Friday, 13 July 2012

The First Commandment

The OT readings at daily Mass this week are from Hosea and in them God laments over the sinfulness of Ephriam and desires Ephraim to repent so that God can show forth His mercy.  Ephraim was one of the two sons of Joseph (the other being Manasseh).  The crime of the tribe of Ephraim was idolatory, they placed other gods before the Lord.

Do a quick trawl through any digital Bible by typing in Ephraim into the search bar, and you will see references to Ephraim's idolatory, God's mercy and pity and the desire for the redemption of  a penitent Ephraim (in the Psalms, Ecclesiasticus, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Hosea).

There is anothe tribe that dosen't seem to come off so well, and their crime was also idolatory, that is the tribe of Dan.  Certainly, there isn't much in the OT to suggest prophets bewailed the fate of Dan.  God doesn''t seem to thirst aften them in the way He does after Ephraim.  The only "hero" of the tribe is Samson; the Nazarite that breaks every Nazarite vow in the book, suffers greatly for his wrongdoings and only triumphs through his death in the Lord (Judges 16).  By chapter 18 of Judges the Danites had founded their ignominious city of Dan in the Northern most reaches of Israel with their graven image, and become lost to the Lord.

Jacob's prophecy for his son Dan, does not seem all that positive:

Let Dan be a snake in the way, a serpent in the path, that biteth the horse's heels that his rider may fall backward. Gen 49:17
 I have written before that Caesarea Philippi and Dan can't be more that a short walk from each other and that Our Lord's decision to take the apostles so far out of their way to found the Church on Peter at that spot can't just be coincidence.  Whatever else, memory of Dan and the dangers of idolatory should bite at us all; loving anything over Our Lord is idolatory and that includes ourselves, our parents and our children.  Here we are meant to stumble.  The breaking of the First Commandment is more serious than any other.

The Benjaminites commit a crime that is truly horrific involving homosexual lust, rape, murder and mutilation (Judges 19), yet with attonement they come back from the brink, and indeed give us the Apostle of the Gentiles.

It seems to be much harder to come back after breaking the First Commandment. Breaking it seems to erode our very being, making us incapable of receiving sancitfying grace.  Our pride makes understanding the First Commandment so difficult, becuase pride prevents us from loving God, so breaking the First Commandment doesn't seem such a big deal, we hardly know we are doing it.

The 144,000 of Israel that are the servants of God who are saved in the Book of Revelation (Rev7) number from all the sons of Israel except Dan.  In Dan's place, to make up 12 tribes are the 12,000 from the tribe of Manasseh (Joseph's son), notice how the name of  Joseph's other son, Ephraim is missing too.  One can only assume that the righteous of Ephraim will be included under the 12,000 of his father, Joseph.  All is not lost.

1 comment:

Robert said...

Rita, this is very interesting. I'd never made the connections that you've made here, but it makes sense. I read about Ephraim with a new perspective after reading this post.

I have sometimes thought we commit a form of idolatry in the way we "love" other persons, even being willing to commit other sins, "in the name of love."

It's a very dangerous path.