The special child Jesus (Mt 1:21-1:21)

“Mary will bear a son.

You are to name him

Jesus.

He will save

His people

From their sins.”

 

τέξεται δὲ υἱὸν καὶ καλέσεις τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦν·αὐτὸς γὰρ σώσει τὸν λαὸν αὐτοῦ ἀπὸ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν αὐτῶν.

 

This angel of the Lord proclaimed that Mary would give birth to a son (τέξεται δὲ υἱὸν). He was to be called by the name of Jesus (καλέσεις τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦν). Jesus, Ἰησοῦν, was a Greek name, but implied the Aramaic or Hebrew name of Joshua, Jeshua, Yeshua, Yehoshua, or Yeshu. This angel gave a command to Joseph concerning the name of the child to be born. In the Old Testament, important people were named before they were born. Thus, in Judean society, the father had the right to name the child. The literal interpretation of this name would have been savior. This phrase about the name of Jesus is exactly the same as found in Luke, chapter 1, (καὶ καλέσεις τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦν), where the angel Gabriel was talking to Mary about not being afraid because of the child she was bearing. Jesus was called by this name because he was going to save his people (αὐτὸς γὰρ σώσει τὸν λαὸν αὐτοῦ) from their sins (ἀπὸ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν αὐτῶν). He was not yet seen as a universal savior, but only saving the Israelite people from their own sins.

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Jeshua (Sir 49:12-49:12)

“Also there was

Jeshua

Son of Jozadak.

In their days

They built the house.

They raised a temple

Holy to the Lord,

Destined for everlasting glory.”

Jeshua son of Jozadak was also known as Joshua. Jeshua is also the Hebrew name for Jesus. This Jeshua returned with Zerubbabel as the first high priest in Jerusalem after the captivity from about 515-490 BCE. Certainly, he was instrumental in the rebuilding of the 2nd Temple with all its significance. They built this holy Temple that was destined for glory, for it still existed at the time of Sirach. Jeshua or Joshua was mentioned in the books of Ezra, chapter 2, and Zachariah, chapter 6.

Zerubbabel (Sir 49:11-49:11)

“How shall

We magnify Zerubbabel?

He was

Like a signet ring        

On the right hand.”

Zerubbabel was the governor of Judah appointed by the Persian King Darius I, thus ending the Babylonian captivity, sometime between 538-520 BCE. He was the grandson of one of the last kings of Judah, King Jehoiachin. In this new role, he was actually an official governor in the Persian state for the area of Judah, but he was born and raised in Babylon. He along with Jeshua began to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. There is some confusion with the name of Sheshbazzar, who either was his uncle or another name for him. Some hold that Sheshbazzar was appointed by King Cyrus as the governor of Judah in 538 BCE. Then King Darius I named Zerubbabel. Both are mentioned in the Book of Ezra, chapter 2. Zerubbabel was also mentioned by the Minor Prophets, Haggai and Zechariah. Finally, there is the idea of the signet ring. Does it apply to temporal power or the restored power of Yahweh? Interesting enough, Sirach does not mention Ezra at all among his famous men.

The Levites in the days of Eliashib (Neh 12:22-12:26)

“As for the Levites, in the days of Eliashib, Joiada, Johanan, and Jaddua, they were recorded as the heads of the ancestral houses. These were the priests until the reign of Darius the Persian. The Levites, heads of ancestral houses, were recorded in the Book of the Annals until the days of Johanan son of Eliashib. The leaders of the Levites were Hashabiah, Sherebiah, and Jeshua son of Kadmiel, with their associates over against them, to praise and to give thanks, according to the commandment of King David the man of God, section opposite to section. Mattaniah, Bakbukiah, Obadiah, Meshullam, Talmon, and Akkub were gatekeepers standing guard at the storehouses of the gates. These were in the days of Joiakim son of Jeshua son of Jozadak, and in the days of the governor Nehemiah and the priest Ezra, the scribe.”

