Archive for the ‘Jeremiah Other’ Category

The Rise and Fall of Judah’s Political Leaders   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of Ezekiel

Image in the Public Domain

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READING EZEKIEL, PART X

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Ezekiel 17:1-24

Ezekiel 19:1-14

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For this post, O reader, we focus on two allegories.

Ezekiel 17 is the allegory of the eagles, the vine, and the cedar.  For background, read 2 Kings 24-25; Jeremiah 21:14; Jeremiah 22:1-8, 20-30; Jeremiah 27-29; Jeremiah 34; Jeremiah 52; 2 Chronicles 36; 1 Esdras 1:43-58;

The allegory, by definition, uses symbols.  The allegory tells the story of King Jehoiachin of Judah allying with Egypt against the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire, losing, and going into exile in 597 B.C.E.  The allegory continues to describe King Zedekiah‘s failed rebellion, and his fate.  The code of the allegory is as follows:

  1. The great eagle = King Nebuchadnezzar II of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire (r. 605-562 B.C.E.) (v. 3).
  2. Lebanon = Jerusalem (v. 3).
  3. The topmost branch = Jehoiachin (r. 597 B.C.E.) (v. 3).
  4. The land of merchants = Babylon (v. 4).
  5. The native seed = Zedekiah (r. 597-586 B.C.E.) (v. 5).
  6. Another great eagle = Pharoah Psammetichus II (r. 595-589 B.C.E.) (v. 7).
  7. The vine = the Davidic Dynastry (vs. 7-8).

Ezekiel 17:18f and 2 Chronicles 36:13 argue that Zedekiah had violated his oath of vassalage by rebelling against King Nebuchadnezzar II, and thereby sinned against God.  These texts also argue that Zedekiah earned his punishment.  This position is consistent with the importance of oaths in the Bible (Genesis 24:7; Genesis 26:3, 28-31; Genesis 50:24; Exodus 13:5, 11; Exodus 20:7; Exodus 33:1; Leviticus 5:1-4; Leviticus 19:12; Numbers 5:17; Numbers 14:16, 30; Numbers 32:11; Deuteronomy 1:8, 35; Deuteronomy 6:10; Judges 11:11-40; 1 Kings 8:31-32; 1 Chronicles 12:19; 2 Chronicles 6:22-23; Psalm 16:4; Isaiah 62:8; Isaiah 144:8; Hosea 4:15; Amos 8:14; Matthew 5:36; et cetera).et cetera

Ezekiel 17 concludes on a note of future restoration (vs. 22-24).  One Jewish interpretation of the final three verses holds that the construction of the Second Temple, under the supervision of Zerubbabel, of the House of David, fulfilled this prophecy (Haggai 2:20-23).  That interpretation does not convince me.  The prophecy concerns the restoration of the Jewish nation.  My sense of the past tells me that one may not feasibly apply this prophecy to the events following 142 B.C.E. and 1948 B.C.E., given the absence of the Davidic Dynasty in Hasmonean Judea and modern Israel.

The emphasis on divine power and human weakness defines the end of Chapter 17.

Ezekiel 19, which uses the metaphors of the lion (the tribe of Judah; Genesis 49:9) and the vine (the nation of the Hebrews), is a lament for the fall of the Judean monarchy.  For Ezekiel, priests properly outrank kings (34:24; 45:7-8), so Kings of Judah are “princes.”  The first cub (v. 4) is King Jehoahaz of Judah (r. 609 B.C.E.).  The second cub may be either King Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, or Zedekiah of Judah.  The identity of the second cub is vague, but the prediction of the destruction of the monarchy of Judah is clear.

Leaders come and go.  Kingdoms, empires, and nation-states rise and fall.  All that is human is transitory.  But God lasts forever.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 28, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN GERARD, ENGLISH JESUIT PRIEST; AND MARY WARD, FOUNDRESS OF THE INSTITUTE OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

THE FEAST OF CLARA LOUISE MAASS, U.S. LUTHERAN NURSE AND MARTYR, 1901

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PLUTARCH, MARCELLA, POTANOMINAENA, AND BASILIDES OF ALEXANDRIA, MARTYRS, 202

THE FEAST OF SAINT TERESA MARIA MASTERS, FOUNDRESS OF THE INSTITUTE OF THE SISTERS OF THE HOLY FACE

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM AND JOHN MUNDY, ENGLISH COMPOSERS AND MUSICIANS

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This is post #2550 of BLOGA THEOLOGICA.

