Archive for June 2021

Divine Judgment Against Moab, Edom, and Philistia   6 comments

Above:  Icon of Ezekiel

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

READING EZEKIEL, PART XII

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Ezekiel 25:8-17

Ezekiel 35:1-15

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The oracles against these nations–enemies of Judah and allies of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire–cited these nations’ rejoicing over the Fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.E.

I have covered the backgrounds of these nations already:

  1. Moab–Amos 2:1-3; Isaiah 15:1-16:13; Jeremiah 48:1-47;
  2. Edom–Amos 1:11-12; Isaiah 21:11-12; Jeremiah 49:7-22; and
  3. Philistia–Amos 1:6-8; Isaiah 14:28-32; Jeremiah 49:1-7.

The oracles against Edom in Isaiah 34 and the Book of Obadiah await me, in due time.

The first oracle against Moab (Ezekiel 25:8-11) predates the Fall of Jerusalem.  The second oracle against Moab (Ezekiel 35:1-15) postdates the Fall of Jerusalem.

And you shall know that I am the LORD,

repeats, following ominous oracles.  God, who reserves the right of revenge, speaks in these oracles.

Another important aspect of Ezekiel 35:1-15 is the reference to Mount Seir.  Deuteronomy 33:2 and Judges 5:4 speak of a tradition of divine self-revelation from Mount Seir.  Here, God condemns Moabite ambitions to overrun former Hebrew lands, and announces that Mount Seir will become, by the divine hand,

an utter waste.

–Ezekiel 35:7, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Contrary to the widespread belief that Nation A’s military defeat to Nation B indicated the triumph of Nation B’s gods over those of Nation A, YHWH remained undefeated.  YHWH remained sovereign.  YHWH remained formidable.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 30, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN OLAF WALLIN, ARCHBISHOP OF UPPSALA, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT GENNERO MARIA SARNELLI, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MISSIONARY TO THE VULNERABLE AND EXPLOITED PEOPLE OF NAPLES

THE FEAST OF HEINRICH LONAS, GERMAN MORAVIAN ORGANIST, COMPOSER, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF PAUL HANLY FURFEY, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, SOCIOLOGIST, AND SOCIAL RADICAL

THE FEAST OF SAINT PHILIP POWEL, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1646

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Divine Judgment Against Ammon, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of Ezekiel

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

READING EZEKIEL, PART XI

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Ezekiel 21:28-32 (Anglican and Protestant)

Ezekiel 21:33-37 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox)

Ezekiel 25:1-7

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Oracles of divine judgment against nations are staples of Hebrew prophetic literature.  For example, they populate Isaiah 13-23; Jeremiah 46-51; Amos 1:3-2:3; and Ezekiel 25-32.

Since I began this long-term project of reading the Hebrew prophetic books, roughly in chronological order, I have read the material regarding Ammon in Amos 1:13-15; Jeremiah 49:1-16; and Ezekiel 21:28-32/21:33-37 (depending on versification).

Ammon was east of the River Jordan, and bordered the territory of the tribe of Gad (Joshua 13:8-10).  Ammon’s capital was Rabbath-Amman (modern-day Amman, Jordan).  Sometimes the Hebrews and the Ammonites were foes (Judges 3:13; Amos 1:13-15; Zephaniah 2:8; Judges 10:6-12:7; 1 Samuel 11; 2 Samuel 10; 2 Samuel 12:26-31).  Sometimes they were allies (Jeremiah 27:3).  After the Fall of Jerusalem, the Ammonites supported Ishmael, the Davidic claimant who rebelled against Gedaliah (Jeremiah 40:7-41:18).  Before that, however, Ammon had occupied the territory of the tribe of Gad after the Fall of Samaria (722 B.C.E.).

Ammon, as a province of the Assyrian Empire, had a native ruler most of the time in the seventh century B.C.E.  During the Assyrian civil war that started in 652 B.C.E., some of the remote peoples rebelled.  They endangered the security of Ammon and other Assyrian vassals.  With the fall of Nineveh (612 B.C.E.), Ammon briefly regained independence.  Ammon allied with the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire against common foes, those pesky Arab tribes and the Kingdom of Judah.  The alliance quickly turned into Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian domination of Ammon.

The Ammonite rebellion against their Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian overlords informed the material in Ezekiel 21.  The Chaldeans/Neo-Babylonians struck Judah first then came back around for Ammon.  After the failed Ammonite rebellion, the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire instituted mass deportations of Ammonites and, for a time, ended sedentary settlement in Ammon.  Ammon became the abode of nomads until the Persian period.

