Joseph goes to Nazareth (Mt 2:23-1:23)

“There Joseph

Made his home

In a town called

Nazareth.

Thus,

What was spoken

Through the prophets

Might be fulfilled.

‘He will be called a Nazorean.’”

 

καὶ ἐλθὼν κατῴκησεν εἰς πόλιν λεγομένην Ναζαρέτ· ὅπως πληρωθῇ τὸ ῥηθὲν διὰ τῶν προφητῶν ὅτι Ναζωραῖος κληθήσεται.

 

Joseph took his family to a specific place in lower Galilee, a city called Nazareth (ἐλθὼν κατῴκησεν εἰς πόλιν λεγομένην Ναζαρέτ). Somehow, this fulfilled a prophecy (ὅπως πληρωθῇ τὸ ῥηθὲν διὰ τῶν προφητῶν) about being called a Nazarene (ὅτι Ναζωραῖος κληθήσεται). Some of Jesus’ followers were called Nazarenes. He was also known as Jesus of Nazareth since this was his childhood home. People have been living in Nazareth for nearly 5.000 years, with over 75,000 people today, as the largest Arab city in Israel. Nazareth may have had a population of about 400 at the time of Jesus. The town of Nazareth is about 20 miles from the Sea of Galilee and about 6 miles west of Mount Tabor, but over 100 miles from Jerusalem. It is difficult to pinpoint where this prophecy comes from. In Judges, chapter 13:2-7, there is a comment that a boy will be a Nazirite from birth, so that no one should cut his hair. Thus, he would deliver Israel from the Philistines. According to Numbers, chapter 6:1-21, there were rules laid out for those who would take the Nazirite vows. They would not drink wine, nor shave their beards. They were not to go near a corpse. They had to bring special offerings to the Temple. This separation and special consecration may have been present among other ancient people, but here it is under Mosaic Law. The normal time period, according to some rabbinic schools, was about a month of Nazirite vows, although others may have been longer. Some have referred to John the Baptist as a Nazirite. On top of that, Jesus of Nazareth may have been confused with Jesus the Nazirite. Is that the case here?

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.

Ezekiel is brought to a high mountain in Israel (Ezek 40:1-40:2)

“In the twenty-fifth year

Of our exile,

At the beginning

Of the year,

On the tenth day

Of the month,

In the fourteenth year

After the city

Was struck down,

On that very day,

The hand of Yahweh

Was upon me.

He brought me there.

He brought me,

In visions of God,

To the land of Israel.

He set me down

On a very high mountain.

There was a structure,

Like a city,

To the south.”

This is the last section of the Book of Ezekiel. This is sometimes called the Torah of Ezekiel, because he sets out the size and rules for the Temple, after the exile. Like Moses, many centuries earlier, Ezekiel has his own very specific descriptions about how this Second Temple should be constructed. Once again, Ezekiel has a vision on a precise date, on the 10th day of the 1st month, the 25th year since the beginning of the exile, the 14th year after the destruction of Jerusalem, 573 BCE. Continuing with his first-person singular narrative, he said that he was brought to a high mountain in Israel with a great city to the south.

Good news (Isa 52:7-52:7)

“How beautiful upon the mountains

Are the feet of the messenger.

He announces peace.

He brings good news.

He announces salvation.

He says to Zion.

‘Your God reigns.’”

Second Isaiah has a messenger with beautiful feet go over the mountains to bring good news. This messenger brings good news as he announces peace and salvation. He reminds the people of Mount Zion that their God is in control and rules over them. There is no attempt to talk about a human king for Israel.

The useless tongue (Sir 37:16-37:21)

“Discussion

Is at the beginning of every work.

Counsel precedes every undertaking.

The mind

Is the root of all conduct.

It sprouts four branches,

Good and evil,

Life and death.

The tongue continually rules them.

Some people may be

Clever enough to teach many.

Yet they may be

Useless to themselves.

A skilful speaker may be hated.

He will be destitute of all food.

The Lord has withheld

The gift of charm.

He is lacking in all wisdom.”

Sirach points out that some discussion precedes all actions. Thus counsel and advice precede any undertaking. The mind is the source of all conduct. There are 4 branches to the mind, good, evil, life, and death. This is hard to figure out. I am not sure how the mind controls life and death, except spiritually. Good and evil are easy to see. The tongue rules over all 4 branches. Once again, it is hard to see how the tongue controls life and death other than in a spiritual way. Some people are clever enough to teach others, but not worth much to themselves. You can be a skilled but hated speaker, so that you might end up with not much food. The Lord may have withheld charm from this speaker, since he is lacking in wisdom.

