Tuesday, 10 February 2015
How lasting were the achievements?
Judaism, the First Phase: the Place of Ezra and Nehemiah in the Origins of Judaism,
Joseph Blenkinsopp, Eerdmans, 2009, page 180-181
Blenkinsopp asserts that the principle threat to the ideal of a ritully segregated community was in and from the Jerusalem priesthood. The had a vested interest to protect - themselves if not the remnant of the people living in the province of Judah.
Control of the Jerusalem temple and its personnel is represented in the canonical book as essential for both Ezra and Nehemiah if they were to achieve their objectives. Access to the temple and participation in its cult were privileges restricted to those in good standing as members of the political community; hence control of the temple was an essential precondition for political control and an indispensable means for defining who qualified for membership in the political community.
When Ezra returned and 'restored' the temple cult, it is noticeable that there is no record of a high priest already in office and operating the cult. Similarly, Nehemiah took immediate measures to control the temple resources by expelling non-golah or inter-married priests and officials.
The 'golah' seems to have experienced opposition to its integrationist policies from the senior priests, and the high priest in particular, from the very beginning.
It is possible that Malachi's polemic against the Jerusalem priesthood dates from this time. The charge of marrying "the daughter of a foreign god" (Mal 2:11), perhaps being an example of the kind of marriages that Ezra and Nehemiah spoke and acted against.