Ezekiel 25:1-7 is consistent with this history.  The text of the oracle condemns Ammon for opposing Judah and siding with the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  The fitting punishment, we read, is to fall to that empire, too.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 29, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PETER AND PAUL, APOSTLES AND MARTYRS

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Rise and Fall of Judah’s Political Leaders   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of Ezekiel

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

READING EZEKIEL, PART X

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Ezekiel 17:1-24

Ezekiel 19:1-14

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

For this post, O reader, we focus on two allegories.

Ezekiel 17 is the allegory of the eagles, the vine, and the cedar.  For background, read 2 Kings 24-25; Jeremiah 21:14; Jeremiah 22:1-8, 20-30; Jeremiah 27-29; Jeremiah 34; Jeremiah 52; 2 Chronicles 36; 1 Esdras 1:43-58;

The allegory, by definition, uses symbols.  The allegory tells the story of King Jehoiachin of Judah allying with Egypt against the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire, losing, and going into exile in 597 B.C.E.  The allegory continues to describe King Zedekiah‘s failed rebellion, and his fate.  The code of the allegory is as follows:

  1. The great eagle = King Nebuchadnezzar II of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire (r. 605-562 B.C.E.) (v. 3).
  2. Lebanon = Jerusalem (v. 3).
  3. The topmost branch = Jehoiachin (r. 597 B.C.E.) (v. 3).
  4. The land of merchants = Babylon (v. 4).
  5. The native seed = Zedekiah (r. 597-586 B.C.E.) (v. 5).
  6. Another great eagle = Pharoah Psammetichus II (r. 595-589 B.C.E.) (v. 7).
  7. The vine = the Davidic Dynastry (vs. 7-8).

Ezekiel 17:18f and 2 Chronicles 36:13 argue that Zedekiah had violated his oath of vassalage by rebelling against King Nebuchadnezzar II, and thereby sinned against God.  These texts also argue that Zedekiah earned his punishment.  This position is consistent with the importance of oaths in the Bible (Genesis 24:7; Genesis 26:3, 28-31; Genesis 50:24; Exodus 13:5, 11; Exodus 20:7; Exodus 33:1; Leviticus 5:1-4; Leviticus 19:12; Numbers 5:17; Numbers 14:16, 30; Numbers 32:11; Deuteronomy 1:8, 35; Deuteronomy 6:10; Judges 11:11-40; 1 Kings 8:31-32; 1 Chronicles 12:19; 2 Chronicles 6:22-23; Psalm 16:4; Isaiah 62:8; Isaiah 144:8; Hosea 4:15; Amos 8:14; Matthew 5:36; et cetera).et cetera

Ezekiel 17 concludes on a note of future restoration (vs. 22-24).  One Jewish interpretation of the final three verses holds that the construction of the Second Temple, under the supervision of Zerubbabel, of the House of David, fulfilled this prophecy (Haggai 2:20-23).  That interpretation does not convince me.  The prophecy concerns the restoration of the Jewish nation.  My sense of the past tells me that one may not feasibly apply this prophecy to the events following 142 B.C.E. and 1948 B.C.E., given the absence of the Davidic Dynasty in Hasmonean Judea and modern Israel.

The emphasis on divine power and human weakness defines the end of Chapter 17.

Ezekiel 19, which uses the metaphors of the lion (the tribe of Judah; Genesis 49:9) and the vine (the nation of the Hebrews), is a lament for the fall of the Judean monarchy.  For Ezekiel, priests properly outrank kings (34:24; 45:7-8), so Kings of Judah are “princes.”  The first cub (v. 4) is King Jehoahaz of Judah (r. 609 B.C.E.).  The second cub may be either King Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, or Zedekiah of Judah.  The identity of the second cub is vague, but the prediction of the destruction of the monarchy of Judah is clear.

Leaders come and go.  Kingdoms, empires, and nation-states rise and fall.  All that is human is transitory.  But God lasts forever.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 28, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN GERARD, ENGLISH JESUIT PRIEST; AND MARY WARD, FOUNDRESS OF THE INSTITUTE OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

THE FEAST OF CLARA LOUISE MAASS, U.S. LUTHERAN NURSE AND MARTYR, 1901

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PLUTARCH, MARCELLA, POTANOMINAENA, AND BASILIDES OF ALEXANDRIA, MARTYRS, 202

THE FEAST OF SAINT TERESA MARIA MASTERS, FOUNDRESS OF THE INSTITUTE OF THE SISTERS OF THE HOLY FACE

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM AND JOHN MUNDY, ENGLISH COMPOSERS AND MUSICIANS

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

This is post #2550 of BLOGA THEOLOGICA.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Judah’s History of Sin: The Not-Safe-For-Work Version   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Ezekiel

