What Jeremiah Says to Conservative Christians in America

Supporters of Donald Trump, including those who confess allegiance to Christ, are increasingly upset. Suspicion about the validity of the 2020 Presidential election, driven by fear of left-wing radicalism, has grown into something much more sinister and potentially much more dangerous. More and more, I see conservatives, including (astonishingly) Christians, agitating for dramatic action – secession, martial law, even civil war. People, including Christians, are urging Donald Trump to “cross the Rubicon” – and not merely in the sense of “take decisive action” but in its more original sense of “use the military to take control of the government.” If you haven’t seen this, yet, and think I’m exaggerating, just browse Twitter for a little while (or, worse, Parler) and search for the phrase “cross the rubicon”. Even the chairs of the GOP in Texas and Arizona have publicly issued support for secession or military action. This is a dangerous time.

(If you don’t know the meaning of “crossing the Rubicon”, check here; in short, it led to civil war, a dictatorship, an assassination, another civil war, and finally the end of the Roman Republic – and Roman self-rule – in any meaningful sense.)

Now, I am convinced that there was no statistically significant voting fraud in the election. The almost total lack of any evidence that is legally admissible in a court and the reliance of the President’s advocates on hearsay and on witnesses whose credibility is dubious at best leaves me with no honest, rational option. However, I admit I could be wrong, so for the sake of what is to follow, let us assume that the election was somehow tainted, and that if those taints were corrected the election would have been closer. Perhaps Donald Trump might even have won. In other words, hypothetically, let us assume that the election was stolen.

So now you find yourselves in a position of powerlessness. The one power you thought had (the vote) you now feel has been taken from you, and you are angry because you are afraid of what is going to happen to you and to your way of life. It feels almost like your home has been taken from you and you have been exiled into a land where you are at the mercy of people who are not like you and who, you believe, do not like you.

But there are some out there who are telling you that there is hope, that not all is lost, that even though the election has been stolen there still remains a last desperate option: secession, armed uprising, a military coup, civil war. Moreover, they assure you that God and Justice are on your side. Their words thrill you and you find yourself convinced: “There is no other option! We must do whatever it takes to save the country! God has given us this Republic, and it’s up to us to keep it!”

Listen to the words of Jeremiah to the exiles of Judah in Babylon.

The Letter of Jeremiah to the Exiles in Babylon

(1) These are the words of the scroll that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the remnant of the elders of the exiles and to the priests and to the prophets and to all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar exiled from Jerusalem to Babylon, (2) after Jeconiah the king went out along with the queen, the eunuchs, the princes of Judah and Jerusalem, the craftsmen, and the metalworkers from Jerusalem. (3) [This scroll was sent] by the hand of Elasah son of Shaphan and Gemariah son of Hilqiah whom Zedekiah, king of Judah, sent to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, in Babylon, saying:

(4) Thus says the LORD of Hosts, God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have exiled from Jerusalem to Babylon: (5) Build houses and dwell in them. Plant gardens and eat their fruit. (6) Take wives and father sons and daughters. Take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage to husbands, and let them bear sons and daughters. Multiply there, and do not decrease. (7) Seek the peace of the city whither I have exiled you, and pray for its protection to the LORD God, for in its peace will be peace for you.

(8) But thus says the LORD of Hosts, God of Israel: Do not let your prophets or your diviners who are in your midst deceive you, and do not listen to your dreams that you are dreaming. (9) For in deceit they prophesy to you in my name – I did not send them, says the LORD.

(10) But thus says the LORD: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill for you my good word to return you to this place. (11) For it is I who know the plans that I have for you, says the LORD. Plans of peace and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (12) And you will call on me, and you will come, and you will pray to me, and I will listen to you. (13) And you will seek me, and you will find me; for you will search for me with all your heart. (14) And I will be found by you, says the LORD, and I will restore you from captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, from all the places where I have driven you, says the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I exiled you.

