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Posts Tagged ‘Babylonians’


Jeremiah 19: The Potter’s Flask

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Written on February 3 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

It will make their ears tingle when they hear about the bloodshed of the innocent!  The Valley of Ben-hinnom will become the Valley of Slaughter.  The city will be an object of amazement and derision.  Passers-by will catch their breath at the wounds they see.  And a flask will be shattered like the lives of these people.  There will be so much death that there will be no place for burial.  This because they have stiffened their necks and have not obeyed my words. 

Jeremiah has visited Topheth, a town whose name could be pronounced with the vowels of the Hebrew word for shame.  “This was due to the practice of there of sacrificing children as burnt offerings to Baal and Molech in the times of Isaiah and Jeremiah (Isa. 30:33;  Jer. 7:31, 32; 19:6, 11-14; cf. 32:35).  Kings Ahaz and Manasseh of Judah are reported to have offered their sons in the Valley of Hinnom (2 Chron. 28:3; 33:6; cf. 2 Kings 16:3; 21:6).  King Josiah attempted to put a stop to the practice by defiling the altar of Topheth (2 Kings 23:10) but it was revived after his death”.  (Achetemier 1162)

When Jeremiah returns to Jerusalem and denounces not only this practice but the corruption in Jerusalem as well,  he is beaten and placed in stocks by orders of a temple priest and administrator, Pashhur.  “The prophet’s response was to rename the priest ‘Terror on every side’ (v. 3; cf. 6:25, where this phrase describes the people’s response to an invasion from the north, and 20:10, where is describes Jeremiah’s response to his enemies’ actions).  This name symbolizes the fact that Pashhur will be a ‘terror’ both to himself and to his friends: they and the whole land will suffer death, plundering and exile at the hands of the Babylonians (vv. 4-6).  The assertion that Pashhur has misled his friends (v. 6b) is the key to his condemnation.  His reaction to Jeremiah’s message was based on a partisan political position, supported, of course, by an appropriate religious ideology.  From his own standpoint Jeremiah was convinced that this position would lead to disaster”.  (HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY, 561)

This is grime reading and yet it is the kind of persecution that takes place constantly in our world.  Sometimes is happens an ocean away . . . today I am thinking of the people of Egypt.  It also happens right under our noses . . . today I also think about someone dear to me who is persecuted for speaking up.  No matter when this kind of harassment takes place, the effect the bully wishes to create – silence – is void, and in time an opposite result occurs – the truth always comes out in the end. 

My parents continually reminded all five of us that this is one of the surest things we can count on and we read it here in Jeremiah.  This prophet was eventually taken away to Egypt by Jewish authorities who fled before the waves of invaders from the north.  His prophecy unfolds before their eyes, and still they revile him.  In the end, although there is no written evidence of this, Jeremiah is murdered in exile.

The sins in Topheth and the crimes of Pashhur continue today, but we must not allow this fact to sap us of our courage or energy.  We must remind ourselves and one another that the truth always comes out in the end.  So what are we called to do?  We must learn to faithfully witness to these crimes, to humbly pray for ourselves and our enemies, and to joyfully participate in the redemptive love that sets all injustice right in God’s time and in God’s way, lest we too be shattered like the potter’s flask . . .  beyond repair.


A re-post from September 15, 2011.

Achetemeier, Paul J. HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE DICTIONARY. 2nd edition. San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1996. 1162. Print. 

Image from: http://pottery.about.com/od/stepbystepprojects/ig/Mug-Project-Photo-Gallery/Pottery-Flask.htm

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Isaiah 13:11-22The Desolation of Babylon

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Ruins of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon

Ruins of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon

These are dreadful words and even more dreadful images yet the message is an important one.  We might do well to remember that the dreaded Babylonians who swept down from the north were later swept away by the Assyrians, who were taken over by the Persians, who were displaced by the Romans.  This is the message of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in the story of Daniel.  A series of invaders will take political control over the land of the faithful . . . and the faithful must persevere despite the outward appearance that God is not among them.

We must remind ourselves as Resurrection people that God walks among us, lives among us, suffers with us and loves with us.  The outward appearance of loss and destruction cannot matter.  What appears to be desolation is in truth a path to restoration.

If we are truly a resurrection people, we must remember this.

We will want to read other versions of these verses as we consider this Old Testament God who appears to send destruction and ruin to those who have wandered too far from the shepherd’s loving care. As resurrection people . . .  How do we reconcile these verses with words from the prophet Hosea? Do these words reflect the kingdom Jesus describes and enacts? And what kind of response do these reflections engender in us? 

A Favorite from April 6, 2008. Click on the image above to learn more about the ruins of Babylon, or visit: http://www.biblebasics.co.uk/arch/arch12.htm

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Saturday, November 17, 2012 – Daniel 14 – Bel and the Dragon

Rembrandt: Daniel and Cyrus Before the Idol Bel

“These stories are caricatures.  They should not be taken as accurate descriptions of Babylonian religion . . . The Babylonians in the stories are excessively stupid, and their devices are too easily exposed.  The story of the dragon shares the Daniel 6 the motif of the lions’ den, but does not necessarily depend on the earlier chapter.  All we can say is that Daniel was associated with the lions’ den in oral tradition, and that both these stories make use of the motif.  Bel and the Dragon is more fantastic than Daniel 6 . . . These fantastic elements give the story a light-hearted quality, but the background here is more tense than in Daniel 1 – 6.  Daniel confronts the Babylonian religion a way that he never does in the earlier chapters . . . There is a sense here that Judaism and paganism are fundamentally incompatible”.  (Senior RG 351)

We humans always want a contest; we look for heroes to champion and causes to support.  We are willing – and even eager – to take sides and create divisions.  We cry out for peace and unity but too often we fight for separation, isolation, and a sense of superiority or elite privilege.  We seem to be comfortable with a certain degree of “clubiness” in the circles of friends and family that we form.  Someone is always “in” or “out” depending on a morphing list of requirements that we often keep secret even from the “members” of our circle.  We are reluctant to embrace the universal model that Jesus lives.  We shun those who are different and give lip service to diversity.  The stories we read today – with their hyperbole and stereotypes – might be fodder for our late night comics or talk show political pundits and in that sense they are too extreme to be true; yet they hold a mirror up to us that we might see ourselves not so much as the character of Daniel but as those who would dupe the King.  The corrupt priests and the families take advantage of a generous monarch; those who worship the dragon become consumed by their jealousy and passion.  We might take a lesson from all of this.  

False gods, false priests, jealous colleagues, spiteful associates are plentiful in our lives.  The lions’ den may suddenly be found in our home, our place of worship or work.  Dragons haunt the lonely places of the heart; yet . . . The true and living God is ever-present; but we seem to forget this.  The one all-powerful and infinite God is always with us; but we often fail to show that we believe this.  The merciful and intimate one and only God is within us; but we behave us as though we do not believe this.

And so we pray.

Good and generous God, keep us from any elitism that separates us from the world around us; guide us in welcoming others into our hearts.

Dear and loving God, help us to guard against the temptation to exclude or eliminate others from our lives; show us how to welcome those who are different from ourselves.

Wise and abiding God, remind us that none of us can afford to isolate ourselves from others; tell us often that wounds heal, anxieties ebb away, and love stitches up the empty places in our lives.  Amen.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.RG 351. Print.   

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