The Portrayal of God in the Old Testament

And while we’re talking Prezis, here is an earlier effort of mine to integrate the ways God is presented in the two Testaments: here.

And an image as a teaser…

God of Elijah

History of Interpretation of the Creation Week in Genesis in a Picture

Okay, going to offer you a link to a recent Prezi I put together about this topic – pretty detailed.

This is the link.

Now, a screenshot…

Creation Week Prezi Screenshot

Closer up on the tree, which is a kind of timeline where the top is the twentieth century, and the bottom the first:

Creation Week Prezi Tree

…and closer up on the stump, which explains the methods of interpretation at play on this topic over the 2000 years:

Creation Week Prezi Hermeneutics Stump

These are just images, but it’s all live at the above link, so be my guest.  Very zoomy!

Articles of the Temple part II

Right, back and fed.  Well, the temple articles are mentioned in the texts that talk about the fall of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar, along with its earlier sacking by the same (2 Kings 24:13; 25:14, 15; 2 Chron. 36:7, 10, 18-19).  Then in the accounts of the return from exile they feature very prominently as well (Ezra 1:7-11; 5:13-15).  To the Babylonians this stuff was war booty, but to the Jews of the return they were sacred things, essential for worship.  It was scandalous and shameful in their minds that they had fallen into pagan hands.  It was a key part of the restoration of worship to return them to service.  It was a setback when, near the end of Nehemiah, the temple rooms intended for the storage of such sacred articles ended up storing Tobiah the Ammonite’s personal gear (the same Hebrew word in each case, ‘kĕlî‘, Neh. 13:5, 8-9).

But the role the temple articles play in Daniel is also interesting.  Their seizure by King Neb is mentioned in Dan. 1:2, and then they come back with a vengeance when in chapter 5, Belshazzar decides to use the temple cups and saucers (now the Aramaic term, ‘māʾn‘) to have a party in honour of the local gods – a double sacrilege.  It’s clear that this double offence is the key to the sentence written on the wall plaster by the disembodied hand (5:23-24).  Like precious articles, Belshazzar himself has been weighed on the scales (5:27), but hasn’t come up to scratch, and the Giver of Kingdoms decides that his has had its day.

So like the Ark, the articles of God are successfully confiscated by the conquering foreign king, but, like the forbidden fruit, to his own hurt, until the deliverer Cyrus (to call the book of Ezra back here) returns them to their rightful place.

Well, I thought it was interesting, anyway.  Hadn’t noticed this before now in all those years of Bible reading.

Articles of the Temple and the Ark of the Covenant

I realized in preparing to teach about 1-2 Samuel in recent years how important the Ark of the Covenant is in the movement of the story in Samuel.  Along with Samuel, Saul and David, the Ark is another key player.  It is front and centre in 1 Samuel 4, but is captured in battle by the Philistines.  The Israelites are devastated, but the Philistines are plagued, and soon want to get rid of this thing (as in Raiders of the Lost Ark).

The Ark is returned to Israel, causes more trouble, and then from 1 Samuel 7:1 lies quietly…until the key achievement of the new king David’s early reign is to bring it into his new capital, Jerusalem (with more trouble) and installed in a kind of tabernacle or holy shrine there (2 Sam. 6:17).  It leaves the old tribal Israel in the time of the judges, and returns to the new kingdom of Israel under David – a thread binding old to new, and 1 Samuel to 2 Samuel.

Here’s a thought: perhaps the temple articles play a similar role in Daniel, Ezra and Nehemiah.  I have to eat tea (Australian lingo for the evening meal) now, so must go.  Stay tuned for part II!

A Thought on Tragedy from Lamentations

Having just finished reading Lamentations, I was reminded of a Hebrew term that points out an element of the experience of personal or national tragedy that western minds can overlook.  The term is ḥerpâ, traditionally translated ‘reproach’, and more recently ‘disgrace’ (NIV, NRSV) or ‘degradation’ (New Jerusalem Bible). It occurs three times in Lamentations, e.g. Lamentations 5:1: “Remember, O LORD, what has befallen us; look, and see our disgrace!” (Lam 5:1 NRS; also 3:30, 61).

This important word brings out the personal loss of face involved in devastating experiences.  We don’t talk about that much in the west, I don’t think, but as we watch Syria tearing itself apart, or consider refugee and migration issues, it’s good to remember that along with the bereavement, loss of employment and income, destruction of communities, and physical harm, hunger and exposure, another element to the suffering is the accompanying sense of dislocation and the destruction of dignity.  Reading Lamentations, this is poignant, as one-time princes see their skin blacken and peel through starvation (4:7-8), and cannibalism creeps in (4:10).  Individuals suffer disgrace, and the city that was one of the great cities of her time, at least within her region (1:1; 2:15) gives passers-by the chills with its horrific destruction.

God have mercy on Damascus, on Aleppo, on Hama.  What if it were Melbourne?  London?  LA?

Rhyme in Old Testament Hebrew

Does rhyme exist in OT Hebrew, and if so, is it important?  After all, there are four main possible endings on nouns and nounlike words –

  1. various masculine singular forms without endings
  2. the feminine singular -ah, or sometimes -ath
  3. the feminine plural -oth
  4. the masculine plural -im

So similar sounds on the ends of words will happen.  As Wilfred G. E. Watson says in Classical Hebrew Poetry, 232, “Some cases of rhyme may be fortuitous, due to the limited number of word-endings available,” although he goes on to say that there are ways to identify more deliberate usages.

I thought I’d show off an unmistakeable example of Hebrew rhyming from Psalm 146 (Hebrew, then transliterated):

7 עֹשֶׂ֤ה מִשְׁפָּ֙ט׀ לָעֲשׁוּקִ֗ים נֹתֵ֣ן לֶ֭חֶם לָרְעֵבִ֑ים יְ֜הוָ֗ה מַתִּ֥יר אֲסוּרִֽים׃
8 יְהוָ֤ה׀ פֹּ֘קֵ֤חַ עִוְרִ֗ים יְ֭הוָה זֹקֵ֣ף כְּפוּפִ֑ים יְ֜הוָ֗ה אֹהֵ֥ב צַדִּיקִֽים׃
9 יְהוָ֤ה׀ שֹׁ֘מֵ֤ר אֶת־גֵּרִ֗ים (Psa 146:7-9 WTT text from BibleWorks software)

(That may not be perfect, and looks very small, but has come over mostly right, except for some extra circumflexes.)


ʿōseh mišpā lāʿăšûqîm

nōtēn leḥem lārĕʿēbîm

yhwh mattîr ʾăsûrîm

yhwh pōqēaḥ ʿiwrîm

yhwh zōqēp kĕpûpîm

yhwh ʾōhēb ṣaddîqîm

yhwh šōmēr ʾet gērîm

…which the 2011 NIV translates:

7 He upholds the cause of the oppressed…

and gives food to the hungry.

The LORD sets prisoners free,

8 the LORD gives sight to the blind,

the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down,

the LORD loves the righteous.

9 The LORD watches over the foreigner…  (Psa 146:7-9 NIV)

So there you have it – a clearly deliberate, seven-fold end-rhyme using the masculine plural ending –îm, three words each time, and the first word either the name, Yahweh (LORD), or a word (participle) referring to what the LORD does.  The effect is quite intense and very God-focused, with the goal of motivating the praise that concludes the psalm shortly afterward – “praise the LORD” (= hallelu-jah).