college travels

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Sabbatical with Balaam

I’m on Sabbatical at the moment. Sabbatical is, of course, related to the term Sabbath, a period of rest and refreshment, a time set aside to enjoy God, family, friends and creation, both God-made: mountains, rivers streams surf, and man-made: music, movies, meals and soccer. Sabbath is related to the Hebrew word for seven sheba(, though the experts argue as to just how it is related.

We may think of decades: 60’s fashion, 70’s tv, 80’s music, 90’s politics… but the people of the OT worked in blocks of seven. Seven days to the week, the seventh is the Sabbath. Similarly the seventh year was a sabbatical year, when fields were left fallow and debts suspended (Lev 25:2-7) and then, of course, every seventh Sabbath-year a Jubilee was proclaimed (Lev 25: 8-12).

So am I having a rest?

Well yes, and no.

My sabbatical is a time to pull back from normal college responsibilities: lecturing, small groups, fireside and so on. I am having a rest from that. But Graham, Kerrie, Ruth and Jim are covering for me not so that I can have a holiday, but so that I can have a big, uninterrupted block of time to get into some further study.

I’ve decided to have a good look at Numbers 22-24, the Balaam Narrative.

On one level the choice was fairly easy. No one else seems to be having a look at this bit of the Bible so I thought I’d give it a go. But there’s also the fact that it’s seriously weird, and somewhat confusing. The challenge to make something of it was quite appealing.

But then, when you think of it, Balaam seems to come up quite a bit in Children’s ministry. I bet he’s in most Kid’s Bibles, and books of Bible stories for children. But he seems never to come up in youth or adult ministry. That’s weird too isn’t it? It’s odd that a passage that can be so helpful for kids, seems to become irrelevant once they get older. Or are we missing something? Or is it not as helpful as we’ve imagined for children? Should we stop using it at church and in SRE?

In many ways the hardest thing is to try to keep an open mind as I come to the passage. I’m well aware of the press that Balaam gets in the NT, but for the moment I’d like to try to focus simply on what Numbers has to say about this curious character and this weird moment in salvation history.



  • 'not so that I can have a holiday'

    nice to hear this :-)

    thanks for letting everyone know what you're up to - would love to hear any 'aha' moments as you get stuck into the study.

    By Blogger Graham Stanton, at 10:26 am  

  • Andy,
    That morning tea during intensives when you first said you were spending your Sabbatical contemplating Balaam's ass, I wasn't sure if you were being serious...!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:41 pm  

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