January 30, 2015

The Circumlocution of Seeing Your Father's Nakedness

What does it mean when Scripture says that Ham saw his father Noah's nakedness?
And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. (Genesis 9:22)
In a word, incest.
The man who lies with his father's wife has uncovered his father's nakedness; both of them shall be put to death, their blood is upon them. (Leviticus 20:11)
Biblical authors often used evasive synonyms. The author evaded having to write God's name by writing "The Name" instead. The author would not write the actual words for male and female genitalia but would substitute another body part such as thigh, leg or belly. The technical term for using an evasive synonym is circumlocution.
So the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master, and swore to him concerning this matter. (Genesis 24:9)
The servant actually put his hand on Abraham's testicles. It was a way to swear an oath - another way of saying that if you broke the oath your testicles would be cut off. Thigh is an evasive synonym for testicles. "Seeing your father's nakedness" was an evasive synonym for having sex with his wife. The Bible is full of such curcumlocutions.

Noah was going to have sex with his wife but got drunk. Noah's drunkeness gave his son Ham opportunity to defile Noah's wife (Ham's stepmother). Noah could not curse his son Ham because Noah and his three sons had already been blessed by God - you cannot curse what God has already blessed. Noah instead cursed Ham's son Canaan. 

God had sent the flood because the entire world was corrupt. One thing we take away from the story is that Noah and his family were saved through the flood but the whole ordeal really accomplished nothing for mankind. Ham went right back to the sins of his ancestors.

The events immediately after the flood are in many ways a new creation story, a third creation story after the first two creation stories in Genesis 1 and Genesis 2-3. Like the first and second creation stories, man fell. Man couldn't do it alone. Israel couldn't do it alone. We couldn't do it on our own. We all need Jesus.


January 29, 2015

Sons of the Prophets and Miraculous Feeding

The prophet Elisha was brought food to feed the sons of the prophets. The food is miraculously multiplied and there was some left over.

A man came from Ba'al-shal'ishah, bringing the man of God bread of the first fruits, twenty loaves of barley, and fresh ears of grain in his sack. And Eli'sha said, "Give to the men, that they may eat." But his servant said, "How am I to set this before a hundred men?" So he repeated, "Give them to the men, that they may eat, for thus says the LORD, `They shall eat and have some left.'" So he set it before them. And they ate, and had some left, according to the word of the LORD.(2 Kings 4:42-44)

The phrase "Sons of the prophets" is significant. This was a guild or grouping of prophets over which Elisha presided. He erected a common dwelling for the prophets, presided over meals and dispatched the prophets to perform errands. Here Elisha feeds them with miraculous food.

Several centuries later, Jesus asks for food to feed the Israelites. Again the food is miraculously multiplied and there is much left over.

When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, "This is a lonely place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves." Jesus said, "They need not go away; you give them something to eat." They said to him, "We have only five loaves here and two fish." And he said, "Bring them here to me." Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass; and taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over.  (Matthew 14:15-20)

One chapter later Jesus does the same thing for the Gentiles, feeding them food and having much left over. What does this all mean to us?

Matthew is portraying Jesus as the greatest prophet and fulfillment of all prophecy. His miraculous feeding of the Jews makes them "Sons of the prophets." Even more surprising to the ancient Jewish reader was the miraculous feeding of the Gentiles who were now able to lay claim to the same title. We share the title "Sons of the prophets" today. 

Jesus is the new prophet who has erected the Church as a dwelling for himself and for us, presides over our Eucharistic meals and sends us on our missions to bring his message to all the Earth.


January 28, 2015

The Seven Beatitudes of the Book of Revelation

We are familiar with the nine beatitudes of Mathew's Gospel.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 

(Matthew 5:3-11)

 How many of us are familiar with the seven beatitudes of John's Book of Revelation?

Blessed is he who reads aloud the words of the prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written therein; for the time is near. (Revelation 1:3)

And I heard a voice from heaven saying, "Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord henceforth." "Blessed indeed," says the Spirit, "that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!" (Revelation 14:13)

"Lo, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is he who is awake, keeping his garments that he may not go naked and be seen exposed!" (Revelation 16:15)

And the angel said to me, "Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb." And he said to me, "These are true words of God."(Revelation 19:9)

Blessed and holy is he who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and they shall reign with him a thousand years.(Revelation 20:6)

And behold, I am coming soon." Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book. (Revelation 22:7)

Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. (Revelation 22:14)