Archive for the ‘Jeremiah 43’ Category

Introduction to Haggai-First Zechariah   Leave a comment

Above:  Map of the Persian Empire

Image in the Public Domain

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READING HAGGAI-FIRST ZECHARIAH, PART I

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Haggai 1-2

Zechariah 1-8

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The Book of Haggai consists of two chapters, four oracles, and thirty-eight verses.

The Book of Zechariah consists of two sections–First Zechariah (chapters 1-8) and Second Zechariah (chapters 9-14).  Haggai and First Zechariah share a background and setting. Also, the chronology of Haggai-First Zechariah starts in Haggai, continues in First Zechariah, returns to Haggai, then resumes in First Zechariah.

Jerusalem, 520-518 B.C.E.  Darius I (r. 522-486 B.C.E.) was the King of the Persian Empire.  The Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire had fallen in 539 B.C.E.  The Babylonian Exile had ended in 538 B.C.E.  The rebuilding of Jerusalem was underway, slowly.  The standard of living there was bad yet improving, slowly.  The construction of the Second Temple had started then paused indefinitely.

Names interest me.  “Haggai,” derived from the Hebrew stem for “to make a pilgrimage feast,” means “festal.”  Not surprisingly, the Temple is central to the prophetic book bearing this name.  “Zechariah” means “YHWH remembers.”  One may want to keep that in mind while reading First Zechariah.

The Temple is central to Haggai-First Zechariah.  The prophecies of certain Hebrew prophets do not reflect this bias; see Amos (5:18-25) and First Isaiah (1:12-16), set before the Babylonian Exile, O reader.  Also consult Third Isaiah (66:1), from after the Babylonian Exile.  Diversity of opinions exists in the corpus of canonized Hebrew prophecy.  So be it.

I will unpack another theme as write posts to succeed this one.  As I have established in this long-term project of reading and blogging about the Hebrew prophetic books, roughly in chronological order, some Hebrew prophecies contradict historical, documented, objective reality.  This is not a matter of legitimate dispute; “alternative facts” are not valid.  The Haggai-First Zechariah provides some examples of this pattern.  When predictions do not come true, some people become discouraged, understandably.  I, as a student of history, take note of the prophecy and the reality.  The facts are what they are, and speak for themselves.  In the face of the contradiction between reality and prophecy, some people should become discouraged.

John J. Collins, writing in The Catholic Study Bible, Third Edition (2016), offers some food for thought:

Hope should not be focused on specific predictions.  The faith of Habakkuk was secure because it was a faith in ultimate justice and did not depend on specific events coming to pass within a short space of time.  Haggai’s more specific prediction gives rise to problems.

–RG404

I know this problem from elsewhere in Hebrew prophetic literature.  The prediction of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian conquest of Egypt (Jeremiah 43:1-8; Jeremiah 46:2-28; Ezekiel 29-32) contradicts the the historical record, which indicates that, in 525 B.C.E., Egypt fell to the Persian Empire, which had previously conquered the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  If the prophecies were, in contrast, of the fall of Egypt to a great, unnamed empire from the east, there would be no problem, though.

Yet, as Rabbi Abraham J. Heschel wrote, prophets were people, not microphones.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 11, 2021 COMMON ERA

PROPER 10:  THE SEVENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF NATHAN SODERBLOM, SWEDISH ECUMENIST AND ARCHBISHOP OF UPPSULA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DAVID GONSON, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR, 1541

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN GUALBERT, FOUNDER OF THE VALLOMBROSAN BENEDICTINES

THE FEAST OF SAINTS THOMAS SPROTT AND THOMAS HUNT, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS, 1600

THE FEAST OF SAINT VALERIU TRAIAN FRENTIU, ROMANIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP AND MARTYR, 1952

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The Shepherds of Israel   Leave a comment

Above:  Statue of Ezekiel, Parma

Image in the Public Domain

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READING EZEKIEL, PART XV

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Ezekiel 34:1-31

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Ezekiel 33-39, from after the Fall of Jerusalem (586 B.C.E.), contains the rationale for and the anticipation of the transformation of YHWH’s people.  Ezekiel 33 reiterates the call of Ezekiel and argues for individual responsibility for one’s actions before God.  Chapter 34 employs shepherds as a metaphor for Hebrew kings and shepherds as a metaphor for God.  Ezekiel 34 is also one of the few chapters of the Book of Ezekiel the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) cites.

