A Penitent Blogger

Mindful of my imperfections, seeking to know Truth more deeply and to live Love more fully.

Quid sum miser tunc dicturus? Quem patronum rogaturus? Cum vix iustus sit securus?
Recordare, Iesu pie, Quod sum causa tuae viae: Ne me perdas illa die...

Monday, January 28, 2008

The blind and the lame

Today’s first reading (2 Samuel 5:1-7, 10) tells us of King David being anointed by the tribes of Israel and of his capturing Jerusalem.

All of it seems straightforward, except something very strange that is uttered by the Jebusite occupiers of Jerusalem:

“You cannot enter here:
the blind and the lame will drive you away!”

David’s reaction to this is recounted in verse 8 of this chapter (unsurprisingly excluded from today’s Lectionary selection):

“The lame and the blind shall be the personal enemies of David." (The narration then continues) That is why it is said, "The blind and the lame shall not enter the palace."

The apparent exclusion of persons with disabilities from the royal palace, seemingly based on the grudge of the King, sounds very unjust (and of course very politically incorrect).

As close to God as he was, King David, like any human being, was not always perfect and it is possible that the reference to “the blind and the lame” is exactly what it sounds like. In this interpretation, the Jebusites were so sure of their fortifications that they stationed men who were blind and lame atop the walls to taunt David. David may have taken this as a very personal insult and, according to one possible interpretation, would afterwards hold a grudge against the blind and the lame.

But some scholars have pointed out another possible interpretation: that the reference to “the blind and the lame” comes from a rhetorical and ideological conflict between Israel and the Jebusites.

In this interpretation, the idolatrous Jebusites apparently were not amused by Israelite rhetoric against idols and idolaters. Although it may not be exactly from this exchange, a classic example of this kind of rhetoric can be found in Psalm 135:15-18:

The idols of the nations are silver and gold,
the work of human hands.

They have mouths but speak not;
they have eyes but see not;
They have ears but hear not;
no breath is in their mouths.

Their makers shall be like them,
all who trust in them.

According to this interpretation, the Jebusites, wishing to taunt David from behind their "impregnable" fortifications, placed their idols atop the walls, as if to say to David, “So, you think our gods are blind and lame? Well, the blind and the lame will drive you away!”

In this interpretation, “the blind and the lame” are not persons with disabilities, but idols. This makes verse 8 much more palatable: The (Jebusite idols) shall be the personal enemies of David. That is why it is said, "The (Jebusite idols) shall not enter the palace."

The Jebusite’s fundamental fault, of course, was trusting in the work of their own hands, not just in their idols but also in their fortifications. If they compounded their sin by using persons with disabilities as symbolic insults, that would be all the worse.

Do we – we as individuals and we as humanity – trust too much in the work of our own hands? Do we think too much of our accomplishments and our technologies and fail to recognize the flaws in what we have set around us?

As you and I strive to use our strengths and wits in this life as best we can, may we always recognize that our greatest strength and deepest wisdom comes from the Lord our God.