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Bible famine is more than a curse: it’s a signal of change and a chance for a new beginning

Samaria’s famine was one of the many famines depicted in the Bible. Getty Images PHAS / Universal Images Group Last year, the rapid spread of the coronavirus around the world warned that the economic turmoil in a pandemic could lead to a “biblical ratio” famine. The choice of words conveys more than just scale. The Bible story of catastrophic famine is well known to many. As a Hebrew Bible scholar, I understand that famine in Bible times was interpreted as more than just a natural event. The Hebrew Bible authors used famine as a mechanism for divine wrath and destruction, but also as a storytelling device as a way to advance the story. Underlying the text about famine in the Hebrew Scriptures when the heavens do not open was the constant threat and recurring reality of famine in ancient Israel. Instead of the fertile coastal plain, Israel occupied the rocky highlands of Canaan, what is now Jerusalem and the hills north of it. Even in the best years, it took a lot of effort to get enough food off the ground. The rainy season was short. Less than normal rainfall can be catastrophic. In the ancient Near East, drought and famine were feared. In the 13th century BC, almost all Eastern Mediterranean civilizations collapsed due to a long-term drought. For Bible authors, rain was a blessing and drought was a curse – literally. In the fifth book of Deuteronomy of the Hebrew Scriptures, God said, “The Lord will open his rich store for you, heaven, and rain on your land during the seasons,” Will be dropped. ” However, disobedience has the opposite effect. “The sky above your head is copper, and the earth below you is iron. The Lord will dust the rain of your land, and sand will fall from the sky onto you until you are wiped out. Let’s do it. ”For the ancient Israelites, there was no such thing as nature as we understand today, nor was it a coincidence. If things are good, it is because God was happy. If things went wrong, it was because God was angry. In the case of a national catastrophe such as famine, sin had to be with either the entire nation or the monarchs representing them. And it was the job of the prophets and oracles to determine the cause of God’s wrath. God’s wrath … and punishment Famine was seen as both punishment and opportunity. Suffering has opened the door to repentance and change. For example, when the famous and wise King Solomon opens the temple in Jerusalem, he prays that God will forgive him in the future when the famine-stricken Israel heads for the newly built temple for mercy. The biblical link between famine and other natural disasters and divine wrath and punishment paved the way for timeless religious leaders to use the pulpit to blame those who morally desire. Preachers between the 1920s and 1930s Dust Bowl held that America retained alcohol and immorality, which was responsible for inducing the wrath of God. In 2005, evangelist Pat Robertson accused Hurricane Katrina of abortion. Today, some religious leaders assign responsibility for coronavirus pandemics to LGBTQ people. In the books of Samuel, it is stated that Israel endured three years of famine during David’s day and was considered the greatest king of Israel. When David asks about the cause of famine, it is attributed to the sin of his predecessor and deadly enemy, Saul. The story shows how Bible authors, like the modern moral crusades, took advantage of famine opportunities to demonize their enemies. For Bible writers interested in legislation and prophecy about Israeli actions, famine is the end, the result of disobedience and sin, the beginning, and the potential turning point for a better, more loyal future. was. However, other Bible authors focused on the opportunities that famine offered to tell new stories, not how or why famine occurred. Seeking evacuation famine as a narrative tool, not as a theological tool, is regularly seen throughout the Bible. The authors of the Hebrew Scriptures used famine as a motivator for major changes in the lives of their characters. This undoubtedly reflects the reality of the effects of famine in the ancient world. This can be seen many times in the Book of Genesis. For example, famine drives Abraham’s Bible characters to Egypt, Isaac to the Philistines, and Jacob and his entire family to Egypt. Similarly, the Book of Ruth begins with famine, forcing Ruth’s mother-in-law, Naomi, and her family to move to Moab first and then to Moab. Naomi tells her daughter-in-law, Ruth, to leave after the famine strikes. The Halton Archive / Getty Images Ruth story relies on the first famine. It ends with Ruth being the ancestor of King David. Neither Exodus nor King David-the central story and protagonist of the Hebrew Scriptures-would have existed without famine. All of these stories share the common feature of famine as a driving force for people’s movements. And with that move, vulnerabilities arise in the ancient world of today. Living in a foreign land meant giving up social protection: land and relatives, and perhaps even God. One was at the mercy of the local masses. This is at least why Israel had a wide range of laws aimed at protecting strangers. It was understood that famine, plague, or war was common enough that anyone could be forced to leave their land to evacuate to another location. The area still adheres to the general principles of hospitality to ensure the protection of displaced people. [Over 100,000 readers rely on The Conversation’s newsletter to understand the world. Sign up today.] Famine was a constant threat and part of a very realistic life for the ancient Israeli world that produced the Hebrew Bible. The way the Bible understands and deals with famine has always had a lasting impact. Most people today may not see famine as a manifestation of God’s wrath. But in famine, they may think about how we treat displaced people and recognize the same opportunity to imagine a better future. Yale Theological Seminary is a member of the Theological Seminary Association. ATS is a funding partner of The Conversation US. This article has been republished by The Conversation, a non-profit news site aimed at sharing ideas from academic experts. It was written by Joel Baden of Yale Divinity School. Read more: Christian beliefs don’t just say that disasters are God’s reward Geologists: Can geologists associate the ancient story of the Flood with real events? Joel Baden does not work, consult, own shares, or receive funds for any company or organization that would benefit from this article.