March 24, 2015, Judges 4-5 (22)

Rabbi Jeff Portman visited us today. We always enjoy having Rabbi Portman with us to give us the Jewish perspective on what is being described in the Old Testament.

Judges were active around 1200 to 1000, although some say they were around for 400 years rather than just the 200 years indicated bove. Judges is part of the writings describing what was happening with the prophets somewhat less important than the Torah but more than the songs and poetry of Psalms, Song of Solomon, etc.

Deborah must have been a very strong charismatic woman to be a leader at the time. Chapters 4 and 5 really show women having prominent roles in the life of the Israelites at that time.

How did God speak to the people at the time differently then than now. We don’t really know because so many of the good and powerful things that happened then are attributed to God, but we really don’t know if it really happened in that way.  There are different theologies represented in different books which means there is a different interpretations. In some we see the idea that God rewards you for doing good and punishes you for evil, but in others, good people have bad things happen to them, while evil people prosper. Did John Smith have fresh wisdom from God when he wrote the Book of Mormon that indicates God was speaking to John. Jeff says right behavior is more important than right belief. Rabbi Portman says he welcomes the struggle with scripture. It enhances his understanding and faith.

John read from a source that suggests that the writers of Judges may have embellished a squabble between two tribes in a small area into a major war. Deborah calling upon 10,000 men to go to battle sounds like a major war but may be exaggerated and obviously the number may be an “in the ballpark” estimate . We get different stories from different people who supposedly saw the same thing.

The Jewish exegesis of the scriptures is to take the scriptures and see how things today are fulfilling the words of a prophet or to shed some light on what our behavior today should be. Someone else would write a different account of our discussion this morning than I have. Jews recognize the Masoretic text as the authoritative Hebrew text of the Tanakh for Rabbinic Judaism, but they certainly have other versions as well.

Different aspects of the battle between chapter 4 and 5 are described. There is an incredible richness of the description and comparison between the prose and poetic version of the times. The role of women as leaders is certainly important here. Rabbi Portman says he doesn’t say too much about God, but rather it is up to us how we lead our lives and we use the scriptures as well as the role of God there to help shape our behavior.

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