Tag Archives: Moses

Qur’an 10: Jonah

After the nightmare of Repentance, with the teacher who wrote that book attacking the concept of teachers, the familiar opening of Jonah feels like coming home:

In the Name of God, the All-beneficent, the All-merciful.
Alif, Lam, Ra. These are the signs of the Wise Book.
Qur’an 10:1

Relatively little space is given to the obligatory attacks on Judaism and especially Catholicism. Instead a universal pattern of apostleship is given, where men produce elaborations upon the Book such as the Torah, the Gospels, and the Qur’an. Water, the life of this world, is either the source from which the next world will be found, or is the graveyard of the unbeliever. This is shown through three biblical stories, those of Noah, Moses, and Jonah.

Intercession and Apostleship

As if to emphasize this, the rhetoric softens radically, with intercessors denied except if or when God permits them. At first glance this allow both a Jewish view of Moses, and a Catholic view of the intercessory role of Mary and the Church.

Your Lord is indeed God, who created the heavens and the earth in six days, and then settled on the Throne, directing the command. There is no intercessor, except after His leave. That is God, your Lord! So worship Him. Will you take then take admonition!
Qur’an 10:3

But there seems to be a parallel with the angels who speak — perhaps the only intercessors are those that elaborate on the Heavenly Book to man, if not the books such as the Torah that elaborate on the Book itself:

When Our manifest signs are recited to them, those who do not expect to encounter Us say, Bring a Lectionary other than this, or alter it. Say, I may not alter it of my own accord. I follow only what is revealed to me. Indeed, should I disobey my Lord, I fear the punishment of a tremendous day.

Say, Had God wished, I would not have recited it to you, nor would He have made it known to you, for I have dwelt among you for a lifetime before it. Do you not exercise your reason?
Qur’an 10:15-16

Like some Protestants, the Qur’anic author refers to Catholic veneration of the saints as ‘worship.’ The author’s perspective, that created beings are unable to help themselves or others, means that this veneration is pointless — no intercession from a human to any creature is possible.

They worship besides God that which neither causes them any harm, nor brings them any benefit, and they say, ‘These are out intercessors with God.’ Say, ‘Will you inform God about something He does not know in the heavens or on the earth?’ Immaculate is He and far above any partners that they ascribe!
Qur’an 10:18

Indeed, the venerated may be unaware of the veneration. Given the Qur’anic author’s affection for Mary, this is striking, as it implies Mary is in a form of semi-consciousness or soul-sleep and unable to understand or know about this affection until the Last Day:

On the day when We gather them all together, We shall say to those who ascribe partners, ‘Say where you are — you and your partners!’ Then We shall set them apart from one another, and their partners will say, ‘It was not us that you worshiped. God suffices as a witness between you and us. We were indeed unaware of your worship.’ There every should will examine what it has sent in advance,d and they will be returned to God, their real master, and what they used to fabricate will forsake them.
Qur’an 10:28-30

The rhetoric hardens, limiting even the educational role of intercession. This is in keeping with the previous chapter, Repentance, but underscores the apparent rhetorical purpose of this chapter’s more gentle opening.

There is no guide, no teacher, no intercessor except for the elaborations of the Book. These elaborations, such as the Torah, the Gospels, and the Qur’an, may be trustworthy, even if the humans who teach from them often are not.

Say, "is there anyone among your partners who may guide to the truth?’ Say, ‘God guides to the truth. Is He who guides to the truth worthier to be followed, or he who is not guided unless he is shown the way? What is the matter with you? How do you judge?’
Qur’an 10:35

According to Catholics, Mary is the Spouse of God the Holy Spirit, and the Church is the Spouse of God the Son. But these partners do not have teaching authority — a direct assault against the Church’s magisterium.

They say, ‘God has offspring! Immaculate is He! He is the All-sufficient. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth. You have no authority for this. Do you attribute to God what you do not know?
Qur’an 10:68

The Parable of Water

This is so central to this chapter I’m going to repeat it word for word: According to the Qur’anic author, the parable of the life of this world is that of water.

The parable of the life of this world is that of water which We send down from the sky. It mingles with the earth’s vegetation from which humans and cattle eat. When the earth puts on it luster and is adorned, and its inhabitants think they have power over it, Our edict comes to it, by night or day, whereat We turn it into a mown field, as if it did not flourish the day before. Thus do We elaborate the signs for a people who reflect.
Qur’an 10:24

"Life of this world" is what is purchased with the broad that "comes down," the living bread that "came down," from heaven. The "life of this world" is obtained by bread which is somehow like rain water:

I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world."
John 6:48-51

Like water, the life of this world can be formless nothingness, as well as the life-giving source:

Every soul shall taste death, and you will indeed be paid your full rewards on the Day of the Resurrection. Whoever is delivered from the Fire and admitted to paradise has certainly succeeded. The life of this world is nothing but the wares of delusion.
Qur’an 3:185

Water has a universal archetypal meaning that matches these extremes, both the maternal and the chaotic:

The domain of the unfamiliar might be considered the ultimate source of all things, since we generate all of our determinate knowledge as consequence of exploring what we do not understand. Equally, however, the process of exploration must be regarded as seminal, since nothing familiar can be generated from the unpredictable in the absence of exploratory action and conception. The domain of the known — created in the process of exploration — is the familiar world, firm ground, separated from the maternal sea of chaos.
Jordan B. Peterson, Maps of Meaning p. 94.

This world is water, chaos, and the origin point of spiritual growth. The soul can continue to God and onto dry land, or be thrown back into the water. This can be seen by central moments in the lives of three apostles involving water: Noah gathering his family into the ark, Moses crossing the Red Sea, and Jonah during the storm.

The Prophets

Three stories are used to illustrate this point: Noah, Moses, and Jonah

Noah

Noah was a non-Jew who lived among non-Jews, and

God decreed the earth to be wicked, selected Noah, and Noah led those who would follow:

And God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make yourself an ark of gopherwood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch…

And behold, I Myself am bringing floodwaters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall die. But I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall go into the ark—you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you…

Then the Lord said to Noah, "Come into the ark, you and all your household, because I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation.
Genesis 6:13-14,17-18,7:1

Noah’s mission was sent to save his own family, though the Qur’an adds a scene where he also castigates the unbelievers who are about to be drowned.

Relate to them the account of Noah when he said to this people, ‘O my people! If my stay be hard on you and my reminding you of God’s signs, I have put my trust in God alone. So conspire together, along with your partners, leaving nothing vague in your plan; they carry it out against me without giving me any respite.
Qur’an 10:71

Moses

Moses follows the same pattern, of declaring judgment, selecting Moses, and Moses being appointed a leader for those who follow:

And the LORD said: “I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows…

So He said, “I will certainly be with you. And this shall be a sign to you that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain."

Go and gather the elders of Israel together, and say to them, ‘The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, appeared to me, saying, “I have surely visited you and seen what is done to you in Egypt;

So I will stretch out My hand and strike Egypt with all My wonders which I will do in its midst; and after that he will let you go.
Exodus 7,9-10,12,16,20

Yet there’s a shift here. Note that now it’s not just the family, and not even Israel’s children, but even Pharaoh repents:

We carried the Children of Israel across the sea, whereat Pharaoh and his troops pursued them, out of defiance and aggression. When overtaken by drowning, he called out, ‘I do believe that there is no god except Him in whom the Children of Israel believe, and I am one of those who submit!’
Qur’an 10:91

This comes from an interpretation of Exodus in which it is Pharaoh, and not the narrator, who announces God’s glory after the drowning of the army:

The enemy said, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil; My desire shall be satisfied on them. I will draw my sword, My hand shall destroy them.’

You blew with Your wind, The sea covered them; They sank like lead in the mighty waters.

"Who is like You, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like You, glorious in holiness, Fearful in praises, doing wonders?"
Exodus 15:9-11

Jonah

The pattern is similar, though these three examples give us a fuller view of how God operates. Noah was a gentile sent to gentiles, Moses, a Jew sent to Jews and to the Gentiles (if Pharaoh did convert), Jonah was a Jew sent to the Gentiles:

Most people remember Jonah’s mission to Ninevah, which is at the end of the biblical book about his exploits. But before that he has an inadvertent mission to gentile sailors during a storm:

Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai, saying, "Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before me." But Jonah set out to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid his fare and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the LORD.

But the LORD hurled a great wind upon the sea, and such a mighty storm came upon the sea that the ship threatened to break up…

Then they said to him, "Tell us why this calamity has come upon us. What is your occupation? Where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?" "I am a Hebrew," he replied. "I worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land." Then the men were even more afraid, and said to him, "What is this that you have done!" For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them so.

Then they cried out to the LORD, "Please, O LORD, we pray, do not let us perish on account of this man’s life. Do not make us guilty of innocent blood; for you, O LORD, have done as it pleased you."
Jonah 1:1-4,8-10,14

And in this case it is the stubborn Jonah, and not the initial disbelievers, who fall into chaos. The LORD was the true teacher of the gentiles, and Jonah’s lack of faithfulness meant he needed to convert his own heart as well:

So they picked Jonah up and threw him into the sea; and the sea ceased from its raging. Then the men feared the Lord even more, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows.
Jonah 1:15-16

Recall that, in parable, water is the life of this world. By recognizing God the sailors quieted the storm, and transformed the sea from the source of death to the source from which they would next enter dry land.

