Archive for the ‘R. B. Y. Scott’ Tag

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

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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Divine Rebuke of Israel and Judah   Leave a comment

Above:  Vineyard

Image in the Public Domain

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READING FIRST ISAIAH, PART V

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Isaiah 5:1-30

Isaiah 9:7-20 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox)

Isaiah 9:8-21 (Anglican and Protestant)

Isaiah 10:1-4

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The vineyard, an erotic image in Song of Songs 1:6 and 8:12, was more frequently a metaphor for the people of God in the Hebrew Bible.  Robert Alter’s translation of the beginning of Isaiah 5:1 in The Hebrew Bible (2019) is close to the standard rendering in English:

Let me sing of My beloved

the song of my lover for his vineyard.

The lover is God, and the vineyard is the people of Israel.  The speaker may be a friend of the bridegroom.  Brevard S. Childs, in Isaiah (2001), tells us:

At the outset, the song is not a love song, as often rendered (e.g., RSV), but a song of a beloved one concerning his vineyard that is sung by another.

–45

The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011) translates the beginning of Isaiah 5:1 as:

Now let me sing of my friend,

my beloved’s song about his vineyard.

I checked Isaiah 5:1 in five French-language translations, too.  The germane terms are mon ami “my friend” and mon bien-aimé (“my beloved”).

The beginning of the translation in the revised Louis Segond translation (1910) is:

Je chanterai à mon bien-aimé

Le cantique de mon bien-aimé sur la vigne.

The beginning of the translation in the Nouvelle Version Segond Revisée (1976) is:

Or donc, je chanterai à mon ami

Le chant de mon bien-aimé sur sa vigne.

The beginning of the translation in La Bible en Français Courant (1997) is:

Laissez-moi chanter quelques couplets au nom de mon ami; c’est la chanson de mon ami et da sa vigne.

The beginning of the translation in La Bible de Jérusalem (2000) is:

Que je chante à mon bien-aimé

le chant de mon ami pour sa vigne.

The beginning of the translation in La Bible du Semeur (2015) is:

Je veux chanter pour mon ami

la chanson de mon bien-aimé au sujet de sa vigne.

The germane note in The Catholic Study Bible, Third Edition (2016), suggests that the speaker in Isaiah 5:1-2 may be a relative, not a lover, hence the language of friendship in The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011) and certain French translations.  The note from R. B. Y. Scott, in The Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 5 (1956), agrees:

In accordance with the Oriental fondness for grandiloquent language, the words could be used with the weakened sense of “friend”….It is almost inconceivable that Isaiah, of all people, would use an erotic term for Gods even in a parable; moreover, by no stretch of the imagination can the song be called a long song.  It is probably best to take [yadid] and [dod] as synonyms, and to translate:  “Now let me sing on behalf of my friend, my friend’s song about his vineyard.”

–196-197

In verse 3, the speaker changes; God begins to speak.

The bottom line in Isaiah 5:1-7 is that the people of Judah have failed to meet divine expectations; they have neglected the covenant.  They have failed to maintain a society in which divine righteousness and justice defined values and norms.  God, we read, will abandon the vineyard to its fate.

Isaiah 5:8f continues the theme of social injustice.  Sins include grabbing land, being indifferent, and drinking to excess.  The ruling class of Judah, we read, has been indifferent to the covenant.  Therefore, exile awaits the ruling class, and further misery awaits the masses.

Isaiah 5:25-30 may belong after Isaiah 9:7-20/9:8-21 (depending on versification), about judgment on the (northern) Kingdom of Israel.  Isaiah 5:25-30 does flow naturally from Isaiah 9:7-20/9:8-21 (depending on versification).

Another editorial oddity is that Isaiah 10:1-4 fits with and may have originally been united with Isaiah 5:8-24.

