Thursday, May 31, 2012

Laying the Foundations of Jerusalem Temple by Zerubbabel

Third chapter of Ezra book tells us how after the return from Babylon the Jews led by Zerubbabel and Joshua built an altar and restored the sacrifice to God Yahweh. After celebration of religious holidays they began to rebuild the temple.

First, they brought wood from Lebanon according to the order of King Cyrus. The priests began construction of the temple and laid its foundations. After laying the foundations the priests and Levites with trumpets and cymbals began to praise the Lord and to thank him for establishing the foundations of the temple. There were also the people who have seen the previous temple of Solomon by their own eyes. They wept for joy and someone just loudly rejoiced. This noise has been heard by Samaritans who wanted to participate in the reconstruction of the temple. But Zerubbabel refused them. Consequently, Samaritans began to interfere with the Jews to build the temple and its rebuilding has been delayed from the reign of King Cyrus until the reign of King Darius.

Premature celebration

In the plot line of this story about laying the foundations of the temple there is a confusing thing. For what did the Jews celebrate so joyfully with trumpets and cymbals? For what did they so grateful to God? What did the elders compare with the previous Solomon Temple? According to the storyline of Ezra book, they merely laid the foundation but rejoiced as if the temple has already been built.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Did God Have a Wife? Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel (pdf)

This is a book about ordinary people in ancient Israel and their everyday religious lives, not about the extraordinary few who wrote and edited the Hebrew Bible. It is also a book for ordinary people today who know instinctively that "religion" is about experience, not about the doctrines of scholars, theologians, and clerics who study religion dispassionately and claim authority. My concern in this book is popular religion, or, better, "folk religion" in all its variety and vitality.

This is a book that, although it hopes to be true to the facts we know, does not attempt objectivity; for that is impossible and perhaps even undesirable. One can understand religion only from within, or at least from a sympathetic viewpoint. As an archaeologist, I shall try to describe the religions of ancient Israel — not theoretically, from the top down, as it were, but practically, "from the bottom up," from the evidence on the ground.

This is a book mostly about the practice of religion, not about belief, much less theology. It is concerned with what religion actually does, not with what religionists past or present think that it should do. Beliefs matter, for they are the wellspring of action; and theological formulations may be helpful or even necessary for some. But archaeologists are more at home with the things that past peoples made, used, and discarded or reused, and what these artifacts reveal about their behavior, than they are with speculations about what these people thought that they were doing. As Lewis Binford reminds us, "archaeologists are poorly equipped to be paleo-psychologists."

The Bible Unearthed. Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts (pdf)

Prologue. In the Days of King Josiah

The world in which the Bible was created was not a mythic realm of great cities and saintly heroes, but a tiny, down-to-earth kingdom where people struggled for their future against the all-too-human fears of war, poverty, injustice, disease, famine, and drought. The historical saga contained in the Bible—from Abraham's encounter with God and his journey to Canaan, to Moses' deliverance of the children of Israel from bondage, to the rise and fall of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah—-was not a miraculous revelation, but a brilliant product of the human imagination. It was first conceived—as recent archaeological findings suggest—during the span of two or three generations, about twenty-six hundred years ago. Its birthplace was the kingdom of Judah, a sparsely settled region of shepherds and farmers, ruled from an out-of-the-way royal city precariously perched in the heart of the hill country on a narrow ridge between steep, rocky ravines.

During a few extraordinary decades of spiritual ferment and political agitation toward the end of the seventh century ВСЕ, an unlikely coalition of Judahite court officials, scribes, priests, peasants, and prophets came together to create a new movement. At its core was a sacred scripture of unparalleled literary and spiritual genius. It was an epic saga woven together from an astonishingly rich collection of historical writings, memories, legends, folk tales, anecdotes, royal propaganda, prophecy, and ancient poetry. Partly an original composition, partly adapted from earlier versions and sources, that literary masterpiece would undergo further editing and elaboration to become a spiritual anchor not only for the descendants of the people of Judah but for communities all over the world.

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Story of Zerubbabel (Origin of the Guards Story)

One of the main characters of the biblical Book of Ezra is Zerubbabel. He heads the list of exiles that returned from the Babylonian captivity. After returning core group of exiles in the reign of the Persian king Cyrus Zerubbabel led the process of rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem, he built an altar and laid the foundations of the temple. Despite the various obstacles Zerubbabel along with other exiles finished building the temple in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the King.

However, the book didn't disclose the figure of Zerubbabel absolutely. Who was he? How did he become the leader of Jews? For what achievements? What is its fate?

Zerubbabel in the Book of Haggai

The book of Haggai gives us some information about this hero. But this information is largely contrary to the events of the book of Ezra. The book of Haggai tells us that Zerubbabel was governor of Judea at the time of king Darius. In those days people lived in Judea, but their life was uncomfortable. The land gave poor yields. Then God Yahweh through the prophet Haggai addressed the Jews and explained them that the reason of calamity is that the people of Judah didn’t rebuild the temple of God in Jerusalem. If they would rebuild it God will bless the land and it will give generous yields. Then residents of Judea led by the governor Zerubbabel began to build the temple and a few weeks they resumed it in the second year of the reign of king Darius.