Romans, Part 68

This will conclude my consideration of Rejoice in hope, endure in suffering, persist in prayer[1] as a description of love rather than as rules to obey.  I’ll continue with the aftermath of the war between Israel and Benjamin.

So the people came to Bethel and sat there before God (ʼĕlôhı̂ym, האלהים) until evening, weeping loudly and uncontrollably.[2]  They had a foretaste of eternal life, not pie in the sky by and by nor tears without end but an amazing opportunity to know yehôvâh intimately.  The brotherhood had joined together to purge evil from Israel.  The Benjaminites joined together to withstand them.  The brotherhood prevailed, then they mourned the loss of so many of their brother Benjaminites.

They said, “Why, O Lord (yehôvâh, יהוה) God (ʼĕlôhı̂ym, אלהי) of Israel, has this happened in Israel?”[3]  They regretted (nâcham, וינחמו) what had happened to their brother Benjamin. They acknowledged their part in it, saying, Today we cut off an entire tribe from Israel![4]  The text acknowledged yehôvâh’s complicity: And the people grieved (nâcham, נחם) for Benjamin, because the Lord (yehôvâh, יהוה) had made a void in the tribes of Israel.[5]  But they missed their moment to know Him.  I know this because Phinehas didn’t preach on the text: Then the Lord (yehôvâh, יהוה) relented (nâcham, וינחם) over the evil (raʽ, הרעה [H7451]) that he had said he would do to his people.[6]

Israel missed this eternal moment (as I’ve missed my own so often) because they treated it, not as a glorious insight and revelation to be savored but, as a problem to be solved.  How can we find wives for those who are left?[7]  Why was that a problem?  The Israelites had taken an oath in Mizpah, saying, “Not one of us will allow his daughter to marry a Benjaminite.”[8]   “After all, we took an oath in the Lord’s name,” the victorious brotherhood admitted, “not to give them our daughters as wives.”  So they asked, “Who from all the Israelite tribes did not assemble before the Lord at Mizpah?”[9]

The victorious brotherhood’s focus was not on eternal life, knowing yehôvâh, but on justifying themselves before yehôvâh: This is what the Lord (yehôvâh, יהוה) has commanded: If a man makes a vow to the Lord or takes an oath of binding obligation on himself, he must not break his word, but must do whatever he has promised.[10]  They had made two thoughtless oaths at Mizpah: They had made a solemn oath that whoever did not assemble before the Lord at Mizpah must certainly be executed.[11]  So from the beginning there was no real hope that the incident at Gibeah would be settled as a police matter: The Benjaminites heard that the Israelites had gone up to Mizpah,[12] but apparently did not attend.

And I, before I realized that I had the timing of events reversed, would have laid all that happened next on Jephthah.  I thought he was the brotherhood’s inspiration, a kind of butterfly effect, rather than someone overwhelmed by a massive wave of popular precedent.  That popular precedent might have become, if not the image of knowing yehôvâh, the image and meaning of obeying Him, if not for the precious words appended to its retelling: Each man did what he considered to be right.[13]   

Now it just so happened no one from Jabesh Gilead had come to the gathering.  When they took roll call, they noticed none of the inhabitants of Jabesh Gilead were there.[14]  Jabesh Gilead was east of the Jordan River in the land that Phineas had insinuated might be tainted.  I’ve written elsewhere about the cost of acknowledging a thoughtless oath.  But the victorious brotherhood had “good” reason not to confess the thoughtless oath that “justified” exterminating the inhabitants of Jabesh Gilead, namely, their other thoughtless oath not to give their daughters as wives to the surviving Benjaminites (Judges 21:10, 11a NET):

So the assembly sent 12,000 capable warriors against Jabesh Gilead.  They commanded them, “Go and kill with your swords the inhabitants of Jabesh Gilead, including the women and little children (ṭaph, והטף; Septuagint: the translators seem to have edited out the part about killing children).  Do this: exterminate every male, as well as every woman who has had sexual relations with a male.  But spare the lives of any virgins.”

They found among the inhabitants of Jabesh Gilead four hundred young girls (naʽărâh, נערה; Septuagint: νεάνιδας) who were virgins (bethûlâh, בתולה; Septuagint: παρθένους)…[15]  The Benjaminites returned at that time, and the Israelites gave to them the women they had spared from Jabesh Gilead.  But there were not enough to go around.[16]

So, they commanded the Benjaminites, “Go hide in the vineyards, and keep your eyes open.  When you see the daughters of Shiloh coming out to dance in the celebration, jump out from the vineyards.  Each one of you, catch yourself a wife from among the daughters of Shiloh and then go home to the land of Benjamin.[17]  The Benjaminites did as instructed.  They abducted two hundred of the dancing girls to be their wives.[18]  Then the brotherhood disbanded, after having become as great a menace (to more women) as the children of Belial they exterminated.

