The Old Testament Is Packed With Theological Meaning

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Every verse oozes with rich theological meaning who’s sole purpose is to explain to you the things about God. But even more obvious is that every sentence, word and letter, is about Jesus Christ.

April Fools’! It’s mostly political propaganda. Be sure to check out my series on the Elohist, the Northern Book of Judges and the Northern Elijah/Elisha narrative. I’m working on Amos next (and yes, it’s political propaganda too).

The Death of Elisha - Northern Elijah & Elisha: A Mirror-Reading

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image: Wikimedia commons (link).

This is a mirror-reading of The Death of Elisha Narrative. If you don’t know what mirror-reading is, please visit this page. The Death of Elisha Narrative is primarily concerned with whether Elijah died from his sickness or not and also why the king of Israel shot the arrow of deliverance.

If you’d like a less technical overview, please check out my podcast episode on this narrative. If you’re not familiar with Northern Elijah & Elisha, be sure to check out all of the podcast episodes in that series. I used Tzemah Yoreh's work as the basis for my Northern Elijah/Elisha Source. My mirror-reading map and commentary are listed below. In my commentary, I refer to the author of the Northern Elijah/Elisha source as “M”, after Tzemah’s labeling of the source as “Miracle Workers”.

Mirror-Reading Map

The map below shows how I derived the opposing narrative from the Biblical narrative. It relies primarily on mirrors/echos and cause/effect. For more information about mirrors/echoes, causal chains and my methodology, please visit this post.

Elisha----Elisha's-Death.jpg

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Commentary

Please note that “M” refers to the author of the opposing narrative

Did Elisha Die Of His Sickness?

The opposing narrative has Elisha dying from his sickness, whereas M still involves Elisha (his bones), but it is the dead Moabite that’s revived instead. It seems odd that M wouldn’t want Elisha to recover from his sickness and raises the question as to how Elisha’s death benefited M’s agenda.

The Arrow Of Deliverance

In the opposing narrative, it is only the king of Israel involved in taking the bow and arrows, shooting it out the window and declaring it to be the arrow of deliverance from Syria. Since Elisha wasn’t part of the event, M had to insert Elisha into it and does this by having him give the kind of Israel instructions regarding the bow and arrows. Additionally, he promotes Yahweh as the God of Elisha and Israel by naming the arrow “the arrow of Yahweh’s deliverance”.

Elisha & Israel

M promotes that idea that Elisha was not a traitor by having the king of Israel cry over him and referring to him as “father” and as “the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof”. Having Elisha prophecy a pro-Israel event would further solidify Elisha as a prophet for Israel.

The Benhadad Prophecy - Northern Elijah & Elisha: A Mirror-Reading

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This is a mirror-reading of The Benhadad Prophecy Narrative. If you don’t know what mirror-reading is, please visit this page. The Benhadad Prophecy Narrative is primarily concerned with Elisha’s reputation, where he lived and his prophecy about King Benhadad.

If you’d like a less technical overview, please check out my podcast episode on this narrative. If you’re not familiar with Northern Elijah & Elisha, be sure to check out all of the podcast episodes in that series. I used Tzemah Yoreh's work as the basis for my Northern Elijah/Elisha Source. My mirror-reading map and commentary are listed below. In my commentary, I refer to the author of the Northern Elijah/Elisha source as “M”, after Tzemah’s labeling of the source as “Miracle Workers”.

Mirror-Reading Map

The map below shows how I derived the opposing narrative from the Biblical narrative. It relies primarily on mirrors/echos and cause/effect. For more information about mirrors/echoes, causal chains and my methodology, please visit this post.

Elisha----Benhadad.jpg

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Commentary

Please note that “M” refers to the author of the opposing narrative

Why Was Elisha In Damascus?

Both narratives place Elisha in Damascus. The question is, why was he there? Given what the opposing narrative says in this and other cycles, we can infer he was there because he betrayed Israel and served the Syrians. M counters this by saying that he traveled to Syria. Hazael goes to meet him and presents him with a gift that contains every good thing of Damascus. M suggests, why would would he give Elisha things of Damascus, if Elisha lived there?

Was Elisha’s Prophecy Wrong?

Both narratives have Elisha deliver a prophecy that claimed Benhadad would get well. However, M inserts Hazael so that Benhadad wouldn’t hear the entire prophecy. That way, M can add the qualifier that Benhadad would die. The opposing narrative asserts that Benhadad died from his disease, not from Hazael. It’s interesting that at least one scholar doesn’t see an assassination by Hazael

Gray (528, 532) acknowledges no assassination of Ben Hadad by Hazael in this action. The “coverlet” is regarded as a kind of mosquito net, which when dipped in water would act as a cooler for the person in bed. He sees here nothing more than the discovery of Ben Hadad’s death in the morning when the coverlet was removed. While the Assyrian records (ANET, 280) do not mention the mode of death, they do allow for a violent death.

Hobbs, T. R. (1998). 2 Kings (Vol. 13, p. 102). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

Why Did Elisha Cry?

In the opposing narrative, Elisha weeps because Benhadad dies. M gives the reason that it was because Hazael would kill many Israelites. This hits two birds with one stone by fixing Elisha’s prophecy and showing his loyalty to Israel.

Was Elisha A Prophet of Yahweh?

M shows that Elisha was a prophet of Yahweh by having Benhada ask to have him inquire of Yahweh for him. Also, it is Yahweh who shows Elisha that Benhadad would die and that Hazael would reign.

Man of Elohim?

If Elisha served the king of Syria, then no Israelite would refer to him as a “man of Elohim”. Once again, M counters this by referring to Elisha as a “man of Elohim” throughout this cycle. See comment regarding “man of Elohim” in The Woman At Zarephath.

City of Dothan - Northern Elijah & Elisha: A Mirror-Reading

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image: Wikimedia commons (link).

This is a mirror-reading of the The City of Dothan Narrative. If you don’t know what mirror-reading is, please visit this page. The City of Dothan Narrative is primarily concerned with Elisha’s reputation and what happened at Dothan and Samaria, as well as claims that Elisha was a spy for Syria.

If you’d like a less technical overview, please check out my podcast episode on this narrative. If you’re not familiar with Northern Elijah & Elisha, be sure to check out all of the podcast episodes in that series. I used Tzemah Yoreh's work as the basis for my Northern Elijah/Elisha Source. My mirror-reading map and commentary are listed below. In my commentary, I refer to the author of the Northern Elijah/Elisha source as “M”, after Tzemah’s labeling of the source as “Miracle Workers”.

Mirror-Reading Map

The map below shows how I derived the opposing narrative from the Biblical narrative. It relies primarily on mirrors/echos and cause/effect. For more information about mirrors/echoes, causal chains and my methodology, please visit this post.

Elisha----Dotham2.jpg

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Commentary

Please note that “M” refers to the author of the opposing narrative

Why Was The Israelite Army Not There?

The opposing narrative has the Syrians raiding Israel, who had no army or not a strong enough army to defend itself. M will spin this by saying that the reason the Israelite army was not there was because Elisha told them beforehand, enabling them to avoid conflict.

Israel’s lack of troops seems to have been an issue, which is countered later in this narrative with “horses and chariots of fire” and in a later narrative by calling Elisha “the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof.”

Who Was Elisha’s King?

Both narratives have Syria warring against Israel. They differ on which side Elisha was on. For the opposing narrative, Elisha is for the Syrian king. He was a prophet in Syria, being so close to the Syrian king that he heard what he spoke in his bedchamber. M, on the other hand will maintain that Elisha was a prophet of Israel, and that he heard what was in the Syrian king’s bedchamber because of his prophetic abilities. He then shares that information with the king of Israel, who calls him “father”, indicating a friendly relationship. By having Elisha share information about Syria with the king of Israel, M inverses the accusation of the opposing narrative that Elisha betrayed Israel by sharing information about Israel with the Syrian king.

Who Was Spying?

In the opposing narrative, it is Elisha who is told to go spy on the Israelites. M will make it so it’s the Syrian king’s servants who go spy to find Elisha.

Dothan is a significant location for both narratives, and the opposing narrative uses it as the place where Elisha informs the Syrian king (through the king’s servant) that the Syrians are strong enough to attack Samaria by telling them, “Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.” M will insert the horses and chariots of fire and make the Syrian king’s servant to be Elisha’s servant, to which Elisha will speak those same words, thus eliminating Elisha’s betrayal of Israel.

To Which City Did The Syrian Army Go?

With Elisha’s info in hand, the Syrians send horses, chariots and a great host to encompass the city. M introduces the Syrian army earlier and surrounds the city of Dothan. M also needed a way to get that army from Dothan to Samaria. M does this by having Elisha say that Dothan was not the city they’re looking for. This Jedi-like mind trick sits awkwardly in the narrative, but it accomplishes what M needed it to do.

Why Did The Syrian Army Eat And Drink?

Both narratives have the Syrians eat and drink. In the opposing narrative, it is because they defeated the Israelites. In M’s narrative, it is because Elisha tells the king of Syria to feed them. M also has to explain why the king of Israel would do such a thing instead of killing them and does this by having Elisha tell him, “ wouldest thou smite those whom thou hast taken captive with thy sword and with thy bow? set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink, and go to their master.” M has Elisha say “their master” to infer the the Syrians king was not his master.

The Syrians Return To Syria

Both narratives have the Syrians return to their homeland. However, M has the king of Israel send them away (at Elisha’s suggestion), and adds that the Syrians came no more into the land of Israel.

Man of Elohim

If Elisha had betrayed Israel, then the Israelites certainly wouldn’t call him a man of Elohim, so M inserts the term throughout this cycle to counter that idea. See comment regarding “man of Elohim” in The Woman At Zarephath.

Naaman's Flesh - Northern Elijah & Elisha: A Mirror-Reading

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image: Wikimedia commons (link).

This is a mirror-reading of the The Naaman Narrative. If you don’t know what mirror-reading is, please visit this page. The Naaman Narrative is primarily concerned with Elisha’s reputation and what was Naaman’s flesh.

If you’d like a less technical overview, please check out my podcast episode on this narrative. If you’re not familiar with Northern Elijah & Elisha, be sure to check out all of the podcast episodes in that series. I used Tzemah Yoreh's work as the basis for my Northern Elijah/Elisha Source. My mirror-reading map and commentary are listed below. In my commentary, I refer to the author of the Northern Elijah/Elisha source as “M”, after Tzemah’s labeling of the source as “Miracle Workers”.

Mirror-Reading Map

The map below shows how I derived the opposing narrative from the Biblical narrative. It relies primarily on mirrors/echos and cause/effect. For more information about mirrors/echoes, causal chains and my methodology, please visit this post.

Elisha----Naaman---v2.jpg

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Commentary

Please note that “M” refers to the author of the opposing narrative

Who Was Naaman?

The opposing narrative presents Naaman in a very good light. M will downplay this slightly by making him only a great man with his master and honourable only because Yahweh provided Naaman’s military victories. This also promotes the idea that Yahweh was a strong war god. The opposing narrative has Naaman as a captain of a host. M will add that he served under the Syrian king. This will have an impact on the meaning of the narrative below.

M will also make Naaman a leper. This change will alter the meaning of the opposing narrative in a major way. Naaman being a leper is emphasized more than any other point in the Biblical narrative, having the most frequency and variation. When talking about “flesh”, it is leprosy that M what’s the reader to think of.

Taken Captive

The opposing narrative and M will define Naaman’s “flesh” differently. The opposing narrative says that Naaman’s flesh is a reference to his daughter who had been taken captive by the Syrians. M modifies the “little girl” it a “little maid” who the Syrians had taken captive from Israel and who attends to his wife.

There Was A Letter

Both the opposing narrative and M agree that there was a letter sent to a king. The opposing narrative has the letter go from the Syrian king (who took Naaman’s daughter) to Naaman. M will alter it so that the letter is from the king of Syria to the king of Israel. The point that the letter came to the king of Israel is another point of emphasis for M, noting it a few times.

Both narratives tell how the king who received the letter tore his clothes. In the opposing narrative, this refers to Naaman, in the M narrative, it refers to the king of Israel

In the opposing narrative, the letter taunts Naaman, saying the Syrian king could “kill or keep alive” his daughter. Naaman responds to this my tearing his clothes and saying “see how he seeketh a quarrel against me?” M will have it be the king of Israel who tears his clothes and says “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man doth send unto me to recover a man of his leprosy?“ and will also say “see how he seeketh a quarrel against me?”

In the opposing narrative departs with silver, gold and raiments, to offer ransom for his daughter. In M, Naaman departs to deliver the letter and brings the silver, gold and raiment to offer to be healed.

The Instructions

Naaman brings his horses and chariot in both narratives. In the opposing narrative, he goes to the king of Syria (who took his daughter captive). In M’s narrative, he goes to Elijah’s house.

In both narratives, a messenger is sent to Naaman. In the opposing narrative, the messenger is from the king of Syrian, in M’s narrative, the messenger is from Elisha.

M has Elisha tell Naaman to wash his skin seven times in the Jordan river. The opposing narrative has the king of Syria tell Naaman to dip himself seven times in a river of Damascus. Why the king of Syria wants Naaman to do this is unclear. It seems that the king of Syria is trying to get Naaman to submit to him and these instructions are designed to humiliate Naaman into that submission.

If Naaman complies with Elisha’s instructions, his “flesh shall come again to thee”, referring to Naaman’s daughter. With M, it means that his skin would be restored. M also adds “and thou shall be clean” to emphasize that the issue is with Naaman’s skin.

Naaman is angry in both narratives. In the opposing narrative, it is because he thought the king of Syrian would come out and shake his fist at him - meaning, he expected the king of Syria to come out and fight, or at least, display hostility.

Changing Naaman’s Mind

Both narratives have Naaman turns away in rage. They will both change Naaman’s mind while using the word “father”. In the opposing narrative, it is Naaman’s daughter who changes his mind. In M’s narrative, it is Naaman’s servant who does.

In the opposing narrative, Naaman dips himself seven times in a river of Damascus. In M’s account he dips himself seven times in the Jordan River.

Returning Of Naaman’s Flesh

The opposing narrative then has Naaman return to the king of Syria to retrieve his daughter. M will heal Naaman’s flesh first and then will have him return to Elisha.

Both narratives say that “his flesh came again” although with different meanings. In M’s narrative, his skin becomes “like” the flesh of a little child. M uses “like” here similar to the way he did in the Ahab & Obadiah narrative and uses it to spin a literal meaning into an analogous meaning. In the opposing narrative, it is literally the flesh of a little child - his daughter. “Little” here is the same word to describe the maid who was taken into captivity.