The reviews of the Kings of Israel and Judah in the Books of Samuel, Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Chronicles are mostly negative.  The critique in Ezekiel 34 is that the majority of them did a bad job of looking out for the people.  We read that the people paid dearly for this neglect.  Recall, O reader, that Ezekiel prophesied in exile in the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  Consider, O reader, that the prophet had the benefit of hindsight.

We read that YHWH is the good shepherd , who will tend faithfully to the flock.  We also read that this task will entail dealing with the bad shepherds.  Why not?  Divine mercy on and deliverance of the oppressed and powerless may entail bad news for the oppressors and powerful.  We read of divine plans to reunite the scattered flock–to end the Babylonian Exile.

We also read of divine judgment of exploitative members of that flock.  Why not?  Exploitation contradicts one of the ethical mandates of the Law of Moses.

Then we read of the restoration of the Davidic Dynasty.  This one awaits fulfillment, or will never occur.  Inaccurate prophecies (such as the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian conquest of Egypt (Jeremiah 43:8-13; Jeremiah 46:2-28; and throughout Ezekiel 29-32) do exist in the Hebrew Bible.

One need not study historical records alone for examples of predatory and bad readers of peoples.  One can consult the news (if one can do so without triggering Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) and identify such bad shepherds.  The divine condemnation of bad shepherds in Ezekiel 34 applies to them, also.  Even worse, these shepherds lead many sheep.  Many of these shepherds, having come to power via elections, work to subvert the democratic and and electoral processes.  God has the most power, of course.  But sheep are not powerless in all societies.  When they have the option of withdrawing their consent for bad shepherds to govern, the sheep ought to do so.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 3, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS FLAVIAN AND ANATOLIUS OF CONSTANTINOPLE, PATRIARCHS; AND SAINTS AGATHO, LEO II, AND BENEDICT II, BISHOPS OF ROME; DEFENDERS OF CHRISTOLOGICAL ORTHODOXY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS DIONYSIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, PATRIARCH OF ALEXANDRIA, AND CHURCH FATHER; SAINT EUSEBIUS OF LAODICEA; AND SAINT ANATOLIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, BISHOP OF LAODICEA

THE FEAST OF SAINT HELIODORUS OF ALTINUM, ASSOCIATE OF SAINT JEROME, AND BISHOP OF ALTINUM

THE FEAST OF IMMANUEL NITSCHMANN, GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN MINISTER AND MUSICIAN; HIS BROTHER-IN-LAW, JACOB VAN VLECK, U.S. MORAVIAN BISHOP, MUSICIAN, COMPOSER, AND EDUCATOR, HIS SON; WILLIAM HENRY VAN VLECK, U.S. MORAVIAN BISHOP; HIS BROTHER, CARL ANTON VAN VLECK, U.S. MORAVIAN MINISTER, MUSICIAN, COMPOSER, AND EDUCATOR; HIS DAUGHTER, LISETTE (LIZETTA) MARIA VAN VLECK MEINUNG; AND HIS SISTER, AMELIA ADELAIDE, VAN VLECK, U.S. MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF JOHN CENNICK, BRITISH MORAVIAN EVANGELIST AND HYMN WRITER

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Divine Judgment Against Egypt, Part II   2 comments

Above:  Ezekiel, the Biblical Prophet, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

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READING EZEKIEL, PART XIV

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Ezekiel 29:1-32:32

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I have read and written about the oracles against Egypt in Isaiah 18:1-20:6 and Jeremiah 46:2-28.

We read seven oracles against Egypt.  The arrangement is not chronological.

