August - Reading 1

Discussion in 'Bible Reading Plan 2016' started by Clint Kritzer, Aug 1, 2002.

  1. Clint Kritzer

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    #1 Clint Kritzer, Aug 1, 2002
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  2. Clint Kritzer

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    Good morning –

    As we begin this month’s readings we are starting three new Books of the Bible that are very significant. I believe it will be too difficult to keep the synopsises of these Books brief yet I feel it is very beneficial to theunderstanding of our readings to have an overview of the Books and the history behind their origins. Therefore, I will make this post separate from the commentary in the interest of brevity and specificity.

    Ezra

    The Book of Ezra picks up chronologically right after the Book of 2Chronicles. There are in fact many clues that these two writings were written by the same author. The first of these is found in the striking similarity between the last two verses of 2Chronicles and the first three verses of Ezra. The author of Ezra also shows the same fondness for lists as the Chronicler and in fact many of these lists are identical between the two Books. These lists continue into the Book of Nehemiah which was once combined with Ezra. It was not until the end of second century that these two Books were separated, though this may have been a return to the original placement of these Books. The earliest manuscripts available, however treat them as seperate.

    Further evidence of the Chroniclers authorship of Ezra is that the vocabulary is so much the same in these four Books. There is also a great deal of emphasis placed on the Levites and those who serve in the Temple. Also, the Hebrew words used for “singer,” “gatekeeper,” and “Temple servant” is found almost exclusively in Ezra, Nehemiah, and the Chronicles.

    Ezra arrived in Jerusalem in the seventh year of Artaxerxes (458 BC) and scholars believe that this composition was scripted in 440 BC. The first wave of exiles to return was led by Sheshbazzar in the year 536BC. Ezra led the second wave of returning exiles in 548BC and Nehemiah will return with a final group in 432BC.

    [ August 01, 2004, 12:36 AM: Message edited by: Clint Kritzer ]
     
  3. Clint Kritzer

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    Good evening -

    I believe that the first great lesson learned in the Book of Ezra is that even non-believers can speak and do the Will of God if He so chooses them to do. The Israelites had been held in captivity for 70 years just as Jeremiah had prophesied (Jeremiah 25:11-12, 29:10). Now the time had come for them to return home and Cyrus makes the proclamation that these exiles were now free to do so.In verse 1:8, the name Mithredath is Persian. Scholars believe that this was the name given to Sheshbazzar by his Babylonian captors and that the original name may have been Zerubbabel. This is supported by the fact that both were governors (Ezra 5:14; Haggai 1:14-15; Zechariah 4:6-10. We know from the Books of Kings and Chronicles that it was standard practice for conquering monarchs to rename officials.
    I found a map of the Persian Empire that may give you some perspective of the vastness of this realm and also show how long a journey this was for the returning Jews. Though the exact location of the exile villages is unknown we do know that they were somewhere near Nippur in modern day Iraq about 200 miles upstream from where the Euphrates River empties into the Persian Gulf.

    The account of the Galilean martyrs spoken of in Luke 13 is unique to this Gospel but the parable of the fig tree is very similar to the judgement to come on Israel spoken of in Mark 11:14. The analogy can easily be broadened to incorporate the individual's soul as well.

    Paul jumps right into the lesson in 1Timothy. Verses 3-11 have to do with those among the Ephesians who taught false doctrine regarding the Law. This practice can still be seen today when folks try to turn to numerology and resting too much of their philosophy on Mosaic and Levitical law while disregarding the freedoms that Christ gave us. It's amazing how little times have changed and how much the pastor's job has remained the same in 2000 years.

    May God bless you

    - Clint
     
  4. Clint Kritzer

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    Pastoral Letters
    Introduction


    Titus, 1Timothy, and 2Timothy form a closely knit unit of the New Testament Epistles commonly referred to as the Pastoral Letters, a term given to them in the 1700's. This name is, however, a bit misleading as Timothy and Titus were not necessarily Elders and they certainly were not Apostles. Instead, they were Paul's emissaries and representatives left at Crete and Ephesus to organize the churches there and help them overcome the problems they faced. We can think of them as "underapostles" or, in a real sense, missionaries.

