Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Why Remember?

"Did you never read in the Scriptures, 'The stone which the builders rejected, this became the chief cornerstone…? Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it. And he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust."
An ancient teaching by Yeshua, the rabbi from Nazareth, aka Matthew 22:42-44

Yakov: This board of elders of the town of Zorah is now convened.  We will now consider the statements made against Adoniyah, son of Azaliah.  Who saw the crime?  (Silence in the courtyard.)  Well?  Rehebiah, did you not see the crime?

Rehebiah: (Head bowed, voice soft.) Yes, elder.

Yakov: Why do you not speak?  The security and survival of Zorah is at stake!  By the Most High, speak of what you saw!

Rehebiah: What do you wish me to speak of, elder?

Yakov: (Exasperated) Of the crime you saw Adoniyah do!44

Rehebiah: Yes.  Well.  I saw Adoniyah walk onto your property, elder Yakov.

Yakov:  (Angry) I do not know why you force me to pull every word out of your mouth!  What did you see him do while on my property?

Rehebiah: I saw him harvest some of your grain, place it in his cart and drive it away.  But, honestly, elder, it was not much.  Perhaps it was a cartful, but it was only a small amount compared to your great fields.  And it was only at the edges of your fields…

Yakov: What does it matter the amount?  Or where the grain was originally placed?  Was the grain not in my property?

Rehebiah: Yes, elder.

Yakov: And did Adoniyah go into my property to take this grain?

Rehebiah: Yes, elder.

Yakov: And didn’t Adoniyah steal this grain and take it away?

Rehebiah: I do not know, elder.

Yakov: What do you mean, you do not know?  Didn’t you see him steal it?

Rehebiah: I saw him walk on your property and take grain.  But I do not know what he did with that grain, whether he had permission from you, or what circumstances there were for him to take the grain.  Perhaps he did not steal it.

Yakov: But you suspected that he stole it, didn’t you?

Rehebiah: (Blushing) Yes, elder.

Yakov: I can tell you now, with my own mouth, that Adoniyah did not do this with my permission.  He stole my possession from me.

Rehebiah: (Silent)

Yakov: Next witness!  Habazziniah, come forward!

Habazziniah: Yes, elder.

Yakov: Can you speak of the crime of Adoniyah which you witnessed?

Habazziniah: Yes, elder.  I saw Adoniyah blithely stroll onto my fields and steal my grain. 

Yakov: When did this happen?

Habazziniah: Two weeks ago.

Yakov: And does it matter to you where or how much grain it was?

Habazziniah: Well, it is true that it is a minor part of my whole harvest.  I might have ignored it if he had done it at night, as a common criminal would have.  But he did it in open daylight, before my eyes.  He had no shame in his eyes, but stole in front of me.

Yakov: Did you confront him about his crime?

Habazziniah: Of course I did.

Yakov: And what did he say?

Habazziniah: He told me that the Lord had need of the grain. 

Yakov: Did you try to stop him?

Habazziniah: Well, no.  I am not a young man and I feared.

Yakov: Why did you not call your workers to stop him?

Habazziniah: They were a distance away, at the house.  By the time I could collect them, Adoniyah would have been gone.

Yakov: Very well.  Thank you, friend Habazziniah.  Now, Adoniyah, come forward!

Adoniyah: Yes, lord Yakov?

Yakov: The proper title is elder, not lord.

Adoniyah: Are you sure, Yakov?  Then why do not any other of your elders, sitting beside you, ask questions or make comments.  They are barely able to show their faces, here.

Yakov: I am the lead elder, here.  Who are you to question our proceedings?  Are you Adoniyah, son of Azaliah?

Adoniyah: Yes, I am.

Yakov: You were seen, in two separate occasions, stealing grain.  What do you say to these charges?

Adoniyah: I did not steal.

Yakov: Oh yes?  Did you enter my field and take my gain?

Adoniyah: I did enter your field, but I did not take your grain.

Yakov: But we have a witness who says you did!

Adoniyah: Your witness spoke the truth.

Yakov: And that witness said that he saw you steal my grain!

Adoniyah: No.  He said he saw me walk onto your property and harvest grain that was on your field.

Yakov: What game of semantics are you playing, Adoniyah?  That is stealing.

