Period of Exile. 2

History. 2

Biblical material – Deuteronomic History. 3

Priestly Material 18

Psalms. 21

Prophets. 30

Jeremiah. 30

Ezekiel 34

II Isaiah. 54

Exilic additions. 71

Summary of prophecy in the Babylonian and early Persian period. 89

Post-exilic Persian Period, 540-333. 90

History. 90

Aramaic. 94

Biblical material – Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah. 95

Esther 101

Daniel 103

Psalms. 107

Prophets. 117

Post-exilic additions. 118

III Isaiah. 128

Haggai and Zechariah 1-8. 137

Obadiah. 137

Joel 138

Malachi 139

Jonah. 140

Zechariah 9-14. 140

Epistle of Jeremiah. 142

Wisdom.. 142

Theology. 144

THE GREEK OR HELLENISTIC PERIOD WENT FROM 333 TO 167 BC and Hasmonaean Period (167 BC-63 BC) 145

History. 145

Biblical material 148

Wisdom.. 160

Ecclesiastes. 160

Wisdom of Ben Sira, Sirach, Ecclesiasticus. 164

Apocalyptic. 167

Old Testament apocalyptic. 170

New Testament apocalyptic. 170

Pseudopigraphic Writings. 170

Theology. 170

Roman Period, 63 BC to 300’s AD.. 171

History. 171

Biblical material 171

Apocalyptic. 171

Martyrdom of Isaiah (0-100 AD) 171

II Enoch (0-100 AD) 172

Testament of Abraham (0-100 AD) 175

Life of Adam and Eve (65-70 AD) 176

Apocalypse of Abraham 9-32 (70-100 AD) 177

II Esdras (90 AD) 179

Wisdom.. 181

Wisdom of Solomon. 181

 

Period of Exile

History

 

            Babylon continues as the dominant world power until it is defeated by Persia. In 587, the Babylonians destroyed the Temple, removed the king and priesthood and other leaders from Judah, and brought them to Babylon.  Nebuchadnezzar (605/4-562), Amel-marduk (562-560), Nerigtissar (560-556), and Nabonidus (556-539) led the Babylonian empire, with Belshazzar as coregent from 549-539). Nabonidus made the priests of Marduk angry. He eventually moved the royal residence from Babylon to Teiman, southeastof Edom, leaving his son as crown prince in Babylon. He eventually returned to Babylon. This movement by Nabonidus may be the source of the story in Daniel 4, where the text says Nebuchadnezzar developed insanity for a period, and then became king again. He had so angered leaders that the people welcomed Cyrus as liberator of Babylon. During the same period, Media had Cynaxares (632-585) and Astyages (585-550) as their leaders. Cyrus (550-530) became leader of Persia and defeated Media in 550. He captured Babylon in 539.

            The Exiles settled on the Kebar Canal, probably in the vicinity of Nippur. They fared well in their new home.

            During the period of Exile, Ezekiel seems to have assumed a leading role. His house was the center of a gathering where they kept the fires of religion burning. He addressed the exiles as the House of Israel.

            Other Exiles settled in Egypt, in the northeast part of the Nile delta. Jeremiah prophesied doom for them, and that is probably what occurred to them.

            Cyrus established himself as king of Anshan in the capital city of Parsagarda about 559 BC, and thus defeated Media. He did not attack Babylon directly. First he went to Asia Minor. Then he turned to the north and overran the mountainous region between the Caspian Sea and the northest corner of India. By 540/539 he was on the frontier of Babylon. Five years earlier, the Babylonian governor of Elam had defected to Cyrus. After several battles, the army of king entered the Babylonian capital on October 13, 539 BC. Nabonidus was taken prisoner but was treated with respect by Cyrus.

            II Isaiah was a zealous supporter of Cyrus. For him, the conquests of Cyrus were due to Yahweh, though he did not know him. His successors were all part of the plan of Yahweh.

Biblical material – Deuteronomic History

The biblical account provides no direct information about Judah during the exilic age. Jeremiah 41-44 implies that no population was left in Judah after Gedaliah’s death. The accounts of restoration in Ezra are problematic, but hints appear of local inhabitants in addition to returned exiles (cf. also Hag. 2:4). Some continuity of population in Judah must be assumed.

Conditions in Babylon are also poorly attested. Jer. 29:5-6 envisages settlement and some independence of life. Ezek. 8:1 and 20:1 refer to elders of the community meeting with the prophet. Ezek. 1:1; Ezra 1:4; and 8:15-17 suggest various settlements at which Jews were to be found; both Ezek. 11:16 and Ezra 8:17 may imply the existence of temples. That Jews continued to live in Babylonia is clear from renewed movements to Judah with Ezra and Nehemiah, the presence of some Jewish names in Babylonian documents of the fifth century b.c. (e.g., those of the firm of Murashu), and the later importance of Babylonian Jewry. Impetus to renewed faithfulness of Jewish customs evidently came from there on more than one occasion.

Exile as a theological theme becomes clear in later writings. Thus, the sins for which the Exile is punishment are variously assessed and theologically justified; and various preconditions are given for the termination of the Exile, like divine grace, human repentance, or a combination of the two (cf. Jer. 24; 31; Ezek. 18; Lam. 5). In Jer. 25:11-12 and 29:10 (cf. Zech. 1:12) a seventy-year figure is used for the Exile; Ezek. 4:5-6 has a forty-year scheme, as well as 390 (or 150 or 190) for the Northern Kingdom. Dan. 9:2, 24-27 reinterprets the seventy-year period as 490 years, seeing the end of Exile as sequel to the desecration of the Temple in 167 b.c. The theme reappears in various intertestamental writings. Psalm 137 offers an interpretation of the experience in terms of desolation and hope. It would also appear that the Exile was a time when national traditions were consolidated and cadres of interpreters of Scriptures were trained (see Neh. 8).[1]

            The fires of religion were at first fanned by Ezekiel and later by II Isaiah. The latter prophet combined universalism and nationalism. The exiles acquired a new slant on religion away from the sacrificial system. They also had a fresh zeal for Zion. They familiarized themselves with the ancient stories of their people, studied the laws and prophecies of their ancestors, and increased their faith in the God of their ancestors. In many ways, the most striking conception of religion among the Jewish people occurred during the Exile.

            The biblical work completed during this period was substantial, including the Deuteronomic history, involving Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings, Proverbs 31:10-31 and 22:17-24-34 the Pentateuch and the Deuteronomic history were likely combined at this time, and possibly the Book of Job.  This literary activity was undoubtedly motivate by those living in exile desiring to keep alive the traditions which held them together, as well as to understand what happened to their people.  It represents the work of a community of faith fully under the oppressive rule of a foreign power.  It was another form of passive resistance to them, so that they could maintain their identity, even if now in the lower class.

            The historical books are, in the end, the work of the author of Deuteronomy, edited in the post-exilic period.  Deuteronomy may have had the first edition during the reign of Hezekiah in 716-687 BC and the second edition during the reign of Josiah in 640-609 BC.  The scribes from the family of Shaphan in Mizpah may have done it after the dedication of Jerusalem related in II Kings 25:22-26, 40-41.  It is a teaching document, a reviving of the law for the new situation of the exile.  It holds out new hope for settling of the land even after the exile.  The Deuteronomy Code is given in 12-26.

            The Deuteronomic history becomes a confession of guilt. How had the disasters of 721 and 587 taken place? The fault did not belong to Yahweh. Israel forfeited salvation through guilt. Yahweh’s judgment in history was justified. The work becomes a great doxology of judgment. He set himself the task of giving a detailed theological explanation of how the saving history ended in the catastrophes of 722 and 587. He thought that he was in a position so to do because he understood the history of the people of God in the light of the creative word of Yahweh. The threats and curses in Deuteronomy had been fulfilled in the catastrophes of the two kingdoms. However, he also saw the promise of salvation in the prophecy of Nathan. The fulfillment of this promise was still open. The decision for evil occurred in the heart of the king. The people stand and fall with the king. He regards the king as the responsible person to whom Yahweh entrusted the Law of Moses. He had the duty of making sure the kingdom recognized this authority. Josiah recognized this responsibility, while Mannasseh would be responsible for the ultimate downfall of Judah. He judged the king by a high standard. The Torah and the covenant with David were specific historical powers. Israel needed to have a correct relationship with Moses and with David. The kings did not measure up to this standard. The role of the prophetic word was that of promise and its fulfillment. He had to explain why the Northern Kingdom, which by its nature could not meet the standard because it abandoned worship in Jerusalem still existed for 200 years. The reason was grace. Yahweh had special plans for Judah, and thus it continued in spite of its departure from the standard.

            The Deuteronomist developed the idea that the conquest was through war. He made the boundaries of the Promised Land extend far beyond the area indicated by the lists. He makes it reach from the belt of the steppe land in the south and east as far as Lebanon and the Euphrates. He speaks of the goodness and fruitfulness of this land as if it were a paradise. In this act of possessing the land Yahweh had finally given Israel rest. This term rest occurs several times, we are clearly meant to understand ultimate gift that Yahweh bestowed upon Israel in granting the land. By this gift, Yahweh redeemed his promise in full. In this respect, Joshua 21:43-45 occupies a key position theologically for the rounding off of the Deuteronomic history generally. The Deuteronomic history uses old documents something that the traditional material does not supply. The schematization and generalizations of the work suggest that Yahweh deals with the whole people of God. The other desire is to show the serious threat under which Israel stood due to its own disobedience and openness to the temptations of the nature religions, a thing that Yahweh can only counter by dire punishment. He also wishes to show the infinite patience of Yahweh, which is seen in the continual raising up of new saviors. From his perspective, Yahweh confronted every generation in judgment and in salvation. He drew a sharp distinction between the kingdom and judge. The Deuteronomist clearly regards the office of the judge as the form of government most appropriate to Israel. It was a tragedy that she asserted her own autonomy over against Yahweh by means of kings.

            The period of judges ended in disaster as well. However, the Deuteronomist does judge the judges with the same standard as the kings.

 

Joshua 4:21-24 (NRSV)

21 saying to the Israelites, “When your children ask their parents in time to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 22 then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel crossed over the Jordan here on dry ground.’ 23 For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you crossed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we crossed over, 24 so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, and so that you may fear the Lord your God forever.”

Joshua 21:43-45 (NRSV)

43 Thus the Lord gave to Israel all the land that he swore to their ancestors that he would give them; and having taken possession of it, they settled there. 44 And the Lord gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their ancestors; not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the Lord had given all their enemies into their hands. 45 Not one of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.

Joshua 23:1-16 (NRSV)

Joshua Exhorts the People

23 A long time afterward, when the Lord had given rest to Israel from all their enemies all around, and Joshua was old and well advanced in years, 2 Joshua summoned all Israel, their elders and heads, their judges and officers, and said to them, “I am now old and well advanced in years; 3 and you have seen all that the Lord your God has done to all these nations for your sake, for it is the Lord your God who has fought for you. 4 I have allotted to you as an inheritance for your tribes those nations that remain, along with all the nations that I have already cut off, from the Jordan to the Great Sea in the west. 5 The Lord your God will push them back before you, and drive them out of your sight; and you shall possess their land, as the Lord your God promised you. 6 Therefore be very steadfast to observe and do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, turning aside from it neither to the right nor to the left, 7 so that you may not be mixed with these nations left here among you, or make mention of the names of their gods, or swear by them, or serve them, or bow yourselves down to them, 8 but hold fast to the Lord your God, as you have done to this day. 9 For the Lord has driven out before you great and strong nations; and as for you, no one has been able to withstand you to this day. 10 One of you puts to flight a thousand, since it is the Lord your God who fights for you, as he promised you. 11 Be very careful, therefore, to love the Lord your God. 12 For if you turn back, and join the survivors of these nations left here among you, and intermarry with them, so that you marry their women and they yours, 13 know assuredly that the Lord your God will not continue to drive out these nations before you; but they shall be a snare and a trap for you, a scourge on your sides, and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this good land that the Lord your God has given you.

14 “And now I am about to go the way of all the earth, and you know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that not one thing has failed of all the good things that the Lord your God promised concerning you; all have come to pass for you, not one of them has failed. 15 But just as all the good things that the Lord your God promised concerning you have been fulfilled for you, so the Lord will bring upon you all the bad things, until he has destroyed you from this good land that the Lord your God has given you. 16 If you transgress the covenant of the Lord your God, which he enjoined on you, and go and serve other gods and bow down to them, then the anger of the Lord will be kindled against you, and you shall perish quickly from the good land that he has given to you.”

Joshua 24:14-24 (NRSV)

14 “Now therefore revere the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

16 Then the people answered, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods; 17 for it is the Lord our God who brought us and our ancestors up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight. He protected us along all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed; 18 and the Lord drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the Lord, for he is our God.”

19 But Joshua said to the people, “You cannot serve the Lord, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. 20 If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm, and consume you, after having done you good.” 21 And the people said to Joshua, “No, we will serve the Lord!” 22 Then Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord, to serve him.” And they said, “We are witnesses.” 23 He said, “Then put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.” 24 The people said to Joshua, “The Lord our God we will serve, and him we will obey.”

 

Judges 2:1-5 (NRSV)

Israel’s Disobedience

2 Now the angel of the Lord went up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said, “I brought you up from Egypt, and brought you into the land that I had promised to your ancestors. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you. 2 For your part, do not make a covenant with the inhabitants of this land; tear down their altars.’ But you have not obeyed my command. See what you have done! 3 So now I say, I will not drive them out before you; but they shall become adversaries to you, and their gods shall be a snare to you.” 4 When the angel of the Lord spoke these words to all the Israelites, the people lifted up their voices and wept. 5 So they named that place Bochim, and there they sacrificed to the Lord.

Judges 2:10-3:6 (NRSV)

10 Moreover, that whole generation was gathered to their ancestors, and another generation grew up after them, who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel.

Israel’s Unfaithfulness

11 Then the Israelites did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and worshiped the Baals; 12 and they abandoned the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt; they followed other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were all around them, and bowed down to them; and they provoked the Lord to anger. 13 They abandoned the Lord, and worshiped Baal and the Astartes. 14 So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers who plundered them, and he sold them into the power of their enemies all around, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies. 15 Whenever they marched out, the hand of the Lord was against them to bring misfortune, as the Lord had warned them and sworn to them; and they were in great distress.

16 Then the Lord raised up judges, who delivered them out of the power of those who plundered them. 17 Yet they did not listen even to their judges; for they lusted after other gods and bowed down to them. They soon turned aside from the way in which their ancestors had walked, who had obeyed the commandments of the Lord; they did not follow their example. 18 Whenever the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge, and he delivered them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for the Lord would be moved to pity by their groaning because of those who persecuted and oppressed them. 19 But whenever the judge died, they would relapse and behave worse than their ancestors, following other gods, worshiping them and bowing down to them. They would not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways. 20 So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel; and he said, “Because this people have transgressed my covenant that I commanded their ancestors, and have not obeyed my voice, 21 I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations that Joshua left when he died.” 22 In order to test Israel, whether or not they would take care to walk in the way of the Lord as their ancestors did, 23 the Lord had left those nations, not driving them out at once, and had not handed them over to Joshua.

Nations Remaining in the Land

3 Now these are the nations that the Lord left to test all those in Israel who had no experience of any war in Canaan 2 (it was only that successive generations of Israelites might know war, to teach those who had no experience of it before): 3 the five lords of the Philistines, and all the Canaanites, and the Sidonians, and the Hivites who lived on Mount Lebanon, from Mount Baal-hermon as far as Lebo-hamath. 4 They were for the testing of Israel, to know whether Israel would obey the commandments of the Lord, which he commanded their ancestors by Moses. 5 So the Israelites lived among the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; 6 and they took their daughters as wives for themselves, and their own daughters they gave to their sons; and they worshiped their gods.

Judges 10:6-7 (NRSV)

Oppression by the Ammonites

6 The Israelites again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, worshiping the Baals and the Astartes, the gods of Aram, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the Ammonites, and the gods of the Philistines. Thus they abandoned the Lord, and did not worship him. 7 So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of the Philistines and into the hand of the Ammonites,

Judges 10:13-16 (NRSV)

13 Yet you have abandoned me and worshiped other gods; therefore I will deliver you no more. 14 Go and cry to the gods whom you have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your distress.” 15 And the Israelites said to the Lord, “We have sinned; do to us whatever seems good to you; but deliver us this day!” 16 So they put away the foreign gods from among them and worshiped the Lord; and he could no longer bear to see Israel suffer.

 

We find another significant expression of the theology of this writer in the books of Samuel.

 

            1 Samuel 2:27-36 (NRSV)

27 A man of God came to Eli and said to him, “Thus the Lord has said, ‘I revealed myself to the family of your ancestor in Egypt when they were slaves to the house of Pharaoh. 28 I chose him out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to go up to my altar, to offer incense, to wear an ephod before me; and I gave to the family of your ancestor all my offerings by fire from the people of Israel. 29 Why then look with greedy eye at my sacrifices and my offerings that I commanded, and honor your sons more than me by fattening yourselves on the choicest parts of every offering of my people Israel?’ 30 Therefore the Lord the God of Israel declares: ‘I promised that your family and the family of your ancestor should go in and out before me forever’; but now the Lord declares: ‘Far be it from me; for those who honor me I will honor, and those who despise me shall be treated with contempt. 31 See, a time is coming when I will cut off your strength and the strength of your ancestor’s family, so that no one in your family will live to old age. 32 Then in distress you will look with greedy eye on all the prosperity that shall be bestowed upon Israel; and no one in your family shall ever live to old age. 33 The only one of you whom I shall not cut off from my altar shall be spared to weep out his eyes and grieve his heart; all the members of your household shall die by the sword. 34 The fate of your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, shall be the sign to you—both of them shall die on the same day. 35 I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who shall do according to what is in my heart and in my mind. I will build him a sure house, and he shall go in and out before my anointed one forever. 36 Everyone who is left in your family shall come to implore him for a piece of silver or a loaf of bread, and shall say, Please put me in one of the priest’s places, that I may eat a morsel of bread.’ ”

 

1 Samuel 3:10-14 (NRSV)

10 Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” 11 Then the Lord said to Samuel, “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle. 12 On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. 13 For I have told him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. 14 Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be expiated by sacrifice or offering forever.”

1 Samuel 7:2-4 (NRSV)

2 From the day that the ark was lodged at Kiriath-jearim, a long time passed, some twenty years, and all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord.

3 Then Samuel said to all the house of Israel, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Astartes from among you. Direct your heart to the Lord, and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” 4 So Israel put away the Baals and the Astartes, and they served the Lord only.

 

1 Samuel 7:13-14 (NRSV)

13 So the Philistines were subdued and did not again enter the territory of Israel; the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel. 14 The towns that the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron to Gath; and Israel recovered their territory from the hand of the Philistines. There was peace also between Israel and the Amorites.

 

1 Samuel 12:6-15 (NRSV)

6 Samuel said to the people, “The Lord is witness, who appointed Moses and Aaron and brought your ancestors up out of the land of Egypt. 7 Now therefore take your stand, so that I may enter into judgment with you before the Lord, and I will declare to you all the saving deeds of the Lord that he performed for you and for your ancestors. 8 When Jacob went into Egypt and the Egyptians oppressed them, then your ancestors cried to the Lord and the Lord sent Moses and Aaron, who brought forth your ancestors out of Egypt, and settled them in this place. 9 But they forgot the Lord their God; and he sold them into the hand of Sisera, commander of the army of King Jabin of Hazor, and into the hand of the Philistines, and into the hand of the king of Moab; and they fought against them. 10 Then they cried to the Lord, and said, ‘We have sinned, because we have forsaken the Lord, and have served the Baals and the Astartes; but now rescue us out of the hand of our enemies, and we will serve you.’ 11 And the Lord sent Jerubbaal and Barak, and Jephthah, and Samson,and rescued you out of the hand of your enemies on every side; and you lived in safety. 12 But when you saw that King Nahash of the Ammonites came against you, you said to me, ‘No, but a king shall reign over us,’ though the Lord your God was your king. 13 See, here is the king whom you have chosen, for whom you have asked; see, the Lord has set a king over you. 14 If you will fear the Lord and serve him and heed his voice and not rebel against the commandment of the Lord, and if both you and the king who reigns over you will follow the Lord your God, it will be well; 15 but if you will not heed the voice of the Lord, but rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then the hand of the Lord will be against you and your king.

 

This writer organizes the material of the history of the rise of David to power in such a way as to offer divine authorization for the rise of this king. First, he places the origin of the anointing of David as king into the hands of Samuel in I Samuel 16:1-13. The author uses these words:

 

1 Samuel 16:7, 13 (NRSV)

7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.

 

The author also uses the occasion of the death of David to offer his theology.

 

1 Kings 2:1-4 (NRSV)

David’s Instruction to Solomon

2 When David’s time to die drew near, he charged his son Solomon, saying: 2 “I am about to go the way of all the earth. Be strong, be courageous, 3 and keep the charge of the Lord your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his ordinances, and his testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses, so that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn. 4 Then the Lord will establish his word that he spoke concerning me: ‘If your heirs take heed to their way, to walk before me in faithfulness with all their heart and with all their soul, there shall not fail you a successor on the throne of Israel.’

 

The occasion of the rise of Solomon provided the author some opportunities to express his theology. Although Solomon loved Yahweh, he offered sacrifices on the high places. He goes on to use Solomon as a vehicle for his theology. He pursues this course with the building of the Temple.

 

1 Kings 6:7 (NRSV)

7 The house was built with stone finished at the quarry, so that neither hammer nor ax nor any tool of iron was heard in the temple while it was being built.

1 Kings 6:11-13 (NRSV)

11 Now the word of the Lord came to Solomon, 12 “Concerning this house that you are building, if you will walk in my statutes, obey my ordinances, and keep all my commandments by walking in them, then I will establish my promise with you, which I made to your father David. 13 I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will not forsake my people Israel.”

1 Kings 8:22-61 (NRSV)

Solomon’s Prayer of Dedication

(2 Chr 6.12—39)

22 Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands to heaven. 23 He said, “O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and steadfast love for your servants who walk before you with all their heart, 24 the covenant that you kept for your servant my father David as you declared to him; you promised with your mouth and have this day fulfilled with your hand. 25 Therefore, O Lord, God of Israel, keep for your servant my father David that which you promised him, saying, ‘There shall never fail you a successor before me to sit on the throne of Israel, if only your children look to their way, to walk before me as you have walked before me.’ 26 Therefore, O God of Israel, let your word be confirmed, which you promised to your servant my father David.

27 “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Even heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, much less this house that I have built! 28 Regard your servant’s prayer and his plea, O Lord my God, heeding the cry and the prayer that your servant prays to you today; 29 that your eyes may be open night and day toward this house, the place of which you said, ‘My name shall be there,’ that you may heed the prayer that your servant prays toward this place. 30 Hear the plea of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray toward this place; O hear in heaven your dwelling place; heed and forgive.

31 “If someone sins against a neighbor and is given an oath to swear, and comes and swears before your altar in this house, 32 then hear in heaven, and act, and judge your servants, condemning the guilty by bringing their conduct on their own head, and vindicating the righteous by rewarding them according to their righteousness.

33 “When your people Israel, having sinned against you, are defeated before an enemy but turn again to you, confess your name, pray and plead with you in this house, 34 then hear in heaven, forgive the sin of your people Israel, and bring them again to the land that you gave to their ancestors.

35 “When heaven is shut up and there is no rain because they have sinned against you, and then they pray toward this place, confess your name, and turn from their sin, because you punish them, 36 then hear in heaven, and forgive the sin of your servants, your people Israel, when you teach them the good way in which they should walk; and grant rain on your land, which you have given to your people as an inheritance.

37 “If there is famine in the land, if there is plague, blight, mildew, locust, or caterpillar; if their enemy besieges them in any of their cities; whatever plague, whatever sickness there is; 38 whatever prayer, whatever plea there is from any individual or from all your people Israel, all knowing the afflictions of their own hearts so that they stretch out their hands toward this house; 39 then hear in heaven your dwelling place, forgive, act, and render to all whose hearts you know—according to all their ways, for only you know what is in every human heart— 40 so that they may fear you all the days that they live in the land that you gave to our ancestors.

41 “Likewise when a foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, comes from a distant land because of your name 42 —for they shall hear of your great name, your mighty hand, and your outstretched arm—when a foreigner comes and prays toward this house, 43 then hear in heaven your dwelling place, and do according to all that the foreigner calls to you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel, and so that they may know that your name has been invoked on this house that I have built.

44 “If your people go out to battle against their enemy, by whatever way you shall send them, and they pray to the Lord toward the city that you have chosen and the house that I have built for your name, 45 then hear in heaven their prayer and their plea, and maintain their cause.

46 “If they sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin—and you are angry with them and give them to an enemy, so that they are carried away captive to the land of the enemy, far off or near; 47 yet if they come to their senses in the land to which they have been taken captive, and repent, and plead with you in the land of their captors, saying, ‘We have sinned, and have done wrong; we have acted wickedly’; 48 if they repent with all their heart and soul in the land of their enemies, who took them captive, and pray to you toward their land, which you gave to their ancestors, the city that you have chosen, and the house that I have built for your name; 49 then hear in heaven your dwelling place their prayer and their plea, maintain their cause 50 and forgive your people who have sinned against you, and all their transgressions that they have committed against you; and grant them compassion in the sight of their captors, so that they may have compassion on them 51 (for they are your people and heritage, which you brought out of Egypt, from the midst of the iron-smelter). 52 Let your eyes be open to the plea of your servant, and to the plea of your people Israel, listening to them whenever they call to you. 53 For you have separated them from among all the peoples of the earth, to be your heritage, just as you promised through Moses, your servant, when you brought our ancestors out of Egypt, O Lord God.”

Solomon Blesses the Assembly

(2 Chr 6.40—42)

54 Now when Solomon finished offering all this prayer and this plea to the Lord, he arose from facing the altar of the Lord, where he had knelt with hands outstretched toward heaven; 55 he stood and blessed all the assembly of Israel with a loud voice:

56 “Blessed be the Lord, who has given rest to his people Israel according to all that he promised; not one word has failed of all his good promise, which he spoke through his servant Moses. 57 The Lord our God be with us, as he was with our ancestors; may he not leave us or abandon us, 58 but incline our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, his statutes, and his ordinances, which he commanded our ancestors. 59 Let these words of mine, with which I pleaded before the Lord, be near to the Lord our God day and night, and may he maintain the cause of his servant and the cause of his people Israel, as each day requires; 60 so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God; there is no other. 61 Therefore devote yourselves completely to the Lord our God, walking in his statutes and keeping his commandments, as at this day.”

1 Kings 9:1-9 (NRSV)

God Appears Again to Solomon

(2 Chr 7.11—22)

9 When Solomon had finished building the house of the Lord and the king’s house and all that Solomon desired to build, 2 the Lord appeared to Solomon a second time, as he had appeared to him at Gibeon. 3 The Lord said to him, “I have heard your prayer and your plea, which you made before me; I have consecrated this house that you have built, and put my name there forever; my eyes and my heart will be there for all time. 4 As for you, if you will walk before me, as David your father walked, with integrity of heart and uprightness, doing according to all that I have commanded you, and keeping my statutes and my ordinances, 5 then I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever, as I promised your father David, saying, ‘There shall not fail you a successor on the throne of Israel.’