Why has there not been any town except the people of Jonah that might believe, so that its belief might benefit it? When they believed, We removed from them the punishment of disgrace in the life of this world and We provided for them for a time.
Qur’an 10:98

An Apostle for Every Nation

As with Judaism (which instructs that God gave all men the Noahide Covenant, and only a few the Mosaic covenant) and Christianity (which holds Judaism must continue to exist until the fullness of the gentile enter), the Qur’anic author view of the diversity of religious expression as willed by God:

Mankind were but a single community; then they differed. And were it not for a prior decree of your Lord, decisions would have been made between them concerning that about which they differ.
Qur’an 10:19

All nations are given the Book — the Heavenly Scrolls — through lesser books that elaborate upon it. The Qur’anic author calls his own book the Lectionary (lit. qur’an), and sees is elaborating the Heavenly Book:

This Lectionary could not have been fabricated by anyone besides God; rather, it is a confirmation of what was before it, and an elaboration of the Book, there is no doubt in it, from the Lord of all the worlds.
Qur’an 10:37

Noah, Moses, and Noah came before, announcing God and warning of the water — the life of this world:

There is an apostle for every nation; so when their apostle comes, judgment is made between them with justice, and they are not wronged.
Qur’an 10:47

Because the work of these men (as well as Ezra and Jesus, according to the Qur’anic author) are fundamentally united — elaborating the Book — ambiguities in one elaboration can be answered by conferring with experts in other elaborations:

So if you are in doubt about what We have sent down to you, ask those who read the Book before you. The truth has certainly come to you from your Lord; so do not be among the skeptics.
Qur’an 10:94

Elaborations of the Book

The message of the tenth chapter of the Qur’an is the widespread ability of man to elaborate on the heavenly Book, and the consequences of understanding that elaboration for man’s life. Without the Book, chaos will overtake man. With the book, chaos is the raw material out of which an eternal life can be built.

Indeed, God does not wrong people in the least; rather, it is people who wrong themselves. On the day He will gather them as if they had not remained except for an hour of the day getting acquainted with one another. They are certainly losers who deny the encounter with God, and they are not guided.
Qur’an 10:44-45

A similar message is expressed by philosophical self-help authors, from Jordan Peterson to Peter Thiel. It’s fair to say that the Qur’anic author was a thinker as brilliant and religious heterodox as Peterson and Thiel. And all of them are taking seriously the question of how the meaning of the world expresses itself in our world.

God has gracefully given the Logos — the meaning of all things — to His creation. Catholics then and now teach that this Logos is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Christ’s words and deeds are elaborated by His bride, the Church, to whom He granted teaching authority. To the Qur’anic author, the logos is the Book, elaborated upon by books such as the Torah, the Gospels, and the Qur’an. The chaos within the logos is Wisdom — the chaos outside of it is death.

Qur’an 8: The Spoils

The eighth chapter of the Qur’an is famous for its violence, at least in anti-Islamic circles. Litanies like this…

.. give more examples of violent verses from the eighth chapter than from any other. The chapter’s name — “The Spoils” — hardly helps. Yet, the litany’s violent impressions of the first several chapters don’t match my impressions of chapter 2, “The Heifer,” chapter 3, “The Family of Amram,” or chapter 5, “The Table.” So is chapter 8, “The Spoils,” that bad in the context of the Bible?

Let’s use one verse as a key, and open the door of the Qur’an…

Prepare against them whatever you can of power and war-horses,
awing thereby the enemy of God and your enemy,
and others besides them,
whom you do not know, but God knows them.

And whatever you spend in the way of God will be repaid to you in full
and you will be not wronged.
Qur’an 8:60

Within this one voice, there’s promises of payback, victory, a faithless adversary, total consecration to God, and all things being made right.

Let’s dig in.

Pay Back

The Qur’an’s promise that God will pay to men what men deserve continues the Biblical theme of pay back:

And Jesus answered and said to them, “Pay to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
Mark 12:17

Christ himself references the Maccabean promise to pay back to the gentiles exactly what they deserved:

Judas Maccabeus has been a mighty warrior from his youth; he shall command the army for you and fight the battle against the peoples. You shall rally around you all who observe the law, and avenge the wrong done to your people. Pay back the Gentiles in full, and obey the commands of the law.”
1 Maccabees 2:66-68

As Christ ensured us to be sure that Caesar collects, and Judas Maccabeus wanted to ensure that Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the Qur’anic author is warning the reader God can pay back to you, too. No debts will be left outstanding. But if you go with God, with way will be easier. This is because the burden we have been given from the Father is easy, and the burden manageable:

Now God has lightened your burden, knowing that there is weakness in you. So if there be a hundred steadfast men among you, they will overcome two hundred; and if there be a thousand, they will overcome two thousand, by God’s leave, and God is with the steadfast.
Qur’an 8:66

Or as Christ said:

All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.

Come to Me, all you who labor
and are heavy laden,
and I will give you rest.

Take My yoke upon you
and learn from Me, for I am gentle
and lowly in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.

For My yoke is easy
and My burden is light.”
Matthew 11:27-30

Victory

The reference to the multiplicative power of God in the verse we began with — that God’s help makes your own efforts a rounding error — seems to reflect the reference to David’s successes relative to Saul’s.

Now it had happened as they were coming home, when David was returning from the slaughter of the Philistine, that the women had come out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with joy, and with musical instruments. So the women sang as they danced, and said:

“Saul has slain his thousands,
And David his ten thousands.”

Then Saul was very angry, and the saying displeased him; and he said,

They have ascribed to David ten thousands,
and to me they have ascribed only thousands
.
Now what more can he have but the kingdom?”

So Saul eyed David from that day forward.
1 Samuel 18:6-9

The Qur’anic author, like Joseph Lozovyy in his analysis of David, Saul, and Doeg, views David’s success as the result entirely of God’s effort, and not reflective on David’s own skill or work. Faith — which the Qur’anic author sees as humility before God’s presence, and not as obedience to a king — makes one part of the heavenly host:

The faithful are only those whose hearts tremble when God is mentioned, and when His signs are recited to them, they increase their faith, and who put their trust in their Lord, maintain the prayer and spend out of what We have provided them. If is they who are truly faithful. They shall have ranks near their Lord, forgiveness, and a noble provision.
Qur’an 8:3-4

The righteous victory then is a victory where one does noting (except have hearts that tremble, put their trust in the Lord, maintain prayer, and use what God gives), and God smites the enemy. Faith, and not works, matter to the Qur’anic author. So the analogy of God smiting Pharaoh’s army, which the Israelites did little else to help other than escape…

Like the precedent of Pharaoh’s clan and those who were before them, who impugned the signs of their Lord; so We destroyed them for their sins and We drowned Pharaoh’s clan, and they were all wrongdoers.
Qur’an 8:54

… highlights perhaps the only work that God accepts, according to the Qur’anic author: belief.

Belief

After Pharaoh’s army was drowned, the Children of Israel were in the Wilderness between the sin of Egypt and the promise of Canaan. During this time, spies were sent into Canaan to investigate the land. All agreed with the basic facts — that the land of Canaan was good, but that it held the faithless — Amalekites:

Now they departed and came back to Moses and Aaron and all the congregation of the children of Israel in the Wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh; they brought back word to them and to all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land. Then they told him, and said: “We went to the land where you sent us. It truly flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. Nevertheless the people who dwell in the land are strong; the cities are fortified and very large; moreover we saw the descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites dwell in the land of the South; the Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the mountains; and the Canaanites dwell by the sea and along the banks of the Jordan.”
Numbers 13:26-29

The Qur’anic author summarizes what happened next:

As your Lord brought you out from your home with a judicious purpose, a part of the faithful were indeed reluctant. They disputed with you concerning the truth after it had become clear, as if they were being driven toward death while they looked on.
Qur’an 8:5

Caleb and Joshua advocated for an attack…

Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.”

and [Caleb and Joshua] spoke to all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying: “The land we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, ‘a land which flows with milk and honey.’ Only do not rebel against the Lord, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the Lord is with us. Do not fear them.”
Numbers 13:30,14:7-9

but the other spies urged Israel to turn back, leading even Moses and Aaron to despair:

But the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.” And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, “The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.”

So all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night. And all the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron, and the whole congregation said to them, “If only we had died in the land of Egypt! Or if only we had died in this wilderness! Why has the Lord brought us to this land to fall by the sword, that our wives and children should become victims? Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?” So they said to one another, “Let us select a leader and return to Egypt.”

Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the children of Israel.
Joshua 13:31-14:5

The Qur’anic author identifies the fear of the ten as ultimately Satanic, as it placed trust in human strength and not God’s. In this view the purpose of the spies was simply to see what God had prepared for them, and not worry about the practicalities of seizing a new land:

Do not be like those who left their homes vainly and to show off to the people, and to bar from the way of God, and God encompasses what they do.

When Satan made their deeds seem decorous to them, and said, ‘None from among those people will defeat you today, and I will stand by you.’But when the two hosts signed each other, he took to his heels, saying ‘Indeed, I am quit of you. I see what you do not see. Indeed, I fear God and God is severe in retribution.’
Qur’an 8:47-48

The Lord does not need human strength. He will send Angels to give victory to those He wishes:

When you appealed to your Lord for help, He answered you: ‘I will aid you with a thousand angels in a file.’
Qur’an 8:9

Sure enough, when Joshua assumed command and led the people into Canaan, the Lord’s commander personally promised support:

Then the manna ceased on the day after they had eaten the produce of the land; and the children of Israel no longer had manna, but they ate the food of the land of Canaan that year.

And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, a Man stood opposite him with His sword drawn in His hand. And Joshua went to Him and said to Him, “Are You for us or for our adversaries?”

So He said, “No, but as Commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.”

And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and said to Him, “What does my Lord say to His servant?”
Joshua 5:12-14

The Faithless Adversary

In our everyday life the faithless, according to the Qur’anic author, are those who label religion as superstition. Or, to put it another way, those who fail to see that ancient stories are are true:

When Our signs are recited to them, they say, “We have heard already. If we want, we can say like this: ‘These are nothing but myths of the ancients.'”
Qur’an 8:31

But in the Hebrew Bible, as referenced in the Qur’an, the paradigmatic unbelievers are the Amalekites:

Now Amalek came and fought with Israel in Rephidim. And Moses said to Joshua, “Choose us some men and go out, fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in my hand.” So Joshua did as Moses said to him, and fought with Amalek. And Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. And so it was, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed; and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands became heavy; so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it. And Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. So Joshua defeated Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this for a memorial in the book and recount it in the hearing of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.” And Moses built an altar and called its name, The-Lord-Is-My-Banner; for he said, “Because the Lord has sworn: the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.”
Exodus 17:8-16

Moses’s had to have his hands held up because of exhaustion. If man’s strength ensured success, implies the Qur’anic author, Moses would have been defeated. But victory comes from God. Perhaps he even gave Moses the exhaustion on purpose, to prevent Moses from being tempted to try to help himself:But even Moses’s exhaustion was not a weakness, it was from God. Sleep for a faithful warrior is not a dereliction of duty, but trust in God’s strength:

When He covered you with drowsiness as a security from Him, and sent down water from the sky to purify you with it, and to repel from you the defilement of Satan, and to fortify your hearts, and to make feet steady with it.

