BiND: Day 19
Well, after our discussion of how there are lots of really horrible stories in the Bible, it seems fitting that we would encounter deceitful Delilah and also a nameless concubine and her abusive “husband”—a man who allows her to be gang raped and then is angry at her for not getting up to come with him (she’s probably dead already) so he cuts her into pieces as a call to action, an excuse for inter-tribal warfare. Nevermind that he didn’t seem to care when the Benjaminites were actually committing the deed—only when his concubine is dead is he interested. Great.
These stories, as we have discussed before, may or may not have actually happened the way they’re told here. What’s important is that they form us, they shape us as God’s people, showing us how God’s people have acted and interacted with each other and with God. They also show us that even God’s chosen people make horrible mistakes. You notice that God doesn’t show up in the concubine story? Or in the Samson and Delilah story? Nowhere does it say God commanded these things—these are stories of real people that make mistakes and that God still somehow uses to further the kingdom story. Did you notice how many times it said “there was no king in Israel, the people did what was right in their own eyes.”? The stories in Judges, especially, are also designed to show us WHY a king was needed. Since they were written down during the period of the monarchs, it’s possible that the whole king-thing wasn’t going as planned, so some stories that show what life was like before the Kings would be a good deterrent to going back to the “good old days.” It might be interesting to think what those stories would be for us—one that comes to mind for me (which gives away my geographic origins!) is the bandits of the wild west, before the days of organized law enforcement. What else comes to mind?
Once we get out of Judges we have the story of Ruth and Naomi, a story of loyalty, of care for the least among us, of the way things are supposed to be. Boaz makes sure Ruth and Naomi are provided for, both before and after Ruth proposes that he marry her. Granted, this is in some ways also a story of scheming to get an heir, of emotional and sexual manipulation. But overall Ruth is, I think, one of our more favorite books. It’s short (only 85 verses), there’s no killing, no fighting. Instead we have commandment following, caring for one another, and apparently healthy community.
A little different than the opening of Samuel, with the rival wives, one antagonizing the other while the husband plays favorites. One of the remarkable things about this story of Hannah is the way she finds her voice—in the beginning, she is talked about. Even when she prays, she has no voice and is taken for a harlot and a drunk. But once she’s talked to God (even silently), she has the voice to talk to the men in her life as well—to Eli and to her husband. When Hannah offers Samuel to temple service, she once again gives up the thing that gave her life value and meaning (barren women were worthless, even if their husbands loved them)—this time of her own will. She’s found not only a voice, but a choice as well. And she sings a song, one which will be used again by Mary centuries later, and one which we talked about in our last class—it shows what God’s justice looks like and how it has been played out for a woman who was the lowest of the low, but now has been lifted up.
What did you notice in the reading today? Anything that made you think or wonder or want to quit or want to keep going?
photo is of the countryside around Bethlehem, where Ruth and Naomi went to live. By hoyasmeg, from flickr.