Archive for the ‘2 Chronicles 36’ Category

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

Above:  Icon of Ezekiel

Image in the Public Domain

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READING EZEKIEL, PART X

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Ezekiel 17:1-24

Ezekiel 19:1-14

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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

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This is post #2550 of BLOGA THEOLOGICA.

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The End of the Reign of King Zedekiah of Judah, with the Release of Jeremiah from Prison   1 comment

Above:  Jeremiah Let Down Into the Cistern

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART XXI

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Jeremiah 34:1-22

Jeremiah 37:1-40:6

Jeremiah 52:1-34

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The Book of Jeremiah, in which chronology is not the organizing principle for material, contains various sources, some of which contradict each other regarding details.

  1. You may recall, O reader, that that Jeremiah was in prison in Chapters 32 and 33, and that Jerusalem fell between 32 and 33.  Yet we have jumped back in time to before the Fall of Jerusalem  in Chapter 37, only to read of its fall in Chapter 39.  Jerusalem had yet to fall in Chapters 34-38, as well in much of Chapter 52.
  2. Jeremiah 52, by the way, is nearly identical to 2 Kings 24:18-25:30.
  3. The accounts of Jeremiah’s incarceration disagree with each other.  37:11-16 and 38:1-13 contradict each other.  Furthermore, 37:17-21 flows into 38:14-28.  Also, 39:11-14 contradicts 40:1-6.  Evidence of ancient cutting, copying, and pasting exists in Jeremiah 37-40.  I unpack this point below, in this post.

Due to the lack of chronological organization of material in the Book of Jeremiah, we have encountered King Zedekiah (597-586 B.C.E.; see 2 Chronicles 36:11f, also) already.  We have read his name in Jeremiah 1, 21, 24, 27, 28, 29, 32, and 33, not including the false prophet Zedekiah in 29:21-22.  Zedekiah ben Josiah was the last King of Judah.  King Josiah (r. 640-609 B.C.E.) would have rolled over in his grave to learn of the circumstances during the reigns of the last four Kings of Judah (609-586 B.C.E.)

The cause of Jeremiah’s arrest was either alleged defection to the Chaldeans/Neo-Babylonians (37:11-16) or unpopular prophecy (38:1-13).  The latter explanation is consistent with 32:1-5.

The copying, cutting, and pasting of sources in Chapters 37-40 creates a confusing, mixed-up, and contradictory composite chronology.

  1. 37:17-21 interrupts the natural flow of material into 38:1-13.  We read that Jeremiah was in a pit for days (37:16).  We also read that Ebed-melech liberated Jeremiah from that pit.  Then, in that chronology, we read that Jeremiah went to the court of the guardhouse (38:7-13), where he was in Chapters 32 and 33.  Then, in this chronology, we move to 39:1-14.  We read of the liberation of Jeremiah after the Fall of Jerusalem.  We read that Jeremiah went to the household of Gedaliah.  We read that the prophet nearly became an exile in Babylon, but that Nebuzaradan, the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian captain of the guard, freed him (40:1-6).  We read that Jeremiah went to the household of Gedaliah.
  2. We read of no pit in the other chronology.  No, we read that Jeremiah remained in the court of the guardhouse, except when King Zedekiah had him temporarily transported somewhere.  In this timeline, we read that the prophet nearly became an exile in Babylon, but that Nebuzaradan, the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian captain of the guard, freed him (40:1-6).  We read that Jeremiah then went to the household of Gedaliah.

34:8-2 adds another wrinkle to the last days before the Fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.E.  We read that King Zedekiah had convinced the slaveholders of Jerusalem to free their Hebrew slaves.  We also read that some slaveholders returned freed slaves to slavery, and that God strongly objected to this.  Deuteronomy 15:12-15 dictates that the maximum period of slavery of a Hebrew was six years.

In context, with the temporary lifting of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian siege, thanks to Egyptian military intervention on behalf of Judah, some slaveholders of Jerusalem thought they no longer had to live or to try to live according to divine law.  Perhaps some of these slaveholders had already kept many of the Hebrew slaves for longer than six years.  The liberation, therefore, was overdue.  Reenslavement was morally indefensible.

34:17-22 ascribes the Fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.E. to divine punishment for the reenslavement of these unfortunate individuals.

A major theme in these readings is that, when people do what God says to do, they are better off.  They may not necessarily be more prosperous, but they may be safer.  They will not die in exile in Babylon, for example.  This is an overly simplistic idea.  Staying within the Book of Jeremiah alone, I cite the example of that prophet, who died in exile in Egypt (43:8-44:30).  Nevertheless, actions do have consequences.  People reap what they sow.  Yet sometimes obeying God leads down a difficult path, as the life of Jeremiah attests.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 13, 2021 COMMON ERA

PROPER 6:  THE THIRD SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT SPYRIDON OF CYPRUS, BISHOP OF TREMITHUS, CYPRUS; AND HIS CONVERT, SAINT TRYPHILLIUS OF LEUCOSIA, CYPRUS; OPPONENTS OF ARIANISM

