Friday, June 15, 2007

God as Father: Second Temple Judaism

Along with the New Testament writers, the Jews of Second Temple period emphasized the weight and authority of the God of the Old Testament Scriptures. In the event of the exodus, the God of Israel demonstrated His mighty hand to both the Egyptians and to Israel and revealed Himself as Israel’s Father who delivered His firstborn son from the bondage and chains of slavery. Bringing them out of Egypt, He gave them a land as an inheritance and promised to bless them as long as they remained obedient. However, because of Israel’s disobedience, they were exiled out of their land and banished from their homes. Though the exile was the penalty for their waywardness, He did not forget His people, but He brought them back to their land. An evidence of Israel’s sonship was its rightful place back in the land. The reflection of God as Father continued to thread its way from the Old Testament into Second Temple Judaism. As the Jews of the Second Temple period found themselves in similar circumstances as their forefathers, they looked to the Lord to deliver them from the hands of their enemies and restore their rightful status as children.

“And He said unto us: ‘Behold, I will separate unto Myself
a people from among all the peoples, and these will keep the Sabbath day, and I will sanctify them unto Myself as My people, and will bless them; as I have sanctified the Sabbath day and do sanctify it unto Myself, even so shall I bless them, and they will be My people and I shall be their God and I have chosen the seed of Jacob from amongst all that I have seen, and have written him down as My firstborn son, and have sanctified him unto Myself for ever and ever; and I will teach them the Sabbath day, that they may keep Sabbath thereon from all work.’” (Jubilees 2:19-20)

“And now, O Lord, behold, these heathen, which have ever been reputed as nothing, have begun to be lords over us, and to devour us. But we thy people, whom thou hast called thy firstborn, thy only begotten, and thy fervent lover, are given into their hands. If the world now be made for our sakes, why do we not possess an inheritance with the world? How long shall this endure?” (2 Esdras 6:57-59)

“Lord, Thy mercy is over the works of Thy hands for ever; Thy goodness is over Israel with a rich gift. Thine eyes look upon them, so that none of them suffers want; Thine ears listen to the hopeful prayer of the poor. Thy judgements are executed upon the whole earth in mercy; And Thy love is toward the seed of Abraham, the children of Israel. Thy chastisement is upon us as upon a first-born, only-begotten son, To turn back the obedient soul from folly that is wrought in ignorance. May God cleanse Israel against the day of mercy and blessing, Against the day of choice when Blessed shall they be that shall be in those days, He bringeth back His anointed. In that they shall see the goodness of the Lord which He shall perform for the generation that is to come, Under the rod of chastening of the Lord's anointed in the fear of his God, In the spirit of wisdom and righteousness and strength; That he may direct every man in the works of righteousness by the fear of God, That he may establish them all before the Lord, A good generation living in the fear of God in the days of mercy. Selah.” (Psalms of Solomon 18:19)

In Judaism, the concept of God as Father takes on a greater meaning. In the Old Testament, the Israelites looked back to the work of God in their history, but in Second Temple Judaism, the Israelites not only remembered the past but also looked forward to a new hope when God will place Israel back to their rightful status and posititon as the firstborn son.

“And after this they will turn to Me in all uprightness and with all their heart and with all their soul, and I shall circumcise the foreskin of their heart
and the foreskin of the heart of their seed, and I shall create in them a holy spirit, and I shall cleanse them so that they shall not turn away from Me from that day unto eternity and their souls will cleave to Me and to all My commandments, and they will fulfil My commandments, and I shall be their Father and they will be My children and they will all be called children of the living God, and every angel and every spirit will know, yea, they will know that these are My children, and that I am their Father in uprightness and righteousness, and that I love them and do thou write down for thyself all these words which I declare unto thee on this mountain, the first and the last, which shall come to pass in all the divisions of the days in the law and in the testimony and in the weeks and the jubilees unto eternity, until I descend and dwell with them throughout eternity and He said to the angel of the presence: "Write for Moses from the beginning of creation till My sanctuary has been built among them for all eternity and the Lord will appear to the eyes of all, and all will know that I am the God of Israel and the Father of all the children of Jacob, and King on Mount Zion for all eternity. And Zion and Jerusalem will be holy.” (Jubilees 1:33- 28)

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