Cyrus was now sending the ancient Jews home. The Lord opened the door and made a way.
Ezra had created a log of all the beautiful items stolen by the Babylonians from the temple, so that he could keep track of the return of those possessions. He had also made a list of names of all the families and their members who were returning to Judah. These lists fill chapters one and two of Ezra.
Since Yeshua had been named high priest and Zerubbabel designated as the head of the tribe of Judah, the people knew the Lord was allowing them to begin again, to rebuild, and to be faithful to Him. They followed these men who were chosen by God to lead them.
After building safe homes for their families, they first set the altar that would eventually sit inside the temple. It was most important. The site was sacred. Only the altar was required to begin temple worship, and on it they burnt the most common offerings for sin. (September-October 537 B.C.). They also celebrated according to the calendar God had given them: The Feast of Trumpets, The Day of Atonement, and The Feast of Tabernacles.
How did they know where to place the altar?
“Then Solomon began to build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem, on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to David his father, at the place that David had appointed, on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite” (2 Chronicles 3:1 ESV). “This was where David had repented and offered sacrifice. It is designed by God as the instrument of his forgiveness and the point at which the consequences of sin may be reversed, 2 Chronicles 7:12-16.”1.
This very temple had been destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar.
They also began to offer voluntary tithes–all before they had even begun to build the temple in which the altar would end up sitting. Having started just as they should have done, the following prophecy was also fulfilled:
“The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you” (Zechariah 4:9 ESV).
This prophecy was fulfilled.
The Jewish people had lived in an advanced pagan culture for seven decades, but they had come to know and to love their God in the process, even away from His temple. They had also identified the problem as to why their people had fallen away.
The priests and the prophets of Judah had realized that in the days before the Babylonian captivity, no one had listened to them, because the people had been saturated in and deceived by pagan religious belief and practices, enjoying its sinful customs.
It had been like the days of Jeroboam after Judah and Israel split. Jeroboam had set up alternate sites of worship in the north where he set up calves made of gold. However, the trusted site of the Lord’s worship had remained in Jerusalem in the south.
11 Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he began to reign; he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. 12 He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord his God. He did not humble himself before the prophet Jeremiah who spoke from the mouth of the Lord. 13 He also rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him swear by God; he stiffened his neck and hardened his heart AGAINST TURNING TO THE LORD, THE GOD of ISRAEL. 14 All the leading priests and the people also WERE EXCEEDINGLY UNFAITHFUL, FOLLOWING ALL THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE NATIONS. They polluted the house of the Lord that he had consecrated in Jerusalem.
Pagan sacrifices and other demonic rituals had been performed in the temple itself.
15 The Lord, the God of their ancestors, persistently sent his messengers to them, BECAUSE he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place, 16 BUT they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words, and scoffing at his prophets until the wrath of the Lord against his people became so great that there was no remedy” (2 Chronicles 36:11-16 NRSVUE).
Before their captivity, the people hadn’t listened to the prophets, because they had already mixed pagan idols and pagan practices into their worship of God. This had occurred on the high places for centuries, where they claimed to know Yahweh, and yet sacrificed their children to idols. Their sinful natures and their flesh had indulged in practices that were disgusting, enticing, horrific, sensual, and addictive. They were in debt to the demons/idols they worshiped.
To “sanctify” their participation in this religious mix, and to assuage their consciences, the ancient Jews tried to weave Yahweh into their idolatrous Canaanite practices. They took what was known from their beliefs and practices pertaining to the temple and to Yahweh Himself, and then they blended this into their pagan religious practices and beliefs.
The Jews’ defining narrative had always been their unique experience with Yahweh Himself as He brought them safely out of Egypt, defeating every nation that came against them as they journeyed back to the land of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He gave them light in the darkness and a pillar of fire to lead them during the day.
And yet, they betrayed the Lord. During those final days before the captivity, the kings of Judah continued to mix pagan practices with their worship of God, even putting pagan altars in the temple.
This mix of divine worship with pagan worship has been dubbed Yahwism by scholars. Here is their description of it. You will note many anti-biblical assumptions. All of this is and involves wrongdoing.
