Archive for the ‘1 Esdras Other’ Category

Ezra’s Reading of the Law, the Celebration of the Feast of Booths, and the National Confession of Sin   2 comments

Above:  Ezra Preaches the Law

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 2 KINGS 22-25, 1 ESDRAS, 2 CHRONICLES 34-36, EZRA, AND NEHEMIAH

PART XXIII

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1 Esdras 9:37-55

Nehemiah 7:73b-9:37

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I was stupid and had no understanding;

I was like a brute beast in your presence.

Yet I am always with you;

you hold me by my right hand.

You will guide me by your counsel,

and afterwards receive me with glory.

–Psalm 73:22-24, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Reading Ezra and Nehemiah in chronological order requires one to follow a chart.  I am following the reading arrangement from The New Oxford Annotated Bible and adding parallel passages from 1 Esdras to the mix.  Nehemiah 7:73b-9:37 follows Ezra 7:1-10:44 chronologically.  The narrative of Nehemiah concludes before the book does.  That fact is potentially confusing.

Remorse precedes and makes possible repentance.  Yet, as we read in Nehemiah 8:9-12 and 1 Esdras 9:30-55, one must not wallow in remorse.  No, repentance; God forgives the penitent.  One should find inspiration in repentance, the new beginning has arrived.

1 Esdras concludes:

And they came together.

The penitent, returned exiles, having repented and having become inspired by the words of the Law of Moses and of Ezra and the Levites, came together.  The people started over together, as a community of faith.  They were in it together.

Here ends this series of posts.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 11, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY THAUMATURGUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC OF NEOCAESAREA; AND ALEXANDER OF COMONA, “THE CHARCOAL BURNER,” ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR, 252, AND BISHOP OF COMANA, PONTUS

THE FEAST OF SAINT EQUITIUS OF VALERIA, BENEDICTINE ABBOT AND FOUNDER OF MONASTERIES

THE FEAST OF MATTHIAS LOY, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, EDUCATOR, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR’ AND CONRAD HERMANN LOUIS SCHUETTE, GERMAN-AMERICAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, EDUCATOR, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAURICE TORNAY, SWISS ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, MISSIONARY TO TIBET, AND MARTYR, 1949

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Ezra and More Exiles Arrive in Jerusalem   2 comments

Above:  Ezra

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 2 KINGS 22-25, 1 ESDRAS, 2 CHRONICLES 34-36, EZRA, AND NEHEMIAH

PART XXII

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1 Esdras 8:1-9:36

Ezra 7:1-10:44

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Up, Jerusalem! stand upon the heights;

look to the east and see your children

Gathered from the east and the west at the word of the Holy One,

rejoicing that they are remembered by God.

–Baruch 5:5, The New American Bible (1991)

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Many Jewish exiles remained outside their ancestral homeland after Cyrus II permitted Jews to return (Ezra 1).  Many exiles never returned; they belonged to the diaspora.  Cyrus II permitted Jews to return, starting in 538 B.C.E..  Artaxerxes I reigned from 465 to 424 B.C.E., during which the events of 1 events of 1 Esdras 8:1-9:36 and Ezra 7:1-10:44 occurred.  Decades had passed between the times of Cyrus II and Ezra.

As I have written repeatedly in this series, consistent chronology is not the organizing principle in 1 Esdras, Ezra, and Nehemiah.  This is why Ezra 7-10 follow Nehemiah 9 and 10 chronologically.  One may notice that Ezra benefited from Nehemiah’s political maneuvering of Artaxerxes I (Nehemiah 1 and 6).  One man’s work made another man’s work possible.

The lists in 1 Esdras 8:24-40 and Ezra 8:1-14 are not identical.  If I were a Biblical literalist, I would care.  One can identify other differences between the two versions.  If I were a Biblical literalist, I would care.

According to Covenental Nomism, Jews received salvation via grace–birth really.  They, born into the covenant, had the obligation to keep the Law of Moses as best they could.  Nobody could keep the Law of Moses perfectly, but everybody could repent of having violated it.  The consistent failure to repent constituted self-exclusion from the covenant.  Following God meant doing, to the best of one’s ability, what God commanded.

This understanding was part of the theological context of Nehemiah and Ezra.  Ezra learned what Nehemiah knew already; mixed marriages with foreigners (with their own deities) was a serious problem and a national sin.  Nehemiah had begun to address the issue from his position as governor (Nehemiah 13).  Ezra the scribe and priest approached the issue from his position of religious power.

