Sunday, March 29, 2015

Hangout Reflection: Revising History

This week the hangout centered pretty heavily on the Deteronomistic revision of history. 

Like Dr. Lester, I too am far more comfortable with a revisionist history being presented in the Bible than I am with modern attempts at revisionist history. At least this remains true when the modern revisers are the ones who already hold power. I am withholding examples to avoid turning this into a political blog. 

That being said, Dr. Junior brought up a great example of modern day revision of history, particularly around the Bible of this discussion. Dr. Junior mentioned the feminist movement and critique of scripture as being a revisionist movement. Now, unlike the Deteronomist writer, the feminist movement hasn’t altered or added to the scriptures that we have. What they have done, however, is change what questions we ask about scripture and from what perspective we read scripture from. This is, at its core, very similar to what the Deteronomist does. 

The Deteronomist changes history for a variety of reasons. Dr. Lester talked about how the Deteronomist alters history to provide a perfect example for how Israel should act in contrast to how they actually end up acting. Similarly, Dr. Junior talked about how feminists pushed for us to look at women in scripture as being independently important characters and not just as the wife of some patriarch. Both of these attempt to say something about the current situation that they live in and both see that current situation as being fundamentally flawed. The end action of the Deteronomist and the feminist may be different, but ultimately they both see something wrong in their respective present day that needs to change so they look back at history and use that history to make a case for that change.

So I guess Dr. Junior made me realize that I can be comfortable with modern day revisions to history. So long as those revisions are not to support the status quo, but instead show what’s wrong with the status quo.

Redaction and Morality

This week begins our examination of the former prophets of Israel. For this first make I will be examining five passages from this section of the Tanak and discovering what they have to say about God’s promises, history, and the point of their inclusion in the scripture.

Deuteronomy 28

The focus of Deuteronomy 28 is around persuading the people to remain obedient to their covenant with God. The first 14 verses speak to all the positive things that come from being obedient to God. The remaining 54 verses speak to all the horrible things that will happen if the covenant with God is broken. As one might suspect, for every positive thing that would happen by following God, there is an opposite, negative thing for going against God. It should also be clear, since there is significantly more space given to the negative consequences, that there are negative consequences that have no positive opposite. The negative isn’t just the opposite of the positive. It is the opposite of the positive and so much worse then even that. 

In this text God and humanity share in power and responsibility. God remains faithful to the covenant but the people have to remain faithful as well. It is only when the people break the covenant that God’s end of the covenant is broken. Not because God is unfaithful, but because the covenant is ended by Israel. This passage does not provide any context for return to the covenantal relationship with God once it has been broken. Instead, the chapter ends with the note that the people will be so desperate, they will try to sell themselves into slavery but nobody will even take them as slaves. In this the text is fairly incoherent with the rest of the scripture. Some of the latter prophets will not see any hope for the people to avoid punishment, but there would be no point if there was only punishment with no hope of return to right relationship. 

Joshua 23

Just as with the chapter from Deuteronomy this text speaks to what will happen if the people break their covenant with God. Joshua spends a lot less time (only a few verses) and goes into a lot less detail onto the punishment for disobeying God. Instead much of this chapter is given over to the good things God has already done for the people as a sign for why they should continue following their covenant. Again, God has remained faithful and will continue to do so if the people also uphold their end of the bargain. 

This text might also come from the exilic period. However, unlike the last text this one’s softer approach to the issue of punishment might mean it is a call for repentance. The Wesley Study Bible notes that this passage is most likely written in response to the Babylonian campaign against Judah, and not about Assyria. This is because verse 12 mentions intermarriage between the people and other nations which is the sin listed in Ezra 9 as the reason for the exile. 

