Esau Have I Hated

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Esau Have I hated

Genesis 25

When Rebecca becomes pregnant with twins, God gives her a prophesy. Birth and death seem to be occasions of prophecy - as described for instance in a previous blog post.

The Lord said to her,

“Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.” Genesis 25:23

Rachel takes this to heart. Isaac rebels, and you can see the resulting loss of communion with God in the next chapter. In the chapter 24, Isaac meditates regularly on the LORD.
In chapter 26, he dwells with the phillistines.

Genesis 27

Rebeccah has God's promise that Jacob will carry on the blessing, and Esau had sold him the birthright. But Isaac is determined to make it Esau instead. So just as Sarah decided God needed a little help in providing that heir from Abraham's loins, so Rebecca decided God needed a little help in making Isaac get with the program.

When Isaac discovers he was deceived, he remembers the prophecy and is stunned at first. But the rebellion has been broken, and he is able to speak prophetically.

Much later, God says, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.

God did not hate Esau personally – he hated the future with Esau as the line of the Messiah. God blessed Esau personally, and gave him and his descendants an inheritance in Canaan (Deuteronomy 2). Think of it like “Back to the Future 2”, where the protagonist and audience hate the Biff future, but in the George future, Biff has a good life.

Why God hated the Esau future becomes apparent when Esau despised his birthright. Later when the descendants of Esau's grandson Amalek refuse to allow Israel passage, God declares war on them. 400 years later, King Saul is instructed to kill all the Amalekites – he kills all but King Agag and his family. Smart move! The survivors wouldn’t be expected to hold a generational grudge against Israel, would they? Samuel kills the king, but the sons escape.

Much later, Haman the Agagite nearly kills all the Israelites but is finally stopped by Saul's descendent, Mordecai.

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Liberty and Bureaucracy

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Liberty and Bureaucracy

Exodus 18

The lesson for adult Sunday School was on Jethro's advice, contrasting Calvin's rather Statist interpretation with most other commentators. But an astute member of the class had a further insight worthy of a blog post.

Moses Seat

Moses sat alone to judge 2 million people. He couldn't possibly arbitrate every dispute. The lines were long. People waited days, weeks, for their case to be heard. Jethro offers the obvious Statist solution - create a bureaucracy of lower and higher courts so that everyone's dispute can be handled. Moses followed Jethro's advice, and the implementation was still in effect when Jesus came. But did Moses do the right thing? What if he had not elaborated on God's instruction?

The Lone Judge - an alternate history

Moses sat alone to judge 2 million people. He couldn't possibly arbitrate every dispute. The lines were long. People waited days, weeks, for their case to be heard. So, in most cases they didn't. This was a strong motivation to work out their own disputes. There were harsh punishments for resorting to violence (as we'll see later in Exodus), so negotiation was the way to avoid the lines.


When the parties were at loggerheads, and negotiation was at a standstill, there was still an alternative to the interminable wait to see Moses. Both parties could agree to a neutral arbitrator acceptable to them both. They could even pay him for his time.

The lines got shorter, but were still long. More importantly, people were learning to get along, and work out their own disputes. People with the wisdom to settle disputes were in demand as arbitrators. And Moses was still available (eventually) when one or both parties refused to follow the arbitrators decision.

If Moses had followed Jethro's advice, there would be no incentive to learn to get along. There would be no freedom to choose an arbitrator - the lower courts were appointed by the central government.

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The Disappearing Alphabet

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The Disappearing Alphabet

"Not Invented Here" syndrome and the language wars

The alphabet is going away. Controls on machines, electronic or otherwise, now use ideograms instead of words. I wouldn't be so annoyed if they used an existing system of ideograms (like, say, Chinese used by billions of people). But no, they have to invent an entirely new system out of whole cloth. Now we have a daily struggle to decipher a language which is evolving daily, has no extant literature, no textbooks or even dictionaries, and hundreds of dialects. I have to help my family with questions like, "Dad? What does the character with 3 different sized circles in a horizontal row, a horizontal line underneath, and a short vertical line on the left mean?" ("I think that means Check Engine - look in the owners manual, maybe they have a translation.")

I often hear it said that "young people understand technology". On a surface level, that is blatantly false: young people have very little understanding of how computers or any modern technology work. Any actual questioning of their understanding quickly reveals monstrous misconceptions and ignorance. What young people are doing is learning a new language - which they can do much more quickly than adults. And I'm not talking about something useful like a computer language or a foreign language (although a few are doing that as well). Young people learn almost instantly what 2 short vertical lines next to each other means on a button, or what a circle with a single radial segment at the bottom means on another button.

