Archive for the ‘Prayer of Manasseh’ Category

Prayer That Does Not Work   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of Jeremiah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART X

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Jeremiah 14:1-15:9

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The title for this post comes from The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume VI (2001).

God, we read, will not listen to intercessions for the people of the Kingdom of Judah any longer.  That is why certain prayers do not work in Jeremiah 14:1-15:9.  We return to a theme from earlier in the Hebrew prophetic tradition:  repentance is no longer an option.  The Book of Jeremiah, like other Hebrew prophetic books, is inconsistent about whether repentance is no longer an option.  I, having finished rereading the Book of Jeremiah and having read earlier Hebrew prophetic books as of the time I type these words, make that statement with authority and without fear of being objectively inaccurate.

Some aspects of this block of scripture beg for explanation.

Translations of 14:18 vary, for the Hebrew text is difficult.  The priest and the prophet

roam the land,

They do not know where,

in TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985).  However, the priest and the prophet

ply their trade in a land they do not know,

in The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011).  In The Revised English Bible (1989), they

wander without rest in the land.

Other translations offer variations on those renderings.

15:4 tells us:

I will make them a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth, on account of King Manasseh son of Hezekiah of Judah, and of what he did in Jerusalem.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

King Manasseh of Judah (r. 698/687-642 B.C.E.) was one of the monarchs certain Biblical authors loved to despise.  2 Kings 21:1-18 unloaded on the idolatrous monarch.  2 Chronicles 33:1-20 softened that blow by adding material about the monarch’s supposed repentance.  2 Kings 21:1-18 knew nothing about this alleged repentance, however.  Later, an anonymous author, drawing from 2 Chronicles 33:1-20, composed The Prayer of Manasseh, an apocryphal text which enriches The Book of Common Prayer (1979).

Idolatry offers the theological clue to the interpretation of the drought in Jeremiah 14:1-15:9.  The author wants people to recall the famine and drought in 1 Kings 17:1-18:46, meant to prove the ineffectiveness of Baal Peor, the Canaanite storm and fertility god.

The promise (15:8) that:

Their widows shall be more numerous 

Than the sands of the seas.”

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

calls back ironically to the divine promise regarding the number of descendants of Abraham (Genesis 22:17) and Jacob (Genesis 32:13; cf. 1 Kings 4:20; Isaiah 10:22; Hosea 2:1).

She who bore seven is forlorn,

Utterly disconsolate;

Her sun has set while it is still day,

She is shamed and humiliated.

The remnant of them I will deliver to the sword,

To the power of their enemies

–declares the LORD.

–Jeremiah 15:9, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

This forlorn, disconsolate mother is Jerusalem personified.  Themes, being what they are, occur in different and subsequent contexts, though.  The stories of the mother and her seven sons, all martyrs during the Seleucid period, fill 2 Maccabees 7 and 4 Maccabees 8-18.

One should read scripture in various contexts, including literary genres and the historical record.  Another context in which to read scripture is other scripture.  We who have read the Bible know the rest of the story with regard to the final years of the Kingdom of the Judah.  We know that matters got worse before they improved.  We know that repentance was still an option.

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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The Reign of King Manasseh of Judah   1 comment

Above:  King Manasseh of Judah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART CIV

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2 Kings 21:1-18

2 Chronicles 33:1-20

The Prayer of Manasseh

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For they reasoned unsoundly, saying to themselves…

“Come, therefore, let us enjoy the good things that exist,

and make use of the creation to the full as in youth.

Let us take our fill of costly wine and perfumes,

and let no flower of spring pass by us.

Let us crown ourselves with rosebuds before they wither.

Let none of us fail to share in our revelry,

everywhere let us leave signs of enjoyment,

because this is our portion, and this is our lot.

Let us oppress the righteous poor man;

let us not spare the widow 

nor regard the gray hairs of the aged.

But let our might be our law of right,

for what is weak proves itself to be useless.”

–Wisdom of Solomon 2:1, 6-11, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

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King Hezekiah of Judah (Reigned 729/715-698/687 B.C.E.)

