Archive for the ‘Rezin’ Tag

Prophecies During the Syro-Ephraimite War   1 comment

Above:  King Ahaz of Judah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING FIRST ISAIAH, PART VII

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Isaiah 7:2-9:1 (Anglican and Protestant)

Isaiah 7:1-8:23 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox)

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The Syro-Ephraimite War (734-732 B.C.E.) constitutes the background of Isaiah 7:1-8:23/7:1-9:1 (depending on versification).  Read 2 Kings 15:27-31; 2 Kings 16:1-19; and 2 Chronicles 28:1-26.  A brief summary of that war follows.

Aram was the chief rival to the Assyrian Empire.  King Rezin of Aram (r. 750-732 B.C.E.) and King Pekah of Israel (r. 735-732 B.C.E.) had formed an anti-Assyrian alliance.  King Ahaz of Judah (r. 743/735-727/715 B.C.E.) refused to join this alliance.  Israelite and Aramean forces waged war on Judah and besieged Jerusalem.  They wanted to depose him and replace him with a monarch who would join their alliance.  Ahaz turned to the Assyrian Empire, not God.  The Assyrian Empire conquered parts of Aram and Israel in 732, and reduced those kingdoms to vassalage.  Then, in 722 and 720 B.C.E., respectively, the Assyrian Empire conquered Israel and Aram.

Isaiah 7:16, often reduced to a prophecy of the birth of Jesus and removed from historical context, is most likely a prediction of the birth of the future king Hezekiah, in historical context.  The young woman (an almah) of 7:14 was of marriageable age.  Almah (not “virgin” in Hebrew) became parthenos (“virgin”) in the (Greek) Septuagint.  New Testament writers who quoted the Hebrew Bible quoted it in Greek, not Hebrew.

“Emmanuel” means “God with us.”  God is with us even when we are not with God.  God is with us even when we pretend to be pious, and thereby weary God (7:10-16).

Recognizing subsequent layers of editing in 7:1-8:23/7:1-9:1 (depending on versification) ought not to obstruct understanding of messages for today in these verses.  King Ahaz, who had allied himself with the Assyrian Empire, became a vassal of the Assyrian monarch, King Tiglath-pileser III (r. 745-727 B.C.E.).  King Ahaz, despite himself, should have trusted in God.  King Ahaz had gravely erred, and he and his subjects suffered because of his faulty judgment.  (The imagery of shaving “the hair of the feet” in 7:20 refers to pubic hair, by the way; “feet” is frequently a euphemism for genitals in the Hebrew Bible.)  The disgrace of the people in the latter verses of Chapter 7 and throughout Chapter 8 will be great.  Yet a remnant would survive and return from the Babylonian Exile.

Divine judgment and mercy remain in balance in Isaiah 7:1-8:23/7:1-9:1 (depending on versification).  Divine fidelity to divine promises does not prevent punishment of populations for violations of the covenant.  That divine fidelity does, however, prevent complete destruction of the Hebrew people for violations of the covenant.

I am a Gentile and a Christian.  I know some fundamentalists and Evangelicals who doubt my Christian bona fides, but I am a Christian.  The covenant with the Jews remains in effect, I contend.  I, as a Gentile, come under a separate covenant, one defined by Jesus.  These Old Testament principles about covenant-related responsibilities apply to Christians, also, via Jesus.  We Christians are a branch grafted onto the tree of faith, and the Jews are, as Pope John Paul II called them, our elder siblings in faith.

These chapters also recognize that people benefit from the good decisions of their rulers and suffer from the bad decisions of their rulers.  The emphasis is on the latter, of course.  Leadership matters.  May those who can choose their leaders, do so wisely, in all places and at all times.  And may all leaders decide wisely, whenever and wherever they are.

God is with us.  We can never escape from the presence of God.  Yet are we with God?  We all benefit from grace.  We all depend upon grace.  How many of us also accept the moral responsibilities that accompany grace?  Grace is free yet not cheap.