Quick quiz: what does two diagonally crossed lines - where the upper left to lower right line has a small semi circle on each end, and the lower left to upper right line is thicker at one end than the other - mean?

Extra credit: if you took on the project of creating a dictionary for the evolving Western ideograms (which would lock in a nice income stream for some time due to the regular updates needed), how would you sort the characters? (Hint: look for existing practice in another system.)

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Anne Christine Gathman

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Anne Christine Gathman

As remembered by her son

Died Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Memorial Service Saturday, February 25, 2017

The original eulogy

My mother was a woman ahead of her time. She refused drugs giving birth, comparing the pain of childbirth to an extreme sport. She fed us raw milk, whether “moose milk” or goat. We raised chickens and geese from eggs and gathered more eggs. We carefully blew out the contents of goose eggs through pinholes to make omelet, and decorated the shells for Easter. My friends were freaked out by the occasional pin feather in hand plucked chicken and by goat stew. She effectively homeschooled us so that formal school was largely a formality. But when my dad brought home a portable teletype from work, she was spooked by the machine typing on its own.

Her decor was organic, favoring wood and fabric and eschewing glass and steel. She embraced the Japanese ideal of a garden – wild in appearance, but carefully managed. She knew the names of all the plants – even if the name “vitis vibenum” came up suspiciously often. She took us on hikes without bringing food – gathering it wild from the forest when we were hungry. We dehydrated vegetables from the garden and made jerky from meat to bring on other trips. She did successful surgery on a sheep in the bathtub. She never really understood physics, but successfully taught a high school physics class – by making the kids teach her!

When she played “Wonderful Grace of Jesus, deeper than all my sin” on the church piano, I wanted to hear the lively, almost militant rendition again and again. She sang us to sleep with “Oh how I love Jesus, because He first loved me.” Canaries flew around the house, singing along as she sang “I am Jesus’ little lamb, ever glad of heart I am”, the cat watching hungrily but never daring to attack in her presence – that aspect of the Disney princess never seemed fanciful to me. The bird poop was a little gross, so my dad eventually built her a greenhouse apiary. Many lovely afternoons and evenings were spent at the National Cathedral for her practices and performances. After wandering the mazes of the formal gardens in the late sun, I would listen to the music of the choir floating through the vast cathedral caverns and still echoing in the hum of the motor on the sleepy ride home.

She didn’t just read God’s word, she had us memorize it. Summer camp was conditional on reciting our assignment from memory.

More about Anne

She raised Angora rabbits, gathered the wool, carded and combed it, spun it into yarn, and knitted scarves. When I proposed gathering acorns to make acorn bread like the Native Americans, she helped make it happen. We shelled and boiled them (to reduce the bitter tannic acid), roasted and ground them, and baked that bread. (Some varieties of oak are edidible without the boiling treatment.) We served milkweed pods for dinner (boiled in several changes of water to mostly remove the bitter toxin). We even tried new pokeweed shoots in the spring (which also require changes of water). Daylillies were much easier, as they are directly edible. We served sumac punch to guests (no, not poison sumac which is a different species).

She made her own stained glass window, depicting the vine of John 15. She carefully leveled the back patio at our first long term home in Maryland, and filled it with water in the winter to create a skating rink. She trained grape vines to cover the walkway to the house, and you could reach up and pick a cluster for refreshment after playing outside. She enameled the basement floor, and cleared an area for roller skating.

On long car trips (including from DC area to California by herself with five kids), she did not stop for bathroom breaks. We had bottles for pee and a small kid sized plastic chamber pot. Our cats were named things like Nanki-poo, Ångström, and Phet Thong Aroon - each inviting idependent inquiry by her children. When a mother cat lost her litter (the kittens not claimed by a human met with a CO "accident" in the garage) she got an unwanted runt miniature collie puppie named Jennifer, and gave her to momma cat to nurse and raise. Jennifer was a dog the size of a large cat who always buried her business - proof that this behavior is learned.

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National Disaster

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Oh man. Esther in 45 minutes. At least give me 2 sessions! There are so many types of salvation in this story which we couldn't get into.

The Troublesome Greeks, Esther 1

The Persians appointed satraps (governors) over the many provinces of the empire. The Greeks were particularly troublesome, as they had numerous city states, sometimes at war with each other, sometimes rebelling against Medo-Persian rule. Some Greek cities accepted Persian rule, others sought independence.

