancestors of the rabbis and the Jews of today (to the extent we are not descended from or are converts), so the rabbis wanted to make Judah a hero and, yes, they viewed Judah as saving Joseph's life.

        "We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals, now we know that it is bad economics." Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jan. 20, 1937

        by Navy Vet Terp on Sat Dec 29, 2012 at 02:54:15 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I have seen somewhere (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Navy Vet Terp

          that there might have been two versions of the story, and that in each a different brother tried to save Joseph, and the redactors, as they so often did, included both. I don't usually like the Rabbinic gloss, but I came by this one through my own  reading of the story.

          Republicans want to make government small enough to fit in your vagina..

          by ramara on Sat Dec 29, 2012 at 08:14:39 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Judah and Tamar (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Eowyn9, ramara, SchuyH, Navy Vet Terp

      Judah's actions in the story of Tamar were pretty skanky, but in his defense, he threatened to kill her before he knew the full details of the situation and he waited to kill her until he could find out more.  And more importantly, when Tamar did confront him with the truth, he did not try to cover it up, but owned up to it and publicly acknowldeged that Tamar was the righteous one.  And he tried to "do the right thing by her" according to the mores of his culture.  It doesn't absolve him of guilt, but is evidence, as ramara observes, of Judah's growth.

      I think that the clincher that impressed Jacob the Judah deserved the inheritance was the same thing which impressed Joseph:  Judah's volunteering to take the punishment in Benjamin's place.  Then again, we Lutherans are big on Substitutionary Atonement, so that aspect would stick out to us.

      Of course, there is also the interpretation that the story was written retroactively to explain why the tribe of Judah ultimately became more important than the other tribes; but I prefer to enjoy the story as a story.

      "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

      by quarkstomper on Fri Dec 28, 2012 at 06:35:55 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        SchuyH, Eowyn9, Amber6541, quarkstomper

        Everything through Kings (in the Jewish Bible, not the New Testament) was either written or edited to justify the Davidic kingship, so the lion of Judah may indeed have been put in after Genesis was already written down. But you're right, of course; these are marvelous stories, with complex characters who deserve all the thought we can give them.

        Tamar was sentenced to death not because she was pregnant, but for committing adultery, which was a capital offense in most nearby cultures at the time. The pregnancy was only the proof of the adultery. It was adultery because she was betrothed to Judah's third son, and a woman was considered married during her engagement. This adds greater depth to the story, I think, and Judah realizes all this at once when he sees the proofs.

        Republicans want to make government small enough to fit in your vagina..

        by ramara on Fri Dec 28, 2012 at 08:10:26 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Quarkstomper said: (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eowyn9, Navy Vet Terp, quarkstomper

    "Even David was not a Plaster Saint, a paragon of virtue.  He made mistakes like other men; he let his temper and his desires and his power as king get the better of him sometimes.  Sometimes he even let his own remorse cloud his judgement.  He wasn't a superhero."

    That contention is true, if not an understatement; which makes the consequences of David's bad, indeed evil actions, as held in traditional religious circles, repugnant since rather than scorn David  and use him as an example of bad human behavior, he is revered. We teach our children in synagogue to chant,

    "דוד מלך ישראל  (David Melech Yisrael; Chai, Chai, Vekayam) and the rabbis teach how David was God's favorite.

    The saga of David and the undeserved rewards he reaps for his misconduct is both bewildering, and makes it very difficult to accept the Torah and Commentaries on an intellectual basis. Indeed, sending "Uriah the Hittite on a suicide mission so that David could have Uriah's wife, Bathsheba," is criminal, dishonest, creul, disloyal, an abuse of power, hateful, unjust, and based on any standard of morality the brain could conjure, the behavior of a rank degenerate. What are we taught that David did for the benefit of humanity that offsets this crime to even mitigate it or to rescue David's reputation?

    Rather the alleged affection God had for David, and his lofty place in Jewish theology is off-putting at face value, and even more so when so called Jewish scholars attempt to create alibis, excuses and/or say the literal words in the sacred texts do not disclose the actual  hidden meanings. The worst is when the advice for resolving the conflict between what our brain knows is contemptable behavior by David, and the reverence he is afforded takes the form of religious Jews urging pure, unquestioniong faith.

