Thursday, August 12, 2010

OT Gospel Doctrine Lesson #30 - Come to the House of the Lord

OT Gospel Doctrine Lesson #30 - Come to the House of the Lord
2 Chronicles 29-34

Sargon II, King of Assyria

The nations of Judah and Israel never reunite, even though they occasionally are close allies. Both struggle with wicked kings, however a righteous king occasionally appeared in Judah, as in the case of Jehoshaphat.

Israel’s Destruction

Israel’s sins continued, as they embraced Baal and other gods rather than Jehovah. Eventually, their sins caught up to them, and Israel was ripened in iniquity. In 721 BC, King Sargon II of Assyria and his son, Sennacherib, overran the nation of Israel and carried them off. Assyria was the new major power in the area. Their major rival was Egypt, and the land of Canaan, which included Israel and Judah, lay in between. The conquest of Canaan (also known as the Levant) also provided direct access to the spice trade route and the riches it held by taxing those who journeyed through the land. Sargon’s invasion was so intense that he was able to not only take Israel, but most of the land of Judah. Only Jerusalem and the land around it were spared. Later, Josiah would regain much of the land, including part of the land of Israel, reuniting the nations for a few decades.

The fall of Israel is not directly explained in the Bible. After the stories of Elijah and Elisha, we do not hear much about Israel’s history. However, Isaiah and others foresaw Israel’s downfall. Sargon II carried them off to other areas of the Assyrian Empire, and brought others to dwell in Israel and Samaria, its capitol.

Where did the Lost Ten Tribes go?

According to the Jewish historian Josephus, the Israelites remained in the lands of the Assyrians and continued to his day in those lands (Antiquity of the Jews, Book 11, Chapter V, Section 2). We do not know where he may have received his information.

[39] And as for your seeing him gather to himself another multitude that was peaceable,
[40] these are the ten tribes which were led away from their own land into captivity in the days of King Hoshea, whom Shalmaneser the king of the Assyrians led captive; he took them across the river, and they were taken into another land.
[41] But they formed this plan for themselves, that they would leave the multitude of the nations and go to a more distant region, where mankind had never lived,
[42] that there at least they might keep their statutes which they had not kept in their own land.
[43] And they went in by the narrow passages of the Euphrates river.
[44] For at that time the Most High performed signs for them, and stopped the channels of the river until they had passed over.
[45] Through that region there was a long way to go, a journey of a year and a half; and that country is called Arzareth.
[46] "Then they dwelt there until the last times; and now, when they are about to come again,
[47] the Most High will stop the channels of the river again, so that they may be able to pass over. Therefore you saw the multitude gathered together in peace. (2 Esdras 13:39-47)

Esdras is supposed to be the same Ezra we find in the Bible, though the Apocryphal books accorded to him probably were written much later. According to the above, many of the 10 Tribes of Israel organized themselves and did an Exodus to the north country. Where that northern country is, we do not know. Some speculate it may be in the lands of Russia and Europe. However, Benjamin Franklin Johnson, a good friend of Joseph Smith in Nauvoo, wrote in his journal that Joseph taught him:

“I can now see, as President George A. Smith afterwards said, that I was then really "the bosom friend and companion of the Prophet Joseph." I was as welcome at the Mansion as at my own house, and on one occasion when at a full table of his family and chosen friends, he placed me at his right hand and introduced me as his "friend, Brother B. F. Johnson, at whose house he sat at a better table than his own." Sometimes when at my house I asked him questions relating to past, present and future; some of his answers were taken by Brother William Clayton....Other questions were asked when Brother Clayton was not present, one of which I will relate: I asked where the nine and a half tribes of Israel were. "Well," said he, "you remember the old caldron or potash kettle you used to boil maple sap in for sugar, don't you?" I said yes. "Well," said he, "they are in the north pole in a concave just the shape of that kettle. And John the Revelator is with them, preparing them for their return." (Benjamin F. Johnson, My Life’s Review, pg 93)

Others gave other responses as to where they may possibly be. One story purported to President David O. McKay occured when asked by reporters if he knew where the Lost Tribes were, President David O. McKay answered he did. “They’re lost.” When the reporters pressed him further he told them that if he knew where they were, they wouldn’t be lost.

