The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Archive for September 18th, 2011

My Notes on Haggai 1:1-8

Posted by Dim Bulb on September 18, 2011

Hag 1:1  In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, in the first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the hand of Aggeus (Haggai) the prophet, to Zorobabel (Zerubbabel) the son of Salathiel, governor of Juda, and to Jesus (Joshua) the son of Josedec the high priest, saying:

In the second  year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, in the first day of the month. Darius (dah-rye-us) reigned over the Persian empire from 522 to 485 BC. He is most famous for his attack Greece which ended in his defeat at the battle of Marathon in 490.

The time indicator in this verse establishes a date somewhere in our months of August or September.  Other time references in the book show that the oracles of Haggai were delivered between this period and the beginning of the Judean winter, i.e., the sixth and ninth months of 520 BC according to the Jewish calender.  This is the same year that construction of the second Temple began in Jerusalem under the governor, Zerubbabel, and the high priest Joshua (see Ezra 3). It should be noted that the foundations for the Temple had been laid in 538, soon after the first group of repatriates entered back into the land at the end of the Babylonian exile. Facing opposition from the Samaritans and, very likely, other inhabitants of the land, the people had soon ceased the effort to rebuild.  Also, the people may have become disheartened by the realization that the proposed new Temple would not come close to matching the glory and splendor of the one Solomon had built (Haggai 2:3-4).

the word of the Lord came by the hand of Aggeus (Haggai) the prophet,

This or similar phrasing is common in the bible, especially in the opening verses of the prophetic literature. See for example Jer 1:2; Hosea 1:1; Joel 1:1. See also Luke 3:1-2. This type of phrasing is also often used to introduce specific prophecies.

to Zorobabel (Zerubbabel) the son of Salathiel, governor of Juda, and to Jesus (Joshua) the son of Josedec the high priest. Zerubbabel and Joshua are here possibly identified as the primary recipients of the oracles, but these were also intended for the people (see Haggai 1:12).  Zerubbabel was a descendent of King David (see Matt 1:12). For what reason are these two singled out? Perhaps they, unlike the rest of the people, were still intent on rebuilding the Temple.

Hag 1:2  Thus saith the Lord of hosts, saying: This people saith: The time is not yet come for building the house of the Lord.

Many scholars argue that the people’s excuse is due to their belief that the seventy years of exile prophesied by Jeremiah had not yet fully passed (see Jer 25:11).  A more plausible explanation is found in the very nest verses.

Hag 1:3  And the word of the Lord came by the hand of Aggeus the prophet, saying:
Hag 1:4  Is it time for you to dwell in ceiled houses, and this house lie desolate?
Hag 1:5  And now thus saith the Lord of hosts: Set your hearts to consider your ways.
Hag 1:6  You have sowed much, and brought in little: you have eaten, but have not had enough: you have drunk, but have not been filled with drink: you have clothed yourselves, but have not been warmed: and he that hath earned wages, put them into a bag with holes.

The people had become concerned with the grind of day to day living. They had become concerned with building a better life for themselves, desiring fine houses,  clothing, and rich harvests so that they might eat and drink to their content. But this worldly desire of theirs went unfulfilled. They planted much but reaped little. They ate but remained unsated. They drank but their thirst was unquenched.  Cold of heart in their devotion towards God their clothing could not keep them warm of body. What they earned was but loss. It was impossible for them to live in fine houses with ornamented ceilings for their priorities were wrong. I am reminded of our Lord’s words in the Sermon on the Mount: Therefore I say to you, be not solicitous for your life, what you shall eat, nor for your body, what you shall put on. Is not the life more than the meat: and the body more than the raiment? Behold the birds of the air, for they neither sow, nor do they reap, nor gather into barns: and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not you of much more value than they? And which of you by taking thought, can add to his stature one cubit? And for raiment why are you solicitous? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they labour not, neither do they spin. But I say to you, that not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed as one of these. And if the grass of the field, which is to day, and to morrow is cast into the oven, God doth so clothe: how much more you, O ye of little faith? Be not solicitous therefore, saying: What shall we eat: or what shall we drink, or wherewith shall we be clothed? For after all these things do the heathens seek. For your Father knoweth that you have need of all these things. Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God, and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you. Be not therefore solicitous for to morrow; for the morrow will be solicitous for itself. Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof (Matt 6:25-34).

Hag 1:7  Thus saith the Lord of hosts: Set your hearts upon your ways:
Hag 1:8  Go up to the mountain, bring timber, and build the house: and it shall be acceptable to me, and I shall be glorified, saith the Lord.

Speaking through the prophet the Lord had told the people in verse 5: set your hearts to consider your ways. That consideration was meant to bring out the reality of their situation, i.e., the emptiness and non-accomplishment of all their striving and desires.  Here they are called upon to consider what should be their way, i.e., putting God first by building his Temple (house). As the prophet goes on to indicate, the reason why the people have fared badly is due to the fact that the Temple lies in ruins (Haggai 1:9-11). As a result of the prophet’s exhortations the people undertook the imperative of verse 8 and began to build the Lord’s house (Haggai 1:14-15).

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This Weeks Posts: Sunday, September 18-Saturday, September 24

Posted by Dim Bulb on September 18, 2011


Blogging will be sparse this week. I’ll try to post something every day but can promise nothing.


Mass Resources for Today’s Mass (Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms).

Today’s Divine Office.

Last Weeks Posts.


Today’s Mass Readings.

Today’s Divine Office.

Background on Today’s First Reading (Ezra 1:1-6). Excerpt from the Catholic Encyclopedia on the Babylonian Exile. The book of Ezra is concerned with the end of the Exile and the period of restoration.

My Notes on Today’s First Reading (Ezra 1:1-6).

UPDATE: Pope Benedict XVI’s Commentary/Meditation on Today’s Psalm (126).

UPDATE: St Augustine’s Notes on Today’s Psalm (126).

UPDATE: St Albert the Great’s Commentary on Today’s Psalm (126).

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Today’s Gospel (Luke 8:16-18).

Memorial of Saint Andrew Kim Taegõn, priest and martyr and  Saint Paul Chõng Hasang, martyr and their companions, martyrs

Today’s Mass Readings.

Today’s Divine Office.

UPDATE: Pope Benedict XVI’s Commentary/Meditation on Today’s Psalm (122).

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Today’s Gospel (Luke 8:19-21).


Today’s Mass Readings.

Today’s Divine Office.