    I think God must have created organized religions to force thinking people to search elsewhere for spirituality, and to clearly identify those practioners of organized religions as duped sheep who would lead the searchers looking for truth down a blind alley.

    •  To me the very idea of God having "favorites" (4+ / 0-)

      is in itself, repugnant in the extreme.

      A God that is petty enough to favour one person over another (and for what reasons? David's personality? His looks? His -- rather mixed bag of -- actions?) could easily favor a murderer, or an adulterer, just as some humans could. I like to think the Creator of the Universe is beyond that sort of thing. :)

      •  But began early enough (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Eowyn9, quarkstomper

        with Cain and Abel.

        I sometimes think there are two separate people represented in the David stories - the boy who can comfort Saul, and the unscrupulous man.

        He is impotent in his own family as well - all the stories about his children are bloody and violent and include the rape of Tamar - an undisputed rape this time.

        Republicans want to make government small enough to fit in your vagina..

        by ramara on Sat Dec 29, 2012 at 09:25:42 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  I do also think (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Eowyn9, Navy Vet Terp, quarkstomper

        that the Bible is as much about the early history of the concept of God as it is of the Jewish people. This early God is not the only God, and he resembles in many ways the gods of the Assyrians and Canaanites. It is not until the exile that the idea of monotheism as we know it began, with compassion truly a major part of him.

        Republicans want to make government small enough to fit in your vagina..

        by ramara on Sat Dec 29, 2012 at 09:31:03 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Indeed, in ancient times most cultures (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          quarkstomper, ramara

          must have seen good fortune and success as proof of God's (or the gods') special favor. If you had a long life, if you prospered, than you must be a favorite of the gods. If you were unfortunate, then God must dislike you for some reason.

          There really wasn't a concept of things just happening, randomly, for no reason; every event had some divine origin. Hence by definition the gods MUST have "favorites", since on earth some people (like King David) were long-lived and successful, and others were not.

          I see the book of Job as an attempt to come to terms with this: can there be randomness in the universe? Can things happen apart from God's plan? Job, who has been up until now a "favorite" of God (he loves and obeys God, and he has been fortunate) suddenly finds himself unlucky and "out of favor", despite the fact that his love and obedience towards God have not changed. What happened? Why does God suddenly "hate" him?

          His "friends" argue that he must have done something. God doesn't play dice with the universe. Things happen for a reason, and if he's no longer a "favorite" of God, well, he must have sinned in some terrible way that he's not admitting or can't remember. But Job maintains his innocence.

          Perhaps one could say that God's words at the conclusion of Job is just this: that the universe is a complex and often incomprehensible place; there aren't easy, pat explanations for why some people are lucky and others unlucky; and yet there IS a God of justice and love behind it all. (I.e. this isn't the cold, unthinking, unfeeling universe that an atheist would imagine.)

          •  In my weekly Talmud study class (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Eowyn9, quarkstomper, ramara

            We studied in Genesis Rabbah how the rabbis so condemned Job's "friends", the rabbis said they were the "Nephilim" in Genesis 6:4 who were so evil that it was because of them - Job's friends - that God brought the flood and destroyed the world, except for Noah and the flood and the animals in the ark.

            My reaction in the class was (1) it was weird that the rabbis would put this story back into the primeval world, and (2) Job's friends struck me as annoying, but not that evil.

            "We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals, now we know that it is bad economics." Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jan. 20, 1937

            by Navy Vet Terp on Sat Dec 29, 2012 at 03:05:51 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  By comparison, the unpunished, evil conduct (4+ / 0-)

              of David would seem to make him more likely to be a member of the "Nephilim" in Genesis 6:4 than Job's critics.

              •  Oh, David's conduct does get punished. (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Navy Vet Terp, quarkstomper, ramara

                His own newborn son (by Bathsheba) falls ill, then dies. One could argue that this is more a "punishment" of the child -- not to mention the mother -- but David is heartbroken.

                Furthermore, David (and his family) are cursed from this time forward; Nathan the prophet tells David that "the sword shall never depart from your house," and the rest of David's story is one of progressive violence, conflict and rape (the story of Tamar.) David's murder of Uriah is where it All Starts To Go Wrong.

