Archive for the ‘Isaiah 7’ Category

The Ideal Davidic King, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  King Hezekiah of Judah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING FIRST ISAIAH, PART X

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Isaiah 11:1-12:6

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For context, let us back up into Isaiah 10:

Now the Lord, the LORD of hosts,

is about to lop off the boughs with terrible violence;

The tall of stature shall be felled,

and the lofty ones shall be brought low;

He shall hack down the forest thickets with an ax,

and Lebanon in its splendor shall fall.

–Isaiah 10:33-34, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

This, in literal, historical context, is a reference to the deliverance of Jerusalem and the Kingdom of Judah from the Assyrian invasion force in 701 B.C.E., during the reign of King Hezekiah or Judah.  The Assyrians are, poetically, majestic and tall cedars of Lebanon.  The Assyrians are no match for God, we read:

But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse,

and from his roots a bud shall blossom….

–Isaiah 11:1, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

This shoot growing out of the stump of Jesse is the ideal Davidic monarch.  To whom does this text refer?  The text, in context, seems to indicate Hezekiah, probably the prophesied baby in Isaiah 7:1-16.  If so, the messianic age of Hezekiah was imperfect, given the continued existence of poverty (11:4), for example.

Yet the text moves on and incorporates material from a later period.  We read of the return from the Babylonian Exile long after Hezekiah died.  One may wonder legitimately how to interpret 11:1-9.

I am a Christian and a Gentile.  I am also a student of history.  I chafe against efforts to shoe-horn Jesus into nooks and crannies of the Hebrew Bible in which Jesus does not fit, as far as I could tell.  Not everything or every other thing in the Hebrew Bible is about Jesus.  When I read in some commentaries that the pious man of Psalm 1 is Jesus, I roll my eyes.  I know that this man is a Jewish student of the Torah, actually.  At the risk of seeming to be a heretic, I assert that the ideal Davidic king in Isaiah 9:1-6/9:2-7 (depending on versification) and 11:1-9 is, in context of the Babylonian Exile and the final editing of First Isaiah, difficult to identify.  So be it.

The text does speak beautifully of a reverse exodus from the former Chaldean/Babylonian Empire after the Babylonian Exile.  The emphasis here is on how God acts or will act through human beings.  This is ground I already covered, so I choose to minimize the degree of my repetition in this post.

A future much better than the one predicted in Isaiah 11:1-9 awaits fulfillment.  The inauguration of the fully-realized Kingdom of God remains in the future.  As N. T. Wright tells us in Jesus and the Victory of God (1996), YHWH is the king in the fully-realized Kingdom of God.  The world, as it is, has gone off the rails, and more people than usual seem to have lost their minds.  These are extremely perilous times.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 1, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUSTIN MARTYR, CHRISTIAN APOLOGIST AND MARTYR, 166/167

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAMPHILUS OF CAESAREA, BIBLE SCHOLAR AND TRANSLATOR; AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS, 309

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL STENNETT, ENGLISH SEVENTH-DAY BAPTIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER; AND JOHN HOWARD, ENGLISH HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIMEON OF SYRACUSE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM ROBINSON, MARMADUKE STEPHENSON, AND MARY DYER, BRITISH QUAKER MARTYRS IN BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS, 1659 AND 1660

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This is post #2600 of BLOGA THEOLOGICA.

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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 Jerusalem of the Future and the Present, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  Trees Near the Dead Sea

Image in the Public Domain

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-01756

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READING FIRST ISAIAH, PART IV

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Isaiah 3:1-4:6

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Deportation and the consequences thereof constitute the backdrop of Isaiah 3:1-4:1.  Attentive readers of the Hebrew Bible may recall that Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian authorities began deportations for Judean elites before the Fall of Jerusalem (586 B.C.E.).  These deported elites had exploited the poor.  These elites had been arrogant and disregarded social justice.  Yet the societal collapse after deportation of leaders was devastating; it was worse than the widespread social injustice from prior to deportation.

This section of First Isaiah cannot end on that gloomy note, can it?  It does not.  Isaiah 4:2-6, from a later period, promises a new beginning–the purification of Jerusalem.  Who is the promised “branch of the LORD?” in 4:2?  (Other translations include “the LORD’s shoot” and “the radiance of the LORD.”)  The answer(s) to that question vary over time.