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Individual Responsibility Before God   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Ezekiel

Image in the Public Domain

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READING EZEKIEL, PART III

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Ezekiel 3:18-21

Ezekiel 14:12-23

Ezekiel 18:1-32

Ezekiel 33:1-20

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For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, inflicting punishment for the ancestors’ wickedness on the children of those who hate me, down to the third and fourth generation; but showing love down to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

–Exodus 20:5b-6; Deuteronomy 5:9b-10, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

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Maybe not, not withstanding 1 Kings 21:29; Exodus 34:7; Nehemiah 9:17; Numbers 14:18; Psalm 103:9; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2; Jeremiah 11:21-23; Jeremiah 15:1; Jeremiah 35:18-19.  To the list of passages arguing against intergenerational reward and punishment I add Jeremiah 31:29-30.  (The Book of Jeremiah contains layers of composition and editing.  Parts of that book contradict each other, as in the cases of intergenerational reward and punishment, and whether the deadline for repentance has passed.)

Sin, responsibility, reward, and punishment, in the Bible, are both collective and individual.  The collective varieties are consistent with mutuality.  Individual varieties exist within the context of mutuality, too.

Intergenerational influences are real.  If you, O reader, know enough about yourself and your ancestors for a few generations, perhaps you can identify intergenerational influences, both positive and negative, in your life.  I can identify some in my life.

For the purpose of this post, I bring together four readings on the same theme.  Three of them predate the Fall of Jerusalem (586 B,B.E.).  Ezekiel 33 postdates the Fall of Jerusalem.

Ezekiel 14:12-23 follows a section of threats against false prophets and diviners, and echoes Leviticus 26.  Certain individuals may be pious, but, if the population is rebellious against God, these holy people will save only themselves.  Divine punishment and reward are individual, we read.

I loved my father, now deceased.  He had his virtues and vices, like all human beings.  He was responsible for his actions.

I am responsible for my actions, not his.

This message of individual responsibility seems to have fallen primarily on deaf ears, despite repetition, within the Book of Ezekiel.

Imagine, O reader, that you were a Jew born an exile in the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  Think about how hearing these words would have resonated with you.  Imagine, perhaps, that this teaching would have given you hope that God would not judge you for what your ancestors had done wrong.  Imagine, maybe, that these words would have encouraged your spiritual journey.

Imagine, O reader, that you were a Jew born in Judea after the end of the Babylonian Exile.  Imagine how you may have welcomed the news that, as you strove to live piously, God would judge you based on yourself, not your ancestors.

I am a Christian.  As one, I read passages about individual responsibility, reward, and punishment through the prism of atonement via Jesus.  The atonement–three theories of which exist in Patristic writings–is the game-changer in my theology regarding the topic of this post.  Nevertheless, I affirm that what I do matters.  The atonement does not give me a license to act as I choose.  I am still morally accountable to God and other human beings.  Faithful response to grace is a constant moral principle in Judaism and Christianity.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 22, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALBAN, FIRST BRITISH MARTYR, CIRCA 209 OR 305

THE FEAST OF DESIDERIUS ERASMUS, DUTCH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, BIBLICAL AND CLASSICAL SCHOLAR, AND CONTROVERSIALIST; SAINT JOHN FISHER, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC CLASSICAL SCHOLAR, BISHOP OF ROCHESTER, CARDINAL, AND MARTYR, 1535; AND SAINT THOMAS MORE, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC CLASSICAL SCHOLAR, JURIST, THEOLOGIAN, CONTROVERSIALIST, AND MARTYR, 1535

THE FEAST OF GERHARD GIESHCEN, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF JAMES ARTHUR MACKINNON, CANADIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, 1965

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAULINUS OF NOLA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF NOLA

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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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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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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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Fates of Kings and Jerusalem   Leave a comment

Above:  Jeremiah Tells the King That Jerusalem Shall Be Taken

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART XIII

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Jeremiah 21:1-22:30

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For God’s sake, let us sit upon the ground,

and tell sad stories of the death of kings….

–William Shakespeare, Richard II, Act 3, Scene 2

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Jeremiah 21-25 consists of oracles in the last years of Jerusalem.  Zedekiah (born Mattaniah) in the regnant monarch named in 21:1.  The Jewish Study Bible, Second Edition (2014), lists his reign as having spanned 597-586 B.C.E.  Outside of the Book of Jeremiah, one can read about King Zedekiah in 2 Kings 24:18-25:26; 2 Chronicles 36:11-21; and 1 Esdras 1:47-58.

Passhur the priest (21:1) was a different person than Passhur the priest (20:1), just as Zephaniah the priest (21:1) was a different person than Zephaniah the prophet (Zephaniah 1-3).

The theme of divine retribution in exchange for rampant, persistent, and systemic social injustice recurs.

There was bad news all around.