I, as a history buff, find details of fifth-century B.C.E. editing of sacred texts interesting.  I acknowledge them readily.  These do not distract me (for long) from my main purpose in this series of weblog posts:  to understand and apply the messages of the Hebrew prophets, as those messages are relevant today.  These messages are repetitive.  After blogging my way through the Books of Hosea, Amos, and Micah already, I recognize the same themes repeating:  The covenant and the Law of Moses require societal, institutionalized justice.  The societal reality in which any given prophet speaks out is inconsistent with that vision, which includes economic justice and excludes idolatry.  Unjust societies will reap what they have sown.  Even Gentiles, not subject to the covenant and the Law of Moses, must obey certain standards, or else.

The message repeats on a playback loop because it must.  Many people continue to be indifferent to the message.  Other people are oblivious to it.  Just check the news, if you dare, O reader, for current evidence.

What does God have to do to get attention?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 30, 2021 COMMON ERA

TRINITY SUNDAY, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOAN OF ARC, ROMAN CATHOLIC VISIONARY AND MARTYR, 1430

THE FEAST OF APOLO KIVEBULAYA, APOSTLE TO THE PYGMIES

THE FEAST OF JOACHIM NEANDER, GERMAN REFORMED MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOSEPHINE BUTLER, ENGLISH FEMINIST AND SOCIAL REFORMER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LUKE KIRBY, THOMAS COTTAM, WILLIAM FILBY, AND LAURENCE RICHARDSON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS, 1582

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Announcement of Judgment, with Confidence in God’s Future   Leave a comment

Above:  Map of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire

Image in the Public Domain

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READING MICAH, PART VII

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Micah 6:1-7:20

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A motif in Hebrew prophetic literature in God making a legal case against a group of people.  That motif recurs at the beginning of Chapter 6.

Another motif in the Hebrew Bible is that God is like what God has done.  In other words, divine deeds reveal God’s character.  Likewise, human deeds reveal human character.  We read reminders of divine deliverance in Micah 6:4-5.  These verses call back to Exodus 1:1-15:21; Numbers 22:1-24:25; and Joshua 3:1-5:12.  God, who is just, expects and demands human justice:

He has told you, O man, what is good,

And what the LORD requires of you:

Only to do justice

And to love goodness,

And to walk modestly with your God.

Then will your name achieve wisdom.

–Micah 6:8-9, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Not surprisingly, no English-language translation captures the full meaning of the Hebrew text.  For example, to walk humbly or modestly with God is to walk wisely or completely with God.  Doing this–along with loving goodness and doing justice–is more important than ritual sacrifices, even those mandated in the Law of Moses.  This theme occurs also in Hosea 6:4-6.  One may also recall the moral and ethical violations of the Law of Moses condemned throughout the Book of Amos.  Micah 6 and 7 contain condemnations of such sins, too.  The people will reap what they have sown.

To whom can they turn when surrounded by corruption and depravity?  One can turn to and trust God.  In the fullest Biblical and creedal sense, this is what belief in God means.  In the Apostles’ Creed we say:

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth….

In the Nicene Creed, we say:

We believe in one God,

the Father, the Almighty,

maker of heaven and earth,

of all that is, seen and unseen.

Sometimes belief–trust–is individual.  Sometimes it is collective.  So are sin, confession, remorse for sins, repentance, judgment, and mercy.  In Micah 7:7-13, belief–trust–is collective.  Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance in the case of Jerusalem, personified.  The figure is Jerusalem, at least in the later reading of Micah.  The reference to Assyria (7:12) comes from the time of the prophet.

“Micah” (1:1) is the abbreviated form of “Micaiah,” or “Who is like YHWH?”  That is germane to the final hymn of praise (7:18-20).  It begins:

Who is a God like You….

–Micah 7:18a, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Imagine, O reader, that you were a Jew born and raised in exile, within the borders of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  Imagine that you had heard that the Babylonian Exile will end soon, and that you will have the opportunity to go to the homeland of which you have only heard.  Imagine that you have started to pray:

Who is a God like you, who removes guilt

and pardons sin for the remnant of his inheritance;

Who does not persist in anger forever,

but instead delights in mercy,

And will again have compassion on us,

treading underfoot our iniquities?

