Archive for July 2021

The Righteous Triumphant   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of Malachi

Image in the Public Domain

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READING MALACHI, PART III

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Malachi 3:13-24 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox)

Malachi 3:13-4:6 (Anglican and Protestant)

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Malachi 3:19-24 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox) = Malachi 4:1-6 (Anglican and Protestant).

The final section of the Book of Malachi speaks of the beginning of a new era–the long-anticipated, fully-realized Kingdom of God.  In this context, divine judgment and mercy remain balanced (3:18f).  Apocalyptic writings in the Bible balance divine judgment and mercy–judgment on the wicked and mercy on the faithful.

In Christian Bibles, the Book of Malachi concludes on a threat of partial destruction.  Divine action–grace–prevents the threat from being of complete destruction.  Jewish Bibles, however, reprint the penultimate verse (3:23) after 3:24.  Hence, in TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985), the Book of Malachi concludes with:

Lo, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before the coming of the awesome, fearful day of the LORD.

In Jewish Bibles, therefore, the Book of Malachi ends on a positive note.

Christian tradition, of course, associates St. John the Baptist with Elijah.

Another point I would be remiss not to mention is that 3:22/4:4 (depending on versification) asserts the superiority of the Torah to the Hebrew prophetic tradition.

The Book of Malachi–and this project of reading the Hebrew prophetic books, roughly in chronological order, with some exceptions–concludes on a note of grace, mixed with judgment.  Divine self-restraint in matters of judgment is an example of grace.  YHWH, according to the Book of Malachi, is far removed from being God of hellfire-and-damnation theology.  YHWH provides laws, practices patience, calls on people and peoples to repent, and exercises self-restraint in judgment.  YHWH condemns nobody; people and peoples condemn themselves.

Thank you, O reader, for joining me on this journey through the Hebrew prophetic books as long as you have done so.  I wish you shalom as I consider what my next project should be.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 18, 2021 COMMON ERA

PROPER 11:  THE EIGHTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF BARTHOLOME DE LAS CASAS, “APOSTLE TO THE INDIANS”

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR PENRHYN STANLEY, ANGLICAN DEAN OF WESTMINSTER, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD WILLIAM LEINBACH, U.S. MORAVIAN MUSICAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH FERRARD, FIRST DEACONESS IN THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND

THE FEAST OF JESSAMYN WEST, U.S. QUAKER WRITER

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Religious Decline and Hope of Recovery   Leave a comment

Above:  Malachi

Image in the Public Domain

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READING MALACHI, PART II

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Malachi 1:2-3:12

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As I wrote in Reading Malachi, Part I, the dating of the Book of Malachi is vague–perhaps prior to 445 B.C.E., when the reforms of Ezra and Nehemiah began (Ezra 7-10; Nehemiah 1-13; 1 Esdras 8-9)–or perhaps not.   Clear, however, are the sense of spiritual crisis and the religious decline in the Book of Malachi.

Consider 1:2-5, O reader.  We read divine assurance of love for the people.  We may assume safely that the population (much of it, anyway) needed this assurance.  The proof of divine love for Jews in Judea in Malachi 1:2-5 is their continued existence in their ancestral homeland.  The contrast with their ancient foe and cousin people, the Edomites, is stark.

I have read and blogged about divine judgment on the people of Edom in Amos 1:11-12; Isaiah 21:11-12; Jeremiah 49:7-22; Ezekiel 25:12-14; Ezekiel 35:1-15; Obadiah; and Isaiah 34:5-17.

The designated portion of the Book of Malachi continues with the condemnations of priests and the population.  We read of priests offering defiled food as sacrifices.  We read that God objected strongly to such disrespect, and preferred no ritual sacrifices to the offerings of blemished animals.  (See Exodus 12:5; Exodus 29:1; Leviticus 1:3, 10; Leviticus 3:1; Leviticus 22:22).  We read that God was really angry:

And now, O priests, this charge is for you:  Unless you obey and unless you lay it to heart, and do dishonor to My name–said the LORD of blessings into curses.  (Indeed, I have turned them into curses, because you do not lay it to heart.)  I will put your seed under a ban, and I will strew dung upon your faces, the dung of your festal sacrifices, and you shall be carried out to its [heap].