THE FEAST OF DAVID ABEEL, U.S. DUTCH REFORMED MINISTER AND MISSIONARY TO ASIA

THE FEAST OF ELIAS BENJAMIN SANFORD, U.S. METHODIST THEN CONGREGATIONAL MINISTER AND ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF SIGISMUND VON BIRKEN, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CULLEN BRYANT, U.S. POET, JOURNALIST, AND HYMN WRITER

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Jeremiah Versus False Prophets   Leave a comment

Above:  King Zedekiah of Judah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART XVIII

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Jeremiah 27:1-29:32

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The Masoretic Text of Jeremiah 27:1 indicates that Jehoiakim was the King of Judah.  Yet this is a scribal error, for the rest of the text names Zedekiah as the King of Judah.  Many English translations correct the Masoretic Text and list Zedekiah as the monarch.

Zedekiah, born Mattaniah, reigned from 597 to 586 B.C.E.  As the King of Judah, he was always a vassal of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.

God was sovereign, Jeremiah pronounced.  All world leaders, even King Nebuchadnezzar II of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire (r. 605-562 B.C.E.) were vassals of God.  The prophet told King Zedekiah to disregard the advice of the false prophets to rebel against the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  The only way to live was as a Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian vassal, Jeremiah told King Zedekiah.  The King of Judah disregarded the prophet’s advice and rebelled anyway.  King Zedekiah, blinded, died a prisoner in Babylon (2 Kings 24:18-25:26; 2 Chronicles 36:11-21; 1 Esdras 1:47-58).

Hananiah ben Azzur was a false prophet.  He was the prophetic equivalent of happy pills.  Hananiah, who had

urged disloyalty to the LORD,

died the same year he issued the false prophecy.

The first round of the Babylonian Exile started in 597 B.C.E., with the deposition of King Jehoiachin/Jeconiah/Coniah.  Before the Fall of Jerusalem (586 B.C.E.), Jeremiah wrote to these exiles.  They were home, Jeremiah wrote to these exiles.  Jeremiah counseled them to settle permanently.  In Deuteronomy 20:5-7, building houses, planting vineyards, marrying, and procreating indicated permanent settlement.  The collapse of such signs of permanent settlement, as was about to happen in Judah, indicated divine judgment (Deuteronomy 28:30-32; Amos 5:11; Zephaniah 1:13).  The restoration of these signs of permanent settlement played a role in prophecies of consolation (Isaiah 65:21-23; Jeremiah 29:5-6; Ezekiel 28:25-26).

Jeremiah 29:10 returns to the motif of seventy years, present in Jeremiah 25:11-14.

We read denunciations of other false prophets–Ahab ben Kolaiah and Zedekiah ben Maaseiah (29:20-23), as well as Shemaiah the Nehelamite (29:24-32).  We read of their unfortunate fates.  We also read again that false prophesy is urging disloyalty to God.

One of the practical difficulties in applying timeless principles is that one must apply them in circumstances.  Circumstances can vary widely, according to who, when, and where one is.  Therefore, a degree of relativism exists in the application of timeless principles.

Consider one timeless principle, O reader.  One should never urge disloyalty to God.  My circumstances are quite different from those of Jeremiah, during the reign of King Zedekiah.  Yet the timeless principle applies to my set of circumstances.  When and where I am, how I may confront those urging disloyalty to God looks very different than Jeremiah in Chapters 27-29.

Whenever and wherever you are, O reader, may you never urge disloyalty to God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 12, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF EDWIN PAXTON HOOD, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, PHILANTHROPIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN DAVID JAESCHKE, GERMAN MORAVIAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER; AND HIS GRANDSON, HENRI MARC HERMANN VOLDEMAR VOULLAIRE, MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND MINISTER

THE FEAST OF ENMEGAHBOWH, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND MISSIONARY TO THE OJIBWA NATION

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH DACRE CARLYLE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MILTON SMITH LITTLEFIELD, JR., U.S. PRESBYTERIAN AND CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

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Jeremiah and Baruch   1 comment

Above:  Jehoiakim Burns the Word of God

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART XVI

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Jeremiah 36:1-32

Jeremiah 45:1-5

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When I taught history survey courses in colleges and universities, I told my students:

Keep your facts straight and your chronology in order.

The Book of Jeremiah does not always keep its facts straight.  I have noted some examples of this already in this series of posts.  I point to two examples in this post.  I have more examples to point out when I get to them.  I am a serious student of history; I stand by the objective reality that x either happened or did not.  I make no apology for this.

The Book of Jeremiah does not keep its chronology straight, either.

  1. Zedekiah was the last King of Judah.  He reigned from 597 to 586 B.C.E.  He was the named monarch in Jeremiah 24, 27, 28, 32, 37, and 38.
  2. Jehoiakim, nephew of Zedekiah, reigned as the King of Judah from 608 to 598 B.C.E.  Jehoiakim was the named monarch in Chapters 25, 26 (completing the story in 7 and 8, by the way), 35, and 45.  The events of Chapter 35 transpired after those of Chapter 36.
  3. Jeremiah 39 and 52 cover the Fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.E.  Off-screen, so to speak, the city fell between Chapters 32 and 33, and before 10:23-25.

