Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Creation and the Waters

According to Margaret Barker people in the first temple period understood creation as the Lord’s triumph over the waters of chaos to establish dry land. Just a couple observations here, I’m not really presenting this as any kind of finished thought. In Psalm 29:10 it says “The Lord sits enthroned over the flood…

In Girardian terms the words flood and waters can symbolize violence, mob violence and scapegoat violence. Nuechterlein describes Psalm 69 as “classic psalm of the scapegoat crying out for help”. Particularly of note for our purposes “I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me…More in number than the hairs of my head are those who hate me without cause; many are those who would destroy me…”. In mythology the image of waters and floods can be a symbol for human violence.

To finish up, Barker notes that “Jerusalem and its temple, the center of the whole creation, had been established as dry land in the midst of the watery chaos.” She recounts an interesting story from the Babylonian Talmud. According to the story, as she retells it, “waters under Jerusalem were a threat which King David averted by throwing into the waters a potsherd inscribed with the Name.” A potsherd is a piece of broken pottery. I’m seeing images of virgins being thrown into volcanoes here. So taken literally this is a piece of broken pottery with the ineffable Name of the Lord written on it thrown into the deep to push back the waters. Psalm 31:12 mentions broken pottery. Also Psalm 22:15. Apparently the waters subsided 16,000 cubits, and the city was left without a water supply, so King David sang the fifteen Songs of Ascent and brought them back up to 15,000 cubits.

Barker notes that the idea of these “cosmic waters” subdued by the Name underneath the city reappeared in the Book of Revelation as the great harlot seated on many waters. In Revelation 17:15 it says “the waters that you saw, where the harlot is seated, are peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues.”

I don’t have the time for extended analysis on most of this stuff. As the wall on the Walker Art Center says, “bits and pieces put together to present a semblance of a whole.”

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