Here prophesies are called “burdens”, which is evocative. Isiah just wakes up one day and has to unburden himself of all this stuff. It’s hard to follow. Maybe he found it hard to follow too.
At the moment his scenes are all about attacks on neighbouring countries, what are you gonna do?
These seem to be three “out of the frying pan into the fire” prophesies.
For Babylon, of whom Isaiah’s country lives in complete terror, he sees the Persians overrunning them. Ok, that’s more “there’s always a bigger fish” maybe.
His chaotic vision for their neighbour Edom seems to be “don’t relax” night will be followed by morning, then night again.
He sees refugees who tried to escape an attack on Arabia in a worse position, starving and dying.
The larger theme of all these burdens seems to be “it was always thus”. The bullies now will later be bullied. It’s a way of softening the blow that Israel will feel God has deserted them. Their status as chosen people meant God literally intervened in the flow of politics and military victors to elevate and protect them.
But now the prophets are reinterpreting what it means to be his chosen people. They are entering the game of thrones, and will lose for a while.
But such is how God manages the corruption of the human race. No one group has too much power for too long, is too dominant. It’s the judgement of the tower of Babel.
Having a crazy busy week, feeling acutely the sense that I keep letting everything slip through my fingers, especially the family. I feel so ineffectual.
Pauses to pray.
The rest of Josiah’s reign. In a sense he was greater than David. Certainly he was the most godly King since David.
It simply says he loved the lord with all his heart. And he leads the people in that love. So he actually does remove all worship of other Gods.
He celebrates Passover for the first time since time judges, pre the monarchy.
David, to give him his credit, couldn’t because the temple wasn’t set up.
There is a plan in this blessing of God’s I think. It’s setting a precedent for how the temple worship would operate post exile, though to Jesus day. It’s the true coming of monotheism to Israel. He makes a point of destroying the golden calf set up at Bethel by jeroboam, which reaches right back in tradition to the rebellion of the people in the book of exodus.
It’s a blessing to end the book on, the other end of the scale from Solomon, who squandered so much in a way.
And it really is end game after Josiah. Two of his sons become king in quick succession after he is killed in battle by the Pharaoh. The second son is a puppet king for Pharaoh, virtually his tax collector. Yes after rediscovering Passover for the first time in many years, they are slaves of Egypt again.
OK so while the kingdom of Israel is dying, the kingdom of Judah gets the best King arguably since David.
Hezekiah finally not only serves the lord personally but leads the people right, he takes down the sacred poles and high places of worship to other Gods.
God does not actually intervene in this chapter. The Assyrians arrive and trash talk the lord and any thought of resistance. It’s psychological warfare. Or bullying.
The chapter ends with messengers running to the king, tearing their clothes in distress and telling him all that the Assyrians have said.
I had a sleepless night tonight. Nothing in particular to worry about, just the sense of being trapped by being overcommitted at work and at home.
Cooking for home group tonight. I’ve been thinking about a song I wrote called “don’t forget to pray” and, for all this Bible reading I do, I do often forget.
I’ve been doing this of and on for a few years now, and it’s well and truly a habit, but it can almost be an escape. I’m a timid person in many ways, prayer leads to a more motivated appreciation of God’s will. I wonder if I’ve been avoiding that.
The dedication of the temple and placement of the ark of the covenant goes flawlessly – better than David managed to handle the notoriously dangerous thing.
God’s cloud descends on the holy place. He is in residence. Solomon give a big speech acknowledging that it was the fulfillment of a promise by God to David, and that God is actually to big to be confined by a temple.
He elaborates a fairly basic theology, that if the people are suffering any kind of problem, then praying in the direction of the temple would fix it. This was presumably before he wrote the big existential question mark that is Ecclesiastes!
He prays thanks humbly, outside the temple because though he is king, he is not a priest. Many sacrifices are offered, a multi day festival follows.
It’s a great day, The chosen people, in the promised land, fulfilling God’s will and in the presence of the Lord. Freeze frame, it don’t get better than this.
Solomon meets god, asks for wisdom, and displays it.
We are entering the most successful period of Israel’s history.
Moses was unable to enter the promised land. David was unable to build the temple.
Solomon will usher in the most full realisation of all the law and descriptions in Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus and Deuteronomy of life in the promised land. But already the worship of other Gods is prevalent, even young king solomon doesn’t know better.
