Our Sunday Visitor
Early and often did God send messengers to them
Reading I : 2 Chronicles 36:14-17, 19-29
- The Second Book of Chronicles was written after the Babylonian exile as a reinterpretation of history for the new situation in which the people found themselves.
- A major focus of hope for the returned community was the rebuilt temple, a sign of the return of God’s presence.
- The people saw the destruction of the former temple as a punishment for their sins and a fulfillment of the prophets’ warnings.
SOURCE: Content adapted from Our Sunday Visitor
The Catholic Study Bible Notes
Last three kings of Judah
The Chronicler evaluates the last three kings of Judah (Jehoiachin, Jehoiakim, and Zedekiah) negatively (2 Chr 36:5–14). After an editorial comment explaining the cause of the exile (36:15–21), the book ends with the decree of Cyrus that calls for the restoration of Jerusalem and the rebuilding of its Temple (36:22–23).
SOURCE: Content taken from The Catholic Study Bible Notes ; Donald Senior, CP, John J. Collins, Mary Ann Gettyr; Copyright © 2016. Oxford University Press; 3rd edition. All rights reserved.
Repentance was in short supply
The chronicler reminds us that nothing of what was happening was occurring without warning. Whenever a king made a bad decision, a prophet would appear, telling him exactly what God thought about his actions. But repentance was in short supply. The kings of Judah mocked God's messengers and despised his words. Finally, there was no remedy. It was too late for the nation to escape God's punishment.
SOURCE: Content taken from Holman Old Testament Commentary Series (20 Volume Set); Holman Reference Editorial Staff (Author); Copyright © 2009. Holman Reference. All rights reserved.
The Biblical Imagination
No commentary for this week.
God's Justice Bible
Failure to Obey
2 Chronicles 36:15–21 Again the question is asked: “Is the Lord at fault for the exile and the burning of the temple?” The answer from this summarizing text is a resounding no. From very early on, the Lord sent prophet after prophet to teach and remind the nation how to live in order to enjoy God’s protection and blessing. The nation did not listen. On multiple occasions, the Lord delivered the Israelites from many enemies and gave them incredible victories. Soon after they would abandon God, mock the prophets and serve other gods. God was left with no other choice but a severe judgment. If the issue is God’s justice, yes, God is just in his judgment, letting Nebuchadnezzar destroy the nation.
SOURCE: Content taken from GOD'S JUSTICE BIBLE: The flourishing of Creation & the Destruction of Evil notes by Tim Stafford; Copyright © 2016. Zondervan. All rights reserved.
Life Recovery Bible
2 Chronicles 36:22-23 These chronicles of woe and doom end with a note of amazing hope. Jerusalem had been destroyed; the Temple had been torn down; the nation had been defeated; the population had been exiled. Yet the chronicler leaves a burning challenge before God’s people. From their exile in Babylon, they were given an opportunity to rebuild, renew, recover, and restore. The books of Chronicles were written for people who had returned to rebuild their Temple and nation.
This final passage would show them that despite their ancestors’ failures, God is faithful to his promises. He would help them recover from centuries of failure. God holds out the same opportunity for us. With his help, we, too, can pursue and succeed in recovery.
SOURCE: Content taken from THE LIFE RECOVERY BIBLE notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.
Life Application Study Bible
36:16 God warned Judah about its sin and continually restored the people to his favor, only to have them turn away. Eventually the situation was beyond remedy. Beware of harboring sin in your heart. The day will come when remedy is no longer possible and God’s judgment replaces his mercy. Sin often repeated, but never repented of, invites disaster.
36:21 Leviticus 26:27–45 strikingly predicts the captivity, telling how God’s people would be torn from their land for disobeying him. One of the laws they had ignored stated that one year in every seven the land should lie fallow, resting from producing crops (Exodus 23:10, 11). The 70-year captivity allowed the land to rest, making up for all the years the Israelites had not observed this law. We know that God keeps all his promises—not only his promises of blessing, but also his promises of judgment.
36:22, 23 Second Chronicles focuses on the rise and fall of the worship of God as symbolized by the Jerusalem temple. David planned the temple; Solomon built it and then put on the greatest dedication service the world had ever seen. Worship in the temple was superbly organized. But several evil kings defiled the temple and degraded worship so that the people revered idols more highly than God. Finally, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon destroyed the temple (36:19). The kings were gone, the temple was destroyed, and the people were removed. The nation was stripped to its very foundation. But fortunately there was a greater foundation—God himself. When everything in life seems stripped away from us, we too still have God—his Word, his presence, and his promises.
SOURCE: Content taken from LIFE APPLICATION STUDY BIBLE NOTES, Copyright © 2019. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.