Jeremiah 29:1-14 (my own translation)

Jeremiah wrote this letter to the Israelites who had been taken to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar. Israelites were taken from Jerusalem in waves over the course of 16 years. King Jeconiah along with his court, the leaders of the people, the skilled craftsmen of Jerusalem (i.e., those who could make weapons and armor), and others (a few thousand in total) had been taken to Babylon in 597 BC. Later on, in 586 BC, Nebuchadnezzar, fed up with Judah’s continual rebellion against him, finally sacked Jerusalem, destroyed their temple, and took many more captives to Babylon. A third and final wave occurred in 581 BC. This letter takes place some time between those first two deportations.

It is important to remember that at this time the one sitting on the throne of David was Zedekiah, a son of King Josiah (who had died in 609 BC) and uncle of Jeconiah (the exiled king). There were questions about the legitimacy of Zedekiah’s kingship, seeing as there were potentially still two prior kings living in exile – Jehoahaz, whom Pharaoh Necco had taken to Egypt in 609 BC, and Jeconiah (aka, Jehoiachin), who was now in exile in Babylon. It is clear from the endings of Jeremiah and 2 Kings that there were at least some who still regarded Jeconiah as the heir of David and saw his welfare in exile as the fulfillment of God’s promise to David of an everlasting dynasty.

The Israelites, both those living in Judah and those deported to Babylon, were inclined to resist Babylonian rule and inclined to believe that God must be on their side in their resistance. They were Yahweh’s covenant people, after all. He had preserved them even when he had allowed the northern kingdom to be utterly destroyed in 722 BC.

In this context, the letter of Jeremiah to the exilic community in Jeremiah 29 does four things:

  1. It corrects erroneous presuppositions about God’s role in the deportation
  2. It encourages faithful activity
  3. It identifies and resists false prophets
  4. It affirms that God has a plan for the Israelites in their current distress.

Correcting Erroneous Presuppositions

In verse 4, Jeremiah’s letter immediately sets the tone and establishes a radical (and highly unpopular) theological narrative for what had happened: “Thus says the LORD of Hosts, God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have exiled from Jerusalem to Babylon.” God’s name here, Yahweh Tsebaoth, is a name full of military connotations: He is the Lord of the heavenly armies. He is not powerless against the armies of Babylon. Moreover, Nebuchadnezzar is not the one who sent the Israelites into exile – God himself had done that: “… to the exiles whom I have sent from Jerusalem to Babylon.” Any attitude or action adopted by the exiled Israelites that presumed that what had happened was contrary to the will of God were starting off on the wrong foot. Things had gone precisely the way the God of Israel had wanted them to. God was still on the throne of heaven, even if their earthly overlord was Babylonian, and even if the one sitting on the throne of David was possibly illegitimate.

The reason this narrative was (and remains) shocking is because the Israelites assumed quite a lot based on their status as God’s covenant people, his own unique possession among all the nations of the world. They had assumed, first, that God wouldn’t let something like the exile happen. It had. They then had assumed that God’s will was for them to resist Babylonian rule. It wasn’t. They had assumed that it would be a relatively short time before God re-established Judah as an independent kingdom and returned the exiles to Jerusalem. It wouldn’t be. At every turn they had precisely the wrong expectations.

Some likely responded to this subversion of expectations by concluding that Yahweh was not powerful, but it seems that the majority came to a different conclusion: Yahweh was still on their side and he wanted them to resist, even with armed violence, the wicked king Nebuchadnezzar who had taken the Israelites into captivity against Yahweh’s will.

Encouraging Faithful Activity

For Israelites who were convinced that Nebuchadnezzar’s suzerainty over Judah and exile of a few thousand Israelites to Babylon was contrary to the will of God, it was regarded as self-evident that the faithful response God expected from them consisted of resistance to Babylon in various forms, including armed resistance. At the very least, the exiles in Babylon were being told by some who called themselves prophets that the exile would be short, that there was no need to build houses in Babylon, that it was important for them to stay ready to go back at a moment’s notice.

Jeremiah’s message was exactly opposite. Because the exile was not contrary to God’s will but was in fact the precise execution of it, resistance to the Babylonians was not a faith-filled response. Quite to the contrary, it revealed a lack of faith. It revealed a belief that, essentially, God needed Israel’s help to accomplish his will in the earth. But Jeremiah tells the exiled Israelites that God doesn’t need any help, and what God is looking for from them is not resistance to exile but acceptance. He tells them to expect a long exile: build houses, plant gardens, grow families, be fruitful and multiply!