Bernardin de Piconio’s Commentary on Today’s First Reading (Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13).

UPDATE: St Thomas Aquinas’ Lecture on Today’s Psalm (19).

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Today’s Gospel (Matt 9:9-13).

UPDATE: Resources for Sunday Mass (Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms).


Today’s Mass Readings.

Today’s Divine Office.

My Notes on Today’s First Reading (Haggai 1:1-8).

UPDATE: Pope John Paul II’s Commentary/Meditation on Today’s Psalm (149).


Today’s Mass Readings.

Today’s Divine Office.

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Today’s Gospel (Luke 9:18-22).

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Bernardin de Piconio’s Commentary on Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13

Posted by Dim Bulb on September 18, 2011

Chapter 4. In this chapter the Apostle earnestly exhorts the Christians of Ephesus to lead a holy life, in accordance with the sanctity of the faith to which they had been called.

1. I therefore entreat you, I, the bound in the Lord, that you walk worthily of the vocation by which you are called,

Therefore, in consideration of the blessing of God, who has called you from eternity, out of heathenism and infidelity, to faith, and grace, and glory, equally with his own people the Jews, I Paul, prisoner for Christ’s sake and yours, entreat you to walk worthily of the mystical Body of Christ to which you belong, and the inheritance of God to which you look forward. A prisoner on your account, says Theodoret; for if I did not preach, I should be free. It is obvious that this request of the Apostle is equally applicable to all Christians and Catholics, in all countries and all ages; each individual among whom was
born a Gentile and a child of wrath, and is called into the fellowship of the Saints and the household of God, and made a child of God, and a Christian, which signifies another Christ.

2. With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in charity,

With all humility, the Greek and the Syriac have, humility of mind, not affected, but arising from a genuine sense of your own personal unworthiness. Gentleness, or moderation of speech and action, is the daughter of humility, and is opposed to irritability, as humility is to arrogance. The prominence which the Apostle gives to these graces indicates apparently that he thought the Ephesian Christians likely to be deficient in them. They would scarcely learn them from the teachers of heresy; and they are virtues which were unknown to, or not much prized and cultivated by, the pagan world. With patience and charity bearing one another’s imperfections, which is charity’s most difficult task, while yet it is one which
genuine humility would dictate, for we all have imperfections of our own.

3. Solicitous to keep the unity of the spirit in the chain of peace.

Solicitous to keep unity. Indifference to peace, the unity of souls, the integrity of the Church, is a crime; but it is a much greater crime to be the cause of disunion.  The Christian should ever be solicitous to keep unity of
belief, sentiment, and affection. Peace is a chain which binds souls together by a bond not inconsistent with freedom, for it is voluntary. This is obviously true, if applied to any voluntary association of a small number of persons; it is not less true in the holy Catholic Church, the members of which adhere to Christ by faith and love, but are under no compulsion.

4. One body and one spirit, as you are called in one hope of your vocation.
5. One Lord, one faith, one baptism.
6. One God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all, and in us all.

(vs 4) One body and one spirit. There is no verb, either in the Greek text or the Vulgate. These sentences are so many inducements to unity of sentiment and action; but it seems probable also that there is a side reference to the errors of the heretics of the time. They despised the Catholic Church, and held to an inner and invisible fellowship peculiar to themselves, for which reason the Apostle says there is one body, the mystical body of Jesus Christ.  And one Spirit, not a multitude of celestial intelligences with different influences exerted over the souls of men. All baptised Christians are called to the same glorious destined to share the immortality of Christ in heaven. You are all called in one hope of your vocation. You have all one Lord (vs 5), and your allegiance is not divided among a number of Angels and Archangels as your patrons and mediators- You have all one faith, not a creed taught publicly to the ignorant, and a different one reserved for those initiated into the mysteries of oriental philosophy. One baptism, it is extremely probable the heretics had another, or some similar ceremony of initiation for those whom they admitted to intimate association. One God (vs 6), for the heretics recognised two, an evil Deity who made the world, and an unseen and unknown abstraction from whom proceeded the celestial intelligences whom they proclaimed as the real objects of devotion. It is further necessary to observe, in order to explain what follows, that they regarded the evil Creator of the world as the author of the Old Testament, and God of the Jews, and consequently the enemy of Christ, and while adopting some of the external rites of Judaism, taught secretly that the wisdom of man consisted in disobedience to all the moral commands of the Creator of the world. This is why the Apostle finds it necessary to insist so strongly, as he does in this and the following two chapters of this Epistle, upon the sanctity of the Christian life. And in this verse for the same reason he adds that the Creator of the world is the Father of Christ and all Christ’s people; that he is above all angels and intelligences whatever; that his power and presence extend through all things, visible and invisible, and that his Spirit dwells in us all, not only in a few who are endowed by the law of their creation with a superior nature which makes them different from their fellow men. It would seem as if this passage must have suggested the phraseology of the Creed of Nicea, I believe in one God, in one Lord Jesus Christ, I confess one baptism for the remission of sins.

7. But to each one of us grace is given, according to the measure of the donation of Christ.

Although there is but one Spirit who dwells in all Christians, his gifts are various, both in degree and in kind. This inequality in the gifts of the Spirit might possibly occasion pride, discontent, or envy; and as has been said, the heretics attributed these gifts to the influences of different celestial spirits. St. Paul meets this by showing: 1, as in this verse, that God’s gifts are assigned to each by the donation or gift of Christ, in his wisdom and power, not necessarily in proportion to merit; 2, that they are not the property of the receiver, but belong to the whole Church, in Eph 4:12; 3, that this variety tending to unity should be a cause of harmony and not of discord, verse 13.

11. And he himself gave some indeed apostles, and some prophets, and others evangelists, and others pastors and teachers,
12. To the consummation of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edification of the body of Christ.
13. Until we all meet into the unity of the faith and recognition of the Son of God, to perfect man, to the measure of the age of the plenitude of Christ.

The Apostle here reverts to the gifts which Christ, ascending to his throne at the right hand of God, received from his Father and transmitted and communicated to the human race, whose nature he had assumed. These gifts did not consist in any provision for this mortal life, for he had already given the earth to man to cultivate, inhabit, and improve ; they were gifts far higher and more spiritual, worthy of the Giver, providing for the perfection :and consummation of those who receive them. If all mankind have not benefited by them, this is not the fault of God, who requires only faith as the condition of their enjoyment. They consist in the graces required to bring human nature to its absolute and ideal perfection, the standard of which is the plenitude of Christ, the sharing his divine perfection. But this requiring, from the nature of the case, the co- operation of the human will (for an influence which crushed freedom and left the will no room to operate, would not have been worthy of God, nor done justice to the nature of man) the Divine Wisdom saw fit to communicate these gifts by the aid of human agency.