6 “If you turn aside from following me, you or your children, and do not keep my commandments and my statutes that I have set before you, but go and serve other gods and worship them, 7 then I will cut Israel off from the land that I have given them; and the house that I have consecrated for my name I will cast out of my sight; and Israel will become a proverb and a taunt among all peoples. 8 This house will become a heap of ruins; everyone passing by it will be astonished, and will hiss; and they will say, ‘Why has the Lord done such a thing to this land and to this house?’ 9 Then they will say, ‘Because they have forsaken the Lord their God, who brought their ancestors out of the land of Egypt, and embraced other gods, worshiping them and serving them; therefore the Lord has brought this disaster upon them.’ ”

 

The writer also provides an explanation for the source of the division of the kingdom in the reign of Solomon.

 

1 Kings 11:1-13 (NRSV)

Solomon’s Errors

11 King Solomon loved many foreign women along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, 2 from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the Israelites, “You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you; for they will surely incline your heart to follow their gods”; Solomon clung to these in love. 3 Among his wives were seven hundred princesses and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart. 4 For when Solomon was old, his wives turned away his heart after other gods; and his heart was not true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David. 5 For Solomon followed Astarte the goddess of the Sidonians, and Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. 6 So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and did not completely follow the Lord, as his father David had done. 7 Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem. 8 He did the same for all his foreign wives, who offered incense and sacrificed to their gods.

9 Then the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, 10 and had commanded him concerning this matter, that he should not follow other gods; but he did not observe what the Lord commanded. 11 Therefore the Lord said to Solomon, “Since this has been your mind and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes that I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and give it to your servant. 12 Yet for the sake of your father David I will not do it in your lifetime; I will tear it out of the hand of your son. 13 I will not, however, tear away the entire kingdom; I will give one tribe to your son, for the sake of my servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, which I have chosen.”

 

Consequently, in the judgment of the author, Yahweh raised up Hadad of Edom and Rezon of Damascus to bring judgment upon Solomon. He also provides an expansion upon the reason for the revolt of Jeroboam.

 

I Kings 11:33-39 (NRSV)

33 This is because he has forsaken me, worshiped Astarte the goddess of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god of Moab, and Milcom the god of the Ammonites, and has not walked in my ways, doing what is right in my sight and keeping my statutes and my ordinances, as his father David did. 34 Nevertheless I will not take the whole kingdom away from him but will make him ruler all the days of his life, for the sake of my servant David whom I chose and who did keep my commandments and my statutes; 35 but I will take the kingdom away from his son and give it to you—that is, the ten tribes. 36 Yet to his son I will give one tribe, so that my servant David may always have a lamp before me in Jerusalem, the city where I have chosen to put my name. 37 I will take you, and you shall reign over all that your soul desires; you shall be king over Israel. 38 If you will listen to all that I command you, walk in my ways, and do what is right in my sight by keeping my statutes and my commandments, as David my servant did, I will be with you, and will build you an enduring house, as I built for David, and I will give Israel to you. 39 For this reason I will punish the descendants of David, but not forever.”

 

The author offers this judgment upon the reign of Jeroboam I, 931-910. It becomes the pattern for the judgment upon the kings of the Northern Kingdom.

 

1 Kings 13:33-34 (NRSV)

33 Even after this event Jeroboam did not turn from his evil way, but made priests for the high places again from among all the people; any who wanted to be priests he consecrated for the high places. 34 This matter became sin to the house of Jeroboam, so as to cut it off and to destroy it from the face of the earth.

 

The author offers judgment upon the reign of Rehoboam, 931 to 913.

 

1 Kings 14:22-24 (NRSV)

22 Judah did what was evil in the sight of the Lord; they provoked him to jealousy with their sins that they committed, more than all that their ancestors had done. 23 For they also built for themselves high places, pillars, and sacred poles on every high hill and under every green tree; 24 there were also male temple prostitutes in the land. They committed all the abominations of the nations that the Lord drove out before the people of Israel.

 

The author offers judgment upon Abijam, 913 to 911.

 

1 Kings 15:3-5 (NRSV)

3 He committed all the sins that his father did before him; his heart was not true to the Lord his God, like the heart of his father David. 4 Nevertheless for David’s sake the Lord his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem, setting up his son after him, and establishing Jerusalem; 5 because David did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and did not turn aside from anything that he commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite.

 

            Only Jehoash, who reigned from 835 to 796, was viewed as doing what was right. 

            After the death of Elisha to the fall of Samaria in 721 BC, only Amaziah (796-781) and Uzziah (781-740), and Jotham (740­-736), all from Judah, did what was right in the sight of the Lord. Otherwise, the fall of Israel is viewed by the Deuteronomic history as a judgment on their sin of injustice and following other gods.

            The author offers several observations concerning the fall of Jerusalem.

 

2 Kings 17:7-23 (NRSV)

7 This occurred because the people of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. They had worshiped other gods 8 and walked in the customs of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel, and in the customs that the kings of Israel had introduced. 9 The people of Israel secretly did things that were not right against the Lord their God. They built for themselves high places at all their towns, from watchtower to fortified city; 10 they set up for themselves pillars and sacred poles on every high hill and under every green tree; 11 there they made offerings on all the high places, as the nations did whom the Lord carried away before them. They did wicked things, provoking the Lord to anger; 12 they served idols, of which the Lord had said to them, “You shall not do this.” 13 Yet the Lord warned Israel and Judah by every prophet and every seer, saying, “Turn from your evil ways and keep my commandments and my statutes, in accordance with all the law that I commanded your ancestors and that I sent to you by my servants the prophets.” 14 They would not listen but were stubborn, as their ancestors had been, who did not believe in the Lord their God. 15 They despised his statutes, and his covenant that he made with their ancestors, and the warnings that he gave them. They went after false idols and became false; they followed the nations that were around them, concerning whom the Lord had commanded them that they should not do as they did. 16 They rejected all the commandments of the Lord their God and made for themselves cast images of two calves; they made a sacred pole, worshiped all the host of heaven, and served Baal. 17 They made their sons and their daughters pass through fire; they used divination and augury; and they sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger. 18 Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel and removed them out of his sight; none was left but the tribe of Judah alone.

19 Judah also did not keep the commandments of the Lord their God but walked in the customs that Israel had introduced. 20 The Lord rejected all the descendants of Israel; he punished them and gave them into the hand of plunderers, until he had banished them from his presence.

21 When he had torn Israel from the house of David, they made Jeroboam son of Nebat king. Jeroboam drove Israel from following the Lord and made them commit great sin. 22 The people of Israel continued in all the sins that Jeroboam committed; they did not depart from them 23 until the Lord removed Israel out of his sight, as he had foretold through all his servants the prophets. So Israel was exiled from their own land to Assyria until this day.

2 Kings 17:34-41 (NRSV)

34 To this day they continue to practice their former customs.

They do not worship the Lord and they do not follow the statutes or the ordinances or the law or the commandment that the Lord commanded the children of Jacob, whom he named Israel. 35 The Lord had made a covenant with them and commanded them, “You shall not worship other gods or bow yourselves to them or serve them or sacrifice to them, 36 but you shall worship the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt with great power and with an outstretched arm; you shall bow yourselves to him, and to him you shall sacrifice. 37 The statutes and the ordinances and the law and the commandment that he wrote for you, you shall always be careful to observe. You shall not worship other gods; 38 you shall not forget the covenant that I have made with you. You shall not worship other gods, 39 but you shall worship the Lord your God; he will deliver you out of the hand of all your enemies.” 40 They would not listen, however, but they continued to practice their former custom.

41 So these nations worshiped the Lord, but also served their carved images; to this day their children and their children’s children continue to do as their ancestors did.

2 Kings 18:12 (NRSV)

12 because they did not obey the voice of the Lord their God but transgressed his covenant—all that Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded; they neither listened nor obeyed.

 

This author also evaluated Hezekiah quite highly.

 

2 Kings 18:5-7 (NRSV)

5 He trusted in the Lord the God of Israel; so that there was no one like him among all the kings of Judah after him, or among those who were before him. 6 For he held fast to the Lord; he did not depart from following him but kept the commandments that the Lord commanded Moses. 7 The Lord was with him; wherever he went, he prospered. He rebelled against the king of Assyria and would not serve him.

 

The author had a strong evaluation of Josiah, even though the Lord maintained anger with Judah.

 

2 Kings 23:25-27 (NRSV)

25 Before him there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; nor did any like him arise after him.

26 Still the Lord did not turn from the fierceness of his great wrath, by which his anger was kindled against Judah, because of all the provocations with which Manasseh had provoked him. 27 The Lord said, “I will remove Judah also out of my sight, as I have removed Israel; and I will reject this city that I have chosen, Jerusalem, and the house of which I said, My name shall be there.”

 

Priestly Material

            The priestly material has a majestic view of God that we find reflected in the following verses. We particularly note this as a difference from the second account of creation in Genesis 2:4ff.

 

            Genesis 1:1-6, 9, 11, 14-15, 20, 24, 26-31, 2:1-4a (NRSV)

 In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 2 the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. 3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

6 And God said, “Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.”

9 And God said, “Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so.

11 Then God said, “Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.” And it was so.

14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.” And it was so.

20 And God said, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.”

24 And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.” And it was so.

26 Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”

27 So God created humankind in his image,

in the image of God he created them;

male and female he created them.

28 God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” 29 God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Genesis 2:1-4 (NRSV)

 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. 2 And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. 3 So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.

4 These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.

 

            The priestly account gives a list of the children of Adam and Eve before the flood. It details the building of the Ark. It then offers an account of the covenant between God and all creation.

 

Genesis 9:1-17 (NRSV)

 God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. 2 The fear and dread of you shall rest on every animal of the earth, and on every bird of the air, on everything that creeps on the ground, and on all the fish of the sea; into your hand they are delivered. 3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; and just as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. 4 Only, you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. 5 For your own lifeblood I will surely require a reckoning: from every animal I will require it and from human beings, each one for the blood of another, I will require a reckoning for human life.

6 Whoever sheds the blood of a human,

by a human shall that person’s blood be shed;

for in his own image

God made humankind.

7 And you, be fruitful and multiply, abound on the earth and multiply in it.”

8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, 9 “As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, 10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. 11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12 God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13 I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” 17 God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”

 

The document continues with an account of a covenant with Abraham.

 

Genesis 17:1-27 (NRSV)

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. 2 And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.” 3 Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, 4 “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. 5 No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham;for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations. 6 I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. 7 I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. 8 And I will give to you, and to your offspring after you, the land where you are now an alien, all the land of Canaan, for a perpetual holding; and I will be their God.”

9 God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. 10 This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. 12 Throughout your generations every male among you shall be circumcised when he is eight days old, including the slave born in your house and the one bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring. 13 Both the slave born in your house and the one bought with your money must be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant. 14 Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”

15 God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. 16 I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.” 17 Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said to himself, “Can a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Can Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” 18 And Abraham said to God, “O that Ishmael might live in your sight!” 19 God said, “No, but your wife Sarah shall bear you a son, and you shall name him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. 20 As for Ishmael, I have heard you; I will bless him and make him fruitful and exceedingly numerous; he shall be the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. 21 But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this season next year.” 22 And when he had finished talking with him, God went up from Abraham.

23 Then Abraham took his son Ishmael and all the slaves born in his house or bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s house, and he circumcised the flesh of their foreskins that very day, as God had said to him. 24 Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. 25 And his son Ishmael was thirteen years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. 26 That very day Abraham and his son Ishmael were circumcised; 27 and all the men of his house, slaves born in the house and those bought with money from a foreigner, were circumcised with him.

 

The priestly document continues with a primary interest in maintaining a genealogy of the nations and in particular of Israel in chapters 35 and 36.

            The P document continues with its version of the story of Moses and liberation from Egypt. It also presents a comprehensive view of the Tent and Tabernacle in Exodus 25-31 and Exodus 35-Numbers 10:10.

Psalms

Psalm 69 (NRSV)

1 Save me, O God,

for the waters have come up to my neck.

2 I sink in deep mire,

where there is no foothold;

I have come into deep waters,

and the flood sweeps over me.

3 I am weary with my crying;

my throat is parched.

My eyes grow dim

with waiting for my God.

4 More in number than the hairs of my head

are those who hate me without cause;

many are those who would destroy me,

my enemies who accuse me falsely.

What I did not steal

must I now restore?

5 O God, you know my folly;

the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you.

6 Do not let those who hope in you be put to shame because of me,

O Lord God of hosts;

do not let those who seek you be dishonored because of me,

O God of Israel.

7 It is for your sake that I have borne reproach,

that shame has covered my face.

8 I have become a stranger to my kindred,

an alien to my mother’s children.

9 It is zeal for your house that has consumed me;

the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.

10 When I humbled my soul with fasting,

they insulted me for doing so.

11 When I made sackcloth my clothing,

I became a byword to them.

12 I am the subject of gossip for those who sit in the gate,

and the drunkards make songs about me.

13 But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord.

At an acceptable time, O God,

in the abundance of your steadfast love, answer me.

With your faithful help14 rescue me

from sinking in the mire;

let me be delivered from my enemies

and from the deep waters.

15 Do not let the flood sweep over me,

or the deep swallow me up,

or the Pit close its mouth over me.

16 Answer me, O Lord, for your steadfast love is good;

according to your abundant mercy, turn to me.

17 Do not hide your face from your servant,

for I am in distress—make haste to answer me.

18 Draw near to me, redeem me,

set me free because of my enemies.

19 You know the insults I receive,

and my shame and dishonor;

my foes are all known to you.

20 Insults have broken my heart,

so that I am in despair.

I looked for pity, but there was none;

and for comforters, but I found none.

21 They gave me poison for food,

and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.

22 Let their table be a trap for them,

a snare for their allies.

23 Let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see,

and make their loins tremble continually.

24 Pour out your indignation upon them,

and let your burning anger overtake them.

25 May their camp be a desolation;

let no one live in their tents.

26 For they persecute those whom you have struck down,

and those whom you have wounded, they attack still more.

27 Add guilt to their guilt;

may they have no acquittal from you.

28 Let them be blotted out of the book of the living;

let them not be enrolled among the righteous.

29 But I am lowly and in pain;

let your salvation, O God, protect me.

30 I will praise the name of God with a song;

I will magnify him with thanksgiving.

31 This will please the Lord more than an ox

or a bull with horns and hoofs.

32 Let the oppressed see it and be glad;

you who seek God, let your hearts revive.

33 For the Lord hears the needy,

and does not despise his own that are in bonds.

34 Let heaven and earth praise him,

the seas and everything that moves in them.

35 For God will save Zion

and rebuild the cities of Judah;

and his servants shall live there and possess it;

36      the children of his servants shall inherit it,

and those who love his name shall live in it.

 

Psalm 102 (NRSV)

1 Hear my prayer, O Lord;

let my cry come to you.

2 Do not hide your face from me

in the day of my distress.

Incline your ear to me;

answer me speedily in the day when I call.

3 For my days pass away like smoke,

and my bones burn like a furnace.

4 My heart is stricken and withered like grass;

I am too wasted to eat my bread.

5 Because of my loud groaning

my bones cling to my skin.

6 I am like an owl of the wilderness,

like a little owl of the waste places.

7 I lie awake;

I am like a lonely bird on the housetop.

8 All day long my enemies taunt me;

those who deride me use my name for a curse.

9 For I eat ashes like bread,

and mingle tears with my drink,

10 because of your indignation and anger;

for you have lifted me up and thrown me aside.

11 My days are like an evening shadow;

I wither away like grass.

12 But you, O Lord, are enthroned forever;

your name endures to all generations.

13 You will rise up and have compassion on Zion,

for it is time to favor it;

the appointed time has come.

14 For your servants hold its stones dear,

and have pity on its dust.

15 The nations will fear the name of the Lord,

and all the kings of the earth your glory.

16 For the Lord will build up Zion;

he will appear in his glory.

17 He will regard the prayer of the destitute,

and will not despise their prayer.

18 Let this be recorded for a generation to come,

so that a people yet unborn may praise the Lord:

19 that he looked down from his holy height,

from heaven the Lord looked at the earth,

20 to hear the groans of the prisoners,

to set free those who were doomed to die;

21 so that the name of the Lord may be declared in Zion,

and his praise in Jerusalem,

22 when peoples gather together,

and kingdoms, to worship the Lord.

23 He has broken my strength in midcourse;

he has shortened my days.

24 “O my God,” I say, “do not take me away

at the midpoint of my life,

you whose years endure

throughout all generations.”

25 Long ago you laid the foundation of the earth,

and the heavens are the work of your hands.

26 They will perish, but you endure;

they will all wear out like a garment.

You change them like clothing, and they pass away;

27      but you are the same, and your years have no end.

28 The children of your servants shall live secure;

their offspring shall be established in your presence.

 

Psalm 103 (NRSV)

1 Bless the Lord, O my soul,

and all that is within me,

bless his holy name.

2 Bless the Lord, O my soul,

and do not forget all his benefits—

3 who forgives all your iniquity,

who heals all your diseases,

4 who redeems your life from the Pit,

who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,

5 who satisfies you with good as long as you live

so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

6 The Lord works vindication

and justice for all who are oppressed.

7 He made known his ways to Moses,

his acts to the people of Israel.

8 The Lord is merciful and gracious,

slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

9 He will not always accuse,

nor will he keep his anger forever.

10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,

nor repay us according to our iniquities.

11 For as the heavens are high above the earth,

so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;

12 as far as the east is from the west,

so far he removes our transgressions from us.

13 As a father has compassion for his children,

so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him.

14 For he knows how we were made;

he remembers that we are dust.

15 As for mortals, their days are like grass;

they flourish like a flower of the field;

16 for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,

and its place knows it no more.

17 But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting

on those who fear him,

and his righteousness to children’s children,

18 to those who keep his covenant

and remember to do his commandments.

19 The Lord has established his throne in the heavens,

and his kingdom rules over all.

20 Bless the Lord, O you his angels,

you mighty ones who do his bidding,

obedient to his spoken word.

21 Bless the Lord, all his hosts,

his ministers that do his will.

22 Bless the Lord, all his works,

in all places of his dominion.

Bless the Lord, O my soul.

 

Psalm 106 (NRSV)

1 Praise the Lord!

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;

for his steadfast love endures forever.

2 Who can utter the mighty doings of the Lord,

or declare all his praise?

3 Happy are those who observe justice,

who do righteousness at all times.

4 Remember me, O Lord, when you show favor to your people;

help me when you deliver them;

5 that I may see the prosperity of your chosen ones,

that I may rejoice in the gladness of your nation,

that I may glory in your heritage.

6 Both we and our ancestors have sinned;

we have committed iniquity, have done wickedly.

7 Our ancestors, when they were in Egypt,

did not consider your wonderful works;

they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love,

but rebelled against the Most High at the Red Sea.

8 Yet he saved them for his name’s sake,

so that he might make known his mighty power.

9 He rebuked the Red Sea, and it became dry;

he led them through the deep as through a desert.

10 So he saved them from the hand of the foe,

and delivered them from the hand of the enemy.

11 The waters covered their adversaries;

not one of them was left.

12 Then they believed his words;

they sang his praise.

13 But they soon forgot his works;

they did not wait for his counsel.

14 But they had a wanton craving in the wilderness,

and put God to the test in the desert;

15 he gave them what they asked,

but sent a wasting disease among them.

16 They were jealous of Moses in the camp,

and of Aaron, the holy one of the Lord.

17 The earth opened and swallowed up Dathan,

and covered the faction of Abiram.

18 Fire also broke out in their company;

the flame burned up the wicked.

19 They made a calf at Horeb

and worshiped a cast image.

20 They exchanged the glory of God

for the image of an ox that eats grass.

21 They forgot God, their Savior,

who had done great things in Egypt,

22 wondrous works in the land of Ham,

and awesome deeds by the Red Sea.

23 Therefore he said he would destroy them—

had not Moses, his chosen one,

stood in the breach before him,

to turn away his wrath from destroying them.

24 Then they despised the pleasant land,

having no faith in his promise.

25 They grumbled in their tents,

and did not obey the voice of the Lord.

26 Therefore he raised his hand and swore to them

that he would make them fall in the wilderness,

27 and would disperse their descendants among the nations,

scattering them over the lands.

28 Then they attached themselves to the Baal of Peor,

and ate sacrifices offered to the dead;

29 they provoked the Lord to anger with their deeds,

and a plague broke out among them.

30 Then Phinehas stood up and interceded,

and the plague was stopped.

31 And that has been reckoned to him as righteousness

from generation to generation forever.

32 They angered the Lord at the waters of Meribah,

and it went ill with Moses on their account;

33 for they made his spirit bitter,

and he spoke words that were rash.

34 They did not destroy the peoples,

as the Lord commanded them,

35 but they mingled with the nations

and learned to do as they did.

36 They served their idols,

which became a snare to them.

37 They sacrificed their sons

and their daughters to the demons;

38 they poured out innocent blood,

the blood of their sons and daughters,

whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan;

and the land was polluted with blood.

39 Thus they became unclean by their acts,

and prostituted themselves in their doings.

40 Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against his people,

and he abhorred his heritage;

41 he gave them into the hand of the nations,

so that those who hated them ruled over them.

42 Their enemies oppressed them,

and they were brought into subjection under their power.

43 Many times he delivered them,

but they were rebellious in their purposes,

and were brought low through their iniquity.

44 Nevertheless he regarded their distress

when he heard their cry.

45 For their sake he remembered his covenant,

and showed compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love.

46 He caused them to be pitied

by all who held them captive.

47 Save us, O Lord our God,

and gather us from among the nations,

that we may give thanks to your holy name

and glory in your praise.

48 Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,

from everlasting to everlasting.

And let all the people say, “Amen.”

Praise the Lord!

 

Psalm 137 (NRSV)

1 By the rivers of Babylon—

there we sat down and there we wept

when we remembered Zion.

2 On the willows there

we hung up our harps.

3 For there our captors

asked us for songs,

and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying,

“Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

4 How could we sing the Lord’s song

in a foreign land?

5 If I forget you, O Jerusalem,

let my right hand wither!

6 Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth,

if I do not remember you,

if I do not set Jerusalem

above my highest joy.

7 Remember, O Lord, against the Edomites

the day of Jerusalem’s fall,

how they said, “Tear it down! Tear it down!

Down to its foundations!”

8 O daughter Babylon, you devastator!

Happy shall they be who pay you back

what you have done to us!

9 Happy shall they be who take your little ones

and dash them against the rock!

 

 

Psalm 147 (NRSV)

1 Praise the Lord!

How good it is to sing praises to our God;

for he is gracious, and a song of praise is fitting.

2 The Lord builds up Jerusalem;

he gathers the outcasts of Israel.

3 He heals the brokenhearted,

and binds up their wounds.

4 He determines the number of the stars;

he gives to all of them their names.

5 Great is our Lord, and abundant in power;

his understanding is beyond measure.

6 The Lord lifts up the downtrodden;

he casts the wicked to the ground.

7 Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving;

make melody to our God on the lyre.

8 He covers the heavens with clouds,

prepares rain for the earth,

makes grass grow on the hills.

9 He gives to the animals their food,

and to the young ravens when they cry.

10 His delight is not in the strength of the horse,

nor his pleasure in the speed of a runner;

11 but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him,

in those who hope in his steadfast love.

12 Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem!

Praise your God, O Zion!

13 For he strengthens the bars of your gates;

he blesses your children within you.

14 He grants peace within your borders;

he fills you with the finest of wheat.

15 He sends out his command to the earth;

his word runs swiftly.

16 He gives snow like wool;

he scatters frost like ashes.

17 He hurls down hail like crumbs—

who can stand before his cold?

18 He sends out his word, and melts them;

he makes his wind blow, and the waters flow.

19 He declares his word to Jacob,

his statutes and ordinances to Israel.

20 He has not dealt thus with any other nation;

they do not know his ordinances.

Praise the Lord!

 

Prophets

            The prophets keep alive the hope of a new community of faith based upon God’s gracious activity.  This new community would be established as the exiles are allowed to go back to home.  In the process, they gather their traditions and begin discovering better who they are, the vision for the new nation, and hope is kept alive.

Jeremiah

            Jeremiah experienced exile in Egypt. He offered several prophecies from there. We read a rather clear account of what occurred to him.

 

Jeremiah Advises Survivors Not to Migrate

42 Then all the commanders of the forces, and Johanan son of Kareah and Azariah son of Hoshaiah, and all the people from the least to the greatest, approached 2 the prophet Jeremiah and said, “Be good enough to listen to our plea, and pray to the Lord your God for us—for all this remnant. For there are only a few of us left out of many, as your eyes can see. 3 Let the Lord your God show us where we should go and what we should do.” 4 The prophet Jeremiah said to them, “Very well: I am going to pray to the Lord your God as you request, and whatever the Lord answers you I will tell you; I will keep nothing back from you.” 5 They in their turn said to Jeremiah, “May the Lord be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not act according to everything that the Lord your God sends us through you. 6 Whether it is good or bad, we will obey the voice of the Lord our God to whom we are sending you, in order that it may go well with us when we obey the voice of the Lord our God.”

7 At the end of ten days the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah. 8 Then he summoned Johanan son of Kareah and all the commanders of the forces who were with him, and all the people from the least to the greatest, 9 and said to them, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, to whom you sent me to present your plea before him: 10 If you will only remain in this land, then I will build you up and not pull you down; I will plant you, and not pluck you up; for I am sorry for the disaster that I have brought upon you. 11 Do not be afraid of the king of Babylon, as you have been; do not be afraid of him, says the Lord, for I am with you, to save you and to rescue you from his hand. 12 I will grant you mercy, and he will have mercy on you and restore you to your native soil. 13 But if you continue to say, ‘We will not stay in this land,’ thus disobeying the voice of the Lord your God 14 and saying, ‘No, we will go to the land of Egypt, where we shall not see war, or hear the sound of the trumpet, or be hungry for bread, and there we will stay,’ 15 then hear the word of the Lord, O remnant of Judah. Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: If you are determined to enter Egypt and go to settle there, 16 then the sword that you fear shall overtake you there, in the land of Egypt; and the famine that you dread shall follow close after you into Egypt; and there you shall die. 17 All the people who have determined to go to Egypt to settle there shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence; they shall have no remnant or survivor from the disaster that I am bringing upon them.

18 “For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Just as my anger and my wrath were poured out on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so my wrath will be poured out on you when you go to Egypt. You shall become an object of execration and horror, of cursing and ridicule. You shall see this place no more. 19 The Lord has said to you, O remnant of Judah, Do not go to Egypt. Be well aware that I have warned you today 20 that you have made a fatal mistake. For you yourselves sent me to the Lord your God, saying, ‘Pray for us to the Lord our God, and whatever the Lord our God says, tell us and we will do it.’ 21 So I have told you today, but you have not obeyed the voice of the Lord your God in anything that he sent me to tell you. 22 Be well aware, then, that you shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence in the place where you desire to go and settle.”

Taken to Egypt, Jeremiah Warns of Judgment

43 When Jeremiah finished speaking to all the people all these words of the Lord their God, with which the Lord their God had sent him to them, 2 Azariah son of Hoshaiah and Johanan son of Kareah and all the other insolent men said to Jeremiah, “You are telling a lie. The Lord our God did not send you to say, ‘Do not go to Egypt to settle there’; 3 but Baruch son of Neriah is inciting you against us, to hand us over to the Chaldeans, in order that they may kill us or take us into exile in Babylon.” 4 So Johanan son of Kareah and all the commanders of the forces and all the people did not obey the voice of the Lord, to stay in the land of Judah. 5 But Johanan son of Kareah and all the commanders of the forces took all the remnant of Judah who had returned to settle in the land of Judah from all the nations to which they had been driven— 6 the men, the women, the children, the princesses, and everyone whom Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard had left with Gedaliah son of Ahikam son of Shaphan; also the prophet Jeremiah and Baruch son of Neriah. 7 And they came into the land of Egypt, for they did not obey the voice of the Lord. And they arrived at Tahpanhes.

