Archive for the ‘Ritual Impurity’ Tag

The Third Oracle of Haggai   Leave a comment

Above:  Haggai, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

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READING HAGGAI-FIRST ZECHARIAH, PART V

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Haggai 2:10-19

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Jerusalem, December 18, 520 B.C.E.–a seemingly unremarkable date.

In the third oracle (2:10-19), Haggai offered an explanation for why the situation in Jerusalem had not improved, despite the resumption of construction of the Second Temple.  Holiness was not transferrable, but ritual impurity was (Numbers 5:2; 6:6; 9:10; 19:11, 13).  Tainted and unacceptable offerings to God made the work of the people unclean, impure (verse 14).  The problem was with the altar upon which people laid the offerings.  Priests were using the altar, despite not having properly purified it ritually (Ezra 3:107; 1 Esdras 5:47-73).

Nevertheless, December 18, 520, B.C.E., marked a turning point in the people’s relationship with God:

Consider, from this day onwards,…:  will the seed still be diminished in the barn?  Will the vine and the fig, the pomegranate and the olive still bear no fruit?  Not so; from this day I shall bless you.

–Haggai 2:18-19, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Yet read Zechariah 1:18-21/2:1-4, set two months later.

I am an Episcopalian and a ritualist.  Therefore, I grasp the importance of dotting all the i’s and crossing all the t’s.

However, I am also a Gentile to whom ritual purity and impurity are foreign concepts.  These are concepts about which I have read, especially in regard to whether Jesus accepted them and how to interpret them in healing stories involving Jesus.  These are also concepts I have rethought, especially in regard to Jesus, after reading Matthew Thiessen, Jesus and the Forces of Death (2020).  Studying Haggai 2:10-19, I must dig into the text and read regarding the Biblical background of the ritual purification of altars.  Jewish sources teach me much.

This is a rule binding on your descendants for all time, to make a distinction between sacred and profane, between clean and profane, and to teach the Israelites all the decrees which the LORD has spoken to them through Moses.

–Leviticus 10:9b-11, The Revised English Bible (1989)

When we move from one context to another, a timeless principle remains:

What is at stake is attitude.

–W. Eugene March, in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume VII (1996), 728

Approaching God reverently and respectfully is essential.  Rules dictate how to do so.  So be it.  This is a serious matter in the Hebrew Bible.  This explains why Leviticus 12-15 describe how to dispose of ritual impurity of various types.  This is why Leviticus 16 pertains to the annual purging of the sacred precincts of impurity.  This is why Leviticus 1-7 go into great detail about types of offerings to God.  This is why Exodus 35-38 detail the construction of the Tabernacle.  This is why Exodus 39 focuses on the making of the priests’ vestments.  I respect all this, even though I enjoy eating pork.

I also notice that God changed the relationships, for the people’s benefits.  People were still supposed to use a purified altar, of course.

Grace is free, not cheap.

For the sake of completeness and intellectual honesty, however, I note that the first vision of Zechariah (Zechariah 1:8-17) contradicts the pressing of the giant reset button in Haggai 2:10-19.  I will get to Zechariah 1:8-17 in due time.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 12, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JASON OF TARSUS AND SOSIPATER OF ICONIUM, COWORKERS OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE AND EVANGELISTS OF CORFU

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Divine Judgment and Impending Disaster   Leave a comment

Above:  Ezekiel

Image in the Public Domain

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READING EZEKIEL, PART V

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Ezekiel 6:1-7:27

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Ezekiel 6 foretells the divine destruction of Judah and sites of idolatry in Judah.  Corpse impurity will render these sites ritually unclean, we read in 6:5.  Despite the divine destruction of Judah, God will preserve a remnant, we read in 6:8-10, possibly added subsequent to the time of Ezekiel.  God takes no delight in the destruction of Judah, we read in 6:11.  In Ezekiel 25:6, in contrast, clapping hands and stamping feet indicate rejoicing with malice.

