Bones, Subversive Patriotism

I probably won’t go to the library tomorrow because of how cold it is outside, so this week’s quiet time on I Kings will be different from how it is when I’m at the library.  But, hey, God’s still in it (I hope)!  Right now, I’m listening to Jon Courson’s sermon on I Kings 9-10, while I write this post.

Here’s my write-up on my readings for school:

1.  I’m still making my way through Othmar Keel’s Symbolism of the Biblical World.  Something on page 66 stood out to me:

So long as the bones are intact, even a dead man retains a minimal existence.  It is therefore a great crime to destroy the bones of an innocent man (cf. Amos 2:1).  The “bones” are man’s most durable part—his core, so to speak.  As such, they frequently stand parallel to “strength” (Ps 31:10) or “vitality” (Ps 35:9-10); elsewhere they simply replace the personal pronoun (Pss 51:8; 53:5).  In Phoenician and Hebrew funerary inscriptions, the deceased asks, sometimes imploringly, sometimes threateningly, that his bones be left undisturbed.

I noticed the part about the personal pronouns the third time that I read this passage, but it’s something that I’ve often wondered about.  “Himself,” for example, is often “his bone” in the Hebrew Bible—literally, that is.  It’s almost as if the essence of a person is in his bones, as Keel suggests.

I can’t conceive of not existing, but my Grandpa Pate used to tell me that it’s not as hard to imagine as I might think.  After all, do I remember the time before I was conceived?  Likewise, I won’t experience anything after I die.  In both cases, I’m non-existent.  Of course, my Grandpa believes in soul sleep, which states that we’ll be unconscious before our resurrection, so he’s not ruling out the afterlife.

In the days of the Hebrew Bible, people hoped to hold on to some thread of existence after their death—through their bones being intact.  Nowadays, there are people who prefer cremation, which includes incinerating their bones.  They want to be scattered over nature, perhaps becoming part of it.  But, in the old days, people didn’t want to lose their personal identities after death.  This, even though people in the days of the Hebrew Bible weren’t as individualistic as Westerners today.

2.  I read C.L. Seow’s article on the Book of Hosea in the Anchor Bible Dictionary.  The part that stood out to me, though, concerned the Book of Amos:

Even during the stable reign of Jeroboam, political intrigues threatened the Jehu dynasty. In such a climate, Amaziah accused Amos of plotting to assassinate Jeroboam (Amos 7:11). The oracles of Amos were too subversive and the country could not tolerate them. The possibility of sedition was certainly in the air. Indeed, from the death of Jeroboam in 746 till the fall of Samaria in 721 six kings ascended the throne in Israel; all except one died by violence. Assassination was the order of the day. Several of Hosea’s oracles reflect this state of instability and confusion (5:1; 7:5–7; 8:4; 9:15; 13:10–11).

Amos actually wasn’t plotting to assassinate the king, but he did predict that Jeroboam would die by the sword and that Israel would be taken captive.  That could demoralize a nation in political turmoil.  Yet, that was what the nation of Israel needed, for the threat of impending doom could encourage them to repent and become better people, who didn’t oppress their fellow human-beings.  True patriotism isn’t necessarily “My country right or wrong” or stepping on egg-shells to avoid demoralizing people.  It can include a prophetic warning, of speaking truth to power and exhorting citizens to become good people.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
This entry was posted in Bible, Religion. Bookmark the permalink.