Archive for the ‘Baal Peor’ Tag

Divine Judgment on Bad Kings and False Prophets   Leave a comment

Above:  King Zedekiah of Judah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART XIV

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Jeremiah 23:1-40

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I like wordplay.  The Hebrew Bible is replete with it.  In Jeremiah 23, for example, puns on the Hebrew root letters resh and ayin move from ro’in (“shepherds,” in verses 1-4) to ra’ah (“evil,” in verses 11, 12, 14, 17, 22), mere’im (“evildoers,” in verse 14), and re’im (“each other,” in verses 27, 30, 35).  Also, in verses 5-6, we find a pun on the name of Zedekiah, the last King of Judah.  “Zedekiah” means “YHWH is justice.'”  The true branch of David’s line, however, will be “The LORD our justice.” we read.  This text tells us that Zedekiah did not live up to his regnal name.

The imagery of kings as shepherds exists in Ezekiel 34, also.

The promise of a messianic royal branch, in reference to an ideal ruler, occurs also in Isaiah 11:1 and Zechariah 3:8.  This promise contradicts facts from the historical record.

As with other parts of the Book of Jeremiah, Chapter 23 contains layers of authorship.  Verses 7-8, repeated nearly verbatim from Jeremiah 16:14-15, probably date to a period after Jeremiah–most likely during or after the Babylonian Exile.

False prophets abounded.  Some prophesied in the name of Baal Peor; they led people astray.  Other prophets claimed to speak on behalf of God; they led people into violations of the covenant.  The people and the false prophets paid a high price.  In more wordplay, massa (“burden”) meant a message from God (also in Deuteronomy 1:12; Jeremiah 17:24, 27; Isaiah 13:1; Isaiah 15:1; Nahum 1:1; Habakkuk 1:1; Malachi 1:1; Isaiah 22:1; Zechariah 9:1; Zechariah 12:1), as well as a judgment from God.  The language of the “burden of the LORD,” as an oracle, was more common in reference to Gentile nations than to Israel and Judah.  In Jeremiah 23, the population that had requested an oracle received a judgment instead.

A difficult and germane question remains unanswered:  Without the benefit of hindsight, how can one discern who is a false prophet?  Each of us may correctly classify some figures as false prophets and wrongly categorize others, based on a belief system.  In hindsight, identifying false prophets is easier than doing so in real time.  If, for example, a self-proclaimed prophet predicts that Jesus will return by a certain date, one may reasonably classify him or her as a false prophet.  One may be certain, however, if that date comes and goes without the Second Coming having occurred.  On a mundane level, someone may offer a pronouncement that may be difficult to evaluate on the true prophet-false prophet scale in real time.  This person may even be a false prophet while imagining himself or herself to be a true prophet.  I accept Jeremiah as a true prophet, with the benefit of hindsight and faith.  Yet I admit that, had I lived when he was prophesying, I may have thought he was crazy.

May rulers be good and prophets be true.

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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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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Indictment for Apostasy and Call to Repentance   Leave a comment

Above:  Jeremiah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART III

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Jeremiah 2:1-4:4

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Has any nation changed its gods

Even though they are no-gods?

But My people has exchanged its glory

For what can do no good.

–Jeremiah 2:11, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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God had liberated the Hebrew slaves from Egypt.  Then the former slaves had quickly started grumbling.  No member of that generation had entered Canaan.  In Canaan, the Hebrews had practiced idolatry.  The practice of idolatry had continued through the time of Jeremiah.  The abandonment of the covenant, with the common good built into it, constituted infidelity to God.  The irony of self-serving religion was that it could “do no good,” as TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) masterfully renders 2:11.

I like the translation of Jeremiah 2:11 in TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985).  The wordplay of “no-gods” and “no good” is wonderful.  “Do no good” is not a literal translation, though.  The New Revised Standard Version (1989) uses “does not profit,” not “do no good.”  The germane Hebrew verb is ya’al, or “to confer or gain profit of benefit.”  Ya’al also occurs in Jeremiah 2:8:

The priests never asked themselves, “Where is the LORD?”

