Archive for the ‘Jeremiah 51’ Category

The Superscription of the Book of Ezekiel   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of Ezekiel

Image in the Public Domain

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READING EZEKIEL, PART I

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Ezekiel 1:1-3

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In 597 B.C.E., Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian forces invaded Judah.  King Jehoiachin‘s brief reign ended.  His uncle Mattaniah came to the throne as King Zedekiah.  Jehoiachin and many others–members of the Judean elite–became exiles in the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  The first wave of the Babylonian Exile had begun.

Ezekiel ben Buzi was one of these captives and exiles.  Ezekiel, a priest in the community beside the Chebar Canal (next to the city of Nippur, southeast of the city of Babylon), received his commission as a prophet on the fifth day of Tammuz (on the Gregorian Calendar, in June), 593 B.C.E.  He prophesied until 571 B.C.E.

Robert Alter describes Ezekiel as

surely the strangest of all the prophets

and as

an extreme case.

The Hebrew Bible, Volume 2, Prophets (2019), 1049

The prophet, whose name meant, “God strengthens,” was, by modern standards, misogynistic, as in Chapters 16 and 23.  He was not unique–certainly not in the company of Biblical authors.  According to Alter, especially in the context of Chapter 16:

Ezekiel clearly was not a stable person.  The states of disturbance exhibited in his writing led him to a series of remarkable visionary experiences, at least several of which would be deeply inscribed in the Western imagination, engendering profound experiences in later poetry and in mystical literature.  At the same time, there is much in these visions that reminds us of the dangerous dark side of prophecy.  To announce authoritatively that the words one speaks are the words of God is an audacious act.  Inevitably, what is reported as divine speech reaches us through the refracting prism of the prophet’s sensibility and psychology, and the words and images represented as God’s urgent message may be sometimes distorted in eerie ways.

–1051-1052

Biblical scholars from a variety of times, theological orientations, and geographical origins have commented on Ezekiel’s pathological psychology.  The prophet may not have been well-adjusted.  “Touched by the gods” has been an expression for a long time, and for a good reason.

However much one accepts that much or most of the Book of Ezekiel comes from the prophet, a textual difficulty remains.  The book includes evidence of subsequent editing after the Babylonian Exile.  Any given passage, in its final form, may have more to do with Ezra or some other editor than with Ezekiel.  Or that passage may be entirely from Ezeki8el.  Or the editorial touch may be light.

I acknowledge these matters as I commit to my primary purpose in this Hebrew prophetic reading project:  to read these passages in context and to ponder what they say to the world today.  The ancient message, grounded in particular circumstances, continues to speak.

“The hand of the Lord” (Ezekiel 1:3) symbolizes divine power.

The Book of Ezekiel breaks down into three sections:

  1. Chapters 1-24, in their original form, date to between the Fall of Jerusalem (586 B.C.E.).  This section divides into two subsections.  Chapters 1-11 contain visions of divine presence and departure.  Chapters 12-24 offer a rationale for and anticipate the destruction of Jerusalem.
  2. Chapters 25-32 contain oracles against the nations.  The arrangement of these oracles is not chronological.  Such a collection of oracles is also a feature of other prophetic writings, as in Amos 1:3-2:3; Isaiah 13:1-23:19; Jeremiah 46:1-51:64.
  3. Chapters 33-48 contain oracles from after the Fall of Jerusalem.  This section breaks down into two subsections.  Chapters 33-39 offer a rationale for and anticipate the transformation of the LORD’s people.  Chapters 40-48 contain visions of the LORD’s return to the Second Temple (not yet built; dedicated in 516 B.C.E.) in a transformed land.

Tova Ganzel wrote, in the introduction to the Book of Ezekiel, in The Jewish Study Bible, Second Edition (2014):

Because of the central themes of the Temple, acts of leadership, sins of the people, and divine theophanies appear in both the predestruction and postdestruction oracles (1.3, 13-15, 22-24; 8.2-3; 10.11, 22-23; 40.1-2; 43.1-5), Ezekiel’s oracles merit both sequential and topical study.

