Archive for the ‘2 Kings 15’ Category

Two Oracles Concerning Arabia   4 comments

Above:  Judas, by Edward Okún

Image in the Public Domain

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READING FIRST ISAIAH, PART XIII

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Isaiah 21:11-17

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INTRODUCTION

Immediately following an oracle of the Fall of Babylon (Isaiah 21:1-10), we read two short oracles that complete Chapter 21.

DUMAH (EDOM)

Duman was an oasis in northern Arabia (Genesis 25:14; 1 Chronicles 1:30).  Seir (Isaiah 21:11) was a place in Edom.  Poetically, Dumah equaled Edom.

One may recall a condemnation of Edom in Amos 1:1-12.

The oracle in Isaiah 21:11-12 is superficially vague.  “The night” is poetic language for suffering.  “Morning” is poetic language for liberation.  There is no encouraging news for Dumah from the watchman of Seir yet.  Despite the brief respite from Assyrian oppression, the morning of liberation will not dawn yet.

Edom, the nation, had pursued his “brother” (Israel) with the sword.  Edom, the nation, was metaphorically the brother of the Israelite people (Numbers 20:14; Deuteronomy 2:4; Deuteronomy 23:7; Obadiah 10, 12).  King David had added Edom to the (united) Kingdom of Israel (2 Samuel 8:13f; 1 Kings 11:15-17).  Edom, part of the (southern) Kingdom of Judah after the division of the (united) Kingdom of Israel, threw off Judean control during the reign (851-853 B.C.E.) of King Jehoram (Joram) (2 Kings 8:16-24; 2 Chronicles 21:4-20). Yet Judah reconquered Edom during the reign (798-769 B.C.E.) of King Amaziah of Judah (2 Kings 14:1-22; 2 Chronicles 25:1-28) and the reign (785-733 B.C.E.) of King Azariah/Uzziah of Judah (2 Kings 15:1-7; 2 Chronicles 26:1-23), contemporary with the time of the prophets Hosea, Amos, and Micah.  Edomites persisted in their anger; they raged in wrath without end.

Circa 715 B.C.E., Edom had rebelled against the Assyrian Empire during a time when that empire was temporarily in decline and Egypt’s new masters (from “Ethiopia”–really Cush/Nubia)–encouraged regional peoples, vassals of Assyria, to rebel.  Ultimately and sadly, Edom was no match for the Assyrian Empire.

KEDAR AND THE DEDANITES

Kedar was a northern Arabian tribe known for their military prowess.  Yet Assyrian King Sennacherib (r. 705-681 B.C.E.) conquered that tribe in 689 B.C.E.

The Dedanites were a northern Arabian tribe conquered by an unnamed power, presumably the Assyrian Empire.  The residents of the oasis city of Tema were to greet the fugitives from Assyrian conquest “with bread.”

CONCLUSION

This material fits thematically with material I covered in the previous post in this series.  The warning to Judah, militarily weak, was not to seek a military solution, which was futile.  Judah needed to commit to social justice, consistent with the Law of Moses, the prophetic voice tells us.  That voice also tells us that saving Judah depended not on the state, but on covenant community founded on a just social and economic order.  We read that military solutions did not resolve the problems, even those of renowned warriors, vis-à-vis more powerful neighbors.

The Law of Moses teaches mutuality.  This timeless principle informs many culturally-specific laws that, superficially, have no bearing on us in 2021.  Mutuality, in the context of complete dependence on God, teaches that all people are responsible to and for each other, and depend on each other.  The pursuit of the common good builds up all people and helps them become the best possible versions of themselves.  Selfishness, cruelty, indifference, and insensitivity tear down community and harm the whole.

Early in President Ronald Reagan’s first term (1981-1985), staffers at the headquarters of the Church of the Brethren (one of the Historic Peace Churches) peacefully protested the Administration’s budget priorities–less for social programs, more for the military.  These staffers pooled the money they received from tax cuts, purchased thirty pieces of silver, and mailed that silver (with a letter) to the White House.  Some people were paying attention to the moral lessons in the Hebrew prophets and making an allusion to the betrayal of Jesus and Christian principles.

Sadly, these Hebrew prophetic warnings had something in common with such symbolic protests:  they did not change the minds of authorities they addressed.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 2, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BLANDINA AND HER COMPANIONS, THE MARTYRS OF LYONS, 177

THE FEAST OF ANDERS CHRISTENSEN ARREBO, “THE FATHER OF DANISH POETRY”

THE FEAST OF CHRISTOPH HOMBURG, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MARGARET ELIZABETH SANGSTER, HYMN WRITER, NOVELIST, AND DEVOTIONAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT STEPHEN OF SWEDEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY, BISHOP, AND MARTYR, CIRCA 1075

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Prophecies During the Syro-Ephraimite War   1 comment

Above:  King Ahaz of Judah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING FIRST ISAIAH, PART VII

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Isaiah 7:2-9:1 (Anglican and Protestant)

Isaiah 7:1-8:23 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox)

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The Syro-Ephraimite War (734-732 B.C.E.) constitutes the background of Isaiah 7:1-8:23/7:1-9:1 (depending on versification).  Read 2 Kings 15:27-31; 2 Kings 16:1-19; and 2 Chronicles 28:1-26.  A brief summary of that war follows.

Aram was the chief rival to the Assyrian Empire.  King Rezin of Aram (r. 750-732 B.C.E.) and King Pekah of Israel (r. 735-732 B.C.E.) had formed an anti-Assyrian alliance.  King Ahaz of Judah (r. 743/735-727/715 B.C.E.) refused to join this alliance.  Israelite and Aramean forces waged war on Judah and besieged Jerusalem.  They wanted to depose him and replace him with a monarch who would join their alliance.  Ahaz turned to the Assyrian Empire, not God.  The Assyrian Empire conquered parts of Aram and Israel in 732, and reduced those kingdoms to vassalage.  Then, in 722 and 720 B.C.E., respectively, the Assyrian Empire conquered Israel and Aram.

Isaiah 7:16, often reduced to a prophecy of the birth of Jesus and removed from historical context, is most likely a prediction of the birth of the future king Hezekiah, in historical context.  The young woman (an almah) of 7:14 was of marriageable age.  Almah (not “virgin” in Hebrew) became parthenos (“virgin”) in the (Greek) Septuagint.  New Testament writers who quoted the Hebrew Bible quoted it in Greek, not Hebrew.

“Emmanuel” means “God with us.”  God is with us even when we are not with God.  God is with us even when we pretend to be pious, and thereby weary God (7:10-16).

Recognizing subsequent layers of editing in 7:1-8:23/7:1-9:1 (depending on versification) ought not to obstruct understanding of messages for today in these verses.  King Ahaz, who had allied himself with the Assyrian Empire, became a vassal of the Assyrian monarch, King Tiglath-pileser III (r. 745-727 B.C.E.).  King Ahaz, despite himself, should have trusted in God.  King Ahaz had gravely erred, and he and his subjects suffered because of his faulty judgment.  (The imagery of shaving “the hair of the feet” in 7:20 refers to pubic hair, by the way; “feet” is frequently a euphemism for genitals in the Hebrew Bible.)  The disgrace of the people in the latter verses of Chapter 7 and throughout Chapter 8 will be great.  Yet a remnant would survive and return from the Babylonian Exile.

Divine judgment and mercy remain in balance in Isaiah 7:1-8:23/7:1-9:1 (depending on versification).  Divine fidelity to divine promises does not prevent punishment of populations for violations of the covenant.  That divine fidelity does, however, prevent complete destruction of the Hebrew people for violations of the covenant.