The guardians of the Teaching ignored Me,

And the prophets prophesied by Baal

And followed what can do no good.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Ya’al sounds like “Baal,” as in Baal Peor, the Canaanite fertility and storm god.  The connotation of ya’al (profit) is almost entirely negative in the Hebrew Bible, and frequently occurs in the context of idolatry.  This verb occurs 23 times:  1 Samuel 12:21; Job 15:3; Job 21:15; Job 30:13; Job 35:3; Proverbs 10:2; Proverbs 11:4; Isaiah 30:5-6; Isaiah 44:9-10; Isaiah 47:12; Isaiah 48:17; Job 57:12; Jeremiah 2:8 and 11; Jeremiah 12:13; Jeremiah 16:19; Jeremiah 23:32; and Habakkuk 2:18.

The metaphor of the covenant as a marriage should be familiar to anyone who has read the Book of Hosea attentively.  That metaphor plays our in this portion of Jeremiah, too.  Idolatry is, metaphorically, infidelity to God.  And this infidelity entails economic injustice, hence the reference to “the blood of the innocent poor” (Jeremiah 2:34).  The metaphor of irreversible divorce (Jeremiah 3:105) draws from Deuteronomy 24:1-4, in which the husband may not take back his wife after she has remarried.  Can the sinful population return to YHWH?  (The Book of Jeremiah, with its layers of composition and authorship, is inconsistent in the answer to this question.)  The people, not YHWH, have broken the relationship.  Yes, we read in this part and other segments of the Book of Jeremiah, the sinful population can return if it will repent, we read.  It can return if it will turn its back to its sins and return to God, we read.  The text mixes metaphors.  The adulterous wife becomes rebellious children.  Yet the call to repent remains.

We know that the (northern) Kingdom of Israel and the (southern) Kingdom of Judah fell, however.  Knowing this adds melancholy to our understanding of these verses.  Nevertheless, we also know that the Babylonian Exile ended.  That detail should add some joy to the mix as we read Jeremiah 2:1-4:4.

To return to my opening theme, the irony of idolatry in the name of self-serving religion is that it is in vain.  The Law of Moses, with its ethical core, builds up the common good and teaches mutuality.  Whatever affects one person, affects others.  We are all responsible to and for each other as we stand together, completely dependent upon God.  Selfish gain, the sort that enriches some while impoverishing others, works against the common good and harms the one who benefits the one who benefits from that selfish gain.  This selfish gain turns into a liability in the long term.

God longs to heal our afflictions, even the ones we have inflicted on ourselves.  We must turn back toward God, however.  If we refuse to do so, we judge and condemn ourselves.  This truth applies on more than one level.  There is the individual level, of course.  Yet may we not forget that Jeremiah 2:1-4:4 addresses populations, not individuals or one person.  Sin is both collective and individual.  So are forgiveness and restoration.  We may feasibly apply this call to collective repentance to neighborhoods, families, congregations, denominations, societies, nation-states, et cetera.

God is the source of the best stuff, for lack of a better word.  Do we want the best stuff or inferior stuff?

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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The Wrath and Salvation of God   Leave a comment

Above:  Za’atri Refugee Camp for Syrian Refugees, Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, July 18, 2013

Image in the Public Domain

Image Source = United States Department of State

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READING NAHUM, PART II

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Nahum 1:2-15 (Anglican and Protestant)

Nahum 1:2-2:1 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox)

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Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance in the Bible.

1:2-8, a partial Hebrew acrostic text, depicts YHWH as a divine warrior in vivid language.  English-language translations do not do justice to the Hebrew text, according to commentaries I read.  The text contains echoes of Canaanite mythology and the names of the Canaanite deities El and Baal Peor.  The God of 1:2-8 is jealous, avenging, and wrathful; nobody can stand before divine indignation.  Yet this deity is faithful to those who trust in Him; He grants them safety.

Despite the anti-Assyrian agenda of the Book of Nahum, 1:8-15/1:8-2:1 (depending on versification) does contain some ambiguity.  Futility in opposing God is clear, though:

Why will you plot against the LORD?

He wreaks utter destruction:

No adversary opposes Him twice!

–Nahum 1:9, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

“You” is plural.  In the original context, it applies to Nineveh.

The base plotter

Who designed evil against the LORD

Has left you.

–Nahum 1:11, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

“You,” plural, may refer to Nineveh, in one context.  However, the Hebrew text is ambiguous.  If “you” is Nineveh, the “base plotter” is an Assyrian king.  However, in other contexts, “you” is not Nineveh, and the “base plotter” is not an Assyrian monarch.