 

            After the exile, Jeremiah encourages the exiles to settle in and make their homes in foreign lands. Further, he prophecies that they will return, although without miraculous events. They will seem return to the land and start again. He does, however, look forward to a time when the people have a new heart to serve God, thereby suggesting the new covenant. He does not want to re-establish Israel on the old bases. The new covenant is entirely new and is to surpass the old. The new thing God will do that the whole matter of God speaking and people listening will end. The will and purpose of Yahweh will find their way directly to the heart of Israel. The doubtful element of human obedience drops out completely. He refers to the full and final return of Israel to God. We find prophecies of a future king.

 

Jeremiah 23:1-6 (NRSV)

Restoration after Exile

23 Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the Lord. 2 Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people: It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. So I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the Lord. 3 Then I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. 4 I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the Lord.

5 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 6 In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.”

 

He looks forward to new institutions.

 

Jeremiah 33:14-16 (NRSV)

The Righteous Branch and the Covenant with David

14 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 15 In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 16 In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.”

 

We find prophecies of restoration.

 

Jeremiah 31:1-14 (NRSV)

The Joyful Return of the Exiles

31 At that time, says the Lord, I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people.

2 Thus says the Lord:

The people who survived the sword

found grace in the wilderness;

when Israel sought for rest,

3      the Lord appeared to him from far away.

I have loved you with an everlasting love;

therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.

4 Again I will build you, and you shall be built,

O virgin Israel!

Again you shall take your tambourines,

and go forth in the dance of the merrymakers.

5 Again you shall plant vineyards

on the mountains of Samaria;

the planters shall plant,

and shall enjoy the fruit.

6 For there shall be a day when sentinels will call

in the hill country of Ephraim:

“Come, let us go up to Zion,

to the Lord our God.”

7 For thus says the Lord:

Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob,

and raise shouts for the chief of the nations;

proclaim, give praise, and say,

“Save, O Lord, your people,

the remnant of Israel.”

8 See, I am going to bring them from the land of the north,

and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth,

among them the blind and the lame,

those with child and those in labor, together;

a great company, they shall return here.

9 With weeping they shall come,

and with consolations I will lead them back,

I will let them walk by brooks of water,

in a straight path in which they shall not stumble;

for I have become a father to Israel,

and Ephraim is my firstborn.

10 Hear the word of the Lord, O nations,

and declare it in the coastlands far away;

say, “He who scattered Israel will gather him,

and will keep him as a shepherd a flock.”

11 For the Lord has ransomed Jacob,

and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him.

12 They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion,

and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the Lord,

over the grain, the wine, and the oil,

and over the young of the flock and the herd;

their life shall become like a watered garden,

and they shall never languish again.

13 Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance,

and the young men and the old shall be merry.

I will turn their mourning into joy,

I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.

14 I will give the priests their fill of fatness,

and my people shall be satisfied with my bounty,

     says the Lord.

 

He offers the hope of a new covenant, which suggests the inadequacy of the Old Covenant, including the Mosaic Law, the promise of land, and the Temple.

 

Jeremiah 31:31-34 (NRSV)

A New Covenant

31 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

 

Ezekiel

Ezekiel, preaching from 593-571, was among the priests who were taken away from Jerusalem in 598. The book can be divided into the Book of Doom in chapter 1-24, prophecies against the nations in 25-32, and a book of consolation in 33-48.

One challenge that Ezekiel presents the reader is that several prophecies did not come true: Nebuchadnezzar did not destroy Tyre; Egypt remained independent until 525, and did not experience exile of 40 years as predicted in 29:8-12; Babylon did not have a bloody end, as predicted in 21:36-­37; Persia is auxiliary to Tyre in 27:10 and of Gog in 38:5; Program of restoration in 34-48 is entirely out of line with events after 538, with no Davidic kingdom, temple not rebuilt, Zadokite priests not installed, no sacred calendar and its sacrifices, all as Ezekiel envisioned. 

Ezekiel followed events on the political scene with a keen interest. He shows wide intellectual horizons and high culture. He gives dissertations and produces high literary quality, rather than the short pronouncements of previous prophets. He finds a place for rational reflection beside the visionary and inspired elements of his book. The visions of Ezekiel may have their source in a mysticism that used them as channels of communication which were not open to most prophets.  While some believed their stay in Babylon would be short, Ezekiel told them it would be a long time. Ezekiel stresses divine transcendence, personal responsibility, and has a strong reaction against idolatry. When he thinks of sin, he thinks of offences against worship and liturgy rather than social and moral dimensions of life. Although a prophet, the categories he uses, the ideas in which he lives, and the standards he applies, are those of the priest. His priestly origins provide him with a history of the origins of Israel. In chapter 20, we find the election taking place in Egypt, although the people still refuse to obey. Yahweh leads them into the wilderness and reveals the commandments, although this attempt to bind the people to God also failed. The third phase is a second generation to whom Yahweh gave the commandments, while this also failed. The fourth phase is the conquest of the Promised Land, a phase that also failed. Yahweh has a series of unsuccessful actions and Israel constantly fails to comply with the divine will. He also reviews the period of the monarchy as one of Israel seeking other lovers. Israel never viewed itself as heroic. It glorified the deeds of Yahweh. He also wants to demonstrate the totality of the domain of sin. In his eyes, the end is not better than the beginning. The same state of affairs exists in every age of the history of the nation. The simplicity of the task of Ezekiel was to inform the people of their lost condition. Appointed a watcher over the nation, the task is to give warning. He works out problems theoretically and on a didactic level, such as in chapter 18. He viewed himself in a pastoral office, a duty to live for other people, to seek them out, and palce himself and his prophetic word at their disposal. Yahweh made him responsible for the lives of others. Even before the destruction of Jerusalem, he spoke of the possibility of deliverance. When he speaks of a new Israel, he assumes an historical  and political existence on their ancestral land. In the new land, they will have a new king, called a shepherd, calling to mind the Davidic office. Many of the predictions conclude with the phrase: “that they may know that I am Yahweh.” The final goal of the divine activity is that Yahweh should be recognized and worshipped by those who so far have not known or still do not know properly.

In Ezekiel 18, he starts by opposing to the contention that evil works on throughout the generations the counter-thesis that each individual life belongs to Yahweh. Each person relates directly to Yahweh. If one turns to righteousness, all previous evil no longer incriminates. The way of Yahweh and to life always stands open. He understands righteousness and evil as one’s basic decision for or against Yahweh. He values the keeping of the commandments as the sign of a commitment to Yahweh. Yahweh just does not judge as people do, and does not draw up a final balance as people do, and then says that this is precisely the way to save people. Herein lies the theological grandeur of the chapter. Enlightened understanding now became aware of the load and the chains with which the individual was burdened and which scorned any rational explanation. In view of the catastrophe of 587, the question emerged as to what meaning and part of the fortunes of the individual were to have in the whole complex of events now beginning. Note 14:1-20, where even if the three exemplary righteous men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, lived in this land, it would only be they whom Yahweh would save. They could not save even their sons and daughters in virtue of their own righteousness. Note the contrast with the story in Genesis 18 and the petition of Abraham to save Sodom and Gomorrah for the sake of a few righteous persons. The question is whether the judgment and action of Yahweh must in every case be determined solely by the wickedness of the many.

Several passages of continuing significance.

One emphasis is on the glory of the Lord.

 

Ezekiel 10:18 (NRSV)

18 Then the glory of the Lord went out from the threshold of the house and stopped above the cherubim.

Ezekiel 11:23 (NRSV)

23 And the glory of the Lord ascended from the middle of the city, and stopped on the mountain east of the city.

 

A second emphasis is the promise of new life.

 

Ezekiel 11:17-21 (NRSV)

17 Therefore say: Thus says the Lord God: I will gather you from the peoples, and assemble you out of the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel. 18 When they come there, they will remove from it all its detestable things and all its abominations. 19 I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them; I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, 20 so that they may follow my statutes and keep my ordinances and obey them. Then they shall be my people, and I will be their God. 21 But as for those whose heart goes after their detestable things and their abominations, I will bring their deeds upon their own heads, says the Lord God.

Ezekiel 37:1-14 (NRSV)

The Valley of Dry Bones

 The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. 3 He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” 4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. 5 Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6 I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.”

7 So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8 I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. 9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath,and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” 10 I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.

11 Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’ 12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. 14 I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act, says the Lord.‘

 

            Ezekiel has a strong emphasis upon individual responsibility.

 

Ezekiel 18 (NRSV)

Individual Retribution

18 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, “The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge”? 3 As I live, says the Lord God, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. 4 Know that all lives are mine; the life of the parent as well as the life of the child is mine: it is only the person who sins that shall die.

5 If a man is righteous and does what is lawful and right— 6 if he does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, does not defile his neighbor’s wife or approach a woman during her menstrual period, 7 does not oppress anyone, but restores to the debtor his pledge, commits no robbery, gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment, 8 does not take advance or accrued interest, withholds his hand from iniquity, executes true justice between contending parties, 9 follows my statutes, and is careful to observe my ordinances, acting faithfully—such a one is righteous; he shall surely live, says the Lord God.

10 If he has a son who is violent, a shedder of blood, 11 who does any of these things (though his father does none of them), who eats upon the mountains, defiles his neighbor’s wife, 12 oppresses the poor and needy, commits robbery, does not restore the pledge, lifts up his eyes to the idols, commits abomination, 13 takes advance or accrued interest; shall he then live? He shall not. He has done all these abominable things; he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon himself.

14 But if this man has a son who sees all the sins that his father has done, considers, and does not do likewise, 15 who does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, does not defile his neighbor’s wife, 16 does not wrong anyone, exacts no pledge, commits no robbery, but gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment, 17 withholds his hand from iniquity, takes no advance or accrued interest, observes my ordinances, and follows my statutes; he shall not die for his father’s iniquity; he shall surely live. 18 As for his father, because he practiced extortion, robbed his brother, and did what is not good among his people, he dies for his iniquity.

19 Yet you say, “Why should not the son suffer for the iniquity of the father?” When the son has done what is lawful and right, and has been careful to observe all my statutes, he shall surely live. 20 The person who sins shall die. A child shall not suffer for the iniquity of a parent, nor a parent suffer for the iniquity of a child; the righteousness of the righteous shall be his own, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be his own.

21 But if the wicked turn away from all their sins that they have committed and keep all my statutes and do what is lawful and right, they shall surely live; they shall not die. 22 None of the transgressions that they have committed shall be remembered against them; for the righteousness that they have done they shall live. 23 Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, says the Lord God, and not rather that they should turn from their ways and live? 24 But when the righteous turn away from their righteousness and commit iniquity and do the same abominable things that the wicked do, shall they live? None of the righteous deeds that they have done shall be remembered; for the treachery of which they are guilty and the sin they have committed, they shall die.

25 Yet you say, “The way of the Lord is unfair.” Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair? 26 When the righteous turn away from their righteousness and commit iniquity, they shall die for it; for the iniquity that they have committed they shall die. 27 Again, when the wicked turn away from the wickedness they have committed and do what is lawful and right, they shall save their life. 28 Because they considered and turned away from all the transgressions that they had committed, they shall surely live; they shall not die. 29 Yet the house of Israel says, “The way of the Lord is unfair.” O house of Israel, are my ways unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair?

30 Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, all of you according to your ways, says the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions; otherwise iniquity will be your ruin. 31 Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed against me, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? 32 For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord God. Turn, then, and live.

 

            Ezekiel provides an important allegorical history of Israel, as well as an account of the infidelities of Israel.

 

Ezekiel 16 (NRSV)

God’s Faithless Bride

16 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 Mortal, make known to Jerusalem her abominations, 3 and say, Thus says the Lord God to Jerusalem: Your origin and your birth were in the land of the Canaanites; your father was an Amorite, and your mother a Hittite. 4 As for your birth, on the day you were born your navel cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to cleanse you, nor rubbed with salt, nor wrapped in cloths. 5 No eye pitied you, to do any of these things for you out of compassion for you; but you were thrown out in the open field, for you were abhorred on the day you were born.

6 I passed by you, and saw you flailing about in your blood. As you lay in your blood, I said to you, “Live! 7 and grow up like a plant of the field.” You grew up and became tall and arrived at full womanhood;your breasts were formed, and your hair had grown; yet you were naked and bare.

8 I passed by you again and looked on you; you were at the age for love. I spread the edge of my cloak over you, and covered your nakedness: I pledged myself to you and entered into a covenant with you, says the Lord God, and you became mine. 9 Then I bathed you with water and washed off the blood from you, and anointed you with oil. 10 I clothed you with embroidered cloth and with sandals of fine leather; I bound you in fine linen and covered you with rich fabric. 11 I adorned you with ornaments: I put bracelets on your arms, a chain on your neck, 12 a ring on your nose, earrings in your ears, and a beautiful crown upon your head. 13 You were adorned with gold and silver, while your clothing was of fine linen, rich fabric, and embroidered cloth. You had choice flour and honey and oil for food. You grew exceedingly beautiful, fit to be a queen. 14 Your fame spread among the nations on account of your beauty, for it was perfect because of my splendor that I had bestowed on you, says the Lord God.

15 But you trusted in your beauty, and played the whore because of your fame, and lavished your whorings on any passer-by. 16 You took some of your garments, and made for yourself colorful shrines, and on them played the whore; nothing like this has ever been or ever shall be. 17 You also took your beautiful jewels of my gold and my silver that I had given you, and made for yourself male images, and with them played the whore; 18 and you took your embroidered garments to cover them, and set my oil and my incense before them. 19 Also my bread that I gave you—I fed you with choice flour and oil and honey—you set it before them as a pleasing odor; and so it was, says the Lord God. 20 You took your sons and your daughters, whom you had borne to me, and these you sacrificed to them to be devoured. As if your whorings were not enough! 21 You slaughtered my children and delivered them up as an offering to them. 22 And in all your abominations and your whorings you did not remember the days of your youth, when you were naked and bare, flailing about in your blood.

23 After all your wickedness (woe, woe to you! says the Lord God), 24 you built yourself a platform and made yourself a lofty place in every square; 25 at the head of every street you built your lofty place and prostituted your beauty, offering yourself to every passer-by, and multiplying your whoring. 26 You played the whore with the Egyptians, your lustful neighbors, multiplying your whoring, to provoke me to anger. 27 Therefore I stretched out my hand against you, reduced your rations, and gave you up to the will of your enemies, the daughters of the Philistines, who were ashamed of your lewd behavior. 28 You played the whore with the Assyrians, because you were insatiable; you played the whore with them, and still you were not satisfied. 29 You multiplied your whoring with Chaldea, the land of merchants; and even with this you were not satisfied.

30 How sick is your heart, says the Lord God, that you did all these things, the deeds of a brazen whore; 31 building your platform at the head of every street, and making your lofty place in every square! Yet you were not like a whore, because you scorned payment. 32 Adulterous wife, who receives strangers instead of her husband! 33 Gifts are given to all whores; but you gave your gifts to all your lovers, bribing them to come to you from all around for your whorings. 34 So you were different from other women in your whorings: no one solicited you to play the whore; and you gave payment, while no payment was given to you; you were different.

35 Therefore, O whore, hear the word of the Lord: 36 Thus says the Lord God, Because your lust was poured out and your nakedness uncovered in your whoring with your lovers, and because of all your abominable idols, and because of the blood of your children that you gave to them, 37 therefore, I will gather all your lovers, with whom you took pleasure, all those you loved and all those you hated; I will gather them against you from all around, and will uncover your nakedness to them, so that they may see all your nakedness. 38 I will judge you as women who commit adultery and shed blood are judged, and bring blood upon you in wrath and jealousy. 39 I will deliver you into their hands, and they shall throw down your platform and break down your lofty places; they shall strip you of your clothes and take your beautiful objects and leave you naked and bare. 40 They shall bring up a mob against you, and they shall stone you and cut you to pieces with their swords. 41 They shall burn your houses and execute judgments on you in the sight of many women; I will stop you from playing the whore, and you shall also make no more payments. 42 So I will satisfy my fury on you, and my jealousy shall turn away from you; I will be calm, and will be angry no longer. 43 Because you have not remembered the days of your youth, but have enraged me with all these things; therefore, I have returned your deeds upon your head, says the Lord God.

Have you not committed lewdness beyond all your abominations? 44 See, everyone who uses proverbs will use this proverb about you, “Like mother, like daughter.” 45 You are the daughter of your mother, who loathed her husband and her children; and you are the sister of your sisters, who loathed their husbands and their children. Your mother was a Hittite and your father an Amorite. 46 Your elder sister is Samaria, who lived with her daughters to the north of you; and your younger sister, who lived to the south of you, is Sodom with her daughters. 47 You not only followed their ways, and acted according to their abominations; within a very little time you were more corrupt than they in all your ways. 48 As I live, says the Lord God, your sister Sodom and her daughters have not done as you and your daughters have done. 49 This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. 50 They were haughty, and did abominable things before me; therefore I removed them when I saw it. 51 Samaria has not committed half your sins; you have committed more abominations than they, and have made your sisters appear righteous by all the abominations that you have committed. 52 Bear your disgrace, you also, for you have brought about for your sisters a more favorable judgment; because of your sins in which you acted more abominably than they, they are more in the right than you. So be ashamed, you also, and bear your disgrace, for you have made your sisters appear righteous.

53 I will restore their fortunes, the fortunes of Sodom and her daughters and the fortunes of Samaria and her daughters, and I will restore your own fortunes along with theirs, 54 in order that you may bear your disgrace and be ashamed of all that you have done, becoming a consolation to them. 55 As for your sisters, Sodom and her daughters shall return to their former state, Samaria and her daughters shall return to their former state, and you and your daughters shall return to your former state. 56 Was not your sister Sodom a byword in your mouth in the day of your pride, 57 before your wickedness was uncovered? Now you are a mockery to the daughters of Aram and all her neighbors, and to the daughters of the Philistines, those all around who despise you. 58 You must bear the penalty of your lewdness and your abominations, says the Lord.

An Everlasting Covenant

59 Yes, thus says the Lord God: I will deal with you as you have done, you who have despised the oath, breaking the covenant; 60 yet I will remember my covenant with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish with you an everlasting covenant. 61 Then you will remember your ways, and be ashamed when I take your sisters, both your elder and your younger, and give them to you as daughters, but not on account of mycovenant with you. 62 I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the Lord, 63 in order that you may remember and be confounded, and never open your mouth again because of your shame, when I forgive you all that you have done, says the Lord God.

 

Ezekiel 20 (NRSV)

Israel’s Continuing Rebellion

20 In the seventh year, in the fifth month, on the tenth day of the month, certain elders of Israel came to consult the Lord, and sat down before me. 2 And the word of the Lord came to me: 3 Mortal, speak to the elders of Israel, and say to them: Thus says the Lord God: Why are you coming? To consult me? As I live, says the Lord God, I will not be consulted by you. 4 Will you judge them, mortal, will you judge them? Then let them know the abominations of their ancestors, 5 and say to them: Thus says the Lord God: On the day when I chose Israel, I swore to the offspring of the house of Jacob—making myself known to them in the land of Egypt—I swore to them, saying, I am the Lord your God. 6 On that day I swore to them that I would bring them out of the land of Egypt into a land that I had searched out for them, a land flowing with milk and honey, the most glorious of all lands. 7 And I said to them, Cast away the detestable things your eyes feast on, every one of you, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt; I am the Lord your God. 8 But they rebelled against me and would not listen to me; not one of them cast away the detestable things their eyes feasted on, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt.

Then I thought I would pour out my wrath upon them and spend my anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt. 9 But I acted for the sake of my name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations among whom they lived, in whose sight I made myself known to them in bringing them out of the land of Egypt. 10 So I led them out of the land of Egypt and brought them into the wilderness. 11 I gave them my statutes and showed them my ordinances, by whose observance everyone shall live. 12 Moreover I gave them my sabbaths, as a sign between me and them, so that they might know that I the Lord sanctify them. 13 But the house of Israel rebelled against me in the wilderness; they did not observe my statutes but rejected my ordinances, by whose observance everyone shall live; and my sabbaths they greatly profaned.

Then I thought I would pour out my wrath upon them in the wilderness, to make an end of them. 14 But I acted for the sake of my name, so that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations, in whose sight I had brought them out. 15 Moreover I swore to them in the wilderness that I would not bring them into the land that I had given them, a land flowing with milk and honey, the most glorious of all lands, 16 because they rejected my ordinances and did not observe my statutes, and profaned my sabbaths; for their heart went after their idols. 17 Nevertheless my eye spared them, and I did not destroy them or make an end of them in the wilderness.

18 I said to their children in the wilderness, Do not follow the statutes of your parents, nor observe their ordinances, nor defile yourselves with their idols. 19 I the Lord am your God; follow my statutes, and be careful to observe my ordinances, 20 and hallow my sabbaths that they may be a sign between me and you, so that you may know that I the Lord am your God. 21 But the children rebelled against me; they did not follow my statutes, and were not careful to observe my ordinances, by whose observance everyone shall live; they profaned my sabbaths.

Then I thought I would pour out my wrath upon them and spend my anger against them in the wilderness. 22 But I withheld my hand, and acted for the sake of my name, so that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations, in whose sight I had brought them out. 23 Moreover I swore to them in the wilderness that I would scatter them among the nations and disperse them through the countries, 24 because they had not executed my ordinances, but had rejected my statutes and profaned my sabbaths, and their eyes were set on their ancestors’ idols. 25 Moreover I gave them statutes that were not good and ordinances by which they could not live. 26 I defiled them through their very gifts, in their offering up all their firstborn, in order that I might horrify them, so that they might know that I am the Lord.

27 Therefore, mortal, speak to the house of Israel and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: In this again your ancestors blasphemed me, by dealing treacherously with me. 28 For when I had brought them into the land that I swore to give them, then wherever they saw any high hill or any leafy tree, there they offered their sacrifices and presented the provocation of their offering; there they sent up their pleasing odors, and there they poured out their drink offerings. 29 (I said to them, What is the high place to which you go? So it is called Bamah to this day.) 30 Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: Will you defile yourselves after the manner of your ancestors and go astray after their detestable things? 31 When you offer your gifts and make your children pass through the fire, you defile yourselves with all your idols to this day. And shall I be consulted by you, O house of Israel? As I live, says the Lord God, I will not be consulted by you.

32 What is in your mind shall never happen—the thought, “Let us be like the nations, like the tribes of the countries, and worship wood and stone.”

God Will Restore Israel

33 As I live, says the Lord God, surely with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and with wrath poured out, I will be king over you. 34 I will bring you out from the peoples and gather you out of the countries where you are scattered, with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and with wrath poured out; 35 and I will bring you into the wilderness of the peoples, and there I will enter into judgment with you face to face. 36 As I entered into judgment with your ancestors in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so I will enter into judgment with you, says the Lord God. 37 I will make you pass under the staff, and will bring you within the bond of the covenant. 38 I will purge out the rebels among you, and those who transgress against me; I will bring them out of the land where they reside as aliens, but they shall not enter the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord.

39 As for you, O house of Israel, thus says the Lord God: Go serve your idols, everyone of you now and hereafter, if you will not listen to me; but my holy name you shall no more profane with your gifts and your idols.

40 For on my holy mountain, the mountain height of Israel, says the Lord God, there all the house of Israel, all of them, shall serve me in the land; there I will accept them, and there I will require your contributions and the choicest of your gifts, with all your sacred things. 41 As a pleasing odor I will accept you, when I bring you out from the peoples, and gather you out of the countries where you have been scattered; and I will manifest my holiness among you in the sight of the nations. 42 You shall know that I am the Lord, when I bring you into the land of Israel, the country that I swore to give to your ancestors. 43 There you shall remember your ways and all the deeds by which you have polluted yourselves; and you shall loathe yourselves for all the evils that you have committed. 44 And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I deal with you for my name’s sake, not according to your evil ways, or corrupt deeds, O house of Israel, says the Lord God.

A Prophecy against the Negeb

45 The word of the Lord came to me: 46 Mortal, set your face toward the south, preach against the south, and prophesy against the forest land in the Negeb; 47 say to the forest of the Negeb, Hear the word of the Lord: Thus says the Lord God, I will kindle a fire in you, and it shall devour every green tree in you and every dry tree; the blazing flame shall not be quenched, and all faces from south to north shall be scorched by it. 48 All flesh shall see that I the Lord have kindled it; it shall not be quenched. 49 Then I said, “Ah Lord God! they are saying of me, ‘Is he not a maker of allegories?’ ”

 

Ezekiel 23 (NRSV)

Oholah and Oholibah

23 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 Mortal, there were two women, the daughters of one mother; 3 they played the whore in Egypt; they played the whore in their youth; their breasts were caressed there, and their virgin bosoms were fondled. 4 Oholah was the name of the elder and Oholibah the name of her sister. They became mine, and they bore sons and daughters. As for their names, Oholah is Samaria, and Oholibah is Jerusalem.

5 Oholah played the whore while she was mine; she lusted after her lovers the Assyrians, warriors 6 clothed in blue, governors and commanders, all of them handsome young men, mounted horsemen. 7 She bestowed her favors upon them, the choicest men of Assyria all of them; and she defiled herself with all the idols of everyone for whom she lusted. 8 She did not give up her whorings that she had practiced since Egypt; for in her youth men had lain with her and fondled her virgin bosom and poured out their lust upon her. 9 Therefore I delivered her into the hands of her lovers, into the hands of the Assyrians, for whom she lusted. 10 These uncovered her nakedness; they seized her sons and her daughters; and they killed her with the sword. Judgment was executed upon her, and she became a byword among women.

11 Her sister Oholibah saw this, yet she was more corrupt than she in her lusting and in her whorings, which were worse than those of her sister. 12 She lusted after the Assyrians, governors and commanders, warriors clothed in full armor, mounted horsemen, all of them handsome young men. 13 And I saw that she was defiled; they both took the same way. 14 But she carried her whorings further; she saw male figures carved on the wall, images of the Chaldeans portrayed in vermilion, 15 with belts around their waists, with flowing turbans on their heads, all of them looking like officers—a picture of Babylonians whose native land was Chaldea. 16 When she saw them she lusted after them, and sent messengers to them in Chaldea. 17 And the Babylonians came to her into the bed of love, and they defiled her with their lust; and after she defiled herself with them, she turned from them in disgust. 18 When she carried on her whorings so openly and flaunted her nakedness, I turned in disgust from her, as I had turned from her sister. 19 Yet she increased her whorings, remembering the days of her youth, when she played the whore in the land of Egypt 20 and lusted after her paramours there, whose members were like those of donkeys, and whose emission was like that of stallions. 21 Thus you longed for the lewdness of your youth, when the Egyptians fondled your bosom and caressedyour young breasts.

