The children’s bread (Mk 7:27-7:27)

“Jesus said to her.

‘Let the children

Be fed first!

It is not fair

To take the children’s bread

And throw it

To the dogs.’”

 

καὶ ἔλεγεν αὐτῇ Ἄφες πρῶτον χορτασθῆναι τὰ τέκνα· οὐ γάρ ἐστιν καλόν λαβεῖν τὸν ἄρτον τῶν τέκνων καὶ τοῖς κυναρίοις βαλεῖν.

 

This time Jesus answered her like in Matthew, chapter 15:26.  Mark said that Jesus responded to her (καὶ ἔλεγεν αὐτῇ) that the children had to be feed or satisfied first (Ἄφες πρῶτον χορτασθῆναι τὰ τέκνα).  It was not right or fair (οὐ γάρ ἔστιν καλὸν) to take the children’s food or bread (λαβεῖν τὸν ἄρτον τῶν τέκνων) and feed it, throw it, or cast it to the unclean dogs (καὶ τοῖς κυναρίοις βαλεῖν).  His food was for the children of Israel, not for the gentile dogs.

 

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Christians reading the Old Testament

The Old Testament Hebrew Bible raises questions of interpretation for a Christian.  To what extent am I, as a Christian, projecting Christian views and values on the children of Israel, the people of Israel, the Israelites?  There are various terms that translators have used to describe the slowing forming group of Yahweh believers over three thousand years ago.  Yahweh was their God and intervened in their lives.  They had a special relationship or covenant with him.  The Hebrew sacred writings were incorporated into Christianity because all the early Christians were Jewish.  However, the writings were not originally meant for Christians, but for the Hebrew people.  Can I really fully understand the Semitic thought process of three thousand years ago?  Will I be able to appreciate how important the promised land of Israel was to Jewish people?  What role did the exodus from Egypt, the Temple, the exile, and the various codes play in their lives?  I can try, but I doubt if I will be fully successful.

The deserted land (Isa 17:9-17:9)

“On that day,

Their strong cities will be

Like the deserted places of the Hivites,

Like the deserted places of the Amorites.

They deserted them

Because of the children of Israel.

Now there will be desolation.”

On this day of destruction, the strong cities of the north would be deserted like the former places of the Hivites and the Amorites. The Hivites were one of the northern tribes that lived in Canaan, supposedly the Semitic descendants of Ham, the son of Noah. The Amorites were southern Canaanites, before Judah took over. However, the Amorites were more spread out into Mesopotamia and into Syria. Within the biblical literature Amorites and Canaanites are sometimes interchangeable. Anyway, after the takeover of Canaan at the time of Joshua, their cities were deserted because the children of Israel left them in ruins. The same thing was now going to happen to the northern Israelites.

The Qumran prayer of thanksgiving (Sir 51:13-51:20)

“Give thanks to the good Lord!

His mercy endures forever.

Give thanks to the God of praises!

His mercy endures forever.

Give thanks to the guardian of Israel!

His mercy endures forever.

Give thanks to him who formed all things!

His mercy endures forever.

Give thanks to the redeemer of Israel!

His mercy endures forever.

Give thanks to him who gathers the dispersed of Israel!

His mercy endures forever.

Give thanks to him who rebuilt his city and sanctuary!

His mercy endures forever.

Give thanks to him who makes a horn to sprout

For the house of David!

His mercy endures forever.

Give thanks to him who had chosen the sons of Zadok

To be priests!

His mercy endures forever.

Give thanks to the shield of Abraham!

His mercy endures forever.

Give thanks to the rock of Isaac!

His mercy endures forever.

Give thanks to the mighty one of Jacob!

His mercy endures forever.

Give thanks to him who has chosen Zion!

His mercy endures forever.

Give thanks to the King of the kings of kings!

His mercy endures forever.

He has raised up a horn for his people.

Praise for all his loyal ones.

The children of Israel praise the Lord!