Intermarriage, as a moral problem, related to idolatry.  The Law of Moses forbade both.  The Law forbade intermarriage (Deuteronomy 7:3; 20:16-18).  Examples of monarchs whose foreign wives were negative influences upon them included Solomon (1 Kings 11) and Ahab (1 Kings 16, 19-22).  Malachi 2:11 repeated the prohibition against intermarriage.

Starting over properly is essential.  One may not know that x is wrong, and therefore commit x.  Yet when one learns that x is wrong, how does one respond?  One should respond by confessing and repenting.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 11, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY THAUMATURGUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC OF NEOCAESAREA; AND ALEXANDER OF COMONA, “THE CHARCOAL BURNER,” ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR, 252, AND BISHOP OF COMANA, PONTUS

THE FEAST OF SAINT EQUITIUS OF VALERIA, BENEDICTINE ABBOT AND FOUNDER OF MONASTERIES

THE FEAST OF MATTHIAS LOY, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, EDUCATOR, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR’ AND CONRAD HERMANN LOUIS SCHUETTE, GERMAN-AMERICAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, EDUCATOR, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAURICE TORNAY, SWISS ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, MISSIONARY TO TIBET, AND MARTYR, 1949

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Opposition to Rebuilding Jerusalem and Its Walls   2 comments

Above:  Artaxerxes I

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 2 KINGS 22-25, 1 ESDRAS, 2 CHRONICLES 34-36, EZRA, AND NEHEMIAH

PART XIV

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1 Esdras 2:16-30

Ezra 4:6-24

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How long shall the wicked, O LORD,

how long shall the wicked triumph?

–Psalm 94:3, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Just as consistent chronology is not the organizing principle in Ezra-Nehemiah, neither is it the organizing principle in 1 Esdras.

During the reign (465-424 B.C.E.) of Artaxerxes I of the Persians and the Medes…

…Lies about the loyalty of Jews in Jerusalem persisted.  The Jews were going to rebel against the empire, critics alleged.  Artaxerxes I believed the lies and issued orders to cease reconstruction.

The identification of Artaxerxes and one of the models for the fictional Ahasuerus in the Book of Esther makes sense.  Artaxerxes I comes across in 1 Esdras and Ezra as a king quite different from Darius I.  Also, Ahasuerus in the Book of Esther comes across as an easily-swayed ruler who let others make decisions in his name.

Next stop:  The Book of Nehemiah.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 9, 2020 COMMON ERA

PROPER 14:  THE TENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT EDITH STEIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND PHILOSOPHER

THE FEAST OF SAINT HERMAN OF ALASKA, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX MONK AND MISSIONARY TO THE ALEUT

THE FEAST OF JOHN DRYDEN, ENGLISH PURITAN THEN ANGLICAN THEN ROMAN CATHOLIC POET, PLAYWRIGHT, AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF MARY SUMNER, FOUNDRESS OF THE MOTHERS’ UNION

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The Continuation of the Rebuilding and the Completion of the Second Temple   2 comments

Above:  Reconstruction of the Temple of Jerusalem

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 2 KINGS 22-25, 1 ESDRAS, 2 CHRONICLES 34-36, EZRA, AND NEHEMIAH

PART XIII

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1 Esdras 6:1-7:15

Ezra 5:1-6:22

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How dear to me is your dwelling, O LORD of hosts!

My soul has a desire and a longing for the courts of the LORD;

my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God.

–Psalm 84:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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As I have written in this series, consistent chronology is not the organizational principle in Ezra.  Consider, O reader, the following examples:

  1. Ezra 4:5 establishes the range of Persian kings during the delay in rebuilding of the Second Temple in Jerusalem as spanning Cyrus II (r. 559-530 B.C.E.), Cambyses (r. 530-522 B.C.E.), and Darius I (r. 522-486 B.C.E.).
  2. Ezra 4:6 names the king as Ahasuerus–in this case, Xerxes I (r. 486-465 B.C.E.)
  3. Ezra 4:7 names the king as Artaxerxes I (r. 465-424 B.C.E.), with Xerxes I, one of the models for Ahasuerus in the Book of Esther.
  4. Ezra 5:1 names the king as Darius I (r. 522-486 B.C.E.).

In U.S. presidential terms, that would be like establishing the range as the administrations of George Washington (1789-1797), John Adams (1797-1801), and Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809) then mentioning the administrations of James Madison (1809-1817) and James Monroe (1817-1825) before returning to the Jefferson Administration.  If one is not well-versed in the chronology, one can easily become confused.