In the opposing narrative, the Syrian king tells Naaman to go in peace, but M has Elisha tell him to go in peace after M explains why Naaman didn’t give Elisha a “blessing”.

Prophet Of Which Land?

With the opposing narrative taking place in Syria, with a Syrian prophet, M needs to shift things over to Israel. The little maid that was taken captive from Israel is the catalyst to get Naaman over to Israel. Elisha is described as “a prophet in Israel” and “the prophet that is in Samaria”.

The term “man of Elohim” is used several times to describe Elisha. I write about how this is a term of respect in The Woman At Zarephath narrative, but it doesn’t seem like M needs to counter any despicable actions of Elisha in this narrative. However, when combined with Naaman’s claim that “there is no Elohim in all the earth, but in Israel”, the term “man of Elohim” becomes a reference to an Israelite prophet as well as tying into the next issue.

Elisha’s Elohim

M has Naaman state that Yahweh is Elisha’s Elohim. Elisha also states that he stands before Yahweh. Also, once again, M counters the idea that Yahweh was not alive. See comments regarding this in The Brook Cherith.

Ahab & Obadiah - Northern Elijah & Elisha: A Mirror-Reading

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image: Wikimedia commons (link).

This is a mirror-reading of the The Ahab & Obadiah Narrative. If you don’t know what mirror-reading is, please visit this page. The Ahab & Obadiah Narrative is primarily concerned with Elijah’s reputation in regards to his relationship with Ahab, what happened at Mt. Carmel and who was Elijah’s Elohim.

If you’d like a less technical overview, please check out my podcast episode on this narrative. If you’re not familiar with Northern Elijah & Elisha, be sure to check out all of the podcast episodes in that series. I used Tzemah Yoreh's work as the basis for my Northern Elijah/Elisha Source. My mirror-reading map and commentary are listed below. In my commentary, I refer to the author of the Northern Elijah/Elisha source as “M”, after Tzemah’s labeling of the source as “Miracle Workers”.

Mirror-Reading Map

The map below shows how I derived the opposing narrative from the Biblical narrative. It relies primarily on mirrors/echos and cause/effect. For more information about mirrors/echoes, causal chains and my methodology, please visit this post.

Elijah---Ahab-and-Obadiah-v2.jpg

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Commentary

Please note that “M” refers to the author of the opposing narrative

Was Elijah A Fugitive?

The opposing narrative claims that Elijah was a fugitive, and this cycle deals primarily with Ahab’s pursuit of Elijah. The opposing narrative claimed that Ahab searched all of the nations and kingdom’s for Elijah. M will admit this, but his account takes a different light since the reason for Ahab’s search is Elijah’s pronouncement of a famine (See The Brook Cherith). Ahab wants to find Elijah so that it will rain again. M counters the idea of Elijah as a fugitive by presenting him as unafraid of Ahab. It was Elijah’s initiative to go see Ahab, and he declares to Obadiah, “I will surely shew myself unto him to day”.

Why Did Obadiah Tell Ahab About Elijah?

The opposing narrative has Obadiah selling out Elijah to Ahab. M counters this by telling how much respect Obadiah had for Elijah. Obadiah calls him “lord” and refers to himself as Elijah’s servant. When he meets him, he falls on his face in submission.

Both M and the opposing narrative agree that Obadiah told Ahab that Elijah was in Obadiah’s territory. However, M makes this Elijah’s initiative by having him tell Obadiah to go tell Ahab that he is there.

Why Did Obadiah Tell Ahab About Elijah?

M and the opposing narrative have different views on the type of relationship between Obadiah and Ahab. The opposing narrative asserts that Obadiah was the governor of an adjacent territory. The word “governor” here could refer to being “over” something, whether a city or a house. M spins it to the latter and puts Obadiah under the authority of Ahab. The division of territory between them is explained by having them split up in their search for water during the famine.

At first glance, the opposing narrative would seem to indicate that Obadiah was a governor over a city or territory within Israel since the location in question appears to be within Israel. However, M emphasizes Ahab’s authority over Obadiah thereby indicating that the opposing narrative said that Ahab did not have authority over Obadiah, suggesting that Obadiah was ruler over a city or territory that was not part of Israel, but within what was later to be Israel’s territory. This may indicate that the opposing narrative was composed early, in a time before the Israelites came to dominate that part of the land.

Did Ahab Kill Obadiah?

Both narratives agree that Ahab went to meet Elijah, but they differ on whether Ahab was able to find him. The opposing narrative says that Ahab could not find Elijah and then killed Obadiah in response. M will counter this by wrapping those aspects in the concerns of Obadiah. He says, “And now thou sayest, Go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah is here. And it shall come to pass, as soon as I am gone from thee, that the Spirit of the LORD shall carry thee whither I know not; and so when I come and tell Ahab, and he cannot find thee, he shall slay me:” and “What have I sinned, that thou wouldest deliver thy servant into the hand of Ahab, to slay me?” Elijah responds by assuring him that he will be there to meet Ahab.

The opposing narrative has Ahab celebrate his victory over Obadiah by eating and drinking. M will make the eating and drinking part of Elijah’s command to Ahab.

What Happened At Mt. Carmel?

In the opposing narrative, Elijah escapes before Ahab finds him in Obadiah’s territory. He makes his way to Mt. Carmel, which is on the border of Israel and Phoenicia. This would makes sense in the opposing narrative, since Elijah is a fugitive, and Mt. Carmel was a place of refuge:

“...although the description in the Book of Amos, of the location being a refuge, is dated by textual scholars to be earlier than the accounts of Elisha in the Book of Kings, and according to Strabo it had continued to be a place of refuge until at least the first century.”

Wikipedia

M has Elijah go to the top of Mt. Carmel, which makes for an awkward command when Elijah tells his servant to “go up” when they are already at the top. In the opposing narrative, the servant may not have been Elijah’s and returns after seeing no rain. This marks a failed prophecy for Elijah and M inserts the 7 times so that he can make it a successful prophecy.

The Storm & The Sea

This section may not have been part of the Elijah opposing narrative, but regardless, I propose that it is dealing with a storm god and a sea god. Not only does it involve a storm and a sea in the narrative but also a mountain. A mountain and a sea was a location for a storm god and sea god to battle:

Marduk covered this sea with land until it became a mountain

Despite his association with the storm, Ninurta’s enemy was not the sea but the mountain.

Sarlo, Daniel. The Storm God Versus The Sea (p. 11)

In the opposing narrative, there is a hand arising out of the sea. M will associate the hand to be “like” a man’s hand in describing the storm cloud. M here is trying to shift the cause of the storm away from the pagan gods in the opposing narrative and give credit to Yahweh and his prophet Elijah. The text doesn’t seem to indicate which storm god was in the opposing narrative, but given the geographical location, it was likely Baal. Interestingly enough, a later addition to this part of the Biblical narrative will describe a “battle” between Elijah and the prophets of Baal.

Furthermore, a chariot is associated with storm gods. Storm god features such as this will later become associated with Yahweh:

Like Baal, Yahweh is a warrior who descends from his mountain-home riding a chariot of clouds. His voice is thunder and his weapon is lightning; the earth quakes and the skies release rain at his command. In primeval times he asserted his authority by defeating the sea, becoming the ruler of the skies.

Sarlo, Daniel. The Storm God Versus The Sea (p. 1)

M moves the connection away from the chariot of the storm god and over to the chariot of Ahab, but instead of bring the storm to Jezreel, Ahab outruns it.

Elijah’s Elohim

Once again, M emphasizes that Yahweh was the Elohim of Elijah. Obadiah refers to Yahweh as Elijah’s Elohim and was concerned that the Spirit of Yahweh would carry him away. Additionally, Elijah himself says that he “stands before” Yahweh.

לפני “before” is a characteristic phrase in these stories. In conjunction with the verb עמד “stand” it is a sign of reverence, even worship. It forms part of an oath (5:16) and designates an attitude of respect (4:12, 15).

Hobbs, T. R. (1998). 2 Kings (Vol. 13, p. 63). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

The opposing narrative said that Yahweh was not the Elohim of Elijah, and one reason was because He was not alive. See comments regarding this in The Brook Cherith. M responds by stating twice that Yahweh “liveth”.

The Woman At Zarephath - Northern Elijah & Elisha: A Mirror-Reading

image: Wikimedia commons (  link  ).

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

This is a mirror-reading of the The Woman at Zarephath Narrative. If you don’t know what mirror-reading is, please visit this page. The Woman at Zarephath Narrative is primarily concerned with Elijah’s reputation, who was the widow, what happened to her son and which Elohim Elijah served.

If you’d like a less technical overview, please check out my podcast episode on this narrative. If you’re not familiar with Northern Elijah & Elisha, be sure to check out all of the podcast episodes in that series. I used Tzemah Yoreh's work as the basis for my Northern Elijah/Elisha Source. My mirror-reading map and commentary are listed below. In my commentary, I refer to the author of the Northern Elijah/Elisha source as “M”, after Tzemah’s labeling of the source as “Miracle Workers”.

Mirror-Reading Map

The map below shows how I derived the opposing narrative from the Biblical narrative. It relies primarily on mirrors/echos and cause/effect. For more information about mirrors/echoes, causal chains and my methodology, please visit this post.

Elijah---The-Widow-at-Zarephath.jpg

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Commentary

Please note that “M” refers to the author of the opposing narrative

Was The Woman At Zarephath Elijah’s Wife?

Once again, M has to deal with another narrative where Elijah is outside of Israel. The city of Zarephath was a Phoenician city just north of the Israelite border. The opposing narrative asserted this was because Elijah was a fugitive (see Ahab and Obadiah for more details), but M will simply present him as a sojourner.

The opposing narrative asserts that the woman at Zarephath was Elijah’s wife. M will counter this by making the woman a widow and injecting several reasons into the text as to why she wasn’t his wife. Most have to do with their living situation: Elijah lived separately (in the loft) and he had his own bed. The woman is also put into a position of authority within the household by calling her “mistress” of the house.

Furthermore, the woman asks “What have I to do with thee, O thou man of God?”. The opposing narrative would answer this by saying she was Elijah’s wife, but given the context given to us by M, the question is more likely to be answered “She has nothing to do with him”.

Was The Woman At Zarephath Unfaithful To Elijah?

M also has to counter the idea that, if the woman and Elijah were married, she cheated on him. I propose that the phrase “collecting sticks” was a sexual euphemism and doing it at the city gate suggested prostitution. Tamar is in a similar location (entrance to Enaim Gen. 38:14) when acting as a prostitute for Judah. It would seem that the city gate would be a poor place to find sticks or any type of wood, so M inserts that she is only gathering “two” sticks to make a meal.

Furthermore, the woman asks “...art thou come unto me to call my sin to remembrance..?” The “sin” would be defined as her infidelity by the opposing narrative, but M leaves it vague in his narrative, as there is no sin mentioned and his reader might answer, “What sin? There was no sin?”

The woman who is a prostitute and a wife of a prophet may sound familiar as it is also the case in Hosea. However, the author of Hosea handles it differently by make Gomer analogous to Israel.

The assertion by the opposing narrative that Elijah’s wife was a prostitute and later, that Elijah ate her son, does seem a little over the top and may indicate that the opposing narrative itself was propaganda and was responding to an even earlier narrative. But that is a mirror-reading of a mirror-reading, and it’s difficult to say with any certainty.

Who Ate The Cake?

The event in the opposing narrative that sets up the reason for the son to be eaten, is Elijah’s wife and her son eating the last of the food. In this case, it’s a “cake”. His wife and her son ate it to live. M will spin this by showing that Elijah is not concerned with it being the last of the food. Notice, the “fear not” that Elijah speaks to her, in order to downplay the event as the potential reason for the eating of the son. Notice also that M spins the reason for eating the cake, changing it from sustenance to keep her and her son alive, to despair with the expectation that they would die after eating it, not from Elijah killing her son, but from starvation.

Did The Food Run Out?

The making of the cake was done at the request of Elijah, countering the idea that the woman had done it on her own initiative. M has the barrel of meal and cruse of oil keep producing, feeding the woman, her son and her house for many days, whereas, in the opposing narrative, they run out. The lack of food and the failure of the woman to share the cake with him, leads Elijah to seek another food source. With the woman’s infidelity and the son’s paternity in question, Elijah feels justified in eating her son, perhaps even with a sense of revenge.

It seems that M would have us believe the cause of the lack of food was from the lack of rain declared in the previous cycle. This may not have been the case in the opposing narrative. Another possible reason would be a siege. Most if not all references in the Bible that refer to eating children have to do with a siege. It’s interesting that a later addition to the Elisha story involves a famine and a siege with two women eating a child.

The Death Of The Son

In the opposing narrative, Elijah takes the son away from the woman and kills him in preparation to eat him. According to M, the woman asks, “O thou man of God? art thou come unto me to call my sin to remembrance, and to slay my son?” The opposing narrative would have answered, “Yes, he did slay her son”, but by inserting sickness as the cause of death, M’s answer is a definite “No”, as Elijah will go on to revive the boy.

Additionally, M will note that the boy died after they ate, so as to indicate that Elijah could not have used hunger as a reason to kill the boy.

Did Elijah Eat The Son?

Elijah’s method of reviving the boy is somewhat enigmatic, stretching himself over the boy 3 times. Various explanations have been offered for this, including magic ritual and as a medical diagnostic tool. However, when looking at the opposing narrative, “stretch” could take on a new meaning. The Hebrew word is used elsewhere in the Bible to refer to the measuring of food. Measuring three times, would suggest three portions of food. Whether the “three times” was part of the opposing narrative or M adds it to put distance away from the idea of food (why would Elijah measure out 3 portions?) is not clear. Elijah crying out to Yahweh leads us to the next issue.

Elijah’s Elohim

M let’s us know that Yahweh was Elijah’s Elohim by having the woman say that Yahweh was his Elohim, and when Elijah prays for the boy, he cries out to Yahweh. The text does not seem to indicate what the opposing narrative said who Elijah’s Elohim was, only that one of the reasons that Yahweh was not Elijah’s Elohim was because Yahweh was not alive. See comments regarding this in The Brook Cherith.

