Archive for the ‘Sovereignty of God’ Tag

Divine Judgment Against the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire   Leave a comment

Above:  Map of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART XXXIV

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Jeremiah 50:1-51:64

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Since I started reading the Hebrew prophetic books, roughly in chronological order, I have read the material related to the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire in Isaiah 13:1-14:22; 21:1-10.

Jeremiah 50 and 51 contain two oracles (50:1-46; 51:1-58) and an account of the the transportation of the scroll of the prophecy against the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire to Babylon, followed by the enactment of the curse against that empire (51:59-64).  Chapters 50 and 51 also contain material from different periods.  The copies I read are translations of the final draft, from after the Babylonian Exile.

The contents of the two oracles contain familiar, repeated themes:

  1. Babylon will fail.
  2. The empire will end.
  3. Jews will return to God and to their homeland.
  4. God is sovereign.
  5. Idolatry, hubris, and arrogance will be the downfall of the empire.

Jeremiah 51:59 provides a year for the events of 51:59-64.  That year is 593 B.C.E., the fourth year of the reign of King Zedekiah of Judah.  The reference to King Zedekiah’s official delegation to Babylon fits historically.

Tying a stone around the scroll and sinking that scroll into the Euphrates River was a prophetic symbolic action.  Seraiah ben Neriah, brother of Baruch ben Neriah, performed that task on Jeremiah’s behalf.  That symbolic action enacted the curse that Babylon would sink and never rise again.

Babylon remained a major city, within the Persian Empire, for centuries.  In the Hellenistic Era, however, Babylon declined.  By the early Christian era, Babylon had become a village.  The site, abandoned by 1000 C.E., became a source for bricks.

Above:  Ruins of Babylon, 1932

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-13231

Thus for the words of Jeremiah.

–Jeremiah 51:64b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

So ends the Book of Jeremiah, except for Chapter 52, mostly copied and pasted from 2 Kings 24:18-25:30.

I have already covered Jeremiah 52 (as Jeremiah 52) here and (as 2 Kings 24 and 25) here and here.

Thank you, O reader, for joining me on this journey through the Book of Jeremiah.  I invite you to remain with me as I move along to the Book of Lamentations.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 15, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN ELLERTON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF CARL HEINRICH VON BOGATSKY, HUNGARIAN-GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY FRANCES BLOMFIELD GURNEY, ENGLISH POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EVELYN UNDERHILL, ANGLICAN MYSTIC AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT LANDELINUS OF VAUX, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; SAINT AUBERT OF CAMBRAI, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; SAINT URSMAR OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND MISSIONARY BISHOP, AND SAINTS DOMITIAN, HADELIN, AND DODO OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS

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Divine Judgment Against Elam   Leave a comment

Above:  Jeremiah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART XXXIII

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Jeremiah 49:34-39

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Elam (capital = Susa) was east of the Tigris River.  The name of the country derived from one of the children of Shem (Genesis 10:22). Ezra 4:9 mentioned the “men of Susa.”  The Assyrian Empire sacked Susa in 646 B.C.E., and Elamite archers participated in Assyrian attacks on Judah (Isaiah 21:2; 22:6).  King Nebuchadnezzar II of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire expelled Elamite invaders into the Tigris region circa 596 B.C.E.

This oracle provides a date, of a sort.  The oracle originates from very early in the reign (597-586 B.C.E.) of King Zedekiah of Judah.

This oracle, like some others in this set of oracles, concludes on a hopeful note.

Elam passed into the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire then into the Persian Empire, but long remained a rebellious province.  Finally, in 521 B.C.E., King Darius I of the Persian Empire (r. 522-486 B.C.E.) established his winter palace in Susa.

Some of the people in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost were Elamites (Acts 2:9).

The oracle does not list any sin Elamites may have committed.

After the massive devastation, Yahweh will restore the fortune of Elam.  God’s ultimate resolve is the well-being even of Elam.  That well-being can only happen, however, when Yahweh’s throne is firm in the land and all other claimants to the throne have been eliminated.

