Operation Ezra and Nehemiah - Wikipedia
Israel's History: Remembering Operation Ezra and Nehemiah had helped him come to power, officially severing relations with Nazi Germany. How is Operation Ezra and Nehemiah relevant? It is a product of nationalism Provides insight on currents issues / relationships. Operation Ezra & Nehemiah, also known as Operation Ali Baba, was the airlift of more than , Jews from Iraq to Israel shortly after the founding of the.
It could be argued that many pre-exilic Judaeans also did not go into exile and remained behind, taking possession of the properties of their exiled compatriots Wielenga They continued to worship in the ruined city during the exile, counselled by remaining Levites as their pastors Wielenga Opponents of Nehemiah, like Tobiah and Sanballat, were ethnically linked with these non-exilic Israelites and Judaeans Knoppers Therefore, the leading opponents could, without much ado, marry into the families of the remigrants before the arrival of Ezra.
The tensions between someone like Nehemiah and his opponents are not described in socio-political terms by EN, even if there should have been reasons for doing so. Only a theological reason is decisive in EN: Their allegiance to God is seen as mired in syncretism. Sanballat I, governor of Samaria, built it in line with the pre-exilic traditions of Northern-Israel.
However, EN did not completely exclude the ethnic Israelites and Judaeans who had remained behind in the land from joining the ranks of the golah. If they joined ranks with them spiritually, like prophets such as Obadiah and Haggai did Van der Woude ; Raabeand supported the claims of the golah theologically, they were welcomed.
They had to buy into the claim that the golah was the true Israel of God. Both leaders were granted great political powers by their royal master with regard to stabilising the province in line with imperial interests of the time. But, in EN's presentation of the facts, neither Ezra nor Nehemiah seemed to have used those powers in solving the problems in Jerusalem.
Ezra plays a background role as intercessor in a religious-spiritual crisis; his contribution as specialist in Torah studies is stressed.
Nehemiah, in comparison with Ezra, seemed to have been a much more forceful leader, using his authority as governor in the crises he faced Neh 5; But even he is depicted as a man not on a political mission in service of his royal master, but on a religious-spiritual one in service of his heavenly Lord.
This is illuminated by his prayers, which intersperse the text of the narrative from beginning to end. We leave out the technical discussion about the question of whether or not this 'book' contained the Pentateuch as we find it today canonically in our modern Bibles. It must have been a version not completely different from the one we are used to in our modern Bibles today. Variations between different versions are to be expected in an oral culture as Israel's was Niditch Let us also realise that the use of the Torah in the postexilic situation was not based on a strict, literalistic interpretation of the written text.
One did not quote written documents in ancient times, as we do today; they were used in recitation in public assemblies to communicate its message. Scribes recited the texts that they already knew by heart; trained as they were in memorizing the ancient, oral traditions Horsley The 'book' of the Law of Moses was not there to be authoritatively quoted from.
It was there as a witness to the authority of the orally transmitted traditions of the Law of Moses Horsley One cited from memory the orally cultivated knowledge of the Torah. It is not possible to ascertain with absolute certainty from the canonical Pentateuch the exact identity of the 'book' of the Law of Moses, but we contend that our access to Ezra's Law of Moses through the canonical Pentateuch seems, all by all, to be reliable enough.
The emphasis on the written version of the Torah makes sense in the postexilic situation. In the crisis-ridden society of postexilic Judah there was a strong need for an authoritative, theological basis, built upon the faith traditions of old. Those could be found in the 'book' of the Law of Moses, the mediator of God's revelation on Mount Horeb, which bore the stamp of divine authority.
The people received the written form of the Torah with reverence and fear Neh 8. From Ezra's arrival onwards, the written Torah played a decisive role in the unfolding of the events, propelling history forward Davies It becomes the reference point for Israel's faith Davies The postexilic community was structured by the authoritative word of God as textualised in Ezra's 'book' of the Law of Moses Eskenazi The hallmark of belonging to the people of God from now on becomes obedience to the Law as taught in the Jerusalem temple by the Levitical scribes.
The transforming power of God's written word Parallels with the first exodus EN stresses the correspondence between the exodus from Egypt, as narrated in the Pentateuch, and the return from Babylon.
Already in the royal decree of Cyrus Ezr 1: Just like the exodus generation was given the spoils of the Egyptians, so the golah generation was presented with the spoils of the Babylonians. That they, as first priority, rebuilt the altar and restarted the sacrificial ministry, reminds us of Moses' command to Joshua in Deuteronomy The parallel is intentional. For a new start it was imperative that God dwelled in their midst, which was possible only through sacrifices such as the burnt offerings Lv 1; 6.