Readers would associate the figure of this counselor with that of the leader of whatever group they are opposing.

The Jewish Study Bible, Second Edition (2014), 1208

Therefore, this prophecy had carried meaning since after the Fall of Nineveh in 612 B.C.E.

1:13-2:1/1:13-15 (depending on versification) contains good news for the oppressed.  Divine deliverance of the oppressed is frequently catastrophic for the oppressors.

Nahum’s words cry out not so much against Assyria as against oppression, not so much against Nineveh as against wickedness.  He favors not just the poor of ancient Judah, not just the enslaved of ancient Israel.  He is concerned for all poor, all homeless, all exiled, all oppressed people in every time and place.

–Francisco O. García-Treto, in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume VII (1996), 606-607

The ambiguity of some Hebrew prophecies is glorious.  It amplifies the germane prophet’s voice down the corridors of time and in a wide variety of settings.  The relevant prophecy, from one time and place, continues to denounce ethical violations of divine commandments everywhere and at all times.  Unfortunately, poverty, homelessness, exile, and oppression remain commonplace.  And Nahum continues to speak.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 4, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT STANISLAW KOSTKA STAROWIEYSKI, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR, 1941

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS CARACCIOLO, COFOUNDER OF THE MINOR CLERKS REGULAR

THE FEAST OF JOHN LANCASTER SPALDING, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF PEORIA THEN TITULAR BISHOP OF SEYTHOPOLIS

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETROC, WELSH PRINCE, ABBOT, AND MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF THOMAS RAYMOND KELLY, U.S. QUAKER MYSTIC AND PROFESSOR OF PHILOSOPHY

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Israel as God’s Promiscuous Wife   Leave a comment

Above:  A Jewish Wedding Ring

Image in the Public Domain

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READING HOSEA, PART III

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Hosea 2:2-3:5 (Anglican, Protestant, and Eastern Orthodox)

Hosea 2:4-3:5 (Jewish and Roman Catholic)

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The insertion of 1:10-2:1/2:1-3 (depending on versification) interrupts the flow from 1:9 to 2:2/2:4 (depending on versification) and gives me theological whiplash.

Rebuke your mother, rebuke her–

For she is not My wife

And I am not her husband–….

–Hosea 2:4, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The covenantal relationship between God and Israel was broken at the beginning of the Book of Hosea.  It remained broken in 2:2/2:4-2:13/2:15.

The Hebrew word TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) renders as “rebuke” has other translations in English.  These include:

  1. “Accuse” (The New American Bible–Revised Edition, 2011),
  2. “Call to account” (The Revised English Bible, 1989),
  3. “Plead with” (The New Revised Standard Version, 1989),
  4. “Bring a case against” (Robert Alter, The Hebrew Bible, 2019),
  5. “Denounce” (The Jerusalem Bible, 1966), and
  6. “Take to court” (The New Jerusalem Bible, 1985; and The Revised New Jerusalem Bible, 2019).

All of these translations are accurate; the germane Hebrew word means both “reprove” and “take to court.”

The imagery of 2:2/2:4-2:13/2:15 is harsh.  It is the imagery of sexual shaming, the punishment for promiscuity, as in Ezekiel 16.  God, metaphorically Israel’s husband, metaphorically divorces and sexually shames the unfaithful wife.  The wife–Israel–becomes infertile, adding to her disgrace.  Her lovers are idols.  They cannot provide for, feed, and clothe her.  Only God can provide for, feed, and clothe Israel, but she continues to spurn Him.  Israel, having made her bed, so to speak, must lie in it.

If the reading ended there, the news would be hopeless.  Yet we come to Hosea 2:14/2:16-3:5.  God will take Israel back.  Mercy will follow judgment.  The words Ishi and Baali both mean “husband.”  Baali, of course, sounds like Baal (“lord”), as in “the Baals” (2:17/2:19) and “Baal Peor.”  The Hebrew wordplay points to the abandonment of idolatry and the renewal of the covenantal relationship (2:18/2:20f).

Hosea 3:1-5 offers a metaphor different from that in 1:2f.  The adulterous woman, perhaps Gomer, has been offering raisin cakes to the Canaanite fertility goddess Astarte.  (In a form of Hebrew folk religion, Astarte was YHWH’s wife.)  This woman, a metaphor for Israel, must abstain from sexual relations, even with her husband, during a period of purification and separation.  She must, simply put, perform penance.  At the end of this penitential time of purification and separation, God will restore the nation and renew the covenant.  Hosea 3:1-5 is probably a subsequent, Judean addition to the Book of Hosea, given 3:4-5.  Also, 3:1-5 is prose surrounded by poetry.