Christ therefore gave, as his present to mankind, the twelve Apostles, to proclaim the Gospel of his redemption. With the Twelve, were associated Paul, Barnabas, and Silas. The prophets of theNew Testament explained the mysteries of the faith, and sometimes predicted the future, like Agabus in Acts 21:10. Their place is now taken by the interpreters and expositors of the Holy Scriptures. The Evangelists are the authors of the four Gospels; also the seventy disciples whom Christ sent before his face; the term is also applied to those who aided and assisted the Apostles in the preaching of the Gospel, as Titus, Timothy, Apollo, Silas. In Acts 21:8, Philip the deacon, who baptized the eunuch of Ethiopia, Acts 8 is st}yled Philip the Evangelist. Pastors are bishops and priests entrusted with the care of souls; and doctors those who teach the people of Christ. St. Paul does not say, and some doctors, because the offices of pastor and doctor, though they are distinguishable in their function, are always united in the same person, all pastors being teachers, and all teachers pastors. The Apostolic office is continued in the Church m the person of the Vicar of Jesus Christ, who also exercises the prophetic office, in that he is the referee in all questions of faith and morals, and is the centre of evangelistic work, but what he more especially exercises is the office of Pastor. Only to Peter Christ said Feed my sheep. Bishops and priests execute this office locally, in dioceses or parishes, but their pastoral mission is necessarily derived from this commission to Peter, as Pastor of the whole Church. The word pastor or shepherd, used figuratively in the Old Testament, always means a King. See 1 Kings 21:17,
Isa 44:28. St. Paul appears to have expected the return of Christ in the lifetime of most of the members of the Apostolic College, so that it was less necessary for him to dwell on this point. Although the offices enumerated by the Apostle are distinct, there is no reason why one or more of them may not be combined in the same person.

(vs 12). We have now the object to which all this is directed, the consummation or perfection of the Saints. The Syriac has the completion of their number. The Apostle names first the end to be attained, the perfection of the Saints, and then the means by which it is accomplished; the work of the ministry, and the edification, or building up, the body of Christ, the holy Catholic Church. This is not attained simply by the existence of a hierarchy and priesthood, but by their actively engaging in the work of their ministry, or several offices, and their gifts are bestowed upon them, not for their own use, but for the edification of the Church.

(Vs. 13). Then St. Paul describes the mode of action and the nature of the result obtained by the edification of the Church. The work of the ministry is to continue until we, the believers in Christ in all parts and countries of the world, meet in one point, like travellers who set out from various places but all converge in the same place, the unity of the faith, and recognition, or knowledge, of the Son of God. The Syriac has: Until we all become one whole, in faith and knowledge of the Son of God, and one perfect man, into the measure of the stature of his fullness. The work of the ministry must therefore continue to the end of the world, until we are all come, when the various ofiices in the Church of Christ will cease, as no longer necessary. To perfect man. A figure drawn from the growth of the human body, through infancy, childhood and youth, to its full height and strength. So the Christian grows in faith, and the knowledge and love of God, and becomes by degrees complete and perfect in Christ. The work of the Church is not only to make converts to the faith of Christ, but when made, to bring them to his perfect likeness. The measure of the age or Stature (the Greek word will signify either), the Syriac has stature, of the fullness of Christ, is the perfection of faith and love, by which Christ is formed in the Christain, and the Christian, as it were, transformed into Christ.

The Apostle’s figure is clearly to be understood of the spiritual perfection which the Saints are to attain, or may attain, in this mortal life. Nevertheless some Latin writers, and especially scholastic writers, have taken the words literally and not figuratively, and understand St. Paul to refer to the resurrection of the body, in the perfect age and stature which Christ had at the time of his death and resurrection. And they maintain that the Apostle means to say that all who die, even when infants, will be raised to the size and stature they would have had at the age of thirty-four or thirty-five years. St. Augustine refers to this interpretation as extant in his time, De Civit. Dei, xxii. 15, but rejects it, preferring the former or figurative interpretation. Some writers have even erroneously inferred that women, with the exception of the Mother of God, will rise masculine…But whatever may be the opinion of these writers, the Church has never accepted it, any more than the reason given by Scotus in favor of it, viz. that the feminine sex is a fault or imperfection of nature. For woman is as perfect as man…And her sex can hardly be a fault of nature, since woman was formed by the hands of the Creator from the side of man. And there can be no reason why, if the Mother of God retains her sex, other women may not retain it also. The plenitude of Christ is the perfection of his charity, humility, constancy, and other divine graces, in all of which there is no reason why women and men may not equally attain perfection.


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Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Luke 8:19-21

Posted by Dim Bulb on September 18, 2011

Ver 19. Then came to him his mother and his brethren, and could not come at him for the press.20. And it was told him by certain which said, Your mother and your brethren stand without, desiring to see you.21. And he answered and said to them, My mother and my brethren are these which hear the word of God, and do it.

TIT. BOST. Our Lord had left His kinsfolk according to the flesh, and was occupied in His Father’s teaching. But when they began to feel His absence, they came to Him, as it is said, Then came to him his mother and his brethren. When you hear of our Lord’s brethren you must include also the notions of piety and grace. For no one in regard of His divine nature is the brother of the Savior, (for He is the Only-begotten,) but He has, by the grace of piety, made us partakers in His flesh and His blood, and He who is by nature God has become our brother.

THEOPHYL; But those who are said to be our Lord’s brethren according to the flesh, you must not imagine to be the children of the blessed Mary, the mother of God, as Helvidius thinks, nor the children of Joseph by another wife, as some say, but rather believe to be their kinsfolk.

TIT. BOST. His brethren thought that when He heard of their presence He would send away the people, from respect to His mother’s name, and from His affection towards her, as it follows, And it was told him, Your mother and your brethren stand without.

CHRYS. Think what it was, when the whole people stood by, and were hanging upon His mouth, (for His teaching had already begun,) to withdraw Him away from them. Our Lord accordingly answers as it were rebuking them, as it follows, And he answered and said to them, My mother and my brethren are they which hear the word of God, and do it, &c.