“Yahwism was polytheistic, with a plethora of gods and goddesses. Heading the pantheon was Yahweh, the national god of the Israelite kingdoms of Israel and Judah, with his consort, the goddess Asherah; below them were second-tier gods and goddesses such as Baal, Shamash, Yarikh, Mot, and Astarte, all of whom had their own priests and prophets and numbered royalty among their devotees, and a third and fourth tier of minor divine beings, including the mal’ak, the messengers of the higher gods, who in later times became the angels of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.” (Source)
Based on how the ancient Jews of that time had acted and worshiped, those who study this cannot call their practice “reverence of Yahweh,” when the people were instead worshiping paganism. Yahwism was a mix of the religion of ancient Israel, which worships only one God, while adding to it worship of the local pagan gods and goddesses as well.
This was and is a mixture of two opposing practices.
Yahwism is a false religion, hence why God had disciplined His people. Yahweh had been misclassified. Yahweh cannot and would not blend Himself with demons in a false religion.
The ancient Jews had worshipped in this manner before the captivity. As a result, they had been carried away to Babylon for seventy years. Have they now learned their lesson?
And now, Yahweh was bringing them safely out of Persia, returning them home yet again. Would they fall back into their previous fraud and acts of hypocrisy?
No, they will not! God’s discipline of these seventy years was heeded, and faithfulness to God had resulted during the captivity. The naming of Yeshua as high priest and Zerubbabel as king had set everything in order for them to return to Judah.
The Lord is One. There is no one other than He, Whom we are to worship. Yahweh demands no sensual sacrifices. Three in One, Yahweh exists in perfect harmony, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He is not lonely. There are no lesser gods floating around that are affiliated with Him in any way. He created the angels. They did not come into being in the way described here.
“For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the Lord made the heavens” (Psalm 96:5 NRSVUE).
What Paul later wrote: “No, I imply that what they sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be partners with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons” (1 Corinthians 10:20-22 NRSVUE).
From this description, we see immediately how and why the people of Judah and of Israel had fallen far away from the worship of the true God. None of the Yahwism statements are true of Yahweh/God. And yet out in the woods and on the mountaintops, the ancient Jews had been tempted by the immoral rituals of all of the idols named, corrupting the memories and practices of worshiping their God who had brought them out of Egypt by His own might.
True believers know this is NOT the way to worship our God. To do so is NOT worship at all.
Because of the protection that God had given Israel when they left Egypt, other nations who had witnessed His actions sought to know Him, and many ran to Him for safety. Yet, the ancient Jews had already presented a flawed image of God, thus impacting His effort to reach the nations.
Yahweh is not the “national God” of any people group. He is not confined by the laws and regulations of any government. He exists in complete and perfect harmony and contentment as Himself: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, Who are and were and evermore shall be. True believers will be with Him for all eternity.
Pagan worship is to be despised and forbidden by faithful worshipers of God, and yet pagan amulets and carvings found in the region show us that especially in northern Israel God was assumed to be like Canaanite gods, who had goddess consorts, and so they worshiped Yahweh the same way. In doing so, the Northern Israelites were not worshiping God at all.
The consort idea is NOT BIBLICAL. It is A PAGAN TALE.
THIS IMAGE IS NOT BIBLICAL. IT SHOWS PAGAN RELIGIOUS BELIEF.
“The practices of Yahwism included festivals, sacrifices, vow-making, private rituals, and the adjudication of legal disputes. Contrary to the picture presented in the Hebrew Bible, the Temple in Jerusalem was not the sole, or even central, temple of Yahweh [they may be counting pagan worship areas as temples], but the king was the head of the national religion [also not true] and thus the viceroy on Earth of the national god [not true], a role reflected each year when he presided over a ceremony at which Yahweh was enthroned in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem [pagan ritual]”Source.
Pagan Israelites were so given over to the worship of idols affiliated with the Canaanites that it was assumed that this was a norm for the Jews, according to this article. However, they forget that thousands of faithful Jews traveled to the temple to worship and to sacrifice at the given times.
The point isn’t really the temple. The point is true worship of the true God.
It was during the national crisis of the Babylonian Exile that the followers of Yahweh went a step further and finally denied that other deities aside from Yahweh even existed, thus marking the transition from monolatrism to true monotheism, and from Yahwism to Judaism.
They held tight to monotheism: the doctrine or belief that there is only one God. There is but one God, and it is Yahweh. Chastisement of seventy years was necessary to bring them to this point. God loves His own, and He will keep them. The Lord our God, the Lord is One.It was during the national crisis of the Babylonian Exile that the followers of Yahweh finally denied that other deities aside from Yahweh even existed, thus marking their transition to true monotheism. #Faith #bgbg2 Click To Tweet
- ESV Study Bible, pg 699, Crossway Bibles, Wheaton, Illinois, 2008.
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