Godzdogz

Godzdogz

The blog of the Dominican student brothers at Blackfriars, Oxford.

Built on the four pillars of our Dominican life – preaching, prayer, study, and community – Godzdogz offers many resources for exploring the Catholic Faith today.
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Women in the OT: Susannah

Friday, September 28, 2012
Daniel 13:1-64.  Read more

Women of the OT: The Bride in the Song of Songs

Tuesday, September 25, 2012
The Song of Songs – a Hebrew idiom meaning 'the greatest song' – is one of the most intriguing books in the Old Testament. There is little scholarly consensus regarding its authorship, date, and structure. At one end, some argue its eight short chapters form a narrative unity; others claim to discern up to eighty separate sources. Certainly, the book seems fragmentary, even fitful, but that is perhaps fitting to its alluring subject: sexual love. Against many protests – owing to the book's sensuous themes and lack of mention of God – both Synagogue and Church incorporated this book into their Scriptures, on the grounds of tradition, and it even became one of the five megilloth (scrolls) read publicly at great feasts: the Song of Songs at Passover, thereby coinciding with the Christian celebration of Our Lord's sacrifice at Calvary. Read more

Women of the OT: Queen Esther

Monday, September 17, 2012
Queen Esther by Edwin Long in 1878
When we talk about Esther in the Book of Esther, we can’t ignore many other characters in the book as they seem to play roles almost as  important as hers. The hero of the Book of Esther is a Jewish woman who lived in Susa and became queen when she was chosen to be the wife of King Xerxes (Ahasuerus) of Media and Persia. During a banquet of six months, when the Queen Vashti refused to appear into the presence of King Xerxes (Ahasuerus) wearing the royal crown, the king, advised by his ‘wise men’ in the council, decided to depose her and to choose another queen, a much more beautiful woman, a virgin young woman! Esther was chosen.


In the beginning, the personality of Esther does not count that much; her uncle and adoptive father Mordecai is the one who is mentioned as a prominent servant at the king’s court. When he discovered a plot of two eunuchs to kill the king, he informed him and he was rewarded. Later Esther was chosen among other beautiful virgins – as she was beautifully formed and lovely to behold (Esther 2:7) – to replace Vashti who had disobeyed to the king’s orders. The king also raised Haman the Agagite above all the other fellow officials. Later, Haman and Mordecai did not get along and a serious conflict arose between them.

The Book of Esther presents two causes of the conflict between Mordecai and Haman: in Chapter A:17 (Prologue to the Book of Esther) we read that Haman wanted to harm Mordecai because of the two eunuchs the latter had accused before the king and the beginning of chapter 3 of the same book informs us that it was due to the fact that Mordecai refused to kneel and bow down to Haman. Haman decided to exterminate the Jews. Esther, helped by her uncle, manages to inform the king of Haman's wicked plans, and Haman and those who had joined him in his wicked plans are the ones to be exterminated. Nowadays, a holiday called Purim commemorates that event and it has very ‘happy’ celebrations, including sharing food, dressing up as for a carnival and… burning the images of Haman! Actually, the aim of the whole book seems to be the explanation of the origins of that feast which might in fact have more pagan origins than Jewish ones.


Queen Esther and Mordecai by Lilian Broca.
An important point is to be raised: the King who ordered the execution of Haman could not completely reverse the first decree to exterminate the Jews: he just gave them his support by a parallel decree, ‘drafted by Mordecai’, which allowed them to defend themselves because “whatever [was] written in the name of the king and sealed with the royal signet ring [could not] be revoked.” (Esther 8:8). In the end, the role of Esther, helped by the God of her community, seems to have been to bring the king and his governor to her side, the Jewish people.



Another side of Esther’s personality is that she represents people who, despite being far from their homelands – refugees, captives and others – manage to overcome their condition and become part of the host society and sometimes enter its leadership. Esther also has inspired the Jewish community which has been threatened throughout centuries in many places like Europe in the Middle Ages and during the Second World War and in today’s Middle East. Many are Jews who saw Esther story as a sign that God is always on their side in their conflicts against other nations.

