Old Testament Life and Literature (1968)
Chapter 24 - Life and Literature of the Early Period
ONLY limited information is available concerning the Jews in the Persian period. Apart from Biblical sources and a few Persian inscriptions, contributions coming from archaeological studies or literary documents from other parts of the Near East have been, at best, peripheral. Nevertheless it is possible to gain some insight into the historical situations that produced the biblical literature of this period and to reconstruct in broad general outline some aspects of Jewish life and thought.
Read II Chron. 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1-6
Cyrus' policy enabling captive peoples to return to their homelands encouraged Jews to journey to Palestine. In the book of Ezra, compiled in the fourth century B.C., the royal edict affecting the exiles has been preserved in two versions: one in Hebrew, the language of Judah (Ezra 1:2-4), and the other in Aramaic, a sister tongue which had become the business language for the western part of the Persian empire (Ezra 6:3-5). It is possible, as many scholars have suggested, that the Aramaic version is the original account, and perhaps the Hebrew version rests on the spoken announcement of the herald who proclaimed it.1 In any case, the decrees are in basic agreement in that both record permission to rebuild the temple, and although the privilege of returning to Palestine is mentioned only in the Hebrew version, perhaps it is implied in the Aramaic.
Within the fifth Persian satrapy2 Cyrus had created the province of Judah, extending from a line north of Hebron and just south of Bethzur to the area north of Jerusalem, a distance of about twenty-five miles. This land appears to have been removed from an administrative district with headquarters in Samaria. A certain Shesh-bazzar (Ezra 1:8; 5:14), who, if he is to be identified with Shenazzar of I Chronicles 3:18 (a tenuous hypothesis)3 may have been the son of the exiled King Jehoiachin and therefore a prince of the Davidic line, was appointed governor. The narrative in Ezra 3:1-4:4, which implies that Zerubbabel was the first governor, has confused the issue, leading some scholars to the conviction that Shesh-bazzar and Zerubbabel were one and the same person, and that Shesh-bazzar was the governor's Baby-vincing argument.4 Without entering into the arguments, it seems simplest and best in the light of the evidence to recognize Shesh-bazzar as the first governor and Zerubbabel as his successor and to acknowledge Cyrus' political acumen in encouraging loyalty by giving the returning Jews one of their own people, possibly a member of their own royal family, as their first governor.
How many Jews went from Babylon to Palestine cannot be known, but it is estimated that their numbers were limited. Among those returning was the governor, Shesh-bazzar, Zerubbabel the prince of the Davidic line, Joshua the high priest, some Levitical priests, followers of Deutero-Isaiah and perhaps the prophet himself, and others whose longing for their childhood home matched that of the writer of Psalm 137. Others were to follow. (Read Ezra 1:6-11) How much financial support or material aid may have been given by Cyrus cannot be ascertained, but the Persian ruler is known to have given grants of money to assist in resettlement and both the Cyrus cylinder5 and the edict preserved in Ezra 6:3-5 mention support for the reconstruction of shrines and the return of sacred vessels. Many Jews born in exile and comfortably settled in Babylon preferred to remain where they were despite the predictions of future glory for Palestine by Ezekiel and Deutero-Isaiah.
What emotions the Jews experienced as they entered Jerusalem, with its tumbled stones serving as a grim reminder of the devastation of half a century earlier, have not been recorded. In contrast with the splendors of Babylon, the scene must have been shocking: ruins of the sacred altar, the demolished temple, the fallen walls and broken dwellings covered with drifted soil and overgrown with weeds. Perhaps there was a small village, a cluster of homes built by those who had not been exiled. All of this must have seemed a far cry from what may have been anticipated from the words of the Exilic prophets.
Read Ezra 3-4:5
Samaritan Jews appear to have added to the problem of relationships, perhaps because they resented the establishment of a separate province of Judah out of territory they had considered to be within their jurisdiction. Consequently, they did all they could to hinder progress. The tension between Samaritan and Jew, which may have had its roots back in the suspicion that appears to have always existed between the north and the south even in the time of the united kingdom, did not lessen, but grew into a breach that was never to be healed. It is not surprising to find that the work of the temple ground to a halt while the exiles concentrated. on social and economic problems.