Their dependence on God's grace was affirmed in this way. Before the restoration of the community could commence, a spiritual renewal had to take place, 8 which manifested itself in a renewed allegiance to the Law of Moses as well. God's word, as mediated by the Law of Moses, was the transforming force in the life of the golah.
The restoration of the community depended on the renewal of the people around the altar and under the law, on grace and on obedience. This also led to the temple-rebuilding project in line with the prophecies of Ezekiel God dwelling again amongst His people out of love. Undoubtedly, it was the Law of Moses, as known through the oral traditions, which determined here the decisions of the golah.
But it was the oral Torah, as authorised by the textualised version, which was later attested to by the 'book' of the Law of Moses, introduced by Ezra. Dissolution of mixed marriages Theological context Another example of the transforming power of God's word is the infamous dissolution of mixed marriages during Ezra's and Nehemiah's stay in Jerusalem. With God in their midst, the people had to live lives purified from sin, which could separate them again from God and irrevocably terminate them as his chosen people.
The external boundaries of the community had to be protected from foreign penetration. The many administrative lists in EN are a case in point Janzen In his retelling of Israel's ancient history in Ezekiel Not obeying could even lead to captivity Lv Interestingly enough, in Leviticus 26 there is a cause-effect relation between not keeping the Sabbaths and exile.
Ezekiel's warning Ezk It is not the people's future as an ethnic unit that was so much at stake here Blenkinsopp It is unfortunate to compare the sending away of the foreign women with witch-hunts in the European Middle Ages Janzen The theological reason for this harsh decision is then overlooked. Janzen, however, denies that the text refers to any theological reason as such.
The foreign women are not accused of apostasy, or of leading their families to apostasy. In his opinion, the reference to Deuteronomy 7 and Exodus 34 is insufficient in spite of the deuteronomistic term detestable practices and the mentioning of the seven nations from which Israel had to be completely separated Ezr 9: Following the arguments of anthropologist Mary Douglas, he contends that the women as foreigners should not have been admitted into the restored temple community at all.
They were, per se, ontologically unclean and threatened as such the survival of the golah Janzen These women were seen as sources of cultic impurity, even though they were not agents of impurity. The best protection of the community against the anger of a holy God is to remove the source of impurity - the foreign women and their children who were sent away as scapegoats.
This reason for the dissolution of the mixed marriages is not mentioned in the text of EN, but Janzen contends that it is given with the concept of the holiness and cultic purity that operated in postexilic Judah following the definition of the concepts given by Douglas.2 Ezra & Nehemiah - Historical Background
In line with the theological thrust of EN, we should take the transforming power of God's written word more seriously, as it was orally communicated to the golah by the Levitical scribes and backed up by Ezra's 'book' of the Torah.
We retain the theological explanation. Commitment to God's word From Ezra's homiletical prayer Ezr 9: The special position of the golah Ezr 9: The qualification of this practice as detestable ma'al 13 is deuteronomistic.
Operation Ezra and Nehemiah | The Times of Israel
The tradition-fixed number of the seven nations Ezr 9: The pre-exilic faith traditions, as contained in Ezra's 'book' of the Law of Moses, had to be kept if the golah wanted to survive in the Persian Empire with their theological identity intact. EN does not only refer to ethnically foreign women. In pre-exilic Israel marrying non-Israelite women was not completely forbidden; a noticeable example is Moses himself marrying an African wife Nm The Law of Moses informed the people here Dt It was not about racial purity, but about spiritual integrity in the relationship with the holy God who was again dwelling amongst them in Zion.
Foreign women were those who did not follow their husbands in their faith and who did not share their new community's claims of representing the true Israel of God. Either they kept to their own religious traditions, or they rejected the exclusive Jahwistic claims of Ezra and his small band of God fearers Ezr 9: Either way, they lived in conflict with God's revealed will that was made known through the oral Torah traditions and mediated to them by the Levitical scribes, and which were attested to by the 'book' of the Law of Moses, God's written word.
In an oral culture this is a most dangerous thing to do Miller The non-Jewish women did not even make the effort to learn the language of their new community; it seemed to them not to be worthwhile to do so. In this way they excluded themselves from the language of faith in which the Torah was written Kottsieper This would have had its impact on the children, who are especially mentioned.
