Looking in more depth at the prophets Amos, and Hosea to compare their messages to Isaiah:
More about Amos
Amos was written first who focused on oracles against the nations. It has an introduction written in the third person and discusses the kings of the Israelite nations similar to both Isaiah and Hosea in style. It differs by using a very precise date noted as happening prior to a major earthquake. (Amos 1:1-2) Another style of Amos is the characteristic of an angry God. Amos makes it clear God is not happy with nations who harm Israel but also turns God’s wrath on the people of Judah and Israel specifically the wealthy as referenced in Amos 4:1-3. And because they have sinned so disgracefully they can’t repent and must face their consequences. He rebuffs the people’s belief that God will come and protect them by instead stating that if God comes it will only be to punish as they were unfaithful which has earned them God’s wrath and nothing else. (Amos 5:18) The book of Amos also has a series of oracles five deal with what God will do based on the Israelites behaviors in the first two God relents, in three and four God punishes, in five the leaders get punished, and in the last peace and prosperity return which is why this was most likely added to Amos as a revision later because the rest of the book is too much doom and destruction.
Isaiah sounds a lot like Amos in his criticism of religious practices not being in line with issues of social justice and that could be because he was most likely influenced by Amos. Isaiah is calling out the leadership in Jerusalem and not those in the northern Kingdoms of Israel and Samaria which is the main difference to Amos.
More about Hosea
The book of Hosea was written after the prophet died and is broken into two relatable parts. Chapters 1-3 discuss Hosea’s marriage to Gomer, a woman who worshiped other gods than Yahweh which is why she is called a prostitute. Arguably, only her first-born son is attributed in the text as being Hosea’s child so some believe she was unfaithful in marriage also. Of course, this is a theory trying to explain a story written for an audience a long time ago and not us. Known as the first prophet to make examples of his family life Isaiah would copy him in Isaiah 7-8. The second part of the book Chapter 4-11 is a collection of oracles discussing disasters and salvation.
Isaiah might have been familiar with Hosea since they both use the harlot/prostitute metaphor but again was instead applying his teachings to the people living in Judah.
Isaiah differs from both Amos and Hosea in that the writings do not utilize the Exodus Mosaic teachings and the Covenant code but instead focuses on David’s rule.
Our final unit is law in the Hebrew Bible and since I get to make up my own lesson I will base it on Exercise 56 found on page 300 in the Christopher Stanley text.
Prior to the examination of scriptures I will be doing here is some background information I wish to share. Dr. Cheryl Anderson reminds that biblical laws are not meant to be used in today’s context and if you try and do that be sure you know what the law really says before trying to do so. Also, laws change over time and the examples she uses are the two sets of Ten Commandments with the Deuteronomy version as a rewritten version of the ones found in Exodus.
In his lecture Dr. Brooke Lester discusses the different legal codes such as Covenant located in Exodus 20:22-23:33 which were codes written for male heads of household in the community and were to be applied between these types of households, Deuteronomic found in Deuteronomy 12-26 to talk about changes in law code about slaughter and sacrifice and king rules, Holiness Leviticus 17-26 codes on how to keep the land clean. He also talks about the Decalogue which proceed the codes in Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21 and the Cultic Decalogue found in Exodus 34:10-26.
Decalogue is a fancy name for the Ten Commandments and because the first three or four depending on the version you are using begin with religious laws they cannot be the basis for United States civil law. Another reason they cannot be used as such is because there are multiple versions which are not exactly the same. A third reason is that there are other collections of laws in the Hebrew Bible. Exodus 20:22-23:19 is the Book of Covenant and covers some of the same issues as the Decalogue but here there are punishments. Lastly, when Moses breaks the first set and God reissues another Ten Commandments they are very different than the original set. (Brown)
Please remember this the next time someone argues that the Ten Commandments are the foundation for the laws of the United States. They are not.
Another point Dr. Lester makes is about Apodictic law which is Israelite law that commands without conditions vs Casuistic law which is based and similar to the nations near by. These laws are written in an if, then format or when, then. Capital law is if someone does a certain behavior they shall be put to death.
One last piece of background information to assist you in understanding Hebrew Bible law is that Hammurabi’s code was the most important law code in the ancient Near East and it was the basis for the Covenant Collection found in Exodus 20:22-23:33. Yet, it was not used by judges to make their decisions in court but as a proclamation by the king to guarantee justice. (Van De Mieroop)
Examination of four sets of scriptures will assist us in seeing how law is contained within the Hebrew Bible.