    Authorship

    While there is much internal and external evidence that the Letters are authentic, no three Epistles have come under such scrutiny as being non-Pauline. While the commentary that this study reflects will be an acceptance of genuine Pauline authorship, a fair evaluation and study of these Books require a close examination of the criticisms.

    There are five primary arguments against authenticity of the Pastorals and each is fairly easily, if not completely satisfactorily, answered:

    1. The vocabulary, style and grammar vary from the other Pauline Epistles. The Pastorals contain the highest percentage of words not found in the other ten Epistles attributed to Paul. There is also a lack of certain key Pauline words and phrases as well as a variance from Pauline grammar and style.

    There are several theories that account for this variance. Perhaps (1) Paul used an amanuensis who edited the Letter. (2) These Letters were written later in Paul's life and therefore his own wording may have evolved. (3) The writings follow a formula of the time that used preformulated quotes including hymns, statements of faith, catalogues of virtues and vices, ethical codes, doxologies, proverbs, and Scriptural quotes. When we remove these quoted portions of the Pastorals, the remaining text coincide closely with authenticated writings such as Romans, 1&2Corinthians, Galatians, and Philemon.

    2. The doctrine, though Pauline, is more closely aligned with second or third generation
    Christian thought.
    Again, much of this argument is based upon the Passages that are quoted from non-Pauline sources. As for the non-quoted phrases, if we accept a late first century dating of the Pastorals, Paul had been in Rome and the escalating situation of Emperor worship under Nero would have been a focus of the writing and would have played into Paul's use of the term "Savior" for both God the Father and God the Christ. Also, Paul uses this same term applied to Christ in Ephesians 5: 23 and Philippians 3:20. Also, the extensive use of the term "godliness" is found in other Roman writings and may reflect a deliberate attempt on Paul's part to accommodate his dialect to the Roman culture.

    3. The organization of the church with two offices of "presbyter-bishops" and "deacons" is more advanced and therefore later than authenticated Pauline writings. While use of the term "presbyter" is unique to the Pastoral Letters, Philippians 1:1 shows us that at least one other church during Paul's lifetime had a two offices. The term "presbuteros" can also be applied non-technically as "older man" as in 1Timothy 5:1 or technically as "presbyter" as in Titus 1:5. This may well indicate that the primitive church was in a transitional phase during the time of these writings.

    4. The heresy attacked in the Pastorals appears to be 2nd century Gnosticism. Just as in Colossians the heresy bears a resemblance to Gnosticism, the majority of scholars reject this argument as valid. The strongest evidence that the heresy is not Gnosticism is that Polycarp, a 1st century church father, quotes 1 Timothy as Pauline. 1Timothy 6:20 uses the Greek "gnosis," which the KJV translates as "science" and other texts translate as "knowledge," may be a later addition to the text. If authentic, it is the only mention of "gnosis" in all three letters. Even so, the text does not address the Docetic view of the Gnostics that Christ was not divine, the hallmark of Gnosticism. Instead as is the case in many of the Pauline Epistles, the opponents to the Gospel are more likely the Judaizers as Titus 1:10 identifies them as "members of the circumcision party."

    We will examine the heresy more closely as we review the text.

    5. The Historical data of the Pastoral Letters can not be reconciled with the accounts
    recorded in Acts.
    This argument is certainly conceded, however, there is nothing to indicate that Luke gave us a complete account in Acts. In fact, Acts 28 leaves us without even knowing how Paul's trial resolved. Therefore, accepting the authenticity of the Pastorals leads us to conclude that Paul was released from his imprisonment, made a series of final journeys, and was then re-arrested, re-tried, and beheaded in Rome between 64 and 67 AD.
     
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    Sunday School lecture 3/7/04 Part I

    1 Timothy 1-2

    Greeting - 1Timothy 1:1-2


    In our introduction we discussed the rejection of the criticisms against Pauline authorship and placed the dating of the Pastorals between Paul's imprisonment in Acts 28 (at about 59-62 AD) and his traditional death by decapitation in Rome in 67-68 AD. Operating under the assumption that Paul was released and then re-arrested, we place the date of 1Timothy, the first of the Pastoral Letters chronologically and in the Canon, somewhere between 62 and 66 AD.