Then the Lord signaled to the angels: ‘I am indeed with you; so steady the faithful. I will cast terror into the hearts of the faithless. So strike their necks, and strike their every limb joint!”
Qur’an 8:3-4

Thus God granted Moses the victory, as he urged, with outstretched hands held up by others, the people to fight:

Oh prophet! Urge on the faithful to fight: if there be twenty steadfast men among you, they will overcome two-hundred; and if there be a hundred of you, they will overcome a thousand of the faithless, for they are a lot who do not understand.
Qur’an 8:65

Just as your own work cannot help you, nor can the work of others. Trusting in the work of others to save you is like trusting the Amalekites as you wander through their land. Would be intercessors should not be sought, according to the Qur’anic author, but dispersed. Trust only in God:

Indeed, the worst of beasts in God’s sight are those who are faithless; so they will not have faith. Those with whom you made a treaty and who violated their treaty every time, and who are not Godwary. So if you confront them in battle, treat them as to disperse those who are behind them, so that they may take admonition. And if you fear treachery, from a people, break off with them in a like manner. Indeed, God does not like the treacherous.
Qur’an 8:55-58

Consecration to God

The Hebrew word translated in the New Kings James Version as “utterly destroyed” is herem. The Hebrew word herem, translated as “under the ban,” “utterly destroy,” totally dedicate to God,” “strike with a curse,” or “reincorporate for God,” is a particularly regrettable example of most translations attempting to explain rather than translate the scripture. Literally “Herem” means to set-aside. like its cognate term harem. This literally means the transformation of the profane to the sacred.

From Lachish Joshua passed to Eglon, and all Israel with him; and they encamped against it and fought against it. They took it on that day and struck it with the edge of the sword; all the people who were in it he utterly destroyed that day, according to all that he had done to Lachish.

So Joshua went up from Eglon, and all Israel with him, to Hebron; and they fought against it. And they took it and struck it with the edge of the sword—its king, all its cities, and all the people who were in it; he left none remaining, according to all that he had done to Eglon, but utterly destroyed it and all the people who were in it.

Then Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, to Debir; and they fought against it. And he took it and its king and all its cities; they struck them with the edge of the sword and utterly destroyed all the people who were in it. He left none remaining; as he had done to Hebron, so he did to Debir and its king, as he had done also to Libnah and its king.

So Joshua conquered all the land: the mountain country and the South and the lowland and the wilderness slopes, and all their kings; he left none remaining, but utterly destroyed all that breathed, as the Lord God of Israel had commanded.
Joshua 10:34-40

The Hebrew Bible itself ends with the word herem, a threat (or hopeful promise!) of total dedication of Israel to God:

Lo, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of parents to their children and the hearts of children to their parents, so that I will not come and strike the land with a utter destruction.”
Malachi 4:5-6

Christians, who know that John the Baptist is the new Elijah, believe that Israel was made herem as all things were restored to the position they were in Eden: totally dedicated to God. This dedication was made real by Christ’s conquests of the unseen realm.

Jesus answered and said to them, “Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things. But I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished. Likewise the Son of Man is also about to suffer at their hands.” Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them of John the Baptist.
Matthew 17:11-13

This view is expressed by Mary’s words. Mary is important because what she is is what all are meant to be by the new Elijah’s work — by the total dedication of everything, by the restoration of everything to the way it was meant to be:

Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
Luke 1:38

This view of total dedication — of not treating God as transactional partner but as the object of total love — is the view of the Qur’anic author. Consider a tithe. From Genesis this was calculated as ten percent of the spoils:

Now when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his three hundred and eighteen trained servants who were born in his own house, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. He divided his forces against them by night, and he and his servants attacked them and pursued them as far as Hobah, which is north of Damascus. So he brought back all the goods, and also brought back his brother Lot and his goods, as well as the women and the people.

And the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley), after his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him. Abram and Melchizedek

Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. And he blessed him and said:

“Blessed be Abram of God Most High,
Possessor of heaven and earth;

And blessed be God Most High,
Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.”

And he gave him a tenth of all.
Genesis 14:14-20

In the Qur’an, the tithe should be a fifth, not a tenth:

Know what whatever thing you may come by, a fifth of it is for God and the Apostle, for the relatives and the orphans, for the needy and the traveler, if you have faith in God and what We sent down to Our servant on the Day of Separation, the day when the two hosts met; and God has power over all things.
Qur’an 8:41

The purpose is not a mathematical formula, but an emphasis that mere rule-keeping is not the point. Consider how many times Christ told us to forgive, when asked for a rule by the first Pope:

Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”

Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.
Matthew 18:21-22

It’s not that 420 (70×7) times is actually enough — it’s that if you’re counting, you’re missing the point. The world is herem, all things belong to the world.

The opposite of Mary, the opposite of “the apostle” led by God, is the first king of Israel, Saul. The eighth chapter of the Qur’an seems to lean on Saul (who lost control of the land of Israel) as an example of what not to do, and Joshua (who gained control) as the positive example.

A prophet may not take captives until he has thoroughly decimated in the land. You desire the transitory gains of this world, while God desires the Hereafter, and God is all-mighty, all-wise. Had it not been for a prior decree of God, there would have surely befall you a great punishment for what you took. Avail yourselves of the spoils you have taken, as lawful and good, and be wary of God. God is indeed all-forgiving, all-merciful.
Qur’an 8:67-69

While the new Elijah, John the Baptist, placed all of Israel under the Ban as part of lifting the covenant, Saul tried to prevent even giving to God what was his. Saul tried to trick God, placing only “under the ban” that which he did not want:

And Saul attacked the Amalekites, from Havilah all the way to Shur, which is east of Egypt. He also took Agag king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were unwilling to utterly destroy them. But everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed.
1 Samuel 15:7-9

Samuel the prophet was horrified. The ten spies had melted before the Amalekites — now Saul was letting greed overcome him. Saul did not trust God to provide:

So Samuel said, “When you were little in your own eyes, were you not head of the tribes of Israel? And did not the Lord anoint you king over Israel? Now the Lord sent you on a mission, and said, ‘Go, and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.’ Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord? Why did you swoop down on the spoil, and do evil in the sight of the Lord?”
1 Samuel 15:17-19

The Qur’anic author generalizes Samuel’s excoriation of Saul to an instruction for all the faithful:

Fight them until persecution is no more, and religion becomes exclusively for God. So if they desist, God indeed watches what they do. But if they turn away, then know that God is your Master: an excellent master and an excellent helper!
Qur’an 8:39

God is not a cosmic foreign power capable of being negotiated with. The Biblical, and Qur’anic, view of the Divine is not the sort of statecraft imagined by Chinese Imperial Religion. God loves you, and wants your love.

So Samuel said:

Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
As in obeying the voice of the Lord?

Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
And to heed than the fat of rams.

For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft,
And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
He also has rejected you from being king.”
1 Samuel 15:22-23

This means when God wins something, he does not just demand its destruction: He demands that thing is for Him, as well. The spoils of war are not merely material things: they are the souls of those who submit to God — including yourself:

They ask you concerning the spoils. Say, ‘The spoils belong to God and the Apostle.’ So be wary of God and settle your differences, and obey God and His Apostle, if you are faithful.
Qur’an 8:2

All Things Made Right

Nothing is bad in itself. When God does prohibit things, like certain foods (as described by both the Qur’anic author and Christ), the things are prohibited for our good, not because they are unclean in themselves.

As an example, take riding horses.

Joshua led an army without horses, and so it was natural that God commanded him to destroy the horses he encountered:

But the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid because of them, for tomorrow about this time I will deliver all of them slain before Israel. You shall hamstring their horses and burn their chariots with fire.” So Joshua and all the people of war with him came against them suddenly by the waters of Merom, and they attacked them. And the Lord delivered them into the hand of Israel, who defeated them and chased them to Greater Sidon, to the Brook Misrephoth, and to the Valley of Mizpah eastward; they attacked them until they left none of them remaining. So Joshua did to them as the Lord had told him: he hamstrung their horses and burned their chariots with fire.
Joshua 11:6-9

Later, King David (who finishes the conquest by taking Jerusalem), has different actions. The horses are not fully destroyed, for now the Lord has willed that Israel is capable of learning how to ride horses:

David also defeated Hadadezer the son of Rehob, king of Zobah, as he went to recover his territory at the River Euphrates. David took from him one thousand chariots, seven hundred horsemen, and twenty thousand foot soldiers. Also David hamstrung all the chariot horses, except that he spared enough of them for one hundred chariots.
2 Samuel 8:3-4

The Biblical completion of this is Christ riding on a colt to Jerusalem. What was God had prohibited, Christ now does in glory:

Now when they drew near Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, He sent two of His disciples; and He said to them, “Go into the village opposite you; and as soon as you have entered it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has sat. Loose it and bring it. 3 And if anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it,’ and immediately he will send it here.”

So they went their way, and found the colt tied by the door outside on the street, and they loosed it. But some of those who stood there said to them, “What are you doing, loosing the colt?”

And they spoke to them just as Jesus had commanded. So they let them go. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their clothes on it, and He sat on it. And many spread their clothes on the road, and others cut down leafy branches from the trees and spread them on the road.
Mark 11:1-8

The Army that once helped Joshua, the animal that served Jesus, all are included in glorious End:

Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
Revelations 19:11-15

The moral lesson of all this — of Joshua’s hope and faith, of the belief that the impossible is possible if God wills it, is a lesson of redemption. No matter your sins, God can forgive you. Don’t trust in your own strength. It is God who will save you:

O you who have faith. If you are wary of God, He shall save you, and absolve you of your misdeeds, and forgive you, for God is a dispenser of a mighty grace.”
Qur’an 8:29

Conclusion

The eighth chapter of the Qur’an combines the stories of Moses and Joshua’s, Samuel’s and David’s, conquests to explain how God is sovereign, but provides and tools and possibilities of all he desires. The faithful do not despair, but obey God, fear Him and not the world, and strive to do His will.

