Archive for the ‘Gedaliah’ Tag

Divine Judgment Against Ammon, Part I   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of Jeremiah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART XXIX

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Jeremiah 49:1-6

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Ammon was east of the River Jordan, and bordered the territory of the tribe of Gad (Joshua 13:8-10).  Ammon’s capital was Rabbath-Amman (modern-day Amman, Jordan).  Sometimes the Hebrews and the Ammonites were foes (Judges 3:13; Amos 1:13-15; Zephaniah 2:8; Judges 10:6-12:7; 1 Samuel 11; 2 Samuel 10; 2 Samuel 12:26-31).  Sometimes they were allies (Jeremiah 27:3).  After the Fall of Jerusalem, the Ammonites supported Ishmael, the Davidic claimant who rebelled against Gedaliah (Jeremiah 40:7-41:18).  Before that, however, Ammon had occupied the territory of the tribe of Gad after the Fall of Samaria (722 B.C.E.).

Since I started this project of reading the Hebrew prophetic books, roughly in chronological order, I have read the oracle against the Ammonites in Amos 1:13-15.

The oracle regarding Ammon in Ezekiel 25:1-6 awaits me, in due time.

Some details in the oracle require explanation:

  1. We read place names.
  2. We read “Milcom,” the name of the Ammonite chief deity (1 Kings 11:5).  That name, rendered in Hebrew (which lacks vowels), can read, in English, “their king.”
  3. We read that the Hebrews would repossess the territory of the tribe of Gad.
  4. This oracle also concludes on a note of consolation.
  5. The Ammonites were relatives of the Hebrews (Genesis 19:38).

Ammon fell to the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  Mass deportations ensued.  After the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire fell to the Persians and the Medes in 539 B.C.E., Ammon became a part of the Persian Empire.  This empire restored Ammon, reduced to a domain of Arab nomads, to political order.

The Ammonites, like many others, had relied on wealth, strength, and false gods.  The Ammonites had also seized land not legitimately theirs.  This type of activity was a major concern in Biblical times.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 14, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT METHODIUS I OF CONSTANTINOPLE, DEFENDER OF ICONS AND ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH OF CONSTANTINOPLE; AND SAINT JOSEPH THE HYMNOGRAPHER, DEFENDER OF ICONS AND THE “SWEET-VOICED NIGHTINGALE OF THE CHURCH”

THE FEAST OF DAVID LOW DODGE, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN BUSINESSMAN AND PACIFIST

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS J. UPLEGGER, GERMAN-AMERICAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND MISSIONARY; “OLD MAN MISSIONARY”

THE FEAST OF FRANK LAUBACH, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF MARK HOPKINS, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, EDUCATOR, AND PHYSICIAN

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Jeremiah Among the Remnant of Judah, and the Decision to Flee to Egypt   1 comment

Above:  Map of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART XXIII

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Jeremiah 42:1-43:7

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The political situation was tense in Judah after the fall of the kingdom and the assassination of Gedaliah.  A population who had fled then returned and asked Jeremiah to pray for advice and report back to them.  Should they flee to Egypt?  God said, “No.”  God said He would preserve them and their descendants as a remnant if they remained in Judah.  God was sovereign; Nebuchadnezzar II was His vassal.

This population did not like the divine reply Jeremiah reported.  They did not hear what they wanted to hear.  They did not want to hear that fleeing to Egypt would lead to unfortunate results for them.  They did not want to hear that fleeing to Egypt would lead to them dying

by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence.

–Jeremiah 42:17

(Yet read Jeremiah 44:28.)  They did not want to hear that fleeing to Egypt would result in them becoming

an execration of woe, a curse, and a mockery.

–Jeremiah 42:18

Therefore, they decided to flee to Egypt anyway.

They did not obey the LORD.

–Jeremiah 43:7b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

In the Biblical narrative, including the Book of Jeremiah, the Kingdom of Judah fell apart because people did not obey God.  They were still disobeying God.

The theological voice in much of the Hebrew Bible (including the Book of Jeremiah) is that of the Jewish exiles in Babylon.  This is the community from which the final drafts of much of the Hebrew Bible emerged after the Babylonian Exile.  Walter Brueggemann writes that, in this portion of Jeremiah, we read the Babylonian exilic community denying legitimacy to the Egyptian exilic community.  I have no reason to doubt the historical legitimacy of this interpretation.

Those who disobey God act out of a false sense of autonomy.  No person, community, et cetera, is autonomous from God.  Learning that lesson is difficult.  Discerning the difference between someone speaking for God and someone speaking for himself or herself may also be difficult.  One may, for example, carry on an internal monologue and imagine that one is conversing with God.  Then there are liars.  Despite these challenges, one rule may prove helpful:  If God always seems to argue with you, O reader, you are mistaking yourself for God much of the time, at least.

