Saturday, July 15, 2006

Introductory Notes to the Isaiah Servant Songs and the Jubilee

In the comments section of my last post Mr. Randle suggested I do some biblical exegesis. He suggested Isaiah 53:5. So I'll use that verse and the Isaiah Servant Songs as a general inspiration and focus. There's a lot of material to go over so don't expect anything like a linear article, it'll just be an outline, notes and comments.

1. In this study I'll be generally following Rene Girard's mimetic theory (summary from Girardian Lectionary) and Margaret Barker's research into first temple symbolism.

2. Isaiah and Jubilee

Leviticus 25 deals with the jubilee system. A ram's horn was used as a trumpet to announce the year of jubilee. The jubilee year came at the end of the cycle of Sabbatical years. Leviticus 25 states it's the 50th year, but others believe it may have been the 49th. In this year liberty was proclaimed to Israelites who had become enslaved to debt and land was restored to families who because of economic need had been forced to sell in the previous 50 years. Most of this is based on Margaret Barker's article "The Time is Fulfilled; Jesus and the Jubilee" (pdf) and the Anchor Bible Dictionary and a Qumran dictionary.

Things I find particularly noteworthy from Barker's article:


The Jubilee, the Sabbath of Sabbaths, was proclaimed on the Day of Atonement (Lev.25.9) and so the custom of Jubilee must be understood in this context. Since atonement was itself a rite which restored the eternal covenant and enabled the whole creation, not just the community of Israel, to be restored to its original state3, the Jubilee was a practical application of the atonement. The key figure in the rite of atonement was the high priest who was the visible presence of the LORD on earth 4, and, just as the LORD had ordered the creation at the beginning, so he recreated it on the Day of Atonement at the New Year. The Jubilee recreated society by restoring people to their own land and by removing the burden of slavery and debt.

"The Jubilee was closely linked to the role of the Servant of the LORD, Isaiah’s depiction of the royal high priest of the first temple."

"Isaiah 61.1-9 is a significant Jubilee passage; someone anointed with the Spirit is to bring good tidings to the poor, comfort the broken hearted and proclaim liberty, deror, to captives."

"Daniel’s seventy weeks of years were reckoned from this time ‘when the word went forth to restore and rebuild Jerusalem’ (Dan.9.25), and the seventy weeks of years were to end when transgression, sin and iniquity were finally removed and Jerusalem was destroyed (Dan.9.24,26). The Day of Atonement was also the Day of the LORD, the Day of Judgement13. The description indicates a final Day of Atonement when prophecy and visions are fulfilled and the Anointed One appears.
The seventy weeks of years, 490 years, were ten Jubilees, and the alternative way of reckoning this period was as ten Jubilees. Jewish tradition remembered that the 490 years ended in 68CE; calculation from the second temple Jubilee sequence beginning in 424BCE gives 66CE. A two year discrepancy is hardly significant in the light of what this implies, namely that the tenth Jubilee began in 17/19 CE. In other words, tenth Jubilee fervour and expectations were the context for the ministry of Jesus."

"The liberty of the Jubilee is interpreted as release from iniquities, the beginning of the atonement which will occur on the Day of Atonement at the end of the tenth Jubilee. The return and the release from iniquity were to happen in the first week, the first seven years, of the tenth Jubilee i.e. approximately 19-26 CE. If Jesus was born in 7/6 BCE15 and was baptised when he was about thirty years old (Luke 3.23), he began his ministry during the crucial first ‘week’ of the tenth Jubilee."

So the themes/subjects I'll be continuing to explore are the Isaiah Servant Songs, the Jubilee, the connection between Jesus and Melchizedek, the Day of Atonement and whatever else I'll find interesting.

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