You will cast into the depths of the sea all our sins;

You will show faithfulness to Jacob, and loyalty to Abraham,

As you have sworn to our ancestors from days of old.

The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

Imagine, O reader, how exuberant you would have been.

As R. B. Y. Scott wrote regarding the Book of Hosea:

[The prophet] speaks of judgment that cannot be averted by superficial professions of repentance; but he speaks more of love undefeated by evil.  The final word remains with mercy.

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

Thank you, O reader, for joining me on this journey through the Book of Micah.  I invite you to join me as I read and write about First Isaiah (Chapters 1-23, 28-33).

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 27, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PAUL GERHARDT, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ALFRED ROOKER, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST PHILANTHROPIST AND HYMN WRITER; AND HIS SISTER, ELIZABETH ROOKER PARSON, ENGLISH CONGREGATINALIST HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF AMELIA BLOOMER, U.S. SUFFRAGETTE

THE FEAST OF JOHN CHARLES ROPER, ANGLICAN ARCHBISHOP OF OTTAWA

THE FEAST OF SAINT LOJZE GROZDE, SLOVENIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR, 1943

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Oracles of Divine Salvation, Part I   Leave a comment

Above:  Swords into Plowshares Statue

Image in the Public Domain

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READING MICAH, PART V

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Micah 4:1-5:1 (Anglican and Protestant)

Micah 4:1-14 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox)

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The fourth and fifth chapters of the Book of Micah constitute a distinct section of that book.  They apparently contain a mix of material from the prophet Micah and from a later period.  The references to Assyria (5:4-5) are contemporary to the prophet, but the mention of Babylon (4:10) is not, for example.  Also, Micah 4:1-5 bears a striking resemblance to to Isaiah 2:1-5/2:2-6 (depending on versification).  This makes much sense, for scholars tell us that Micah and First Isaiah were contemporaries.  Also, Biblical authors quoting and paraphrasing each other is a practice one encounters as one studies the Bible seriously.  Alternatively, one may plausibly posit that the Book of Micah and the First Isaiah portion of the Book of Isaiah paraphrased the same source.

After all the doom and gloom of the first three chapters, the tonal shift in Micah 4 is impossible to miss.  That which R. B. Y. Scott wrote in relation to the Book of Hosea applies to the Book of Micah, too:

The final word remains with mercy.

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

Looking ahead, judgment will return in Chapters 6 and 7, but the Book of Micah concludes on a note of divine mercy.

The hopes of an ideal future remain attractive.  I pray for a future in which nations will beat their swords into plowshares.  I am a realist; I want to be a pacifist yet understand that some violence, sadly, is necessary.  I also affirm that most violence is unnecessary.  I yearn for the day when all people will be at shalom with themselves, each other, and God.  I pray for the time when the reality of the world will be the fully-realized Kingdom of God.

A careful reader may notice certain details in the designated portion of the Book of Micah.  4:2 tells us that “many nations” will seek divine instruction at Mount Zion.  It does not read, “all nations.”  4:11 tells us that “many nations” still oppose God’s covenant people.  Reading this chapter, in its final form, can be confusing, given the mix of material from different eras.  Micah 4:11f, in the context of 4:10 (“To Babylon you shall go….”) dates to a period later than the prophet Micah.  Micah 4:11f, acknowledging a challenging geopolitical situation for Judah, comforts Judah with the promise of divine deliverance.  Divine mercy on Judah will be divine judgment on Judah’s enemies.  The vision of 4:1-8 remains unfulfilled in the rest of the chapter.  In 4:14/5:1 (depending on versification), Jerusalem is under siege.