As our story begins, Xerxes has spent the first 3 years of his rule finishing the preparations for a massive invasion of Greece begun by his father. Herodotus lists 2,641,610 soldiers, which with support personel would make an army of 5 million. (Other sources list as "few" as 2 million.) The final planning session lasts 6 months, and involves all the generals from at least 46 provinces of the empire. The book of Esther opens with this extended strategy session described as a 180 day "feast". At the end of the session, there is a 7 day celebration.

While Xerxes is in conference (or feasting) with his generals, Vashti his loyal queen has the wives of the governors and generals at the women's palace. In addition to having their own party, they are effectively hostages against any assasination attempts on Xerxes.

On the last day of the 7 day celebration, Xerxes has too much to drink, and orders Vashti to appear before the men wearing [only] her royal crown. For Vashti to obey, in addition to the personal humiliation, would put Xerxes life at risk. She refuses.

Having the queen refuse a direct order on the eve of battle is a very bad start for the invasion of Greece. His advisors have him banish Vashti (a permanent restraining order). Now the king is depressed - an even worse start for the invasion of Greece.

The invasion sets off for Greece with millions, and returns with 10,000, and only marginal success in putting the troublesome Greeks in their place. The expense of the invasion was enormous, the loss of life staggering, and this setback is a national disaster. The popular (and very violent) movie "300" depicts the battle of Thermopylae, where 300 Spartans hold back tens of thousands of Persian troops (from every part of the empire), before finally succumbing to exhaustion on the 3rd day.

Introducing Esther, Esther 2

After losing his Queen, and only technically winning the war, Xerxes is really in a bad way. His advisors advise him to find new love in a beauty contest with involuntary contestants from all over the empire. He chooses Hadassah (hidden) as his new Queen, but he knows her as Esther (after the goddess Ishtar, the namesake of Easter), for her uncle Mordecai has instructed her to keep her heritage hidden.

Introducing Mordecai, Esther 2:21-23

When David flees the rebellion of his son Absalom, Shimei, descendent of Saul, throws stones at David and curses him. His men go to execute Shimei, but David commands that he be spared. Centuries later, Mordecai, a descendent of Shimei, is instrumental in saving all Israel. [2 Samuel 16]

Mordecai "sits in the kings gate", which means he was a government clerk or lawyer. The "gate" was the ancient version of the courthouse or DMV.

After nearly bankrupting the empire, Xerxes is hated by many citizens, and there are many assassination plots. In fact, he is eventually assassinated. In August 465 BC, Artabanus assassinated Xerxes with the help of a eunuch, Aspamitres. Greek historians give contradicting accounts of events. According to Ctesias (in Persica 20), Artabanus then accused the Crown Prince Darius, Xerxes's eldest son, of the murder and persuaded another of Xerxes's sons, Artaxerxes, to avenge the patricide by killing Darius. But according to Aristotle (in Politics 5.1311b), Artabanus killed Darius first and then killed Xerxes. After Artaxerxes discovered the murder, he killed Artabanus and his sons.

Mordecai overhears one such plot, and reports it to the king. The matter is investigated, and found to be true, and the conspirators executed. There is no reward for Mordecai - it will come at the perfect time.

Introducing Haman, Esther 3

In Exodus 17, Israel is attacked by the Amalekites. God says he will "wipe out their name". 1 Samuel 15, God tells Saul to wipe out the Amalekites. He mostly does so - except for king Agag and his family. Good thinking Saul - it's not like the survivors are going to carry a generational grudge against Israel or anything. Samuel executes Agag, but his sons escape. But the survivors are no longer called Amalekites in fulfillment of prophecy - they become the Agagites.

Centuries later, Haman, a descendent of Agag, is instrumental in nearly destroying all Israel.

Descendent of Saul versus descendent of Agag - the rematch!

Haman is promoted to prime minister. Everyone on the street bows to him - except that miserable clerk Mordecai. This is against the kings command, and Haman looks into the matter to see what punishment is in order for Mordecai. To his consternation, he discovers a 100 year old decree from Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 3:29 - the Jewish Religious Freedom Protection Act. "Therefore I make a decree, That every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed–nego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort." (We covered Daniel 3 on December 13 in sunday school - sadly, I forgot to make this connection in class today.)

Since the Jewish religion forbade bowing to anyone except their God (who didn't even have a statue to bow to), and decrees of the kings of the Babylonian and Persian (and even Greek until Antiochus IV) empires could not be repealed, and no one wanted to be cut in pieces, the commandent to bow before Haman had an exception clause for Jews. Clearly, the only way to remove this affront to Haman's dignity is to exterminate all the Jews, as their ancestors had done to his.

