Old Testament benefactors are indignant when their favors are met with ingratitude. David later operates by similar principles in his dealings with the fool Nabal. While on the run from Saul, David and his men mingle with the shepherds who care for Nabal's flocks. His men do not interfere with or harass the shepherds. On the contrary, they provide protection. David naturally expects Nabal to be grateful for his service, and to express that gratitude concretely by supplying provisions for his men. When Nabal dismisses David, David's anger at the ingratitude is so intense that he marches toward Nabal's house with the intention of carrying out a war of utter destruction against him. He is arrested only by a gift from Nabal's beautiful, shrewd wife, Abigail. She brings a "blessing" (berekah) that pacifies David's rage. The conclusion to the story illustrates the flip side of Yahweh's promise to reward the generous. When David decides not to carry out "negative reciprocity" against Nabal, Yahweh steps in to repay Nabal for his ingratitude. Nabal's heart stops as he is relieving his bladder after a night of drinking. This suggests that for the Hebrew imagination, the circulations of gifts and gratefulnesses are never simply intrahuman. God is always involved, not only in exchanges between rich and poor but also in those among the wealthy. Yahweh takes the side of the recipient of gifts to reward the generous; Yahweh also takes the side of the insulted to pay back the ingrate.1
Monday, March 31, 2014
Tuesday, March 25, 2014
For those in Israel who were actually paying attention to Jeremiah's preaching, Jeremiah is clearly not pro-Babylon; he is pro-Yahweh, and he knows that Yahweh is using Babylon to wage holy war against a greater threat to His Kingship: Judah.
Friday, March 14, 2014
Jeremiah 30 (NASB)
18 “Thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I will restore the fortunes of the tents of Jacob and have compassion on his dwelling places; and the city will be rebuilt on its ruin, and the palace will stand on its rightful place.
19 ‘From them will proceed thanksgiving and the voice of those who celebrate; and I will multiply them and they will not be diminished; I will also honor them and they will not be insignificant.
20 ‘Their children also will be as formerly, and their congregation shall be established before Me; and I will punish all their oppressors.
21 ‘Their leader shall be one of them, and their ruler shall come forth from their midst; and I will bring him near and he shall approach Me; for who would dare to risk his life to approach Me?’ declares the Lord.
22 ‘You shall be My people, and I will be your God.’”
Chapter 30 of Jeremiah begins the first proclamation of good news to Yahweh's people in exile. Chapters 1-29 present a tour of Yahweh's faithfulness to Israel wherein he repeatedly confirms his hatred for Israel's repeated rebellion. Israel wants to live and think idolatrously like all the other nations, so Yahweh is going to pluck them up from their own land and plant them in the midst of the Gentiles. Only in chapter 30 do we begin the first lengthy exposition of good news. Yahweh would indeed punish Israel like all the other rebellious nations, as promised, but yet again he would spare Israel for his name's sake, and establish his covenant with them again.
The language of chapter 30 is filled with Exodus imagery, but especially in verses 18-22, which begin with Yahweh's calling of Jacob, the son of Abraham who would later be called "Israel," and would lead Israel into Egypt. Egypt, of course, is where Yahweh delivered Israel from captivity in the beginning of their formation as a nation. This call of Yahweh in 30:18 recapitulates Yahweh's call to Jacob, before Israel was formed as a royal priesthood at Sinai, eventually developing into a kingdom-city with a royal palace and Yahweh enthroned in their midst. In verses 18 and 19, Yahweh says he is coming again to restore those fortunes of Jacob, to start a new beginning, just as he did with Jacob's descendants all the way up to David and his descendants. From them will come another great thanksgiving and celebration like the time in which it's city and palace was first established.
Verses 20-22 are also reminiscent of the Exodus, which describes the blessings and curses pronounced upon Israel in Deuteronomy just prior to parting the Jordan, thereby completing the Exodus which began in Egypt and waited for 40 years in the wilderness. This time the restoration is from Babylonian captivity, and will follow all the curses of Yahweh's Law which sentenced them there in the first place (Deut. 28:15-68). Once that exodus begins, tremendous covenant blessings will accompany Israel as promised in the Law (Deut 28:1-14). Instead of decreasing in number, Israel will be as the sand of the seashore, multiplying greatly in number. The Lord will honor them in the sight of all nations, and that honor will be significantly great. Yahweh will establish them again, and drive out all their oppressors from the land, like he did when they first entered Canaan. Yahweh will even bring all rulers into account who live in their midst, and will cause them to draw near to Him. This Israel will be reformed, like the first formation out of Egypt. Israel would again be Yahweh's people, and again have Yahweh as their God (Ex. 6:7; Lev. 26:12; Jer. 7:23; 11:4; 30:22).