  1. The branch/shoot/radiance of YHWH may be the Messiah, a king of the Davidic Dynasty.  If so, the most likely historical figure may be King Hezekiah, probably the promised king in Isaiah 7, too.
  2. Study Bibles I consult disagree with each other whether the “fruit” or “splendor” of the land (4:2) is consistent with royal messianic expectations.  The Catholic Study Bible, Third Edition (2016), says no.  However, The Jewish Study Bible, Second Edition (2014), says yes.
  3. The Catholic Study Bible, Third Edition (2016), and The New Interpreter’s Study Bible (2003) favor this prophecy being one fulfilled in antiquity, within the lifetime of First Isaiah.  The Jewish Study Bible, Second Edition (2014), does not anticipate the long-term fulfillment of prophecy, either.
  4. Robert Alter, in his three-volume The Hebrew Bible (2019), argues that “the LORD’s shoot” is “the people of Israel to be redeemed after a period of devastation and tribulation that will leave a saving remnant” (Prophets, 634).  The Oxford Study Bible (1992) concurs:  “The plant and the fruit are the survivors of the remnant” (705).
  5. However, The Jewish Study Bible, Second Edition (2014), identifies the survivors as refugees from the (northern) Kingdom of Israel.

Biblical interpretation can become complicated.  This is especially the case when one reads a text from one period and place and perhaps altered in a subsequent period, to fit new circumstances.  Therefore, all of the above (or some of) the interpretations I have listed may be plausible, in different contexts.

At least one point is not ambiguous, O reader:  divine judgment and mercy exist in balance.  Divine forgiveness may not prevent punishment, but grace is the last word for those who repent and return to God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 29, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PERCY DEARMER, ANGLICAN CANON AND TRANSLATOR AND AUTHOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF SAINT BONA OF PISA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC AND PILGRIM

THE FEAST OF JIRI TRANOVSKY, LUTHER OF THE SLAVES AND FATHER OF SLOVAK HYMNODY

THE FEAST OF RUBY MIDDLETON FORSYTHE, AFRICAN-AMERICAN EPISCOPAL EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY THERESA LEDÓCHOWSKA, FOUNDRESS OF THE MISSIONARY SISTERS OF SAINT PETER CLAVER, AND “MOTHER OF AFRICAN MISSIONS;” AND HER SISTER, SAINT URSULA LEDÓCHOWSKA, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE URSULINES OF THE AGONIZING HEART OF JESUS (GRAY URSULINES)

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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 Reigns of Kings Jotham and Ahaz of Judah   5 comments

Above:  King Jotham 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 XCVIII

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2 Kings 15:32-38; 16:1-20

2 Chronicles 27:1-9; 28:1-27

Isaiah 7:1-8:15

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Thus they reasoned, but they were led astray,

for their wickedness blinded them,

and they did not know the secret purposes of God,

nor hope for the wages of holiness,

nor discern the prize for blameless souls;

for God created man for incorruption,

and made him in the image of his own eternity,

but through the devil’s envy death entered the world,

and those who belong to his party experience it.

–Wisdom of Solomon 2:21-24, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

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King Azariah/Uzziah of Judah (Reigned 785-733 B.C.E.)

King Jotham of Judah (Reigned 759-743 B.C.E.)

King Ahaz of Judah (Reigned 743/735-727/715 B.C.E.)

King Pekah of Israel (Reigned 735-732 B.C.E.)

King Rezin of Aram (Reigned 750-732 B.C.E.)

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The contrast between Kings Jotham (father) and Ahaz (son) of Judah was striking.  Jotham was pious, but Ahaz went all-in for idolatry.  Jotham was a capable monarch, but Ahaz reduced the Kingdom of Judah to a vassal state of the Neo-Assyrian Empire.

The Syro-Ephraimite War occurred in the context of the Neo-Assyrian Empire.  The Kingdoms of Israel and Aram sought to force the Kingdom of Judah to join their coalition against Assyria.  King Ahaz refused to do so, however.  Therefore, the Kings of Israel and Aram wanted to depose him and to replace him with a monarch who would join their coalition.  The Syro-Ephraimite War was the context of Isaiah 7:1-8:15, a text many, if not most, Christians read seemingly in reference to the birth of Jesus and not in historical context.  King Ahaz turned not to God but to the Neo-Assyrian Empire.  The Assyrians conquered Aram in 732 B.C.E.  They also reduced the Kingdom of Israel to vassalage.  A decade later, the Assyrians added Israel to their empire.

