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

Saturday, June 25, 2005

No King in Israel

Daily Readings
Ecclesiastes 12 + Judges 21 + Tobit 10 + Mark 10

Quote of the Day
I learned, too, that to condemn others is a grave mistake, since hatred, and even the wrong kind of criticism, is an evil which recoils upon its author and poisons every human relationship.

That does not mean we should be blind to the weaknesses or wickednesses of others, any more than to our own, but that we should learn to look on them as the limitations of birth and circumstance, limitations which it is our duty to help them to rise above. In this I have found that example and service are more helpful than advice or preaching. Margaret Bondfield (1873-1953) [429:40]

Daily Text: Judges 21:1-3, 5, 9, 19-23, 25
Now the Israelites had sworn at Mizpah, "No one of us shall give his daughter in marriage to Benjamin." 2And the people came to Bethel, and sat there until evening before God, and they lifted up their voices and wept bitterly. 3They said, "O LORD, the God of Israel, why has it come to pass that today there should be one tribe lacking in Israel?" 5Then the Israelites said, "Which of all the tribes of Israel did not come up in the assembly to the LORD?" For a solemn oath had been taken concerning whoever did not come up to the LORD to Mizpah, saying, "That one shall be put to death." 9For when the roll was called among the people, not one of the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead was there. 19So they said, "Look, the yearly festival of the LORD is taking place at Shiloh, which is north of Bethel, on the east of the highway that goes up from Bethel to Shechem, and south of Lebonah." 20And they instructed the Benjaminites, saying, "Go and lie in wait in the vineyards, 21and watch; when the young women of Shiloh come out to dance in the dances, then come out of the vineyards and each of you carry off a wife for himself from the young women of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin. 22Then if their fathers or their brothers come to complain to us, we will say to them, 'Be generous and allow us to have them; because we did not capture in battle a wife for each man. But neither did you incur guilt by giving your daughters to them.'" 23The Benjaminites did so; they took wives for each of them from the dancers whom they abducted. Then they went and returned to their territory, and rebuilt the towns, and lived in them. 25In those days there was no king in Israel; all the people did what was right in their own eyes.

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

No King in Israel
Two vows were taken by the Israelites around the sin of Gibeah. 1)No tribe will give its daughters to Benjamin, and 2)Anyone that does not fight against Benjamin will themselves be put to the sword. The first vow was an ineffective, spiteful one, that was seen as such almost immediately. If they wanted to punish Benjamin the first vow wouldn’t do it. So they chose to go to war and the second vow was thus punitive to coerce complete acquiescence. It evidently worked except in Jabesh-gilead, the inhabitants of which had Rachel as an ancestor, Rachel the mother of Benjamin. They also may have seen that results of punishing a whole tribe for the sins of a few hotheads might themselves be rather disastrous. They were of course.

But self-righteousness knows no bounds. Having killed all of Benjamin with the exception of 600 warriors, Israel was faced with the complete loss of the tribe. After all they couldn’t give their daughters! So to honor a silly vow, they invoke the punitive one and carry out the civil war against another clan, killing them all with the exception of 400 virgins. So the unmarried daughters of Jabesh-gilead, who supported the Benjaminites, now become their wives by force, with a lifetime of grief to accompany them. To provide the other 200 the leaders play games with their silly vow and with the daughters of many tribes, and with their covenant with God. They instruct the remaining 200 Benjaminites to abduct by force a virgin for a wife. How would they find these virgins? They would sneak up on festivities surrounding a covenantal assembly in Shiloh, where Israel gathered to worship and honor the LORD and when the young, unmarried women, virgins by definition, danced their praise to the LORD they would snatch them and run. Were there no depths to which the leaders in Israel would not stoop to work their will on the people? Certainly, they could not be trusted.

A king was needed, obviously, and ironically one was provided in this despicable set of actions, for Saul, the first king of Israel was a Benjaminite. Therefore, the last verse suggesting that a king is needed, is also the first verse of the books of Samuel, the last judge who himself discovered and anointed Saul king at the command of the LORD.
But after the assembly at Shiloh, at the conclusion of all their machinations, the leaders, leaving all the pain they had created for others, simply went home—each “to their own territories” (vs. 24).

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

From Ash Wednesday
T. S. Eliot

Under a juniper-tree the bones sang, scattered and shining
We are glad to be scattered we did little good to each other,
Under a tree in the cool of the day, with the blessing of sand,
Forgetting themselves and each other, united
In the quiet of the desert. This is the land which ye
Shall divide by lot. And neither division nor unity
Matters. This is the land. We have our inheritance.
[428:384]

(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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