–Walter Brueggemann, A Commentary on Jeremiah:  Exile and Homecoming (1998), 461

After all, God is sovereign.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 15, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN ELLERTON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF CARL HEINRICH VON BOGATSKY, HUNGARIAN-GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY FRANCES BLOMFIELD GURNEY, ENGLISH POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EVELYN UNDERHILL, ANGLICAN MYSTIC AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT LANDELINUS OF VAUX, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; SAINT AUBERT OF CAMBRAI, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; SAINT URSMAR OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND MISSIONARY BISHOP, AND SAINTS DOMITIAN, HADELIN, AND DODO OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS

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Divine Judgment Against Arabia: Kedar and Hazor   Leave a comment

Above:  Jeremiah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART XXXII

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Jeremiah 49:28-33

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For thus my LORD has said to me:  “In another year, fixed like the years of a hired laborer, all the multitude of of Kedar shall vanish; the remaining bows of Kedar’s warriors shall be few in number; for the LORD, the God of Israel, has spoken.

–Isaiah 21:16-17, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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Kedar was a northern Arabian tribe known for their military prowess.  Yet the Assyrian King Sennacherib (r. 705-681 B.C.E.) conquered that tribe in 689 B.C.E.  Hazor (location in Arabia uncertain) was near or in the area the tribe of Kedar roamed, apparently.

The oracle refers to Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian campaigns against northern Arabian tribes in 599 B.C.E.

The sin in this oracle, as in other oracles in this set, may have been complacency.  We read in verse 31 that the people dwelt secure, without barred gates.  We read that God commanded the Chaldeans/Neo-Babylonians to attack, and the people of Kedar and Hazor to flee.

And I will scatter to every quarter 

Those who have their hair clipped….

–Jeremiah 49:32b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Similar language also occurs in Jeremiah 9:26, in the context of uncircumcised nations.  In TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985), these desert dwellers

have the hair of their temples clipped.

And, in Jeremiah 25:23, we read about:

Dedan, Tema, and Buz, and all those who have their hair clipped….

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

These are some of those who will become

a desolate ruin, an object of hissing and a curse.

–Jeremiah  25:17, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Cutting the hair in this manner was a religious rite for Arabian desert dwellers; the great historian Herodotus wrote about it.  Many foreigners emulated this practice, forbidden in Leviticus 19:27:

You shall not round off the side growth of your head, or destroy the side growth of your beard.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Cutting one’s hair or the hair of a corpse in that manner was apparently, for some, at least, an expression of extreme mourning and grief (Deuteronomy 14:1-2).  It was also one of a set of

idolatrous and superstitious practices

and

probably in origin an attempt to make oneself unrecognizable in face of the dangers emanating from the “soul” of a dead person.

–Martin Noth, Leviticus:  A Commentary (1965), 143

As I emerge from the rabbit hole down which I have gone, I recall one of my favorite quotes:

Superstition is cowardice in face of the divine.

–Theophrastus (c. 371-287 B.C.E.)

Homo sapiens sapiens may be inherently inclined toward superstition, a collection of vain attempts to assert human control where none exists.  From a Judeo-Christian perspective, YHWH is in control, and even the most powerful people are bit players in divine plans.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 15, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN ELLERTON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF CARL HEINRICH VON BOGATSKY, HUNGARIAN-GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY FRANCES BLOMFIELD GURNEY, ENGLISH POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EVELYN UNDERHILL, ANGLICAN MYSTIC AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT LANDELINUS OF VAUX, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; SAINT AUBERT OF CAMBRAI, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; SAINT URSMAR OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND MISSIONARY BISHOP, AND SAINTS DOMITIAN, HADELIN, AND DODO OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS

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Divine Judgment Against Moab   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of Jeremiah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART XXVIII

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Jeremiah 48:1-47

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Moab, east of the Dead Sea, was one of the traditional and bitter enemies of the Hebrews (Judges 3:12-30; Numbers 22; Deuteronomy 2:8-9; 2 Kings 3:4, et cetera).  The Moabites, allies of the Assyrian Empire, fell to the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire in the middle of the sixth century B.C.E.

Since I started this project of reading the Hebrew prophetic books, roughly in chronological order, I have read oracles against Moab in Amos 2:1-3 and Isaiah 15:1-16:13.