The Book of Jeremiah is messing with my head.  The beginning should come before the middle, which should precede the end.  Linear story-telling has its virtues.

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In 608 B.C.E., Eliakim ben Josiah came to the throne of Judah as Jehoiakim, succeeding a deposed and exiled brother, Jehoahaz ben Josiah (r. 609 B.C.E.).  Both brothers were vassals of Pharoah Neco II (reigned 610-595 B.C.E.).  During the reign of Jehoiakim, the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire replaced Egypt as the power to which Judah’s monarch served as a vassal.  Jehoiakim was also a tyrant who had prophets who spoke inconvenient truths arrested and executed circa 608 B.C.E.  Intervention spared the life of Jeremiah from Jehoiakim’s wrath (Jeremiah 26).  Yet, circa 608 B.C.E., Uriah ben Shemaiah died for saying what Jeremiah proclaimed (Jeremiah 26).

The events of Jeremiah 36 occurred in 605 B.C.E.  That year, Jeremiah had no access to the Temple.  Therefore, he sent his scribe, Baruch ben Neriah, in his place.  The scribe used the words of divine judgment and the invitation to repent.  These words met with a chilly reception.  King Jehoiakim burned the scroll.

The LORD now says of Jehoiakim, king of Judah:  No descendant of his shall sit on David’s throne; his corpse shall be thrown out, exposed to heat by day, frost by night.  I will punish him and his descendants for their wickedness; upon them, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and the people of Judah I will bring all the evil threats to which they will not listen.

–Jeremiah 36:30-31, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

King Jehoiakim’s reign ended in 598 B.C.E.

  1. He may have died peacefully in his sleep, in his palace (2 Kings 24:6).  “He rested with his forefathers” usually indicated a peaceful death.
  2. He may have become a prisoner in the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire (2 Chronicles 36:6; 1 Esdras 1:40).
  3. He may have died in battle, outside the walls of Jerusalem.  His corpse may have remained unburied, a sign of disgrace and disrespect (Jeremiah 22:19; 36:30-31).

Despite the prophecy, a son of Jehoiakim succeeded him.  King Jehoiachin/Jeconiah/Coniah reigned for about three months in 597 B.C.E. before becoming a prisoner in the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire (2 Kings 24:8-17; 2 Kings 25:27-30; 2 Chronicles 36:9-10; 1 Esdras 1:43-46).

Above:  Baruch Writing Jeremiah’s Prophecies

Image in the Public Domain

Turning to Jeremiah 45, we remain in 605 B.C.E., according to the text.

God commanded Jeremiah to tell Baruch ben Neriah:

Thus said the LORD:  I am going to overthrow what I have built, and uproot what I have planted–this applies to the whole land.  And do you expect great things for yourself?  Don’t expect them.  For I am going to bring disaster upon all flesh–declares the LORD–but I will at least grant your life in all the places where you may go.

–Jeremiah 45:4-5, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

This work exacted a heavy toll on Jeremiah and his scribe.  The divine promise of not getting killed in the line of duty applied to the prophet, also (Jeremiah 1:19).  Ebed-melech, another ally of Jeremiah, had a divine guarantee of his life, too (Jeremiah 39:18).  Despite this divine promise, being Jeremiah or one of his allies was risky.

One may not want to hear God say to one:

And do you expect great things for yourself?  Don’t expect them.

Baruch, of course, went to Egypt with Jeremiah (43:6).

Some interpretive difficulties arise in Jeremiah 45.

  1. The text dates the prophecy to 605 B.C.E.
  2. Yet Chapter 45 follows exile in Egypt for Jeremiah and Baruch, and flows thematically from Chapter 44.
  3. Nevertheless, as I keep repeating, chronology is not the organizing principle in the Book of Jeremiah.  Structurally, the Book of Jeremiah reminds me of certain movies by Atom Egoyan, the acclaimed Canadian movie director.  Egoyan does not favor linear story-telling; he often has three timeframes running in his movies, and cuts from one timeframe to another one periodically.  For proper understanding of The Sweet Hereafter (1997) and Ararat (2002), for example, one needs to watch at least three times.
  4. The translation of the end of 45:5 varies.  TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) goes one way, with, “…but I will, at least, grant you your life.”  The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011) goes another way, with, “…but I will grant you your life as spoils of war….”

And do you expect great things for yourself?  Don’t expect them.

God’s reward to Jeremiah, Baruch, and Ebed-melech was survival in a terrifying time.

That does not seem like much of a reward, does it?  Yet, as St. Teresa of Calcutta said, God calls people to be faithful, not successful.  This is a difficult teaching.  I struggle with it.  Maybe you do, too, O reader.  I read that Jeremiah and Baruch did.

By human standards, Jeremiah was a failure.  He was on the outs with authorities.  His message convinced few people.  He died in involuntary exile in a land where he had warned people not to go.  And, by human standards, Jeremiah dragged Baruch down with him.

Yet, thousands of years later, faithful Jews and Christians utter the names of Jeremiah and Baruch with respect.  Many Jews and Christians still study and read the Book of Jeremiah.  The faithful legacy of Jeremiah and Baruch endures.