AMBROSE; The moral teacher who gives himself an example to others, when about to enjoin upon others, that he who has not left father and mother, is not worthy of the Son of God, first submits Himself to this precept, not that He denies the claims of filial piety, (for it is His own sentence, He that knows not his father and mother shall die the death,) but because He knows that He is more bound to obey His Father’s mysteries than the feelings of His mother. Nor however are His parents harshly rejected, but the bonds of the mind are shown to be more sacred than those of the body. Therefore in this place He does not disown His mother, (as some heretics say, eagerly catching at His speech,) since she is also acknowledged from the cross; but the law of heavenly ordinances is preferred to earthly affection.

THEOPHYL; They then who hear the word of God and do it, are called the mother of our Lord, because they daily in their actions or words bring Him forth as it were in their inmost hearts; they also are His brethren where they do the will of His Father, Who is in heaven.

CHRYS. Now He does not say this by way of reproof to His mother, but to greatly assist her, for if He was anxious for others to beget in them a just opinion of Himself, much more was He for His mother. And He had not raised her to such a height if she were always to expect to be honored by Him as a son, and never to consider Him as her Lord.

THEOPHYL. But some take this to mean that certain men, hating Christ’s teaching, and mocking at Him for His doctrine, said, Your mother and your brethren stand without wishing to see you; as if thereby to show His meanness of birth. And He therefore knowing their hearts gave them this answer, that meanness of birth harms not, but if a man, though of low birth, hear the word of God, He reckons him as His kinsman. Because however hearing only saves no one, but rather condemns, He adds, and does it; for it becomes us both to hear and to do. But by the word of God He means His own teaching. for all the words which He Himself spoke were from His Father.

AMBROSE; In a mystical sense he ought not to stand without who was seeking Christ. Hence also that saying, Come to him, and be enlightened. For if they stand without, not even parents themselves are acknowledged; and perhaps for our example they are not. How are we acknowledged by Him if we stand without? That meaning also is not unreasonable, because by the figure of parents He points to the Jews of whom Christ was born, and thought the Church to be preferred to the synagogue.

THEOPHYL; For they cannot enter within when He is teaching whose words they refuse to understand spiritually. But the multitude went before and entered into the house, because when the Jews rejected Christ the Gentiles flocked to Him. But those who stand without, wishing to see Christ, are they, who not seeking a spiritual sense in the law, have placed themselves without to guard the letter of it, and as it were rather compel Christ to go out, to teach them earthly things, than consent to enter in themselves to learn spiritual things.

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Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Luke 8:16-18

Posted by Dim Bulb on September 18, 2011

Ver 16. No man, when he has lighted a candle, covers it with a vessel, or puts it under a bed; but sets it on a candlestick, that they which enter in may see the light.17. For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest; neither any thing hid, that shall not be known and come abroad.18. Take heed therefore how you hear: for whosoever has, to him shall be given; and whosoever has not, form him shall be taken even that which he seems to have.

THEOPHYL; Having before said to His Apostles, To you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to others in parables; He now shows that by them at length must the same mystery be revealed also to others, saying, No man when he has lighted a candle covers it with a vessel, or puts it under a bed.

EUSEB. As if He said, As a lantern is lighted that it should give light, not that it should be covered under a bushel or a bed, so also the secrets of the kingdom of heaven when uttered in parables, although hid from those who are strangers to the faith, will not however to all men appear obscure. Hence he adds, For nothing is secret that shall not be made manifest, neither any thing hid that shall not be known, and come abroad. As if He said, Though many things are spoken in parables, that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand, because of their unbelief, yet the whole matter shall be revealed.

AUG. Or else in these words He typically sets forth the boldness of preaching, that no one should, through fear of fleshly ills, conceal the light of knowledge For under the names of vessel and bed, he represents the flesh, but of that of lantern, the word, which whosoever keeps hid through fear of the troubles of the flesh, sets the flesh itself before the manifestation of the truth, and by it he as it were covers the word, who fears to preach it. But he places a candle upon a candlestick who so submits his body to the service of God, that the preaching of the truth stands highest in his estimation, the service of the body lowest.

ORIGEN; But he who would adapt his lantern to the more perfect disciples of Christ, must persuade us by those things which were spoken of John, for he was a burning and a shining light. It becomes not him then who lights the light of reason in his soul to hide it under a bed where men sleep, nor under any vessel, for he who does this provides not for those who enter the house for whom the candle is prepared, but they must set it upon a candlestick, that is, the whole Church.

CHRYS. By these words he leads them to diligence of life, teaching them to be strong as exposed to the view of all men, and fighting in the world as on a stage. As if he said, Think not that we dwell in a small part of the world, for you will be known of all men, since it cannot be that so great virtue should lie hid.

MAXIM. Or perhaps the Lord calls Himself a light shining to all who inhabit the house, that is, the world, since He is by nature God, but by the dispensation made flesh. And so like the light of the lamp He abides in the vessel of the flesh by means of the soul as the light in the vessel of the lamp by means of the flame. But by the candlestick he describes the Church over which the divine word shines, illuminating the house as it were by the rays of truth. But under the similitude of a vessel or bed he referred to the observance of the law, under which the word will not be contained.

THEOPHYL; But the Lord ceases not to teach us to hearken to His word, that we may be able both to constantly, meditate on it in our own minds, and to bring it forth for the instruction of others. Hence it follows, Take heed therefore how you hear; for whosoever has, to him shall be given. As if he says, Give heed with all your mind to the word which you hear, for to him who has a love of the word, shall be given also the sense of understanding what he loves; but whoso has no love of hearing the word, though he deems himself skillful either from natural genius, or the exercise of learning, will have no delight in the sweetness of wisdom; for oftentimes the slothful man is gifted with capacities, that if he neglect them he may be the more justly punished for his negligence, since that which he can obtain without labor he disdains to know, and sometimes the studious man is oppressed with slowness of apprehension, in order that the more he labors in his inquiries, the greater may be the recompense of his reward.

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My Notes on Ezra 1:1-6

Posted by Dim Bulb on September 18, 2011

Ezr 1:1  In the first year of Cyrus king of the Persians, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremias might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of the Persians: and he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and in writing also, saying:
Ezr 1:2  Thus saith Cyrus king of the Persians: The Lord the God of heaven hath given to me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he hath charged me to build him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judea.