So, is “The Spoils” in particular, and the Qur’an in general, an eliminationist screed? Is it as violent as the anti-Qur’anic litany implies?

Consider two verses, not mentioned above:

Like the precedent of Pharaoh’s clan and those who were before them, who denied God’s signs, so God seized them for their sins. God is indeed all-strong, severe in retribution.
Qur’an 8:52

and

Indeed, the faithless spend their wealth to bar from the way of God. Soon they will have spent it, then it will be a cause of regret to them, then they will be overcome, and the faithless will be gathered toward Hell so that God may separate the bad ones from the good, and place the bad on one another and pile them up together and cast them into hell. It is they who are the losers.
Qur’an 8:36-37

The first states that God will destroy an entire clan of a leader who disobeys. The second is that the faithless themselves are sorted, and the “Bad” faithless are cast down.

To me this is exactly as contradictory on its surface — and exactly as wise — as the Scriptural verse it reference:

You shall not bow down to them nor serve [idols]. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
Exodus 20:5-6

Hear, o readers of the Torah and the Gospels, that the Lord our God is one Lord, and you should love him with all your heart, all your mind, and all your life.

The Book of Jubilees

I have not been as excited reading extra-biblical scriptures since I read The Assembly of the Gods.

The Book of Jubilees, or Little Genesis, at first glance is like a lot of Biblical fan fiction. Famous characters return (in this case Adam through Moses), details are expanded upon (like some extra kids for Adam and Eve), and more time is given to the Biblical stories we know and love. It even incorporates some of them — adventures in The Book of Enoch such as the Watchers and the Giants are mentioned.

Except, it has a few pointed innovations.

And it is the literary basis of the Qur’an.

A Brief Introduction

Jubilees is interesting to me in how it sets the literary basis for the Qur’an. The angelic "We," the narration of history and theology to a Prophet, the written nature of the Logos, and the intentional changes from the Biblical text are all similar to the Qur’an. Before that, though, a few words from the Catholic Encyclopedia on it. In this case, while the Encyclopedia is unfriendly to Jubilees, it is also accurate:

An apocryphal writing, so called from the fact that the narratives and stories contained in it are arranged throughout in a fanciful chronological system of jubilee-periods of forty-nine years each; each event is recorded as having taken place in such a week of such a month of such a Jubilee year. The author assumes an impossible solar year of 364 days (i.e. twelve months of thirty days each, and four intercalary days) to which the Jewish ecclesiastical year of thirteen months of twenty-eight days each exactly corresponds. The whole chronology, for which the author claims heavenly authority, is based upon the number seven.

Except for the fact the author seems to be a supporter of the Maccabees, using the Maccabeen phrase "God Most High" regularly, it’s hard to really understand the author’s motives.

It is somewhat difficult to determine the particular Judaistic school its author belonged to; he openly denies the resurrection of the body; he does not believe in the written tradition; he does not reprobate animal sacrifices, etc. . . . and the fact that he wrote in Hebrew excludes the hypothesis of his Hellenistic tendencies. Equally untenable is the hypothesis advanced by Beer, that he was a Samaritan, for he excludes Mount Garizim, the sacred mount of the Samaritans from the list of the four places of God upon earth, viz. the Garden of Eden, the Mount of the East, Mount Sinai, and Mount Sion.

The oddness of the author’s identity is another similarity to the Qur’an, which sometimes feels integrated, sometimes seems to have two voices, and sometimes even more.

The Royal We

Jubilees narrated by a mysterious "We"…

And thereupon we saw His works , and praised Him, and lauded before Him on account of all His works; for seven great works did He create on the first day.
Jubilees 2:3

as is the Qur’an

We said, ‘O Adam, dwell with your mate in paradise, and eat thereof freely whensoever you wish, but do not approach this tree, lest you should be among the wrongdoers.’
The Heifer 35

… who turns out to be a collection of Angels…

He hath bidden us to keep the Sabbath with Him in heaven and on earth. And He said unto us: ‘Behold, I will separate unto Myself a people from among all the peoples, and these shall keep the Sabbath day, and I will sanctify them unto Myself as My people, and will bless them; as I have sanctified the Sabbath day an do sanctify unto Myself, even so will I bless them, and they shall be My people and I will be their God. And I have chosen the seed of Jacob from amongst all that I have seen, and have written him down as My first-born son, and have sanctified him unto Myself for ever and ever; and I will teach them the Sabbath day, that they may keep the Sabbath thereon from all work.
Jubilees 2:19-20

Presumably these angels are intended to be the same audience God spoke to elsewhere when discussing our species

But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And the Lord said, "Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech."
Genesis 11:5-7

The Prophetic Hearer

Jubilees is narrated to a prophet, Moses, in the past tense, with changes both small

Amram thy father taught thee writing, and after thou hadst completed three weeks they brought thee into the royal court. And thou wast three weeks of years at court until the time when thou didst go forth from the royal court and didst see an Egyptian smiting thy friend who was of the children of Israel, and though didst slay him and hide him in the sand.
Jubilees 48:10

Parts of the Qur’an also seem to be narrated to Moses, though the identity of the hearer is fluid

When we delivered you from Pharaoh’s clan who inflicted a terrible torment on you, and slaughtered your sons and spared your women, in that there was a great test from your Lord.

And when We parted the sea with you, and We delivered you and drowned Pharaoh’s clan as you looked on.

And when We made an appointment with Moses for forty nights, you took up the Calf in his absence, and you were wrongdoers.

Then We excused you after that so you might give thanks.
The Heifer 49-52

An age of 21 makes more sense than 40 for a crime of rage, but it indicates either a different tradition of exegesis than that held by the author of Acts of the Apostles, or at least an intentional change from it:

"Now when he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren, the children of Israel. And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended and avenged him who was oppressed, and struck down the Egyptian."
Acts 7:23-24

Whatever the details, Jubilees is clearly supposed to be spoken to Moses. The Qur’an likewise a spoken to a prophet — possibly the reader, and at times possibly Moses.

The Written Logos

Jubilees focuses on a celestial Logos, the Tablets of Heaven:

And the judgment of all is ordained and written on the heavenly tablets in righteousness — even all who depart from the path which is ordained for them to walk in; and if they walk not therein, judgment is written down fore every feature and for every kind. And there is nothing in heaven or on earth, or in light or in darkness, or in Sheol or in the depth, or in the place of darkness; and all their judges are ordained and written and engraved.
Jubilees 5:13-15

These Tablets seem to be the Book the Qur’an mentions:

This is the Book, there is no doubt in it, a guidance to the God-wary, who believe in the Unseen, maintain their prayer, and spend out of what We have provided for them; and who believe in what has been sent down and what was sent before, and are certain of the Hereafter.
The Heifer 2-5

The Tablets records specific sins and is itself the law by which sin is judged

And for this reason the commandment is written on the heavenly tablets in regard to her that gives birth: if she bears a male, she shall remain in her uncleanliness seven days according to the first week of days, ad thirty and three days shall she remain in the blood of her purifying, and she shall not touch any hallowed thing, nor enter into the sanctuary, until she accomplishes these days which in the case of a male child. But in the case of a female child she shall remain in her uncleanness two weeks of days, according to the first two weeks, and sixty-six days in the blood of her purification, and they will be in all eighty days.
Jubilees 3:10-11

as well as the future itself. The heavenly Tablets, the Logos of this world, are the beginning and end of all things.

And Sarah laughed, for she heard that we had spoken these words with Abraham, and we admonished her and she became afraid and denied that she had laughed on account of these words. And we told her the name of her son, and his name is ordained and written in the heavenly tablets, Isaac, and when we returned to her at a set time, she would have conceived a son.
Jubilees 16:2-3

that have been given to humans multiple times

God — there is no god except Him — is the Living One, the All-sustainer. He has sent down to you the Book with the truth, confirming what was before it, and He had sent down the Torah and the Evangel before as guidance for mankind, and He has send down the Criterion. Indeed, there is a severe punishment for those who deny the signs of God, and God is all-mighty, avenger.
The Family of Amram 2-4

This is all in opposition to the Christian idea, that the logos is not a creation of God, but God Himself:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
John 1:1-5

Jubilees and the Qur’an both point to written document in heaven of which all Scriptures are an incarnation.

Meaningful Changes

Jubilees changes the Biblical narratives, as for example of Jacob killing Esau!

And after that Judah spake to Jacob, his father, and said unto him: "Bend they bow, father, and send forth thy arrows and cast down the adversary and slay the enemy, and mayst thou have the power, for we shall not slay thy brother, for he is such as thou, and he is like thee let us give him honor. Then Jacob bent his bow and sent forth the arrow and struck Esau his brother, and slew him.
Jubilees 38:1-2

instead of the Biblical narrative of a heart-felt reconciliation

But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept. 5 And he lifted his eyes and saw the women and children, and said, "Who are these with you?" …

And Jacob said, "No, please, if I have now found favor in your sight, then receive my present from my hand, inasmuch as I have seen your face as though I had seen the face of God, and you were pleased with me. 11 Please, take my blessing that is brought to you, because God has dealt graciously with me, and because I have [a]enough.” So he urged him, and he took it.

Then Esau said, "Let us take our journey; let us go, and I will go before you."
Genesis 33:4-5,10-12

(The Qur’an also changes this by omission — though Jacob called Israel appears many times in the Qur’an, his brother Esau is never mentioned.)