I am a Gentile and a Christian.  I know some fundamentalists and Evangelicals who doubt my Christian bona fides, but I am a Christian.  The covenant with the Jews remains in effect, I contend.  I, as a Gentile, come under a separate covenant, one defined by Jesus.  These Old Testament principles about covenant-related responsibilities apply to Christians, also, via Jesus.  We Christians are a branch grafted onto the tree of faith, and the Jews are, as Pope John Paul II called them, our elder siblings in faith.

These chapters also recognize that people benefit from the good decisions of their rulers and suffer from the bad decisions of their rulers.  The emphasis is on the latter, of course.  Leadership matters.  May those who can choose their leaders, do so wisely, in all places and at all times.  And may all leaders decide wisely, whenever and wherever they are.

God is with us.  We can never escape from the presence of God.  Yet are we with God?  We all benefit from grace.  We all depend upon grace.  How many of us also accept the moral responsibilities that accompany grace?  Grace is free yet not cheap.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 30, 2021 COMMON ERA

TRINITY SUNDAY, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOAN OF ARC, ROMAN CATHOLIC VISIONARY AND MARTYR, 1430

THE FEAST OF APOLO KIVEBULAYA, APOSTLE TO THE PYGMIES

THE FEAST OF JOACHIM NEANDER, GERMAN REFORMED MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOSEPHINE BUTLER, ENGLISH FEMINIST AND SOCIAL REFORMER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LUKE KIRBY, THOMAS COTTAM, WILLIAM FILBY, AND LAURENCE RICHARDSON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS, 1582

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The Superscription of the Book of Isaiah   1 comment

Above:  Isaiah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING FIRST ISAIAH, PART I

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Isaiah 1:1

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The Book of Isaiah contains the works of multiple authors writing over a span of centuries, from circa 742/733 B.C.E. to after 537 B.C.E.  The traditional division of the Book of Isaiah (First Isaiah = chapters 1-39, Second Isaiah = chapters 40-55, and Third Isaiah = chapters 56-66) is overly simplistic.  I follow the division from The New Interpreter’s Study Bible (2003):

  1. First Isaiah = chapters 1-23, 28-33;
  2. Second Isaiah = chapters 34-35, 40-55;
  3. Third Isaiah = chapters 24-27, 56-66; and
  4. A historical appendix verbatim from 2 Kings 18:13-20:19, except for King Hezekiah’s prayer of thanksgiving (Isaiah 38:9-20) = chapters 36-39.

I wrote about Isaiah 36-39 relatively recently, when blogging through the Second Book of Kings.

Isaiah ben Amoz (First Isaiah) was a resident of Jerusalem.  He, an aristocrat, may have been a priest serving at the Temple.  Isaiah’s name meant “the Lord is salvation.”  First Isaiah did not compose all of Isaiah 1-23, 28-33.  Multiple authors contributed to chapters 1-12 alone, for example.

The superscription names four Kings of Judah:

  1. Azariah/Uzziah (r. 785-733 B.C.E.); see 2 Kings 15:1-7; 2 Chronicles 26:1-23);
  2. Jotham (r. 759-743 B.C.E.); see 2 Kings 15:32-38; 2 Chronicles 27:1-9);
  3. Ahaz (r. 743/735-727/715 B.C.E.); see 2 Kings 16:1-20; 2 Chronicles 28:1-27); and
  4. Hezekiah (r. 727/715-698/687 B.C.E.); see 2 Kings 18:1-20:21; 2 Chronicles 29:1-32:33; Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 48:17-22 and 49:4).

Placing dates from the period of Uzziah through Hezekiah on the Gregorian Calendar and the B.C./B.C.E.-A.D./C.E. scale is notoriously difficult.  If one consults five commentaries and study Bibles, one may find as many estimates of any given important date, such as the year in which King Uzziah died  and Isaiah ben Amoz received his prophetic commission from God (Isaiah 6:1).  I prefer to cite dates from The Jewish Study Bible, Second Edition (2014), as much as possible.  When I consult study Bibles and commentaries, I find a range of years (742-733 B.C.E.) for the death of King Uzziah.

The royal chronology included at least one co-regency, that of Azariah/Uzziah and Jotham.  The Jewish Study Bible, Second Edition (2014), in the back, holds that the reigns of Azariah/Uzziah and Ahaz may have overlapped.  Other study Bibles I consult indicate that these two reigns did not overlap.

Anyway, Isaiah ben Amoz (First Isaiah) prophesied during perilous times.  The Assyrian Empire loomed in the distance at the beginning of this prophetic career.  Also at the beginning, tensions with the Kingdom of Aram and the (northern) Kingdom of Israel were prominent.  After Assyria conquered Aram then Israel, that empire posed a greater threat to Judah.  Meanwhile, on the domestic front, economic injustice was increasing.  First Isaiah was a contemporary of Hosea, Amos, and Micah, who prophesied regarding those problems, too.

The Books of Hosea, Amos, Micah, and Isaiah have existed in their current forms since after the Babylonian Exile.  This reality has presented many interpretive difficulties for themselves for years.

So be it.  The subsequent editing of texts to address then-current conditions provides a useful model for interpretation.  Despite the historical-critical methodological difficulties inherent in the final versions of these books–First Isaiah, in this case–they continue to address societies and nation-states in the present day.  I acknowledge the historical reality without any fear of offending God as I ask, in the words of a spiritual mentor of mine from the 1990s:

What is really going on here?

Any historical hiccups which may exist will not stand in the way of answering that question.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 28, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN H. W. STUCKENBERG, GERMAN-AMERICAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND ACADEMIC

THE FEAST OF SAINT BERNARD OF MENTHON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND ARCHDEACON OF AOSTA

THE FEAST OF EDWIN POND PARKER, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JEREMIAS DENCKE, SILESIAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND ORGANIST; AND SIMON PETER AND JOHANN FRIEDRICH PETER, GERMAN-AMERICAN COMPOSERS, EDUCATORS, MUSICIANS, AND MINISTERS

THE FEAST OF ROBERT MCAFEE BROWN, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, ACTIVIST, AND ECUMENIST

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The Superscription of the Book of Micah   1 comment

Above:  Map of the Assyrian Empire and Its Neighbors

Image Scanned from an Old Bible

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READING MICAH, PART I

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Micah 1:1

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The prophet was an individual who said No to his society, condemning its habits and assumptions, its complacency, waywardness, and syncretism.  He was often compelled to proclaim the very opposite of what his heart expected.  His fundamental objective was to reconcile man and God.  Why do the two need reconciliation?  Perhaps it is due to man’s false sense of sovereignty, to his abuse of freedom, to his aggressive, sprawling pride, resenting God’s involvement in history.

–Rabbi Abraham J. Heschel, The Prophets, Vol. 1 (1962), xiii

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The superscription of the Book of Micah identifies the prophet as Micah, from Moresheth, a village southwest of Jerusalem.  “Micah” is abbreviated from “Micaiah,” literally, “Who is like Yah[weh]?”  The superscription also specifies the prophet’s mission (to prophecy regarding the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah) and timeframe (during the reigns of Kings Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah of Judah).

With a few exceptions (such as in the First Book of the Maccabees, which dated events according to the Hellenistic calendar), when authors of the Old Testament dated events, the usually used relative dating, such as “in the third year of king _____.”  Converting these ancient dates to fit onto the Gregorian calendar and the B.C./B.C.E.-A.D./C.E. scale has long proven challenging and with inconsistent results.  Perhaps you, O reader, have noticed that when you have consulted two different study Bibles for when a certain King of Israel or King of Judah reigned, you found two different answers.

