Wednesday, July 3, 2024

Sermon Addendum for June 30 2024

 What got left out of the sermon this past Sunday?

Lots of things:

First, background on 1 Samuel: It's a long work, and as best can be told, our 1 and 2 Samuel were 1 work, divided at the "this scroll is too big" line. We do not know who wrote it, but it covers too long of an era to likely have a single author. At the very least, the author works from records passed forward to his time frame. (Yes, given the source culture it is reasonable to assume a male author.) Some traditions put everything from 1 Samuel through the end of 2 Kings as compiled in their final form by one author working from the official court records of Israel, then Israel and Judah. 

We do see him anticipate the installation of kings over Israel as well as the inauguration of the Temple. The references to both of these institutions at the beginning suggest that the author is familiar with them, and some scholars think the authorship fits post-Exile, meaning he's perhaps even pining for them.

Speaking of things being "post-Exile," it's a good time to remind you of the general outline of Old Testament History:

You start with: Adam, Noah, Abraham, and Moses. 

Then you take the people into the Promised Land with Joshua, have the time of the Judges and Ruth.

After which comes the United Kingdom, Israel, has three kings: Saul, David, and Solomon, and it falls apart into two kingdoms. The Northern Kingdom is called "Israel" and has all bad kings. The Southern Kingdom is called "Judah" and some good, but mostly bad, kings. Israel is destroyed by Assyria in 722 BC, Judah is destroyed by the Neo-Babylonian Empire in 586 BC. 

The destructions resulted in exile and resettlement, but under the Medo-Persian Empire, the Israelites return to the land under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah.

1 Samuel covers the development from the Judges to the United Monarchy.

Second, textual info in 1 Samuel: 1 and 2 Samuel pose some of the bigger challenges in Old Testament textual criticism--that is, the science of discerning the original document from the extant sources. I'm not an expert in the field, so we won't really delve into it. I would recommend a good technical commentary on 1 & 2 Samuel to help examine what is happening here. There are some significant differences that will come up between the Masoretic Text (the Hebrew text most English Bibles are based on), the Septuagint (the Greek text made around 200 BC), and the Dead Sea Scrolls (both their Hebrew and other language versions of this text). 

The main points of doctrine and even of history are the same, but some of the details develop a bit differently.

Finally, left out of Sunday's sermon was a strong critique of a society that valued women primarily for childbirth. Why? While it may seem appropriate to note that women should not be limited to only one future and not be counted worthwhile without meeting that one target, it's not present in this text. We do not see anyone say to Hannah: "No, you are valid and worthwhile without children and everyone needs to straighten up."

Instead, we see God answer her prayer. Over the course of all Scripture, I think we can see the critique of the "moms are better than anything else" point of view, but it's not here. We should be careful not to press a viewpoint into the text if it is not there.

On top of that: where does the situation go, if Hannah is not used by God to bring Samuel into this world? What happens then?


Also left out, because I would not likely have chased it anyway: the attempt to read this narrative downward from the definite work of God to it being just another "hero story" like many ancient cultures, beginning with the "heroic birth" of the special child. First, I think that downplays the uniqueness of the Bible. Second, arguably, the "hero" of 1-2 Samuel is David. Samuel, Saul, Hannah, Eli, are all part of the setup. I don't buy it, but my presupposition is that the text of the Bible says what the truthful God wants it to say. Interpretations that start from a perspective of "God's not particular about being honest" are outside what I will consider, normally.

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