The first oracle (29:1-16) dates to 588-587 B.C.E.  The context is Pharoah Hophra’s failed attempt to rescue Jerusalem from the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian siege before the Fall of Jerusalem (586 B.C.E.)  Hophra’s sin, we read, is arrogance–specifically, boasting that he had created the Nile River, therefore, the world.  The prophecy of the fall of Egypt holds up if one interprets the Persian conquest (525 B.C.E.).  The Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire never conquered Egypt, historical records tell us.  We also read that, in time, God will restore Egypt, but as a minor kingdom, not a major empire.

The second oracle (29:17-21) dates to 571-570 B.C.E.).  It accurately predicts the fall of Egypt to the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  Other inaccurate prophecies of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian conquest of Egypt occur in Jeremiah 43:8-13 and 46:2-28.

The third oracle (30:1-19), undated, uses the imagery of the Day of the LORD in a lament for conquered Egypt.

The fourth oracle (30:20-26) dates to 587-586 B.C.E.–specifically, about four months before the Fall of Jerusalem (586 B.C.E.).  Pharoah Hophra’s broken arm refers to the failed Egyptian effort to lift the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian siege of Jerusalem.

The fifth oracle (31:1-18) dates to 587-586 B.C.E.–specifically, about two months before the Fall of Jerusalem (586 B.C.E.).  This oracle predicts the the downfall of Egypt.  Egypt is, metaphorically, a fallen cedar of Lebanon.

The sixth oracle (32:1-16) dates to 585 B.C.E., one year or so after the Fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple (586 B.C.E.).  This oracle cites mythology–specifically, the divine defeat of the sea dragon Leviathan at creation (Exodus 15; Isaiah 11-15; Psalm 74:12-17; Psalm 104:7-9; Job 38:8-11).  The oozing blood in verse 6 recalls the plague of blood (Exodus 7:19-24).  The theme of darkness recalls the plague of darkness (Exodus 10:21-29) and the Day of the LORD (Joel 2:1-2; Joel 3:15; Zephaniah 1:15).  God really does not like Pharoah Hophra (r. 589-570 B.C.E.), we read:

I will drench the earth 

With your oozing blood upon the hills

And the watercourses shall be filled with your [gore].

When you are snuffed out,

I will cover the sky

And darken its stars;

I will cover the sun with clouds

And the moon shall not give its light.

All the lights that shine in the sky

I will darken above you;

And I will bring darkness upon your land

–declares the Lord GOD.

–Ezekiel 32:6-78, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Ezekiel 32:11 repeats the inaccurate prophecy of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian conquest of Egypt.

The seventh oracle (32:17-32) dates to 585 B.C.E.  This oracle depicts Egypt and the other enemies of Judah as being in Sheol, the underworld.  Once-great nations, having fallen, are in the dustbin of history in the slimy, mucky, shadowy Pit.  The use of Sheol, a pre-Persian period Jewish concept of the afterlife, in this way intrigues me.  My reading tells me that Sheol was an afterlife without reward or punishment.  Yet the text in Ezekiel 32:17-32 brims over with divine judgment.

Nations, nation-states, kingdoms, and empires rise and fall.  Many last for a long time.  Yet God is forever.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 2, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WASHINGTON GLADDEN, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND SOCIAL REFORMER

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR HENRY MESSITER, EPISCOPAL MUSICIAN AND HYMN TUNE COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF FERDINAND QUINCY BLANCHARD, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HENRY MONTAGU BUTLER, EDUCATOR, SCHOLAR, AND ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF JACQUES FERMIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY PRIEST

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Divine Judgment Against Egypt, Part I   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of Jeremiah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART XXVI

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Jeremiah 46:2-28

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Jeremiah 46:2 refers to the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian defeat of Egypt at Carchemish in 605 B.C.E. in the past tense.

Jeremiah 46:13 refers to the Chaldean/Neo Babylonian invasion in 601 B.C.E. in the past tense.  Historical records tell us that King Nebuchadnezzar II did not vanquish Egypt (contra 43:8-11), but withdrew to Syria instead.  Historical records also tell us that Egypt fell to the Persian Empire in 525 B.C.E.