                I gave a talk once in church, where I discussed 2 Samuel as a whole as a "tragic" narrative (comparable to a Shakespearean tragedy). The tragic hero (David) is on the ascent and everything seems to be going well for him; then he oversteps his bounds, commits a tragic act (committing adultery with Bathsheba and murdering Uriah to cover him up) and this act sparks what becomes a slow downward spiral into conflict and distrust among (and of) the royal family.

                •  What was his tragic flaw then? (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Eowyn9

                  I don't think is was lust. He tried to get Uriah to sleep with Bathsheba, but David couldn't stand the exposure of his adultery. He is willing to murder a good, loyal man - is it vanity, or perhaps love of power? His punishment is certainly to lose power in his own household.

                  Republicans want to make government small enough to fit in your vagina..

                  by ramara on Sat Dec 29, 2012 at 07:28:09 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  I think I said hubris, as in Greek tragedies. (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    ramara

                    He oversteps the bounds of the role that God has laid out for him: to be a guide to the people, a shepherd to the sheep (he admits this in 2 Samuel 24:17). Instead, by stealing Uriah's wife and killing Uriah, he has exploited and betrayed the trust of his people who love and depend on him.

                    As Nathan points out, God has given King David so much, and yet he's not content with it, but has to take another man's only wife (and his life). So perhaps covetousness is his tragic flaw? The inability to be content?

                    I'm reminded also of the fairy tale of the Fisherman and his Wife, where the wife progressively wishes for more and more (to be king, emperor, pope, etc) but she -- of course -- is never content; in the end she wishes to be God, and ends up dumped back into her tiny hovel. We see this taken to extremes with Solomon, David's son, who has 700 wives and 300 concubines. (It's like he never learned, as a kid, that there was such a thing as "enough".)

            •  It's doubly odd, because the Nephilim (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Navy Vet Terp, quarkstomper, ramara

              aren't described (in Genesis 6) as being especially evil. All we know is that they live on the earth in pre-Flood days; and it is implied that they either are, or conceive, "heroes that were of old, warriors of renown."

              Later, in Numbers 13:33, the spies sent into Canaan say that they saw the Nephilim living there, and that they were huge giants. But we don't know if this is the truth, or part of the "unfavorable report" (i.e. tall tales, literally!) they're spreading to intimidate their fellow Israelites.

              In neither passage are the Nephilim described as doing anything evil, except being large and presumably scary.

              I think Job would've noticed if his friends were giants, too... ;-D

              •  My Own Guess Is... (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Eowyn9, ramara, Navy Vet Terp

                My own guess is that the spies were exaggerating, comparing the intimidating Canaanites to the Nephilim of legend.  "They were freakin' Nephilim, man!  They were huge!"  And because whoever wrote the books of the Torah assumed that we all know what Nephilim are, this association the spies make between Nephilim and Bigness is the only evidence we have that the Nephilim were of extraordinary stature.  The reference in Genesis 6 makes no mention of their height.

                Then again, as the fellows said:

                "We can't keep silent,
                'Cause they might be giants
                And what are we going to do unless they are?"
                ---  TMBG

                "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

                by quarkstomper on Sat Dec 29, 2012 at 05:50:03 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

            •  And yes, Job's friends come across (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              quarkstomper, ramara

              as annoying, overly pious, even somewhat naive, but not evil.

              They genuinely believe that they Get It -- life, the universe, and everything. Good stuff happens if you're a good person. Bad stuff happens if you sin. Cause and effect. A sort of moral physics.

              They strike me as somewhat inclined to a fundamentalist view of the world. They're not able to deal with ambiguity or contradiction much, are they?

              In terms of argumentation, though, they're incredibly sophisticated. (Intelligent and quite clever...but not necessarily wise. Nor especially sympathetic friends, for all they seem to be well-meaning in trying to "convert" Job back to their simple worldview.)

              •  IMO Job is one of the greatest works of literature (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                quarkstomper, Eowyn9, ramara

                ever written.  The argument back and forth, its literary quality, is amazing for the time it was written, according to Wikipedia 6th to 4th century BCE, which would place it to the Babylonian exile or the restoration.  Obviously, the introduction and conclusion were from a different, far inferior, author.  