    In the opening line we see one of the unique characteristics of the Pastorals. Paul's use of the term "Savior" applied to God occurs 5 times in the Pastorals and once in Jude, but nowhere else in the New Testament. However, it is a fairly common reference in the Old Testament and the term "God my Savior" occurs in Mary's song in Luke 1:47. That this term is used in the opening line of 1 Timothy may be due to Luke's influence on Paul's writing. He may have even been Paul's amanuensis at this point. Another real possibility that should be considered is that Nero had taken the title "Savior of the world." Paul's assertion of God as Savior may have been an answer to the Emperor worship that the Romans had embraced.

    The Letter is addressed to Timothy of whom the New Testament reveals quite a bit. We first encounter him in Acts 16:1-3. He was the son of a Greek father and a Jewish mother. After his conversion at Lystra he joined Paul's entourage and is mentioned often as a part of the missionary team that accompanied Paul. In Philippians 2:20 Paul praises Timothy saying, " For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare." He is credited as co-sender in 6 of the Pauline Epistles and recipient in two.

    Though the Letter is addressed to Timothy, the assertion of Paul's apostleship indicates that this Letter was to be shared with the church in Ephesus.

    Suppression of False Teachers - 1Timothy 1:3-7

    Paul begins immediately giving his charges to Timothy. The Letter uses certain military terms giving the imagery of Timothy as a soldier being given orders. The first of these orders is to suppress false teachings that had arisen in the church.

    That Paul urges Timothy to stay in Ephesus may indicate that Timothy had expressed a desire to leave the church. Like Collosae, Ephesus stood near the crossroads of major Roman roads and near the Mediterranean Sea and was therefore subject to heavy travel. While this made it a strategic location for a ministry, it also opened it to the influences of many pagan religions and Judaism as travelers introduced their own philosophies to the city.

    Paul urges Timothy to remain in Ephesus in order that he may put down these threats to the church. In context, Paul seems to be specifically addressing Judaism here. If this interpretation is accurate, the myths (KJV - fables) spoken of in verse 4 are the Jewish expositions on Old Testament stories that added tradition and embellishment to the Scriptural accounts. The Jews were also quite enamored of genealogies and used them in their expositions. Paul asserts that all these do is raise questions and speculation and take the church's focus off of its true purpose of doing God's work which is found in faith and love. The source of this agape love is found in "a pure heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith."

    Some people at Ephesus had turned from this primary purpose of the church and instead had entered into "vain discussions (KJV - vain jangling)". They were talking a lot, but not saying anything. Instead they had fallen into debates about the Law. Paul, as a former Pharisee, makes the well founded charge that they did not know what they were talking about.

    The Law is Good If Used Properly - 1Timothy 1:8-11

    As an explanation of Paul's statement that the would-be teachers of the Law did not know what they were talking about, Paul digresses for these four verses to explain the purpose that law has in the Message of the Gospel. In verse 9 "law" has no definite article and may refer to moral law in general as opposed to Mosaic Law though interpretations vary on this. In either case, law was not established for "good" people but for "bad." The Law is required for the punishment of wrongdoers and the protection of society. As is typical of Pauline writing, the Apostle now lists specific wrongdoers.

    The first three pairs of wrongdoers listed in verse 9 is quite general "Lawbreakers" and those who are disobedient are those who ignore the law. "Rebels (KJV - sinners)"" are insubordinate and refuse to be ruled. The term "ungodly" in verse 9 means irreverent and "unholy" refers to those who have no respect of that which is sacred.

    The next pairing, "those who strike their fathers and mothers (KJV- murder) and manslayers break the Commandments. The remainder of the list includes the sexually immoral, homosexuals, kidnappers (likely slave traders), liars and false witnesses - all Commandment breakers. This list of wrongdoers is not exhaustive as Paul notes in verse 10. However, for doctrine to be sound, it must not promote any of these offenses.