Depending on the commentary one accepts, we read either two or three brief oracles against Egypt (46:2-26), followed by an oracle for Judah (46:27-28).  The Egyptian oracles exist in the contexts of Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian invasions, depicted as divine punishment of Egypt.  Jeremiah 46:27-28, nearly identical to 30:10-11, comforts Judah.  A remnant of Judah will remain, we read.

For more about divine judgment on Egypt, read Isaiah 18:1-20:6; Ezekiel 19:1-16; Ezekiel 30:1-32:32.

Walter Brueggemann writes that, in Jeremiah 46, YHWH, not the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire, was “the enemy of Egypt.”  He continues:

Yahweh stalks the map of the Near East as only Yahweh is authorized to do.  The nations will sooner or later have to come to terms with Yahweh’s powerful will.  International politics does not consist simply in power and cunning and strategy and ruthlessness.  There is a purpose that overrides all such human posturing.  Whoever stands over against that transcendent purpose, as Egypt here does, is sure to fail.

A Commentary on Jeremiah:  Exile and Homecoming (1998), 429

Empires come and go; they rise and fall.  Kings and Pharaohs come and go, too.  International alliances shift.  God, however, is forever and sovereign.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 14, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT METHODIUS I OF CONSTANTINOPLE, DEFENDER OF ICONS AND ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH OF CONSTANTINOPLE; AND SAINT JOSEPH THE HYMNOGRAPHER, DEFENDER OF ICONS AND THE “SWEET-VOICED NIGHTINGALE OF THE CHURCH”

THE FEAST OF DAVID LOW DODGE, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN BUSINESSMAN AND PACIFIST

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS J. UPLEGGER, GERMAN-AMERICAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND MISSIONARY; “OLD MAN MISSIONARY”

THE FEAST OF FRANK LAUBACH, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF MARK HOPKINS, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, EDUCATOR, AND PHYSICIAN

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Jeremiah in Egypt   Leave a comment

Above:  Map of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART XXIV

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Jeremiah 43:8-44:30

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Contrary to the prophecy in Jeremiah 43:8-11, the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire never conquered Egypt.  Egypt did fall to the Persian Empire in 525 B.C.E., though.

The archaeological record confirms the presence of Jews in Egypt in antiquity.  We know that Jews lived in Egypt prior to the Fall of Jerusalem and continued to do so afterward.  For example, the Third Book of the Maccabees is about the persecution of Jews in Egypt centuries after the Fall of Jerusalem (586 B.C.E.).

Despite the political-theological agenda of Babylonian exilic Jews versus Egyptian exilic Jews, another point attracts my attention in this post.  I notice idolatry in the Egyptian exilic community.  I recall Hebrew prophets condemning idolatry in the homeland.  I conclude that some people never learn certain key lessons.

I also notice the the reversal of the Exodus from Egypt.  Think, O reader:  Did not God free Jews from slavery in Egypt?  In parts of the Hebrew Bible, Egypt (a literal place) functions also as a metaphor for slavery.  Therefore, in the Book of Jeremiah, to flee to Egypt is to flee to slavery.

The prophecy of the complete destruction of the Egyptian exilic community (42:7-22) was hyperbolic.  After all, some survived to return to Judah (44:28).  But all should have remained in Judah, under divine protection.

Free will is a gift of God.  It is evidence of grace.  How we use our free will can please or vex God.

For you vex me by your deeds….

–Jeremiah 44:8, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

In Christian terms, may we abide by the admonition not to grieve the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30).  And may we learn the lessons we ought to learn and should have learned by the examples of our forebears.

Sadly, Jeremiah and Baruch died in involuntary exile in Egypt.  (See Jeremiah 45:4-5, too.)  These men had served God faithfully for decades.  Living in Egypt was their final recorded indignity.

William Alexander Percy (1885-1942) wrote:

The peace of God, it is no peace,

But strife closed in the sod.

Yet, brothers, pray for but one thing–

The marvelous peace of God.

