The Christmas scene birth of Jesus (Lk 2:7-2:7)

“Mary gave birth

To her first-born son.

She wrapped him

In bands

Of swaddling cloths.

She laid him

In a manger,

Because there was

No place

For them

In the inn.”

 

καὶ ἔτεκεν τὸν υἱὸν αὐτῆς τὸν πρωτότοκον, καὶ ἐσπαργάνωσεν αὐτὸν καὶ ἀνέκλινεν αὐτὸν ἐν φάτνῃ, διότι οὐκ ἦν αὐτοῖς τόπος ἐν τῷ καταλύματι.

 

Luke explained in great detail about the birth of Jesus, his clothing, and the manger, that has become the famous Christmas scene that most have come to know and love.  Matthew, chapter 2:1, had no details like this in his story about the birth of Jesus, while Mark and John had no infancy narratives at all.  In fact, Matthew said that the Magi visited Mary and the child in a house in chapter 2:11, not a manger.  Luke reported that Mary gave birth to her first-born son (καὶ ἔτεκεν τὸν υἱὸν αὐτῆς τὸν πρωτότοκον).  Did that imply that there were other children?  Within the Jewish tradition, the first-born male child would be dedicated to God with special legal and family rights, as indicated in Exodus, chapter 13:2, where Yahweh got the first-born of everything, as a consecration to God.  In Numbers, chapter 3:12, the Levites take the place of the first born as a dedication to God.  In Deuteronomy, chapter 21:17, the first born had all the rights versus the other children.  Mary wrapped the baby Jesus with bands of cloth or swaddling clothes (καὶ ἐσπαργάνωσεν αὐτὸν), as it is often called.  These tight bands of cloth kept the arms and legs of the newborn from wailing away, while also keeping the child warm.  Then Mary laid him in a manger (καὶ ἀνέκλινεν αὐτὸν ἐν φάτνῃ), because there was no place for them in the lodging inn (διότι οὐκ ἦν αὐτοῖς τόπος ἐν τῷ καταλύματι).  This manger (ἐν φάτνῃ) was a feeding trough for horses and cattle.  Thus, Jesus was born in a place where animals would feed.  He then would offer himself as the bread of life.  Apparently, they were in a barn because there were no appropriate lodging places for a pregnant expecting woman.  There was no indication that Joseph had other relatives in Bethlehem where they might stay.  Just by coincidence, I am posting this blog on December 24, 2018, Christmas Eve.

Why do they not wash their hands before eating? (Mt 15:2-15:2)

“They said.

‘Why do your disciples

Break the tradition

Of the elders?

They do not wash

Their hands

Before they eat.’”

 

Διὰ τί οἱ μαθηταί σου παραβαίνουσιν τὴν παράδοσιν τῶν πρεσβυτέρων; οὐ γὰρ νίπτονται τὰς χεῖρας ὅταν ἄρτον ἐσθίωσιν.

 

There is something similar to this in Mark, chapter 7:2-5 and Luke chapter 11:39.  These Pharisees wanted to know why the disciples of Jesus (Διὰ τί οἱ μαθηταί σου) did not wash their hands before they ate bread (οὐ γὰρ νίπτονται τὰς χεῖρας ὅταν ἄρτον ἐσθίωσιν).  They said that this action was a transgression or violation against the tradition of the elders (παραβαίνουσιν τὴν παράδοσιν τῶν πρεσβυτέρων).  Originally, this practice of washing hands before eating was what the Levites did in the Temple to practice ritual purity as indicated in Exodus, chapter 30:17-21.  Yahweh had told Moses that there should be a bronze basin with a bronze stand for washing.  Thus, Aaron and his sons should wash their hands and feet when they went into the meeting tent or the altar.  The penalty for not washing your hands and feet was death under this perpetual ordinance.  However, the Pharisaic oral tradition, or the tradition of the elders, had extended this practice to individual homes.

The covenant with Levi (Mal 2:4-2:5)

“Says Yahweh of hosts.

‘Know!

That I have sent this command

To you.

My covenant with Levi

May hold.

My covenant with him

Was a covenant

Of life,

Of well-being.

