Archive for the ‘Baruch ben Neriah’ Tag

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

Above:  Map of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART XXXIV

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Jeremiah 50:1-51:64

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Above:  Ruins of Babylon, 1932

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-13231

Thus for the words of Jeremiah.

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

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

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

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

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 15, 2021 COMMON ERA

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

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

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

THE FEAST OF EVELYN UNDERHILL, ANGLICAN MYSTIC AND THEOLOGIAN

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

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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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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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The Commissioning of Jeremiah   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of Jeremiah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART II

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Jeremiah 1:4-19

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The prophet was an individual who said No to his society, condemning its habits and assumptions, its complacency, waywardness, and syncretism.  He was often compelled to proclaim the very opposite of what his heart expected.  His fundamental objective was to reconcile man and God.  Why do the two need reconciliation?  Perhaps it is due to man’s false sense of sovereignty, to his abuse of freedom, to his aggressive, sprawling pride, resenting God’s involvement in history.

–Rabbi Abraham J. Heschel, The Prophets, Vol. 1 (1962), xiii

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The assurance of having a divine call and commission was a primary element in the prophetic consciousness….Jeremiah, the shy and sheltered youth, found himself thrust into the forefront of great events and clothed with an authority that terrified even himself.

Coupled with his sense of this overwhelming compulsion by the divine will and the divine choice was the prophet’s recognition that he had been set apart from other men and consecrated to a task from which there was no release.  To be sanctified was to be set apart for Yahweh’s use, like an offering in the temple.  “Before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee”, Yahweh declares to Jeremiah, “I had appointed thee a prophet to the nations.”….

The call appears to have come to each prophet in a time of intellectual and emotional tension….Jeremiah and Zephaniah began to prophesy when the world empire of the Assyrians was tottering under the onslaught of barbarian hordes, which were soon to appear on the northern horizon of Palestine.

–R. B. Y. Scott, The Relevance of the Prophets, 2nd. ed. (1968), 93-94

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One motif in the Hebrew Bible has someone just called by God pleading inadequacy for the task.  God replies that these supposed disqualifying inadequacies are not problems He cannot address.  In the case of Jeremiah, the cited reasons for being inadequate are being too young and lacking public speaking skills.  But God qualifies the called; God does not call the qualified.  Compared to God, all mere mortals are inadequate and unqualified.

Jeremiah’s commission was to pronounce an unpopular message.  Judah had committed idolatry and would, therefore, face destruction and exile.  People would reject this message, but God was with Jeremiah.  In his lifetime, Jeremiah had few followers and allies; the main one was his scribe, Baruch ben Neriah.  Jeremiah received a commission for a perilous and daunting task.  He was to confront his society and its leaders, and to tell them that they had fallen short of divine standards.

A text says what it says.  A variety of contexts reveals a range of shades of meanings, though.  One may reasonably assert, for example, that the call of Jeremiah resonated with Jews before the Babylonian Exile differently than it did after that exile.  Hindsight provides crucial temporal perspective.  Also, we human beings interpret the post in the context of the present day.  The past remains constant, but the present keeps shifting as time passes.  And history, by definition, includes interpretation.

Telling the uncomfortable truth can be perilous.  The Book of Jeremiah tells us that Jeremiah and Baruch suffered greatly and died in involuntary exile for doing so.  Powerful people and angry, powerless people may find the uncomfortable truth unbearable.  They may use violence, and prophets may die.  One may recall that Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., died by assassination, for example.

Jeremiah, of all the Hebrew prophets, may have most exemplified the grave danger of answering this call of God on one’s life.  The prophet argued with God yet remained faithful to his vocation.  God was faithful to Jeremiah, who survived all attempts to kill him.  Yet Jeremiah died in exile in Egypt.

To say, “I will follow God,” is easy.  To follow through is not easy, though.  Even if one has a less challenging set of circumstances than Jeremiah did, one still has to make sacrifices.  One’s life is not one’s own.

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

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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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