By that standard, Jeremiah and Baruch succeeded.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 12, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF EDWIN PAXTON HOOD, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, PHILANTHROPIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN DAVID JAESCHKE, GERMAN MORAVIAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER; AND HIS GRANDSON, HENRI MARC HERMANN VOLDEMAR VOULLAIRE, MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND MINISTER

THE FEAST OF ENMEGAHBOWH, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND MISSIONARY TO THE OJIBWA NATION

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH DACRE CARLYLE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MILTON SMITH LITTLEFIELD, JR., U.S. PRESBYTERIAN AND CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

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Fates of Kings and Jerusalem   Leave a comment

Above:  Jeremiah Tells the King That Jerusalem Shall Be Taken

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART XIII

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Jeremiah 21:1-22:30

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For God’s sake, let us sit upon the ground,

and tell sad stories of the death of kings….

–William Shakespeare, Richard II, Act 3, Scene 2

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Jeremiah 21-25 consists of oracles in the last years of Jerusalem.  Zedekiah (born Mattaniah) in the regnant monarch named in 21:1.  The Jewish Study Bible, Second Edition (2014), lists his reign as having spanned 597-586 B.C.E.  Outside of the Book of Jeremiah, one can read about King Zedekiah in 2 Kings 24:18-25:26; 2 Chronicles 36:11-21; and 1 Esdras 1:47-58.

Passhur the priest (21:1) was a different person than Passhur the priest (20:1), just as Zephaniah the priest (21:1) was a different person than Zephaniah the prophet (Zephaniah 1-3).

The theme of divine retribution in exchange for rampant, persistent, and systemic social injustice recurs.

There was bad news all around.

  1. Jerusalem was fall to the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire in 586 B.C.E.
  2. King Zedekiah (r. 597-586 B.C.E.) would suffer an ignominious fate.
  3. King Jehohaz/Jeconiah/Shallum (r. 609 B.C.E.; 2 Kings 23:31-35; 2 Chronicles 36:1-4; 1 Esdras 1:34-38), would die in exile in Egypt.
  4. King Jehoiakim (r. 608-598 B.C.E.; 2 Kings 23:36-24:7; 2 Chronicles 36:5-8; 1 Esdras 1:39-42) either died peacefully in his palace (2 Kings 24:6), became a captive in Babylon (2 Chronicles 36:5-8; 1 Esdras 1:40), or died outside the walls of Jerusalem in 598 B.C.E. and received no burial (Jeremiah 22:19; 36:30-31).
  5. King Jehoiachin/Jeconiah/Coniah (r. 597 B.C.E.; 2 Kings 24:8-17; 2 Kings 25:27-30; 2 Chronicles 36:9-10; 1 Esdras 1:43-46) would become a prisoner in Babylon, too.

I detect odd editing, without regard to chronology.  Follow my reasoning, O reader:

  1. Zedekiah was the last King of Judah.  Material concerning him establishes the present tense at the beginning of Chapter 21.
  2. The material concerning Jehoahaz/Jeconiah/Shallum would have been contemporary to the Zedekiah material.
  3. Yet the material concerning Jehoiakim comes from during his reign.
  4. Likewise, the material concerning Jehoiachin/Jeconiah/Coniah comes from during his reign.

The divine condemnations of rulers who did not try to govern righteously remain relevant, sadly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 11, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BARNABAS THE APOSTLE, COWORKER OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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Jeremiah’s Sermon in the Temple, With His Trial and Death Sentence   Leave a comment

Above:  Statue of Jeremiah, Salisbury Cathedral

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART V

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Jeremiah 7:1-8:3

Jeremiah 26:1-24

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Jeremiah 7:1-20:18 consists of oracles primarily from the reign (608-598 B.C.E.) of Jehoiakim (born Eliakim) of Judah.  For more about Jehoiakim, read 2 Kings 23:36-24:7; 2 Chronicles 36:5-8; 1 Esdras 1:39-42.

The Assyrian Empire had consumed the (northern) Kingdom of Israel in 722 B.C.E. then the Kingdom of Aram in 720 B.C.E.  In 612 B.C.E., the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire had conquered the Assyrian Empire.  In 608 B.C.E., Judah was struck between two powerful neighbors–Egypt and Babylonia, themselves enemies.  After the death of King Josiah (r. 640-609 B.C.E.) in combat against Pharaoh Neco II of Egypt (r. 610-595 B.C.E.), Judah had become a vassal state of Egypt.  Neco II had appointed the next King of Judah, Jehoahaz, also known as Jeconiah and Shallum (2 Kings 23:31-35; 2 Chronicles 36:1-4; 1 Esdras 1:34-38).  Jehoahaz had reigned for about three months in 609 B.C.E. before Neco II had replaced him with another son of Josiah and taken him into captivity in Egypt.  Neco II had also appointed Eliakim and changed his name to Jehoiakim in 608 B.C.E.  He served as an Egyptian vassal until 605 B.C.E., when he became a Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian vassal.