These same traits — the scripture narrated by "We, the prophet, the Book in heaven, the changes — are are attributes of the Qur’an. To give just one example, in Jubilees names the animal:

On the the six days of the second week we brought, according to the word of God, unto Adam all the breasts, and all the cattle, and all the birds, and everything that moves on the earth, and everything that moves in the water, according to their kinds, and according to their types: the beasts on the first day; the cattle on the second day; the birds on the third day; and all that which moves on the earth on the fourth day; and that which moves in the water on the fifth day. And Adan named them all by their respective names, and as he called them, so was their name.
Jubilees 3:1-2

As Adam does in the Bible:

Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him.
Genesis 2:19-20

But in Qur’an he is told the names:

When your Lord said to the angels, ‘I am indeed going to set a viceroy on the earth, they said, ‘Will You set in it someone who will cause corruption it it and shed blood, while we celebrate Your praise and proclaim Your sanctity?’ He said,’Indeed, I know what you do not know.’

And he taught Adam the Names, all of them; the presented them to the angels and said, ‘Tell me the names of these, if you are truthful.’

They said, ‘Immaculate are You! We have no knowledge except what You have taught us. Indeed, You are the All-knowing, the All-wise!

He said, ‘O Adam, inform them of their names and when he had informed them of their names, He said, "Did I not tell you that I know the Unseen of the heavens and the earth, and that I know whatever you disclose and whatever you conceal?’
The Heifer 30-33

The changes are striking and thought-provoking if one has already read Genesis. But I do not know if Jubilees was supposedly to be in opposition to Genesis, or to replace it.

Final Thoughts

I was as excited reading The Book of Jubilees as The Assembly of the Gods. Here is why. Assembly was the first time I read the stories of ancient Canaan. Reading it I understood the world of the early prophets and the patriarchs, What those stories from ancient Canaan were to the Old Testament, Jubilees is to the Qur’an. The rhetorical strategies adopted by the writer of the Qur’an are the same as the writer of Jubilees. I assume the author of the Qur’an read Jubilees.

To understand the texts of the Old and New Testaments, one needs to read of Ba’al, Asarte, Lady Anat, Old Judge River, and El.

To understand the text of the Qur’an, and how the Scriptures are extended and modified into Qur’anic religion, one needs to read the Book of Jubilees.

I read the Book of Jubilees in the Kindle edition.

Qur’an 3: The Family of Amram

There are parts of some texts that are easy to understand. Then there are texts that are harder to understand.

And then there are texts even provide a hermenutical key to help in deciphering them.

It is He who has send down to you the Book.
Parts of it are definitive verses, which are the mother of the Book,
while others are ambiguous.

As for those whose hearts is deviance,
they pursue what is metaphorical in it, perusing misguidance and aiming at its interpretation.

But no one knows its interpretation
except God and
those firmly grounded in knowledge;
they say, ‘We believe in it; all of it is from our Lord.’

Only those who possess intellect take admonition.
Qur’an 3:7

The third chapter of the Qur’an takes its name from the father of Moses, Aaron, and Miriam: Amram. An extended comparison between Miriam and the Virgin Mary (who in Hebrew have the same name) is presented. As before there’s also another voice, focused on the political and religious events of another time and that views Christians as an out-group. These two voices have a surprising convergence, at least for me, in their understanding of words and books.

Arian Christianity

The Two Marias

The Christian Bible contains two Marias, with the same name in Hebrew (“????????” or Miryam) . The name of the first is typically translated as “Miriam,” she is the sister of one of the men who during the Transfiguration talked with Christ: Moses. The second is typically translated as “Mary,” she is the mother of the man-god who during the Transfiguration talked with Moses: Jesus.

Both Marias are associated with songs, celebrating God’s overthrowing of the human inequity. In her song to the women, Maria sister of Moses sang:

And Miriam answered them:
“Sing to the Lord,
For He has triumphed gloriously!
The horse and its rider
He has thrown into the sea!”
Exodus15:21

In her own song to Elizabeth, Maria mother of Jesus sang:

And Mary said:
“My soul magnifies the Lord…
He has shown strength with His arm;
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
And exalted the lowly.
Luke 2:46,51-52

The typological similarities between the Marias as well known in our academic church literature

Tracing the attributes of Miriam, the sister of Moses, we discover the following: she is a leader, a prophetess, a mediator, an initiator, a servant. a nurse. a caring person, a model of discretion and timing, a negotiator, and a woman who secretly and effectively works behind the scenes in the salvific history of the people.
The Catholic Tradition uses such attributes for Mary of Galilee in the Church’s devotional hymns and litanies. The biblical sources for such expressions are taken from the Cana event (Jn 2:1-11) and from the Annunciation and Visitation accounts (Lk 1:28-45).
Old Testament Types of Mary,” Father Johann Roten, S.M.

Perhaps this is why the prophets who bridged the Old and New Testaments looked back not just on Egypt, not just on redemption, but the Family of Amram— the Prophet Moses, the Priest Aaron, and Maria:

For I brought you up from the land of Egypt, I redeemed you from the house of bondage; And I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.
Micah 6:4

The Family of Maria

In the above, I’ve said “Maria sister of Moses” and “Maria mother of Jesus,” but properly the style should be patristic. The first Maria would be “Maria daughter of Amram”:

The name of Amram’s wife was Jochebed the daughter of Levi, who was born to Levi in Egypt; and to Amram she bore Aaron and Moses and their sister Miriam.
Numbers 26:59

And the other Maria… well, we don’t know exactly. Smart people, going back to the Church Fathers, argued Mary’s father’s name was Perhaps Joachim/ and that we went by a nickname, “Heli.”

It is into this ambiguity that the Koran gives the Father of Maria another name, the name of the father of the first Maria: Amram

When the wife of Amram said, ‘my Lord, I dedicate to You in consecration what is in my belly. Accept it from me; indeed You are all the All-hearing, the all-knowing.’ When she bore her, she said, “My Lord, I have born a female’ — and God knew better what she had borne, and the male was no match for the female — ‘and i have named her Mary, and I commend her and her offspring to Your care against the outcast Satan.’
Thereupon her Lord accepted her with a gracious acceptance, and made her grow up in a worthy fashion, and He charged Zechariah with her care.
Qur’an 3:36-37

The Qur’anic author doesn’t just emphasize the connection between the Marias, he recapitulates their Songs into a new form, using the words of neither but the theme of both:

Say, ‘O God, Master of all sovereignty!
You give sovereignty to whomever You wish,
and strip of sovereignty whomever You wish;
You make mighty whomever You wish,
and You degrade whomever You wish;
all choice is in Your hand.
Indeed, You have power over all things.”
Qur’an 3:26

Post-Christianity in the Context of Christianity

The New Luke, the New Paul

After I read The Heifer I felt the Arian Christian and the post-Christian voices in the Qur’an were fundamentally alien to each other, or at least only inexplicably connected. But the beliefs of the men behind those voices may have been more similar than I suspect.

For instance, it may be that one or both of these men saw himself as a new Paul of Tarsus, or new Luke the evangelist

But if they deny you, apostles have been denied before you, who came with manifest signs, holy writs, and an illuminating scripture.
Qur’an 3:184

Luke quotes Christ speaking of the Jews in the third person in his edition of the Beatitudes

Blessed are you when men hate you, And when they exclude you, And revile you, and cast out your name as evil, For the Son of Man’s sake.

Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! For indeed your reward is great in heaven, For in like manner their fathers did to the prophets.
Luke 6:22-23

Paul elevates this charge, adding the murder of Christ to their misdeeds:

For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus. For you also suffered the same things from your own countrymen, just as they did from the Judeans, who killed both the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they do not please God and are contrary to all men
1 Thessalonians 2:14-15

Yet Paul nonetheless identified as Jew, at least tactically:

But when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee; concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged!”
Acts 23:6

And at times a Pauline verse…

But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God.
1 Corinthians 4:3-5

appears to cleanly flow int o a Qur’anic one, especially if the three-hold description of God (“Him, the All-mighty, the All-wise”) is in fact Trinitarian:

Nothing is indeed hidden from God in the earth or in the sky.
It is He who forms you in the wombs however He wishes.
There is no god except Him, the All-mighty, the All-wise.
Qur’an 3:6

This rhetorical imitation continues into unexpected areas. Luke uses the term “womb” more than all other New Testament writers combined. Though the emphasis on female participation reproduction according to God’s plan is more common in the Old Testament than the New:

Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer,
And He who formed you from the womb:
“I am the Lord, who makes all things,
Who stretches out the heavens all alone,
Who spreads abroad the earth by Myself;
Isaiah 44:24

That’s not even to mention the time travel.

The Apparition at Fatima

Take this verse, which is Luke writing Christ’s words to Paul:

So I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said,
‘I am Jesus,
whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you. I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you, to open their eyes, in order to
turn them from darkness to light, and
from the power of Satan to God, that
they may receive forgiveness of sins and an
inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me
.’
Acts 26:15-18

Edit the text down, and rearrange:

I am Jesus,
they may receive forgiveness of sins and
turn them from
from the power of Satan
darkness to light, and
an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.

Compare with the Fatima Decade Prayer, given by Our Lady to girls in Portugal nearly 1,900 years later:

My Jesus,
forgive us our sins,
save us from the fires of hell.
Lead all souls to Heaven,
especially those most in need of Thy mercy.
Amen.

And in between, the text of The Family of Amram:

Those who say,
‘Our Lord!
Indeed, we have faith.
So forgive us our sins,
and save us from the punishment of the Fire.’
Patient and truthful, obedient and charitable, and
they plead forgiveness at dawns.
Qur’an 3:16-17

Twice:

Our Lord, whoever that You make enter the Fire will surely have been disgraced by You, and the wrongdoers will have no helpers. Our Lord, we have indeed heart a summoner calling to faith, declaring, ‘Have faith in your Lord!’ So we believed.
Our Lord,
forgive us our sins and
absolve us of our misdeeds,
and make us die with the pious.
Our Lord, give us what You have promised us through Your apostles, and do not disgrace us on the Day of Resurrection. Indeed, you do not break Your promise.’
Qur’an 3:192

This is just weird. How can Christ’s words to Paul, as recorded by Luke, show up both in the Qur’an and at Fatima but chopped up and in a different order, and translated from the Lord’s perspective to man’s? There must, I think be, an intermediate form of this pray circulating in the Patristic age.