1 Samuel 12

This text from Samuel begins like the above texts, particularly Joshua, by looking at what God has already done for Israel. Unlike the others, this includes not just the positive things, but the negative things as well which were caused by past disobedience. However, after each of these negative outcomes the people came back to God who once again delivered them. Samuel’s focus is on the sin of the people for asking for a king to rule over them. The people accept this as a sin and repent of it. Though they will still have a king, if they begin to sin again Samuel tells them they and their king will be swept away. Here we really get to see God’s faithfulness come through. God never forsakes Israel forever, but forgives them once they repent after they are punished. As long as Israel is willing to come back to the covenant, the covenant is not truly gone. 

2 Kings 17:5-18

In this text we finally get to the actual story of Samaria being conquered by Assyria. The details about the conquest are very limited. Most of the text is used to explain why it is that Samaria was defeated and taken into captivity in the first place. According to the text, Samaria sinned against God by worshiping other gods. The author is also very careful to explain that Samaria had plenty of warnings to stop from prophets and seers. However the people did not listen and after a long while God’s anger was so great that God sent Assyria to take the people away. The people in Samaria, as told through the author’s point of view, clearly were unwilling to do what was right with God and remained unfaithful to both God and the covenant. A theological justification stating such was necessary for the author of the text since, if Israel had been faithful, it should have been impossible for Assyria to prevail against them. However, since Samaria was conquered a justification needed to be given and so we get the condemnation of forms of YHWH worship that were considered completely acceptable before worship was centralized in Jerusalem (see verses 9-13 for examples of these formerly acceptable practices).

2 Chronicles 36:11-21

The last text we will look at describes the conquest of Jerusalem by Babylon. Unlike the Assyrian conquest of Samaria, a lot more detail is given to the actual activity of conquest in this section. This is likely due to both texts being written by authors who were likely from Judah and therefore not present for the fall of Samaria, but had at least some connection to the fall of Jerusalem. 2 Chronicles also specifically mentions Jeremiah’s prophecy as being fulfilled. The reasoning given in this text for the fall of Jerusalem primarily centers on King Zedekiah failing to heed Jeremiah and rebelling against Babylon. However, the text also mentions that the people and priests were also unfaithful, going so far as to pollute the temple of God. Here we might see the fulfillment of the text from 1 Samuel. The people and their King have sinned against God and they are either killed or taken away to exile. 

Wrapping Up

Most, if not all, of these texts are likely written by an exilic redactor or editor. Whether the redactor is writing about the Assyrian takeover of Samaria or the Babylonian takeover of Jerusalem is not necessarily clear in every passage. In the Deuteronomy text, verses 64-65, for example, speak to the people being taken away to a foreign land as punishment. No matter which of the situations it is speaking to, the redactor is trying provide an explanation for why Assyria or Babylon were able to conquer the people and take them away. Ultimately, the judgment is that the people were not faithful to God. This theme runs throughout each of these texts. Certainly this worldview still exists today (look at people claim God’s judgment in natural disasters), but it is also a minority view among people today. Also, while it is used to speak to natural disasters, it is not used to talk about invading armies, at least not when the invading armies don’t believe in the same God we believe in. 

Finally, some of the texts seem to be lacking in what we would consider moral today. The Deuteronomy text talks about famine and drought hitting the people so hard that they have to resort to eating their children (see verses 53-57). Certainly, this text seems to go a bit too extreme on the proscribed punishments. The Joshua text isn’t as gruesome, but it still revolves around the sin of intermarriage being the reason for death and exile. The 2 Kings text seems to be a redactor ascribing formerly acceptable worship as sin because the people didn’t embrace religious reformation. Finally, 2 Chronicles text deals with the slaughter and enslavement of the people as punishment which lasted for 70 years. These all seem to be excessive to us in modern society, but each is trying to explain why punishment had to happen. This is how I think we can deal with these excessive punishments. We don’t have to agree with the redactors that they are God ordained. Instead we can see them as the result of a people trying to understand how these things could happen if God was on their side. They ultimately decide that God wasn’t on their side for these horrible periods in their history. Not because God was unfaithful to them, but because they were unfaithful to God.

Friday, March 20, 2015

A Letter on the Messiah

Howdy Partner!

