17 August 2017 Bible Reading
Today’s reading in Nehemiah tells of the dedication of the Temple after the return from exile in Babylon. Can Judaism exist without a Temple, Levites and the sacrificial system? Today, there is no Temple, no sacrifice, and no idea of tribal affiliation. Conservative and Orthodox Jews still acknowledge the three-fold division of ancient Israel into Kohanim, Leviim and Yisraelim. Reform Jews, on the other hand, do not believe any congregant should have a different status than another, and therefore do not acknowledge these divisions.
These groupings began with the division of the Jewish nation among the twelve children of Jacob, one of whom was Levi. The tribe of Levi was designated for a special role of Divine service. When the Torah addresses the Levites at the beginning of Numbers, they are set apart from the rest of the Israelites. God tells Moses not to include them in the census of the tribes, and the Torah lists no chief as their leader. Their function is not to defend the camp or participate in the conquest of the land, but to guard the Tabernacle from human defilement.
27 At the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought the Levites out of all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem, to keep the dedication with gladness, both with giving thanks, and with singing, with cymbals, stringed instruments, and with harps. 28 The sons of the singers gathered themselves together, both out of the plain around Jerusalem, and from the villages of the Netophathites; 29 also from Beth Gilgal, and out of the fields of Geba and Azmaveth: for the singers had built them villages around Jerusalem. 30 The priests and the Levites purified themselves; and they purified the people, and the gates, and the wall. 31 Then I brought up the princes of Judah on the wall, and appointed two great companies who gave thanks and went in procession. One went on the right hand on the wall toward the dung gate; 32 and after them went Hoshaiah, and half of the princes of Judah, 33 and Azariah, Ezra, and Meshullam, 34 Judah, and Benjamin, and Shemaiah, and Jeremiah, 35 and certain of the priests’ sons with trumpets: Zechariah the son of Jonathan, the son of Shemaiah, the son of Mattaniah, the son of Micaiah, the son of Zaccur, the son of Asaph; 36 and his brothers, Shemaiah, and Azarel, Milalai, Gilalai, Maai, Nethanel, and Judah, Hanani, with the musical instruments of David the man of God; and Ezra the scribe was before them. 37 By the spring gate, and straight before them, they went up by the stairs of David’s city, at the ascent of the wall, above David’s house, even to the water gate eastward. 38 The other company of those who gave thanks went to meet them, and I after them, with the half of the people, on the wall, above the tower of the furnaces, even to the wide wall, 39 and above the gate of Ephraim, and by the old gate, and by the fish gate, and the tower of Hananel, and the tower of Hammeah, even to the sheep gate: and they stood still in the gate of the guard. 40 So stood the two companies of those who gave thanks in God’s house, and I, and the half of the rulers with me; 41 and the priests, Eliakim, Maaseiah, Miniamin, Micaiah, Elioenai, Zechariah, and Hananiah, with trumpets; 42 and Maaseiah, and Shemaiah, and Eleazar, and Uzzi, and Jehohanan, and Malchijah, and Elam, and Ezer. The singers sang loud, with Jezrahiah their overseer. 43 They offered great sacrifices that day, and rejoiced; for God had made them rejoice with great joy; and the women also and the children rejoiced: so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard even afar off. 44 On that day were men appointed over the rooms for the treasures, for the wave offerings, for the first fruits, and for the tithes, to gather into them, according to the fields of the cities, the portions appointed by the law for the priests and Levites: for Judah rejoiced for the priests and for the Levites who waited. 45 They performed the duty of their God, and the duty of the purification, and so did the singers and the porters, according to the commandment of David, and of Solomon his son. 46 For in the days of David and Asaph of old there was a chief of the singers, and songs of praise and thanksgiving to God. 47 All Israel in the days of Zerubbabel, and in the days of Nehemiah, gave the portions of the singers and the porters, as every day required: and they set apart that which was for the Levites; and the Levites set apart that which was for the sons of Aaron.
13 On that day they read in the book of Moses in the audience of the people; and therein was found written, that an Ammonite and a Moabite should not enter into the assembly of God forever, 2 because they didn’t meet the children of Israel with bread and with water, but hired Balaam against them, to curse them: however our God turned the curse into a blessing. 3 It came to pass, when they had heard the law, that they separated from Israel all the mixed multitude. 4 Now before this, Eliashib the priest, who was appointed over the rooms of the house of our God, being allied to Tobiah, 5 had prepared for him a great room, where before they laid the meal offerings, the frankincense, and the vessels, and the tithes of the grain, the new wine, and the oil, which were given by commandment to the Levites, and the singers, and the porters; and the wave offerings for the priests. 6 But in all this, I was not at Jerusalem; for in the two and thirtieth year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon I went to the king: and after certain days asked I leave of the king, 7 and I came to Jerusalem, and understood the evil that Eliashib had done for Tobiah, in preparing him a room in the courts of God’s house. 8 It grieved me severely: therefore I threw all the household stuff of Tobiah out of the room. 9 Then I commanded, and they cleansed the rooms: and there brought I again the vessels of God’s house, with the meal offerings and the frankincense. 10 I perceived that the portions of the Levites had not been given them; so that the Levites and the singers, who did the work, had fled everyone to his field. 11 Then I contended with the rulers, and said, “Why is God’s house forsaken?” I gathered them together, and set them in their place. 12 Then brought all Judah the tithe of the grain and the new wine and the oil to the treasuries. 13 I made treasurers over the treasuries, Shelemiah the priest, and Zadok the scribe, and of the Levites, Pedaiah: and next to them was Hanan the son of Zaccur, the son of Mattaniah; for they were counted faithful, and their business was to distribute to their brothers. 14 Remember me, my God, concerning this, and don’t wipe out my good deeds that I have done for the house of my God, and for its observances. 15 In those days saw I in Judah some men treading wine presses on the Sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and loading donkeys; as also wine, grapes, and figs, and all kinds of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day: and I testified against them in the day in which they sold food. 16 There lived men of Tyre also therein, who brought in fish, and all kinds of wares, and sold on the Sabbath to the children of Judah, and in Jerusalem. 17 Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and said to them, “What evil thing is this that you do, and profane the Sabbath day? 18 Didn’t your fathers do thus, and didn’t our God bring all this evil on us, and on this city? Yet you bring more wrath on Israel by profaning the Sabbath.”
