23 October 2010

Oct 23

Reference links:
Old Testament

Today's warning starts with the people and the guerrilla leaders asking Jeremiah to ask God for instruction. Jeremiah responds that the Lord wants the people to stay in Jerusalem.
‘Stay here in this land. If you do, I will build you up and not tear you down; I will plant you and not uproot you. For I am sorry about all the punishment I have had to bring upon you. Do not fear the king of Babylon anymore,’ says the Lord. ‘For I am with you and will save you and rescue you from his power. I will be merciful to you by making him kind, so he will let you stay here in your land.’
That does not seem quite consistent with the other things Jeremiah has said about staying in Jerusalem. When Nebuchadnezzar was attacking Jerusalem Jeremiah said:
Tell all the people, ‘This is what the Lord says: Take your choice of life or death! Everyone who stays in Jerusalem will die from war, famine, or disease, but those who go out and surrender to the Babylonians will live. Their reward will be life! For I have decided to bring disaster and not good upon this city, says the Lord. It will be handed over to the king of Babylon, and he will reduce it to ashes.’
The same prediction is referenced is chapter 38 just before some officials decide to throw him in a cistern to die.

But now Jeremiah is singing a different tune. He is saying that the people who remain will prosper if they stay. Perhaps it is because Zedekiah surrendered to Babylon. Jeremiah made it clear early in Zedekiah's reign that surrender would be peace:
But the people of any nation that submits to the king of Babylon will be allowed to stay in their own country to farm the land as usual. I, the Lord, have spoken!
But the claim that the remaining people represent those who had peacefully surrendered just does not hold water. First, the description of the exile made it clear that the decision of who would and would not be left behind was class based:
Then Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, sent to Babylon the rest of the people who remained in the city as well as those who had defected to him. But Nebuzaradan left a few of the poorest people in Judah, and he assigned them vineyards and fields to care for.
Second, as yesterday and today's readings make clear, the people who remained were being led by guerrilla leaders, some of whom had killed the king of Babylon's appointed governor.

Thus, the only thing I can figure is that Jeremiah is blatantly contradicting himself. Either that, or he did not mean what he said about the people finding peace of they stay in Judah. As he himself says, he knows that the people will not believe him and will leave for Egypt anyway. Maybe Jeremiah lied to emphasize his warning against going to Egypt.

In any case, the people all go to Egypt. Jeremiah goes with them. A prophets job is to be with the people, I suppose. Jeremiah continues to spread his dire warnings. He tells the fleeing crown that Nebuchadnezzar will bring war and destruction to Egypt too.

We end today's reading with Jeremiah chastising the people, especially the women, for worshiping a goddess, the Queen of Heaven. This, says Jeremiah, will bring them doom (wait, I thought going to Egypt would bring them their doom). Jeremiah is pretty adamant in his view of the consequences of worshiping this goddess, but the women make a couple of good points.
We will burn incense and pour out liquid offerings to the Queen of Heaven just as much as we like—just as we, and our ancestors, and our kings and officials have always done in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. For in those days we had plenty to eat, and we were well off and had no troubles! But ever since we quit burning incense to the Queen of Heaven and stopped worshiping her with liquid offerings, we have been in great trouble and have been dying from war and famine.
First, they point out that this worship was traditional. Despite the monotheism of the religious and political elite, this passage implies that monotheism was never really the norm amongst all of the people of Israel, especially the lower classes. They would worship the god who fit their needs at the time. And, as we saw way back in the earlier histories, Yahweh, the Lord of Heaven's Armies, always suffered from competition in times of peace. Clearly, there was something about Yahweh and his worship which did not strike a cord for many people.

The second good point that they make is that, despite the warnings of people like Jeremiah, it is unclear how the worship of various gods and goddesses (including Yahweh) corresponds to prosperity and tragedy. Jeremiah himself spreads the words of a god who causes ruin. These women point out that their traditional worship of the Queen of Heaven has been associated with prosperity. Now, there is probably some selective memory going on, but the point still stands that the case for Jeremiah's monotheism is not as clear cut as it would seem.

New Testament

Timothy should be faithful in his role like a soldier, athlete, or farmer. Fighting over words is useless. Work hard. Be pure and God will use him as a special tool for good use.

Psalms and Proverbs

I proverb which advocates beating people. Two more which give contrary messages. One gives a reason not to answer foolish arguments. The other gives a reason to be sure to answer foolish arguments. As someone who has occasionally gotten into foolish arguments with people on the internet, I can see the point of both.