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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Divine Judgment Against Foreign Nations, Part I   8 comments

Above:  Map of the Assyrian Empire and Its Neighbors

Image Scanned from an Old Bible

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READING AMOS, PART II

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Amos 1:3-2:3

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Introduction

As I read the Book of Amos, I ask myself how much of the final version is original to the text from the prophet.  I know that the final version of the Book of Amos dates to the 400s B.C.E., three centuries after the time of the prophet.  Nevertheless, that question, germane for some matters of interpretation, is irrelevant for other matters of interpretation.  The message(s) of the Book of Amos for people, cultures, societies, and institutions in 2021 C.E. are what they are, regardless of which layer of composition to which a particular passage belongs.

Amos 1:3-2:16 consists of prophetic oracles of judgment against nations.  I choose to write about the oracles against Judah and Israel in the next post.  In this post, I focus on divine judgment against Aram, Philistia, Tyre, Edom, Ammon, and Moab.

Notice, O reader, a motif:

For three crimes of _____, and now four–

I will not take it back–….

–Amos 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 13; 2:1, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

This motif indicates the end of divine patience after the third crime.  Divine patience is not infinite.  Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance.

Amos 1:3-2:3 condemns neighboring nations for behavior that is anti-human or against nature.  These Gentiles, not being under the Law of Moses, had no covenant with God to keep.  They were still accountable according to certain standards, though.

Aram (1:3-5)

Aram was where Syria is today.  Aram was the main rival of the Assyrian Empire during the time of the prophets Amos, Hosea, Micah, and (First) Isaiah.  Aram was also a frequent foe of the (northern) Kingdom of Israel.

Aram had “threshed Gilead with sledges of iron,” a reference to a military campaign (2 Kings 13:3-7).  King Hazael came to power circa 842 B.C.E. and reigned until circa 806 B.C.E. (2 Kings 8:7-15).  He founded a dynasty.  Hazael’s immediate successor was his son, King Ben-hadad II (2 Kings 13:3).  Hadad was a storm god, and “Ben” meant “son of.”

“Aven” meant “evil,” so the Valley of Aven was the “Valley of Evil.”  Beth-eden was an Aramaic city-state between the Euphrates and Balikh Rivers.  According to Amos 1:5, God would depose the King of Beth-eden and exile the Arameans.  During the Syro-Ephraimite War (734-732 B.C.E.; 2 Kings 15:27-31; 2 Kings 16:1-19; 2 Chronicles 28:1-26; Isaiah 7:1-8:23), King Pekah of Israel (r. 735-732 B.C.E.) and King Rezin of Aram (r. 750-732 B.C.E.), having formed an anti-Assyrian alliance, fought the (southern) Kingdom of Judah and besieged Jerusalem because King Ahaz (r. 743/735-727/715 B.C.E.) refused to join that coalition.  King Ahaz of Judah turned not to God, but to the Assyrian Empire.  That empire conquered part of Aram and reduced Israel to vassalage in 732 B.C.E.  The Assyrian Empire ended Aram’s existence as an independent kingdom in 720 B.C.E.  That empire relocated Arameans throughout the Assyrian Empire, including in Samaria (2 Kings 17:24, 30).

Philistia (1:6-8

Philistia was on the Mediterranean coast and east of the (southern) Kingdom of Judah.  Philistia was where the Gaza Strip is today.  Philistines were the people otherwise known as Phoenicians.

Philistia had “exiled an entire population,” probably from Israel or Judah.  This raid, perhaps during the reign (817-800 B.C.E.; 2 Kings 13:1-25) of King Jehoahaz of Israel, violated Exodus 21:16, not that the covenant applied to the Philistines.

Tyre (1:9-10)

Tyre, on the Mediterranean coast, was the chief Phoenician city in the middle 700s B.C.E.  It was a wealthy commercial capital of a trading network.

Tyre had violated a treaty with an unnamed partner and handed an entire population over to slave markets in Edom.