  1. Jerusalem was fall to the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire in 586 B.C.E.
  2. King Zedekiah (r. 597-586 B.C.E.) would suffer an ignominious fate.
  3. King Jehohaz/Jeconiah/Shallum (r. 609 B.C.E.; 2 Kings 23:31-35; 2 Chronicles 36:1-4; 1 Esdras 1:34-38), would die in exile in Egypt.
  4. King Jehoiakim (r. 608-598 B.C.E.; 2 Kings 23:36-24:7; 2 Chronicles 36:5-8; 1 Esdras 1:39-42) either died peacefully in his palace (2 Kings 24:6), became a captive in Babylon (2 Chronicles 36:5-8; 1 Esdras 1:40), or died outside the walls of Jerusalem in 598 B.C.E. and received no burial (Jeremiah 22:19; 36:30-31).
  5. King Jehoiachin/Jeconiah/Coniah (r. 597 B.C.E.; 2 Kings 24:8-17; 2 Kings 25:27-30; 2 Chronicles 36:9-10; 1 Esdras 1:43-46) would become a prisoner in Babylon, too.

I detect odd editing, without regard to chronology.  Follow my reasoning, O reader:

  1. Zedekiah was the last King of Judah.  Material concerning him establishes the present tense at the beginning of Chapter 21.
  2. The material concerning Jehoahaz/Jeconiah/Shallum would have been contemporary to the Zedekiah material.
  3. Yet the material concerning Jehoiakim comes from during his reign.
  4. Likewise, the material concerning Jehoiachin/Jeconiah/Coniah comes from during his reign.

The divine condemnations of rulers who did not try to govern righteously remain relevant, sadly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 11, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BARNABAS THE APOSTLE, COWORKER OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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Sin and Punishment   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of Jeremiah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART XII

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Jeremiah 17:1-20:18

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The Hebrew prophetic books are repetitive.  When one reads the genre methodically, one realizes this.  Pardon me, therefore, O reader, for not explaining every repeated theme in Jeremiah 17:1-20:18.

Jeremiah 17:1-4 uses powerful imagery to condemn illegitimate worship at cultic sites.  Proverbs 3:3 and 7:3 refer to the tablet of the heart, on which the divine commandments are inscribed.  Yet in Jeremiah 17:1, those tablets are inscribed with the guilt of Judah instead.  Such a heart symbolizes disobedience to God in Ezekiel 2:4 and 3:7.  Eventually, God will make a new covenant, one inscribed on the hearts of the people (Jeremiah 31:31-34).  For now, however, repentance is not an option.  The sins of Judah, not the reparation blood (Leviticus 4:1-7, 13-20), are on the stones of the altar.

2 Kings 22-23 tells of the religious reformation of King Josiah (r. 640-609 B.C.E.).  One may read Jeremiah 17:1-4 and surmise that 17:1-4 predates those reforms or that his four successors presided over a rollback of those reforms.  Either option is feasible.  The second option may be more likely.

God is faithful and forever.  Even the most pious and benevolent people, those who keep the covenant, are not forever.  The Book of Jeremiah focuses on God and on those who are neither pious nor benevolent, though.

Returning to the imagery of the human heart in 17:9-10, we read that the human heart is crooked and deceitful.  The germane Hebrew word, suggestive of deceit, means “crooked.”  The human heart is the most crooked thing, we read.  This is a spiritual and moral pathology.

Jeremiah 17:11 speaks for itself.

Jeremiah’s desire for vengeance (17:18) was predictable.  I have known the same desire under less severe circumstances.  Maybe you have, also, O reader.

The Deuteronomic perspective in the Book of Jeremiah and other Hebrew prophetic books teaches that the (northern) Kingdom of Israel and the (southern) Kingdom of Judah declined and fell because of persistent, unrepentant, collective disregard for the moral mandates of the Law of Moses.  This is the perspective written into much of the Old Testament, from the perspective of the editors after the Babylonian Exile.  Jeremiah 17:19-27 singles out violations of the Sabbath (Deuteronomy 5:14)–especially commercial transactions–as being emblematic of widespread, systemic disregard for the covenant.

Sabbath-keeping has long been a feature of Judaism and Christianity.  Keeping the Sabbath–a sign of freedom in the Law of Moses–has been a way of emulating God.  On the seventh day, in mythology, God created the Sabbath (Genesis 2:1-3).  Sabbath-keeping has always been challenging, in practical terms.  Stopping all work on that day (however one defines it) has always been impossible.  Certain work has always been crucial to perform on the Sabbath, and members of the clergy have had to take their Sabbath some other time in the week.  The Hasmoneans, zealous keepers of the Law of Moses, bowed to reality and engaged in defensive combat (1 Maccabees 2:31-48; 1 Maccabees 9:23-73; 2 Maccabees 15:1-19).  If they had done otherwise, they would have lost battles and lives needlessly.