22 Therefore, O Oholibah, thus says the Lord God: I will rouse against you your lovers from whom you turned in disgust, and I will bring them against you from every side: 23 the Babylonians and all the Chaldeans, Pekod and Shoa and Koa, and all the Assyrians with them, handsome young men, governors and commanders all of them, officers and warriors, all of them riding on horses. 24 They shall come against you from the north with chariots and wagons and a host of peoples; they shall set themselves against you on every side with buckler, shield, and helmet, and I will commit the judgment to them, and they shall judge you according to their ordinances. 25 I will direct my indignation against you, in order that they may deal with you in fury. They shall cut off your nose and your ears, and your survivors shall fall by the sword. They shall seize your sons and your daughters, and your survivors shall be devoured by fire. 26 They shall also strip you of your clothes and take away your fine jewels. 27 So I will put an end to your lewdness and your whoring brought from the land of Egypt; you shall not long for them, or remember Egypt any more. 28 For thus says the Lord God: I will deliver you into the hands of those whom you hate, into the hands of those from whom you turned in disgust; 29 and they shall deal with you in hatred, and take away all the fruit of your labor, and leave you naked and bare, and the nakedness of your whorings shall be exposed. Your lewdness and your whorings 30 have brought this upon you, because you played the whore with the nations, and polluted yourself with their idols. 31 You have gone the way of your sister; therefore I will give her cup into your hand. 32 Thus says the Lord God:

You shall drink your sister’s cup,

deep and wide;

you shall be scorned and derided,

it holds so much.

33 You shall be filled with drunkenness and sorrow.

A cup of horror and desolation

is the cup of your sister Samaria;

34 you shall drink it and drain it out,

and gnaw its sherds,

and tear out your breasts;

for I have spoken, says the Lord God. 35 Therefore thus says the Lord God: Because you have forgotten me and cast me behind your back, therefore bear the consequences of your lewdness and whorings.

36 The Lord said to me: Mortal, will you judge Oholah and Oholibah? Then declare to them their abominable deeds. 37 For they have committed adultery, and blood is on their hands; with their idols they have committed adultery; and they have even offered up to them for food the children whom they had borne to me. 38 Moreover this they have done to me: they have defiled my sanctuary on the same day and profaned my sabbaths. 39 For when they had slaughtered their children for their idols, on the same day they came into my sanctuary to profane it. This is what they did in my house.

40 They even sent for men to come from far away, to whom a messenger was sent, and they came. For them you bathed yourself, painted your eyes, and decked yourself with ornaments; 41 you sat on a stately couch, with a table spread before it on which you had placed my incense and my oil. 42 The sound of a raucous multitude was around her, with many of the rabble brought in drunken from the wilderness; and they put bracelets on the arms of the women, and beautiful crowns upon their heads.

43 Then I said, Ah, she is worn out with adulteries, but they carry on their sexual acts with her. 44 For they have gone in to her, as one goes in to a whore. Thus they went in to Oholah and to Oholibah, wanton women. 45 But righteous judges shall declare them guilty of adultery and of bloodshed; because they are adulteresses and blood is on their hands.

46 For thus says the Lord God: Bring up an assembly against them, and make them an object of terror and of plunder. 47 The assembly shall stone them and with their swords they shall cut them down; they shall kill their sons and their daughters, and burn up their houses. 48 Thus will I put an end to lewdness in the land, so that all women may take warning and not commit lewdness as you have done. 49 They shall repay you for your lewdness, and you shall bear the penalty for your sinful idolatry; and you shall know that I am the Lord God.

 

            He offers prophecies against Ammon, Moab, Edom, Philistines, Tyre, Sidon, Egypt.. In particular, the prophecies concerning Tyre had an influence on the future of prophecy.

 

Ezekiel 26-28:19 (NRSV)

Proclamation against Tyre

26 In the eleventh year, on the first day of the month, the word of the Lord came to me: 2 Mortal, because Tyre said concerning Jerusalem,

“Aha, broken is the gateway of the peoples;

it has swung open to me;

I shall be replenished,

now that it is wasted,”

3 therefore, thus says the Lord God:

See, I am against you, O Tyre!

I will hurl many nations against you,

as the sea hurls its waves.

4 They shall destroy the walls of Tyre

and break down its towers.

I will scrape its soil from it

and make it a bare rock.

5 It shall become, in the midst of the sea,

a place for spreading nets.

I have spoken, says the Lord God.

It shall become plunder for the nations,

6      and its daughter-towns in the country

shall be killed by the sword.

Then they shall know that I am the Lord.

7 For thus says the Lord God: I will bring against Tyre from the north King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon, king of kings, together with horses, chariots, cavalry, and a great and powerful army.

8 Your daughter-towns in the country

he shall put to the sword.

He shall set up a siege wall against you,

cast up a ramp against you,

and raise a roof of shields against you.

9 He shall direct the shock of his battering rams against your walls

and break down your towers with his axes.

10 His horses shall be so many

that their dust shall cover you.

At the noise of cavalry, wheels, and chariots

your very walls shall shake,

when he enters your gates

like those entering a breached city.

11 With the hoofs of his horses

he shall trample all your streets.

He shall put your people to the sword,

and your strong pillars shall fall to the ground.

12 They will plunder your riches

and loot your merchandise;

they shall break down your walls

and destroy your fine houses.

Your stones and timber and soil

they shall cast into the water.

13 I will silence the music of your songs;

the sound of your lyres shall be heard no more.

14 I will make you a bare rock;

you shall be a place for spreading nets.

You shall never again be rebuilt,

for I the Lord have spoken,

says the Lord God.

15 Thus says the Lord God to Tyre: Shall not the coastlands shake at the sound of your fall, when the wounded groan, when slaughter goes on within you? 16 Then all the princes of the sea shall step down from their thrones; they shall remove their robes and strip off their embroidered garments. They shall clothe themselves with trembling, and shall sit on the ground; they shall tremble every moment, and be appalled at you. 17 And they shall raise a lamentation over you, and say to you:

How you have vanished from the seas,

O city renowned,

once mighty on the sea,

you and your inhabitants,

who imposed your terror

on all the mainland!

18 Now the coastlands tremble

on the day of your fall;

the coastlands by the sea

are dismayed at your passing.

19 For thus says the Lord God: When I make you a city laid waste, like cities that are not inhabited, when I bring up the deep over you, and the great waters cover you, 20 then I will thrust you down with those who descend into the Pit, to the people of long ago, and I will make you live in the world below, among primeval ruins, with those who go down to the Pit, so that you will not be inhabited or have a place in the land of the living. 21 I will bring you to a dreadful end, and you shall be no more; though sought for, you will never be found again, says the Lord God.

Lamentation over Tyre

27 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 Now you, mortal, raise a lamentation over Tyre, 3 and say to Tyre, which sits at the entrance to the sea, merchant of the peoples on many coastlands, Thus says the Lord God:

O Tyre, you have said,

“I am perfect in beauty.”

4 Your borders are in the heart of the seas;

your builders made perfect your beauty.

5 They made all your planks

of fir trees from Senir;

they took a cedar from Lebanon

to make a mast for you.

6 From oaks of Bashan

they made your oars;

they made your deck of pines

from the coasts of Cyprus,

inlaid with ivory.

7 Of fine embroidered linen from Egypt

was your sail,

serving as your ensign;

blue and purple from the coasts of Elishah

was your awning.

8 The inhabitants of Sidon and Arvad

were your rowers;

skilled men of Zemer were within you,

they were your pilots.

9 The elders of Gebal and its artisans were within you,

caulking your seams;

all the ships of the sea with their mariners were within you,

to barter for your wares.

10 Paras and Lud and Put

were in your army,

your mighty warriors;

they hung shield and helmet in you;

they gave you splendor.

11 Men of Arvad and Helech

were on your walls all around;

men of Gamad were at your towers.

They hung their quivers all around your walls;

they made perfect your beauty.

12 Tarshish did business with you out of the abundance of your great wealth; silver, iron, tin, and lead they exchanged for your wares. 13 Javan, Tubal, and Meshech traded with you; they exchanged human beings and vessels of bronze for your merchandise. 14 Beth-togarmah exchanged for your wares horses, war horses, and mules. 15 The Rhodians traded with you; many coastlands were your own special markets; they brought you in payment ivory tusks and ebony. 16 Edom did business with you because of your abundant goods; they exchanged for your wares turquoise, purple, embroidered work, fine linen, coral, and rubies. 17 Judah and the land of Israel traded with you; they exchanged for your merchandise wheat from Minnith, millet, honey, oil, and balm. 18 Damascus traded with you for your abundant goods—because of your great wealth of every kind—wine of Helbon, and white wool. 19 Vedan and Javan from Uzal entered into trade for your wares; wrought iron, cassia, and sweet cane were bartered for your merchandise. 20 Dedan traded with you in saddlecloths for riding. 21 Arabia and all the princes of Kedar were your favored dealers in lambs, rams, and goats; in these they did business with you. 22 The merchants of Sheba and Raamah traded with you; they exchanged for your wares the best of all kinds of spices, and all precious stones, and gold. 23 Haran, Canneh, Eden, the merchants of Sheba, Asshur, and Chilmad traded with you. 24 These traded with you in choice garments, in clothes of blue and embroidered work, and in carpets of colored material, bound with cords and made secure; in these they traded with you. 25 The ships of Tarshish traveled for you in your trade.

So you were filled and heavily laden

in the heart of the seas.

26 Your rowers have brought you

into the high seas.

The east wind has wrecked you

in the heart of the seas.

27 Your riches, your wares, your merchandise,

your mariners and your pilots,

your caulkers, your dealers in merchandise,

and all your warriors within you,

with all the company

that is with you,

sink into the heart of the seas

on the day of your ruin.

28 At the sound of the cry of your pilots

the countryside shakes,

29 and down from their ships

come all that handle the oar.

The mariners and all the pilots of the sea

stand on the shore

30 and wail aloud over you,

and cry bitterly.

They throw dust on their heads

and wallow in ashes;

31 they make themselves bald for you,

and put on sackcloth,

and they weep over you in bitterness of soul,

with bitter mourning.

32 In their wailing they raise a lamentation for you,

and lament over you:

“Who was ever destroyed like Tyre

in the midst of the sea?

33 When your wares came from the seas,

you satisfied many peoples;

with your abundant wealth and merchandise

you enriched the kings of the earth.

34 Now you are wrecked by the seas,

in the depths of the waters;

your merchandise and all your crew

have sunk with you.

35 All the inhabitants of the coastlands

are appalled at you;

and their kings are horribly afraid,

their faces are convulsed.

36 The merchants among the peoples hiss at you;

you have come to a dreadful end

and shall be no more forever.”

Proclamation against the King of Tyre

28 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 Mortal, say to the prince of Tyre, Thus says the Lord God:

Because your heart is proud

and you have said, “I am a god;

I sit in the seat of the gods,

in the heart of the seas,”

yet you are but a mortal, and no god,

though you compare your mind

with the mind of a god.

3 You are indeed wiser than Daniel;

no secret is hidden from you;

4 by your wisdom and your understanding

you have amassed wealth for yourself,

and have gathered gold and silver

into your treasuries.

5 By your great wisdom in trade

you have increased your wealth,

and your heart has become proud in your wealth.

6 Therefore thus says the Lord God:

Because you compare your mind

with the mind of a god,

7 therefore, I will bring strangers against you,

the most terrible of the nations;

they shall draw their swords against the beauty of your wisdom

and defile your splendor.

8 They shall thrust you down to the Pit,

and you shall die a violent death

in the heart of the seas.

9 Will you still say, “I am a god,”

in the presence of those who kill you,

though you are but a mortal, and no god,

in the hands of those who wound you?

10 You shall die the death of the uncircumcised

by the hand of foreigners;

for I have spoken, says the Lord God.

Lamentation over the King of Tyre

11 Moreover the word of the Lord came to me: 12 Mortal, raise a lamentation over the king of Tyre, and say to him, Thus says the Lord God:

You were the signet of perfection,

full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.

13 You were in Eden, the garden of God;

every precious stone was your covering,

carnelian, chrysolite, and moonstone,

beryl, onyx, and jasper,

sapphire, turquoise, and emerald;

and worked in gold were your settings

and your engravings.

On the day that you were created

they were prepared.

14 With an anointed cherub as guardian I placed you;

you were on the holy mountain of God;

you walked among the stones of fire.

15 You were blameless in your ways

from the day that you were created,

until iniquity was found in you.

16 In the abundance of your trade

you were filled with violence, and you sinned;

so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God,

and the guardian cherub drove you out

from among the stones of fire.

17 Your heart was proud because of your beauty;

you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor.

I cast you to the ground;

I exposed you before kings,

to feast their eyes on you.

18 By the multitude of your iniquities,

in the unrighteousness of your trade,

you profaned your sanctuaries.

So I brought out fire from within you;

it consumed you,

and I turned you to ashes on the earth

in the sight of all who saw you.

19 All who know you among the peoples

are appalled at you;

you have come to a dreadful end

and shall be no more forever.

 

            Ezekiel had a vision of his role as prophet.

 

Ezekiel 33:1-11 (NRSV)

Ezekiel Israel’s Sentry

33 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 O Mortal, speak to your people and say to them, If I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take one of their number as their sentinel; 3 and if the sentinel sees the sword coming upon the land and blows the trumpet and warns the people; 4 then if any who hear the sound of the trumpet do not take warning, and the sword comes and takes them away, their blood shall be upon their own heads. 5 They heard the sound of the trumpet and did not take warning; their blood shall be upon themselves. But if they had taken warning, they would have saved their lives. 6 But if the sentinel sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any of them, they are taken away in their iniquity, but their blood I will require at the sentinel’s hand.

7 So you, mortal, I have made a sentinel for the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. 8 If I say to the wicked, “O wicked ones, you shall surely die,” and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from their ways, the wicked shall die in their iniquity, but their blood I will require at your hand. 9 But if you warn the wicked to turn from their ways, and they do not turn from their ways, the wicked shall die in their iniquity, but you will have saved your life.

God’s Justice and Mercy

10 Now you, mortal, say to the house of Israel, Thus you have said: “Our transgressions and our sins weigh upon us, and we waste away because of them; how then can we live?” 11 Say to them, As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their ways and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways; for why will you die, O house of Israel?

 

            Ezekiel criticizes the leaders of Israel severely.

 

Ezekiel 34 (NRSV)

Israel’s False Shepherds

34 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 Mortal, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel: prophesy, and say to them—to the shepherds: Thus says the Lord God: Ah, you shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? 3 You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fatlings; but you do not feed the sheep. 4 You have not strengthened the weak, you have not healed the sick, you have not bound up the injured, you have not brought back the strayed, you have not sought the lost, but with force and harshness you have ruled them. 5 So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd; and scattered, they became food for all the wild animals. 6 My sheep were scattered, they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill; my sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with no one to search or seek for them.

7 Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: 8 As I live, says the Lord God, because my sheep have become a prey, and my sheep have become food for all the wild animals, since there was no shepherd; and because my shepherds have not searched for my sheep, but the shepherds have fed themselves, and have not fed my sheep; 9 therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: 10 Thus says the Lord God, I am against the shepherds; and I will demand my sheep at their hand, and put a stop to their feeding the sheep; no longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, so that they may not be food for them.

God, the True Shepherd

11 For thus says the Lord God: I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. 12 As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. 13 I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the watercourses, and in all the inhabited parts of the land. 14 I will feed them with good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel shall be their pasture; there they shall lie down in good grazing land, and they shall feed on rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. 15 I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord God. 16 I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice.

17 As for you, my flock, thus says the Lord God: I shall judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and goats: 18 Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, but you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture? When you drink of clear water, must you foul the rest with your feet? 19 And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have fouled with your feet?

20 Therefore, thus says the Lord God to them: I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. 21 Because you pushed with flank and shoulder, and butted at all the weak animals with your horns until you scattered them far and wide, 22 I will save my flock, and they shall no longer be ravaged; and I will judge between sheep and sheep.

23 I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. 24 And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them; I, the Lord, have spoken.

25 I will make with them a covenant of peace and banish wild animals from the land, so that they may live in the wild and sleep in the woods securely. 26 I will make them and the region around my hill a blessing; and I will send down the showers in their season; they shall be showers of blessing. 27 The trees of the field shall yield their fruit, and the earth shall yield its increase. They shall be secure on their soil; and they shall know that I am the Lord, when I break the bars of their yoke, and save them from the hands of those who enslaved them. 28 They shall no more be plunder for the nations, nor shall the animals of the land devour them; they shall live in safety, and no one shall make them afraid. 29 I will provide for them a splendid vegetation so that they shall no more be consumed with hunger in the land, and no longer suffer the insults of the nations. 30 They shall know that I, the Lord their God, am with them, and that they, the house of Israel, are my people, says the Lord God. 31 You are my sheep, the sheep of my pasture and I am your God, says the Lord God.

 

 

II Isaiah

            II Isaiah preached from 550-538 and is found in Isaiah 40-55.  He probably spoke in the worshipping community, and may have edited and revised his own preaching.  There is a great unity to the whole work theologically, but individual units can be identified which are best understood as being spoken to an audience.

            The prophet uses the election traditions of exodus, David, and Zion in striking poems, though the dominant tradition is that of exodus. He can only imagine new saving acts of Yahweh as another form of exodus. The exodus will lead to a city. He applies the promises to David to the whole nation. He also deals with the creation of the world as the first historical act by Yahweh. His use of creation is the result of the new situation in which Israel had its life in exile. He uses elements of the priestly oracle of response for his proclamation of salvation, as in “fear not,” and “I redeem you, strength you, help you, am with you,” and “you are mine.” His belief in the creative word of Yahweh suggests that he spoke rather than wrote these words. The question of who controls history receives the answer that the one who can allow the future to be told in advance is the Lord of history.

            He refers to the new saving event of the coming of the Lord as imminent, a theophany for the whole world. The new turn in world history is through Cyrus. Just as God in the past used Assyria and Babylon to the northern and the southern kingdoms, so now God would use Cyrus to save Judah.  He sets the stage for the new saving event, the departure of the exiles from Babylon and their return home, and the advent of Yahweh, who will accompany the people. He views this departure as a counterpart to the saving history of the departure of the Hebrews from Egypt. His point is that the people must look away from exodus and the basis of their faith and place their faith forward to the new saving event. His reference to the old passing away and the new coming represents a decisive break suggests the inauguration of the eschaton and separates from all previous saving history. It is not eschatology or apocalyptic, or the future hope to which he points is in this world. He also has discourse with those of little faith and with those who have grown weary, for whom reality ware a very different appearance. These exiles felt themselves forsaken by God and unable to believe that Yahweh cared about their way. Some exiles questioned the presence of God.  The people of the exile had come to believe that God was no longer willing or no longer able to help.  His message is the restoration of the exiles to their land, along with a promised independence. The prophet appeals to both reason and emotion to remove the terror in the hearts in many exiles. He brought a message of peace different from previous prophets, who prophesied judgment. He focuses only on the invincible love of Yahweh because Yahweh has forgiven them of the sins previous prophets pointed to and warned about.

             He also prophesied a new servant. The servant songs suggest how he was treated.  The servant songs are themselves just the opposite to Cyrus. The function of this servant of Yahweh must be either that of king or prophet, and the most likely possibility is that of prophet. The theme of the songs is that of proclamation and suffering rather than ruling. Since the prophet applies to Israel the title of servant, the temptation is to view the servant songs as references to the community. Israel is viewed as a missionary to the nations.  He envisions a time when all nations submit to the rule of the Lord.  Yet, 49:6 suggests that the servant has a mission to Israel. The communal interpretation seems forced when the prophet uses such individual expressions. The references to the lack of faith and unwillingness of many exiles seems quite a contrast to the self-surrender and strong faith of the servant in these songs. The picture of this servant, of his mission to Israel and to the world, and of his expiatory suffering, is prophecy of the future and belongs to the realm of saving history Yahweh reserved to Yahweh’s own action. One might consider a connection with a new Moses, whom Deuteronomy refers to as a servant of the Lord, mediator of the covenant, suffers, and even dies a vicarious death for the sins of the people. He may foretell of a prophetic mediator greater than Moses in the same degree as the new exodus surpassing the old.

            Some passages from II Isaiah are prior to Isaiah 40.

 

Isaiah 13:17-22 (NRSV)

17 See, I am stirring up the Medes against them,

who have no regard for silver

and do not delight in gold.

18 Their bows will slaughter the young men;

they will have no mercy on the fruit of the womb;

their eyes will not pity children.

19 And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms,

the splendor and pride of the Chaldeans,

will be like Sodom and Gomorrah

when God overthrew them.

20 It will never be inhabited

or lived in for all generations;

Arabs will not pitch their tents there,

shepherds will not make their flocks lie down there.

21 But wild animals will lie down there,

and its houses will be full of howling creatures;

there ostriches will live,

and there goat-demons will dance.

22 Hyenas will cry in its towers,

and jackals in the pleasant palaces;

its time is close at hand,

and its days will not be prolonged.

 

Isaiah 21:1-10 (NRSV)

 The oracle concerning the wilderness of the sea.

As whirlwinds in the Negeb sweep on,

it comes from the desert,

from a terrible land.

2 A stern vision is told to me;

the betrayer betrays,

and the destroyer destroys.

Go up, O Elam,

lay siege, O Media;

all the sighing she has caused

I bring to an end.

3 Therefore my loins are filled with anguish;

pangs have seized me,

like the pangs of a woman in labor;

I am bowed down so that I cannot hear,

I am dismayed so that I cannot see.

4 My mind reels, horror has appalled me;

the twilight I longed for

has been turned for me into trembling.

5 They prepare the table,

they spread the rugs,

they eat, they drink.

Rise up, commanders,

oil the shield!

6 For thus the Lord said to me:

“Go, post a lookout,

let him announce what he sees.

7 When he sees riders, horsemen in pairs,

riders on donkeys, riders on camels,

let him listen diligently,

very diligently.”

8 Then the watcher called out:

“Upon a watchtower I stand, O Lord,

continually by day,

and at my post I am stationed

throughout the night.

9 Look, there they come, riders,

horsemen in pairs!”

Then he responded,

“Fallen, fallen is Babylon;

and all the images of her gods

lie shattered on the ground.”

10 O my threshed and winnowed one,

what I have heard from the Lord of hosts,

the God of Israel, I announce to you.

 

            The prophet wanted to offer comfort to a people devastated by exile.

 

Isaiah 40 (NRSV)

God’s People Are Comforted

(Cp Lk 3.4—6)

40 Comfort, O comfort my people,

says your God.

2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,

and cry to her

that she has served her term,

that her penalty is paid,

that she has received from the Lord’s hand

double for all her sins.

3 A voice cries out:

“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,

make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

4 Every valley shall be lifted up,

and every mountain and hill be made low;

the uneven ground shall become level,

and the rough places a plain.

5 Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,

and all people shall see it together,

for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

6 A voice says, “Cry out!”

And I said, “What shall I cry?”

All people are grass,

their constancy is like the flower of the field.

7 The grass withers, the flower fades,

when the breath of the Lord blows upon it;

surely the people are grass.

8 The grass withers, the flower fades;

but the word of our God will stand forever.

9 Get you up to a high mountain,

O Zion, herald of good tidings;

lift up your voice with strength,

O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings,

lift it up, do not fear;

say to the cities of Judah,

“Here is your God!”

10 See, the Lord God comes with might,

and his arm rules for him;

his reward is with him,

and his recompense before him.

11 He will feed his flock like a shepherd;

he will gather the lambs in his arms,

and carry them in his bosom,

and gently lead the mother sheep.

12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand

and marked off the heavens with a span,

enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure,

and weighed the mountains in scales

and the hills in a balance?

13 Who has directed the spirit of the Lord,

or as his counselor has instructed him?

14 Whom did he consult for his enlightenment,

and who taught him the path of justice?

Who taught him knowledge,

and showed him the way of understanding?

15 Even the nations are like a drop from a bucket,

and are accounted as dust on the scales;

see, he takes up the isles like fine dust.

16 Lebanon would not provide fuel enough,

nor are its animals enough for a burnt offering.

17 All the nations are as nothing before him;

they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness.

18 To whom then will you liken God,

or what likeness compare with him?

19 An idol? —A workman casts it,

and a goldsmith overlays it with gold,

and casts for it silver chains.

20 As a gift one chooses mulberry wood

—wood that will not rot—

then seeks out a skilled artisan

to set up an image that will not topple.

21 Have you not known? Have you not heard?

Has it not been told you from the beginning?

Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?

22 It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,

and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;

who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,

and spreads them like a tent to live in;

23 who brings princes to naught,

and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing.

24 Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown,

scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth,

when he blows upon them, and they wither,

and the tempest carries them off like stubble.

25 To whom then will you compare me,

or who is my equal? says the Holy One.

26 Lift up your eyes on high and see:

Who created these?

He who brings out their host and numbers them,

calling them all by name;

because he is great in strength,

mighty in power,

not one is missing.

27 Why do you say, O Jacob,

and speak, O Israel,

“My way is hidden from the Lord,

and my right is disregarded by my God”?

28 Have you not known? Have you not heard?

The Lord is the everlasting God,

the Creator of the ends of the earth.

He does not faint or grow weary;

his understanding is unsearchable.

29 He gives power to the faint,

and strengthens the powerless.

30 Even youths will faint and be weary,

and the young will fall exhausted;

31 but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,

they shall mount up with wings like eagles,

they shall run and not be weary,

they shall walk and not faint.

 

            The prophet has several references to the servant of the Lord.

 

Isaiah 41:8-20 (NRSV)

8 But you, Israel, my servant,

Jacob, whom I have chosen,

the offspring of Abraham, my friend;

9 you whom I took from the ends of the earth,

and called from its farthest corners,

saying to you, “You are my servant,

I have chosen you and not cast you off”;

10 do not fear, for I am with you,

do not be afraid, for I am your God;

I will strengthen you, I will help you,

I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.

11 Yes, all who are incensed against you

shall be ashamed and disgraced;

those who strive against you

shall be as nothing and shall perish.

12 You shall seek those who contend with you,

but you shall not find them;

those who war against you

shall be as nothing at all.

13 For I, the Lord your God,

hold your right hand;

it is I who say to you, “Do not fear,

I will help you.”

14 Do not fear, you worm Jacob,

you insect Israel!

I will help you, says the Lord;

your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.

15 Now, I will make of you a threshing sledge,

sharp, new, and having teeth;

you shall thresh the mountains and crush them,

and you shall make the hills like chaff.

16 You shall winnow them and the wind shall carry them away,

and the tempest shall scatter them.

Then you shall rejoice in the Lord;

in the Holy One of Israel you shall glory.

17 When the poor and needy seek water,

and there is none,

and their tongue is parched with thirst,

I the Lord will answer them,

I the God of Israel will not forsake them.

18 I will open rivers on the bare heights,

and fountains in the midst of the valleys;

I will make the wilderness a pool of water,

and the dry land springs of water.

19 I will put in the wilderness the cedar,

the acacia, the myrtle, and the olive;

I will set in the desert the cypress,

the plane and the pine together,

20 so that all may see and know,

all may consider and understand,

that the hand of the Lord has done this,

the Holy One of Israel has created it.

Isaiah 42:1-9 (NRSV)

The Servant, a Light to the Nations

42 Here is my servant, whom I uphold,

my chosen, in whom my soul delights;

I have put my spirit upon him;

he will bring forth justice to the nations.

2 He will not cry or lift up his voice,

or make it heard in the street;

3 a bruised reed he will not break,

and a dimly burning wick he will not quench;

he will faithfully bring forth justice.

4 He will not grow faint or be crushed

until he has established justice in the earth;

and the coastlands wait for his teaching.

5 Thus says God, the Lord,

who created the heavens and stretched them out,

who spread out the earth and what comes from it,

who gives breath to the people upon it

and spirit to those who walk in it:

6 I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness,

I have taken you by the hand and kept you;

I have given you as a covenant to the people,

a light to the nations,

7      to open the eyes that are blind,

to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,

from the prison those who sit in darkness.