CATHOLIC Bible Study
The Babylonian Exile and the Return
by Michal Hunt (Agape Bible Study)
Thus far, the First Readings for each of Lent’s Sunday Readings provided a review of the high points of salvation history. The Frist Readings have covered God’s covenant with Noah and Creation after the flood, His covenant promises to Abraham after his ordeal of faith, and His covenant promises to Israel at Mt. Sinai. Today’s First Reading recalls the Davidic Kingdom’s destruction, a kingdom that God promised David would endure forever (2 Sam 7:16, 29; 23:5; 2 Chron 13:5; Ps 89:2-5; Sir 45:25). See the list of God’s covenants. In God’s judgment against Judah’s citizens who had abandoned His Covenant, He used the Babylonian army as His instrument of judgment, allowing them to destroy the Jerusalem Temple and take the people into exile in pagan Babylon. However, God did not reject His people. Centuries earlier, through the prophet Isaiah, He gave them the promise of returning to their homeland, fulfilled through a pagan king named Cyrus that God used as His instrument of restoration.
God’s judgment against Judah
The citizens of the Kingdom of Judah failed to repent their personal sins and their communal sin of apostasy from their covenant with Yahweh despite the many warnings by God’s holy prophets of an impending divine judgment. Their failure led to God’s judgment against the Kingdom of Judah, using the Babylonian army as the instrument of His divine punishment. Among the prophets the inspired writer had in mind in verse 16 were the 8th-century BC prophet Isaiah and the 6th-century BC prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel. In the summer of 587 BC, the Babylonians attacked and destroyed Jerusalem and the magnificent Temple of Yahweh built by David’s son, King Solomon (2 Kng 24:18-25:30; Jer 52:12-30). Most of the surviving citizens were taken away as captives to Babylonia to join Judeans exiled in two earlier deportations in 605 and 598 BC.
The Seventy Years
21 All this was to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah: “Until the land has retrieved its lost Sabbaths, during all the time it lies waste it shall have rest while seventy years are fulfilled.”
God commanded the seventy years’ exile punishment in the 6th century BC through the prophet Jeremiah (Jer 25:11 and 29:10). Seventy years was the number of Sabbath years of rest the citizens of Judah failed to observe according to the Law:
The LORD said to Moses on Mount Sinai, “Speak to the Israelites and tell them: When you enter the land that I am giving you, let the land, too, keep a Sabbath for the LORD. For six years, you may sow your field, and for six years, prune your vineyard, gathering their produce. But during the seventh year, the land shall have a complete rest, a Sabbath for the LORD, when you may neither sow your field nor prune your vineyard” (Lev 25:1-4).
The Sabbath year was a test of faith and obedience in which the people had to rely on God to meet their food needs. The people failed to keep the Sabbath years, and therefore, they owed God’s land seventy years of complete rest, which became the duration of the exile that was a communal penance for the people. The seventy years appear to run from the fall of Jerusalem in 587 to the Temple’s rebuilding in 517 BC, with funds provided by Cyrus of Persia.
22 In the first year of Cyrus, King of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD inspired King Cyrus of Persia to issue this proclamation throughout his kingdom, but by word of mouth and in writing: 23 “Thus says Cyrus, King of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth the LORD, the God of Heaven, has given to me, and he has also charged me to build him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever, therefore, among you belongs to any part of his people, let him go up, and may his God be with him!”
The 8th-century BC prophet Isaiah was the first to deliver God’s message that a king named Cyrus was to liberate God’s covenant people from exile (Is 44:26-45:7). This prophecy was fulfilled historically in King Cyrus of Persia (ruled 539-530 BC). The conquest of Babylon by Cyrus dates from the fall of 539 BC. In the first year of his reign over a united Persia, Cyrus issued an edict in the fall of 538 BC, commanding the return of Judah’s citizens to their homeland (also see Ezra 1:1-4).
The promised line of David
For the covenant people, the blinding of Davidic King Zedekiah and the death of his sons appeared to be the failure of God’s covenant promise to King David that a Davidic son would sit on the throne of his kingdom forever (2 Sam 7:12-16, 29; 23:5; Sir 45:25; 47:11/13). However, the inspired writer of 2 Kings 25:27-30 recorded that a Davidic heir did survive (also see Jer 52:31-34). And we learn from Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus (Mt 1:12-17) and the genealogy in the Gospel of Luke (Lk 3:23-31) that the promised line of David did continue.
Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled the covenant God made with David, as the angel told Mary:
“Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his Kingdom there will be no end” (Lk 1:31-33).
Jesus is the eternal King who came to call all those displaced by sin in their relationship with God back from exile and to full restoration as citizens in the Promised Land of His eternal Kingdom.
SOURCE: content taken from Michal E. Hunt at Agape Bible Study; used with permission. titles added.
Points to consider
- The crash course in salvation history continues. The writers of Chronicles brought their spiritual hindsight to bear on the glories and tragedies of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah several centuries after the fact.
- The first time through, the passage reads like a dry history lesson from a far-off and forgotten place. A kingdom, practicing all the abominations of the nations, is destroyed, and its people carried captive to Babylon, but then the captive nation is given a second chance. But why should we care?
- The God of Israel and Judah is the same God whom we adore today, who favored this out-of-the-way people whose undying faith we share, who consecrated the temple in Jerusalem and sent messengers to them. This God has a patience that was stretched to the limit.
