Archive for the ‘Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 47’ Category

The Beginning of the Hasmonean Rebellion   1 comment

Above:  Mattathias and the Apostate, by Gustave Doré

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1, 2 AND 4 MACCABEES

PART XV

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1 Maccabees 2:1-70

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How much is too much to tolerate?  When must one, in good conscience, resist authority?  The First and Second Books of the Maccabees are books about resistance to tyranny and about the political restoration of Israel (Judea).  These are not books that teach submission to all human governmental authority, no matter what.  The heroes include men who killed imperial officials, as well as Jews who ate pork–

death over a ham sandwich,

as a student of mine said years ago.

Mattathias was a Jewish priest zealous for the Law of Moses.  He and his five sons started the Hasmonean Rebellion after the desecration of the Temple in Jerusalem by King Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 167 B.C.E.  Mattathias, having refused an offer to become on the Friends of the King, launched the rebellion.  (Friend of the King was an official position.  Also, there were four ranks of Friends:  Friends (entry-level), Honored Friends, First Friends, and Preferred Friends.)  The sons of Mattathias were:

  1. John Gaddi–“fortunate,” literally;
  2. Simon Thassis–“burning,” literally;
  3. Judas Maccabeus–“designated by Yahweh” or “the hammerer,” literally;
  4. Eleazar Avaran–“awake,” literally; and
  5. Jonathan Apphus–“favorite,” literally.

The rebellion, under Mattathias, was against Hellenism.  Under Judas Maccabeus, the rebellion became a war for independence.

Mattathias died in 166 B.C.E.

The farewell speech in 2:49-70 contains references to the the following parts of the Hebrew Bible:

  1. Genesis 22 (Abraham; see Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 44:19-21, also);
  2. Genesis 39 (Joseph);
  3. Numbers 25 (Phinehas; see Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 45:23-26, also);
  4. Joshua 1 (Joshua; see Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 46:1-10, also); 
  5. Numbers 13 and 14 (Caleb; see Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 46:7-10, also);
  6. 2 Samuel 7 (David; see Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 47:2-12, also);
  7. 1 Kings 17 and 2 Kings 2 (Elijah; see Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 47:25-12, also); 
  8. Daniel 3 (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego); and
  9. Daniel 6 (Daniel).

The point is to remain faithful to God during difficult times.  I support that.  On the other hand, killing some people and forcibly circumcising others is wrong.  If I condemn Hellenists for committing violence, I must also condemn Hasmoneans for doing the same.

The text intends for us, the readers, to contrast the death of Mattathias with the death of Alexander the Great (1:5-6).  We read:

[Alexander’s] generals took over the government, each in his own province, and, when Alexander died, they all assumed royal crowns, and for many years the succession passed to their descendants.  They brought untold miseries on the world.

–1 Maccabees 1:8-9, The Revised English Bible (1989)

The agenda of 1 Maccabees includes the belief that renewal of Jewish traditions followed the death of Mattathias , however.

I have a habit of arguing with scripture, off-and-on.  I may recognize a text as being canonical yet disagree with part of it.  Arguing with God is part of my patrimony, inherited from Judaism.  Sometimes I seek to adore and thank God.  Arguing with God (as in Judaism) contrasts with submitting to God (as in Islam).  Perhaps the combination of my Protestant upbringing and my inherent rebelliousness keeps showing itself.  If so, so be it; I offer no apology in this matter.

As much as I engage in 1 and 2 Maccabees and find them interesting, even canonical–Deuterocanonical, actually–they disturb me.  Violence in the name of God appalls me, regardless of whether an army, a mob, or a lone civilian commits it.  I may recognize a given cause as being just.  I may, objectively, recognize the historical importance of certain violent acts, including those of certain violent acts, including those of rebellious slaves and of John Brown.  I may admit, objectively, that such violence may have been the only feasible option sometimes, given the circumstances oppressors had created or maintained.   Yet, deep down in my soul, I wish I could be a pacifist.

So, the sacred violence in 1 and 2 Maccabees disturbs me.  I understand the distinction between civilians and combatants.  The violence against civilians in 1 and 2 Maccabees really offends me morally.  These two books are not the only places in the Old Testament I read of violence against civilians.  It is present in much of the Hebrew Bible proper, too.  I object to such violence there, also.