It would imply a break in the covenantal future of the golah. Even though the number of mixed marriages was actually not high Ezr In spite of the assistance he received from especially the God-fearers, 14 Ezra's reform did not gather enough support needed for the drastic action of sending away foreign wives and their children Ezr 9: From whichever perspective we look at the decision, it is harsh, and even repulsive for modern readers of the narrative.
For EN it is evidence of the transforming power of God's word in the postexilic community of faith, orally communicated to them and authoritatively attested to by Ezra's 'book' of the Law of Moses.
Conclusion At last, we have to notice that the reading from the 'book' of the Law of Moses Neh 8 had a powerful impact on the assembled golah. It created a spirit of mourning and repenting amongst them Neh 9 and it led to the renewal of the covenant Neh Only then the reconstruction of society started with the repopulation of Jerusalem and the dedication of the wall Neh No social reconstruction is possible without spiritual renewal first.
We therefore follow the trajectory of our theme from the Old Testament into the New Testament. How did it impact on the life of church and society? Considerations of space restrict us to sketching only the main lines of the argument. Of course, one knew the writings of Tenakh not by reading it for oneself, but by hearing it recited by scribes in the temple or the synagogues. Also, Jesus must have known Scripture from hearing it recited and learning it by heart.
From that source of intimate knowledge, Christologically understood Ellis Right from the beginning, the words of Jesus were cultivated and orally transmitted and cited as the authoritative word of God Lk 1: The same happened to apostolic teachings Jude These orally transmitted traditions were still referred to as divine word until the second century AD.
But from that time onward the written versions of these traditions together with, for instance, the Letters of Paul written from the onsettook the place of the oral versions as the authoritative word of God. From the fourth century AD, the New Testament writings were available in one codex, which stimulated the canonization process of the New Testament Aichele The written word of God as book in canonical form also suggests that it conveys a unified message; a grand narrative Aichele Just as the golah had an existential need after the exile for an authoritative version of the Law of Moses, so in the doctrinal turmoil of the fourth century AD Greschatthe church needed a reliable source of Scriptural authority to sort out its doctrinal differences, which rented the church apart.
The influence of Scripture on the nonliterate ordinary church members was facilitated through it being recited, preached and taught from the pulpit Graham The oral functioning of Scripture, even in its printed form, was dominant in the Western church until the typographical culture inaugurated a new relationship with Scripture in the nineteenth century AD Graham The message communicated A central topic in EN was God's return to Jerusalem to dwell in the temple on Mount Zion, amongst his people reconstituted as the true Israel and whose life was authoritatively guided by the Torah.
We want to point out that this is also the message of the New Testament Scripture. We summarise it as follows.
Jesus, the new temple The temple as God's dwelling place became obsolete, because God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in Jesus, who is God with us; Immanuel Col 1: The sacrificial ministry in the temple was replaced once for all by the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus on the cross Heb Around him, risen and ascended into heaven, an alternative Spirit-driven community came into being that was based upon the teachings of apostles and prophets, and followed him as Lord under the operation of the Spirit Ac Peter described this community as a holy nation and a kingdom of priests 1 Pt 2: This community's theological, and not ethnic, identity was crucial.
Gentiles were welcomed to the fellowship of God's people against the violent opposition of Jews and Jewish-Christians, who continued in the footsteps of post-EN traditions of the intertestamental period. In line with the Old Testament, the New Testament does not perceive the separation between the church and the surrounding world in ethnic terms, but rather in theological terms.
The holiness of the church is related to her Lord, Jesus Christ. It is set apart by him to serve him in his mission to the world.
Holiness is also a moral concept, referring to obedience to all that Jesus has commanded Mt It should distinguish the church from the world and make it into an alternative community.
The Christian community should be visibly holy and so spread light in darkness Mt 5: The New Testament endorses the message of EN in this respect.
In the shadow of Rome In the early Christian church, just as in EN, we also do not see signs of direct opposition against the Roman Empire in the public domain. Jesus himself did not engage in confrontational action with the imperial institutions during his lifetime, and was not aggressively opposing the imperial authorities Carter His execution as a revolutionary was politically expedient.
This is not to say that his message was without consequences in the public domain of the Roman Empire. The persecution of the church, caused by the Christian refusal to worship the emperor, was a reaction to the threat experienced to the political stability of the Roman Empire. The new movement was vulnerable and with weak external boundaries; constantly penetrated by foreign influences, be it Jewish or gentile.