–Malachi 2:1-3, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Furthermore, we read that (much of) the population of Israel has failed to keep the covenant, too.  We read that God objected to Jewish men divorcing Jewish wives to marry foreign women.  One may recall that this was also an issue in Ezra 10.  As prior to the Babylonian Exile, idolatry is in play.  Deuteronomy 7:25-26; Deuteronomy 12:31 permit divorce, but Malachi 2:16 begins:

For I detest divorce….

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Context is crucial; statements never arise in a vaccum.

Malachi 3:5 specifies offenses:

But [first] I will step forward to contend against you, and I will act as a relentless accuser against those who have no fear of Me:  Who practice sorcery, who commit adultery, who swear falsely, who cheat laborers of their hire, and who subvert [the cause] of the widow, orphan, and stranger, said the LORD of Hosts.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Faithless members of the Chosen People remain “children of Jacob,” we read.  And God (as in Zechariah 1:3) expects them to express remorse for their sins and to repent:

Turn back to Me, and I will turn back to you–said the LORD of Hosts.

–Malachi 3:7b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The text continues by explaining another way (other than not committing the previously listed sins) the people could return to God:  to support the Levites (Leviticus 27:30; Numbers 18:21-31; Nehemiah 13:10-13).  The text challenges the people to respond faithfully and generously to the extravagant and generosity of God.

Malachi 3:11 mentions locusts in the present tense.  This clue does not reveal as much as one may guess.  Does Malachi 3:11 date the Book of Malachi approximately contemporary with the Book of Joel, whenever that was?  The case for this is tenuous and circumstantial.  One may recall that swarms of locusts were a frequent threat in the region.  Malachi 3:11 may tell us one reason many people were not paying their tithes, though.

The formula in Malachi 3:10-12 exists within a context, of course.  Taking it out of context distorts its meaning.  Recall Malachi 2:17, O reader.  We read there that people have been wearying God by saying:

“All who do evil are good in the sight of the LORD, and in them He delights,” or else, “Where is the God of justice?”

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The formula in Malachi 3:10-12 rebuts that wearying statements and that wearying question.

Trusting in God liberates.  It liberates populations and individuals.  It liberates them to become their best possible selves in God, who is extravagantly generous.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 18, 2021 COMMON ERA

PROPER 11:  THE EIGHTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF BARTHOLOME DE LAS CASAS, “APOSTLE TO THE INDIANS”

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR PENRHYN STANLEY, ANGLICAN DEAN OF WESTMINSTER, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD WILLIAM LEINBACH, U.S. MORAVIAN MUSICAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH FERRARD, FIRST DEACONESS IN THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND

THE FEAST OF JESSAMYN WEST, U.S. QUAKER WRITER

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The Superscription of the Book of Malachi   1 comment

Above:  Malachi

Image in the Public Domain

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READING MALACHI, PART I

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Malachi 1:1

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The stated prophet in Malachi 1:1 is simply “Malachi,” without the traditional “son of ” formula following the persona name.  “Malachi” means “My messenger.”  This may be a name, a description, or both.  In fact, we know close to nothing about the prophet.

The Book of Malachi does not provide many details that place it in time.  It comes from after the Babylonian Exile.  1:8 and 1:2-5 place the book during the Persian period (539-332 B.C.E.).  The Book of Malachi refers to concerns raised in the Books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and First Esdras–Malachi 1:6-14 and Nehemiah 10:32-39; 13:31 pertain to provision for sacrifices.  The tithe is the topic in Malachi 3:8-12 and Nehemiah 13:10-14.  Acceptable marriage partners are the topic in Malachi 3:5 and Nehemiah 5:1-13.  But did Malachi come before Ezra and Nehemiah, who started their reforms in 445 B.C.E.?  (See Ezra 7-10; Nehemiah 1-13; 1 Esdras 8-9.)

