Sunday, 2 June 2019

TL:DR: The Genesis Question part fifty-six

Hi, Everybody!

So, two things:

1, the bizness:
The Cerebus In Hell?  "Approval Is An Authoritarian Construct" T-Shirt is available in the US and UK.

The remastered Volume 1 is available digitally for $9.99.

If you got a couple of extra bucks and want to do a fellow Cerebus fan a solid, Friend of the Blog Mike Battaglia has a go fund me here.

2, I ran out of pages from issue 289/290 to run in front of Dave's Genesis Question commentaries. Dave suggested I use Jewish, Christian or Muslim religious images. But then, Superman's Frenemy: David Birdsong sent in a bunch of (so far) unused Cerebus in Hell? images and now I'ma gonna run them. So:
image by Doré, Sim & Birdsong
22 February 15

Hi Troy & Mia!

Habakkuk 3:3:

God came from Teman and the holy one from mount Paran. Selah. His glory covered the heavens and the earth was full of his praise. 

Teman:  the grandson of Esau who may have given his name to the district, town or tribe (or all three) of that name in Northern Edom.  So, traditionally, considered an enemy of Jacob/Israel and therefore of God.  "The prophets (Jeremiah 49:20; Ezekiel 25:13, Amos 1:12, Obadiah 9) include Teman among the Edomite towns to be destroyed". 

Therefore, interesting that one of the latter prophets would have a vision that God (past tense) came from Edom. 

Mount Paran:  a wilderness situated in the East central region of the Sinai Penninsula.  It was to this wilderness that Hagar and Ishmael went after their expulsion from Abraham's household (Genesis 21:21).

Comparably interesting, to me, as this suggests that what is being referred to is proto-Islamic in nature (Islam descending from Abraham through Ishmael -- and Hagar). 

Also interesting to see "Selah" in there, which I only recall seeing in David's Psalms.  Checking my NEW BIBLE DICTIONARY, sure enough, the word occurs 71 times in the Psalms and three times in Habakkuk. 

So there appears to be a triangulation here, although I'm not sure, specifically, a triangulation of what. 

The grandson of Esau would suggest the status of "usurped" since the grandson of Esau would have inherited Isaac's stature had Jacob not usurped it from Esau.  Which would conform with my own notion that YHWH is the prototypical usurper and that God comes from the tradition of the "usurped", contextually speaking, in the Torah.   

And, likewise, Ishmael was in place to be Abraham's heir until Sarah insisted that Hagar and Ishmael be driven out into the wilderness (a comparable enactment to A Dam being driven out of the Garden of Eden by the YHWH). 

In that case, it would seem to me that the "Selah" (about which there are, evidently, varying theories as to its point of origin: as a musical indicator of the nature of the Psalm or as a liturgical mark or an expression comparable to "Amen!" or "Hallelujah!")  might be intended ironically by God at the tail end of the Jewish Revelation, directed against the YHWH's (and the Jewish people's) Davidic Messianic expectation, basically leap-frogging the (relatively) imminent Christian Revelation and anticipating the "origination" of God from Teman and Mount Paran: that is, Islam. 

Instead of the multiplicity of Psalms, this is announced through one of the shortest revelations in the Torah.  Habakkuk IS only three chapters long.

It's quite possible that 3:3 was intended to serve as a Godly contrast to the previous verse, the YHWHistic 3:2:

O YHWH, I have heard thy report/thy hearing/thy speech, [interpolated: and] was afraid:  O YHWH revive [alternative meaning: preserve alive] thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath, remember mercy.

There is, evidently, little unity on the subject of the date of Habakkuk, its authorship and several of the references within it.  What I think can be agreed is that it is a plea to God for an explanation of why He would raise up the Chaldeans to overpower Pharaoh Neco  and then Jehoiakim, king of Judah.  As I read it, it's an example of God answering the question directly but the limitations of human comprehension being such that the implicit verity can only be recognized in retrospect: 

Essentially, "You aren't looking at the Big Picture. I am."  Which is, I think, invariably the only answer that God can give.  Had God elaborated upon his answer -- which I think he does in the rest of Chapter 3 by granting Habakkuk visions of "what is yet to be" -- it would have been "The Chaldeans are just a continuation of an extensive process.  There are Large Contentions enacting themselves in the world and they will continue to enact themselves.  You're looking for easy answers and glib resolutions along the lines of And God looked down and saw that His Chosen People weren't winning and he sent Legions of Angels to devastate everyone who had set them against His Revelation and the Legions of Angels won and everyone lived happily ever after The End. "