To add to the confusion, Ezra 4:7-24 belongs to the next topic–rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem.  I am still writing about the rebuilding of the Temple.  I resume, therefore, at Ezra 5:1.

Darius I took the rebuilding of the Temple seriously (Ezra 6:11-12; 1 Esdras 6:32-33).  The completion of the Second Temple happened on his watch, to use an anachronistic figure of speech.  A celebration of the Passover followed.

Passover was the annual celebration of God liberating the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt.  Passover was a great national holiday and a religious festival.  Jewish independence was in the past at that Passover, but the Persian monarch was friendly toward the Jews, at least.  Being subjects of Darius I was far better for Jews than being subjects of Nebuchadnezzar II.  Those Jews who had chosen to return to the ancestral homeland, part of the satrapy Beyond the River, had participated in an exodus from Babylon.  They had many reasons to be thankful.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 9, 2020 COMMON ERA

PROPER 14:  THE TENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT EDITH STEIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND PHILOSOPHER

THE FEAST OF SAINT HERMAN OF ALASKA, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX MONK AND MISSIONARY TO THE ALEUT

THE FEAST OF JOHN DRYDEN, ENGLISH PURITAN THEN ANGLICAN THEN ROMAN CATHOLIC POET, PLAYWRIGHT, AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF MARY SUMNER, FOUNDRESS OF THE MOTHERS’ UNION

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Restoration of Worship in Jerusalem and Opposition to the Rebuilding of the Temple   2 comments

Above:  Darius I

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 2 KINGS 22-25, 1 ESDRAS, 2 CHRONICLES 34-36, EZRA, AND NEHEMIAH

PART XII

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1 Esdras 5:47-53

Ezra 3:1-4:5

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O God, you are my God; eagerly I seek you;

my soul thirsts for you, my flesh faints for you,

as in a barren and dry land where there is no water.

–Psalm 63:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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I detect chronological confusion in each text and between the two of them.  Ezra 3:1-4:6 places these events circa 538 B.C.E., during the reign of Cyrus II and shortly after the conquest of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  Yet Ezra 3:1-46 also names Zerubbabel as the governor.  In objectively correct  chronology, we find that Zerubbabel received his appointment after the death of Cyrus II.  (Cyrus II died in 530 B.C.E.)  On the other hand, 1 Esdras 5:47-73 correctly places these events and Zerubbabel’s governorship post-Cyrus II.  Nevertheless, 1 Esdras 5:73, following the lead of Ezra 4:5, mentions Cyrus II as being one of the kings during these events.  These hiccups are minor matters.  Now I turn my attention to major issues.

Proper worship of YHWH in Jerusalem had been impossible for decades, since Nebuchadnezzar II had taken (in stages) sacred vessels from the Temple to Babylon.  The restoration of proper liturgical worship in YHWH in Jerusalem (whenever that occurred) was a great joy and a communal blessing.  It was essential to communal restoration.  Many local Gentiles delayed the rebuilding of the Temple, unfortunately.

By the way, 1 Esdras 5:47-73 acknowledges that Gentile opposition while softening the attitude evident in Ezra 3:1-4:6.  1 Esdras is less hostile to Gentiles than Ezra.  1 Esdras 5:50, for example, says that some of the

other peoples of the land

joined Jews in preparing the altar of the God of Israel.

I can only imagine what joy those returned exiles must have felt when they could worship God properly, according to the Law of Moses.  I can identity with not being able to worship God as part of a congregation.  I write these words during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Attending church each Sunday consists of watching a video on YouTube, and I cannot take communion.  This seems to be the pattern I will continue to live indefinitely.  I know that, when the vaccine will be widely available and the pandemic is over, returning to church services will be especially joyful.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 8, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY MACKILLOP, FOUNDRESS OF THE SISTERS OF SAINT JOSEPH OF THE SACRED HEART

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALTMAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF PASSAU

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC, FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF PREACHERS

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Three Young Bodyguards in the Court of Darius I   Leave a comment

Above:  Zerubbabel

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 2 KINGS 22-25, 1 ESDRAS, 2 CHRONICLES 34-36, EZRA, AND NEHEMIAH

PART XI

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1 Esdras 3:1-5:6

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My God, my rock in whom I put my trust,

my shield, the horn of my salvation and my refuge;

you are worthy of praise.

–Psalm 18:2, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Our story jumps ahead a few years, past the reign (530-522 B.C.E.) of Cambyses to that (522-486 B.C.E.) of Darius I.