Barry Banstra calls these the Ethical Decalogue full of the religious and moral commands. Looking at Exodus first it can be seen that God is speaking to the Israelite people reminding them it was God who brought them out of Egypt. Verses 4-6 explain to the people that there is only God to worship so the gods of their ancestors and other nations shall not be worshiped. Do not misuse God’s name. Verses 8-11 are a reminder to keep the Sabbath day and not to work on it nor let any family member, slave, livestock, or foreigners in town work because that is the example set forth by God. Honor one’s parents. The list of don’ts murder, commit adultery, steal, bear false witness against a neighbor, covet any thing your neighbor has: house, wife, slave, ox, donkey, or anything else.
In Deuteronomy the passage starts with Moses talking to the people of Israel telling them God made a covenant with them when he went up Mt Horeb. Here is what God said to him: stated that God brought them out of Egypt and they shall have no other god before God. Verses 8-10 state do not make idols or worship them and going farther to state that subsequent generations of children will be punished for the iniquities of parents who disobey but those generations who obey will get Gods steadfast love. Do not misuse God’s name. Verses 12-15 lists the same group of individuals and animals which need to rest on Sabbath this telling remind the people to do so because they should remember they were once slaves whom God saved. Honor parents. Shall nots are murder, commit adultery, steal, bear false witness against a neighbor, covet a neighbor’s wife, house, field, slave, ox, donkey or anything belonging to the neighbor.
The most notable difference is the reminder to the people to treat their slaves well for they were once mistreated slaves and God wants them to not treat their slaves how they were treated.
Examples are of case or caustic law because they have the if, then statements.
Starting with Exodus where if one buys a male slave the slave shall work six years and released without debt his seventh year. If he is single, then he shall leave single-if married, then his wife goes with him. If he is given a wife who has children the wife and children remain property of the master and he goes alone. On the condition that a slave states his love for his family this means he pledges allegiance to his master gets his ear pierced and remains a slave for life to that master.
These scriptures are addressing burnt offerings Leviticus is very detailed and is God informing Moses to speak to Aaron and his sons regarding the rules of slaughtered animals being brought to the entrance of the tent to be presented to God and if it is not done then the offender will be cut off from the group. And this rule applies to foreigners residing with the Israelite people.
Deuteronomy states directly to the people from God to take burnt offerings to the correct place in each tribe. It can be eaten wherever as long as the blood is not consumed and needs to be poured out onto the ground. Although the grain tithe, wine, oil, firstlings of herds and flocks, any votive gifts given as a vow, freewill offerings, and donations must still go the the designated place to honor God.
I believe this is an example of the laws having to change because of context. It was probably too hard to bring meat to Jerusalem from the farthest away tribes, but the other items would keep longer or were easier to transport and still needed to follow the rule of temple consecration for these items.
In the last example Numbers God tells the people that the Levites are to be in charge of the temple and will be the religious leaders accountable for their actions. Since this is now their lot in life they no longer have allotment among the Israelites.
Deuteronomy is speaking about tithes and how they need to be brought to the temple unless it is too far away then the people can sell their sacrificial items and bring the money to the temple spending the money on what they choose and consuming it in God’s presence making sure to include the Levites since they have no allotment. Every third year a full tithe shall be given so that not only will the Levites be taken care of but also the foreigners, orphans, and widows.
The second scripture includes more individuals in need while both are reminders to care for those unable to care for themselves when it comes to tithing.
The challenge this week is to understand where the stories of creation contained in the Hebrew Bible came from and what did they say to the people for whom they were written. Genesis kicks off our Christian Bible and contains many of the stories I have heard multiple times over the past 40+ years participating in the United Methodist Church. Again I can’t help but feel let down that the clergy who retold these stories in my presence have never used the lenses that the scholars I read this week have done. By shying away from challenging the disproven myths and not using the contemporary knowledge they simply continued to reinforce that women were somehow less than men. I feel angry and betrayed that I wasn’t given more information at an earlier age so that I could have formed my own conclusions on stories contained in the Bible. Maybe it was a matter of the student being ready for the teacher to appear? I guess it really doesn’t matter for I have the opportunity now, so here we go…
The creation stories you might be familiar with are found in Genesis. Genesis is the first of the five books which make up the Torah also known as the Pentateuch and where this blog post will focus on why the stories there are not found in other parts of the Hebrew Bible and why they differ from other creation stories. After a description of how the scholars explain the content and how they believe it came to be, I will use other creation story excerpts found in the Hebrew Bible and compare them to the Genesis 1-2 creation stories.
