Monday, September 2, 2013

Daily Old Testament and Early Christian Writings: 2 Chronicles 7-8 and Augustine's Treatise on the Profit of Believing 15

2 Chronicles 7 – Fire comes down and consumes the burnt offering. Even the priests cannot enter the Temple “because the glory of the Lord filled the Lord’s house” (7:2). The people’s prayer in response to the coming down of fire is to say, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever” (7:3). The offerings are made in the court before the Temple, for the altar could not hold all that Solomon offered. “For the next seven days Solomon and all Israel celebrated the Festival of Shelters [Sukkoth]” (7:8). After the festival, they hold a solemn assembly, and on the 23rd day of the 7th month, Solomon sends everyone home.

The Lord appears to Solomon in the night and says that “at times I might shut up the heavens so that no rain falls, or command grasshoppers to devour your crops, or send plagues among you. Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land” (7:13-14). “I have chosen this Temple and set it apart to be holy—a place where my name will be honored forever. I will always watch over it, for it is dear to my heart” (7:16). And he promises that Solomon will always have a successor.

“But if you turn aside and forsake my statues and my commandments . . .and serve other gods and worship them, then I will pluck you up from the land that I have given you; and this house, which I have consecrated from my name, I will cast out of my sight, and will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples” (7:19-20). People will pass by it and ask why, and then will know that it is because they have abandoned God.

2 Chronicles 8 – Solomon’s reign is a time of building up, not only the house of the Lord, but also the cities King Hiram had given him. He captures Hamath-zobah and builds Tadmor and storage towns in Hamath.  He builds fortified cities and towns for his chariots, cavalry and military stores.  The Eerdman’s guide shows that Solomon’s kingdom sits astride the major north-south trade route of the day.

The remnants of Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Amorites and Jebusites are reduced to forced labor—a situation the writer tells us continues to his day. Israelites are not reduced to slavery; instead they become soldiers, officers and commanders of his cavalry, etc. He brings the Pharaoh’s daughter out of the house of David to a house of her own. “’My wife must not live in King David’s palace, for the Ark of the Lord has been there, and it is holy ground.’” (8:11)

He offers burnt offering to God before the vestibule of Temple and organizes the priests and Levites as his father ordained in his day. He obtains gold from Ophir (an unknown place), carried by the ships of Huram.

Augustine’s Treatise on the Profit of Believing
15 - Put the case that we have not as yet heard a teacher of any religion. Lo we have undertaken a new matter and business. We must seek, I suppose, them who profess this matter, if it have any existence. There HAS to be a better English translation than this!

Suppose that we have found different persons holding different opinions, and through their difference of opinions seeking to draw persons each one to himself: but that, in the mean while, there are certain pre-eminent from being much spoken of, and from having possession of nearly all peoples. Whether these hold the truth, is a great question: but ought we not to make full trial of them first, in order that, so long as we err, being as we are men, we may seem to err with the human race itself?

While the translation is very opaque, I think he is saying that we must try to find people to interpret the Old Testament well. While there will always be differences of opinion among scholars, we should seek out those who are highly respected and see what they say.

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