During the 2017 Pentecost Season, alternative readings from the Hebrew Bible are offered. Scripture in Context will discuss both readings and the reading from the Christian Scriptures.
Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28
The Book of Genesis starts with Creation and concludes with the death of Joseph (Jacob’s son) in Egypt. The Book is an amalgam of religious traditions, some of which are dated to about 950 BCE and others as late as 450 BCE.
Today’s reading begins the long and remarkably cohesive story of Joseph and his brothers in Chapters 37 to 50. Joseph was Jacob’s 11th son; his mother was Rachel, Jacob’s favorite wife. His older brothers’ antipathy and resentment arose from a “bad report” Joseph gave to Jacob (v. 2) and Jacob’s giving Joseph a robe with sleeves (not many colors), a sign of royalty.
Joseph was sold into slavery, and saved from death by the oldest brother, Reuben (v.22) and the fourth oldest brother, Judah (v.27). Judah later took the leadership role in dealing with Joseph in Egypt. Judah’s tribe will eventually inhabit Jerusalem and the area around it.
1 Kings 19:9-18
The Book of Kings is part of the “Deuteronomic History” that includes Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings. These books are a didactic history of Ancient Israel from the time in the Wilderness (c. 1250 BCE) to the Babylonian Captivity (587 BCE). They emphasize that God controls history, and when the people (and their kings) worship Yahweh properly, good things happen to them. When they worship false gods, however, tragic events overtake them.
Today’s reading is set during the reign of the evil King Ahab of Israel (the northern 10 tribes) from 873 to 852 BCE. Ahab’s wife was Jezebel, and she was a Baal worshiper. Just before today’s reading, the prophet Elijah demonstrated that YHWH’s power was greater than the priests of Baal. When Ahab told Jezebel what Elijah had done, she vowed revenge on Elijah, and Elijah fled to a cave in the holy mountain, Horeb (the name used by the Deuteronomists).
There, Elijah heard the still voice of YHWH and was directed to anoint Hazael as King of Aram (Syria), Jehu as king of Israel (an act of treason) and Elisha as his own successor (v. 16).
Paul’s letter to the Romans is his longest, last, and theologically most complex letter, written in the late 50s or early 60s (CE) – about ten years before the first Gospel (Mark) was written. One of Paul’s goals was to reduce tensions and eliminate distinctions between the Jewish Jesus Followers in Rome and Gentile Jesus Followers there (v.12).
Paul was a Jew all his life, and the Temple was active all during Paul’s life. (Paul died in 63 and the Temple was destroyed in 70 CE.) In Romans, Paul continued to use terms that need to be unpacked such as “righteousness” (right relationships with God and others), the “law” (the Torah), and “faith” (faithfulness). Paul emphasized that “belief” is a matter of the heart (v.10), not the intellect.