Amen.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 13, 2021 COMMON ERA

PROPER 6:  THE THIRD SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

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

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

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

THE FEAST OF SIGISMUND VON BIRKEN, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

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

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Jeremiah Among the Remnant of Judah, and the Decision to Flee to Egypt   1 comment

Above:  Map of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART XXIII

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Jeremiah 42:1-43:7

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The political situation was tense in Judah after the fall of the kingdom and the assassination of Gedaliah.  A population who had fled then returned and asked Jeremiah to pray for advice and report back to them.  Should they flee to Egypt?  God said, “No.”  God said He would preserve them and their descendants as a remnant if they remained in Judah.  God was sovereign; Nebuchadnezzar II was His vassal.

This population did not like the divine reply Jeremiah reported.  They did not hear what they wanted to hear.  They did not want to hear that fleeing to Egypt would lead to unfortunate results for them.  They did not want to hear that fleeing to Egypt would lead to them dying

by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence.

–Jeremiah 42:17

(Yet read Jeremiah 44:28.)  They did not want to hear that fleeing to Egypt would result in them becoming

an execration of woe, a curse, and a mockery.

–Jeremiah 42:18

Therefore, they decided to flee to Egypt anyway.

They did not obey the LORD.

–Jeremiah 43:7b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

In the Biblical narrative, including the Book of Jeremiah, the Kingdom of Judah fell apart because people did not obey God.  They were still disobeying God.

The theological voice in much of the Hebrew Bible (including the Book of Jeremiah) is that of the Jewish exiles in Babylon.  This is the community from which the final drafts of much of the Hebrew Bible emerged after the Babylonian Exile.  Walter Brueggemann writes that, in this portion of Jeremiah, we read the Babylonian exilic community denying legitimacy to the Egyptian exilic community.  I have no reason to doubt the historical legitimacy of this interpretation.

Those who disobey God act out of a false sense of autonomy.  No person, community, et cetera, is autonomous from God.  Learning that lesson is difficult.  Discerning the difference between someone speaking for God and someone speaking for himself or herself may also be difficult.  One may, for example, carry on an internal monologue and imagine that one is conversing with God.  Then there are liars.  Despite these challenges, one rule may prove helpful:  If God always seems to argue with you, O reader, you are mistaking yourself for God much of the time, at least.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 13, 2021 COMMON ERA

PROPER 6:  THE THIRD SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

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

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

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

THE FEAST OF SIGISMUND VON BIRKEN, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

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

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

Above:  Jeremiah Let Down Into the Cistern

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART XXI

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Jeremiah 34:1-22

Jeremiah 37:1-40:6

Jeremiah 52:1-34

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 13, 2021 COMMON ERA

PROPER 6:  THE THIRD SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

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

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

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

THE FEAST OF SIGISMUND VON BIRKEN, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

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

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The Fidelity of the Rechabite Clan Versus the Apostasy of the General Public   Leave a comment

Above:  Jehoiakim Burns the Word of God

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART XVII

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Jeremiah 35:1-19

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Chronology is not the organizing principle in the Book of Jeremiah.  The events of Jeremiah 36 occurred in 605 B.C.E., when Jeremiah had no access to the Temple.  The events of Chapter 35 occurred a few years later, in 598 B.C.E., when the prophet did have access to the Temple.

The Rechabites (2 Kings 10:15-17; 1 Chronicles 2:55; and maybe 1 Chronicles 4:11-12) were a traditionalist, semi-nomadic people.  They rejected agricultural and urban cultures in Judah.  They did not drink wine.  They lived in tents.  They did not own vineyards, fields, or crops.  These traditionalists, members of a sect founded by Jehonadab ben Rechab, had dropped out of a society they correctly perceived to be hurdling toward destruction.  Yet the Rechabites could not escape reality.  They were in Jerusalem because of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian army, during the first invasion of Judah.  Nevertheless, when Jeremiah tested the Rechabites’ resolve, they passed with flying colors, so to speak.  God commended the Rechabites.  They still heeded the teachings of their founder, but the larger society did not listen to God.