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

READING EZEKIEL, PART IX

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Ezekiel 16:1-63

Ezekiel 20:1-44

Ezekiel 23:1-49

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

This project of reading the Book of Ezekiel is part of a larger project of reading the Hebrew prophetic books, roughly in chronological order.  I know already, based on this larger project alone, that the Hebrew prophetic books are repetitive.  For example, idolatry is, metaphorically, sexual–prostitution and/or adultery.  This metaphorical prostitution is, functionally, pagan temple prostitution, common in the ancient Near East into New Testament times (from Genesis 38:15 to 1 Corinthians 6:15f).  Also, much of the language of this sexual metaphor is Not Safe for Work (NSFW) and replete with shaming.

The Bible is not G-rated.

Ezekiel 16 is not G-rated.  It uses the marital metaphor, also present in Isaiah 8:5-8; Isaiah 49-54; Isaiah 66:7-14; Jeremiah 2-3; Hosea 1-3; Zephaniah 3:14-20.

Robert Alter provides perhaps the most memorable synopsis of Ezekiel 16:

Among the themes of Ezekiel’s prophecies, the most striking expression of neurosis is his troubled relation to the female body.  Real and symbolic bodies become entangled with each other.  In biblical poetry, a nation, and Israel in particular, is quite often represented as a woman.  God’s covenant with Israel–see Jeremiah 1–is imagined as a marriage, and so the bride Israel’s dalliance with pagan gods is figured as adultery or whoring.  This is a common trope in biblical literature, but the way Ezekiel articulates it is both startling and unsettling.

The most vivid instance of this psychological twist in Ezekiel is the extended allegory of whoring Israel in chapter 16.  The allegory here follows the birth of the nation in Canaan–represented with stark physicality in the image of the infant girl naked and wallowing in the blood of afterbirth, then looked after by a solicitous God–to her sexual maturity and her betrayal of God through idolatry.  The focus throughout is on Israel as a female sexual body.  Thus, the prophet notes (as does no other biblical writer) the ripening of the breasts and the sprouting of pubic hair.  The mature personification of the nation is a beautiful woman, her beauty enhanced by the splendid attire God gives her (this is probably a reference to national grandeur and to the Temple).  Yet, insatiably lascivious, she uses her charms to entice strangers to her bed:  “you spilled out your whoring” (given the verb used and the unusual form of the noun, this could be a reference to vaginal secretions) “upon every passerby.”  Israel as a woman is even accused of harboring a special fondness for large phalluses:  “you played the whore with the Egyptians, your big-membered neighbors.”  She is, the prophet says, a whore who asks for no payment for her services.  “You befouled your beauty,” he inveighs, “and spread your legs for every passerby.”  All this concern with female promiscuity is correlative with Ezekiel’s general preoccupation with purity and impurity.

It is of course possible to link each of these sexual details with the allegory of an idolatrous nation betraying its faith.  But such explicitness and such vehemence about sex are unique in the Bible.  The compelling inference is that this was a prophet morbidly fixated on the female body and seething with fervid misogyny.  What happens in the prophecy in chapter 16 is that the metaphor of the lubricious woman takes over the foreground, virtually displacing the allegorical referent.  Ezekiel clearly was not a stable person.

The Hebrew Bible:  A Translation with Commentary, Volume 2, Prophets (2019), 1051

Corinne L. Carvalho comments:

In Israel, spouses were not equal partners; women were legally and socially subservient to their husbands.  Betrothal and marriage were contractual arrangements by which a woman became the exclusive “property” of her husband, even before the actual marriage.  In practical terms, this meant that her husband was her sole sexual partner from the moment of betrothal.  Since men could have more than one wife, adultery occurred only when it involved a married woman; it was a crime, punishable by death, against the sole property rights of a wronged husband (Lev 18:20; 20:10; Deut 22:22).

Ezekiel 16 plays on these elements of marriage.  God is the one who owns Jerusalem, and Jerusalem owes him her exclusive allegiance and fidelity.  Anything less gives him the legal right to punish her.  Ezekiel 16 uses hyperbole and inflammatory rhetoric to achieve a shocking literary effect.  Here, the author utilizes a common metaphor, the city as God’s wife, in ways that border on pornography.  (Modern translations tone down the sexually explicit language of the Hebrew texts.)  It is an image to provoke a response.

–in Daniel Durken, ed., The New Collegeville Bible Commentary:  Old Testament (2015), 1431

Ezekiel 16 concludes on a sexually graphic metaphor of future restoration (verses 59-63).  After all, to “know” is frequently a euphemism for sexual intimacy.

