The Book of Esther is from the Old Testament and not a book that often appears in the lectionary cycle for Sunday readings. “The Book of Esther tells a story of the deliverance of the Jewish people. We are shown a Persian emperor, Ahasuerus (loosely based on Xerxes, 485–464 B.C.), who makes momentous decisions for trivial reasons, and his wicked minister, Haman, who takes advantage of the king’s compliance to pursue a personal vendetta against the Jews by having a royal decree issued ordering their destruction. The threat is averted by two Jews, Esther and Mordecai. Their influence and intervention allow the Jews to turn the tables on their enemies and rout their attackers. This deliverance is commemorated by the inauguration of the Jewish festival of Purim on the fourteenth and fifteenth of Adar (mid-February through mid-March). The book confronts the modern reader with important themes, the evils of genocide and racism.” (Introduction to the Book of Esther, USCCB). Continue reading
The Book of Proverbs is an anthology of collections of sayings and instructions. The individual sayings and instructions are old, but collecting them together and adding an introduction (Chapters 1-9) is something that happened, most likely, in the early period after the return to Palestine from the Babylonian Exile (late 6th century BCE). The primary purpose of the book is to teach wisdom, not only to the young and inexperienced (1:2–4) but also to the advanced (1:5–6). Wisdom in the ancient Near East was not theoretical knowledge but rather practical expertise. Tradesmen using their skills were wise; Artists, too. Leaders, Judges and Kings who contributed to peace and prosperity in the land were wise. One could be wise in daily life, too, in knowing how to live successfully and without trouble in God’s universe. Ultimately wisdom, or “sound guidance” (1:5), aims at the formation of character.
As you might imagine, during my time as a Catholic priest, many folks have come to talk with me while they are in the midst of suffering. Suffering from a cataclysmic life event, a prolong encounter with illness, betrayal, a life that is heading in the wrong direction, the weight of dealing with a situation or with people – and many more topics. I rarely have solutions and even if I had a suggestion, that’s not why people come to talk. There is a very human need to say things out loud in a place they are sure that someone will listen. As best I can, I try to listen. I pray with them. I suggest they begin to take a look and see where they might find God in milieu of life that swirls around them. And sometimes I will inquire if they have read the Book if Job.
Earlier this year I posted a series of 14 or so blogs, a kind of mini-commentary on the Book of Jonah. You can see the groups of posts here, with the beginning post at the bottom of the stack. But if you would rather see an overview of the Book of Jonah, our good friends at The Bible Project have this great video on Jonah. As always, I encourage you to support the not-for-profit work of The Bible Project.
Isaiah, one of the greatest of the prophets, appeared at a critical moment in Israel’s history. To say that his ministry was part of one of the most complicated periods, is an understatement. During his time, the promised land had already split asunder. The people were no longer ruled under Jerusalem and the throne of David. Most of the tribes of Jacob formed the Northern Kingdom (referred to as Israel in this period) with the remaining tribes still loyal to Jerusalem and the throne of David – referred to as Judah.
Beyond the borders was the ever-looming threat of the Assyrian Empire whose capita city was Nineveh. It was in the area of modern-day Mosul in Northern Iraq. Compared to Israel, it is to the northeast at some distance.
Throughout the Easter Season, our first reading is often from The Acts of the Apostles. One of yesterday’s posts was on the first 12 chapters of the book. “Now… for the rest of story.” (thank you Paul Harvey
I thought it good to recommend to you to take a moment to watch The Bible Project’s video on the last half of the Acts of the Apostles – Chapters 12-38.
As always, I encourage you to support the not-for-profit work of The Bible Project.
Throughout the Easter Season, our first reading if from The Acts of the Apostles. This is the second volume of Luke’s two-volume work, continues Luke’s presentation of biblical history, describing how the salvation promised to Israel in the Old Testament and accomplished by Jesus has now under the guidance of the holy Spirit been extended to the Gentiles. This was accomplished through the divinely chosen representatives whom Jesus prepared during his historical ministry and commissioned after his resurrection as witnesses to all that he taught. Luke’s preoccupation with the Christian community as the Spirit-guided bearer of the word of salvation rules out of his book detailed histories of the activity of most of the preachers.
Adam is created as God’s first-born son. He’s also conceived as a priest. In previous posts, we saw how the world was fashioned as a Temple and the Garden of Eden was depicted as the sanctuary of the Temple – the holy place where God dwells. If you have a temple, you need a priest to guard it and keep it and to offer sacrifices. And that’s the task that God gives to Adam. It’s a “priestly” task. But you need to know a little Hebrew to understand it.
In my experience when you ask folks about the Kings of Israel and Judah, you are likely to get an “Oh, yeah… like King David and King Solomon.” Some might know more of the names of kings, such as Saul or Hezekiah, but no one will be able to name them all (nor can I). But stop a moment and think about the whole ideas of Kings. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and Joshua -all great names in the history of the people of Israel – but none of them were kings. There were prophets and judges, heroes and heroines, but from where came the kings?