The Chronicler included material absent in 2 Kings.  He told the story about Judean prisoners of war in Israel and of the prophet Obed’s warning that Israelite tactics against Judah in the Syro-Ephraimite War angered God.  The appeal to Leviticus 25:39-43, 46, worked.  The prisoners of war received aid and went home; they did not become slaves.

A theme present in the germane readings from 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles, and Isaiah is the imperative of trusting God and keeping the commandments.  We need to avoid prosperity theology, a heresy.  Keeping God’s laws does not necessarily lead to health, wealth, and security.  In fact, obeying God may lead to death, poverty, and insecurity, depending on circumstances.  The myriad number of martyrs attests to this.  The example of Jesus also attests to this.  However, being on God’s side is preferable to opposing it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 6, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN GREGOR, FATHER OF MORAVIAN CHURCH MUSIC

THE FEAST OF GIOVANNI GABRIELI AND HANS LEO HASSLER, COMPOSERS AND ORGANISTS; AND CLAUDIO MONTEVERDI AND HEINRICH SCHÜTZ, COMPOSERS AND MUSICIANS

THE FEAST OF HALFORD E. LUCCOCK, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAGDELEINE OF JESUS, FOUNDRESS OF THE LITTLE SISTERS OF JESUS

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Jesus and Hezekiah   1 comment

Above:  The Nativity, by John Singleton Copley

Image in the Public Domain

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For Christmas Day, First Service, Year 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Glory be to thee, O God in the highest, who by the birth of thy beloved Son

has made him to be for us both Word and Sacrament:

grant that we may hear thy Word, receive thy grace,

and be made one with him born for our salvation;

even Christ Jesus our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 118

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Isaiah 9:2-7

Hebrews 1:1-12

Matthew 1:18-25

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Christmas devotions occupy the same category as graduation speeches if one is not careful to avoid thoughtless repetition.  I endeavor to avoid vain repetition and traditional platitudes.

Isaiah 9 opens with a text, with an uncertain timeframe, about the ideal Davidic king.  Is the setting of the text the past or the future–the “prophetic past,” from our perspective?  Historical identification seems to settle on Hezekiah, King of Judah (reigned 727/715-698/687 B.C.E.), son of King Ahaz.  Matthew 1:23 quotes Isaiah 7:14 in Greek, not Hebrew, probably originally about Hezekiah yet subsequently interpreted to apply to Jesus.  One may read about Hezekiah in 1 Kings 18-20 and 2 Chronicles 29-32.  These texts make plain that Hezekiah, although great, was flawed.

Hebrews 1:1-12, with its high Christology, makes clear the superiority of Jesus to Hezekiah.

The birth of Jesus was much more important than that of Hezekiah.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 9, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE DAY OF PENTECOST, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT COLUMBA OF IONA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY AND ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT GIOVANNI MARIA BOCCARDO, FOUNDER OF THE POOR SISTERS OF SAINT CAJETAN/GAETANO; AND HIS BROTHER, SAINT LUIGI BOCCARDO, APOSTLE OF MERCIFUL LOFE

THE FEAST OF JOSE DE ANCHIETA, APOSTLE OF BRAZIL AND FATHER OF BRAZILIAN NATIONAL LITERATURE

THE FEAST OF THOMAS JOSEPH POTTER, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

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Glorious Paradoxes   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Annunciation

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 7:10-14

Psalm 45 or 40:5-10

Hebrews 10:4-10

Luke 1:26-38

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The date of the Feast of the Annunciation of Our Lord is theological, not historical, as I have written elsewhere.  Scholarship regarding the development of the Western Christian calendar reveals that, by the 200s, March 25, according to popular Christian belief in the West, was the

beginning of creation, the date of the incarnation, and the date of the crucifixion, symbolically tying the creation and the new creation together.  The date thus became the new year’s day throughout Europe from the sixth century and remained so in England (and America) until 1752.

