Thu, 4 October 2018
Bible Study #39: The Ark and the (Personal) Ontology of Holiness (1 Kingdoms 4-6)
Opening Prayer: Make the pure light of Your divine knowledge shine in our hearts, Loving Master, and open the eyes of our minds that we may understand the message of Your Gospel. Instill also in us reverence for Your blessed commandments, so that overcoming all worldly desires, we may pursue a spiritual life, both thinking and doing all things pleasing to You. For You, Christ our God, are the Light of our souls and bodies, and to You we give the glory, together with Your Father, without beginning, and Your All Holy, Good, and Life- Creating Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen. (From the Prayer before the Gospel in the Divine Liturgy; see 2 Corinthians 6:6; Ephesians 1:18; 2 Peter 2:11)
Intro on the Effect of Holiness and Evil.
1 Kingdom 4. How the Israelites lost the Arc of the Covenant!
1 Kingdom 4:3-4. Note from the OSB: The people did not realize that their defeat came from the hand of God. But rather than discovering why God allowed them to be defeated and repenting of their unfaithfulness, they think that having the ark with them will ensure that God is with them. God is NOT to be manipulated or objectified!
Note that 30,000 Israelite soldiers died, as did Hophni and Phinehas. It's all related. Just because we are the priests and chosen people of the Great God does NOT make us better at worldly things (like war) than those around us. St. Jerome notes that Eli, the equivalent of a bishop, was punished for his sons lack of chastity and points out that all the children of bishops need to be chaste.
1 Kingdom 5. Fun with Dagon.
More on Dagon. Of the remaining Biblical references to Dagan/Dagon, note may be made of other passages which confirm the association of the god with the Philistines. In Judges 16:23 the Philistine chiefs assemble, presumably in the temple of Dagon, to offer sacrifice of thanksgiving to Dagon for their capture of Samson. Dagon is called ‘their/our god’ and he receives a zebaḥ gādōl, ‘a great sacrifice’. Although it is not explicitly stated here that there was a Dagon temple at Gaza, no change of locale is implied and it seems likely that there was such a temple, since there appear to have been many temples of the god. Joshua 15:41 and 19:27, where the placename Beth-Dagon occurs, imply there were such temples in Judah and in Asher. According to 1 Chronicles 10:10 the head of Saul was initially displayed by the Philistines as a trophy of war in a temple of Dagon. This appears to have been at Beth-Shan (1 Samuel 31:10). That the cult of Dagon persisted into the intertestamental period is clear from 1 Macc 10:83–84, according to which the High Priest Jonathan burned down the temple of Dagon in Azotus, i.e. Ashdod, which had become the place of refuge of the cavalry of Apollonius, governor of Coele-Syria.
St. John Chrysostom. In short, if you believe the place is holy because the law and the books of prophets are there, then it is time for you to believe that idols and the temples of idols are holy. Once, when the Jews were at war, the people of Ashdod conquered them, took their ark and brought it into their own temple. Did the fact that it contained the ark make their temple a holy place? By no means! It continued to be profane and unclean, as the events immediately proved. For God wanted to teach the enemies of the Jews that the defeat was not due to God’s weakness but to the transgressions of those who worshiped him. And so the ark, which had been taken as booty in war, gave proof of its own power in an alien land by twice throwing the idol to the ground so that the idol was broken. The ark was so far from making that temple a holy place that it even openly attacked it.
The Venerable Bede. When those who delight in idolatry see the power of Christ against their own gods, they do not wish to embrace faith in him, lest on account of their faith alone they be compelled to reject the whole pantheon of their gods. When false Christians see that because of their faith in Christ the sins which they love are now forbidden to them, they ward off with all their might the very piety called forth by their faith, so that they might not end up being ordered at the behest of their faith to quench the desires they serve instead of God. … They do not understand that there is a great difference between simply being ignorant and refusing to learn what you have studied and ought to know.
Note: they moved the ark to three different cities, hoping that one of the local deities would be able to overcome the power of the Ark. It didn't work.
1Kingdom 6. Getting the Arc back to the Israelites. Samuel takes charge.
Even after the Philistines decided to send the Ark back, they were punished for their disrespect.
Cassiodorius. We read in the first book of Kings [Samuel] that because of the damage done to the consecrated ark the foreigners were smitten on their hinder parts, so that they even suffered the dreadful fate of being gnawed alive by mice. This remains a perennial reproach on them, because no other was punished in this way. Similarly he afflicts sinners in the afterlife … they are so devoured by mice when the devil’s hostile troop surrounds them.
St. Gregory the Great. For observe, when the calves were shut up at home, the cows, which are fastened to the wagon bearing the ark of the Lord, moan and go their way, they give forth lowings from deep within, and yet [they] never alter their steps from following the path. They feel love indeed shown by compassion but never bend their necks behind. Thus, they must go on their way, who, being placed under the yoke of the sacred law, henceforth carry the Lord’s ark in interior knowledge, so as never to deviate from the course of righteousness which they have entered upon, in order to take compassion on the necessities of relatives. For Beth-shemesh is rendered “the house of the sun.” Thus to go to Beth-shemesh with the ark of the Lord placed on them is in company with heavenly knowledge to draw near to the seat of light eternal. But we are then really going on toward Beth-shemesh when, in walking the path of righteousness, we never turn aside onto the adjoining side-paths of error, not even for the sake of the affection we bear for our offspring.
St. Justin Martyr. In the execution of this plan, the cows, without any human guidance, proceeded not to the place from where the tabernacle had been taken but to the farm of a man named Hoshea (the same name as his whose name was changed to Jesus [Joshua], as was said above, and who led your people into the promised land and distributed it among them by lot). When the cows came to this farm, they halted. Thus it was shown to you that they were guided by the powerful name [of Jesus], just as the survivors among your people who fled Egypt were guided into the promised land by him whose name was changed from Hoshea to Jesus [Joshua].
Franke, J. R. (Ed.). (2005). Old Testament IV: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1–2 Samuel. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
Healey, J. F. (1999). Dagon. In K. van der Toorn, B. Becking, & P. W. van der Horst (Eds.), Dictionary of deities and demons in the Bible (2nd extensively rev. ed., p. 218). Leiden; Boston; Köln; Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge: Brill; Eerdmans.