That the tribes will someday return is prophesied in ancient and modern revelation. In the Doctrine and Covenants 133, we read:

“26 And they who are in the north countries shall come in remembrance before the Lord; and their prophets shall hear his voice, and shall no longer stay themselves; and they shall smite the rocks, and the ice shall flow down at their presence.
27 And an highway shall be cast up in the midst of the great deep.
28 Their enemies shall become a prey unto them,
29 And in the barren deserts there shall come forth pools of living water; and the parched ground shall no longer be a thirsty land.
30 And they shall bring forth their rich treasures unto the children of Ephraim, my servants.
31 And the boundaries of the everlasting hills shall tremble at their presence.
32 And there shall they fall down and be crowned with glory, even in Zion, by the hands of the servants of the Lord, even the children of Ephraim.
33 And they shall be filled with songs of everlasting joy.
34 Behold, this is the blessing of the everlasting God upon the tribes of Israel, and the richer blessing upon the head of Ephraim and his fellows.
35 And they also of the tribe of Judah, after their pain, shall be sanctified in holiness before the Lord, to dwell in his presence day and night, forever and ever.”

Wherever they are, if this prophesy is to be literally understood, the Lost Tribes will have to cross the oceans and pass through an area of ice. They will return to the Americas first, where they will come to Ephraim (the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) and join with them in building Zion. Judah’s return shall occur later in Jerusalem at Jesus’ coming to them in power.

Ahaz’ Wicked Reign
2 Chronicle 28

Judah went through a period of wicked kings. Ahab and Jezebel’s son-in-law previously sat on the throne in Jerusalem and introduced Baal worship to the nation. Hezekiah’s own father, Ahaz, was wicked.

“2 For he (Ahaz) walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, and made also molten images for Baalim.
3 Moreover he burnt incense in the valley of the son of Hinnom, and burnt his children in the fire, after the abominations of the heathen whom the Lord had cast out before the children of Israel.
4 He sacrificed also and burnt incense in the high places, and on the hills, and under every green tree” (2 Chron 28).

The worship of Baalim, or the various incarnations of Baal, included prostitution and grave sexual sin. The worship of the Ammonite god Moloch (known as “the king”) required the passing of one’s children through fire. This could possibly have been to literally cook the children alive, or as a purification ritual where they were briefly passed through and if the child survived the ordeal was blessed by Moloch.

The “high places” were actually altars on mountains and other places that were set aside for sacred worship. This is the form of worship done by Abraham, Jacob, and even Lehi in the wilderness. However, it seems that Judah’s priests would soon seek to destroy these high places in order to focus worship at the central Temple in Jerusalem, where they could maintain control of the religion of Jehovah.

“Under every green tree” denotes worship of Asherah, the consort of Jehovah (also of Baal). In Jehovah worship, she was noted as the goddess of fertility and wisdom, and given deference. However, in Baal worship, she was given greater status for direct worship, and was charged with fertility rites associated with Baal worship.

So was Ahaz and Judah’s wickedness.

The Reign of Hezekiah
2 Chronicles 29-30

Hezekiah was greatly influenced by his mother and the Temple priests. He probably served as co-regent of Judah for a time with his father, and then became king at Ahaz’ death. During his youth, he saw Sargon destroy Israel and take much of the land of Judah. Along with the priests of the temple, he believed it was due to apostasy and heresy that such destruction occurred. Once Ahaz was dead, Hezekiah and the temple priests set out to purify Judah.

The priests sanctified the temple, removing all impurities. This would have included idols set in the temple by Ahaz and other kings.

“1 And Hezekiah sent to all Israel and Judah, and wrote letters also to Ephraim and Manasseh, that they should come to the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, to keep the passover unto the Lord God of Israel” (2 Chron 30).