Man Of Elohim

The term “Man of Elohim” or “Man of God” is often used in regards to prophets but not exclusively. It seems to have been a term of respect and speaks to their character more than anything. This fits with the Elijah and Elisha narratives as M is trying to combat some negative views of the two prophets. The term is used only in this cycle for Elijah, and this cycle is countering the opposing narrative that would put his character in the most negative light. The frequency of the term jumps when we get to Elisha, as the opposing narratives that surround his character put in him in a negative light more often.

The Brook Cherith - Northern Elijah & Elisha: A Mirror-Reading

image: Wikimedia commons (  link  ).

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

This is a mirror-reading of the The Brook Cherith Narrative. If you don’t know what mirror-reading is, please visit this page. The Brook Cherith Narrative is primarily concerned with Elijah’s reputation, his place of residence, what happened at the Brook Cherith, which Elohim he served, and if Yahweh was the Elohim of Israel.

If you’d like a less technical overview, please check out my podcast episode on this narrative. If you’re not familiar with Northern Elijah & Elisha, be sure to check out all of the podcast episodes in that series. I used Tzemah Yoreh's work as the basis for my Northern Elijah/Elisha Source. My mirror-reading map and commentary are listed below. In my commentary, I refer to the author of the Northern Elijah/Elisha source as “M”, after Tzemah’s labeling of the source as “Miracle Workers”.

Mirror-Reading Map

The map below shows how I derived the opposing narrative from the Biblical narrative. It relies primarily on mirrors/echos and cause/effect. For more information about mirrors/echoes, causal chains and my methodology, please visit this post.

Elijah---The-Brook-Cherith.jpg

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Commentary

Please note that “M” refers to the author of the opposing narrative

Elijah’s Residence

Since the opposing narrative has Elijah as a fugitive that Ahab was trying to track down (see Ahab and Obadiah for more details), M has to deal with Elijah being an Israelite who wasn’t in Israel. This is done is a few ways. FIrst, Elijah is listed as a Tishbite.

In eight passages, including 21:17, he is identified as “the Tishbite,” but since it is very doubtful that there was a place Tishbe in Gilead, as many commentators have claimed, it is perhaps best to follow the suggestion (see S. Cohen in IDB IV, 653–54) that the “i” should be revocalized as an “o”, giving us the meaning “settler.”

DeVries, S. J. (2003). 1 Kings (2nd ed, Vol. 12, p. 216). Dallas: Word, Inc.

I disagree with “settler’ and side with the KJV in the 9 instances it lists the word as a “sojourner”. This fits the strategy that M would have used to make an excuse for why Elijah, an Israelite, wasn’t in Israel: He was traveling.

“Of the inhabitants of Gilead” is an interesting phrase. Often times, a character introduction will include a phrase such as “of the tribe of”, but once again M is responding to the opposing narrative’s placing of Elijah outside of Israel. By using “inhabitants”, M attempts to establish Elijah’s residence within the territory of Israel.

By having Elijah speak with Ahab out of his own initiative, M attempts to counter to opposing narrative’s idea that Ahab was pursuing Elijah as a fugitive,

The main location for this narrative is the Brook Cherith. The word “Cherith” simply means “seperation” or “cutting” presumably as in how water cuts through the land. If it was small and unknown enough, M can simply relocate the brook to be within the boundaries of israel by adding “of Jordan”. Since the rest of the Elijah narrative takes place near the Israelite/Phoenician border, one might speculate that the opposing narrative located the Brook Cherith in that area as well.

According to the opposing narrative, it seems Elijah went to the brook because he was a fugitive. M doesn’t make it clear why Elijah goes there. It’s interesting that a later addition to the story, will have Elijah go to the brook as a fugitive, this time from Jezebel.

How Cherith Dried Up

Although it’s not clear to me why, M is concerned with countering the opposing narrative in regards to how and when the brook dried up. Let’s look at the “how” first:

The famine initiated by Elijah seems to be an invention of M. The original reader doesn’t seem to be aware of such a famine, causing M to mention it twice. The famine is then used as the reason for the brook drying. Additionally, the famine could possibly be an alternative reason for why Ahab is looking for Elijah. It’s not clear why Elijah is a fugitive in the opposing narrative. The famine is in contrast to the opposing narrative, which views the dry brook as part of it’s regular seasonal drying. The “brook” here is actually a wadi, and as such, would have experienced regular dry spells.

Additionally, the famine theme throughout the Elijah cycles may be part of a strategy by M to promote Yahweh as a fertility god by having one of His prophets control the rain. Furthermore, it’s possible that the original readers were experiencing a famine at the time of composition.

When Cherith Dried Up

As to when the brook dried up, M stresses the point that it dried at least a day after Elijah was there. This is indicated in two ways. This first is that M explicitly says that the brook dried up “after a day”. The second is by telling that the ravens brought Elijah bread and flesh in the morning and in the evening = 1 day. After the ravens brought him food, he was still able to drink from the brook, indicating that it was not yet dry.

The original reader was likely familiar with “the ravens”. The use of the definite article instead of “some ravens” or simply “ravens” indicate that the ravens were part of the opposing narrative. However, I’m unable to reconstruct how they were a part of it. We could speculate that this cycle was the last cycle of the opposing narrative, and that Elijah had died (from thirst, because the brook was dry) and the ravens ate his flesh.

Given that the opposing narrative has the brook drying up because of the dry season, we can assume that it dried up during that season. However, the emphasis of when it dried, seems to be in relation to Elijah, and I am unable to ascertain from the text how the opposing narrative had dried up in relation to him.

Which Elohim Did Elijah Serve?

M has Elijah tell Ahab that he stands before the Elohim of Israel, thereby countering the opposing claim that he did not serve the Elohim of Israel. If Elijah wasn’t serving the Elohim of Israel, then what Elohim was he serving? The text doesn’t give us much to answer this question.

Was Yahweh the Elohim of Israel?

M tells us explicitly that Yahweh is the Elohim of Israel, but the opposing narrative may have disagreed, and one reason is because Yahweh was not alive. We don’t seem to have any indication as to why that was, but some possibilities are that Yahweh wasn’t born/didn’t exist, or that he was killed by another god. Regardless, M makes it a point to say that Yahweh was alive.

Additionally, Elijah’s (and Elisha’s) name may have been beneficial to M’s narrative since they are combinations of Elohim and Yahweh:

Elijah’s name seems to be symbolic of his special mission, which is to confess that Yahweh (Jah) is his God (Eli).

DeVries, S. J. (2003). 1 Kings (2nd ed, Vol. 12, p. 216). Dallas: Word, Inc.

Yahwist Notes: Gen 12:1-9 Abraham’s Migration to Canaan

The following are rough notes as I read through the Yahwist. I’m using Tzemah Yoreh’s source attribution for the Yahwist. You can view all of my notes of the Yahwist series here. Some ideas presented here may seem ridiculous, but no idea is too stupid during this phase. I’m not that concerned with grammar or spelling either. My thoughts and ideas will likely alter significantly by the time I produce a full mirror-reading of the Yahwist, but this gives you an idea of “how the sausage is made”. Feel free to share comments and/or links you think I might find helpful.

Opposing Narrative: Abraham did not leave his country, kindred or father’s house

Yahweh did not show Abraham the land?

Israel was not a great nation (because northern tribes only, not southern tribes?)

Abraham’s name was not great?

Yahweh did not bless Abraham?

Yahweh did not tell him to go to Canaan?

Lot did not go with Abraham?

Alternative explanation for altar at Oak of Moreh?

Altar’s were alternative explanations for boundary markers?

Yahweh did not appear to Abraham?

Alternative explanation for altar between Bethel and Ai?

Yahwist has to migrate Abraham to the Negev to show that the southern tribes were part of Israel?

From around the web:

Some help from @Elishabenabuya

Yahwist Notes: Gen 11 Tower of Babel

The following are rough notes as I read through the Yahwist. I’m using Tzemah Yoreh’s source attribution for the Yahwist. You can view all of my notes of the Yahwist series here. Some ideas presented here may seem ridiculous, but no idea is too stupid during this phase. I’m not that concerned with grammar or spelling either. My thoughts and ideas will likely alter significantly by the time I produce a full mirror-reading of the Yahwist, but this gives you an idea of “how the sausage is made”. Feel free to share comments and/or links you think I might find helpful.

Opposing narrative: The whole earth was not one language?

Why was it important that they migrated from the east?

Bricks mentioned because it enable mortals to make the tower?

Why are they concerned about being scattered abroad?

Mortals built the city and tower...not gods?

“Us” used like in Genesis 2-3 in regards to Yahweh and the gods - Yahwist had to because Opposing narrative used plural gods?

Genesis definition for Babel does not fit and it an alternative explanation for the name.

It was Yahweh that confused the language...not another god?

It was Yahweh that scattered them...not another god?

City and tower were built, not just the tower

From around the web:

Yahwist Notes: Gen 9 Naked Noah & Canaan's Curse

The following are rough notes as I read through the Yahwist. I’m using Tzemah Yoreh’s source attribution for the Yahwist. You can view all of my notes of the Yahwist series here. Some ideas presented here may seem ridiculous, but no idea is too stupid during this phase. I’m not that concerned with grammar or spelling either. My thoughts and ideas will likely alter significantly by the time I produce a full mirror-reading of the Yahwist, but this gives you an idea of “how the sausage is made”. Feel free to share comments and/or links you think I might find helpful.

Shem, Ham, Japheth and Canaan were not sons of Noah? They did not come out of the ark?

Noah was not a man of the soil, was not the first to plant a vineyard?

“Lay uncovered” in this text stresses it was just nakedness

Only two brothers outside?

Is putting garment on shoulders a euphemism for authority?

“Their father” was not their father?

They did not see their father’s nakedness means they did?

“Youngest son” means not his youngest son did it to him?

“to him” means he did it to someone else?

Lowest of slaves means he was not lowest of slaves (slave of slaves)?

“His brothers” means they were not his brothers?

Yahweh was not the God of Shem?

Canaan was not Shem’s slave?

Lots of ambiguity around seeing nakedness of father

Putting cloak over Noah because he was dead?

Noah was not originally part of the flood story?

From around the web:

Yahwist Notes: Gen 5-8 Noah & The Flood

The following are rough notes as I read through the Yahwist. I’m using Tzemah Yoreh’s source attribution for the Yahwist. You can view all of my notes of the Yahwist series here. Some ideas presented here may seem ridiculous, but no idea is too stupid during this phase. I’m not that concerned with grammar or spelling either. My thoughts and ideas will likely alter significantly by the time I produce a full mirror-reading of the Yahwist, but this gives you an idea of “how the sausage is made”. Feel free to share comments and/or links you think I might find helpful.

Lamech one of Sumerian kings?

Lamech father son, mirrored would make Noah a girl

Noah name meaning and name explanation don’t match

Gen 2 alternative explanation for Noah’s name?

Emphasis on Yahweh destroying humankind (and animals) 2x

Emphasis on Yahweh making humankind 2x

Why an ark and not a boat like other Mesopotamian flood accounts?

J seems to be stressing that no other than Noah and family survived the flood - Abel too

Emphasis on soil, ground, earth

Flood under whole heave = no distant survivors

Shift family line before flood, now they are part of another family

Why raven and dove? Raven does not return, has to use dove to confirm?

Emphasis on Noah being the one who made the ark

Emphasis on birds not returning anymore

Why an olive leaf?

Yahweh doesn’t realize that humans are continuously evil, as if they could have paused from being evil?

Yahwist concerned to show that Yahweh was justified in flood

Humankind was alternative reason for ground being cursed?

From around the web:

Yahwist Notes: Gen 4 Cain & Abel

The following are rough notes as I read through the Yahwist. I’m using Tzemah Yoreh’s source attribution for the Yahwist. You can view all of my notes of the Yahwist series here. Some ideas presented here may seem ridiculous, but no idea is too stupid during this phase. I’m not that concerned with grammar or spelling either. My thoughts and ideas will likely alter significantly by the time I produce a full mirror-reading of the Yahwist, but this gives you an idea of “how the sausage is made”. Feel free to share comments and/or links you think I might find helpful.

This is the first of brotherly rivalries for the Yahwist: Cain and Abel, Isaac and Ishmael and Jacob and Esau.

Eve had produced a man (Adam) by herself? J spins this to sex with Adam and producing Cain with help of Yahweh?

Cain’s birth alternative explanation for the meaning of Cain’s name? kan (qayin, "spear" or "smith," resembling in sound the root qanah, "get," "acquire,"

Abel is referred to as Cain’s brother 7x, indicating that he was not Cain’s brother in the opposing narrative.

broader theme- soil tillers, Adam, Cain and Noah vs Nomadic?

Yahweh did not have regard for Cain’s because the ground had been previously cursed?

J stresses the reason for why Cain was very angry and countenance fallen indicating that the opposing narrative gave a different reason

Originally Cain said “Whoever kills Cain will suffer a sevenfold vengeance”. J’s spins this so that Yahweh says it about Cain. Just like Lamech said it himself

“Sin lurking at door” originally referred to demon?

Abze was Sumerian god of water. Ab El was Hebrew equivalent?

Cain suggesting going out to field would suggest premeditated murder

Ground originally opened its mouth to swallow Abel like Korah, but J spins this to Abel’s blood, not Abel himself.

Lots of ambiguity with the phrase “My punishment is greater than I can bear” in the Hebrew. Could suggest that it was used one way in opposing narrative but J is using it in a different way.

Cain’s being driven away from the face of Yahweh is J’s explanation as to why there was no account of Cain worshiping Yahweh?

Cain’s punishment of wandering was J’s alternative explanation for the name origin of the Land of Nod?

Yahweh’s protection is J’s alternative explanation for Cain’s mark?

Cain’s family line is parallel to Sumerian king list?

I’m very interested to learn more about how Sumerian creation myth relates to J’s account.

Why is J concerned with family line of Noah?

Irad was first Sumerian city? Why does J list it?

Names with El: Mehujael, Methushael, Abel

Names with Yahweh: Adah, Zillah

Names with Baal: Jabal, Jubal, Tubal-cain

Jabel parallel to Abel - livestock, Tubal-cain parallel to Cain - smith?

J stressing that Adah and Zillah were Lamech’s wives indicates that they were not.

What’s up with J’s preoccupation with “soil”?

J’s stressing that Enoch was Cain’s son indicates that he was not.

Lamech’s son’s originally divine as they brought music and metallurgy?