In the Apostolic Letters the holiness of the faith community as the people of God, the body of Christ and the temple of the Holy Spirit, is stressed time and again. Paul warned against syncretism 1 Cor 8; 10 and he discouraged marrying outside of the faith 1 Cor 7.
In his first letter, Peter encouraged the scattered and exiled believers of his churches to stand firm and referred to the protective work of the Triune God amongst them 1 Pt 1: He recommended suffering for the sake of Christ, if needed 1 Pt 4: It is clear that the Christian churches addressed in the Letters were living on the margins of the Roman Empire without political power or influence and persecuted by the Jews, and later also by the Romans.
In spite of their depoliticised message and non-aggressive stance in the public domain Mt 5: Jesus' teachings did indeed intend to impact the public domain of the Roman Empire, but it had to happen through making disciples of all nations Mt Missiological reflections In this section we want to reflect missiologically on the results of our close reading of EN in the light of the New Testament.
Eventually, Nehemiah sends his men back to the walls, but half of them have to provide security while the other half piles stones. Advertisement Chapter 5 Nehemiah is not simply a great builder, he's also an economic populist.
The wealthiest Jews exploit a famine by buying the land and crops of the poor at cut-rate prices, leaving most Jews broke and landless. Nehemiah hectors the rich elite to return the land.
As far as I can remember, this is the only mention of Jewish class divisions in the Bible.
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We've seen tribes and families fighting each other, and conflicts between kings and prophets and the people, but not class struggle. I suspect the economic strife is rooted in the return from exile.
The exile surely shattered the traditional bonds that defined Israelites—tribal bonds, notably—and economic allegiances arose to replace them. Nehemiah is officially appointed governor and serves for 12 years. He's utterly incorruptible—a dollar-a-year man: He refuses the official food allowance and doesn't exploit the office to acquire land or wealth.
Four times they attempt to lure him to a meeting where they can harm him. They goad him by accusing him of rebelling against the Persian king. They send a double agent who's supposed to dupe Nehemiah into entering the Temple's holy of holies and, thus, contaminating himself.
Nehemiah, who's as canny as they come, easily foils their tricks, then manages to complete the wall in just 52 days. Nehemiah takes a census, which is identical to the one in Ezra, Chapter 2.
Advertisement Chapter 8 Ezra kicks off the celebration of the wall's completion by reading the whole Torah to the assembly. The book inspires the Israelites, who realize while they listen that it's time for the Torah-mandated holiday of Sukkot, which they haven't kept for generations.
The whole country stops to observe the holiday—the same holiday that Jews celebrate today.
Operation Ezra and Nehemiah
It's fascinating—and rather humbling—to realize that it is the book that guarantees Jewish survival. By reading the Torah, the Jerusalemites are able to make themselves Jewish again. Chapter 9 and Chapter 10 All the Jews wear sackcloth, fast, and publicly confess their sins. In a heartfelt prayer, Ezra recounts the whole story of the Exodus, the Wilderness years, and the Israelites' intransigence and iniquities "they were disobedient and rebelled against You and cast Your law behind their backs.
Then, he and the leaders of Israel sign a pledge to obey God. This kind of pledge, we have learned from 36 previous Bible books and previous Israelite vows, is not worth the sheepskin it's printed on. In particular, the Israelites promise to: These are the laws that Nehemiah's people considered most essential. Isn't it a curious list? Only one of these laws—no Sabbath purchases—is even connected to the Ten Commandments. None of them addresses moral behavior.
Chapter 11 and Chapter 12 The Israelites cast lots to decide who will live in Jerusalem, and who will live in the other towns.
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One-tenth of the Jews are chosen to repopulate the holy city. It's not clear if being chosen is a desirable or undesirable fate. Chapter 13 As they continue to read the Torah, the Jerusalemites rediscover that God cursed the Ammonites and Moabites, and ordered Israel to avoid them all because of the Balaam incident way back in Numbers, Chapter 22— remember that? Tobiah got the deal because he's the cousin of the chief priest. Nehemiah takes great pleasure in evicting Tobiah from the Temple.
Nehemiah, a marvelous leader, also roots out Jewish corruption, collects tithes that have been mishandled, improves oversight of the Levites who run the Templeand stops all the illegal Sabbath trading. The most interesting parallel between Nehemiah and Ezra comes in the last few verses of this final chapter.
Like the book of Ezra, the book of Nehemiah ends with an uproar over intermarriage. Nehemiah notices that Jews are marrying Moabite and Ammonite women—and their kids can't even speak Hebrew! He gets the Jews to promise to stop intermarrying.