Time after time Yahweh proved his loyal love toward Israel. Over and over Yahweh proved himself to be merciful and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in tremendously gracious love toward Jacob. But the days were coming, according to Jeremiah's next prophecy (in chapter 31), that Yahweh would establish a new covenant with the house of Israel, a covenant unlike the one he made with Israel during the first Exodus. With this new covenant he would write his Law upon their hearts and not on tablets of stone. No longer would each Israelite teach his neighbor through the old covenant administration of sacrifice, temple, and priesthood. All of Israel and their surrounding neighbors would know Yahweh intimately, in a powerful sweeping way which had never been accomplished before. Yahweh would forgive their iniquity once for all, and remember their sin no more, through the sacrifice of his Son. Then finally, once for all time, under that new covenant in his blood, it could be said of Israel that Yahweh is their God, and they are his people (Jer. 31:33).
Monday, March 10, 2014
B) He is before all things (pro panton) and in him (en auto) all things hold together (v. 17)
C) He is the head of the body, the Church (v. 18a)
B') He is the beginning (arxe), the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he himself (en pasin autos) he might be preeminent (v. 18b)
A') For "in him" (en auto), "through him" (dia autou), and "into him" (eis auton) all things were reconciled through the blood of the cross (vv. 19-20)
The language used here by Paul should remind us of the way God works throughout all of history, but with a singular focus in mind: God created all things with a body for himself in mind. He receives the preeminence in all things, but because he is the head of his body, the Church, she too receives an eminent place in creation. All things in creation were created in, through, and into him, but his desire from all eternity--before the beginning--was to share all things with His Bride. All things hold together in him, including what fell into sin because of Adam, but Jesus came to begin a new creation, beginning with his incarnation and working reconciliation between God and man through his death and resurrection, through the blood of the cross. God's story--the overarching story of history--is a story of creation, fall, and recreation in, through, and into Christ Jesus; but let's not forget that it's also a story he shares with his bride, the Church. It is not a story of creation to recreation merely for himself. It's a story which moves from glorious creation to even more glorious creation, holding all things together for the glory of he and his bride together.
Thursday, March 6, 2014
Commenting on Jeremiah 25:26, Saint Jerome notices the likeliness of Jeremiah camouflaging a reference to "Babylon" with the Hebrew name "Sheshach." Even the ESV translation notes this by translating the actual Hebrew word, Sheshach, as "Babylon."
A cursory glance at modern english versions of the Bible will illustrate this translational difference. The ESV translation reads, "…and after them the king of Babylon shall drink", whereas the more literal NASB translation reads, "…and the king of Sheshach shall drink after them."
I point this out not because Jerome's familiarity with ancient Rabbinic literary procedures is particularly noteworthy or unique to commentators of his day, but because from this specimen of Jeremiah's writings he deduces that prophets sometimes wrote cryptically for their own safety and for the safety of those who discern their warnings and take refuge in Christ because of it. According to Jerome, even the apostles sometimes wrote cryptically to protect themselves and the faithful flock of Christ from soon-coming judgment upon the land. In this regard, Jerome's following comments about the apostle Paul's language in 2 Thessalonians 2:5-8 are particularly noteworthy, especially in light of the myriads of bizarre futurist (especially dispensational) interpretations of it in the 20th and 21st centuries. Instead of interpreting Saint Paul's words about the "lawless one" and its association with "the antichrist" of John's letters as entirely future to his own generation, Jerome follows a contemporary preterist interpretation of both these cryptic descriptions, which he thinks Paul's audience (i.e. Jewish converts of Thessalonica) would have understood. He writes:
I think that it was prudent for the holy prophet to hide the name of Babylon, lest he openly stir up against himself the madness of those who were besieging Jerusalem and who were ready to seize him at any moment. We read that the apostle did this same thing against the Roman Empire, writing about the antichrist:Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you this? And you know what is restraining him (understand: "the antichrist") now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will slay with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the appearance of his coming.By "he who now restrains" he means the Roman Empire. For until the Roman Empire is destroyed and taken "out of the way," the antichrist will not yet come, as it says in the prophecy of Daniel. But if he had chosen to say this openly, he would have foolishly stirred up the frenzy of persecution against Christians and the nascent church.1
1. Jerome, Ancient Christian Texts: Commentary on Jeremiah; Thomas Oden and Gerald Bray, editors [Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic; 2011], pp. 156-7