Does anyone still know that prayer?

The Battle

The post-Christian voice in the Qur’an returns multiple time to a battle. The battle seems to have been lost. But the specific details and locations are not described — the battle that either would have been well known to the audience, or its an allegorical battle.

The battle was against a people of the Book:

A group of the People of the Book were eager to lead you astray; they they lead no one stray except themselves, but they are not aware.
O People of the Book! Why do you deny God’s signs while you testify? O People of the Book? Why do you mix the truth with falsehood, and conceal the truth while you know?
A group of the People of the Book say, ‘Believe in what has been sent down to the faithful at the beginning of the day, and disbelieve at its end, so that they may turn back.’
Qur’an 3:69-72

Perhaps these references are to a battle in the late Classical period in the Arabian peninsula…

Certainly He has excused you, for God is gracious to the faithful. When you were fleeing without paying any attention to anyone, while the Apostle was calling you from your rear, He requited you with grief upon grief, so that you may not grieve for what you lose nor for what befalls you, and God is well aware of what you do.
Then He sent down to you safety after grief — a drowsiness that came over a group of you — while another group, anxious only about themselves, entertained false notions about God, no notions of ignorance. They said, “Do we have any role in the matter.’ Say, ‘The matter indeed belongs totally to God,’ They hide in their hearts what they do not disclose to you.
They say, ‘Had we any role in the matter, we would not have been slain here.’ Say, ‘Even if you had remained in your houses, those destined to be slain would have set out toward the places where they were laid to rest, so that God may test what is in your hearts, and God knows well what is in the breasts.
Qur’an 3:154

Or perhaps the references — to the persecuting people of the Book, to the falling asleep, to the death that awaits — is to something else:

And when He returned, He found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy; and they did not know what to answer Him.

Then He came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? It is enough! The hour has come; behold, the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand.”
Betrayal and Arrest in Gethsemane

And immediately, while He was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, with a great multitude with swords and clubs, came from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders.
Mark14:40-43

There was, after all, something of a battle:

Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus.

So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?”
John 18:10-11

The Battle is used as an occasion to bless the weak and marginalized — the female, the migrant, the tortured, and the dead:

Then their Lord answered them, ‘I do not waste the work of any worker among you, whether male or female; you are all on the same footing.

So those who migrated and were expelled from their homes,
and were tormented in My way, and those who fought and were killed —

I will surely absolve them of their misdeeds and
I will admit them into gardens with streams running in them,
as a reward from God, and God — with Him is the best of rewards.’
Qur’an 3:195

This also is parallel to the Gospels:

Then He lifted up His eyes toward His disciples, and said:

“Blessed are you poor,
For yours is the kingdom of God.

Blessed are you who hunger now,
For you shall be filled.
Blessed are you who weep now,
For you shall laugh.

Blessed are you when men hate you,
And when they exclude you,
And revile you, and cast out your name as evil,
For the Son of Man’s sake.

Rejoice in that day and leap for joy!
For indeed your reward is great in heaven,
For in like manner their fathers did to the prophets.
Luke 6:20-23

I wish I understood Arabic grammar better. “God — with Him is the best of rewards” states this voice, who I have been calling post-Christian. I wonder if this is a pun

“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”
Matthew 1:23

Christology and Bibliology

The Word and the words

Christians hold that God created the world through the Logos (“the Word”), and in some ways is identified with the Logos:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
John 1:1-5

The Word became flesh on earth:

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:14

But is the Word-in-flesh identical to the Word, or instantiation of it? Jews believe that God has many hypostases He uses to speak to His creation, including the Spirit of the LORD, the Name of the LORD, and the Angel of the LORD. Is Jesus a part of the Word, or is He identical to it?

The Qur’anic author seems aware of this question, because it’s answered repeatedly: Christ is a Word of God:

When the angels said, ‘Oh Mary, God gives you the good news of a Word from Him whose name is Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, distinguished in the world and the Hereafter, and one of those brought near. he will speak to the people in the cradle and in adulthood, and will be one of the righteous.’
Qur’an 3:45

And the same term is used in the angels’ words predicting John the Baptist:

Thereat Zechariah supplicated his Lord. He said, “My Lord! Grand me a good offspring from You! You indeed hear all supplications.’
Then, as he stood praying in the sanctuary the angels called out to him: ‘God gives you the good news of John, as a confirmer of a Word of God, eminent and chaste, a prophet, and one of the righteous.
He said, ‘My Lord, how shall I have a son while old age has overtaken me and my wife is barren?’Said He, ‘So it is that God does whatever He wishes.’
Qur’an 3:38-40

The Members and the Body

The Church forms the body of Christ. All Christian are members of the one Body of Christ:

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For “the two,” He says, “shall become one flesh.” 17 But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.
1 Corinthians 6:15-17

Christ instructed us to abandon those members which cause sin:

If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.
Matthew 5:29-30

A logical implication of this, I suppose, is those members of Christ which are still sinful are cast into the fire:

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.
John 15:1-6

Or, as the Qur’anic author puts it:

When God said, ‘Oh Jesus, I shall take you, and I shall raise you up toward Myself, and I shall clear you of the faithless, and I shall set those who follow you above the faithless until the Day of Resurrection. Then to Me will be your return, whereat I will judge between you concerning that about which you used to differ.
Qur’an 3:55

One Body, and many members.

The Qur’an’s theory of the Logos is similar. Many words, many books, many Scriptures, but one “Book.” The Torah, the Evangel (“Gospel”), and the mysterious Criterion are in some ways instances of it:

God — there is no god except Him — is the Living One, the All-sustainer. He has sent down to you the Book with the truth, confirming what was before it, and He had sent down the Torah and the Evangel before as guidance for mankind, and He has send down the Criterion. Indeed, there is a severe punishment for those who deny the signs of God, and God is all-mighty, avenger.
Qur’an 3:2-4

Yet, while a people may only have been given the Torah, and another only given the Gospel, they still had been given the Book:

When God made a covenant with those who were given the Book: ‘You shall explain it for the people, and you shall not conceal it,’ they cast it behind their backs and sold it for a paltry gain. How evil is what they buy!
Qur’an 3:187

The Seen and the Unseen

There is one Book in Heaven, the Book is with God, but the Book is not God.

The Torah, The Qur’an, the “Criterion” (whatever that is), even the Messiah, they are books or words, they are perhaps images of the Book, but they are not God.

Christians believe that face of Christ is how we see the face of God, he is a Divine Icon of Ineffable Divinity:

He is the image of the invisible God-, the firstborn over all creation.
Colossians 1:15

In the context of The Family of Amram, this is worse than sola scriptura — this is idolatry. Consider the following verse — it’s almost totally Orthodox, could almost conclude a Catholic prayer service – except for one line:

God will not leave the faithful in your present state, until He has separated the bad ones from the good.
God will not acquaint you with the Unseen,
but God chooses whomever He wishes from His apostles.
So have faith in God and His apostles;
and if you are faithful and Godwary, there shall be a great reward for you.
Qur’an 3:179

To me this is a striking. In my impressions of the Qur’an’s second chapter, The Heifer , I mentioned there was clearly an Arian Christian voice in the text as well a post-Christian voice. But on this issue of themes of both — the Arian instances on the created nature of Christ, and the Post-Christian emphasis on the created nature of the Torah, the Gospels, and the “Criterion,” they are.

Would these voices agree, the Word is a Book, and the Book became flesh, and in this flesh was a word in the Book?

I’m not sure. But I had not expected to find this parallelism in voices that otherwise seemed so disjointed.

Final Thoughts

The Family of Amram is the third chapter of the Qur’an. It follows The Opening, an introductory psalm or prayer, and The Heifer, which introduces both the Arian Christian voice and the post-Christian voice. The Family of Amram continues the development of these voices, but introduces a shared understanding: the multiplicity of words, scriptures, and books, in contrast with the one Book heaven. This intermingling of concepts implies that the apparently post-Christian voice may itself incorporate a Christian commentary, and is not so opposed to the Arian voice as I had first thought.

I read the second chapter of the Qur’an, The Family of Amram, in Gabriel Said Reynolds’ translation.

The Books of Leviticus and Numbers

There seems to have been an ancient work, long since lost, documenting conquest of Canaan. It is in a way parallel to the story of the patriarchs (partially recorded in Genesis) and the establishment of the Kingdom (in Samuel). In the scriptures we now have, it seems primarily scattered in Exodus (covering the baptism of blood and the construction of the Tabernacle), Numbers (called The Wilderness in Hebrew), and Joshua (the action-climax and post-action denouement of the story).

It’s also the story of Moses’s moral decay: that "most humble man" is the Walter White of the Bible. But just as Breaking Bad is the story not just of Walter’s decay but of the grief of those around him, these scriptures are the story not just of Moses’s decline but the story of the deaths of those he loved.

To see this, look at the book immediately before Numbers: Leviticus. It is primary a book of laws, a journal of the well ordered place of fetishism in human society. But there’s one chapter of narrative in Leviticus that’s required to understand Numbers — the death of Aaron’s sons:

Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them.

So fire went out from the LORD
and devoured them,
and they died before the LORD.

And Moses said to Aaron, "This is what the LORD spoke, saying:

‘By those who come near Me
I must be regarded as holy;
And before all the people
I must be glorified.’"

So Aaron held his peace.
Leviticus 10:1-3

The baptism of blood in Exodus may symbolize the loss of the part to save the whole. But Leviticus-Numbers feels like just loss. Aaron loses his sons. Moses loses his brother Aaron.

Moses stripped Aaron of his garments and put them on Eleazar his son;
and Aaron died there on the top of the mountain.

Then Moses and Eleazar came down from the mountain. Now when all the congregation saw that Aaron was dead, all the house of Israel mourned for Aaron thirty days.
Numbers 20:28-29

Moses loses his divine authority.

Then the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron,

"Because you did not believe Me,
to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel,
therefore you shall not bring this assembly
into the land which I have given them."
Numbers 20:12

And then even his humanity.