God remains furious with Judah in Ezekiel 7.  We read that the people have been arrogant, trusting in military strength, not in God (7:24).  For more along these lines, read Isaiah 2:12; Isaiah 10:12; Isaiah 13:11; Jeremiah 48:29; Ezekiel 24:21; Ezekiel 30:18; Ezekiel 33:28).  We also read:

Lawlessness is blooming, insolence budding; the violent have risen to wield a scepter of wickedness.  But none of them shall remain; none of their crowd, none of their wealth, for none of them are innocent.

–Ezekiel 7:10b-11, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

The Hebrew prophetic books are horribly repetitive.  Consider the temporal context of the Book of Ezekiel, O reader.  Consider that the Law of Moses and a series of prophets preceded Ezekiel.  Consider that, had more people heeded previous prophets, there would have been no need for Ezekiel to prophesy.

Being oblivious to the messages God has sent and continues to send creates a situation that leads to horrible consequences.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 23, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF BREVARD S. CHILDS, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF HEINRICH GOTTLOB GUTTER, GERMAN-AMERICAN INSTRUMENT MAKER, REPAIRMAN, AND MERCHANT

THE FEAST OF JOHN JOHNS, ENGLISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICETAS OF REMESIANA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF WILHELM HEINRICH WAUER, GERMAN MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND MUSICIAN

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Prophetic Symbols   1 comment

Above:  Jeremiah and Jerusalem

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART IX

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Jeremiah 13:1-27

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Jeremiah 13:1-14 uses the images of a ruined loincloth and of smashed jars of wine to make a point of the Kingdom of Judah during its waning decades.  The people should have kept the covenant, but did not do so.  They had become useless, and would suffer a terrible fate.

None of this pleased God.

For if you will not give heed,

My inmost self must weep,

Because of your arrogance;

My eye must stream and flow

With copious tears,

Because the flock of the LORD

Is taken captive.

–Jeremiah 13:17, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The people’s identity had come to include the betrayal of the covenant.  Jerusalem, personified as an adulterous woman, had become incapable of being purified.

The conclusion of Jeremiah 13 may allude to laws regarding menstruation (Leviticus 12:4, 6-8; 15:28).  The conclusion of Jeremiah 13 also echoes Jeremiah 2:20-25 thematically.

Many of the themes in Jeremiah 13 are old news to people who read the Old Testament and prophetic writings, in particular.  They are old news to me, for I have been immersing myself in Hebrew prophetic literature for a few book already.  I choose, therefore, to ponder ritual impurity.

Ritual impurity, foreign to many people (including yours truly) was ubiquitous in the ancient Mediterranean world.  Within the Jewish context, prohibitions against ritually impure people performing certain acts and entering sacred precincts was to prevent people from approaching God wrongly.  Therefore, the intent of the system was to preserve God’s presence among the covenant people.  Ritual impurity did not indicate abnormality or a diseased state.  In fact, ritual impurity was commonplace.  Rituals to remove it existed.  And only the ritually pure were supposed to enter sacred precincts.  Entering sacred space while ritually impure would cause the offending people to die, according to Leviticus 15:31.

Ritual impurity excluded the impure from the realm of the sacred.  Jeremiah used ritual impurity as a metaphor for moral impurity, evident in idolatry, economic injustice, the exploitation of vulnerable people, and judicial corruption.  No ritual of purification took away moral impurity; repentance did that.

Some of the language in Jeremiah 13, as elsewhere in Hebrew prophetic literature, is disturbing.  It speaks superficially of sexual shaming.  The Bible does not carry a “G” rating.  Life is not G-rated either.  Anyhow, metaphors are metaphors.  I advise growing a thick skin and continuing careful study of the Bible.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 9, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT COLUMBA OF IONA, CELTIC MISSIONARY AND ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT GIOVANNI MARIA BOCCARDO, FOUNDER OF THE POOR SISTERS OF SAINT CAJETAN/GAETANO; AND HIS BROTHER, SAINT LUIGI BOCCARDO, APOSTLE OF MERCIFUL LOVE

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSÉ DE ANCHIETA, APOSTLE OF BRAZIL AND FATHER OF BRAZILIAN NATIONAL LITERATURE

THE FEAST OF THOMAS JOSEPH POTTER, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILL HERZFELD, U.S. LUTHERAN ECUMENIST, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE ASSOCIATION OF EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCHES, AND CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST

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