We had a discussion about Genesis 1. It was placed in a context of other Creation myths like those provided in the link from John, http://www.magictails.com/creationlinks.html For example the Babylonian myth of creation is a myth of the cycle of seasons. It was written in Akkadian, and old Babylonian dialect and features Marduk, the patron deity of the city of Babylon. There is an even earlier version in ancient Sumerian with Anu, Enil, and Ninurta as heroes. There is little doubt that the Sumerian versions of the story predate the biblical account by several hundred years and it appears that the Genesis narratives freely used metaphors and symbolism drawn from a common cultural pool to assert their own theology about God. Some of these myths are pretty graphic and all deal with heroes in one way or another.
The chapter is a very orderly account of creation with everything occurring on schedule and one very logically.
Nahum does a graphic job of portraying what will happen to Assyria when they get connquered. It appears to be a pep talk for the people of Judah to keep thier faith in their God and not succomb to the evil ways of the Assyrians. We launched into several discussions at this point.
Al asked why such a minor prophet got into the Bible. It turns out that the Hebrews kept track of various writings over the years and then in the first century AD, some Greek Jews created the Septuagint which was a translation of the Hebrew writings. It incorporates the oldest of several ancient translations of the old Testament. It includes all the books of the Jewish Bible and also the apocryphal bookks. It began by the 3rd century BCE and was completed by 132 BCE and was done initially in Alexandria. However Judaism regjected the Septuagint as translations of the Torah into Koine Greek by jewish Rabbanim ssurvived as rare fragments. The Pentateuch always was pre-eminent. But further books were translated over the next 2-3 centuries. These translations varied considerably form literal to paraphrasing to interpretive. You can read more about this in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Septuagint
Then we got into a discussion about downtrodden people and likened the people of Judah to possibly the state of the blacks in this country prior to the civil rights movement. Possibly even to the plight of many of them today if you believe what is said in the book the New Jim Crow where the author talks about imprisoning such a large portion of poor black men is subjugating them again.
The very explicit language that Nahum used certainly made it very clear that he wanted the people to see the result they could look forward to if they went the way of the Assyrians. It was both a warning and a pep talk.
Next week we start a study of the first 12 chapters of Genesis. Possibly after that, we will satisfy Bill’s request to read Lamentations which continues what has been started in Nahum. Although Lamentations also follows Isaiah and Jeremiah.
Nahum was commissioned by God to give his prophecy to the people. There wasn’t a burning bush of a ladder to heaven but somehow he was commissioned to give this prophecy. Chapter 2 is a kind of pep talk that tells the people that even though they have been through a lot of grief from the Assyrians, the Assyrians will face even more from their conquerors, the Babylonians. He describes how the Babylonians will come with their chariots and take the mistress of the house, strip her and carry her off and her female slaves will mourn for her and beat their breasts. He described the Assyrians as a lion and how the lionesses and young lions will be dealt with. It is interesting that the description in the early part of the chapter has God allowing the Assyrians to conquer the northern tribes because of their transgressions but it is almost like God will lead the army against them now to avenge their conquest and how they have treated the people of the Northern tribes. It is like saying to the people of Judah that Assyria will have to pay for what they have done and God will lead the charge.
Some of the comments that we discussed were things like whether our revelation of God evolves over time and we have different ideas about how God appears in our lives. In Old Testament times, God was often seen as a King who would protect and lead the people and lead them into battle against their enemies or to punish them by letting others conquer them. Then Jesus was sent to change all of history and give us a very different way to relate to God through the revealed presence of Jesus.
We also got into a discussion of what it means to be a Lutheran or a Christian. Do your beliefs make you saved and someone without those same beliefs not saved? Mark talked about the Unitarians and how it appears that there is some belief that there is some sort of supreme being, but I also heard it characterized by a member of that church as a bunch of atheists or agnostics with children. Mark describes the beliefs of the Unitarians as reflecting the members idea about things rather than some set of basic beliefs like we Lutherans share with each other. All of us have some freedom of interpretation about how we explain our beliefs.
Today we started reading Nahum. Before we started to read, Mark provided some background which I will try to repeat. It was probably written c 663-612 BC, since Nineveh was destroyed in 612 BC and Nahum forecast its destruction and it was written after 663 BC since Nahum compared the destruction of Nineveh to that of Thebes in Egypt which happened in 663 BC. Nineveh was founded by Nimrod (Gen 10:8-12) and is located on the east bank of the Tigris river. It was a large city and Jonah referred to a 3 day walk across Nineveh. The city was destroyed by the Babylonians, Medes, and Scythians in 612 BC. The armies laid siege to the city for 2 years and in the third year the Khosr river which ran through the city flooded, broke down the floodgates and part of the wall and therefore allowed the enemy to enter the city. Nineveh was the capitol of Assyria. The destruction of Nineveh and Assyria would be a message of consolation for the nations Assyria had oppressed. Israel and Judah were two of those nations. Israel had been destroyed in 722 BC by the Assyrians, but Judah was still around. The Assyrians were cruel people who burned cities, cut off heads and stuck people on poles.
We discussed how Nahum prophesied the fall of Nineveh and warned the people that they of Judah that they should not do the same things that the people of Nineveh did. They should follow their God who was a jealous god, meaning that God didn’t like to compete for his people. God didn’t want his people worshiping other gods and that is what is meant by a jealous god. The Lord had promised Nahum that the yoke burdening Judah, the conquering Assyrians, would soon be removed. Nahum talked about God bringing vengeance on his enemies. He said the Lord is good to those who take refuge in him.
We raised questions about the idea in this text that the Lord would smite the Assyrians because they had conquered Judah, but the question remains why did he allow them to do it in the first place. It is like he allows it to happen to discipline the people of Judah. It raises a lot of questions about Gods will today. Does he allow bad things to happen so that we will repent and walk the road of righteousness? We also discussed how so many people in religions around the world have a concept of god. Frank suggested that we are hard wired with a concept of god and that is part of what makes us different from animals. Nahum was giving hope to the people and it wasn’t a lot different from what Isaiah was saying. Isaiah is a somewhat contemporary of Nahum. Isaiah’s descriptions seem to be somewhat more complete.