–Philip H. Pfatteicher, Commentary on the Lutheran Book of Worship:  Lutheran Liturgy in Its Ecumenical Context (Minneapolis, MN:  Augsburg Fortress, 1990), 315-316.

If one reads the pericope from Isaiah 7 in the context of that chapter, one reads a story about Ahaz, an impious King of Judah under threat from the forces of Aram and Israel.  Ahaz puts on airs of piety, prompting First Isaiah to retort,

Is it not enough for you to treat men as helpless, that you also treat my God as helpless?

–Isaiah 7:13, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The divine sign (the one Ahaz refused to seek) of deliverance from the Syro-Ephraimite crisis is that a young woman in the court will give birth to a son, we read.  The crisis will end in Judah’s favor by the time that boy has moral reasoning, we read.

Ahaz was quite unlike the king of Psalm 45 and the author of Psalm 40–that is, pious men.  Yet, if he received a sign without asking, and while mocking God, one might have good cause to wonder what God will give to the righteous, not that obedience to God ensures an easy life.  (Ask Jesus.)

God has never been helpless–or has He?  (Untangling Trinitarian knots is risky theological business.)  Certainly the young incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity was helpless, for a time.  And Jesus seemed helpless on the cross, where, as the author of the thoroughly misnamed Letter to the Hebrews wrote, the “offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” has consecrated believers (10:10).

The Incarnation was paradoxical.  God assuming human form and becoming fully human–an infant, even–was paradoxical.  God simultaneously being in Heaven and on Earth was paradoxical.  God simultaneously being helpless and not helpless was paradoxical.  All these paradoxes were glorious.

So is the symbolic tying together of the creation and the new creation.  This tying together is something I do not pretend to understand, but that I affirm via faith, regardless of when the conception of Jesus actually occurred.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 24, 2018 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 SAINT EDITH MARY MELLISH (A.K.A. MOTHER EDITH), FOUNDRESS OF THE COMMUNITY OF THE SACRED NAME

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2018/05/24/devotion-for-the-feast-for-the-annunciation-years-a-b-c-and-d-humes/

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Posted May 24, 2018 by neatnik2009 in Hebrews 10, Isaiah 7, Luke 1, Psalm 40, Psalm 45

Tagged with ,

Proclaiming Jesus the Son of God   1 comment

Above:   St. Joseph, by William Dyce

Image in the Public Domain

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Isaiah 7:10-17

Isaiah 12 (at least verses 2-6)

Romans 1:1-7

Matthew 1:18-24

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Ahaz, King of Judah (reigned 743/735-727/715 B.C.E.) was hardly a pious monotheist.  In fact, he practiced idolatry openly.  2 Kings 16 and 2 Chronicles 28 gave him scathing reviews.  Ahaz, confronted with an alliance of Israel and Aram against him, chose to rely on Assyria, not God.  That was a really bad decision.  Nevertheless, God sent a sign of deliverance; a young woman of the royal court would have a baby boy.  God would not only protect Judah but judge it also.

Surely God is our salvation, but how often do we take the easy way out and not trust in God?  When God arrives in the form of a helpless infant, as in Matthew 1, one might not recognize the divine presence.  What we expect to see might prevent us from seeing what is in front of us for what it is.  God approaches us in many guises, many of them unexpected.

At first reading Romans 1:4 might seem surprising, perhaps even similar to the Adoptionist heresy.

…and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord….

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

One might think of John 1:1-18, which declares that the Son is co-eternal with the Father.  One might also ponder the baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22; John 1:32-34) as well as the preceding testimony of St. John the Baptist in each Gospel.  One might even recall the Transfiguration (Mark 9:2-8; Matthew 17:1-13; Luke 9:28-36).

The proclamation mentioned in Romans 1:4 need not contradict those other proclamations.  No, one should interpret it as a subsequent proclamation that Jesus was the Son of God.  One should notice the theological context in Romans 1:  Easter as the beginning and foretaste of the prophesied age of divine rule on Earth.

“Kingdom of God” has more than one meaning in the New Testament.  Usually, though, it indicates divine rule on Earth.  This kingdom is evident in the ministry of Jesus in the Gospels, written after the death of St. Paul the Apostle.  The Kingdom of God is both present and future; it is here, yet not fully.