8 I am the Lord, that is my name;

my glory I give to no other,

nor my praise to idols.

9 See, the former things have come to pass,

and new things I now declare;

before they spring forth,

I tell you of them.

Isaiah 49:1-7 (NRSV)

The Servant’s Mission

49 Listen to me, O coastlands,

pay attention, you peoples from far away!

The Lord called me before I was born,

while I was in my mother’s womb he named me.

2 He made my mouth like a sharp sword,

in the shadow of his hand he hid me;

he made me a polished arrow,

in his quiver he hid me away.

3 And he said to me, “You are my servant,

Israel, in whom I will be glorified.”

4 But I said, “I have labored in vain,

I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity;

yet surely my cause is with the Lord,

and my reward with my God.”

5 And now the Lord says,

who formed me in the womb to be his servant,

to bring Jacob back to him,

and that Israel might be gathered to him,

for I am honored in the sight of the Lord,

and my God has become my strength—

6 he says,

“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant

to raise up the tribes of Jacob

and to restore the survivors of Israel;

I will give you as a light to the nations,

that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

7 Thus says the Lord,

the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One,

to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nations,

the slave of rulers,

“Kings shall see and stand up,

princes, and they shall prostrate themselves,

because of the Lord, who is faithful,

the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”

Isaiah 50:4-11 (NRSV)

The Servant’s Humiliation and Vindication

4 The Lord God has given me

the tongue of a teacher,

that I may know how to sustain

the weary with a word.

Morning by morning he wakens—

wakens my ear

to listen as those who are taught.

5 The Lord God has opened my ear,

and I was not rebellious,

I did not turn backward.

6 I gave my back to those who struck me,

and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard;

I did not hide my face

from insult and spitting.

7 The Lord God helps me;

therefore I have not been disgraced;

therefore I have set my face like flint,

and I know that I shall not be put to shame;

8      he who vindicates me is near.

Who will contend with me?

Let us stand up together.

Who are my adversaries?

Let them confront me.

9 It is the Lord God who helps me;

who will declare me guilty?

All of them will wear out like a garment;

the moth will eat them up.

10 Who among you fears the Lord

and obeys the voice of his servant,

who walks in darkness

and has no light,

yet trusts in the name of the Lord

and relies upon his God?

11 But all of you are kindlers of fire,

lighters of firebrands.

Walk in the flame of your fire,

and among the brands that you have kindled!

This is what you shall have from my hand:

you shall lie down in torment.

Isaiah 52:13-53:12 (NRSV)

The Suffering Servant

13 See, my servant shall prosper;

he shall be exalted and lifted up,

and shall be very high.

14 Just as there were many who were astonished at him

—so marred was his appearance, beyond human semblance,

and his form beyond that of mortals—

15 so he shall startle many nations;

kings shall shut their mouths because of him;

for that which had not been told them they shall see,

and that which they had not heard they shall contemplate.

53 Who has believed what we have heard?

And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?

2 For he grew up before him like a young plant,

and like a root out of dry ground;

he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,

nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

3 He was despised and rejected by others;

a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity;

and as one from whom others hide their faces

he was despised, and we held him of no account.

4 Surely he has borne our infirmities

and carried our diseases;

yet we accounted him stricken,

struck down by God, and afflicted.

5 But he was wounded for our transgressions,

crushed for our iniquities;

upon him was the punishment that made us whole,

and by his bruises we are healed.

6 All we like sheep have gone astray;

we have all turned to our own way,

and the Lord has laid on him

the iniquity of us all.

7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,

yet he did not open his mouth;

like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,

and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,

so he did not open his mouth.

8 By a perversion of justice he was taken away.

Who could have imagined his future?

For he was cut off from the land of the living,

stricken for the transgression of my people.

9 They made his grave with the wicked

and his tomb with the rich,

although he had done no violence,

and there was no deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain.

When you make his life an offering for sin,

he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days;

through him the will of the Lord shall prosper.

11      Out of his anguish he shall see light;

he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge.

The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous,

and he shall bear their iniquities.

12 Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great,

and he shall divide the spoil with the strong;

because he poured out himself to death,

and was numbered with the transgressors;

yet he bore the sin of many,

and made intercession for the transgressors.

            The prophet preached of the miracles to accompany of the new exodus.

 

Isaiah 43:6-25 (NRSV)

6 I will say to the north, “Give them up,”

and to the south, “Do not withhold;

bring my sons from far away

and my daughters from the end of the earth—

7 everyone who is called by my name,

whom I created for my glory,

whom I formed and made.”

8 Bring forth the people who are blind, yet have eyes,

who are deaf, yet have ears!

9 Let all the nations gather together,

and let the peoples assemble.

Who among them declared this,

and foretold to us the former things?

Let them bring their witnesses to justify them,

and let them hear and say, “It is true.”

10 You are my witnesses, says the Lord,

and my servant whom I have chosen,

so that you may know and believe me

and understand that I am he.

Before me no god was formed,

nor shall there be any after me.

11 I, I am the Lord,

and besides me there is no savior.

12 I declared and saved and proclaimed,

when there was no strange god among you;

and you are my witnesses, says the Lord.

13 I am God, and also henceforth I am He;

there is no one who can deliver from my hand;

I work and who can hinder it?

14 Thus says the Lord,

your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:

For your sake I will send to Babylon

and break down all the bars,

and the shouting of the Chaldeans will be turned to lamentation.

15 I am the Lord, your Holy One,

the Creator of Israel, your King.

16 Thus says the Lord,

who makes a way in the sea,

a path in the mighty waters,

17 who brings out chariot and horse,

army and warrior;

they lie down, they cannot rise,

they are extinguished, quenched like a wick:

18 Do not remember the former things,

or consider the things of old.

19 I am about to do a new thing;

now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

I will make a way in the wilderness

and rivers in the desert.

20 The wild animals will honor me,

the jackals and the ostriches;

for I give water in the wilderness,

rivers in the desert,

to give drink to my chosen people,

21      the people whom I formed for myself

so that they might declare my praise.

22 Yet you did not call upon me, O Jacob;

but you have been weary of me, O Israel!

23 You have not brought me your sheep for burnt offerings,

or honored me with your sacrifices.

I have not burdened you with offerings,

or wearied you with frankincense.

24 You have not bought me sweet cane with money,

or satisfied me with the fat of your sacrifices.

But you have burdened me with your sins;

you have wearied me with your iniquities.

25 I, I am He

who blots out your transgressions for my own sake,

and I will not remember your sins.

 

            The prophet predicts the fall of Babylon.

 

Isaiah 46-47 (NRSV)

46 Bel bows down, Nebo stoops,

their idols are on beasts and cattle;

these things you carry are loaded

as burdens on weary animals.

2 They stoop, they bow down together;

they cannot save the burden,

but themselves go into captivity.

3 Listen to me, O house of Jacob,

all the remnant of the house of Israel,

who have been borne by me from your birth,

carried from the womb;

4 even to your old age I am he,

even when you turn gray I will carry you.

I have made, and I will bear;

I will carry and will save.

5 To whom will you liken me and make me equal,

and compare me, as though we were alike?

6 Those who lavish gold from the purse,

and weigh out silver in the scales—

they hire a goldsmith, who makes it into a god;

then they fall down and worship!

7 They lift it to their shoulders, they carry it,

they set it in its place, and it stands there;

it cannot move from its place.

If one cries out to it, it does not answer

or save anyone from trouble.

8 Remember this and consider,

recall it to mind, you transgressors,

9      remember the former things of old;

for I am God, and there is no other;

I am God, and there is no one like me,

10 declaring the end from the beginning

and from ancient times things not yet done,

saying, “My purpose shall stand,

and I will fulfill my intention,”

11 calling a bird of prey from the east,

the man for my purpose from a far country.

I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass;

I have planned, and I will do it.

12 Listen to me, you stubborn of heart,

you who are far from deliverance:

13 I bring near my deliverance, it is not far off,

and my salvation will not tarry;

I will put salvation in Zion,

for Israel my glory.

The Humiliation of Babylon

47 Come down and sit in the dust,

virgin daughter Babylon!

Sit on the ground without a throne,

daughter Chaldea!

For you shall no more be called

tender and delicate.

2 Take the millstones and grind meal,

remove your veil,

strip off your robe, uncover your legs,

pass through the rivers.

3 Your nakedness shall be uncovered,

and your shame shall be seen.

I will take vengeance,

and I will spare no one.

4 Our Redeemer—the Lord of hosts is his name—

is the Holy One of Israel.

5 Sit in silence, and go into darkness,

daughter Chaldea!

For you shall no more be called

the mistress of kingdoms.

6 I was angry with my people,

I profaned my heritage;

I gave them into your hand,

you showed them no mercy;

on the aged you made your yoke

exceedingly heavy.

7 You said, “I shall be mistress forever,”

so that you did not lay these things to heart

or remember their end.

8 Now therefore hear this, you lover of pleasures,

who sit securely,

who say in your heart,

“I am, and there is no one besides me;

I shall not sit as a widow

or know the loss of children”—

9 both these things shall come upon you

in a moment, in one day:

the loss of children and widowhood

shall come upon you in full measure,

in spite of your many sorceries

and the great power of your enchantments.

10 You felt secure in your wickedness;

you said, “No one sees me.”

Your wisdom and your knowledge

led you astray,

and you said in your heart,

“I am, and there is no one besides me.”

11 But evil shall come upon you,

which you cannot charm away;

disaster shall fall upon you,

which you will not be able to ward off;

and ruin shall come on you suddenly,

of which you know nothing.

12 Stand fast in your enchantments

and your many sorceries,

with which you have labored from your youth;

perhaps you may be able to succeed,

perhaps you may inspire terror.

13 You are wearied with your many consultations;

let those who study the heavens

stand up and save you,

those who gaze at the stars,

and at each new moon predict

what shall befall you.

14 See, they are like stubble,

the fire consumes them;

they cannot deliver themselves

from the power of the flame.

No coal for warming oneself is this,

no fire to sit before!

15 Such to you are those with whom you have labored,

who have trafficked with you from your youth;

they all wander about in their own paths;

there is no one to save you.

            The prophet is a strong supporter of Cyrus coming from the east.

 

Isaiah 45:1-7 (NRSV)

Cyrus, God’s Instrument

45 Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus,

whose right hand I have grasped

to subdue nations before him

and strip kings of their robes,

to open doors before him—

and the gates shall not be closed:

2 I will go before you

and level the mountains,

I will break in pieces the doors of bronze

and cut through the bars of iron,

3 I will give you the treasures of darkness

and riches hidden in secret places,

so that you may know that it is I, the Lord,

the God of Israel, who call you by your name.

4 For the sake of my servant Jacob,

and Israel my chosen,

I call you by your name,

I surname you, though you do not know me.

5 I am the Lord, and there is no other;

besides me there is no god.

I arm you, though you do not know me,

6 so that they may know, from the rising of the sun

and from the west, that there is no one besides me;

I am the Lord, and there is no other.

7 I form light and create darkness,

I make weal and create woe;

I the Lord do all these things.

Isaiah 48:12-15 (NRSV)

12 Listen to me, O Jacob,

and Israel, whom I called:

I am He; I am the first,

and I am the last.

13 My hand laid the foundation of the earth,

and my right hand spread out the heavens;

when I summon them,

they stand at attention.

14 Assemble, all of you, and hear!

Who among them has declared these things?

The Lord loves him;

he shall perform his purpose on Babylon,

and his arm shall be against the Chaldeans.

15 I, even I, have spoken and called him,

I have brought him, and he will prosper in his way.

 

            The prophet promises the eventual return of the Jewish people to their home.

 

Isaiah 49:8-13 (NRSV)

Zion’s Children to Be Brought Home

8 Thus says the Lord:

In a time of favor I have answered you,

on a day of salvation I have helped you;

I have kept you and given you

as a covenant to the people,

to establish the land,

to apportion the desolate heritages;

9 saying to the prisoners, “Come out,”

to those who are in darkness, “Show yourselves.”

They shall feed along the ways,

on all the bare heights shall be their pasture;

10 they shall not hunger or thirst,

neither scorching wind nor sun shall strike them down,

for he who has pity on them will lead them,

and by springs of water will guide them.

11 And I will turn all my mountains into a road,

and my highways shall be raised up.

12 Lo, these shall come from far away,

and lo, these from the north and from the west,

and these from the land of Syene.

13 Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth;

break forth, O mountains, into singing!

For the Lord has comforted his people,

and will have compassion on his suffering ones.

Isaiah 52:7-10 (NRSV)

7 How beautiful upon the mountains

are the feet of the messenger who announces peace,

who brings good news,

who announces salvation,

who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”

8 Listen! Your sentinels lift up their voices,

together they sing for joy;

for in plain sight they see

the return of the Lord to Zion.

9 Break forth together into singing,

you ruins of Jerusalem;

for the Lord has comforted his people,

he has redeemed Jerusalem.

10 The Lord has bared his holy arm

before the eyes of all the nations;

and all the ends of the earth shall see

the salvation of our God.

Isaiah 55:1-13 (NRSV)

An Invitation to Abundant Life

55 Ho, everyone who thirsts,

come to the waters;

and you that have no money,

come, buy and eat!

Come, buy wine and milk

without money and without price.

2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,

and your labor for that which does not satisfy?

Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good,

and delight yourselves in rich food.

3 Incline your ear, and come to me;

listen, so that you may live.

I will make with you an everlasting covenant,

my steadfast, sure love for David.

4 See, I made him a witness to the peoples,

a leader and commander for the peoples.

5 See, you shall call nations that you do not know,

and nations that do not know you shall run to you,

because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel,

for he has glorified you.

6 Seek the Lord while he may be found,

call upon him while he is near;

7 let the wicked forsake their way,

and the unrighteous their thoughts;

let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them,

and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.

9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,

so are my ways higher than your ways

and my thoughts than your thoughts.

10 For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,

and do not return there until they have watered the earth,

making it bring forth and sprout,

giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,

11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;

it shall not return to me empty,

but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,

and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

12 For you shall go out in joy,

and be led back in peace;

the mountains and the hills before you

shall burst into song,

and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;

instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;

and it shall be to the Lord for a memorial,

for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.

Exilic additions

            Several editions of the canonical prophets have what many scholars consider as exilic updating of their prophecies.

            In Amos, we find several references to the restoration of Israel that many consider additions from the exile.

 

Amos 1:11-12 (NRSV)

11 Thus says the Lord:

For three transgressions of Edom,

and for four, I will not revoke the punishment;

because he pursued his brother with the sword

and cast off all pity;

he maintained his anger perpetually,

and kept his wrath forever.

12 So I will send a fire on Teman,

and it shall devour the strongholds of Bozrah.

 

Amos 2:4-5 (NRSV)

4 Thus says the Lord:

For three transgressions of Judah,

and for four, I will not revoke the punishment;

because they have rejected the law of the Lord,

and have not kept his statutes,

but they have been led astray by the same lies

after which their ancestors walked.

5 So I will send a fire on Judah,

and it shall devour the strongholds of Jerusalem.

 

Amos 4:13 (NRSV)

13 For lo, the one who forms the mountains, creates the wind,

reveals his thoughts to mortals,

makes the morning darkness,

and treads on the heights of the earth—

the Lord, the God of hosts, is his name!

 

Amos 9:11-15 (NRSV)

11 On that day I will raise up

the booth of David that is fallen,

and repair its breaches,

and raise up its ruins,

and rebuild it as in the days of old;

12 in order that they may possess the remnant of Edom

and all the nations who are called by my name,

says the Lord who does this.

13 The time is surely coming, says the Lord,

when the one who plows shall overtake the one who reaps,

and the treader of grapes the one who sows the seed;

the mountains shall drip sweet wine,

and all the hills shall flow with it.

14 I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel,

and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them;

they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine,

and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit.

15 I will plant them upon their land,

and they shall never again be plucked up

out of the land that I have given them,

     says the Lord your God.

 

            In Micah, we find references to the scattering that exile will bring, and the return of the exiles.

 

Micah 4:6-10 (NRSV)

6 In that day, says the Lord,

I will assemble the lame

and gather those who have been driven away,

and those whom I have afflicted.

7 The lame I will make the remnant,

and those who were cast off, a strong nation;

and the Lord will reign over them in Mount Zion

now and forevermore.

8 And you, O tower of the flock,

hill of daughter Zion,

to you it shall come,

the former dominion shall come,

the sovereignty of daughter Jerusalem.

9 Now why do you cry aloud?

Is there no king in you?

Has your counselor perished,

that pangs have seized you like a woman in labor?

10 Writhe and groan, O daughter Zion,

like a woman in labor;

for now you shall go forth from the city

and camp in the open country;

you shall go to Babylon.

There you shall be rescued,

there the Lord will redeem you

from the hands of your enemies.

 

Micah 7:8-20 (NRSV)

8 Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy;

when I fall, I shall rise;

when I sit in darkness,

the Lord will be a light to me.

9 I must bear the indignation of the Lord,

because I have sinned against him,

until he takes my side

and executes judgment for me.

He will bring me out to the light;

I shall see his vindication.

10 Then my enemy will see,

and shame will cover her who said to me,

“Where is the Lord your God?”

My eyes will see her downfall;

now she will be trodden down

like the mire of the streets.

A Prophecy of Restoration

11 A day for the building of your walls!

In that day the boundary shall be far extended.

12 In that day they will come to you

from Assyria to Egypt,

and from Egypt to the River,

from sea to sea and from mountain to mountain.

13 But the earth will be desolate

because of its inhabitants,

for the fruit of their doings.

14 Shepherd your people with your staff,

the flock that belongs to you,

which lives alone in a forest

in the midst of a garden land;

let them feed in Bashan and Gilead

as in the days of old.

15 As in the days when you came out of the land of Egypt,

show us marvelous things.

16 The nations shall see and be ashamed

of all their might;

they shall lay their hands on their mouths;

their ears shall be deaf;

17 they shall lick dust like a snake,

like the crawling things of the earth;

they shall come trembling out of their fortresses;

they shall turn in dread to the Lord our God,

and they shall stand in fear of you.

God’s Compassion and Steadfast Love

18 Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity

and passing over the transgression

of the remnant of your possession?

He does not retain his anger forever,

because he delights in showing clemency.

19 He will again have compassion upon us;

he will tread our iniquities under foot.

You will cast all our sins

into the depths of the sea.

20 You will show faithfulness to Jacob

and unswerving loyalty to Abraham,

as you have sworn to our ancestors

from the days of old.

 

            Isaiah had a rather extensive updating of his prophesies in the exile. Some seem focused upon the event of 587 BC.

 

Isaiah 1:9 (NRSV)

9 If the Lord of hosts

had not left us a few survivors,

we would have been like Sodom,

and become like Gomorrah.

Isaiah 1:27-30 (NRSV)

27 Zion shall be redeemed by justice,

and those in her who repent, by righteousness.

28 But rebels and sinners shall be destroyed together,

and those who forsake the Lord shall be consumed.

29 For you shall be ashamed of the oaks

in which you delighted;

and you shall blush for the gardens

that you have chosen.

30 For you shall be like an oak

whose leaf withers,

and like a garden without water.

Isaiah 2:18-19 (NRSV)

18 The idols shall utterly pass away.

19 Enter the caves of the rocks

and the holes of the ground,

from the terror of the Lord,

and from the glory of his majesty,

when he rises to terrify the earth.

Isaiah 5:14-17 (NRSV)

14 Therefore Sheol has enlarged its appetite

and opened its mouth beyond measure;

the nobility of Jerusalem and her multitude go down,

her throng and all who exult in her.

15 People are bowed down, everyone is brought low,

and the eyes of the haughty are humbled.

16 But the Lord of hosts is exalted by justice,

and the Holy God shows himself holy by righteousness.

17 Then the lambs shall graze as in their pasture,

fatlings and kids shall feed among the ruins.

Isaiah 6:12-13 (NRSV)

12 until the Lord sends everyone far away,

and vast is the emptiness in the midst of the land.

13 Even if a tenth part remain in it,

it will be burned again,

like a terebinth or an oak

whose stump remains standing

when it is felled.”

The holy seed is its stump.

 

Isaiah 13:6-8 (NRSV)

6 Wail, for the day of the Lord is near;

it will come like destruction from the Almighty!

7 Therefore all hands will be feeble,

and every human heart will melt,

8      and they will be dismayed.

Pangs and agony will seize them;

they will be in anguish like a woman in labor.

They will look aghast at one another;

their faces will be aflame.

 

Isaiah 13:15 (NRSV)

15 Whoever is found will be thrust through,

and whoever is caught will fall by the sword.

 

Isaiah 22:4-11 (NRSV)

4 Therefore I said:

Look away from me,

let me weep bitter tears;

do not try to comfort me

for the destruction of my beloved people.

5 For the Lord God of hosts has a day

of tumult and trampling and confusion

in the valley of vision,

a battering down of walls

and a cry for help to the mountains.

6 Elam bore the quiver

with chariots and cavalry,

and Kir uncovered the shield.

7 Your choicest valleys were full of chariots,

and the cavalry took their stand at the gates.

8 He has taken away the covering of Judah.

On that day you looked to the weapons of the House of the Forest, 9 and you saw that there were many breaches in the city of David, and you collected the waters of the lower pool. 10 You counted the houses of Jerusalem, and you broke down the houses to fortify the wall. 11 You made a reservoir between the two walls for the water of the old pool. But you did not look to him who did it, or have regard for him who planned it long ago.

 

Isaiah 23:15-18 (NRSV)

15 From that day Tyre will be forgotten for seventy years, the lifetime of one king. At the end of seventy years, it will happen to Tyre as in the song about the prostitute:

16 Take a harp,

go about the city,

you forgotten prostitute!

Make sweet melody,

sing many songs,

that you may be remembered.

17 At the end of seventy years, the Lord will visit Tyre, and she will return to her trade, and will prostitute herself with all the kingdoms of the world on the face of the earth. 18 Her merchandise and her wages will be dedicated to the Lord; her profits will not be stored or hoarded, but her merchandise will supply abundant food and fine clothing for those who live in the presence of the Lord.

 

Isaiah 30:18 (NRSV)

God’s Promise to Zion

18 Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you;

therefore he will rise up to show mercy to you.

For the Lord is a God of justice;

blessed are all those who wait for him.

Isaiah 32:9-14 (NRSV)

Complacent Women Warned of Disaster

9 Rise up, you women who are at ease, hear my voice;

you complacent daughters, listen to my speech.

10 In little more than a year

you will shudder, you complacent ones;

for the vintage will fail,

the fruit harvest will not come.

11 Tremble, you women who are at ease,

shudder, you complacent ones;

strip, and make yourselves bare,

and put sackcloth on your loins.

12 Beat your breasts for the pleasant fields,

for the fruitful vine,

13 for the soil of my people

growing up in thorns and briers;

yes, for all the joyous houses

in the jubilant city.

14 For the palace will be forsaken,

the populous city deserted;

the hill and the watchtower

will become dens forever,

the joy of wild asses,

a pasture for flocks;

 

Other editorial updates are from the exilic period.

 

Isaiah 2:20-22 (NRSV)

20 On that day people will throw away

to the moles and to the bats

their idols of silver and their idols of gold,

which they made for themselves to worship,

21 to enter the caverns of the rocks

and the clefts in the crags,

from the terror of the Lord,

and from the glory of his majesty,

when he rises to terrify the earth.

22 Turn away from mortals,

who have only breath in their nostrils,

for of what account are they?

 

Isaiah 4:2-6 (NRSV)

2 On that day the branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land shall be the pride and glory of the survivors of Israel. 3 Whoever is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy, everyone who has been recorded for life in Jerusalem, 4 once the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and cleansed the bloodstains of Jerusalem from its midst by a spirit of judgment and by a spirit of burning. 5 Then the Lord will create over the whole site of Mount Zion and over its places of assembly a cloud by day and smoke and the shining of a flaming fire by night. Indeed over all the glory there will be a canopy. 6 It will serve as a pavilion, a shade by day from the heat, and a refuge and a shelter from the storm and rain.

 

Isaiah 8:19-22 (NRSV)

19 Now if people say to you, “Consult the ghosts and the familiar spirits that chirp and mutter; should not a people consult their gods, the dead on behalf of the living, 20 for teaching and for instruction?” surely, those who speak like this will have no dawn! 21 They will pass through the land, greatly distressed and hungry; when they are hungry, they will be enraged and will cursetheir king and their gods. They will turn their faces upward, 22 or they will look to the earth, but will see only distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish; and they will be thrust into thick darkness.

 

Isaiah 10:1-4 (NRSV)

 Ah, you who make iniquitous decrees,

who write oppressive statutes,

2 to turn aside the needy from justice

and to rob the poor of my people of their right,

that widows may be your spoil,

and that you may make the orphans your prey!

3 What will you do on the day of punishment,

in the calamity that will come from far away?

To whom will you flee for help,

and where will you leave your wealth,

4 so as not to crouch among the prisoners

or fall among the slain?

For all this his anger has not turned away;

his hand is stretched out still.

 

Isaiah 10:10-12 (NRSV)

10 As my hand has reached to the kingdoms of the idols

whose images were greater than those of Jerusalem and Samaria,

11 shall I not do to Jerusalem and her idols

what I have done to Samaria and her images?”

12 When the Lord has finished all his work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, he will punish the arrogant boasting of the king of Assyria and his haughty pride.

 

Isaiah 18:7 (NRSV)

7 At that time gifts will be brought to the Lord of hosts from a people tall and smooth, from a people feared near and far, a nation mighty and conquering, whose land the rivers divide, to Mount Zion, the place of the name of the Lord of hosts.

 

Isaiah 21:11-15 (NRSV)

11 The oracle concerning Dumah.

One is calling to me from Seir,

“Sentinel, what of the night?

Sentinel, what of the night?”

12 The sentinel says:

“Morning comes, and also the night.

If you will inquire, inquire;

come back again.”

13 The oracle concerning the desert plain.

In the scrub of the desert plain you will lodge,

O caravans of Dedanites.

14 Bring water to the thirsty,

meet the fugitive with bread,

O inhabitants of the land of Tema.

15 For they have fled from the swords,

from the drawn sword,

from the bent bow,

and from the stress of battle.

 

Isaiah 31:6-7 (NRSV)

6 Turn back to him whom you have deeply betrayed, O people of Israel. 7 For on that day all of you shall throw away your idols of silver and idols of gold, which your hands have sinfully made for you.

 

One unique update is from Judah during the exile.

 

Isaiah 33:1-23 (NRSV)

 Ah, you destroyer,

who yourself have not been destroyed;

you treacherous one,

with whom no one has dealt treacherously!

When you have ceased to destroy,

you will be destroyed;

and when you have stopped dealing treacherously,

you will be dealt with treacherously.

2 O Lord, be gracious to us; we wait for you.

Be our arm every morning,

our salvation in the time of trouble.

3 At the sound of tumult, peoples fled;

before your majesty, nations scattered.

4 Spoil was gathered as the caterpillar gathers;

as locusts leap, they leaped upon it.

5 The Lord is exalted, he dwells on high;

he filled Zion with justice and righteousness;

6 he will be the stability of your times,

abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge;

the fear of the Lord is Zion’s treasure.

7 Listen! the valiant cry in the streets;

the envoys of peace weep bitterly.

8 The highways are deserted,

travelers have quit the road.

The treaty is broken,

its oaths are despised,

its obligation is disregarded.

9 The land mourns and languishes;

Lebanon is confounded and withers away;

Sharon is like a desert;

and Bashan and Carmel shake off their leaves.