The Hebrew prophetic books become repetitive quickly.

You (plural) have not listened to God is a motif in Hebrew prophetic literature. 

When I wrote the rough draft of this post in longhand, I had already read Jeremiah 37-44.  Reading Chapter 35 after Chapters 37-44 powerfully drove home the point that listening to God is a good idea.  Nevertheless, the examples of Jeremiah and Baruch (Chapters 43-45) proved that listening to God does not necessarily prevent misfortune.  Jeremiah and Baruch died in exile in Egypt (Jeremiah 43-44).  And God told Baruch not to expect great things for himself (Jeremiah 45).

The difference between suffering misfortune despite being faithful to God and suffering misfortune because of faithlessness to God may not prove comforting in real time.  One is still suffering, after all.  Suffering while innocent may be worse, actually.  I know the experience of suffering while innocent.  I do not wish it on anyone.

I offer no easy answers to difficult questions.  I may offer partial answers, for partial answers may be the best I or anyone else can really know.  I acknowledge, for example, that, in a world that is fair, Jeremiah would have been safe and a revered figure in his lifetime.  I know that he would have died in his sleep, in his strong and independent homeland, in a world that is fair.  That is not the narrative in the Book of Jeremiah, though.  The world is not fair.

Yet God is faithful.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 12, 2021 COMMON ERA

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

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

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

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

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

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Jeremiah and Baruch   1 comment

Above:  Jehoiakim Burns the Word of God

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART XVI

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Jeremiah 36:1-32

Jeremiah 45:1-5

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

Keep your facts straight and your chronology in order.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Above:  Baruch Writing Jeremiah’s Prophecies

Image in the Public Domain

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

God commanded Jeremiah to tell Baruch ben Neriah:

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

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

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

One may not want to hear God say to one:

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

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

Some interpretive difficulties arise in Jeremiah 45.

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

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

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

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

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

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

By that standard, Jeremiah and Baruch succeeded.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 12, 2021 COMMON ERA

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

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

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

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

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

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Weeping, Mourning, and Lamentation   Leave a comment

Above:  Jeremiah and Jerusalem

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART VI

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Jeremiah 8:4-10:25

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Jeremiah 8:4-10:25, in its final form, consists of disparate material.  10:23-25 indicates that Jerusalem has fallen to the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  This material is later than much of the other content of this section of the Book of Jeremiah; it is temporally contemporary with Chapters 33, 39-44, and perhaps 45.  Jeremiah speaks to God in some of the passages in Jeremiah 8:4-10:25; God speaks in other passages.

Given that I am reading Hebrew prophetic books systematically, almost all of the themes in Jeremiah 8:4-10:25 are familiar to me from recent reading and blogging.  I choose not to repeat myself concerning them in this post.  If I were dropping into the Book of Jeremiah, as in the case of a lectionary, I would offer more comments, though.

The Book of Jeremiah is the only Hebrew prophetic book to mention circumcision.  Jeremiah refers to the circumcision of the heart in 4:4; 6:10; and 9:25/9:26 (depending on versification).  This fits neatly with Chapter 7, which argues against assuming that ritual propriety shields against the consequences of persistent immorality.  This theme of the circumcision of the heart recurs in Romans 2:28-29.

Other than the circumcision of the heart, I focus on God lamenting people’s sins and the consequences of those sins.  Hellfire-and-damnation Christians seem to overlook this.  God, as presented in Jeremiah 8;4-10:25, wishes that circumstances were different.

Assuredly, thus said the LORD of Hosts:

Lo, I shall smelt and assay them–

For what else can I do because of My poor people?

Their tongue is a sharpened arrow,

They use their mouths to deceive.

One speaks to his fellow in friendship,

But lays an ambush for him in his heart.

Shall I not punish them for such deeds?

–says the LORD–

Shall I not bring retribution

On such a nation as this?

–Jeremiah 9:6-8, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

May we–collectively and individually–refrain from grieving God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 7, 2021 COMMON ERA

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

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

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

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

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

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