So far as I know, I'm the only one who reads 3:3 this way, but I think God's point is: when Abraham, at Sarah's behest, abandoned Ishmael and his mother in the wilderness of Paran, he abandoned Me.  Ishmael wasn't an enemy to Isaac and Hagar was not an affront to Sarah. That was a maternal delusion on Sarah's part.  If you look at how the story unfolded, Hagar was an obedient servant, to God, to Abraham and to Sarah, otherwise she wouldn't have allowed Abraham to impregnate her.  Basically Abraham repeats A Dam's mistake of "hearkening unto the voice of his wife" instead of doing what he would have known to be right in the eyes of God.  You can't just bring that story to a happy resolution by saying that Hagar and Ishmael need to be abandoned to die of thirst in the wilderness "and Abraham and Sarah lived happily ever after The End."  There IS a happily ever after to the story, but it's the fact that Hagar, in her desperation as she and Ishmael were on the verge of death discovered the Zam-Zam well.  Although it was stopped up for generations, even today, the Zam-Zam well supplies ABUNDANT water to Mecca, more than enough for Saudi Arabia's largest city and more than enough for the millions of pilgrims who come to the Sacred Mosque from around the world every year. 

THERE, I see God as saying. THERE's the Happily Ever After ending that you're looking for. 

"God came from Teman and the Holy One from Mount Paran." 

Of course subsequent to that there is, as I read it, the overlapping of God and YHWH.  Which, as I read it, is part of the problem and part of the Revelation.  The YHWH -- who believes men are inherently evil -- exacts terrible retribution (verses 4-6):

And brightness was as the light: he, horns out of his hand/bright beams out of his side, and there was the hiding of his power: before him went the pestilence and burning diseases went forth at his feet.

And this sounds like GOD to you?  No, I think God is best described (and describes Himself) at the end of verse 6:

He stood and measured the earth: he beheld and drove asunder the nations, and the everlasting mountains were scattered, the perpetual hills did bow:  His ways everlasting.

God has dominion over the YHWH, the earth, the nations, the "everlasting" mountains and the "perpetual" hills.  But it was men who chose to call upon the name of the YHWH (Genesis 4:26).  You have to be a little more careful where you place your faith, is God's point (in my opinion), or you have to suffer the consequences.

This leads, as I read it, to a sharp exchange between God and the YHWH, who are both (again, as I read it) imparting revelations to Habakkuk. First God, as I read it:  

Was the YHWH displeased against the rivers?  thine anger against the rivers? thy wrath against the Sea, that thou didst ride upon thy horses thy chariots of salvation? Thy bow was made quite naked to the oaths of the tribes. Word. Selah.

This seems to me to follow on from the Mount Paran reference and the discovery of the Zam-Zam well (called Beer-lahai-roi in Genesis 16:14 "the well of Him that liveth and seeth me"), a reference the YHWH is trying to bypass.  God provided abundant water to all.  What is the YHWH's problem with that? God uses "Word" here as modern hip-hop uses it: as a definitive Truth.

It was, after all, the Angel of the YHWH who told Hagar that the YHWH had heard of her affliction.  And promised that Ishmael "will be a wild man, his hand will be against every man, and every man's hand against him & he shall dwell in the presence of his brethren." I think this the meaning behind the reference to "Thy bow was made quite naked to the oaths of the tribes. Word. Selah".  That is, the YHWH intention was, transparently, contention: to make Ishmael an adversary to everyone and everyone an adversary to Ishmael (I think we see echoes of this in the "lone nut" Muslim attacks of our modern day) and to attempt to affront God in doing so.  God is saying that he isn't affronted.  He was in Mount Paran.  He saved Hagar and Ishmael and God will come again from Mount Paran, despite the nakedness of the YHWH's bow -- Ishmael eventually becomes a great archer (Genesis 25:12) -- the YHWH's overt advocacy of violent confrontation. 

The (as I read it) YHWH's response is both immediate and infantile:

Thou didst cleave the earth with rivers.

Only the YHWH could see rivers as comparable to pillaging and ravening entire civilizations -- as if the YHWH is just doing to men what God is doing to the YHWH, the earth, with rivers.  God's response is comparably immediate:

The mountains saw thee, they trembled: the overflowing of the water passed by: the deep uttered his voice, lift up his hands on high. 