10 “Now I will arise,” says the Lord,

“now I will lift myself up;

now I will be exalted.

11 You conceive chaff, you bring forth stubble;

your breath is a fire that will consume you.

12 And the peoples will be as if burned to lime,

like thorns cut down, that are burned in the fire.”

13 Hear, you who are far away, what I have done;

and you who are near, acknowledge my might.

14 The sinners in Zion are afraid;

trembling has seized the godless:

“Who among us can live with the devouring fire?

Who among us can live with everlasting flames?”

15 Those who walk righteously and speak uprightly,

who despise the gain of oppression,

who wave away a bribe instead of accepting it,

who stop their ears from hearing of bloodshed

and shut their eyes from looking on evil,

16 they will live on the heights;

their refuge will be the fortresses of rocks;

their food will be supplied, their water assured.

The Land of the Majestic King

17 Your eyes will see the king in his beauty;

they will behold a land that stretches far away.

18 Your mind will muse on the terror:

“Where is the one who counted?

Where is the one who weighed the tribute?

Where is the one who counted the towers?”

19 No longer will you see the insolent people,

the people of an obscure speech that you cannot comprehend,

stammering in a language that you cannot understand.

20 Look on Zion, the city of our appointed festivals!

Your eyes will see Jerusalem,

a quiet habitation, an immovable tent,

whose stakes will never be pulled up,

and none of whose ropes will be broken.

21 But there the Lord in majesty will be for us

a place of broad rivers and streams,

where no galley with oars can go,

nor stately ship can pass.

22 For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our ruler,

the Lord is our king; he will save us.

23 Your rigging hangs loose;

it cannot hold the mast firm in its place,

or keep the sail spread out.

Then prey and spoil in abundance will be divided;

even the lame will fall to plundering.

 

Jeremiah had some updating during the exilic period.

 

Jeremiah 5:18-19 (NRSV)

18 But even in those days, says the Lord, I will not make a full end of you. 19 And when your people say, “Why has the Lord our God done all these things to us?” you shall say to them, “As you have forsaken me and served foreign gods in your land, so you shall serve strangers in a land that is not yours.”

Jeremiah 9:11-15 (NRSV)

11 I will make Jerusalem a heap of ruins,

a lair of jackals;

and I will make the towns of Judah a desolation,

without inhabitant.

12 Who is wise enough to understand this? To whom has the mouth of the Lord spoken, so that they may declare it? Why is the land ruined and laid waste like a wilderness, so that no one passes through? 13 And the Lord says: Because they have forsaken my law that I set before them, and have not obeyed my voice, or walked in accordance with it, 14 but have stubbornly followed their own hearts and have gone after the Baals, as their ancestors taught them. 15 Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: I am feeding this people with wormwood, and giving them poisonous water to drink.

 

We also find an extensive prophecy against Babylon, possibly from 562-550 BC.

 

Jeremiah 50-51:14, 20-58 (NRSV)

Judgment on Babylon

50 The word that the Lord spoke concerning Babylon, concerning the land of the Chaldeans, by the prophet Jeremiah:

2 Declare among the nations and proclaim,

set up a banner and proclaim,

do not conceal it, say:

Babylon is taken,

Bel is put to shame,

Merodach is dismayed.

Her images are put to shame,

her idols are dismayed.

3 For out of the north a nation has come up against her; it shall make her land a desolation, and no one shall live in it; both human beings and animals shall flee away.

4 In those days and in that time, says the Lord, the people of Israel shall come, they and the people of Judah together; they shall come weeping as they seek the Lord their God. 5 They shall ask the way to Zion, with faces turned toward it, and they shall come and join themselves to the Lord by an everlasting covenant that will never be forgotten.

6 My people have been lost sheep; their shepherds have led them astray, turning them away on the mountains; from mountain to hill they have gone, they have forgotten their fold. 7 All who found them have devoured them, and their enemies have said, “We are not guilty, because they have sinned against the Lord, the true pasture, the Lord, the hope of their ancestors.”

8 Flee from Babylon, and go out of the land of the Chaldeans, and be like male goats leading the flock. 9 For I am going to stir up and bring against Babylon a company of great nations from the land of the north; and they shall array themselves against her; from there she shall be taken. Their arrows are like the arrows of a skilled warrior who does not return empty-handed. 10 Chaldea shall be plundered; all who plunder her shall be sated, says the Lord.

11 Though you rejoice, though you exult,

O plunderers of my heritage,

though you frisk about like a heifer on the grass,

and neigh like stallions,

12 your mother shall be utterly shamed,

and she who bore you shall be disgraced.

Lo, she shall be the last of the nations,

a wilderness, dry land, and a desert.

13 Because of the wrath of the Lord she shall not be inhabited,

but shall be an utter desolation;

everyone who passes by Babylon shall be appalled

and hiss because of all her wounds.

14 Take up your positions around Babylon,

all you that bend the bow;

shoot at her, spare no arrows,

for she has sinned against the Lord.

15 Raise a shout against her from all sides,

“She has surrendered;

her bulwarks have fallen,

her walls are thrown down.”

For this is the vengeance of the Lord:

take vengeance on her,

do to her as she has done.

16 Cut off from Babylon the sower,

and the wielder of the sickle in time of harvest;

because of the destroying sword

all of them shall return to their own people,

and all of them shall flee to their own land.

17 Israel is a hunted sheep driven away by lions. First the king of Assyria devoured it, and now at the end King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon has gnawed its bones. 18 Therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: I am going to punish the king of Babylon and his land, as I punished the king of Assyria. 19 I will restore Israel to its pasture, and it shall feed on Carmel and in Bashan, and on the hills of Ephraim and in Gilead its hunger shall be satisfied. 20 In those days and at that time, says the Lord, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and none shall be found; for I will pardon the remnant that I have spared.

21 Go up to the land of Merathaim;

go up against her,

and attack the inhabitants of Pekod

and utterly destroy the last of them,

     says the Lord;

do all that I have commanded you.

22 The noise of battle is in the land,

and great destruction!

23 How the hammer of the whole earth

is cut down and broken!

How Babylon has become

a horror among the nations!

24 You set a snare for yourself and you were caught, O Babylon,

but you did not know it;

you were discovered and seized,

because you challenged the Lord.

25 The Lord has opened his armory,

and brought out the weapons of his wrath,

for the Lord God of hosts has a task to do

in the land of the Chaldeans.

26 Come against her from every quarter;

open her granaries;

pile her up like heaps of grain, and destroy her utterly;

let nothing be left of her.

27 Kill all her bulls,

let them go down to the slaughter.

Alas for them, their day has come,

the time of their punishment!

28 Listen! Fugitives and refugees from the land of Babylon are coming to declare in Zion the vengeance of the Lord our God, vengeance for his temple.

29 Summon archers against Babylon, all who bend the bow. Encamp all around her; let no one escape. Repay her according to her deeds; just as she has done, do to her—for she has arrogantly defied the Lord, the Holy One of Israel. 30 Therefore her young men shall fall in her squares, and all her soldiers shall be destroyed on that day, says the Lord.

31 I am against you, O arrogant one,

says the Lord God of hosts;

for your day has come,

the time when I will punish you.

32 The arrogant one shall stumble and fall,

with no one to raise him up,

and I will kindle a fire in his cities,

and it will devour everything around him.

33 Thus says the Lord of hosts: The people of Israel are oppressed, and so too are the people of Judah; all their captors have held them fast and refuse to let them go. 34 Their Redeemer is strong; the Lord of hosts is his name. He will surely plead their cause, that he may give rest to the earth, but unrest to the inhabitants of Babylon.

35 A sword against the Chaldeans, says the Lord,

and against the inhabitants of Babylon,

and against her officials and her sages!

36 A sword against the diviners,

so that they may become fools!

A sword against her warriors,

so that they may be destroyed!

37 A sword against her horses and against herchariots,

and against all the foreign troops in her midst,

so that they may become women!

A sword against all her treasures,

that they may be plundered!

38 A drought against her waters,

that they may be dried up!

For it is a land of images,

and they go mad over idols.

39 Therefore wild animals shall live with hyenas in Babylon, and ostriches shall inhabit her; she shall never again be peopled, or inhabited for all generations. 40 As when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah and their neighbors, says the Lord, so no one shall live there, nor shall anyone settle in her.

41 Look, a people is coming from the north;

a mighty nation and many kings

are stirring from the farthest parts of the earth.

42 They wield bow and spear,

they are cruel and have no mercy.

The sound of them is like the roaring sea;

they ride upon horses,

set in array as a warrior for battle,

against you, O daughter Babylon!

43 The king of Babylon heard news of them,

and his hands fell helpless;

anguish seized him,

pain like that of a woman in labor.

44 Like a lion coming up from the thickets of the Jordan against a perennial pasture, I will suddenly chase them away from her; and I will appoint over her whomever I choose. For who is like me? Who can summon me? Who is the shepherd who can stand before me? 45 Therefore hear the plan that the Lord has made against Babylon, and the purposes that he has formed against the land of the Chaldeans: Surely the little ones of the flock shall be dragged away; surely their fold shall be appalled at their fate. 46 At the sound of the capture of Babylon the earth shall tremble, and her cry shall be heard among the nations.

51 Thus says the Lord:

I am going to stir up a destructive wind

against Babylon

and against the inhabitants of Leb-qamai;

2 and I will send winnowers to Babylon,

and they shall winnow her.

They shall empty her land

when they come against her from every side

on the day of trouble.

3 Let not the archer bend his bow,

and let him not array himself in his coat of mail.

Do not spare her young men;

utterly destroy her entire army.

4 They shall fall down slain in the land of the Chaldeans,

and wounded in her streets.

5 Israel and Judah have not been forsaken

by their God, the Lord of hosts,

though their land is full of guilt

before the Holy One of Israel.

6 Flee from the midst of Babylon,

save your lives, each of you!

Do not perish because of her guilt,

for this is the time of the Lord’s vengeance;

he is repaying her what is due.

7 Babylon was a golden cup in the Lord’s hand,

making all the earth drunken;

the nations drank of her wine,

and so the nations went mad.

8 Suddenly Babylon has fallen and is shattered;

wail for her!

Bring balm for her wound;

perhaps she may be healed.

9 We tried to heal Babylon,

but she could not be healed.

Forsake her, and let each of us go

to our own country;

for her judgment has reached up to heaven

and has been lifted up even to the skies.

10 The Lord has brought forth our vindication;

come, let us declare in Zion

the work of the Lord our God.

11 Sharpen the arrows!

Fill the quivers!

The Lord has stirred up the spirit of the kings of the Medes, because his purpose concerning Babylon is to destroy it, for that is the vengeance of the Lord, vengeance for his temple.

12 Raise a standard against the walls of Babylon;

make the watch strong;

post sentinels;

prepare the ambushes;

for the Lord has both planned and done

what he spoke concerning the inhabitants of Babylon.

13 You who live by mighty waters,

rich in treasures,

your end has come,

the thread of your life is cut.

14 The Lord of hosts has sworn by himself:

Surely I will fill you with troops like a swarm of locusts,

and they shall raise a shout of victory over you.

Israel the Creator’s Instrument

20 You are my war club, my weapon of battle:

with you I smash nations;

with you I destroy kingdoms;

21 with you I smash the horse and its rider;

with you I smash the chariot and the charioteer;

22 with you I smash man and woman;

with you I smash the old man and the boy;

with you I smash the young man and the girl;

23      with you I smash shepherds and their flocks;

with you I smash farmers and their teams;

with you I smash governors and deputies.

The Doom of Babylon

24 I will repay Babylon and all the inhabitants of Chaldea before your very eyes for all the wrong that they have done in Zion, says the Lord.

25 I am against you, O destroying mountain,

     says the Lord,

that destroys the whole earth;

I will stretch out my hand against you,

and roll you down from the crags,

and make you a burned-out mountain.

26 No stone shall be taken from you for a corner

and no stone for a foundation,

but you shall be a perpetual waste,

says the Lord.

27 Raise a standard in the land,

blow the trumpet among the nations;

prepare the nations for war against her,

summon against her the kingdoms,

Ararat, Minni, and Ashkenaz;

appoint a marshal against her,

bring up horses like bristling locusts.

28 Prepare the nations for war against her,

the kings of the Medes, with their governors and deputies,

and every land under their dominion.

29 The land trembles and writhes,

for the Lord’s purposes against Babylon stand,

to make the land of Babylon a desolation,

without inhabitant.

30 The warriors of Babylon have given up fighting,

they remain in their strongholds;

their strength has failed,

they have become women;

her buildings are set on fire,

her bars are broken.

31 One runner runs to meet another,

and one messenger to meet another,

to tell the king of Babylon

that his city is taken from end to end:

32 the fords have been seized,

the marshes have been burned with fire,

and the soldiers are in panic.

33 For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel:

Daughter Babylon is like a threshing floor

at the time when it is trodden;

yet a little while

and the time of her harvest will come.

34 “King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon has devoured me,

he has crushed me;

he has made me an empty vessel,

he has swallowed me like a monster;

he has filled his belly with my delicacies,

he has spewed me out.

35 May my torn flesh be avenged on Babylon,”

the inhabitants of Zion shall say.

“May my blood be avenged on the inhabitants of Chaldea,”

Jerusalem shall say.

36 Therefore thus says the Lord:

I am going to defend your cause

and take vengeance for you.

I will dry up her sea

and make her fountain dry;

37 and Babylon shall become a heap of ruins,

a den of jackals,

an object of horror and of hissing,

without inhabitant.

38 Like lions they shall roar together;

they shall growl like lions’ whelps.

39 When they are inflamed, I will set out their drink

and make them drunk, until they become merry

and then sleep a perpetual sleep

and never wake, says the Lord.

40 I will bring them down like lambs to the slaughter,

like rams and goats.

41 How Sheshach is taken,

the pride of the whole earth seized!

How Babylon has become

an object of horror among the nations!

42 The sea has risen over Babylon;

she has been covered by its tumultuous waves.

43 Her cities have become an object of horror,

a land of drought and a desert,

a land in which no one lives,

and through which no mortal passes.

44 I will punish Bel in Babylon,

and make him disgorge what he has swallowed.

The nations shall no longer stream to him;

the wall of Babylon has fallen.

45 Come out of her, my people!

Save your lives, each of you,

from the fierce anger of the Lord!

46 Do not be fainthearted or fearful

at the rumors heard in the land—

one year one rumor comes,

the next year another,

rumors of violence in the land

and of ruler against ruler.

47 Assuredly, the days are coming

when I will punish the images of Babylon;

her whole land shall be put to shame,

and all her slain shall fall in her midst.

48 Then the heavens and the earth,

and all that is in them,

shall shout for joy over Babylon;

for the destroyers shall come against them out of the north,

     says the Lord.

49 Babylon must fall for the slain of Israel,

as the slain of all the earth have fallen because of Babylon.

50 You survivors of the sword,

go, do not linger!

Remember the Lord in a distant land,

and let Jerusalem come into your mind:

51 We are put to shame, for we have heard insults;

dishonor has covered our face,

for aliens have come

into the holy places of the Lord’s house.

52 Therefore the time is surely coming, says the Lord,

when I will punish her idols,

and through all her land

the wounded shall groan.

53 Though Babylon should mount up to heaven,

and though she should fortify her strong height,

from me destroyers would come upon her,

says the Lord.

54 Listen!—a cry from Babylon!

A great crashing from the land of the Chaldeans!

55 For the Lord is laying Babylon waste,

and stilling her loud clamor.

Their waves roar like mighty waters,

the sound of their clamor resounds;

56 for a destroyer has come against her,

against Babylon;

her warriors are taken,

their bows are broken;

for the Lord is a God of recompense,

he will repay in full.

57 I will make her officials and her sages drunk,

also her governors, her deputies, and her warriors;

they shall sleep a perpetual sleep and never wake,

says the King, whose name is the Lord of hosts.

58 Thus says the Lord of hosts:

The broad wall of Babylon

shall be leveled to the ground,

and her high gates

shall be burned with fire.

The peoples exhaust themselves for nothing,

and the nations weary themselves only for fire.

Jeremiah’s Command to Seraiah

59 The word that the prophet Jeremiah commanded Seraiah son of Neriah son of Mahseiah, when he went with King Zedekiah of Judah to Babylon, in the fourth year of his reign. Seraiah was the quartermaster. 60 Jeremiah wrote in a scroll all the disasters that would come on Babylon, all these words that are written concerning Babylon. 61 And Jeremiah said to Seraiah: “When you come to Babylon, see that you read all these words, 62 and say, ‘O Lord, you yourself threatened to destroy this place so that neither human beings nor animals shall live in it, and it shall be desolate forever.’ 63 When you finish reading this scroll, tie a stone to it, and throw it into the middle of the Euphrates, 64 and say, ‘Thus shall Babylon sink, to rise no more, because of the disasters that I am bringing on her.’ ”

Thus far are the words of Jeremiah.

 

Zephaniah has a brief exilic addition.

 

Zephaniah 3:18-20 (NRSV)

18      as on a day of festival.

I will remove disaster from you,

so that you will not bear reproach for it.

19 I will deal with all your oppressors

at that time.

And I will save the lame

and gather the outcast,

and I will change their shame into praise

and renown in all the earth.

20 At that time I will bring you home,

at the time when I gather you;

for I will make you renowned and praised

among all the peoples of the earth,

when I restore your fortunes

before your eyes, says the Lord.

 

 

Summary of prophecy in the Babylonian and early Persian period

            The prophecies of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and II Isaiah have a loose relationship to priestly traditions. They travel far down the road of becoming quite individual. Their preaching stands on a much broader basis than did that of earlier prophets. The picture they pain has more colors. The prophetic “I” becomes prominent. They are distinct personalities and detached from surroundings and from tradition. They are free to in choice of expressions and forms in which they clothe their message. They came to Yahweh with complaints and reproaches. They have versatility as individuals. Their relationship with the people has become intense. Their message pursue the people, suggesting a debate at a much deeper level.

            They dealt with the question of the justice of God in the context of how Yahweh could remain faithful to the covenant. The righteousness of Yahweh had become a problem to the people of exile. Many people wondered whether it was possible for the human side of the covenant to maintain the covenant Yahweh offered. The history in Deuteronomy is a confession of the failure of Israel to keep the commandments. Ezekiel agrees that human beings do not have the capacity to live with and belong ot God. Saving history is a series of fruitless attempts on the part of God and rebellion on the part of human beings. How could such a rebellious people be people of the Lord. Jeremiah and Ezekiel both look forward to a time when the heart of the people would change so that they would indeed obey the commandments. They mark off the future saving event aggressively from the end of the old saving events. They perceived their contemporaries as a kingdom of death, as in Ezekiel 37, so that salvation could not come from old saving events. They can only cast their whole being on the future and imminent saving event.

            The prophetic office had become the subject of theological reflection. The servant songs give expression of this movement to some degree. Their office increasingly invaded their personal and spiritual lives. Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and II Isaiah all suffer. One might also note the role of Moses in Deuteronomy as intercessor for the people. Moses even takes the wrath of God upon himself for the sake of the people. This suggests that the ideas of II Isaiah about the nature of the prophetic office were in circulation with the people of the exile. However, what he says in Isaiah 53 suggests depth and comprehensiveness of this prophetic suffering beyond previous writers. He also goes beyond the past in suggesting the readiness to suffer and confidence of safety in God. The text also suggests a realm beyond suffering where Yahweh will glorify the servant before the world. The people also overcome their initial blindness and acknowledge him. The significance of the servant extends beyond Israel and confronts the nations of the world.

            II Isaiah has one similar text in Jeremiah.

 

Jeremiah 51:15-19

15 It is he who made the earth by his power,

who established the world by his wisdom,

and by his understanding stretched out the heavens.

16 When he utters his voice there is a tumult of waters in the heavens,

and he makes the mist rise from the ends of the earth.

He makes lightnings for the rain,

and he brings out the wind from his storehouses.

17 Everyone is stupid and without knowledge;

goldsmiths are all put to shame by their idols;

for their images are false,

and there is no breath in them.

18 They are worthless, a work of delusion;

at the time of their punishment they shall perish.

19 Not like these is the Lord, the portion of Jacob,

for he is the one who formed all things,

and Israel is the tribe of his inheritance;

the Lord of hosts is his name.

 

 

Post-exilic Persian Period, 540-333

History

 

After Cyrus (550-530), Persia continued to dominate the region. He was killed during a campaign against nomads beyond the Jaxartes River. Cambyses (530-522), the son of Cyrus, added Egypt to the empire. He committed suicide. Darius 1 Hystaspes (522­-486) gained control with the support of his army. Xerxes I Ahasuerus (486-465), Artaxerxes I Longimans (465-423), Xerxes II (423), Darius II (423-404), Artaxerxes II (404-358), Artaxerxes III (358-338), Arses (338-336), Darius III Condomannus (336-331) was defeated by Alexander the Great and assassinated by one of his officials.

            The period of writing was quiet politically. The Persian Empire was benign, tolerant, and one might now say enlightened.

            The people were enthusiastic about Cyrus, the Persian who conquered Babylon.  He allowed many people to return to their homelands, a fact of which he was proud.  However, it seems that prosperous Jews remained in Babylon, while the poor buy religiously zealous persons returned.  There was a conflict with the "people of the land," those who remained in the Jerusalem area rather than be taken away by the Babylonians.  The exiles had been encouraged to think that the return to Jerusalem would be glorious.  However, when they returned there was much work to be done. 

            Cyrus in the first year of his reign issued a decree permitting the reconstruction of the Temple at Jerusalem. He also permitted the return of the temple vessels taken by Nebuchadnezzar. The decree says nothing about rebuilding the city. In spite of the physical difficulties, many Jews returned to Judah between 538 and 522. In addition, many Jews remained. The officials in exile who carried out the plan was Sheshbazzar, a son of Jehoiachin, and Joshua, the high priest. The nephew of Sheshbazzar and the grandson of Jehoiachin, Zerubbabel, replaced Sheshbazzar as the political leader. The first group of returnees met with opposition from the Samaritans, who gradually took over the territory around Jerusalem. Those who returned were poor, though filled with religious zeal.

            Those who returned set up a minimal altar and religious system. They rebuilt an altar rather than use the one made by the people who stayed in Jerusalem, largely because they regarded that altar as impure. Political authorities moved cautiously, displeasing religious devotees. They then moved to carry out the primary provision of the decree of Cyrus, that of rebuilding the Temple. Rebuilding the temple would bring political ramifications that Zerubbabel wanted to avoid. It began the second year of the return. The exclusion of the people of the land from worship was on the grounds that they were regarded as unclean and their worship unacceptable. Indecision in rebuilding the temple was due to friction with locals, though internal reasons included building homes, crop failure, or general indifference.

            In 520 BC, Haggai and Zechariah agitated for the resumption of work on the Temple. They goaded Zerubbabel and Joshua into action. Local Persian authorities told about this building activity, but investigation exonerated the Jews from accusations and Darius (522-435) issued a further decree to his officials permitting the work to continue, even providing for support of the project from the royal treasury. Political reasons undoubtedly motivated the interest of Persian kings in the temples and gods of the peoples under their rule. Yet, the Hebrew conception of Yahweh may have intrigued some, especially the Zoroastrians. By 515, they completed the temple. They dedicated the Temple with proper ceremonies, though not as elaborate as one might expect. Yet, the Davidic line ended. Political control moved to the priesthood until Nehemiah arrived. Joel speaks of plagues, drought, and lack of religious fervor. Malachi refers to the lack of religious zeal and lethargy of many of the priests. The Chronicler adds that the people of the land, the people who remained around Jerusalem, offered resistance to religious reformation. Yet, the hopes of the prophets for the completion of the Temple did not materialize. Significant results in the lives of returnees did not come with the completion of the Temple. Their hopes dampened. Persian officials may have helped make sure that they would set aside messianic hopes. Much of the trouble was due to the lack of strong leadership in the community after the disappearance of Zerubbabel. The territory occupied by the returned Jews was small. Lack of clear title to the land discouraged people. Stubborn opposition on the part of zealous devotees made for continued tension between them and the people of the land. Economic circumstances may have forced them into marriage with the people of the land.

            We know little about the condition of the Jewish community during the reign of Xerxes (485-465). Esther tells the story of a persecution story that may well refer to this period. Mordecai may well have been a high-placed Jewish official who provided the means for the Jewish people to defend themselves from forces within government led by Haman that wanted to eliminate them. Such thoroughgoing slaughter was possible. Herodotus tells us of massacres by the Persians against the Scythians and the Magi, see I. 106 and III 79. Another hint of some persecution of Jews during the Persian period is Daniel 3 and 6, where the author encourages pious Jews to remain faithful in the midst of persecution. The basis for such encouragement for these texts from the second century appears to be a memory of persecution during the Persian period. The editor of Daniel found much encouragement for his purpose as he wrote during the time of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Fear of foreign powers to their west may have inspired interest in rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem. What political officials existed was likely in the hands of the high priest. Accusations against Jews by the people of the land reach Xerxes.

            Fifty years later, news of the discouraged Jews around Jerusalem reached Nehemiah. Nehemiah learned from Hanani the sorry condition of Jerusalem sometime after the people there had been forced to bring their work to a halt (448/7). Nehemiah was unable to hide his distress and anxiety from the king. The king would naturally want to know what had upset one of his most important officials. His interest enabled Nehemiah to inform him about the sad state of the city of his fathers and suggest a plan for restoring it. That was around 445 BC. Invested with royal authority, Nehemiah made his way to Judah. The mission of Nehemiah included assisting the community by providing physical protection for itself. His purpose for coming to Jerusalem was to provide for its security, which in his time meant building a wall. It also included help to regain a religious foothold in Jerusalem. Nehemiah provided security through the re-building of the wall around Jerusalem. He thought through his course of action, based it on firm grounds, and refused to allow intimidation along the way to divert him from his task. After he surveyed the ruined walls, he worked out a procedure for repairing them. It appears almost incredible that this could occur in 52 days, although Josephus says it took 28 months. Nehemiah was the official governor of Judah. When the poor of the community complained of the treatment they received from others, he acted with firmness. He knew the law. He also exhibited a sense of what is right. His cautious course of action we can partially attribute to his being a eunuch, a serious handicap when dealing with religious matters. He also dealt with political pressure from the outside and subversion from within. One without royal authority as governor could not have handled such affairs as he did. Such organizational matters for the community show that his mission had broader implications than that of a building contractor. The attempt to involve him in violation of the religious taboo that a eunuch could not enter the Temple shows that Nehemiah had strong religious conviction. His first term ended after 12 years. Nehemiah returned in 430 BC. Ezra unofficially accompanies him, and Ezra influences him. Priests granting Tobiah permission to occupy space in the precincts of the Temple show the compromising position of the religious leaders. The summary way this infringement of the sanctity of the Temple was dealt with underscores both interest and authority of the governor. So does his handling of the injustices suffered by the Leviters. Nehemiah’s concern for the Sabbath may have been inspired by his knowledge of the observations of Jeremiah. They end religious abuses. Within the first year, Ezra read the law publicly. They exclude foreigners from the congregation of Israel. The basis for the exclusion of Moabite and Ammonite wives was from DT 23:3. People pledge obedience to the law and renewal of the covenant. The land and people could not rest secure so long as foreign elements remained to bore from within. Nehemiah set his heart upon the welfare and success of Judah and Jerusalem. Political and religious aspects of the community life cannot be separated. As a matter of fact, religion was its heart and the external political structure its body. Judaism was a religious state. Primarily religious interests motivated Nehemiah. Profoundly concerned about the faith of his fathers, Nehemiah set out to do what he could for its security, its activity, and its effectiveness in the land the Lord had given to them. His great achievement was the reconstruction of the walls of Jerusalem. However, along with it, and perhaps of equal or greater significance, went new inspiration and direction for the proper functioning and well-being of the people of God. Both Nehemiah and Ezra return to Susa.