The historical relationship s of Joel, Second Zechariah, and Malachi to each other are not clear.  The Book of Malachi, in its original form, may plausibly date to the 470s, prior to Second Zechariah.  Or the Book of Malachi may plausibly postdate Second Zechariah.

The Book of Malachi has fifty-five verses.  Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox Bibles divide those verses into three chapters.  Yet Anglican and Protestant Bibles divide these verses into four chapters.

Considering how short the Book of Malachi is, it fares well on the three major Christian lectionaries.  The Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) assigns 3:14 for the Presentation of the Lord, Years A, B, and C, as well as for the Second Sunday of Advent, Year C.  The RCL also assigns 4:1-2a on Proper 28, Year C.  The Roman Catholic lectionary for Sundays and major feast days assigns 1:14b-2:2b, 8-10 for the Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A.  The same lectionary assigns 3:19-20a for the Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C.  The corresponding lectionary for weekday Masses assigns 3:1-4, 23-24 on December 23, Years 1 and 2.  The same lectionary assigns 3:13-20b for Thursday in Week 27 of Ordinary Time, Year 1.

Shall we begin, O reader?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 18, 2021 COMMON ERA

PROPER 11:  THE EIGHTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF BARTHOLOME DE LAS CASAS, “APOSTLE TO THE INDIANS”

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR PENRHYN STANLEY, ANGLICAN DEAN OF WESTMINSTER, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD WILLIAM LEINBACH, U.S. MORAVIAN MUSICAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH FERRARD, FIRST DEACONESS IN THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND

THE FEAST OF JESSAMYN WEST, U.S. QUAKER WRITER

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Jerusalem a Center of Worship for All   Leave a comment

Above:  YHWH

Image in the Public Domain

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READING SECOND ZECHARIAH, PART III

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Zechariah 12:1-14:21

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Zechariah 12:1-14:21 consists of oracles that use the confusing, prophetic language of metaphor to describe how the reality of the present day of Second Zechariah will give way to the new, divine order.  The texts speak of warfare and plagues.  The texts also demonstrate familiarity with other Biblical books.  For example, Zechariah 13:1 and 14:8 allude to Ezekiel 47:1-12.  God’s decision to raise up a foolish ruler who does not care about the people then to judge that ruler (13:7-9) raises questions about divine decision-making.

There is a Davidic Messiah in Second Zechariah.  One may recall that there is no Messiah, Davidic or otherwise, in Third Isaiah.

As elsewhere in Hebrew prophetic books, God is a warrior in Zechariah 14.  At the end, God wins, of course.  Gentiles are subordinate to Jesus (as in Ezekiel 44).  Yet, contrary to Ezekiel 44 and consistent with Third Isaiah, faithful Gentiles have a role in the divine cultus.

Without getting lost in the proverbial weeds, two major points stand out in my mind:

  1. YHWH is the king in Zechariah 14.  N. T. Wright picks up on this in Jesus and the Victory of God (1996).
  2. Zechariah 14 rewrites Zechariah 8.  At the end of Zechariah 8, nations, having heard of God, make their way to Jerusalem on their own initiative.  At the end of Zechariah 14, though, survivors of the last war must come to Jerusalem, where they become devotees of God.  They serve YHWH, the regnant king on the earth.  YHWH is the king of everything at the end of Second Zechariah.

Thank you, O reader, for joining me on this journey through Second Zechariah.  The only stop left on my trek through Hebrew prophetic books is Malachi.  I invite you to complete the journey with me.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 18, 2021 COMMON ERA

PROPER 11:  THE EIGHTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF BARTHOLOME DE LAS CASAS, “APOSTLE TO THE INDIANS”

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR PENRHYN STANLEY, ANGLICAN DEAN OF WESTMINSTER, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD WILLIAM LEINBACH, U.S. MORAVIAN MUSICAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH FERRARD, FIRST DEACONESS IN THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND

THE FEAST OF JESSAMYN WEST, U.S. QUAKER WRITER

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Judah’s Triumph Over Her Enemies   Leave a comment

Above:  Woods, Ben Burton Park, Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, October 29, 2017

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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READING SECOND ZECHARIAH, PART II