Haman makes his pitch to Xerxes by describing the Jews as a troublesome lot that did not keep his laws and should be exterminated. But the best part? It would be paid for by Haman personally, and by confiscating the property of the Jews killed. Still paying off the disastrous invasion of Greece, a self financed operation seems like a great feature, and getting rid of a troublesome people so cheaply would help people forget the Greek disaster. Xerxes issues the decree. The citizens are not so happy. This Jewish genocide seems senseless to most - especially after the Greek disaster.

If I Perish, I Perish!

We read Esther 4 aloud in class, as I guessed this was the part from the official lesson. Mordecai informs Esther of the decree and the gravity of the situation. Esther agrees to see the king uninvited at the risk of her life after 3 days prayer and fasting. Notably, Esther's male (eunuch) and female attendents pray along with Esther, Mordecai, and Mordecai's friends. What has Esther been doing in that harem?

Verse 4:14 is of special note: "Deliverance will arise from another place." God has prepared ahead of time a response to every possible human choice, and will always accomplish His will.

The Long Day: Esther 5-7

Everything in these chapters takes place over 24 hours, which I summarized in class. Esther is accepted by the king, and invites Xerxes and Haman to a private dinner. At the banquet, Xerxes, knowing full well that Esther did not risk her life to invite him to dinner, asks her what her request is. Esther asks him to a lunch, at which she will reveal her request.

On his way home, Haman sees Mordecai, and orders a gallows built for Modecai (Persian gallows were a high platform from which you fell onto a bed of sharpened wooden spikes). The king can't sleep - maybe he was still agonizing over the Greek war disaster, maybe he was wondering what Esther could possibly want. He has a clerk read court records to put him to sleep, he hears about Mordecai saving his life, and asks how he was rewarded. He wasn't.

Early in the morning Haman comes to ask permission to execute Mordecai, but the king interrupts, and excitedly asks what should be done for one the king delights to honor. Haman, thinking he is the one, describes an elaborate ceremony, and the king tells him to do so to Mordecai. Haman decides it's not a good time to ask about executing Modecai.

Haman runs home to his family in shame, and his advisors prophecy that "since Mordecai is a Jew, once you have begun to fall before him, you will surely fall." Then the eunuchs arrive (with a litter? chariot?) to take him to the luncheon. The king asks Esther what her request is. "Save me and my people from this wicked Haman, who has sold us for slaughter." The king steps onto the balcony to calm down, and Haman throws himself on Esther to beg for mercy. As the attendents pull him off, the king comes back in saying, "Will you even assault my Queen in my presence?" The attendents cover Haman's eyes (to show he is marked for execution) and helpfully inform the king of the gallows Haman had built for Mordecai. Haman gets to test drive his gallows.

One of the boys in the class pipes up, "Now that is irony!"

The Decree Which Cannot be Repealed, Estern 8-10

The decree to exterminate the Jews was still on the books, and could not be repealed. I asked the class what could be done. One of the boys piped up and says, "let them defend themselves!" Good job parents! The defense was successful, and Purim is celebrated to this day.

Esther completes the work of Saul, Esther 9:13,14

Then said Esther, If it please the king, let it be granted to the Jews which are in Shushan to do tomorrow also according unto this day’s decree, and let Haman’s ten sons be hanged upon the gallows. And the king commanded it so to be done: and the decree was given at Shushan; and they hanged Haman’s ten sons. Unlike the sons of Agag, they did not escape.

In a speech on January 30, 1944, Hitler declared that if the Nazis were defeated, the Jews could celebrate a second Purim. Hitler said in Mein Kampf, "I am embarked on a struggle to the death with the Jews for the hearts and minds of men. The Jews have inflicted two wounds on mankind. Circumcision for the body, and conscience for the soul. I am come to free mankind from their bondage." And again in Rauschning, Hitler Speaks, p. 234, "The struggle for world domination will be fought entirely between us, between Germans and Jews. All else is facade and illusion."

On October 16, 1946, 10 Germans were hanged to death (11 were to be hanged, but one committed suicide). The court specifically prescribed hanging, as in Esther's original request.

 "Only Julius Streicher went without dignity. He had to be pushed across
 the floor, wild eyed and screaming "heil hitler". Mounting the steps he
 cried out: "And now I go to God." He stared at the witnesses facing the
 gallows and shouted "Purimfest, 1946" Newsweek Oct 28, 1946.
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