Archive for the ‘Cyrus II’ Tag

Bel and the Dragon   Leave a comment

Above:  Daniel Confounds the Priests of Bel

Image in the Public Domain

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READING DANIEL

PART XII

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Daniel 5:1-30 (Protestant and Anglican)

Daniel 5:1-6:1 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox)

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The folly of idolatry is the theme of Daniel 14.  The two stories (verses 1-22 and 23-42) in this chapter mock and caricature Babylonian religion.

“Bel” was the Babylonian equivalent of “Baal.”  In this case, Bel was Marduk, the head of the Babylonian pantheon.

Daniel 14, like the rest of the Book of Daniel, is ahistorical.

In this chapter, Daniel cleverly points out how ridiculous idolatry is.  He identifies the footprints of priests, their wives, and their children who consumed food offerings to Bel in the middle of the night.  Daniel also feeds a statue of a dragon, causing it to explode.  Then he survives a second round in the lions’ den (see Chapter 6).  And Cyrus II, like kings before him, acknowledges YHWH.

Daniel 14 does erect a straw man then knock him down.  Nevertheless, idolatry is ridiculous.  One need not sacrifice food to statues to commit idolatry.  Statues of false deities are not really idols anyway; the ideas behind them are the actual idols.

Whenever we love something we ought not to love, we commit idolatry.  Whenever we love something or someone more than we should, we also commit idolatry.  To love something or someone more than we ought to do is to deny proper love to God.  Doing so may not seem ridiculous to us when we commit idolatry, but it is foolish.

Thank you for joining me on this journey through the Book of Daniel, O reader.  I invite you to accompany me through the Book of Tobit, my next project.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 24, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN LAFARGE, JR., U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND RENEWER OF SOCIETY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANDREW DUNG-LAC AND PETER THI, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS IN VIETNAM, 1839

THE FEAST OF SAINT THEOPHANE VENARD, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, MISSIONARY, AND MARTYR IN VIETNAM, 1861

THE FEAST OF SAINT VINCENT LIEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR, 1773

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Posted November 24, 2020 by neatnik2009 in Daniel 13-14, Daniel 6

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The Final Vision   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of St. Michael the Archangel

Image in the Public Domain

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READING DANIEL

PART X

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Daniel 10:1-12:13

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This passage, superficially from 586 B.C.E. or so, actually comes from a time much closer to 164 B.C.E.  The reference to the “prince of Greece” (the guardian angel of the Seleucid Empire) clues us into the actual period of composition.

Again, as I keep repeating in these posts, the Book of Daniel is not history.  Chapter 11 mentions Darius the Mede, supposedly the conqueror of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire, and the immediate predecessors of Cyrus II of the Persians and the Medes.  Historical records tell us that Cyrus II conquered the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire in 539 B.C.E.  Records also tell us that the Persian Empire had ten kings from 559 to 330 B.C.E., with Cyrus II being the first and Darius III the last.  Daniel 11:2 reads:

Persia will have three more kings, and the fourth will be wealthier than them all; by the power he obtains through his wealth, he will stir everyone up against the kingdom of the Greeks.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The material in the reading for this post is dense, with many references to ancient potentates.

  1. The “warrior king” in Daniel 11:3 is obviously a reference to Alexander III “the Great,” given the breaking up of his empire after his death (11:4).
  2. The kings of the south were kings of the Ptolemaic Empire.
  3. The kings of the north were kings of the Seleucid Empire.
  4. The kings of the south (11:5f) and the north (11:6f) were Ptolemy I Soter (reigned 323-285 B.C.E.) Seleucus II Callinicus (reigned 246-225 B.C.E.), respectively.
  5. Daniel 11:6 refers to the murder of the daughter of a daughter of King Ptolemy II Philadelphus (reigned 285-246 B.C.E.).
  6. Daniel 11:7 refers to the retaliation of King Ptolemy III Euergetes (reigned 246-221 B.C.E.).
  7. Daniel 11 also contains references to hostile relations during the reigns of subsequent kings, including Ptolemy V Ephiphanes (reigned 204-180 B.C.E.) and Antiochus III “the Great” (reigned 223-187 B.C.E).
  8. Daniel 11:20 refers to Seleucus IV Philopater (reigned 187-175 B.C.E.), who attempted to rob the treasury of the Temple in Jerusalem (2 Maccabees 3).
  9. Daniel 11:21f refers to Antiochus IV Epiphanes (reigned 175-164 B.C.E.), the bête noire of Hasmonean partisans and a foe of the Ptomemaic Dynasty in Egypt.

