Hospitality In The Hebrew Scriptures Essay

2164 words - 9 pages

To welcome the other, the friend or the stranger, is a fundamental aspect of human society, friendship, love and life. It is the intersection of two lives, an event that can fundamentally alter the paths of all those involved. This importance within the basic functioning of human life makes the recognition of hospitality as a central theme of the Hebrew Scriptures an unsurprising reality. With this in mind then, through this essay we will examine the understanding of hospitality laid out in the canonical scriptures of the Hebrew Bible. Through exploring the events of Abraham’s meeting guests in Genesis 18, the ‘text of terror ’ in Judges 19 in which hospitality is violated and the story of the book of Ruth, we will elicit the role hospitality plays in the story of Israel. From this exploration, we will then garner a comprehension of the theological underpinning of hospitality through exploration of the paradigmatic hospitality stories in the life of Abraham and the practices enshrined in the Mosaic Law. Finally, we will apply the theology of the theme of hospitality elicited from these reflections to a contemporary political context, namely the policy of the New Zealand government surrounding refugees.

Before beginning to explore the theme of hospitality within the Hebrew Scriptures, it would first be helpful to ascertain a working definition of the term hospitality, as it is understood socially and biblically. Defined in The Anchor Bible Dictionary as “The practice of welcoming a guest or stranger graciously…” , hospitality can be understood as the manner in which you welcome those who come to you, with the potential for both negative and positive expression. This definition also fits quite neatly with the biblical portrayal of hospitality, with stories encompassing both the extremes of practice. What is unique, however, about the biblical portrayal of hospitality is how deeply entwined the figure of God is within it . These entwined moments of welcome add to the already high significance societies place upon hospitality by alluding to a divine presence among those who meet, reinforcing the importance of this practice for those who attempt to follow the Hebrew Faith.

Perhaps on of the most important occurrences of the practice of hospitality in the Hebrew Scriptures, and identified by some sources as paradigmatic , the encounter of Abraham with three strangers in Genesis 18 reflects the divinely entwined hospitality mentioned earlier. In this account, the patriarch Abraham is seen as offering the idealized fulfillment of true hospitality through the overwhelming nature of his actions and offerings. From the beginning of the story, we see Abraham go out of his way to greet and welcome the guest, from the initial running to meet them before bowing in their presence, through to the offer of bread and the reality of a far greater feast, Abraham spares nothing in his encounter with the strangers. These actions take on further...

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