The blog of the Dominican student brothers at Blackfriars, Oxford.

Built on the four pillars of our Dominican life – preaching, prayer, study, and community – Godzdogz offers many resources for exploring the Catholic Faith today.
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Women in the Old Testament: Abishag the Shunammite

Thursday, August 30, 2012
Abishag the Shunammite makes her appearance in the twilight years of King David’s life: a young woman, she cherishes and serves the dying King, whose enfeebled condition - lying in bed, unable to get warm, and surely close to death - contrasts with the beauty and energy of the youthful virgin. Somewhat passively (and no doubt with considerable horror), Abishag finds herself caught up in the royal politics concerning succession. The heir-apparent to the throne, Adonijah, David’s eldest remaining son after the deaths of Absalom and Amnon, inappropriately attempts to seize power from the weakened King, and is ultimately passed over in favour of the younger Solomon. After Solomon’s accession, a smarting Adonijah asks for Abishag’s hand in marriage. Bathsheba, the Queen Mother, intercedes for him with the King, but Solomon responds by having Adonijah put to death.  Read more

Women in the Old Testament: Bathsheba

Monday, August 27, 2012
Bathsheba ('daughter of the oath') is one of only five women to be mentioned, albeit indirectly as 'the wife of Uriah', in St Matthew's genealogy of Jesus (Mt 1:6). As a wife of King David and mother of King Solomon, Bathsheba is a direct ancestor of Our Lord. She thus holds a unique place in Israel's history, which is the history of our salvation. The story of David and Bathsheba teaches us about the importance of right conduct, how the Lord is displeased with sin, and how we suffer as a result of our own sin and folly. Read more

Women in the Old Testament: Hannah

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

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Women in the Old Testament: Ruth

Friday, August 17, 2012
Thus far Godzdogz's series on the women of the Old Testament has often had cause to draw attention to the courage and leadership shown by the women of Israel in furthering God's plan of salvation. These virtues are once again on show in the book of Ruth, yet it is striking that they are conditioned and to a certain extent distorted by the context of extreme vulnerability in which they are manifested. A famine drives Elimelech, his wife Naomi, and his two sons from their home in Bethlehem into the plains of Moab - beyond the Promised Land. Here the family settles, and Elimelech dies. His sons,  by now married to Moabite women, die ten years later leaving their mother Naomi and their wives Ruth and Orphah as unprotected widows. Alone and isolated, Naomi decides to return to Judah and gives her daughters in law leave to return to their families. Orpah departs, but Ruth refuses to abandon Naomi declaring: 'Your people will be my people and your God will be my God' (Ruth 1:16). Ruth the Moabitess refuses the security that a return to her own family would offer and risks becoming an unprotected and unsupported young women in a foreign land, all so she might herself support the now-elderly Naomi.  Read more

15th August - The Assumption of Our Lady

Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Readings: Apoc 11: 19a, 12: 1-6a, 10ab; Ps 45; 1 Cor 15: 20-27; Lk 1: 39-56 Read more

Women in the OT: Naomi - widow and match-maker

Monday, August 13, 2012
Naomi is a major character in the Book of Ruth. This short book is an endearingly told account of how Ruth, a Moabite woman and widow of a Jew (Naomi’s son Mahlon) commits herself to the Jew Naomi, helps to provide for Naomi and finds a Jewish husband, Boaz, who thus provides for her and continues the family line of Naomi as well as his own. It is a finely constructed story, and has a higher dialogue-to-descriptive-action ratio than any other historical book in the Old Testament. All this helps to give us a sense of human realism and a more developed sense of the main characters (Naomi, Ruth and Boaz) than in many other texts. Lots of theological issues are thrown up in the narrative, showing it to be rich and subtly suggestive religious text, not just a romantic novella. The developments in Naomi’s life are inextricably bound up with the actions of Ruth (see next blog post) and Boaz, so it is artificial to look at her in isolation, but I will attempt some comments.  Read more