Meanwhile, Cyrus seems to have paid little heed to the Jewish settlement. Nomadic invaders from Central Asia drove him to press for expansion of his kingdom on the northeastern borders. In 530, in a frontier battle, Cyrus was killed. His tomb, long ago plundered, is a simple structure of square cut stones built on a raised platform with six tiers of stairs. Plutarch, who lived between A.D. 46 and 120, recorded an inscription which was supposed to be on the tomb: "O man, whoever you are and from wherever you come, for I know you will come, I am Cyrus and I won for the Persians this empire. Therefore, do not begrudge me this little earth which covers my body" (Life of Alexander: vi. xxix. 5).
CARVED FIGURES ALONG THE STAIRWAY TO THE APADANA (HALL OF PILLARS) AT PERSEPOLIS. The two outer figures with the fluted headdress are Persians, and the central figure with the domed headdress, short skirt and trousers, is an Elamite. Their rather rigid position with the spear held on the left toe may indicate some sort of salute. Darius the Great constructed this magnificent city, and Alexander the Great demolished it.
News of Cyrus' death reached Babylon late in 530 and his son Cambyses II (529-522) who had been reigning as king of Babylon ever since Cyrus captured that city, now became "King of the lands" and "King of kings," officially beginning his first year in Nisanu (March-April) in 529. Almost immediately the new monarch began the invasion of Egypt, and, with the conquest of this territory in 525, ruled the greatest empire the world had ever known. So far as it is possible to tell, Cambyses II continued Cyrus' policy of non-interference with the religious and social customs of his people.
When Cambyses, perhaps mentally and emotionally ill, committed suicide, a pretender, Gaumata the Magian, posed as Cambyses' brother (who had been murdered) and claimed the throne. Simultaneously, various provinces (conquered areas) seized this moment to attempt to gain independence. Gaumata, the usurper, was overcome by Darius I, the Great (521-486), an Achaemenid prince who recorded his achievement and his version of events leading up to his victory in the Behistun rock inscription carved into a high cliff above the main highway between Ecbatana (the capital city) and Babylon. A relief panel shows Darius with one foot on the neck of the prostrate Gaumata, behind whom are the captured leaders who attempted to defect. What is more significant, perhaps, is the figure of the winged disc with a human head, the symbol of Ahura Mazda, god of the Zoroastrian faith. With Darius, Zoroastrianism became the religion of the Persian court. There is no evidence of any official change in attitude toward the beliefs of the different groups constituting the empire, but, as we shall see, there is ample evidence that some Persian concepts made a lasting impression on Jewish religious thought.
The disrupting events associated with the death of Cambyses seem to have been interpreted by two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah, as signaling the collapse of the Persian empire and the time for the establishment of the ideal state envisioned by the Exilic prophets. With the fanatical zeal of those who have but one theme by which all else is interpreted, they convinced Zerubbabel, who was by this time governor of Judah, and Joshua, the high priest, and indeed, the whole populace, that once Yahweh's temple was completed, Zerubbabel would be crowned king of the new kingdom of the Jews which would soon be established. But before turning to their persuasive message preserved in their collected oracles we will consider the final portion of the composite book of Isaiah, Chapters 56-66, which belong in the period just before the time of Haggai and Zechariah.
The last eleven chapters of Isaiah, which, at times, reveal a close affinity to the words of Deutero-Isaiah, appear to have been recorded in the early post-Exilic period, possibly, in part, by Deutero-Isaiah's disciples, and possibly, in part, by the great prophet himself. It is clear that the temple was still in ruins (64:11) and that initial steps toward rebuilding, perhaps the laying of foundations, had been taken (66:1). Much work remained, including the repair of city streets (58:12) and walls (60:10), and no significant restoration appears to have been done in the outlying villages (61:4). It is clear that the provenance of the writings is Judah.
