And I will wait upon the LORD, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him. Isaiah 8:17

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Covenants : Suzerain Vassal Land Grants

Throughout the Near East there are many secular documents that follow the same form as the covenant-making between God and man. 

 In Biblical scholarship, these are called Suzerain-Vassal treaties. A suzerain is a lord or king; a vassal is someone inferior who pays tribute to him or fights in his army. These treaties (or covenants) follow a standard form.

 1) The identification of the Suzerain by his name and titles (Genesis 15:1, 17:1).

2) The historical survey of the Suzerain's dealings with the vassal.  The purpose is to illustrate to the vassal how much the Suzerain has done to protect and establish the vassal who therefore owes submission and allegiance to the Suzerain (['what great things the LORD has done for His people' : I Nephi 17:23-42).

3) The next section of these treaties list the "stipulations," what the vassal is required to do and what the lord offers in return (Genesis 17:1-14).

4) There may be a requirement that the vassal deposit his copy of the treaty in his temple, where he is to occasionally read and study it to refresh his memory concerning his duties (Deuteronomy 17:17-20)

5)  Witnesses to the treaty (Isaiah 1:2) 

6) The last section of these treaties contains the blessings (if the vassal obeys) and curses (if the vassal is unfaithful) of the Suzerain (Leviticus 26).

 The treaties are written on a variety of surfaces : embossed on clay tablets, carved in stone, or engraven on metal (see above).  

The British Museum has many examples of these treaties carved on stones, which were then placed at the boundaries of the land given to the vassal by the lord.   Often, the sun, moon or stars are called as witnesses to the treaty and are carved over the heads of the parties involved.


You can read more about these by Googling 'Suzerain-Vassal treaties.' There are interesting discussions here, here and here.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Ten Famines

According to the rabbis, there are 10 famines named in the Hebrew Bible:

1.    Genesis 3:17 - Adam
2.    Genesis 5:29 - Lamech
3.    Genesis 12:10 - Abraham
4.    Genesis 26:1 - Isaac
5.    Genesis 41:54-57 -Jacob
6.    Ruth 1:1 - Naomi goes to Moab in the days of the Judges
7.    2 Samuel 21:1 - David (see also 2 Samuel 24:13)
8.    1 Kings 18:2- Elijah
9.    2 Kings 4:25, 6:25 - Elisha
10.   Amos 8:11 - a spiritual famine which will occur in the Messianic Age

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Ten Trials of Abraham

1.  King tries to kill Abraham at his birth.
2.  Abraham is locked in a prison for 10 years, then thrown into a fire.
3.  Abraham is commanded to leave his home.
4.  Famine in the land.
5.  Sarah is taken by Pharaoh.
6.  The battle of the kings.
7.  The vision between the pieces.
8.  Circumcision.
9.  Ishmael and Hagar sent away.
10. Abraham is commanded to sacrifice Isaac.

This list of the ten trials of Abraham comes from a really old book called, "Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer."
To read the full text of this book, go here.
"We should learn from this story that receiving the promises does not entail being protected from moments when those promises seem to be called into question."
                             -Terence Fretheim (in the New Interpreter's Bible, 1994).

Seven Terms of the Covenant : Genesis 12

There are seven statements in the covenant God offers Abraham
 in Genesis 12: 2-3 :

1.  And I will make of thee a great nation,
2.  and I will bless thee,
3.   and make thy name great;
4.  and thou shalt be a blessing:
5.  And I will bless them that bless thee, 
6.  and curse him that curseth thee:
7.  and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

This is the first occurence in Torah of the Hebrew word barak, to bless and it is used five times in these two verses.