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Just as the writer of Jubilees sought to insert the Law into primeval history, so to the boundaries of the Land. Jubilees begins with the recognition that the Land is a gift from God rooted in the covenant. Chapter 1:7-14 summarizes Israel’s history as being given the Land, and being removed from the Land. Verse 13 especially emphasizes the connection between covenant obedience and continued presence in the Land. In 1:15-18 the Lord tells Moses that after the people repent, he will replant them in the Land and the sanctuary will be rebuilt.
The allocation of the land of Israel to the descendants of Shem is made in documents written by Noah himself (8:10-11).
And it came to pass at the beginning of the thirty-third jubilee, that they divided the land (in) three parts, for Shem, Ham, and Japheth, according to the inheritance of each, in the first year in the first week, while one of us who were sent was dwelling with them. 11 And he called his children, and they came to him, they and their children. And he divided by lot the land which his three sons would possess. And they stretched out their hands and took the document from the bosom of Noah, their father. OTP 2:72.
Noah rejoiced that his son Shem should receive this land, and blessed his son saying “may the Lord dwell in the dwelling place of Shem” (8:18). In this territory are the three most holy places on earth: Eden, Sinai and Zion (8:19-21). Of the territories assigned to the three sons of Noah, only Shem’s is described as “very good,” an echo of the text of the creation story itself (8:21, cf Gen 1:31). When Canaan sees this good land he seizes it from his brother, incurring a curse (10:30).
After the flood, Noah makes a sacrifice to atone for the defilement of the land (6:2). The description of this sacrifice in Jubilees 7:30-33 is greatly expanded from the text in Genesis 9 and is a careful interweaving of texts from the Law on the defilement of the land (Halpurn-Amaru, Rewriting the Bible, 27). In 7:34, Noah’s sons will be like plants in the land (medr) if they are righteous. This may echo the prophets (Jer 11:17, Amos 9:15) as well as 1 Enoch (10:16, 93:5, 10).
When Abraham is taking possession of the land for the first time, the Lord promises to give the land to Abraham’s descendants forever (15:10). In Abraham’s farewell to his children in chapter 20 he implores his children to not worship false gods so that they will remain in the land, blessed with the good things of the land (20:6-10). This section is an echo of the blessings found in Deut 27:15; it is perhaps significant that the writer does not include an equal place to the curses of the covenant.
The emphasis on God’s gift of land to the descendants of Israel is important because many Jewish readers of this book were living outside of Judea. Perhaps the author of Jubilees places the promise of land to the time of Noah in order to assure readers of God’s promise restore the people of Israel to the land in the future, or even to encourage a return to the land at the present time.
How does this idea of land play into the Maccabean revolt? Does the view of Jubilees reflect the same sort of land-theology as 1 Maccabees or 2 Maccabees? It is even possible the idea of the land as a sacred gift of God impacts later Christian writing (and perhaps contemporary theology).
Bibliography: Betsy Halpern-Amaru, Rewriting the Bible: Land and Covenant in Post-Biblical Jewish Literature. (Valley Forge, Penn.: Trinity Press, 1994), 26.
Logos Bible Software is offering a free book each month in 2012. For June, you can download The Four Hundred Silent Years, by H. A. Ironside. The book can be read with either Logos Bible Software, Vyrso, or Bilbia.com, either on your desktop computer or using the Logos App for iPad or the Android. Follow the link to download the book and enter the drawing for the 65-volume Complete Works of H. A Ironsides.
Ironside (1876-1951) was a pastor and teacher often associated with the Plymouth Brethren, although he is well-known for his evangelistic preaching throughout America. He was a visiting lecturer at both Moody Bible Institute and Dallas Theological Seminary, although he never accepted calls from either school to join the faculty. He wrote commentaries on most books of the Bible as well as a large number of short booklets and tracts. Many of his books have been republished by both Kregel Books and Loizeaux Brothers. Ironside popularized of Dispensationalism in his books and was sometimes called “the Archbishop of Fundamentalism.” He is a member of the Brethren Writer’s Hall of Fame (although I suspect this is an unofficial list).
