Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Talking Back to Moses

Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet and said, Surely a bloody husband art thou to me. Exodus 4:25

Of the four people who I regularly picture at the Oak Street Bible Shop, only one was married. Glen was a widower, Joy was married with a 15 year old daughter. Sue had never been married and was in her late twenties. Gary was a bachelor, and, I believe 24 years old.

Joy held forth on the happiness and the pitfalls of married life, although she admitted occasionally that her daughter was a real handful, empty headed and more than slightly boy crazy.

Today she was complaining that Dave, her husband could be so un-romantic, as she put it. “Last night” she said ,”I was in a very loving mood, but Dave was being very thorough with some garbage bags out in the kitchen.” She stood in the doorway to the backroom and demonstrated her come hither look, one arm up and hand on the woodwork like a dance hall girl in an old Western. “I was trying to send romantic signals” she said, “but Dave was double bagging all the garbage bags and taping them shut. I asked him why he was taking so long and he said he was trying to make the bags more dog-proof or something like that . Love took second place to garbage bags,” she said with sad irony in her voice.

Sue was listening to her boss lady with only partially concealed amusement. She had never heard Joy reveal her feeling about her home life like this before.

Behind his counter Gary stood straight and tall and his face showed mild contempt. He did not like what he considered the masculine role criticized in any way. Glen’s face wore a soft and sentimental look as if he was reminiscing over his own happy marriage. There was a brief silence before Sue began. “I wonder what the lives of the old time Bible people were like”, she said with her dreamy little girl voice.”

“I’ll bet women treated their husbands with respect in those days” said Gary, still affronted by Joy’s mild criticism of Dave. “Too bad it can’t be that way today.” Joy didn’t miss his meaning, but just smiled indulgently at his naive ideas. “Abraham had a handful with Sarah, that’s for sure” she said. He yielded to her on at least one occasion.”

“She probably nagged him to death over having to listen to her Egyptian maid mock her for being childless. If Abraham had stood his ground there probably would be peace in the Middle East today” said Gary sternly.

“You mean there would be no Arabs?” Said Sue. “But what about Arabs that are Christians? They had to be born, didn’t they? I mean weren’t they pre-destined to be part of God’s people?” She had become a good Calvinist from listening to Glen.

Glen was taking this all in with great interest. It was at times like these that he learned so much about these people he loved.

“Oh, the Jews had plenty of trouble before Ishmael became a force in the world. They slugged it out with about every great nation there was and had internal fights too. The Arabs are just the latest in their history of enemies. As far as I’m concerned they are the ones making the trouble over there right now, not the Arabs.. The Jews have a long history of not being able to wait for God.”

“Their prayer is, Give us patience, right now!” said Gary bringing his fist down on the counter. He was unwinding a little. “But as to the subject of Bible wives and husbands, maybe we look at them through modern eyes, and not with a Biblical perspective? It is true that there was a climate of power in the reign of husbands and wives. Wives were put to death at times, when they offended their husbands or other men.”

“Men were the head of the family in those days” said Gary, as if he knew all about it. “Gary, did you ever see the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”? said Sue with a sidelong glance. “The old -world Greek father is always saying that, “Men are the head, men are the head.”. But his wife tells her daughters “Yes, men are the head alright, but we women are the neck. We turn the head!”

Gary was not too happy about this.
Sue had used a movie he had not seen to one up him, but the rest of us appreciated her humor and her point. Glen began to cite Bible examples of women who stood up to men, when the occasion called for it. “Sarah was a good example, as you mentioned. And we have classic cases of women who could be submissive, and yet when the occasion called for it be confrontational too. Zipporah comes to mind. We don’t hear much about her, but there is a clue to what she must have been like in Exodus 4.”Gary found Exodus 4 and read silently for awhile. Then he spoke”This is really a weird passage! God meets Moses at an inn and wanted to kill him! Like to hear somebody make a sermon on that!”

“It could be done” said Glen,

“There is Moses returning to Egypt from Midian, with his wife Zipporah.. They have their baby son with them. God has told Moses he is to go before Pharaoh and warn him about the coming judgement if he doesn’t let the Israelites go. Then God wants to kill Moses.

People today, Bible commentators, stumble all over trying to figure it out.
But Zipporah understands! Here is Moses, getting ready for his great mission to free his people, and he has forgotten to circumcise his own son!”

