Monday, January 11, 2010

On Being and Becoming: The Kingdom of God as an Existential Posit Part III

As one notices that there is little provision for those nations “out there” in the wilderness for their access to the inner circle of holiness, as concerns the original Israelite covenant and this concentric circle paradigm, she might also realize that this more reflects the actuality of Israel and God’s concern with the outplay of covenantal being; Israel was that people who were meant to restore the harmony lost in Adam as an immanent and intermediary agent. With God at their head, Israel was meant to have a proclamatory stance to the world, but they were not doing this through their words or propaganda. No, they were to do this through their very lives – the very way in which they were being.

In seeking a view of God’s kingdom from a Jewish standpoint, one can imagine that this type of thinking was progressed in the age of the monarchy. Here, the temple replaces the tabernacle and national Israel replaces tribal Israel. Though one sees that God is no longer in the seat of the “king,” it is no less significant that the expectation of the king was always meant to be that agent of Divine will. God was still meant to be the head of the structure and His presence was still meant to be within Israel housed most specifically in the most holy place in the temple. Now, as one sees Israel’s identity get wrapped up in the idea of nationhood, it then collapses (to vastly over-simplify the details of their exile!). With the death of Josiah, one sees the nation Israel at the brink of collapse and their identity as the covenant people in jeopardy. It is here that some suggest the idea of nationhood begins to evolve in the face of such destruction. One biblical commentator, Robert Bolin, notes this about the evolving face of Israel’s nationhood in the context of exile:

"What began with Yahweh’s conquest (read “pacification”) of Canaan had issued most recently in Yahweh’s defeat and destruction of the northern nation-state (Dtr1). After the death of good King Josiah, the same was in process for the southern kingdom. It was about time to make a new start – with Yahweh the King of Israel."[1]

It is interesting that the conquered people do not look collectively to the earthly realm to fulfill the need for an overarching authority even when faced with their enemies, but they raise up God as an authority in response to, and one might argue in defiance of, a foreign authority. In conjunction with this, one might suggest that the priests’ role in the covenant community becomes heightened, if this truly is the time that a priestly addition was made to the Torah, so that the authority of Israel’s identity is housed within the confines of their religious or temple components. Thus, the idea of political countenance is relinquished, but the sovereignty of identity, of their being, becomes something unattainable by the foreign and pagan kings, for at the point of exile in the history of Israel, “the community of believers puts at the center of all decision-making the value of the individual, the quality of responsible life[…] and the willingness of the individual to be governed by ethic, to be ruled by the[…] ever-free and ever-reigning Lord.”[2] By transforming their nationhood into a borderless paradigm, Israel is then able to maintain a covenantal identity within the world; by making their reality more about Torah stipulations and obedience than earthly monarchal countenance, Israel is able to maintain a collectively psychological orientation to pureness and covenant as well as at least the hope, if not reality to some degree psychologically, of theocracy.

[1] Robert Bolin and G.E. Wright, Joshua. A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (New York: Doubleday, 1982), 545.

[2] Bolin, Joshua, 544.

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