(vs 1). In the first year of Cyrus, king of the Persians. A close connection is established between the end of the Second Book of Chronicle and today’s reading (see 2 Chron 36:22-23). Many modern scholars think that 1 & 2 Chronicle, along with Ezra and Nehemiah, once formed a unified work. They often refer to these books as “the Chronicler’s History”.

In October of 539 BC Cyrus the Persian breached the walls of Babylon, thus becoming, proverbially at least, recipient and ruler of all the kingdoms of the earth. In the first year of his reign after the defeat of Babylon he instituted a very benign policy towards the Jews, Babylon’s former captives. The author of Ezra attributes this to the Lord who stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of the Persians to issue a proclamation (literally, “a voice”) throughout all his kingdom, both in word and in writing. The opening of the proclamation (verse 2), like the introduction to it in verse 1, is insistent on the fact that his actions are according to the will of God: The Lord the God of heaven hath given to me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he hath charged me to build him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judea.

The author sees in these events the fulfillment of the prophecies of Jeremias (Jeremiah). See Jer 25:12, Jer 29:10. See also Isaiah 44:26.

Ezr 1:3  Who is there among you of all his people? His God be with him. Let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judea, and build the house of the Lord the God of Israel: he is the God that is in Jerusalem.
Ezr 1:4  And let all the rest in all places wheresoever they dwell, help him every man from his place, with silver and gold, and goods, and cattle, besides that which they offer freely to the temple of God, which is in Jerusalem.

The proclamation continues with a question: Who is there among you of all his people? This was a common form of greeting at that time but the words were also probably intended to be rhetorical, introducing the wish his God be with him, along with the exhortations which follow. Two groups are addressed with exhortation. The first are those willing to go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judea, and build the house of the Lord the God of Israel. The second group are all the rest in all places wheresoever they dwell. I understand this as a reference to the Jews who decided not to return to the promised land (but see next paragraph). They are bidden to aid the repatriates with silver and gold, and goods, and cattle, besides that which they offer freely to the temple of God, which is in Jerusalem.

The reference to all the rest may be directed to the Jews who wished to remain where they were, but many scholars see this exhortation as addressed to all Cyrus’ subjects. If this is the case there may be a contrasting allusion to the original Exodus.

Recall that Pharaoh’s heart was hardened towards God and his people (Exodus 5:1-13). This resulted in many punishments coming upon him and his people (Exodus, chapters 7-11). So grievous were these punishments that the Egyptians literally paid the Israelites to leave in  order to be rid of them (Exodus 3:19-22; Exodus 12:33-36). Here Cyrus needs not the type of motivation Pharaoh required. God’s actions upon people can have only three kinds of response: hardness of heart (Pharaoh); openness of heart (Cyrus); or cold indifference (Rev 3:16).

Ezr 1:5  Then rose up the chief of the fathers of Juda and Benjamin, and the priests, and Levites, and every one whose spirit God had raised up, to go up to build the temple of the Lord, which was in Jerusalem.

The leaders of the people, and the rank and file who decided to go up to build the temple of the Lord are said to be motivated by a spirit God had raised up. This connects with verse 1 which stated the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of the Persians. It also connects with verse 3 wherein Cyrus had exhorted the people to do what they are now described as doing. Once again the Lord’s action is shown to be the catalyst of these events. Cyrus may have described himself as possessing all the kingdoms of the earth (verse 2), but he possess them in virtue of the Lord the God of heaven (verse 2). Ultimately, he is just an actor on the stage of God’s great drama of salvation.

Ezr 1:6  And all they that were round about, helped their hands with vessels of silver, and gold, with goods, and with beasts, and with furniture, besides what they had offered on their own accord.

Fulfilling Cyrus’ exhortation in verse 4.

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The Catholic Encyclopedia on the Babylonian Exile (Background to Ezra 1:1-6)

Posted by Dim Bulb on September 18, 2011

Note: It is important to keep in mind that the united kingdom of the Twelve Tribes of Israel came to an end after the death of Solomon as a result of his sins (1 Kings 11:1-43).  The break came early in the reign of his son Rehoboam who not only insisted that his father’s destructive policies would continue, but who also threatened to make things worse (1 Kings 12:1-18); as a result, the tribes split into two nations. The tribes of Judah and Benjamin remained under the rule of the Davidic line and became known at the Kingdom of Judah (southern kingdom); the remaining ten tribes formed a new kingdom which retained the name Israel (northern kingdom, see 1 Kings 12:19).

The new northern kingdom of Israel under the leadership of Jeroboam, son of Nebat, soon fell into a religious rebellion from which it would never extricate itself (1 Kings 12:26-33). This kingdom, in 721 BC, fell to the mighty Assyrian empire in punishment for its sins (2 Kings 17:1-18). The southern kingdom of Judah survived the Assyrian menace but would eventually face and succumb to the Babylonian Empire. In 597 BC the Babylonians laid siege to Jerusalem, forcing King Jehoiakim to surrender. He and many important people were taken into exile. The kingdom remained in existence under the leadership of Jehoiakim’s son, Jehoiachin until he rebelled against his Babylonian overlords. The kingdomfell to the Babylonians in 587 BC and most of the people were exiled (2 Chron 36:15-21). Today’s first reading, Ezra 1:1-6, deals with the return from that exile, a consequence of the fall of Babylon to the Persian Empire under Cyrus. The following excerpt from the Catholic Encyclopedia deals with the Babylonian Exile. I hope to post some brief notes on the reading latter today.


(1) The Destructon of the Kingdom of Juda. Yet Jerusalem, the Temple and the dynasty remained intact. Under the succeeding rulers, Manasses and Amon, the kingdom slowly recovered, but their potent example and approval led the nation into unprecedented syncretic excesses. So flagrant was the idolatry the worship of the Baalim under the symbol of obelisks and pillars or sacred trees, and the degrading cults of Astarte and Moloch, that not even the holy precincts of the Temple of Jehovah were free from such abominations. The morality of a people given over to licentious and cruel syncretism may be imagined. The sweeping religious reform under Josias seems not to have penetrated much beneath the surface, and the inveterate pagan propensities of the nation broke out in later reigns. The Prophets denounced and warned in vain. Except in the spasm of Josias’ reform they were not listened to. Only a supreme national chastizement could purify this carnal people, and effectually tear idolatrous superstitions from their hearts. Juda was to undergo the fate of Israel.

