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Archive for the ‘second temple; Yehud’ Category

I am presently working through a fantastic monograph: Benjamin E. Reynolds, The Apocalyptic Son of Man in the Gospel of John (WUNT 249; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2008). I highly comment this for your reading pleasure and will soon post a review.

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There is no question that Ezra had ties to the imperial Persian court (cf. Horsley, Scribes, Visionaries, and Second Temple Politics [2007], 22-23). However, Ezra’s history is both theocentric and monolithic, which is to say, there is a tacit assumption throughout his work, namely, that only the deportees are “true Israel” in a sense. For עם הארץ are demonized half-breeds, having “fallen prey” it seems to wickedness. But, Yahweh had “divinely” commissioned via the Persian empire a return to the land. There is no mention of the fact that Persian imperial practice normatively reconstructed a people’s indigenous religion as a way of making the province functional both economically and civilly. Rather, Ezra paints a picture of pietism. The Ezra-led band of “true Israel” were “in terror of the local people” (Ezra 3:3; NET). Indeed, the Judahites that were not deported were now “enemies” of Judah and Benjamin (4:1). Thus, in the name of God, the Persian Empire sponsored the reconstruction and systematic colonization of Yehud, albeit in a disguised way—now Ezra and the Jewish Elite were given authority to rule the province, thereby ensuring the Persian Empire’s return on their investment and they were given imperial authority to make everyone “obey God’s law and the law of the king (Ezra 7:25–26)! Ezra was empowered with the ability to banish, imprison, and confiscate of property! This sounds like martial law, no? What Ezra offers is ONE narrative perspective. However, what many scholars have found is that Yehud was much more complex than Ezra paints the portrait. And the tacit dismissal of those in the land as “negligible in number” or “fundmantally Yahwistic apostates” as a professor recently said to me, is to fail historiography for a theological agenda.

Admit it, the book of Ezra functions as a colonial mandate, justifying theologically no less, the systematic colonization and oppression of an indigenous peoples. Was Ezra’s commission sanctioned, truly sanctioned, by Yahweh? Certainly, Ezra thought so…. but to change the analogy, what would we call it if a people group today was sent by a large empire to populate and subdue another land, to subjugate it to the host empire? To confiscate land, to force “them” to obey? What would we call that?

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