This blog is following the book of Genesis and the Gospel of Mark in tandem. The series began on 1st January 2015 and can be accessed from my archives. The headlines are reminders of the world in which we live.
GENESIS 29 fron veese 31
when YHWH saw that Lea was hated
he opened her womb,
while Rahel was barren.
So Lea became pregnant and gave birth to a son;
She called his name: Re’uven / See, a son!
for she said:
indeed YHWH has seen my being afflicted,
indeed now my husband will love me!
She became pregnant again and bore a son
Indeed YHWH has heard I am hated,
so he has given me this one as well!
And she called him Shim’on/ Hearing.
And she became pregnant again and bore a son
this time my husband will be joined to me
for I have borne him thee sons!
Therefore they called his name: Levi / Joining.
She became pregnant again and bore a son
This time I will give thanks to YHWH!
Therefore she called his name: Jehuda/ Giving Thanks.
Then she stopped giving birth.
When Rahel saw that she could bear no children to Yaakov,
Rahel envied her sister.
She said to Yaakov:
Come now, give me children!
If not, I will die.
Yaakov’s anger fared up aganst Rahel
Am I in place of God
who has denied you fruit of the body?
here is my slave girl Bilha:
come into her
so ta she may give birth upon my knees so tha I too may be built up with sons through her.
She gave him Bilha her maid as a wife
and Yaakov came into her.
Bilha became pregant and bore Yaakov a son.
God has done me justice, yes, he has heard my voice.
he has given me a son!
Therefore she called his name Dan / He Has Done Justice.
And Bilha, Rahel’s maid became pregnant again and bore a second son to Yaakov.
A struggle of God I have struggled with my sister; yes, have prevailed!
So she called his name Naftali / My Struggle.
When Lea saw that she has stopped giving birth,
She took Zilpa her maid and gave her to Yaakov as wife.
Zilpa, Lea’s maid bore Yaakov a son.
So she called his name: Gad / Fortune.
And Zilpa, Lea’s maid, bore a second son to Yaakov.
So she called his name: Asher/ Happiness.
Although the story of the births of Yaakov’s children continues, I’ve paused it here for reflection. I’d noted that YHWH is often in the story although he does nothing supernatural but works in and through the human interactions of his chosen family. This is also true in this case but the storyteller wants to remind his audience that children are a gift of God and that YHWH has promised to make this family “many as the dust of the earth.” In and through the competitive pregnancies of Lea, Rahel and their maids, YHWH is telling his own story about the future of his people.His audience who know the names of the 12 tribes of Israel can see what is happening, although the characters in the story cannot.
At first it seems that characteristically YHWH favours the sister who is unloved, increasing her reputation over that of her better-loved sister; but latterly we see that He/ She is apparently trying to a keep a delicate balance between them. The competition between the sisters is mirrored in the names of the children. The two slavegirls are given their special place in the story of the mothers of Israel.
The rhythm of the story pushes forwards towards its quiet culmination in the birth of Yosef, as we shall see. The belief in a creator God is powerfully evident in the story of the pregnancies, ascribing to YHWH a role which in contemporary religions was often given to a Goddess. It seems to me that even within the Christian Church a theology of the birth of children – and indeed of other living creatures- has been lost. Baptism has lost its connection with birth and my church certainly has no ceremonies of thanksgiving for the birth of a child. This carelessness leaves such matters to secular ceremonies which have no room for God.
And as he was going out of the temple, one of his disciples says to him, Teacher, see what stones and what buildings!
2 And Jesus answering said to him, Do you see these great buildings? not a stone shall be left upon a stone, which shall not be thrown down.
3 And as he sat on the mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately,
4 Tell us, when shall these things be, and what is the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled?
5 And Jesus answering them began to say, Take heed lest any one mislead you.
6 For many shall come in my name, saying, It is I, and shall mislead many.
7 But when you shall hear of wars and rumours of wars, be not disturbed, for this must happen, but the end is not yet.
8 For nation shall rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there shall be earthquakes in different places, and there shall be famines and troubles: these things are the beginnings of the throes.
9 But take heed to yourselves, for they shall deliver you up to sanhedrins and to synagogues: you shall be beaten and brought before rulers and kings for my sake, for a testimony to them;
10 and the gospel must first be preached to all the nations.
It’s very natural that there are traditions of Jesus’ prophecies for the future. As we have them in Mark, Matthew and Luke, these bear some resemblance to the kind of Jewish writings called “Apocalypses” (Revelations) and indeed to the last book of the Christian bible, The Apocalypse or Revelation. These tend to unlock the secret history of God’s ultimate justice which will be revealed to the world in the “last days”, the end-time of this age.
Jesus’ words as presented by Mark focus first on something more mundane: the destruction of the Jewish Temple by the Romans. This happened in 70 CE just before Mark wrote his Gospel. This would have been a world shattering event for the Jewish people and indeed for many Jewish followers of Jesus. There seems to have been a tradition that Jesus had said words about the temple which featured in his trial and may have been misinterpreted. These may have indicated that for his followers he would be the new temple, the place of God’s presence. He also may well have prophesied the future destruction of the temple as a result of the armed struggle against Rome which he had rejected.
Mark depicts Jesus prophesying a coming time of calamity when the temple would be destroyed. But he also warns them not to become confused by “end of the world” speculation and hysteria. False Messiahs claiming to speak for God (“It is I!” ) are to be ignored. The disturbances of the political and natural worlds are to be seen as merely the start of “the throes”, a time of pain which it was believed would precede the revelation of the Messiah.
More specifically Jesus warns his disciples that they will be persecuted and called to state their faith before secular and religious authorities. This is part of their task of making the good news of God available to all nations. If we try to guess the timescale of all this, the only certain answer we can get is the fact of the destruction of 70CE. Beyond that the gospel writer has given no guidance. Except…long ago R H Lightfoot in his commentary on Mark pointed out that in the text of chapter 13 are many phrases which could equally well apply to Jesus own arrest, trial and crucifixion. For example “deliver you up to Synagogues and Sanhedrins; beaten and brought before rulers and kings..” (I shall point out more in tomorrow’s passage).
This may indicate that for Mark at least the “throes” began with Jesus’ crucifixion, which represented a fundamental turning of the ages into the end-time. Much of this interpretation is doubtful. The certain thing is that Mark shows Jesus pointing to a future in which his gospel and his disciples will have a decisive part to play.
Living in a time when “apocalyptic” warnings are again common, due to preventable global warming, we may hear again Jesus’ call to witness to rulers and to communicate the gospel throughout the world as our priorities.