–1034

I will study the Book of Ezekiel in a combination of sequential and topical organization of posts.

Major lectionaries ignore most of the Book of Ezekiel.  The Roman Catholic lectionaries for weekdays, Sundays, and major feast days omit Chapters 3-8, 11, 13-15, 19-23, 25-27, 29-42, 44-46, and 48 entirely. The Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) lists the Book of Ezekiel only five times:

  1. 34:11-16, 20-24 for Christ the King Sunday, Year A;
  2. 36:24-27 for the Easter Vigil, Years A, B, and C;
  3. 37:1-14 for the Easter Vigil, Years A, B, and C; the Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year A; and (as an alternative reading), for the Day of Pentecost, Year B.

I understand the benefits and limitations of lectionaries.  Any lectionary–even a narrow, one-year cycle with two readings and a Psalm each Sunday–is superior to ministers focusing on their favorite passages of scripture Sunday after Sunday.  The orderly reading of scripture in communal worship has virtues.  Lectionaries also help people to read the Bible in conversation with itself.  Nevertheless, the parts of the Book of Ezekiel that even three-year cycles overlook are worth hearing and reading, in private, alone, in a study group, and in the context of worship.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 20, 2021 COMMON ERA

PROPER 7:  THE FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH AUGUSTUS SEISS, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, LITURGIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF ALFRED RAMSEY, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF CHARLES COFFIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HANS ADOLF BRORSON, DANISH LUTHERAN BISHOP, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM JOHN SPARROW-SIMPSON, ANGLICAN PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND PATRISTICS SCHOLAR

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Divine Judgment Against the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire   Leave a comment

Above:  Map of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART XXXIV

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Jeremiah 50:1-51:64

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Since I started reading the Hebrew prophetic books, roughly in chronological order, I have read the material related to the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire in Isaiah 13:1-14:22; 21:1-10.

Jeremiah 50 and 51 contain two oracles (50:1-46; 51:1-58) and an account of the the transportation of the scroll of the prophecy against the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire to Babylon, followed by the enactment of the curse against that empire (51:59-64).  Chapters 50 and 51 also contain material from different periods.  The copies I read are translations of the final draft, from after the Babylonian Exile.

The contents of the two oracles contain familiar, repeated themes:

  1. Babylon will fail.
  2. The empire will end.
  3. Jews will return to God and to their homeland.
  4. God is sovereign.
  5. Idolatry, hubris, and arrogance will be the downfall of the empire.

Jeremiah 51:59 provides a year for the events of 51:59-64.  That year is 593 B.C.E., the fourth year of the reign of King Zedekiah of Judah.  The reference to King Zedekiah’s official delegation to Babylon fits historically.

Tying a stone around the scroll and sinking that scroll into the Euphrates River was a prophetic symbolic action.  Seraiah ben Neriah, brother of Baruch ben Neriah, performed that task on Jeremiah’s behalf.  That symbolic action enacted the curse that Babylon would sink and never rise again.

Babylon remained a major city, within the Persian Empire, for centuries.  In the Hellenistic Era, however, Babylon declined.  By the early Christian era, Babylon had become a village.  The site, abandoned by 1000 C.E., became a source for bricks.

Above:  Ruins of Babylon, 1932

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-13231

Thus for the words of Jeremiah.

–Jeremiah 51:64b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

So ends the Book of Jeremiah, except for Chapter 52, mostly copied and pasted from 2 Kings 24:18-25:30.

I have already covered Jeremiah 52 (as Jeremiah 52) here and (as 2 Kings 24 and 25) here and here.

