Archive for the ‘Ezra 1’ Category

Ezra and More Exiles Arrive in Jerusalem   Leave a comment

Above:  Ezra

Image in the Public Domain

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

PART XXII

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1 Esdras 8:1-9:36

Ezra 7:1-10:44

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Up, Jerusalem! stand upon the heights;

look to the east and see your children

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

rejoicing that they are remembered by God.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 11, 2020 COMMON ERA

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

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

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

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

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Cyrus II Allows Exiles to Return   Leave a comment

Above:  Cyrus II

Image in the Public Domain

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

PART X

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2 Chronicles 36:22-23

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

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

Nehemiah 7:6-73a

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Sit silent, retire into darkness,

O Fair Chaldea;

Nevermore shall they call you

Mistress of Kingdoms.

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

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

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

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

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

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

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 8, 2020 COMMON ERA

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALTMAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF PASSAU

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

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Moral Renewal   Leave a comment

Above:   Cyrus II

Image in the Public Domain

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FOR THE THIRTEENTH SUNDAY OF KINGDOMTIDE, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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Almighty God, in a world of change you have placed eternity in our hearts

and have given us power to discern good from evil:

Grant us sincerity that we may persistently seek the things that endure,

refusing those which perish, and that, amid things vanishing and deceptive,

we may see the truth steadily, follow the light faithfully,

and grow ever richer in that love which is the life of the people;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 155

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Ezra 1:2-4; 3:10-13

Psalm 51

Jude 17-21, 24-25

Luke 13:22-24, 34-35

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The readings from Mark 13 and Jude share the warning to avoid following false teachers and to remain in eternal life, which, according to John 17:3, is knowing God via Jesus.  In Mark 13 and Jude this warning comes in the context of apocalyptic expectations.  Mark 13 also occurs in the context of the imminent crucifixion of Jesus.  The question of how to identify false teachers is an important one.  This is frequently a difficult matter, given the reality of the existence of theological blind spots.  If one backs up just one verse to Jude 16, however, we read a description of false teachers:

They are a set of grumblers and malcontents.  They follow their lusts.  Bombast comes rolling from their lips, and they court favour to gain their ends.

The Revised English Bible (1989)

That helps somewhat.

False teachers distract us from God, in whom we can have new beginnings.  The new beginning in Ezra 1 and 3 (Chapter 2 is a list of returning exiles.) culminates in the laying and dedication of the foundation of the Second Temple at Jerusalem.  The narrative of the construction of that Temple continues through Chapter 6.  In The Episcopal Church we read Psalm 51, a prayer for healing and moral renewal, on Ash Wednesday.  Moral renewal is of the essence.

That is also a frequently disputed project.  What constitutes moral renewal?  I know enough about history to be able to speak or write extemporaneously about “moral” defenses of offenses including serfdom, chattel slavery, Apartheid, Jim Crow laws, and the economic exploitation of industrial workers.  Anyone who defends any of those sins in any circumstance needs moral renewal.  All of those sins violate the law of love, which is a helpful guide for determining what is moral.

The truth is that all of us need moral renewal.  The most pious and kind-hearted person has the need of moral renewal in some parts of his or her life.  We can find that renewal by turning to God and avoiding false teachers, many of whom offer easy answers to difficult questions.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 13, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT HILARY OF POITIERS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF POITIERS, “ATHANASIUS OF THE WEST,” AND HYMN WRITER; MENTOR OF SAINT MARTIN OF TOURS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF TOURS

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN KEIMANN, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT KENTIGERN (MUNGO), ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF GLASGOW

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARGUERITE BOURGEOYS, FOUNDRESS OF THE SISTERS OF NOTRE DAME

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Doing the Right Thing, Part II   1 comment

Cyrus II of Persia

Above:  Cyrus II

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Living God, in Christ you make all things new.

Transform the poverty of our nature by the riches of your grace,

and in the renewal of our lives make known your glory,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 24

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezra 1:1-11

Psalm 120

2 Corinthians 1:12-19

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Deliver me, O LORD, from lying lips

and from the deceitful tongue.

–Psalm 120:2, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Some people seem to live to criticize.  They are not content to be happy, so they carp.  St. Paul the Apostle knew this well.  After a painful visit to the Corinthian church, he had planned to visit them again yet changed his mind not out of spite (as some in Corinth alleged), but out of consideration.  The reading from 2 Corinthians (actually part of the fourth letter to them) is an exercise in easing ruffled feathers.  That pericope is similar in tone to 2 Corinthians 10, the beginning of his third letter to the Corinthians.  (For your information, O reader, 1 Corinthians was St. Paul’s second letter to that church, and the first letter is lost.)

Regardless of all the motivations of King Cyrus II of the Persians and the Medes (reigned 559-530 B.C.E.), his decision to send Jewish exiles to their ancestral homeland was God’s work.  Cyrus II might have been a nice person, but he certainly had some political reasons.  So be it.  He was as benevolent a foreign ruler as Jews could expect at the time.