Edom (1:11-12)

Edom was south of the Dead Sea, in what is now the southern regions of Israel and Jordan.  Edom was the nation, by tradition, descended from Esau, a.k.a. Edom (Genesis 25:25-28:9; 32:3-33:16; 35:1-43; 36:1-43).  Jacob/Israel had made their peace (Genesis 33), but their descendants had continued the conflict.

Edom, the nation, had pursued his “brother” (Israel) with the sword.  Edom, the nation, was metaphorically the brother of the Israelite people (Numbers 20:14; Deuteronomy 2:4; Deuteronomy 23:7; Obadiah 10, 12).  King David had added Edom to the (united) Kingdom of Israel (2 Samuel 8:13f; 1 Kings 11:15-17).  Edom, part of the (southern) Kingdom of Judah after the division of the (united) Kingdom of Israel, threw off Judean control during the reign (851-853 B.C.E.) of King Jehoram (Joram) (2 Kings 8:16-24; 2 Chronicles 21:4-20). Yet Judah reconquered Edom during the reign (798-769 B.C.E.) of King Amaziah of Judah (2 Kings 14:1-22; 2 Chronicles 25:1-28) and the reign (785-733 B.C.E.) of King Azariah/Uzziah of Judah (2 Kings 15:1-7; 2 Chronicles 26:1-23), contemporary with the time of the prophets Hosea, Amos, and Micah.  Edomites persisted in their anger; they raged in wrath without end.

Ammon (1:13-15)

Ammon was to the west of the River Jordan and north of the Dead Sea, in modern-day Jordan.  Ammon had been part of the (united) Kingdom of Israel under Kings David and Solomon.  The Ammonites had broken away circa 928 B.C.E., when the (united) Kingdom of Israel split into the (northern) Kingdom of Israel and the (southern) Kingdom of Judah.

Ammon had “ripped open pregnant women in Gilead, in order to extend their territory” (Amos 1:13).  Ammon had fought a border war with Israel, probably during the 800s B.C.E.  In the course of that conflict, Ammonite soldiers had ripped open pregnant women, a tactic not unheard of, sadly.

Ammon became a vassal state (742-630 B.C.E.) of the Assyrian Empire then a province thereof.  With the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian conquest of the Assyrian Empire, Ammon became a rebellious province of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  The rebellion failed, and mass deportations ensued.

Moab (2:1-3)

Moab was west of the Dead Sea, in modern-day Jordan.  Moab had been a vassal state of the (united) Kingdom of Israel under Kings David and Solomon then under the kings of the (northern) Kingdom of Israel.  King Mesha of Moab had successfully rebelled against vassalage during the reign (851-842 B.C.E) of King Jehoram (Joram) of Israel (1 Kings 3:1-27) and the reign (870-846 B.C.E.) of King Jehoshaphat of Judah (1 Kings 22:1-51; 2 Kings 3:1-27; 2 Chronicles 17:1-20:37).  Moab was also the homeland of Ruth.

Moab had “burned to ashes the bones of Edom’s king.”  This was an extreme disrespect usually reserved criminals (Genesis 38:24; Leviticus 20:14; Leviticus 21:9), not that Moabites were subject to the Law of Moses.  This act, which had no effect on either the (northern) Kingdom of Israel or the (southern) Kingdom of Judah, was still a crime against God.

Moab came under Assyrian domination (c. 735 B.C.E.), became an Assyrian province (711 B.C.E.), and finally ceased to be a state (circa 600 B.C.E.).  (For more about the decline and fall of Moab, read Isaiah 15-16 and Jeremiah 48.)

Conclusion

A spiritual mentor of mine liked to read some portion of the Bible then ask:

What is really going on here?

God, who is sovereign over all the nations, does not tolerate injustice.  The Book of Amos beats the drum repeatedly.  God cares deeply about how people, cultures, societies, and institutions treat people.