The oracle against Moab in Ezekiel 25:8-11 awaits me, in due time.

The oracle in Jeremiah 48 contains certain references that require explanation:

  1. Place names in Moab abound.
  2. Verse 7 mentions Chemosh, the head of the Moabite pantheon (Numbers 21:29).
  3. Verses 11 and 12 mention Moabite wine, renowned for its quality.  Here the wine functions as a metaphor for complacency.
  4. Verse 18 refers to the capital, Dibon, built on a height.  This verse personifies Dibon as a confident ruler.

Moab, once powerful and confident, became debased.  It became a laughingstock (verse 26) and a horror to its neighbors (verse 39).  It, poetically, swam in vomit (verse 26).  Yet, at the end of the oracle.  God announced the restoration of the fortunes of Moab “in the days to come” (verse 47).  The promised restoration may have had nothing to do with Moabite kinship to the Israelites (Genesis 19:37-38); Jeremiah 46:25-26 predicted a restoration of Egyptian fortunes, too.

Archaeology tells us that Moab, mostly depopulated in the 500s B.C.E., was a place where nomads wandered for centuries.  Archaeology also tells us that sedentary life became feasible in Moab in the last few centuries B.C.E.

The themes of trusting in power and false gods, not in YHWH, are tropes in Hebrew prophetic literature.  These are themes that apply to people and peoples in 2021, too.  The identities of the false gods vary widely–from imagined deities to the Almighty Dollar.  Idolatry is no match for the sovereignty of God, though.

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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Divine Judgment Against Egypt   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of Jeremiah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART XXVI

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Jeremiah 46:2-28

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Jeremiah 46:2 refers to the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian defeat of Egypt at Carchemish in 605 B.C.E. in the past tense.

Jeremiah 46:13 refers to the Chaldean/Neo Babylonian invasion in 601 B.C.E. in the past tense.  Historical records tell us that King Nebuchadnezzar II did not vanquish Egypt (contra 43:8-11), but withdrew to Syria instead.  Historical records also tell us that Egypt fell to the Persian Empire in 525 B.C.E.

Depending on the commentary one accepts, we read either two or three brief oracles against Egypt (46:2-26), followed by an oracle for Judah (46:27-28).  The Egyptian oracles exist in the contexts of Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian invasions, depicted as divine punishment of Egypt.  Jeremiah 46:27-28, nearly identical to 30:10-11, comforts Judah.  A remnant of Judah will remain, we read.

For more about divine judgment on Egypt, read Isaiah 18:1-20:6; Ezekiel 19:1-16; Ezekiel 30:1-32:32.

Walter Brueggemann writes that, in Jeremiah 46, YHWH, not the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire, was “the enemy of Egypt.”  He continues:

Yahweh stalks the map of the Near East as only Yahweh is authorized to do.  The nations will sooner or later have to come to terms with Yahweh’s powerful will.  International politics does not consist simply in power and cunning and strategy and ruthlessness.  There is a purpose that overrides all such human posturing.  Whoever stands over against that transcendent purpose, as Egypt here does, is sure to fail.

A Commentary on Jeremiah:  Exile and Homecoming (1998), 429

Empires come and go; they rise and fall.  Kings and Pharaohs come and go, too.  International alliances shift.  God, however, is forever and sovereign.

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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Jeremiah Versus False Prophets   Leave a comment

Above:  King Zedekiah of Judah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART XVIII

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Jeremiah 27:1-29:32

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The Masoretic Text of Jeremiah 27:1 indicates that Jehoiakim was the King of Judah.  Yet this is a scribal error, for the rest of the text names Zedekiah as the King of Judah.  Many English translations correct the Masoretic Text and list Zedekiah as the monarch.

Zedekiah, born Mattaniah, reigned from 597 to 586 B.C.E.  As the King of Judah, he was always a vassal of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.

God was sovereign, Jeremiah pronounced.  All world leaders, even King Nebuchadnezzar II of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire (r. 605-562 B.C.E.) were vassals of God.  The prophet told King Zedekiah to disregard the advice of the false prophets to rebel against the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  The only way to live was as a Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian vassal, Jeremiah told King Zedekiah.  The King of Judah disregarded the prophet’s advice and rebelled anyway.  King Zedekiah, blinded, died a prisoner in Babylon (2 Kings 24:18-25:26; 2 Chronicles 36:11-21; 1 Esdras 1:47-58).