A prelude to the process of national extinction was the defeat of Josias and his army by Pharao Nechao at Mageddo or Migdol. Egypt had thrown off the Assyrian suzerainty and was threatening Assyria itself. Josias had encountered the Egyptians, probably in an effort to keep the independence Juda had enjoyed during his reign. But by this time the second Assyrian Empire was tottering to its fall. Before Nechao reached the Euphrates Nineve had surrendered to the Medes and Babylonians, the Assyrian territories had been shared between the victors, and instead of Assyria Nechao was confronted by the rising Chaldean power. The Egyptians were defeated at Carchemish in the year 605 by Nabuchodonosor (Nebuchadnezzar), the son and heir of the Babylonian king Nabopolassar. It was now the Chaldean Kingdom, with its capital at Babylon, which loomed large upon the political horizon. Joakim (Jehoiakim), a son of Josias, was forced to exchange Egyptian for Babylonian vassalage. But a fanatical patriotism urged defiance to the Chaldeans. The people looked upon the Temple, Jehovah’s dwelling-place, as a national aegis which would safeguard Juda, or at least Jerusalem, from the fate of Samaria. In vain Jeremias warned them that unless they turned from their evil ways Sion would go down before the enemy as the sanctuary of Shiloh had long before. His words only stung the Jews and their leaders to fury, and the Prophet narrowly escaped a violent death. In the third year of his reign Joakim rebelled, and Juda was able to ward off for four or five years the inevitable taking of Jerusalem by Nabuchodonosor. Joachin (Jehoiachin), who meanwhile had succeeded to the crown of Juda, was forced to surrender the beleaguered city, 597 B.C. His life was spared, but the conqueror dealt Jerusalem a terrible blow. The princes and leading men, the rank and file of the army, the citizen of wealth, and the artificers, numbering in all 10,000, were carried captive to Chaldea. The Temple and palace were rifled of their treasures. Sedecias (Zedekiah), an uncle of Joachin, was placed over the shadow of a kingdom remaining. (IV K., xxiv, 8 sqq.) After nine years of a reign characterized by gradual decay and religious and moral chaos, revolt flamed forth again, fed by the always illusory hope of succour from Egypt. Jeremiah’s warnings against the folly of resistance to Chaldean domination were futile; a blind, fanatical fury possessed princes and people. When the patriotic cause momentarily triumphed, the advance of the Egyptian army causing Nabuchodonosor to raise temporarily the siege of Jerusalem, the Prophet’s was the solitary voice that broke the exultant peal by the persistent refrain of ruin at the hands of the Chaldeans.

The issue verified his prediction. The Egyptians again failed the Israelites in their hour of need, and the Babylonian army closed in on the doomed city. Jerusalem held out more than a year, but a dreadful famine weakened the defence and the Babylonians finally entered through a breach in the wall, 586 B.C. Sedecias and remnant of his army escaped in the night, but were overtaken on the plain of Jericho, the king captured, and his followers routed (Jeremiah 3:7-9). He was carried to the Babylonian camp at Reblatha in Emath, and cruelly blinded there, but not before he had seen his sons put to death. The royal palace was burnt. A similar fate met Solomon’s splendid Temple, which had been the stimulus and stay of the religious-national outbreaks. Its sacred vessels, of enormous value, were taken to Babylon and in part distributed among the pagan shrines there; the large brass fixtures were cut to pieces. The destruction of the larger houses and the city wall left Jerusalem a ruin. The people found in Jerusalem and, presumably, the greater number of those who had not sought refuge in the city were deported to Chaldea, leaving only the poorest sort to till the land and save it from falling into an utter waste. Some local government being necessary for these remaining inhabitants, Masphath (Mizpah), to the north of Jerusalem, was chosen as its seat, and Godolias (Gedaliah) a Hebrew, left as overseer of the remnant. On learning this, many Isralites who had fled to neighbouring countries returned, and a considerable colony centred at Masphath. But a certain Ismahel, of the Davidic stock, acting at the instigation of the Ammonite king, treacherously massacred Godolias and a number of his subordinates. The murderer and his band of ten were leading away to Ammon the terror-stricken rest of the community, when the latter were rescued by a Hebrew military officer connected with the administration. But fear that the Chaldean vengeance for the overseer’s death would smite indiscriminately drove the colony into Egypt, and Jeremias, who had taken asylum at Masphath, was compelled to accompany it thither.

(2) The Exile and its Effects. We are left to conjecture the number deported from Juda by the Babylonians. The 200,150 captives whom Sennacherib the Assyrian took from the Southern Kingdom three generations before its downfall we can reasonably surmise to have been settled in Assyria, i.e. Northern Mesopotamia, perhaps in the neighbourhood of the Israelitish communities (see above). These cannot be reckoned as properly in the Babylonian Exile. We have no data for a close estimate of the numbers brought away by the Chaldeans. Assuming the dates of Jeremias 3:28-30 to be correct, none of the deportations there noted took place in the years of the great disasters, viz. 597 and 586. Adding these minor expatriations — a sum of 4600 — to the l0,000 of the first capture of Jerusalem, gives 14,000; and since the final catastrophe was more sweeping than the former we are warranted in trebling that number as a rough estimate of the total of the Babylonian Captivity. The exiles were settled in the Kingdom of Babylonia, partly at the capital, Babylon, but rnore in localities not very distant from it, along the Euphrates and the canals which irrigated the great Chaldean plain. Nehardea, or Neerda, one of the principal of these Jewish colonies lay on the great river. (Josephus, Antiquities, XVIII, ix, 1.) Nippur, an important city between the Euphrates and the Tigris also contained many Hebrew captives within its walls or vicinity. One of the main canals which fertilized the interfluvial plain, passing through Nippur, was the nâr Kabari, which is identical with the river Chobar “in the land of the Chaldeans” of Ezech., i, 1, 3; iii, 15. (See Hilprecht, Explorations in Bible Lands (1903), 410 sq.] Other colonies were at Sora and Pumbeditha. It has been plausibly conjectured that Nabuchodonosor, whom the cuneiform records show as a builder and restorer, would not fail to utilize the great labour power of the Hebrew captives in the work of reclaiming and draining waste lands in Babylonia; for, as its present condition proves, that region without artificial irrigation and control of the overflow of the rivers if a mere desert. The country about Nippur seems to have been thus restored in ancient times. In any case it is a priori quite probable that the mass of the exiles were for a time at least in a condition of mitigated slavery. The condition of slaves in Babylonia was not one of grinding serfage; they enjoyed certain rights, and could, by redemption and other means, ameliorate their lot and even gain entire freedom. It is evident that soon after their deportation many of the Jews in Chaldea were in a positions to build homes and plant gardens (Jeremiah 29:5). Babylonia was pre-eminently a land of agriculture, and the Southern Israelites, who at home, on the whole had been a vine-growing and pastoral people, now by choice, if not by necessity, gave themselves to the tilling of the soil and the rearing of cattle in the rich alluvial flats of Mesopotamia (cf. Ezra 2:66). The products of Babylonia, especially grain, formed the staples of its busy internal commerce, and doubtless the great marts at Babylon, Nipper, and elsewhere, attracted many Jews into mercantile pursuits. The trading activities and the exact and well-regulated commercial methods of Babylonia must have greatly stimulated and developed the innate commercial genius of the expatriated race.