I write to you this week to explain the perspective of messianic figures in the Hebrew Bible with a specific focus on Second Isaiah. Speaking of Second Isaiah, scholars lean towards reading the book of Isaiah as having three distinct authors writing at three different times. Second Isaiah is found in Isaiah 40-55. According to Bandstra and Lester, Second Isaiah is written around 546-538 BCE. Others, like Fried, date Second Isaiah to sometime after 539 BCE. Fried also attributes Isaiah 40-65 as Second Isaiah, rather than stopping at 55. Clearly, scholarship isn’t completely unanimous. The dating of this author might seem close enough to not really matter, but there are some implications based on how it is dated. If Fried is right then Second Isaiah is written after Cyrus of Persia has defeated the Babylonians and freed the Judeans from captivity then the words of hope written in Second Isaiah are there to match what has happened in history. If it is written before Cyrus defeats Babylon then Second Isaiah’s words are truly hopeful and awaiting the Persian’s to come set Israel free. 

Whether written before or after the fact, Second Isaiah makes a bold claim about Cyrus of Persia saying, “Thus says YHWH to his anointed, to Cyrus” (Is. 45:1). The one who is anointed by YHWH is the messianic figure (Messiah literally means “anointed one”). While the Hebrew Bible names many different anointed ones throughout the history of Israel, Fried points out that Cyrus is the only who is given the title of YHWH’s anointed. Cyrus is also the only messiah in the Bible who is a gentile. Thus, this is a break in the Jerusalemite tradition which believed that the title of messiah could only be given to somebody in the Davidic lineage (Bandtsra, 531-532). 

It’s not hard to see why Second Isaiah elevates Cyrus to this title of messiah. Counter to the Babylonian Empire, which had taken the Judeans into exile, Cyrus had a policy of allowing conquered peoples to remain in their lands and maintain their customs. Therefore, it is with Cyrus’ blessing that the Judeans return home from exile and rebuild the Temple that was destroyed by the Babylonian conquest. Cyrus, though not a follower of YHWH, still allows the people of YHWH to worship their God. 

There could also be another reason for Cyrus being given this title of messiah. As Fried points out the Egyptians and Babylonians both called Cambyses (Cyrus’ son and successor) by the names typically reserved for their own royalty. That is, the Egyptians call him Pharaoh and the Babylonian’s call him the Crowned Prince. Both of these titles are reserved for the legitimate King (or soon to be King) in these nations. Therefore, when Second Isaiah calls Cyrus the messiah it is perhaps fitting into the culture in that region to use the language of legitimate royalty to describe the new Persian ruler. 

Of course, Fried also points out that this title isn’t some secular title that is easily bestowed onto somebody. The title of messiah has a full theology wrapped up in its use. This is the theology that says the messiah “is the legitimate king appointed and protected by God” (Fried). Thus, Second Isaiah claims that God has appointed Cyrus as king over the Judeans. Cyrus should then not be opposed by the people as he has God’s blessing. 

Clearly this idea of a messianic figure is a unique one. Not only from the examples in the Hebrew Bible but from our modern idea of what makes a figure messianic through the New Testament lens of Jesus. Cyrus is a good model for understanding why Jesus claim to be the messiah is met with skepticism. Cyrus, while being unique among messianic figures in different ways, still maintains many of the traditional traits of a messiah. He is a king, he saves the Jewish people from an oppressive foreign power, returns them to prominence, establishes peace for Israel, and brings correct worship back to Jerusalem. The context in the time of Jesus is similar to the context of the Judeans in exilic period. While they might not be in exile they are still under an oppressive foreign power, the threat of violence is ever looming, and they are seen as fairly insignificant by the powers that be. Jesus comes to them from a lower status family, does not even talk about overthrowing the foreign power, instead spending lots of time tending to the needs of the socially forgettable and arguing with religious authorities. He is far more concerned with the Jewish authorities than the oppressive empire. This is important to remember. The Hebrew Bible has a certain notion of what a messiah is. Cyrus is unique, but still fits the traditional model in many ways. 