And I Myself will establish the covenant with you, and you will know that I am the LORD.

–Ezekiel 16:62, Robert Alter, 2019

Consider the following verse, O reader:

Thus you shall remember and feel shame, and you shall be too abashed to open your mouth again, when I have forgiven you, for all that you did–declares the Lord GOD.

–Ezekiel 16:63, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

I feel too abashed after reading Ezekiel 16.

My library contains a variety of editions and versions of the Bible.  The Children’s Living Bible (1972) is one of these.  The artwork depicts a smiling Jesus holding lost-and-found sheep, smiling at children wearing attire from 1972, and generally smiling.  The volume also includes Ezekiel 16.  I imagine a child reading Ezekiel 16 and asking a horrified parent about the contents of that chapter.  I also imagine that parent’s horror that the tyke was reading a volume that included the term, “son of a bitch” (1 Samuel 20:30).  Just wait for Ezekiel 23!

Ezekiel 20 continues the themes of idolatry and apostasy.  The text dwells on the sabbath.  This suggests that the sabbath had become important, as a substitute for the Temple, during the Babylonian Exile.  The sabbath is foundational in the covenant.  The sabbath is also a sign of a free person in the context of liberation from slavery in Egypt.  And to keep the sabbath is to emulate God, the creator and original keeper of the sabbath.

God, as depicted in Ezekiel 20, is not worthy of emulation, respect, love, and awe:

  1. God, according to 20:9, 14, 22, and 44, acts selfishly, to preserve the divine reputation.
  2. God gave the people “laws that were not good and rules by which they could not live (20:25) then promised to destroy the people as punishment for obeying the bad laws and disobeying the impossible rules (20:26).

Chapter 20 exists in the shadow of Ezekiel 18–about individual moral accountability to God.  The verdict on the people of Judah, in the yet-future context of the Fall of Jerusalem (586 B.C.E.) is damning.

Ezekiel 20 concludes on a note of future restoration, but not for the sake of the covenant people:

Then, O House of Israel, you shall know that I am the LORD, when I deal with you that I am the LORD, when I deal with you for My name’s sake–not in accordance with your evil ways and corrupt acts–declares the Lord GOD.

–Ezekiel 20:44, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

I wonder how many agnostics and atheists grew up devout, with this understanding of God, or one close to it.  That theology may explain their current spiritual status as they properly reject that understanding of God yet go too far and remain out of balance.

Ezekiel 23 returns to the imagery of idolatry as harlotry.  It also returns to the category of Not Safe for Work.  (What was it with Ezekiel and sex?)  Break out the plain brown wrappers again, O reader!  The text speaks of the Babylonian Exile as punishment for persistent, collective, and unrepentant idolatry.

Some G-rated details (There are some.) require explanation:

  1. Samaria, the capital of the (northern) Kingdom of Israel, is, metaphorically, Oholeh, “her tent.”  One may recall that, in the theology of the Hebrew Bible, the Presence of God dwelt in a text then in the Temple.  We read of the fall of the Kingdom of Israel and of the causes of that collapse.
  2. Jerusalem, the capital of the (southern) Kingdom of Judah, is, metaphorically, Oholibah, “my tent is in her.”
  3. Ezekiel 23 condemns the kingdoms’ foreign alliances.  This is an old Hebrew prophetic theme, albeit one other prophets presented in less graphic terms.

I try to maintain a spiritual and theological equilibrium.  The God of Ezekiel 16, 20, and 23 is a self-absorbed, abusive, and misogynistic monster.  This is not my God-concept.  Neither is the God of my faith anything like a cosmic teddy bear or a warm fuzzy.  No, the God of my faith holds judgment and mercy in balance.  I do not pretend to know where that balance is or where it should be.  The God of my faith also loves all people and models selflessness.  Neither is the God of my faith a misogynist or any kind of -phobe or bad -ist.  The model for the God of my faith is Jesus of Nazareth, God Incarnate.  I read stories of Jesus having harsh words for those who deserved them and compassion for the desperate.  I understand Jesus as being stable, unlike Ezekiel, apparently.

Ezekiel clearly was not a stable person.