Adoniyah: Not if the grain was not yours.

Yakov: But my men planted it.  It was growing on my property.  It was mine.

Adoniyah: Not according to God’s law.  For it is written: “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest, nor shall you glean your vineyard, nor shall you pick the fallen fruit of your vineyard, you shall leave them for the needy and the stranger.”45  That grain was in the corner of your field, even as the grain I picked up at Habazziniah’s was at the corner of his field.  That grain did not belong to you, but to the poor, according to the law of God.

Yakov: What law is this?

Adoniyah: It is the law of God, as given to Moses, the servant of God.

Yakov: We recognize no such law here.

Adoniyah: That is obvious.  But the governor, Zerubbabel does. 

Yakov: This is not Zerubbabel’s town!  Nor is it Moses’!  It is mine!  I built this town, and I determine the law!

Adoniyah: Is that right?  That should be as much a surprise to Zerubbabel as it is to the ears of your elders who sit beside you.

Yakov: They all owe me!  I paid for them to come to this place!  I paid for the building of all the homes in this town!

Adoniyah: Even were that true, the money that you did use to pay for these travelers and their buildings you took from those weaker than you.  You have stolen from the anawim, while I have only taken that which belonged to the poor! 

Yakov: Shut up, shut up!  I gave to these lackeys!

Adoniyah: Yes, so you might have them in your pocket when you came to the restored land of God!

Machir: Excuse me, elder.  Perhaps I can question the accused for a bit?

Yakov: (Waves his hand, too angry to speak properly.)

Machir: Thank you, elder.  Adoniyah, we are not here to accuse elders.  You would have to gather at least two more witnesses to support your claim.

Adoniyah: And so I would, if elder Yakov would allow Yohann to return to Zorah. 

Machir: He who threatened elder Yakov years ago when we first settled the land?  I think not.  Just answer my questions, Adoniyah.  Were you not already condemned for theft?

Adoniyah: Yes, in this very court.

Machir: And what was your punishment?

Adoniyah: This. (He holds up his right arm, which is missing its hand). 

Machir: Yes.  So we can all see that you have already been branded a thief. 

Adoniyah: So I was, wrongly.

Machir: Is that right?  How is this?

Adoniyah: Because I was only taking that which belongs rightfully to the poor, according to the law.

Machir: So you say.  What poor do you speak of?  Yourself?

Adoniyah: No, the stranger to our land. 

Machir: Are these the lazy immigrants you allow to inhabit your land?

Adoniyah:  They are not lazy, for they have built my land up to be the richest in the town.  They have built their own houses and have planted and harvested my fields.

Machir: Yet, this is not enough for you. 

Adoniyah: No.  Every family has children, and on my land are twenty families—perhaps a hundred souls all together.  That is just shy of being half of the population of the rest of the town.  My fields are not large enough to feed all of these.  So I take what belongs to these poor, to feed their children.

Machir: Why do you have these foreigners on your land, in any case?  It is none of your business.

Adoniyah: I take them on my land because the town would persecute them if they would settle anywhere else.  They are forbidden to settle within two miles of the town.

Machir: And why should they?  They are not even Judeans.

Adoniyah: Because our Lord God says, “You shall not oppress a stranger in your land, for you were once strangers in the land of Egypt.”46  We are to remember the fact that we were immigrants, and that not long before.  As God provided for us, and delivered us from the oppression we experienced in the land of our sojourn, so we should deliver the immigrant from oppression.  Even as we were once homeless and poor, we should help the homeless and poor in our midst. 

Machir: We give all praise to God, but you must realize, Adoniyah, that it is Cyprus who delivered us from our oppression, and he gave us the responsibility to provide for our own security, our own provision, our own help.  Yes, the Most High delivers us, only in the amount that we deliver ourselves.  Right now, the oppression we face is not that of being homeless or made slaves, but rather impoverished and made hungry because of theft.

Adoniyah: Not a single person went hungry because of the grain I took!  Rather, many would be left hungry if that food was not delivered to the poor!