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Zechariah 9:1-11:17

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Zechariah 9:1-8 may be the original portion of Second Zechariah.  This opening oracle names enemies of the Hebrews:

  1. Aram (Zechariah 9:1-2a; Amos 1:3-5; Isaiah 17:1-14; Jeremiah 49:23-27);
  2. Tyre and Sidon (Zechariah 9:2b-4; Amos 1:9-10; Isaiah 23:1-18; Ezekiel 26:1-28:26); and
  3. Philistia (Zechariah 9:5-7; Amos 1:6-8; Isaiah 14:28-32; Jeremiah 47:1-17; Ezekiel 25:15-17).

One may read about the Jebusites (Zechariah 9:7) in Judges 19:10; 2 Samuel 5:6, 8; 2 Samuel 24:16, 18; 1 Kings 9:20; 1 Chronicles 11:4.

The development of Zechariah 9:1-8 is complicated.  The original version of it may predate the Babylonian Exile.  The reference to the rampart of the fortress (9:3) may allude to a military campaign of Alexander the Great in 333 B.C.E.  Zechariah 9:1-8 seems to have passed through various editorial hands before settling down into its current state.

Regardless of the number of editorial stages of development of all the segments of Zechariah 9:1-11:17, the final version is about an ideal future when the full-realized Kingdom of God is evident on the earth and when the Messiah, a descendant of King David, is triumphant and victorious.  The arrangement of material is odd.  YHWH is triumphant in chapter 9.  The promise of restoration fills chapter 10.  Chapter 11 concludes with the desperate situation extant in First Zechariah (chapters 1-8).  The editing seems backward, from a certain point of view.  Anyway, the present day of Second Zechariah, obviously far from ideal, has much in common with 2021.

Time passes.  Technology changes.  Social mores and norms change, also.  Locations vary.  Yet much remains the same.  False prophets abound (10:2).  [Note:  The reference to teraphim in 10:2 is to household cultic objects, as in Genesis 31:19, 30-35; Judges 17:5.  Deuteronomy 18:9-14 condemns divination.  Also, Deuteronomy 13:6 and Jeremiah 23:25-32 are suspicious of dreams.]  Many leaders–shepherds, metaphorically–are oppressors and predators (10:3; 11:4-17).  In this case, prophets and leaders are the same.  This makes sense; one is a leader if one has followers.  The text is sufficiently ambiguous to apply to those who are false prophets or predatory political leaders without being both, though.

Zechariah 11 concludes on a hopeful note:  Those leaders responsible for social ills will fall from power.  This is good news the metaphorical sheep.

I, as a Christian, pay especially close attention to Zechariah 9:9-10.  This is a vision of the Messiah, sometime in the distant future, approaching the glorious, restored Jerusalem after God’s victory.  The image of the Messiah–“your king”–triumphant, victorious, and humble, riding on a donkey, occupies the background in accounts of Christ’s Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (Matthew 21:1-9; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:28-40; John 12:12-15).  Understanding Zechariah 9:9-10 helps one grasp the imagery of Christ’s self-presentation in the Gospels’ accounts of that event.

The placement of the oracles in Zechariah 9-11 in the future, without claiming,

Do x, and God will will do y,

in such a way as to date the prophecies, works.  One may recall that Haggai made the mistake of being too specific (and objectively wrong) in Haggai 1 and 2.  The prediction of the restoration of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel of Israel (9:17-10:12), therefore of the restoration of the unity of Israel and Judah, remains unfulfilled.  One may doubt that it will ever come to pass, but one cannot legitimately criticize the text for establishing a temporal marker already past (from the perspective of 2021) and being objectively wrong, by that standard.