            The official activity of Ezra began in 428 BC. With the help of Nehemiah, Ezra receives official authority from Artaxerxes and he goes to Jerusalem. Ezra continues his attempt to resolve the mixed marriage matter. Although we do not know when he became governor, Bigvai was governor in 411 BC.

            Ezra came after Nehemiah. The activity of Nehemiah centered in political aspects of the community. Nehemiah could not all that Israel needed. The fulfillment of the congregation in its worship institution was the purpose of the coming of Ezra. If Ezra was a Persian official in charge of Jewish affairs in Babylon, he undoubtedly had worked for a long time on the law of your God. Jewish Torah activity focused upon Ezra, who revitalized and gave direction to the religion of the fathers. He saw clearly that without a firm structure to religious institutions the hopes of the prophets could never be realized. Without his work, the religion of Israel might have disintegrated. He based his work upon the Pentateuch largely as we have it today. Good relationships between Jews and Persians continued throughout this period. Both Nehemiah and Ezra were on good terms with them. The Jews made progress toward their goal of district home rule directly under the Persian authorities. Ezra emphasized purity of worship and the revitalizing of religion through renewal of obedience to the law or Torah. Salvation would be achieved through the law.

            The story of Ezra and Nehemiah is one of thanksgiving for the gracious guidance God gave them, as well as for the inspiration God gave Persian officials.

            It was during the Persian or Post-exilic period that issues concerning the temple, law, and Davidic kingship became important again. For the Chronicler, the succession from David to Solomon had the religious purpose of making sure the temple would be built. The faith and obedience emphasis of the Law now centers on the holy people. This people become the foundation for the universal dominion of God. The narrow, restricted sphere within which the service of God was carried on corresponds too easily to a narrow and anxiety-ridden working out of this service.

            All independent thought and action was excluded in favor of faithfulness to the Law in its minutest detail. There was no new goal of conduct beyond the path marked out so exactly, but only a more precise fashioning of life within the prescribed limits. Claims were put forward for a reward form God for obedience. We also find an anxiety-state, a compulsive self-inspection that did not attain to the maturity of unconditional faith and trust. The effects of this attitude showed themselves in a harsh separation of the pious from the godless, which in part was dictated by the anxiety of the faithful adherent of the Law at the thought of possible contamination from his opponent’s obliviousness of God. In part, the period was inspired by the self-satisfaction that checked its own piety and that of its enemies against quite external standards. The natural expression of this faith was an attitude of patient endurance that held fast to the truth of the prophetic hope.

            The direct relationship with God becomes less important than obedience to the records of revelation. The fear the individual felt at this time was a rationally justified anxiety in the presence of the omnipresent, omniscient divine judge, who watches strictly over the fulfillment of the law, and promises reward only to impeccable obedience. In the religion of the Law, the orientation is toward the preservation of the individual in the presence of divine wrath. This community of Law presents the ideal of the holy congregation as the condition that people establish, with the help of the legal system. As such, holiness is no longer a directional indication for the historical task of the people. Nor is holiness an exhortation to be prepared for the consummation that God will bring into history. The laws clearly become particularist in intention. A community intent on holiness was bound to be anxiety-ridden about contamination by anything heathen. The nations became objects of judgment by God. This segregation led to a self-conscious concentration of all life on the Law. The result was to move toward a rigid set of imposed laws. It led to innumerable external rules and lacked a firm orientation toward the development of moral consciousness. The uncertainty of whether one had perfectly fulfilled the will of God was natural when the letter of the Law defined the sphere of ethical obligation.

Aramaic

"The Words of Ahiqar," is an Aramaic writing of 500 BC.

Wisdom provides security for those who follow it.

 

People of becoming conduct whose hearts are good are like mighty cities which are situated upon mountains.  There is not that which can bring them down.

 All that comes in contact with the righteous are on their side.  A city of the wicked shall on a gusty day be pulled apart, and in (?) its gates be brought low; for the spoil of the righteous are they.

Bend not thy bow and shoot not thine arrow at the righteous, lest God come to help and turn it back upon thee.

 

Wisdom values humility.

 

If you would be exalted, my child, humble yourself before thy God, who humbles an exalted person and exalts a lowly person.

 

Wisdom values appropriate use of speech.

My son, chatter not overmuch so that you speak out every word that comes to you mind, for people's eyes and ears are everywhere trained upon your mouth.  Beware lest it be your undoing....For a word is a bird: once released no person can recapture it.  First count the secrets of your mouth; then bring out your words by number. My son, hearken not with your ears to a lying person.  For a person's charm is truthfulness; repulsiveness, the lies of the lips.

 

Wisdom offers guidance for the family.

Withhold not your son from the rod, else you will not be able to save him from wickedness.

If I smite you, my child, you will not die, but if I leave you to your own heart you will not live.

Whoever takes no pride in the names of father and mother, may the sun no shine upon them; for they are wicked.

A blow for a bondman, a rebuke for a bondwoman, and for all your slaves discipline.

 

Wisdom values work and appropriate riches.

If you be hungry, my child, take every trouble and do every labor, then will you eat and be satisfied and give to your children.

Multiply not riches and make not great your heart.

 

Wisdom offers guidance in the presence of the king.

 

A king is like the Merciful; his voice is loud: who is there that can stand before him, except one with who is God?  Beautiful is a king to behold, and noble is his majesty to them that walk on the earth as free people.

Look before you: a hard look on the face of a king means "Delay not!"  His wrath is swift as lightening: do not take heed unto yourself that he display it not against your utterances and you perish before your time.  The wrath of the king, if you be commanded, is a burning fire.  obey it at once.  Let it not be kindled against you...

 

 

Biblical material – Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah

            Chronicles and Ezra and Nehemiah present a different perspective on the history of Judah.  Much of modern scholarship has neglected this material. Yet, archaeological and historical studies now render it more respectable to the historically minded modern person. It is a product of the post-exilic community, with the focus on the religious rather than the secular.  It was compiled around 400 BC, possibly under the guiding hand of Ezra. The sources are the Priestly tradition mentioned above, the Deuteronomic history, official records from the life of the court, documents that recorded genealogies and names of leaders, prophetic records, a document for the plan of the Temple, and a document of Lamentations. Although many scholars distrust historically anything that only the Chronicler says, we need more discernment than that. The author may have had sources in 400 BC that the Deuteronomist did not possess. During the exile, the people were given encouragement through prophets like Ezekiel and II Isaiah.         

            The title Chronicles in Hebrew refers to a chronicle of events. In the Greek and Latin versions, it refers to things left over or omitted, as if from the histories of Samuel and Kings. The Chronicler built up a copious body of edifying narrative material from a late date. It represents an exercise in midrash upon the history of Judah. It includes Chronicles and Ezra and Nehemiah. The memoir of Ezra has a stylistic similarity with the rest of the material. It reflects a lace of consistency and mental exhaustion, and lack of theological clarity. Yet, this does not mean that events not recorded in Samuel and Kings are pure fiction or imagination. The author clearly had some sources for this history not available to earlier authors. Further, the theological reflection by the author deals with the activity of God, seen through the experience of the post-exilic community. The author wants to face the problems of this period realistically and effectively.

            Contrary to the Deuteronmist, the Chronicler thought of judgment occurring within each generation. The appeal and program of the Deuteronomist failed to save the nation, as one can see in the results of the reigns of Hezekiah and Josiah. Even in exile and return, the author is guided by the belief that God is active in the affairs of the people. A new situation confronted those who endeavored later to pick up the pieces and begin all over again. The promises of the Lord were valid, but a new situation had arisen that demanded even more heroic efforts than any required earlier. The author rewrites the history of Judah for purposes guided by his own time. The purpose of the Chronicler was to present the history of Israel = Judah from the standpoint of the worshipping community, showing how the nation prospered when Israel maintained pure and lively worship, and how it fared when this did not occur. Difficulties in the post-exilic community were due to the failure to support true worship and keep it pure. The rehabilitation and survival of Israel depended upon the maintenance of a vigorous and healthy religious institutional life. That is the lesson of history. Ezra and Nehemiah devoted their energy and means to the revitalization of worship life so that Israel might live.

             The religious leaders had skepticism for the religion of the Northern Kingdom. The work of the Chronicler regarded the post-exilic community as Israel. Israel is God's people.  It omits the northern kingdom entirely, focusing on Judah as the continuation of the people of God.  Judah could save the religion of Israel only by its vigorous application. The apostasy of the northern kingdom nullified the birthright Joseph had. The choice of David indicated this shift in the dealing God has with Israel. The only hope for the northern kingdom would be to attach itself to Judah. Compromise in religion led to the downfall of Judah.  Thus, there is an emphasis upon true worship being in Jerusalem, and the correct personnel had to be in place. The writer has in mind two things as he proceeds with his account of Solomon. First, the fact that the Lord had blessed him immensely, and second, that interest in religious institutions superceded everything else. His supreme example is Hezekiah. Religious reform inspired Hezekiah to join with confidence the revolt against Assyria in 701 BC. Although many scholars think the material is fabricated, it is unlikely that he made up the whole idea. Rather, the movement of people from the Northern Kingdom with the coming of Assyria may suggest a need for proper instruction in worship in Jerusalem and the Davidic form that religion took. This faith went underground during the reign of Manasseh and Amon. Josiah brought vigorous reforming activity, consolidating the religious parties of all Israel. His unexpected death in battle against Egypt ended his attempt to remake the kingdom after the pattern of David.

            The whole outlook of the Chronicler is religious. Everything serves this purpose. Repeatedly, the author calls attention to the consequences of religious compromise. He regarded the unfavorable conditions prevalent in 500-450 BC, as arising from the gradual and effective, though tragic, influx among the people of the land of the descendents of the exiles. The author has concern for the re-establishment of the pure community of the Lord, which meant complete independence from the people of the land and the religious sanctification of the community. The author says little about maidens marrying foreigners, though it occurred. The purpose was to guard the faithful from apostasy. Hence, what appears as ruthless and heartless procedure was simply a stern measure to save the religion of Yahweh from serious contamination and possible extinction. The author wants to hold the returnees to nationalistic purity. The author visualized a Jewish national state with its center of worship in Jerusalem. From there, the dispersed Jews of the world could draw their inspiration and guidance, and which they in turn would support in every way. We might make a modern parallel to modern Zionism.

            Worship is to be in the one central sanctuary led by the Levites rather than the "sons of Aaron," as well as an emphasis upon the temple servants and offerings.  God’s presence is not so much the law book as in the practice of worship, which reveals its priestly interest.  The Chronicler wrote to legitimate cultic offices David founded. The text credits David with extensive plans for the building of the Temple. Attachment to Yahweh proved itself in the recognition of and attachment to cultic place and the observing the ancient cultic regulations. The importance of strong institutions is emphasized, as well as purity of belief and an exclusive attitude toward foreigners. Support for the personnel in the temple would be keys to success.  The religious community would preserve the Jewish community, not the political or cultural order. 

            The Torah is emphasized as a book and as the standard for the community. 

            The author has a messianic interest in David, the temple, and prophetic orders.  The continued existence of the exilic community, as over against the disappearance of the northern kingdom, showed the finality of God's judgment upon the north and God's continuing covenant with David.  David is spotless. The Chronicler, living in a time without kings, guards the messianic tradition. The political dimension of the Davidic line ended. The only hope for Israel was in the fortification of the religious institutions that survived 587 BC and Exile. Religious hopes remained and sustained this people when political institutions failed.  

            One of the chief purposes of the Chronicler was to demonstrate that the true Israel was the one perpetuated in Judah. The record in the first nine chapters of I Chronicles provide indirect authentication for establishing membership in the community in the context of the period around 400 BC and the period of Ezra. True Israel continued in Judah. He emphasizes David, whose dynasty was continued in the Southern Kingdom. The very fact that the returnees came from the exiles of that kingdom appeared proof of the divine blessing bestowed upon it. For the author, the rupture with the Northern tribes was due to the recalcitrance of their leaders. For him, the Northern Kingdom was conceived in sin, born in iniquity, and nurtured in adultery. There was only one way to salvation for its rulers and people and that was to recognize their sins of defection, humble themselves, and submit to the appointed way of the Lord that was through the Davidic dynasty and the temple of the Lord at Jerusalem.

            Another purpose of the Chronicler is to draw out the meaning of being true Israel for the returnees. True worship is in the house of God in Jerusalem. They also needed proper personnel in the right social conditions. Jerusalem is the authentic place of worship, the returnees are the legitimate successor of the people of Judah and the cult personnel, and the community established by them as the true Israel.

            A third purpose of the Chronicler was the necessity for an institutional structure such as that envisioned in Ezra-Nehemiah because of the manifest political and social pressures exerted upon the new community. We often fail to grasp the importance of institutions that are strong and vigorous enough to offset those pressures in difficult times. We might draw a parallel with medieval monasticism and the separatist movement of Ezra and Nehemiah.

            What might seem to us an unreasonable demand, forcing the divorce of foreign wives married by the upper classes, can be understood in the light of the emphasis on purity in the Hebrew conception of the family. Had the practice continued, Judaism may have evaporated. However, this identity by heredity rather than faith had a permanent effect upon the Jewish community.

            In terms of theology, the Chronicler is in most respects quite consistent with the rest of the Old Testament.

            In terms of a conception of God, the Lord is an active God, vitally interested in the affairs of the people of God. The author stresses God as the God of the ancients in order to stress continuity from Genesis to his post-exilic time. God dwells among the people, as well as transcends them. Given how the author describes the temple and its objects, we learn that God is a holy God. The author emphasizes prayer. God has dealt with the people of God through love, who then respond to God with love. We see the author’s monotheism in the way God is outsiders like Pharaoh and Cyrus to accomplish the purpose of God.

            In terms of worship, the Chronicler emphasized that the God who dwelt among them, and yet lived in heaved, inspired in the people a sense of awe, respect, reverence, and worship. The God who gave so lavishly evoked from them response in worship. Thus, the sanctuary in Jerusalem is the one legitimate place of worship. Other religious were not legitimate, demonstrated by the outcome of history and prophecy. The fate of kingdom and sanctuary had a connection. The sanctuary signified the presence of the Lord at the seat of the government of Israel. It was the heart of the nation’s life, symbolized as the meeting place of king, priest, Levite, and temple servants. The worship life of the nation required extensive organization of the personnel. The Chronicler provides orders of priestly and Levitical services, as when the Ark of God moved from the house of Obed-edom. The implication is that Saul’s misfortune was due to the neglect of this sacred symbol. The attempted removal of the Ark was a religious matter rather than a military ceremony, as it was in Samuel. The catastrophe that overtook Uzza was thus due to the violation of some kind of taboo to which the Ark was subject. Uzza and Ahio were not legally qualified to handle it. The author treats priests with enthusiasm than Levites. The author traces the temple servants back to the time of David. The sacrifices in the sanctuary include burnt offer, peace offering, meal offering, guilt offering and the atonement offering. While the Deuteronomist focused on Torah as a guide for the people, the Chronicler focused upon the presence of God in worship. The author recognizes this divine presence as continuous in the history of the people of God.

            In terms of Israel as the people of God, the division of the kingdom and the exile represented a theological challenge to continue describing the nation as the people of God. The vision of the Chronicler is that Israel continued faithful in the connection to the Davidic line established in Jerusalem. The author emphasizes the people who came from the Northern Kingdom.

            In terms of prophets and Torah, the Chronicler has a profound respect to both. The author relied upon prophetic books and records for this history. However, when the author quotes prophetic oracles, the focus is matters related to worship in Jerusalem, holding the kings in line. They also pronounced final judgment upon the kingdom, and announced the return from exile and the hope for a new beginning. The Torah is a fixed, authoritative body of material. The Torah is the guide for the post-exilic community in the conduct of its worship. The author stresses the need for the people to abide by the will of God as shown in the Torah.

            In terms of Messianic themes, the author understood the close relationship between the Lord and David as placing David in a unique position in Israel. In fact, in comparison with the Deuteronomist, the Chronicler looked back to David rather than Moses. David had a close connection with the temple and its worship. In a way, the post-exilic community reverted to a theocracy in which the ecclesiastical element was naturally in the ascendancy. As political institutions fell, core beliefs and values struggle first to renew themselves. The new saving relationship with the Lord in the post-exilic community was through the worship life in the Temple. This brand of messianic emphasis stressed the dwelling of the Lord in the chosen place of the Lord and maintaining the relationship among the people of the Land and the returnees through their pure worship and in distinction from surrounding people. Messianic themes surround the house of David, the Temple, and prophetic orders.

            A few passages are worth comment.

 

            1 Chronicles 4:9-10 (NRSV)

9 Jabez was honored more than his brothers; and his mother named him Jabez, saying, “Because I bore him in pain.” 10 Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from hurt and harm!” And God granted what he asked.

 

This text considers prayer as a way to change the fortunes of life.

 

I Chronicles 12:18, “a spirit clothed Amasai … and he said…”

 

This text is a significant conception of inspiration in the Old Testament. It may even anticipate the idea of incarnation.

 

II Chronicles 13:12, “God is on our side, at our head …”

20:20, “Finally, the Lord struck Jeroboam and he died.”

15:13, “… anyone who would not seek the Lord God of Israel should be put to death, whether young or old, man or woman.

 

These texts are good reminders of the cultural difference between the modern reader and the ancient. Such a statement by Abijah, encouraging war by Judah against the Northern Kingdom, reminds modern persons of the dramatic change in matters of understanding contemporary war situations. When persons die, modern persons do not typically consider God as the one who struck them. When the church calls upon people to turn to the Lord, no one thinks of killing those who do not, as occurred when Asa called upon Israel to seek the Lord, and then killed those who did not.

 

II Chronicles 16:9, “the eyes of the Lord move to and fro through all the earth to support those who are wholeheartedly committed to him.

 

This is a devotional way of reminding the reader of the benefits of living faithfully rather taking one’s life into one’s own hands.

 

II Chronicles 16:12, “yet in his illness he did not consult the Lord but he did consult the physicians.

           

Physicians in this context may mean magical arts. However, the point is that relying solely upon human means of healing without openness to the healing God can bring shows lack of confidence in God.

 

Ezra 6:21 (NRSV)

21 the people of Israel who had returned from exile, and also by all who had joined them and separated themselves from the pollutions of the nations of the land to worship the Lord, the God of Israel.

Ezra 8:21-23 (NRSV)

21 Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might deny ourselves before our God, to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our possessions. 22 For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and cavalry to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king that the hand of our God is gracious to all who seek him, but his power and his wrath are against all who forsake him. 23 So we fasted and petitioned our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty.

 

This text reminds us of the spiritual center of the post-exilic community. The focus of Ezra was the worship life of the community.

 

Nehemiah 9:17 (NRSV)

17 you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and you did not forsake them.

           

This is the classic statement concerning the character of God. It is a theme throughout the Old Testament.

 

Ezra 9:2 (NRSV)

2 For they have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and for their sons. Thus the holy seed has mixed itself with the peoples of the lands, and in this faithlessness the officials and leaders have led the way.”

Ezra 10:3 (NRSV)

3 So now let us make a covenant with our God to send away all these wives and their children, according to the counsel of my lord and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law.

Nehemiah 13:23 (NRSV)

23 In those days also I saw Jews who had married women of Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab;

Nehemiah 13:25 (NRSV)

25 And I contended with them and cursed them and beat some of them and pulled out their hair; and I made them take an oath in the name of God, saying, “You shall not give your daughters to their sons, or take their daughters for your sons or for yourselves.

 

This text seems harsh. It commands divorce. One can justify this step, however. The future of the Jewish community rested upon faithfulness to its Torah and worship. Intermarriage in this case meant that Jews took their beliefs and values with less seriousness than the times demanded. At the same time, we can also see the beginning of the ethnic separation that Jesus opposed.

            I Esdras is a translation of the 100’s BC, but is largely a reproduction of the work of the Chronicler. Although it has some additional material, its primary value is that it lends support to either to the Septuagint or the Hebrew text as the best text for the canonical works for which it parallels.

            Prophetic work during this period includes III Isaiah, Haggai, Zechariah 1-8 in the early part of this period, Obadiah, Joel, Malachi, Daniel 1-6, and Zechariah 9-12 during the latter part of this period. Other biblical material from this period includes Nehemiah, Ezra, the Chronicles history, Esther, and Proverbs 1-9 and 30:1-9.  The Book of Proverbs was likely completed during this time.  Portions of the apocrypha were completed, such as Susanna, the additions to Daniel, Bel and the Dragon, the Hebrew version of the Epistle of Jeremiah.  Ezra 1-3 is from 537 BC, as the exiles return. 4:1-5 is from 536 BC, as opposition from the Samaritans is mentioned, while 4:7-23 is from 448, and chapter 5 with the rebuilding of the temple from 536 BC. Chapter 7-8 dealing with Ezra and his arrival is from 428. Marriages with foreigners are promptly dissolved through his influence in chapter 9-10.  Although this seems rather harsh, a good marriage includes harmony in beliefs and values. The intermarriage with people who believed differently generally meant that distinctively Jewish beliefs had become comparatively of little importance to the community. Nehemiah, the first governor, is in 1:1-7:3 from 445-433 BC, having the goal of rebuilding the walls around Jerusalem. 7:4-72, from the same time period, concerns the repopulation of Jerusalem. Chapter 8, from 428, concerns the rebirth of Judaism and the reading of the law.  Chapter 9 includes a ceremony of forgiveness from 445-433 BC.  The community makes a promise to God to be faithful in 430 BC in chapter 10-11.  The dedication of the wall contained in chapter 12 is between 445-433.

Esther

            Esther was written around 350 BC, but says it is a story about events in 485-465 BC.  The story of Mordecai may well have some basis in history, while the story of Vashti is based upon popular accounts of intrigue in the harem, and the story of Esther herself is simple story about a young Jewess who saves her people from persecution.  The community at Qumran may not have accepted the book as part of the canon, it being the only Old Testament book not represented. Some rabbis did not accept the book as canonical, though the council of Jamnia accepted it in 90 AD.  In the church, the west accepted it around the 300's, but the east rejected it.  In antiquity, people often associated it with Judith, a book with a similar theme.

            One can understand these doubts. From the Jewish perspective, it does not mention Yahweh or God, Law or Covenant, angels or afterlife, or the virtues of love, kindness, mercy, and forgiveness. Instead, it emphasizes a vengeful, bloodthirsty, and chauvinistic spirit. From the Christian perspective, it is not connected to any Christian purpose, and indeed it seems to be motivated by the desire to tell a story in which the Jews are able to carry out violence against Gentiles.  Martin Luther said, “I am so hostile to this book (II Maccabees) and to Esther that I could wish they did not exist at all; for they judaize too greatly and have much pagan impropriety.”

            Yet, one need not dismiss the book too quickly. The characters in Esther are typical stereotypes found in Wisdom literature. The author did not emphasize the usual elements of Jewish piety, such as dietary laws, covenant, and the immanent God who is easily accessible in prayer and acts in Jewish history. In that sense, it is more like Ecclesiastes, Job, and Proverbs.

            The story concerns court intrigue and ethnic prejudice during the reign of Xerxes (486-465). The primary task of Xerxes left by his father Darius was to conquer Greece, at which he failed, and to complete the royal palace at Persepolois, at which he was successful. The author shows awareness of the Persian court as well. There are many historical improbabilities, such as the events recorded here occurring at the same time the king, we know from non-biblical sources, is planning an attack upon Greece, and that Mordecai came to the capitol city in 597 BC and now it is, according to the book, 482 BC.  This betrays a lack of historical knowledge by the author, likely caused by distance from the events described. Such historical questions open the possibility that the story has an association with other legends from the ancient Near East, such as A Thousand and One Nights, such as at 1:1-2:14. Herodotus, in IX, 108-113, refers to Queen Amestris rather than Vashtai. Further, one suspects that Purim has its origin in a pagan festival adopted by Jews along the way.

            The hero of the story is actually Mordecai, for he provided the brains while Esther follows his direction. The story reads more like a historical novel. There are interesting novelistic twists.  The author was more interested in plot and action, telling an interesting and lively story that would provide the basis for the festival of Purim. In chapter 1, that which was planned to establish male supremacy in the choosing of a queen ended in the king being controlled by his new queen, Esther.  It is unique that the book does not mention God. The text does refer to prayer and fasting at a critical moment in the development of Esther’s plan. Even if God is not mentioned, God is in the background. We might wonder if providence does not guide the story. Did God help matters along by making Esther so well liked? When Mordecai says that if Esther does not help, there will be assistance from "another quarter," one wonders if this does not refer to God. The reason in chapter 4 that Esther did not know about the plot to kill Jews is that the author wishes to tell an interesting and fast-moving story, ignoring minor details from time to time. We do not need to look for historical answers. In chapter 6, Haman concealed the identity of the people he wanted killed, while the king conceals the identity of the one he hopes to honor.  In chapter 7, Esther asked Haman to come. She unveils the culprit who would bring about the death of her people, but she also discloses herself and her heritage for the first time.  Esther identifies with the Jewish people.  Haman appeals to a Jewess for help, even though he issued a decree for them to be exterminated. He shows himself as either stupid or vain. Mordecai is given Haman's wealth and position.  Chapter 10 shows why there are two different dates for the festival called Purim.  The author makes it clear that the people, not God, brought about the victory against those who hated them.

            Some texts that I find interesting include the following.

 

Esther 2:15b (NRSV)

15 Now Esther was admired by all who saw her.

Esther 2:17 (NRSV)

17 the king loved Esther more than all the other women; of all the virgins she won his favor and devotion, so that he set the royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.

 

What I find interesting here is that, while many beautiful women rely only on their beauty, Esther also won the favor of all who encountered her. For this to occur, she would have had to eat, dress, and live like a Persian rather than an observant Jewess. Note the contrast with the story of Daniel. She wanted to be queen. She realized that goal because of the support and counsel of others. She appears as a Jew, but one wonders if she was not more like the modern “secular” Jew, where her religion was quite in the background. Yet, one also wonders if this concealment of her identity was not more for the purpose of the plot, rather than to make us think of history.

 

             Esther 4:13-16 (NRSV)

13 Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. 14 For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father’s family will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.” 15 Then Esther said in reply to Mordecai, 16 “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will also fast as you do. After that I will go to the king, though it is against the law; and if I perish, I perish.”

             

Although some people speculate that “another quarter” may refer to Nehemiah, the suggestion that it refers to God is attractive. Further, the story reinforces that Esther might have some temptation to keep her Jewish identity a secret even at this critical time. The reference to fasting and the suggestion of prayer is important, suggesting some guidance from God at a critical moment in the story. With this impending tragedy ready to fall upon the Jews, God stands in the wings, following the play and encouraging the actors, as references to sackcloth, ashes, and fasting suggest.

 

Esther 9:5 (NRSV)

5 So the Jews struck down all their enemies with the sword, slaughtering, and destroying them, and did as they pleased to those who hated them.

Esther 9:16 (NRSV)

16 Now the other Jews who were in the king’s provinces also gathered to defend their lives, and gained relief from their enemies, and killed seventy-five thousand of those who hated them; but they laid no hands on the plunder.

 

Such verses in the bible puzzle modern readers. We see here the beginning of ethnic hatred as it relates to Judaism. The text does not say that God commanded the people to do this. Rather, the people simply act, even though their action occurs after much prayer and fasting.

