Sunday, September 27, 2020

Set up your folly in God (Psalms 78)

 No one who needs to will read this. And those whose minds never change will not hear their need to change if they fail to hear where they sit in an unclean pool. We are all so good at the defence of our prejudices.

Ah, that should have been a tweet, a momentary song in the wilderness.

Today is the feast of Michael and all angels, 24 years since the disastrous accident that felled my eldest son, Jeremy, now in long-term care as a result. Head injuries have long time ramifications. It's a wonder that any of us lives at all. Yesterday the 4 and 6 year olds were climbing rocks in gumboots.

So here is the lesson for today, Genesis 28:10-17. I read the first few words in a Bible I have had for 15 years or so, an old parallel Hebrew English Bible, comparing the Hebrew to the King James Version, and then I gave up and read my own translation. (Fixed a typo too.) The KJV is really odd, adding words everywhere to point out that the place is special and that he stayed all night, and lay down to sleep. But it is just a place, and neither 'all night' nor 'to sleep' is in the text, but considered by the translators as part of the verb. (There are no warning italics, but they can't warn you of anything anyway.)

Just for fun here is a comparison of the translations.


The venerable KJV

My concordant translation


And Jacob went out from Beersheba, and went toward Haran

10 And Jacob went forth from Beer-Sheva,
and went to Xaran.


And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep

11 And he came across a place and lodged there, for the sun had set, and he took from the stones of the place and he set up his pillows,
and lay down in that place.


And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it

12 And he dreamed, and behold, a ladder stood firmly earthward, and its top touched towards the heavens,
and behold, messengers of God ascended and descended on it.


And, behold, the LORD stood above it, and said, I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed;

13 And behold, Yahweh took a stand above it, and he said, I am Yahweh, the God of Abraham your father, and the God of Yitschaq.
The land that you have laid down on, to you I will give it and to your seed.


And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed

14 And your seed will be like the dust of the earth, and you will break out seaward, and eastward, and northward, and southward,
and all the families of humanity will be blessed in you, and in your seed.


And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of

15 And behold, I am with you and will keep you everywhere that you walk, and I will return you to this ground,
for I will not forsake you until I have done that which I have spoken about to you.


And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not

16 And Jacob awoke from his sleep, and he said, Notwithstanding, there is Yahweh in this place,
and I myself did not know.


And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven

17 And he feared. And he said, How fearful is this place.
This is nothing but the house of God, and this, the gate of the heavens.

I will not forsake you until I have done that which I have spoken about to you. Now there's a promise that transcends temporal values. 

I read also this morning that one in five of high-school graduates in the US have never heard of the Shoa, traditionally called the holocaust. Human memory is short, but the glory in the interstices of things is not flesh bound by the passage of time. Nonetheless we could do with teaching responsibility and care. Yet to put this in context, I recall Dr Fauci saying, I don't know how to teach you that we must care for each other. Isn't that an odd problem? We have the example from the Hebrews that we must teach each other 'in time' that we must care for each other. I wonder, is this in today's lessons? Not explicitly in the short final section of Psalm 103, but it is explicit in Psalm 78, a psalm we sing a few verses in year B, next August and September.

Here's the critical instruction: Read this to your children - And ha, set up your folly in God. Reminds me of one of the seven remarkable novels of that inkling, Charles Williams, The Greater Trumps. While looking this up I discovered, Et in Sempiternum Pereant, a bit of his writing I had never seen. Both are free at the links from project Gutenberg.

Psalms 78
מַשְׂכִּ֗יל לְאָ֫סָ֥ף
הַאֲזִ֣ינָה עַ֭מִּי תּוֹרָתִ֑י
הַטּ֥וּ אָ֝זְנְכֶ֗ם לְאִמְרֵי־פִֽי
a mwcil lasf
hazinh ymi torti
h'tu aozncm lamri-pi
1 An insight of Asaph.
Listen my people to my instruction.
Bend your ears to the sayings of my mouth.
אֶפְתְּחָ֣ה בְמָשָׁ֣ל פִּ֑י
אַבִּ֥יעָה חִ֝יד֗וֹת מִנִּי־קֶֽדֶם
b aptkh bmwl pi
abiyh kidot mni-qdm
2 I will open my mouth in a parable.
I will ferment riddles from of old,
אֲשֶׁ֣ר שָׁ֭מַעְנוּ וַנֵּדָעֵ֑ם
וַ֝אֲבוֹתֵ֗ינוּ סִפְּרוּ־לָֽנוּ
g awr wmynu vndym
vabotinu sipru-lnu
3 which we have heard and known,
and our ancestors recounted to us.
לֹ֤א נְכַחֵ֨ד ׀ מִבְּנֵיהֶ֗ם לְד֥וֹר אַחֲר֗וֹן מְֽ֭סַפְּרִים תְּהִלּ֣וֹת יְהוָ֑ה
וֶעֱזוּז֥וֹ וְ֝נִפְלְאוֹתָ֗יו אֲשֶׁ֣ר עָשָֽׂה
d la nckd mbnihm ldor akron msprim thilot ihvh
vyzuzo vnplaotiv awr ywh
4 We will not conceal from their children in the generation to follow, recounting the praises of Yahweh,
and his strength and his wonders which he did.
וַיָּ֤קֶם עֵד֨וּת ׀ בְּֽיַעֲקֹ֗ב וְתוֹרָה֮ שָׂ֤ם בְּיִשְׂרָ֫אֵ֥ל
אֲשֶׁ֣ר צִ֭וָּה אֶת־אֲבוֹתֵ֑ינוּ
לְ֝הוֹדִיעָ֗ם לִבְנֵיהֶֽם
h viqm ydut biyqob vtorh wm biwral
awr xivvh at-abotinu
lhodiym lbnihm
5 He raised a testimony in Jacob and he set up instruction in Israel,
which he commanded our ancestors,
to make known to their children,
לְמַ֤עַן יֵדְע֨וּ ׀ דּ֣וֹר אַ֭חֲרוֹן בָּנִ֣ים יִוָּלֵ֑דוּ
יָ֝קֻ֗מוּ וִֽיסַפְּר֥וּ לִבְנֵיהֶֽם
v lmyn iidyu dor akron bnim iivvldu
iqumu vispru lbnihm
6 so that the generation to follow will know. The children to be born,
will arise and recount to their children,
וְיָשִׂ֥ימוּ בֵֽאלֹהִ֗ים כִּ֫סְלָ֥ם
וְלֹ֣א יִ֭שְׁכְּחוּ מַֽעַלְלֵי־אֵ֑ל
וּמִצְוֺתָ֥יו יִנְצֹֽרוּ
z viwimu balohim cslm
vla iwcku mylli-al
umxvotiv inxoru
7 so they might set up their folly in God,
and not forget the prodigality of God,
and observe his commandments,

God is, of course, a different set of waters. Whatever adjective you put beside waters, and translators have chosen many, stagnant, standing, still, at rest, living, moving, rushing, do swim in a safe place.

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