No real unity or singleness of theme exists in these chapters, and because smaller collections of poems can be recognized it is doubtful that the work should be attributed to a single writer. Three poems of promise in Chapters 60-62, and similar poems in 57:14-19 and 66:6-16 are alike in theme and structure, and so strongly resemble the work of Deutero-Isaiah, particularly the servant songs, that it is reasonable to suppose they may be the work of the great Jewish prophet of Babylon. Attacks on leaders in 56:19-57:13 seem to be by a different hand with no relationship to the foregoing passages. Broadly speaking, Trito-Isaiah appears to be the work of several different authors, all deeply affected by Deutero-Isaiah, using many of the same characteristic expressions of their master, and employing a variety of literary types, including laments and oracles of promise and condemnation, to convey their messages. The chapters read as though the enthusiastic hopes of Deutero-Isaiah were being reinterpreted in a new and different setting, illustrating once again the pattern of continuing or progressive interpretations.6
Read Isa. 56:1-8
Read Isa. 56:9-57:13
Read Isa. 57:14-21
Read Isa. 58:1-59:15a
Read Isa. 59:15b-21
Read Isa. 60-62
The opening call to witness a theophany, the revelation of the divine glory ( kabod), suggests the rising of the sun, and perhaps the occasion is the New Year festival and the prophet is proclaiming the dawning of the Day of Yahweh. The approach of that day, when the promises of restoration would be fulfilled, can be seen in the return of the exiled people; perhaps new groups were arriving from different parts of the Persian empire to swell the numbers of those who first responded to the opportunity to return. From this immediate evidence the prophet moved into speculations about the future when more people would come, when the city wall would be rebuilt by foreigners (60:10), when the temple would be restored (60:13-14) and when the triumphant role of the Jew as the victor rather than the vanquished would be realized. The joy, prosperity and peace of the new-Jerusalem-to-come could only be appreciated by contrast with the present surroundings of the speaker (60:15 ff.), and his visions of the future were marked by supernatural glories to be experienced in an earthly paradise. As a messenger of Yahweh the King, the prophet stated his commission (61:1-3) and then recited the message heralding restoration, prosperity, peace and an ideal human community. Following the triumphant proclamation is an exultant song of joy (61:10-11).
In his jubilant revelation of what he had envisioned and in his effort to convey the magnificent transformation he sees taking place, the prophet gropes for terms to express the newness of what he sees. Jerusalem receives a new title: "the Zion of the Holy One of Israel" (60:14), with walls named "Salvation" and gates called "Praise" (60:18). The people are called "oaks of righteousness" and "the planting of Yahweh" (61:3). In contrast to the divorce imagery in Hosea the land is called "married" and the people "my delight is in her" (62:4). In fulfillment of Ezekiel's visions the people would be known as "the holy people," "redeemed of Yahweh," and Jerusalem as "sought out" (62:12). The revelation of Yahweh as "light" is to his chosen people and to the world. In recompense for the double cup of suffering experienced by Israel, the reward would also be doubled and witnessed by the nations (62:2). The oracle closes with a stirring call to rebuild Jerusalem in preparation for the coming of the exiles.
Read Isa. 63:1-6
Read Isa. 63:7-65:25
Yahweh's response (65:1-25) presents the plight of a deity who almost begs his people for recognition only to be rejected, provoked and affronted. Thus it was, the poem explains, that the decision was made to punish but leave a remnant as the seed of the future. The faithful remnant were to be inheritors of the divine promise in the restored, redeemed community.
Read Isa. 66
There is no reason why the whole chapter could not have come from Judah in the post-Exilic period, perhaps from a slightly later time than the rest of Trito-Isaiah, when the rebuilding of the temple was underway. In contrast to the enthusiasm which we shall find expressed by Haggai and Zechariah, the writer of the opening verses believed that Yahweh did not need or want a temple, and that the building and rituals would only serve as food for man's pride. Moreover, there is a rejection of the promise implicit in Haggai's prediction that once the temple was restored the fortunes of the exiles would improve (cf. Hag. 1:2 ff.). Verse 3, directed against the cult and perhaps against syncretistic cult practices, seems to be intrusive, the work of a different hand. The announcement of the theophany, the divine judgment, and the restoration of the people (vss. 6 ff.) conforms to the ideas of other contributors to Trito-Isaiah, in stressing the event as an act of Yahweh, eschatological in nature, designed to introduce with startling suddenness the golden age (cf. vss. 12-16). Verse 17, which picks up the theme of Verse 3 and is perhaps by the same writer, also appears to be intrusive. The final oracles (18-21, 22-23) convey hope for the future, and in 22 and 23 the idea of a new creation, involving not only Judah and Jerusalem, but the entire world presses universal restoration to the uttermost. Apparently some editor, who believed that a note of judgment on apostates was needed, affixed the rather gruesome picture of the privilege of the redeemed to witness the eternal affliction by worm and fire of the bodies of sinners.
MAJOR CONCEPTS IN TRITO-ISAIAH
The contributors to Trito-Isaiah followed the teachings of Deutero-Isaiah in recognizing Yahweh as the sole deity beside whom there could be no other. The continuing violation of the covenant law by those who paid homage to false gods or who contaminated the cultic rites placed these individuals outside of the community of the redeemed. It was in the loyal remnant, swollen by others who accepted the covenant faith, that Yahweh placed the hope for the new tomorrow. In the past he had chosen Abraham and those who would descend from him; now he had chosen the new remnant. As old relationships were disestablished through apostasy, the new relationship would be safeguarded through a new act of Yahweh, more magnificent than anything ever before witnessed. As their forefathers had seen the dawning of an age of hope that had materialized into an empire only to be destroyed through sin, this new people could also see the breaking of a new age that offered greater and more wonderful possibilities than anything in the past. As the old kingdom came through a series of mighty acts of Yahweh, the new kingdom would be established, not through anything the people might do, but as a mighty creative act of Yahweh ushered in by a theophany and developing within the context of immediate history.
