God Working, Psalm 73, Lamentations 3, Isaiah 26:19

I’m still reading Understanding Poets and Prophets: Essays in Honour of George Wishart Anderson.  Here are some items that interested my in my reading for today:

1.  D.L. Mealand, in “John 5 and the Limits of Rhetorical Criticism”, mentions on pages 262 and 263 a Jewish debate about “how it can be that God does not observe his own sabbath law”.  Mealand elaborates: “Students of Jewish literature know that it is because children are born, and people die, on Saturday, that God is (rabbinically) held to work on his own seventh day”.  The idea here may be that God on the Sabbath day is causing births and deaths, and thus is working.  Mealand does not provide more information than this, but he does refer to two sources: Raymond Brown’s 1971 commentary on the Gospel of John, and C.K. Barretts 1978 commentary on that book.  Mealand is discussing John 5:17, in which Jesus justifies his healing activity on the Sabbath by saying that his Father works, and so does he.

2.  E. Nielson, in “Psalm 73: Scandinavian Contributions”, discusses different approaches to Psalm 73.  B. Duhm viewed it as a second century B.C.E. Pharisaic product that affirms a belief in personal immortality in vv 23-26, against the Sadducees.  Although H. Gunkel believed that many Psalms were eschatological, he does not think that Psalm 73 fits that category.  For Gunkel, Psalm 73 is a post-exilic wisdom Psalm, and Gunkel affirms that its message is that the Psalmist can endure pain in this life because the LORD is his portion.  Sigmund Mowinckel dated the Psalm to Israel’s post-exilic period because it is negative about the rich, and he denied that it is about an afterlife—for its message is that God has reassured the afflicted that God will punish the evil rich and prolong the lives of the devout, in this life.  H. Birkeland, as Mowinckel does for many Psalms, applied Psalm 73 to the nation of Israel’s suffering at the hands of foreign nations.  But Birkeland added other ideas: that Psalm 73 indeed is about an afterlife, which is what enables the sufferer to stay with God forever (v 26); and that Psalm 73 is set in the time after Josiah had destroyed pagan sanctuaries, and the author was convinced that God would soon destroy idolaters.  But Nielson is skeptical of this interpretation, noting on page 280 that “Birkeland does not ask why the wealthy oppressing class of foreigners are indifferent to what happened to their cherished sanctuaries of old!”

Nielson mentions another interesting point as well.  On page 278, he refers to A. Bentzen’s view that Psalm 73 is saying that the Psalmist was sinful to doubt God’s justice.  Indeed, in vv 21-22, the Psalmist does confess his foolishness after he goes into the sanctuary and learns that God will punish the wicked.

3.  M. Saebo, in “Who Is ‘The Man’ in Lamentations 3?’, talks about different interpretations of the lamenting individual of Lamentations 3.  Is it Jeremiah?  Or a typical “Everyman” sufferer?  Or Israel described as an individual?  Or King Jehoiakim?  Saebo settles on the view that the lamenting individual is supposed to be King Zedekiah, the last king of Judah.  Saebo’s reasons include the reference to chains and apparent captivity in Lamentations 3:7-9, which calls to mind Zedekiah’s fetters in II Kings 25:7, and his status as a prisoner; a possible allusion to Zedekiah’s blindness in Lamentations 3:2, where the man complains about being in darkness rather than light; the similarities between Lamentations 3 and Psalm 89, which is about God’s faithfulness to the Davidic king as well as the end of that monarchy; Lamentations 3:1’s reference to a rod, which recalls II Samuel 7:14’s statement that God will punish the erring Davidic monarch with a rod; and the reference to the king of Judah in Lamentations 4:20, which contains concepts that appear in a longer form in Psalm 89:19-38.  Lamentations 3 ends on a hopeful note.  If Saebo’s interpretation is correct, does Zedekiah hope that he himself will be restored, or does he believe that his own time is past, and so he is hoping primarily for the restoration of the nation of Israel?

4.  Isaiah 26:19 states (in the KJV): “Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead. ”  J.F.A. Sawyer, in “‘My Secret Is with Me’ (Isaiah 24:16): Some Semantic Links Between Isaiah 24-27 and Daniel”, argues that Isaiah 26:19, like Daniel 12, is talking about the resurrection of individuals, not the entire nation—as Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones does when it symbolically describes the resurrection of Israel as a resurrection of bodies (Ezekiel 37).  Both Isaiah 26 and Daniel 12 contrast the fate of the righteous with that of the wicked, and Sawyer also notes verbal similarities between the two passages, and so Sawyer concludes that Isaiah 26 is describing an individual (not a national) resurrection.  Daniel 12 is about the resurrection of martyrs, and, for Sawyer, Isaiah 26’s reference to resurrection may arise from a fear of martyrdom, or simply from piety.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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