Jews were literally in the middle of this Ptolemaic-Seleucid warfare.  Judea, incorporated into the Seleucid Empire after the Battle of Paneas (200 B.C.E.), were subject to religious persecution.  This reality set the stage for the Hasmonean rebellion, in progress during the composition of Daniel 7-12.

The message of Daniel 10-12, then, is to remain faithful despite persecution and martyrdom.  God will win in the end.

Daniel 12 contains another theologically important detail.  The resurrection of the dead in Ezekiel 37 is a metaphor for the restoration of Judah after the Babylonian Exile.  The resurrection of the dead is literal in Daniel 12, though.

Living in perilous times is stressful.  The temptation to surrender hope is strong.  Yet, as the Book of Daniel repeatedly reminds us, God is sovereign.  God is faithful.  And, to quote the Reverend Maltbie Davenport Babcock (1858-1901),

This is my Father’s world,

O let me ne’er forget

That though the wrong seems oft so strong,

God is the ruler yet.

This is my Father’s world:

The battle is not done;

Jesus who died shall be satisfied,

And earth and heaven be one.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 22, 2020 COMMON ERA

CHRIST THE KING SUNDAY–PROPER 29:  THE LAST SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF ROBERT SEAGRAVE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF DITLEF GEORGSON RISTAD, NORWEGIAN-AMERICAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, HYMN TRANSLATOR, LITURGIST, AND EDUCATOR

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The Prophecy of the Seven Weeks   Leave a comment

Above:  Mina of Antiochus IV Epiphanes

Image in the Public Domain

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READING DANIEL

PART IX

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Daniel 9:1-27

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As I keep writing in this series of posts, the Book of Daniel is not history.

“Darius the Mede” never existed.  Cyrus II of the Persians and the Medes (reigned 559-530 B.C.E.) conquered the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire in 539 B.C.E.).  These are matters of historical record.  The Book of Daniel, though, places Darius the Mede between Belshazzar (the Crown Prince; never a king) and Cyrus II.

Another consequence of the scribal teaching that the period of inspiration had closed was a new interest in the predictions contained in existing prophecy.  If they had not been and apparently could not be literally fulfilled, then they must be explained symbolically.  The “seventy years” of Babylonian servitude in Jeremiah 25:11, 12 becomes in Daniel 9:2, 24, “seventy weeks of years,” in order to bring the “accomplishing of the desolations of Jerusalem” down approximately to the Maccabean period from which the author was writing.  Thus the calculation of times and seasons began, and with it a scheme of predetermined future history.

R. B. Y. Scott, The Relevance of the Prophets, 2nd. Ed. (1968), 6

Jeremiah 25:11-12 reads:

This whole land shall be a ruin and a waste.  Seventy years these nations shall serve the land of Babylon, but when the seventy years have elapsed, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation and the land of the Chaldeans for their guilt–oracle of the LORD.  Their land I will turn into everlasting waste.

The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

Let us consider dates and mathematics, O reader.

  1. The Fall of Jerusalem occurred in 586 B.C.E.
  2. King Cyrus II of the Persians and the Medes conquered the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire in 539 B.C.E.  He permitted Jews to return to their ancestral homeland.
  3. 586 – 539 = 47.
  4. Mathematics can prove inconvenient for fundamentalism.
  5. Nevertheless, one can get to 70 by figuring other dates, such as those for the destruction of the First Temple and the dedication of the Second Temple.  Yet that is not the criterion, according to Jeremiah 25:11-12.
  6. Seventy is a symbolic number; it means a long time.