Reality falls short of God’s ideal future.  Yet we may legitimately hope and trust in God.  Details of prophecies, bound by times and settings of their origin, may not always prove accurate.  So be it.  We moderns ought to read these types of texts poetically, not as what they are not–technical manuals for the future in front of us.  We should focus on major themes, not become lost in the details.  We ought not to try to match current events and the recent past to details of ancient prophecy.  The list of books whose authors did that and whom the passage of time has proven inaccurate is long.  One can easily miss the forest by focusing on the trees.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 17, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM WHITE, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF THE CARMELITE MARTYRS OF COMPIEGNE, 1794

THE FEAST OF BENNETT J. SIMS, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ATLANTA

THE FEAST OF SAINT NERSES LAMPRONATS, ARMENIAN APOSTOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF TARSUS

THE FEAST OF R. B. Y. SCOTT, CANADIAN BIBLICAL SCHOLAR, HYMN WRITER, AND MINISTER

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Introduction to Second Zechariah   Leave a comment

Above:  Map of the Persian Empire

Image in the Public Domain

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READING SECOND ZECHARIAH, PART I

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Zechariah 9-14

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The Book of Zechariah has two distinct sections.  First Zechariah encompasses chapters 1-8.  Second Zechariah, from a later time, encompasses chapters 9-14.  Second Zechariah, in turn, consists of two sections–chapters 9-11 and 12-14.  Second Zechariah, like much else of the Hebrew Bible, exists in a final form expanded and revised from its original form.

Second Zechariah dates mainly to the middle of the fifth century–the 450s B.C.E., give or take.  The temporal setting is Persian imperial concern for internal security, in the wake of the Egyptian rebellion in the 450s B.C.E., as well as the Greek-Persian wars.  History tells us that the Persian Empire increased control over its western satrapies (provinces) and built fortresses and garrisons linking the Mediterranean coast to the interior.  History also tells us that, from 515 to 450 B.C.E., the pace of Jewish resettlement of Judah was relatively slow, as was the pace of economic recovery.  Furthermore, history tells us that the situation in Judah improved substantially only after 445 B.C.E., with the reforms of Ezra and Nehemiah (Ezra 7-10; Nehemiah 1-13; 1 Esdras 8-9).

Second Zechariah contains diverse material that draws heavily on earlier works.  These works include Jeremiah 13:1-11 and Ezekiel 4:1-5:4, which influenced Zechariah 11:4-16.  Other influences on Second Zechariah include the Book of Isaiah and the Deuteronomic History (Deuteronomy-2 Kings).

The three major Christian lectionaries do little with Second Zechariah.  The Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) schedules 9:9-12 for Proper 9, Year A.  That is the only listing of anything from the Book of Zechariah on the RCL.  The Roman Catholic lectionary for Sundays and major feast days lists Second Zechariah twice–9:9-10 for the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A; and 12:10-11 and 13:1 for the Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C.  (First Zechariah is absent from that lectionary.)  The Roman Catholic lectionary for weekday Masses omits Second Zechariah yet lists three excerpts from First Zechariah.

The introduction to the Book of Zechariah in The Oxford Study Bible (1992) describes much of Second Zechariah as

extremely enigmatic.

So be it.  Let us jump in, shall we?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 17, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM WHITE, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF THE CARMELITE MARTYRS OF COMPIEGNE, 1794

THE FEAST OF BENNETT J. SIMS, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ATLANTA

THE FEAST OF SAINT NERSES LAMPRONATS, ARMENIAN APOSTOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF TARSUS

THE FEAST OF R. B. Y. SCOTT, CANADIAN BIBLICAL SCHOLAR, HYMN WRITER, AND MINISTER

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Israel Forgiven and Restored   Leave a comment

Above:  Joel, the Prophet, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JOEL, PART III

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Joel 2:18-4:21 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox)

Joel 2:18-3:21 (Anglican and Protestant)

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The divine forgiveness and restoration of Judah in the rest of the Book of Joel relies on the assumption that God has been punishing them with a swarm of locusts.  As glorious as the predicted restoration is and as much as I welcome divine mercy, I reject the underlying assumption.

The unidentified invading force in 3:1-21/4:1-21 (depending on versification) will be the recipient of divine wrath, we read.  Again, divine deliverance of the oppressed is catastrophic for the oppressors. We also read that named enemies of Judah–those perennial foes Egypt and Edom–will suffer terrible fates for “shedding the blood of the innocent” in Judah.