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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The Brief Governorship and the Assassination of Gedaliah   Leave a comment

Above:  Map of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART XXII

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Jeremiah 40:7-41:8

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The Kingdom of Judah had fallen to the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  The second mass deportation–the second phase of the Babylonian Exile had begun.  Yet the new masters of Judah did not deport everyone (40:11).

Jeremiah had repeatedly cautioned against opposing the Chaldeans/Neo-Babylonians; he had understood that a rebellion could not succeed.  Events had proven Jeremiah’s warnings correct.  Gedaliah ben Ahikam, he new local governor of Judah, grasped reality, too.  He sought to do the best for the people in Judah.  The situation was bad, but it did not have to deteriorate.

Gedaliah came from a good family.  His father, Ahikam, had rescued Jeremiah from execution years prior (Jeremiah 26:24).  In one version of the liberation of Jeremiah after the Fall of Jerusalem, Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian authorities freed the prophet from King Zedekiah’s prison and into the care of Gedaliah (39:11-14).  In another version of the liberation of Jeremiah, the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian captain of the guard had removed the prophet from a group of people destined for Babylon, and Jeremiah had gone to the home of Gedaliah (40:1-6).

Gedaliah ben Ahikam, whose name meant, “YHWH is great,” was a realist.  He was also a collaborator, objectively.  This made him a target of assassination plots immediately.  Ishmael ben Nethaniah, of the House of David, was a guest at Gedaliah’s official residence at Mizpah.  The claimant to the throne was one of ten other guests who assassinated the governor.  These eleven men murdered seventy men from Shechem, Shiloh, and Samaria two days later.  Then Ishmael attempted to take the rest of the population of Mizpah into the territory of the Ammonites.  All but Ishmael turned back, though.  The others headed for Egypt.

One may legitimately dislike collaborators.  I, as a student of history, know the names of collaborators (especially from World War II) who were traitors to their homelands.  “Quisling” is a synonym for traitor for a good reason.  In the context of the Book of Jeremiah, however, the authorial voices side with Jeremiah and Gedaliah.  The tragedy (in the Greek dramatic sense of that term) is that Gedaliah, a good man, did not heed a warning that could have saved his life, at least for a little while.

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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The End of the Reign of King Zedekiah of Judah, with the Release of Jeremiah from Prison   1 comment

Above:  Jeremiah Let Down Into the Cistern

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART XXI

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Jeremiah 34:1-22

Jeremiah 37:1-40:6

Jeremiah 52:1-34

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The Book of Jeremiah, in which chronology is not the organizing principle for material, contains various sources, some of which contradict each other regarding details.

  1. You may recall, O reader, that that Jeremiah was in prison in Chapters 32 and 33, and that Jerusalem fell between 32 and 33.  Yet we have jumped back in time to before the Fall of Jerusalem  in Chapter 37, only to read of its fall in Chapter 39.  Jerusalem had yet to fall in Chapters 34-38, as well in much of Chapter 52.
  2. Jeremiah 52, by the way, is nearly identical to 2 Kings 24:18-25:30.
  3. The accounts of Jeremiah’s incarceration disagree with each other.  37:11-16 and 38:1-13 contradict each other.  Furthermore, 37:17-21 flows into 38:14-28.  Also, 39:11-14 contradicts 40:1-6.  Evidence of ancient cutting, copying, and pasting exists in Jeremiah 37-40.  I unpack this point below, in this post.

Due to the lack of chronological organization of material in the Book of Jeremiah, we have encountered King Zedekiah (597-586 B.C.E.; see 2 Chronicles 36:11f, also) already.  We have read his name in Jeremiah 1, 21, 24, 27, 28, 29, 32, and 33, not including the false prophet Zedekiah in 29:21-22.  Zedekiah ben Josiah was the last King of Judah.  King Josiah (r. 640-609 B.C.E.) would have rolled over in his grave to learn of the circumstances during the reigns of the last four Kings of Judah (609-586 B.C.E.)

The cause of Jeremiah’s arrest was either alleged defection to the Chaldeans/Neo-Babylonians (37:11-16) or unpopular prophecy (38:1-13).  The latter explanation is consistent with 32:1-5.

The copying, cutting, and pasting of sources in Chapters 37-40 creates a confusing, mixed-up, and contradictory composite chronology.