The fact that the Jews were allowed to settle in colonies, and this according to families and clans, had a vital bearing on the destinies of that people. It kept alive the national spirit and individuality, which would have disappeared in the mass of surrounding heathendom if the Southern Israelites had been dispersed into small units. There are indications that this national life was strengthened by a certain social organization, in which reappeared the primitive divisions of leading family and tribal stocks, and that their heads, the “elders”, administered under royal licence the purely domestic affairs of the settlements (cf. Ezekiel 8:1; Ezra 2:2; Nehemiah 7:7). As long as the Temple stood it was the centre and pledge of Jewish hopes and aspirations, and even the first exiles kept their mental vision fixed on it as a beacon of early deliverance. The negative and ill-presaging voice of Ezechial was unheeded by them. When Jerusalem and the Temple fell, the feeling was one of stupor. That Jehovah could forsake His dwelling-place and allow His sanctuary to be humbled to the dust by deriding Gentiles was inconceivable. But there was the terrible fact. Was the Lord no longer their God and greater than all other gods? It was a crisis in the religion of Israel. The providential rescue was at hand in prophecy. Had not Jeremias, Ezechiel, and others before them repeatedly foretold this ruin as the chastisement of national infidelity and sin? This was remembered now by those who in their fanatical deafness had not listened to them. So far from Jehovah being a defeated and humbled God, it was His very decree that had brought the catastrophe to pass. The Chaldeans had been merely the instruments of His justice. He now revealed to the Jews as a God of moral righteousness and universal sway, as a God who would tolerate no rival. Perhaps they had never before realized this; certainly never as now. Hence it is that the Exile is a great turning-point in the history of Israel — a punishment which was a purification and a rebirth. But Exilic prophecy did not merely point to the great religio-ethical lesson of the visitations of the past: it raised more loudly than ever the of hope and promise. Now that Jehovah’s purpose had been accomplished, and the chosen people been humbled beneath His hand, a new era was to come. Even the mournful Jeremias had declared that the captives would return at the end of seventy years — a round number, not to be taken literally. Ezechiel, in the midst of the desolation of the Exile, boldly sketched a plan of the resurgent Sion. And Deutero-Isaias, probably a little later, brought a stirring and jubilant message of comfort and the assurance of a joyful, new life in the fatherland.

Several minor but important factors contributed to the preservation and cleansing of the religion of Israel. One was negative: the forcible uprooting from the soil where Chanaanitish idolatries had so long survived, detached the Jews from these baneful tradition. The others are positive. Without the Temple no sacrifices or solemn worshilp could be lawfully practised. The want was in part supplied by the keeping of the Sabbath, especially by religious assemblies on that day — the beginnings of the future synagogues. The Mosaic Law, too, assumed a new importance and sacredness, because Jehovah therein manifested His will, and in some sort dwelt, as an ordaining Presence. The writings of the Prophets and other scriptures, in so far as they existed, also received a share of the popular veneration hitherto concentrated on the Temple and external rites. In short, the absence of sacrifice and ceremonial worship during half a century had a tendency to refine the monotheism and, in general, to spiritualize the religion of the Hebrews.

(3) The Prelude of the Restoration. Nabuchodonosor after a long and prosperous reign was succeeded by his son Evil Merodach, the Amil Marduk of the monuments. The latter showed himself benign to the long-imprisoned ex-king Joachin (Jechonias), releasing him and recognizing in a measure his royal dignity. After a short reign Evil Merodach was deposed, and within the space of four years (560-556) the throne was occupied by three usurpers. Under the last of these, Nabonidus, the once all-powerful Babylonian Monarchy declined rapidly. A new political power appeared on the eastern and northern frontiers. Cyrus, the King of Anzan (Elam) and Persia, had overcome Astyages, ruler of the Medes (or Manda), and seized his capital, Ecbatana. Media, by the partition of the Assyrian Empire and the further conquests of Cyaxares, had grown powerful; its territories took in, on the north and west, Armenia and half of Cappadocia. Cyrus extended these conquests by the subjugation of Lydia, thus stretching his sovereignty to the Aegean Mediterranean and forming a vast empire. The balance in Hither Asia was destroyed, and Babylon was threatened by this formidable rew power. The Deutero-Isaian Prophet hailed this brilliant star on the political horizon with joy, and recognizing in Cyrus the foreordained servant of God, predicted through him Babylon’s downfall and Israel’s deliverance (Isaiah 44:28-45:7). In the year 538 B.C. the Persian monarch invaded Chaldean territory; helped by disaffection in the south, one of his generals was able in a few days to take Babylon without resistence, and Cyrus became the ruler of the Chaldean Kingdom.