Sabbath-keeping works to the benefit of people.  Everyone needs to take time off to live.  One should work to live, not live to work.  Structural economic factors may restrict one’s options in keeping the Sabbath as one would prefer to do.  Also, the common good requires, for example, that public health and safety continue on the Sabbath.  Time off is a mark of freedom.  Slavery assumes many forms; one can be a wage slave.

The prophecy of the potter (Jeremiah 18:1-12) is familiar, and popular with lectionary committees.  I have written about it while blogging through lectionaries.  I bring your attention, O reader, to a key point:  God, the Creator, is free to handle His creation as He sees fit.  I am a piece of pottery, not the potter.

People kept plotting against Jeremiah.  Had I been Jeremiah, I would have complained to God, too.  I would have prayed to God to show no mercy on the plotters, also.  I, too, may have rued the day of my birth.  Jeremiah was only human.  God knew that before calling Jeremiah to be a prophet.

Jeremiah made no allies by following God’s instructions in Chapter 19 and symbolically smashing a jug.  That act led to a flogging and a brief incarceration.  Jeremiah suffered intensely and briefly, but Passhur the priest was going to experience “terror all around.” Judah was failing; nobody could change that.

Many people in authority like to maintain their power.  Some of them peacefully resign themselves to the realities of age, health, constitutional term limits, and election results; others do not.  Many people in authority are servant leaders; others are tyrants or would-be despots.  I suppose that nobody in authority wants to hear that the institution, nation-state, kingdom, empire, et cetera, is doomed.  Yet how one handles that news is a test of character.  Besides, power reveals a person’s character.  And, as Heraclitus said,

A man’s character is his fate.

I wonder how Passhur the priest felt in 586 B.C.E., after the Fall of Jerusalem.  I wonder if he remembered the words of Jeremiah and wept bitterly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 10, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES OF NISIBIS, BISHOP; AND SAINT EPHREM OF EDESSA, “THE HARP OF THE HOLY SPIRIT”

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK C. GRANT, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND NEW TESTAMENT SCHOLAR; AND HIS SON, ROBERT M. GRANT, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND PATRISTICS SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF SAINTS OF GETULIUS, AMANTIUS, CAERAELIS, AND PRIMITIVUS, MARTYRS AT TIVOLI, 120; AND SAINT SYMPHROSA OF TIVOLI, MARTYR, 120

THE FEAST OF SAINT LANDERICUS OF PARIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF THOR MARTIN JOHNSON, U.S. MORAVIAN CONDUCTOR AND MUSIC DIRECTOR

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Jeremiah’s Second Lament, with God’s Lament Over the Destruction of Jerusalem   Leave a comment

Above:  Jeremiah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART VIII

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Jeremiah 12:1-17

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Jeremiah 12:1-6 flows directly from 11:18-23.  Jeremiah, reversing the metaphors of Psalm 1, argued that the wicked prosper, and that God planted and watered them.  (This impatience is always understandable.)  God told the prophet to distrust not only the people of his hometown, but the prophet’s relatives, too.  Jeremiah’s situation will get worse, we read.

Jeremiah was not alone in lamenting, though.  God had a complaint, too.  God’s own people–metaphorically, family–were not trustworthy, either.

Jeremiah 12 depicts YHWH and Jeremiah as having similar predicaments.  The prophet, representing the best of Jewish tradition, argued faithfully with God.  Jeremiah could have abandoned his commitment to YHWH, but did not.  The prophet sometimes bitterly regretted his spiritual vocation.  Yet he remained faithful.  YHWH, who had done much for His covenant people, met with ample rejection, as Jeremiah did.

Jeremiah 12:14-17 dates to a later period than 12:1-13.  12:14-17 balances divine judgment and mercy, and returns to the themes of the remnant and the return from the Babylonian Exile.  However, the text also holds open the option of renewed judgment and punishment.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 8, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CLARA LUPER, WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF CHARLES AUGUSTUS BRIGGS, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, BIBLICAL SCHOLAR, AND ALLEGED HERETIC; AND HIS DAUGHTER, EMILIE GRACE BRIGGS, BIBLICAL SCHOLAR AND “HERETIC’S DAUGHTER”

THE FEAST OF GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC POET AND JESUIT PRIEST

THE FEAST OF HENRY DOWNTON, ANGLICAN PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF ROLAND ALLEN, ANGLICAN PRIEST, MISSIONARY, AND MISSION STRATEGIST

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