The material is not about the results of simple subtraction, O reader,  The penitential prayer, set in one context, makes more sense in the context of the Hasmonean rebellion and the oppression of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes (reigned 175-164 B.C.E.), about the time of the composition of the text.  Daniel 9, writing of the second century B.C.E, outwardly as a previous century, offered comfort to pious Jews in their homeland at a difficult time.

This point leads me to another one.  People can live in their homeland yet be in exile.  They can live under foreign occupation.  They can suffer from oppression.  Nevertheless, hope persists.  The reinterpretation of prophecy may abet the encouragement to hope for a better future.  The reinterpretation of prophecy may help people to continue in faith.

This practice has continued since Daniel 9 was new.  One can detect the reinterpretation of prophecies of the Second Coming of Jesus throughout the New Testament.  Christian tradition includes the reinterpretation of Jewish prophecies.  The history of Christianity includes examples of the continuing reinterpretation of prophecies regarding the Second Coming of Jesus.  Prophecy seems not always to be clear-cut, in the Bible and in the the present day.  So be it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 21, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS TALLIS AND HIS STUDENT AND COLLEAGUE, WILLIAM BYRD, ENGLISH COMPOSERS AND ORGANISTS; AND JOHN MERBECKE, ENGLISH COMPOSER, ORGANIST, AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF HENRY PURCELL AND HIS BROTHER, DANIEL PURCELL, ENGLISH COMPOSERS

THE FEAST OF THEODORE CLAUDIUS PEASE, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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Daniel in the Lions’ Den   Leave a comment

Above:  Daniel in the Lions’ Den

Image in the Public Domain

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READING DANIEL

PART VI

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Daniel 6:2-29 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox)

Daniel 6:1-28 (Protestant and Anglican)

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I begin with history.

King Nabonidus (reigned 556-539 B.C.E.) was the last Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian monarch.  King Cyrus II of the Persians and the Medes (reigned 559-530 B.C.E.) added Chaldea/Babylonia to his realm in 539 B.C.E.  Belshazzar was never a king, and Darius the Mede never existed.

Daniel 6 exists in the realms of folklore and theology yet not in the category of history.

The practice of depicting a monarch in an unflattering, satirical light is present in Daniel 6.  One may easily point out that the king, being a law unto himself, had the power to change the law again.  Instead, we read of Darius the Mede expressing regret that he could not alter the law he had decreed.

The motif of a foreign monarch glorifying YHWH at the end of a chapter also recurs.

Civil disobedience, another theme in the Book of Daniel, also recurs.  There may be no justice without peace, but neither can peace exist without justice.  The long line of nonviolent resistors to oppression casts the long line of oppressors and their enablers into stark, ignominious relief.  The moral contrast between the two sides is great.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 18, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT HILDA OF WHITBY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS

THE FEAST OF ALICE NEVIN, U.S. GERMAN REFORMED LITURGIST AND COMPOSER OF HYMN TEXTS

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR TOZER RUSSELL, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JANE ELIZA(BETH) LEESON, ENGLISH HYMN WRITER

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Belshazzar’s Feast   Leave a comment

Above:  Belshazzar’s Feast

Image in the Public Domain

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READING DANIEL

PART V

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Daniel 5:1-30 (Protestant and Anglican)

Daniel 5:1-6:1 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox)

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I begin with history.

Nabonidus (reigned 556-539 B.C.E.) was the last Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian king.  He spent a decade (553-543 B.C.E.) on the Arabian peninsula.  During that time, his son, Crown Prince Belshazzar governed as viceroy and regent.  King Cyrus II of the Persians and the Medes (reigned 559-530 B.C.E.) added Chaldea/Babylonia to his realm in 539 B.C.E.  Belshazzar was never a king.  Darius the Mede (Daniel 5:30/6:1, depending on versification) was a fictional character.