–Robert Alter, The Hebrew Bible:  A Translation with Commentary (2019), 1051

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 27, 2021 COMMON ERA

PROPER 8:  THE FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF CORNELIUS HILL, ONEIDA CHIEF AND EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT ARIALDUS OF MILAN, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC DEACON AND MARTYR, 1066

THE FEAST OF HUGH THOMSON KERR, SR., U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND LITURGIST; AND HIS SON, HUGH THOMSON KERR, JR., U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, SCHOLAR, AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF JAMES MOFFATT, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, SCHOLAR, AND BIBLE TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN THE GEORGIAN, ABBOT; AND SAINTS EUTHYMIUS OF ATHOS AND GEORGE OF THE BLACK MOUNTAIN, ABBOTS AND TRANSLATORS

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Prophecy and Prophets   1 comment

Above:  Ezekiel, by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

READING EZEKIEL, PART VIII

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Ezekiel 12:21-14:11

Ezekiel 15:1-8

Ezekiel 20:45-22:31 (Anglican and Protestant)

Ezekiel 21:1-22:31 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

In the ancient Near East, certain assumptions were ubiquitous.  Two of these were:

  1. the multiplicity of deities, and
  2. the defeat of B’s gods by A’s gods when A conquered B.

Yet YHWH remained unconquered when Judah fell.  As the Fall of Jerusalem (586 B.C.E.) approached, come claimed that the prophecies of this event were for the distant future.  They were wrong (12:21-28).  Some (false) prophets of peace predicted peace and security for Judah (13:1-16).  They spoke for themselves, not for God.  Many people resorted to sorcery (13:17-23).  They were wrong.  Idolatry abounded, as usual (14:1-11).  Jerusalem was bound for destruction (15:1-8), regardless of what anyone said or desired in the final years before 586 B.C.E.  And God remained sovereign, regardless of what any human power did.  The Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire was the sword of the LORD, after all (20:45-21:17/21:1-22, depending on versification).  Both Judah and Ammon were destined for destruction, but a remnant of Judah would survive (21:23-22:31/21:18-22:31, depending on versification).

I will return to the prophecies of divine judgment against Ammon (already in Amos 1:13-15; Jeremiah 49:1-16; Ezekiel 21:33-37/21:28-32, depending on versification) when I cover Ezekiel 25:1-7.

I, as a Christian, affirm that “God is love,” as I read in 1 John 4:16.  Reading the entire verse is crucial, of course.  In the context of the indwelling of Jesus, we read:

Thus we have come to know and believe in the love which God has for us.

God is love; he who dwells in love is dwelling in God, and God in him.

The Revised English Bible (1989)

God is love, not a cosmic plush toy.  Grace is free, not cheap.

In Jewish terms, salvation comes by grace, just as it does in Christian terms.  In Jewish terms, salvation comes by birth into the Chosen People, the covenant people.  The covenant includes moral mandates.  Persistently and unrepentantly violating moral mandates causes people to drop out of the covenant.

God is love, not a cosmic plush toy.  Grace is free, not cheap.  And people read what they have sown.

JUNE 26, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ISABEL FLORENCE HAPGOOD, U.S. JOURNALIST, TRANSLATOR, AND ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANDREA GIACINTO LONGHIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF TREVISO

THE FEAST OF PHILIP DODDRIDGE, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF THEODORE H. ROBSINSON, BRITISH BAPTIST ORIENTALIST AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF VIRGIL MICHEL, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ACADEMIC, AND PIONEER OF LITURGICAL RENEWAL

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Four Symbolic Actions   Leave a comment

Above:  Ezekiel

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

READING EZEKIEL, PART VII

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Ezekiel 12:1-20

Ezekiel 24:1-27

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Ezekiel 12-24 anticipates and explains the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.E.  A thematic exploration of this material may work best.

Ezekiel was already in exile in the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  Yet he packed a bag with a few bare necessities (a bowl, a mat, and a waterskin) and went into exile elsewhere in the empire (12:1-16).  This presaged the second phase of the Babylonian Exile, with the blinded former King Zedekiah in the forefront.  The residents of residents of Jerusalem were not privy to this symbolic action.

Ezekiel ate his bread trembling and drank his water shaking with fear, as the residents of Jerusalem would eat their bread and drink their water soon.  The purpose of this symbolic act (12:17-20) was to convince the exiles of the first wave that those left in Judah belonged in exile, too.

Ezekiel 24:1 establishes the date, converted to the Gregorian Calendar, as January 15, 588 B.C.E.–the beginning of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian siege of Jerusalem.

