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.

Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Monday, June 13, 2005

Abandoning the God of Israel

Daily Readings
Psalm 89:19-52 + Judges 8:33-9:57 + Hosea 11:11-12:14 + Titus 2

Quote of the Day
But as for you, return to your God, hold fast to love and justice, and wait continually for your God. Hosea 12:6

Daily Text: Judges 9:1-6, 52-56
Now Abimelech son of Jerubbaal went to Shechem to his mother’s kinsfolk and said to them and to the whole clan of his mother’s family, 2‘Say in the hearing of all the lords of Shechem, “Which is better for you, that all seventy of the sons of Jerubbaal rule over you, or that one rule over you?” Remember also that I am your bone and your flesh.’ 3So his mother’s kinsfolk spoke all these words on his behalf in the hearing of all the lords of Shechem; and their hearts inclined to follow Abimelech, for they said, ‘He is our brother.’ 4They gave him seventy pieces of silver out of the temple of Baal-berith with which Abimelech hired worthless and reckless fellows, who followed him. 5He went to his father’s house at Ophrah, and killed his brothers the sons of Jerubbaal, seventy men, on one stone; but Jotham, the youngest son of Jerubbaal, survived, for he hid himself. 6Then all the lords of Shechem and all Beth-millo came together, and they went and made Abimelech king, by the oak of the pillar* at Shechem. 52Abimelech came to the tower, and fought against it, and came near to the entrance of the tower to burn it with fire. 53But a certain woman threw an upper millstone on Abimelech’s head, and crushed his skull. 54Immediately he called to the young man who carried his armour and said to him, ‘Draw your sword and kill me, so people will not say about me, “A woman killed him.” ’ So the young man thrust him through, and he died. 55When the Israelites saw that Abimelech was dead, they all went home. 56Thus God repaid Abimelech for the crime he committed against his father in killing his seventy brothers;

Lectio What one word or phrase from the Daily Text leaps out at you? ‘Comment’ below.

Abandoning the God of Israel
There is a dual story evolving here. In the same way that Abimelech abandons YHWH , the God of his father, for Baal-Berith, so do the Israelites, particularly those of Shechem.
There comes to a point in this chapter, highlighted by Jotham’s wonderful song of betrayal, the historic struggle within the federation of Israelite tribes to serve God as their king and saviour. This struggle is coming to a head at Shechem which from Joshua’s time has become the covenant city of Israel (see Joshua 24:25). After the tribes had crossed the Jordan, the ark was at Gilgal for a time, moving then to Shechem where the covenant was renewed and kept there by Gideon, and finally destroyed by Abimelech, who had contrived to make himself king of the city. That he sought kingship was part of his betrayal of this historic commitment to YHWH. That he was killed, by a woman, as was Sisera, another enemy of YHWH helped tell the story of YHWH’s effort to continually call Israel to himself. The archaeological record of Shechem shows that it grew at the end of the 13th century and suffered massive destruction at the beginning of the 12th and can only be correlated by Abimelech’s rampages. From there the covenant city became Bethel and presumably became so in Deborah’s time, which actually followed Gideon and Abimelech (cf. I Samuel 12:11 and Hebrews 11:32). The arrangement of Judges in the hands of the Deuteronomist appears to have been an argument for settling the movement of the covenant city from Gilgal, to Shechem, to Bethel, to Shiloh and finally to Jerusalem by the time of Josiah in the 7th century. Boling (424:184) makes a strong case for this reality and if this is kept in mind as one reads the various historical vignettes in the Hebrew bible, it will help to set the chronological patterns in the reader’s understanding.

Above and beyond all of the political and human machinations at work, however, is the steadfast love and direction of the God of Israel working his purposes out in a very fallible human population. The treachery of Abimelech, as dire as is seen in holy scripture, is perhaps emphasized by his betrayal of his own brothers by killing them on one stone, the stone set up by his father Gideon as an altar to YHWH at Orphrah? Then he has himself crowned in denial of YHWH’s purposes beneath the Oak of Shechem where Joshua had cut the covenant sealing the commitment made by the Israelites to YHWH (Joshua 24:26,27)! His treacherous triumph lasted three years, his infamy will endure forever.

Meditatio What would you add to this commentary on the Daily Text? ‘Comment’ below.

Soldiers All
Roger Williams

They say the dying sense
they are not leaving us;
we are leaving them.
As if life is the one chance
to drive your stake into a rock
but you know
the rock is too hard
and it’s not the rock’s fault.

I rue deathbed visitations,
Their cods’ eyes accusing me
Of treason and superiority.
I plot an exit strategy
while going on inanely
about weather or ball scores.
The dying are the living
Going off to war.
Image #43:45

(Alternative poem? Include under ‘comment’ below.)

Oratio Conspire to respond with an act of kindness for someone you encounter today. Make it loving, low key and low risk. Hold a door, clean a car, give a flower, notice the unnoticed, make Christ’s love real. Write your experience below under ‘Comment.’

Contemplatio Enjoy what God is doing through you


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