Reading Scripture in the Old Testament: Deuteronomy 9-10, 31, 2 Kings 22-23, Jeremiah 36, Nehemiah 8

By G. J. Venema | Go to book overview

Chapter 4

Scripture Opened – Nehemiah 8

It has been taught: R. Jose said: Had Moses not preceded
him, Ezra would haee been worthy of receiving the Torah
for Israel. Of Moses it is written: 'And Moses went up
unto God', and of Ezra it is written: 'He, Ezra, went up
from Babylon' As the going up of the former refers to the
[receiving of the] Law so does the goxng up of the latter
Concerning Moses, it is stated: 'And the Lord ccmmanded
me at that time to teahh you statutes and judgements';
and concerning Ezra, it is stated: 'For Ezra had prepared
his heart to expound the law of the Lodd [his God] to do
it and to teahh Israel statutes and judgements' And even
though the Torah was not aiven through him, its writing
was changed through him,…

Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 21b

One of the murals in the synagogue of Dura-Europos, next to the so-called Torah niche, shows a man in Greek dress, an open scroll in his hands. Over the scroll he is looking the viewer straight in the eye. Two similar pictures, above the niche, show Moses being revealed the Torah: in one, he is standing next to the burning bush (Exod. 3:1–6), in the other he seems to be receiving the tablets of stone (Exod. 31:18; Deut. 9:9). Is the man holding the scroll also Moses? It is possible, but because he reads from a scroll instead of the tablets of stone, he might also be Ezra, of whom we are told that he read to Israel from the 'book of the torah' (Neh. 7:72b–8:18 [tr. 8:1–19]).1 The fact that this one figure may be either Moses or Ezra is not the result of a coincidental likeness, but illustrates the close relationship that traditionally exists between them. The painting in Dura-Europos may even be called representative for the image of Ezra in the rabbinical tradition:2 in rabbinical literature Ezra is seen, on the basis of

1 See E.R. Goodenough, M. Avi-Yonah, EJ, vo. 6, 294: 'The reader seems
to be Moses giving the Law to the Israelites after his descent from Sinai,
[…] Other identifications, however, have been suggested […] and no positive
judgment can be made.' A picture of this mural can be found in EJ, vol. 6,
28.

2 This cannot be said of the synagogue as a whole. The upper synagogue,
which contains the painting of Moses/Ezra, was according to an Aramaic
inscription built in 244/245 CE (EJ, vo. 6, 276), and the paintings date from

-138-

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Reading Scripture in the Old Testament: Deuteronomy 9-10, 31, 2 Kings 22-23, Jeremiah 36, Nehemiah 8
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Oudtestamentische StudiËn - Old Testament Studies ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface ix
  • Introduction xi
  • Part One - Reading 1
  • Chapter 1 - The Hidden Words – Deuteronomium 9:7–10:11; 31:9–13, 24–26 3
  • Chapter 2 - The Discovered Book – 2 Kings 22:1–23:30 47
  • Chapter 3 - Controversial Statements – Jeremiah 36 95
  • Chapter 4 - Scripture Opened – Nehemiah 8 138
  • Part Two - Re-Reading 183
  • Chapter 5 - Connections 185
  • Chapter 6 - Cross-References 202
  • Chapter 7 - Mimemata 218
  • Bibliography, Abbreviations, Indices 231
  • Bibliography 233
  • Abbreviations 259
  • Index of Authors 260
  • Index of Biblical Texts 265
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