“What I don’t get, is the law had not yet been given, Israel hasn’t even left Egypt” said Gary. “They haven’t been to Mount Sinai to receive the law and God wants to kill Moses for breaking one of them!”

“But circumcision was instituted long before Sinai” said Glen. “God made a covenant with Abraham to circumcise all the males eight days and older. Moses was part of that covenant community and had failed to keep the covenant by circumcising his own son.”

“Too bad they didn’t have little stick-on notes like “Things to Do Today”, Circumcise my son” said Sue.

Joy stared at her in disbelief, What a thing to say!

Glen ignored all this. "Zipporah intervened. Sometimes we men will forget to do the most basic things if our women do not forcefully remind us. Zipporah didn’t forget. She tells Moses violently, in effect,“You almost got yourself killed, you bloody husband!” She takes a sharp stone and does it herself, flinging the severed foreskin at the feet of Moses. It is quite a scene, they are staying at an inn, so she uses a sharp stone. It had to be a bad day for Moses, but thanks to Zipporah, he survived it.”

“Then there is the example, quite often overlooked, of Abigail and her husband Nabal.” “I love this story” said Sue, “What a way to get a husband!”

“And what a way to get rid of your old one.” said Joy, out of the blue.
Gary, caught in the crossfire, said nothing..

Glen continued, “We need to understand David’s life at this time. He wasn’t king yet. He and his men were living in caves as unofficial guardians of those keeping flocks. They staved off raiders and lived off the land. They knew every hill and valley, which helped make David the greatest battlefield general in history. They barely had enough to eat and when they asked for provisions from Nabal, he refused them rudely. This was in the days before David developed his legendary patience and humility. You messed with David once and he killed you, in those early days.

Gary began reading in verse 13:
And David said unto his men, Gird ye on every man his sword. And they girded on every man his sword; and David also girded on his sword: and there went up after David about four hundred men; and two hundred abode by the stuff. I Sam. 25:13

“Now it was a good thing that one of the young men told Nabal’s wife, Abigail, that David was on his way to kill Nabal and all his men. She hurried to load up provisions of bread, wine, raisins, and five dressed sheep, among other food and put it on pack animals to take to David. She did not tell her husband she was doing this. Now here is the submissive part” said Glen, “She lay on her face before David and made her plea. She said her husband’s name meant “fool” and he lived up to it! She averted David’s anger and he relented.”

“Here comes the good part!” said Sue.

Gary read from verse 33, Blessed be thy advice, and blessed be thou...

Glen interrupted his reading “Isn’t that a wonderful thing for David to say! “Blessed be thy advice”. This is 3,000 years ago, in a patriarchal time, and here is this young hotheaded warrior saying “Blessed be thy advice” to a lowly woman. The wisest men listen to women, they are not too proud to take good advice.”

Gary recalled a Ronald Reagan movie where the American hero is in a war torn Asiatic country, bullets flying everywhere, people starving in the streets. The hero’s girlfriend tells him something and he takes her advice. One of the orientals says to the hero,”In my country men don’t let women tell them what to do.” The American asks him, “How’s your country doing?”

“Later on, continued Glen, “Nabal is at a drunken feast, so Abigail doesn’t tell him what she has done for David. In the morning, after he sobers up she does tell him...”

Sue broke in “and he turned to stone!” she clapped her hands together. For some reason this really appealed to Sue.

Glen finished the story , with Gary’s help:

And it came to pass about ten days after, that the Lord smote Nabal, that he died. V.38

Sounds like a stroke, doesn’t it,” said Joy, matter of factly.

Read the part where they get married!” said Sue.

And David sent and communed with Abigail, to take her to him to wife. V.39

“David was really smart wasn’t he,”said Sue. ‘If a woman gives you good advice, take it, and marry her!”

This was too much for Gary, the whole idea of men listening to women seemed to trouble him. I stepped into the back room to see if there was any coffee, so I missed part of what he was saying. But I did hear him say that there was no way he was going to be bossed around by anyone, much less a woman, and so forth.

”You should be so lucky” quipped Sue.

This brought on more tirades from Gary until Joy had heard enough. She slipped off her stool and faced him, hands on her hips. “Gary, I wish you’d get married!”

“Yeah,” said Glen, ‘That oughta take the starch out of him.”

No comments:

Post a Comment