From around the web:

Yahwist Notes: Gen 2-3 Garden of Eden

The following are rough notes as I read through the Yahwist. I’m using Tzemah Yoreh’s source attribution for the Yahwist. You can view all of my notes of the Yahwist series here. Some ideas presented here may seem ridiculous, but no idea is too stupid during this phase. I’m not that concerned with grammar or spelling either. My thoughts and ideas will likely alter significantly by the time I produce a full mirror-reading of the Yahwist, but this gives you an idea of “how the sausage is made”. Feel free to share comments and/or links you think I might find helpful.

The “Lord God” is used extensively throughout this section, presumably to combine the identities of both Yahweh and Elohim. Only Elohim is used is a few instances. Why? Is this because those instances had already been attributed to Elohim and J doesn’t feel like he can alter previous text? Is Yahweh spinning a pre-existing narrative about Elohim’s creation story?

“Made heaven and earth” There seems to be an emphasis on Yahweh’s ability to provide fertility. But also an emphasis on his “earthiness”. Was Yahweh only seen as a heavenly God? Or a strictly “earthy” God?

“The Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth”. Is this an alternative explanation for lack of vegetation on the ground?

There is an emphasis that man was formed from the dust of the ground. Was J responding to a different type of formation of man?

Placement of the garden seems to be more near Babylon that Israel. Does this indicate a exilic or post-exilic account? Tower of Babel is also along the same lines. What’s with the obsession with Babylon when it is supposedly a Israelite account?

“Gold of the land was good” Never heard of gold that wasn’t good. What is the significance of this?

It’s interesting that the “Tree of LIfe” pops up in other ancient literature but Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil does not. Could be this is an assertion by J into the original narrative. The serpent was viewed and giver of wisdom. J may be trying to shift origin of wisdom away from serpent and to the Tree of Knowledge. Eve “saw that it was good” even before eating, providing an explanation for the serpent to providing insight but the “real” good and evil was in the tree.

Perhaps Heiser is right…..and wrong. Perhaps the original narrative did have a divine being but J spins it to make it a more earthly serpent.

“Not good to be alone” another instance of Yahweh recognize good/not good.

Why the emphasis of Adam over the animals?

Why counter the idea that an animal was found to be Adam’s helper?

Lots of ambiguity in the text. This is usually indicative of the Biblical author taking pre-existing narrative and trying to spin it in a different direction.

“One Flesh” is about breaking family ties between the wife and her family. Keener sees this too. But why is it an issue when J writes?

Ambiguous language with the serpent. Is “crafty” good or bad? Perhaps good in the original narrative but J makes it bad. Spinning the ambiguity.

Perhaps the original narrative said the serpentine being gave wisdom to the woman and the woman gave wisdom to the man. The tree undercuts this and wisdom is given by eating the fruit, J shows that the man and women receive wisdom at the same time - both of their eyes were open simultaneously. Nakedness is used as a tool to show this.

Hiding - J seems to be providing an alternative explanation as to why they hid, emphasizing the it was because they heard the “Sound” of God walking

“Who told you that you were naked?” Perhaps in the original narrative the serpent told them they were naked. God’s question seems out of place here and could be a spin by J.

The curses seem to have to do with fertility: Toil and the land, pain and pregnancy, serpent eating dust has tones of famine. This sets up for Noah to reverse the famine curse. There may be a tie in with Cain too as he becomes cursed from the ground.

Enmity between offspring - this has to be at least a parallel to Israel and some other offspring. Will look for clues and I work through J.

I don’t think J’s narrative is meant to be allegory although there may be parallels. His work is propaganda and was meant to be taken as literal even if it was fiction.

“You have listened to the voice of your wife” could be a theme with J. I recall Abraham getting into trouble for listening to Sarah. But why an issue during J’s time?

Eve’s name is ambiguous meaning. Could have been related to serpent in original narrative. J spins it to mean mother of all living.

Garments of skin or garment for skin. Ambiguous. Perhaps original narrative had garments made of another material.

Cherubim. Lots of parallel’s to Temple, which is a major thing for J

From around the web:

Bernard Lamborelle vs Mirror-Reading

image: Wikimedia commons (  link  ).

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

Update 10-14-18: Bernard has written a response. Be sure to check out “Facing Cognitive Dissonance"!

This is a compare and contrast between two different approaches regarding Abraham and Yahweh.  This is the 3rd compare and contrast post that I’ve done.  Be sure to check out my compare and contrast posts of John Piper (Romans 8:28) and allegorical interpretation (Genesis 1).

I first discovered Bernard on The Non-Sequitur Show and respect his novel interpretation, a rarity in a field dominated by tradition. I find him to be cordial, open-minded and graceful in his interactions with others. Ultimately, though, I disagree with his position. Bernard has invited others to critique his work, so I am taking him up on that invitation. However, my focus won’t be on disproving his theory (although I’ll make a few points about that), but rather comparing and contrasting it to my own theory derived from mirror-reading, which I feel offers a better explanation of the Biblical text in question.  

This post won’t be a thorough presentation of his views, so if you want to know the details of his argument be sure to check out his website, or buy his book. I will only be quoting or briefly summarizing his positions just enough to contrast with my own. Having said that though, if Bernard feels I’ve misrepresented him here or would like to clarify something, I will certainly add it to this post.

This post will also be limited in scope.  Bernard’s analysis covers Genesis 12-25, but mine will only include the Elohist’s Genesis 20-22, the Yahwist’s Genesis 13,18-19 and the Bridger's Genesis 14.

There are a few things that Bernard and I agree on however, and I will mention those things before I get into our differences.

Niche Market

We both are proposing novel ideas about the Bible, and there isn’t exactly a large market for that sort of thing.  As Bernard explains:

It took me a while to grasp and then accept the harsh reality that those who should have cared weren’t ready, and that those who were ready didn’t care. Indeed, those who believe Abraham made a Covenant with the divine aren’t interested in seeing their beliefs challenged, and those who view this story as a myth don’t have much interest in learning more about it.

Lamborelle, Bernard. The Covenant: On the Origin of the Abrahamic Faith, by Means of Deification (p. 10). Kindle Edition.

Original Intent

We both seek to discover what was the original intent of the Biblical text. Bernard asks:

How can we steer towards the original intent rather than stray away from it?

Lamborelle, Bernard. The Covenant: On the Origin of the Abrahamic Faith, by Means of Deification (p. 51). Kindle Edition.

Our methods lead us to different conclusions, but we both share the same desire for original authorial intent.

Abraham Existed

Bernard argues that Abraham actually existed in history. I also believe that he existed in history (or, at least, the original readers thought he existed in history).  Bernard believes this because historical and archaeological evidence allows for him to exist in the time-frame described in the Bible.  I believe he existed because mirror-reading shows that the Biblical author assumed the original reader believed that there were descendants of Abraham (see Elohist: Abraham Cycle).

Now onto our differences:

Dissociative Exegesis vs Mirror-Reading

Bernard’s approach to the text is what he calls “dissociative exegesis”.

To help put things into perspective, it would now be useful to adopt the paradigm of an earthly covenant and revisit the Abrahamic narrative through the eyes of the inhabitants of Sodom. This is achieved by performing what I refer to as a dissociative exegesis, an exercise of textual analysis that invites you to assess the story of Abraham in the Bible while: 1) Identifying and dissociating the humanistic Yahweh from the immaterial Elohim. 2) Picturing Yahweh as a powerful Mesopotamian overlord (i.e., Baal Berith) in league with the four Eastern Kings.

Lamborelle, Bernard. The Covenant: On the Origin of the Abrahamic Faith, by Means of Deification (p. 67). Kindle Edition.

I, on the other hand, use a technique called “mirror-reading”.  Mirror-reading is the process of mirroring the text in order to recreate the opposing narrative that the Biblical author was responding to.  So, for example, if the Biblical writer says to do “x”, then the opposing narrative may have been saying not to do “x”.  Of course, not all of the text should be mirrored, and I use causal connections to help determine my mirror-reading.  If you’d like to learn more details, please check out my about page. It should be noted that most of the mirror-reading in this post is only a cursory mirror-reading.  If you'd like to see mirror-readings with my methodology fully applied, check out those listed as such on this page.

Secular History or Political Propaganda?

Bernard believes that the text in question was secular history that was later theologized by later Biblical authors.  Yahweh was a powerful human (Hammurabi is his leading candidate) who eventually became deified by later writers of the Bible.

I believe the text was political propaganda that was later theologized by readers of the Bible. That propaganda is still there in the text, but later readers, unfamiliar with the original political concerns, would force theological meaning into the text.  Fortunately, mirror-reading can help us reconstruct what those original political concerns were.  I’ve discerned many of those concerns in the Elohist Source and the Northern Book of Judges.

Dr. Steven DiMattei writes:

In the majority of cases, scribes wrote for a scribal guild or a monarch. As patrons of their kings, one of the responsibilities of the court scribe was to write political propaganda—that is literature that advertised, endorsed, and legitimated the king’s policies and even his ascension to the throne if need be.

http://contradictionsinthebible.com/the-yahwist-2/

This explains why Biblical authors include such terrible moral examples in their text.  It is because they are not concerned with morality. The political agenda was primary.  If Abraham has to lie, Samson has to sleep with prostitutes and genocide has to be committed against the Amorites, that was fine, as long as it supported the political agenda of the Biblical author. This also means the writers weren’t concerned about what actually happened in history and so, undercuts Bernard’s secular history view of the text.

2 Gods or 1 God + 1 Man?

Bernard believes Yahweh was a man, and that later scribes made him into God and used the term “Elohim”.  This is a problem for Bernard because he needs the text to say “Yahweh” and not “Elohim” in certain places.  This leads him to attack the Documentary Hypothesis (JEDP Theory) first developed by Wellhausen.

Wellhausen’s theory centers around Genesis being written by different authors (sources) and spliced together to produce the finished product.  As such, Elohim was God of northern Israel in the Elohist Source, and Yahweh was the God of Southern Israel in the Yahwist Source. When the sources were mixed together, the God’s identities became combined.  Bernard argues that the Documentary Hypothesis is now seriously contested because it has been proven incomplete and flawed.

Exploring a different hypothesis is therefore in line with the current post-Documentary trend, which, as seen earlier, suggests that the unification of the two terms does not result from the assembly of separate sources, as presupposed by Wellhausen, but is instead the result of a slow cultural evolution. The gradual amalgamation of the terms Yahweh and Elohim would eventually take place in the minds of the Hebrews as they sought to merge two powerful figures into a single entity.

Lamborelle, Bernard. The Covenant: On the Origin of the Abrahamic Faith, by Means of Deification (p. 50). Kindle Edition.

This “gradual amalgamation” of the terms “Yahweh” and “Elohim” allows Bernard to switch out Elohim for Yahweh wherever it suits his needs based on later scribal error or bias.

I disagree and believe the Documentary Hypothesis has evolved since Wellhausen and seems to be alive and well today. To assign all Elohim references to the Elohist source and all Yahweh references to the Yahwist source is an oversimplification and a misrepresentation of the current Documentary Hypothesis. Although I agree that the classical Documentary Hypothesis should be rejected, I believe the Supplementary Hypothesis is the correct approach, specifically as developed by Tzemah Yoreh at biblecriticism.com. This hypothesis says that there were separate sources, but instead of being spliced together, each author built upon the previous author.  This allows the Yahwist and other sources to use the name Elohim when they see fit. When we add political propaganda to the mix, we see that the Biblical authors were taking the already accepted text of the previous author and spinning it with their own additions to support their political agenda.

In the case of the names Elohim and Yahweh, this is also the case.  The Elohist is the earliest of the sources and thus, is not concerned at all with Yahweh.  The Yahwist however, is building on the text of the Elohist and spinning it to his political propaganda: Combining the identities of Northern Israel and Southern Judea. This strategy is first seen in the Northern Book of Judges (developed independently of the Elohist text), when it’s author (N) uses parallel descriptions, one with Elohim and one with Yahweh, in an effort to equate the two names as one, in order to produce a unified national identity. As a side note, “Elohim” may have just been a generic name for “God”.  The Elohist source seems to be concerned with making sure the Israelites worshiped the “Elohim” of the land of Canaan and not the “Elohim” of some other land.

So, although I agree we should avoid an Elohim/Yahweh false dichotomy of sources, I believe the Supplementary Hypothesis and mirror-reading provide the best explanation of the Biblical text.  When I’ve mirror-read the sources as attributed by Tzemah, each source has shown that they address the political concerns that were prevalent at the time that they were written.

Babylonian King or Edomite God?

Bernard argues that Yahweh was originally king Hammurabi. So that would make his origins from Babylon.  But that’s not what the Biblical writers seem to be responding to.  A number of Biblical passages seem to indicate that the origins of Yahweh was from Edom.

The absence of the name ‘Yahweh’ in West Semitic epigraphy (except for the Mesha Stela) agrees well with the biblical evidence on Yahweh’s origins. A number of poetic - and presumably archaic - texts have preserved the memory of a topographical link between Yahweh and the mountain area south of Eom. In these theophany texts Yahweh is said to come from Seir, from ‘the field(s) of Edom’ (Judges 5:4;note the correction in Psalm 68:8[7]). According to the Blessing of Moses Yahweh comes from Sinai, ‘dawns from Seir’, and ‘shines forth’ from Mount Paran (Deuteronomy 33:2). Elsewhere he is said to come from Teman and Mount Paran (Habakkuk 3:3). The reference to ‘Yahweh of Teman’ in one of the Kuntillet Ajrud inscriptions is an extra-biblical confirmation of the topographical connection. All of these place - Seir, Mt Paran, Teman, and Sinai - are in or near Edom.

Karel van der Toorn, Family Religion in Babylonia, Syria & Israel pg 282

Toorn lumps Sinai in with Edom, but I disagree since Elohim from Sinai was already established in the Moses Cycle of the Elohist source, but that it had more to do with accusations that Moses was a Midianite than it did with the God of Israel having Midianite origins.  In the Deborah/Barak/Jael Cycle, N attempts to equate Yahweh with the Elohist’s God of Sinai.  It’s important to note that N was not saying that Yahweh was from Edom, only that he was responding to accusations that He was. Which raises the question, if Yahweh was from Babylon, why are Biblical authors responding to accusations that Yahweh was from Edom? If Yahweh was a man, he was a man from Edom.

Son of Hammurabi or Son of Abimelech (Genesis 20-22)?

Bernard argues that Isaac was the son of Yahweh, who was a man (most likely Hammurabi).  This is because Hammurabi had made a covenant with Abraham, and an heir was needed to continue it. Abraham could not produce a child with Sarah (because she was his half-sister), and Ishmael was not acceptable because of his Egyptian bloodline. So Hammurabi steps in and impregnates Sarah himself.