For the record, as much as possible, I take dates from The Jewish Study Bible, Second Edition (2014).  It tells me that the four listed kings reigned accordingly:

  1. Azariah, a.k.a. Uzziah (785-733 B.C.E.); see 2 Kings 15:1-7 and 2 Chronicles 26:1-23;
  2. Jotham (759-743 B.C.E.); see 2 Kings 15:32-38 and 2 Chronicles 27:1-9;
  3. Ahaz (743/735-727/715 B.C.E.); see 2 Kings 16:1-20; 2 Chronicles 28:1-27; and Isaiah 7:1-8:15; and
  4. Hezekiah (727/715-698/687 B.C.E.); see 2 Kings 18:1-20:21; 2 Chronicles 29:1-32:33; Isaiah 36:1-39:8; and Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 48:17-22 and 49:4.

Jotham and Azariah/Uzziah had a co-regency.  Did Ahaz and Azariah/Uzziah also have a co-regency?  Trying to answer that question accurately is difficult, given that relative dating for the same monarchs is not always consistent, due to factual contradictions in sources.

Scripture does mention “Micah the Morashite” outside of the Book of Micah.  Jeremiah 26:17-19, in the context of Jeremiah’s trial and death sentence, quotes some Jewish elders recalling Micah as having prophesied during the reign of King Hezekiah and not having received the death penalty.  Jeremiah 26:18 quotes Micah 3:12.

The Book of Micah, like the Books of Hosea and Amos before it, has layers of authorship and editing between the original version and the final version, from after the Babylonian Exile.  This reality does not trouble me in the Books of Hosea and Amos.  Neither does it disturb me in the Book of Micah.

The timeframe of the prophetic career of Micah, as established in 1:1, was very difficult.

  1. The Assyrian Empire menaced the (northern) Kingdom of Israel and the (southern) Kingdom of Judah.
  2. The Kingdoms of Israel and Aram had formed an anti-Assyrian alliance.  King Ahaz of Judah refused to join that alliance.  Therefore, during the Syro-Ephraimite War (734-732 B.C.E.), Israel and Aram waged war on Judah and sought to replace Ahaz with a monarch who would join that alliance.  Ahaz allied himself with the Assyrian Empire, not God.  In 732 B.C.E., the Assyrian Empire seized territory from Aram and Israel and reduced those kingdoms to vassalage.
  3. The Assyrian Empire conquered the (northern) Kingdom of Israel in 722 B.C.E.
  4. The Assyrian Empire conquered the Kingdom of Aram in 720 B.C.E.
  5. In 701, during the reign of King Hezekiah, Assyrian King Sennacherib (r. 705-681 B.C.E.) invaded Judah.
  6. On the domestic front, wealthy landowners were forcing peasant farmers into debt and seizing their land, in violation of the common good and the Law of Moses.  Corruption, injustice, and oppression of Judeans by Judeans was endemic.

The superscription (1:1) refers to “Samaria and Jerusalem,” the capitals of the (northern) Kingdom of Israel and the (southern) Kingdom of Judah, respectively.  I mention this because the use of language matters.  If, for example, I write, “x” and have one meaning in mind yet you, O reader, read “x” and have another definition in mind, I have not communicated with you, and you have missed the point.

  1. The Book of Micah, in its final form, generally uses “Israel” in the generic sense–the people of the covenant, not the subjects of any Jewish kingdom.  This explains why, in Micah, Israel continues to exist after the Fall of Samaria (722 B.C.E.).
  2. “Jacob” refers to Judah.  The use of “Jacob” recalls the infamous trickster (Genesis 25:19-34; 27:1-35:37; 37:1-36; 42:29-43:14; 46:1-47:12; 47:28-48:22).  “Jacob,” of course, is also the original name of Israel, after whom the people of Israel took their name.  The use of “Jacob” to refer to Judah indicates the importance of divine promises to the Patriarchs and foreshadows restoration to a state of grace after punishment for sins.

The Book of Micah holds divine judgment and mercy in balance.  Much of the prophecy, in its final, edited form, is doom and gloom.

Yet faith in God does not conclude on a note of despair.  Hope is the last word, then as now.  But the hope which prophetic religion exalts is born of faith in God and in his love of man.

–Harold A. Bosley, in The Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 6 (1956), 901

Another detail interests me.  Most English translations begin:

The word of the LORD that came to Micah….”

Focus on “came to,” O reader.  The Hebrew text literally reads:

The word of the LORD that was Micah….

This leads me back to Rabbi Abraham J. Heschel:

The prophet is a person, not a microphone.  He is endowed with a mission, with the power of a word not his own that accounts for his greatness–but also with temperament, concern, character, and individuality.  As there was no resisting the impact of divine inspiration, so at times there was no resisting the vortex of his own temperament.  The word of God reverberated in the voice of man.

The prophet’s task is to convey a divine view, yet as a person he is a point of view.  He speaks from the perspective of God as perceived from the perspective of his own situation.  We must seek to understand not only the views he expounded but also the attitudes he embodied:  his own position, feeling response–not only what he said but also what he lived; the private, the intimate dimension of the word, the subjective side of the message.

–The Prophets, Vol. 1 (1962), viii

The inspiration of scripture included a human element.  The authors and prophets were not secretaries of the Holy Spirit, taking dictation, as in “Put a comma there.”  No, the people thanks to whom we have the Bible put themselves into the book.  They were the message.  They were people, not microphones.

What does the Book of Micah have to proclaim to the world of 2021?  Let us find out.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 24, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF NICOLAUS SELNECKER, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JACKSON KEMPER, EPISCOPAL MISSIONARY BISHOP

THE FEAST OF EDITH MARY MELLISH (A.K.A. MOTHER EDITH), FOUNDRESS OF THE COMMUNITY OF THE SACRED NAME

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIA GARGANI, FOUNDRESS OF THE SISTERS APOSTLES OF THE SACRED HEART

THE FEAST OF MARY MADELEVA WOLFF, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN, POET, SCHOLAR, AND PRESIDENT OF SAINT MARY’S COLLEGE, NOTRE DAME, INDIANA

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Divine Judgment Against Foreign Nations, Part I   8 comments

Above:  Map of the Assyrian Empire and Its Neighbors

Image Scanned from an Old Bible

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READING AMOS, PART II

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Amos 1:3-2:3

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Introduction

As I read the Book of Amos, I ask myself how much of the final version is original to the text from the prophet.  I know that the final version of the Book of Amos dates to the 400s B.C.E., three centuries after the time of the prophet.  Nevertheless, that question, germane for some matters of interpretation, is irrelevant for other matters of interpretation.  The message(s) of the Book of Amos for people, cultures, societies, and institutions in 2021 C.E. are what they are, regardless of which layer of composition to which a particular passage belongs.

Amos 1:3-2:16 consists of prophetic oracles of judgment against nations.  I choose to write about the oracles against Judah and Israel in the next post.  In this post, I focus on divine judgment against Aram, Philistia, Tyre, Edom, Ammon, and Moab.

Notice, O reader, a motif:

For three crimes of _____, and now four–

I will not take it back–….

–Amos 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 13; 2:1, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

This motif indicates the end of divine patience after the third crime.  Divine patience is not infinite.  Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance.

Amos 1:3-2:3 condemns neighboring nations for behavior that is anti-human or against nature.  These Gentiles, not being under the Law of Moses, had no covenant with God to keep.  They were still accountable according to certain standards, though.

Aram (1:3-5)

Aram was where Syria is today.  Aram was the main rival of the Assyrian Empire during the time of the prophets Amos, Hosea, Micah, and (First) Isaiah.  Aram was also a frequent foe of the (northern) Kingdom of Israel.