    The term "sound" is quite important in the Pastorals. The term in Greek is "hugiaino (hoog-ee-ah'-ee-no)" which, according to Strong's Lexicon, literally translates as "to have sound health, i.e. be well (in body); figuratively, to be uncorrupt (true in doctrine)"
     
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    Sunday School lecture 1/4/04 Part I

    Proverbs Introduction / Chapter 1

    Sitting in the fourth position of the Books of Wisdom in the Old Testament Canon is the Book of Proverbs, or as it is known by its Jewish title, the Proverbs of Solomon. The Book defies dating and authorship and is probably an anthology of writings of wise men such as priests, prophets, king's counselors, scribes, teachers and even parents and village sages. The instructions are for the most part clear, concise, and easy to understand. Unlike many of the Old Testament writings, the proverbs are designed not for national instruction, but to guide the individual in his personal affairs and dealings with his fellow man.

    The original Hebrew word we translate as "proverb" is mashal. The exact translation is a bit wider than our connotation of "proverb". In 1Samuel 10:12; 24:14; and Ezekiel 18:2 it translates as a short, concise statement. In Isaiah 14:4 and Micah 2:4 it is a prophetic oracle. In Psalm 49:4 and 78:2 it translates as "parable". So we see that our word proverb is far more constrictive than the original intention of the Jewish mashal. This is an important point to keep in mind as we begin our study of this Book.

    The reader should be aware that many of the words and phrases found in Proverbs are unique to this Book making translation a very difficult matter. Therefore different versions of the Bible may vary widely in their interpretations of certain passages. Because of the antiquity of the writings, even the Greek translators of the Septuagint faced the same hurdles as the modern translator. As more ancient documents are unearthed by archaeologists, we gain more clues towards a precise translation.

    Authorship & Dating

    While tradition holds that Solomon alone is responsible for the authorship of the Book, a simple examination of the text shows that this is not the case. There are actually seven separate titles in the Book: 1:1; 10:1; 22:17; 24:23; 25:1; 30:1; 31:1. These offer us hints at the authorship but are too vague from which to draw absolutes. For instance, verse 1:1 tells us that the title of this section is "the Proverbs of Solomon, the son of David, king of Israel." However, this leaves the scholar with no more than speculation as to whether Solomon wrote the first section, compiled the Book, or if the text is merely ascribed to the Solomonic tradition. While the wisdom movement in Israel is easily traced to Solomon, we see the king as having an intellectual brilliance and a vast knowledge of nature. The proverbs found in this Book, however, seem to deal mainly with human behavior. It was common in post-exilic Israel for literature to be compiled from many sources as attributed to one dominate personality as author, such as Psalms being attributed to David and the Torah being attributed to Moses.

    Therefore, we can make no firm claims as to authorship or dating of this Book. The 10th century BC reign of Solomon would be one parameter we could use but the mention of Hezekiah in 25:1 places the writing somewhere prior to the 7th century BC. However, at the present time, a more precise dating is not possible.

    Literary Forms

    The first major literary form we encounter in Proverbs is the Instructional genre. This type of literature is characterized by a father to son type monologue that contains imperatives as well as conditional, motivational and consequential clauses. This type of genre simply gives authoritative instruction in plain words with little explanation. This type of form dominates chapters 1-9; 22:17-24:22; and 31:1-9.

    The second literary form we encounter is the Wisdom Sentence. These are short, concise statements which more closely resemble our English connotation of "proverb." In the Book of Proverbs, these are independent of each other having little to no context. Sometimes these contrast each other as in 10:5 - He that gathereth in summer is a wise son: but he that sleepeth in harvest is a son that causeth shame.Another form of Wisdom sentence is the synthetic parallel or identical such as in 18:19 - A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle. Unlike the strongly authoritative nature of the Instructional proverb, the identical leaves more room for interpretation and expansion.

    A third form is the Numerical saying. In this form we find a title line telling us the subject and the number of items that have something in common followed by a list of those items with a description. 30:24-28 is an excellent example of this form.

    The fourth form we find is a Preaching genre. In this literary form a narrative is formed and an idea is concentrated upon for several verses. We will examine two of these today in 1:20-33 and 2:1-22.

