Week of Proper 10: Monday, Year 1   14 comments

Above:  Granite Head of Pharoah Amenhotep III Wearing the Double Crown of Egypt

Image in the Public Domain

Injustice in the Name of Security

JULY 17, 2023


Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.


Exodus 1:8-14, 22 (An American Translation):

Then a new king rose over Egypt, who had no knowledge of Joseph; he said to his people,

See, the Israelite people have become too numerous and too strong for us; come, let us take precautions against them lest they become so numerous that in the case of war they should join forces against us, and so escape from the land.

Accordingly, gang-foremen were put in charge of them, to oppress them with their heavy labor; and they built Pithom and Raamses as store-cities for Pharaoh.  But the more they oppressed them, the more they multiplied, so that they became apprehensive about the Israelites.

The Egyptians reduced the Israelites to rigorous slavery; they made life bitter for them in hard work with morter and bricks, and in all kinds of work in the fields, all the work that they exacted of them being rigorous.

(Egyptian midwives permitted Hebrew male children to live, in defiance of royal orders.)

So Pharaoh commanded all his people,

Every boy that is born to the Hebrews, you must throw into the Nile, but you are to let all the girls live.

Psalm 124 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 If the LORD had not been on our side,

let Israel now say;

2 If the LORD had not been on our side,

when enemies rose up against us;

3 Then would they have swallowed us up alive

in their fierce anger toward us;

4 Then the waters would have overwhelmed us

and the torrent gone over us;

5 Then would the raging waters

have gone over us.

6 Blessed be the LORD!

he has not given us over to be a prey for their teeth.

7 We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowler;

the snare is broken, and we have escaped.

8 Our help is in the Name of the LORD,

the maker of heaven and earth.

Matthew 10:34-11:1 (An American Translation):

[Jesus continued,]

Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth.  I have not come to bring peace but a sword.  For I have come to turn a man against his father and a daughter against her mother and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and a man’s enemies will be in his own household.  No one who loves father or mother more than me is worthy of me, and no one who will not take up his cross and follow me is worthy of me.  Whoever gains his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will gain it.

Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes him who has sent me.  Whoever welcomes a prophet because he is a prophet will have the same reward as a prophet, and whoever welcomes an upright man because he is upright will have the same reward as an upright man.  And no one who will give the humblest of my disciples even a cup of cold water because he is my disciple, I tell you, can never fail of his reward.


The Collect:

O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Fear, manufactured or not, based in facts or manufactured, often provides pretexts for tyranny and religious persecution and intolerance.  This is an ancient story as contemporary as today’s headlines.  Let us examine two past examples from this day’s lectionary readings.

Egyptologist David Rohl has prepared a controversal New Chronology for ancient Egypt.  He argues that the Pharaoh under whom Joseph worked was Amenemhat III, of the Twelfth Dynasty.  Rohl states also that the Pharaoh from Exodus 1:8 was Sobekhotep III, of the Thirteenth Dynasty.  The Thirteenth Dynasty came to power because the Twelfth Dynasty died out.  A transition from one dynasty to another would explain why the new regime did not “know Joseph.”

The Pharaoh (whatever his name was) stirred up fear of the Hebrews.  This fits historically if Rohl is correct, for the Thirteenth Dynasty was weaker than its predecessor.  This was a time of political, military, and climatic difficulties greater than during the Twelfth Dyansty.  Perhaps the Pharaoh sought to strengthen his power by subjugating and scapegoating the Hebrews.  But midwives with respect the for the lives of newborn Hebrew boys disobeyed orders to kill said male children.  Let us praise their civil disobedience.

It is easy to target those who are different from ourselves and to heap scorn on them.  There is an unfortunate human tendency to seek easy answers when they are inadequate.  How else can I explain the popularity of fundamentalism and other woes?

Religious persecution was a real threat to the Christians of the Roman Empire.  Most persecutions were regional, not empire-wide, and not constant.  None of these facts, of course, reduced the impact of persecutions when they occurred.  Aside from official actions, there were family issues.  The words in Matthew 10:34 and following describe what many people–especially in the original audience of the Gospel of Matthew–experiened and what numerous Christians have to deal with today.  I write from North America, where I enjoy freedom of religion, but many of my coreligionists elsewhere in the world place their lives at risk if they accept water baptism.

The Emperor Nero scapegoated Christians for the fire that ravaged Rome.  The fire could have started by accident, but Nero had political problems and Christians were unpopular, widely misunderstood, and most importantly, a distinct minority.  So blaming them shifted the blame from Nero.  This was convenient for him.

Scapegoating can be based on religion, ethnicity, race, culture, and other factors.  But it never solves the problems from which people are trying to detract attention.  The Hebrews escaped Egypt, and the Hyksos, foreigners, toppled the Thirteenth Dynasty.  And Roman imperial stability and social decay had nothing to do with the rise of Christianity.  Yet the official line held that the empire would prosper as long as the gods blessed it, which they would do as long as people worshipped them.  So the rise of Christianity was a perceived threat to the stability of the imperium.  In the Egyptian and Roman cases the quest for easy answers won the moment.  God, however, won in time.

Our lectionary journey through Exodus begins here as our trek through Matthew continues.  Let us continue together as we explore these texts and seek meanings in them.



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