Jennifer Wright Knust, a seminary professor and an an ordained minister in the American Baptist Churches USA, wrote Unprotected Texts:  The Bible’s Surprising Contradictions About Sex and Desire (2011).  She said in an interview on Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) radio that she has detected a disturbing pattern in many of her students.  Knust has said that many of her pupils think they must hold positions they would otherwise regard as morally repugnant.  They believe this, she has explained, because they interpret the Bible as supporting these positions.

As Mark Noll (a historian, a University of Notre Dame professor, and a conservative Presbyterian) has written, the U.S. Civil War was a theological crisis.  The authority of scripture was a major part of proslavery arguments that quoted the Bible, chapter and verse.  The counterargument was, therefore, allegedly heretical.  That argument rested mainly on a few verses–the Golden Rule, mainly.  And the abolitionist argument was morally superior.

I encourage you, O reader, to go all-in on the Golden Rule.  Questions of orthodoxy or heresy be damned.  Just follow the Golden Rule.  Leave the rest to God.  Do not twist the authority of scripture into an obstacle to obeying the Golden Rule.  I do not believe that God will ever condemn any of us for doing to others as would have them to do to us.

I offer one other thought from this chapter.  Read verses 29-38, O reader.  Notice that even those zealous for keeping the Law of Moses fought a battle on the Sabbath, instead of resting on the day of rest.  Know that, if they had rested, they may have lost the battle.  Know, also, that relativizing commandments within the Law of Moses was a Jewish practice.  (Remember that, so not to stereotype Judaism, as in stories in which Jesus healed on the Sabbath then faced criticism for having done so.)  Ideals clash with reality sometimes.

To return to Knust’s point, one need not believe something one would otherwise consider repugnant.  One need not do so, even if one interprets the Bible to support that repugnant belief.  The recognition of the reality on the ground takes one out of the realm of the theoretical and into the realm of the practical.  May we–you, O reader, and I–properly balance the moral demands (real or imagined) of the theoretical with those (also real or imagined) of the practical.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 9, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF DANNY THOMAS, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC ENTERTAINER AND HUMANITARIAN; FOUNDER OF SAINT JUDE’S CHILDREN’S RESEARCH HOSPITAL

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALTO TO ALTOMUNSTER, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT

THE FEAST OF BRUCE M. METZGER, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, BIBLICAL SCHOLAR, AND BIBLICAL TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF JOHN TIETJEN, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, ECUMENIST, AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT PORFIRIO, MARTYR, 203

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The Assumption and Legacy of Elijah   Leave a comment

Above:  The Assumption of Elijah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART LXXX

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2 Kings 2:1-18

Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 47:14b-48:12a

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How glorious you were, Elijah, in your wonderous deeds!

And who has the right to boast which you have?

–Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 48:4, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

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Elijah was one of three Biblical characters assumed bodily into Heaven.  The first was Enoch (Genesis 5:21-24).  The third was St. Mary of Nazareth, the Theotokos, the Mother of God, and the Queen of Heaven.

2 Kings 2:1-18 contains elements that may require explanation.  For example:

  1. The mantle (robe or cloak) was the physical means of parting the River Jordan, in an echo of the parting of the Sea of Reeds in Exodus 14.  Elijah resembled Moses in that scene.
  2. The request for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit was the request to become Elijah’s recognized and equipped successor.  According to Deuteronomy 21:17, the eldest son’s portion of the father’s inheritance was double that any of the any sons received.  Elisha asked for the same right as an eldest son, but not regarding property.
  3. Elisha resembled Moses in a second parting of the waters in 2 Kings 2:14.

I detect nostalgic exaggeration in Ecclesiasticus/Sirach/Wisdom of Ben Sira 48:8.  As I recall Biblical stories, God (in 1 Kings 19) ordered Elijah to choose his successor and to anoint the next Kings of Israel and Aram.  1 Kings 19 tells us that Elijah chose Elisha shortly thereafter.  2 Kings 8 and 9 tell me that Elisha anointed the next Kings of Israel and Aram.