Daniel

            Daniel was a well-known legendary figure of this time. Many stories started to gather around him. The absence of a genealogy makes one suspect that Daniel here is not an historical person. The book has literary links that suggest one author who has brought together this material. Every section of the book lays special emphasis on the belief that God is master and guide of human history. God knows the future and reveals its secrets to the chosen ones. A peculiar feature of Daniel is its bilingual character, with 1:1-2:4a, 8:1-12:13 is Hebrew and 2:4b-7:28 is Aramaic. Texts discovered in Qumran show that even more stories about Daniel existed that did not make it into the biblical texts. The final form of the text was written 140 AD. Jewish leadership never accepted Daniel with the additions in the apocrypha as part of their canon. Further, Daniel was part of the Writings, rather than the Christian order of placing it with the Prophets. From the Jewish perspective, prophecy ended with Malachi, and thus in the 400’s. They recognized Daniel as too recent to be prophecy.

            Daniel has several historical mistakes. In 5:2, 11, 18, 22, the text says that Belshazzar was son of Nebuchadnezzar, when he was the son of the usurper Nabonidus, the last king of Babylon. The clear statement of a succession of four empires, from Babylon, to Media, to Persian, to the Greek, is not accurate. Media was contemporary to both Babylon and Persia, and Persian defeated it before it defeated Babylon. The source of this mistake is that Isaiah 13:17, 21:2 and Jeremiah 51:11 speak of the destruction of Babylon at the hands of the Medes. Jeremiah 51:28-29 is particularly clear as regards the participation of the king of Media in the destruction of the city.

 

Isaiah 13:17 (NRSV)

17 See, I am stirring up the Medes against them,

who have no regard for silver

and do not delight in gold.

Isaiah 21:2 (NRSV)

2 A stern vision is told to me;

the betrayer betrays,

and the destroyer destroys.

Go up, O Elam,

lay siege, O Media;

all the sighing she has caused

I bring to an end.

Jeremiah 51:11 (NRSV)

11 Sharpen the arrows!

Fill the quivers!

The Lord has stirred up the spirit of the kings of the Medes, because his purpose concerning Babylon is to destroy it, for that is the vengeance of the Lord, vengeance for his temple.

 

Jeremiah 51:28-29 (NRSV)

28 Prepare the nations for war against her,

the kings of the Medes, with their governors and deputies,

and every land under their dominion.

29 The land trembles and writhes,

for the Lord’s purposes against Babylon stand,

to make the land of Babylon a desolation,

without inhabitant.

 

The reference to “Darius the Mede” is unidentifiable. Most likely, he is a literary fiction based upon Cyrus I of Persia.

            Daniel is not an historical account. The apparently historical framework sought to avoid censorship on the part of the agents of Antiochus. It also gave authority to the stories and apocalyptic material. The book is part of the resistance literature that occurred during the Hellenization of the area. The text encourages the faithful to rise above the suffering and temptations of the present and choose suffering and death rather than convenience or apostasy. The book reminds Jews that their monotheistic religion is a glorious heritage infinitely superior to paganism with its gross idol worship. It encourages the Jews to remain loyal to that heritage like the outstanding protagonists of the book who were willing to risk their social, economic, and political status and even their lives by steadfastly refusing to compromise their faith. It shows dramatically and imaginatively that the God of Israel comes to the rescue and delivers those who believe in him despite even the severest reverses, including death by martyrdom.

            For some readers of the bible, such historical mistakes, and even errors in the details of prophecy, become reason for discrediting the text. In my view, this approach, shared by skeptics and by fundamentalists, approaches the text in an inappropriate way. The world of the text generates a sense of the direction God is moving that then influences the way people live and the way history develops. With Daniel, the question the world in which the author lives is whether remaining faithful to God in the midst of persecution is worthy. If so, the question remains as to the manner in which the Jewish people live that faithfulness. The text encourages obedience to the Torah, even when political leaders persecute Jews for doing so. The text also encourages a peaceful approach. The pacifist approach of Daniel, II Maccabees, Pharisees, Essenes, and ultimately of Jesus of Nazareth, was an approach to this bloody period that might have proved more successful than the military approach of Esther, Hasmonaeans and Zealots, an approach that end with destruction of temple in 70 AD. Daniel also predicts the end of the Seleucid Empire, which, even if the end did not come exactly as expected, still came. The biblical text is still a human text, even if some of us come to believe that it reflects God coming to humanity and addressing humanity. Further, the demand for historical precision is not something even modern historians can achieve, for that is not the nature of historical research. History always remains open to further development and understanding in light of new events.

            Daniel 1-6 is a series of midrashic or edifying stories. They dramatize that obedience and loyalty to God are more important on a deep and personal level than prolonging life at the expense of compromise. It includes simple, easily remembered and repeatable stories about Daniel. The stories have their source in the romance of the successful courtier: Joseph, Esther, Tobit, and Judith. These chapters have a secondary motif of the witness or martyr story. Such stories face the problem of Jews living in a pagan environment. The intention of the authors is to dramatize the truth that the almighty and omniscient God of the Fathers will protect and rescue the current Israel of faith from disaster and will raise up wise people who will confound the Gentiles. Through these six stories encouraging people to remain faithful to God, no matter if it meant death.  The value of martyrdom begins to be lifted up.  It has a largely Hasidic origin, and is pacifist.  It encourages courage and faithfulness in the persecuted Jews of the Persian Diaspora. The exiled Jews are not alone. 

            Chapter 1 may suggest that Daniel and his friends were Nazarites. The intent of the author is encourage faithfulness to dietary laws, regardless of the consequences.

            The apocalyptic section in chapter 2 has a connection with chapter 7. The motif of the enigmatic dream and its interpretation were common in antiquity. The original date of composition may be between 400 and 200. The written form pre-dates 164 BC and the reign of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. The oral form may go back to the Persian period in the 300’s, given its relatively accurate knowledge of the Persian court. The author of Daniel included it because of its affirmation of the God of Israel as the Lord of history. The text may have built upon prophetic statements about Nebuchadnezzar:

 

Jeremiah 25:9 (NRSV)

9 I am going to send for all the tribes of the north, says the Lord, even for King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon, my servant, and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants, and against all these nations around; I will utterly destroy them, and make them an object of horror and of hissing, and an everlasting disgrace.

Jeremiah 27:6 (NRSV)

6 Now I have given all these lands into the hand of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, my servant, and I have given him even the wild animals of the field to serve him.

Jeremiah 43:10 (NRSV)

10 and say to them, Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: I am going to send and take my servant King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon, and he will set his throne above these stones that I have buried, and he will spread his royal canopy over them.

 

Legend could then develop that the Babylonian king actually converted to a worshipper of Yahweh.

            In chapter three, the account of the three Jewish men who refused to worship the idolatrous statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had erected and whose loyalty to the God of their fathers was rewarded by a miracle that saved their lives was once an independent story that originally had no connection with the Daniel cycle of stories. The text has several Persian influences that suggest that period for the development of the story. The story suggests that in the Persian period, there was some recognition of the unique place Jews would have. It became established  in custom and law. The story of Esther suggests a Secretary of Jewish Affairs during the Persian period.

            For chapter four, note its similarity with chapter two. It may have a basis in Nabonidus and his history, see Nabonidus Chronicle in ANET and Qumran, Prayer of Nabonidus.

            Chapter five has its foundation in a common legend that the Persians overtook Babylon while the king had a feast.

            Chapter six has the well known story of Daniel in the den of lions. Similar to chapter three, it is part of the witness or martyr stories of the period. It shows the importance of faithfulness, that God will intervene, and that their enemies will suffer the fate they intended for the faithful.

 

Daniel 6:24 (NRSV)

24 The king gave a command, and those who had accused Daniel were brought and thrown into the den of lions—they, their children, and their wives. Before they reached the bottom of the den the lions overpowered them and broke all their bones in pieces.

 

Such a commendation by the author shows some joy at the revenge given out to the enemies of Daniel. The story originated in the Persian period. Daniel at prayer shows the custom of praying toward Jerusalem. The Muslims first prayed its direction as well, although it soon changed to Mecca.

 

Psalms

Psalm 1 (NRSV)

1 Happy are those

who do not follow the advice of the wicked,

or take the path that sinners tread,

or sit in the seat of scoffers;

2 but their delight is in the law of the Lord,

and on his law they meditate day and night.

3 They are like trees

planted by streams of water,

which yield their fruit in its season,

and their leaves do not wither.

In all that they do, they prosper.

4 The wicked are not so,

but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,

nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;

6 for the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,

but the way of the wicked will perish.

Psalm 8 (NRSV)

1 O Lord, our Sovereign,

how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory above the heavens.

2      Out of the mouths of babes and infants

you have founded a bulwark because of your foes,

to silence the enemy and the avenger.

3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,

the moon and the stars that you have established;

4 what are human beings that you are mindful of them,

mortals that you care for them?

5 Yet you have made them a little lower than God,

and crowned them with glory and honor.

6 You have given them dominion over the works of your hands;

you have put all things under their feet,

7 all sheep and oxen,

and also the beasts of the field,

8 the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea,

whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

9 O Lord, our Sovereign,

how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Psalm 37 (NRSV)

1 Do not fret because of the wicked;

do not be envious of wrongdoers,

2 for they will soon fade like the grass,

and wither like the green herb.

3 Trust in the Lord, and do good;

so you will live in the land, and enjoy security.

4 Take delight in the Lord,

and he will give you the desires of your heart.

5 Commit your way to the Lord;

trust in him, and he will act.

6 He will make your vindication shine like the light,

and the justice of your cause like the noonday.

7 Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him;

do not fret over those who prosper in their way,

over those who carry out evil devices.

8 Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath.

Do not fret—it leads only to evil.

9 For the wicked shall be cut off,

but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.

10 Yet a little while, and the wicked will be no more;

though you look diligently for their place, they will not be there.

11 But the meek shall inherit the land,

and delight themselves in abundant prosperity.

12 The wicked plot against the righteous,

and gnash their teeth at them;

13 but the Lord laughs at the wicked,

for he sees that their day is coming.

14 The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows

to bring down the poor and needy,

to kill those who walk uprightly;

15 their sword shall enter their own heart,

and their bows shall be broken.

16 Better is a little that the righteous person has

than the abundance of many wicked.

17 For the arms of the wicked shall be broken,

but the Lord upholds the righteous.

18 The Lord knows the days of the blameless,

and their heritage will abide forever;

19 they are not put to shame in evil times,

in the days of famine they have abundance.

20 But the wicked perish,

and the enemies of the Lord are like the glory of the pastures;

they vanish—like smoke they vanish away.

21 The wicked borrow, and do not pay back,

but the righteous are generous and keep giving;

22 for those blessed by the Lord shall inherit the land,

but those cursed by him shall be cut off.

23 Our steps are made firm by the Lord,

when he delights in our way;

24 though we stumble, weshall not fall headlong,

for the Lord holds us by the hand.

25 I have been young, and now am old,

yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken

or their children begging bread.

26 They are ever giving liberally and lending,

and their children become a blessing.

27 Depart from evil, and do good;

so you shall abide forever.

28 For the Lord loves justice;

he will not forsake his faithful ones.

The righteous shall be kept safe forever,

but the children of the wicked shall be cut off.

29 The righteous shall inherit the land,

and live in it forever.

30 The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom,

and their tongues speak justice.

31 The law of their God is in their hearts;

their steps do not slip.

32 The wicked watch for the righteous,

and seek to kill them.

33 The Lord will not abandon them to their power,

or let them be condemned when they are brought to trial.

34 Wait for the Lord, and keep to his way,

and he will exalt you to inherit the land;

you will look on the destruction of the wicked.

35 I have seen the wicked oppressing,

and towering like a cedar of Lebanon.

36 Again I passed by, and they were no more;

though I sought them, they could not be found.

37 Mark the blameless, and behold the upright,

for there is posterity for the peaceable.

38 But transgressors shall be altogether destroyed;

the posterity of the wicked shall be cut off.

39 The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord;

he is their refuge in the time of trouble.

40 The Lord helps them and rescues them;

he rescues them from the wicked, and saves them,

because they take refuge in him.

Psalm 47 (NRSV)

1 Clap your hands, all you peoples;

shout to God with loud songs of joy.

2 For the Lord, the Most High, is awesome,

a great king over all the earth.

3 He subdued peoples under us,

and nations under our feet.

4 He chose our heritage for us,

the pride of Jacob whom he loves.      Selah

5 God has gone up with a shout,

the Lord with the sound of a trumpet.

6 Sing praises to God, sing praises;

sing praises to our King, sing praises.

7 For God is the king of all the earth;

sing praises with a psalm.

8 God is king over the nations;

God sits on his holy throne.

9 The princes of the peoples gather

as the people of the God of Abraham.

For the shields of the earth belong to God;

he is highly exalted.

Psalm 51 (NRSV)

1 Have mercy on me, O God,

according to your steadfast love;

according to your abundant mercy

blot out my transgressions.

2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,

and cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I know my transgressions,

and my sin is ever before me.

4 Against you, you alone, have I sinned,

and done what is evil in your sight,

so that you are justified in your sentence

and blameless when you pass judgment.

5 Indeed, I was born guilty,

a sinner when my mother conceived me.

6 You desire truth in the inward being;

therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.

7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;

wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

8 Let me hear joy and gladness;

let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.

9 Hide your face from my sins,

and blot out all my iniquities.

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,

and put a new and right spirit within me.

11 Do not cast me away from your presence,

and do not take your holy spirit from me.

12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,

and sustain in me a willing spirit.

13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,

and sinners will return to you.

14 Deliver me from bloodshed, O God,

O God of my salvation,

and my tongue will sing aloud of your deliverance.

15 O Lord, open my lips,

and my mouth will declare your praise.

16 For you have no delight in sacrifice;

if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased.

17 The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit;

a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

18 Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;

rebuild the walls of Jerusalem,

19 then you will delight in right sacrifices,

in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;

then bulls will be offered on your altar.

Psalm 73 (NRSV)

1 Truly God is good to the upright,

to those who are pure in heart.

2 But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled;

my steps had nearly slipped.

3 For I was envious of the arrogant;

I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

4 For they have no pain;

their bodies are sound and sleek.

5 They are not in trouble as others are;

they are not plagued like other people.

6 Therefore pride is their necklace;

violence covers them like a garment.

7 Their eyes swell out with fatness;

their hearts overflow with follies.

8 They scoff and speak with malice;

loftily they threaten oppression.

9 They set their mouths against heaven,

and their tongues range over the earth.

10 Therefore the people turn and praise them,

and find no fault in them.

11 And they say, “How can God know?

Is there knowledge in the Most High?”

12 Such are the wicked;

always at ease, they increase in riches.

13 All in vain I have kept my heart clean

and washed my hands in innocence.

14 For all day long I have been plagued,

and am punished every morning.

15 If I had said, “I will talk on in this way,”

I would have been untrue to the circle of your children.

16 But when I thought how to understand this,

it seemed to me a wearisome task,

17 until I went into the sanctuary of God;

then I perceived their end.

18 Truly you set them in slippery places;

you make them fall to ruin.

19 How they are destroyed in a moment,

swept away utterly by terrors!

20 They are like a dream when one awakes;

on awaking you despise their phantoms.

21 When my soul was embittered,

when I was pricked in heart,

22 I was stupid and ignorant;

I was like a brute beast toward you.

23 Nevertheless I am continually with you;

you hold my right hand.

24 You guide me with your counsel,

and afterward you will receive me with honor.

25 Whom have I in heaven but you?

And there is nothing on earth that I desire other than you.

26 My flesh and my heart may fail,

but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

27 Indeed, those who are far from you will perish;

you put an end to those who are false to you.

28 But for me it is good to be near God;

I have made the Lord God my refuge,

to tell of all your works.

Psalm 74 (NRSV)

1 O God, why do you cast us off forever?

Why does your anger smoke against the sheep of your pasture?

2 Remember your congregation, which you acquired long ago,

which you redeemed to be the tribe of your heritage.

Remember Mount Zion, where you came to dwell.

3 Direct your steps to the perpetual ruins;

the enemy has destroyed everything in the sanctuary.

4 Your foes have roared within your holy place;

they set up their emblems there.

5 At the upper entrance they hacked

the wooden trellis with axes.

6 And then, with hatchets and hammers,

they smashed all its carved work.

7 They set your sanctuary on fire;

they desecrated the dwelling place of your name,

bringing it to the ground.

8 They said to themselves, “We will utterly subdue them”;

they burned all the meeting places of God in the land.

9 We do not see our emblems;

there is no longer any prophet,

and there is no one among us who knows how long.

10 How long, O God, is the foe to scoff?

Is the enemy to revile your name forever?

11 Why do you hold back your hand;

why do you keep your hand in your bosom?

12 Yet God my King is from of old,

working salvation in the earth.

13 You divided the sea by your might;

you broke the heads of the dragons in the waters.

14 You crushed the heads of Leviathan;

you gave him as food for the creatures of the wilderness.

15 You cut openings for springs and torrents;

you dried up ever-flowing streams.

16 Yours is the day, yours also the night;

you established the luminaries and the sun.

17 You have fixed all the bounds of the earth;

you made summer and winter.

18 Remember this, O Lord, how the enemy scoffs,

and an impious people reviles your name.

19 Do not deliver the soul of your dove to the wild animals;

do not forget the life of your poor forever.

20 Have regard for your covenant,

for the dark places of the land are full of the haunts of violence.

21 Do not let the downtrodden be put to shame;

let the poor and needy praise your name.

22 Rise up, O God, plead your cause;

remember how the impious scoff at you all day long.

23 Do not forget the clamor of your foes,

the uproar of your adversaries that goes up continually.

Psalm 79 (NRSV)

1 O God, the nations have come into your inheritance;

they have defiled your holy temple;

they have laid Jerusalem in ruins.

2 They have given the bodies of your servants

to the birds of the air for food,

the flesh of your faithful to the wild animals of the earth.

3 They have poured out their blood like water

all around Jerusalem,

and there was no one to bury them.

4 We have become a taunt to our neighbors,

mocked and derided by those around us.

5 How long, O Lord? Will you be angry forever?

Will your jealous wrath burn like fire?

6 Pour out your anger on the nations

that do not know you,

and on the kingdoms

that do not call on your name.

7 For they have devoured Jacob

and laid waste his habitation.

8 Do not remember against us the iniquities of our ancestors;

let your compassion come speedily to meet us,

for we are brought very low.

9 Help us, O God of our salvation,

for the glory of your name;

deliver us, and forgive our sins,

for your name’s sake.

10 Why should the nations say,

“Where is their God?”

Let the avenging of the outpoured blood of your servants

be known among the nations before our eyes.

11 Let the groans of the prisoners come before you;

according to your great power preserve those doomed to die.

12 Return sevenfold into the bosom of our neighbors

the taunts with which they taunted you, O Lord!

13 Then we your people, the flock of your pasture,

will give thanks to you forever;

from generation to generation we will recount your praise.

Psalm 98 (NRSV)

1 O sing to the Lord a new song,

for he has done marvelous things.

His right hand and his holy arm

have gotten him victory.

2 The Lord has made known his victory;

he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations.

3 He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness

to the house of Israel.

All the ends of the earth have seen

the victory of our God.

4 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;

break forth into joyous song and sing praises.

5 Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre,

with the lyre and the sound of melody.

6 With trumpets and the sound of the horn

make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord.

7 Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;

the world and those who live in it.

8 Let the floods clap their hands;

let the hills sing together for joy

9 at the presence of the Lord, for he is coming

to judge the earth.

He will judge the world with righteousness,

and the peoples with equity.

Psalm 107 (NRSV)

1 O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;

for his steadfast love endures forever.

2 Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,

those he redeemed from trouble

3 and gathered in from the lands,

from the east and from the west,

from the north and from the south.

4 Some wandered in desert wastes,

finding no way to an inhabited town;

5 hungry and thirsty,

their soul fainted within them.

6 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,

and he delivered them from their distress;

7 he led them by a straight way,

until they reached an inhabited town.

8 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,

for his wonderful works to humankind.

9 For he satisfies the thirsty,

and the hungry he fills with good things.

10 Some sat in darkness and in gloom,

prisoners in misery and in irons,

11 for they had rebelled against the words of God,

and spurned the counsel of the Most High.

12 Their hearts were bowed down with hard labor;

they fell down, with no one to help.

13 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,

and he saved them from their distress;

14 he brought them out of darkness and gloom,

and broke their bonds asunder.

15 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,

for his wonderful works to humankind.

16 For he shatters the doors of bronze,

and cuts in two the bars of iron.

17 Some were sick through their sinful ways,

and because of their iniquities endured affliction;

18 they loathed any kind of food,

and they drew near to the gates of death.

19 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,

and he saved them from their distress;

20 he sent out his word and healed them,

and delivered them from destruction.

21 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,

for his wonderful works to humankind.

22 And let them offer thanksgiving sacrifices,

and tell of his deeds with songs of joy.

23 Some went down to the sea in ships,

doing business on the mighty waters;

24 they saw the deeds of the Lord,

his wondrous works in the deep.

25 For he commanded and raised the stormy wind,

which lifted up the waves of the sea.

26 They mounted up to heaven, they went down to the depths;

their courage melted away in their calamity;

27 they reeled and staggered like drunkards,

and were at their wits’ end.

28 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,

and he brought them out from their distress;

29 he made the storm be still,

and the waves of the sea were hushed.

30 Then they were glad because they had quiet,

and he brought them to their desired haven.

31 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,

for his wonderful works to humankind.

32 Let them extol him in the congregation of the people,

and praise him in the assembly of the elders.

33 He turns rivers into a desert,

springs of water into thirsty ground,

34 a fruitful land into a salty waste,

because of the wickedness of its inhabitants.

35 He turns a desert into pools of water,

a parched land into springs of water.

36 And there he lets the hungry live,

and they establish a town to live in;

37 they sow fields, and plant vineyards,

and get a fruitful yield.

38 By his blessing they multiply greatly,

and he does not let their cattle decrease.

39 When they are diminished and brought low

through oppression, trouble, and sorrow,

40 he pours contempt on princes

and makes them wander in trackless wastes;

41 but he raises up the needy out of distress,

and makes their families like flocks.

42 The upright see it and are glad;

and all wickedness stops its mouth.

43 Let those who are wise give heed to these things,

and consider the steadfast love of the Lord.

Psalm 115 (NRSV)

1 Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory,

for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness.

2 Why should the nations say,

“Where is their God?”

3 Our God is in the heavens;

he does whatever he pleases.

4 Their idols are silver and gold,

the work of human hands.

5 They have mouths, but do not speak;

eyes, but do not see.

6 They have ears, but do not hear;

noses, but do not smell.

7 They have hands, but do not feel;

feet, but do not walk;

they make no sound in their throats.

8 Those who make them are like them;

so are all who trust in them.

9 O Israel, trust in the Lord!

He is their help and their shield.

10 O house of Aaron, trust in the Lord!

He is their help and their shield.

11 You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord!

He is their help and their shield.

12 The Lord has been mindful of us; he will bless us;

he will bless the house of Israel;

he will bless the house of Aaron;

13 he will bless those who fear the Lord,

both small and great.

14 May the Lord give you increase,

both you and your children.

15 May you be blessed by the Lord,

who made heaven and earth.

16 The heavens are the Lord’s heavens,

but the earth he has given to human beings.

17 The dead do not praise the Lord,

nor do any that go down into silence.

18 But we will bless the Lord

from this time on and forevermore.

Praise the Lord!

 

Prophets

            One wonders if eschatological expectations had become extinct. One might think that psychological exhaustion becomes part of the mix, though something more than that seems to be happening. One might consider how Palestine was no longer touched by world events, and that prophets brought their messages in that context. Further, the post-exilic community governed itself by the prescriptions of the Priestly Document, which did not carry with it the eschatological expectations of the prophets. The priestly aristocracy pushed eschatology to the side and finally forced separation from the mainstream of Judaism.

            The prophets believed that they stood at the turning point of history for the people of God. They shared a common certainty that the new thing they expected was prefigured in the old, and that the old would be present in the new in perfect form.

Post-exilic additions

            Isaiah had rather extensive post-exilic additions. A rather extensive addition from the 400’s BC is in 24-27. It contains the promise of a divine banquet.

 

Isaiah 25:6-9 (NRSV)

6 On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples

a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines,

of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.

7 And he will destroy on this mountain

the shroud that is cast over all peoples,

the sheet that is spread over all nations;

8

he will swallow up death forever.Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces,

and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth,

for the Lord has spoken.

9 It will be said on that day,

Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us.

This is the Lord for whom we have waited;

let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.

 

 

Another addition from after 520 BC is the Little Apocalypse of 34-35. It contains the promise of the victory of Jerusalem and the return of exiles.

 

Isaiah 35 (NRSV)

 The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,

the desert shall rejoice and blossom;

like the crocus2 it shall blossom abundantly,

and rejoice with joy and singing.

The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,

the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.

They shall see the glory of the Lord,

the majesty of our God.

3 Strengthen the weak hands,

and make firm the feeble knees.

4 Say to those who are of a fearful heart,

“Be strong, do not fear!

Here is your God.

He will come with vengeance,

with terrible recompense.

He will come and save you.”

5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,

and the ears of the deaf unstopped;

6 then the lame shall leap like a deer,

and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.

For waters shall break forth in the wilderness,

and streams in the desert;

7 the burning sand shall become a pool,

and the thirsty ground springs of water;

the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp,

the grass shall become reeds and rushes.

8 A highway shall be there,

and it shall be called the Holy Way;

the unclean shall not travel on it,

but it shall be for God’s people;

no traveler, not even fools, shall go astray.

9 No lion shall be there,

nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;

they shall not be found there,

but the redeemed shall walk there.

10 And the ransomed of the Lord shall return,

and come to Zion with singing;

everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;

they shall obtain joy and gladness,

and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

 

A post-exilic addition includes a prophecy concerning a descendant of David.

 

Isaiah 11:1-9 (NRSV)

 A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,

and a branch shall grow out of his roots.

2 The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,

the spirit of wisdom and understanding,

the spirit of counsel and might,

the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.

3 His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.

He shall not judge by what his eyes see,

or decide by what his ears hear;

4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,

and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;

he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,

and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.

5 Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,

and faithfulness the belt around his loins.

6 The wolf shall live with the lamb,

the leopard shall lie down with the kid,

the calf and the lion and the fatling together,

and a little child shall lead them.

7 The cow and the bear shall graze,

their young shall lie down together;

and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,

and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.

9 They will not hurt or destroy

on all my holy mountain;

for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord

as the waters cover the sea.

 

 

Shorter additions from the post-exilic period are the following.

 

Isaiah 1:29-31 (NRSV)

29 For you shall be ashamed of the oaks

in which you delighted;

and you shall blush for the gardens

that you have chosen.

30 For you shall be like an oak

whose leaf withers,

and like a garden without water.

31 The strong shall become like tinder,

and their work like a spark;

they and their work shall burn together,

with no one to quench them.

 

Isaiah 2:1-5 (NRSV)

 The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

2 In days to come

the mountain of the Lord’s house

shall be established as the highest of the mountains,

and shall be raised above the hills;

all the nations shall stream to it.

3      Many peoples shall come and say,

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,

to the house of the God of Jacob;

that he may teach us his ways

and that we may walk in his paths.”

For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,

and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

4 He shall judge between the nations,

and shall arbitrate for many peoples;

they shall beat their sw