The words of these prophets were directed to Jews raised in exile and now united with the descendants of those who had remained in Palestine. For at least one contributor to III Isaiah there was room for all within the new kingdom, as well as for those who were yet to come. The only criterion for fitness to participate in the coming joys was fidelity to the covenant with the accompanying practice of mercy, understanding, compassion and human brotherhood.
Apart from the designation "Haggai the prophet," little is told about this prophet. No record of his family or his prophetic call has been preserved, and even the analysis of his name, which is related to the word for "festival," has produced nothing more than the suggestion that he may have been born on a feast day.
His oracles, which because they refer to the prophet in the third person appear to have been gathered by an editor, provide us with a rather precise chronology, indicating that all were given within a four-month period between August and December, 520 B.C., which falls in the second year of Darius I. Unfortunately, some slight disarrangement appears to have occurred in these oracles and although four addresses are listed, some scholars think there are really five. Verse 1:15a seems to stand alone. By linking it with 2:15-19, the following sequence is obtained:
Read Hag. 1:1-14
Read Hag. 2:1-9
Read Hag. 2:10-14
Read Hag. 2:20-23
Zechariah prophesied in the same period as the prophet Haggai, and the first eight chapters of Zechariah's work reveal the pressure of problems and issues similar to those found in Haggai's oracles. Chapters 9-14 belong in a different and later context, as we shall see, and represent the work of another person. These later chapters are often labeled Deutero-Zechariah (Chapters 1-8 are, therefore, Proto-Zechariah) and will be considered separately.
Like Haggai, Zechariah is mentioned in Ezra 5:1 and 6:14 where he is called a prophet, but in Nehemiah 12:16 he is listed among the priests. It is quite possible that, like Ezekiel who appears to have had great influence upon him, he was both. Because he is called "the prophet Zechariah" and is referred to in the third person, his work, like that of Haggai, was compiled by an editor. The edited work may be divided into three major sections, with several subsections:
I. Introduction, the initial address, November, 520, Ch. 1:1-6.
II. A. Eight Visions, all received in February, 519, Chs. 1:7-6:8.
B. A truncated historical appendix, Ch. 6:9-15
III. Closing oracles from December, 518, Chs. 7-8.
Read Zech. 1:1-16
Read Zech. 1:8-17
Read Zech. 1:18-21
Read Zech. 2:1-5
Read Zech. 2:6-13
Read Zech. 3:1-10
The use of the term "Branch" for Zerubbabel (3:8) is related to Isa. 11:1 and Jer. 23:5 where the branch of the Davidic line is described as the ideal king. For the first time a term that has clear messianic overtones is applied to a living person in the post-Exilic age. The prophet was convinced that the new age was at hand. The identity of the "stone" set before Joshua is unclear.
Read Zech. 4:1-14
Verses 6b-10a, beginning with "This is the word of Yahweh" and ending with "the hand of Zerubbabel" constitute a promise that Zerubbabel would complete the building of the temple. Perhaps this verse is a further reply to the skeptics who troubled Haggai.
Read Zech. 5:1-4, 5-11
Read Zech. 6:1-8
Read Zech. 6:9-15
Read Zech. Chs. 7-8
MAJOR EMPHASES IN HAGGAI AND ZECHARIAH
Like Haggai, Zechariah provides important information about the struggle of the Jews to form a new state after the Exile and about problems associated with the construction of the second Temple. There can be little doubt that the two prophets were instrumental in bringing the temple to completion. With the new temple, Jewish religion was given a center for worship, an altar for sacrifice and a headquarters for administration and interpretation. In Babylon, Jewish scholars were to continue wrestling with the implications of the faith for centuries, but it was always to Jerusalem that the faithful looked as the center of the religion.