  1. 37:17-21 interrupts the natural flow of material into 38:1-13.  We read that Jeremiah was in a pit for days (37:16).  We also read that Ebed-melech liberated Jeremiah from that pit.  Then, in that chronology, we read that Jeremiah went to the court of the guardhouse (38:7-13), where he was in Chapters 32 and 33.  Then, in this chronology, we move to 39:1-14.  We read of the liberation of Jeremiah after the Fall of Jerusalem.  We read that Jeremiah went to the household of Gedaliah.  We read that the prophet nearly became an exile in Babylon, but that Nebuzaradan, the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian captain of the guard, freed him (40:1-6).  We read that Jeremiah went to the household of Gedaliah.
  2. We read of no pit in the other chronology.  No, we read that Jeremiah remained in the court of the guardhouse, except when King Zedekiah had him temporarily transported somewhere.  In this timeline, we read that the prophet nearly became an exile in Babylon, but that Nebuzaradan, the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian captain of the guard, freed him (40:1-6).  We read that Jeremiah then went to the household of Gedaliah.

34:8-2 adds another wrinkle to the last days before the Fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.E.  We read that King Zedekiah had convinced the slaveholders of Jerusalem to free their Hebrew slaves.  We also read that some slaveholders returned freed slaves to slavery, and that God strongly objected to this.  Deuteronomy 15:12-15 dictates that the maximum period of slavery of a Hebrew was six years.

In context, with the temporary lifting of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian siege, thanks to Egyptian military intervention on behalf of Judah, some slaveholders of Jerusalem thought they no longer had to live or to try to live according to divine law.  Perhaps some of these slaveholders had already kept many of the Hebrew slaves for longer than six years.  The liberation, therefore, was overdue.  Reenslavement was morally indefensible.

34:17-22 ascribes the Fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.E. to divine punishment for the reenslavement of these unfortunate individuals.

A major theme in these readings is that, when people do what God says to do, they are better off.  They may not necessarily be more prosperous, but they may be safer.  They will not die in exile in Babylon, for example.  This is an overly simplistic idea.  Staying within the Book of Jeremiah alone, I cite the example of that prophet, who died in exile in Egypt (43:8-44:30).  Nevertheless, actions do have consequences.  People reap what they sow.  Yet sometimes obeying God leads down a difficult path, as the life of Jeremiah attests.

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’s Sermon in the Temple, With His Trial and Death Sentence   Leave a comment

Above:  Statue of Jeremiah, Salisbury Cathedral

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART V

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Jeremiah 7:1-8:3

Jeremiah 26:1-24

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Jeremiah 7:1-20:18 consists of oracles primarily from the reign (608-598 B.C.E.) of Jehoiakim (born Eliakim) of Judah.  For more about Jehoiakim, read 2 Kings 23:36-24:7; 2 Chronicles 36:5-8; 1 Esdras 1:39-42.

The Assyrian Empire had consumed the (northern) Kingdom of Israel in 722 B.C.E. then the Kingdom of Aram in 720 B.C.E.  In 612 B.C.E., the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire had conquered the Assyrian Empire.  In 608 B.C.E., Judah was struck between two powerful neighbors–Egypt and Babylonia, themselves enemies.  After the death of King Josiah (r. 640-609 B.C.E.) in combat against Pharaoh Neco II of Egypt (r. 610-595 B.C.E.), Judah had become a vassal state of Egypt.  Neco II had appointed the next King of Judah, Jehoahaz, also known as Jeconiah and Shallum (2 Kings 23:31-35; 2 Chronicles 36:1-4; 1 Esdras 1:34-38).  Jehoahaz had reigned for about three months in 609 B.C.E. before Neco II had replaced him with another son of Josiah and taken him into captivity in Egypt.  Neco II had also appointed Eliakim and changed his name to Jehoiakim in 608 B.C.E.  He served as an Egyptian vassal until 605 B.C.E., when he became a Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian vassal.

Jeremiah spent most of his prophetic career speaking difficult truths to a nation under foreign domination.  This context was extremely politically dangerous.

This sermon is thematically consistent with Hosea 6:4-6; Micah 3:9-12; and Amos 2:4-6.  It is also thematically consistent with many other passages of Hebrew scripture.  The link between idolatry and social injustice (especially economic injustice) is clear.  Sacred rituals, even those the Law of Moses mandates, are not talismans.  The joining of lived collective piety and justice on one hand and sacred ritual on the other hand is imperative.  The combination of social injustice and sacred ritual makes a mockery of sacred ritual.

Mend your ways and your actions,

Jeremiah preached at the Temple.  Then he unpacked that statement:

…if you execute justice between one man and another; if you do not oppress the stranger, the orphan, and the widow; if you do not shed the blood of the innocent in this place; if you do not follow other gods, to your own hurt–then only will I [YHWH] let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers for all time.  See, you are relying on illusions that are of no avail….