The people close to him praise the Lord!”

This is called the Qumran hymn of thanksgiving because this Hebrew hymn was found in a Qumran cave there, but not in the Greek text. It is very reminiscent of Psalm 136, with the repeated chant of “his mercy endures forever.” However, they are thankful for other things than in Psalm 136. Obviously the Lord is good and merciful. The Lord is the guardian and redeemer of Israel who formed all things. However, he now has gathered the dispersed Israelites. He has rebuilt the Temple and the sanctuary. He has protected the royal sprout of David, but also the priestly sons of Zadok. The Lord also gave the shield of Abraham, the rock of Isaac, and the mighty Jacob. He chose Zion for the king of kings. He raised up a horn of plenty for his people and those loyal to him. Thus the children of Israel and those close to him should praise the Lord.

The prayer of Tobit for the exiles (Tob 13:3-13:8)

Acknowledge him before the nations,

O children of Israel.

He has scattered you among them.

He has shown you his greatness even there.

Exalt him in the presence of every living being.

Because he is our Lord

Because he is our God.

Because he is our Father.

Because he is God forever.

He will afflict you for our iniquities.

He will again show mercy on all of you.

He will gather us from all the nations,

Among whom you have been scattered.

If you turn to him with all your heart and with all your soul,

To do what is true before him,

Then he will turn to you.

He will no longer hide his face from you.

Now see what he has done for you.

Acknowledge him at the top of your voice.

Bless the Lord of righteousness.

Exalt the King of the ages.

In the land of my exile,

I acknowledge him.

Show his power and majesty to a nation of sinners.

Turn back, you sinners,

Do what is right before him.

Perhaps he may look with favor upon you.

He may show you mercy.

As for me,

I exalt my God.

My soul rejoices in the King of heaven.

Let all people speak of his majesty.

Acknowledge him in Jerusalem.”

The prayer of Tobit continues as he recalls the plight of the exiles. The children of Israel have been scattered among the nations. However, they should show his greatness and presence in every living being. Here it is not only Jerusalem where he is present but among all living beings. God is lord and father forever. He will both afflict you and show you mercy. He will gather you from the nations where he has scattered you. If you turn to God with your heart and soul, he will turn his face to you. Acknowledge him at the top of your lungs. Bless and acknowledge the king of ages even in exile. Tobit acknowledged him even in exile. We were sinners, but now we must turn to righteousness. He will look with favor on us as he shows us his mercy. Tobit will continue to exalt God and rejoice in the King of heaven. Some day we will be able to do this in Jerusalem.

 

The blessings of Moses (Deut 33:1-33:39)

“This is the blessing with which Moses the man of God blessed the children of Israel before his death. He said.

‘Yahweh came from Sinai,

He dawned from Seir upon us.

He shone forth from Mount Paran.

With him were myriads of holy ones,

At his right, a host of his own.

Indeed, O favorite among peoples,

All his holy ones were in your charge.

They marched at your heels,

They accepted direction from you.

Moses charged us with the law,

As a possession for the assembly of Jacob.

There arose a king in Jeshurun,

When the leaders of the people assembled

The united tribes of Israel!”

Once again this is a famous death bed blessing. Yahweh has been good to them, leading them forward. Each of the tribes will get a blessing in this ancient text that may come from the time of the kingdom, since there is a mention of the king in Jeshurun or Israel. It also speaks of Moses in the 3rd person when it is supposed to be Moses speaking.

“Let Reuben live, and not die out,

Even though his numbers are few.”

Reuben was the first born. The Reubenites had already taken their land on the east side of the Jordan River. There is only this simple statement that his tribe might continue or live on, which means that it may have been dying out at the time of the kings. There is no mention of his brother Simeon, since this tribe may have already vanished by the time of the kings.

“This he said of Judah.

O Yahweh, give heed to Judah,

Bring him in to his people,

Strengthen his hands for him,

Be a help against his adversaries.”