The righteous in charge (Prov 29:1-29:4)

“One who is often reproved,

Yet remains stubborn,

Will suddenly be broken beyond healing.

When the righteous are in authority,

The people rejoice.

But when the wicked rule,

The people groan.

A child who loves wisdom

Makes a parent glad.

But to keep company with prostitutes

Is to squander one’s substance.

By justice,

A king gives stability to the land.

But one who makes heavy exactions

Ruins the land.”

If someone corrects you and you remain stubborn, you will be broken beyond repair. When the righteous are in control, the people are happy. When the wicked are in charge, the people groan. If a child loves wisdom, their parents are happy. If you keep company with prostitutes, you are squandering your life substances. When a king rules with justice, the land is stable. However, if a king tries to exact too much from the people, the land will be ruined.

 

Hymn to blessed Yahweh (Ps 103:19-103:22)

“Yahweh has established

His throne in the heavens.

His kingdom rules over all.

Bless Yahweh!

O you his angels!

You mighty ones who do his bidding!

You are obedient to his spoken word!

Bless Yahweh!

All his hosts!

His ministers that do his will!

Bless Yahweh!

All his works!

In all places of his dominion!

Bless Yahweh!

O my soul!”

This psalm ends with a rousing hymn of blessing to Yahweh. Yahweh is the king who rules over all from heaven. Thus all the angels who do his bidding and hear his word are to bless Yahweh. Everything that exists should bless Yahweh. David’s soul should bless Yahweh.

Yahweh as king (Ps 99:1-99:5)

“Yahweh rules as king.

Let the peoples tremble!

He sits enthroned upon the cherubim.

Let the earth quake!

Yahweh is great in Zion.

He is exalted over all the peoples.

Let them praise your great and awesome name!

Holy is he!

Mighty King!

Lover of justice!

You have established equity.

You have executed justice.

You have executed righteousness in Jacob.

Extol Yahweh!

Our God!

Worship at his footstool!

Holy is he!”

Psalm 99 continues the theme of Yahweh as king. Once again there is no title to this psalm. Yahweh rules as king. The people tremble. He sits enthroned on the angelic cherubim in Zion over all the people. This holy king should be praised because his name is awesome. He is the mighty holy king who loves justice and equity. He has executed justice and righteousness upon the descendants of Jacob. We should extol holy Yahweh as our God when we worship at his footstool. We see the repeated refrain “holy is he.”

Yahweh is king (Ps 97:1-97:5)

“Yahweh is king!

Let the earth rejoice!

Let the many coastlands be glad!

Clouds and thick darkness are all around him.

Righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.

Fire goes before him.

Fire consumes his adversaries on every side.

His lightning lights the world.

The earth sees it.

The earth trembles.

The mountains melt like wax

Before Yahweh,

Before the Lord of all the earth.”

Psalm 97 is another untitled psalm about the kingship of Yahweh.   Yahweh is the king who rules the earth. The earth and the coastlands rejoice and are glad. Clouds and darkness are all around Yahweh. Righteousness and justice are the foundations of this throne. Fire consumes all his adversaries. His lightning strikes the world. The earth sees it and trembles. The mountains melt like wax before Yahweh, the Lord of all the earth.

Yahweh questions Job about the stellar constellations (Job 38:31-38:33)

“Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades?

Can you loosen the cords of Orion?

Can you lead forth the Mazzaroth in their season?

Can you guide the Bear with its children?

Do you know the ordinances of the heavens?

Can you establish their rule on the earth?”

The ancients were well aware of the heavens and their clusters of stars. The Greek named the Pleiades constellation as the nearest cluster of stars to earth. It has 7 bright blue stars, usually referred to as the 7 sisters chained together. Orion was a cluster of stars as a great Greek hunter. Mazzaroth is more difficult to ascertain, but it may mean the whole star system. The Bear constellation may refer to the big bear and little bear constellations. Job was asked if he knew the laws of the heavens. If he did not know them, then how could he establish any rules on earth? This was a common thought. Since you did not know the laws of heaven, how could you determine the laws of earth?