19 It came to pass that, when the gates of Jerusalem began to be dark before the Sabbath, I commanded that the doors should be shut, and commanded that they should not be opened until after the Sabbath. I set some of my servants over the gates, that no burden should be brought in on the Sabbath day. 20 So the merchants and sellers of all kinds of wares camped outside of Jerusalem once or twice. 21 Then I testified against them, and said to them, “Why do you stay around the wall? If you do so again, I will lay hands on you.” From that time on, they didn’t come on the Sabbath. 22 I commanded the Levites that they should purify themselves, and that they should come and keep the gates, to sanctify the Sabbath day. Remember to me, my God, this also, and spare me according to the greatness of your loving kindness. 23 In those days also saw I the Jews who had married women of Ashdod, of Ammon, and of Moab: 24 and their children spoke half in the speech of Ashdod, and could not speak in the Jews’ language, but according to the language of each people. 25 I contended with them, and cursed them, and struck certain of them, and plucked off their hair, and made them swear by God, “You shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor take their daughters for your sons, or for yourselves. 26 Didn’t Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? Yet among many nations was there no king like him, and he was beloved of his God, and God made him king over all Israel. Nevertheless foreign women caused even him to sin. 27 Shall we then listen to you to do all this great evil, to trespass against our God in marrying foreign women?”
28 One of the sons of Joiada, the son of Eliashib the high priest, was son-in-law to Sanballat the Horonite: therefore I chased him from me. 29 Remember them, my God, because they have defiled the priesthood, and the covenant of the priesthood, and of the Levites. 30 Thus I cleansed them from all foreigners, and appointed duties for the priests and for the Levites, everyone in his work; 31 and for the wood offering, at times appointed, and for the first fruits. Remember me, my God, for good.
1 Corinthians 11:3-16
3 But I would have you know that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is the man, and the head of Christ is God. 4 Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head. 5 But every woman praying or prophesying with her head unveiled dishonors her head. For it is one and the same thing as if she were shaved. 6 For if a woman is not covered, let her hair also be cut off. But if it is shameful for a woman to be have her hair cut off or shaved, let her be covered. 7 For a man indeed ought not to have his head covered, because he is the image and glory of God, but the woman is the glory of the man. 8 For man is not from woman, but woman from man; 9 for man wasn’t created for the woman, but woman for the man. 10 For this cause the woman ought to have authority on her head, because of the angels.
11 Nevertheless, neither is the woman independent of the man, nor the man independent of the woman, in the Lord. 12 For as woman came from man, so a man also comes through a woman; but all things are from God. 13 Judge for yourselves. Is it appropriate that a woman pray to God unveiled? 14 Doesn’t even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him? 15 But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her, for her hair is given to her for a covering. 16 But if any man seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither do God’s assemblies.
35 Contend, Yahweh, with those who contend with me.
Fight against those who fight against me.
2 Take hold of shield and buckler,
and stand up for my help.
3 Brandish the spear and block those who pursue me.
Tell my soul, “I am your salvation.”
4 Let those who seek after my soul be disappointed and brought to dishonor.
Let those who plot my ruin be turned back and confounded.
5 Let them be as chaff before the wind,
Yahweh’s angel driving them on.
6 Let their way be dark and slippery,
Yahweh’s angel pursuing them.
7 For without cause they have hidden their net in a pit for me.
Without cause they have dug a pit for my soul.
8 Let destruction come on him unawares.
Let his net that he has hidden catch himself.
Let him fall into that destruction.
9 My soul shall be joyful in Yahweh.
It shall rejoice in his salvation.
10 All my bones shall say, “Yahweh, who is like you,
who delivers the poor from him who is too strong for him;
yes, the poor and the needy from him who robs him?”
11 Unrighteous witnesses rise up.
They ask me about things that I don’t know about.
12 They reward me evil for good,
to the bereaving of my soul.
13 But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth.
I afflicted my soul with fasting.
My prayer returned into my own bosom.
14 I behaved myself as though it had been my friend or my brother.
I bowed down mourning, as one who mourns his mother.
15 But in my adversity, they rejoiced, and gathered themselves together.
The attackers gathered themselves together against me, and I didn’t know it.
They tore at me, and didn’t cease.
16 Like the profane mockers in feasts,
they gnashed their teeth at me.
17 He who loves pleasure shall be a poor man.
He who loves wine and oil shall not be rich.
18 The wicked is a ransom for the righteous;
the treacherous for the upright.