Apparently Judah was going off on its own and needed the help of his brothers.

“Of Levi, he said.

Give to Levi your Thummim,

Your Urim to your loyal one,

Whom you tested at Massah,

With whom you contended at the waters of Meribah.

Who said of his father and mother

I regard them not.

He ignored his kin,

Did not acknowledge his children.

They observed your word,

Kept your covenant.

They teach Jacob your ordinances,

And Israel your law.

They place incense before you,

And whole burnt offering upon your altar.

Bless, O Yahweh, his substance,

Accept the work of his hands.

Crush the loins of his adversaries,

Of those that hate him,

So that they do not rise again.”

Levi gets a long blessing, since they are now the loyal priestly class. The Thummim and Urim were priestly items. The Levites were willing to ignore their families. However, Moses asks Yahweh to bless them. Remember that Deuteronomy may have been written by the priestly class of Levites. The tribe of Levi had risen to a higher status compared to the problems that Levi himself had in Genesis.

“Of Benjamin he said.

The beloved of Yahweh rests in safety.

The High God surrounds him all day long.

The beloved rests between his shoulders.”

Benjamin was the youngest, so that there is this simple statement about being loved and safe.

“Of Joseph he said.

Blessed by Yahweh be his land,

With the choicest gifts of heaven above,

And of the deep that lies beneath,

With the choice fruits of the sun,

And the rich yield of the months,

With the finest produce of the ancient mountains,

And the abundance of the everlasting hills,

With the choice gifts of the earth and its fullness,

And the favor of the one who dwells on Sinai.

Let these come on the head of Joseph,

And on the brow of the prince among his brothers.

A firstborn bull – majesty is his!

His horns are the horns of a wild ox.

With them he gores the peoples,

Driving them to the ends of the earth.

Such are the myriads of Ephraim.

Such are the thousands of Manasseh.”

This is a long section on Joseph, who has had received a special blessing to get the best of everything from the land, in the sky, and what lies beneath. He will conquer all, especially with the mention of his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh who are the beneficiaries of this blessing.

“Of Zebulun he said.

Rejoice, Zebulun, in your going out.

Issachar, in your tents,

They shall call peoples to their mountain.

There they offer the right sacrifices.

They suck the affluence of the seas

And the hidden treasures of the sand.”

Zebulun and Issachar are the two commercial tribes, one by land and other by sea.

“Of Gad he said.

Blessed be he the enlargement of Gad!

Gad lives like a lion.

He tears at the arm and the scalp.

He chose the best for himself,

For there a commander’s allotment was reserved.

He came at the head of the people.

He executed the justice of Yahweh,

And his ordinances for Israel.”

Gad got the best land on the east Jordan and was a great fighter and follower of the law.

“Of Dan he said.

Dan is a lion’s whelp.

That leaps forth from Bashan.”

There is not much about Dan. He seems to get very little land.

“Of Naphtali he said.

O Naphtali, sated with favor,

Full of the blessing of Yahweh,

Possess the west and the south.”

Naphtali was in the Sea of Galilee area.

“Of Asher he said.

Most blessed of sons be Asher.

May he be the favorite of his brothers,

May he dip his foot in oil.

Your bars are iron and bronze.

As your days, so is your strength.”

Asher is strong and prosperous.

“There is none like God,

O Jeshurun,

Who rides through the heavens to your help,

Majestic through the skies.

He subdues the ancient gods,

He shatters the forces of old.

He drove out the enemy before you,

And said, Destroy.

Israel lives in safety.

Untroubled is Jacob’s abode

In a land of grain and wine,

Where the heavens drop down dew.

Happy are you, O Israel!

Who is like you,

A people saved by Yahweh,

The shield of your help,

The sword of your triumph!

Your enemies shall come fawning to you.

You shall tread upon their backs.”

Yahweh is truly magnificent in his love for Israel and what he has done for them and what he will do for them.