Saturday, April 25, 2015

1 Samuel 12, changing times

The bee continues its random walk through the flowers. A name that I have not seen online for a long time - 10 years at least, I normally associate with the Jesus Seminar, the New Testament and the Synoptic Problem, such as this site here or the world of Jesus Into his Own here.

Now I see the name associated with a question on the structure of 1 Samuel 12:21 in a Facebook Group, Old Testament Hebrew Club which I have just joined. The professor I knew online is perhaps a different one, maybe a father? [unrelated it appears] The next generation is upon us already. And I am old so that is to be expected.

If you are reading my stuff, bear in mind that my formal experience is in systems, and programming, not in Hebrew, or Greek, though I can read these haltingly, and not in theology - but, hey, who isn't a theologian?

So - 1 Samuel 12 - what is around verse 21? In what way does it yield up its rhetorical structure?

Here is a snippet of the music. Note where the rest point is in each verse. (Where the caesura is //)
1 Samuel 12:20-22
Then here is a close translation followed by the recurring word patterns. There is no particular chiasm in verse 21, but the emphasis on people and Yahweh's determination to make them into his people is a comfort when we are faced with all the distractions and power struggles that we encounter in our lives. The use of תהו, alluding to the formless nature of the created order, is striking. Pause at the rest when reading, time for thought. Turning aside from their God, Yahweh, would result in submission to the formless, that chaotic state from which the earth emerges as a place for the earthling and as a place for the people and as the place where we damage each other. O dear. Behold the place where they laid him. All this evil, refers to the people's desire to have a king, to be like the other nations.
וַיֹּ֨אמֶר שְׁמוּאֵ֤ל אֶל־הָעָם֙ אַל־תִּירָ֔אוּ אַתֶּ֣ם עֲשִׂיתֶ֔ם אֵ֥ת כָּל־הָרָעָ֖ה הַזֹּ֑את
אַ֗ךְ אַל־תָּס֙וּרוּ֙ מֵאַחֲרֵ֣י יְהוָ֔ה וַעֲבַדְתֶּ֥ם אֶת־יְהוָ֖ה בְּכָל־לְבַבְכֶֽם
20And Samuel said to the people, Do not fear. You yourselves have dealt with all this evil, //
surely do not turn aside from following Yahweh but serve Yahweh with all your heart.
וְלֹ֖א תָּס֑וּרוּ
כִּ֣י ׀ אַחֲרֵ֣י הַתֹּ֗הוּ אֲשֶׁ֧ר לֹֽא־יוֹעִ֛ילוּ וְלֹ֥א יַצִּ֖ילוּ כִּי־תֹ֥הוּ הֵֽמָּה
21And do not turn aside //
for after this is the formless that is not advantageous and does not deliver for they are formless.
כִּ֠י לֹֽא־יִטֹּ֤שׁ יְהוָה֙ אֶת־עַמּ֔וֹ בַּעֲב֖וּר שְׁמ֣וֹ הַגָּד֑וֹל
כִּ֚י הוֹאִ֣יל יְהוָ֔ה לַעֲשׂ֥וֹת אֶתְכֶ֛ם ל֖וֹ לְעָֽם
22For Yahweh will not abandon his people so that his name may be great //
for Yahweh is determined to make you into his people.

This little section is framed by 'people and make/do/deal with, another possible allusion to Genesis 1 (but very frequently used). The focus of the section (the last recurring root) is formless. Not a desirable state I think, and not advantageous. Environmental and cultural predictability is something we need. It is neither ultimate deliverance or protection, but it is regarded as useful by most. 
העם the people
עשׂיתם you have dealt
כל all
תסורו do turn aside
מאחרי from following
בכל with all
ולא and not
תסורו do turn aside
אחרי after this
התהו the formless
לא not
ולא and not
תהו formless
לא not
עמו his people
לעשׂות to make
לעם into ... people

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