Without ignoring or minimizing the extremely difficult language and imagery of 2:2/2:4-2:13/2:15, I focus on an idea with practical implications.  Sometimes divine punishment and judgment consist of God stepping back and allowing our metaphorical chickens to come home to roost.  Sometimes divine judgment and punishment have more to do with what God does not do rather than with God does.  Sometimes God really is absent and distant.  Yet, as 2:14/2:16-3:5 remind us, God also shows mercy.

The editing of the Book of Hosea, with the benefit of hindsight and in the context of hopes for a better future, produced a final version of that book that repeatedly swings back and forth between divine judgment and mercy.  The condemnations, punishment, and mercy, in the final version, applied to the (northern) Kingdom of Israel, the (southern) Kingdom of Judah, and the returned community after the Babylonian Exile.  The Book of Hosea’s concluding note (Chapter 14) was one of extravagant divine mercy mixed with the knowledge that some would still reject God and the covenant, even then.  Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance in the final version of the Book of Hosea.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 14, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS MAKEMIE, FATHER OF AMERICAN PRESBYTERIANISM AND ADVOCATE FOR RELIGIOUS TOLERATION

THE FEAST OF SAINT CARTHAGE THE YOUNGER, IRISH ABBOT-BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIA DOMENICA MAZARELLO, COFOUNDRESS OF THE DAUGHTERS OF MARY HELP OF CHRISTIANS

THE FEAST OF SAINT THEODORE I, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF SAINTS VICTOR THE MARTYR AND CORONA OF DAMASCUS, MARTYRS IN SYRIA, 165

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The Family of Hosea and the Restoration of Israel   Leave a comment

Above:  Hosea and Gomer

Image in the Public Domain

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READING HOSEA, PART II

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Hosea 1:2-2:1 (Anglican, Protestant, and Eastern Orthodox)

Hosea 1:2-2:3 (Jewish and Roman Catholic)

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When I began my preparation for writing this post, I read the text aloud.  While doing so, I got theological whiplash.  Late in the reading, I also detected evidence of subsequent, Judean editing of the text, as in 1:7 and 1:10-2:1/2:3.  (I wrote about reasons for subsequent, Judean editing in the original text of the Book of Hosea in the previous post.)

Adultery and prostitution, in the Bible, are sometimes simply adultery and prostitution.  On other occasions, they are not literal references, but metaphors for idolatry.  And, on other occasions, they are both literal and metaphorical.  Regarding Gomer, the third option is germane.

Idolatry was widespread in ancient Israel.  Polytheism was ubiquitous in the ancient world, so monotheism was an outlying theological position.  Canaanite religion was popular in ancient Israel, much to the consternation of God, God’s prophets, and pious priests.  Pious priestly religion and folk religion were quite different from each other.  The cult of Baal Peor, the Canaanite storm and fertility god, entailed shrine prostitution, to ensure continued fertility and productivity of the soil, officially.  Gomer (“to complete,” literally) was probably one of these prostitutes.

A competing scholarly opinion in commentaries holds that Gomer was a different type of prostitute.  Some books I consulted suggested that she may have resorted to prostitution out of economic necessity, that her alternatives may have been starvation and homelessness.  These scholars write accurately that many women in patriarchal societies have found themselves in this predicament, and that, in Gomer’s society, women lacked property rights.

Gomer being a shrine prostitute fits the metaphor in the Book of Hosea better.

Metaphorically, God’s covenant with the Jews was a marriage.  Worship of Baal Peor, therefore, constituted infidelity.  God was, metaphorically, her husband, and the Jewish people were God’s wife.

The marriage of Hosea and Gomer dramatized the divine indictment of Israel.  The prophet played the role of God, and Gomer took the role of Israel.  The children of Hosea ben Beeri and Gomer bath Didlaim bore names that revealed God’s terse messages.