Aram had “threshed Gilead with sledges of iron,” a reference to a military campaign (2 Kings 13:3-7).  King Hazael came to power circa 842 B.C.E. and reigned until circa 806 B.C.E. (2 Kings 8:7-15).  He founded a dynasty.  Hazael’s immediate successor was his son, King Ben-hadad II (2 Kings 13:3).  Hadad was a storm god, and “Ben” meant “son of.”

“Aven” meant “evil,” so the Valley of Aven was the “Valley of Evil.”  Beth-eden was an Aramaic city-state between the Euphrates and Balikh Rivers.  According to Amos 1:5, God would depose the King of Beth-eden and exile the Arameans.  During the Syro-Ephraimite War (734-732 B.C.E.; 2 Kings 15:27-31; 2 Kings 16:1-19; 2 Chronicles 28:1-26; Isaiah 7:1-8:23), King Pekah of Israel (r. 735-732 B.C.E.) and King Rezin of Aram (r. 750-732 B.C.E.), having formed an anti-Assyrian alliance, fought the (southern) Kingdom of Judah and besieged Jerusalem because King Ahaz (r. 743/735-727/715 B.C.E.) refused to join that coalition.  King Ahaz of Judah turned not to God, but to the Assyrian Empire.  That empire conquered part of Aram and reduced Israel to vassalage in 732 B.C.E.  The Assyrian Empire ended Aram’s existence as an independent kingdom in 720 B.C.E.  That empire relocated Arameans throughout the Assyrian Empire, including in Samaria (2 Kings 17:24, 30).

Philistia (1:6-8

Philistia was on the Mediterranean coast and east of the (southern) Kingdom of Judah.  Philistia was where the Gaza Strip is today.  Philistines were the people otherwise known as Phoenicians.

Philistia had “exiled an entire population,” probably from Israel or Judah.  This raid, perhaps during the reign (817-800 B.C.E.; 2 Kings 13:1-25) of King Jehoahaz of Israel, violated Exodus 21:16, not that the covenant applied to the Philistines.

Tyre (1:9-10)

Tyre, on the Mediterranean coast, was the chief Phoenician city in the middle 700s B.C.E.  It was a wealthy commercial capital of a trading network.

Tyre had violated a treaty with an unnamed partner and handed an entire population over to slave markets in Edom.

Edom (1:11-12)

Edom was south of the Dead Sea, in what is now the southern regions of Israel and Jordan.  Edom was the nation, by tradition, descended from Esau, a.k.a. Edom (Genesis 25:25-28:9; 32:3-33:16; 35:1-43; 36:1-43).  Jacob/Israel had made their peace (Genesis 33), but their descendants had continued the conflict.

Edom, the nation, had pursued his “brother” (Israel) with the sword.  Edom, the nation, was metaphorically the brother of the Israelite people (Numbers 20:14; Deuteronomy 2:4; Deuteronomy 23:7; Obadiah 10, 12).  King David had added Edom to the (united) Kingdom of Israel (2 Samuel 8:13f; 1 Kings 11:15-17).  Edom, part of the (southern) Kingdom of Judah after the division of the (united) Kingdom of Israel, threw off Judean control during the reign (851-853 B.C.E.) of King Jehoram (Joram) (2 Kings 8:16-24; 2 Chronicles 21:4-20). Yet Judah reconquered Edom during the reign (798-769 B.C.E.) of King Amaziah of Judah (2 Kings 14:1-22; 2 Chronicles 25:1-28) and the reign (785-733 B.C.E.) of King Azariah/Uzziah of Judah (2 Kings 15:1-7; 2 Chronicles 26:1-23), contemporary with the time of the prophets Hosea, Amos, and Micah.  Edomites persisted in their anger; they raged in wrath without end.

Ammon (1:13-15)

Ammon was to the west of the River Jordan and north of the Dead Sea, in modern-day Jordan.  Ammon had been part of the (united) Kingdom of Israel under Kings David and Solomon.  The Ammonites had broken away circa 928 B.C.E., when the (united) Kingdom of Israel split into the (northern) Kingdom of Israel and the (southern) Kingdom of Judah.

Ammon had “ripped open pregnant women in Gilead, in order to extend their territory” (Amos 1:13).  Ammon had fought a border war with Israel, probably during the 800s B.C.E.  In the course of that conflict, Ammonite soldiers had ripped open pregnant women, a tactic not unheard of, sadly.

Ammon became a vassal state (742-630 B.C.E.) of the Assyrian Empire then a province thereof.  With the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian conquest of the Assyrian Empire, Ammon became a rebellious province of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  The rebellion failed, and mass deportations ensued.

Moab (2:1-3)

Moab was west of the Dead Sea, in modern-day Jordan.  Moab had been a vassal state of the (united) Kingdom of Israel under Kings David and Solomon then under the kings of the (northern) Kingdom of Israel.  King Mesha of Moab had successfully rebelled against vassalage during the reign (851-842 B.C.E) of King Jehoram (Joram) of Israel (1 Kings 3:1-27) and the reign (870-846 B.C.E.) of King Jehoshaphat of Judah (1 Kings 22:1-51; 2 Kings 3:1-27; 2 Chronicles 17:1-20:37).  Moab was also the homeland of Ruth.

Moab had “burned to ashes the bones of Edom’s king.”  This was an extreme disrespect usually reserved criminals (Genesis 38:24; Leviticus 20:14; Leviticus 21:9), not that Moabites were subject to the Law of Moses.  This act, which had no effect on either the (northern) Kingdom of Israel or the (southern) Kingdom of Judah, was still a crime against God.

Moab came under Assyrian domination (c. 735 B.C.E.), became an Assyrian province (711 B.C.E.), and finally ceased to be a state (circa 600 B.C.E.).  (For more about the decline and fall of Moab, read Isaiah 15-16 and Jeremiah 48.)

Conclusion

A spiritual mentor of mine liked to read some portion of the Bible then ask:

What is really going on here?

God, who is sovereign over all the nations, does not tolerate injustice.  The Book of Amos beats the drum repeatedly.  God cares deeply about how people, cultures, societies, and institutions treat people.

In this post, I have focused on neighbors of the (northern) Kingdom of Israel and the (southern) Kingdom of Judah.  Many of the prophet’s original audience probably delighted to hear these proclamations of divine judgment against these foreign nations.

Then Amos stopped preaching and started meddling, so to speak.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 20, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALCUIN OF YORK, ABBOT OF TOURS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS COLUMBA OF RIETI AND OSANNA ANDREASI, DOMINICAN MYSTICS

THE FEAST OF JOHN ELIOT, “THE APOSTLE TO THE INDIANS”

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIÁ ANGÉLICA LATHROP, FOUNDRESS OF THE DOMINICAN SISTERS OF HAWTHORNE

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The Superscription and First Epigram of the Book of Amos   2 comments

Above:  Map of the Kingdoms of Judah and Israel during the Reigns of Kings Azariah (Uzziah) of Judah and Jeroboam II of Israel

Image Scanned from an Old Bible

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READING AMOS, PART I

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Amos 1:1-2

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The superscription (1:1) provides information useful in dating the original version of the Book of Amos.  Jeroboam II (r. 788-747 B.C.E.; 2 Kings 14:23-29) was the King of Israel.  Azariah/Uzziah (r. 785-733 B.C.E.; 2 Kings 15:1-17; 2 Chronicles 26:1-23).  In a seismically-active region, the “big one” of circa 770 or 760 or 750 B.C.E. was apparently a memorable natural disaster.  (Ironing out wrinkles in the chronology of the era from Uzziah to Hezekiah has long been difficult, as many Biblical commentaries have noted.  For example, reputable sources I have consulted have provided different years, ranging from 742 to 733 B.C.E., for the death of King Uzziah.)  Centuries later, after the Babylonian Exile, Second Zechariah recalled that cataclysm in the context of earth-shaking events predicted to precede the Day of the Lord–in Christian terms, the establishment of the fully-realized Kingdom of God:

And the valley in the Hills shall be stopped up, for the Valley of the Hills shall reach only to Azal; it shall be stopped up as a result of the earthquake in the days of King Uzziah of Judah.–And the LORD my God, with all the holy beings, will come to you.

