Biblical Judges: Chiefs?

So say some Jewish scholarsOne per “Tribe” of the traditional 12 Tribes of Ancient Israel?  Maybe even a permanent office in each Tribe, versus the occasional charismatic commander we’re told about?  Some of whom were more noteworthy than most?  (How many Presidents, Monarchs, or Prime Ministers of any one country can you name?!)

I know enough Hebrew to know Professor Sarfatti isn’t out on a limb here (no pun intended!).  Conflating shevet and shofet?  Consider that every Sunday School class — or Hebrew School — has been asked, “Why are they called judges?”  We see them as military commanders, prophets, philosophers, power-lifters, lovers….  The answer is, They might not have been called “judges” as the word has been most commonly understood in the centuries since then!

Maybe King James should’ve sent the Old Testament by his translators one more time!  Then again, a Biblical book of “Chiefs” or “Chieftains” around that time, the early 1600s, might’ve made Irish or American Indians look too favorable for His Majesty’s comfort … or rather, that of his wicked counsellors….

It’s a minor semantic point.  The roles and deeds of the particular Israelite Chiefs upheld in Judges are clear enough for Scriptures’ purposes.  But since the English words chief, chieftain, chiefdom, etc., are today so identified with Indigenous Peoples, Scottish Clans, Irish Septs, and other oppressed people, “Speak to the weary a word that will rouse them.”

What do we see, then, in pre-Monarchy Israel?  Twelve or so loosely-affiliated “Tribes,” or rather, Chiefs, each with his “staff” or “scepter,” literally and figuratively — the Tribe.  “Tribal Sovereignty,” even!  With him, various officials, aides, counselors.  And within each Tribe, Clans, Houses, and so forth.  And a God Who opposed a permanent royal federation under an earthly king: The Israelites’ problem in Judges isn’t that they keep getting harried by their neighbors, but that they keep slacking-off in their devotion to Him Who Is, so He lets them have their way, and they get the stuffing beat out of them — rightly, we are to believe, since who knows better than God how to do anything?!  Their problem isn’t geopolitics, it’s Theology.  (Even these gentlemen agree today.)  Doesn’t God say so often throughout Scripture?  Early Israel’s throne was atop the Ark of the Covenant, not in “a cedar palace.”

And so should we who are “Judeo-Christians” today continue to adjudge the ups and downs of our favorite “nations”: My sins, not anybody else’s, not any other nations either.

(I know: “Joshua Chiefs Ruth” doesn’t have the ring of “Joshua Judges Ruth”….)

Advertisements

Saving endangered Native American languages

There’s a fair bit about this online, but I’ll just highlight the following:

Canada’s National Post newspaper recently did a multimedia series including the Delaware Indian language Munsee, called Lunaape (ie, Lenape)* at the Moraviantown Reserve in southern Ontario.  Behind the scenes of that story is that First Nation’s Bruce Stonefish, profiled in the Newark Star-Ledger a few years agoHe’s behind a weeklong Language Immersion summer camp at Moraviantown (PDF) that at least went on as late as 2007, maybe last summer too, I’m not sure.  Various ‘official’ and other Lenape and other groups got together with Philadelphia’s University of Pennsylvania a year ago to rap Indigenous Language preservation.  “Unofficial” is that article’s “Lenape Nation of Pennsylvania,” but they seem to be kicking butt in promoting the language at least!  (See here, and this curriculum intended for parents to catch on to and share with children.  I’m not sure if their Lenape language is Munsee or Unami [see “Language Links” below the lessons on that page].)

As you may have seen, Stonefish has taught some lessons to some of my kin, the Nanticoke Lenni Lenape in New Jersey, and visited the State of Delaware, where my Nanticoke ancestors lived after 1742 or so.  But the Nanticoke Indian Association a couple years ago started to resurrect the Nanticoke language with the help of an Anishnabay (or Ojibwe or Chippewa) dialect from Manitoba, since it’s a sister Algonquian language.  Maybe you heard how Hollywood did something similar for a Virginia tribe descended from Jamestown’s neighbors (WaPo link may break).

Why?  In my reading, the folks at St. Thomas University in New Brunswick, Canada, say Native Language Immersion is the best if not the only way to treat some of Natives’ social problems both on the Reservation and in larger Settler society, from problems with school grades and academic learning in general, to cultural preservation, to self-destructive behavior, a/k/a internalized oppression/repression/genocide.  Bicultural competence is something many people in Canada know something about.  We’re literally talking about saving lives in many cases.  As Stonefish’s Immersion Camp brochure states: “In order for the Lunaape Language to survive, it needs to once again become an instrumental part of our lives, our everyday conversations and everyday view of the world. Within our language we will find our original Lunaape worldview. It is within our language where we will find the concepts of how we related to all that is around us. It is within our language where the Lunaape people will find keys to understanding our true original identities, gifts and responsibilities to ourselves as well as those around us.”

(*–Both words are correctly pronounced “luh-NAH-pay,” more or less.  The vowel in the first syllable is closest to an American English schwa, that upside down ‘e’ thingie, or more technically, a vowel in an unaccented syllable.)