November 28, 2017

“The Sojourner in Her House” (Exodus 3:21-22)

Category: Bible - OT - Exodus :: Permalink

In Exodus 3:21-22, we read that each “woman will ask from her neighbor and from the sojourner in her house objects of silver and objects of gold and clothing.”

What in the world does “the sojourner in her house” mean here? It makes it sound as if there were Egyptian women — or at least, non-Israelite women — living in the houses of the Israelite women (?!).

Houtman, who doesn’t have a good answer himself, says that some think this is a reference to a family member who is Egyptian. Some think it’s an Egyptian woman living with an Israelite family. Some think it’s an Egyptian slave of an Israelite family (“Those last people won’t have had much to give,” says Houtman).

None of those answers makes much sense to me. Why would family members or slaves be called “sojourners”? Why would Egyptians or other non-Israelites be living with an Israelite family?

I wonder if it might refer to Egyptians who are now living in the houses once occupied by and owned by the Israelites. Goshen was, after all, the best part of the land. Perhaps some Egyptians moved in and kicked the Israelites out of their own homes. They’re called “sojourners” because the homes they’re living in are not their own. And so these people are singled out in particular because they owe the Israelites something in recompense for their mistreatment of them.

This isn’t a view I’ve found in any commentary, but I haven’t seen any commentary with a clear explanation. Any better suggestions?

Posted by John Barach @ 9:15 pm | Discuss (0)
November 22, 2017

Strange and Wonderful Proceedings

Category: Music :: Permalink

I remember my earliest visits to jazz clubs when I was still a teenager. Before the music started, I would say to myself, “Almost anything could happen tonight. Almost anything!” Perhaps that sounds naive, the breathless enthusing of a fan, not the sober reflections of a future critic and music historian, but I still can’t imagine approaching jazz any other way.

When I attend a classical concert, in contrast, I can tell by looking at the program exactly what I will hear. If it says Beethoven’s Piano Sonata Number 8 (the Pathétique) is on the bill that evening, I can anticipate almost every note.  Rock and pop concerts are a bit more unpredictable, but even in that setting I know the band will play its familiar hits and probably try to make them sound similar to the albums, the proceedings “enhanced” with stage props and visual effects, yet still essentially the same routines they did last night in a different city and will re-create at their next tour stop.

But jazz, I learned at the very start of my exposure to it, plays by different rules.  It is open to a much wider range of possibilities.  The musicians themselves hardly know what they will play; the jazz world’s fixation with improvisation ensures that strange and wonderful proceedings can unfold on the bandstand, perhaps during the very next song. — Ted Gioia, How to Listen to Jazz, pp. 202-203.

Posted by John Barach @ 9:31 pm | Discuss (0)
November 7, 2017

Saxophony

Category: Music :: Permalink

Music fans today can hardly imagine how disruptive the saxophone was during the early days of jazz.  Even decades after the sax had taken over the bandstand, many New Orleans purists objected to its baneful presence.  And the instrument had other marks against it.  The sax was not an accepted symphonic instrument — the American Symphony Orchestra League even issued a formal prohibition of the horn during the 1920s.

It was loud and lowbrow and perhaps even morally dangerous.  I’ve heard stories, perhaps apocryphal, of radio stations refusing to play sax music on the Sabbath, fearing its corrupting influence on impressionable young souls.  But there’s little doubt that Pope Pius X had the sax in mind when, at the dawn of the twentieth century, he instructed the clergy to avoid instruments “that may give reasonable cause for disgust and scandal.” — Ted Gioia, How to Listen to Jazz, p. 159.

So what brought about the change, so that jazz embraced the saxophone and it became, as Gioia says, “the defining sound of jazz”?  Here’s Gioia’s answer: “Most of the credit for this stunning turnabout goes to a single musician: Coleman Hawkins” (159).  To find out why, you’re just going to have to read the book.  Or you could just listen to this 1939 version of “Body and Soul”:

 

 

Posted by John Barach @ 9:29 pm | Discuss (0)
November 3, 2017

Just So

Category: History,Literature :: Permalink

Angela Thirkell describes how she used to play Cavaliers and Roundheads with her cousins.  She and her cousin Josephine Kipling were the Cavaliers, and the Roundhead was Josephine’s father, whom Thirkell calls “Cousin Ruddy”:

Josephine, very fair-haired and blue-eyed, was my bosom friend, and though we both adored her father, the stronger bond of patriotism drew us yet more firmly together as Cavaliers against Cousin Ruddy’s whole-hearted impersonation of an Arch-Roundhead….