While this idea of what a messianic figure looks like was still prevalent in Jesus time, the post-exilic community began to alter their ideas of what a messiah was. No longer did a messiah have to be a single person who was a king. Joshua (or Jeshua) was the high was anointed (or at least hinted at being anointed in Zechariah 4, specifically the 14th verse) along with the new governor Zerubbabel. So not only is the political leader a messiah figure, now the religious leader is as well. There is also a thought, as can be seen in Lester’s hangout on the subject, that Second Isaiah has a more corporate vision of a messianic figure. That is, not just one person, not just two people, but the entire nation of Israel. The people then are the collective anointed ones. 

I hope this letter was informative for you friend. 

Reflections on the Responses to Exile Hangout

After being unable to take part in this weeks hangout live I will reflect on part of what was discussed by Dr. Lester. For those who would like to watch the hangout, you can do so by clicking here.

A large part of the hangout was devoted to Messiah figures both in and outside of the Bible. Char made the bold claim that one must be anointed to be a Messiah, although that sounds appealing to me from a Biblical perspective, our extra-Biblical Messiah figures are rarely anointed. Many of them are not even kingly figures. This is in large part due to our looking at the Messiah figure through the lens of Jesus, the one who saves, and not through the Old Testament lens. Of course this is in spite of the notion of Jesus as King, but our focus tends to be on the salvific action of Jesus, not on the Kingship of Jesus.

Thus, for extra-Biblical Messiahs, I don't think anointing or Kingship is a requirement. Even in late Biblical texts Dr. Lester points out that even Kingship stops being a requirement as objects become anointed and Joshua is anointed as the high priest. A sub-conversation of this came up as to who are these extra-Biblical Messiah figures. Aragorn from the Lord of the Rings is an all to easy example that fits many of the Messiah tropes, if you will. Star Wars was also brought up and Luke Skywalker was discussed as the Messiah figure. Luke is certainly the hero who follows many of the Russian folktale components mentioned as well as the classic hero's journey, but he is not a Messiah figure. You can argue original trilogy, both trilogies, or full saga (including the clone wars and whatever else Disney has ruled as canon). No matter which of these you argue from (although the more you include the more obvious it becomes), it is Vader who is the Messiah of Star Wars, not Luke. Vader is the one who overthrows (literally) the Emperor, not Luke. Luke fails. Of course, in the latter trilogy Vader is literally named the chosen one. And if you've seen the clone wars cartoons you (SPOILERS) actually see what this means for him. It expands on our notions of Messiah and has him as the one who is to contain the deistic beings of good and evil and keep them in check without letting evil run rampant. He fails to accept this task, but then at the end of episode six makes up for this by destroying the one who most clearly personifies this deistic being. (END SPOILERS)

You also get with Vader an illusion to Belshazzar of Babylon/Cyrus of Persia. That is the crowned prince of Babylon. Not actually the King, but one who learns how to be King from doing Kingly things while being underneath the real King. This works well in some other ways too. Cyrus is an Empire builder, but he's also an Empire destroyer. He overthrows the Babylonian Empire just as Vader overthrows the Emperor. In fact this is Vader's goal for quite some time, he wishes to build a new Empire with his son. Of course Vader is within the original Empire anyway, unlike Cyrus. And instead of taking command he dies and leaves the Empire without a ruler. So Vader is not perfectly a Messiah figure, but he does fit some of the motifs of Messiahship. He even goes through an anointing of sorts in Episode 3 (albeit at the hands of the one who must be overthrown). Lucas is, no doubt, not a Biblical scholar, but it is still interesting to see just how many of these motifs are used in Star Wars and how they line up less with the idea with Messiah through the lens of Jesus, and much more with Messiah through the lens of the Hebrew Bible.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Jeremiah 20:7-13: Deceit, Doom, and Irony.