This may well be the time when many from Ephraim and Manasseh, stragglers from the assault of Sargon and Sennacherib on Israel, to come to Jerusalem for a Passover, something that had not occurred in decades, if not a century or more. Those of Joseph would have brought with them their sacred records, for safekeeping. It is possible that this was the time when the Plates of Laban, the writings of the tribe of Joseph, made their way down to Jerusalem. It is also the approximate period when many Documentary Hypothesis scholars believe the writings of “E” (the Elohist) were brought to Jerusalem, to later be combined with the sacred writings of “J” that was written in Jerusalem, and incorporated later with other writings by Ezra (the Redactor) into what is now known as the earliest portions of the Bible. In fact, it was proposed by John Sorenson that the Plates of Laban may have been the original source for “E”!

After the Passover feast, the people returned to their own areas with zeal for Jehovah and his temple, destroying the high places and altars in the wilderness.

Sennacherib lays siege to Jerusalem
2 Chronicles 32

Pool of Siloam and Hezekiah’s Tunnel

Sennacherib now sat on his father’s throne in Assyria. The recalcitrant Hezekiah refused to give tribute to Assyria, or turn itself over to them. Instead, Hezekiah made a league with the Egyptians, hoping they would come to Jerusalem’s rescue. However, the Egyptians did not come. Jerusalem would have to face the Assyrians alone.

Hezekiah was a man with great foresight. He learned that the Assyrians besieged cities, starving the people, in order to make them capitulate. It was a patient game of seeing who could out-wait the other. Hezekiah prepared for the upcoming siege. He created one of the greatest waterworks projects of the day. There was water (waters of Gihon/Siloam pool) available just outside the walls of the city, but to get it inside in a manner that would keep the Assyrians from stopping it up meant digging underground. Hezekiah built the 1750 foot long Siloam tunnel to provide water to the people. He had workers digging from both ends, and it is still unknown how they managed to meet in the middle at the same place. The tunnel still exists, and tourists marvel as they walk the full distance through it.

Hezekiah and his prophet, Isaiah, prayed intensely that the Lord would stop the Assyrians. An angel causes discord among the Assyrian generals, and Sennacherib is forced to withdraw. Upon returning to Assyria, he is slain by his sons.

Manasseh reigns in wickedness
2 Chronicles 33

Hezekiah and Manasseh probably reigned together as co-regents for several years. Upon his death, Manasseh became king and drastically changed the order of things. He immediately left behind worshiping Jehovah, and embraced the idols and gods of the Canaanites.

“3 For he (Manasseh) built again the high places which Hezekiah his father had broken down, and he reared up altars for Baalim, and made groves, and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served them.
4 Also he built altars in the house of the Lord, whereof the Lord had said, In Jerusalem shall my name be for ever.
5 And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the Lord.
6 And he caused his children to pass through the fire in the valley of the son of Hinnom: also he observed times, and used enchantments, and used witchcraft, and dealt with a familiar spirit, and with wizards: he wrought much evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke him to anger.”

Manasseh placed idols in the temple of Jehovah. No longer was Jehovah the only God of Israel, but he had to share his space with other gods. The “host of heaven” would have been gods to the Sun, Moon and planets - perhaps influenced by the Phoenicians or Egyptians. We’ve mentioned above how Ahaz worshiped Moloch and had the children pass through fire. We now see Manasseh resurrecting the worship of Ahaz, his grandfather.

“9 But they hearkened not: and Manasseh seduced them to do more evil than did the nations whom the Lord destroyed before the children of Israel” (2 Kings 21).

There is a major difference between 2 Chronicles 33 and 2 Kings 21 in their treatment of Manasseh. Chronicles states that the Assyrians carried him off in chains to Assyria, where he remained a few years until he repented and turned back to God. He then returned to Jerusalem, where he destroyed all the idols and evils in the land, except for the high places built to worship Jehovah.

Meanwhile, 2 Kings does not note his repentance or change of heart. It just states that he sinned all his days, and then slept with his fathers. Jewish tradition says that Jeremiah wrote Kings, and Ezra wrote Chronicles. We get differences here on a few levels. First, one was written before the Diaspora of the Jews, and the other written after their return from Babylon. Second, Jeremiah was not beholden to the Davidic line of kings, as he dealt harshly with Zedekiah and several others of the kings, while Ezra attempted to answer the questions of the remnant on why there was a destruction, but to still hang onto the concept of a royal Davidic line.

