Biblical Literature I
Dr. Barry Matlock, UTC
Exercise 29, 9/17/12
Genesis 11:1-9 tells the story of how the entire world came to possess a diversity of languages. One of the things that must have surely befuddled the early man – was the huge assortment of seemingly impenetrable linguistic traditions that he was surrounded with. Without the benefit of modern technology, as we have today, it would have been seemingly impossible to engage in wide-spread/trans-geographical trading. Each and every endeavor would have required specific translators and an ongoing effort to make sure that all communication was shared properly and adequately. This reality would have confronted anyone who got outside of their own backyard, and would have hung over the heads of all involved in both government and commerce. This story explains the how behind this ever-present reality of multi-linguisticality between respective, differing cultures. This would also have the effect of preserving the value of each separate language tradition. Each would have been seen as given by God, for a divine purpose – and therefore would carry the presupposition of a necessity for its own continuance. The reason behind the differentiation in languages was because of the assertion that man would – in so many words – be able to do anything. They may be seen as a subjective or objective truth; but regardless, it can be seen to contain an element of truth – from the perspective of man’s own ongoing creativity and potential. From a subjective point – it could be argued that the change was necessary, for a greater good. This would certainly have been argued. Because of the intrinsic set of values (in terms of the greater good of diversity and the God-granted essence of each language) implied in each language – it would be a natural inclination therefore to grant a degree of effort to continue to preserve each respective identity. Amid the swirl of interpenetrating culture, this would have served those who sought to preserve native traditions.
As any given culture expands, it necessarily becomes more complicated and harder to manage, especially if the day-to-day energies to do it come from one person. Exodus 18:1-27 is an example of how, in a growing governmental system, some degree of bureaucracy or multi-individual management is required. It is, essentially, a parable against micromanagement of larger-scale systems. This story would then show the how and why judges came into being in the tradition of the culture in terms of their management of any potential micro-management on the part of certain parties. Though they might have been governed by one person, at one time – continued growth necessitated additional complexity, in terms of governmental structure of the culture. Any future arguments for any hyper-conflation of legislative responsibilities or dictatorial guidance by one person over many – would be subject to the metanarrative of this story.
Within the scope of anyone’s life – there is always the reality of a sudden onslaught of bad luck. The how and why of this is a fixture within all cultural imaginations. In this story, we are presented the story of a man, Job, who has done everything right in his life. The story that we are presented with, is one that purports to illustrate to us one possible example of how something very bad could suddenly happen to one person. Central to the identity of Israel, was the understanding that their lives were guided by the hand of God and were subject to his judgment and grace. This story serves to undergird the Judeo-understanding that nothing is random or abstract; but that there is much more purpose and design to both the good and the bad things that happen to us. In times of difficulty, faith can seem difficult to continue to move forward in. This story offers a story of hope in times of difficulty, by illustrating for us the response of one man in his own time of difficulty. This existential steadfastness and non-compromising essence would certainly have been spiritual and cultural attributes which would see attempts to have them passed on to forthcoming generations.
Another part of multiculturalism is that there will always be challenges to the prevailing culture’s ethoic assertions. The how’s and why’s of a given culture will always be challenged by those of another. This story shows how, in the face of such challenges, a steadfastness will be rewarded by God. The Israelite culture was defined by many unique and peculiar practices. Each of those were given by God, through His revelation for the purposes of relationship with Him, their general well-being/health, and (lastly, but not least) their establishment as a unique cultural identity among a diverse assortment of other cultures and traditions. In this story, the powerful elite of one culture beckons a compromise to me made on the part of Daniel. In this story, however, we see that God’s continued divine provision trumps any long-term benefit of such compromise. This metnarrative would serve to buttress the continued effort towards a sustained perpetuation of both values and practices for the Israelites, both religiously and culturally. The preservation of both the identity and practices of the nation of Israel would naturally be seen to come secondary to this.