–Zechariah 14:5, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The original version of the Book of Amos, then, dates to circa 772 or 762 or 752 B.C.E.

The final version of the Book of Amos, however, dates to the period after the Babylonian Exile.  The prophecies of Hosea, Amos, Micah, and First Isaiah, in their final forms, all do.  So do the final versions of much of the rest of the Hebrew Bible, from Genesis to the two Books of Kings.  The final version of the Book of Amos indicates a pro-Judean bias, evident first in the listing of Kings of Judah before King Jeroboam II of Israel.

“Amos,” the shorter version of “Amasiah,” derives from the Hebrew verb for “to carry” and means “borne by God.”

Amos was a Judean who prophesied in the (northern) Kingdom of Israel.  He was, by profession, a breeder of sheep and cattle, as well as a tender of sycamore figs (1:1, 7:14).  The prophet was wealthy.  In 2 Kings 3:4, King Mesha of Moab was also a sheep breeder.  Amos hailed from the village of Tekoa, about eight kilometers, or five miles, south of Bethlehem, and within distant sight of Jerusalem (2 Samuel 14:2; Jeremiah 6:1).  King Rehoboam of Judah (r. 928-911 B.C.E.; 1 Kings 12:1-33; 1 Kings 15:21-31; 2 Chronicles 10:1-12:16; Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 47:23) had ordered the fortification of Tekoa (2 Chronicles 11:6).  Although Amos prophesied in the (northern) Kingdom of Israel, “Israel” (Amos 1:1) was a vague reference.

Since the prophetic office as manifested in Amos was a function of Yahweh’s lordship over his people, the political boundary that had been set up between Judah and Israel was utterly irrelevant.  Amos was concerned with Israel in their identity as the people of the Lord; the sphere of his activity was the realm of the old tribal league, all Israel under Yahweh, and not the state cult with its orientation to the current king and his kingdom.

–James Luther Mays, Amos:  A Commentary (1969), 19

I wonder if the vagueness of “Israel” in Amos 1:1 is original or if it is a product of subsequent amendment and editing.  The later editing and amendment do present questions about how to interpret the edited and amended texts.  Anyhow, I recognize that the message of God, via Amos of Tekoa, received and transmitted faithfully in a particular geographical and temporal context, remains relevant.  That message remains germane because human nature is a constant force, often negatively so.

The reference to the cataclysmic earthquake (Amos 1:) may do more than help to date the composition of the first version of the book.  One may, for example, detect references to that earthquake in Amos 2:13, 3;14f, 6:11, and 9:1.  One may reasonably speculate that the Book of Amos, in its final form, at least, may understand the earthquake of circa 770 or 760 or 750 B.C.E. as divine punishment for rampant, collective, persistent, disregard for the moral demands of the Law of Moses.  This presentation of natural disasters as the wrath of God exists also in Joel 1 and 2 (in reference to a plague of locusts) and in Exodus 7-11 (in reference to the plagues on Egypt).  This perspective disturbs me.  I recall certain conservative evangelists describing Hurricane Katrina (2005) as the wrath of God on New Orleans, Louisiana, allegedly in retribution for sexual moral laxity.  I wish that more people would be more careful regarding what they claim about the divine character.  I also know that earthquakes occur because of plate tectonics, swarms of locusts go where they will, and laws of nature dictate where hurricanes make landfall.

Amos seems to have prophesied in the (northern) Kingdom of Israel briefly, perhaps for only one festival and certainly for less than a year, at Bethel, a cultic site.  Then officialdom saw to it that he returned to Tekoa, his livestock and sycamore figs, and the (southern) Kingdom of Judah.

[Amos] proclaimed:

The LORD roars from Zion,

Shouts aloud from Jerusalem;

And the pastures of the shepherds shall languish,

And the summit of Carmel shall wither.

–Amos 2:2, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The theological understanding in Amos 2:2 holds that God was resident in Zion.  The reference to Mount Carmel, on the Mediterranean coast and in the (northern) Kingdom of Israel makes plain that the message was, immediately, at least, for the Northern Kingdom.  Looking at a map, one can see the geographical setting.  For the divine voice, shouted in Jerusalem, to make the summit of Mount Carmel writhe, poetically, God really is a force with which to reckon.

God is near, but he is also far–immeasurably exalted, inexpressively different.  He is the king who does not die.

–R. B. Y. Scott, The Relevance of the Prophets, 2nd. ed. (1968), 121

How we mere mortals think, speak, and write about God depends largely on our theological and social contexts–how well we understand science, how we define moral parameters, and how wide or narrow our theological imagination may be.  How we mere mortals think, speak, and write about God must also include much poetry, even prose poetry.  If we are theologically, spiritually, and intellectually honest, we will acknowledge this.  How we mere mortals think, speak, and write about God may or may not age well and/or translate well to other cultures.

Despite certain major differences from the pre-scientific worldview of the eighth-century B.C.E. prophet Amos and the world of 2021 B.C.E., the social, economic, and political context of the Book of Amos bears an unfortunate similarity to the world of 2021.  Economic inequality is increasing.  The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the numbers of poor people while a relative few already extremely wealthy people have become richer.  God still cares deeply about how people treat each other.  God continues to condemn institutionalized inequality.  Many conventionally pious people–religious leaders, especially–are complicit in maintaining this inequality.

Amos of Tekoa continues to speak the words of God to the world of 2021.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 19, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JACQUES ELLUL, FRENCH REFORMED THEOLOGIAN AND SOCIOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT CELESTINE V, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF SAINT DUNSTAN OF CANTERBURY, ABBOT OF GLASTONBURY AND ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF KERMARTIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ATTORNEY, PRIEST, AND ADVOCATE FOR THE POOR

THE FEAST OF GEORG GOTTFRIED MULLER, GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN MINISTER AND COMPOSER

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God’s Case Against Israel, Part III: Israel’s Treachery   Leave a comment

Above:  Doves (Hosea 7:11)

Image in the Public Domain

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READING HOSEA, PART VI

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Hosea 6:7-8:14

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Understanding this reading in textual context requires backing up to at least Hosea 6:4.  For a refresher, I refer you, O reader, to the previous post in this series.

Hosea 6:7-8:14 contains some references from a later period, after the Fall of Samaria in 722 B.C.E.  These references to Judah (6:11, 8:14) relate to the text to the (southern) Kingdom of Judah when it was declining.

According to this and other prophetic texts, alliances with powerful and dubious neighbors constituted infidelity to and treason against God.  The references to the Egyptians were odd, given that the (northern) Kingdom of Israel entered into alliances with Aram and Assyria.  At the time of Hosea 1:1, the main regional conflict was Aram versus Assyria.  However, Judah did become a vassal of Egypt (2 Kings 23:31f).

That matter aside, divine chastisement, designed to bring about repentance, had not done so.  Therefore, the time for punishment had arrived.