                In Genesis Rabbah, the rabbis were struggling over who these "Nephilim" were and this is what they came up with, but don't explain how they reached this theory or why these guys were so bad the world was destroyed on their account.  At the time, the Romans were murdering the Jews in mass, including the rabbis, so the surviving rabbis had to flee Israel for Persian occupied Babylon, so I would guess for them the arugment that good stuff happens if you're a good person, bad stuff happens if you are a bad person, would have struck them as offensive.  And, you are right, Job should have noticed if his friends were giants.

                "We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals, now we know that it is bad economics." Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jan. 20, 1937

                by Navy Vet Terp on Sat Dec 29, 2012 at 05:08:09 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

            •  What the Hey? (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Eowyn9, ramara, Navy Vet Terp

              I've read commentators who placed Job as a contemporary of Abraham, (although obviously the Book of Job was written much, much later), but I've never heard anyone placing him in Antediluvian times.  (Hah!  I just like using the word "antediluvian".  There!  I did it again!)

              I agree that calling Job's friends "Nephilim" is silly.  Whether or not you translate the word as "giants" as King Jim does, the Nephilim briefly mentioned in Genesis are larger than life.  Job's friends are just petty.

              "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

              by quarkstomper on Sat Dec 29, 2012 at 05:44:09 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  That may be when he is supposed (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Eowyn9, quarkstomper

                to have lived - when the story was written, it had another purpose, when the prophets were talking about the exile and destruction of the Temple being the people's fault for being wicked, the story of the righteous Job suffering terrible things must have been strangely comforting.

                I think the first and last chapters were added because this was so hard to accept randomness and the unfathomable.

                Republicans want to make government small enough to fit in your vagina..

                by ramara on Sat Dec 29, 2012 at 07:18:56 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  It's an interesting thought. (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Navy Vet Terp, quarkstomper

                  Today, we see the idea of order and predictability as extremely comforting. Something inside us deeply wants to believe that (in the end, or in some future world to come) good people -- generally assumed to be us -- will be rewarded and bad people will suffer.

                  It can be hard to believe that, in some times, this may not have been reassuring, and in fact the opposite message was sought: not "we're sure to have good things happen to us soon, because we're good people" but "just because bad things happened to us, doesn't mean we're bad."

                  And the idea that virtue can be its own reward: that it is better to live as a good person, than as an evil one who happens (through random chance, or their own cunning) to be "successful" in life. That the point of being "good" isn't to win the favor of the gods, or to "get ahead" in life, but simply an end in itself.

                •  Now, I've Always Thought the Opposite (1+ / 0-)
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                  Eowyn9

                  I've always read that the prologue and epilogue to the Book of Job were added by a later writer to "tidy it up" and give the story a more palatable moral.  But it always seemed to me that the framing story with God making a bet with the Adversary has more of a folk-tale-ish feel to it.

                  My interpretation -- and this has absolutely no Biblical scholarship that I know of to support it; simply a hunch based on what little I know about storytelling -- is that the author of what we now know as the Book of Job took an old folktale about God testing his servant Job as part of a divine wager, of which the prologue and epilogue are all that are extant, and expanded it into a poetic dialogue about the nature of God's Justice; much the way the great Greek dramatists of the Classical Era took existing myths and legend as the basis for their plays.

                  That's just a guess, though.

                  "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

                  by quarkstomper on Sat Dec 29, 2012 at 07:54:39 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  There might have been (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Eowyn9, quarkstomper

                    such a tale. The reason the story was told as it was and when it was is what I was talking about. I wonder what the modern scholarship is on the texts.

                    Republicans want to make government small enough to fit in your vagina..

                    by ramara on Sat Dec 29, 2012 at 08:06:21 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                  •  "The Book of Joby", by Mark Ferrari (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    quarkstomper

                    (a rather interesting read, and one I recommend) is based on the story of Job, and you're absolutely right: the basic framing narrative does have a folk-tale (and highly adaptable) quality to it.

                    Am I wrong, or is Job the first place in the Scriptures where "Satan" is mentioned (as being a single being, clearly distinct from and opposed to God?) There is the serpent in the Garden of Eden, of course, but despite later Christian interpretation, it is not clearly identified as being equivalent to Satan. And then there are various evil (or tempting) spirits that incite various people, like Saul and later David himself, to do evil things: often, confusingly, described as being "from God."

                    But I don't think Satan is mentioned anywhere previous to Job.

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