Archive for the ‘1 Esdras 5’ Tag

Restoration of Worship in Jerusalem and Opposition to the Rebuilding of the Temple   2 comments

Above:  Darius I

Image in the Public Domain

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

PART XII

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1 Esdras 5:47-53

Ezra 3:1-4:5

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O God, you are my God; eagerly I seek you;

my soul thirsts for you, my flesh faints for you,

as in a barren and dry land where there is no water.

–Psalm 63:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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I detect chronological confusion in each text and between the two of them.  Ezra 3:1-4:6 places these events circa 538 B.C.E., during the reign of Cyrus II and shortly after the conquest of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  Yet Ezra 3:1-46 also names Zerubbabel as the governor.  In objectively correct  chronology, we find that Zerubbabel received his appointment after the death of Cyrus II.  (Cyrus II died in 530 B.C.E.)  On the other hand, 1 Esdras 5:47-73 correctly places these events and Zerubbabel’s governorship post-Cyrus II.  Nevertheless, 1 Esdras 5:73, following the lead of Ezra 4:5, mentions Cyrus II as being one of the kings during these events.  These hiccups are minor matters.  Now I turn my attention to major issues.

Proper worship of YHWH in Jerusalem had been impossible for decades, since Nebuchadnezzar II had taken (in stages) sacred vessels from the Temple to Babylon.  The restoration of proper liturgical worship in YHWH in Jerusalem (whenever that occurred) was a great joy and a communal blessing.  It was essential to communal restoration.  Many local Gentiles delayed the rebuilding of the Temple, unfortunately.

By the way, 1 Esdras 5:47-73 acknowledges that Gentile opposition while softening the attitude evident in Ezra 3:1-4:6.  1 Esdras is less hostile to Gentiles than Ezra.  1 Esdras 5:50, for example, says that some of the

other peoples of the land

joined Jews in preparing the altar of the God of Israel.

I can only imagine what joy those returned exiles must have felt when they could worship God properly, according to the Law of Moses.  I can identity with not being able to worship God as part of a congregation.  I write these words during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Attending church each Sunday consists of watching a video on YouTube, and I cannot take communion.  This seems to be the pattern I will continue to live indefinitely.  I know that, when the vaccine will be widely available and the pandemic is over, returning to church services will be especially joyful.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 8, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY MACKILLOP, FOUNDRESS OF THE SISTERS OF SAINT JOSEPH OF THE SACRED HEART

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALTMAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF PASSAU

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC, FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF PREACHERS

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Three Young Bodyguards in the Court of Darius I   Leave a comment

Above:  Zerubbabel

Image in the Public Domain

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

PART XI

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1 Esdras 3:1-5:6

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My God, my rock in whom I put my trust,

my shield, the horn of my salvation and my refuge;

you are worthy of praise.

–Psalm 18:2, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Our story jumps ahead a few years, past the reign (530-522 B.C.E.) of Cambyses to that (522-486 B.C.E.) of Darius I.

Zerubbabel was of the lineage of David.  Zerubbabel, a bodyguard in the court of Darius I, won a contest.  He provided the winning answer in a contest to state what is strongest.  Our bodyguard (not named) argued that wine is strongest, for it affects people regardless of social class.  Another unnamed bodyguard, citing the great power of Eastern monarchs, insisted that the king is the strongest.  Zerubbabel, the third bodyguard, first argued that women are the strongest and that even Darius I’s concubine had power over the monarch.  Then Zerubbabel changed his answer to truth.

To quote Pontius Pilate in the Gospel of John,

What is truth?

Truth is objective, not subjective.  Truth is right, upright, and everlasting.  Truth is not relative.  Truth is reliable.  That is important to understand at all times, especially during a polarized age in which many people speak shamelessly of

alternative facts.

I cannot have my truth.  You, O reader, cannot have a competing truth.  No, the truth is the truth.

In this charming story, probably originally in Aramaic, Darius I accepted Zerubbabel’s second answer.  Our hero’s prize was the opportunity to help rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple.  Darius I did more; he put the Persian Empire on the side of the reconstruction effort and sent sacred vessels back to the holy city.

Zerubbabel’s prayer glorifying God (4:59-60) is suitable for many occasions.

Consistent chronology is not the organizing principle in 1 Esdras, Ezra, and Nehemiah.  For example, when reading Ezra and Nehemiah, one has to move from one book to another sometimes to keep the timeline in order.  And the chronologies of 1 Esdras and Ezra-Nehemiah are sometimes inconsistent with each other.  That is a minor point for me; I prefer to focus on major points.

With [truth] there is no partiality or preference, but it does what is righteous instead of anything that is unrighteous or wicked.

–1 Esdras 4:39a, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

So be it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 8, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY MACKILLOP, FOUNDRESS OF THE SISTERS OF SAINT JOSEPH OF THE SACRED HEART

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALTMAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF PASSAU

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC, FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF PREACHERS

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Cyrus II Allows Exiles to Return   2 comments

Above:  Cyrus II

Image in the Public Domain

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

PART X

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2 Chronicles 36:22-23

1 Esdras 2:1-15 and 5:7-46

Ezra 1:1-11 and 2:1-70

Nehemiah 7:6-73a

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Sit silent, retire into darkness,

O Fair Chaldea;

Nevermore shall they call you

Mistress of Kingdoms.

–Isaiah 47:5, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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Cyrus II of the Persians and the Medes (r. 559-530 B.C.E.) conquered the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire in 538 B.C.E.  He, a tolerant ruler, reversed the Babylonian Exile and launched another Jewish exodus.  Cyrus earned his nickname, “the Great.”

Biblical authors were understandably sympathetic to Cyrus II.  Isaiah 44:24-45:25 went so far as to apply “Messiah” to him.  (Aside:  As scholarly books about Messiahship attest, that term has had a variety of meanings over time.)  Coverage and mentions of Cyrus the Great in 2 Chronicles 36, Ezra 1, Ezra 3-6, 1 Esdras 2, and 1 Esdras 4-7 was also positive.  Why not?

Walter Brueggemann, a great scholar of the Old Testament and a minister in the United Church of Christ, tells us that the main themes in the Hebrew Bible are exile and exodus.  Both themes are present in the readings for this post.  Related to those themes is the hand of God acting through people, including Gentiles, good or bad.  Cyrus II (who was a Zoroastrian, by the way) occupies space on the list of good Gentiles.  Related to that theme is another one:  anyone may function as a prophet of God, however briefly or not.  If God chooses to speak through someone, that person is a prophet for as long as he or she speaks for God.  All of these themes are consistent with a fifth one:  the sovereignty of God.

I, as a Christian (therefore, a Trinitarian), accept the the concept of the Holy Spirit speaking through people.  I have experienced it.  I have also experienced people functioning as agents of grace.  The identities of God’s agents have surprised me sometimes.  Often they have been people I have expected, however.

God speaks to us and acts in a variety of ways, including via human beings.  God may speak and act through you, O reader, and through me.  When we fail to recognize any agent or prophet of God, we miss something important.  We need to reorient our expectations.  I am chief among those who need to heed this advice.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 8, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY MACKILLOP, FOUNDRESS OF THE SISTERS OF SAINT JOSEPH OF THE SACRED HEART

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALTMAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF PASSAU

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC, FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF PREACHERS

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