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 evil in Gilgal (Hos 9:15-9:15)

“Every evil

Of theirs

Began at Gilgal.

There I began

To hate them.

Because of the wickedness

Of their deeds,

I will drive them

Out of my house.

I will love them

No more.

All their officials

Are rebels.”

Gilgal was the original west bank camping grounds, east of Jericho, in Joshua, chapters 4-5. There Saul was also anointed king in 1 Samuel, chapter 11, despite the fact that Samuel was opposed to him. Gilgal was, nevertheless, the home of the prophets Elijah and Elisha in 2 Kings, chapter 2. Yahweh, via Hosea, said that all the evil things began here at Gilgal, as they entered the promised land. Yahweh began to hate the Israelites there, because of their wicked deeds. Yahweh was going to drive them out of his house, because he was not going to love them anymore. All their officials were rebels against Yahweh.

The response of Yahweh (Ezek 33:25-33:26)

“Therefore,

Say to them!

Thus says Yahweh God!

‘You eat flesh

With the blood!

You lift up

Your eyes

To your idols!

You shed blood!

Shall you then

Possess the land?

You depend

On your swords.

You commit

Abominations.

Each of you

Defiles

His neighbor’s wife.

Shall you then

Possess the land?’”

Yahweh, their God, as usual, did not take kindly to anyone questioning him. He told Ezekiel to tell the Israelites that they had not behaved well. They had been eating flesh or meat with the blood still in it. They had lifted up their eyes to their own idols. They had shed blood by killing others. How would they then deserve to possess the promised land of Abraham? They had depended on their swords and committed many abominations. Many of them had defiled their neighbor’s wife. How then could they expect to possess the land of Abraham?

The return from exile (Jer 32:37-32:39)

“See!

I am going to gather them

From all the lands

To which I drove them

In my anger,

In my wrath,

With great indignation.

I will bring them back

To this place.

I will settle them

In safety.

They shall be my people.

I will be their God.

I will give them one heart

With one way.

Thus they may fear me

For all time,

For their own good,

As well as the good

Of their children after them.”

Yahweh was going to restore the Israelites back in their land. He was going to gather them from all the countries that they had been scattered to, when he was angry, wrathful, and indignant over their behavior. They would be settled in the Promised Land to live safely. They would be his people. He would be their God. This phrase shows the strong love of God for his people. They would have one heart and one way of doing things. They would fear him all the time, for their own good as well as the good of their children to come. Happy days were ahead.

Which is worse death or captivity? (Jer 22:10-22:10)

“Do not weep for him

Who is dead!

Do not bemoan him!

Rather weep for him

Who goes away!

He shall return no more

To see his native land.”

Jeremiah poses the problem. Which is worse? Was it better to die or to be sent into captivity? In fact, Jeremiah says that they should not weep or bemoan the dead. Instead they should weep for those who are going away, never to see their native land. Jeremiah maintains that captivity was worse than death. Was that a common thought? That is a strange way to look at it, but it does denote the great importance of the Promised Land to the Israelites.

Yahweh killed many kings (Ps 135:10-135:12)

“Yahweh struck down many nations.

He killed mighty kings.

He killed Sihon,

King of the Amorites.

He killed Og,

King of Bashan.

He killed all in the kingdoms of Canaan.

He gave their land as a heritage.

This was a heritage to his people Israel.”

Yahweh was their protector as they entered the Promised Land. In order to take the Promised Land, they had to defeat a number of nations and countries. Yahweh helped them to kill their fellow humans. They and Yahweh killed many kings. The two most prominent as found in Numbers, chapter 21, was King Sihon of the Amorites and King Og of Bashan, on the borders of Canaan. They also killed the kings and people in Canaan as found in Joshua, chapters 5-12. Thus Yahweh gave Israel the land of Canaan as a heritage.

Waters of Meribah (Ps 106:32-106:33)

“The Israelites angered Yahweh at the waters of Meribah.

It went ill with Moses on their account.

They made his spirit bitter.

He spoke words that were rash.”

Then there was another incident from Numbers, chapter 20. Once again, the Israelites were angry with Moses and Aaron since they had no water. This was when Moses struck the rock at Meribah, where water came pouring out. This is similar to Exodus, chapter 12 that was mentioned in the previous psalm. However, there was a twist here in the story of Numbers. Moses and Aaron were punished for not believing that water could come from a rock. Their punishment was that they too would die before they reached the Promised Land. Moses was rash in his hesitation to strike the rock.