But Judah shall be inhabited forever,

And Jerusalem throughout the ages.

Then I will treat as innocent their blood

Which I have not treated as innocent;

And the LORD shall dwell in Zion.

–Joel 4:20-21, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Joel 3:6/4:6 (depending on versification) helps somewhat to date the book.  The verse refers to Philistines selling the people of Judah and Jerusalem to the Ionians.  This is a reference to the slave trade.

The Book of Joel ends on a note of divine vengeance against foes of Judah, juxtaposed with a glorious future for Judah.  In this regard, Joel ends like Third Isaiah.

I have mixed feelings about the Book of Joel.  I do not blame or credit God for natural disasters.  Logic teaches a simple principle:

If x, then y.

Given that I reject x, I harbor questions about y.  I embrace calls to repentance, of course.  Populations and individuals always need to confess their sins and repent.  But what if x (the swarm of locusts, in this case) is not God’s army of destruction?  I also enjoy certain passages of Joel, read on Ash Wednesday and Pentecost, especially.  Yet I do not like the book, as a whole.

Thank you for joining me, O reader, for this journey through the Book of Joel.  My next (and penultimate) destination will be Second Zechariah (Zechariah 9-14).  Stay beside me, so to speak, if you choose.  You are certainly welcome.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 16, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE RIGHTEOUS GENTILES

THE FEAST OF CATHERINE LOUISA MARTHENS, FIRST LUTHERAN DEACONESS CONSECRATED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, 1850

THE FEAST OF GEORGE ALFRED TAYLOR RYGH, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HENRY WILLIAMS, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY IN NEW ZEALAND; HIS WIFE, MARIANNE WILLIAMS, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY AND EDUCATOR IN NEW ZEALAND; HER SISTER-IN-LAW, JANE WILLIAMS, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY AND EDUCATOR IN NEW ZEALAND; AND HER HUSBAND AND HENRY’S BROTHER, WILLIAM WILLAMS, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF WAIAPU

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY MAGDALEN POSTEL, FOUNDER OF THE POOR DAUGHTERS OF MERCY

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Posted July 16, 2021 by neatnik2009 in Joel 2, Joel 3, Joel 4

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The Day of the LORD: Havoc from Shaddai   Leave a comment

Above:  Joel

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JOEL, PART II

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Joel 1:2-2:17

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Alas for the day!

For the day of the LORD is near;

It shall come like havoc from Shaddai.

–Joel 1:15, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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Locusts have been afflictions in northern Africa and the Near East since antiquity.  They have consumed food and grapes, and devastated lives and livelihoods.

Despite some exegetical interpretations of the locusts in Joel 1:2-2:17 as metaphors for invading armies, one may reasonably read “locusts” as referring to locusts.  The four names for locusts have a rhetorical effect and refer to the life cycle and/or manner of eating of locusts.  The infestation of locusts in Joel 1:2-2:17 is especially devastating.  It is so severe that the text likens the swarm to an invading army on the feared Day of the LORD.

The text calls on priests to lament before God, whom the text portrays as following divine orders.  The text explains the swarm of locusts as divine punishment for human sins, hence the calls for lamentation and repentance (2:12-14).

I object strongly.  I recall certain right-wing, homophobic televangelists explaining the devastation of Hurricane Katrina (2005) as divine wrath for alleged moral laxity.  Locusts go where they will.  God does not direct the paths of hurricanes.  I doubt that any deity who would six hurricanes or swarms of locusts on populations is capable of being merciful.

