C O U R S E L E C T U R E
Elijah and the Restoration of Israel
Notes taken on September 30, 2016 by Edward Tanguay
John the Baptist introduces the figure of Jesus
sets the stage for the hope of Israel's restoration
no infancy narrative telling us about the birth of Jesus
no stories about the circumstance that attended his conception or birth
we learn nothing about his pre-existence as we learn in the Gospel of John
we are plunged immediately into Jesus' public ministry
the very last year of his life
"The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. And there went out unto him all the land of Judea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins. And John was clothed with camel's hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey.
"Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel."
relationship between the Kingdom of God and the hopes the Israel has cherished regarding its own political future
Israel has suffered a terrible defeat from Babylonian invaders in the 6th century
destroyed the land, Jerusalem, and its Temple, and scattered the inhabitants to other lands
the prophets which arose during this time of trial, promised that God would
defeat these oppressors
eventually lead the Jews back to the land of Israel where the glorious days of kings David and Solomon would return
Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.
light meaning here the light of salvation
the entire world is cast in darkness, while Israel, which is in the center of the world, will be attended to with spectacular light
others will see the light and come to it
"Lift up thine eyes round about, and see: all they gather themselves together, they come to thee: thy sons shall come from far, and thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side. Then thou shalt see, and flow together, and thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged; because the abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee, the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee. The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; all they from Sheba shall come: they shall bring gold and incense; and they shall shew forth the praises of the Lord. All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered together unto thee, the rams of Nebaioth shall minister unto thee: they shall come up with acceptance on mine altar, and I will glorify the house of my glory."
the sons of Zion will come from afar
the Israelites who have been strewn over the world
they will attend to the magnificent light which emerges from the city of Jerusalem and make their way back to that city
the daughters of Zion will be carried home
but it was not just the exilic prophets who proclaimed this
also between exile in the 6th century and new times in 1st century
Ben-Sira, or the Book of Ecclesiasticus
"Gather together all the tribes of Jacob, restore them their heritage as at the beginning. Take pity, Lord, on the people called by your name, on Israel whom you have made your first-born. Have compassion on your holy city, on Jerusalem, the place where you rest. Fill Zion with your praises and your sanctuary with your glory. Vindicate those whom you created first, fulfil what has been prophesied in your name. Then Rabshakeh stood, and cried with a loud voice in the Jews' language, and said, Hear ye the words of the great king, the king of Assyria. Thus saith the king, Let not Hezekiah deceive you: for he shall not be able to deliver you."
first-born son is a recurring theme
thinking of the prophecy in Isaiah 60
asking the Lord to bring this about
"Testify for your people, whom you created in the beginning; fulfill the prophecies that have been spoken in your name. Reward those who have put their faith in you, and vindicate your prophets. You have always been gracious to your people; listen to your servants as we pray. Then everyone on earth will recognize that you are the Lord, the God of the ages."
Ben-Sira imagines an eschatological prophet in the guise of Elijiah
a prophet who was supposed to come at the end of time when God was going to set all right
when God was going to restore the kingdom of Israel, the figure of Elijiahwould return to herald this restoration
"You were taken up to heaven in a fiery whirlwind, a chariot drawn by fiery horses."
a reference to how Elijiah left earth
"The scripture says that you are ready to appear at the designated time, to cool God's anger before it breaks out in fury; that you will bring parents and children together again, and restore the tribes of Israel. Fortunate are those who live to see you come, as well as those who have already died in love, for we too shall live."
Elijiahwill herald the beginnings
important for understanding the beginning of the Gospel of Mark
believed the John the Baptist filled the role spoken of about Elijiah
this is one of the reasons why Mark describes the apparel of John the Baptist
"And John was clothed with camel's hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey."
these are details that characterize the figure of Elijiah
John the Baptist was seen as an Elijiah come back to life fulfilling the role that Ben-Sira had spoken about this figure
the Hymn of Thanksgiving
one of the most extravagant descriptions of the coming kingdom of God
nearly closes the book of Tobet
"Let my soul praise God the great King. For Jerusalem will be built with sapphires and emeralds, her walls with precious stones, and her towers and battlements with pure gold."
"The streets of Jerusalem will be paved with beryl and ruby and stones of Ophir, all her lanes will cry Hallelujah and will give praise, saying, Blessed is God, who has exalted you for ever."
it's these extravagant hopes that have been quickened at the beginning of Mark's gospel
"As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee."
though Mark suggests this text is from Isiah, it is actually a composite of Malachi and Isaiah
Mark sees these texts as prophesying John the Baptist
"John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. And there went out unto him all the land of Judea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins."
John the Baptist proclaims this baptism of repentance so that the people can prepare themselves for the advent of the glorious kingdom that seems ready to enter center stage