Hananiah ben Azzur was a false prophet.  He was the prophetic equivalent of happy pills.  Hananiah, who had

urged disloyalty to the LORD,

died the same year he issued the false prophecy.

The first round of the Babylonian Exile started in 597 B.C.E., with the deposition of King Jehoiachin/Jeconiah/Coniah.  Before the Fall of Jerusalem (586 B.C.E.), Jeremiah wrote to these exiles.  They were home, Jeremiah wrote to these exiles.  Jeremiah counseled them to settle permanently.  In Deuteronomy 20:5-7, building houses, planting vineyards, marrying, and procreating indicated permanent settlement.  The collapse of such signs of permanent settlement, as was about to happen in Judah, indicated divine judgment (Deuteronomy 28:30-32; Amos 5:11; Zephaniah 1:13).  The restoration of these signs of permanent settlement played a role in prophecies of consolation (Isaiah 65:21-23; Jeremiah 29:5-6; Ezekiel 28:25-26).

Jeremiah 29:10 returns to the motif of seventy years, present in Jeremiah 25:11-14.

We read denunciations of other false prophets–Ahab ben Kolaiah and Zedekiah ben Maaseiah (29:20-23), as well as Shemaiah the Nehelamite (29:24-32).  We read of their unfortunate fates.  We also read again that false prophesy is urging disloyalty to God.

One of the practical difficulties in applying timeless principles is that one must apply them in circumstances.  Circumstances can vary widely, according to who, when, and where one is.  Therefore, a degree of relativism exists in the application of timeless principles.

Consider one timeless principle, O reader.  One should never urge disloyalty to God.  My circumstances are quite different from those of Jeremiah, during the reign of King Zedekiah.  Yet the timeless principle applies to my set of circumstances.  When and where I am, how I may confront those urging disloyalty to God looks very different than Jeremiah in Chapters 27-29.

Whenever and wherever you are, O reader, may you never urge disloyalty to God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 12, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF EDWIN PAXTON HOOD, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, PHILANTHROPIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN DAVID JAESCHKE, GERMAN MORAVIAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER; AND HIS GRANDSON, HENRI MARC HERMANN VOLDEMAR VOULLAIRE, MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND MINISTER

THE FEAST OF ENMEGAHBOWH, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND MISSIONARY TO THE OJIBWA NATION

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH DACRE CARLYLE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MILTON SMITH LITTLEFIELD, JR., U.S. PRESBYTERIAN AND CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

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Good and Bad Figs, and the Cup of God’s Wrath   1 comment

Above:  Figs

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART XV

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Jeremiah 24:2-25:38

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Chronology is not the organizing principle in the Book of Jeremiah.  Chapter 21, for example, is set circa 586 B.C.E., at the end of the reign (597-586 B.C.E.) of King Zedekiah.  Chapter 24 opens earlier, circa 597 B.C.E., also during the reign of Zedekiah, after the brief reign (597 B.C.E.) of King Jehoiachin/Jeconiah/Coniah.  Furthermore, Chapter 25 opens in the fourth year (605 B.C.E.) of the reign (608-598 B.C.E.) of King Jehoiakim.

The good figs in Chapter 24 represent the faithful remnant of Judah–exiles of 597 B.C.E.–that would eventually return to the ancestral homeland after the Babylonian Exile.  They would also return to God.  The bad, inedible figs, however, represent those, who, between 597 and 586 B.C.E., remained in Judah or fled to Egypt, and were destined for annihilation.  In Jeremiah 24 and Ezekiel 11:6, the exiles of 597 B.C.E. were the only recipients of the divine promise of future restoration.  They alone were covenant people of God.

By 605 B.C.E., Jeremiah had been prophesying for twenty-three years. He had been faithful to God, the people had not.  They would face destruction, therefore, Jeremiah decreed yet again.

And those nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.  When the seventy years are over, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation and the land of the Chaldeans for their sins–declares the LORD–and I will make it a desolation for all time.

