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Posts Tagged ‘Persia’


Jeremiah 25:1-14: Captivity

Easter Saturday, April 27, 2019

Here Jeremiah foretells the continuing conflict between warring nations in the Middle East.  As we have observed before, the political environment has not changed much over the millennia despite the changing of political systems and figures, and the names of sovereign nations and their leaders. Cultures, religions, and peoples continue to clash.  And Jeremiah uses the round number of 70 to say that the present generation may not return – they must die and a newer, perhaps more faithful generation, will renew Hebrew history. Notes from the ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE tell us more (Zondervan 1234).

  • Since the numeric systems in this region of the world at this time were often based on ascending groups of six, the logical maximum number of measurement would be 60.  The amount of 70 indicates a number of major proportion – and importance.  In this case it represents the fact that the present generation must die out before the exile will end.
  • Jeremiah foresees a time when Judah will serve Babylon, and that following this time Babylon herself will serve another nation.  This history plays out as Jeremiah predicted.  Judah became a vassal state of Babylon in 604 B.C.E. and although the arithmetic is inexact, almost 70 years later Babylon was taken over by Persia.  The people of Israel will return home from exile under the Persian king Cyrus as recorded in Ezra and Nehemiah.
  • Another calculation that may be seen as predicted from this prophecy is the span of time between the physical destruction of the temple in 586 B.C.E. and its re-dedication in 515 B.C.E.
  • In either case, Jeremiah predicts an exile which outlasts the present generation and thus serves as a punishment for the wayward Israelites.  The exile Jeremiah describes does take place.  And exile will occur in each of our lives in some way at some time.

This we can also predict.

I have come to understand that periods of separation and loss in our lives cannot be avoided.  No amount of planning or good behavior exempts us from the sort of exile that Jeremiah forecasts for his people.  The prestige of nations will rise and fall almost whimsically; power will ebb and flow.  This is something we cannot avoid.  Our personal influence and authority will likewise rise and fall.  We may even be held captive for a time by invader ideas; new policies and procedures, new fads and crazes will overtake us.  We have only to stand still for a day in our fast-paced world and the advances of technology fly past us to leave us feeling disconnected.  Some of us self-impose this kind of exile while others are forced into it by economics and talent.

We can never have control over the cataclysmic changes that happen around and to us.  In reality we seldom control much more than the small details of our lives and for some of us even that is a reach.  We have fooled ourselves into thinking that we have made the most of life by choosing the proper career and the proper life partner when our personal and economic status is often chosen for us; our political destiny is driven by many whom we do not even know exist.

So is there anything we can do about who we are and how we live?  Absolutely.  Is there any way we can control nature?  Not much.  What are our options when it comes to our political and civic lives?  Depending on our nation of origin we have various degrees of input.  Some of us live in flourishing democracies while others live in closed societies that stifle any cry for freedom.  What do we do about improving our status and making a difference in the world?  When we join in the struggle to build God’s kingdom . . . all the rest falls into place.

Jeremiah speaks to an ancient nation but he also speaks to us when he describes the coming whirlwind that threatens on the horizon. When we see the impending peril and sense the advent of our own bitter captivity, what are we to do?

We will spend some time during the rest of this Easter Week reflecting on our options.


A re-post from Easter Week 2012.

Image from: http://thephotoexchange.wordpress.com/

“The 70 Years of Captivity.” ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE (NIV). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005. Print.

For more on the gifts that come out of captivity, go to Ultimate Fulfillment at: https://thenoontimes.com/2011/08/09/ultimate-fulfillment/

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1 Maccabees 6: Siege and Peace

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Francesco Hayez: Destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem

Francesco Hayez: Destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem

God abides with us in peace even during siege. We reflect on this as we remember a Favorite from March 29, 2008.

 This chapter is full of the back-and-forth-ness of prolonged battle.  It speaks of what the Spanish call the vaivén or the going and coming of a situation, a people or a period of time.  We may want to consult a commentary as we wade through the warfare we encounter here.

As King Antiochus the Fourth was passing through Mesopotamia, he heard of a city in Persia, named Elymais, which was famous for its riches in silver and gold.

We know that stored goods are too great a temptation for those who value the world more than they treasure the kingdom of God.

The temple was very rich, containing gold shields, armor, and weapons left there by Alexander, son of King Philip of Macedonia, who was the first to rule the Greek Empire.

We have all been participants – either willing or unwilling – in a protracted, pitched battle for something we hold dear.