–Jeremiah 7:5-8, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Pay attention to 7:11, O reader:

Do you consider this House, which bears My name, to be a den of thieves?  As for Me, I have been watching–declares the LORD.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

This is an allusion in Jesus’s mouth during the Temple Incident/the Cleansing of the Temple in Matthew 21:13; Mark 11:17; and Luke 19:46.  Notice that Jeremiah predicted the destruction of the First Temple.

Chronology is not the organizing principle in the Book of Jeremiah.  The Temple Sermon of Jeremiah is a case in point.  We return to it and read of its aftermath in Jeremiah 26:1-24.

Idols abound.  They may be tangible or intangible.  If an activity, idea, or object functions as an idol for someone, it is an idol for that person.  Money is one of the more common idols.  Greed contributes greatly to economic injustice, and corruption is one of the major causes of institutionalized poverty.  Obliviousness to participation in the violation of God’s moral commandments, including mutuality, will not shield us from the consequences of those sins any more than keeping sacred rituals will do so.

Circa 608 B.C.E. God was still holding out the possibility of repentance, prompting the cancellation of divine punishment, according to Jeremiah 26:3.  This contradicts other passages from the Book of Jeremiah and other Hebrew prophetic books composed or begun prior to the Book of Jeremiah.  Perhaps one reason for the contradiction is the addition of later material to the early Hebrew prophetic books, as late as the Babylonian Exile.  I suppose that maintaining the hard line of the time for repentance having passed was difficult to maintain after the Fall of Babylon (539 B.C.E.).

The priests and prophets said to all the people, “This man deserves the death penalty, for he has prophesied against this city, as you yourselves have heard.

–Jeremiah 26:11, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Jeremiah prophesied against a government and a population under foreign domination.  There was no separation of religion and state either.  The prophet worked in a dangerous milieu.

Jeremiah had allies, though.  Some cited the example of Micah, who had issued a dire prophesy (Micah 3:12) and had not received a death sentence.  Fortunately for Jeremiah, the court’s sentence remained unfulfilled.  Ahikam, a high-ranking royal official (2 Kings 22:12), saved him.  Ahikam was also the father of Gedaliah, the assassinated governor of Judah after the Fall of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 40:1-41:18).

Uriah ben Shemiah, from Kiriath-jearim, was not as fortunate as Jeremiah was.  Uriah, also prophesying in the name of YHWH, said what Jeremiah proclaimed.  Uriah fled to Egypt for safety because King Jehoiakim wanted him dead.  Royal agents found Uriah in Egypt and returned him to Judah, to die.

One may legitimately wonder why God protected Jeremiah from threats to his life yet did not spare faithful Uriah ben Shemaiah.

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 Reign of King Zedekiah/Mattaniah and the Fall of Jerusalem   10 comments

Above:  Zedekiah

Image in the Public Domain

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

PART IX

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2 Kings 24:18-25:26

2 Chronicles 36:11-21

1 Esdras 1:47-58

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By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept:

when we remembered the holy city.

–Psalm 137:1, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

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For a different yet similar perspective on this material, read Jeremiah 37-44, O reader.

The last four Kings of Judah were in impossible situations.  Each one had bad choices and worse choices, not good choices.  Circumstances they did not create defined the monarchs’ horizons.  Geopolitics (being sandwiched between Egypt and Chaldea, to be precise) contributed to the difficulty.  And all of the four kings died in exile–one in Egypt and three in Babylon.  Zedekiah’s fate was the cruelest of the four fates.

Zedekiah was never his own man as King of Judah.  Mattaniah (“Gift of YHWH”) became Zedekiah (“YHWH is my righteousness”) when Nebuchadezzar II appointed and renamed him.  Zedekiah reigned as a vassal of Nebuchadnezzar II for about 11 years (597-586 B.C.E.).

The theology in the designated readings and in Jeremiah is consistent.  That theology upholds the sacredness of Zedekiah’s oath to God to be the vassal of Nebuchadnezzar II.  That theology also understands Nebuchadnezzar II as an instrument of God.

The assassination of governor Gedaliah and the subsequent mass exodus to Egypt (see also Jeremiah 40:13-41:18) added to the heartache of the Fall of the Jerusalem and the destruction of the Kingdom of Judah.

A common way of interpreting the conquest of a kingdom or an empire was that the gods of the victorious power had defeated the gods of the conquered power.  Nebuchadnezzar II had conquered Judah, but not YHWH.  The Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire had a date with divine judgment, too.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 5, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALFRED TENNYSON, ENGLISH POET

THE FEAST OF ADAM OF SAINT VICTOR, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ALBRECHT DÜRER, MATTHIAS GRÜNEWALD, AND LUCAS CRANACH THE ELDER, RENAISSANCE ARTISTS

THE FEAST OF GEORGE FREDERICK ROOT, POET AND COMPOSER

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This is post #2250 of BLOGA THEOLOGICA.

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