Fr. James' Lectionary

The Lectionary is both a reading program for completing all of Holy Scripture on a one year schedule, and a daily comment on a portion of the day's reading wedded to a poem to give an added perspective on the theme.

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Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Boundaries

Daily Readings
Proverbs 15 + Numbers 34 + Deuteronomy 27 + Romans 9

Quote of the Day
A soft answer turns away wrath,
But a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1

Daily Text: Numbers 34:1-12
The LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 2Command the Israelites, and say to them: When you enter the land of Canaan (this is the land that shall fall to you for an inheritance, the land of Canaan, defined by its boundaries), 3your south sector shall extend from the wilderness of Zin along the side of Edom. Your southern boundary shall begin from the end of the Dead Sea* on the east; 4your boundary shall turn south of the ascent of Akrabbim, and cross to Zin, and its outer limit shall be south of Kadesh-barnea; then it shall go on to Hazar-addar, and cross to Azmon; 5the boundary shall turn from Azmon to the Wadi of Egypt, and its termination shall be at the Sea.
6 For the western boundary, you shall have the Great Sea and its* coast; this shall be your western boundary.
7 This shall be your northern boundary: from the Great Sea you shall mark out your line to Mount Hor; 8from Mount Hor you shall mark it out to Lebo-hamath, and the outer limit of the boundary shall be at Zedad; 9then the boundary shall extend to Ziphron, and its end shall be at Hazar-enan; this shall be your northern boundary.
10 You shall mark out your eastern boundary from Hazar-enan to Shepham; 11and the boundary shall continue down from Shepham to Riblah on the east side of Ain; and the boundary shall go down, and reach the eastern slope of the sea of Chinnereth; 12and the boundary shall go down to the Jordan, and its end shall be at the Dead Sea.* This shall be your land with its boundaries all round.

Boundaries
The detailed description of the Promised Land raises the question of whether this was an idealized notion, since only twice, during David and Solomon’s reign in the 10th century B.C. and again about 100 B. C. did Israel ever occupy all of this territory. Contemporary scholarship usually suggests the idealized notion. However, there is evidence that the boundaries named, were those described by Egypt in 13th century B.C., when Canaan was held by Egypt. The land of Canaan would have been known by this reference and it was simply used by the author of Numbers 34 [Cf. 195:1239]. That the historical boundaries of Israel almost never coincided with this description is immaterial.

Modern day America, for example, was once on the Eastern Seaboard, and yet today includes a third of Mexico, Alaska, Hawaii, territories like Puerto Rico and once the Philippines. That America is the name for the continent is probably also immaterial. It does not include present-day Mexico, the Central American nations or any of South America and no one is concerned that ‘America’ is an idealized notion or that we will use that appellation as justification to extend our boundaries. Canaan did not include Transjordan, that area east of the Jordan conquered by Moses and settled by Reuben, Gad and the half tribe of Manassah, but Transjordan was a part of Israel at this time. Modern day Israel’s borders are not nearly so extensive and while some are worried that Israel might try to expand to these boundaries, it is probably not a serious concern. Canaan was, therefore, shorthand for the Egyptian hegemony about the time Joshua led the people across the Jordan River.

An Hassidic reference says that “the main purpose of occupying Canaan was to lead a holy life there and to preserve the sanctity of the land by keeping the Torah and its commandments. Without the Torah the land of Israel is no more important than any other” [195:1240].

O Promised Land
Jessie E. Sampter

O little Land of lapping seas,
Of vineyards, vales and hills;
Of tender rains and rainbow plains,
Of deserts and of rills;
O little Land of mounting crags,
Of lonely height and deep;
A world away thy children stray
And long and wait and weep.

Refrain

From Egypt’s flesh-pots, Lord of wrath,
With mighty outstretched hand,
Through seas and mountains cleave our path;
Oh! Lord, redeem our land!

I know the golden oranges
Englobed beneath the moon,
The sky that spills ‘twixt seas and hills
Its shining draught of noon;
The vines that bind our holy hills
With grapes like jewels set;
The silver green of olive sheen
Oh, can my soul forget?

O little Land of holy men
Of fearless dream and deed;
From clime to clime the storms of time
Have strewn thy hardy seed,
And fearless still and holy still,
We sang through hate and shame;
With faith we fought, with deed and thought
And God’s enduring name.

My heart is singing like a bird
Of home that still may be,
And joys I dared to leave, and spared,
Hold out their arms to me.
We cannot sleep in cushioned ease
Nor yield to martial will,
But we must hear God’s trumpet clear
Sound peace upon His Hill.
403:474

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