The Crisis of Israelite Religion: Transformation of Religious Tradition in Exilic and Post-Exilic Times

By Bob Becking; Marjo C. A. Korpel | Go to book overview

Harm van Grol Utrecht — The Netherlands


‘Indeed, Servants We Are’:
Ezra 9, Nehemiah 9 and 2 Chronicles 12 Compared

Servitude plays a part in Ezra 9, Nehemiah 9 and 2 Chronicles 12:1–12. A similar sequence of events occurs in these three texts. Sin is followed by punishment. Punishment is followed by mercy. Expectations are that mercy will mean restoration or the like, but in these three texts the result is “some relief” and “servitude”. As far as I am aware this sequence does not occur elsewhere in the Old Testament.1

Ezra 9, Nehemiah 9 and 2 Chronicles 12 are roughly contemporary texts. The sequence mentioned above can be conceived as a paradigm to understand the religio-political situation after the exile: the subjection to the Persians.

But is there really so much resemblance between our three texts that we can talk of one and the same paradigm? Sara Japhet's Ideology cautions us against seeing too much unity and resemblance between Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah.2 Especially when we deal with a theological paradigm like the one above. One may even question the analysis given above as far as 2 Chronicles 12 is concerned. Should there not be a neat balance between sin and retribution in Chronicles? There should be no ‘leftover’ or ‘continued’ punishment …

Against this background I will compare Ezra 9, Nehemiah 9 and 2 Chronicles 12 in more detail and ask for the role political servitude plays in each of these texts.3

1 This contribution was, of course, written before the workshop on this theme was held. The discussion in the workshop will be reflected in some notes and remarks. As far as the unique sequence concerns, it became clear that the phenomenon of partial deliverance — or, seen from the other side, restrictive punishment — also occurs in other texts, but that the combination of partial deliverance with servitude is indeed unique.

2 S. Japhet, The Ideology of the Book of Chronicles and Its Place in Biblical Thought (BEAT, 9), Frankfurt a. M. 1989.

3 This study is part of a project in which structural and intertextual aspects of Ezra-Nehemiah are being studied. This project is part of a research programme of the Catholic Theological University of Utrecht, named Tradition and Transformation. In a previous study on Ezra 9:6–7 I tried to establish to what extent Ezra joins in with traditional concepts and to what extent he takes a new course. In order to answer that question I made a hermeneutical construct, this is a collection of traditional and contemporary concepts that could be compared with that of Ezra 9:6–7.1 published the results of this study in H.W.M. van Grol, “Schuld und Scham: Die Verwurzelung von Ezra 9,6–7 in der Tradition”, EstB 55 (1997), 29–52. The next step was to test the historical value of this hermeneutical construct. Is

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