Pentecost 56

Pentecost 56
My Psalm 56

Those Canaan Days

It is impossible to mesh creation and evolution without encountering some mythology. This is not to say that one or the other must be wrong or that all are the stuff of fairy tales. Some claim that the subjects of the most common folk tales or myths that seem to cross cultures are really hidden memories or “folk memories” of ancient times, an attempt to reconcile such memories with known acts of the past and present. For many, just the mention that any might share common beginnings is enough to discredit one … or two … or all.

One such claim involves the land of Canaan, later known as Palestine. Despite the descriptive song lyrics of Andrew Lloyd Webber, Canaan was not all golden summers, clover fields, and lovely winters. Canaan was the son of Ham, the notorious son of Noah, and the curse place on him by his grandfather is felt by many to be found in their history. This land of the Canaanites who were simple traders and merchants stretched from Sidon to Gaza to Sodom. Leviticus 18:3 speaks of them as being outsiders and Deuteronomy 7:2-6 called for their destruction. Later in Kings, the term Canaanite is used to indicate practices introduced into religious traditions that were contradictory to the teachings and word of the Holy. Eventually, Canaanite came to mean something perverse, synonymous with religious and moral disobedience and living.

It is historical fact that the Middle East did suffer a famine about the time the Torah and Bible describe the man known as Abraham or Abram leaving his homeland and going into Egypt. It was there that his wife Sarah encouraged his affair with her servant Hagar who in turn bore Abraham a son, his firstborn, who was named Ishmael. Sarah’s actions are seen by many as lacking faith in the prophecy Abraham felt he had received. Indeed Sarah did in fact later bear a son, well past the age of most women for childbearing. This second son was named Isaac.

The land region of the Canaanites is known by many in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries as Palestine. An area, rather than a country, Palestine is an example of evolution, religion, and mythology. Even the name is highly debated. Some believe is to be a derivative of the word “plesheth” or perhaps the word “peleshet”, both of which meant migratory or rolling (as in rolling or moving from place to place). Theologians claim this is the root for the group described in the Bible and Torah as Philistines.

Historically the Philistines can be traced from the Mediterranean, Asia Minor and Greece. AS a peoples, there have had several encounters with those living in the Middle East, first with recorded conflicts in religious text with Abraham, Isaac, and Ishmael. In 1194 BCE, another group attempted to invade Egypt and battled with Ramses III, establishing five towns known as Gaza, Ascalon, Ashdod, Ekron, and Gat. In the time of Herodotus, the eastern coast of the Mediterranean was known as “Syria Palaestina” after the five settlements gained in 1194 BCE were invaded.

The Philistines were not descended from the Arab tribes and were more culturally and ethnically related to the Greeks. They had no common language or connection with Arabia and the name “Falastin” used by Arabs today for Palestine is merely a phonetic pronunciation of the Greco-Roman “palastina” which traces its etymological beginnings to the word “plesheth”.

The region known as Palestine was not only the home of the Canaanites, though. The original inhabitants were said to be the Anakim, descendants of Anak. The Philistine giants for whom David is famous for encountering were said to be Anakim descendants. Again, mythology becomes intertwined with religion and the historical and archaeological evolution of the region.

The sons of Anak were said to be the descendants of Nephilim. The Book of Enoch chronicles the story of the nephilim, and they are alluded to in the deuterocanonical books of Judith, Sirach, Barach, and the Wisdom of Solomon. Indeed, some feel references in the Gospel of Matthew also reference these half mortals and half angelic creatures, a cross-breeding union forbidden in religious texts such as Genesis, chapter 6. Scientists have labeled the nephilim as possibly being half Homo Sapiens, half Neanderthal which would explain their taller than average status. The problem with that is that Neaderthals were actually shorter than Homo Sapeins man. The etymology of the word “nephilim” possibly explains that since it literally means fallen one and not giants, having been mistranslated all these years.

So could it be that the sins of the fathers are now resulting in the deaths of their descendants all because of mistranslations and sketchy history? If so, then where is the forgiveness advocated, preached, and supposedly lived by those religions involved? How can one innocent infant be so evil as to suffer a horrific death of agony as the result of being in a refuge center that was bombed? How can a child of five who has yet to fully understand the difference between himself and others his age he can see playing the same kickball game across a barbed wire division have earned the daily sentence of being starved and living under the threat of continued bombings?

In Andrew Lloyd Webber’s song, there is the realization that perhaps “We’ve gone to the other extreme. Those Canaan days…Where did they go?”. One might ask the same of the religious teachings of tolerance, hope, trust, and “love thy neighbor as thyself”.

My Psalm 56

Dear God, Can you see me?
Do you remember I am here?
Lord, I believe in you.
I believe that if you are on my side, I should fear nothing.
But all day the bullets fly.
Through the crying and pain the rockets rain down on us.
Even the ground beneath my feet is not safe;
Some crawl through it to do harm, using tunnels to attack.
You see our plight, Dear Father.
You hear our cries and feel our tears.
Deliver us from this terror,
So that we may walk in your teachings and
Live your words.

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