The easy yoke of labor (Mt 11:28-11:30)

“Come to me!

All you who are

Growing weary!

All you who are

Laden with a heavy burden!

I will give you rest.

Take my yoke!

Learn from me!

I am gentle.

I am lowly in heart.

You will find rest

For your souls.

My yoke is easy.

My burden is light.”

 

Δεῦτε πρός με πάντες οἱ κοπιῶντες καὶ πεφορτισμένοι, κἀγὼ ἀναπαύσω ὑμᾶς.

ἄρατε τὸν ζυγόν μου ἐφ’ ὑμᾶς καὶ μάθετε ἀπ’ ἐμοῦ, ὅτι πραΰς εἰμι καὶ ταπεινὸς τῇ καρδίᾳ, καὶ εὑρήσετε ἀνάπαυσιν ταῖς ψυχαῖς ὑμῶν·

 ὁ γὰρ ζυγός μου χρηστὸς καὶ τὸ φορτίον μου ἐλαφρόν ἐστιν.

 

Matthew concluded this chapter with a unique saying of Jesus.  Jesus wanted his followers to pick up the yoke of his message.  A yoke was put on the shoulders of farm animals to help with plowing and planting.  The term was also used to represent the yoke of the Torah on the shoulders of many Israelites.  Jesus invited all those who were growing weary to come to him (Δεῦτε πρός με πάντες οἱ κοπιῶντες).  He wanted all those with a heavy burden (καὶ πεφορτισμένοι), so that he might give them rest (κἀγὼ ἀναπαύσω ὑμᾶς).  They were to take his yoke (ἄρατε τὸν ζυγόν μου ἐφ’ ὑμᾶς) and learn from him (καὶ μάθετε ἀπ’ ἐμοῦ).  He was gentle and lowly in heart (ὅτι πραΰς εἰμι καὶ ταπεινὸς τῇ καρδίᾳ).  They would find rest for their souls (καὶ εὑρήσετε ἀνάπαυσιν ταῖς ψυχαῖς ὑμῶν) because his yoke was easy (ὁ γὰρ ζυγός μου χρηστὸς) and his burden light (καὶ τὸ φορτίον μου ἐλαφρόν ἐστιν).  The yoke of Jesus was light in comparison to the yoke of the Torah.

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Love your enemy (Mt 5:43-5:44)

“You have heard

That it was said.

‘You shall love

Your neighbor!

You shall hate

Your enemy!’

But I say to you.

Love your enemies!

Pray for those

Who persecute you!’”

 

Ἠκούσατε ὅτι ἐρρέθη Ἀγαπήσεις τὸν πλησίον σου καὶ μισήσεις τὸν ἐχθρόν σου.

ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν, ἀγαπᾶτε τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑμῶν καὶ προσεύχεσθε ὑπὲρ τῶν διωκόντων ὑμᾶς·

 

Luke has something similar to this in chapter 6:33, but Matthew is more forceful here.  Once again, Matthew begins by asking them to recall what they have heard said (Ἠκούσατε ὅτι ἐρρέθη) about loving their neighbors (Ἀγαπήσεις τὸν πλησίον σου), based on the holiness code in Leviticus, chapter 19:18.  However, the next phrase, about hating your enemies (καὶ μισήσεις τὸν ἐχθρόν σου), cannot be found in any Hebrew biblical texts.  However, the reading of the psalms, and the general attitude prior to the exile indicates that the Israelites did not generally wish well on their enemies.  They often asked Yahweh to come and destroy their enemies.  Hate was not encouraged, it was just there.  Then Matthew has this solemn strong announcement from Jesus (ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν), without ambiguity.  They were to love their enemies (ἀγαπᾶτε τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑμῶν) and even pray for those who were persecuting them (καὶ προσεύχεσθε ὑπὲρ τῶν διωκόντων ὑμᾶς).  Perhaps, many of the followers of Jesus at the time of Matthew’s writing were actually being persecuted.  In fact, the Byzantine text added here a couple of phrases to elaborate on this.  These followers of Jesus were asked to bless those cursing them (εὐλογεῖτε τοὺς καταρωμένους ὑμᾶς).  They were to do good to those who were spitefully accusing them, hating them, and persecuting them (καλῶς ποιεῖτε τοῖς μισοῦσιν ὑμᾶς, καὶ προσεύχεσθε ὑπὲρ τῶν ἐπηρεαζόντων ὑμᾶς, καὶ διωκόντων ὑμᾶς).  These early Christians were asked to be generous to their enemies and persecutors.