In this post, I have focused on neighbors of the (northern) Kingdom of Israel and the (southern) Kingdom of Judah.  Many of the prophet’s original audience probably delighted to hear these proclamations of divine judgment against these foreign nations.

Then Amos stopped preaching and started meddling, so to speak.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 20, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALCUIN OF YORK, ABBOT OF TOURS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS COLUMBA OF RIETI AND OSANNA ANDREASI, DOMINICAN MYSTICS

THE FEAST OF JOHN ELIOT, “THE APOSTLE TO THE INDIANS”

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIÁ ANGÉLICA LATHROP, FOUNDRESS OF THE DOMINICAN SISTERS OF HAWTHORNE

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The Reigns of Kings Jotham and Ahaz of Judah   5 comments

Above:  King Jotham of Judah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART XCVIII

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2 Kings 15:32-38; 16:1-20

2 Chronicles 27:1-9; 28:1-27

Isaiah 7:1-8:15

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Thus they reasoned, but they were led astray,

for their wickedness blinded them,

and they did not know the secret purposes of God,

nor hope for the wages of holiness,

nor discern the prize for blameless souls;

for God created man for incorruption,

and made him in the image of his own eternity,

but through the devil’s envy death entered the world,

and those who belong to his party experience it.

–Wisdom of Solomon 2:21-24, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

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King Azariah/Uzziah of Judah (Reigned 785-733 B.C.E.)

King Jotham of Judah (Reigned 759-743 B.C.E.)

King Ahaz of Judah (Reigned 743/735-727/715 B.C.E.)

King Pekah of Israel (Reigned 735-732 B.C.E.)

King Rezin of Aram (Reigned 750-732 B.C.E.)

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The contrast between Kings Jotham (father) and Ahaz (son) of Judah was striking.  Jotham was pious, but Ahaz went all-in for idolatry.  Jotham was a capable monarch, but Ahaz reduced the Kingdom of Judah to a vassal state of the Neo-Assyrian Empire.

The Syro-Ephraimite War occurred in the context of the Neo-Assyrian Empire.  The Kingdoms of Israel and Aram sought to force the Kingdom of Judah to join their coalition against Assyria.  King Ahaz refused to do so, however.  Therefore, the Kings of Israel and Aram wanted to depose him and to replace him with a monarch who would join their coalition.  The Syro-Ephraimite War was the context of Isaiah 7:1-8:15, a text many, if not most, Christians read seemingly in reference to the birth of Jesus and not in historical context.  King Ahaz turned not to God but to the Neo-Assyrian Empire.  The Assyrians conquered Aram in 732 B.C.E.  They also reduced the Kingdom of Israel to vassalage.  A decade later, the Assyrians added Israel to their empire.

The Chronicler included material absent in 2 Kings.  He told the story about Judean prisoners of war in Israel and of the prophet Obed’s warning that Israelite tactics against Judah in the Syro-Ephraimite War angered God.  The appeal to Leviticus 25:39-43, 46, worked.  The prisoners of war received aid and went home; they did not become slaves.

A theme present in the germane readings from 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles, and Isaiah is the imperative of trusting God and keeping the commandments.  We need to avoid prosperity theology, a heresy.  Keeping God’s laws does not necessarily lead to health, wealth, and security.  In fact, obeying God may lead to death, poverty, and insecurity, depending on circumstances.  The myriad number of martyrs attests to this.  The example of Jesus also attests to this.  However, being on God’s side is preferable to opposing it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 6, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN GREGOR, FATHER OF MORAVIAN CHURCH MUSIC

THE FEAST OF GIOVANNI GABRIELI AND HANS LEO HASSLER, COMPOSERS AND ORGANISTS; AND CLAUDIO MONTEVERDI AND HEINRICH SCHÜTZ, COMPOSERS AND MUSICIANS

THE FEAST OF HALFORD E. LUCCOCK, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAGDELEINE OF JESUS, FOUNDRESS OF THE LITTLE SISTERS OF JESUS

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The Reigns of Kings Jehoahaz and Jehoash/Joash of Israel   1 comment

Above:  King Jehoahaz of Israel

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART XCII

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2 Kings 13:1-25

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Be wise therefore:  ye kings the more,

Receive ye wisdom’s lore:

Ye judges strong:  of right and wrong,

advise you now before.