I see a couple of issues with that argument.  One, the text says Sarah could not conceive because she was past menopause.  It wouldn’t of mattered what man tried to impregnate her, she was out of eggs. Second, this would be a highly unusual strategy to solidify an alliance. The typical way to do so would have been for Hammurabi to offer one of his daughters for Abraham to take as another wife. In an honor/shame culture, having another man impregnate his wife would have been devastating to Abraham’s honor and a great humiliation.  Furthermore, any future potential allies would have been reluctant to enter into any kind of agreement with Hammurabi upon hearing of how he solved the issue with Abraham. Finally, this would have been against Hammurabi’s very own law code as Bernard points out in his book when talking about Abimelech:

Incidentally, Hammurabi’s code of law prohibits a man from sleeping with another man’s wife, a crime one would think would be especially reprehensible if committed with the wife of his representative: § 129. If a man's wife be surprised (in flagrante delicto) with another man, both shall be tied and thrown into the water, but the husband may pardon his wife and the king his slaves.

Lamborelle, Bernard. The Covenant: On the Origin of the Abrahamic Faith, by Means of Deification (p. 290). Kindle Edition.

Regardless, I think mirror-reading provides a better explanation for the text. For this section, I’ll only be mirror-reading the Elohist Source in order to understand its original purpose.  You can view the source material I used here.

The opposing narrative said that Isaac was the son of Abimelech because he had been with Sarah, and Sarah couldn’t have been Abraham’s wife because she was his sister. And although Abraham had taken custody of Isaac later in life, he had sacrificed Isaac.  So Abraham’s inheritance should not go to anyone claiming to be Isaac’s descendants but instead should go to Abraham’s other son(s).

If that is true, then we would expect the Elohist to counter those ideas in his narrative. He does this in a few different ways:

Isaac was Abraham’s son

Isaac is repeatedly referred to as Abraham’s son throughout the narrative.  Also, Abraham and Isaac repeatedly refer to each other as father and son in dialogue. The Elohist repeatedly mentions that Sarah is Abraham’s wife and provides an alternative explanation as to why it was thought Sarah was his sister:  Abraham only said that because he was afraid.  Sarah is repeatedly described as bearing Isaac to Abraham.

Abraham only had one son

Elohim declares that Isaac is Abraham’s only son. Hagar’s son is one possible candidate for being Abraham’s son but is disregarded by the Elohist and cut out from Abraham’s inheritance.   Referring to Hagar as a “slave woman” further de-legitimizes Hagar’s son as a potential heir.

Although speculative, the two young men, who accompanied Abraham and Isaac en-route to the sacrifice of Isaac, could have also been argued to be Abraham’s sons. This could also be the reason why they are anonymous, since naming them would have given their descendants an excuse to claim Abraham's inheritance.

Make the sacrifice of Isaac ambiguous

Isaac carrying the wood and the knife himself would bolster the idea that there were no witnesses to what transpired, since the two young men would not be needed to carry the items. This is the Elohist’s way of questioning the two young men’s testimony.  They never actually saw Isaac being sacrificed.

The Elohist writing Isaac back to life is not the only time a Biblical writer implements this strategy.  The Elohist will do it again with Joseph to integrate Ephraim and Manasseh into the Israelite family, and the Yahwist will do it with Lot to cut out any common ancestors with the Israelites. .  

For a detailed overview on Isaac and the opposing narrative that the Elohist was responding to, be sure to check out my podcast episode and blog post.

Land Covenant with Hammurabi or Land Dispute with the Moabites and Ammonites? (Genesis 13,18-19)

Bernard argues that Sodom and the other cities were destroyed because they rebelled against the man, Yahweh (again, Hammurabi).  The supernatural destruction is really about a military conquest.  

Again, I think mirror-reading provides a better explanation. For this section, I’ll only be mirror-reading the Yahwist in order to understand its original purpose. You can view the source material I used here.

The Elohist source does not include the tribes of Southern Israel as part of the Abrahamic tradition.  In an attempt to unify the southern and northern tribes of the Israel, the Yahwist attempts to write the southern tribes into the tradition. The story of Sodom is part of that strategy.  

The narrative that was opposing the Yahwist was saying that the southern tribes and land were part of the Moabite and Ammonite tribes.  That was because they shared a common ancestor that was a descendant of Lot, who lived in Sodom and had died during its destruction.

If that is true, then we would expect the Yahwist to counter those ideas in his narrative. He does this in a few different ways:

Remove Common Ancestors of Southern Israel, the Moabites and the Ammonites

The Yahwist does this by cutting out any common ancestors that may have descended from Lot. This is done by limiting Lot’s children.  The Yahwist only gives him two daughters.  The angels/messengers highlight this:

  • "Then the men said to Lot, “Have you anyone else here? Sons-in-law, sons, daughters, or anyone you have in the city--bring them out of the place."

Even if Lot had other children, his two daughters were the only ones to survive the destruction of Sodom.

Second, the Yahwist needed to prevent Lot from having anymore children. He does this by turning his wife into a pillar of salt, and then making Lot a hermit who lives in a cave with no or very little outside contact.

Third, the Yahwist needed to make Lot survive the destruction of Sodom.  You can see a few instances where the Yahwist is countering the idea that Lot had died:

  • "they brought him out and left him outside the city."

  • “Flee for your life; do not look back or stop anywhere in the Plain; flee to the hills, or else you will be consumed.”

  • "you have shown me great kindness in saving my life;"

  • "for fear the disaster will overtake me and I die."

  • "and my life will be saved!”

The Yahwist makes it so that Lot is in Sodom but escapes with his life.  But the Yahwist’s critics would ask, “If Lot had survived Sodom, why is there no record of him after it’s destruction”?  Again, the hermit/living in a cave aspect serves another purpose here by also explaining why no one heard of Lot after the destruction of Sodom.

Fourth, Lot’s daughters needed to be made virgins so that no common ancestors could come from them.

  • "Look, I have two daughters who have not known a man;"

In addition to explicitly stating they are virgins, the fact that Lot is able to offer his daughters shows that they are not married and still the “property” of Lot.

However, the Yahwist also had to deal with the common held belief that Lot had son-in-laws. He does this by making them not yet married to his daughters and then killing them in Sodom’s destruction:

  • "So Lot went out and said to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, “Up, get out of this place; But he seemed to his sons-in-law to be jesting."

Now with Lot and his daughters secluded in a cave, the Yahwist is free to cut out any common ancestors with the Israelites, and make Lot the direct father of the Moabites and Ammonites by telling of their incestuous relationship.  (This same type of strategy will be used by a later source when he makes Sarah Abraham’s half-sister, thereby cutting out those who would have been part of her maternal family.)

However, the Yahwist wants to keep a cordial relationship with the Moabites and Ammonites and will still keep a family tie between them and Israel by making Abraham and Lot brothers. Later sources will further the relational distance by making Lot the nephew of Abraham.

In addition, the Yahwist will make both Abraham and Lot servants of Yahweh in order to further the bond and promote Yahweh as Israel’s God.

Separating Abraham and Lot

With Abraham and Lot as direct relatives, the Yahwist needs to separate them so that there is no confusion about who the land and people in Southern Israel belong to.

First, since the Abrahamic tradition originates in the north, the Yahwist needs to get Abraham into the South.  He does this first by migrating Abraham from the north to Egypt and back again, then by moving him to Hebron.  Notice that the Yahwist points out that Lot is with Abraham:

  • "and Lot with him,"

  • "Now Lot, who went with Abram,"

After getting Lot and Abraham together in the south, the Yahwist makes a clear but cordial break between the two. This is done by Abraham giving Lot the choice of land.  Lot takes the plain of the Jordan and Abraham takes Canaan.

  • "thus they separated from each other."

Critics of the Yahwist would ask, “Why would Lot choose the plain of the Jordan when Canaan was the better land?”.  This is countered by saying that, before the destruction of Sodom, “the plain of the Jordan was well watered everywhere like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt”.

After their separation, Yahweh then gives his promise of the land of Canaan.  Notice:

  • "The LORD said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him,"

Then the promise:

  • "Raise your eyes now, and look from the place where you are, northwards and southwards and eastwards and westwards; for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever."

  • "Rise up, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you."

Furthermore, the Yahwist will shift Sodom from being Lot’s central location to a border location between Abraham and Lot.  He does this by making Lot an alien in Sodom and saying Lot’s tent had only gone as far as the city:

  • "This fellow came here as an alien"

  • "Lot settled among the cities of the Plain and moved his tent as far as Sodom."

The Yahwist responds to critics who might have claimed that the descendants of Abraham weren’t that many and couldn’t possibly include the southern tribes, by saying that Yahweh would bless Abraham with many descendants:

  • "seeing that Abraham shall become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?"

  • "I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth; so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted."

Where was Abraham?

The opposing narrative was saying that the destruction of Sodom was not caused by Yahweh.  Unfortunately, the text doesn’t appear to give us any hints as to who the opposing narrative said did destroy Sodom, although we may have an answer in Gen. 14 as I will discuss in the next section. Regardless, if Abraham and Lot were brothers, why didn’t Abraham help Lot during the destruction of Sodom?  The Yahwist responds to this criticism by shifting the cause of Sodom’s destruction to Yahweh.  

  • "and the LORD has sent us to destroy it.”

  • "for the LORD is about to destroy the city.”

  • "Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire"

  • "from the LORD out of heaven;"

Abraham cannot interfere because his God is the one doing the destruction.  However, the Yahwist does have Abraham petition Yahweh for leniency. This serves two purposes: one, it shows Abraham did something to try to help Lot.  Two, it helps the Yahwist counter the idea that Yahweh is an unrighteous and unmerciful God. There are a number of instances where the Yahwist attempts to show Yahweh as righteous, merciful and to justify His acts of violence.

  • "by doing righteousness and justice;"

  • "Then Abraham came near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?"

  • "Now the people of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the LORD."

  • "Then the LORD said, “How great is the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah and how very grave their sin!

  • "But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house; and they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, so that we may know them.” Lot went out of the door to the men, shut the door after him, and said, “I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly."

  • "13 For we are about to destroy this place, because the outcry against its people has become great before the LORD"

  • "the LORD being merciful to him"

Furthermore, this issue seems to be a concern throughout the Yahwist Source:

The Flood:

  • "The LORD saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually."

  • "Then the LORD said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you alone are righteous before me in this generation."

Abimelech:

  • "Now Abimelech had not approached her; so he said, "Lord, will you destroy an innocent people?"

The Israelites:

  • "Why should the Egyptians say, 'It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth'? Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people."

  • See also Numbers 14:15-18

Shifting the time of Isaac’s birth

The Yahwist shifts the time of Isaac’s birth until after the destruction of Sodom, presumably to ensure no ancestral connections between Isaac and Lot’s daughters. In order to do this, he has to show that Sarah was still alive, and that she could have a child in her old age.

  • [Abraham] and his wife [went up from Egypt]

The Yahwist anticipates his critics asking, “If Sarah was alive, why didn’t anyone see her?”.  The Yahwist counters this by saying that she was in the tent.

  • "Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah,"

  • “Where is your wife Sarah?” And he said, “There, in the tent.”

  • "Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him"

Where was Abraham….Again? (Genesis 14)

Bernard argues that in Genesis 14, Abraham fights and defeats the four Eastern Kings, one of them being the man, Yahweh (who is ultimately Hammurabi).  When Abraham raises his hand in v.22, Bernard takes it to mean raising his hand against Yahweh and not raising it as part of an oath.

Tzemah Yoreh takes Genesis 14 to be a source later than the Yahwist, one he refers to as “The Bridger”.  You can view the source material I used here. Genesis 14 seems to be dealing with a seperate Sodom tradition, one where kings of the east destroy Sodom and not Yahweh.  Regardless of who destroyed Sodom, the Biblical writer needs to write Abraham into the account. I’ve already discussed how the Yahwist writes Abraham into his account.  Now I will show how the Bridger writes Abraham into his account in Genesis 14.

The Bridger needs to prove that Abraham was part of the original Sodom story even though the original Sodom story didn’t include Abraham.  This is similar to when “N” needed to show that Ehud assassinated King Eglon, even though there was no evidence of it.

The Bridger will do this by tacking Abraham onto the end of the Sodom story.  Abraham will defeat the kings of the east after the Battle of Siddim. Again, Lot is made to be alive by being taken prisoner.  In this account, Abraham does do something to help Lot, and he is rescued. The Bridger also shifts the battle from Sodom to the Valley of Siddim. The odd detail of some falling into tar pits may be the spinning by the Bridger of the conquered Sodomites being thrown into the tar pits by the victors.

The Bridger also anticipates his critics asking, “If Abraham defeated the kings of the east, why do we not hear of Abraham taking the spoils of the battle?”.  The Bridger responds by having Abraham returning everything to the king of Sodom and refusing any of the spoil except for his allies.  

  • I would not take a thread or a sandal-thong or anything that is yours, so that you might not say, “I have made Abram rich.”

If Abraham had “lifted his hand” against Yahweh, the words that follow it, make less sense. “ That I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take anything that is thine…” - those words are part of an oath and make more sense if Abraham was raising his hand in that regard.

Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18-20)

Since such a small amount of text deals with Melchizedek, it is difficult to mirror-read. I can only make a few broad points.

Bernard’s theory has Melchizedek giving the tithe to Abraham.  Although that interpretation may be possible, it would be unusual.  People usually gave tithes to priests, and priests would give a blessing. To turn the tithe around would be going against the grain. Furthermore, Abraham says that he wouldn’t accept anything from the King of Sodom, so it wouldn’t make sense for Abraham to receive a tithe from all, if “all” included the King of Sodom.

Remember, the Biblical writer is not concerned about what actually happened in history but how his writing would affect his readers.  So we must ask, what does this have to with the descendants of Abraham and the descendants of Melchizedek?  This is difficult to answer since we’re not sure who the descendants of Melchizedek were.  However, it does seem to promote the idea that it was okay for the descendants of Abraham to give tithes to the descendants of Melchizedek.  There are some interesting connections with the Zadokite priesthood that could be at play here.  I won’t go into detail about that in this post, but simply point you to the wikipedia page as a starting point for those who might want to look into that possibility.

Additionally, the strategy being employed by using the name Yahweh here is to equate it with El Elyon. This is the same strategy used throughout the Northern Book of Judges to equate Yahweh with Elohim.

 

Saul - Northern Judges: A Mirror-Reading with the Mira Scriptura Methodology

image: Wikimedia commons (  link  ). 

image: Wikimedia commons (link). 