The Pentateuch is comprised of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy and is the terminology used by scholars while Torah is typically what religious leaders call the same five books. (Bandstra) In the article by Jean-Louis Ska he states that scholars agree that the Pentateuch was written in the Persian period. In his lectures, Dr. Brook Lester discusses how biblical scholar Julius Wellhausen came up with the documentary hypothesis in 1878 working with others to explain why the evidence in the Pentateuch demonstrates multiple writers. How it is believed that Genesis is worked over by one writer who is also the redactor or editor of the Pentateuch.
Christopher Stanley defines the documentary hypothesis as the theory which proposes four earlier written sources are combined to make the Pentateuch. (pg. 297) The four sources are called J- the Yahwist narrative because it calls God Yahweh. This narrative is considered epic and shares how humans came to be and how one group of people became the people of God. It has the first account of the nation of Israel and its importance to God. The next is the E- Elohist source written in the northern kingdom of Israel in either the 800s or early 700s BCE after J- the Yahwist narrative. Elohim is a broad word to describe God, not God’s proper name, Yahweh. It also refers to the plural gods which causes confusion. The Elohist source is found mixed with the Yahwist narrative and the writer was a priest. He wrote about moral implications of human behavior, fear of God, God coming to people in dreams, and prophets. These two sources have some writings called JE- combined Yahwist-Elohist epic which took place after the fall of Israel in 721 BCE. The Elohist source priest fled to Jerusalem with both sets of previously discussed writings and combined them using David’s lineage. This source is also known for the religious and moral devotion it promoted. It is considered the national story for the people who fled to the south after 721 BCE. The third is called D- the Deuteronomic source written after the others. It is not combined with them and is the book of Deuteronomy even though it continues the story of Moses’ life as a collection of his sermons. It has similarities to the Elohist source because it too is written by Levites who came from the northern kingdom of Israel. Last is P- the Priestly document composed by priests exiled after Judah was conquered by the Babylonians in the early 500s BCE. They wrote to bring hope back to the people who felt they were being punished by God for breaking the covenant. The Priestly document focuses on divine blessings, covenants with God, genealogies, and the important role of priests in society. (Bandstra, pg. 20-26) Another scholar, Richard Elliott Friedman, talks about how the Pentateuch using Documentary Hypothesis took hundreds of years to comprise the poetry, prose, and laws found in today’s Bible. He also lists seven attributes to determining how the four sources differ: linguistics, terminology, consistent content, continuity of texts, connection with other parts of the Bible, relation to historical events, and when evidence converges consistently.
Here is my brief synopsis of the parts of these chapters I will compare to the other scriptures:
Genesis 1 God created heaven and earth. The face of the deep, like the wind God swept over the face of the waters. Let there be light. Separated light from dark called them day and night. Dome in the midst of waters and separated waters above and below the dome. Sky. Dry land called earth, waters below became the seas. Plants. Lights in the sky day and night. Seasons, days, and years. Sun and the moon. Creatures birds, sea monsters. Wild animals and cattle and creeps on the ground of every kind. Humankind in our image. Give them dominion over fish, birds, cattle and wild animals and creeping things. Created humankind in God’s image. Dominion over all.
Genesis 2 Heavens and the earth were finished and all their multitude. God rested on the 7th day. These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created. The day God made earth and heavens no plants, no herbs sprung up, no one to till the ground, a stream would rise up from the earth and water the face of the ground. God formed man breathed live and man became a living being. God planted a garden in Eden. Trees grew including the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A river flows out of Eden to water the garden which breaks into four branches. God put the man in the garden to till and keep it. Do not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil or you will die. The man should not be alone, make him a helper for a partner. Out of the ground, God formed every animal of the field and bird of the sky. Brought them to man to name. The man named them. No helper was found as a partner so God caused the man to sleep and took a rib making a woman. Brought her to man, the man named her woman. Both were naked and unashamed.