King Manasseh of Judah (Reigned 698/687-642 B.C.E.)

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The evaluation of King Manasseh in 2 Kings 21 is devastating and relentlessly negative.  We read of his idolatry.  We read of the willful idolatry of many subjects, under his leadership.  We read of King Manasseh ordering the executions of many innocent people, thereby, poetically, filling Jerusalem with blood from end to end.  We read more foreshadowing of the Babylonian Exile, too.

The account in 2 Chronicles is probably ahistorical.  The foreign incarceration, with repentance, of King Manasseh is improbable.  Ancient historical records reveal that he, as a vassal of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, may have had to visit Nineveh occasionally and swear loyalty to the new king, though.  The Apocryphal Prayer of Manasseh (most of which constitutes one my favorite canticles in Morning Prayer in The Book of Common Prayer, 1979) takes its lead from 2 Chronicles 33:11-13.

My reading of much of the Old Testament convinces me that much of the populations of the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah needed no encouragement to commit idolatry.  I recall accounts of pious kings who modeled proper religious behavior.  Those accounts mention that idolatry persisted.  This reality does not negate the criticisms of monarchs who modeled idolatry, of course.

Judah was marching toward its inevitable fate.  That fate was the one generations of subjects had chosen (by their deeds) for the kingdom.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 8, 2020 COMMON ERA

PROPER 27: THE TWENTY-THIRD SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF JOHN DUNS SCOTUS, SCOTTISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF JOHANN VON STAUPITZ, MARTIN LUTHER’S SPIRITUAL MENTOR

THE FEAST OF JOHN CASPAR MATTES, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PAMBO OF NITRIA, AMMONIUS OF SKETE, PALLADIUS OF GALATIA, MARCARIUS OF EGYPT, AND PISHOY, DESERT FATHERS; SAINT EVAGRIUS OF PONTUS, MONK AND SCHOLAR; SAINT MELANIA THE ELDER, DESERT MOTHER; SAINT RUFINUS OF AQUILEIA, MONK AND THEOLOGIAN; SAINT DIDYMUS THE BLIND, BIBLICAL SCHOLAR; SAINT JOHN II, BISHOP OF JERUSALEM; SAINT MELANIA THE YOUNGER; DESERT MOTHER; AND HER HUSBAND, SAINT PINIAN, MONK

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The Finding of the Book of the Law   3 comments

Above:  King Josiah

Image in the Public Domain

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

PART I

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2 Kings 22:1-20

2 Chronicles 34:1-18

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How dear to me is your dwelling, O LORD of hosts!

My soul has a desire and longing for the courts of the LORD;

my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God.

–Psalm 84:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The parallel readings from 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles are similar yet different.  Many of the details are identical.  Yet contradictions exist.  A Biblical literalist must, for example, perform mental gymnastics to attempt to reconcile the different chronologies.  2 Kings 22:3, for example, places the discovery of an early version of Deuteronomy (probably) about a decade into King Josiah’s reign–the eighteenth year of his life–630 B.C.E. or so.  However, 2 Chronicles 34:8 places that discovery when Josiah was 26 years old–in the eighteenth year of his reign.  Furthermore, each account is the product of different theological concerns.  And the version from 2 Chronicles 34, consistent with the pro-Davidic Dynastic tone of 1-2 Chronicles, contains a portrayal of Josiah more flattering than the positive portrayal in 2 Kings 22.  Other differences may prove simply that one author chose not to use certain details the other one did.

If one consults three study Bibles, one may find three different ranges for the reign of King Josiah.  The reason for this is that working with ancient sources and working out dates on the B.C.E. scale (which did not exist until our 500s C.E.) is complicated.  Reasons for this intellectual-historical exercise being complicated are not germane to this post.  In this series of posts I use dates from The Jewish Study Bible.

