Images of God 2 Continuing within Genesis, let us move along to Chapters 6-9.

This is, of course, a well known story - or at least an often retold one, with the retellings holding varying degrees of similarity to the original. It has long been known that it is by no means unique as a Flood Narrative, there are several others in the Ancient Near East alone. It is composed of two separate stories twined together, as one can tell from the contradictions and 'rough-edges' within the chapters.  The Divine Being is referred to as God in one story, and the Lord in the other, if you want to sort them out!  There are several images of God here that may seem surprising, and that we cannot run away from if we wish to appreciate the story in its fulness.

6: 1 - 4
Oh my!  The Sons of God....  This marks the passage out as having been written down very early on, since it doesn't have any hint of the 'radical monotheism' that was to appear later on in Judaism.  This very closely …
Images of God in different passages These vary far more than we might imagine, and some of them are far from the usual ones!
The Bible was written by many different people across centuries and in different cultures.  It is hardly a surprise they had different ideas.  So we begin very near the beginning, in Genesis 2.

verse 7
A potter.  This image will recur later in the scriptures, but here God is taking what should be rendered as 'a clod' rather than 'dust', the lifeless earth, and makes it into something worthy of life.  The earth must be made into something which can hold the breath of God.

verse 8
A builder and a gardener.  A garden had walls and ditch to separate it from the outside world, and God prepares those before planting it with the trees that 'were pleasant to the sight and good for food' - trees bearing fruits and nuts.  Oh yes - and life, and knowledge.

verse 20
The butt of the joke.  God gives Adam the choice of all the animals as a mate, but none…
Psalm 137 is an absolutely ghastly song of vengeance to be meted out upon innocent children, and yet, thanks to a 1970s hit song, has an implicit part in our culture.  It is very much a song of two halves, and the second half is normally as avoided by preachers as it was by Boney M.  (the singers of that song, for those too young to know it!)

Therefore we will try to understand the whole psalm.

The historical context is that of the community who returned from Exile, a community who have returned to find that those they left behind have inter-married with other peoples, and that the homes and lands remembered in a blissful haze of nostalgia are actually in ruins.  They are self-righteous and racist, 'purifying' the people by casting out the mixed race children and their non-Jewish parent.
They are not nice people, and it will repay us well if we remember that.

verse 1
Babylon was a city of numerous waterways.  The Tigris and Euphrates rivers were linked by a variety of canals, …
Psalm 114 Well, we certainly have skipped ahead!  The reality is that many of the later psalms don't appear to have any specific context, or the commentators profoundly disagree as to what it is.  Here we have a psalm which refers to the story at the heart of the Jewish consciousness of salvation, the Exodus.
However, that in itself causes us problems, as we will see.

verses 1 and 2
The idea of 'coming out of Egypt' here and elsewhere in the scriptures encompasses everything through to the entry into Canaan.  The psalmist is content to point to a difference in language as that which distinguished the Hebrews from the Egyptians - not culture, not deities, but simply an inability to communicate.  Verse 2 causes a lot of conflict between the commentators - does it mean the kingdoms of Judah and Israel, or Judah as part of the kingdom of Saul, David and Solomon?  Either way, we see God's blessing of the people by being present in Jerusalem, and by elevating them to being a…
Psalm 74 This psalm does not carry any external notification of a setting, because it is absolutely explicit from the beginning.  This is the destruction of the Temple during the Babylonian sack of Jerusalem.  It is a trauma that rips apart the Judean religion, founded on the concept that Jerusalem is secure, since it is where God dwells.  So far so good, but there are hidden depths that we can plumb.

verse 1
The psalmist doesn't understand what is going on.  God has guaranteed the safety of Jerusalem by inhabiting the Temple in the middle of it, so why have the people been punished like this, and why does that punishment show no sign of diminishing?

verses 2 & 3
God is being granted a small amount of leeway here.  Perhaps the Lord is simply forgetful, and has neglected to notice that the covenant has been most egregiously broken.  Come forth, and see what you have allowed to happen, the psalmist almost sobs.

verses 4 - 7
The enemy came in with their banners which bore the imag…
Psalm 54 It is very helpful when the heading to a Psalm is absolutely explicit.  Shame about this one, then!
The instruments implied are generally agreed to be stringed, but there is no certainty.  'Of David' comes with its usual warnings, and as for what a maskil is, well there are several contending ideas.
A skilled composition, an effective song, a wisdom psalm, a teaching psalm, or a meditation.

As my parents would have said, 'Pays your money, takes your choice.'  We simply don't know.

However, what follows is quite explicit.  "When the Ziphites went and said to Saul 'Is not David hiding among us?'" 

1 Samuel 23 is but one element in a long line of  'flee-be discovered-flee again' episodes in the life of David and his relationship with King Saul.  It is worth reprising what we know of this relationship.

Firstly, Saul is the first of a new concept - the monarch of Israel.  As such he is both a proud man and very insecure in his hold o…

Psalm 44

Psalm 44 is a strange one. We are used to prophetic diatribes accusing the people of having forsaken their covenant with God.  This is a little bit different. 
It is obvious from the content that it speaks from a time of defeat in battle or war, although it has no detail for us to fix on a specific occasion.  This time the content creates its own context.

verses 1 - 4
These comprise that style of ancient literature that has been called 'The Appeal to History', restating the ways in which God has helped the Hebrews in seizing the land from its former inhabitants.  The psalmist fully accepts that victory had nothing to do with the nation, but rather had depended on divine intervention.

verses 5 - 8
elaborate on the theme, and make it clear that the people have given God the glory, and have not claimed it for themselves.

Then the psalm turns, completely.

verses 9 - 12
are a cri de couer, the anguish of rout and defeat, of flight and pillage, of a refugee community who feel that th…