Even more shocking and offensive to the Israelites is what Jeremiah says next: pray for the peace (shalom, welfare) of Babylon, because their welfare will determine Israel’s welfare. To understand just how offensive this command would be, all we have to do is read Psalm 137, especially the last two verses:

(8) O, daughter Babylon, destined to destruction,
happy is the one who repays you
the reward you have rendered to us.
(9) Happy is the one who seizes and smashes
your little children against the rock.

Psalm 137:8-9 (my translation)

If this conveys the way the Israelites in Babylon felt, what a slap in the face it would be to be told “Seek the peace of the city whither I have exiled you, and pray for its protection”. In fact, the word “repays” in Psalm 137:8 is the verb form (shalam) of the word for “peace” (shalom), so there may be a bitterly ironic pun in Psalm 137: “You want me to pray for their shalom? Okay. Blessed the one who shalam (repays) Babylon for what they’ve done to us.” Nevertheless, that is precisely what God commands the Israelites to do in Jeremiah, because, he says, how it goes with Babylon is how it’s going to go with you. Don’t resist my will. Accept it with faith.

Identifying and Resisting False Prophets

Jeremiah further tells the exiled Israelites not to listen to their prophets and diviners who (we see elsewhere in Jeremiah) were encouraging Israel’s false presuppositions and faithless activity. They were telling the people what they wanted to hear: “Because we are Yahweh’s covenant people, Yahweh is with us against Babylon. This exile will be short in duration. He wants us to resist. He will prosper our resistance.”

It is interesting that Jeremiah calls them “your prophets” and “your diviners”. These are not God’s prophets. They are Israel’s prophets. The Hebrew of the last part of Jeremiah 29:8 is interesting in this regard, as well, because it says, “do not listen to your dreams that you are dreaming.”1 The dreams that are deceiving the Israelites are their own dreams, their own desires being mirrored back to them by people-pleasing prophets. Dreams, we must understand, were thought to be an important way God communicated directly with humans. The prophets who were saying to the Israelite exiles, “Yahweh spoke to me in a dream”, may have legitimately had the dreams they described, but God says through Jeremiah that those dreams were not from him. They were wishful thinking. Calling these dreams “your dreams” shows that political ideology and the human psyche were determining the content of prophetic messages falsely attributed to God.

We see elsewhere in Jeremiah (including later in chapter 29) that God takes this kind of false prophecy very seriously. One such prophet was named Shemaiah the Nehelamite. This is what God has to say about Shemaiah:

Therefore thus says the LORD, “Behold, I am about to visit punishment upon Shemaiah the Nehelamite and upon his descendants. There will not remain to him a man dwelling in the midst of this people, and he will not set eyes on the good thing I am about to do for my people,” says the LORD, “for he speaks rebellion against the LORD.”

Jeremiah 29:32

Speaking false messages to the people in the name of the LORD was not regarded by God as merely an honest disagreement among humans about which we might “agree to disagree”. As far as God was concerned, Shemaiah’s prophecy was rebellion. Therefore, he pronounced the most severe of punishments upon him: he and his entire family would be wiped out and cut off from Israel.

Affirming that God Has a Plan

Jeremiah 29:10-14 assures the Israelite exiles that God has a purpose for all of this beyond mere punishment.

(11) For it is I who know the plans that I have for you, says the LORD. Plans of peace and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (12) And you will call on me, and you will come, and you will pray to me, and I will listen to you. (13) And you will seek me, and you will find me; for you will search for me with all your heart.

God says, “It is I who know the plans that I have for you.” While most English translations say “I know the plans”, I have chosen something more emphatic because the Hebrew is emphatic, using the 1st person singular personal pronoun (which is not strictly necessary in Hebrew). When this happens, it typically is emphatic in some way, and one way to render that emphasis is to translate it as I have: “It is I who know the plans”. The significance of this emphasis is to highlight the contrast between God’s own knowledge of his plan and the supposed knowledge of the false prophets. In other words, there is an implied “… and not they …”. God says, “I, not they, know the plans I have for you.”