The scene in this reading is vivid.  The excesses of the powerful, conquering empire stand in contrast to the justice of God.  The hubris of the powerful, dominant Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian culture contrasts with the realities of the peoples it oppressed.  The mighty empire falling, by the hand of God, to another, relatively benevolent empire should serve as a sobering reminder to many people across the world.

The end of this reading reminds me of Revelation 18–the fall of Babylon, code for the Roman Empire.  Daniel 5:1-30/5:1-6:1 and Revelation 18 ought to prompt us to ask ourselves if we identify with the oppressive, violent powers or with the oppressed. For whom do we grieve?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 17, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT HUGH OF LINCOLN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP AND ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT HENRIETTE DELILLE, FOUNDRESS OF THE SISTERS OF THE HOLY FAMILY

THE FEAST OF ISABEL ALICE HARTLEY, BAPTIST MISSIONARY TO THE KIOWA NATION

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King Nebuchadnezzar II’s Dream of the Composite Statue   Leave a comment

Above:  The Composite Statue

Image in the Public Domain

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READING DANIEL

PART II

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Daniel 2:1-49

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The internal chronology of the Book of Daniel goes awry again in 2:1.  One may recall the passage of three years in Chapter 1.  Chapter 2 occurs after the events of Chapter 1.  So, how could the events of Chapter 2 have occurred in the second year of the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar II?  If I were a fundamentalist, I would try to rationalize that contradiction.  Yet I am not, so I do not.  Instead, I ask myself,

What is really going on here?

This is a story about the sovereignty and power of God.  The courtiers (“Chaldeans”) could not interpret the king’s dream vision.  So, he nearly killed them all, including Daniel and his Judahite friends.  Daniel, by the power of God, provided the correct interpretation.  People continued to live.  Daniel became the governor of the province of Babylonia.  His friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (introduced in Chapter 1 and prominent in Chapter 3) administered the province under Daniel’s guidance.

I have found two proposed lists of the four empires in the dream vision.  They repeat in Chapter 7, the vision of the four beasts.  The first list, in order, is:

  1. the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire;
  2. the Median Empire of “Darius the Mede,” a fictional character (Daniel 6, 9, and 11);
  3. the Persian Empire; and
  4. the Macedonian Empire of Alexander III “the Great.”

The minority, alternative list is:

  1. the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire;
  2. the Persian Empire;
  3. the Macedonian Empire of Alexander III “the Great;” and
  4. the Roman Empire.

According to Daniel 6, 9, and 11, “Darius the Mede” conquered the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire and preceded King Cyrus II of the Persians and the Medes (reigned 559-530 B.C.E.).  In reality, however, Cyrus II conquered the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire in 539 B.C.E.

Anyhow, the bottom line in the dream vision is that, after a sequence of increasingly inferior empires, God would finally inaugurate the fully-realized Kingdom of God on Earth.  This has yet to happen.

Civilizations, nation-states, kingdoms, and empires have risen.  Many have also fallen.

Nothing human lasts forever.  To go full Augustinian on you, O reader, much of that which is temporary (even if long-term) is worthy of love.  But we have an obligation to love God the most.  To love something or someone more than we ought is to take love away from God.  It is to commit idolatry.  We may love our countries, but we should never deify them.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 14, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL SEABURY, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF CONNECTICUT AND PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF SAINTS NICHOLAS TAVELIC AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 1391

THE FEAST OF PETER WOLLE, U.S. MORAVIAN BISHOP, ORGANIST, AND COMPOSER; THEODORE FRANCIS WOLLE, U.S. MORAVIAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER; AND JOHN FREDEREICK “J. FRED” WOLLE, U.S. MORAVIAN ORGANIST, COMPOSER, AND CHOIR DIRECTOR

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM ROMANIS, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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God’s First Call of Jonah, with Jonah’s Flight   Leave a comment

Above:  Israeli Stamp of Jonah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JONAH

PART I

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Jonah 1:1-17 (Protestant and Anglican)

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

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Where can I go then from your Spirit?

where can I flee from your presence?