(4) The Restoration under Cyrus. Zorobabel’s ReturnCyrus reversed the policy of deportation followed by Assyrian and Babylonian kings. He deemed this the wiser statecraft, probably because he had experienced in the conquest of Babylonia the danger of keeping an ill-affected population in the midst of a country threatened by a foreign foe. At the same time, to repeople Judea with a nation bound to the Persian dynasty by ties of gratitude would strengthen his realm against Egyptian invasion. Thus did Providence “stir up the heart of Cyrus” to a liberal course towards the Israelites, and employ him as an unwitting instrument in the reconstitution of a people whose mission was not yet accomplished. Cyrus, accordingly, in the first year of his rule at Babylon, 538 B.C., forty-eight years after the destruction of Jerusalem issued an edict in which he allowed and recommended the return of all the Hebrews in his domain to the fatherland, ordered the rebuilding of theTemple, for which a subsidy from the royal treasury was granted, directed the sacred vessels seized by Nabuchodonosor to be sent back, and urged all Isralites to contribute to the restoration of public worship. The extreme liberality of the Persian monarch in the matter of the Temple is less surprising when we consider that a restored Jerusalem was inconceivable without a restored sanctuary. Semitic cities and districts rose or declined with the shrines of their deities, and Cyrus’s largeness towards the Jews in religious affairs is quite in keeping with his rehabilitation of certain Babylonian temples and the return of images to their former abodes, as witnessed by his inaugural proclamation (Records of the Past, new series, V, 143 sq.). That the Northern Israelites dwelling in Assyrians Mesopotamia were not similarly favoured is to be explained not merely by the much longer time elapsed since their political extinction — a lapse which had permitted them to become rooted to the land of their exile — but principally to the absence of any desire on their part to set up the old symbolic, half-heathen sanctuaries of Jehovah. They too had learned the stern lesson of the Captivity. It was a province of the Persian Empire and not a Kingdom of Juda, that Cyrus had determined to create, and therefore Zorobabel, the grandson of Joachin, alias Jechonias (1 Chronicles 3:17-19), and therefore the heir-royal of the Davidic line, was to be only its governor. He was a young man who had never known any court but that of Babylon, and so far as history records never violated the surprising trust placed in him by attempting to recover the crown of his fathers. A contrary thesis has been defended on insufficient grounds by Sellin (Serubbabel, Leipzig, 1898). Sassabasar, “the Jewish prince” mentioned in the first Book of Esdras, is identical with Zorobabel. He and Josue, the high-priest, were entrusted with the Temple furniture, and made the leaders of the gola, or expedition of the returning Jews. Besides a considerable number of slaves, 42, 360 followed Zorobabel on the long journey to Judea. The data about this repatriation in the Book of Esdras are fragmentary. “Every man went into his own city” and from the latter particulars we should infer that the body of the immigrants took up their abode in the small cities and towns outside, and mostly to the south of Jerusalem. The latter must have been little more than a ruin. The returned exiles found the neighbouring tribes and races, the Samaritans, Ammonites, Moabites, Edomites, installed at nearly at many points on Jewish soil, alongside pitiful remnants of their countrymen, it must have needed the authority, if not the force, of the Persian Emperor to make room for the Israelites on their former homesteads. Under Zorobabel the struggling community enjoyed autonomy in its internal affairs. In the absence of the old system of royal administration, the primitive organization by clans and families, partially resumed in captivity, gained added vigour, and the heads of these sections, the “princes” and “elders”, represented them in all general assemblies.

But the new Israel was less a political than a religious community. Only a fraction of the 250,000 or more Jews who had gone into the East could have lived to return, and, allowing for natural increase among the captive people, a still smaller part of those who might have looked upon Judea as their home returned from the Exile to dwelI within its borders. Only the most patriotic and religious, the zealous elite, answered the call of Cyrus and migrated from their abodes, which had become fixed, moved by a desire to restore the theocracy in a purer form with the “house of God” as its heart and centre (cf. Ezra 1:5). One of the first measures, therefore, to which the leaders addressed themselves was the rebuilding of the altar of burnt-offerings upon whose dedication the faithful rejoiced at the resumption of the daily sacrifices. Within less than a year after the corner-stone of a new Temple was laid. But an obstacle was encountered in the jealousy of the Samaritans, the half-heathen neighbours on the north. They were largely represented in the alien elements living among the Jews, and viewed with distrust the reorganization of a religion and community in which they would not fill in important, much less a prodominent role. They accordingly asked to join in the construction of the Temple. Zorobabel declined their aid by referring to the decree of Cyrus. Hereby he inaugurated that policy of separation from all contaminating influences long tollowed by later leaders of Israel. But the Samaritans, if they could not assit, could hamper the enterprise by intrigues at the Persian court. Owing to these difficulties the work was suspended, and the zeal of the people cooled. It was not till these were aroused by the reproaches of the prophets Aggeus (Haggai) and Zacharias that Zorobabel and Josue could begin anew the work under Darius Hystaspis (521), sixteen years after its suspension. The external obstacles had been removed by a decree of Darius; the undertaking was pushed vigorously, and four years later the second Temple was completed. But those who had seen the Temple of Solomon sadly confessed that the new sanctuary could not bear comparison with the glory the former.

The history of the Jewish Captivity properly embraces the additional migration from Babylonia of about 1400 souls led by the priest and scribe Esdras (Ezra). In the sacred narrative the account of the second gola follows immediately that of the finishing of the Temple. But its true chronological setting a matter of dispute. The obscurity involving the point arises from the fact that the books of Esdras and Nehemias, the chief inspired sources for the history of the Restoration, mention in several places a King Artaxerxes, without specifying which of three Persian monarchs of that name is meant, viz. whether the first, surnamed Longimanus (465-424 B.C.) the second, Mnemon (405-362), or the third Ochus (362-338). The controversy turns on the point whether the expedition of Esdras, referred to in the first book of that name (viii), preceded or followed the first governorship of Nehemias. The hitherto accepted order places the Esdras gola in the seventh year of Artaxeres (458 B.C.), and hence before the appointment of Nehemias, which occurred in the twentieth year of an Artaxerxes. But several exegetes have recently advanced strong reasons for reversing this order. Van Hoonacker, the leading advocate of the priority of Nehemias to Esdras, assigns the latter’s expedition to the seventh year of Artaserxes II, i.e. to 398. Lagrange, according to whom the mission of Nehemias took place under the second Artaxerxes, fixes the Esdras migration as late as 355, a little more than a century after the prevalent date. Of course a revision of the temporal relations of the missions of Esdras and Nehemias postulates a serious confusion in the text and arrangement of the books bearing those names as they have come down to us. More or less involved in this chronological question is that of the respective parts of Nehemias and Esdras in the reconstruction of the Jewish theocracy. Van Hoonacker contends that the cooperation of Esdras with Nehemias, described in II Esdras (also called Nehemias), viii, occurred before Esdras had, as he claims, gone Babylon to organize the expedition in order to strengthen the new community, and that we must allow that the priest scribe’s place in the task of reorganization was minor and supplementary to that of Nehemias, the governor. According to this view — and herein it is largely borne out by the terms of Esdras’ commission as given by the Persian king (Ezra 7:13-26) — the charge of the priest-scribe was not the promulgation of the Law, but the embellishment and improvement of the Temple service, the constitution of judges, and other administrative measures. The question is not without an important bearing on the validity of the Graf-Wellhausen hypothesis of the origin of the Pentateuch.

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