I gave him

This covenant.

This called for reverence.

He revered me.

He stood in awe of my name.’”

Yahweh had a special covenant with the tribe of Levi, the priests.  Yahweh had set up his life-long covenant with a command to Levi that he would bring well-being to the Levites.  Yahweh had called for reverence.  Thus, the Levies had revered and stood in awe of Yahweh’s name.

The Levitical priests (Ezek 48:13-48:14)

“Alongside the territory

Of the priests,

The Levites shall have

An allotment.

It shall be

Twenty-five thousand cubits

In length,

Ten thousand cubits

In width.

The whole length

Shall be

Twenty-five thousand cubits.

The whole width

Shall be

Twenty thousand cubits.

They shall not sell

Any of it.

They shall not exchange

Any of it.

They shall not transfer

This choice portion

Of the land.

It is holy

To Yahweh.”

Just like in chapter 44, Ezekiel separated the Levites from the priests of Zadok, yet they had an equal amount of living quarters. The Levites would have the opposite side of the sanctuary, next to the descendants of Zadok, with the same size of a portion, 25,000 cubits long and 10,000 cubits wide. Thus, the whole holy portion with the living quarters for the priests and the Levites would be 25,000 by 20,000 cubits, including the sanctuary portion also. These priests and Levites were not allowed to sell, exchange, or transfer any of this choice portion of the land, because it was the holy land of Yahweh.

The land for all the Israelites (Ezek 45:6-45:6)

“Alongside the portion

Set apart

As the holy district,

You shall assign

As a possession

For the city

An area

Five thousand cubits wide,

Twenty-five thousand cubits long.

It shall belong

To the whole house

Of Israel.”

Besides the holy district in the city of Jerusalem, there was to be another portion of the land set aside for all the people of Israel. In fact, it is rather small, only half the size of the land set apart for the Levites. This is a long strip of land 25,000 cubits long, but only 5,000 cubits wide. It would seem that there were more Levites than regular people in Jerusalem.

Judgment on the cities of Moab (Jer 48:21-48:25)

“‘Judgment has come

Upon the tableland,

Upon

Holon,

Jahzah,

Mephaath,

Dibon,

Nebo,

Beth-diblathaim,

Kiriathaim,

Beth-gamul,

Beth-meon,

Kerioth,

Bozrah,

And all the towns

Of the land

Of Moab,

Far and near.

The horn of Moab

Is cut off.

His arm is broken.’

Says Yahweh.”

Now Yahweh, via Jeremiah, issues his judgment against the Moab cities and towns. Interesting enough, the only other time two of these cities are named was in the book of Joshua, chapter 21,when they were assigned to the Levites living in the Reuben territory. Out of the four Levite towns mentioned there, two are mentioned here, Jahaz and Mephaath. In chapter 13 of Joshua, other cities were mentioned, Dibon, the capital city, Kiriathaim, and Beth-meon. Nebo was a Babylonian god, but could also be a place in Moab. Bozrah was in the southern part of Moab, while Beth-gamul was in eastern Moab. It is difficult to pin point the exact locations of Holon, Beth-diblathaim, and Kerioth. Actually this oracle proclaims that all the towns of Moab have been destroyed, since the horn of Moab and his arm have been broken and cut off. The towns are named explicitly here.

The Levites (Neh 11:15-11:18)

“Of the Levites was Shemaiah son of Hasshub, son of Azrikam, son of Hashabiah, son of Bunni. Shabbethai and Jozabad were the leaders of the Levites, who were over the outside work of the house of God. Mattaniah son of Mica, son of Zabdi, son of Asaph, was the leader to begin the thanksgiving hymns in prayer. Bakbukiah was the second among his associates. Abda son of Shammua, son of Galal, son of Jeduthun, was there also. All the Levites in the holy city were two hundred eighty-four.”

The Levites were lead by Shemaiah. Shabbethai and Jozabad were in charge of the outside work around the house of God. Mattaniah, a descendent of Asaph, was the leader of the singing of thanksgiving. Bakbukiah and Abda had secondary roles. The total number of Levites who were living in Jerusalem was 284.