If I climb up to heaven, you are there;

if I make the grave my bed, you are there also.

–Psalm 139:6-7, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The Book of Jonah is a theologically rich work of pious fiction.  Other works within that category in the Old Testament include Esther, Daniel, Tobit, and Judith.  The story of Jonah, written after the Babylonian Exile, contradicts the combined witness of ancient historical sources and much of the Hebrew Bible.  That is fine.  It is not a problem if one reads the Book of Jonah for what it is.

Shall we begin, O reader?

Nineveh was the capital of the Neo-Assyrian Empire.  Empires rose and fell in Mesopotamia and beyond.  The Neo-Assyrian Empire was notoriously violent.  The Neo-Assyrian Empire absorbed the Kingdom of Aram in 732 B.C.E. and the Kingdom of Israel in 722 B.C.E..  Then the Neo-Assyrian Empire menaced the Kingdom of Judah and reduced it to vassalage.  Finally, the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire conquered the Neo-Assyrian Empire in 609 B.C.E.

The story of Jonah played out before the fall of Samaria.  The titular character was a subject of the Kingdom of Israel.  His name comes from that of a prophet (2 Kings 14:25) who prophesied during the reign (788-747 B.C.E.) of King Jeroboam II of Israel.

Jonah received and immediately rejected the call of God.  He went not to Nineveh but in the opposite direction–to the coastline of the Mediterranean Sea.  He paid his fare for a journey to Tarshish, perhaps in Asia Minor or Spain.  During a severe storm, Jonah’s faithlessness became obvious.  The pagan sailors had more faith in YHWH than Jonah did.  Jonah probably hoped for death; it would spare him having to go to Nineveh.

God had other plans, though.

The author, writing in the Persian Period, knew well that Nineveh lay in ruins.  He also had a relatively generous attitude toward many Gentiles.  Persian kings sponsored the building of the Second Temple and the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls.  King Cyrus II of the Persians and the Medes had conquered the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire and permitted Jewish exiles to return to their ancestral homeland.

Another theme present in these verses is the balance of divine judgment and mercy.  Repentance can avert judgment, or delay it, at least.  We tend to approve of divine mercy on ourselves and on those similar to us, do we not?  And do we not also prefer divine judgment on those we find objectionable.  Perhaps they are objectionable.  They are also human beings who bear the image of God.  They need to repent as much as we do.

I have learned much about the churched and the unchurched via conversations.  I have learned that the minds of many of the unchurched are more open to deep theological discussions than those of many of the churched.  I have chosen a denomination (The Episcopal Church) renowned for its embrace of questions.  I have, however, long known that many other denominations have cultures hostile to questions.  Some of their members have told me to my face and via email that I will go to Hell because I ask too many questions and think too much.  I did not make the mistake afterward of mistaking them for people who ask a sufficient number of questions and think enough.  I have also found that many of the unchurched, often refugees from churches, are often open to engaging in serious theological discussions.

The point that the pagan sailors had more faith in YHWH than Jonah did resonates with me, therefore.  To borrow a theme from the New Testament, especially the Gospel of Mark, those who think they are insiders may actually be outsiders, and visa versa.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 9, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARTIN CHEMNITZ, GERMAN LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN, AND “SECOND MARTIN”

THE FEAST OF JOHANN(ES) MATTHAUS MEYFART, GERMAN LUTHERAN EDUCATOR AND DEVOTIONAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF MARGERY KEMPE, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC AND PILGRIM

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CROSWELL, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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Ezra and More Exiles Arrive in Jerusalem   2 comments

Above:  Ezra

Image in the Public Domain

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

PART XXII

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1 Esdras 8:1-9:36

Ezra 7:1-10:44

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Up, Jerusalem! stand upon the heights;

look to the east and see your children

Gathered from the east and the west at the word of the Holy One,

rejoicing that they are remembered by God.