In the same way that I strongly believe that Scripture tells us what is good and advisable to be done, it also presents examples of actions and reactions that might not be pleasing in the eyes of God. If it is written that the Jewish community in the kingdom of Media and Persia took revenge by killing those who wished to wipe them from the surface of the earth – or probably of Persia – it gives us at the same time an occasion to consider doing better than them. That is why we could not read the story of Esther and apply it to our lives leaving out the rest of the Holy Scriptures. In these days, as both nations, Israel and Iran (which was part and centre of the Persian empire), tend to settle on unsympathetic relations and belligerent moods, the story of Esther might not encourage in the resolution of the conflict. The Book of Esther thus reminds us that we should pray so that it does not end in blood as it is described in Esther's story.

The role played by Esther seems to be that she tried to always seduce the king by her unbelievable beauty any time she appear before him. Seduction appears to be her strength throughout the whole story. Her uncle Mordecai knew about that advantage and he encouraged her to appear before the king. However, she is also portrayed as a prayerful and courageous woman, who took the risk, first of all of appearing before the king without permission, and of revealing her race to the king, knowing that she could be killed. Carey A. Moore, in his contribution to the Anchor Bible series, wrote a book with the title Esther. In his comments, he wrote that “[h]aving carefully prepared herself spiritually (1v 16) and physically (v 1) for her ordeal, Esther now stood radiant, but nonetheless unsummoned, in the inner court before the king. The magic of her beauty, which had captivated the king from the very beginning (v 17), apparently saved her, although according to Addition D 8 God was responsible.” (1971:57). Esther’s beauty tells us that, God is the creator of beauty and beauty is a good thing. This tells us God endows with various and different gifts. But those do not suffice without God's help and we always need to turn to God in order to be able to use fruitfully those gifts.

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Women of the OT: Queen Vashti

Friday, September 14, 2012

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Women of the Old Testament: Judith

Monday, September 10, 2012
The book of Judith is a carefully crafted work that combines a good story with a powerful theological punch. The opening chapters set the scene: King Nebuchadnezzar of Nineveh and Assyria determines to punish the vassal states on his western border after they fail to send soldiers to support him in his war against King Arphaxad. He orders his General Holofernes to take his huge army and go and plunder the cities of Syria, Moab, Ammon, Judea, and Egypt, expunging the local religions as he goes so that all might worship Nebuchadnezzar as a god. Holofernes obeys and sweeps all before him until he reaches the borders of Judah. Here, to his surprise, he finds that the House of Israel has mobilized for war. The Jews, we are told, had only recently returned from exile and were determined that the temple of God should not be desecrated again. They fortified the hill villages and the narrow passes through which the invaders must pass, and then by prayer and fasting implored God to come to their aid.  Read more

Women of the OT: Sarah, the Daughter of Raguel

Thursday, September 06, 2012
The Book of Tobit is not one of the best known books of the Bible, not least, I suppose, because it is not found in the Hebrew canon and therefore not recognised as Scripture by Protestants. Thus, not so many people, perhaps, have heard of Sarah, the daughter of Raguel, as of some of the other women we have looked at in our series so far. Read more

The Queen of Sheba

Monday, September 03, 2012
1 Kings 10:1-13. Read more

Women of the OT: Abishag the Shunammite

Thursday, August 30, 2012
Abishag the Shunammite makes her appearance in the twilight years of King David’s life: a young woman, she cherishes and serves the dying King, whose enfeebled condition - lying in bed, unable to get warm, and surely close to death - contrasts with the beauty and energy of the youthful virgin. Somewhat passively (and no doubt with considerable horror), Abishag finds herself caught up in the royal politics concerning succession. The heir-apparent to the throne, Adonijah, David’s eldest remaining son after the deaths of Absalom and Amnon, inappropriately attempts to seize power from the weakened King, and is ultimately passed over in favour of the younger Solomon. After Solomon’s accession, a smarting Adonijah asks for Abishag’s hand in marriage. Bathsheba, the Queen Mother, intercedes for him with the King, but Solomon responds by having Adonijah put to death.  Read more

Women of the Old Testament: Bathsheba

Monday, August 27, 2012
Bathsheba ('daughter of the oath') is one of only five women to be mentioned, albeit indirectly as 'the wife of Uriah', in St Matthew's genealogy of Jesus (Mt 1:6). As a wife of King David and mother of King Solomon, Bathsheba is a direct ancestor of Our Lord. She thus holds a unique place in Israel's history, which is the history of our salvation. The story of David and Bathsheba teaches us about the importance of right conduct, how the Lord is displeased with sin, and how we suffer as a result of our own sin and folly. Read more

Women of the Old Testament: Hannah

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

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