Dare we hope for the vision of Micah 4:1-8 to become reality, finally?  Dare we have enough faith to accept this ancient prophecy as not being naive?  Bringing the fully-realized Kingdom of God into existence is God’s work.  Transforming the world from what it is into a state less unlike that high standard is the work of the people of God, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 26, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY, ARCHBISHOP

THE FEAST OF HARDWICKE DRUMMOND RAWNSLEY, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT LAMBERT PÉLOGUIN OF VENCE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT PHILIP NERI, THE APOSTLE OF ROME AND THE FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE ORATORY

THE FEAST OF SAINT QUADRATUS THE APOLOGIST, EARLY CHRISTIAN APOLOGIST

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The Superscription and First Epigram of the Book of Amos   2 comments

Above:  Map of the Kingdoms of Judah and Israel during the Reigns of Kings Azariah (Uzziah) of Judah and Jeroboam II of Israel

Image Scanned from an Old Bible

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READING AMOS, PART I

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Amos 1:1-2

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The superscription (1:1) provides information useful in dating the original version of the Book of Amos.  Jeroboam II (r. 788-747 B.C.E.; 2 Kings 14:23-29) was the King of Israel.  Azariah/Uzziah (r. 785-733 B.C.E.; 2 Kings 15:1-17; 2 Chronicles 26:1-23).  In a seismically-active region, the “big one” of circa 770 or 760 or 750 B.C.E. was apparently a memorable natural disaster.  (Ironing out wrinkles in the chronology of the era from Uzziah to Hezekiah has long been difficult, as many Biblical commentaries have noted.  For example, reputable sources I have consulted have provided different years, ranging from 742 to 733 B.C.E., for the death of King Uzziah.)  Centuries later, after the Babylonian Exile, Second Zechariah recalled that cataclysm in the context of earth-shaking events predicted to precede the Day of the Lord–in Christian terms, the establishment of the fully-realized Kingdom of God:

And the valley in the Hills shall be stopped up, for the Valley of the Hills shall reach only to Azal; it shall be stopped up as a result of the earthquake in the days of King Uzziah of Judah.–And the LORD my God, with all the holy beings, will come to you.

–Zechariah 14:5, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The original version of the Book of Amos, then, dates to circa 772 or 762 or 752 B.C.E.

The final version of the Book of Amos, however, dates to the period after the Babylonian Exile.  The prophecies of Hosea, Amos, Micah, and First Isaiah, in their final forms, all do.  So do the final versions of much of the rest of the Hebrew Bible, from Genesis to the two Books of Kings.  The final version of the Book of Amos indicates a pro-Judean bias, evident first in the listing of Kings of Judah before King Jeroboam II of Israel.

“Amos,” the shorter version of “Amasiah,” derives from the Hebrew verb for “to carry” and means “borne by God.”

Amos was a Judean who prophesied in the (northern) Kingdom of Israel.  He was, by profession, a breeder of sheep and cattle, as well as a tender of sycamore figs (1:1, 7:14).  The prophet was wealthy.  In 2 Kings 3:4, King Mesha of Moab was also a sheep breeder.  Amos hailed from the village of Tekoa, about eight kilometers, or five miles, south of Bethlehem, and within distant sight of Jerusalem (2 Samuel 14:2; Jeremiah 6:1).  King Rehoboam of Judah (r. 928-911 B.C.E.; 1 Kings 12:1-33; 1 Kings 15:21-31; 2 Chronicles 10:1-12:16; Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 47:23) had ordered the fortification of Tekoa (2 Chronicles 11:6).  Although Amos prophesied in the (northern) Kingdom of Israel, “Israel” (Amos 1:1) was a vague reference.

Since the prophetic office as manifested in Amos was a function of Yahweh’s lordship over his people, the political boundary that had been set up between Judah and Israel was utterly irrelevant.  Amos was concerned with Israel in their identity as the people of the Lord; the sphere of his activity was the realm of the old tribal league, all Israel under Yahweh, and not the state cult with its orientation to the current king and his kingdom.

–James Luther Mays, Amos:  A Commentary (1969), 19

I wonder if the vagueness of “Israel” in Amos 1:1 is original or if it is a product of subsequent amendment and editing.  The later editing and amendment do present questions about how to interpret the edited and amended texts.  Anyhow, I recognize that the message of God, via Amos of Tekoa, received and transmitted faithfully in a particular geographical and temporal context, remains relevant.  That message remains germane because human nature is a constant force, often negatively so.