The war between Cavaliers and Roundheads raged furiously every year as long as the Kiplings were at Rottingdean, Josephine and I leading forlorn hopes against the Regicide and being perpetually discomfited by his superior guile, or by the odious way in which the Nannies would overlook the fact that we were really six feet high with flowing locks, a hat with feathers, and huge jack-boots, and order us indoors to wash our hands or have an ignominious midday rest.

How would they have liked it if they were plotting to deliver King Charles from Carisbrooke and their Nannies had suddenly pounced upon them with a “Get up off the grass now Miss Angela and come and lie down before lunch, and there’s Lucy waiting for you Miss Josephine, so put those sticks down like a good girl and run along.”  Fools!  Couldn’t they see that these were no pea-sticks, but sword, dagger, and pistol, ready to flash out or be discharged in the service of the King?  But Nannies are by nature unromantic, so we had to submit and pretend to be little girls till we could meet again later (Three Houses, 83-84).

Later, when she talks about Josephine’s death at six years of age, Thirkell writes:

I still have a letter from Josephine, written in sprawly childish capitals.  “I will help you,” it ran, “in the war against the Roundhead.  He has a large army but we can beat him.  He is a horrible man let us do all the mischief we can to him.”  It must have been a very real game that made her call the father she loved a “horrible man.”  The world has known Josephine and her father as Taffimai and Tegumai in the Just So Stories and into one short poem he put his heart’s cry for the daughter that was all to him (86).

Thirkell was one of the first to hear these stories:

During those long warm summers Cousin Ruddy used to try out the Just So Stories on a nursery audience.  Sometimes Josephine and I would be invited into the study….  Or sometimes we all adjourned on a wet day to the Drill Hall where the horse and parallel bars made splendid forts and camping grounds, and when the battle was over and the Roundhead had been unmercifully rolled upon and pommelled by small fists he would be allowed by way of ransom to tell us about the mariner of infinite resource and sagacity and the suspenders–you must not forget the suspenders, Best Beloved.

The Just So Stories are a poor thing in print compared with the fun of hearing them told in Cousin Ruddy’s deep unhesitating voice.  There was a ritual about them, each phrase having its special intonation which had to be exactly the same each time and without which the stories are dried husks.  There was an inimitable cadence, an emphasis of certain words, an exaggeration of certain phrases, a kind of intoning here and there which made his telling unforgettable (87-88).

 

Posted by John Barach @ 6:17 am | Discuss (0)
November 2, 2017

“The Holy City”

Category: Bible - OT - Nehemiah :: Permalink

From the time of Moses and the building of the tabernacle through the time of David and the kings, it was the tabernacle or the later temple that was the holy place. But what is easily overlooked is that after the return from exile, things change. Peter Lau and Gregory Goswell explain:

It is plain from Nehemiah 2:20 what the wall [of Jerusalem] is intended to do, namely shut out all sources of uncleanness from the sacred place, the city. The entire city is now as holy as the temple, as the consecration of the first section of the wall by the priests makes clear (3:1). The appointment of (temple) gatekeepers, (cultic) singers and Levites to guard the city gates (7:1-3) shows the sacral character of the city, and situating the assembly “in the square before the Water Gate” does the same (8:1).  The city is designated “the holy city” (11:1, 18) and at the dedication the priest “purified the people and the gates and the wall” (12:30).  Lastly, in 13:22 it is the Levites who guard the city gates, which again bespeaks the expansion of the sanctity from the temple to the city as a whole (Peter H. W. Lau & Gregory Goswell, Unceasing Kindness: A Biblical Theology of Ruth, 15).

Posted by John Barach @ 8:44 pm | Discuss (0)

Mrs. Burne-Jones

Category: Architecture,Art,History,Politics :: Permalink

Angela Thirkell talks about how her grandmother — the wife and, later, widow of the painter, Edward Burne-Jones — used to have workingmen into her home to read to them about Pre-Raphaelitism and socialism: “All the snobbishness latent in children came to the fore as we watched the honoured but unhappy workman sitting stiffly on the edge of his chair in his horrible best clothes while my grandmother’s lovely earnest voice preached William Morris to him.”