As we, being intellectually honest readers of scripture, acknowledge the existence of certain disagreements regarding the dawning of the age of God, according to St. Paul and the authors of the canonical Gospels, may we also never cease to trust in God, regardless of how much evil runs rampant and how much time has elapsed since the times of Jesus and St. Paul.  God keeps a schedule we do not see.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 15, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZACHARY OF ROME, POPE

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JAN ADALBERT BALICKI AND LADISLAUS FINDYSZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS IN POLAND

THE FEAST OF OZORA STEARNS DAVIS, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF VETHAPPAN SOLOMON, APOSTLE TO THE NICOBAR ISLANDS

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/15/devotion-for-the-fourth-sunday-of-advent-year-a-humes/

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A New Birth of Justice   Leave a comment

Above:  The Virgin in Prayer, by Giovanni Battista Salvi da Sassoferrato

Image in the Public Domain

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

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Almighty and everlasting God, you are brightness of faithful souls and the desire of all nations.

So fill the world with your glory and show yourself by the radiance of your light

that all the peoples of the earth may be subject to you;  through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

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

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Isaiah 7:10-14

Psalm 31

Titus 2:11-3:7

Matthew 1:18-25

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The Gospel of Matthew appropriates and reinterprets a story from Isaiah 7.  The assigned reading from that story is too short; it should be 7:1-17, at least.

Ahaz (reigned 743/735-727/715 B.C.E.) was the King of Judah.  He was one of the many monarchs who received a negative review in the Bible.  Jerusalem, Ahaz’s capital city, was under threat from allied forces of Israel (the northern kingdom) and Aram (Syria).  God, via the prophet Isaiah, sent a reassuring message to Ahaz; the effort of the two allied kings,

those two smoking stubs of firebrands

–Isaiah 7:4, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

would fail.  Ahaz, when prompted to ask for a sign of divine deliverance, pretended to be pious and refused to request a sigh.  He received one anyway.  A young woman (literally, a maiden) would give birth to a son.  The sign of divine deliverance from imminent destruction was new, vulnerable life.

One might be like the author of Psalm 31 and seek refuge in God when under threat.  Alternatively, one might be like Ahaz and not seek it yet receive it anyway.

The reading from Titus is disturbing.  The author, writing in the name of St. Paul the Apostle, writes a leader of the church on the island of Crete.  The assigned portion of this epistle follows directly from verses that indicate that slaves must be thoroughly under the control of their masters and never talk back to them or steal from them.  The purpose of slaves behaving “properly” will be

to adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every way.

–Verse 10b, The New American Bible

The pericope indicates a concern for orderliness and obedience to authority, as opposed to lawlessness.  We read that we used to be slaves to a range of pleasures of desires.  Being that kind of slave is negative in Titus, but being a literal slave is permissible.  Huh?  Actually, legalized slavery and other forms of institutionalized injustice are worse than lawlessness, for opposition to such injustice is a virtue.

The Letter to Titus indicates the degree to which certain elements of early Christianity accommodated themselves to societal and legal norms of the Roman Empire.  I do not advise reflexive contrariness regarding societal and legal norms, but I do state unequivocably that we who claim to follow God–in Christ, in particular–have a moral duty to march to the beat of a different drummer.  Whenever law and society are correct, that is wonderful.  But whenever law and society are wrong, we have an obligation to say so and to act accordingly.  After all, as Titus 2:12 tells us, we should live justly, devoutly, and temperately.  And, to delve into an earlier portion of Titus 2, sound teaching is vital.

Slavery is contrary to sound teaching.  Here I stand; I will not do otherwise.  This is one point on which I differ from the author of the epistle.  Another is the affirmation of the slur against Cretans in 1:12-13.

As we await the celebration of the birth of Jesus–certainly new, vulnerable life, may we recommit ourselves in his name–the name of one executed unjustly and legally by the Roman Empire–to a new birth of justice for all in the world.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 28, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS AMBROSE OF MILAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; MONICA OF HIPPO, MOTHER OF SAINT AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO; AND AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO, BISHOP OF HIPPO REGIUS

THE FEAST OF DENIS WORTMAN, U.S. DUTCH REFORMED MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF LAURA S. COPERHAVER, U.S. LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER AND MISSIONARY LEADER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MOSES THE BLACK, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, AND MARTYR

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