  1. The first son was Jezreel, literally “God sows.”  Jezreel was a city (as in Joshua 15:56) and a valley (as in Judges 6:33).  Apart from the Book of Hosea, this place name occurred in Joshua 15, 17, and 19; Judges 6; 1 Samuel 25, 27, 29, and 30; 2 Samuel 2, 3, and 4; 1 Kings 4, 18, and 21; 2 Kings 8, 9, and 10; 1 Chronicles 4; and 2 Chronicles 22.  The city of Jezreel had a bloody past.  There, for example, Queen Jezebel had plotted the murder of Naboth (1 Kings 21).  And, when King Jehu founded the dynasty to which King Jeroboam II belonged, Jehu did so by assassinating the entire royal court at Jezreel.  What had come around was coming around, God warned.  In 747 B.C.E., King Zechariah, son of Jeroboam II, died after reigning for about six months.  His life and the House of Jehu ended violently when King Shallum staged a palace coup.  About a month later, King Shallum died in another palace coup (2 Kings 15:11-15).  Hosea, by the way, disagreed with the perspective of 2 Kings 9-10, the author of which held that God had authorized Jehu’s revolution.
  2. Lo-ruhamah was the daughter of Hosea and Gomer.  The daughter’s name meant “not accepted” and “not shown mercy.”  (Poor girl!)  God refused to accept or pardon the House of Israel.
  3. Lo-ammi was the second son.  His name meant “not My people.”  (Poor boy!)  The House of Israel had ceased to be God’s people.

Pronouncements of divine judgment continued after 1:9.  But first, in 1:10-2:1/2:1-3 (depending on versification), came an announcement of divine mercy.  Those God had just condemned as not being His people would become the Children of the Living God, shown mercy and lovingly accepted.  This passage may have been a subsequent insertion into the Book of Hosea.

The juxtaposition of material serves a valuable theological purpose.  It reminds us that divine judgment and mercy exist in balance.  Therefore, do not abandon all hope or presume on divine mercy; God both judges and forgives.  I recognize this balance without knowing where judgment gives way to mercy, and mercy to judgment.

The marriage of Hosea and Gomer also dramatized God’s continued yearning for Israel.  R. B. Y. Scott wrote:

Hosea speaks of judgment that cannot be averted by superficial professions of repentance; but he speaks more of love undefeated by evil.  The final words remain with mercy.

The Relevance of the Prophets, 2nd. ed. (1968), 80

History offers a complicating factor.  John Adams, while defending the accused British soldiers charged in the so-called Boston Massacre, said,

Facts are stubborn things.

Consider the following stubborn facts, O reader:

  1. The Assyrian Empire absorbed the (northern) Kingdom of Israel in 722 B.C.E.  A mass deportation followed.  This was not the first mass deportation.  A previous one had occured in 733 B.C.E., when that empire had claimed much of the territory of the (northern) Kingdom of Israel.
  2. Many refugees from the (northern) Kingdom of Israel fled south, to the Kingdom of Judah after these events.  These refugees merged into the tribes of Judah and Simeon.
  3. Many other Israelites remained in their homeland.  Many who did this intermarried with Assyrian colonists, producing the Samaritans.
  4. The Ten Lost Tribes assimilated.  Their genetic and cultural heritage spread throughout the Old World, from Afghanistan to South Africa, over time.
  5. The two kingdoms did not reunited, contrary to Hosea 1:11/2:2.

Nevertheless, I like what R. B. Y. Scott wrote:

The final word remains with mercy.

I hope so.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 13, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE ASCENSION OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST

THE FEAST OF HENRI DOMINIQUE LACORDAIRE, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, DOMINICAN, AND ADVOCATE FOR THE SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE

THE FEAST OF FRANCES PERKINS, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF LABOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT GEMMA OF GORIANO SICOLI, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC ANCHORESS

THE FEAST OF SAINT GLYCERIA OF HERACLEA, MARTYR, CIRCA 177

THE FEAST OF UNITA BLACKWELL, AFRICAN-AMERICAN CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST

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The Kingdom of God, Part VII   1 comment

Above:  The Baptism of the Ethiopian Eunuch by the Deacon Philip, by Lambert Sustris

Image in the Public Domain

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Isaiah 12:1-6

Psalm 29

Acts 8:26-39

John 1:29-34

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Isaiah 12:1-6 flows from Chapter 11.  The two chapters are the final section of a poem about the ideal king in a peaceful future.  As elsewhere in the Bible, divine judgment and mercy remain in balance.

