Posts tagged with "Exilic"

The Ninevites as the Model of Repentance

In today’s Old Testament reading from Jonah 3, we find the Ninevites as the model of repentance.  Check out the perfect pattern of repentance here:

When the news reached the king of Nineveh,
he rose from his throne, laid aside his robe,
covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in the ashes.
Then he had this proclaimed throughout Nineveh,
by decree of the king and his nobles:
“Neither man nor beast, neither cattle nor sheep,
shall taste anything;
they shall not eat, nor shall they drink water.
Man and beast shall be covered with sackcloth
and call loudly to God;
every man shall turn from his evil way
and from the violence he has in hand.
Who knows, God may relent and forgive,
and withhold his blazing wrath,
so that we shall not perish.” (NAB)

Clothes are stripped off, sackcloth is adorned, the king trades his customary throne for a throne of ash, and a total fast is put in place for man and beast.  But, the Ninevites are supposed to be evil pagans, namely the evil pagans that God used to punish the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 722/21 when the Assyrians conquered it.

But, this is really the pattern in the Book of Jonah.  First, the pagan sailors in chapter one who are calling on their gods display exceptional qualities (i.e. they do everything they can to try to save Jonah) and experience conversion (i.e. they make vows and sacrifice to YHWH).  Then in chapter 3, we find this ideal repentance from the evil pagan Ninevites.  Yet the prophet Jonah is the antithesis; Jonah runs away from YHWH and protests against his mercy.

The story of Jonah as I said yesterday would have been pertinent for the people in exile.  In chapter 1, I noted the importance of the idea that YHWH can deal with Jonah on his way to Tarshish.  This means that YHWH is not confined to a particular space.  In addition, these positive portrayals of foreigners (and perhaps even the negative portrayal of the Israelite prophet) would have been important either for those in exile who were living among foreigners or for those after the exile who were living under foreign rule.  This is in direct contrast to the Book of Nahum, and in fact Jonah’s attitude very much resembles that of Nahum, where the downfall and destruction of the Assyrians is a cause for joy (e.g. in the NRSV, the section beginning in Nahum 1.12 is entitled “Good News for Judah”).

I dare not get to homiletical here, but the book still today makes us examine our attitudes about foreigners and those who are different from ourselves.  And considering the past encounters of Israel and Nineveh, the book today makes us examine our attitudes even toward those who have done us harm.

Why Did Jonah Flee to Tarshish?

If you’ve read the lectionary reading for today, you know it is from Jonah 1.  To give a little background, it is helpful to know a little about Tarshish.  According to the Bible Background Commentary on the Old Testament:

Tarshish was the farthest known geographical point.  While its exact location is unknown, most believe it was in Southern Spain, though some have favored Carthage in North Africa.  We can be certain that it was a port in the western Mediterranean known for its trade in exports (emphasis added).

Jonah was trying to get as far away from God as possible.  Those who have heard the story before, as most of us probably have, realize that he couldn’t get away from God.  That may seem like old hat to those who have grown up being taught that God is omnipresent, but consider the meaning for an exile from the land of Israel.  The Ancient Near East was a place in which deities were tied to particular locations. When the people were exiled they may have wondered if their God was present with them there or if he was tied to the land of Israel.  That YHWH was able to reach Jonah on his way to Tarshish is a sign that YHWH is not tied to a locale.  Thus, YHWH can also be with his people in exile.

The Celebration of Passover in Ezra

In today’s lectionary reading in Ezra 6, the people celebrate the Passover.  This is somewhat significant as according the Bible Background Commentary on the Old Testament there has been no mention of the Passover celebration since the time of Josiah which was more than 100 years earlier.  This is potentially an example of the idea that the Jews considered the return from Exile to be a type of “New Exodus.”  The idea of a New Exodus is prominent in the second part of the Book of Isaiah and also in places like the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus is depicted as a new Israel (i.e. goes down into Egypt and then returns).

Daniel McClellan on Monotheism and Other Gods in the Hebrew Bible

I have posted a number of times in the past about examples of henotheism in the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible.  HERE is a post by Daniel McClellan in which he goes into a significant amount of detail on the topic.  I am one who was trained in the manner of Wiggins who he cites in the post.  In my reading, statements in Deutero-Isaiah have been taken as monotheistic; however, McClellan makes a good case for pushing the development of monotheism back a bit further and not taking statements in Deutero-Isaiah as strictly monotheistic.  Check out his post and see what you think.