Nevertheless, Elijah was one of the most remarkable figures in the Bible.  He became a figure of great importance in messianic expectation.  Elijah also became a symbol of the Hebrew prophetic tradition.  Jesus speaking with Elijah and Moses at the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-8, Mark 9:2-8, and Luke 9:28-36) testified to the greatness of the prophet.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 28, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS SIMON AND JUDE, APOSTLES AND MARTYRS

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The Conclusions of the Reigns of Kings Rehoboam of Judah and Jeroboam I of Israel, with the Fall of the House of Jeroboam I   Leave a comment

Above:  King Rehoboam of Judah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART LXVII

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1 Kings 14:1-31

1 Kings 15:1-8

1 Kings 15:25-32

2 Chronicles 12:1-16

2 Chronicles 13:1-21

Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 47:23-25

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Solomon rested with his ancestors,

and left behind him one of his sons,

broad in folly and lacking in sense,

Rehoboam, whose policy drove the people to revolt.

Then Jeroboam son of Nebat led Israel into sin

and started Ephraim on its sinful ways.

Their sins increased more and more,

until they were exiled from their land.

For they sought out every kind of wickedness,

until vengeance came upon them.

–Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 47:23-25, The New Revised Standard Version with the Apocrypha (1989)

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King Rehoboam of Judah (Reigned 928-911 B.C.E.)

King Jeroboam I of Israel (Reigned 928-907 B.C.E.)

King Abijah/Abijam of Judah (Reigned 911-908 B.C.E.)

King Nadab of Israel (Reigned 907-906 B.C.E.)

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The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011) does not mention Jeroboam I by name in Ecclesiasticus/Sirach/Wisdom of Ben Sira 47.  That translation describes him as

the one who should not be remembered.

Both mentioning and not mentioning Jeroboam I by name in Ecclesiasticus/Sirach/Wisdom of Ben Sira 47 are justifiable.  In fact, Ben Sira did not name either Rehoboam or Jeroboam I.  No, Ben Sira substituted a synonym for 

broad, open place

for Rehoboam and 

let his name not be mentioned

for Jeroboam I.  Nevertheless, as I read in Volume V (1997) of The New Interpreter’s Bible, the present Hebrew text contains the names of both monarchs.  And Ecclesiasticus/Sirach/Wisdom of Ben Sira exists in both Hebrew and Greek versions.

1 Kings 14 would have us believe that King David kept commandments and followed God with all his heart, doing only what was right.  Biblical stories of King David are fresh in my memory.  I do not know what version God, according to the prophet Ahijah, had read or heard.  It must have been a truncated, nostalgic version.

Moving on….

After nearly twenty-two years of King Jeroboam I and about two years of King Nadab, the first dynasty of the northern Kingdom of Israel fell and a bloodbath ensued.  The theme of divine retribution via domestic and foreign troubles played out, according to the texts.  The same theme played out in Judah, in the context of King Rehoboam, in 1 Kings 14 and 2 Chronicles 12.

King Jeroboam I also fought a war against King Abijah, son of King Rehoboam, in violation of the truce in 1 Kings 12:24.

The saga of Israel and Judah was far from over.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 24, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ROSA PARKS, AFRICAN-AMERICAN CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST

THE FEAST OF FRITZ EICHENBERG, GERMAN-AMERICAN QUAKER WOOD ENGRAVER

THE FEAST OF HENRY CLAY SHUTTLEWORTH, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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The Death and Legacy of King Solomon   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of King Solomon

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART LXIV

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1 Kings 11:41-42

2 Chronicles 9:29-31

Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 47:12-22

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Give the King your justice, O God,

and your righteousness to the King’s Son;

That he may rule your people righteously

and the poor with justice;

That the mountains may bring prosperity to the people,

and the little hills bring righteousness.

–Psalm 72:1-3, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The accounts in 1 Kings 11 and 2 Chronicles 9 are brief and to the point.  The text in Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 47 is more interesting reading.  It is a lament for the potential King Solomon wasted.  That text also emphasizes the faithfulness of God–in this case, to the Davidic Dynasty.  People sin and suffer the consequences of their sins.  God remains faithful.

I write these posts to be universal, not bound by time and space.  I frequently restrict my choice of names to the material from the passage or passages.  I write these posts to be universal, therefore never at risk of becoming so dated as to be become irrelevant with the passage of time.  In so doing, I like to apply timeless principles which are, by definition, always germane.

