Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Concept of Exile during the Second Temple Period: Part 3 Jubilees

The evidence for a continuing exile from Jubilees.

The book of Jubilees, written in the second century b.c.e, is a re-representation of the biblical history from creation to the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai in order to re-contextualize the narrative for a new generation.[1] The author still sees the restoration from exile as a future event.[2] A striking feature in the narrative that attests to this is set in the wilderness where the Lord tells Moses that once the people enter into the Promised Land, then they will turn to other gods and abandon the covenant (1.7-11). The result of these transgressions is exile, but the text is unclear on which exile is referred to (1.13-14). While the author of Jubilees is rehearsing the biblical narrative, it is evident by the subsequent criticisms of Israel that this return and restoration have not happened.[3] For instance in the vision of the end of exile the author states:

And afterward they will return to me from among the nations with all their heart and with all their soul and with all their might. And I shall gather them from the midst of the nations. And they will seek me so that I might be found by them. When they seek me with all their heart and with all their soul, I shall reveal to them an abundance of peace and righteousness. And with all my heart and with all my soul I shall transplant them as a righteous plant. And they will be a blessing and not a curse. And they will be the head and not the tail. And I shall build my sanctuary in their midst, and shall dwell with them. And I shall be their God and they will be my people truly and rightly. And I shall not forsake them, and I shall not be alienated from them because I am the Lord their God (Jub 1.22-23).[4]

For while the following passage reminds the readers that the return and restoration are bound up in the covenant promises of God to never forsake his people.[5] The eschatological significance of this passage is furthered demonstrated by the subsequent prayer of Moses to not abandon His people Israel (19-21). The Lord responds to Moses

And the Lord said to Moses, “I know their contrariness and their thoughts and their stubbornness. And they will not obey until they acknowledge their sin and the sins of their fathers. But after this they will return to me in and with all of (their) heart and soul. And I shall cut off the foreskin of their heart and the foreskin of the heart of their descendants. And I shall create for them a holy spirit, and I shall purify them so that they will not turn away from following me from that day and forever. And their souls will cleave to me and to all my commandments. And they will do my commandments. And I shall be a father to them, and they will be sons to me. And they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’ And every angel and spirit will know and acknowledge that they are my sons and I am their father in uprightness and righteousness. And I shall love them.

It is in light of this that the author predicts that the people will repent while in exile, not only for the present generation’s sins but also for the sins of their ancestors.[6] The return, the sanctuary, and the new ability to perfectly obey the covenant all point to an ideal future that will come about at the ‘end of time.’ In fact the surface narrative of the whole book climaxes, in the expected jubilee of jubilees, when Israel is to be liberated from slavery in Egypt and receives back the land that is rightly theirs by inheritance.[7] This return from exile is thus envisioned as an eschatological return mapped out in terms of the traditional Sin-Exile-Restoration pattern.[8]

[1] Lester L. Grabbe, Judaic Religion in the Second Temple Period: Belief and Practice from the Exile to Yavneh (London ; New York: Routledge, 2000), 63; Nickelsburg, Jewish Literature, 72, Jubilees is by and large concerned with halakhah.

[2] Vanderkam, "Exile in Jewish Apocalyptic Literature," 103.

[3] What is interesting here is that the author of jubilees does not resort to a remnant theology, but rather envisions that since all Israel suffer together (1.12) all Israel will turn back to God (1.15-16). Cf. Martha Himmelfarb, A Kingdom of Priests: Ancestry and Merit in Ancient Judaism (Jewish Culture and Contexts; Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006), 81-82.

[4] The translation is that of O. S. Wintermute, "Jubilees," in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, ed. James H. Charlesworth (Garden City: Doubleday, 1983).

[5] Peter Enns, "Expansions of Scripture," in Justification and Variegated Nomism: A Fresh Appraisal of Paul and Second Temple Judaism, ed. D. A. Carson, Peter Thomas O'Brien, and Mark A. Seifrid (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001), 97.

[6] Gene L. Davenport, The Eschatology of the Book of Jubilees (Studia Post-Biblica 20; Leiden: Brill, 1971), 27. The author knew that the transformation of Israel’s heart had not yet taken place, for in his own day there was apostasy. What we usually think of as the return from exile had not, in fact, led to a new allegiance to God, but to repetition of the old unfaithfulness and rebellion. Israel had not yet sought God with all her heart. He had not yet truly been found by them. The author however was hopeful that in his own day the authentic return form exile was beginning to occur, that the time of God’s return was now.

[7] James M. Scott, On Earth as in Heaven: The Restoration of Sacred Time and Sacred Space in the Book of Jubilees (JSJSup 91; Leiden: Brill, 2005), 164-65; James C. Vanderkam, "The Origins and Purposes of the Book of Jubilees," in Studies in the Book of Jubilees, ed. Matthias Albani, Jörg Frey, and Armin Lange (TSAJ 65; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1997), 22.In fact Doron Mendels, The Land of Israel as a Political Concept in Hasmonean Literature: Recourse to History in Second Century B.C. Claims to the Holy Land (TSAJ 15; Tübingen: Mohr-Siebeck, 1987), 59, 63-5, states that the raison d’`etre of the book was the reconquest of the land.

[8] Scott, On Earth as in Heaven, 165.

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