Joel’s concept of God is not my concept of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 16, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE RIGHTEOUS GENTILES

THE FEAST OF CATHERINE LOUISA MARTHENS, FIRST LUTHERAN DEACONESS CONSECRATED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, 1850

THE FEAST OF GEORGE ALFRED TAYLOR RYGH, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HENRY WILLIAMS, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY IN NEW ZEALAND; HIS WIFE, MARIANNE WILLIAMS, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY AND EDUCATOR IN NEW ZEALAND; HER SISTER-IN-LAW, JANE WILLIAMS, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY AND EDUCATOR IN NEW ZEALAND; AND HER HUSBAND AND HENRY’S BROTHER, WILLIAM WILLAMS, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF WAIAPU

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY MAGDALEN POSTEL, FOUNDER OF THE POOR DAUGHTERS OF MERCY

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Posted July 16, 2021 by neatnik2009 in Joel 1, Joel 2

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The Superscription of the Book of Joel   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of Joel

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JOEL, PART I

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Joel 1:1

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The stated name of the prophet is Joel ben Pethuel.  “Joel” means “YHWH is God.”  The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible:  An Illustrated Encyclopedia, Volume 2, E-J (1962), lists thirteen Joels in the Bible, from the time of the Judges to the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, after the Babylonian Exile.  “Joel” is also the name of an archangel in the Pseudipigrapha.

Depending on the commentary one believes, the Book of Joel dates to either the 400s B.C.E. or between 400 and 350 B.C.E.  Linguistic evidence dates the book to the Persian period, anyway.

Oddly, the setting of the Book of Joel is vague–not any particular era in the past of Israel.  The identify of the invading force at the end of the book is vague.  The identity of the invading force in chapter 2 is clear, though–locusts.

The Book of Joel has the same number of verses in Anglican and Protestant Bibles as it does in Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox Bibles.  Yet the book has three chapters in Anglican and Protestant Bibles and four chapters in Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox Bibles.  The last chapter (either 3 or 4) has twenty-one verses, in any case.  The last five verses of chapter 2 in Anglican and Protestant Bibles constitute chapter 3 in Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox Bibles.

For so short a book, Joel fares well on the major three Christian lectionaries.  The Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) covers all three chapters (by Anglican and Protestant counting) well, mainly in Years A and C.  The Roman Catholic lectionary for weekday Masses includes readings from chapters 1, 2, and 4 (by Roman Catholic counting).  The corresponding lectionary for Masses for Sundays and major feast days lists Joel once–3:1-5, as an option for the Vigil for Pentecost, Years A, B, and C.

It shall come to pass

I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh.

Your sons and daughters will prophesy,

your old men will dream drams,

your young men will see visions.

Even upon your male and female servants,

in those days, I will pour out my spirit.

I will set signs in the heavens and on the earth,

blood, fire, and columns of smoke;

The sun will darken,

the moon turn blood-red,

Before the day of the LORD arrives,

that great and terrible day.

Then everyone who calls upon the name of the LORD

will escape harm.

For on Mount Zion there will be a remnant,

as the LORD has said,

And in Jerusalem survivors

whom the LORD will summon.

–Joel 3:1-5, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

We know about as much about the prophet Joel as we do about the dating of the book–very little.

Join me, O reader, as I read and write about these seventy-three verses, arranged in three or four chapters.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 16, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE RIGHTEOUS GENTILES

THE FEAST OF CATHERINE LOUISA MARTHENS, FIRST LUTHERAN DEACONESS CONSECRATED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, 1850

THE FEAST OF GEORGE ALFRED TAYLOR RYGH, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HENRY WILLIAMS, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY IN NEW ZEALAND; HIS WIFE, MARIANNE WILLIAMS, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY AND EDUCATOR IN NEW ZEALAND; HER SISTER-IN-LAW, JANE WILLIAMS, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY AND EDUCATOR IN NEW ZEALAND; AND HER HUSBAND AND HENRY’S BROTHER, WILLIAM WILLAMS, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF WAIAPU

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY MAGDALEN POSTEL, FOUNDER OF THE POOR DAUGHTERS OF MERCY

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Posted July 16, 2021 by neatnik2009 in Joel 1, Joel 2, Joel 3, Joel 4

Tagged with ,

The People’s Lament and God’s Response   Leave a comment

Above:  Valley of Hinnom

Image in the Public Domain

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READING THIRD ISAIAH, PART V

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Isaiah 63:1-66:24

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Isaiah 63:1-6 depicts God as a warrior taking vengeance on Edom (Amos 1:11-12; Isaiah 21:11-12; Ezekiel 25:12-14; Ezekiel 35:1-15; Jeremiah 49:7-22; Obadiah; Isaiah 34:5-17).  For more about Edom, follow the links.  Divine judgment and mercy remain in balance, as in the previous section.

