In which the exiles are situated at the epicentre of the cosmos
These are the clans of the sons of Noah according to their lineage in their nations. And from these the nations branched out on the earth after the Flood.
And it shall happen in future days that the mount of the LORD’s house shall be firm-founded at the top of the mountains and lifted over the hills. And the people shall flow to it, and many nations shall go and say: Come, let us go up to the mount of the LORD, and to the house of Jacob’s God, that He may teach us of His ways and that we may walk in His paths. For from Zion shall teaching come forth and the LORD’s word from Jerusalem. And He shall judge among many peoples and be arbiter to vast nations from far away. And they shall grind their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not raise sword against nation, nor shall they learn war anymore. And they shall dwell each man beneath his vine and beneath his fig tree, with none to make him tremble, for the mouth of the LORD of Armies has spoken. For all the peoples shall walk each in the name of his god. But we shall walk in the name of the LORD our God forevermore.
The nations branch out from the family that have built and ridden out the Flood in the ark. And as, for the returning exiles, this speaks of them and their call to rebuild the Temple on Mount Zion, the table of nations is an ordering of the world with Jerusalem at the centre and the surrounding nations deriving wisdom for post-Flood existence from her. Indeed, in as much as they continue, albeit chastened and humbled, the empires of the Ancient Near East owe their very ongoing existence to the intercession of God’s faithful and restored people. Yet this is not a restoration and expansion of David’s empire, but of Solomon’s reputation for wisdom for living in harmony with gods and neighbours. Here, the family tree becomes an orchard, each tree—each people-group, each human community—having room to flourish, to give shelter within the shared shelter of the orchard.
We are drawing near to the end of the beginning, to the close of the origin stories that will envision the self-understanding of the new Jerusalem community in relation to the world. They are to be a beacon of hope, and instructors to all who seek wisdom and justice. They are to be generous, self-giving, undefended, imaginative. I think of a Christian community in the United States who take handed-in semi-automatic assault weapons and transform them into tools for community gardening. This is the vision. What might it look like in your context, in mine?
Biblical texts: Robert Alter, The Hebrew Bible: A Translation with Commentary
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