The Fall of Jerusalem (Dan 1:1-1:2)

“In the third year

Of the reign

Of King Jehoiakim

In Judah,

King Nebuchadnezzar

Of Babylon

Came to Jerusalem.

He besieged it.

The Lord let

King Jehoiakim

Of Judah

Fall into his power,

As well as some of the vessels

Of the house of God.

Then he brought them

To the land of Shinar,

He placed

The vessels

In the treasury

Of his gods.”

This Book of Daniel starts out on a dire note, the capture of Jerusalem. However, unlike the Book of Ezekiel, there is only a vague date for the siege of Jerusalem, the 3rd year of King Jehoiakim, which would have been 606 BCE.   However, there is no other indication of a siege at that time. Perhaps, this meant 598 BCE when King Jehoiakim was deposed. It is not clear who the author of this work was. However, the Judaean king fell under the power of King Nebuchadnezzar, because the Lord let it happen. Yahweh is not the term used for God in this post-exilic work. Rather the Greek Kyrios was used. The Babylonian king took some of the Temple vessels and treasures with him to Babylon, or Shinar as it is called here. He brought them to the treasury of his gods, which would have been Marduk and Nebo.

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The return of the remnant (Isa 11:11-11:11)

“On that day,

Yahweh will extend his hand

Yet a second time.

He wanted to recover

The remnant that is left

Of his people,

From Assyria,

From Egypt,

From Pathros,

From Ethiopia,

From Elam,

From Shinar,

From Hamath,

And from the coastlands of the sea.”

In this ideal time, all the scattered Israelites would return from their Exile. Yahweh was going to extend his hand for a second time. The first time was the Exodus from Egypt. This time it is a call to recover the remnant from all over the place. Some of these places are easy to figure out. Assyria (present day Iraq), Egypt, and Ethiopia are easy to understand. Pathros was in upper Egypt. Elam is where current day Iran is. Shinar was in Babylon. Hamath was in Syria. The coastlands may have been the Aegean islands around present day Greece. Obviously, this was during the Exile or after it. It is interesting to note how many different places the Israelites were in Diaspora, so early in their history.

The tower of Babel (Gen 11:1-11:9)

“Now the whole earth had one language and few words. As they migrated from the east, they came upon a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. They said to one another, ‘Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.’  They had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar.  Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves.  Otherwise we shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.’”

Since everyone was descended from Noah, they all spoke the same language. Notice the idea of simplicity with ‘one language with few words.’ Everyone ended up in Shimar, somewhere in the Tigris and Euphrates area in Babylon.  So now they made bricks and mortar, as they built a city with a big tower in it.  It seems that this must have been the place that Nimrod, the son of Cush built.  However, the preceding paragraph about the children of Noah seems to indicate that they scattered around the area.

“Yahweh came down to see the city and the tower, which mortal men had built.  Yahweh said, ‘Look, they are one people, and they have all one language.  This is only the beginning of what they will do.  Nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.  Come, let us go down, and there confuse their language there, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.’  So Yahweh scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.  Therefore it was called Babel, because there Yahweh confused the language of all the earth.   From there Yahweh scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.”

Now Yahweh saw this and said that these humans could do anything.  He decided to confuse their language so that they could not understand each other.  Notice the use of “us.”  Thus they scattered and did not build their city.  They called this place Babel, because Yahweh confused them here. It is interesting to note that Yahweh does not want humans to reach their potential because he did not want them to know good and evil in chapter two and here he does not want them to build a city. In each case he scatters them after creating them like Adam and or saving them like Noah.  Of course, this nice little story really explains why there are different languages.  The question is did we come from one unity or were we originally scattered and are now coming to one unity.