–Baruch 5:5, The New American Bible (1991)

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Many Jewish exiles remained outside their ancestral homeland after Cyrus II permitted Jews to return (Ezra 1).  Many exiles never returned; they belonged to the diaspora.  Cyrus II permitted Jews to return, starting in 538 B.C.E..  Artaxerxes I reigned from 465 to 424 B.C.E., during which the events of 1 events of 1 Esdras 8:1-9:36 and Ezra 7:1-10:44 occurred.  Decades had passed between the times of Cyrus II and Ezra.

As I have written repeatedly in this series, consistent chronology is not the organizing principle in 1 Esdras, Ezra, and Nehemiah.  This is why Ezra 7-10 follow Nehemiah 9 and 10 chronologically.  One may notice that Ezra benefited from Nehemiah’s political maneuvering of Artaxerxes I (Nehemiah 1 and 6).  One man’s work made another man’s work possible.

The lists in 1 Esdras 8:24-40 and Ezra 8:1-14 are not identical.  If I were a Biblical literalist, I would care.  One can identify other differences between the two versions.  If I were a Biblical literalist, I would care.

According to Covenental Nomism, Jews received salvation via grace–birth really.  They, born into the covenant, had the obligation to keep the Law of Moses as best they could.  Nobody could keep the Law of Moses perfectly, but everybody could repent of having violated it.  The consistent failure to repent constituted self-exclusion from the covenant.  Following God meant doing, to the best of one’s ability, what God commanded.

This understanding was part of the theological context of Nehemiah and Ezra.  Ezra learned what Nehemiah knew already; mixed marriages with foreigners (with their own deities) was a serious problem and a national sin.  Nehemiah had begun to address the issue from his position as governor (Nehemiah 13).  Ezra the scribe and priest approached the issue from his position of religious power.

Intermarriage, as a moral problem, related to idolatry.  The Law of Moses forbade both.  The Law forbade intermarriage (Deuteronomy 7:3; 20:16-18).  Examples of monarchs whose foreign wives were negative influences upon them included Solomon (1 Kings 11) and Ahab (1 Kings 16, 19-22).  Malachi 2:11 repeated the prohibition against intermarriage.

Starting over properly is essential.  One may not know that x is wrong, and therefore commit x.  Yet when one learns that x is wrong, how does one respond?  One should respond by confessing and repenting.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 11, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY THAUMATURGUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC OF NEOCAESAREA; AND ALEXANDER OF COMONA, “THE CHARCOAL BURNER,” ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR, 252, AND BISHOP OF COMANA, PONTUS

THE FEAST OF SAINT EQUITIUS OF VALERIA, BENEDICTINE ABBOT AND FOUNDER OF MONASTERIES

THE FEAST OF MATTHIAS LOY, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, EDUCATOR, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR’ AND CONRAD HERMANN LOUIS SCHUETTE, GERMAN-AMERICAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, EDUCATOR, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAURICE TORNAY, SWISS ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, MISSIONARY TO TIBET, AND MARTYR, 1949

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Overcoming Opposition and Completing the Rebuilding of the Walls of Jerusalem   2 comments

Above:  Nehemiah the Governor

Image in the Public Domain

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

PART XVIII

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Nehemiah 6:1-7:5

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The LORD is my light and my salvation;

whom then shall I fear?

the LORD is the strength of my life;

of whom then shall I be afraid?

–Psalm 27:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Sanballat and company, not content merely to lie about the loyalties of Nehemiah and company, added attempted entrapment to their strategies.  Nehemiah was both pious and shrewd, though.  He succeeded, with the help of God.  Completing the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem in just over seven weeks was astonishing.  It was especially astonishing that half of the workforce rebuilt the walls while the other half of the workers guarded them.

