While I’ve been known to criticize Walter Brueggemann’s exegesis in some cases, in his essay “Vulnerable Children, Divine Passion, and Human Obligation” in The Child in the Bible, he helpfully traces two Biblical mandates: the nurture and training of children in covenant homes and the defense and care of orphans.
And rather than pitting these responsibilities off one another, he concludes that these “are elements of the same agenda.”
Specifically, “The ultimate content of family nurture in this tradition is in order that our own children in faith have front and center in their vision the protection of orphans, a concern that is defining for faith. Family nurture in this tradition cannot be a narrow little enterprise about purity and safety; rather, it concerns inculcation into the peculiar ethical patterns of our faith.” And by “ethical patterns of our faith,” Brueggemann means taking active steps in the defense of the fatherless.
And these two strains come together in the passover instructions for the Israelites which might be paraphrased as Brueggemann has it, When our children ask “in time to come what lentils and doorposts and stones all mean; the adult answer might properly be: ‘We know, directly from God, that protection of vulnerable children outside our own family is a central requirement of faith.'”
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