Saturday, March 11, 2006

The Briefest of Histories

Manuscripts and ChaosStart

Jeremiah chapter 1 is about the call of Jeremiah and the fortitude with which he would be strengthened. He would have a hard message and long weary and hard years to drive it home. And so he begins:

Now the word of the LORD came to me saying,
    Go and proclaim in the ears of Jerusalem, saying,
        Thus says the LORD,
            I remember concerning you the devotion of your youth,
                The love of your betrothals,
            Your following after Me in the wilderness,
                Through a land not sown.
            Israel was holy to the LORD,
                The first of His harvest.
            All who ate of it became guilty;
                Evil came upon them.
        declares the LORD.

The word of the LORD

Note the style of Jeremiah's proclamation. He begins with an event that happened: "The word of the LORD came to me..." It leaves us wondering about the nature of this. Did he see a vision? Was it some internal manifestation? We are not told. All that we can surmise is that it left no doubt as to its origin.

Then there is the curious bracketing of the message, "Thus says the LORD, message, declares the LORD." What are we to make of this? It almost seems that by the time we get to the message we are at least 2 levels removed from the source. In other words, the LORD is not speaking directly to Jeremiah, but rather through an agent or means (i.e. the word of the LORD) who passes on the message to Jeremiah. In passages such as this, Jeremiah makes clear that he is only, if you will, the message bearer who makes no special claims of status before God.

The Message

The meaning of the message seems clear enough on a quick read, "You used to love and follow me, but you don't anymore. You are guilty and evil."

But a detailed reading becomes mysterious. There are 4 parallel couplets that carry this message. The first three couplets seem positive enough. They almost sound like an older parent reminiscing about the days of his children's youth. But as words from the LORD concerning His people, even these simple phrases make one pause.

I remember concerning the devotion of your youth / The love of your betrothals. The phrase "devotion of your youth" is easy enough. One can imagine the days of the patriarchs and the steadfast connection they had with the LORD. It is somewhat harder to connect this with the children of Israel in the general case, because they are often described as stubborn and hard-hearted, but even so there was always a remnant in every generation. However, if it is easy to understand "devotion of your youth" what are we to make of "the love of your betrothals?" Why is there more than one? I almost think of this in terms of generation after generation of Jacob's descendants renewing their connection with the LORD. In other words, Jacob loved the LORD and his children for generation after generation connected themselves intimately with their God.

Your following after Me in the wilderness / Through a land not sown. If the first couplet was about the Patriarchs and the generations after them, we can see that this couplet contains the next important phase in the history of Jeremiah's countrymen. This is the period of time when God took the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and made a nation out of them. The phrase "land not sown" is the bridge to the next couplet.

Israel was holy to the LORD / The first of His harvest. We have moved from a "land not sown" to a harvest. We have moved from the days of the patriarchs to the wilderness wanderings and now come to the nation of Israel. The point of the message at this juncture is that all should have gone well. There was love and devotion. There was a following during a difficult time. There was a sowing and a harvest. We would anticipate a return generation after generation.

All who ate of it became guilty; / Evil came upon them. But things turned sour. The descendants of Israel delighted to receive the benefits of the harvest, but they failed, in a sense, to re-sow the seed. Instead of becoming holy and maintaining their devotion and continuing to follow, they became guilty. Then evil came.

In short these four couplets contain the entire history of the children of Israel from the days of the patriarchs to Jeremiah's own day. Evil has fallen upon the land and its people. It will be up to Jeremiah to bring the charge. From this introduction, Jeremiah will lay out the legal case against his own countrymen. It is important to remember how far removed they are from the LORD who planted them.

<>< Test everything. Cling to what is good. ><>


Anonymous Henry IX said...

I don't see your analysis of Jer. 2:2,3 as working very well. My take on them is somewhat different:
Jer 2:2 The LORD’s call to His people starts by reminding them of how it used to be between them and the LORD. He remembers the first love of Israel, as they began to learn, in the wilderness, His love for them. Israel was young, in those days, and just as the bride yearns after the groom, Israel yearned after the LORD. The surroundings were not conducive to such interest, but that first love overcame the obstacles. J. N. Darby’s rendering is sweet: "... I remember for thee ..." God Himself is nostalgic.
Jer 2:3 There was that special time when Israel herself was holiness to the LORD, and she herself was the firstfruit of His cultivation. As there was a penalty against anyone who ate of the firstfruits under the Law of Moses, so there was against anyone who injured Israel, and whoever did could expect disaster. Midian’s destruction after following Balaam’s advice is exemplary here.
I suggest that, in appealing to Israel by Jeremiah, the LORD is giving them credit for a real interest in His purposes for them at the first. God Himself remembers, though Israel now does not, those early days when they had just come out of Egypt.
There was, of course, imperfection in Israel, and failure, and sin. But the LORD is here remembering what was real in the nation's relationship to Himself, and rejoicing in it for their sake. Thus, the depth of sorrow in verse 5 - "What iniquity have your fathers found in Me?"

Henry IX

10:04 PM  
Blogger Anders said...

Hello! My name is Anders Branderud and I am from Sweden.
You use NT and Paul in your argumentation.

Historical fact (the research of James Parkes; Charlesworth; Barrie Wilsson and other Scholars at leading universities implies this) is that Ribi Yehoshuas was a Pharisee.

The earliest extant Church historian, Eusebius further documented (EH III.xxvii.4-6) that the original Netzarim accepted only the Jewish Tana"kh as Bible and only The Netzarim ("their own") Hebrew Matityahu (NHM) as an authentic account of the life and teachings of Ribi Yәhoshua, never accepting the the 2nd-4th century, heavily gentile-redacted (Greek), NT.

Historical Scholars in leading universities (for example Bart Ehrman) agrees that NT has been redacted.

Ribi Yehoshua warned for false prophets who don’t produce good fruit = defined as don’t practise the commandments in Torah (Torah including oral Torah). See Devarim (Deuteronomy) 13:1-6.
Now you are confronted with the very words of historical Ribi Yehoshua. To follow him you need to start practising Torah non-selectively!

So why not start following Ribi Yehoshua? To follow him by practising the commandments in Torah including helping the needy gives true meaning of life!!

From Anders Branderud
Geir Toshav, Netzarim in Ra’anana in Israel ( who are followers of Ribi Yehoshua – Messiah – in Orthodox Judaism

5:49 PM  
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