1 Kings 8

The dedication of the temple and placement of the ark of the covenant goes flawlessly – better than David managed to handle the notoriously dangerous thing.

God’s cloud descends on the holy place. He is in residence. Solomon give a big speech acknowledging that it was the fulfillment of a promise by God to David, and that God is actually to big to be confined by a temple.

He elaborates a fairly basic theology, that if the people are suffering any kind of problem, then praying in the direction of the temple would fix it. This was presumably before he wrote the big existential question mark that is Ecclesiastes!

He prays thanks humbly, outside the temple because though he is king, he is not a priest. Many sacrifices are offered, a multi day festival follows.

It’s a great day, The chosen people, in the promised land, fulfilling God’s will and in the presence of the Lord. Freeze frame, it don’t get better than this.

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Numbers 6

The origin of the Nazarite vow. This is a way of setting apart a person as a holy man. Samson was a Nazarite. By then he was a demonstration of how corrupt the promise had become.

The themes are similar to the clean and holy notions of Leviticus: no contact with the dead, not cutting hair, etc. This was like a voluntary extra giving of a life to God bring the notion that the first born was God’s. 

I imagine if a birth was difficult or a child nearly died of an illness, a parent might pray “deliver him God and I’ll devote him to you”. 

It could only be a male.

Numbers 5

Purity in the camp. Infectious people to be segregated. A test for women suspected of infidelity.

I imagine the test is one of those cultural relative issues. Seems primitive to us but probably a lot gentler than treatment of women in the rest of the ancient world. 

Meta message: God judges, husband’s don’t own wives like chattels. Jealousy must be proven. 

But gee whiz… No remedy for male cheating?

Numbers 4

3 clans in the levites, the priest tribe, are counted and their distinct roles described. 

It’s quite interesting the detail of how the tabernacle was moved and the precautions to ensure lesser people moved the holy bits without touching or looking at them.

Emphasises again the holiness of everything.

Exodus 31

So here are the people who will actually make all this stuff. It’s a celebration of artisanship, the spirit of God is on them. Their ability is god given. 

Then the Sabbath, the seventh day of rest that still defines our week. The seven day week appears to have been simultaneously adopted by Jews Babylonians and Greeks, and spread very early to Asia. It is a promise, a sign, of god’s attachment to the people, but harsh too… Pain of death if you don’t rest.  Jesus said the law brings death. 

Then the tablets of stone written by god’s finger. There is something about the theatrical smallness of that, from the creator of the world, I find extraordinary. I shouldn’t be surprised of course, he made butterflies as well as volcanos and planets. 

And he invented tickling. He’s the master of context. He made our sense of delight and awe. He could have turned us into robot slaves, or destroyed us of course. He went with props. 

He gave the law written in stone to show us it was important. Like giving children ice-cream with a cherry on top.

Exodus 28

The priestly garments. Emphasise quality: gold, linen, rich colours. Evokes the holiness of God. 

Also representative. The names of the 12 tribes are engraved in precious stones attached on a breast plate. The chosenness of the people.

And wisdom. The garments and paraphernalia have symbolic help with decision making built in. The sense of guidance and of truth.