The allegory of the pot (24:1-14) contains many significant details:

  1. The thigh and the shoulder were were the choicest cuts of meat, symbolized the elite of Judah (24:4).
  2. The corroded, rusted, scummy, filthy bottom of the pot symbolized the bloody crimes of Jerusalem (24:6-8).
  3. Leviticus 17:13-16 specifies covering blood when shed.  (See Ezekiel 24:7.)
  4. Ezekiel 24:7 related to the murder of priest and prophet Zechariah ben Jehoiada (2 Chronicles 24:20-22).  That bloodshed remained unrequited.  The blood of innocent victims cried out for revenge (Genesis 4:10; Job 16:18; Isaiah 26:21).
  5. Fire cleansed a cauldron.  Fire would cleanse Jerusalem.
  6. This allegory uses imagery from Ezekiel 21:1-12 and 22:1-16, texts I will cover in a subsequent post.  These images speak of a bloody and defiled city.

Ezekiel, a married man, became a sign for exiles in 24:15-27.  He became a widower, but did not observe the rituals of mourning.  The residents of Jerusalem had no time to go into mourning.

I OBJECT.

Son of man, with a sudden blow I am taking away from you the delight of your eyes, but do not mourn or weep or shed any tears.

–Ezekiel 24:16, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

I OBJECT.  I OBJECT STRENUOUSLY.

I am, in my words,

not quite a widower.

Bonny was my dearest friend and my upstairs neighbor.  According to her obituary, I was her

special friend.

We shared a kitchen and meals.  We watched a film noir, ate a pizza, and drank soft drinks most Friday evenings, for years.  We had other rituals two.  Three cats–Crystal, Leslie, and Mimi–adopted both of us, over time.  I kept Bonny alive longer than she would have lived otherwise.  Bonny’s sudden, violent death devastated me.  Part of me died when she did.

I read Ezekiel 24:15-27 and object strenuously.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 25, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM HENRY HEARD, AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL MISSIONARY AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINTS DOMINGO HENARES DE ZAFIRA CUBERO, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF PHUNHAY, VIETNAM, AND MARTYR, 1838; SAINT PHANXICO DO VAN CHIEU, VIETNAMESE ROMAN CATHOLIC CATECHIST AND MARTYR, 1838; AND SAINT CLEMENTE IGNACIO DELGADO CEBRIAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP AND MARTYR IN VIETNAM, 1838

THE FEAST OF PEARL S. BUCK, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY, NOVELIST, AND SOCIAL ACTIVIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT VINCENT LEBBE, BELGIAN-CHINESE ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MISSIONARY; FOUNDER OF THE LITTLE BROTHERS OF SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT WILLIAM OF VERCELLI, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT; AND SAINT JOHN OF MATERA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Ezekiel’s Vision of the Destruction of Jerusalem   Leave a comment

Above:  Ezekiel

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

READING EZEKIEL, PART VI

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Ezekiel 8:1-11:23

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Ezekiel 8:1-11:13, the product of more than one person, contains some unusual editorial choices and odd shifts of attention.  I mention that matter to get it out of the way, so that nobody can legitimately claim that I do not know it.  Now that I have gotten that matter out of the way, I focus on themes, details, and the application thereof.

The figurer who looked like a man (or fire, depending on translation) in 8:2 is the divine Presence, Ezekiel’s guide.  This figure recurs in 40:3f.

The date of the vision in 8:1-11:13 is September 592 B.C.E.

Idolatry recurs as a sin of the people of Judah.

We read that, contrary to what many people think, God has not abandoned Judah–yet–and does see what people are doing (9:9).

Above:  Ezekiel’s Vision, by William Blake

Image in the Public Domain

Chapter 10 reads like a redux of Chapter 1, with some differences.

God departs Judah in Chapter 11.

We read of the divine promise of restoration and cleansing of exiles already in the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  We read that those still in Judah are doomed (11:41-21).  We read that God has moved to the exiles in Babylon (11:23).

Ezekiel 11:21 cautions that divine renewal of the exiles is not automatic; it requires human vigilance.  Grace is free, not cheap.

Ezekiel 11:17-21 is thematically similar to Jeremiah 31:33-34; Jeremiah 32:39; Ezekiel 18:31; Ezekiel 36:26.  We read that, in an ideal future, by divine action, disobedience to God will cease to be an option.

In Hebrew prophetic literature, as well as in the Revelation to John, divine faithfulness is never in doubt, from the author’s perspective.  Also, divine judgment and mercy remain in balance.  Creative destruction by God makes way for the establishment for the new, divine order.  In Christian terms, God must destroy the old, corrupt order before the fully-realized Kingdom of God can become visible on the Earth, from a human perspective.  As C. H. Dodd reminds me from the printed page and his grave, the Kingdom of God is; it does not come.  Yet, from a human point of view, certain events make its presence more palpable than it used to be.