People do the right things for a variety of reasons.  Motivations count, of course, but how many beneficiaries care about the reasons?  The actions themselves count also.  The best combination of motivation and action remains doing the right thing for the proper reason.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 14, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL CHRISTIAN MISSIONARIES

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL ISAAC JOSEPH SCHERESCHEWSKY, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF SHANGHAI

THE FEAST OF THOMAS HANSEN KINGO, DANISH LUTHERAN BISHOP, HYMN WRITER, AND “POET OF EASTERTIDE”

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/10/14/devotion-for-tuesday-after-the-sixth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Lamps of God–With Oil from Unexpected and Unlikely Sources   1 comment

Above:  Map of the Persian Empire

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Ezra 1:1-6 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, when the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah was fulfilled, the LORD roused the spirit of King Cyrus of Persia to issue a proclamation throughout his realm by word of mouth and in writing as follows:

Thus said King Cyrus of Persia:  The LORD God of Heaven has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and has charged me with building Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah.  Anyone of you all His people–may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem that is in Judah and build the house of the LORD God of Israel, the God that is in Jerusalem; and all who stay behind, wherever he may be living, let the people of his place assist him with silver, gold, goods, and livestock, besides the freewill offering to the House of God that is in Jerusalem.

So the chiefs of the clans of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and Levites, all whose spirit had been roused by God, got ready to go up to build the House of the LORD that is in Jerusalem.  All their neighbors supported them with silver vessels, with gold, with goods, with livestock, and with precious objects, besides what had been given as a freewill offering.

Psalm 126 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion,

then were we like those who dream.

2 Then was our mouth filled with laughter,

and our tongue with shouts of joy.

3 Then they said among the nations,

“The LORD has done great things for them.”

The LORD has done great things for us,

and we are glad indeed.

5 Restore our fortunes, O LORD,

like the watercourses of the Negev.

6 Those who sowed with tears

will reap with songs of joy.

7 Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed,

will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves.

Luke 8:16-18 (The Jerusalem Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

No one lights a lamp to cover it with a bowl or put it under a bed.  No, he puts it on a lamp-stand so that people may see the light when they come in.  For nothing is hidden but it will be made clear, nothing secret but it will be known and brought to light.  So take care how you hear; for anyone who has will be given more; from anyone who has not, even what he thinks he has will be taken away.

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The Collect:

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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The united Kingdom of Israel divided in 928 B.C.E., with Jerusalem continuing as the capital city of Judah and a new, northern kingdom, becoming Israel.  The Assyrian Empire conquered the northern kingdom in 722 B.C.E.  Then, in 609 B.C.E., the Assyrians fell to the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire, which ended the existence of the Kingdom of Judah in 586 B.C.E.  The conquerors deported many–but not all–inhabitants of Judah to Babylon.

Decades passed.  Finally, in 539 B.C.E., the Persians and the Medes, led by King Cyrus II, conquered the Chaldeans/Neo-Babylonians.  Cyrus had a policy of religious toleration, which he extended to the Jews.  For the Jews he did more, however; he allowed those Jews in Babylon to return to their ancestral homeland. Cyrus also sponsored the construction of the Second Temple.  He was not even a Jew.  The king was a Zoroastrian, an adherent of a faith system that influenced the course of Judaism, and therefore Christianity, in profound ways.  This ought not to bother a Biblical literalist or to give comfort or ammunition to a scoffer prowling around in search of evidence to discredit the Judeo-Christian traditions, for no single human religion has a monopoly on the truth.  Some just possess more of it than others, and Judaism and Christianity contain far more than any other religions–including Zoroastrianism.

The brief reading from Luke speaks of shedding light.  The image in that text is of an oil lamp on a lamp stand in the middle of a small and otherwise dark house.  Light is especially evident in the dark; how far it reaches becomes obvious.  The final lines in that lesson speak of the imperative of growing in faith, for the consequence of a lack of spiritual growth is atrophy.

So, how does Ezra relate to Luke?  Here is my answer:  It took Cyrus, one of the goyim, to help perpetuate the truth of the Jewish faith.  He provided oil for the Jewish lamps, if you will indulge my analogy.  That light continues to burn within Judaism and Christianity today.  Where might you find oil for your spiritual lamp?  The answers might surprise you.  Likewise, you might provide oil for lamps of people the identities of which might shock you.

There is an inclusive message here.  I note this and accent it because one of the unfortunate aspects of post-Exilic Judaism was exclusiveness.  The Book of Jonah is a powerful satire of that attitude.  We will get to that soon enough–in the Week of Proper 22.  So think about these questions:  Whose Cyrus are you?  And who is your Cyrus?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 1, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS SYRAGIUS OF AUTUN AND ANACHARIUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS, AND SAINTS VALERY OF LEUCONE AND EUSTACE OF LUXEUIT, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOTS

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK DENISON MAURICE, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIDONIUS APOLLINARIS, SAINT EUSTACE OF LYON, AND HIS DESCENDANTS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/01/week-of-proper-20-monday-year-1/

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Posted May 4, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Ezra 1, Luke 8, Psalm 126

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