God’s plans are good plans, but they are not good simply because they are plans for peace and prosperity (the false prophets had also been saying that God was going to give Israel peace and prosperity). They are plans for a future and a hope even in a foreign land. But this is only a part of what is good about them. More importantly, God’s plans are for a repaired relationship with his people: “You will call on me, and come, and you will pray to me, and I will listen to you.” Neither part of that had been happening so long as Israel had been living in rebellion against God, and that relationship could not be repaired so long as the people were listening to false prophets. The good promise of God was if they would just remain faithful, demonstrating that faithfulness by accepting their situation as intended by God, and not follow the advice of the false prophets to resist their situation in a variety of ways, then they would see good days once again, first in Babylon itself and later on – after 70 years – back in Israel.

Living in Babylon Today

How does any of this apply to the situation politically conservative American Christians find themselves in today? I expect what I have to say here will come as no surprise if you’ve been reading Jeremiah carefully with me, but let me say it clearly.

Chosen Sojourners of the Diaspora

Christians, just like the Israelites in Babylon, we are and always have been an exilic community, citizens primarily of another, far greater country. We are sojourners like our fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, at the mercy of the people among whom we dwell. This is certainly how Peter described Christian spiritual identity at the beginning of his first epistle.

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the chosen sojourners of the diaspora of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia

1 Peter 1:1

Peter uses three words here to describe his Christian audience: chosen, sojourner, and diaspora. I’ll start with the second word, “sojourner”. The Greek word is παρεπίδημος (parepidēmos), a word used only three times in the New Testament. Two of those times are in 1 Peter, the other in Hebrews. The word literally means one who lives among a foreign people, a foreigner, an alien. In 1 Peter 2:11 the word is used alongside πάροικος (paroikos, “stranger”, one who is away from one’s home) to describe his Christian readers. In Hebrews 11:13, the author uses παρεπίδημος alongside ξένος (xenos, alien, foreigner) to describe Abraham and Sarah as foreigners living in the Promised Land. The passage holds them up as examples of faith for Christians to follow. The idea of παρεπίδημος is not unlike what we mean today when we use the word “immigrant” or even “migrant”.

The third word builds on this idea and expands it. Christians are sojourners of “the diaspora” – the scattering. This is a Greek term that originally described the involuntary dispersion of Israelites/Jews around the world and away from their homeland. Peter takes up this word and applies it to Christians with a subtle new sense. Rather than meaning that Christians are exiled from their physical homeland, he uses the word to describe Christians’ spiritual status among any nation or tribe as spiritual foreigners. Moreover, Christians are not just spiritual foreigners, they are involuntary foreigners: exiles and refugees. They are immigrants in a foreign land without any of the legitimacy of a visa or any of the protection of wealth or of worldly political power – they are essentially a community of refugees or even illegal immigrants in the world. They are Tom Hanks in The Terminal.

But let’s now return to that first word: chosen. Christians are not simply out of luck spiritual sojourners without a homeland. They are chosen sojourners, chosen specifically by God for this destiny. Their foreignness in the world is not a sign of God’s having forsaken them. On the contrary, God has a particular plan for them as sojourners of the diaspora, and it is a plan not for their harm, but for their benefit, to give them a hope and a future. If God didn’t have a plan, then Christians could be forgiven for trying to secure political or military power for themselves, something everyone else in the world does and is expected to do. That’s just the way the world works. But God has chosen Christians to live in a fundamentally different way from the world. They are not to be like the nations of the world, making war on and seeking to dominate their neighbors. They are to be like the most vulnerable people in the world, people without a homeland – sojourners of a forced dispersion.

In summary, Peter sees Christians as resident aliens living among the various nations around the world. He does not address us as citizens of these nations. Think about that. Probably most of the Christians he is writing to in Pontus, Galatia, etc. were born and raised those places. They were still living in or near their homes. Some of them even may have been Roman citizens (like the Apostle Paul was). But none of that is reflected in Peter’s description of their primary spiritual identity: foreigners, immigrants, sojourners. Clearly Peter expects that Christians are going to relate to the world differently than non-Christians would. It is, in fact, on the basis of this spiritual identity as sojourners that Peter gives the following instructions later in 1 Peter:

Beloved, I beseech you as strangers and sojourners to keep away from fleshly desires, which wage war against the soul; let your conduct among the nations be good, so that when they slander you as evil-doers, those witnessing your good works will glorify God in the day of God’s visitation.