–Jeremiah 25:11-12, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Let us consider some historical dates and perform some arithmetic, O reader.

  1. Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian domination started in 605 B.C.E.
  2. The first Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian deportation of Judean exiles occurred in 597 B.C.E.
  3. The Fall of Jerusalem and the more famous deportation occurred in 586 B.C.E.
  4. The Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire fell in 539 B.C.E.
  5. Cyrus II of the Persians and the Medes permitted Jews to return to their ancestral homeland, starting in 538 B.C.E.
  6. 605 – 539 = 67.
  7. 597 – 538 = 59.
  8. 586 – 538 = 48.

Seventy is a round and symbolic number.  It means, in Mesopotamian terms, a long duration.  In Zechariah 1:12 and 7:5, seventy is the number of years between the destruction of the First Temple (586 B.C.E.) and the dedication of the Second Temple (516 B.C.E.).  This reinterpretation in Zechariah addresses the despair of the returned exiles in Haggai 1 and 2.

The reinterpretation of Biblical prophecies within the Bible itself is a recurring theme.  Other examples include all those exuberant visions of what the the Holy Land would be like after the Babylonian Exile.  The Biblical record indicates, however, that those visions did not come true, and disappointment was commonplace among returned exiles.  Therefore, we read interpretations of those prophecies to apply them to a then-future time (and perhaps a still-future time).  This practice of reinterpreting prophecies that, objectively and literally, did not come to pass, is consistent with the practice of adding to Hebrew prophetic books as late as after the Babylonian Exile.  Hope is one of the basic human needs.

But first, there was more divine judgment to ponder.  All twenty-six nations of the world known to Jeremiah were to drink the poisoned wine of the wrath of God then to suffer the sword of divine punishment.

The text minces no words:

In that day, the earth shall be strewn with the slain of the LORD from one end to the other.  They shall not be mourned, or gathered and buried; they shall become dung upon the face of the earth.

–Jeremiah 25:33, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

In Jeremiah 25:30, God’s residence is in heaven, not the Temple in Jerusalem (Joel 4:16; Amos 1:2).  This detail may be significant, given expressions of divine displeasure with Judah in the Book of Jeremiah.

Jeremiah 25 concludes on a terrifying and vivid poetic account of divine wrath and sovereignty (verses 34-38).  God is in control of the world.  The King of Babylon is God’s vassal, although he does not know it.  (See Jeremiah 27:6, also.)

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 12, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF EDWIN PAXTON HOOD, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, PHILANTHROPIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN DAVID JAESCHKE, GERMAN MORAVIAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER; AND HIS GRANDSON, HENRI MARC HERMANN VOLDEMAR VOULLAIRE, MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND MINISTER

THE FEAST OF ENMEGAHBOWH, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND MISSIONARY TO THE OJIBWA NATION

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH DACRE CARLYLE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MILTON SMITH LITTLEFIELD, JR., U.S. PRESBYTERIAN AND CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

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Judgment and the Refusal to Repent   Leave a comment

Above:  Jeremiah, from the Sistine Chapel, by Michelangelo Buonaroti

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART IV

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Jeremiah 4:5-6:30

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Who were the invaders from the north in Jeremiah 4?  Given the layers of composition in the final draft of the Book of Jeremiah, answering his question is no simple task.  Answers include the Scythians, the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire, and an assortment of enemies.  Jeremiah 25:26 refers to

all the kings of the north, whether far from or close to each other.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The identity of the northern invader threatening the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah (or just Judah, if Israel had already fallen to the Assyrian Empire) may not matter.  This invader may also have threatened Egypt, Babylonia, and Philistia (Jeremiah 46:6, 10, 24; 47:2; 50:3, 9, 41).  The text of Jeremiah 4 tells us that this invading force was an instrument of God, punishing peoples for their persistent sins, their complacency, their false sense of security, and their refusal to repent.  We read, in particular, condemnations of Hebrews:

For My people are stupid,

They give Me no heed;

They are foolish children,

They are not intelligent.

They are clever at doing wrong,

But unable to do right.

–Jeremiah 4:22, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The calls to repent (as in Jeremiah 4) have gone unheeded.  Therefore, the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah will fall, we read.  The people have condemned themselves, we read.