The reference to the cataclysmic earthquake (Amos 1:) may do more than help to date the composition of the first version of the book.  One may, for example, detect references to that earthquake in Amos 2:13, 3;14f, 6:11, and 9:1.  One may reasonably speculate that the Book of Amos, in its final form, at least, may understand the earthquake of circa 770 or 760 or 750 B.C.E. as divine punishment for rampant, collective, persistent, disregard for the moral demands of the Law of Moses.  This presentation of natural disasters as the wrath of God exists also in Joel 1 and 2 (in reference to a plague of locusts) and in Exodus 7-11 (in reference to the plagues on Egypt).  This perspective disturbs me.  I recall certain conservative evangelists describing Hurricane Katrina (2005) as the wrath of God on New Orleans, Louisiana, allegedly in retribution for sexual moral laxity.  I wish that more people would be more careful regarding what they claim about the divine character.  I also know that earthquakes occur because of plate tectonics, swarms of locusts go where they will, and laws of nature dictate where hurricanes make landfall.

Amos seems to have prophesied in the (northern) Kingdom of Israel briefly, perhaps for only one festival and certainly for less than a year, at Bethel, a cultic site.  Then officialdom saw to it that he returned to Tekoa, his livestock and sycamore figs, and the (southern) Kingdom of Judah.

[Amos] proclaimed:

The LORD roars from Zion,

Shouts aloud from Jerusalem;

And the pastures of the shepherds shall languish,

And the summit of Carmel shall wither.

–Amos 2:2, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The theological understanding in Amos 2:2 holds that God was resident in Zion.  The reference to Mount Carmel, on the Mediterranean coast and in the (northern) Kingdom of Israel makes plain that the message was, immediately, at least, for the Northern Kingdom.  Looking at a map, one can see the geographical setting.  For the divine voice, shouted in Jerusalem, to make the summit of Mount Carmel writhe, poetically, God really is a force with which to reckon.

God is near, but he is also far–immeasurably exalted, inexpressively different.  He is the king who does not die.

–R. B. Y. Scott, The Relevance of the Prophets, 2nd. ed. (1968), 121

How we mere mortals think, speak, and write about God depends largely on our theological and social contexts–how well we understand science, how we define moral parameters, and how wide or narrow our theological imagination may be.  How we mere mortals think, speak, and write about God must also include much poetry, even prose poetry.  If we are theologically, spiritually, and intellectually honest, we will acknowledge this.  How we mere mortals think, speak, and write about God may or may not age well and/or translate well to other cultures.

Despite certain major differences from the pre-scientific worldview of the eighth-century B.C.E. prophet Amos and the world of 2021 B.C.E., the social, economic, and political context of the Book of Amos bears an unfortunate similarity to the world of 2021.  Economic inequality is increasing.  The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the numbers of poor people while a relative few already extremely wealthy people have become richer.  God still cares deeply about how people treat each other.  God continues to condemn institutionalized inequality.  Many conventionally pious people–religious leaders, especially–are complicit in maintaining this inequality.

Amos of Tekoa continues to speak the words of God to the world of 2021.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 19, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JACQUES ELLUL, FRENCH REFORMED THEOLOGIAN AND SOCIOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT CELESTINE V, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF SAINT DUNSTAN OF CANTERBURY, ABBOT OF GLASTONBURY AND ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF KERMARTIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ATTORNEY, PRIEST, AND ADVOCATE FOR THE POOR

THE FEAST OF GEORG GOTTFRIED MULLER, GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN MINISTER AND COMPOSER

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Israel’s Punishment and Restoration, Part I: The Fruits of Idolatry and Punishment for Rebellion   1 comment

Above:  Small Waterfall, Poss Creek, Ben Burton Park, Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, October 29, 2017

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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…Like foam upon water.