1 Peter 2:11-12

For Peter, Christians are by their spiritual nature and by God’s mysterious design a community without worldly power specifically so that when they are slanderously attacked observers will see our good works and give glory to God.

For too long, however, we Christians in America have been in a position of illusory political and social power. Our ethics and values (we believed) have shaped culture and public policy (in reality, sort of). This is, I would argue, a false narrative, but it is the narrative by which we have been operating. The problem with this narrative is that when we accept it and live in it, we stop feeling a pressing need for God to defend us, because we can defend ourselves. We confuse our illusory political power with God’s blessing, and we rely on it as if it were God’s protection.

But now, all of sudden, we are faced with the undeniable fact that we no longer have the place of privilege in American society, and that frightens us. But we don’t need to be frightened. Our status as cultural outsiders, as spiritual foreigners, as immigrants lacking political power, isn’t something contrary to the will of God. God has designed things this way for his own glory. Like the Israelites in Babylon, we need to have the faith to accept that this is the reality to which God himself has called us: we are chosen by God to be sojourners of the diaspora. To resist this identity is to the resist the will of God and to resist the good plan of God for our benefit and not for our harm.

Put Away Your Sword

This means that those who are trying to stir Christians up, to make them afraid and angry, to convince them that they must defend themselves from worldly political forces that seek to harm them – these people are false prophets. For conservative Christians who have supported Donald Trump, this includes those have called on conservative States to secede from the United States, who have called on you to give your life to “save the country”, who have encouraged Trump to “cross the Rubicon” with the military and redo the election. In your distress, you may have accepted the proposition that these people are speaking the will of God. Their message may thrill your heart. They are speaking your heart’s desire – your dream – back to you. Some of them even explicitly speak in the name of Christ.

Through the prophet Jeremiah, God says, “Do not let them deceive you. For in deceit they prophesy to you in my name – I did not send them.” They speak in the name of Christ, but God did not send them. They are in rebellion against God, whatever they might say with their mouths. Their message and their panic reveal that they do not believe that God is sovereign over US elections. They are trying to convince you that God needs your help to establish righteousness in the earth and to judge wickedness.2 Theirs is a modified Deist God – a God who started things but who then backed away and left the maintenance of things to human beings. We are told that the election of Joe Biden was contrary to the will of God, and apparently God is either too weak or too far removed from us to correct this transgression on his own. What they are saying is not an expression of faith in God. It is a denial of God’s sovereignty and of the Lordship of Christ.

Do not trust those who are telling you that God desires his people to overcome through the power of the sword. If they choose to go down the path to humiliation and destruction (because that is precisely where they are headed), let them, but do not join them. I urge you: trust God’s message in Jeremiah.

Finding yourself tempted by the power of the sword doesn’t mean you are not a Christian. We followers of Christ have a long history of trusting in the sword. Peter himself, in fact, famously drew the sword to defend Jesus when soldiers came for him in Gethsemane. Two different traditions have Jesus responding in two different but complementary ways.

Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchos. But Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword in its sheath. Shall I not most certainly drink the cup which the Father has given me?”

John 18:10-11

And, behold, one of those with Jesus stretched forth his hand, drew out his sword, struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back in its place. For all those who live by the sword shall perish by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot call on my Father, and he will send me right now more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen this way?”

Matthew 26:51-54

In both passages, Jesus rejects the power of the sword because of his confidence in the power and good plan of the Father. In Matthew, Jesus’ rebuke is sharper and lengthier. He identifies three reasons for his disciple not to rely on the power of the sword:

  1. Jesus can take care of things without our meager help. He had at his disposal an enormous angelic army is his will had been to take the world through force of arms. Clearly, Jesus had other plans and other priorities. (Notice how this relates to point 1 from Jeremiah’s letter – correcting false assumptions)
  2. Those who live (probably more in the sense of “survive” or “save themselves”) by the sword will nevertheless perish by the sword. Reliance on the sword is futile. It only works so long as you are better at the sword than the other guy. (This relates to points 2 and 3 from Jeremiah’s letter – resisting false prophets and encouraging faithful action.)
  3. This was a moment of divine destiny. God had a good plan from the very beginning that centered on this moment, and that’s why the scriptures bore witness to it. To try to bring about God’s plan in a way other than God’s means was actually to resist God plan. (This relates to point 4 from Jeremiah’s letter – affirming that God has a plan.)