    Commentary on Text

    General Introduction (1:1-7)


    Wisdom in the Old Testament generally refers to the ability to accomplish a task or gain an objective. We see many figures in the Old Testament referred to as wise such as craftsmen and judges but we also see idol makers in Isaiah 40:20 being called wise (cunning).

    Yet here the author is giving us the theme and intention of the Book. Here we see that the author's intention is not merely to teach skills, but that there is a theological overtone to the lessons that will be revealed. "To understand the words of insight" is a major objective of wisdom. This gives one the ability to organize thoughts and the capacity to decide on right and wrong courses. "Wise dealings" imply the practical, pragmatic aspects of wisdom. David's ability to carry out Saul's orders show this aspect of wisdom but the author further modifies the wise dealings to include righteousness, justice and equity. This adds a theological element to the behavior one discerns as right.

    Prudence in this context refers to shrewdness or guile. It is the same term used of the serpent in Genesis 3:1. Prudence and discretion together indicate an injunctive towards resourcefulness and planning.

    The "simple" mentioned in verse 4 does not refer to those who are slow in mind in the Hebrew but rather to those who are inexperienced. The simple were teachable and open to instruction. However, the wise man is also included as able to gain insight from these teachings. There is no limit to wisdom. All are able to learn more and more if they are open to the instructions.

    This Passage concludes with the statement that the fear of God is the basis of all knowledge. Wisdom is not mere intellectualism but also requires an element of piety. God is not only the starting point of wisdom but also the source, purpose and essence of wisdom.

    Warning Against the Way of Sinners (1:8-19)

    In this Passage the listener, referred to as "son", is instructed to avoid the sinners that may seduce him into violence. Notice that this Instructional proverb begins with the word "hear". This points to the receptiveness of the pupil. As most instruction was given orally, listening was essential to these instructions.

    Verse 17 is a bit ambiguous in meaning. The most likely interpretation is that if a bird witnesses a net being spread for its capture, it will avoid the trap. The metaphor then is that the consequences of crime should be obvious enough that the wise man will avoid doing violent acts. In verse 18 we read that "these men lie in wait for their own blood." In other words, the punishment for crime follows the act. Understood in this way, verse 17 should be understood that even though the bird is aware of the net, the bait is too tempting and it distorts the animal's judgment and self-control.

    Verse 19 summarizes the Passage to say that violence results in the death of the criminal.

    Wisdom and Her Sermon (1:20-33)

    Here we see wisdom personified as a woman. She raises her voice in the busiest places of the city and addresses her message to the simple, the scoffers and the fools. The scoffers may be the insolent as our English reads it but it may also mean the free talkers or babblers. Wisdom promises to pour out her revelations to those who heed her reproof and listen to her instructions. This image reminds one of the Old Testament prophets giving their messages in the streets.

    Again in verse 29 Wisdom reaffirms that her teaching is linked to the fear of the Lord. She has divine authority in her counsel reproof. Those who do not heed her eat the fruit of their own ways and devices. Though they may enjoy their cleverness and independence, they will see that joy turn to loathing like a man who eats too much. Wisdom offers not only the choice between satisfaction and want, but also between death and a secure life.
     
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    Sunday School lesson – 1/28/04

    Luke 13

    As chapter 13 opens we remain in a collection of Passages dealing with proper attitudes towards the future. As Luke describes the events unfolding, we are told that these events are occurring in rapid sequence. Therefore the student should remain aware of the circumstances immediately preceding this collection of imperatives. The Apostles have claimed Jesus the Messiah, the Pharisees have begun in earnest their campaign to discredit Christ, and the crowds are beginning to divide into sects over their opinions of the identity and character of the Man, Jesus. Chapter 12 had left off with Jesus teaching about God's Judgment and the necessity of paying our debt to God. As chapter 13 opens we are told in what way we are to accomplish this.