Psalm 29 praises God.  It is also an adaptation of a hymn to Baal Peor, the Canaanite storm god.  Rewriting pagan stories and texts for Jewish theological purposes was a fairly common practice.  Doing so was one way of asserting the sovereignty of God and affirming faith in the one true deity.  Rewriting pagan texts also constituted an argument against the original texts’ validity.  In this case, rewriting a hymn in praise of Baal Peor was rebutting the legitimacy of his cultus.

Acts 8:26-39 and John 1:29-34 point to Jesus, as they should.

The ideal future remains an unfulfilled prophecy.  Nevertheless, I, as a Christian, affirm that the Incarnation was a game changer.  I hold that the reality of God’s presence became obvious in a way it was not previously obvious.

The presence of God is evident in many ways in our deeply flawed societies.  There are no gods; there is God.  God is sovereign, despite all appearances to the contrary.

May we–you, O reader, and I–keep the faith and work to make the world resemble more closely the fully realized Kingdom of God.  Only God can save the world and usher in the fully realized Kingdom of God, of course.  Yet we–you, O reader, and I–have a divine mandate to leave the world better than we found it.  

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 27, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FIRST SUNDAY AFTER CHRISTMAS, YEAR B

THE THIRD DAY OF CHRISTMAS

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2020/12/27/devotion-for-the-first-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-d-humes/

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The Revolution and Reign of King Jehu of Israel   3 comments

Above:  King Jehu of Israel

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 XC

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2 Kings 9:1-10:30

2 Chronicles 22:5-9

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The Lord has cast down the thrones of rulers,

and has seated the lowly in their place.

The Lord has plucked up the roots of the nations,

and has planted the humble in their place.

–Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 10:14-15, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

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King Jehoram/Joram of Israel (Reigned 851-842 B.C.E.)

King Ahaziah/Jehoahaz of Judah (Reigned 843-842 B.C.E.)

King Jehu of Israel (Reigned 842-814 B.C.E.)

Queen Athaliah of Judah (Reigned 842-836 B.C.E.)

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Above:  The Intermarriage of the House of Omri and the House of David

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Dynasties in the northern Kingdom of Israel rose and fell.  I counted five dynasties, as well as four kings who belonged to no dynasty.  Three of the dynasties consisted of only two monarchs.  The House of Omri supplied four Kings of Israel and one Queen of Judah (Athaliah).  The House of Jehu supplied five Kings of Israel.

In 1 Kings 19:15-16, God had assigned Elijah to anoint Jehu the next King of Israel.  Elijah passed that task to his successor, Elisha.  Elisha, in turn, fulfilled it indirectly; he sent a disciple-prophet to anoint Jehu then to 

flee without delay.

The disciple-prophet of Elijah anointed Jehu then did not 

flee without delay.

Jehu presided over a bloodbath that claimed King Jehoram/Joram of Israel, King Ahaziah/Jehoahaz of Judah, Queen Jezebel of Israel, all members of the House of Omri in reach, many Baalists in Israel, and 42 mourners of King Ahaziah/Jehoahaz from Judah.  However, Queen Mother Athaliah, daughter of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel of Israel, remained safe in Jerusalem.  She usurped the throne of Judah and purged as many rival claimants to the throne as she could find.  She did not, however, find her grandson, the future King Jehoash/Joash.  The revolution in Israel occurred during a war against King Hazael of Aram.  The threat of King Hazael persisted.

King Jehu received a negative review in 2 Kings.  

Finding someone to cheer for in this story is extremely difficult.  This is frequently the case in revolutions.  Yes, one says, Side A is terrible.  So is Side B, however.  It is lamentable that the population cannot have good government.  Pity the people.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 2, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL SOULS/THE COMMEMORATION OF ALL FAITHFUL DEPARTED

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The Reign of Queen Athaliah of Judah   1 comment

Above:  Queen Athaliah 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 LXXXIX

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2 Kings 11:1-20

2 Chronicles 22:10-23:21

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The children of sinners are abominable children,

and they frequent the haunts of the ungodly.

The inheritance of the children of sinners will perish,

and on their posterity will be a perpetual reproach.

–Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 41:5-6, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

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Queen Athaliah of Judah (Reigned 842-836 B.C.E.)