In spite of her wide affections and deep understanding she was curiously removed from real life and I think she honestly believed that The Seven Lamps of Architecture on every working-man’s table would go far to ameliorate the world.  She was absolutely fearless, morally and physically.  During the South African War her sympathies were with the Boers, and though she was at that time a widow, living alone, she never hesitated to bear witness, without a single sympathizer.  When peace was declared she hung out of her window a large blue cloth on which she had been stitching the words: ‘We have killed and also taken possession.’  For some time there was considerable personal danger to her from a populace in Mafeking mood, till her nephew, Rudyard Kipling, coming over from The Elms, pacified the people and sent them away.  Single-minded people can be a little alarming to live with and we children had a nervous feeling that we never knew where our grandmother might break out next. — Angela Thirkell, Three Houses, pp. 78-79, 79-80.

Posted by John Barach @ 9:36 am | Discuss (0)
October 30, 2017

Pre-Raphaelite “Comfort”

Category: Art,Miscellaneous :: Permalink

What would it be like to live in a house with furniture designed by, say, William Morris or someone with similar ideals?  Lest anyone read John Ruskin or Morris or the various Pre-Raphaelites and think he’d like to live in such an abode, I offer this from Angela Thirkell, the granddaughter of Edward Burne-Jones:

Curtains and chintzes in The Bower were all of Morris stuffs, a bright pattern of yellow birds and red roses.  The low sofa and the oak table were designed by one or other pre-Raphaelite friend of the house, or made to my grandfather’s orders by the village carpenter.

As I look back on the furniture of my grandparents’ two houses I marvel chiefly at the entire lack of comfort which the pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood succeeded in creating for itself.  It was not, I think, so much that they actively despised comfort, as that the word conveyed absolutely nothing to them whatever.

I can truthfully say that neither at North End Road nor at North End House was there a single chair that invited to repose, and the only piece of comfortable furniture that my grandparents ever possessed was their drawing-room sofa in London, a perfectly ordinary large sofa with good springs, only disguised by Morris chintzes.

The sofas at Rottingdean were simply long low tables with a little balustrade round two, or sometimes three sides, made of plain oak or some inferior wood painted white.  There was a slight concession to human frailty in the addition of rigidly hard squabs covered with chintz or blue linen and when to these my grandmother had added a small bolster apparently made of concrete and two or three thin unyielding cushions, she almost blamed herself for wallowing in undeserved luxury….

As for pre-Raphaelite beds, it can only have been the physical vigour and perfect health of their original designers that made them believe their work was fit to sleep in.  It is true that the spring mattress was then in an embryonic stage and there were no spiral springs to prevent a bed from taking the shape of a drinking-trough after a few weeks’ use, but even this does not excuse the use of wooden slats running lengthways as an aid to refreshing slumber.

Luckily children never know when they are uncomfortable and the pre-Raphaelites had in many essentials the childlike mind. — Angela Thirkell, Three Houses, pp. 64-65.

Posted by John Barach @ 8:53 pm | Discuss (0)
October 26, 2017

Heredity … of a Sort

Category: Art :: Permalink

Angela Thirkell was the granddaughter of the painter Edward Burne-Jones, who was influenced in his early years by Gabriel Rossetti but who later developed his own style and his own ideals of beauty, which he transmitted not only in his art but, surprisingly, also in his progeny.  She talks about the “pure ‘Burne-Jones’ type” of woman:

The curious thing is — and it ought to open a fresh field of inquiry into heredity — that the type which my grandfather evolved for himself was transmitted to some of his descendants.

In his earlier pictures there is a reflection of my grandmother in large-eyed women of normal, or almost low stature, as against the excessively long-limbed women of his later style.  But the hair of these early women is not hers, it is the hair of Rossetti’s women, the masses of thick wavy hair which we knew in “Aunt Janey,” the beautiful Mrs. William Morris.  When I remember her, Aunt Janey’s hair was nearly white, but there were still the same masses of it, waving from head to tip.