This week we take a look at Jeremiah’s last lament psalm in which he claims God has enticed, deceived, or even seduced him. We are looking specifically at Jeremiah 20:7-13. This deception of God mirrors the language used to describe rape in the book of Exodus. This is language that shows that Jeremiah feels as if he never really had a choice in life on whether to be God’s prophet. Indeed, in Jeremiah 1:5 God says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” In modern times this verse gets used as a proof text as for why abortions should be illegal or to teach children that God has some grand purpose for them. However, there is no indication here that this is a universal pronouncement by God, but is instead spoken just to Jeremiah. And for Jeremiah, this grand purpose God has for him causes him grief and is the very nature of the start to this lament psalm.

Jeremiah never gets the chance to say no to God. He tries, in words that echo Moses (Bandstra, 327) but ultimately God rebukes his argument and then puts God’s words into his mouth before he consents to his role as prophet. This runs counter to Moses where God never forces Moses to accept, but instead answers each of Moses’ concerns (of which there are many) until Moses finally leaves having accepted his task (Ex. 3-4:17). 

So Jeremiah has a valid point in that God overpowered him. In another contrast to Moses, Jeremiah only learned what message he was to deliver after God’s overpowering action. It is this message that has caused him so much grief “for whenever I speak, I must cry out, I must shout, ‘Violence and destruction!’ For the word of the Lord has become for me a reproach and derision all day long” (Jer. 20:8). 

Jeremiah has grown tired of the message of doom that God wants him to deliver. In verse nine he talks about being unable to stop despite it being his one wish. Again, his desire is to no longer be a prophet, but God’s overpowering word inside him will not let him cease. 

Even Jeremiah’s closest friends want Jeremiah to fail due to his message. In an ironic twist Jeremiah says, “For I hear many whispering: ‘Terror is all around! Denounce him! Let us denounce him!’” (Jer. 20:10). This is ironic because in the narrative just before this lament psalm it is Jeremiah who renames the priest Pashhur and calls him “Terror-all-around”. Now it is Jeremiah who has this nickname due to the nature of the message he has to give.

Towards the end of his lament, Jeremiah asks God to let him see retribution onto his enemies and his reason for asking this seems to counter his earlier lament because he says, “for to you I have committed my cause” (Jer. 12). Despite the fact that Jeremiah feels he had no say in his lot in life he remains fully committed to God’s will. 

What is not immediately clear is what causes Jeremiah to add this lament at this part of the book. He had just suffered under some persecution under Pashhur in which he is struck and then is locked up for the night (Jer. 20:2). God had earlier promised that the people of Judah, from the kings to the peasants, “will fight against you; but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, says the Lord, to deliver you” (Jer. 1:19). Perhaps then it is this clear example of Jeremiah suffering under persecution that leads to his lament feeling as if God did not live up to the promise. 

It is hard for me to call this an actual lie by God. Jeremiah is released the next day after all. Though perhaps Jeremiah thought that if his enemies weren’t to prevail against him that this would mean that he wouldn’t be harmed at all. The notes in my NRSV study Bible mention that this is the first time, of many, that Jeremiah is physically assaulted for his message. So this seems the likely catalyst for his lament. So it would be better to look at God as withholding the full truth from Jeremiah, leading him to feel a bit more secure than he actually is. God will keep him safe, but that doesn’t mean that no harm will come to him. 

Jeremiah expects God will follow through on God’s end and he will be vindicated. This is a strategy used in the modern day to deal with things not going our way. Another common response from people today is to say, “God works in mysterious ways”. This is similar to Jeremiah’s response, although it is much more general in its scope of things. It also let’s God off the hook, as it were, from having to act in ways that are recognizable to us as being faithful to God’s word. 