Thank you, O reader, for joining me on this journey through the Book of Jeremiah.  I invite you to remain with me as I move along to the Book of Lamentations.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 15, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN ELLERTON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF CARL HEINRICH VON BOGATSKY, HUNGARIAN-GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY FRANCES BLOMFIELD GURNEY, ENGLISH POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EVELYN UNDERHILL, ANGLICAN MYSTIC AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT LANDELINUS OF VAUX, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; SAINT AUBERT OF CAMBRAI, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; SAINT URSMAR OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND MISSIONARY BISHOP, AND SAINTS DOMITIAN, HADELIN, AND DODO OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS

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Introduction to Jeremiah’s Oracles Against the Nations   Leave a comment

Above:  Jeremiah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART XXV

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Jeremiah 46:1

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Jeremiah 46-51 consists of oracles against nations:

  1. Egypt (46),
  2. Philistia (47),
  3. Moab (48),
  4. Ammon, Edom, Aram, Arabia, and Elam (49), and
  5. the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire (50-51).

Such oracles are staples of Hebrew prophetic literature.  They fill the Book of Nahum (against the Assyrian Empire), the Book of Obadiah (against Edom), Isaiah 13-23, Ezekiel 25-32, and Amos 1:3-2:16.  The oracles in Jeremiah 46-51 are consistent with Jeremiah’s commission:

…a prophet to the nations I appointed you.

–Jeremiah 1:5, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

The Book of Jeremiah consists of material from various sources.  Some of these oracles, therefore, come from Jeremiah himself.  Others may come from a later stratum or subsequent strata of composition.  This fits with the process of composing and editing other Hebrew prophetic books as late as after the Babylonian Exile.  So be it.

We read, in the context of a particular scroll from 605 B.C.E.:

Then Jeremiah took another scroll and gave it to his scribe, Baruch, son of Neriah, and wrote on it at Jeremiah’s dictation all the words contained in the scroll, which Jerhoiakim, king of Judah, had burned in the fire, adding many words like them.

–Jeremiah 36:32, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

I wonder how many other authors added

many words like them

elsewhere in the Book of Jeremiah, specifically in in Chapters 46-51.

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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Jonah in the Big Fish   Leave a comment

Above:  Israeli Stamp of Jonah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JONAH

PART II

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Jonah 2:1-10 (Protestant and Anglican)

Jonah 2:2-11 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox)

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The Book of Jonah tells us that a “big fish,” not a whale, swallowed Jonah.  Avoid fixating on the species of aquatic life, O reader.  The essence of these verses pertains to other issues.

I begin with two Hebrew words.

  1. Jonah 2:1/2:2 (depending on versification) tells us that the big fish “swallowed” Jonah.  The Hebrew verb for “to swallow” has only negative connotations in the Bible.  It occurs, in the context of death, in Exodus 15:12 and in Numbers 16:30, 32, and 34.  In Jonah 2:1/2:2, however, swallowing prevents death.
  2. Jonah 2:10/2:11 (depending on versification) tells us that the big fish “vomited” Jonah onto terra firma.  The story tells us that the big fish could not stomach Jonah.  The Hebrew verb for “to vomit” also occurs in Jeremiah 51:44.  The Chaldeans/Neo-Babylonians had consumed/swallowed various nations in 51:34.  They were about to consume/swallow Judah in Chapter 52.  Jeremiah 51:44 tells us that God would force the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire to “vomit” what it had “swallowed.”  One may assume reasonably that the author of the Book of Jonah may have been familiar with the Book of Jeremiah.

The prayer of Jonah derives from various Psalms.  This part of the text is of different authorship than the rest of the Book of Jonah.  Certain details of the composite prayer contradict details of Jonah 1.  The Book of Jonah is pious fiction, after all.  I quote Phyllis Trible, writing in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume VII (1996):

Appearing between the genuine worship of the sailors and the Ninevites, the psalm offers counterfeit piety from loquacious Jonah.

(The Ninevites repented in Jonah 3.)

Counterfeit piety is ubiquitous, unfortunately.  It is the stock and trade of many people from a host of professions and a range of ideas.  Perhaps one needs to look no farther than into a mirror to see a practitioner of counterfeit piety.  The Biblical standard in this matter is to know a tree by its fruits.  Fruits do not lie.  The proof is in the pudding.  And actions speak louder than words.