This is now a more up to date list of the priests around the time of Nehemiah. However, the list goes to King Darius II who died around 405 BCE. Nehemiah had come to Jerusalem around 446 BCE. It is possible that he lived until the reign of King Darius, but he clearly was a favorite of King Artaxerxes I. We know the names of the heads of the Levitical ancestral houses until the time of Johanan because they were recorded in a book at the Temple. This must have been like the lost books of the Annals of the Kings of Judah and Israel.   The leaders were Hashabiah, Sherebiah, and another Jeshua. They gave praise in antiphonal singing as they were opposite each other. The gatekeepers were Mattaniah, Bakbukiah, Obadiah, Meshullam, Talmon, and Akkub, who also had control over the storehouses at the Temple. All of these people were in charge during the time of the high priest Joiakim and also during the time that Governor Nehemiah and the priest scribe Ezra were in charge. It is interesting to note that it is no longer is “I” but the 3rd person who is telling this story about Nehemiah and his times.

 

The genealogy of the high priests (Neh 12:10-12:11)

“Jeshua was the father of Joiakim. Joiakim was the father of Eliashib. Eliashib was the father of Joiada. Joiada was the father of Jonathan. Jonathan was the father of Jaddua.”

This was the list of the inherited high priests from around 540-405 BCE. This would make sense since Jeshua was with Zerubbabel when they returned to Jerusalem in the 6th century.

 

The Levites with Zerubbabel (Neh 12:8-12:9)

“The Levites returning were Jeshua, Binnui, Kadmiel, Sherebiah, Judah, and Mattaniah, who with his associates, was in charge of the songs of thanksgiving. Bakbukiah and Unno, and their associates, stood opposite them in the service.”

Jeshua was the high priest with Zerubbabel. The house of Jeshua returned with the original group in Ezra, chapter 2. There is no mention here of the Immer group, the Pashhur group, the Harim group, and the Hodaviah group. However, the Kadmiel group is mentioned here, while Sherebiah, Judah, and Mattaniah are added here. Bakbukiah and Unno are new here also. They stood opposite them which might refer to antiphonal singers, but it is not definitive.

The priests with Zerubbabel (Neh 12:1-12:7)

“These are the priests and the Levites who came up with Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua. They were Seraiah, Jeremiah, Ezra, Amariah, Malluch, Hattush, Shecaniah, Rehum, Meremoth, Iddo, Ginnethoi, Abijah, Mijamin, Maadiah, Bilgah, Shemaiah, Joiarib, Jedaiah, Sallu, Amok, Hilkiah, and Jedaiah. These were the leaders of the priests and of their associates in the days of Jeshua.”

Now suddenly we are back to the list of those who came with Zerubbabel some 90 years earlier. This is like an appendix to this document. It refers to Ezra, chapter 2. There are 22 priests listed here. Of the 22, only 2 were listed in Ezra, chapter 2, Seraiah and Rehum. Jedaiah is listed twice. Clearly Zerubbabel and Jeshua were the leaders. 11 off these same people, Seraiah, Jeremiah, Amariah, Hattush, Malluch, Meremoth, Ginnethon, Abijah, Mijamin, and Shemaiah, signed the agreement with Nehemiah in chapter 10 of this book. However this took place about 90-100 years after the original group, which would make it difficult for these same people to sign the document, after having returned 90 years earlier. Ezra is mentioned with this group but he did not return until about 10 years before Nehemiah.   Iddo was with Ezra so that he would not have been with the original group. Shecaniah and Meremoth were builders of the wall so that they could not have come with the original group, almost a century earlier. This is the only mention of Maadiah, Bilgah, and Amok so they are real possibilities. Jedaiah was the son of Joiarib, so that he could not have come with the original group, but Joiarib might have. Sallu was the son of Meshullam so that he could not have been there 100 years earlier. Seraiah was the son of Hilkiah, so that he could have been with the original group. Thus, not more than 4 or 5 of the named priests could have come back with Zerubbabel, unless the ones at the time of Nehemiah had the same name as the ones who came nearly a century earlier.