    Luke 13:1-5 The Necessity of Repentance

    As Jesus is exhorting the people to get right with God, we are told that some in the audience who tell Jesus about a massacre of a group of Jews making sacrifices by Pilate. Though we have no extra-biblical sources describing this event it is in complete agreement with what we know of his character. The event would have had to have occurred in Jerusalem as this was the only place in which Jews were allowed to sacrifice. Despite the lessons of the Book of Job, Jews had held to the belief that misfortune was directly proportionate to an individual's sins. That the blood of those massacred mixed with the blood of their sacrifices may have further enhanced the imagination of the Jews in believing that this was the result of the vengeance of God. Jesus took this opportunity to clarify the misconception and to further urge the need for repentance.

    Jesus begins His teaching by asking, "Do you think these Galileans were worse sinners…?" This questions makes the assumption that some did think so. He immediately answers His own question with an emphatic, "no." All Galileans, all Jews, all people, stand on an equal level before God. We have all sinned and come short of the glory of God. As sinners, we stand the risk of perishing just as surely as those killed by Pilate, whether it be now or at the Judgment. The only remedy to this fate is to repent. "Repent" literally means to think differently or to turn back. True repentance results in a change in life. 2Corinthians 7:10

    Jesus then relates a story of eighteen people killed when a structure collapse occurred. The tower in Siloam mentioned in this account is believed to be a structure built on the wall of Jerusalem to defend the water supply during attack. There are historical records that Pilate wished to build an aqueduct in Jerusalem using Temple monies. Through these conjectures, some interpreters believe that the eighteen who died may have been construction workers on that project and the accident causing their death was an act of Divine retribution. Once again, however, Jesus repudiates such speculation. All will have allegorical towers fall on their heads if they do not repent. The tragedy of others should never feed one's own self-righteousness. Without God's Grace purchased by Christ and solidified with man's repentance, we are all tragically doomed.

    Luke 13:6-9 The Peril of Fruitlessness
    The Old Testament often represents Israel as a vineyard (Isaiah 5:7). The figure of the fig tree in the vineyard is debatable but also seems to represent Israel just as it does in Mark 11:12. The owner of the vineyard is God. The three years in which the fig tree has borne no fruit is interpreted by some as the three years of Jesus' ministry. Others see it as merely representing a long period of time. The vinedresser is interpreted by most as representing Christ, whose intercession has presented another opportunity for Israel. The fruits are the required deeds and repentance necessary for Israel to gain God's favor.
     
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    Ezra

    Ezra/Nehemiah

    Introduction




    This introduction covers both of these Documents because in their earliest form they were actually one Book. It was not until the 3rd century AD at the time of Origen that they appeared as separate. It was not until Jerome around 400 AD that Nehemiah received a separate name.

    There is also evidence that suggests that these two Books were also once part of 1 & 2 Chronicles. At the conclusion of the Chronicle accounts, the edict of Cyrus is first stated. It is then restated and completed in the first few stanzas of Ezra. In addition to the traditions and archaeological proofs of the unity of the four Books, they also share the same style, vocabulary, and major emphases. These works are viewed by most scholars as sharing a single author who will be referred to throughout the coming quarter as “the Chronicler.” This designation becomes somewhat important as it differentiates him from the source writers he cites throughout his narrative.

    It should also be noted that the Chronicler was one who wrote with a certain agenda in mind, that being the edification of the Jews as they returned from the exile. His agenda was not to record history as a sequence of events in chronological order but rather to collect, editorialize and present blocks of information that explained to the Jewish community of the early 3rd century BC what their purpose and heritage was as they reassembled themselves as a nation.

    Time will not allow us in this study to dissect the many lists and genealogies within the text of Ezra and Nehemiah. Suffice it to say, however, that there is much confusion regarding names, timeframes, monarchs and agendas within the pages. Many explanations have been offered throughout time for these incongruencies. The Chronicler used various sources for his history, copyists may have misread certain names or numbers, particularly when the texts were being translated from ancient Hebrew to Aramaic or Greek, later scholars may have edited the text. Nonetheless, it is important to remember that the Chronicler was seeking to inform a people about a past they had forgotten. As the Book of 2Kings, the pre-exilic work, closed the Hebrew nations had already wallowed in apostasy for generations. That coupled with a seventy year exile and a century of returning emigrants points to the fact that the original audience was literally centuries from having a firm grasp on who they were as a chosen nation of God. Now was a time for a rebuilding and a revitalization of the children of Israel. God’s punishment was being lifted and major reformation was necessary if they were to remain a holy force on this earth.

