COVENANTAL CRISES V:
The “Chosen People”
“ . . . God called Abraham and his family out of the provincial city of Haran around the time that the Babylonian emperor, Hammurabi, conquered the nearby capital of Mari (1760 BCE). One of God’s fundamental purposes for this call was to liberate his chosen people from possession by, and submission to, those who claimed divine power for themselves. . . .
“On repeated occasions . . . [God] revealed his presence to Abraham, confirmed his covenantal promise, and assured Abraham that he and his descendants would occupy the Promised Land . . .
“Tragically, over the course of subsequent generations, loyalty to . . . [God] was not believed to exclude the worship of other gods or the formation of other power structures. . . . [God] therefore allowed his people to go into bondage to the Egyptian power structures. Their enslavement was intended as a pedagogical experience to lead them to rely solely on . . . [God] as their protective and supportive . . . [Deity].
“After generations of submission to Pharaoh, . . . [God] called Moses (‘child of god’) to lead his people out of Egypt. . . . YHWH’s purpose was to emphatically separate his people from all supposed divinized power structures and to assure his people that he himself was with them — to protect them, to lead them, and to provide all their needs.”1
The Promise of the Decalogue
In order for his people to acknowledge his covenantal presence, God gave them his promise in the form of the Decalogue on two tables of stone. Surprisingly,
. . . [T]he wording in the Decalogue is NOT in the form of commandments, but rather statements. They appear as future tense verbs or as infinitives. . . .
. . . You will have no other gods . . .
. . . You will not make for yourself an idol . . .
. . . You will not make wrongful use of the name of Yahweh your God. . . .
. . . To remember the Sabbath . . .
. . . To honor your father and mother. . . .
. . . You will not kill. . . . [etc.].2
Furthermore, these statements are framed in the second person singular to emphasize that they were designed to represent individual, personal witness, acceptance and fulfillment.3 And because they are written in the future tense, they constitute the individual’s promised witness.4
The Promise of the Tabernacle
In addition to the promises of the Decalogue, the Chosen People were given the wilderness Tabernacle and, later, the Jerusalem Temple(s). The Tabernacle and Temple(s) represented “a reclining human form. The Holy of Holies symbolized the head. The staircase represented the neck. The Holy Place symbolized aspects of the chest/abdomen. The bronze pillars portrayed the legs. The priestly side chambers represented the two arms. The five lavers on either side represented the fingers. The two pillars at the entrance symbolized and bordered the genital opening.
“However, unlike the Edenic story of a sleeping Adam, . . . [the Tabernacle and Temple(s) were not metaphors] for a reclining Adamic male. Rather, . . . [they were metaphors] for an androgynous parent (father/mother) awaiting the birth of their Adamic child as the human manifestation of God. This triune metaphor — father, mother, child — symbolized God’s promised inaugural ‘fillment’ of the covenant and God’s self-creation as human. This triune metaphor further implied that the totality of the Godhead participated in the human manifestation of God!”6 The fundamental metaphor was that God thus promised to become human with his people and to eternally relate to them as his friends (John 15:15).
Tragically, God’s people repeatedly broke their reciprocal promise to him in order to worship other gods, to install their own kings, and to terminate the prophets through whom God spoke to his people. Despite God’s sending them into exile and having them repeatedly conquered and subjected by Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome, his people retained the conviction of their own rights to govern, to worship other gods, and even to worship themselves.
It was in this context that God finally intervened. Thus, “ . . . God sent forth his Son, made of a woman . . . to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons” (Galatians 4:4, 5).
- “Canaanite III,” Outlook, Context for the Christ Event (2005.07). (go back)
- Judith Quarles,“Decalogue,” at obsolete website. For similar material, see www.ministrymagazine.org/archive/2012/06/the-ten-commandments:-a-law-to-be-obeyed-or-promises-to-be-celebrated and www.stateofformation.org/2011/01/five-reasons-why-i-a-christian-oppose-the-public-display-of-the-ten-commandments-part-ii/: “In fact, in the Hebrew, the Ten Commandments are not commandments at all, but statements. They are not in the imperative (‘Do not commit adultery’) but rather in the indicative (‘You will not commit adultery’); as such, they are a vision for an idealized religious community rather than legal restrictions on moral life.” (go back)
- See George E. Mendenhall, “The Suzerainty Treaty Structure: Thirty Years Later,” in Edwin B. Firmage, Bernard G. Weiss and John W. Welch, eds., Religion and Law: Biblical-Judaic and Islamic Perspectives (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1990), p. 92. (go back)
- Not only the Decalogue, but the entire Torah, was written in the future tense. See Yitzhak K. Hayut-Man and Tirtsah Arai, “The Book of Genesis as a Redemptive Scenario and Guide for Re-Biography,” at www.thehope.org/torengo.htm. (go back)
- See Tony Badillo, “The Floor Plan: Does It Reveal a Temple with a Human Form?” at www.templesecrets.info. (go back)
- “The First Temple: United Monarchical Period,” Outlook (November 2001). (go back)