Solemnity of Our Holy Father St Dominic

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Feast of the Transfiguration

Monday, August 06, 2012
Terror is truly a natural, human response to the Transfiguration. Peter, James and John are confronted with the blinding glory of Jesus's divinity and they can hardly bear it. Perhaps they recalled Daniel's vision of the Ancient of Days, that fiery majesty, that awesome glory (Dan. 7). Even 'the mountains melt like wax before the Lord' (Ps. 97:5), so how could human frailty fare any better? But we may also wonder, since the truth is that God loves us, and 'perfect love casts out fear' (1 Jn 4:18), whether fear is ever an appropriate reaction to God's presence among us? 
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Women in the Old Testament: Delilah

Thursday, August 02, 2012

The history of Samson and Delilah has fascinated readers throughout the ages. Peter Paul Rubens found the motif of Samson lying in Delilah's arms worth  spending twelve months finishing a painting.

In this picture, the atmosphere in the room contains all that we feel when we hear about the deceitful intentions of Delilah, as, having failed three times, she finally discovers the secret of Samson's strength. By cutting off his hair, the Philistines are free to do with him as they like. What happened to Delilah afterwards the story does not tell. We only know that what seems to start out as passionate love story - possibly with mixed motives - ends up with Samson being blinded, tortured and put to a slave's work before the grande finale when he tears down the columns of the temple, resulting in the death of 3,000 men and women. From this perspective, Samson is the good guy, falling for the conspiration executed by Dalilah and her fellow people. This is what Neil Sedaka sang about in the sixties, when he composed the hit Run Samson, Run:

Oh Delilah made Sammie's life a sin
And he perished, when the roof fell in
There's a moral, so listen to me pal
There's a little of Delilah in each and every gal

Neil Sedaka makes it sound so simple, so straight forward. Delilah is the femme fatale who through seduction and betrayal becomes responsible for Samson's death. But the story suffers from some logical weaknesses that forces us to pose some embarrassing questions.

Dalilah tries repeatedly to uncover the secret of Samson's strength. And every time he has given her an answer, she follow the instructions and then tests out his strength in order to see if he has revealed the truth. Was Samson so naive that he did not know what was at stake? Of course Samson is aware of what is going on. He has many enemies. Giving up the secret of his strength is surely risking his own life. Why should Delilah want to know from where Samson had got his strength? Her question to Samson even says explicitly that she wants to know how he may be bound in order to be controlled (16.6). And why does Samson finally reveal the secret? He must have known that by revealing the secret he is risking it all? He has been cheated before, when his first wife told the men of her people the answer to the enigma about the lion and the honey (14.10-20).

The story of Samson and Delilah is not a story of an honest (but incredibly stupid) man and a wicked woman. It is more a story of a game where passion, sex, power and control is the key motivation. In the book 'Sacred Witness - Rape in the Hebrew Bible', Susanne Scholz cites Lori Rowlett' view that the story of Samson and Delilah is a tale of bondage and degradation. Samson is playing with fire, knowing that the game with Delilah might become deadly. We find ourselves face to face with some of the darkest forces that live in us human beings. Because as the human nature carries within it an almost limitless will to live, it also consist of a hidden side, a death wish that might be suppressed but rarely not totally removed. The story of the relation ship between Delilah and Samson is a reminder of forces sometimes life-threatening, sometimes beyond our control. It is these same forces that Lars Von Trier wanted to expose in his theatrical movie Antichrist. Interpreting the Biblical story about Samson and Delilah in this way brings the human reality to the surface. Not always pleasant. Not always calming and comforting. But it certainly gives an ever valid presentation of the forces that lives in us, sometimes strengthening us, sometimes threatening us.

As for Neil Sedaka, I think he should have added another last verse in his song, making the story of Samson and Delilah complete:

Oh Samson felt tempted by a dark desire
At the sight of Delilah his blood went on fire
So listen to the truth my friend, and don't be shy
There's a little bit of Samson in every guy.
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