Remains of the Arca Citadel in Jerusalem

Remains of the Arca Citadel in Jerusalem

Antiochus came and tried to take the city and loot it, but he didn’t succeed, because the citizens had learned what he was planning to do, and they drew up their troops to resist him. In great frustration he withdrew to return to Babylonia.

There are times in our lives when we have behaved badly, with anger and revenge, insult and brutal indifference.

In Persia a messenger reached Antiochus with the news that the armies he had sent into Judea had been defeated. Lysias and his strong army had been forced to flee from the Jews, who were now reinforced by the additional weapons, supplies, and loot they had taken from the defeated armies.

There are other times in our lives when we have behaved with integrity and honesty, justice and compassion. No matter the circumstance, God is always with us, offering us an opportunity to trust God’s mercy and compassion.

When we find ourselves under siege, we only need ask ourselves this question: Have we looked for God’s Peace to replace the siege that grips our lives?

For the fascinating story of the unearthing of the Arca Citadel, click on the image above or visit: http://www.timesofisrael.com/maccabean-era-fortress-unearthed-in-jerusalem-after-century-long-search/

 

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Saturday, November 3, 2012 – 1 Kings 14 – Death of Abijah

The nameless woman returns to her city and as her foot touches the threshold . . .

This is a story which tells of the two kings of the split kingdom of David – Israel with her king Jeroboam in the north and Judah with her king Rehoboam in the south.  Notes, websites and histories can give us a visual of the lineages and a few are listed below.

What we miss when we read history without scripture is the detail, and we have it in abundance in this short chapter.  There is the child, Abijah, the two kings, the wife who is not named and Naamah, the mother who is.  There are other ancillary characters.  http://bible.cc/1_kings/14-1.htm 

There are place names: Shiloh, Tirzah, Jerusalem.  Maps can help us find these places to see how they relate in space. http://bibleatlas.org/

We can put ourselves in the timeline and in the space to try to see, hear, smell and hear these sights and these people . . . but what strikes me is this . . . this is a story which might happen to any one of us.  And who am I?

Am I the nameless wife and mother who fears the death of her child?  Am I married to the son of Solomon who finds his kingdom split?  Am I the besieged king or the aggressor, the shield maker, the guard, the prophet, the chronicler?  Do I have a loyalty to the north or south?  Do I believe Jeroboam to be maligned or do I know him to worship idols?  Do I follow Rehoboam blindly or do I question?  In this vivid picture . . . Where am I?  Who am I?  What am I doing?

We know that Jeroboam feared re-unification of these split kingdoms because he would no longer collect the temple worship taxes which he now did since setting up his own capital.  We know that Rehoboam, son of Solomon, scrambled to keep these two territories united, fearing invasion from Assyria, Persia, Egypt and others.  We know that one king was buried with honor and the other was not.  And we know why.

I have such empathy for the nameless woman in this story.  She dies as she is bidden yet she is powerless before these men and apparently before her God.  She moves like a shadow. 

I also have empathy for the woman Naamah whose son leads Judah to do evil in the sight of the Lord.  What does she think of the cult prostitutes the leadership has encouraged?  Does she agree that they are a means to worshiping God?  Does she dare to speak if she disagrees? 

What do these women think?  What do they say?  What do they hold dear?

Today’s story calls us to think of our journey . . . do we travel light . . . do we travel alone . . . where do we stop along the way . . . what waters and feeds us?

The nameless woman in today’s story is told that her child will pass away as she returns home . . . so in that moment she knows that she will not see him again.  What does she feel? 

The nameless woman in today’s story returns to her city and as her foot touches the threshold . . . her child dies.  What does she say?

The nameless woman in today’s story sees her child buried . . . with all of Israel mourning.  What does she pray?

Oh, Father in heaven, spare us from the tragedies which are too hard to bear.  Save us from the people from whom we might suffer irreparable damage.  Keep us always close to you.  Protect the ones we love.  Save us from harm.  Feed us.  Nourish us.  Be our column of smoke and fire and protect us on our way as you did the Israelites who journeyed out of slavery and into freedom with you always guiding.  Alert us to the dangers.  The noise of this world is sometimes so overwhelming.  Sound the alarm when we stray.  Hold us closely.  You are our rock and our refuge.  We give thanks to you, our awesome God.  Amen.

Written on January 13, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite.

http://www.kchanson.com/CHRON/isrkings.html

http://www.bible-history.com/map_israel_judah/

http://larryavisbrown.homestead.com/files/OT_history/unit1/Unit1a_geography.htm

http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/directory/A/1

http://bibleatlas.org/

http://bibledictionaries.com/

http://www.womeninthebible.net/

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