If one backs up several Kings of Judah, one finds essential background.  King Hezekiah (r. 727/715-698/687 B.C.E.), the previous monarch to receive a positive evaluation in scripture, had died.  Two terrible king followed and Judah became an Assyrian vassal state.  Even Manasseh (r. 698/687-642)–see 2 Kings 21:1-18 and 2 Chronicles 33:1-20–received better press in 2 Chronicles than in 2 Kings.  Much of the apocryphal Prayer of Manasseh (based on 2 Chronicles 33:12f) has become a canticle in Morning Prayer in The Book of Common Prayer (1979).  The next monarch, Amon (r. 641-640 B.C.E.)–see 2 Kings 21:19-26 and 2 Chronicles 33:21-25–unlike his father Manasseh, died in his palace, not as a prisoner in a foreign land.  However, Amon died during a palace rebellion almost certainly related to anti-Assyrian politics.

Josiah (r. 640-609 B.C.E.), king from eight years of age, came to the throne of Judah as a vassal of Assyria.  Manasseh and Amon had allowed the Temple in Jerusalem to fall into a severe state of disrepair.  Josiah, finally of age to exercise authority, cared enough to begin repairs on the Temple.  Meanwhile, Assyrian influence waned.  The circumstances for reformation were in place.

Two major theological differences between the accounts jump out at me.  2 Kings 22:14-20 speaks of delayed and inevitable divine judgment.  The time to avert the fall had passed.  2 Chronicles 34 emphasizes the collective responsibility to maintain the Temple.  Both theological emphases focus on collective responsibility.

Rugged individualism is not a Biblical virtue.  No, mutuality in the context of recognition of complete dependence on God is a Biblical virtue.  Actions have consequences.  Good rulers make a positive difference.  Bad rulers make a negative difference.  People suffer because of the foolish decisions others make and benefit from the wise decisions others make.  And sometimes the train has left the station, so to speak, with regard to the collective neglect of duty before God and to the negative consequences thereof.  Yet even then a good ruler can make a positive difference, at least for a while.

Here ends the lesson.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 29, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MARY, MARTHA, AND LAZARUS OF BETHANY, FRIENDS OF JESUS

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Repentance, Part III   1 comment

Manasseh

Above:  King Manasseh

Image in the Public Domain

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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:

2 Kings 21:1-15

Psalm 66:1-9

Romans 7:14-25

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Acclaim God, all the earth,

sing psalms to the glory of his name,

glorify him with your praises,

say to God, “How awesome you are!”

–Psalm 66:1-3a, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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The reading from Romans 7 is among the most famous portions of Pauline literature.  St. Paul the Apostle notes that, although he knows right from wrong, he frequently does that which he knows he ought not to do.  He admits his spiritual weakness, one with which I identify.  Yes, I resemble that remark, as an old saying goes.

One wonders if King Manasseh of Judah (reigned 698/687-642) knew that conflict.  The depiction of him in 2 Kings 21 is wholely negative , mentioning his idolatry and bloodshed.  One verse after the end of the lection we read:

Moreover, Manasseh put so many innocent person to death that he filled Jerusalem [with blood] from end to end–besides the sin he committed in causing Judah to do what was pleasing to the LORD.

–2 Kings 21:16, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Yet, when one turns to 2 Chronicles 33:1-20, one reads that, while a captive in Assyria, Manasseh came to his senses and repented, that God heard his plea, and that the monarch, back in Jerusalem, reversed course regarding his previous idolatry–in the spirit of the designated psalm of this day.  The apocryphal Prayer of Manasseh, a masterpiece of penitential writing, is among the canticles for use in Morning Prayer in The Book of Common Prayer (1979).

Was the Chronicler making Manasseh, a member of the Davidic Dynasty, seem better than he was?  If so, it would not be the first time that author told a story in such a way as to flatter the dynasty.  (1 Chronicles 11 omits the civil war between the forces of David and those of Ish-bosheth.  One can read of that conflict in 2 Samuel 2-4.)  Yet, if we accept that Manasseh repented, we have an example of the fact that there is hope for even the worst people to change their ways, if only they will.  That is a valuable lesson to learn or which to remind oneself.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 9, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT SOPHRONIUS OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC PATRIARCH

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY OF NYSSA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF MARY ANN THOMSON, EPISCOPAL HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ROBERT HALL BAYNES, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF MADAGASCAR

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/03/09/devotion-for-thursday-before-proper-9-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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