Persian monarchs were usually religiously tolerant.  This was a virtue.  It was also a political necessity.  Judah’s proximity to Egypt made the loyalty of the Jews to the Persian Empire essential from the perspective of the Persian government.  Official sponsorship of rebuilding projects in Jerusalem was one way to encourage Jewish loyalty to the Persian Empire.  Nehemiah was fortunate to remain in the good graces of Artaxerxes I (r. 465-424 B.C.E.), not as firmly pro-Jewish as Cyrus II and Darius I.

One hopes that the depiction of Artaxerxes I as Ahasuerus in the Book of Esther is an over-the-top satire.  On the other hand, mercurial and lazy potentates continue to exist.  So, the depiction of Artaxerxes I as Ahasuerus could be feasible.  That is scary.

Meanwhile, back in Judah, the rebuilding of the culture needed to occur.

I will turn to that matter in the next post.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 9, 2020 COMMON ERA

PROPER 14:  THE TENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT EDITH STEIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND PHILOSOPHER

THE FEAST OF SAINT HERMAN OF ALASKA, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX MONK AND MISSIONARY TO THE ALEUT

THE FEAST OF JOHN DRYDEN, ENGLISH PURITAN THEN ANGLICAN THEN ROMAN CATHOLIC POET, PLAYWRIGHT, AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF MARY SUMNER, FOUNDRESS OF THE MOTHERS’ UNION

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The Continuation of the Rebuilding and the Completion of the Second Temple   2 comments

Above:  Reconstruction of the Temple of Jerusalem

Image in the Public Domain

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

PART XIII

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1 Esdras 6:1-7:15

Ezra 5:1-6:22

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

My soul has a desire and a 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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As I have written in this series, consistent chronology is not the organizational principle in Ezra.  Consider, O reader, the following examples:

  1. Ezra 4:5 establishes the range of Persian kings during the delay in rebuilding of the Second Temple in Jerusalem as spanning Cyrus II (r. 559-530 B.C.E.), Cambyses (r. 530-522 B.C.E.), and Darius I (r. 522-486 B.C.E.).
  2. Ezra 4:6 names the king as Ahasuerus–in this case, Xerxes I (r. 486-465 B.C.E.)
  3. Ezra 4:7 names the king as Artaxerxes I (r. 465-424 B.C.E.), with Xerxes I, one of the models for Ahasuerus in the Book of Esther.
  4. Ezra 5:1 names the king as Darius I (r. 522-486 B.C.E.).

In U.S. presidential terms, that would be like establishing the range as the administrations of George Washington (1789-1797), John Adams (1797-1801), and Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809) then mentioning the administrations of James Madison (1809-1817) and James Monroe (1817-1825) before returning to the Jefferson Administration.  If one is not well-versed in the chronology, one can easily become confused.

To add to the confusion, Ezra 4:7-24 belongs to the next topic–rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem.  I am still writing about the rebuilding of the Temple.  I resume, therefore, at Ezra 5:1.

Darius I took the rebuilding of the Temple seriously (Ezra 6:11-12; 1 Esdras 6:32-33).  The completion of the Second Temple happened on his watch, to use an anachronistic figure of speech.  A celebration of the Passover followed.

Passover was the annual celebration of God liberating the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt.  Passover was a great national holiday and a religious festival.  Jewish independence was in the past at that Passover, but the Persian monarch was friendly toward the Jews, at least.  Being subjects of Darius I was far better for Jews than being subjects of Nebuchadnezzar II.  Those Jews who had chosen to return to the ancestral homeland, part of the satrapy Beyond the River, had participated in an exodus from Babylon.  They had many reasons to be thankful.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 9, 2020 COMMON ERA

PROPER 14:  THE TENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT EDITH STEIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND PHILOSOPHER

THE FEAST OF SAINT HERMAN OF ALASKA, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX MONK AND MISSIONARY TO THE ALEUT

THE FEAST OF JOHN DRYDEN, ENGLISH PURITAN THEN ANGLICAN THEN ROMAN CATHOLIC POET, PLAYWRIGHT, AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF MARY SUMNER, FOUNDRESS OF THE MOTHERS’ UNION

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