The effect of the teachings of the Exilic prophets, particularly Ezekiel, is readily recognizable, and belief was strong that fulfillment of Exilic prophecies of the ideal kingdom was at hand. With Haggai and Zechariah the concept of leadership begins to acquire overtones that later become messianic and eschatological, but it was not until the hopes for the future failed and the possibility of an earthly king ruling an ideal kingdom faded that messianic and eschatological themes developed. Zechariah and Haggai are really not concerned with eschatological (end of time) ideas, but rather with the new tomorrow that was so close that it was to follow the completion of the temple, a new day that was imminent in Zerubbabel, the "servant of Yahweh" (Hag. 2:23; Zech. 3:8), "Yahweh's signet" (Hag. 2:23), "the Branch" and the "Rod" (Zech. 3:8; 6:12 f.) of the root of David. The political ends and the national triumph to be experienced under Zerubbabel came not through the monarch but through mighty acts of Yahweh, and it was the conviction that this new day was at hand that give these prophetic oracles their sense of urgency and immediacy, reflections of the enthusiasm and driving power of the two prophets.
Zechariah's visions show how far advanced the development of angelology was in Jewish thought. Not only is there a court of heaven with the Satan, the accuser, familiar from the Joban prologue, but angelic horsemen and angelic interpreters are added. At this point, apart from the Satan, the angelic functionaries are anonymous and without titles.
Zechariah and Haggai give no indication of a change in the way in which the "word of Yahweh" was experienced, but they appear to have had experiences much like the early prophets (cf. Zech. 7:8; Hag. 1:2, 7, etc.). Like their predecessors, they believed that Yahweh revealed his intentions to his servants, the prophets.
A new answer is given to the problem of theodicy. Yahweh was about to act to reward the righteous, not in the distant future but immediately-a prediction that failed. There was no argument with the teachings of the Exilic prophets that the Exile was punishment for sin, a purging, and that a new community would arise. Haggai and Zechariah were convinced they were part of the ideal Israel.
THE COMPLETION OF THE TEMPLE
Read Ezra 5:3-6:22
In the spring of 515 the new temple, now the second temple, was completed. The dedication service (Ezra 6:17) did not reach the elaborate proportions of Solomon's (cf. I Kings 8:5), but these were difficult days for the Jews and the kingdom was much smaller. With the temple came renewed interest in liturgy and worship patterns which ultimately was to result in the compilation of a book of Psalms, as we shall see.
Hopes for the ideal kingdom under Zerubbabel faded, and the Jewish prince disappears from history, perhaps, as some have suggested, removed from office by the Persian king. It was one thing to rebuild a place for worship, but quite another to become the symbol of divine overthrow of the existing government. How the Jewish community was affected by the failure of the prophetic hopes is not recorded. In the absence of a king, the role of the high priest in the temple assumed greater significance as the community, which saw itself as a people of Yahweh, looked to this office for leadership. Meanwhile the political affairs of Judah were administered by a governor appointed by the Persians, although it is possible that the Jewish state was incorporated in a larger district with headquarters at Samaria.
Under Darius the empire prospered. From all parts exotic products flowed into central cities. Beautiful new buildings were erected. Communication was facilitated with road improvements, a canal was dug linking the Nile and the Red Sea, and better protection was provided for caravans. Banking and commerce were encouraged and a coinage system was developed for the empire.
Meanwhile, development and expansion were taking place in the Aegean world. Greek mercenaries had fought both for Cambyses and against him in the war with Egypt. Greek power had now become a threat to be reckoned with on Persia's western front. Finally, Darius engaged in war with the Greeks, suffering bitter defeat at Marathon in 490. When Darius died in 486, the Greek-Persian struggle was inherited by his son, Xerxes.
Xerxes, or Khshayarsha (485-465), who is probably the King Ahasuertis mentioned in Esther 4:6, had a troubled reign. A revolt in Egypt was followed by another in Babylon, and on this great city Xerxes released his anger, pulling down portions of the city wall and demolishing Esagila, the shrine of Marduk. The war with Greece went badly and Xerxes was forced to withdraw from Europe. In 465 he was assassinated.
In 460, Egypt, supported by Greece, revolted against Artaxerxes I Longimanus (465-424), son of and successor to Xerxes, and it was not until 455 that Egypt again came under Persian rule. Darius II, son of Artaxerxes I by a Babylonian concubine, came to power following a civil war marked by numerous assassinations, and he reigned during a tumultuous time in Persian history. Satraps rebelled and weakened the empire. Fortunately for the Persians, the Greeks were embroiled in their own Peloponnesian war and were far too busy to take advantage of Persia's weakness.
A TRIBUTE BEARER. A stone relief from Persepolis depicting a tribute bearer. The rosette pattern at the top of the relief was a popular motif in Persian art.