Even though Matthew does not name the disciple who draws the sword, it is reasonable to connect these two passages and identify the disciple as Peter, the very man who would later tell Christians that they were a chosen foreigners dispersed among the nations, implicitly condemning the power of the sword. So if Peter himself fell victim to the temptation to rely on the power of the sword, it’s no surprise that Christians today would make the same mistake. Glory be to God, the grace of the Lord Jesus covered Peter’s failure, and it will cover ours as well. But let’s make sure to follow Peter’s latter example as diligently as we have followed his former example – let us forsake our reliance on the power of the sword in favor of faith in God and in the Lordship of Jesus.

So anyone who tells us that God wants us to use force to bring about his will does not know God and is not speaking the will of God. Such a person is a false prophet, sent not by God but by our enemy. God’s command to us is not to resist and help the false prophets sow chaos but to pray for the peace of our country, because the peace of our country will also be our peace.

Conclusion: God Has a Mysterious Purpose

God is speaking to us in the book of Jeremiah. He is saying, “Don’t be afraid. I am the one who knows the plans that I have for you, and they are good plans. All that has happened has happened according to my will and for your benefit. Trust in my sovereignty. Rest in the Lordship of Jesus Christ.”

Even if the 2020 Presidential election was tainted, do not assume that God’s will is somehow thwarted by that. God is using it for his own mysterious purposes. God is not God of all the earth only when we are in a position of power. That’s what white American Christians have tended to believe deep down, but it’s not true. Rather, when we are powerless is when we see his Lordship most clearly, if we have eyes to see it and ears to hear it.

You will say to me, “But our vote has been nullified! Our voice has been stifled! This is injustice!” Perhaps. Again, we will assume for the sake of argument that the election was tainted and maybe stolen. This changes nothing, though, just as the Israelites finding themselves in Babylon against their will changed nothing. The fact that injustice may have been done in the election does not mean that God is not in control of events.

Throughout the Bible, we see very clearly that God uses the world’s wickedness to accomplish good things without necessarily justifying the wickedness. God used the wickedness of Joseph’s brothers to place Joseph in Egypt and to save many lives, including those of his family. But that didn’t make the brothers’ betrayal of Joseph any less wicked. God used wickedness of the Babylonians to bring judgment on Judah for the benefit of Judah. This didn’t make the Babylonians righteous in God’s eyes. The crucifixion of Jesus was among the most wicked miscarriages of justice in human history, yet God used it to accomplish the highest good – the defeat of death and the forgiveness of our sins. This fact doesn’t make the crucifixion any less unjust. So even if the election was unjustly tainted – if Joe Biden will sit illegitimately in the Oval Office the way Zedekiah, perhaps, illegitimately sat on the throne of David – the Lord Jesus will bring about justice in his own way and in his own time. Trust him to be a righteous and faithful judge.

So what is his purpose in the present time? What is it all about? Whether the election was tainted or not, the present time is about two things: the glory of Christ and the purity of his Church. Whatever is happening, it is God’s plan, and it is a good plan: a plan for our benefit and not for our harm, a plan to give us a hope and a future, a plan to draw us closer to himself. Jesus is Lord! Trust him!

Footnotes

(1) English translations, however, tend to correct this to some version of either “Do not listen to the dreams that they are dreaming” or “Do not listen to your dreams that you are causing them to dream.” Many, if not all, Septuagint (Greek translation) manuscripts follow the Hebrew. English translations, however, for some reason tend to follow one particular variant that uses a 3rd person plural (“they”) verb at the end of the verse, so it ends up saying “Do not listen to your dreams that they are dreaming.” There is no extant Hebrew manuscript that supports this reading, and the change required in the Hebrew to produce the reading is more than a minimal shift (repointing the vowels or changing a single ambiguous consonant). So I am inclined to go with the Masoretic Hebrew reading here, not least because it is a less intuitive reading than what we tend to find in our English translations.

(2) As one commenter on Parler said recently, “God is at the wheel, but we are the warriors that must do the work of men to repel evil.”

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