And Moses said to them: "Have you kept all the women alive? Look, these women caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against the LORD in the incident of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the LORD. Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known a man intimately.
Numbers 31:15-17

The same theme of loss is reflected in the adversaries of the Israelites, the Canaanite kings who fear the loss of their lands, and the wizard Balaam who prophesied the victory of Almighty God:

They killed the kings of Midian with the rest of those who were killed—Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba, the five kings of Midian.

Balaam the son of Beor they also killed with the sword.
Numbers 31:8

And even the people themselves:

For the LORD had said of them,

"They shall surely die in the wilderness."

So there was not left a man of them, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun.
Numbers 26:65

Through Leviticus-Numbers Aaron the High Priest lost his family, his life, and even (though the horrific actions of Moses) his legacy through his brother. Battles will be won in the future, after the end of his natural life, but for the wilderness generation there is pain, and murmuring, and death, and loss.

What should be made of this?

The High Priest loses everything, including his life, including the lives of his people. He is betrayed by those entrusted to help him. He loses those closest to him.

These themes are documented elsewhere in the Bible. That sense of successful futility in Ecclesiastes and Job, the slow political destruction of Kings, the horror of Lamentations or the post-Resurrection despair felt by John. Are these all types of Lent, best understood as reflections of the time between Good Friday and Easter Sunday?

If we are to imitate Christ who harrowed hell on that day, what does that mean for us?

I don’t know. But whenever I feel pain I have experienced intellectualized like this, I feel like Aaron: hurt, sarcastic, questioning:

And Aaron said to Moses, "Look, this day they have offered their sin offering and their burnt offering before the LORD, and such things have befallen me!

If I had eaten the sin offering today, would it have been accepted in the sight of the LORD?"
Leviticus 10:19

What else are you expecting me to do?

What else, when even holding our peace is too much to bare?

I read the books of Leviticus and Numbers in Robert Alter’s translation.

The Book of Exodus

I recently re-read Exodus. I used Robert Alter’s excellent translation, but this time read it at quicker pace. Instead of a one chapter a day, ready out loud to myself, I read multiple chapters a time. This had costs. The characters were flatter, and much of the subtly was lost. But the faster pace made some patterns clearer, especially after having read the full Bible. And one of these is the relationship between circumcision and sacrifice.

The Bridegroom of Blood

The Book of Exodus hangs on an episode that, read in isolation, is inexplicable: God tires to kill Moses, but instead his wife circumcises their son. But by tying together death, sacrifice, motherhood, and life, it is nearly a key to the whole Bible:

And it came to pass on the way, at the encampment, that the LORD met him and sought to kill him.

Then Zipporah took a sharp stone and cut off the foreskin of her son and cast it at Moses’ feet, and said,

“Surely you are a husband of blood to me!”

So He let him go. Then she said,

“You are a husband of blood!”

— because of the circumcision.
Exodus 4:24-26

Shockingly, Moses does not perform the circumcision. Nor does his brother Aaron, the priest. Nor even his sister Miriam, the prophetess. His wife must do it, and only after the LORD sought to kill him. And this is the second time he was saved by a woman. His wife offered his son to the blade, as his mother offered him to the waters:

And a man of the house of Levi went and took as wife a daughter of Levi. So the woman conceived and bore a son. And when she saw that he was a beautiful child, she hid him three months. But when she could no longer hide him, she took an ark of bulrushes for him, daubed it with asphalt and pitch, put the child in it, and laid it in the reeds by the river’s bank. And his sister stood afar off, to know what would be done to him.
Exodus 2:1-4

Circumcision and the Heart

When Circumcision is first introduced in the Bible, it is likewise paired with sacrifice. Circumcision typically is performed on the 8th day. It took seven days to Create the world, seven days to inaugurate the Temple in Jerusalem, and seven days to prepare the Temple of the Holy Spirit — the body — after birth:

And God said to Abraham: “As for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations. This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised; and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you.

He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised, every male child in your generations, he who is born in your house or bought with money from any foreigner who is not your descendant.

He who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money must be circumcised, and My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. 14 And the uncircumcised male child, who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.”
Genesis 17:9-14

Yet this birth would be a demanded sacrifice: God later tells Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac.

Then God said: “No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him.

These themes build momentum through the Bible. The story of the men Abraham and Moses becomes the story of an entire nation, whose circumcision of the heart is now demanded: Instead of the blood of the male member thrown on Moses’ feet, the blood of the pure heart needs to be poured out:

Break up your fallow ground,
And do not sow among thorns.

Circumcise yourselves to the LORD,
And take away the foreskins of your hearts,
You men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem,
Lest My fury come forth like fire,
And burn so that no one can quench it,
Because of the evil of your doings.
Jeremiah 4:4

And finally, this applies to the whole human race.

For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh;
but he is a Jew who is one inwardly;
and circumcision is that of the heart,
in the Spirit, not in the letter;
whose praise is not from men but from God.
Romans 2:28-29

The pinnacle of this story — of Zipporah at the Inn — is the Immaculate heart of Mary. Luke the Evangelist emphasizes, twice in quick succession, how she pondered in her heart:

And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.
Luke 2:18-19

even without understanding:

So when they saw Him, they were amazed; and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously.”

And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” But they did not understand the statement which He spoke to them.

Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them, but His mother kept all these things in her heart.
Luke 2:48-51

The parallel to Exodus is clear. As with Mary, in quick succession: Pharaoh’s heart is referenced, but the outcome is tragically different.

For every man threw down his rod, and they became serpents. But Aaron’s rod swallowed up their rods. And Pharaoh’s heart grew hard, and he did not heed them, as the LORD had said.
Exodus 7:12-13

and again:

The fish that were in the river died, the river stank, and the Egyptians could not drink the water of the river. So there was blood throughout all the land of Egypt.

Then the magicians of Egypt did so with their enchantments; and Pharaoh’s heart grew hard, and he did not heed them, as the LORD had said.
Exodus 7:22

And now we come to the most important moment in the life of Pharaoh and Mary, and one Zipporah only bridges. For her son lived. Pharaoh’s son died:

And it came to pass at midnight that the LORD struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of livestock. 30 So Pharaoh rose in the night, he, all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where there was not one dead.
Exodus 12:29-30

As did Mary’s:

Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!”
John 19:25-26

The Bridegroom and the Blood

Moses, whose own son was saved by a circumcision presented by his wife, would see a Christophany within a Mariophany:

Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. And he led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.

And the Angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush.

So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed.

Then Moses said, “I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.”
Exodus 3:1-3

And now we see how this ties together. The LORD sought to make a sacrifice of Isaac. And Moses. But he put of this demand until His own Son would be on the cross. Because His Son, being truly God, would not be stopped by death. Being truly Man, His own mother would be a witness:

Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him. Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. And they said among themselves, “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?” But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away—for it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed.

But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples—and Peter—that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.”
Mark 16:1-7

The Lord places himself as the sacrifice. Instead of Isaac, instead of Moses, instead of us all, his blood spilled. When we suffer we join our suffering to Him, and when we bleed we join our blood to him. For Moses was always a forerunner — it is Christ who is our bridegroom of blood:

Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.

Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!'” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God.”
Revelations 19:7-9

The Gospel of Matthew

The Gospel of Matthew

The End

It begins with an ending.

The genealogies and lists in Genesis are used like credits in modern movies — they tell the audience a story is over. They are a way of indicating a transition from one era to another, from one hero to another. But while Genesis is divided into numerous stories, the Hebrew Bible as a whole is divided into three: the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings. To begin with a genealogy — a list — implies a whole new section of the Hebrew Bible.

The genealogy is in three pieces too. Some number of generations before the Kingdom. The same number during the Kingdom. The same number after the Kingdom. And there are Kings in the list — the Anointed One himself David, his beloved son Solomon, our friend Ruth, and even two whores — one of whom wasnt even Jewish.

rahab_the_harlot

The Gospel of Matthew is a sort of anti-horror, where one out of place piece is turned until an entirely different world is revealed. But this is that first piece, out of place. The Torah has a nice smooth beginning (“In the Beginning…”). The Prophets begin smoothly (“After the death of Moses…”). The Writings announce themselves confidently (“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked…”). But this new thing, the Gospel of Matthew, begins with an ending.

Somethings up.

The Annunciation

Immediately following the genealogy is another piece familiar from the Hebrew Bible, the Annunciation.

abraham sarah and isaac

In the very first annunciation, in the Torah, God appears as a man (the LORD), and promises a son, and an everlasting covenant

Whehn Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless…

God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.” Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said to himself, “Can a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Can Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” And Abraham said to God, “O that Ishmael might live in your sight!” God said, “No, but your wife Sarah shall bear you a son, and you shall name him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him.
Genesis 17:1,15-19

The offspring of that covenant, oddly, will be marched up a hill and bound in his 30s.

Elisha_and_Shunamite_1335-176

The only Annunciation during the Kingdom is an odd one, with Elisha promising a son, but a son somehow lost to history. We do not know more about him, other than Elisha’s role in providing for him, and later bringing him back to the dead

He said, “What then may be done for her?” Gehazi answered, “Well, she has no son, and her husband is old.” He said, “Call her.” When he had called her, she stood at the door. He said, “At this season, in due time, you shall embrace a son.” She replied, “No, my lord, O man of God; do not deceive your servant.”

The woman conceived and bore a son at that season, in due time, as Elisha had declared to her.
2 Kings :15-17

God as a man. An everlasting covenant. Rising from the dead. The meek.

Something’s up.

The King from Bethlehem

The Gospel of Matthew began with an ending, obvious in the Hebrew Bible but oddly placed. It then continued into an Annunciation, the first since the Kingdom. But what comes next is harder to say. Whatever it is, its unsettling.
Dura_Synagogue_WC3_David_anointed_by_Samuel

Michah, from the Prophets, is quoted, implying this will be about the return of the House of David.