The genealogy during the Babylonian captivity (Mt 1:12-1:12)

“After the deportation to Babylon,

Jechoniah was

The father of Salathiel.

Salathiel was

The father of Zerubbabel.”

 

Μετὰ δὲ τὴν μετοικεσίαν Βαβυλῶνος Ἰεχονίας ἐγέννησεν τὸν Σαλαθιήλ, Σαλαθιὴλ δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Ζοροβαβέλ,

 

Based on the text in 1 Chronicles, chapter 3, after the Israelites from Judah and Jerusalem were deported to Babylon (Μετὰ δὲ τὴν μετοικεσίαν Βαβυλῶνος), Jechoniah (Ἰεχονίας) became the father of Salathiel (Σαλαθιήλ).  Jechoniah was the son of King Jehoiakim and grandson of King Josiah who had ruled Judah in 598 BCE.  Jechoniah was exiled for 37 years as indicated in 2 Kings, chapter 25.  Salathiel or Shealtiel was his oldest son, but he had at least 5 other brothers.  According to 1 Chronicles, Salathiel had no children, so that his brother Pedaiah was the father of Zerubbabel (Ζοροβαβέλ), not him.  Zerubbabel was the leader of the tribe of Judah at the time of their return from captivity, as his name appears over 25 times in the scriptural writings.  The Persian king appointed Zerubbabel the governor of Judah, where he rebuilt the Jerusalem Temple.  He also had a Persian name of Sheshbazzar as described in 1 Esdras, chapters 1-3.  This Greek text used the term “begat” (ἐγέννησεν) to represent the relationships between these men.  However, it seems perfectly acceptable to simply call them the father instead of saying “fathered them.”

Polytheism

Polytheism is opposed to monotheism, since there is not one God, but many Gods.  In other words, there is not one transcendent ultimate God, but a series of many Gods.  Thus, many ancient religions, like the Greeks and Romans, had a variety of Gods for all occasions.  The Israelites were continually fighting against the variety of Baal Gods in Canaan.  Many ancient native religions also had a variety of Gods to answer their many questions.

The wider meaning of prophet

The term prophet had a wide meaning among the Israelites, since it also included people like Abraham, Moses, and Miriam.  That is why some so-called historical books are often called the early prophets.  Jewish traditions hold that there were 48 male prophets, and seven female prophets, Sarah, Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Abigail, Huldah, and Esther.  Others have recognized Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah as female prophets also.  Thus, there is a wide range of written prophetic books in the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament.  The Hebrew prophetic dominant message was a return to Yahweh and his laws.  They were to protect the poor, the orphans, and the widows.  Justice and righteousness dominate in their messages.  Yahweh would judge them.  Although some Israelites were sinners, they would have a bright future if they turned from their evil ways to Yahweh.

The Law

The Law, the Torah, or the Pentateuch, consisted of first five books that were developed over a number of years, but firmly established around 400 BCE.  The five books of the Pentateuch include Genesis, a 10th-5th century BCE writing about the pre-existence of the Israelites, and the particular stories of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph.  The Exodus, finished around 450 BCE, recalls the story of Moses and how he led the Israelites out of Egypt for years in the desert.  Leviticus and Numbers, worked on between 550-400 BCE, lay out the particular codes, rules and regulations for the Israelites, as well the numbers of people that were involved in the exodus from Egypt.  Deuteronomy, developed in the 7th-6th century BCE, told the story of Moses in the wilderness with emphasis on the laws of the heart.  This Law or Torah explained the early or pre-history of the Israelites before they entered the promised land.  These books also contained all the commands, statutes, or rules for the Israelites after they entered the promised land.  All further Jewish developments were based on the Torah or the Law.