Monday, February 20, 2012

Malachi & Tobit 1-2

The Facts (Chapter number: Verse)

Malachi 1 - No mention of any women.

2:11 - "Judah has been faithless, and abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah has profaned and sanctuary of the Lord, which he loves, and has married the daughter of a foreign God."
2:14-16 - "You ask, 'Why does he not [regard or accept your offerings]?' Because the Lord was a witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and wife by covenant. Did not one God make her? Both flesh and spirit are his. And what does the one God desire? Godly offering. So look to yourselves, and do not let anyone be faithless to the wife of his youth. For I hate divorce, says the Lord, the God of Israel, and covering one's garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So take heed to yourselves and do not be faithless."

3:5 - "Then I will draw near you for judgement; I will be swift to bear witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired workers in their wages, the widow and the orphan, against those who thrust aside the alien, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts."

Malachi 4 - No mention of any women.

Tobit 1:8-9 - "A third tenth I would give to the orphans and widows and to the converts who had attached themselves to Israel. I would bring it and give it to them in the third year, and we would eat it according to the ordinance decreed concerning it in the law of Moses and according to the instructions of Deborah, the mother of my father Tobiel, for my father had died and left me an orphan. When I became a man I married a woman, a member of our own family, and by her I became the father of a son whom I named Tobias."
1:20 - "Then all my property was confiscated; nothing was left to me that was not taken into the royal treasury except my wife Anna and my son Tobias."

2:1 - "Then during the reign of Esar-haddon I returned home, and my wife Anna and my son Tobias were restored to me."
2:11-14 - Tobit's Wife Earns Their Livelihood
"At that time [when Tobit was blind], my wife Anna earned money at women's work. She used to send what she made to the owners and they would pay wages to her. One day, the seventh of Dystrus, when she cut off a piece she had woven and sent it to the owners, they paid her full wages and also gave her a young goat for a meal. When she returned to me, the goat began to bleat. So I called her and said, 'Where did you get this goat? It is surely not stolen, is it? Return it to the owners; for we have no right to eat anything stolen.' But she said to me, 'It was given to me as a gift in addition to my wages.' But I did not believe her, and told her to return it to the owners. I became flushed with anger against her over this. Then she replied to me, 'Where are your acts of charity? Where are your righteous deeds? Those things are known about you!'"

My Comments

Finally, we're back! Hopefully I will continue to be back. Things have finally started to settle down and I've got time to sit and work on this project again. It's good to be back. :)

Oddly, Malachi up until chapter 2 verses 14-16 is about how God is upset that his people are giving him shitty offerings. No mention is made that he's upset about men being unfaithful to their wives in any context until it seemingly randomly pops at the end. Now, Malachi speaks out against Judah who married the daughter of a foreign God. This is the grievance that is mentioned 2 verses before the start of verse 14. The "daughter" in that verse is not a flesh and blood women, it is an ideal, a covenant, which Judah came into with a foreign God. Looking at all of this, how the beginning of the books concerns God's people being unfaithful to their covenant with him by giving unsatisfactory offerings and how the verses preceding 2:14-16 use women and marriage as a symbol for a covenant between man and gods, I'm going to argue that 2:14-16 is not about how much God wants human men to love their human wives. Rather, I think those verses continue the use of human wives and marriage as a symbol for God's covenant with his people.

God was a witness between Moses accepting the covenant and commandments from God in the beginning after they were saved from Egypt. This old covenant and "wife of their youth" is what God's people are being unfaithful to when then dare sacrifice polluted foods or sickly livestock. God made this covenant wherein man's flesh and spirit and earthly lives are under his control. And since the main component of this covenant/wife is offerings and sacrifice (just go flip through any of the law books if you doubt that about 2/3 of God's rules were solely about sacrificing to him correctly), anyone who provides sub par sacrifices is being faithless to the covenant/wife. Do not let those around you be faithless and irresponsible with upholding and following the covenant. God hates people who divorce from the covenant and hates having to punish those who do with violence (try to stifle your laughter), so take heed and do not be faithless to the covenant/wife.

The subheading for 2:10-17 is also "The Covenant Profaned by Judah" so I think it's pretty obvious this section concerns covenants and not mortal marriage.

Tobit is our first foray into the apocryphal texts. From here on we will be going through apocryphal texts until we reach the New Testament.

Tobit was a man who lived a life of charity. He was held captive in Nineveh where he secretly buried the bodies of executed Israelite. Tobit fled when he was found out and only came back when the king was murdered and one of his sons took over the throne. Tobit returned to his wife and son after that and continued being the charitable person he was known to be. He was blinded after he buried a man and slept out in his courtyard where some bird droppings fell into his eyes.

That is his whole story up to this point. He's a man with no faults who risks his life to bury his people who aren't afforded a proper burial. He gives a good portion of his possessions and earnings to those in need. The man is a saint with no seeming fault to be found.

Yet this man, when he is sick and unable to work, is completely capable of accusing his wife of stealing when she is working to keep them alive and apparently doing so well that she gets a bonus from her clients. What is this? I mean, it's amazing that his wife will do this for him especially after he left her and her son alone when he fled from the king. It is obvious that his wife is faithful to him and willing to work to keep him alive and comfortable. Tobit can't even show a small amount of compassion for his wife while she is working by herself to keep their family afloat. Tobit seems to care more for strangers than for his own wife. His wife is right to snap back at him. "Where are your acts of charity? Where are your righteous deeds?" Sorry, Anna, but those deeds and acts seem to be reserved solely for others and God. He's spread himself thin and can't seem to make sure there's any left over for you no matter how much you sacrifice for him.

Looking through chapter 3, he also never seems to acknowledge his assholery towards his wife and this exchange seems to be swept under the rug. Chapter 3 mostly consists of Tobit praying to God that God kill him so that he no longer needs to suffer his blindness and his reputation that had been maligned by the foreign kingdom in which he lives.

What exactly does this exchange do in this context then? If Tobit is still held up as a holy man and this act of cruelty against his wife is seemingly swept under the rug, what does this say? What is its purpose? To show that women are so insignificant that their own acts of charity and faithfulness are meaningless while the charity of faith of a man will get him great rewards (Tobit's blindness is later healed by God)? That doing harm to your own wife is something that is so insignificant and inconsequential that it will not harm your reputation with God in any way?

Whatever it says, I don't think it's anything very good.

Next time: More Tobit