Jeremiah spent most of his prophetic career speaking difficult truths to a nation under foreign domination.  This context was extremely politically dangerous.

This sermon is thematically consistent with Hosea 6:4-6; Micah 3:9-12; and Amos 2:4-6.  It is also thematically consistent with many other passages of Hebrew scripture.  The link between idolatry and social injustice (especially economic injustice) is clear.  Sacred rituals, even those the Law of Moses mandates, are not talismans.  The joining of lived collective piety and justice on one hand and sacred ritual on the other hand is imperative.  The combination of social injustice and sacred ritual makes a mockery of sacred ritual.

Mend your ways and your actions,

Jeremiah preached at the Temple.  Then he unpacked that statement:

…if you execute justice between one man and another; if you do not oppress the stranger, the orphan, and the widow; if you do not shed the blood of the innocent in this place; if you do not follow other gods, to your own hurt–then only will I [YHWH] let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers for all time.  See, you are relying on illusions that are of no avail….

–Jeremiah 7:5-8, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Pay attention to 7:11, O reader:

Do you consider this House, which bears My name, to be a den of thieves?  As for Me, I have been watching–declares the LORD.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

This is an allusion in Jesus’s mouth during the Temple Incident/the Cleansing of the Temple in Matthew 21:13; Mark 11:17; and Luke 19:46.  Notice that Jeremiah predicted the destruction of the First Temple.

Chronology is not the organizing principle in the Book of Jeremiah.  The Temple Sermon of Jeremiah is a case in point.  We return to it and read of its aftermath in Jeremiah 26:1-24.

Idols abound.  They may be tangible or intangible.  If an activity, idea, or object functions as an idol for someone, it is an idol for that person.  Money is one of the more common idols.  Greed contributes greatly to economic injustice, and corruption is one of the major causes of institutionalized poverty.  Obliviousness to participation in the violation of God’s moral commandments, including mutuality, will not shield us from the consequences of those sins any more than keeping sacred rituals will do so.

Circa 608 B.C.E. God was still holding out the possibility of repentance, prompting the cancellation of divine punishment, according to Jeremiah 26:3.  This contradicts other passages from the Book of Jeremiah and other Hebrew prophetic books composed or begun prior to the Book of Jeremiah.  Perhaps one reason for the contradiction is the addition of later material to the early Hebrew prophetic books, as late as the Babylonian Exile.  I suppose that maintaining the hard line of the time for repentance having passed was difficult to maintain after the Fall of Babylon (539 B.C.E.).

The priests and prophets said to all the people, “This man deserves the death penalty, for he has prophesied against this city, as you yourselves have heard.

–Jeremiah 26:11, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Jeremiah prophesied against a government and a population under foreign domination.  There was no separation of religion and state either.  The prophet worked in a dangerous milieu.

Jeremiah had allies, though.  Some cited the example of Micah, who had issued a dire prophesy (Micah 3:12) and had not received a death sentence.  Fortunately for Jeremiah, the court’s sentence remained unfulfilled.  Ahikam, a high-ranking royal official (2 Kings 22:12), saved him.  Ahikam was also the father of Gedaliah, the assassinated governor of Judah after the Fall of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 40:1-41:18).

Uriah ben Shemiah, from Kiriath-jearim, was not as fortunate as Jeremiah was.  Uriah, also prophesying in the name of YHWH, said what Jeremiah proclaimed.  Uriah fled to Egypt for safety because King Jehoiakim wanted him dead.  Royal agents found Uriah in Egypt and returned him to Judah, to die.

One may legitimately wonder why God protected Jeremiah from threats to his life yet did not spare faithful Uriah ben Shemaiah.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 7, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MATTHEW TALBOT, RECOVERING ALCOHOLIC IN DUBLIN, IRELAND

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY MARY GIANELLI, FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARIES OF SAINT ALPHONSUS

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK LUCIAN HOSMER, U.S. UNITARIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HUBERT LAFAYETTE SONE AND HIS WIFE, KATIE HELEN JACKSON SONE, U.S. METHODIST MISSIONARIES AND HUMANITARIANS IN CHNA, SINGAPORE, AND MALAYSIA

THE FEAST OF SEATTLE, FIRST NATIONS CHIEF, WAR LEADER, AND DIPLOMAT

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The Superscription of the Book of Habakkuk   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of Habakkuk

Image in the Public Domain

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READING HABAKKUK, PART I

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Habakkuk 1:1

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The situation for Judah had become worse since the days of the prophet Nahum, shortly before the Fall of Nineveh (612 B.C.E.).  King Josiah of Judah (r. 640-609 B.C.E.; 2 Kings 22:1-23:30; 2 Chronicles 34:1-35:27; 1 Esdras 1:1-33; Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 49:1-6) had died in combat against Pharaoh Neco II (r. 610-595 B.C.E.).  The Egyptian leader had sought to establish power in Syria; Judah was between Egypt and Syria.  The Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire had terminated Neco II’s plans for Syria.

