Friday, December 23, 2005

Tobit's prophecy about the temple

I have decided it is about time I set out to read the Apocrypha; both for a little more understanding of Jewish Culture close to the time of Jesus, and to help in discussions with Catholics. Tonight I read Tobit, a fast-paced and enjoyable story, with a prophecy by a blessed Tobit at the end. Part of it reads as follows:

I know and believe that whatever God has said will be fulfilled and will come true; not a single word of the prophecies will fail. All of our kindred, inhabitants of the land of Israel, will be scattered and taken as captives from the good land; and the whole land of Israel will be desolate, even Samaria and Jerusalem will be desolate. And the temple of God in it will be burned to the ground, and it will be desolate for a while.

"But God will again have mercy on them, and God will bring them back into the land of Israel; and they will rebuild the temple of God, but not like the first one until the period when the times of fulfillment shall come. After this they all will return from their exile and will rebuild Jerusalem in splendor; and in it the temple of God will be rebuilt, just as the prophets of Israel have said concerning it. Then the nations in the whole world will all be converted and worship God in truth. They will all abandon their idols, which deceitfully have led them into their error; and in righteousness they will praise the eternal God. (14:4b-7a)

I may be misunderstanding the passage (the language is hard for me to pin down) but I just thought it was interesting that Tobit was predicting the rebuilding of a poor temple (by Ezra and co) followed by a greater one at the real return from exile, which will be accompanied by the conversion of the world and real righteousness. No doubt this prophecy was actually penned long after the building of the second temple, but I thought that it was interesting that the writer realized that the exile had not really ended with Ezra et al (backing up Wright's thesis about a common belief among Jews that the continuation of the exile until the time of Jesus), and that he looked forward to a glorious return more like the one predicted by Ezekiel/Isaiah which (Praise God) Jesus achieved at great cost in himself!

PS If anyone else is wanting to read the Apocrypha I passionately suggest you get New Oxford Annotated Apocrypha-NRSV - it is amazing value for money.


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