Hosea 7:3-7 makes sense if one considers royal succession in the (northern) Kingdom of Israel during the final quarter-century of the that realm:

  1. Jeroboam II (r. 788-747 B.C.E.) had died.  (See 2 Kings 14:23-29.)
  2. Zechariah (r. 747 B.C.E.), his son, succeeded him.  Zechariah reigned for about six months.  (See 2 Kings 15:8-12.)
  3. Shallum (r. 747 B.C.E.) overthrew Zechariah then reigned for about a month.  (See 2 Kings 15:13-16.)
  4. Menahem (r. 747-737 B.C.E.) overthrew Shallum.  (See 2 Kings 15:17-22.)
  5. Pekahiah (r. 737-735 B.C.E.), his son, succeeded him.  (See 2 Kings 15:23-26.)
  6. Pekah (r. 735-732 B.C.E.) overthrew Pekahiah.  (See 2 Kings 15:27-31.)
  7. Hoshea (r. 732-722 B.C.E.) overthrew Pekah and became the last King of Israel.  (See 2 Kings 17:1f.)

Two dynasties and four kings of Israel fell in twenty-five years.  Six Kings of Israel came and went.  Two kings without dynasties fell.  The (northern) Kingdom of Israel did not endure.

They sow wind,

And they shall reap the whirlwind–

Standing stalks devoid of ears

And yielding no flour.

If they did yield any,

Strangers shall devour it.

–Hosea 8:7, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Assyrians did devour it.

The two calves of Samaria, at Bethel and Dan (1 Kings 12:26-33), dated to the reign (928-907 B.C.E.) of Jeroboam I.  (See 1 Kings 11:26-14:20.)  King Jeroboam I, for political reasons, did not want any of his subjects making pilgrimages to the Temple in Jerusalem, the capital of the (southern) Kingdom of Judah.  The two calves, therefore, were substitutes for the Temple in Jerusalem.

I reject your calf, Samaria!

I am furious with them!

Will they ever be capable of purity?

For it was Israel’s doing;

It was only made by a joiner,

It is not a god.

No, the calf of Samaria shall be

Reduced to splinters!

–Hosea 8:5-6, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Hosea 8:1-14 may, in its final form, be the product of Judean editing of an extant text.  One feasible interpretation of 8:3-6 is that all the kings of the (northern) Kingdom of Israel (from Jeroboam I to Hoshea) were as illegitimate as the golden calves at Bethel and Dan.  One who has read of the northern monarchs may recognize the pattern of dynasties rising and falling.  I hold open the possibility that the original version of the Book of Hosea included at least some of this material.  The final version of 8:14, bearing the stamp of Judean editing, updated for a new (now ancient) context, provided no comfort.

Israel has ignored his Maker

And built temples

(And Judah has fortified many cities).

So I will set fire to his cities,

And it shall consume their fortresses.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

It happened twice, in 722 and 586 B.C.E.

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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God’s Case Against Israel, Part II: Divine Disappointment   1 comment

Above:  Dew (Hosea 6:4)

Image in the Public Domain

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READING HOSEA, PART V

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Hosea 5:8-6:6

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Remorse for and repentance for sins must be sincere if they are to prove effective.  Hosea 6:1-3 offers an example of insincere remorse for and repentance of sins, hence the divine rebuttal in 6:4-6.

The (northern) Kingdom of Israel had erred by breaking the covenant with God.  The way to resolve the problem was to repent, to return to God.  Instead, Israel turned to the Assyrian Empire.   One historical reference was to King Menahem (r. 747-737 B.C.E.), who paid tribute to the Assyrian monarch, Tiglath-pileser III (r. 745-727 B.C.E.) in 738 B.C.E.  (See 2 Kings 15:19-20).  The once-powerful (northern) Kingdom of Israel had become a vassal state of the Assyrian Empire.  The Assyrian king did not have Israel’s best interests in mind; God did.  Another historical reference may have been to King Hoshea (r. 732-722 B.C.E.), the a rebellious vassal of the Assyrian Empire and the last King of Israel.  (See 2 Kings 17:1-41).  Ironically, “Hosea” and “Hoshea,” literally “rescue,” were the same name.

For I desire goodness, not sacrifice;

Obedience to God, rather than burnt offerings.

–Hosea 6:6, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Alternative translations to “goodness” and “obedience to God” exist.  These include:

  1. “Loyalty” and “acknowledgment of God” (The Revised English Bible, 1989),
  2. “Loyalty” and “knowledge of God” (The New American Bible–Revised Edition, 2011),
  3. “Steadfast love” and “knowledge of God” (The New Revised Standard Version, 1989), and
  4. “Trust” and “knowledge of God” (Robert Alter, The Hebrew Bible, 2019).

The Law of Moses commands certain burnt offerings, of course.  The Book of Hosea does not argue for nullifying any portion of the covenant with God, bound up with the Law of Moses.  The Book of Hosea does insist that these mandatory sacrifices are not talismans.  People must offer these mandatory sacrifices devoutly and sincerely if these sacred rituals are to have the desired, divinely-intended effects.

John Mauchline (1902-1984), of the University of Glasgow, wrote:

It is not necessary to conclude that Hosea regarded sacrifice as having no value whatsoever as an act of worship.  What is meant is that sacrifice as an expression of a living faith in the Lord may be a genuine religious act, but the Lord’s delight is in the true knowledge of the demands of his service and in the cultivation of that love which is the cultivation of that love which is the will for his people.  It should be noted in passing that whereas Samuel is reported to have called for obedience, not sacrifice, from Saul, Hosea’s demand is for love (cf. 1 Sam. 15:22).

The Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 6 (1956), 628

Gale A. Yee, late of of the University of Saint Thomas, Saint Paul, Minnesota, and of the Episcopal Divinity School, Cambridge, Massachusetts, added:

It is not the sacrificial system that Hosea condemns, but the dishonesty of its worshipers, whose conduct blatantly contradicts the demands of God’s covenant.

The New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 7 (1996), 252

Sister Carol J. Dempsey, O.P., of the University of Portland, Portland, Oregon, wrote:

Ethical living is more important than religious rituals.  True worship is not defined solely by ritual practice; rather, it consists of an attitude and way of life characterized by justice, righteousness, and steadfast love–the hallmarks of the covenant and the necessary ingredients for right relationships with all creation (cf. Jer. 9:24).

–In Daniel Durken, ed., The New Collegeville Bible Commentary:  Old Testament (2015), 1495-1496

If one could be a card-carrying ritualist, I would carry that card inside my wallet.  Proper liturgy, as I understand it, sets the table for worship for me.  Low Church Protestant worship, which throws out the proverbial baby with the equally proverbial bath water, leaves me spiritually cold and uninspired.  Visiting houses of worship where such a poor excuse for liturgy is the offering is, for me, engaging in a mere perfunctory social gathering.  I feel like saying yet never say:

There, I was a sociable human being; I put in an appearance.  I did what you expected of me.  Are you happy now?  And do you call that a liturgy?

In some settings, I develop the difficult-to-resist urge to quote Presbyterian theologian and Davidson College professor Kenneth J. Foreman, Sr. (1891-1967):

One does not plead for the use of incense–Presbyterians are not likely to come to that–but at least one may protest against mistaking a general odor of mustiness for the odor of sanctity.

