25 October 2007

re-gathering of israel :2

Chapter Two of Michael Fuller’s work, The Restoration of Israel: Israel’s Re-gathering and the Fate of the Nations in Early Jewish Literature and Luke-Acts (Berlin: Walter deGruyter, 2006), is entitled ‘The Fate of the Nations and Other Enemies’ as it seeks to explore the nature of Israel’s position following its restoration over the surrounding nations. Again, this serves as a backdrop for the presentation of such themes in Luke-Acts. As Fuller rightly states, ‘When Israel envisioned her future, she could not do so without thinking of her enemies’ (102). This builds upon N. T. Wright’s position regarding the exile that ‘the fate of the nations was inexorably and irreversibly bound up with that of Israel’ (NTW, NTPG, 268 - Fuller, 103).

There are a number of interesting points which are raised in this chapter, bouncing between a more favorable view of the nations and one which envisions their destruction. Such views are dependent upon the origin of the perspective - different groups have nuance upon somewhat similar themes of restoration and re-gathering. And, of course, this is part of Fuller’s argument at this point of the thesis, which he explores and develops throughout the chapter.

The author begins with the defeat of the nations as perhaps the most dominant and consistent view within the early Jewish texts regarding restoration (111f.). How the defeat would play out is open to a wide range of diverse opinion, but the overarching expectation of yhwh’s subjection of the nations to the eschatological kingdom of Israel seems to remain (cf. 112). And central to this was the coming Davidic messiah who would facilitate this reality (113-114).

Fuller’s claim is that the OT in general looks to the historic restoration of Israel, which was generally expected to happen in conjunction with the defeat of the nations (114). He quotes Ralph Klein, ‘The destruction of the nations is the beginning of Israel’s salvation. No longer will the nations hurt Israel’ (115). With this statement, Fuller’s thesis makes clear the underlying link between the restoration of Israel and the defeat of the nations as an ultimate outcome. However, the historical circumstances must also accommodate for a certain level of acceptance of the nations as part of the divine will for the overarching restoration (116-117). Most notably, the author states, is the emerging acceptance of the belief that God has appointed Persia for carrying out that which is necessary for Israel’s restoration, specifically the divine punishment which came from the exile. Such is God’s appointment of Persia ‘to oversee Israel’s restoration and to rule over the world’ (117).

The fifth section of this chapter builds upon these emerging themes while exploring the perceived role of Israel as a military entity in the context of the nations. Specifically, he deals with 1 Maccabees and The War Scroll (with an excursus on the conversion of the Gentiles, which I will take up another posting). In the writings found in 1 Maccabees there is a focus forward to ‘a more definitive and exalted’ era found in the future age (119). The political motivation which is exhibited here is drawn from a zeal to honor God’s covenant and to bring about the messianic kingdom through military means. As Fuller points out, the notion of honoring the covenant is found in the scope of the Maccabean revolution: ‘The author of 1 Maccabees understands Israel’s enemies to be both the nations and sinful Jews’ (122, emphasis mine). All of this is built upon the hope of a re-established temple (home to the re-gathered people) as the symbol for the eschatological kingdom (123). Thus, the desire is for the righteous - Jew and Gentile - who will participate in the eschatological (re-gathered) covenant kingdom.

[skip “5.2 Excursus: Conversion of Gentiles as Subjugation” to be taken up later]

The War Scroll is discussed next, showing (as one would expect from the Qumran community) a more cosmic-oriented description of the coming victory (135ff.). Of special note is the Kittim, described by Fuller as the archenemy of Israel which would emerge at the end of the war (138). The War Scroll also looks to the coming of a heavenly army which would join with those in Israel to bring about the final era of Israel - an eschatological and renewed Israel (cf. 141-143). ‘. . .the time of Israel’s eschatological victory over her enemies is also the time of her final ingathering’ (144, emphasis in original).

From this point of the chapter, Fuller looks at divine intervention as an important part of the story. This will be our starting point in the next post.

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