The decree of Caesar Augustus (Lk 2:1-2:1)

“In those days,

A decree went out

From the Emperor

Caesar Augustus

That all the world

Should be registered.”

 

Ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις ἐξῆλθεν δόγμα παρὰ Καίσαρος Αὐγούστου ἀπογράφεσθαι πᾶσαν τὴν οἰκουμένην.

 

Luke tried to put these events within a historical perspective.  He said that in those days (Ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις), a decree or dogma went out (ἐξῆλθεν δόγμα) from the Emperor, Caesar Augustus (παρὰ Καίσαρος Αὐγούστου), that all the world should be registered (ἀπογράφεσθαι πᾶσαν τὴν οἰκουμένην).  Could all the world be registered in a census?  Luke referred to the Roman Emperor, Caesar Augustus, who ruled the Roman empire with his famous Pax Romana, or peace everywhere, from 27 BCE to 14 CE, precisely the time of these events.  Augustus was born in 63 BCE so that he would have been 77 years old when he died.  He was sometimes called god, son of god, savior, or father.  As the adopted son of Julius Caesar, he defeated Mark Anthony and Cleopatra to gain sole control of the empire.  He set up an intricate set of taxes for the empire, so that there was a consent source of income.  Thus, the local tax collectors or publicans became rich, but disliked, official people in the empire.  The month of August was named after him, just as July was named after Julius Caesar.  However, there is no evidence of any call to register the whole world.  However, this would not have been inconsistent with his taxing plans, since the main reason for any registration or census would be for tax purposes.  Thus, this is possible, but unlikely.

The attack on Jerusalem (Zech 14:2-14:2)

“I will gather

All the nations

Against Jerusalem

To battle.

The city shall be taken.

The houses shall be looted.

The women shall be raped.

Half of the city

Shall go into exile.

But the rest of the people

Shall not be cut off

From the city.”

Yahweh was going to gather all the other countries to battle against Jerusalem.  Jerusalem would be defeated, as the city would be taken.  Their house would be robbed and their women raped.  Half of the city would go into exile, while the other half would be okay in the city.

Yahweh was going to use the Chaldeans (Hab 1:6-1:7)

“I am rousing the Chaldeans.

They are

A fierce impetuous nation.

They march through

The breadth of the earth.

They seize dwellings,

Not their own.

They are terribly dreadful.

Their justice

Proceeds from themselves.

Their dignity

Proceeds from themselves.”

Who are these Chaldeans?  For nearly a hundred years (612-539 BCE), they ruled the ancient near eastern territory of Mesopotamia as the neo-Babylonian empire.  They basically took over from the Assyrians in 612 BCE, but were eventually defeated by the Persians in 539 BCE.  The Chaldeans were originally from southern Babylon, but were integrated into the Babylonian society.  These Chaldeans were a Semitic people who probably spoke Aramaic.  Yahweh was going to use them, even though they were a fierce impetuous country.  They went all over the place seizing homes and territories.  Thus, they were terrible dreadful people.  They even had their own kind of justice and dignity that they declared for themselves.

Future wars (Dan 11:40-11:40)

“At the time of the end,

The king of the south

Shall attack him.

But the king of the north

Shall rush upon him

Like a whirlwind,

With chariots,

With horsemen,

With many ships.

He shall advance

Against countries.

He shall pass through

Like a flood.”

Gabriel then made another prediction about King Antiochus IV. He said that the king of the south, King Ptolemy V, would invade the north, but be defeated because of the great military of King Antiochus with his chariots, horsemen, and ships. In fact, this northern king would advance through countries like a moving flood storm. This apparently never happened, as opposed to the preceding that actually took place.

Against Mount Seir (Ezek 35:1-35:2)

“The word of Yahweh

Came to me.

Son of man!

Set your face

Against Mount Seir!

Prophesy

Against it!’”

Once again, there was an oracle of Yahweh to Ezekiel, the son of man. This time, Ezekiel was to face and prophesize against Mount Seir. Where and what was Mount Seir? Mount Seir was between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba, on the southeastern border of Judah with Edom. In fact, this is a diatribe against the country of Edom. Quite often, Mount Seir was another name for Edom. Mount Seir was named after Seir, the Horite, in Genesis, chapter 14. The children of Esau, the twin brother of Jacob, defeated the Horites, to take possession of this land.

The fall of the Babylonian gods (Jer 50:2-50:2)

“Declare!

Among the nations!

Proclaim!

Set up a banner!

Proclaim!

Do not conceal it!

Say!

‘Babylon is taken!

Bel is put to shame!

Merodach is dismayed!

Her images are put to shame!

Her idols are dismayed!’”

This oracle of Yahweh says that Jeremiah should proclaim to the various nations and not conceal the fact that Babylon was taken. However, Jeremiah died in 582 BCE and Babylon was defeated in 539 BCE, over forty years after the death of Jeremiah. Previously, Jeremiah had been very favorable to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. Here he was told to set up a banner that said that Babylon with its false idol gods was put to shame and dismayed, especially two Babylonian gods, Bel and Merodach. Bel was another encompassing word for master or lord as some of the Hebrew words used about Yahweh. It also had some connection to Baal in the Mesopotamian area. Merodach or Marduk was the principal god or patron of the city of Babylon. Thus these two major Babylonian gods would be put to shame and dismayed. Much the same can be found in Isaiah, chapter 46.

The defeat of the Egyptian Pharaoh Neco (Jer 46:2-46:2)

“Concerning Egypt.

The army of Pharaoh Neco,

King of Egypt,

Was by the Euphrates River,

At Carchemish.

King Nebuchadnezzar,

Of Babylon

Defeated him

In the fourth year

Of King Jehoiakim,

The son of Josiah,

King of Judah.”

King Neco II ruled Egypt from 610-595 BCE. He had a huge impact on Judah because he had killed King Josiah (640-609 BCE) in 609 BCE at Megiddo. King Josiah of Judah was on the Babylonian side of this war against the Egyptians. King Neco then replaced the son of King Josiah, King Jehoahaz or King Shallum of Judah, with his brother King Jehoiakim or King Eliakim (609-598 BCE). King Jehoahaz (609 BCE) was brought back to Egypt, while his brother ruled in Judah. The incident mentioned here took place 4 years later in 605 BCE, in the 4th year of the reign of King Jehoiakim at Carchemish, on the Euphrates River. This is where King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon defeated King Neco of Egypt.