The Four Hundred Silent Years is a short book (only 104 pages) on the intertestamental period traces the history of Israel. He first treats the period from the rise of Persia through the Hellenistic period in a chapter, with an emphasis on Ezra and Nehemiah. There is a chapter each on the Maccabean revolt and the “end of the Asmonean Dynasty.” He describes the rise of the Herodians as “The Edomite Ascendancy” and close the book with a 10 pages summary of the Literature of the Jews. The books is written in a narrative style with very little reference to primary sources (1 Maccabees or Josephus). This will make the book a fairly easy read for the casual reader.
It is difficulty to describe this book as useful since it was completed well before the publication of the Dead Sea Scrolls, in fact, before most of the literature collected by Charlesworth’s Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha was available to scholarship! His chapter on the “Literature of the Jews” contains only a few books from the Apocrypha, although he mentions the Pseudepigraphical books found in R. H. Charles, published just a year before Ironside’s own little book. These books are only mentioned,
I think that this book is interesting, however, because Ironside is described as a fundamentalist and an early proponent of Dispensationalism. He at least made the effort to understand the intertestamental period – something fundamentalists 100 years later largely ignore (or worse, consider Catholic!) This little book is therefore at least a historical artifact, although the general outline of the history he retells is not inaccurate. There are better and more “up-to-date” re-tellings of this history, but this is a decent overview of the Maccabean period.
The book is free for Logos / Vyrso users, download a copy of The Four Hundred Silent Years and enter the drawing for the Complete Ironside.
As many of you know, in addition to teaching Bible in a Bible College, I am the regular Sunday Evening teacher at Rush Creek Bible Church. I have just finished a long series on the prophets, arranged chronologically, so I thought I would try something a bit unusual for a Bible church. Last weekend I taught on the Maccabean Revolt, this Sunday I am teaching on the development of “Judaisms” during the Second Temple Period. There was a great deal of interest in the Maccabean Revolt and I had several supportive comments from people who attended. There were a number of excellent questions asked after my presentation and (as far as I know) no real criticisms of spending a Sunday evening studying 1 and 2 Maccabees. I am thankful for a congregation that is interested enough in the Bible to want to know more about the history of Israel after the close of the Hebrew Bible.
Why bother with the intertestamental history if it is not biblical history? This is a good question given my teaching was in a regular Bible Study situation. As I see it, there are several reasons which make a study of the intertestamental period important for the Christian.
First, much of what we read in the New Testament assumes the four hundred years of history between the testaments. Politically, everything has changed since we left Ezra and Nehemiah as representatives of the Persian government. By the time we read the Gospels, the Land of Israel has been ruled by the Persians, Greeks and Romans.
Second, the struggle of Jews to live as Jews under foreign domination is a major factor in the New Testament. How can a Jewish person live like a Greek and maintain his identity as a Jew? What are the boundary markers between Jew and Gentile? What are the key behaviors or beliefs on which there cannot be compromise? This question alone was so volatile in the first century that the suggestion that a Gentile could be right with God without keeping the Law caused riots.
Third, much of the messianic hope we encounter in the Gospels is based on the history of the Second Temple Period. The Jewish people faced oppression from the Greeks and Romans, but also from inside Judaism itself. Many longed for a time when God would break into history and defend his people and his Land, renewing the promise he made to David in 2 Sam 7. This hope for the coming messiah grew steadily during these years, as the Gospels show.
For me, this is all very “preachable” since the Christian church in the west is moving into a period of time where we are no longer the dominant cultural force. The church will face very similar tensions to the Jews in the Maccabean period since we will have to decide what is important and non-negotiable with respect to doctrine a practice. Like the “Judaisms” which came out of the Maccabean period, some Christians will include very little in their list of essential items and become virtually indistinguishable from the dominant secular world. Others will have a lengthy detailed list of non-negotiable doctrines and practices and withdraw from secular society entirely.
On which issues will the Christian church “be zealous” when the day of persecution comes?