Artaxerxes II Mnemon (404-359), the next monarch, struggled through civil war, intrigues, assassinations, and a revolt by which Egypt gained her long-sought independence. When Artaxerxes III (358-338) assumed the throne, his able but ruthless approach brought the loss of provinces by rebellion to a halt and made possible the repossession of some areas previously lost. When provinces along the Mediterranean revolted, the Persian army, greatly strengthened by Greek mercenaries, attacked and destroyed a number of coastal towns, including Sidon, and opened the way for an attack on Egypt. About this same time, Philip of Macedon was uniting Greece, and now Greek armies, strengthened by Macedonian forces, were poised for world conquest.
A CARVING IN A DOORWAY AT PERSEPOLIS portrays Darius the Great with the famous Persian short sword killing a winged monster. Whether or not there was cultic significance to this scene is not known, but perhaps it is meant to symbolize Darius' defeat of demonic forces.
Artaxerxes III was murdered by a certain Bagoas, a eunuch, who exterminated most of the Achaemenid line before passing the kingship to Darius III Codommanus (335-331) because, as an imperfect man, Bagoas could not rule. Darius reconquered Egypt but was unable to withstand the tremendous military power of the new Greek-Macedonian forces led by Alexander the Great. Now the Hellenization of the Near East, already well under way, was to be greatly accelerated, as we will see in the next section on the Greeks. During the years of Persian rule walls were erected around the city of Jerusalem, largely through the efforts of Nehemiah. Some information about Jewish life in Egypt comes from the Elephantine papyri, which were written during the reigns of Artaxerxes I and his son Darius II (423-405).
The book titled "Malachi" is the last in the prophetic collection known as "The Twelve," or Dodecapropheton (see Chart I). Despite the opening words, the author is unknown, and the superscription was appended by an editor who believed the words "my messenger" ( mal'akhi) in 3:1 were a clue to the personal name of the prophet. The term translated "burden" or "oracle" ( massa') in 1:1 appears also in Zechariah 9-14 and it has been suggested that the four chapters of Malachi which are a unity, were at one time gathered in a larger collection incorporating the chapters now appended to the work of Zechariah.
There are indications within Malachi that suggest it was a product of the first half of the fifth century, possibly from the time of Artaxerxes I. The temple had been rebuilt (3:1, 10) and Judah was under a governor (1:8). Complaints about poverty, poor harvests and locust plagues (3:6 ff.) which, according to Haggai, ought to have ceased with the completion of the temple, and inferences of disappointment because of the delay in the coming of the ideal kingdom (2:17 ff.), point to a period after 515. The discussion of "mixed marriages," which were ultimately forbidden by Ezra, suggests that his legislation had not yet been passed.
Malachi's oracles are given in response to a series of questions, perhaps representing the give-and-take situation of the street orator. It appears that there were those who questioned current theological dogma, and in a manner similar to that employed by the wisdom school, argued from experience that prophetic utterances had been inaccurate.
Read Mal. 1:1-5
Read Mal. 1:6-2:9
Read Mal. 2:10-16
Read Mal. 2:17-3:5
Read Mal. 3:6-12
Read Mal. 3:13-15
Read Mal. 3:16-4:3
Read Mal. 4:4-6
The book of Malachi is primarily concerned with the disintegration of cultic ritual and morals. The fact that the emphasis appears to fall more upon ritual underscores the importance of the temple and its cultus in the prophet's thinking as well as the impact of the teachings of Ezekiel, Haggai and Zechariah.
The Nabataean displacement of Edomites prompted another Judaean, Obadiah, to express his feelings. The bitter memories of Edomitic behavior during the Babylonian conquest are revealed in the stinging words of what can best be identified as a hymn of hatred.
The bulk of Obadiah is generally placed in the first half of the fifth century. References to the sacking of Jerusalem (vss. 1 ff.) and to the same disruption of the Edomites mentioned in Malachi suggest the post-Exilic period. The intense nationalism is characteristic of other writings from fifth century Judah. The similarity between vss. 1-9 and Jer. 49:7-22 has led some scholars to suggest that both prophets adapted a pre-Exilic and anti-Edom hymn to their own use.10 The late R. H. Pfeiffer dated the last three verses of the poem in the fourth century,11 but they can just as easily be placed in the fifth century and attributed to Obadiah.
Read Obad. vss. 1-21
Old Testament Life and Literature is copyright © 1968, 1997 by Gerald A. Larue. All rights reserved.
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