The Saul Cycle is primarily concerned with promoting the descendants of Jonathan over all of Israel, forming a strong Israelite military force, and showing that Yahweh was Israel’s God. If you’d like a less technical overview, please check out my podcast episode on the Saul Cycle.  If you’re not familiar with the Northern Book of Judges and it’s cycles, be sure to check out all of the podcast episodes in that series. I used Tzemah Yoreh's work as the basis for my Northern Book of Judges Source.

Argumentation

Please note that the argumentation below is that of the opposing narrative that the Northern Book of Judges author (N) was addressing and is opposed to the N narrative itself.

Color Code:
Black: These statements are mirrors or echoes
Blue: These statements are an inferred cause/effect of a mirror/echo or connects two mirrors/echoes
Green: These statement have no corresponding mirrors or echoes but have supporting (e.g. alternates, denials) statements that imply them.
Orange: Words within a statement that could be variations of the opposing narrative

Italics are causal connectors (e.g. “because”)
[Brackets] are replacements for pronouns or changing tense for better flow.

For more information about mirrors, echoes, supporting categories and my methodology, please visit this post.

Aspect #1 Opposing Narrative

1. The descendants of Jonathan should not be king over all of Israel
2. because Jonathan was not the son of Saul
3. because Saul was a different person
4. because Kish did not have a son named Saul
5. because Saul was not a tall and handsome man
6. because Saul was not a Benjaminite
7. because Kish did not have a son named Saul
8. because Saul was not from the land of Benjamin
9. because Saul killed Jonathan
10. because Saul was in Michmash and the hill country of Bethel, and Jonathan was in Gibeah of Benjamin;
11. because a Benjaminite should not be king over all Israel
12. because Samuel never anointed Saul to be king
13. because Saul did not eat with Samuel and the guests
14. because there were no witnesses
15. because the boy with Saul did not witness Samuel's anointing of Saul
16. because Saul did not tell his uncle that he had been anointed king
17. because Samuel was a seer, not a prophet
18. because Saul was not king over all of Israel
19. because Saul did not fight against all of Israel's enemies
20. because Shall Saul reign over us?
21. because on [Saul was] all Israel's desire [not] fixed
22. because he took a yoke of oxen, and cut them in pieces and sent them throughout all the territory of Israel. by messengers, saying, "Whoever does not come out after Saul... , so shall it be done to his oxen!"
23. because Is Saul also among the prophets?"
24. because Saul had a small army
25. because [Jonathan did not] accomplish... great victory in Israel
26. because Jonathan did not kill the Philistines at the garrison
27. because [The] armor-bearer...killed them

Aspect #1 N Response With Commentary

1. The descendants of Jonathan were trying to establish a kingship over all of Israel.   There was no history to support this though, so N took Saul and spliced him into Jonathan’s family history, and then promoted Saul as someone who was king over all of Israel.  This is in stark contrast to the history we typically think of, because we are more familiar with the Yahwist account which added in a Davidic agenda.

2. N repeatedly refers to Saul and Jonathan in terms of father and son.

3. The opposing narrative said that Saul was a different person than the son of Kish.  N responds to this by telling of how Saul’s heart was changed and when he prophesied he was like a different person.

4. Jonathan was from the line of Kish, so N splices Saul in as the son of Kish.

5. The actual son of Kish and Saul were physically different looking.  N adds a physical description to support that they are the same person.

6. Given that Ephraim was the tribe that had dominated over the other tribes, it’s likely that Saul was actually an Ephraimite.  One scholar speculates that Saul was of Edomite ethnicity:

Though Saul’s home town is not mentioned here, his usual house was in Gibeah (1 Sam. 10:26; also see on 10:10). However he was buried in his family tomb (“in the grave of Kish his father”) in Zela, which is near Gibeon; see on 2 Sam. 21:14. Therefore Toorn guesses that Saul’s family could have been from the vicinity of Gibeon, since “people are generally buried on the land of their ancestors.” Based on this hypothesis he speculates that Saul was related to the Gibeonites, who belonged to “an ethnic strain represented also among the early Edomites”
Tsumura, D. (2007). The First Book of Samuel (p. 263). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

N needs to change Saul’s tribe of origin because Jonathan was from the tribe of Benjamin.

7. The same as #4, N splices Saul into the line of Kish in order to make him a Benjaminite.

8. Since Saul may have been an Ephraimite, N provides an alternative explanation of how he came from that land by telling of how the search for the donkeys took him through the hills of Ephraim. N may have been trying to associate Gibeah (in Benjamin) with Saul by calling it the Gibeah of Saul.

9. Saul and Jonathan may have been enemies given there different locations (see item #10), and that Saul had said he would kill Jonathan.  N provides an alternative explanation by telling how Jonathan ate the honey, and so Saul was honor bound to kill Jonathan, but the people of Israel save him by recounting his military victory and ransoming him.

10. N provides an alternative explanation for the different locations of Saul and Jonathan by saying they had divided their military forces.

11. Since the tribe of Benjamin had no history of having power over the tribes of Israel (unlike Ephraim), N has Saul admit that Benjamin has no claim to rule over Israel, “the least of the tribes of Israel, and my family is the humblest of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin”, but Samuel anoints him regardless.

12. It’s questionable that Saul ever met with Samuel.  There seems to be some basis that Saul or the son of Kish met with someone, it may not have been Samuel.

13. The opposing narrative said that Saul or the son of Kish never ate with Samuel.  N responds by saying that they did, and that the food provided to him had been set aside earlier.

14. Since Samuel’s anointing of Saul took place in secret, there were no witnesses to corroborate that it actually happened.  N has Samuel provide 3 signs as validation of the anointing.

15.  The boy the was with Saul or the son of Kish never saw the anointing because he had been sent ahead.

16.  The son of Kish’s uncle never knew about the anointing because he was never told about it.

17. Saul or the son of Kish may have met with a prophet, but Samuel was a seer (or vice versa).  N responds by equating the two terms.

18. N repeatedly refers to “all of Israel” or “Israel” when referring to Saul’s leadership.  In the Samuel Cycle, N stresses that Samuel had led all of Israel, so being anointed by Samuel, increases Saul’s status over all of Israel.

19. N repeatedly talks about how Saul fought enemies on all sides of Israel, which N is using to solidify Saul’s (and the line of Jonathan’s) rule over all of Israel.

20. N echoes the objections of some of those in Israel but explains that things had changed after Saul’s military victory.  How did this phrase endure if Saul was king over all Israel.  N explains that is was because  Saul said, "No one shall be put to death this day, for today the LORD has brought deliverance to Israel."  

21. N has Samuel declare that all Israel desired Saul to lead them.

22. Saul had threatened violence against those who did not accept his kingship.  N provides an alternative explanation by providing a noble cause for the threat to be made: to save those in the transjordan, who may have been among the most reluctant to accept a kingship from Saul (and the line of Jonathan).

23.  It appears that Israel had been a loose confederation of tribes that had been led by a series of prophets and/or priests (typically from Ephraim) like Moses, Deborah and Samuel. For Saul to lead all of Israel, the opposing narrative may have been stipulating that Saul should be a prophet.  N provides an alternative explanation for the saying by telling of how Saul prophesied.

24. Why did Saul have such a small army if he ruled over all of Israel?  N explains that it was because he sent most home.

25. N attributes the victory over the Philistines to Jonathan.

26. The opposing narrative was saying that Jonathan was not the one to kill the Philistines at the garrison.

27.  The opposing narrative was saying that it was the armor-bearer that had killed the Philistines.  N provides an alternative explanation by saying that it was Jonathan that had struck them down, and the armor-bearer finished them off behind him.

Aspect #2 Opposing Narrative

1. Yahweh is not the Elohim of Israel

Aspect #2 N Response With Commentary

1. As with the other cycles of N, Yahweh is injected into the history of Israel.  The Spirit of Yahweh possesses Saul, and Yahweh is credited with defeating Israel’s enemies.

Aspect #3 Opposing Narrative

1. The Israelites are not strong at war


Aspect #3 N Response With Commentary

1. Saul, Jonathan and the Israelites are victorious in their battles against all of Israel’s enemies. N highlights battles against the Ammonites and the Philistines.  Yahweh is also presented as a strong God of war, helping the Israelites defeat their enemies.   

Biblical References

The spreadsheet embedded below is a list of verses used to compose the argumentation above.  For further information about how these statements were categorized, please visit this post.    


    

        
    


    

 

 

Samuel - Northern Judges: A Mirror-Reading with the Mira Scriptura Methodology

image: Wikimedia commons (  link  ). 

image: Wikimedia commons (link). 

The Samuel Cycle is primarily concerned with making Samuel a prophet of Yahweh, and making Israel was a unified nation.   If you’d like a less technical overview, please check out my podcast episode on the Samuel Cycle.  If you’re not familiar with the Northern Book of Judges and it’s cycles, be sure to check out all of the podcast episodes in that series. I used Tzemah Yoreh's work as the basis for my Northern Book of Judges Source.

Argumentation

Please note that the argumentation below is that of the opposing narrative that the Northern Book of Judges author (N) was addressing and is opposed to the N narrative itself.

Color Code:
Black: These statements are mirrors or echoes
Blue: These statements are an inferred cause/effect of a mirror/echo or connects two mirrors/echoes
Green: These statement have no corresponding mirrors or echoes but have supporting (e.g. alternates, denials) statements that imply them.
Orange: Words within a statement that could be variations of the opposing narrative

Italics are causal connectors (e.g. “because”)
[Brackets] are replacements for pronouns or changing tense for better flow.

For more information about mirrors, echoes, supporting categories and my methodology, please visit this post.

Aspect #1 Opposing Narrative

1. Samuel did not know the LORD, and the word of the LORD had not been revealed to him
2. because Samuel was [not] ministering to the LORD
3. because Yahweh was not the Elohim of Israel

Aspect #1 N Response With Commentary

1. If Yahweh was the God of Israel, then why was there no record of prophecies of Yahweh?  N responds to this by essentially admitting this, and simply saying that the word of Yahweh was rare in those days?

2. Samuel seems to have been well known and well respected in Israel.  The problem for N was that Samuel didn’t serve Yahweh.  N attempts to recaste Samuel as a priest/prophet of Yahweh.

3. Common to all the cycles of N, Yahweh was not seen as the God of Israel, so N attempts to inject Yahweh into Israel’s history, in this case, through Samuel. N says that Samuel called the Israelites back to Yahweh.  This would explain, for N, why Yahweh was lacking in Israel’s history:  It was because Israel had left Yahweh.

Samuel also attributes the Ebenezer rock (meaning rock or stone of help) to Yahweh.

Aspect #2 Opposing Narrative            

1. Eli called Samuel
2. because Samuel served under Eli

Aspect #2 N Response With Commentary

1. The opposing narrative said that Eli had called Samuel.  N explains that Samuel only thought Eli had called him, and even Eli eventually perceived that it was Yahweh calling the boy.

2. Serving under Eli may have connotations of Samuel serving another God since the name El is in Eli’s name (and Samuel’s name).  If Eli did not serve Yahweh then Samuel would not have served him either.

Aspect #3 Opposing Narrative

1. Israel was unified
2. because Samuel judged Israel
3. because the men of Israel went out of Mizpah

Aspect #3 N Response With Commentary

1. A major theme in N’s narratives is the unification of Israel. In this case, N brings them together under Samuel.  In the next cycle, this authority over all of Israel will be passed on to Saul.

2. All of the tribes of Israel were under the judgeship of Samuel, and he spoke to “all the house of Israel”.

3. One of the main reasons that N is trying to unify Israel is so that they will have a powerful military force.  When Israel went out to fight the Philistines from Mizpah, men from all the tribes of Israel went out to fight.

Aspect #4 Opposing Narrative

1. The Israelites are not strong at war

Aspect #4 N Response With Commentary

1. The Israelites had achieved military victory when the Philistines were routed before Israel, and they pursued them and struck them down as far as beyond Beth-car. Yahweh is shown to be a strong God of war who defeated the Philistines for the Israelites.  The only reason they had been subdued by the Philistines is because they had left Yahweh.

Biblical References

The spreadsheet embedded below is a list of verses used to compose the argumentation above.  For further information about how these statements were categorized, please visit this post.    


    

        
    


    

 

 

Samson - Northern Judges: A Mirror-Reading with the Mira Scriptura Methodology

image: Wikimedia commons (  link  ). 

image: Wikimedia commons (link). 

The Samson Cycle is primarily concerned with gutting the Samson narrative of any astrological meaning and make him an Israelite hero to inspire the Israelites against their enemies, the Philistines.  If you’d like a less technical overview, please check out my podcast episode on the Samson Cycle.  If you’re not familiar with the Northern Book of Judges and it’s cycles, be sure to check out all of the podcast episodes in that series. I used Tzemah Yoreh's work as the basis for my Northern Book of Judges Source.

Argumentation

Please note that the argumentation below is that of the opposing narrative that the Northern Book of Judges author (N) was addressing and is opposed to the N narrative itself.

Color Code:
Black: These statements are mirrors or echoes
Blue: These statements are an inferred cause/effect of a mirror/echo or connects two mirrors/echoes
Green: These statement have no corresponding mirrors or echoes but have supporting (e.g. alternates, denials) statements that imply them.
Orange: Words within a statement that could be variations of the opposing narrative

Italics are causal connectors (e.g. “because”)
[Brackets] are replacements for pronouns or changing tense for better flow.

For more information about mirrors, echoes, supporting categories and my methodology, please visit this post.

Aspect #1 Opposing Narrative

1. Samson was strong because the was a demigod of a sun deity
2. because Samson’s father "appeared" to Samson's mother
3. because Samson's father ascended in the flame
4. because [his name was] Samson
5. because [Samson had] seven locks [on] his head
6. because there was a woman...named Delilah
7. because [Moses'] Samson’s father was a supernatural being
8. because [Samson's] eyes [were] gouged out
9. because Samson ... burned up the shocks and the standing grain, as well as the vineyards and olive groves.
10. because Samson's wife [to be] and her father [were] burned
11. because [Samson had a] rule of life; [something] he [was] to do
12. because [Samson] the lion apart barehanded
13. because there was a virgin
14. because [Samson] split open the hollow place that is at Lehi
15. because tail to tail
16. because [Samson] took hold of the doors of the city gate and the two posts, pulled them up, bar and all, put them on his shoulders, and carried them to the top of the hill
17. because [Samson used the] jawbone of a donkey
18. because there was a swarm of bees
19. because Samson died multiple times
20. because Delilah killed Samson
21. because [Samson's] spirit returned, and he revived
22. because there were multiple way to weaken Samson
23. because the hair of [Samson'] head began to grow again after it had been shaved.
24. because those he killed at his death were more than those he had killed during his life.

