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

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Employee Priests and Bullying Israelites

Daily Readings
Ecclesiastes 9 + Judges 18 + Tobit 7 + Mark 8

Quote of the Day
He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. Mark 8:34, 35

Daily Text: Judges 18:1, 27-31
In those days there was no king in Israel. And in those days the tribe of the Danites was seeking for itself a territory to live in; for until then no territory among the tribes of Israel had been allotted to them.
27 The Danites, having taken what Micah had made, and the priest who belonged to him, came to Laish, to a people quiet and unsuspecting, put them to the sword, and burned down the city. 28There was no deliverer, because it was far from Sidon and they had no dealings with Aram. It was in the valley that belongs to Beth-rehob. They rebuilt the city, and lived in it. 29They named the city Dan, after their ancestor Dan, who was born to Israel; but the name of the city was formerly Laish. 30Then the Danites set up the idol for themselves. Jonathan son of Gershom, son of Moses, and his sons were priests to the tribe of the Danites until the time the land went into captivity. 31So they maintained as their own Micah's idol that he had made, as long as the house of God was at Shiloh.

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

Employee Priests and Bullying Israelites
The statement in 18:1 that no territory had been allotted to the Danites is somewhat questionable since Zorah and Eshtaol had been cities among others given to them and recorded in Joshua19:40-46. But Judges 1 indicates that the Amorites had pressed the tribe of Dan back from the plains into the hills. Zorah and Eshtaol were the cities known to Samson and his family, also Danites. However, for whatever reason these families of Dan were on the move. The statement at the beginning of this passage that there was no king in Israel is one way of expressing the lack of security, order and religious fidelity in Israel at the time. As Judges winds down, the stories become more and more filled with heinous acts. This one is characteristic.

Two things occur. Micah’s gods and priest are confiscated, the sense being that they move from one unfaithful house to a larger unfaithful retinue. While on the one hand, Micah is served his justice, the Danites simply enlarge on his unfaithfulness. The second is the attack on a peaceful, unwarlike and undefended city outside of the God-given boundaries of Israel. These men of Dan claim God’s promises, but since they are living so far outside of the covenant, it seems clear that the author of Judges is damning them with undisguised and well-known references to the LORD’s expectations. They attack Laish, a city without walls, put the entire population to the sword, burn the city to the ground and then rebuild on the site. How this is different from what the early tribes did is not commented upon, since Israel took all of its land from others. But the unspoken notion here is that these men from Dan fell upon a completely unsuspecting people, and their need for the city was a need created by their own unwillingness to take and hold the land God had originally given them because the inhabitants were warlike and strong. That is, they did not trust God to give them their allotment, but waited until they found those who could not defend themselves. It seems clear that God is not with them as He has been with the early tribesmen and with the judges themselves. The proof of the pudding for Israel is not ‘success,’ but faithfulness to the God of Israel. That their priest was a grandson of Moses is even a bigger shame for obviously this Levite is for sale to the highest bidder. It is one of the problems with having an entire tribe without inheritance. Obviously, the original intention that the Levites would all serve religious needs and thus help maintain a high level of faithful service is not working. The Levites themselves may continue to serve a religious function, but they serve at the lowest common denominator of cultic religious practice. Even for them, YHWH is no longer God or king. For whatever reason, perhaps lost to us, they are not conduits of the Torah, but employees of those able to pay them.

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

From The Hollow Men
T. S. Eliot

III
This is the dead land
This is cactus land
Here the stone images
Are raised, here they receive
The supplication of a dead man’s hand
Under the twinkle of a fading star
Is it like this
In death’s other kingdom
Waking alone at the hour when we are
Trembling with tenderness
Lips that would kiss
Form prayers to broken stone
Selected Poems, p. 78

(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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