Saturday, November 17, 2012

Daily Bible Reading: Ezekiel 40 and Revelation 9

Ezekiel 40 – The note in my Jerusalem Bible says that this final section of Ezekiel “is a blueprint for the religious and political rehabilitation of the Israelite nation in Palestine . . . He “assumes the role of organizer intent on realizing . . . long-desired reforms . . . a founding charter for what was shortly to emerge as Judaism, and to provide a basis for all future efforts and aspiration from Ezra to the heavenly Jerusalem of the apocalypse of St John” (1411).

Twenty-five years into their captivity (573 BC), Ezekiel (in Babylon) is taken in a “divine vision” to the land of Israel, to “a very high mountain” (40:2). There he has an encounter with an angelic presence – “a man who seemed to be made of bronze” (40:3). This “man”/angel shows him the future city of Jerusalem and in great detail describes the structures – gates, outer courts and related buildings that will surround the Temple. He shows him the Temple as well but it is not described in such detail as the rest since 1 Kings 6 already has the detail.

Lawrence Boadt’s Reading the Old Testament says that chapters 40 through 48 lay out God’s new plan for the restored city. “At the center of this vision, parallel to the new heart in the first part of the plan, are life-giving waters that flow from the temple to touch every living thing in the land  . . .” (396).

Ezekiel, unlike Jeremiah, lived in exile. He came to see the key of the new covenant in its “interior-ness” (396). What the community was in external things was not so important as what it did from the heart. Those close to God were not the ones who had the priestly bloodlines but those who had decided for God and lived in the spirit of the covenant. “Ezekiel was the last of the great prophets and the first of the new priestly visionaries that would create modern Judaism . . .” (398).

Israel could practice its faith without “having” land or king or outward Temple. They created the “Book” – the Pentateuch - minus Deuteronomy. The “P” edition kept the narrative stories as they had come down but added lists that filled out important themes: census lists, genealogies, inventories, hymns and poems. They added the opening chapter 1 to Genesis, dates and calendars that permitted celebrations to go forward. Important rituals were incorporated. The “P” writers incorporated orderly “ages” and “stages”.

The “interiorization” of religious practice that Ezekiel calls for is a response to the loss of the simple idea that God was going to make of Abraham’s descendants a holy people in a holy land so fruitful they would be as many as the sands on the shore or stars in the heavens. This was GONE. So now the Promised Land would focus on the practice of the Law, the inward faithfulness of the people wherever they were. With the reestablishment of the community by the Persians, a new sense of the covenant evolved and when that was lost, the Messiah brought yet a new path.

How will this story develop over time? Where are we going? 

Revelation 9 – With the fifth trumpet, the prophet “saw a star that had fallen from heaven on to the earth, and he was given the key to the shaft leading down to the Abyss” (9:1). The Jerusalem Bible note says this “angel” is probably “Satan.” He is given a key to the Abyss where the other fallen angels are being held.

When he opens the Abyss, smoke pours out of it that blackens the sun and sky; and from the smoke locusts descend to attack men who are not marked by the seal.

These locusts have the pincers of scorpions; they are, like the “locusts” in Joel 1-1 seen as historical enemies - Assyrians, Persians, Greeks and Romans. Their scorpion-like bite brings five hours of excruciating pain. This is the first of the troubles.

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