While this modern day example is by and large considered to be bad theology, it is not what Jeremiah’s ultimate statement is on this. The end of this section ends with the praise and thanksgiving portion of the lament psalm and Jeremiah proclaims, “Sing to the Lord; praise the Lord! For he has delivered the life of the needy from the hands of evildoers” (Jer. 20:13). No matter how we feel God has lied, hidden the whole truth, or deceived us, Jeremiah ultimately affirms that God has the last say and does deliver the needy. Jeremiah never claims that this will look like what we want it to look like, but neither does he simply state the mystery of God’s way due to lack of an answer. God is a God who works for some and against others. Hope is not lost.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Prophets: A look at Amos

The book of Amos is not a particularly long book. Amos is also the earliest prophet with his own book, other than Samuel (Bandstra, 288). Amos has a broad, three part, structure to it which can be difficult to notice. For this look at Amos, I will look specifically at what Amos has to say about Israel. It is worth mentioning that at this point in history there were two kingdoms for the Hebrew people. The southern kingdom was known as Judah, and the northern kingdom was Israel. Both are talked about in Amos, but we will focus on the latter. Israel was also the primary audience for Amos, and while judgement is given against Judah first, Israel’s judgement is given a lot more time from Amos (Bandstra, 289).

This judgment of Israel begins by explaining just what it is that Israel has done wrong. The first thing Amos mentions in 2:6 is that the people have been selling others into slavery. Slavery was not an uncommon thing at the time, and it’s not even slavery itself that is being condemned by Amos. Instead Amos says that those who don’t deserve to be slaves, the righteous, are being sold into debt slavery. Or, Amos also allows that some of those being sold into debt slavery do own debts, but they are for a trivial amount likened to “a pair of sandals”. This, along with other abuses of power over the poor found in verses 7-8, make up the bulk of what Amos call Israel into judgment over. The rich are sexually assaulting women (who are most likely slaves), they are abusing the power to use the blankets of the poor, and they levy fines unjustly against people to buy wine to drink in the Lord’s house. Amos is clearly concerned with the poor first and foremost. This theme of pointing out that Israel has abused their power over the poor continues to come back throughout the rest of the book as well.

So what is to happen to Israel now that they have treated the poor in this manner? First in Amos 2:13-16 God talks about pressing down the Israelites and making the strong grow weak. However, this is only the beginning of Israel’s problems. Exile seems to be the expected punishment for Israel. In Amos 5:11 says “you have built houses of hewn stone, but you shall not live in them; you have planted pleasant vineyards, but you shall not drink their wine.” All that the Israelites have built will be taken away from them, but it does not say that it will be destroyed, only that Israel will not have access to them. Amos then clearly calls for exiled in 6:7 “Therefore, they shall now be the first to go into exile.” It is likely that Amos wrote these words down shortly after Tiglath-Pileser III came into power in Assyria due to how accurate Amos is in his predictions (Bandstra 291). 

In Amos 5:17 God declares “in all the vineyards there shall be wailing, for I will pass through the midst of you.” It is the very presence of God that brings this judgement and punishment against Israel. This is a case when Israel cannot hope for God to save them. This leads into another punishment from God that is yet to come. In chapter 8 God declares “The time is surely coming… when I will send a famine on the land; not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord… they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it. (Amos 8:11-12). The last punishment we look at comes from the fifth vision of Amos found in 9:1-4. Amos sees God standing beside the altar and commanding that the capitals be struck until they shatter onto the heads of the people after which God will kill all who survive. This could mean the entirety of the people of Israel, or the capitals could represent just the leaders of Israel (Bandstra 293). 

So what is to be done? Amos actually gives almost no hope to Israel for salvation from these punishments (Bandstra 291). Remember that God is the one who will exact these punishments on Israel. Amos 8:7 says “The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob: Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.” If God will not forget what they have done hope is very slim. In the sections I looked at for this post there is on small sliver of hope that manages to shine through. Amos 5:14-15 provides the one look of hope in these sections. Amos tells Israel “Seek good and not evil, that you may live; and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you, just as you have said. Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.” So there is hope for Israel, but they must stop abusing the poor. Amos has little faith in Israel to do this, and with the Assyrian conquest shortly thereafter, salvation did indeed not come to Israel in the end.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Son of Man

The phrase "son of man" has come to have a special meaning in the Christian tradition as a title for Jesus. However, this title did not always refer to a messiah figure. We will walk through the various ways “son of man” has been used throughout the Hebrew Bible. Son of man in hebrew is ben-adam and it appears almost exclusively in the Book of Ezekiel. This text contains ben-adam 94 of the 107 occurrences in the Hebrew Bible.