The Lord in fear:  your service bear,

with dread to him rejoice:

Let rages be:  resist not ye,

him serve with joyful voice.

The son kiss ye:  lest wroth he be,

love not the way of rest:

For when his ire:  is set on fire,

who trust in him be blest.

–From Psalm 2, Archbishop Matthew Parker’s Psalter (1567)

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King Jehoahaz of Israel (Reigned 817-800 B.C.E.)

King Jehoash/Joash of Israel (Reigned 800-784 B.C.E.)

King Hazael of Aram (Reigned 842-806 B.C.E.)

King Ben-Hadad II of Aram (Reigned 806-750 B.C.E.)

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According to The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth Edition (2001), King Hazael of Aram had grand imperialistic ambitions.  He proved successful at executing most of them.  His son, King Ben-Hadad II, however, presided over the beginning of the decline of Aram.  Ben-Hadad II’s son, King Rezin (reigned 750-732 B.C.E.), presided over the end of the realm.  Aram became part of the Neo-Assyrian Empire.

That historical summary should contextualize the verses for this post.

I choose to focus on other aspects of this passage.

First, one who reads accounts of the (northern) Kings of Israel closely may notice a pattern.  We see it recur twice in the verses for today.  We have seen it already in previous evaluations of monarchs.  We will continue to see it as we read about Kings of Israel.  Consider 2 Kings 13:11, O reader:

He did what was displeasing to the LORD; he did not depart from any of the sins which Jeroboam son of Nebathad caused Israel to commit; he persisted in them.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Jeroboam I, the first (northern) King of Israel, had led his subjects in committing syncretism and worshiping at local shrines.  He did not want Israelite subjects to make their sacrifices and offerings at the Temple in Jerusalem, in the Kingdom of Judah.  These were political and religious decisions.  Jeroboam I had also made non-Levite priests.  At the time, priests did not have to descend from Aaron, but such descent was preferable.  Also at the time, worship at local shrines were acceptable for Hebrews.  Retrospective condemnations of Jeroboam I and his successors reflected later Deuteronomic theological concerns, such as the Temple in Jerusalem and the Aaronic priesthood.

The second theme on which I focus is the balance of divine judgment and mercy in the Hebrew Bible.  That balance is prominent in the passage for this post.  God judges, punishes, and afflicts.  God also forgives and delivers, often after having judged, punished, and afflicted.  This is classical monotheism.  There is no possibility of the polytheistic dodge of having one deity afflict and anther god deliver from affliction.

As much as I seek to maintain the balance between having an inadequate God concept and portraying God as a bully and a monster, I also derive comfort from monotheistic complexity.  The gods of polytheistic systems are inadequate and frequently incompetent.  They are also powered-down.  And they are imaginary, of course.

I recognize shifting theology within the canon of scripture.  My intellectual honesty requires me to do so.  However, I also affirm that God is constant.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 3, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF RICHARD HOOKER, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF DANIEL PAYNE, AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL BISHOP

THE FEAST OF JOHN WORTHINGTON, BRITISH MORAVIAN MINISTER AND COMPOSER; JOHN ANTES, U.S. MORAVIAN INSTRUMENT MAKER, COMPOSER, AND MISSIONARY; BENJAMIN HENRY LATROBE, SR., BRITISH MORAVIAN BISHOP AND HYMN WRITER; CHRISTIAN IGNATIUS LATROBE AND COMPOSER; JOHANN CHRISTOPHER PYRLAEUS, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND MUSICIAN; AND AUGUSTUS GOTTLIEB SPANGENBERG, MORAVIAN BISHOP AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF PIERRE-FRANÇOIS NÉRON, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR IN VIETNAM, 1860

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