“Better Worship for Better Living,” Presbyterian Survey, August 1932, p. 482

Rituals occupy important places in cultures.  I admit this readily; I am not a Puritan, taking time out from whipping Baptists (see here and here) and executing Quakers (see here and here) to argue that God’s altar needs no polishing and, therefore, will get none.  Neither am I a Pietist, speaking scornfully and dismissively of “externals.”  I like externals!  Externals are important.  Yet even beautiful liturgies, entered into without devotion, are mere pageants.  Conducting splendid rituals, even in accordance with divine commandments, while shamelessly practicing human exploitation, for example, makes a mockery of the rituals.  And, on a less dramatic level, I recall having attended some Holy Eucharists when I, for reasons to do solely with myself, should have stayed home.  I remember some times that I habitually attended church on Sunday morning, but was not in the proper spiritual state.  I recall that I got nothing out of the ritual that usually feeds me spiritually because I brought nothing to it.  I remember that I merely got my attendance card punched, so to speak.

All people and societies have disappointed God.  We have all fallen short of divine high standards, possible to fulfill via a combination of human free will and divine grace.  The grace is present and sufficient.  But do we want to do what God requires?  Do we–individually and collectively–want to fulfill the ethical demands of divine law and covenant?  If we do, we become partners with God.  If we do not, we disappoint God and condemn ourselves.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 16, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE SEVENTH SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANDREW FOURNET AND ELIZABETH BICHIER, COFOUNDERS OF THE DAUGHTERS OF THE CROSS; AND SAINT MICHAEL GARICOITS, FOUNDER OF THE PRIESTS OF THE SACRED HEART OF BETHARRAM

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN NEPOMUCENE, BOHEMIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1393

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF THE SUDAN, 1983-2005

THE FEAST OF SAINT UBALDO BALDASSINI, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF GUBBIO

THE FEAST OF SAINT VLADIMIR GHIKA, ROMANIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1954

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The Family of Hosea and the Restoration of Israel   Leave a comment

Above:  Hosea and Gomer

Image in the Public Domain

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READING HOSEA, PART II

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Hosea 1:2-2:1 (Anglican, Protestant, and Eastern Orthodox)

Hosea 1:2-2:3 (Jewish and Roman Catholic)

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When I began my preparation for writing this post, I read the text aloud.  While doing so, I got theological whiplash.  Late in the reading, I also detected evidence of subsequent, Judean editing of the text, as in 1:7 and 1:10-2:1/2:3.  (I wrote about reasons for subsequent, Judean editing in the original text of the Book of Hosea in the previous post.)

Adultery and prostitution, in the Bible, are sometimes simply adultery and prostitution.  On other occasions, they are not literal references, but metaphors for idolatry.  And, on other occasions, they are both literal and metaphorical.  Regarding Gomer, the third option is germane.

Idolatry was widespread in ancient Israel.  Polytheism was ubiquitous in the ancient world, so monotheism was an outlying theological position.  Canaanite religion was popular in ancient Israel, much to the consternation of God, God’s prophets, and pious priests.  Pious priestly religion and folk religion were quite different from each other.  The cult of Baal Peor, the Canaanite storm and fertility god, entailed shrine prostitution, to ensure continued fertility and productivity of the soil, officially.  Gomer (“to complete,” literally) was probably one of these prostitutes.

A competing scholarly opinion in commentaries holds that Gomer was a different type of prostitute.  Some books I consulted suggested that she may have resorted to prostitution out of economic necessity, that her alternatives may have been starvation and homelessness.  These scholars write accurately that many women in patriarchal societies have found themselves in this predicament, and that, in Gomer’s society, women lacked property rights.

Gomer being a shrine prostitute fits the metaphor in the Book of Hosea better.

Metaphorically, God’s covenant with the Jews was a marriage.  Worship of Baal Peor, therefore, constituted infidelity.  God was, metaphorically, her husband, and the Jewish people were God’s wife.

The marriage of Hosea and Gomer dramatized the divine indictment of Israel.  The prophet played the role of God, and Gomer took the role of Israel.  The children of Hosea ben Beeri and Gomer bath Didlaim bore names that revealed God’s terse messages.

  1. The first son was Jezreel, literally “God sows.”  Jezreel was a city (as in Joshua 15:56) and a valley (as in Judges 6:33).  Apart from the Book of Hosea, this place name occurred in Joshua 15, 17, and 19; Judges 6; 1 Samuel 25, 27, 29, and 30; 2 Samuel 2, 3, and 4; 1 Kings 4, 18, and 21; 2 Kings 8, 9, and 10; 1 Chronicles 4; and 2 Chronicles 22.  The city of Jezreel had a bloody past.  There, for example, Queen Jezebel had plotted the murder of Naboth (1 Kings 21).  And, when King Jehu founded the dynasty to which King Jeroboam II belonged, Jehu did so by assassinating the entire royal court at Jezreel.  What had come around was coming around, God warned.  In 747 B.C.E., King Zechariah, son of Jeroboam II, died after reigning for about six months.  His life and the House of Jehu ended violently when King Shallum staged a palace coup.  About a month later, King Shallum died in another palace coup (2 Kings 15:11-15).  Hosea, by the way, disagreed with the perspective of 2 Kings 9-10, the author of which held that God had authorized Jehu’s revolution.
  2. Lo-ruhamah was the daughter of Hosea and Gomer.  The daughter’s name meant “not accepted” and “not shown mercy.”  (Poor girl!)  God refused to accept or pardon the House of Israel.
  3. Lo-ammi was the second son.  His name meant “not My people.”  (Poor boy!)  The House of Israel had ceased to be God’s people.

Pronouncements of divine judgment continued after 1:9.  But first, in 1:10-2:1/2:1-3 (depending on versification), came an announcement of divine mercy.  Those God had just condemned as not being His people would become the Children of the Living God, shown mercy and lovingly accepted.  This passage may have been a subsequent insertion into the Book of Hosea.

The juxtaposition of material serves a valuable theological purpose.  It reminds us that divine judgment and mercy exist in balance.  Therefore, do not abandon all hope or presume on divine mercy; God both judges and forgives.  I recognize this balance without knowing where judgment gives way to mercy, and mercy to judgment.

The marriage of Hosea and Gomer also dramatized God’s continued yearning for Israel.  R. B. Y. Scott wrote:

Hosea speaks of judgment that cannot be averted by superficial professions of repentance; but he speaks more of love undefeated by evil.  The final words remain with mercy.

The Relevance of the Prophets, 2nd. ed. (1968), 80

History offers a complicating factor.  John Adams, while defending the accused British soldiers charged in the so-called Boston Massacre, said,

Facts are stubborn things.

Consider the following stubborn facts, O reader:

  1. The Assyrian Empire absorbed the (northern) Kingdom of Israel in 722 B.C.E.  A mass deportation followed.  This was not the first mass deportation.  A previous one had occured in 733 B.C.E., when that empire had claimed much of the territory of the (northern) Kingdom of Israel.
  2. Many refugees from the (northern) Kingdom of Israel fled south, to the Kingdom of Judah after these events.  These refugees merged into the tribes of Judah and Simeon.
  3. Many other Israelites remained in their homeland.  Many who did this intermarried with Assyrian colonists, producing the Samaritans.
  4. The Ten Lost Tribes assimilated.  Their genetic and cultural heritage spread throughout the Old World, from Afghanistan to South Africa, over time.
  5. The two kingdoms did not reunited, contrary to Hosea 1:11/2:2.

Nevertheless, I like what R. B. Y. Scott wrote:

The final word remains with mercy.