The use of ben-adam in Ezekiel doesn’t reference a messianic figure nor does it reference any sort of eschatological figure (in other words, a figure who comes at the end of this age and the start of the next). Instead, ben-adam is used repeatedly throughout the text to refer to the author, Ezekiel. It is the title used by God when addressing the author. Some examples of this are “He said to me: O son of man, stand up on your feet, and I will speak with you” (Ezekiel 2:1), “then he said to me, “Son of man, dig through the wall”; and when I dug through the wall, there was an entrance” (Ezekiel 8:8), or “Son of man, set your face toward Si’don, and prophesy against it” (Ezekiel 28:21). Ezekiel is clearly the ben-adam in these examples. Remember, these make up nearly 88% of the examples of ben-adam in the Hebrew Bible. 

Another common usage of ben-adam in the Hebrew Bible is in couplets. Couplets make up the structure of Hebraic poetry but also appear outside of poetic material too. Couplets are repetitive, repeating an idea between the two lines. The first example of ben-adam that shows up in the Hebrew Bible is in the Book of Numbers which says “God is not a human being, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind” (Numbers 23:19). Here, human being and son of man are used together for the same meaning. Again, we see that son of man is not a reference to a messianic or divine figure. In fact, it is used to show a stark contrast to the divine in this case. 

The Book of Job as well as the Psalms also offer examples of the couplet form where man is used in parallel with son of man. In Job we find “how much less the son of man, who is a maggot, and a human being, who is a worm!” (Job 25:6). Human being and son of man here have identical meanings shown through the comparison between a worm and a maggot. In the Psalms we find such examples as “what are human beings that you are mindful of them, son of man that you care for them?” (Psalms 8:4), or “O Lord, what are human beings that you regard them, or son of man that you think of them?” (Psalm 144:3). These two Psalms not only continue the use of son of man to be the couplet to human being, but also nearly mirror each other in content as well. Isaiah also uses son of man in this fashion saying “why then are you afraid of a mere son of man who must die, a human being who fades like grass?” (Isaiah 51:12). 

This all does not mean to say that son of man never takes on a eschatological meaning in the Hebrew Bible. However, This only happens in the Book of Daniel, our focus for this weeks Ootle Old Testament class. Son of man appears twice in Daniel. The second occurrence of it mirrors its earlier use in Ezekiel, only this time the person being addressed is Daniel. “So he came near where I stood; and when he came, I became frightened and fell prostrate. But he said to me, “Understand, o son of man, that the vision is for the end of time.”” (Daniel 8:17). While this passage still references the eschaton, it is not in the context of the son of man, but instead an earlier vision that is being interpreted for the son of man, or Daniel. 

The first example from Daniel remains as the eschatological use of son of man in the Hebrew Bible. Daniel has a vision of four beasts who have dominion over the earth and then of God sitting on a throne when he  says “As I watched in the night visions, I saw one like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven. And he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him” (Daniel 7:13). It is here that many Christians have read Jesus back into the Hebrew Bible, seeing Jesus coming down on a cloud from heaven at the end of the world. While this passage is eschatological, it doesn’t mean the world is ending. Indeed, the eschaton here is about the end of the rule of foreign powers over Israel and the founding of the unending kingdom of God to be overseen by this son of man. It is tempting to argue from our Christian perspective that this means Jesus, however the vision is interpreted almost immediately in Daniel. The interpretation says “As for these four great beasts, four kings shall arise out of the earth. But the holy ones of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever- forever and ever” (Daniel 7:17-18). These “holy ones of the Most High” are mentioned again in Daniel 7:25 and 7:27. The son of man mentioned earlier is a reference to these holy ones who are most likely all of Israel as the chosen people of God.