07 August 2010

Aug 7

Reference links:
Old Testament

Today's reading mainly concerns itself with establishing the legitimacy of the building of the temple. This mostly takes the place of bureaucratic back and forth between Tattenai, governor of the area which contains Jerusalem, and Darius, king of Persia. Eventually, it is decided that building the temple is not only legitimate but should, furthermore, be supported out of the coffers of the state.

After this, the temple is completed and dedicated and the first Passover celebrated in the new temple. As is not surprising given how few people returned and how much less influential the Jews are now, the dedication takes on a much smaller scale than the celebrations of the past. The dedication consisted of a relatively tiny 100 bulls, 200 rams, 400 lambs, and 12 goats (one for each tribe). That said, I think the celebrations may owe their decrease in scale to more than just the fallen fortunes of Judah. The account of this celebration was written significantly closer to the true historical memory than any of the other books we have read. As is not unusual when comparing the past to the present, those people putting together the Hebrew scriptures probably exaggerated the past to give it greater contrast with the present.

Another change between this book and earlier books is that the tone has suddenly become much more monotheistic. We saw the beginnings of this when the king of Egypt told Josiah that he was going to battle by the command of Josiah's God. We see that again in today's reading where Darius and his officials seem to see the God of Israel as THE God. Although it is not clear one way or another whether or not the author of Ezra wants to represent these non-Jews as believing only in the God of Israel and Judah, it is clear that the Jews themselves are starting to see their God as more universal. Less the God of Israel and Judah and more the God who chooses Jerusalem as his primary place of worship.

The timing of this change makes sense. According to some of the resources I have read, the exiled Jews had to dramatically change their conception of God when they went into exile. Before that, they had followed a very place based religion. Their religion was place based both in their manner of worship (centered on the temple in Jerusalem) and in their conception of God;;the God they worshiped was their God. Whether they believed that other people were worshiping other Gods or false Gods, they did not believe that they were worshiping the God of Israel and Judah.

But now that has changed. Being removed from a geographic location forced the Jews to change their conception of God. If their God was only place based, then clearly he had failed. Thus, he started his evolution to a much more familiar universal God.

New Testament

Paul continues to address the issue of division within the Corinthian church. He once again emphasizes God's primary role in the development of the individuals in the church. Particular individuals may help, but they are not to be given credit. Paul then goes on more about the wisdom of the world verses the wisdom of God.

Also, the people of God are the new temple. This is particularly interesting given that this letter was written before the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem by the Romans. By making this statement before the destruction of the temple, Paul emphasizes just how much he has broken from his Jewish roots.

Psalms and Proverbs

No mercy here:
A wise king scatters the wicked like wheat,
then runs his threshing wheel over them.