Shame on priests
Priests with manure on their faces1Priests, listen to this order because it’s for you. 2If you don’t start showing me respect and honoring my name when you use it, I’m going to hit you with punishing consequences. I’ve already done it to some degree because of your insults. But I’ll do it even more if you keep it up.
3I’m going to punish you in a way that will affect you and future generations of your family. The shame you’ll have to live with will be like walking around with manure on your faces. Not just any manure, but the manure from animals you sacrificed to me at your religious festivals. 4By then, you’ll have figured out that it’s really me doing the talking now. I’m punishing you as a corrective. I’m the LORD of everyone, and I want the tribe of Levi to continue serving me as the nation’s worship leaders. I made this contract agreement with the tribe long ago.
5The agreement we made was this. I would give them a good life and peace of mind. They would show me respect and speak my name in reverence. They honored their agreement back then. 6They got my laws right and taught them well. They promoted justice, criticized unfairness, and held people accountable for whatever they did wrong.
7Priests should know the law and teach it well. That’s because they’re the worship leaders. And people should consult them when they have questions. Priests are messengers of the LORD of everyone. 8But you priests today are blowing it. You teach the law incorrectly and you’re leading people into sin. You broke your contract with the LORD of everyone. You ruined the tribe of Levi.
9So, I’ve seen to it that people hold you accountable. They don’t respect you anymore. They don’t want anything to do with you. They can see you aren’t obeying me. They see that you’re showing favoritism instead of fairness.
Worshiping gods and God10Aren’t we all children of one Father, the God who created us? Then why do we hurt each other. We break the law when we do that. We’re not supposed to mistreat each other.
11You people in Judah brought sin back to Israel. You carried it into the most sacred place you could find, the temple of the LORD in Jerusalem. The LORD loves this place, but you polluted it by worshiping other gods. 12I hope the LORD will ban from Israel anyone who worships a foreign god and then has the nerve to come to the Temple and offer sacrifices to him.
13Here’s another thing you do that’s wrong. You come crying to me, complaining that you’ve brought the required sacrifices, but I didn’t give you anything in return. You didn’t get what you wanted. 14Then you ask why. Well, I’ll tell you why. The LORD has watched you stray from him. You’ve done it like a man leaves the wife he married when he was young. You broke your promise, and that’s a treacherous thing to do to a relationship.
15In this relationship, body and Spirit are united; they’re one. Together you should want children devoted to God. So, watch out. Don’t stray from the wife you married as a young man. 16The LORD, the God of Israel and of everyone has this to say about troubled marriages: I hate divorce. You promised to cover her with protection, not with pain. So be careful about how you behave in your relationship. Don’t be unfaithful.
Shut up17You should just shut up because the LORD is tired of listening to you. You ask, “What did we say that bothered him?” You say there’s no justice in this life. And you say that’s proof the LORD doesn’t care whether we’re good or bad.
This is a vexing verse to translate. It talks about God putting a curse on the “seed” of the priests, and about someone carrying the priests away to “it.” What seed? Who’s carrying them away. And what’s does “it” refer to? Scholars make educated guesses. The King James Version of the Bible took the seed literally, as grain. But most interpret it as children of the priests. Is it God or some enemy of Israel who carries them away? Or are they carried away in their shame, perhaps the shame of insulting God. The “it” is a manure pile, literally a place outside the city where priests dispose of sacrificial refuse. But this could work as a symbol of their life of shame. People will give them all the distance of someone sitting in a manure pile outside Jerusalem—downwind most of the time. Prevailing winds in Israel are north to south. Jerusalem’s garbage dump was in Hinnom Valley, just south and southwest of Jerusalem
“God chose the Levites as Israel’s worship leaders” (Deuteronomy 21:5). Levites were a tribe of Israelites descended from Jacob’s son, Levi. Jacob had a dozen sons, and their descendants produced the 12 tribes of Israel. Moses and Aaron were both Levites. All of Israel’s priests were to come from Aaron’s descendants. The rest of the Levites were to serve as Israel’s assistant worship leaders. They maintained the worship center, served as security guards, and helped perform animal sacrifices, among their many other responsibilities. If it had to do with worship in Israel, the Levites were in charge.
“Love your neighbor just as you love yourself. I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:18).
. How Jews polluted the Temple is anyone’s guess. Literally, “they married the daughter of a foreign god.” That could mean they married non-Jews, who worshipped other gods. Or the Jews themselves married foreign gods. The first theory was popular among scholars in previous generations. The second is more popular today. One piece of support: the phrase is like something written earlier about the idol-worshiping women of Moab, who lured some Israelite men during the Exodus out of Egypt into worshiping their gods. That earlier phrase is perhaps most literally “children of Chemosh” (Numbers 21:29). That’s presented as the opposite of the children of God (Deuteronomy 32:19).
There are two popular ways to interpret what the writer is saying in 2:14-16. The most popular says he’s talking about marriage. The alternative is that the writer is using unfaithfulness in marriage to illustrate Israel’s unfaithfulness to God. It seems some of the people are trying to worship idols and God, as though God is one of many gods instead of the one and only God. One reason to suspect that the alternative is the better option is because the main theme of the prophecy is “Don’t worship idols.” A snippet of marriage enrichment tucked into a theme like this seems misplaced. But the use of marriage as a symbol of a covenant agreement between God and Israel works nicely. Still, it could go the other way. Not everything in the sacred writings flows neatly down the stream. There are some rocky places along the way. This is one of them.
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