To any one who knew her, Rossetti’s pictures — with the exception of his later exaggerated types — were absolutely true.  The large deep-set eyes, the full lips, the curved throat, the overshadowing hair, were all there.  Even in her old age she looked like a queen as she moved about the house in long white draperies, her hands in a white muff, crowned by her glorious hair.

But when my grandfather began to develop in a different direction from his master Gabriel he saw in his mind a type of woman who was to him the ultimate expression of beauty.  Whenever he saw a woman who approached his vision he used her, whether model or friend.  Some of my grandparents’ lasting friendships were begun in chance encounters with a “Burne-Jones face” which my grandfather had to find a way of knowing.

As my mother grew up she was the offspring of her father’s vision and the imprint of this vision has lasted to a later generation.  I do not know of another case in which the artist’s ideal has taken such visible shape as in my mother.

If the inheritance were more common one would have to be far more careful in choosing one’s artist forbears.  El Greco, for instance, or Rowlandson, would be responsible for such disastrous progeny from the point of view of looks. — Angela Thirkell, Three Houses, pp. 23-24.

Moral: Be careful what and whom you admire.  If Thirkell is right, your children might just look like that.

Posted by John Barach @ 9:22 pm | Discuss (0)
October 25, 2017

Bells on Sunday

Category: Miscellaneous :: Permalink

I suppose every one has a mental picture of the days of the week, some seeing them as a circle, some as an endless line, and others again, for all I know, as cubes and triangles.  Mine is a wavy line proceeding to infinity, dipping to Wednesday which is the colour of old silver dark with polishing and rising again to a pale gold Sunday.  This day has  feeling in my picture of warmth and light breezes and sunshine and afternoons that stretch to eternity and mornings full of far-off bells.

How varying are the evocations of bells.  They have almost as much power to startle a memory to life as the odours which annihilate the years between us and our childhood.  Wherever I am in the world, a grey warm Sunday with the sound of bells coming damped through quiet unceasing rain will mean Oxford to me.  In the underworld, twelve thousand miles away, that sound of bells in steady rain has translated me for a moment to Oxford in early summer and the scented drip from hawthorne and laburnum.

And even now to hear bells in London on a June morning makes me lose the many intervening years and go back to a pale gold Sunday when the sun shone on an endless leisured day. — Angela Thirkell, Three Houses, p. 15.

Posted by John Barach @ 4:01 pm | Discuss (0)
June 21, 2017

It Will Be Given You (Matthew 10:19-20)

Category: Bible - NT - Matthew :: Permalink

It’s amusing to note that in the history of the exegesis and exposition of Matthew 10:19-20 (“When they hand you over, do not be concerned how or what you should speak, for it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak, for it is not you speaking but the Spirit of your Father speaking in you”), commentator after commentator has felt the need to make it clear that this passage is not an excuse for pastors to wing it as they preach, without any study or preparation.

You’ll find that point in Augustine, Thomas (citing Chrysostom), Zwingli, Bucer, Musculus, Cocceius … all the way up to D. A. Carson and Frederick Dale Bruner today.

They’re right, of course … but what does the fact that they feel the need to stress this (rather obvious) point tell you?

Posted by John Barach @ 2:25 pm | Discuss (0)
June 6, 2017

Sticky Tape?

Category: Family,Marriage :: Permalink

From time to time, I have come across the following illustration in connection with an exhortation — usually to young women — to “guard your heart.” Here it is:

Your heart is like a sticky piece of tape. The first time you stick it to something, it sticks well. But if you pull it off and stick it on something else, it might still stick … fairly well. But if you keep doing that, pulling it off and sticking on somewhere else, it’s going to get less and less sticky, not to mention a lot dirtier. Eventually it’s not going to stick at all.

And so too with a woman’s heart, or so it is said. If you get infatuated with some guy and “give your heart” to him and then the same thing happens with another guy, your heart is going to get less and less “sticky,” less able to stick to one guy, and if you do try to stick to one guy, you’re probably going to have a wandering eye, always looking for the next guy to come along.

The solution — or so those who use this illustration would have you believe — is to stick to one person, if possible, and to plan for that. So dating is out and some form of courtship is in — aimed, it would seem, at making sure, as much as possible, that the one guy a girl gets interested in is going to be the one she marries. Plus, she’s urged to “guard her heart,” to make sure she doesn’t “fall in love” until she’s sure that this is the one guy she’s going to marry and stay with forever.

