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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

After the Fall

  1. How was Judah governed under Babylon?
  2. What happened to Jeremiah after Jerusalem fell?
  3. Was the name Ishmael (Israel’s brother) always despised by the Jews?
  4. What’s the connection between the fall of Jerusalem and the Exodus?
  5. What has Greece to do with the fall of Jerusalem?
  6. Who wrote the psalms?
  7. Who wrote about bones coming to life?
  8. Why did Isaiah write about Lucifer?
  9. Who was the creature of the night?
  10. What is the writing on the wall?

Nebuchadnezzar replaced Judah’s king with a governor, Gedaliah, friend of Jeremiah and Baruch. But he was soon killed (2 Ki 25:22-26) by Ishmael (a member of the royal family), probably because he viewed Babylon favorably, as did Jeremiah (Jer 39, 40). Gedaliah ruled from Mizpah since Jerusalem was gone. Civil war ensues with Ishmael’s faction fleeing to Ammon and the remaining Judahites escaping to (rather than from) Egypt, against Jeremiah’s advice (Jer 42). Jeremiah is taken to Egypt and writes the rest of his essays there (Jer 43). The Greeks praised pharaoh Hophra’s attempts (with their aid, Jer 46:21) against Babylon, but Jeremiah calls him just a noise (Jer 46:17).

News of Jerusalem’s fall reaches the Babylonian exiles (Ez 33:21). Psalmists write poems for their fallen home (Ps 137) Ezekiel prophecies against Judah’s neighbors, including Tyre (Ez 26) whose rejoicing at the fall of Jerusalem was short-lived. Obadiah prophesies against Edom which also failed to help Jerusalem in its hour of need (Ob 1:11). Meanwhile, the Jewish faith and people spread around the Babylonian empire, Daniel continues hs rise to power, and 70 years (Jer 29) run their course. Ezekiel views Israel as having become impure, awaiting renewal (Ez 36), and offers a vision of dry bones coming to life (Ez 37). Ezekiel’s later visions (38, 39) contain the same sort of imagery as Daniel and Revelation, promising that all, including redemption, is safe in God’s hands. The visions culminate in an image of the renewed Temple, echoed centuries later in the heavenly temple of Revelation. Almost 20 years after his vision of God leaving the Temple (Ez 11:22), Ezekiel sees God’s return (43:1) to a new temple, governed by a prince God has ordained as spiritual and civic leader (church and state no longer separated when God unites them).

Nebuchadnezzar dies and King Jehoiachin of Judah is released (2 Ki 25:27, Jer 52:31). Isaiah’s prophecies of Babylon’s fall (Is 13-14) begin to be fulfilled as Babylonian might decreases. Isaiah’s writing of the daystar, Lucifer, falling (Is 14:12) are filled with familiar symbols of local gods, including Lilith (Is 34:14), caller of demons, haunter of men, and creature of the night. Meanwhile, regent Belshazzar (son of Nebuchadnezzar's successor Nabonidus who was out in the desert worshiping the moon-god Sin) gives a famous party, and Daniel  reads the writing on the wall (written by a disembodied hand). God has Numbered, Weighed and Divided the kingdom, whereupon Belshazzar is killed and the Medes take over, much welcomed in Nabonidus’ absence. More of Isaiah's prophecies (or those of his descendant in some interpretations) reach fulfillment as a new age dawns (Is 40-45). The suffering servant mentioned in Isaiah (49-55) may be seen as the nation in exile, or as particular people within the nation, though Christians see him now as the Christ (Is 53).

Finally Cyrus king of Persia allows the Jews to go “home” and rebuild their temple. They leave, carrying their temple goods and writings, perhaps also including some new stories (Job maybe since Job 6:19 mentions important trading posts of the era, and Nabonidus was worshipping the mood-god, Job 31:24-28) and new wisdom gained during their exile (some proverbs in the Bible may date from Jewish scholars studying in Babylonian libraries, Prov 30,31).

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