In the wake of King Josiah’s death, Judah had become a vassal state of Egypt.  Pharaoh Neco II had chosen the next two Kings of Judah.  Jehoahaz/Jeconiah/Shallum (2 Kings 23:31-35; 2 Chronicles 36:1-4; 1 Esdras 1:34-38) had reigned for about three months before becoming a prisoner in Egypt.  Then Neco II had appointed Eliakim and renamed him Jehoiakim (r. 608-598 B.C.E.; 2 Kings 23:36-24:7; 2 Chronicles 36:5-8; 1 Esdras 1:39-42).  Jehoiakim was always a vassal while King of Judah.  After being the vassal of Neco II of Egypt for about three years, he became a vassal of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire in 605 B.C.E.  He died a prisoner in that empire.

Two more Kings of Judah reigned; both were vassals of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  Jehoiachin/Jeconiah/Coniah (2 Kings 24:8-17; 2 Kings 25:27-30; 2 Chronicles 36:9-10; 1 Esdras 1:43-46) reigned for about three months before going into exile in that empire.  The last King of Judah was Zedekiah, born Mattaniah (2 Kings 24:18-25:26; 2 Chronicles 36:11-21; 1 Esdras 1:47-58).  He reigned from 597 to 586 B.C.E.  The last events he saw before Chaldean soldiers blinded him were the executions of his sons.

The Book of Habakkuk exists within the context of three years–605, 598/597, and 586 B.C.E.–and two Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian invasions of Judah.  The book, in its original form, dates to closer to 605 and 598/597 B.C.E. than 586 B.C.E.

The superscription tells us almost nothing about the prophet.  “Habakkuk” derives from an Arabic word meaning “dwarf.”  He may have been a cultic prophet.  The superscription does not even reveal the name(s) of the King(s) of Judah when Habakkuk prophesied.

The Book of Habakkuk contains fifty-six verses in three chapters.  The Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) gives short shrift to the book, assigning only eight verses once every third years.  Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4 is one of two options for the Old Testament reading on Proper 26, Year C.  The lectionary includes:

the righteous live by their faith

(2:4b), taken out of textual context.

I invite you, O reader, to join me as I read all of the Book of Habakkuk, in historical and textual context.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 5, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOROTHEUS OF TYRE, BISHOP OF TYRE, AND MARTYR, CIRCA 362

THE FEAST OF BLISS WIANT, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER, MISSIONARY, MUSICIAN, MUSIC EDUCATOR, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR, ARRANGER, AND HARMONIZER; AND HIS WIFE, MILDRED ARTZ WIANT, U.S. METHODIST MISSIONARY, MUSICIAN, MUSIC EDUCATOR, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF INI KOPURIA, FOUNDER OF THE MELANESIAN BROTHERHOOD

THE FEAST OF MAURICE BLONDEL, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC PHILOSOPHER AND FORERUNNER OF THE SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL

THE FEAST OF ORLANDO GIBBONS, ANGLICAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER; THE “ENGLISH PALESTRINA”

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God’s Case Against Israel, Part IV: Idolatry and Degeneration   Leave a comment

Above:  Map of the Assyrian Empire and Neighbors

Scanned from an Old Bible

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READING HOSEA, PART VII

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Hosea 9:1-17

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I am convinced that references to Egypt in the Book of Amos may date to the Judean editing of the text.  History tells me that, in the days of the prophet Hosea, Aram, not Egypt, was the main rival to the Assyrian Empire.  History also tells me that, when the (southern) Kingdom of Judah was waning, Egypt was the main rival to the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire, successor to and conqueror of the Assyrian Empire.  I also recall 2 Kings 23:31f, in which the Pharaoh, having killed King Josiah of Judah (r. 640-609 B.C.E.) in battle, selected the next two Kings of Judah–Jehoahaz (a.k.a. Jeconiah and Shallum; reigned for about three months in 609 B.C.E.) and Jehoiakim (born Eliakim; reigned 608-598 B.C.E.).  (See 2 Kings 23:31-24:7; 2 Chronicles 36:1-8; and 1 Esdras 1:34-42.)  References to returning to Egypt make sense on a literal level after the beginning of the Babylonian Exile, given the events of Jeremiah 42:1-44:31.  On a metaphorical level, “returning to Egypt” stands for abandoning freedom in God and returning to captivity, thereby reversing the Exodus from Egypt (Exodus 13:17-14:31).

As for eating unclean food in Assyria (9:3), just replace Assyria with Babylonia, and that statement applies to the late Judean reality, too.  2 Kings 24:1-25:30 tells of the fall of the (southern) Kingdom of Judah.  That portion of scripture also tells us that the last three Kings of Judah were Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian vassals.

Editing the original version of the Book of Hosea to describe the plight of the (southern) Kingdom of Judah required little effort.  For example, Hoshea (r. 732-723 B.C.E.), the last King of Israel, was a rebellious vassal of Assyria.  His rebellion triggered the fall of Samaria (2 Kings 17).  Likewise, King Zedekiah (born Mattaniah; reigned 597-586 B.C.E.) was a rebellious vassal of Babylonia.  His rebellion triggered the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.E.  (2 Kings 24:18-25:26; 2 Chronicles 36:11-21; 1 Esdras 1:47-58)

A sense of divine sadness pervades Hosea 9:1-17.  One can feel it as one reads God, filtered through Hosea and perhaps subsequent editors, asking:

Why did my people make such terrible, destructive choices?

