God Uses (Not Causes) Tragedies; Rich (Bummer!); Long Impression; Rabbinic Cessationism; Blowing Off Steam; Noth on DtrH; Good LOST Articles

1. William P. Young, The Shack, page 185:

“Mack, just because I work incredible good out of unspeakable tragedies doesn’t mean I orchestrate the tragedies.  Don’t ever assume that my using something means I caused it or that I need it to accomplish my purposes…Grace doesn’t depend on suffering to exist, but where there is suffering you will find grace in many facets and colors.”

2. Robert Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land, page 273:

“…Captain, you obviously don’t know what an Old Man of the Sea great wealth is.  It is not a fat purse and time to spend it.  Its owner finds himself beset on every side, at every hour, by persistent pleaders, like beggars in Bombay, each demanding that he invest or give away part of his wealth.  He becomes suspicious of honest friendship—indeed honest friendship is rarely offered him; those who could have been his friends are too fastidious to be jostled by beggars, too proud to be mistaken for one…”

That reminds me of an episode of Highway to Heaven that I watched today, “Lucky Man”, which is from Season 3 (which I finally got for a low price off of Amazon, after waiting for years!).  Mark wins five million dollars at a burger joint, and he wants to give it all to build a new gymnasium for at-risk youths.  But some swindlers on the run from creditors are trying to get his money.  One is a beautiful woman, who’s posing as a wealthy socialite.  She pretends to be deeply in love with Mark, so she can marry and then divorce him, taking his money.

For me, the lesson of this episode is how some of us can allow our fantasies to blind us.  Mark thought that his dreams were coming true—that a beautiful woman was falling in love with him.  But they weren’t.  Far from it.

3. Terence Collins, The Mantel of Elijah, page 147.

Isaiah 20 says that King Sargon of Assyrian captured the Philistine city of Ashdod.  This occurred in 711 B.C.E., when Sargon punished Ashdod for rebellion and its encouragement of other kings to rebel.  The chapter then goes on to say that Isaiah is to walk around naked and barefoot for three years, as a sign that Assyria will take Egyptians and Ethiopians captive.  That should teach the Israelites not to trust in Egypt for deliverance, when they should be looking to God!

Collins doesn’t think that certain things add up.  He points out that the Assyrians invaded Egypt forty years later.  He also wonders why Ashdod is even mentioned, and he says that the warning to Israel not to trust Egypt would make most sense in 701 B.C.E., “when Sennacherib easily repulsed an Egyptian attempt to intervene” (Isaiah 37:9).  Collins maintains that elements of Isaiah 20 have undergone revision, as older oracles were applied to new situations.  And he contends that Jeremiah 37:11 applies Isaiah’s prophecy against Egypt to his own day, when Egyptian intervention didn’t help the Judahites during the invasion of their nation by the Babylonians.

I don’t entirely understand Collins’ point.  Couldn’t a prophet point to the Assyrian defeat of Ashdod to argue that human attempts to fight Assyria will come to naught, which is why the Judahites were going the path of futility in trusting Egypt for deliverance? Sure, Egyptian assistance would come to naught ten years later, and the Assyrians would invade Egypt forty years later.  But couldn’t the prophet have foreseen these events when the Assyrians defeated Ashdod?

How much is Collins motivated by naturalism in this case—naturalism here being the view that a prophet can’t predict the future?  Why would the prophet need to see Egypt getting pounced to predict it, whether there’s a God giving him the message or not?  Remember that there are scholars who have made the case that prophets got some things wrong when it came to Egypt: Jeremiah and Ezekiel said that Babylon would conquer Egypt, which didn’t happen (or so scholars contend).  Why are the prophecies that come true dismissed as current events written into the past, whereas prophecies that aren’t fulfilled are just, well, prophecies that aren’t fulfilled?

Collins may have a point in the area of timeliness, however.  Why did Isaiah walk naked for three years, communicating a prophecy that wouldn’t happen until forty years later? Did he expect the Israelites to remember his walk of nakedness about forty years before, once they saw Egypt get pounced?  Well, maybe Isaiah walking naked would leave an impression on them!

4. Alberdina Houtmann, Mishnah and Tosefta, page 74:

In T 6.7b, there is again a sudden shift to a new subject, vain prayer.  According to this tradition, it is vain to pray for a miraculous multiplication of produce.

But Elijah and Jesus multiplied food!  Well, the rabbis didn’t believe in Jesus.  And were they cessationists when it came to the sorts of miracles that were performed in the Hebrew Bible?  There are indications of such—statements that prophecy ceased at a certain point in time, or the view that Israel doing the right thing without seeing a miracle was a sign of her maturity.  But I can’t be absolute on this and claim that the rabbis denied the existence of miracles.  Maybe they just believed that they were improbable, so why be frivolous by praying for certain ones?  Ordinarily, God didn’t multiply produce!

5. John Van Seters, “Prophetic Orality in the Context of the Ancient Near East”, in Writings and Speech in Israelites and Ancient Near Eastern Prophecy, page 84.

Crenshaw seems to place his emphasis on the oral nature of both delivery and transmission, based on the limits of literacy in ancient Israel.  Davies argues that prophecy as a whole is a literary activity regardless of biblical suggestions to the contrary.  Cullen focuses primarily on performance and its relationship to audience.

This is a summary of what came before in the book, which I appreciate.  But Davies had some jewels.  He acted as if some of the scribes were writing prophecies against social injustice and foreign nations in order to blow off steam, while attributing the prophecies to ancient prophets!

6. Martin Noth, “The Central Theological Ideas”, in Reconsidering Israel and Judah.

Noth dates the Deuteronomistic History (DtrH)—Joshua-Kings—to the exile.  He notes that DtrH doesn’t talk much about sacrifice, preferring instead to focus on prayer.  For Noth, that would make sense in the exile, when all Israel had was prayer, since she was without a temple!  And Noth also doesn’t think that DtrH believed that the Jews would be restored, for it doesn’t mention that possibility.  So is Noth saying that they would continue to worship God without hope?  Or that maybe they can continue to hope, but redemption isn’t likely, considering how bad they were?

Here’s another interesting point that Noth made: DtrH believed that Israel should only sacrifice to God in the central sanctuary, Jerusalem.  But there are exceptions to that.  For example, Elijah sacrifices to God on Mount Carmel.  According to Noth, DtrH believes this is acceptable because a true prophet is conducting the sacrifice.

7.  Here are some good links on the finale for LOST, which I’m posting here for my access.

‘Lost’ finale recap, part one: And In The End… | Totally ‘Lost …

‘Lost’ finale recap, part two: Step into the light

I like these articles for two reasons: (1.) The first one connects Jacob’s mission to keep the Man in Black on the island, with his mission to protect the island’s light, which upholds the world.  To get off the island, the Man in Black needs to destroy it.  The island is keeping the Man in Black from leaving—as long as the Man in Black is the Smoke Monster.  To leave the island, the Man in Black needs to become a mere mortal, which occurs only when he destroys the island.  And how do you destroy the island?  You turn off its light, which upholds the world.  And so the Man in Black leaving the island would coincide with the island’s light going out, and that would bring hell and destruction to the world. (2.) The second article explained the significance of Jack’s flash sideways: Jack healed from his daddy issues by becoming a good father himself.  And I guess it also explained Ben’s flash sideways: Ben had evolved to the point of doing the right thing, which was good for Ben.  I wish the article similarly explained the significance of the other characters’ flash sideways.

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.
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