But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah,
who are one of the little clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to rule in Israel,
whose origin is from of old,
from ancient days.
Michah 5:2

But theres a section after where Deuteronomy. For a reader entering Matthew from the Hebrew Bible the implication is that Jesus’s kingship is created by the LORD and should not be tested — but the rhetorical tact is unnerving

Do not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah. You must diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God, and his decrees, and his statutes that he has commanded you.
Deuteronomy 6:16-17

The Legislation

While God turns men into kings, they rule but do not legislate. The only legislation comes from Moses.

David-and-Nathan

Indeed, a sign that David himself was no longer fit for kingship (though he continued to enjoy the throne, until he became tortured by it) was Davids incompetent arbitration of the case-of-the-stolen-lamb. In willful taking of property the victim is made whole, under Moses’s Law, by actual damages plus treble punitive damages. Davids statement that the thief “deserves to die” is a dangerous innovation, taking to himself the right to make moral decisions when Moses’s Law is clear.

Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man. He said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die; he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.”
2 Samuel 12:5

By contrast, wise Solomon carefully used the Law, even while dealing with political enemies. Generalissimo Joab, who had killed rival Generals, killed Davids son Absalom, imprisoned King David, and attempted to put an impostor on the throne, fled to the holy altar seeking sanctuary. But Solomon remembered Moses’s Law that such protection does not apply to those who killed one they betrayed

King-Solomon

If it was not premeditated, but came about by an act of God, then I will appoint for you a place to which the killer may flee. But if someone willfully attacks and kills another by treachery, you shall take the killer from my altar for execution.
Exodus 21:13-14

So Solomon could use the Law to dispose of Joab, even though Joab had fled to the place of sanctuary.

When it was told King Solomon, “Joab has fled to the tent of the Lord and now is beside the altar,” Solomon sent Benaiah son of Jehoiada, saying, “Go, strike him down.” So Benaiah came to the tent of the Lord and said to him, “The king commands, ‘Come out.'” But he said, “No, I will die here.” Then Benaiah brought the king word again, saying, “Thus said Joab, and thus he answered me.” The king replied to him, “Do as he has said, strike him down and bury him; and thus take away from me and from my father’s house the guilt for the blood that Joab shed without cause.”
1 Kings 2:29-31

Solomon’s wisdom was not in creating new laws, but in correctly interpreting Moses’s Law.

But suddenly Jesus is issuing legislation. But he does it challenging the same chapter that Solomon quoted. While the verse and chapter division was made only in the middle ages, its only a few sentences later in Moses’s Law that

If any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.
Exodus 21:23-25

But Jesus says:

You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also;
Matthew 5:38-39

Experts in the Law would be nonplussed at a surface tension in wording (after all, the first law in Exodus and the Second Law often have a tension), but this Jesus, this third law?

This is not just a new King. This is a new Constitution.

Matthew began with an ending. But it seems the old relationship of the King and the Law is itself ending. Where does this stop?

The Prophecy

At this point Matthew is completely disorienting.

elijah-widow-and-son

Elisha brought the dead back to life

When Elisha came into the house, he saw the child lying dead on his bed. So he went in and closed the door on the two of them, and prayed to the Lord. Then he got up on the bed and lay upon the child, putting his mouth upon his mouth, his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his hands; and while he lay bent over him, the flesh of the child became warm. He got down, walked once to and fro in the room, then got up again and bent over him; the child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes. Elisha summoned Gehazi and said, “Call the Shunammite woman.” So he called her. When she came to him, he said, “Take your son.” She came and fell at his feet, bowing to the ground; then she took her son and left.
2 Kings 4:32-37

and now Jesus does to:

While he was saying these things to them, suddenly a leader of the synagogue came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died; but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.” And Jesus got up and followed him, with his disciples. Then suddenly a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his cloak, for she said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be made well.” Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well. When Jesus came to the leader’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, he said, “Go away; for the girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl got up. And the report of this spread throughout that district.
Matthew 9:19-26

So perhaps the Kingdom and the legislation stuff should be seen as a form of prophecy? I mean, isn’t Saul, too, among the prophets? But… its really odd that passage of Elisha bringing back the dead to life is in the same chapter as the Annunciation.

Or does this mean that the King, the Legislation, and the Prophecy are being combined?

Is this a normal passage or a revolutionary one?

What remains in this gospel?

A King Greater than Moses

Step by step, the message of the Gospel of Matthew is unveiled.

prophet-moses-with-aaron-or

Moses’s epithet is “The Man”

Now the man Moses was very humble, more so than anyone else on the face of the earth.
Numbers 12:3

Jesus is the Son of Man, Son of David, Son of God

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Matthew 16:13-16

Moses heals the skin-blanched, on the request of his priest, after seven days

Then Aaron said to Moses, “Oh, my lord, do not punish us for a sin that we have so foolishly committed.  Do not let her be like one stillborn, whose flesh is half consumed when it comes out of its mother’s womb.” And Moses cried to the Lord, “O God, please heal her.”
Numbers 12:11-13

Jesus heals the skin-blanched, on the request of his priest, but without delays

When Jesus entered Peter’s house, he saw his mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever; 15 he touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she got up and began to serve him.
Matthew 8:14-15

Moses feeds the many

When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?”[a] For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat. 16 This is what the Lord has commanded: Gather as much of it as each of you needs, an omer to a person
Exodus 16:15-16

Jesus feeds the many

Jesus asked them, “How many loaves have you?” They said, “Seven, and a few small fish.” 35 Then ordering the crowd to sit down on the ground, 36 he took the seven loaves and the fish; and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 37 And all of them ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full.
Matthew 15:34-37

Moses is the intercessor

Therefore he said he would destroy them—
had not Moses, his chosen one,
stood in the breach before him,
to turn away his wrath from destroying them.
Psalms 106:23

Jesus establishes an intercessors:

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
Matthew 16:18-19

Moses goes up the mountain

Then the Lord said to Moses, “I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, in order that the people may hear when I speak with you and so trust you ever after…

When the Lord descended upon Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain, the Lord summoned Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up
Exodus 19:9,20

Then Time Collapses In On Itself

elijah-was-taken-up-into-heaven-in-a-chariot-of-fire-and-horses-of-fire

For Elijah went up in a whirlwind

When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.” Elisha said, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.” He responded, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.” As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven.
2 Kings 2:9-11

And Moses is the greatest of the prophets

Never since has there arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face. He was unequaled for all the signs and wonders that the Lord sent him to perform in the land of Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his servants and his entire land, and for all the mighty deeds and all the terrifying displays of power that Moses performed in the sight of all Israel.
Deteronomy 34:10-12

But then this:

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!
Matthew 17:1-5

and this, radiation burns from the presense of the LORD

Moses came down from Mount Sinai. As he came down from the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant in his hand, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, the skin of his face was shining, and they were afraid to come near him. But Moses called to them; and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses spoke with them. Afterward all the Israelites came near, and he gave them in commandment all that the Lord had spoken with him on Mount Sinai. When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face; but whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he would take the veil off, until he came out; and when he came out, and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, the Israelites would see the face of Moses, that the skin of his face was shining; and Moses would put the veil on his face again, until he went in to speak with him.

The Transfiguration is so breathtaking that there is no longer any ambiguity that Jesus is greater than Moses. The simultaneous presense of Jesus, Moses, and Elijah ia break in time itself. The implication of the “other” side of Mt. Sinai, the destination of the fierey chariot, reorients the reader. Thus far everything was disorienting, but now we know the destination. The Gospel of Matthew is the story of God on Earth.

Jesus is clear: the Son of Man, his title for Himself, is an apocalyptic figure:

Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven’ with power and great glory. 31 And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
Matthew 24:30

The similarity to the Book of Daniel is unavoidable.

“I was watching in the night visions,
And behold, One like the Son of Man,
Coming with the clouds of heaven!
He came to the Ancient of Days,
And they brought Him near before Him.
Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom,
That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
Which shall not pass away,
And His kingdom the one
Which shall not be destroyed.
Daniel 7:13-14

Blake_ancient_of_days

And now everything is unveiled. The greatest of the prophets, the greatest of kings, is the Son of Man, the LORD himself.

The Laws themselves are how we worship the LORD, for this is the greatest of the Laws:

When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
Matthew 22:34-40

And in obeying these laws, we directly serve the LORD

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left.  Then the king will say to those at his right hand, Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.
Matthew 25:31-40

The Son of David, In a Tree, Under Stones

When the Son of David went up on a tree:

Absalom happened to meet the servants of David. Absalom was riding on his mule, and the mule went under the thick branches of a great oak. His head caught fast in the oak, and he was left hanging between heaven and earth, while the mule that was under him went on.
2 Samuel 18:9

When the Son of David was buried under stones

They took Absalom, threw him into a great pit in the forest, and raised over him a very great heap of stones. Meanwhile all the Israelites fled to their homes.
2 Samuel 18:17

The King of the Jews offered his own life for his beloved son

The king was deeply moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept; and as he went, he said, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!”
2 Samuel 18:33

This all happens again. But this time it is the King on the tree. This time it is King buried under storms. The Son of Man died

In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking him, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him”
Matthew 27:42

And instead of lamentations, after three days the death is followed by the happiest sentences ever recorded

Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.
Matthew 28:9-10

The God Who Will Never Leave

moses-cloud-over-tabernacle

The Book of Exodus ends with Moses with glory of God being with the people of Israel.

Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.  Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled upon it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Whenever the cloud was taken up from the tabernacle, the Israelites would set out on each stage of their journey; but if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out until the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, before the eyes of all the house of Israel at each stage of their journey.
Exodus 40:34-38

The Gospel of Matthew Ends the Same Way

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:16-20

There are other things in the Gospel of Matthew too. Jesus teaches in parables, which are much like the narrative writings. There are other miracles, including his own resurrection. There is a clear establishment of a line of Priests with Peter, with echoes to both Aaron and the Temple. But this, to me, seems like the core of the gospel.

The Gospels begin a new section of the Bible, equivalent to the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings
Jesus creates a Law on par with the First Law in Exodus and the Second Law in Deuteronomy
Jesus is Son of God, Son of David, Son of Man
Jesus is the LORD God
When we serve this new law, by serving the least among us, we serve the God LORD Jesus God, Son of David, Son of God, Son of Man.