I hope so.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 13, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE ASCENSION OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST

THE FEAST OF HENRI DOMINIQUE LACORDAIRE, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, DOMINICAN, AND ADVOCATE FOR THE SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE

THE FEAST OF FRANCES PERKINS, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF LABOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT GEMMA OF GORIANO SICOLI, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC ANCHORESS

THE FEAST OF SAINT GLYCERIA OF HERACLEA, MARTYR, CIRCA 177

THE FEAST OF UNITA BLACKWELL, AFRICAN-AMERICAN CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST

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The Superscription of the Book of Hosea   3 comments

Above:  A Map of the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah

Scanned from an Old Bible

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READING HOSEA, PART I

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Hosea 1:1

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This post begins an ambitious program of Bible study and blogging.  I, having recently blogged my way through Daniel, Jonah, and Baruch at this weblog, turn to the other books of the Old Testament classified as prophetic.  In the first stage, I am reading and blogging about Hosea, Amos, Micah, and First Isaiah, all of them contemporaries prior to the Babylonian Exile.

The prophet Hosea (“rescue”) ben Beeri lived and prophesied in the (northern) Kingdom of Israel.  According to Hosea 1:1, Hosea prophesied during the reigns of the following monarchs:

  1. Azariah (Uzziah) of Judah (r. 785-733 B.C.E.); see 2 Kings 15:1-7 and 2 Chronicles 26;
  2. Jotham of Judah (r. 759-743 B.C.E.); see 2 Kings 15:32-38 and 2 Chronicles 27:1-9;
  3. Ahaz of Judah (r. 743/735-727-715 B.C.E.); see 2 Kings 16:1-20, 2 Chronicles 28:1-27, and Isaiah 7:1-8:15;
  4. Hezekiah of Judah (r. 727/715-698/687 B.C.E.); see 2 Kings 18:1-20:21, 2 Chronicles 29:1-32:33, Isaiah 38:1-39:8, and Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 48:17-22 and 49:14; and
  5. Jeroboam II of Israel (r. 788-747 B.C.E.), see 2 Kings 14:23-29.

The list of kings (with dates taken from The Jewish Study Bible, Second Edition, 2014) does not include any Israelite monarchs who succeeded Jeroboam II through the Fall of Samaria (722 B.C.E.) and were contemporary with King Ahaz of Judah and perhaps King Hezekiah of Judah.  Also, this list prioritizes the Kings of Judah.  If one is intellectually honest (as I try to be), the chronological problem is obvious: Ahaz and Hezekiah do not belong on the list of kings in Hosea 1:1. The Book of Hosea contains layers of composition and editing.  Alteration of the original text seems to have begun perhaps as early as prior to the Babylonian Exile, in the (southern) Kingdom of Judah, and continued (probably) as late as the post-Exilic period.  The chronological discrepancy in Hosea 1:1 is a minor matter.  If I were a fundamentalist, it would trouble me, and I would attempt to reconcile the irreconcilable.  Karen Armstrong tells us:

…fundamentalism is antihistorical….

A History of God:  The 4,000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (1993), xx

The NIV Study Bible (1985) pretends that there is no chronological discrepancy in Hosea 1:1.  But I do not affirm either Biblical literalism or inerrancy, so I acknowledge and ponder the evidence of alteration of the original text of the Book of Hosea.  Besides, salvation does not require willful ignorance or a frontal lobotomy.  Besides, giving short shrift to one’s intellect in the name of piety dishonors the image of God in oneself.

The germane note in The Jewish Study Bible, Second Edition (2014) argues for the editing of the original text of the Book of Hosea during the final, declining period of the (southern) Kingdom of Judah:

From the Israelite perspective, the book is anchored in the last period of strength of the Northern Kingdom; from the Judahite perspective, it is anchored in a period in which Israel moves from a political position of strength to the beginning of its demise in the days of Hezekiah.  This double perspective is no mistake, but a rhetorical clue for the reading of the book.

–1132

Gale A. Yee wrote:

The priority of Judean kings suggests a Judean editing.  The phraseology and structure that this verse shares with other prophetic superscriptions indicates that it was part of a joint redaction of the prophetic books.  This editing probably occurred during or after the Babylonian exile, when the latter prophets can be dated.  Moreover, the phraseology is similar to the editing of 1 and 2 Kings, suggesting a deuteronomistic redaction.  The superscription emphasizes that while the revelation was addressed to a particular prophet at a particular historical time, the book in its later, edited state articulates the revealed message of God.  As God’s word through Hosea spoke to its original audience and to its later Judean audience, it continues to address us today.

The New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 7 (1996), 217

The (united) Kingdom of Israel had divided in 928 B.C.E., early in the reign of King Rehoboam, son of King Solomon.  The Davidic Dynasty, which had ruled the (united) Kingdom of Judah since 1005 B.C.E., governed the (southern) Kingdom of Judah, including the tribes of Judah and Simeon, until the Fall of Jerusalem (587 B.C.E.).  In contrast, dynasties rose and fell in the (northern) Kingdom of Israel.  King Jeroboam II (reigned 788-747) belonged to the House of Jehu, which had come to power in a bloody revolution in 842 B.C.E.  Jeroboam II presided over a prosperous and militarily strong realm (2 Kings 14:23-29). Yet, just a quarter-century after his death, the former (northern) Kingdom of Israel fell to the Assyrian Empire.  Those twenty-five years were politically tumultuous.

  • King Zechariah succeeded his father, Jeroboam II, in 747 B.C.E., and reigned for about six months (2 Kings 15:8-12)
  • King Shallum ended the House of Jehu, as well as the life and reign of King Zechariah via assassination in 747 B.C.E.  Shallum reigned for about a month (2 Kings 15:13-16).
  • King Menahem (r. 747-737 B.C.E.) came to power by having King Shallum assassinated (2 Kings 15:17-22).
  • King Pekahiah (r. 737-735 B.C.E.), succeeded his father, King Menahem (2 Kings 15:23-26).
  • King Pekah (r. 735-732 B.C.E.) came to power by having King Pekahiah assassinated (2 Kings 15:27-31).
  • King Hoshea (r. 732-722 B.C.E.) came to power by having King Pekah assassinated.  Assyrian King Sargon II (r. 722-705) finished what Shalmaneser V (r. 727-722) had started; Sargon II terminated Hoshea’s reign and the existence of the (northern) Kingdom of Israel (2 Kings 17:1-23).

A note in The New Interpreter’s Study Bible (2003) suggests:

Because Hosea condemned the house of Jehu, it may be that he fled Israel prior to the revolt [of 747 B.C.E.], continuing to speak from Judah.

That is possible.

God, speaking through Hosea, repeatedly warned the people of the (northern) Kingdom of Israel of the terrors they were about to experience and urged them to restore their covenant relationship with God.  They did not renew that covenant relationship, to their detriment.  Perhaps subsequent editors of the original text of the Book of Hosea amplified these themes, with the benefit of hindsight.  But these editors did not invent them.

Repurposing and revising texts was sufficiently commonplace in Biblical times that finding evidence of it had ceased to surprise me.  For example, some of the Psalms originated at one place and in one period yet went through stages of revision, to fit different contexts.

Dr. Yee’s final point provides my jumping-off point for my conclusion for this post:

…[God’s word] continues to address us today.

Here, “God’s word” refers to what God has said and says.  God’s word is as current today as it was last year, a decade ago, a century ago, a thousand years ago, and in antiquity.  God’s word, although ancient, remains fresh.  Are we paying attention?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 12, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT GERMANUS I CONSTANTINOPLE, PATRIARCH OF CONSTANTINOPLE; AND DEFENDER OF ICONS

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY OF OSTIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT, CARDINAL, AND LEGATE; AND SAINT DOMINIC OF THE CAUSEWAY, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT

THE FEAST OF PAUL MAZAKUTE, FIRST SIOUX EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF ROGER SCHÜTZ, FOUNDER OF THE TAIZÉ COMMUNITY

THE FEAST OF SYLVESTER II, BISHOP OF ROME

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