Machir: Guards, please silence Adoniyah.  (Machir waits while five young men, waiting for the command of the elders, hold Adoniyah and hit him in the face repeatedly.)  There, now I can speak without interruption.  Dear Yakov, and the rest of the elders, the true threat against Zorah is Adoniyah himself.  Not only has he stolen from some of the most important and respected members of this community, but he has done it even after punishment.  And he has done it in order to feed these foreigners who threaten to overrun our land.  As you have heard him speak himself, these foreigners are now a third of our population, and they have all been brought in to our town because of Adoniyah.  As it is clear that Adoniyah has no shame for his crimes, yet continues to threaten our way of life and our freedom, because he provides an example of rebellion to our young, I suggest that another simple punishment would not suffice.

Yakov: What is your suggestion, elder Machir?

Machir: Elder, I fear that if we simply banished Adoniyah, then he would return with his foreigners, and perhaps more from another land, and take over our town.  He would destroy all that we have built, and enslave us all to these foreigners.  To truly deal with the threat of Adoniyah, we must kill him. 

Rehebiah: Adoniyah would harm no one!  He has never hurt anyone in this town!

Machir: Rehebiah, are you an elder?  I must insist upon your silence, or else you will receive the same as Adoniyah.  If Adoniyah is set aside, then his land would be forfeit, as his sons are too young to run them properly.  Until they come of age, the eldership would take possession of the land, and the land could be used for the benefit of the town, instead of it’s detriment.  We would not harm the foreigners, just tell them to leave.  And all the grain found on the land would be returned to Yakov and Habazziniah.  What say you, elders?

Yakov: (Looking around at the elders.)  I think I can speak for all the elders that your plan is excellent, Machir.  Is there any objection?  (The elders remain silent, some looking askance).  Excellent.  Then I command, on the authority of the elders, for Adoniyah to be killed by stoning, immediately.  Guards, take him outside of the town.  Every elder and member of the town of Zorah, please follow. 

Adoniyah is dragged outside the town, with the elders following.  All but a few citizens remain behind, not wanting to throw a stone, nor even to see the evil proceedings.  The accusers and condemners surround the servant of God, picking up stones.  He cries out, “God, grant justice!  Judge between me and my accusers!”  Yakov throws the first stone, and bloodlust falls upon all of them, picking up as heavy stones as they can, casting at the head and body of the servant.  Bones crush and blood flows.  Overlooking the execution stands Isaiah, proclaiming God’s word:

Isaiah: “My servant will prosper.  He will be exalted above you.  You may be astonished at his appearance, how he is marred and malformed. But he will cleanse those from other nations.  Kings and governors will be silent before him.  He had no majesty that we should look to him for leadership, nor charisma that we should follow him.  He was despised and forsaken by men,  and we did not speak out for him, for we did not honor him.  Yet he bore our sorrows, he carried our grief.  We called him cursed by God and forsaken by our Lord.  He is being pierced for our transgressions, and crushed for our iniquities.  But we are made well by his wounds.  We have all gone astray like sheep, but the Lord has laid on him all of our sins.  He is oppressed and made one with the anawim.  Like a sheep before the shearers, he is now silent, not saying a word.  But the Lord is pleased to have him crushed, to make of him a guilt offering.  Because of this oppression, the Lord will grant him children to rise up in his place.  Because of the anguish of his soul, the Lord will give him prosperity.  The Lord will set aside the evil in this land, due to this oppression.  And He will restore it to the oppressed.  Therefore I allot him a portion with the great.  He will be of the mighty because he allowed himself to be poured out to death.  He was numbered with the transgressors, and bore the sin of many.”47

Isaiah took word of this tragedy to Zerubbabel, the governor of Judea.    Zerubbabel tore his cloak and mourned for this good man, Adoniyah, who died for obeying the word of the Lord.  Then he took five hundred men and had them travel to Zorah, eight miles away.  All the elders were put on trial and killed for their injustice.  And the widow of Adoniyah was granted rule, in the stead of her children, and all the foreigners, once restricted to the land of Adoniyah was all granted the land of the elders, as well as land surrounding the town.  Thus, the town remained peaceful for a hundred years.

42. To recall the history of Yakov and Adoniyah, you might want to glance over their first story in chapter 2.
43. Leviticus 19:9-10
44. 22:21.
45. Isaiah 52:13-53:12.

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