Most of Isaiah 63 and 64 consist of a grand tour of Biblical history, in the form of a lament in the voice of Third Isaiah.  It is a recounting of divine faithfulness, human faithlessness, and divine punishment.  Third Isaiah’s questions of why God has allowed terrible events to occur and not prevented them stand the test of time.  One may ask them, for example, about millennia of anti-Semitic violence, especially the Holocaust.

Nevertheless, Isaiah 64 concludes on a combination of trust and uneasiness.  This makes sense, too.

The divine response, at the beginning of Isaiah 65, is consistent with Covenantal Nomism.  Those who disregarded the mandates of the covenant consistently and unrepentantly dropped out of the covenant and condemned themselves.  God will punish sins, we read.  We also read that God will also regard faithful servants.  Divine judgment and mercy remain in balance.

In the new divine order (65:1-66:24), circumstances will be idyllic and the relationship between God and the faithful population will be close.  The process of getting to that goal is underway, we read.  The old prophecies of heaven on earth will come to pass, we read.  And Jews and Gentiles will recognize the glory of God, we read.  Yet not all will be puppies and kittens, we read:

As they go out they will see the corpses of those who rebelled against me, where the devouring worm never dies and the fire is not quenched.  All mankind will view them with horror.

–Isaiah 66:24, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Isaiah 66:24 refers, literally, to Gehenna, in the Valley of Hinnom, outside the walls of Jerusalem.  Commentaries tell me that, when Jewish Biblical authors (perhaps including Third Isaiah) sought a properly terrifying metaphor for Hell, they used the Jerusalem garbage dump, where corpses of criminals either burned or decomposed, without receiving burial.  Yet, in Isaiah 66:24 (perhaps of later origin than 66:22-23, the bodies of those who rebel against God will neither burn nor decompose.

Regardless of when someone composed 66:24, as well as whether 66:23 originally ended the chapter, I push back against the desire to end the Book of Isaiah on an upbeat note.  I read that, in Jewish practice (as in The Jewish Study Bible), people reprint 66:23 after 66:24, to have an upbeat ending:

And new moon after new moon,

And sabbath after sabbath,

All flesh shall come to worship Me

–said the LORD.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Yet 66:23-24, taken together, balance divine judgment and mercy.  Brevard S. Childs, conceding the possibility of the later composition of 66:24, argues that 66:24 fits the theme of

the division between the righteous and the wicked.

Isaiah (2001), 542

This division exists elsewhere in Third Isaiah, too.

In spite of God’s new heavens and death, the exaltation of Zion, and the entrance of the nations to the worship of God, there remain those outside the realm of God’s salvation.

–Brevard S. Childs, Isaiah (2001), 542

They remain outside the realm of God’s salvation because they have condemned themselves.  As C. S. Lewis wrote, the doors of Hell are locked from the inside.

Thank you, O reader, for joining me on this journey though Third Isaiah.  I invite you to remain by my side, so to speak, as I move along next to the Book of Joel.  This journey through the Hebrew prophetic books is much closer to its conclusion than to its beginning.  Nevertheless, much to learn remains.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 16, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE RIGHTEOUS GENTILES

THE FEAST OF CATHERINE LOUISA MARTHENS, FIRST LUTHERAN DEACONESS CONSECRATED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, 1850

THE FEAST OF GEORGE ALFRED TAYLOR RYGH, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HENRY WILLIAMS, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY IN NEW ZEALAND; HIS WIFE, MARIANNE WILLIAMS, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY AND EDUCATOR IN NEW ZEALAND; HER SISTER-IN-LAW, JANE WILLIAMS, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY AND EDUCATOR IN NEW ZEALAND; AND HER HUSBAND AND HENRY’S BROTHER, WILLIAM WILLAMS, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF WAIAPU

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY MAGDALEN POSTEL, FOUNDER OF THE POOR DAUGHTERS OF MERCY

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