Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom (Exod 20:18-26)

After the declaration of the Ten Commandments is complete, the people get a bit freaked out. Apparently, they find the overt presence of God in the area to be a bit much for them, and ask Moses to relay messages to them rather than having God speak directly to them. Moses tells them something that is an interesting turn of phrase,
Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not.
So, don't have fear of God, because He's come here to give you fear. Huh? You can't get out of this one by referring back to the Hebrew, since both words are from the same root. What you do have to appeal to in order to understand this is that "fear" in Biblical terms has different shades of meaning. You can fear something in that you can be terrified of it, or you can fear something in that you can have respect for its power. While it would be nice to have separate words for these different concepts in the Hebrew and in the English, we really don't. (The Amplified Bible inserts the word "reverential" before the second instance.) Oh well.

Then God starts to tell Moses some laws, which is largely the beginning of God dictating the whole of the Mosaic law that will be committed to paper over the course of the rest of this book and the three following, interspersed with commentary about important moments in their journey to the Promised Land. The Mosaic Law is admittedly fairly tedious reading, is often repeated (note the first thing God brings up is concerning idolatry), and isn't arranged in the sort of organized fashion we expect in modern times from legal documents, but it is important to a full understanding of the Bible and the nature of God. It's also full of SAB marginal notes that I'll have to address, so no skipping for me.

I have already commented on sacrifices, which I also considered to be a good answer to the issue of burnt offerings, so all that remains is the note on the "nakedness" of priests serving at the altar. Um, yeah, I guess it is sort of a funny concept, that if they go up high people might be looking up their robes. What's the question?

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