We can see an internal problem with 2 Chronicles 33. It claims that the repentant Manasseh destroyed all the images out of Judah, yet when his son, Amon, became king:

“But he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, as did Manasseh his father: for Amon sacrificed unto all the carved images which Manasseh his father had made, and served them” (2 Chron 33:22).

How could he worship the images Manasseh had made, if they were all destroyed? Obviously, Manasseh did not destroy all the images of Baal and the hosts of heaven.

Amon did not last long. His evils towards Jehovah and the people, caused the palace servants to assassinate him, opening the door for Josiah.

Josiah the Righteous
2 Chronicles 34-35

“And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the ways of David his father, and declined neither to the right hand, nor to the left. For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet young, he began to seek after the God of David his father” (2 Chron 34:2-3).

Josiah is the new King David. He can do no wrong in the eyes of the Chronicler. Becoming king at the age of eight, he is handled, managed, and trained by the Temple priests to ensure no more heresy nor apostasy would occur. By the time he was 20, he had retaken much of the lands of Judah and Israel, and went through them purging them of the idols, high places, and Baalim that were found. He slew the priests of Baal and the other gods, desecrating the altars by burning their bones upon them.

His next task was to cleanse and repair the temple. In repairing it after decades of abuse and misuse, we are told that the “book of the law” was found. The book was read to Josiah, who rent his clothes, because he knew the people were not following the laws given by God. This book is now believed to be the Book of Deuteronomy by most scholars. However, most scholars also believe that the Book of Deuteronomy delivered to Josiah was not the original book of Deuteronomy. According to the Documentary Hypothesis, the temple priests took early writings, perhaps found in the temple, and rewrote them. However, they lengthened the book, amplifying many concepts and sections to support their current political stances regarding obedience, the temple and Jehovah. They created a book that seemed to suggest that Moses demanded all sacrifice be performed only at the temple. It established many of the laws we now see as part of the Mosaic Law.

These “Deuteronomists” also reformed the temple rites. According to Margaret Barker and other Biblical scholars, the rites included the Tree of Life representing the consort of God, angels, and miracles. The Deuteronomists removed such things from the temple liturgy. I planned to discuss more on this in-depth, but David Larsen does an excellent discussion on the topic of Hezekiah’s and Josiah’s reformations on his blog, so I’ll refer you there (see bibliography).

One thing we do find is that Josiah was very managed by the temple priests. However, given the circumstances, he sought to diligently follow Jehovah and serve him to the best of his ability. Josiah called for a Passover, and commanded Jews everywhere to attend. It is described as the biggest event in Jewish history to that point. Jeremiah was the chief prophet at the time, and was pleased with the good works that Josiah sought to do.

Interestingly, when the Egyptians finally did show up to fight the Assyrian/Babylonian Empire, Josiah went out to fight the Egyptians! Yet, Pharaoh Necho warned Josiah:

20 After all this, when Josiah had prepared the temple, Necho king of Egypt came up to fight against Carchemish (the capitol of the Assyrians) by Euphrates: and Josiah went out against him.
21 But he sent ambassadors to him, saying, What have I to do with thee, thou king of Judah? I come not against thee this day, but against the house wherewith I have war: for God commanded me to make haste: forbear thee from meddling with God, who is with me, that he destroy thee not.
22 Nevertheless Josiah would not turn his face from him, but disguised himself, that he might fight with him, and hearkened not unto the words of Necho from the mouth of God, and came to fight in the valley of Megiddo.
23 And the archers shot at king Josiah; and the king said to his servants, Have me away; for I am sore wounded.

Necho had permission from God, Jehovah, to fight the Assyrian/Babylonian armies, but Josiah would not believe him. Josiah died, and Jeremiah mourned him, knowing that there would not be another righteous king of Judah, nor a king who would listen to Jeremiah’s counsel.


Hezekiah - Wikipedia:

Isaiah’s prophesy of Israel’s downfall and events leading to it:

2 Esdras (from the Apocrypha):

Moloch in Wikipedia:

The Documentary Hypothesis by Kevin Barney:

Hezekiah’s Tunnel:

David Larsen’s Heavenly Ascents on Josiah’s Reformations:

Margaret Barker on the Josian Reforms:

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