    With this in mind, it is easy to see that the Chronicler’s purpose did not lie in exact chronological history. His emphasis was on religion. David had lived a long time ago and his conquests were meaningless now. Solomon had likewise died and his great feats of architecture had lain in ruins for a century. The land of Promise was no longer flowing with milk and honey. It was dust and ashes and filled with new enemies. Likewise the Law of Moses no longer reigned supreme as the ultimate authority. It was a memory to the people and a misunderstood legend from days gone by. The priesthood had changed. The organization of the tribes was in disarray. A few prophets had continued to preach during the exile but the multicultural influence of Babylon had diluted the knowledge of the people and with it their purpose as the seed of Abraham.

    It was time for new leaders to step forward and shake the corrosion from the newly forming Jewish state. If they were to once again form a nation, they would need to be a nation that reached back to their roots and recognized themselves as a religious nation under God.

    The Jews now awaited the Messiah. Men had come and gone that they thought would fit the bill but the people were left each time unfulfilled. It would not be until the 20th century that the Jews would become a sovereign power again. After the Persians, the Greeks would roll through them under the leadership of Alexander. When the Greeks fell, it was to the power of Rome. But it was during the time of the reformation after the exile that the Jews would once again set the stage for the coming salvation of man through their half-son, Jesus Christ.
     
    #8 Clint Kritzer, Aug 1, 2007
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  9. Clint Kritzer

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    Ezra 1:1-4 The Edict of Cyrus

    People of faith must never forget that God is sovereign over history and all events are controlled by Him. This sovereignty is a key note in the Book of Ezra and Nehemiah. The emancipation of the peoples captured by the now deposed Babylonians by Cyrus is a well documented historical event. An artifact known as the “Cyrus Cylinder discovered in 1879 describes the same account as our Bible though it does not mention the Jews by name.

    The decree was made both orally and in written form, that is to say by heralds and by public posting. Many scholars feel that this first mention originally written in Hebrew is the oral proclamation and the restating of the same in Chapter 6 written in Aramaic is the written.

    The phrase “God of heaven” within the edict was not used in earlier Hebrew writing but appears somewhat frequently during the Persian era and after. Remember that the early Jews conceived of God as physically residing in Jerusalem, specifically in the Temple between the wings of the Seraphim that sat atop the Ark of the Covenant. With the destruction of that city, building and the capture of that artifact, it was necessary to reevaluate that concept. The Persians were known to refer to the gods of various people by the titles they preferred and it stands to reason that Hebrew theologians had begun assigning this title to God during the exile. Note further that Cyrus goes on to say that Yahweh is the God “who is in Jerusalem.” This was a time when gods were perceived as regional.

    The Hebrew of verses 3-4 is somewhat obscure and has led to a variety of translations. The general gist of the text is that any Jew wishing to return to Palestine and begin the rebuilding of the city was free to do so.

    Ezra 1:5-11 The Return

    It is a common theme in the Bible that when God reveals His will, men of faith respond to it. Such is the case here. God made His will known through the pagan king Cyrus and the heads of the houses of Judah and Benjamin responded. The tribes of Judah and Benjamin were what had made up the Southern Kingdom of Judah after the division following Solomon’s death. These were the descendants and the aged who had once inhabited the city of Jerusalem.

    Along with the two tribes of Benjamin and Judah, the newly defined priestly class known as the Levites responded. Though many have sought to show rigid division between the Aaronic priests and the Levites, we do not see such until the post-exilic writings.

    Even though these three classes responded in action, the other members of the community responded in support. They donated of their own free will many valuables to support them. We see in 3:8 that the Persians also granted money towards the renovation of Jerusalem but that is not of concern to the Chronicler at this point. The enthusiasm of the people far outweighs anything that the Persians had to offer.

    When Jerusalem had fallen in 587 BC, Nebuchadnezzar had looted the Temple before destroying it. Obviously many of these artifacts had not been smelted or reforged as Cyrus had his treasury return them to the returning Jews.
     
  10. Clint Kritzer

    Clint Kritzer
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