The chapter concludes on a somber note:

My God rejects them,

Because they have not obeyed Him….

–Hosea 9:17a, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Cultures, societies, and individuals have the choice to obey or to disobey the moral mandates from God.  Well-intentioned people who seek to obey God may debate how to do so.  The situation in the Book of Hosea, however, is that the debate does not take place.  The Book of Hosea describes a society in which disregard for those moral mandates was endemic.  Judgment for trying and failing to fulfill these moral mandates differs from judgment for not caring enough to try.

My late beloved was mentally ill.  Immediately prior to the end of her life, I told her that I accepted that I had moral obligations to her, but that I did not know in the moment what they required me to do.  I was attempting, in a terminal crisis, to behave morally.  Perhaps I made the wrong choice.  Maybe I committed a sin of omission by avoiding the difficult and proper course of action.  Perhaps she would have done differently in a counterfactual scenario.  But I proceeded from a morally correct assumption, at least.

I live in a conflicted state.  I tell myself that I sinned by what I did not do, not what I did.  On the other hand, I tell myself that I could, at best, have delayed, not prevented her death by means other than natural causes.  I tell myself, too, that I had already delayed her death by means other than natural causes for years.  I tell myself that I carry survivor’s guilt, and that God has forgiven me for all sins of commission and omission vis-à-vis my late beloved.  I have yet to forgive myself, though.

I wonder what exiles from Israel and Judah felt as they began their captivity and that exile dragged on.  I wonder how many of them “saw the light” and repented.  I know that the Ten Lost Tribes (mostly) assimilated, and that their descendants spread out across the Old World, from Afghanistan to South Africa.  Knowing this adds poignancy to Hosea 9:14b:

And they shall go wandering

Among the nations.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

We human beings condemn ourselves.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 17, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS BRADBURY CHANDLER, ANGLICAN PRIEST; HIS SON-IN-LAW, JOHN HENRY HOBART, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF NEW YORK; AND HIS GRANDSON, WILLIAM HOBART HARE, APOSTLE TO THE SIOUX AND EPISCOPAL MISSIONARY BISHOP OF NIOBRARA THEN SOUTH DAKOTA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CATERINA VOLPICELLI, FOUNDRESS OF THE SERVANTS OF THE SACRED HEART; SAINT LUDOVICO DA CASORIA, FOUNDER OF THE GRAY FRIARS OF CHARITY AND COFOUNDER OF THE GRAY SISTERS OF SAINT ELIZABETH; AND SAINT GIULIA SALZANO, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE CATECHETICAL SISTERS OF THE SACRED HEART

THE FEAST OF CHARLES HAMILTON HOUSTON AND THURGOOD MARSHALL, ATTORNEYS AND CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVISTS

THE FEAST OF DONALD COGGAN, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVAN ZIATYK, POLISH UKRAINIAN GREEK CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1952

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Introduction to the Book of Baruch   Leave a comment

Above:  A Map Showing the Seleucid Empire Circa 188 B.C.E.

Image in the Public Domain

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READING BARUCH AND THE LETTER OF JEREMIAH

PART I

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Baruch 1:1-14

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The Book of Baruch derives its name from Baruch, the scribe of the prophet Jeremiah.  Superficially the Book of Baruch seems to have come from the Babylonian Exile.  That is impossible, though.  Baruch 1:15-2:19, for example, is a rewritten version of Daniel 9:4-19, composed after 150 B.C.E.

The Book of Baruch, with at least four authors, uses exile as a literary device.  Consider, O reader, the feeling of being a Jew of the diaspora during the second and first centuries B.C.E.  Living in the diaspora must have felt like being in exile.  Think also, O reader, of the suffering and repression many Jews of the diaspora experienced, occasionally or constantly.  The Babylonian Exile functioned as a metaphor for their reality.

How should faithful Jews live under Syrian/Seleucid rule?  That was the question of the hour.

The pseudo-historical setting of Baruch 1:1f is the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire circa 582 B.C.E.  The text names King Jehoichin/Jeconiah/Coniah of Judah (2 Kings 24:6-17; 2 Chronicles 36:9-10; Jeremiah 24:1).

The scene in Baruch 1:5 is one of priests continuing to offer sacrifices to God at the ruins of the First Temple.  This is consistent with Jeremiah 41:5.

The Book of Baruch accepts the Deutronomic theology of the Babylonian Exile:  it was punishment for the nation’s sins.  Notice also, O reader, the prayer for King Nebuchadnezzar II.  To pray for one’s oppressor may be difficult.  However, one’s fate still depends on the oppressor’s decisions.

The Book of Baruch emphasizes continuity in the context of great difficulty.  It stresses the continuity of ritual, faith, community, and worship.  Kings come and go, the Book of Baruch teaches us, but God remains constant.  The Jewish community must cleave to God and hold together, the Book of Baruch insists.