“There is no one righteous, not even one, Paul gathered the judgments of yehôvâh on the wicked and unbelieving scattered primarily throughout the Psalms of David (also Isaiah) and applied them to all, “there is no one who understands, there is no one who seeks God.  All have turned away, together they have become worthless; there is no one who shows kindness, not even one.”

“Their throats are open graves, they deceive with their tongues (See Septuagint comparison below), the poison of asps is under their lips.”

“Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”

“Their feet are swift to shed blood, ruin and misery are in their paths, and the way of peace they have not known (See Septuagint comparison below).”

“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”[19]

How can I rejoice (χαίροντες, a form of χαίρω) in hope here?  And I don’t mean simply in the face of ancient history.  For all our laws, all our police and all our courts, our “justice” is ultimately as puerile as theirs was.  It seems more like a time to endure (ὑπομένοντες, a form of ὑπομένω) in suffering than to rejoice in hope, but that is my point.

The same love which endures (ὑπομένει, another form of ὑπομένω) all things,[20] does not rejoice (χαίρει, another form of χαίρω) in iniquity (ἀδικίᾳ, a form of ἀδικία), but rejoices (συγχαίρει, a form of συγχαίρω) in the truth (ἀληθείᾳ, a form of ἀλήθεια);[21] love is the true justice which does no wrong to a neighbor in the first place; it is the fulfillment of the law,[22] rather than some vain effort to stuff the toothpaste back in the tube after injustice (ἀδικίᾳ, a form of ἀδικία) has prevailed.  And this love without hypocrisy, The love unfeigned, is what I think Paul continued to describe: Rejoice in hope (ἐλπίδι, a form of ἐλπίς), endure (ὑπομένοντες, a form of ὑπομένω) in suffering (θλίψει, a form of θλίψις), persist in prayer.[23]

Now may the God of hope (ἐλπίδος, another form of ἐλπίς) fill (πληρώσαι, a form of πληρόω) you with all joy (χαρᾶς, a form of χαρά) and peace (εἰρήνης, a form of εἰρήνη) as you believe in him, Paul wrote his benediction to the Romans, so that you may abound in hope (ἐλπίδι, a form of ἐλπίς) by the power (δυνάμει, a form of δύναμις) of the Holy Spirit.[24]  And by his power and the continuous infusion of his joy (χαρὰ) and his peace (εἰρήνη) [not to mention the other aspects of the fruit of the Spirit[25]], the apostles, after they had been beaten, left the council rejoicing (χαίροντες, a form of χαίρω) because they had been considered worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name[26] (e.g., Ἰησοῦ, a form of Ἰησοῦς, understood as yehôvâh).

So is this χαρὰ from the Holy Spirit like some kind of drug that overcomes reality?  On the contrary, it is an aspect of the truth (ἀλήθεια) that overcomes the injustice (ἀδικίᾳ, a form of ἀδικία) that masquerades as reality.  Set them apart in the truth (ἀληθείᾳ, a form of ἀλήθεια), Jesus prayed to his Father, your word is truth (ἀλήθεια).[27]  We understand in some sense that we are not to focus on the manmade muck we see around us.  We are keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith instead.  For the joy (χαρᾶς, a form of χαρά) set out for him he endured (ὑπέμεινεν, another form of ὑπομένω) the cross[28]  And the one who endures (ὑπομείνας, another form of ὑπομένω) to the end (τέλος) will be saved.[29]

As I considered all this I read an article in MSN News online:[30]

An Islamic State Jihadist killed his mother in a public square in the Syrian city of Raqa who begged him to leave the organization, a monitor said Friday.  Ali Saqr, 20, had reported his mother, Lina, to IS authorities in Raqa because “she tried to persuade him to leave IS and flee the city,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.  Authorities subsequently arrested the woman and accused her of apostasy, the monitoring group said.  On Wednesday, she was shot to death by her son “in front of hundreds of people close to the mail service building in Raqa city,” the Observatory added.

Ali Saqr is a comtemporary example of Jephthah or any of the brotherhood who judged and condemned the Benjaminites in Gibeah.  He cannot go home to consider what he has done.  He has been judged and condemned by Superpowers who care nothing for him.  If the entry to hell is marked by the words—Abandon all hope, ye who enter here—then the entry to our synagogues and churches should read—yehôvâh relented over the evil that he had said he would do to his people—and the churches can add his most profound words—Follow Me!

Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice (καυχώμεθα, a form of καυχάομαι) in the hope (ἐλπίδι, a form of ἐλπίς) of God’s glory.  Not only this, but we also rejoice (καυχώμεθα, a form of καυχάομαι) in sufferings (θλίψεσιν, another form of θλίψις), knowing that suffering (θλῖψις, another form of θλίψις) produces endurance (ὑπομονὴν, a form of ὑπομονή), and endurance (ὑπομονὴ), character, and character, hope (ἐλπίδα, another form of ἐλπίς) .  And hope (ἐλπὶς) does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.[31]

“Repent,” Peter said, “and each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far away, as many as the Lord our God will call to himself.”  With many other words he testified and exhorted them saying, “Save yourselves from this perverse generation!”  So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand people were added.  They were devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.[32]

It seems fitting to end this essay with Paul’s instruction to Timothy on prayer (1 Timothy 2:1-6 NET):

First of all, then, I urge that requests, prayers, intercessions, and thanks be offered on behalf of all people, even for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.  Such prayer for all is good and welcomed before God our Savior, since he wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.  For there is one God and one intermediary between God and humanity, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself as a ransom for all, revealing God’s purpose at his appointed time.

Below are two tables comparing Old Testament quotations in Paul’s letter to the Romans to the Septuagint.

Romans 3:13 (NET)

Romans 3:13 (Greek Text)

Psalms 5:9b; 140:3b (Septuagint)

Their throats are open graves,

they deceive with their tongues,

τάφος ἀνεῳγμένος ὁ λάρυγξ αὐτῶν, ταῖς γλώσσαις αὐτῶν ἐδολιοῦσαν, τάφος ἀνεῳγμένος ὁ λάρυγξ αὐτῶν ταῖς γλώσσαις αὐτῶν ἐδολιοῦσαν
the poison of asps is under their lips. ἰὸς ἀσπίδων ὑπὸ τὰ χείλη αὐτῶν ἰὸς ἀσπίδων ὑπὸ τὰ χείλη αὐτῶν διάψαλμα[33]


Romans 3:15-17 (NET) Romans 3:15-17 (Greek Text)

Isaiah 59:7a, 7c, 8a  (Septuagint)

Their feet are swift to shed blood, ὀξεῖς οἱ πόδες αὐτῶν ἐκχέαι αἷμα, οἱ δὲ πόδες αὐτῶν ἐπὶ πονηρίαν τρέχουσιν ταχινοὶ ἐκχέαι αἷμα
ruin and misery are in their paths, σύντριμμα καὶ ταλαιπωρία ἐν ταῖς ὁδοῖς αὐτῶν, σύντριμμα καὶ ταλαιπωρία ἐν ταῖς ὁδοῖς αὐτῶν
and the way of peace they have not known. καὶ ὁδὸν εἰρήνης οὐκ ἔγνωσαν (a form of γινώσκω). καὶ ὁδὸν εἰρήνης οὐκ οἴδασιν (a form of εἴδω).

Romans, Part 69

Back to Paul’s Religious Mind Revisited, Part 3

Back to To Make Holy, Part 1

[1] Romans 12:12 (NET)

[2] Judges 21:2 (NET)

[3] Judges 21:3a (NET)

[4] Judges 21:6 (NET)

[5] Judges 21:15 (NKJV)

[6] Exodus 32:14 (NET)

[7] Judges 21:7a (NET)

[8] Judges 21:1 (NET)

[9] Judges 21:7b, 8a (NET)

[10] Numbers 30:1b, 2 (NET)

[11] Judges 21:5b (NET)

[12] Judges 20:3a (NET)

[13] Judges 21:25b (NET)

[14] Judges 21:8b, 9 (NET)

[15] Judges 21:12a (NET)

[16] Judges 21:14 (NET)

[17] Judges 21:20, 21 (NET)

[18] Judges 21:23a (NET)

[19] Romans 3:10b-18 (NET)

[20] 1 Corinthians 13:7d (NET)

[21] 1 Corinthians 13:6 (NKJV)

[22] Romans 13:10 (NET)

[23] Romans 12:12 (NET)

[24] Romans 15:13 (NET)

[25] Galatians 5:22, 23 (NET)

[26] Acts 5:41 (NET)

[27] John 17:17 (NET)

[28] Hebrews 12:2a (NET)

[29] Mark 13:13b (NET)  I assume that this endurance is achieved by the patience (μακροθυμία) that is another aspect of the fruit of the Spirit not some act of will or human effort.

[30] “Syria jihadist ‘kills mother’ after she asked him to leave IS”

[31] Romans 5:1-5 (NET)

[32] Acts 2:38-42 (NET)