Scholars Discuss Creation Stories
Scholars share the importance of creation stories for ancient people. Shawna Dolansky compares the Hebrew Bible creation stories to those of the other ancient Near East stories which include a goddess who has been omitted by Genesis writers. She feels the main difference is that the Bible version is not about the fall of mankind but of the fall of the goddess. The contribution of Janet Soskice is that Christians have disagreed about their creation views over the years like that the world was made in six 24 hour days. Christians believe God made all and that everything is a gift. She argues that a view like this means creation continues in the here and now. Scholar, David Carr, says the story is not compatible with science but is a theological story showing God’s power and might and how humans share in it. The goodness of creation and humanity’s role in it and that to be like God we are to rest on Sabbath, this is a very important point. It can be missed trying to make the idea of days interpreted as eras to try and fit into a science model.
Isaiah 51:9 God cuts up the chaos monster Rahab at the time of creation. (Rahab may also be symbolic of Egypt at the time of the exodus.
Job 9:4-14 Believed to be part of an ancient hymn praising God as the creator of the universe. (Compare to Gen 1:1-19) Moves mountains turning them over in anger. (Earth was flat and supported on pillars.) Shakes earth, commands the sun, seals up stars, created constellations, Heavens, and earth were covered by the dark waters of chaos. God tamed these waters believed to be a monster so that land could exist, helpers of Rahab bowed to God.
Job 26:7-14 God spreads out the sky suspends the earth over nothing. Binds up water in clouds. Covers the moon with clouds. Creates the horizon on the face of the waters with a boundary between light and darkness. Pillars of heaven tremble. God churns up the sea and his wisdom cuts Rahab into pieces. His breath makes skies fair, his hand pierced the fleeing serpent.
Job 38:1-11 God states laid earth’s foundation. Determined the measurements. Stretched the line (horizon) across it. Set the footings and cornerstone. Closed the sea behind doors when it burst forth in creation. Made clouds as its garment. Wrapped it in darkness. Set its bars and doors.
Psalm 8 God set glory above heaven. Made the heavens, moon, stars, set them in place. Made mankind a little lower than heavenly beings. Made man ruler of what you have created and put everything under the feet of mankind. The sheep, oxen, and beasts of the field. Birds, fish, and other sea creatures.
Psalm 74:12-17 Divided the sea by your might. Broke the heads of the monsters in the waters. Crushed the heads of Leviathan giving him as food to the creatures in the wilderness. Made openings for springs and streams, dried up rivers. Made day and night. Sun and the moon. Made the limitations of the earth. Summer and winter.
Psalm 89:8-10 Rule over the sea, quieting the waves. Crushed Rahab and scattered your enemies.
Psalm 104:1-9 Stretch out the heavens like a tent. Sets beams of your chambers on the waters. Clouds are your chariot, ride wings of the wind. Set the earth on its foundations, cover it with the deep as with a garment. Waters stood above the mountains. At God’s rebuke, the waters fled. Flowed over mountains, down into the valleys. You set a boundary they cannot cross so they will never again cover the earth.
Psalm 136:1-9 ( Compare to Gen 1:1,2,16) Made the heavens, spread out the earth on the waters, made great lights, sun to govern the day and moon and stars to rule the night.
Proverbs 8:22-31 Wisdom is present as God created “her” first. Before the world began when there were no oceans, no springs full of water before mountains and hills were in place before the earth was formed in fields or dust. Was present when God set the heavens in place and marked out the horizon on the face of the deep. Established the clouds and the fountains of the deep. Wisdom was beside God when the sea was given limits, foundations of the earth were set. Rejoicing in God’s presence and in the world, delighting in mankind.
Comparisons Genesis & Other Readings
It can be seen that often creation is described as heavens and earth separations. Creation of the sun and moon. The water made into the sea and God making humankind. There are depictions of animals, birds, and sea creatures.
In the combined readings from other parts of the Hebrew Bible, I was struck how many places mentioned a sea monster, either called Rahab or Leviathan. Another glaring difference is how the earth is believed to be flat and situated on pillars. Stars and clouds become more important in these retellings of a creation story. Wisdom is mentioned a couple of times.
Another Creation Story
Now for my retelling, I hope you enjoy!
Before humankind was created by God, the Universe, and Wisdom together they placed in the sky stars formed into constellations, clouds to hold the rain, and the sun and the moon. Next, they defeat the monster called Rahab, the chaos of the sea to make land as mountains with streams and springs. Land strong and stable as if balanced on pillars. Wisdom watches as God creates seasons, makes animals to live on the land, in the sky, and in the sea. Finally, God makes humankind in their image to the delight of Wisdom.