Another idea, frequently repeated in the Bible–especially Hebrew prophetic books–is that human sins have consequences.  We human beings condemn ourselves.  We leave God.  We are the faithless ones.  We are arrogant; we do not stand in awe of God.  We read what he have sown.

Yet grace remains.  As the great Southern Baptist theologian Will Campbell said:

We’re all bastards, but God loves us anyway.

And our only hope is in God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 24, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE NATIVITY OF SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Divine Judgment and Impending Disaster   Leave a comment

Above:  Ezekiel

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

READING EZEKIEL, PART V

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Ezekiel 6:1-7:27

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Ezekiel 6 foretells the divine destruction of Judah and sites of idolatry in Judah.  Corpse impurity will render these sites ritually unclean, we read in 6:5.  Despite the divine destruction of Judah, God will preserve a remnant, we read in 6:8-10, possibly added subsequent to the time of Ezekiel.  God takes no delight in the destruction of Judah, we read in 6:11.  In Ezekiel 25:6, in contrast, clapping hands and stamping feet indicate rejoicing with malice.

God remains furious with Judah in Ezekiel 7.  We read that the people have been arrogant, trusting in military strength, not in God (7:24).  For more along these lines, read Isaiah 2:12; Isaiah 10:12; Isaiah 13:11; Jeremiah 48:29; Ezekiel 24:21; Ezekiel 30:18; Ezekiel 33:28).  We also read:

Lawlessness is blooming, insolence budding; the violent have risen to wield a scepter of wickedness.  But none of them shall remain; none of their crowd, none of their wealth, for none of them are innocent.

–Ezekiel 7:10b-11, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

The Hebrew prophetic books are horribly repetitive.  Consider the temporal context of the Book of Ezekiel, O reader.  Consider that the Law of Moses and a series of prophets preceded Ezekiel.  Consider that, had more people heeded previous prophets, there would have been no need for Ezekiel to prophesy.

Being oblivious to the messages God has sent and continues to send creates a situation that leads to horrible consequences.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 23, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF BREVARD S. CHILDS, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF HEINRICH GOTTLOB GUTTER, GERMAN-AMERICAN INSTRUMENT MAKER, REPAIRMAN, AND MERCHANT

THE FEAST OF JOHN JOHNS, ENGLISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICETAS OF REMESIANA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF WILHELM HEINRICH WAUER, GERMAN MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND MUSICIAN

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Acts Symbolic of Siege and Exile   Leave a comment

Above:  Ezekiel

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

READING EZEKIEL, PART IV

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Ezekiel 4:1-5:17

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Some of the Hebrew prophets were eccentric, to use a polite word.  Hosea married a prostitute (Hosea 1).  Isaiah walked around naked (Isaiah 20).  Jeremiah wore a very dirty loincloth (Jeremiah 13) and a cattle yoke (Jeremiah 27-28).  Ezekiel ate a scroll (Ezekiel 1, 3).

Ezekiel committed more symbolic acts in 4:1-5:17:

  1. He built a model of Jerusalem under siege (4:1-2).
  2. Then he placed an iron plate between himself and the model.  The plate represented the barrier separating God and besieged Jerusalem.
  3. Then Ezekiel reclined on his left side for 390 days (or 190 days, depending on the text one consults) and on his left side for 40 days–one day per year.  A generation was 40 years.  Many Biblical scholars have offered explanations for the 190 or the 390 years.  These explanations, marginally interesting, have not held my attention.  The act of reclining symbolized famine (4:4-8).
  4. Ezekiel combined grains that grow under siege conditions and backed bread.  He ate this bread and drank water in quantities barely capable of sustaining human life (4:9-11).  He baked this bread over cow manure (4:12-15).  This act symbolized the desperate people’s violation of food laws in the Law of Moses during the siege of Jerusalem.
  5. Ezekiel shaved his head and beard with a sword.  Then he burned one-third, representative of a third of the inhabitants of Jerusalem who perished when the city burned in 586 B.C.E.  The prophet struck one-third of the hair with the sword.  This act symbolized the inhabitants of Jerusalem killed around the city in 586 B.C.E.  Then Ezekiel scattered the remaining third to the wind and sheathed a sword at those hairs.  This act symbolized the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian pursuit of those who fled Jerusalem in 586 B.C.E.  Some of these hairs burned, too.

Ezekiel 5:5-17 explains that the people of Jerusalem had defiled the Temple, and had earned their harsh punishment.  The text also describes catastrophic and desperate conditions in Jerusalem during the siege.  Cannibalism is one of the results of these circumstances.  (See Lamentations 2:20; 4:10, also.)