I don’t buy it.

I don’t buy the appropriateness of the illustration. Are our hearts really like sticky tape? I don’t think so.

Parents of one child sometimes wonder how they could ever love a second child. Won’t the “stickiness” of their heart become diluted if they’re spreading their love over two children. But as the father of four children, each of whom is different and each of whom I love dearly, I can tell you that that’s not so.

If this illustration were true, a woman who is widowed has a less “sticky” heart going into a second marriage and if perchance she loses that second husband, too, her heart — now on its third “stick” — probably doesn’t have much “stickiness” left. But that’s not the case.

I also don’t buy the solution. There is no form of courtship (somehow distinguished from “dating”) that can guarantee that the first person your daughter is attracted or drawn to is going to be the guy she marries and stays married to for the rest of her life. There is no form of courtship that can guarantee that she will not ever have a broken heart. And the quest for such a “perfect” form of courtship is not only quixotic but seriously misguided.

Sometimes this approach can even result in a girl getting the impression that she shouldn’t feel anything toward a guy until after she agrees to marry him lest she “give her heart” to him and risk losing her “stickiness” if it turns out that he isn’t the one. So she marries him on some other grounds besides attraction … and then finds, even after the wedding, that there’s still no attraction there.

As for the phrase “guard your heart,” it is indeed biblical. Proverbs 4:23 says “Guard your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.”

But notice that it’s not talking about “guarding your heart” from falling in love with someone or being attracted or drawn to someone. It’s talking about guarding your heart from sin and foolishness. Here it is in context (Prov 4:20-27):

My son, give attention to my words;
Incline your ear to my sayings.
Do not let them depart from your eyes;
Keep them in the midst of your heart;
For they are life to those who find them,
And health to all their flesh.
Keep [or: guard] your heart with all diligence,
For out of it spring the issues of life.
Put away from you a deceitful mouth,
And put perverse lips far from you.
Let your eyes look straight ahead,
And your eyelids look right before you.
Ponder the path of your feet,
And let all your ways be established.
Do not turn to the right or the left;
Remove your foot from evil.

Young men and women do indeed need to guard their hearts, to learn wisdom, to keep God’s commandments, to put away deceit and evil.

But there is no commandment forbidding them from being attracted to someone else, no prohibition on “falling in love,” no hint that attraction or even love for one person necessarily makes you less able to love someone else in a “sticky” way later, no Scriptural exhortation for their parents to try to ensure that their hearts never get “stuck” on anyone they don’t end up marrying, let alone never get broken.

Posted by John Barach @ 3:57 pm | Discuss (0)
March 30, 2017

How Long in Egypt?

Category: Bible - OT - Exodus :: Permalink

Duane Garrett, in his commentary on Exodus, speaks of the new Pharaoh who did not acknowledge Joseph and who oppressed Israel, and says, “There is no indication of how long was the time between the death of Joseph and the ascension of this Pharaoh.”

Well, no indication in Exodus 1:8-10 itself. That’s true. But it’s not hard to ballpark it based on what the rest of Scripture tells us, right?

There were 430 years from Abraham to the Exodus (Gal 3:17), and 215 years from Abraham to the time when Jacob and his offspring went down to Egypt. Joseph was 39 or 40 when that happened, and he lived another 70 years, dying when he was 110. So that’s 285 years into the 430, leaving 145 left to go.

Moses was born 80 years before the Exodus, during the period when this Pharaoh’s oppression had reached the point where he was having all the baby boys killed.

When did this new Pharaoh come on the scene? Sometime between Joseph’s death and Moses’ birth, somewhere between 80 to 145 years before the Exodus.

Given that there had to be some time for Israel to fall from faithfulness and start worshiping other gods and for the Egyptians to apostatize and turn against Israel and no longer honor them as they had while Joseph was alive, it seems more likely that the new Pharaoh came on the scene a generation or so after Joseph died and about 100 years before the Exodus.

Garrett is correct that Scripture does not give an exact indication how long the time was between Joseph’s death and the rise of this Pharaoh. But we can make a pretty good guess and we can definitely pin down the range of possibilities.

Posted by John Barach @ 2:01 pm | Discuss (0)