I think the reference is to Habakkuk himself.  "He's expressing incredulity and exasperation, YHWH.  Your own component elements, the mountains, react to you in the same way.  That SHOULD tell you something."  And then refers to the Book of Joshua 10:12-13, where Joshua pleaded with the YHWH to have the sun stand still in the sky so the Jewish people could thoroughly eradicate the Amorites:

The sun, moon, stood still in habitation, at the light of thine arrows they went, at the shining of thy glittering spear.  Thou didst march through the land in indignation, thou didst thresh the heathen in anger. Thou wentest forth for the salvation of thy people, for salvation with thine Anointed, thou woundedst the head out of the house of the wicked, making naked the neck. Selah.  Thou didst strike through with his staves the head of his villages, they were tempestuous as a whirlwind to scatter Me: their rejoicing as to devour the poor secretly. 

And in answer to the suggestion that the rivers were some kind of invasion of the YHWH:

Thou didst walk through the Sea with thy horses, the heap of great waters.    

What I always remark upon is God's Infinite Patience in these situations.  Men are calling upon the name of the YHWH to grant them absolute victory over their perceived enemies and the YHWH is wreaking vengeance both upon men for disobeying he/she/it and upon their enemies at their behest and -- every once in a while -- someone accidentally refers to God instead of the YHWH in pleading for an answer to What In the Heck Is Going On? As Habakkuk does here.

Well, what is God to say?  It's a huge mess.  A huge mess of men's devising and of the YHWH's devising.  There you go.  That's what free will misapplied gets you.  The best God can be is Reassuring In The Long Term.  Men are basically good, the YHWH's view notwithstanding.  That's what God has addressed to Habakkuk:  these are fundamental errors in decision-making but God is abiding strictly to the governing principle that everyone is allowed to express their free will in whatever form they choose.  In the Short Term, this is what it leads to.  And God renders visions unto Habakkuk of SPECIFICALLY what it leads to.  Presumably those visions could include every generation of our epoch up to the present day.  ISIS is nothing new in our world.  Isis was the Egyptian earth goddess, the sister and wife of Osiris. Isis is just another name for the YHWH and the YHWH's impulse toward genocidal brutality.    

Habakkuk's reaction is significant, predictable and (to me) sad:

When I heard my belly trembled: my lips quivered at the voice: rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble: when he commeth up unto the people, he will cut them in pieces. 

Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither fruit in the vines:  the labour of the Olive shall lie, and the fields shall yield no meat, the flock shall be cut off from the fold and there no herd in the stalls:

Yet I will rejoice in the YHWH: I will joy in the God of my salvation.  The YHWH God my strength, and he will make my feet like hind's and he will make me to walk upon my high places.  To the chief singer on my stringed instrument.

Let me know how that's working out for you, Habakkuk!

Next week, God willing, Acts 14:17


Next Time: Lord Julius? -Past Matt


Birdsong said...

How fitting this series would end on that picture. That is one of my favorites by Doré.

Thanks for running these Matt. I know they weren't exactly everyone's idea of a good time, but I read them all.

Tony Dunlop said...

What makes you say this is the last one? The "Next week:" at the end suggests otherwise.

David Johnson said...

David Birdsong, peace. Jesus is already answering my prayer. I did not know that Gustave Dore did many Bible drawings, and some or more of the scenes I drew for you. I include a few here (Not on AMOC) as attachments. Thank you for accidentally helping me know this. I am going to copy and paste this message also on the newest AMOC commentary, and on the five part comment post I commented on, only in case you will see it there first before here, but I am not going back there (AMOC) in the future, and this or by mail is the way to reach me. I promise you I will not message you again unless you want me to, but I hope you get back to me. Thanks.

David Johnson said...

David B, here is the url for Dore's Bible drawings. Sorry, I forgot putting it in those bracket like pointy thingees would make the code here not show it.

Mouse Skull Entertainment said...

"The storm had now definitely abated, and what thunder there was now grumbled over more distant hills, like a man saying 'AND ANOTHER THING' twenty minutes after admitting he's lost the argument."


Jeff said...

"No Country For Old Men" quote, Matt?

If so, we do get tired, do we not?

Otherwise, if I'm wrong; source, please?

Mouse Skull Entertainment said...


So Long and Thanks For All the Fish by Douglas Adams. The fourth book in the increasingly in accurately named Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy.


Damian T. Lloyd, Esq. said...

David J. is still here, still promising not to come back?

These "commentaries" are an interesting example of a frequent Simean rhetorical tactic: cherry-picking evidence, accepting or rejecting it based on whether it supports his preconceived arguments, rather than coming up with an argument that accounts for all the evidence. As Neil Gaiman once paraphrased Dave: "Of course, you proving me wrong only further proves my case."

-- Damian