God assumes responsibility for sending foreign invaders into Israel and Judah.  For example:

Hear, O earth!

I am going to bring disaster upon this people,

The outcome of their own schemes;

For they would not hearken to My words,

And they rejected My instruction.

–Jeremiah 6:19, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Jeremiah 6 concludes with an announcement of divine rejection of Israel and Judah.  This divine rejection is the consequence of the people rejecting God.  Yet a remnant will remain:

But even in those days–declare the LORD–I will not make an end of you.

–Jeremiah 5:18, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Divine judgment and mercy remain in balance.

I, as a student of history, know that layers of composition reside in Jeremiah 4-6.  The final editorial layer dates to after the Babylonian Exile.  I am not certain, therefore, how much is from Jeremiah and how much is subsequent material.  Yet we have the final draft we have, and we can attempt to interpret it as best we can.

The God of Jeremiah may frighten many people.  This deity is the sovereign, unitary God of the universe.  This is God, who has repeatedly provided instructions and refresher courses in them.  This is God, who has been patient.  This is God, who continues to invite peoples to repent while announcing judgment against them.  This is God, who ultimately permits proverbial chickens to roost.  This is God, who, even then, preserves a remnant of the disobedient covenant people.  This is God, still playing a long game on a schedule we mere mortals can never fully grasp.

I conclude this post with one element of these three chapters:  do not fall into the trap of complacency.  Spiritual complacency is an individual and a collective peril.  No person or population is exempt from this warning.  We who are devout can fall into complacency easily.  So can those who are not devout and make no pretense of being pious.  We all stand before God, in whom judgment and mercy exist in a balance not one of us can understand fully.

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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Unpacking Habakkuk 2:4–Sayings About Tyrants   Leave a comment

Above:  Habakkuk

Image in the Public Domain

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READING HABAKKUK, PART IV

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Habakkuk 2:5-20

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Denunciations of tyrants and tyranny remain germane, unfortunately.

Habakkuk 2:5-20 unpacks 2:4, the text on which I fixated in the previous post in this series.  Certain aspects of 2:5-20 do not translate well into English; others do.

First, the commandment to trust in God, not in wealth, pervades the Old and New Testaments.  We read it in Habakkuk 2:5f.  The issue is attachment to wealth, not wealth itself.  This point is also prominent in Luke 12:15; Mark 10:17-27; and 1 Timothy 6:10.  In Habakkuk 2:7, the same Hebrew word means both “debtors” and “creditors.”  Debtor nations can become creditor nations, and the other way around.

Second, the theology of divine retribution, prominent in the Bible (notably in Nahum, which I recently finished reading) informs Habakkuk 2:8f.  What comes around, goes around.  Through divine retribution, something beautiful happens:

But the earth shall be filled

with the knowledge of the LORD’s glory,

just as the water covers the sea.

–Habakkuk 2:14, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

This divine glory contrasts with the corrupt, sinful human glory of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire and other earthly powers (2:16).  God is sovereign.  Idolatry, in all its forms, is foolish.

In the original context, Habakkuk 2:5-20 applied to the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  Reinterpretation of these verses probably commenced immediately after the fall of that empire to the Persians and the Medes in 539 B.C.E.

Tyrants succeed because other people empower them.  Tyrants fail because of insufficient support.  The fully-realized Kingdom of God is antithetical to tyranny.  Yet the history of the Christian Church is replete with official ecclesiastical support for tyrants and would-be tyrants.  One may recognize support for fascist dictators, military juntas, and those who who seek to subvert representative government from the ancient past to the present day.  And the condemnations Habakkuk 2:5-20 leveled against the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire apply to certain governments, public officials, and private citizens in 2021.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 6, 2021 COMMON ERA

PROPER 5:  THE SECOND SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF FRANKLIN CLARK FRY, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA AND THE LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLAUDE OF BESANÇON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, MONK, ABBOT, AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF HENRY JAMES BUCKOLL, AUTHOR AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF JOHANN FRIEDRICH HERTZOG, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM KETHE, PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

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Posted June 6, 2021 by neatnik2009 in 1 Timothy 6, Habakkuk 2, Luke 12, Mark 10

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