–Hosea 10:7, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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READING HOSEA, PART VIII

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Hosea 10:1-15

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St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430) defined sin as disordered love.  The great theologian and Bishop of Hippo Regius explained that God deserves the most love.  Furthermore, people, as well as certain items, ideas, institutions, and activities deserve less love than God.  Furthermore, some some ideas, items, institutions, and activities deserve no love.  The Bishop of Hippo Regius taught that to give God less love than proper and anything or anyone else more love than proper is to have disordered love–sin.  This sin is also idolatry, for it draws love away from God.

Hosea 10:1-15 employs metaphors for the (northern) Kingdom of Israel.  10:1-10 describes Israel as a vine.  The vine’s days of economic prosperity and military security during the reign (788-747 B.C.E.) of Jeroboam II are over in the vision.  Also, we read, the golden calf at Bethel (“House of God”), or as Hosea called the place, Beth-aven (“House of Evil;” see 4:15 also), will become an object of tribute hauled off to the Assyrian Empire.  And

Samaria’s monarchy is vanishing

Like foam upon the water….”

–10:7, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011) offers an alternative translation:

Samaria and her king will disappear,

like a twig upon the waters.

Israel is like a heifer in 10:11-15.  Israel, trained to sow righteousness and, therefore, to reap the fruits of goodness, instead plows wickedness.  Therefore, Israel reaps iniquity and eats the fruits of treachery.  Israel’s reliance on its way has led to its preventable fate.

I detect what may be evidence of subsequent Judean editing of 10:11:

I will make Ephraim do advance plowing;

Judah shall do [main] plowing!

Jacob shall do final plowing!

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Hosea 10:13-14 refers to military threats.  The immediate threat was from either Tiglath-pileser III (r. 745-727 B.C.E.), Shalmaneser V (r. 727-722 B.C.E.), or Sargon II (r. 722-705 B.C.E.) of the Assyrian Empire.  Shalmaneser V began the siege of Samaria; Sargon II finished it.  This detail seems to have been lost on the author of 2 Kings 17:1-6.  Perhaps Hosea 10:13-14, in referring to Shalman having destroyed Betharbel, means Shalmaneser III (r. 858-824 B.C.E.), from the time of King Jehu of Israel (r. 842-814 B.C.E.).  (See 2 Kings 9:1-10:30; 2 Chronicles 22:5-9.)  The reference to the battle at Betharbel is obscure, but the warning is plain.  The collective consequences of collectively forsaking the divine covenant are terrible, we read.

Perhaps James Luther Mays summarized the situation best:

Yahweh will be the one who acts in gruesome devastation against those whose faith makes them secure against his judgment and independent of his power.  Autonomy as a state of violation of their existence as the covenant people is the “evil of their evil.”  The king to whom the army belongs and who therefore incarnates their independence of Yahweh will be the first to fall.  In the dawn’s first light, when the battle has hardly begun, he shall be cut off.

Hosea:  A Commentary (1969), 150

After all, as R. B. Y. Scott wrote:

If the righteousness of Yahweh could not find realization in a social order, it must destroy the order of life men built in its defiance.

The Relevance of the Prophets, 2nd. ed. (1968), 188

The prophets Hosea and Amos were contemporaries with different foci.  As Rabbi Abraham J. Heschel wrote, Amos saw episodes yet Hosea saw a drama.  Also, Amos focused on social injustice (especially economic injustice), but Hosea focused on idolatry.  Injustice and idolatry were related to each other.  The people and their kings, by straying from God, strayed also from the divine covenant, of which social justice was an essential part.

That is a timeless message that should cause many people to tremble.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 18, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MALTBIE DAVENPORT BABCOCK, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, HUMANITARIAN, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT FELIX OF CANTALICE, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC FRIAR

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN I, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF MARY MCLEOD BETHUNE, AFRICAN-AMERICAN EDUCATOR AND SOCIAL ACTIVIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT STANISLAW KUBSKI, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1945

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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 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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