Had Ezekiel lived in some parts of the world in 2021, he would have been medicated and under psychiatric care.  So would Isaiah and Jeremiah.  Isaiah may also have faced legal charges of indecent exposure.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 22, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALBAN, FIRST BRITISH MARTYR, CIRCA 209 OR 305

THE FEAST OF DESIDERIUS ERASMUS, DUTCH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, BIBLICAL AND CLASSICAL SCHOLAR, AND CONTROVERSIALIST; SAINT JOHN FISHER, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC CLASSICAL SCHOLAR, BISHOP OF ROCHESTER, CARDINAL, AND MARTYR, 1535; AND SAINT THOMAS MORE, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC CLASSICAL SCHOLAR, JURIST, THEOLOGIAN, CONTROVERSIALIST, AND MARTYR, 1535

THE FEAST OF GERHARD GIESHCEN, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF JAMES ARTHUR MACKINNON, CANADIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, 1965

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAULINUS OF NOLA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF NOLA

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Individual Responsibility Before God   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Ezekiel

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

READING EZEKIEL, PART III

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Ezekiel 3:18-21

Ezekiel 14:12-23

Ezekiel 18:1-32

Ezekiel 33:1-20

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, inflicting punishment for the ancestors’ wickedness on the children of those who hate me, down to the third and fourth generation; but showing love down to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

–Exodus 20:5b-6; Deuteronomy 5:9b-10, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Maybe not, not withstanding 1 Kings 21:29; Exodus 34:7; Nehemiah 9:17; Numbers 14:18; Psalm 103:9; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2; Jeremiah 11:21-23; Jeremiah 15:1; Jeremiah 35:18-19.  To the list of passages arguing against intergenerational reward and punishment I add Jeremiah 31:29-30.  (The Book of Jeremiah contains layers of composition and editing.  Parts of that book contradict each other, as in the cases of intergenerational reward and punishment, and whether the deadline for repentance has passed.)

Sin, responsibility, reward, and punishment, in the Bible, are both collective and individual.  The collective varieties are consistent with mutuality.  Individual varieties exist within the context of mutuality, too.

Intergenerational influences are real.  If you, O reader, know enough about yourself and your ancestors for a few generations, perhaps you can identify intergenerational influences, both positive and negative, in your life.  I can identify some in my life.

For the purpose of this post, I bring together four readings on the same theme.  Three of them predate the Fall of Jerusalem (586 B,B.E.).  Ezekiel 33 postdates the Fall of Jerusalem.

Ezekiel 14:12-23 follows a section of threats against false prophets and diviners, and echoes Leviticus 26.  Certain individuals may be pious, but, if the population is rebellious against God, these holy people will save only themselves.  Divine punishment and reward are individual, we read.

I loved my father, now deceased.  He had his virtues and vices, like all human beings.  He was responsible for his actions.

I am responsible for my actions, not his.

This message of individual responsibility seems to have fallen primarily on deaf ears, despite repetition, within the Book of Ezekiel.

Imagine, O reader, that you were a Jew born an exile in the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  Think about how hearing these words would have resonated with you.  Imagine, perhaps, that this teaching would have given you hope that God would not judge you for what your ancestors had done wrong.  Imagine, maybe, that these words would have encouraged your spiritual journey.

Imagine, O reader, that you were a Jew born in Judea after the end of the Babylonian Exile.  Imagine how you may have welcomed the news that, as you strove to live piously, God would judge you based on yourself, not your ancestors.

I am a Christian.  As one, I read passages about individual responsibility, reward, and punishment through the prism of atonement via Jesus.  The atonement–three theories of which exist in Patristic writings–is the game-changer in my theology regarding the topic of this post.  Nevertheless, I affirm that what I do matters.  The atonement does not give me a license to act as I choose.  I am still morally accountable to God and other human beings.  Faithful response to grace is a constant moral principle in Judaism and Christianity.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 22, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALBAN, FIRST BRITISH MARTYR, CIRCA 209 OR 305

THE FEAST OF DESIDERIUS ERASMUS, DUTCH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, BIBLICAL AND CLASSICAL SCHOLAR, AND CONTROVERSIALIST; SAINT JOHN FISHER, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC CLASSICAL SCHOLAR, BISHOP OF ROCHESTER, CARDINAL, AND MARTYR, 1535; AND SAINT THOMAS MORE, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC CLASSICAL SCHOLAR, JURIST, THEOLOGIAN, CONTROVERSIALIST, AND MARTYR, 1535

THE FEAST OF GERHARD GIESHCEN, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF JAMES ARTHUR MACKINNON, CANADIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, 1965

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAULINUS OF NOLA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF NOLA

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++