Thursday, January 08, 2009

Notes on the Bible January 7-8

Genesis 19-23

Lot and His Daughters. One trouble with historical sources is that they are sometimes more squeamish than we are, thought frankly, the subjects of squeamishness change from age to age (more on that later). What I am referring to in particular is commentary treatments regarding the episode of Lot and his daughters. The primary purpose of it is to account for the origin of the Ammonites and the Moabites, and to show their relationship to the line of Abraham. The common English translation of Calvin's commentary on this matter eliminates Calvin's comments almost entirely, saying in a footnote only, "The lengthened commentary on this [vs 31] and the following verses, it has been necessary almost entirely to omit. Perhaps the only points worthy of notice in it, are the following: 1. Calvin supposes Lot to have been under judicial infatuation in consequence of his intemperance on this occasion. 2. He explains, as other commentators do, the names of the children of Lot's daughters."

In other words, Calvin was a little too explicit in his discussion of the passage. Maybe some modern Latinist will deign to give us what Calvin said.

Abraham and Abimelech (Gen 20-21). Since the text focuses on Abraham and his seed, it is easy to forget that there were other peoples inhabiting Canaan. The episodes related here remind the reader, as they were no doubt intended to remind Moses' original readers that, as with Israel in the days of Moses, the Canaanites were then in the land. The difference would have been, of course, that in Moses' and Joshua's day, there were to be no treaties with those inhabitants. Abraham was allowed the treaty, because the sin of the Amorites was not yet full (15:16).

The Binding of Isaac. There has been much written on this passage, by better men than I. So I will do no more here than to note that most English versions title this section "The Sacrifice of Isaac." Of course, that is wrong, because no sacrifice of Isaac took place. There was a substitute offered for him. The Jewish tradition has it right here when the call it "The Binding of Isaac."

The Death of Sarah. Abraham was still sojourning in the land, as a stranger. He was looking for a new land of which this was only the type. Thus, in order to have a proper place to bury his dead, he must purchase it from the Hittites who at the time had ownership of the land. For none of the pre-Exodus patriarchs does the land become theirs. Even Jacob dwells in the land of the sojourning of his fathers (Gen 37:1), and he eventually leaves for Egypt. It is only with the generation of those under the leadership of Joshua that they become possessors of the land.

Matthew 5:43-6:34

The interpretation and application of much of this section has been complicated by an overly literalistic approach. This is not a program that is intended to set out the ethics of nations. Instead, this focuses on the heart of the believer and his attitude toward the things of this world. The believer who focuses on the things of this life is turning his back on the things of the life to come. In fact, the person wedded to the things of this world, and worried about them, shows to all where his heart is. It has been suggested that the reason modern American evangelicalism has produced no great works on heaven is that evangelicals already have their heaven here on earth.

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