Any leader of a nation-state, province, state, town, city, county, kingdom, et cetera, has certain duties.  These include making wise decisions and improving the common good.  Perhaps the most basic duty is to leave the nation-state, province, state, town, city, county, kingdom, or whatever is is better than he or she found it.

Solomon failed as a monarch and a leader.  Generations of people paid the high price for his failure.

May all in authority decide and govern wisely, for the common, intergenerational good.  May those who will not so decide and govern leave office as soon as possible.  May those who will so decide and govern replace them as soon as possible.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 23, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES OF JERUSALEM, BROTHER OF JESUS

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The Death and Legacy of King David   Leave a comment

Above:  David and Solomon with the Madonna and Baby Jesus

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART LIII

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2 Samuel 23:1-7

1 Kings 2:1-12

1 Chronicles 29:26-30

Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 47:2-11

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In all his activities he gave thanks

to the Holy One Most High in words of glory;

he put all his heart into his songs

out of love for his Creator.

–Ecclesiasticus 47:8, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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After reigning for about forty years and six months, David died.  His record was mixed–more mixed than some Biblical authors admitted.  Other Biblical sources, however, were honest about David’s moral failings as a man and a monarch.

David’s final advice to Solomon in 1 Kings 2 combines piety with orders for executions.  One reads of plans to punish (by killing) Joab and Shimei, both of whom David had spared in 2 Samuel–Shimei in Chapters 16 and 19, and Joab in Chapters 2, 18, 19, and 20.  The Corleone family–er, Davidic Dynasty–was about to settle accounts.

To repeat myself from a previous post, I do not like David.  I even have strong sympathies for Saul.  I perceive unduly negative press regarding the first King of Israel.  I perceive a pro-Davidic filter in accounts of Saul.  I conclude that Saul was not as bad as we are supposed to think, and that David was much worse than we are supposed to think, according to the texts.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 15, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT TERESA OF AVILA, SPANISH ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN, MYSTIC, AND REFORMER

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Evaluation of King Josiah   Leave a comment

Above:  King Josiah

Image in the Public Domain

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

PART V

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1 Esdras 1:23-24

Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 49:1-6

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O my God, remember to my credit all that I have done for this people!

–Nehemiah 5:19, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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And the deeds of Josiah were upright in the sight of the Lord, for his heart was full of godliness.  In ancient times the events of his reign have been recorded–concerning those who sinned and acted wickedly toward the Lord beyond any other people or kingdom, and how they grieved the Lord deeply, so that the words of the Lord fell upon Israel.

–1 Esdras 1:23-24, New Revised Standard Version (1989)

That passage from 1 Esdras has no parallel in 2 Chronicles or 2 Kings.

Sirach 49:1-6 heaps more praise upon Josiah.  That passage lauds only three Israelite monarchs–David, Hezekiah, and Josiah.  The rest were wicked, verse 4 tells us.  Sirach 49:1-6 also tells us that Josiah’s name is like “blended incense” and that his memory is precious.  One also reads that Josiah “kept his heart fixed on God” and led a virtuous life during “times of lawlessness.”  Such lawlessness, one reads, led to the Babylonian Exile.

Sirach 49:1-6 comes from a section (Chapters 44-50) in which Ben Sira praises heroes, but not always in chronological order.  The standard English translation of Sirach 44:1 begins,

Let us now praise famous men….

I wonder if the author of Hebrews (definitely not St. Paul the Apostle) had Sirach 44-50 in mind when dictating or writing the roll call of faith in Chapter 11.

The story of King Josiah of Judah confirms what most people know already:  the wisdom and character of those who sit in positions of power changes the courses of nations and the world.  And even those who walk with God make foolish decisions.  At least these rulers are not evil, though.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 30, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CLARENCE JORDAN, SOUTHERN BAPTIST MINISTER AND WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CHRYSOLOGUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF RAVENNA AND DEFENDER OF ORTHODOXY

THE FEAST OF SAINT VICENTA CHÁVEZ OROZCO, FOUNDRESS OF THE SERVANTS OF THE HOLY TRINITY AND THE POOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT WILLIAM PINCHON, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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