Aspect #1 N Response With Commentary

1. Samson is connected to the power of the sun or sun deity and draws his strength from having his origins in it. There are a number of sun and astrological related language in the Samson Cycle.  Similar to N’s use of sexual language (see Deborah, Barak & Jael Cycle), some recognize the use of astrological language, and try to say that’s what the author was trying to communicate.  Quite the opposite is true. Although the opposing narrative was trying to communicate astrological meaning, N is trying to reinterpret that language to mean something else in support of his agenda.  N will counter the sun deity connection by having Yahweh be the source of Samson’s power.

Additionally, the story of Samson is set within the general vicinity of Beth Shemesh, a village whose name means "Temple of the Sun".

In August 2012, archaeologists from Tel Aviv University announced the discovery of a circular stone seal, approximately 15 millimetres in diameter, which was found on the floor of a house at Beth Shemesh and appears to depict a long-haired man slaying a lion. The seal is dated to the 12th century BCE.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samson

The Samson story is also very similar the the Greek myth of Heracles:

Likewise, they were both believed to have once been extremely thirsty and drunk water which poured out from a rock, and to have torn down the gates of a city. They were both betrayed by a woman (Heracles by Deianira, Samson by Delilah), who led them to their respective dooms. Both heroes, champions of their respective peoples, die by their own hands:  Heracles ends his life on a pyre; whereas Samson makes the Philistine temple collapse upon himself and his enemies.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samson

2.  The appearance of a supernatural being to a woman, who is alone, is the type of situation that happens when a woman is impregnated by a supernatural being.  Other sources that add to the Samson account later also seem to be dealing with this issue.  Marc Zvi Brettler concludes:

This multi-pronged derogatory depiction of Manoah suggests that he, the slow-witted laggard, could not have fathered the great and strong Samson, and thus dovetails well with the depiction of the angel as his father.
Prof. Marc Zvi Brettler. Who Was Samson’s Real Father?

However, N gives no indication of any sexual activity happening.  N wants to make sure that readers don’t think that Samson is the son of a sun deity and tells how Manoah's wife immediately makes her husband aware of what happened.  Manoah also encounters the supernatural being (the Angel of Yahweh according to N) and makes it clear that the supernatural being only “spoke” to his wife. Furthermore, N provides a reason for the supernatural encounter and subsequent birth of Samson:  Manoah’s wife was barren.

N makes Samson’s father to be a human named Manoah, who is just a regular guy, a “certain man”, the same phrase Samson uses to refer to himself if he ever lost his strength. N also stresses the mortality of Manoah by having Samson buried in his tomb.

3. Samson’s father had ascended in flame or as a flame or somehow related to the fire of the sun.  N changes this to the Angel of Yahweh ascending in a flame of a sacrifice offered to Yahweh.

4. The name “Samson” is associated with the sun:

Although names were chosen for a variety of reasons in biblical times, it is not clear what we are to make of the name Samson. It consists of the Hebrew word for sun, šemeš, with the diminutive ending, -ôn, hence Šimšôn, “little sun” [“sunny-boy!”]. A variety of explanations for the name have been proposed. It is tempting to give the name a positive spin as a celebration of the ray of light the birth of this boy represented in the dark days of the judges. Some have suggested it was given in anticipation of his “sunlike” strength. A more common view links the name with the solar cult, which provides the background for the Samson narratives. Strong support for this interpretation is found in the fact that Samson’s name incorporates the same element as Beth-Shemesh (lit. “house of Shemesh”), the name of an important town just a few miles from Zorah and Eshtaol down the Sorek Valley,290 once the focal point of sun worship. The interpretation of the Samson narratives as a whole as an adaptation of a solar myth seems forced, but it still seems best to find in the name a memory of the sun god, Shemesh.292 Theophoric names involving Shemesh/Shamash were common in the ancient Near East and are exemplified in the Old Testament by Shimshai in Ezra 4:8.
Block, D. I. (1999). Judges, Ruth (Vol. 6, pp. 416–418). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

5. Seven locks of hair was a feature of characters related to a sun deity:

One of the clues that Samson may be the sun and not a single constellation is the fact of his "seven locks" of hair upon his head. It would be difficult to argue that the outline of Orion provides any support for this detail in the Samson story. However, ancient sun-gods were quite frequently portrayed with seven radiant beams of light emanating from their head -- a clear parallel to the number of locks Samson possesses.
Here is an ancient statue of the sun-god Helios, with seven distinct rays coming from his head:
image: Wikimedia commons ( link ).

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

And here is an ancient mosaic depicting the sun-god Apollo with seven distinct rays as well:
image: Wikimedia commons ( link ).

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

http://www.starmythworld.com/samson/

6. Samson’s antagonistic character is also antagonistic to the sun:

Etymologically, the most likely explanation relates the name to Arabic dalla, “to flirt,” but the name may be an artificial punning construct consisting of d + lylh, “of the night.” By this interpretation the name may offer an intentional allusion to Samson’s blindness and fit in well with the motif of light and darkness that plays such an important role in the Samson narrative.
Block, D. I. (1999). Judges, Ruth (Vol. 6, pp. 453–454). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

7. Since Samson father had something to do with the sun deity, N responds by making him a regular guy, a “certain man” who we know is mortal because tells us that Samson is buried in his tomb.

8. Samson’s eyes were gouged out because he could burn things with them.  The Eye of the sun god Ra was also associated with fire and was said to spit flames.  Tzemah notes the eye association with the sun as well:

Delilah, is Samson's nemesis (here names is associated with לילה – night – whereas Samson's is associated with שמש – the sun). Note that two things are done to Samson to take away his strength, the first is cutting his hair, the second blinding him. The eyes symbolize Samson's association with the sun, since they are associated with light. N obfuscates the second association (to the sun) but doesn't take it out of the narrative completely, as is apparent in Chapter 13 when N employs sexual language in the meeting the angel (perhaps originally the sun god?) has with Samson's mother, but says nothing explicit. J, on the other hand inserts the prayer to the Lord' completely "Yahwizing" the narrative, making it clear that Samson's strength is completely dependent on the Lord.
Tzemah Yoreh. http://www.biblecriticism.com


9. Samson burned crops, but N puts the cause of the fire in the tails of foxes and not from Samson’s eyes.

10. Samson had burned his wife to be and her father but N blames it on the Philistines.

11. When Manoah asks what Samson is to do, the Angel of the Lord responds by saying that only Manoah’s wife needs to avoid wine and unclean food, implying that Samson doesn’t need to do anything.  From this we infer that the opposing narrative did say that Samson was to do something. I’ve placed it here because I think it’s likely it had something to do with astrology, specifically Samson, as the sun, moving through the constellations.  I speculate further that the purpose of Samson mirrored the purpose of the original opposing narrative. The astrological symbolism may be an attempt to explain the natural movement of the stars or to explain abnormal terrestrial issues impacted by the stars.

It is difficult to know for sure what the constellations were since the zodiac we know today was likely not the same of the original opposing narrative.  However, some of the ancient zodiacs shared similarities and we see similarities in the Samson Cycle as well.  Additionally, I think the original opposing narrative had Samson moving through the constellations in the order that the sun would, N does not have an impetus to do so and may have simply created a constellational soup to pour into the mold to support his agenda of de-astrologizing Samson and injecting Yahweh into the narrative.  In other words, we shouldn’t expect N’s Samson to move through the constellations in the same order of the original opposing narrative, because N doesn’t see them as constellations at all.

12.  Leo is one of the more obvious constellations in the Samson Cycle when he fights and kills a lion with his bare hands.  The Greek myth of Heracles and the related Roman myth of Hercules also have a lion fighting episode.  According to N, Samson was able to defeat the lion because the Spirit of Yahweh empowered him, not because of sun deity power.

13. The other of the more obvious constellations is Virgo: when Samson is to marry a virgin.  Samson eventually burns the virgin, but N will blame this on the Philistines.

14. Water is associated with Aquarius but also with the Hyades star cluster (see item #15).

The opposing narrative may have originally had Samson splitting the rock, but N has Yahweh do it.

15.  This is similar to the Pisces sign. Most versions of the Pisces legend speak of the tails of the fish being tied together to avoid losing each other.   Obviously not the same as foxes, but both narratives may have been drawing from a common tail tieing narrative.

Furthermore:

The equinoxes were associated with fire in myth around the globe, because at the equinoxes the fiery path of the sun crosses over the celestial equator.
http://www.starmythworld.com/samson/

16. The carrying of a gate may have been related to a constellation.  N seems to relocate both the city where the gate was taken from (A Philistine city suits N purposes). Hebron may have been the city that it was taken from in the opposing narrative since it is 40 miles away (uphill) from where N says Samson took it.

17. The jawbone is associated with a constellation:

“Now, Lehi in Hebrew means jawbone, and water in Greek is hyades.  If we look up in the winter night sky, we find the group of stars known as the Hyades located in the jawbone of Taurus the Bull.  Nearby is the mighty warrior Orion.  Thus, the historian of science Giorgio de Santillana gives the following interpretation of the biblical account: the hero of the original story must be Orion, and that rigmarole about the jawbone of an ass and drinking water out of the hollow of Lehi is simply a mnemonic device for finding the relative positions of the constellations Orion and Taurus and the group of stars called the Hyades.”
Shu, Frank. The Physical Universe: An Introduction to Astronomy (p. 4).

 N uses it as a tool to kill Philistines.  This also provides an alternative explanation for the name of the location where it happened: Lehi.

18. The Beehive Cluster is an open cluster in the constellation Cancer.

19. The death and rebirth of the sun is sometimes a theme in sun related myths. This takes place at winter solstice but may have been at summer solstice and spring and fall equinox.  Samson may have died and been resurrected multiple times to reflect this.

20. The opposing narrative has Delilah kill Samson, but N, once again, will blame the Philistines, using Delilah only as an accomplice.  However, N does allude to the opposing narrative when he says that Delilah killed Samson becasause she nagged him “to death”.

21. Samson reviving and his spirit returning may have been a death/resurrection that N explains as simply satisfying his thirst.

22.  The opposing narrative had Samson weakening/dieing in multiple ways:  bind with seven fresh bowstrings that are not dried out,  bind with new ropes that had not been used, weave the seven locks of Samson’s head with the web and make it tight with the pin and shave off the seven locks of Samson’s head.  N re-explains this by saying that the four ways were cumulative, and only when Delilah has the “whole truth” is she able to weaken Samson.

23.  The 7 locks of hair symbolize the rays of the sun and would have suggested the death of the sun and the sun would return after the hair grew back. N says that even after Samson’s hair grew back, he still needed Yahweh to re-empower him.

24.  The death of the sun (lack of sunlight) has a death like effect on nature but N provides an alternative explanation by saying that Samson’s death caused so much death because he brought the house down on so many Philistines.

Aspect #2 Opposing Narrative

1. [Samson did] mischief [with] blame
2. because Samson ... burned up the shocks and the standing grain, as well as the vineyards and olive groves.
3. because Samson's wife [to be] and her father [were] burned
4. because [his name was] Samson
5. because Samson said, "With the jawbone of a donkey, heaps upon heaps, with the jawbone of a donkey I have slain a thousand men."
6. because [Samson] took hold of the doors of the city gate and the two posts, pulled them up, bar and all, put them on his shoulders, and carried them to the top of the hill

Aspect #2 N Response With Commentary

1. The opposing narrative made Samson out to be a violent individual.  If Samson was to be an Israelite hero, this would need to be changed slightly.  N either shifts the blame for violence or is sure to give justification for each of Samson’s violent episodes while having them committed against N’s main villain, the Philistines.

2. N has Samson’s wife given away, which justifies his violence of burning the crops of the Philistines.  Samson says “This time, when I do mischief to the Philistines, I will be without blame.”

3. N shift the blame for the burning of Samson’s wife, from Samson to the Philistines.

4. N justifies Samson’s killing of 30 Philistines by having it be in retaliation for cheating to solve his riddle.

5. N justifies Samson’s killing of 1000 Philistines by having it be an act of revenge. Samson says “I swear I will not stop until I have taken revenge on you."

6. N justifies Samson’s carrying of the gates by making it an escape from the Philistines, who wanted to kill him.

Aspect #3 Opposing Narrative                           

1. Samson was not an enemy of the Philistines

Aspect #3 N Response With Commentary

1. According to N, Samson was absolutely an enemy of the Philistines, making him out to be the Philistine’s worst nightmare. It’s not clear weather Samson had a specific enemy in the opposing narrative, but the Philistines are one of N’s main opponents, so he utilizes the narrative to make Samson an Israelite hero who terrorizes the Philistines.  It is in Philistine cities where Samson commits his violence, and it is they who seize Samson in the end.  N has the Philistines themselves say “...our enemy into our hand, the ravager of our country, who has killed many of us.”

Aspect #4 Opposing Narrative        

1. Samson was not an Israelite

Aspect #4 N Response With Commentary

1. It’s not clear whether the opposing narrative gave Samson a national identity, but N is sure to make him an Israelite.  This is primarily done by giving him an Israelite father, originating him from an Israelite location and burying him in an Israelite location.

Aspect #5 Opposing Narrative

1. Samson was a homosexual
2. because Samson didn't love women
3. because Samson didn't have a wife
4. because men were...in [Samson's] inner chamber
5. because Samson mocked women and told them lies;
6. because [Samson stood] between the pillars
7. because Samson [held a man] by the hand
8. because [Samson] ground at the mill

Aspect #5 N Response With Commentary

1. There are a number of factors that indicate that Samson was gay in the opposing narrative.  Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any indication as to why this was a feature in the original narrative or what astrological symbolism there may have been.  Most likely, since the sun doesn’t reproduce, then Samson wouldn’t either.

2.  N provides an alternative explanation by saying that it only seemed like Samson didn’t love women because he wouldn’t tell his wife the answer to the riddle, and he wouldn’t tell Delilah what would make him weak.  N will show that Samson did love women including having him visit a prostitute, as well as falling in love with Delilah.

