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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Week of October 16, 2016

Sunday, we'll consider Joel.  Sounds a lot like our last discussion of wisdom: "Have you considered my servant Job?"  But this week it's the prophet Joel, not Job.

As that sermon's a-cookin' in my heart and head for the week, there's something we won't talk much about Sunday that begs our attention.
Names seem to mean something in OT writings:

Adam - "dirt boy"
Noah - "rest, comfort"
Abraham - "father of multitudes"
Sarah - "princess"
Isaac - "he will laugh"
Jacob - "supplanter, heel grabber" (changed to Israel - "prevails with God")
Moses - "to draw out"
Joshua - "Yahweh is salvation"
Bathsheba - "voluptuous"
David - "beloved"
Hezekiah - "strengthened by Yahweh"
Daniel - "God is my judge"

These are just a few examples.  If you know the stories surrounding these names, you'll know the importance of the name.  Names are important in Joel as well.

We're told first thing that Joel is Pethuel's son.  "Yahweh is God" (Joel) is the son of "God makes spacious" (Pethuel).  Joel's dad's name is a tough one for interpreters.  Its literal meaning doesn't always seem to match the context in which it's utilized, which to me hints that we may be dealing with an idiom.  There's only one way to understand idioms: you have to be privy to the cultural landscape.  We'll never have that privilege.  However, one might infer from the etymological context that the idiom is not such a flattering one.   I can't help but think of our use of "air head" or "hair brain" when considering the use of "spacious" (Peth-), making the name mean "God made him a 'hair brain.'"

There's high probability that I'm totally off.  However, given the nature of this book--the fact that its setting and historicity are ambiguous at best (I'm going with about mid-300 B.C., between the attack of Artaxerxes III on Jerusalem and prior to the rise of Alexander the Great)--it is not outside the realm of possibility that "Pethuel" is utilized to justify the story's apparent setting (God's people under attack) and "Joel" as hope in a new direction (A return to the land promised by God), based solely on the wisdom intertwining the books of Genesis-II Kings, as well as the Historical Books, the Wisdom Writings, and the Major and Minor Prophets.

Given this undergirding, it may help us to see why simply observing a swarm of locusts could create this metaphor that may serve as a skeleton key into the mind of a nostalgic, late Forth Century B.C. Jew.

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