This is an example of mutuality in God, a value from the Torah.  We all depend entirely on God.  We also depend on each other and are responsible to and for each other.  Western individualism, despite its positive aspects, is alien to the Torah.  The attitudes that anyone can be a self-made person and can act without having consequences for others are heresies.

Excesses of Western individualism lead easily into “God-and-me” religion.  The Bible does contain material about individual responsibility, of course.  However, talk of an individual relationship with God apart from or at the expense of faith community is alien to Biblical spirituality.  “God-and-me” religion is heretical.  The proper context for a personal relationship with God is “God and us.”

The Book of Baruch understands this.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 18, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTIETH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF MARC BOEGNER, FRENCH REFORMED MINISTER AND ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF ALICIA DOMON AND HER COMPANIONS, MARTYRS IN ARGENTINA, 1977

THE FEAST OF SAINT GUILIA VALLE, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF JOHN DARWALL, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM HENRY DRAPER, ANGLICAN PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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The Food Test   Leave a comment

Above:  Daniel and His Three Friends Refusing the King’s Food

Image in the Public Domain

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READING DANIEL

PART I

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Daniel 1:1-21

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The Book of Daniel is an intriguing portion of the Bible.  

  1. Depending on how one defines the canon of scripture, it has either 12 or 14 chapters.  (For the purpose of this series, I have read the long version.)
  2. Most of the book hails from the time of the Hasmonean rebellion, in the second century B.C.E.  Theological developments, historical references, and linguistic clues confirm this conclusion.  Chapters 1-12, except for the Greek additions in Chapter 3, come from the time of the Hasmonean rebellion.  Chapters 13 and 14 are more recent, from either the second or first centuries B.C.E.
  3. The nonsensical internal chronology of the Book of Daniel contradicts ancient historical records and the rest of the Hebrew Bible.  The Book of Daniel is what it is.  It is not history.

So, what is the Book of Daniel? 

  1. It is partially a collection of folklore. 
  2. It is partially a collection of apocalyptic visions. 
  3. It is a book that teaches how to remain faithful to God in the Jewish diaspora during the second and first centuries B.C.E. 
  4. It is a book that affirms many Gentiles. 
  5. In other words, the Book of Daniel is true without being historically accurate.  Truth and accuracy are different concepts.

Daniel 1:1 provides a fixed point within the narrative of the Book of Daniel.  That fixed point is 605 B.C.E., the third year of the reign (608-598 B.C.E.) of King Jehoiakim/Eliakim of Judah.  (For more about King Jehoiakim, read 2 Kings 23:36-24:7; 2 Chronicles 36:5-8; and 1 Esdras 1:39-42.)  Daniel 1:1 also provides the name of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian king, Nebuchadrezzar/Nebuchadnezzar II (reigned 605-562 B.C.E.).  The chronological problem is that Nebuchadnezzar II captured Jerusalem in 597 B.C.E.  If I were a fundamentalist, this would disturb me.  I am not, and it does not.

To quote a spiritual and theological mentor of mine in the 1990s, 

What is really going on here?

What is really going on in Daniel 1?

  1. Daniel and his fellow Judahite servants refused the food King Nebuchadnezzar II offered.  They obeyed the dietary food laws in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14.  The young men also thrived on a diet of vegetables and water.
  2. God also granted Daniel and his fellow Judahite servants more intelligence and wisdom than they had already.  The ability to interpret dreams proved crucial in subsequent chapters.
  3. Daniel and his fellow Judahite servants received new names–identities–yet retained their Hebrew identities.

People base their identities on different standards.  This is a choice one needs to make wisely.  Psychologists and experiences tell us that many people cling to ideas that are objectively false and proven to be so.  These people cling to these falsehoods and ignore evidence because admitting error and changing their minds would threaten their egos.  This is a serious problem.  Whatever one does or does not do affects other people.  If, for example, one votes for Candidate A over Candidate B because one clings to ego defenses and ignores objective reality, one may hinder the common good.  Or, if one, acting out of ego defenses, ignores objective reality and refuses to behave responsibly by having one’s children vaccinated, one can cause other people’s children to become ill.  As I type these words during the COVID-19 pandemic, many people believe misinformation, cling to conspiracy theories, and refuse to wear masks in public places.  They endanger themselves and others.  Facts should matter.

I seek to acknowledge objective reality and to act accordingly.  I also seek to follow my own advice regarding the proper basis of human identity.  The sole proper basis of human identity is the image of God; every human being bears it.  For we Christians, the particular shading is that Jesus, whom we profess to follow.  Despite my advice, I continue to found my ego mainly on my education and intellect.  Education and intellect are wonderful.  They are blessings.  I, like St. Paul the Apostle, know what I ought to do and frequently do something else.

Psychological identity is a complicated, frequently treacherous matter.  If we are spiritually wise, we will have a healthy ego, which we will maintain without excluding anyone God includes.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 13, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY MARTYN DEXTER, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HISTORIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ABBO OF FLEURY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRICE OF TOURS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCES XAVIER CABRINI, FOUNDRESS OF THE MISSIONARY SISTERS OF THE SACRED HEART

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