3. N counters the claim of Samson not having a wife, by saying that he actually did have a wife but that his wife was given away by her father. There are a couple of instances that don’t sit well in the N narrative. It’s odd that the riddle would have been impossible for the guests to solve without inside knowledge. This is because it was not the original intended meaning of the riddle.   The riddle has sexual connotations:  

“On another level, the riddle suggests copulation.  Such erotic thoughts naturally accompanied wedding festivities, and consequently posed the biggest snare for the Philistines.   A veiled allusion to the sex act, the riddle uses the ciphers “eater” and “strong one” for the groom.  Similarly, “food” and “sweetness” signify semen, which is sweet to the bride who “eats” the sperm.  From man proceeds sperm which nourish woman; from a strong man goes semen that is pleasant to a wife.
Crenshaw, James L. Samson: A Secret Betrayed, a Vow Ignored (p. 115).

This is similar to the Deborah, Barak and Jael Cycle, in that sexual language from the opposing narrative is used, but N is reinterpreting it to support his agenda.

Samson’s response to the Philistines is also sexual in nature, suggesting that his wife-to-be was unfaithful.

The protasis, or conditional clause, contains two  ciphers (plowed and heifer).  We can therefore turn this half of his statement into a familiar riddle: What fertile field is plowed, but not with oxen?
One would be hard put to discover a more apt description of the sexual act.  For this reason, the metaphor occurs in cultures as diverse as the Canaanite fourteenth century population known to us from the Amarna tablets, Mesopotamian, and Israelite.
In a letter from Rib-Addi of Byblos he writes that “My field is like a woman without a husband, on account of its lack of cultivation”  From the land of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers we read:
“...As for me, my vulva is a hillock, - for me,
I, the maid, who will be its plower?
My vulva is...wet ground for me,
I, the queen, who will station there the ox?”
“Lady, the king will plow it for you,
Dumuzi, the king, will plow it for you”
“Plow my vulva, my sweetheart”
Crenshaw, James L. Samson: A Secret Betrayed, a Vow Ignored (p. 119).

In the opposing narrative, Samson knew or suspected the infidelity of the bride, so he posed the riddle to expose those involved in the infidelity. Samson’s response reflects this.

The second item is the wager of 30 robes.  It would make more sense if the wager had been made before the wedding since it was the responsibility of the groom’s family to provide wedding garments for everyone. With this in mind, we could speculate that in the opposing narrative, Samson was never married because the wager took place before the wedding, and the solving of the the riddle was an excuse for Samson to burn his wife-to-be (see also Aspect #1, item #13 and Aspect #2, item #3).  

4.  There were men in Samson’s inner chamber, the place where sexual activity would normally take place.  The opposing narrative said it was because Samson was a homosexual.  N provides an alternative explanation by saying that it was the Philistines waiting to capture him.

5. Similar to #2, N provides an alternative explanation by saying that it just seemed like he mocked women because he wouldn’t tell his wife and Delilah what they wanted to know.

6. I suggest that the phrase “standing between two pillars” is a sexual euphemism for homosexual sex between to males.  The word for “pillars” is used in the Song of Solomon to refer to the legs of a male.  N provides an alternative explanation by saying Samson literally stood between two pillars in order to kill Philistines.

7.  More speculatively, the opposing narrative may have said Samson held hands with his male lovers.  N reinterprets it by saying that he held that hand of a male because he was blind.

8.  “Grinding the mill” was likely a sexual euphemism. In the book of Job it says “then let my wife turn the millstone for another man, and may other men have sexual relations with her.” The Talmud recognizes this, but I believe interpret the passage wrongly:

“R. Johanan said: 'Grind' means nothing else than [sexual] transgression; and thus it is stated: Then let my wife grind unto another.11 It teaches that everyone brought his wife to him [Samson] to the prison that she might bear a child by him [who would be as strong as he was].”
Talmud - Mas. Sotah 10a

This takes “grinding the mill” to be a heterosexual act for the male.  I don’t believe so and believe it would be used as a homosexual act for a male for two reasons:  1. Typically it was the woman who ground the mill (in the literal sense), and we see it use metaphorically for a woman in Job as well.  2.  The reason this is used in reference to women with a male is because the basis of the euphemism has to do with seed.  The woman takes the seed of a man sexually.  For a male to grind the mill would infer the he is taking the seed of a male,  a reference to a homosexual act.  N reinterprets the phrase in the literal sense, simply as as labor to be performed for punishment.

Aspect #6 Opposing Narrative

1. Yahweh is not the Elohim of Israel

Aspect #6 N Response With Commentary

1. N injects Yahweh into the Samson narrative by having the supernatural being who appeared to Manoah’s wife be the Angel of Yahweh. Samson is an Israelite, and he serves and derives his strength from Yahweh.  The god, Dagon, is described as the god of the Philistines so as not to promote him as a god of the Israelites.

Aspect 7 Opposing Narrative

1. The Israelites are not strong at war

Aspect #7 N Response With Commentary

1. Although this issue doesn’t seem to me addressed directly by N, given that it is a major theme in his other cycles, I think Samson serves as a hero to convince the Israelites that they are strong at war.

Biblical References

The spreadsheet embedded below is a list of verses used to compose the argumentation above.  For further information about how these statements were categorized, please visit this post.    


    

        
    


    

 

 

Jephthah - Northern Judges: A Mirror-Reading with the Mira Scriptura Methodology

jephthah.jpg

The Jephthah Cycle is primarily concerned with forming a strong Israelite military force by showing that Jephtah was an Israelite military hero.   If you’d like a less technical overview, please check out my podcast episode on the Jephtah Cycle.  If you’re not familiar with the Northern Book of Judges and it’s cycles, be sure to check out all of the podcast episodes in that series. I used Tzemah Yoreh's work as the basis for my Northern Book of Judges Source.

Argumentation

Please note that the argumentation below is that of the opposing narrative that the Northern Book of Judges author (N) was addressing and is opposed to the N narrative itself.

Color Code:
Black: These statements are mirrors or echoes
Blue: These statements are an inferred cause/effect of a mirror/echo or connects two mirrors/echoes
Green: These statement have no corresponding mirrors or echoes but have supporting (e.g. alternates, denials) statements that imply them.
Orange: Words within a statement that could be variations of the opposing narrative

Italics are causal connectors (e.g. “because”)
[Brackets] are replacements for pronouns or changing tense for better flow.

For more information about mirrors, echoes, supporting categories and my methodology, please visit this post.

Aspect #1 Opposing Narrative      

1. [Jephthah] was not head and commander over [the Gileadites]
2. because Jephthah [was not a] Gileadite
3. because [Jephthah did] not inherit anything in [Gilead's] house
4. because [Jephthah] lived in the land of Tob
5. because [Jephthah] was a mighty warrior and Outlaws collected around Jephthah and raided Gilead

Aspect #1 N Response With Commentary

1. N was trying to integrate the descendants of Jephthah into the tribe of Gilead.  This may be because of an alliance much like how N integrated the descendants of Gideon into Israel.  N is looking to create a strong military Israelite force, and the descendants of Jephthah may have been good at war, so integrating them into Israel would be a move towards that goal.

2. If Jephthah wasn’t a Gileadite, then N would need to explain how he could have been head and commander over them.  N does this by saying he was a son of a prostitute and was driven out by his family.

3. If Jephthah was a Gileadite, he would have had an inheritance. Being a son of a prostitute would have excluded him from an inheritance but still made him a Gileadite.

4. If Jephthah was a Gileadite, why was he living in the land of Tob?  Again, N says that his family had driven Jephthah out of Gileadite territory.

5. Not only was Jephthah not a Gileadite, the opposing narrative claimed that he raided the Gileadites.  N drops that detail from his narrative, and only says that he was a raider.

Aspect #2 Opposing Narrative

1. Yahweh is not the Elohim of Israel

Aspect #2 N Response With Commentary

1. N credits Yahweh with the victory over the Ammonites.  The elders of Gilead also call on Yahweh to be their witness in their agreement with Jephthah.

Aspect #3 Opposing Narrative

1. The Israelites are not strong at war

Aspect #3 N Response With Commentary

1. N provides yet another example of how the Israelites defeated their enemies.

Biblical References

The spreadsheet embedded below is a list of verses used to compose the argumentation above.  For further information about how these statements were categorized, please visit this post.    

Gideon - Northern Judges: A Mirror-Reading with the Mira Scriptura Methodology

image: Wikimedia commons (  link  ). 

image: Wikimedia commons (link). 

The Gideon Cycle is primarily concerned with forming a strong Israelite military force by showing that Gideon was an Israelite military hero.  If you’d like a less technical overview, please check out my podcast episode on the Gideon Cycle.  If you’re not familiar with the Northern Book of Judges and it’s cycles, be sure to check out all of the podcast episodes in that series. I used Tzemah Yoreh's work as the basis for my Northern Book of Judges Source.

Argumentation

Please note that the argumentation below is that of the opposing narrative that the Northern Book of Judges author (N) was addressing and is opposed to the N narrative itself.

Color Code:
Black: These statements are mirrors or echoes
Blue: These statements are an inferred cause/effect of a mirror/echo or connects two mirrors/echoes
Green: These statement have no corresponding mirrors or echoes but have supporting (e.g. alternates, denials) statements that imply them.
Orange: Words within a statement that could be variations of the opposing narrative

Italics are causal connectors (e.g. “because”)
[Brackets] are replacements for pronouns or changing tense for better flow.

For more information about mirrors, echoes, supporting categories and my methodology, please visit this post.

Aspect #1 Opposing Narrative

1. The Midianites were defeated because of internal conflicts
2. because there is no record of the Israelites defeating the Midianites
3. because the sword of Gideon defeated the Midianites
4. because [Gideon killed] Zebah and Zalmunna
5. because every man's sword [was] against his fellow and against all the army
6. because Gideon was a Midianite
7. because Gideon was in the camp of the Midianites
8. because [Gideon] took the elders of the city and he took thorns of the wilderness and briers and with them he trampled the people of Succoth. He also broke down the tower of Penuel, and killed the men of the city, even though [Gideon] already [had] in [his] possession the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna
9. because Gideon killed the men at Tabor
10. because [Gideon] resembled the [son] of a king
11. because [Jethro] did not [kill Zebah and Zalmunna]
12. because [Gideon had the] crescents that were on the necks of [the two Midianite's] camels

Aspect #1 N Response With Commentary

1. The opposing narrative claimed that the Midianites battled with each other.  A civil war of sort, with Gideon being head of one of the factions. N provides alternative explanations for what appears to be internal Midianite strife.

2. There was no record that the Israelites had defeated the Midianites.  N responds to this by saying that the Israelites didn’t need to fight to defeat the Midianites since they killed each other.  Additionally, both hands were occupied to hold a trumpet and a jar so that they were unable to hold a sword and therefore, the Midianites wouldn’t have been defeated by the “sword of the Israelites”.

3. The opposing narrative claimed that Gideon defeated the Midianites.  N agrees but will add that is was Yahweh and Gideon along with the Israelites.

4. Gideon had killed Zebah and Zalmunna, since they were the heads of the opposing Midianite factions. N responds to this by saying that Gideon killed them because they had killed the Israelite men at Tabor.

5. The Midianite army had turned against itself.  The opposing narrative explains this was because of internal strife.  N explains it as a work of Yahweh.

6. The opposing narrative claimed that Gideon was a Midianite and had led one of the Midianite factions over the other Midianites.  N responds to this by making Gideon an Israelite. N does this to show the Israelites were strong at war, but also may have done this because of an alliance with the descendants of Gideon.  Those descendents of Gideon would have been excluded from the rest of the Midianite nation, and an alliance with the Israelites would have been mutually beneficial.

7. If Gideon was a Midianite, then he would have naturally been in the Midianite camp.  N responds to this by saying that Gideon and his troops were at a different location.  Gideon was in the Midianite camp but only on a spy mission, and where he hears the interpretation of the Midianite’s dream.  The cake of barley mentioned in the dream may have been a pejorative reference to Israelites since the Israelites were reduced to eating bread made of barley. Gideon is identified with the barley, thus making him an Israelite by N..

8. Gideon had attacked two Israelite cities.  N needs to provide an explanation for this and does so by saying that they didn’t provide help for his troops.  This may have had a duel purpose 1. Explain why Gideon attacked the cities 2. Serve as a warning to other Israelite cities that might refuse help to Israelite troops.

The opposing narrative may have countered that Gideon already had killed Zebah and Zalmunna before he attached the cities.  N responds that Gideon was still in pursuit of them.

9. Gideon had killed the men at Tabor, who were Israelites. N responds by saying that it was Zebah and Zalmunna that had killed them.  Furthermore, N makes the men at Tabor relatives of Gideon, which is convenient because, since they were dead, their descendants wouldn’t have been around to deny it.

10. The opposing narrative said that Gideon looked like a son of a king because he was a son of a Midianite king.  N responds by agreeing that Gideon did look like a son of a king (with no mention of a Midianite connection) and explaining that the men at Tabor (who were relatives of Gideon) also looked liked sons of a king.

11. If Zebah and Zalmunna were relatives of Jethro, then naturally he would have had some hesitation about killing them.  Having Jethro kill them is also a good political move for Gideon since it would solidify Jethro as part of Gideon’s faction.  However, Jethro refuses to do so, and N explains that it’s because he was so young. Gideon only kills them because they had killed his family at Tabor.

12. Gideon was a Midianite king, why else would he have royal crescents?  N answers that he took them from Zebah and Zalmunna.


Aspect #2 Opposing Narrative

1. Yahweh is not the Elohim of Israel

Aspect #2 N Response With Commentary

1. N responds by having Yahweh be the catalyst for the rise of Gideon. The Israelites achieve victory over the Midianites only after they cry out to Yahweh.


Aspect #3 Opposing Narrative

1. The Israelites are not strong at war
2. because he hand of Midian prevailed over Israel
3. because Israel was greatly impoverished

Aspect #3 N Response With Commentary

1. The Midianites had subdued the Israelites, and N needs to explain how this could have happened.

2.  The Midianites had prevailed over the Israelites, but Yahweh will come to the rescue.

3. Lack of crops would keep the Israelites down.  This may also be addressing Yahweh’s ability as a fertility God.

Aspect #4 Opposing Narrative       

1. Purah [was not Gideon's servant]

Aspect #4 N Response With Commentary

1. It’s not clear why N wants to make Purah’s status below Gideon’s, but this is a tactic similar to the one made by the Elohist when he made Joshua’s status lower than Moses’ (See Elohist Source - Moses Cycle).


Biblical References

The spreadsheet embedded below is a list of verses used to compose the argumentation above.  For further information about how these statements were categorized, please visit this post.