God speaks to him, and he asks for wisdom. God is pleased and promises him earthly triumph as well.
The famous example of him judging a dispute between 2 women for 1 live baby gives credence to his great wisdom. I hadn’t got the idea that they were prostitutes before – when we did it at sunday school. Which puts a strange twist on the story.
Reading back through my blog entries, I realise I often ask God for wisdom. I have a vague memory that God eventually tells Solomon he asked for the wrong thing, but there is no hint of that here, maybe I remembered wrong.
In any event, off to a strong start…
Law, marriage, commerce, punishment.
Limits on the number of lashes a judge can impose mean punishment is to be hard, but not destructive.
The marriage laws we’ve seen again and again, and it’s hard to relate to. This telling is illustrated with a dramatic ritual shaming of a brother who will not take on a widowed sister in law.
The commerce laws are simple rules against cheating.
Then there is a reminder to absolutely mete out God’s judgement and destroy a local nation. As you do.
In the middle is a strikingly weird verse about cutting off the hand of a woman who intervenes in a fight between men by gabbing balls. Commentators are beside themselves to argue that is not literal and all sorts of meanings for it. I’ll wait for heaven to understand that one.
God’s people are fair, punishment fits crimes. There is moderation in the rules between Israelites. But God judgment is absolute.
More misc laws, with the theme of community. You are bound to care about other people’s property, so if you find lost property, you need to try and return it.
There is an odd ban against transvestism that uses a condemnatory word that is usually reserved for pagan temple practises… Scholars think that is what that is about.
Some more sharing and caring community rules… Make fences on balconies, don’t take a greedy share of the wild bird life to eat.
Then a bunch of “anti mismatch” rules that seem metaphorical about not adding the local culture.
Then some rules about marriage relationships that are horribly harsh by today’s standards, but have a certain rough justice to them in a society where women would have otherwise had very few rights. It’s a society where which already pretty much discarded women who weren’t virgins at marriage… From that starting point this makes sure there is some fairness.
So to a remarkable degree of detail we have a model society of the time which is to care for every member like one large family, and is to keep itself distinct. Is the larger themes of God’s plan for Israel, down to a level of detail.
Another warning against other Gods, this time nature worship, the sun and moon.
And another layer of the legal system. Impossible cases can go to the levites, the priests. Strangely enough our legal system still has a vestige of that, a branch of the law, equity, is based on the church courts in England where people could go to relieve the hardship of the civil courts.
Two capital offences, for worshipping other Gods and not accepting the Law.
Then a passage on how an Israelite king should be, one of the people, not amassing great wealth and many wives. I didn’t even think God wanted them to have a king… They went through the period of judge/leaders and kings were given to them as a second best. But here as they are about to enter the promised land is assumed they will have a king. .
Maybe it was like the walk to the promised land, they had to drift for a while with no king because they ignored God’s word.
It’s a picture of a society with God over all that doesn’t place is trust in great men. It’s a society with lots of capital offences, yes, which is troubling. But within that, it’s one of equality, justice, rights and humility. It’s strikingly different even in our world, let alone the ancient.
Obedience. Moses recounts the drama of the fire and darkness out of which God spoke and gave the ten commandments, which he quotes in full.
I was struck by the universal, profound nature of them. Not killing, stealing, taking your neighbours property. I mean the are very very ancient rules, we haven’t progressed beyond acknowledging them as true, and regularly breaking them, in 1000s of years. They are still an accurate mirror of our ideals and weakness.
He recounts how right the reaction of the people was. They were overwhelmed at hearing God’s voice, they were afraid to see him. They backed off and let Moses complete the interaction.
He calls them to have this respect again, to the law, to the words of God. He’s reminding them that the law came from the living God who is awesome and that is why it should be obeyed.
It’s like to say it came to a climactic end but I can’t… It’s a bit of business revisiting the quite liberal law that allows women to inherit land where a family only has daughters. It enters the land doesn’t thereby move out of Israel possession of they may non Israelites or even non clan.
It emphasises again the God given nature of the land and the relationship the nation has with God.
You can’t miss from this book: God chose them, God gave them the land. The did their darnedest to reject his promises, and a generation was wasted, but here they are.