- This is a God who was inflamed with anger against them, because they despised his warnings and scoffed at his prophets. I am especially touched by the description of the destruction of the house of God, the walls of Jerusalem, the palaces and precious objects, but above all the reduction of the people to servants of the king of the Chaldeans. I will find the sympathetic voice I need.
- But this God did not disappear when the holy sanctuary was obliterated. He had compassion on his people and his dwelling place. Everything happened to fulfill the word of the Lord.
- Finally there is the command that sounds more like an invitation, and that like the psalm verse “seemed like a dream.” A pagan king, Cyrus of Persia, pays tribute to the God of heaven, and says that he has charged me to build him a house in Jerusalem. The final words of commendation are once again appropriate for a rejoicing day in Lent: Let him go up, and may his God be with him!
- Climax: Jeremiah’s words are central here. Until the land has retrieved its lost Sabbaths it shall have rest. Let me pronounce them as sentencing judges might.
- Message for our assembly: Can we learn to be patient, as our God is patient and compassionate?
- I will challenge myself: To speak in the same faith with which the scribes wrote, a vibrant faith in God who acts through all of history, who suffers the rejection of his creatures, but will see to it that the chosen people lives again.
Judah’s fall from greatness
Ask the presider to tell your listeners (or tell them yourself):
A historical writer gives a summary of Judah’s fall from greatness, its exile in Babylon, and their causes. His hope for the people is that they’ll return to worship in fidelity.
Our Liturgical Setting
Today’s gospel, John 3:14-21, contains, among other things, this lament: “The light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light.” Resonating with this in the first reading, we find “But they mocked the messengers of God, despised his warnings, and scoffed at his prophets, …”
Scholars call the anonymous author of this book the Chronicler. He writes, well after the facts, of the period from 1030 BCE to 550 BCE, from the reign of Israel’s first king, Saul, to the end of Judah’s exile in Babylon. He knows that there will never again be a powerful Jewish state on the world stage, and the people cannot again attach their identity to an exalted nationalism. If they are to keep their identity, it has to be in religious terms alone, in allegiance to the God of their ancestors, and, as much as practically possible, by practice of the rituals of their predecessors, focused on a renewal of worship in the Jerusalem temple.
Today’s reading begins, pivots and ends with references to that temple. (Further, 2 Chronicles ends with verse 36:23, but the very next book, Ezra (originally continuous with 1 & 2 Chronicles, and the book of Nehemiah), begins with Cyrus sending the exiles home and specifying “Let every [exile] who has survived, in whatever place he may have dwelt, be assisted by the people of that place with silver, gold, goods, and cattle, together with free-will offerings for the house of God in Jerusalem.”
So taken as a whole, between these “bookends,” the passage is about how the people’s infidelities caused them to lose the temple and their homeland, and how God arranged, through the pagan king of Persia, no less, for them to “retrieve their lost sabbaths.” It’s a short, sad summary of a long period, with a hopeful ending. And it’s told with a definite point-of-view, the conviction that right worship will restore the people.
Proclaiming the Passage
So how shall you read this aloud to the congregation? For one thing, in view of the Chronicler’s hope that restored worship will restore the people, emphasize the references to the temple. In the New American Bible translation used in most Catholic churches in the U.S.A., those are:
- “the LORD’s temple” in the first paragraph,
- “his dwelling place” in the second,
- “the house of God” in the second,
- “until the land has retrieved its lost sabbaths” near the end of the second paragraph,
- “charged me to build him a house” near the end of the selection.
Do the first two paragraphs like a storyteller. That’s what you are in this case. These paragraphs are a summary without much detail. Tell this part of the story like you’re preparing your audience for a something startling. You’re just laying the groundwork here. Slow down dramatically when you reach the summary statement, “All this was to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah …”
Then recite the Cyrus paragraph differently. Make the people sit up and take notice. For God to use a pagan king this way is simply unheard of. It reveals something about the scope of God’s power and plan that Judah just couldn’t anticipate. These people had done everything in their power to disappoint God and annul their covenant. Yet God’s desire to maintain and renew the covenant will not be thwarted, even if it means employing a pagan king. Let the astonishment be heard in your voice. Of course, for the Chronicler the point is Cyrus’ conviction that God has “charged me to build him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah.”
Jesus and Isaac: Two Beloved Sons
Jesus is depicted as the fulfillment of many Old Testament types, such as Adam, Moses, David, Elijah, Elisha, Joseph, and so on. In this week’s video see some of the types Jesus is fulfilling in the readings for the 2nd Sunday of Lent, in particular Jesus being a New Isaac.Check out this video with Dr. Brant Pitre to learn more.
THE JERUSALEM WATCH
Babylonian Conquest and Destruction of the First Temple
Learn more about the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem and the events that led up to the First Temple’s destruction.
The City of David (the true location of the ancient Biblical Jerusalem – 2 Samuel 5:7) is now rising from the dust as foretold by Isaiah (52:2) through the archaeological excavations.