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Above:  The Intermarriage of the House of Omri and the House of David

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

A refresher:  Princess Athaliah, sister of Princes Ahaziah and Jehoram/Joram of Israel, had married Jehoram/Joram, the Crown Prince of Judah.  The couple’s elder son had become King Ahaziah/Jehoahaz of Judah.  Then he had perished in Jehu’s revolution in Israel, leaving an infant son, Jehoash/Joash, the legitimate heir to the throne.  Meanwhile, King Jehoram/Joram of Israel had also perished in Jehu’s revolution in the northern kingdom.

Got that?

Queen Athaliah was a chip off the old block.  In another verse of an ancient song, she seized power and ordered the deaths of potential rivals.  Yet Princess Jehosheba (whose name should join those of Shiphrah and Puah in honor) helped High Priest Jehoiada hide the young Jehoash/Joash (her nephew) from Queen Athaliah for about six years.  After Queen Athaliah and Baalist priest Mattan died in a coup d’état, Jehoash/Joash, seven years old, came to the throne, and Jehoiada served as the regent.  The High Priest provided a positive influence upon the young monarch.  Meanwhile, the destruction of altars and images of Baal Peor had been another result of the revolution in Judah.

The last vestiges of the House of Omri were gone.  Their sins continued, unfortunately.

Next, I will step back in time and focus on King Jehu of Israel and his revolution.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 2, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL SOULS/THE COMMEMORATION OF ALL FAITHFUL DEPARTED

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The Reign of King Jehoram/Joram of Israel, with the Rebellion of Mesha   1 comment

Above:  King Jehoram/Joram of Israel

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 LXXXII

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2 Kings 3:1-27

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…in all his days [Elisha] did not tremble before any ruler,

and no one brought him into subjection.

–Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 48:12b, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

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King Jehoram/Joram of Israel (Reigned 851-842 B.C.E.)

King Jehoshaphat of Judah (Reigned 870-846 B.C.E.)

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King Jehoram/Joram of Israel received a mostly negative evaluation in 2 Kings 3:1-3.  His father, King Ahab, had ordered the construction of pillars in honor of Baal Peor.  King Jehoram/Joram ordered their destruction.  That was positive.  Nevertheless, Elisha had no use and little time for the King Jehoram/Joram.

The geopolitical situation was as follows:  Israel and Judah were allies.  Their royal families had married into each other.  Israel dominated Moab, the king of which, was Mesha.  Judah dominated Edom.  King Mesha of Moab sought to cease being a vassal of the King of Israel.  King Jehoshaphat of Judah feared that, if King Mesha succeeded, the King of Edom would also rebel.

Mesha’s revolt succeeded.  At first, the Israel-Judah coalition seemed poised to win the conflict.  When Moabites saw the reflection of red sandstone mountains in water, they mistook the sight for pools of blood.  Then the coalition forces attacked.  After Mesha made his firstborn sone and his heir a human sacrifice, the coalition forces lost and retreated.  The Mesha stele has confirmed some of these details.

Mesha assumed that this god Chemosh was angry, hence the subjugation of Moab to Israel since the reign of King Omri.  The King of Moab understood himself to be appeasing this deity.

One interpretation of the story assumes that the wrath of Chemosh against coalition forces drove them out of Moab.  Or maybe the story assumes that that the wrath of YHWH against Israel for violating the prohibition against scorched-earth warfare drove coalition forces out of Moab.  One may legitimately wonder, according to 2 Kings 3:27, whose “great wrath” came upon Israel.

In simple terms, the question is one of monotheism versus monolatry.  Monotheism, of course, affirms the existence of only one deity.  Monolatry accepts that other deities exist yet rejects the worship of them.  The question of whether the original intention of a particular verse in the Hebrew Bible indicated monotheism or monolatry is one a person can trace by comparing commentaries.

I cannot read the mind of the author of 2 Kings 3:27.  I know, however, that strict monotheism in Jewish folk religion (as opposed to priestly orthodoxy) became prominent after the beginning of the Babylonian Exile.  I know that, for a very long time, many Hebrews in ancient Judah and Israel assumed that other peoples had their gods.  I suppose that the author of 2 Kings 3:27 may have thought that Chemosh had power in Moab.

If so, I point to another example of why some ancient perspectives in the Bible should not define my thinking.  On the other hand, if the wrath was that of YHWH, according to the author of 2 Kings 3:27, my previous point does not apply in this case.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 28, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS SIMON AND JUDE, APOSTLES AND MARTYRS

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