In Christian terms, I think of a bumper sticker.  It reads,

JESUS, SAVE ME FROM YOUR FOLLOWERS.

The supreme irony of that plea is that one does not need saving from Christ’s actual followers.  One needs no deliverance from people who obey the Golden Rule.  The list of atrocities and other sins many people have committed and/or continue to continue to commit in the name of God is long and disturbing.  It is a record of counterfeit piety.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 10, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT LEO THE GREAT, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF ELIJAH P. LOVEJOY, U.S. JOURNALIST, ABOLITIONIST, PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, AND MARTYR, 1837; HIS BROTHER, OWEN LOVEJOY, U.S. ABOLITIONIST, LAWMAKER, AND CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER; AND WILLIAM WELLS BROWN, AFRICAN-AMERICAN ABOLITIONIST, NOVELIST, HISTORIAN, AND PHYSICIAN

THE FEAST OF LOTT CARY, AFRICAN-AMERICAN BAPTIST MINISTER AND MISSIONARY TO LIBERIA; AND MELVILLE B. COX, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER AND MISSIONARY TO LIBERIA

THE FEAST OF ODETTE PRÉVOST, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN, AND MARTYR IN ALGERIA, 1995

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The Faithfulness and Generosity of God, Part V   1 comment

Ruins of Corinth, 1898

Above:  Ruins of Corinth, Greece, 1898

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-07406

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The Collect:

O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus,

you are the city that shelters us, the mother who comforts us.

With your Spirit accompany us on our life’s journey,

that we may spread your peace in all the world,

through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 41

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 51:47-58 (Thursday)

Zechariah 14:10-21 (Friday)

Psalm 66:1-9 (Both Days)

2 Corinthians 8:1-7 (Thursday)

Luke 9:1-6 (Friday)

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Nations, bless our God,

let the sound of his praise be heard;

he brings us to life

and keeps our feet from stumbling.

–Psalm 66:8-9, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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That is the vision in Zechariah 14.  God is the king of the earth in that vision, but many people continue to resist.  Their fate, which verses 12-14 describe vividly, will be unpleasant.  Yet those who follow God will have a different fate.  Judgment and mercy exist in balance in this reading, as well as in Jeremiah 51:47-58, which predicted God’s judgment on the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire for its idolatry, violence, and hubris yet deliverance for exiles.

Certain judgments always remain in the purview of God, who knows far more than any of we mere mortals can ever aspire to comprehend.  Our Lord and Savior instructed his Apostles to leave places where they encountered rejection, for God would handle the situation from that time forward.  That advice applies to messengers of God today.  We should proclaim the good news of Christ.  Those who reject this message of grace are worse off for the rejection, but that is a matter for God to handle.  We have good news to proclaim; may we focus on that task, wherever it takes us.

As St. Francis of Assisi said, “Proclaim the gospel at all times; use words when necessary.”  One way of preaching grace is demonstrating it, as in 2 Corinthians 8:1-7.  There was a collection for the church at Jerusalem.  Macedonian churches, afflicted with poverty, had given generously.  The challenge to the Corinthian church was to give generously also.  Doing so would prove the genuineness of their love for strangers and fellow Christians.

I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of equality your abundance at the present time should supply their want, so that their abundance may supply your want, that there may be equality.  As it is written, “He who gathered much had nothing over, and he who gathered had no lack.”

–Chapter 8, verses 13-15, Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)

Hubris goes before the fall, but active compassion builds up others.  There is more than enough for everyone to have enough; scarcity is a human creation.  In the divine order abundance, not scarcity, is the rule.  Grace, for example, is abundant.  Do we really affirm that truth?  If we do, we will not seek to horde it for ourselves, but we will share it selflessly, and we will find that we always have more to give, for the glory of God and the benefit of others.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 12, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY THE GREAT, BISHOP OF ROME

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/03/12/devotion-for-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-9-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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