Zerubbabel was of the lineage of David.  Zerubbabel, a bodyguard in the court of Darius I, won a contest.  He provided the winning answer in a contest to state what is strongest.  Our bodyguard (not named) argued that wine is strongest, for it affects people regardless of social class.  Another unnamed bodyguard, citing the great power of Eastern monarchs, insisted that the king is the strongest.  Zerubbabel, the third bodyguard, first argued that women are the strongest and that even Darius I’s concubine had power over the monarch.  Then Zerubbabel changed his answer to truth.

To quote Pontius Pilate in the Gospel of John,

What is truth?

Truth is objective, not subjective.  Truth is right, upright, and everlasting.  Truth is not relative.  Truth is reliable.  That is important to understand at all times, especially during a polarized age in which many people speak shamelessly of

alternative facts.

I cannot have my truth.  You, O reader, cannot have a competing truth.  No, the truth is the truth.

In this charming story, probably originally in Aramaic, Darius I accepted Zerubbabel’s second answer.  Our hero’s prize was the opportunity to help rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple.  Darius I did more; he put the Persian Empire on the side of the reconstruction effort and sent sacred vessels back to the holy city.

Zerubbabel’s prayer glorifying God (4:59-60) is suitable for many occasions.

Consistent chronology is not the organizing principle in 1 Esdras, Ezra, and Nehemiah.  For example, when reading Ezra and Nehemiah, one has to move from one book to another sometimes to keep the timeline in order.  And the chronologies of 1 Esdras and Ezra-Nehemiah are sometimes inconsistent with each other.  That is a minor point for me; I prefer to focus on major points.

With [truth] there is no partiality or preference, but it does what is righteous instead of anything that is unrighteous or wicked.

–1 Esdras 4:39a, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

So be it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 8, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY MACKILLOP, FOUNDRESS OF THE SISTERS OF SAINT JOSEPH OF THE SACRED HEART

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALTMAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF PASSAU

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC, FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF PREACHERS

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Cyrus II Allows Exiles to Return   2 comments

Above:  Cyrus II

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 2 KINGS 22-25, 1 ESDRAS, 2 CHRONICLES 34-36, EZRA, AND NEHEMIAH

PART X

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2 Chronicles 36:22-23

1 Esdras 2:1-15 and 5:7-46

Ezra 1:1-11 and 2:1-70

Nehemiah 7:6-73a

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Sit silent, retire into darkness,

O Fair Chaldea;

Nevermore shall they call you

Mistress of Kingdoms.

–Isaiah 47:5, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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Cyrus II of the Persians and the Medes (r. 559-530 B.C.E.) conquered the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire in 538 B.C.E.  He, a tolerant ruler, reversed the Babylonian Exile and launched another Jewish exodus.  Cyrus earned his nickname, “the Great.”

Biblical authors were understandably sympathetic to Cyrus II.  Isaiah 44:24-45:25 went so far as to apply “Messiah” to him.  (Aside:  As scholarly books about Messiahship attest, that term has had a variety of meanings over time.)  Coverage and mentions of Cyrus the Great in 2 Chronicles 36, Ezra 1, Ezra 3-6, 1 Esdras 2, and 1 Esdras 4-7 was also positive.  Why not?

Walter Brueggemann, a great scholar of the Old Testament and a minister in the United Church of Christ, tells us that the main themes in the Hebrew Bible are exile and exodus.  Both themes are present in the readings for this post.  Related to those themes is the hand of God acting through people, including Gentiles, good or bad.  Cyrus II (who was a Zoroastrian, by the way) occupies space on the list of good Gentiles.  Related to that theme is another one:  anyone may function as a prophet of God, however briefly or not.  If God chooses to speak through someone, that person is a prophet for as long as he or she speaks for God.  All of these themes are consistent with a fifth one:  the sovereignty of God.

I, as a Christian (therefore, a Trinitarian), accept the the concept of the Holy Spirit speaking through people.  I have experienced it.  I have also experienced people functioning as agents of grace.  The identities of God’s agents have surprised me sometimes.  Often they have been people I have expected, however.

God speaks to us and acts in a variety of ways, including via human beings.  God may speak and act through you, O reader, and through me.  When we fail to recognize any agent or prophet of God, we miss something important.  We need to reorient our expectations.  I am chief among those who need to heed this advice.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 8, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY MACKILLOP, FOUNDRESS OF THE SISTERS OF SAINT JOSEPH OF THE SACRED HEART

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALTMAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF PASSAU

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC, FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF PREACHERS

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