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I am going to great lengths because it is there, and I don’t think it is right to gloss over it just because it doesn’t easily fit our modern theologies. There is nothing to be gained in the long run from hermeneutical dishonesty.

Both in the Old Testament and with regard to first century Israel clearly history precedes the interpretation of history. The Romans invaded for a political reasons, not because they believed that the God of the whole earth was sending them to punish his people. Jesus foresaw that and presumably understood the political dynamics, but as a prophet he also interpreted it theologically, in light of the covenant and the prophets and Israel’s history. He seems to have relied heavily on Jeremiah, who no doubt likewise appreciated the fact that the Babylonian invasion could be explained in mundane geopolitical terms.

I think that in Matthew 23 Jesus does attribute the foreseen disaster to God. The Romans aren’t going to make the connection between the killing of the prophets and their blood coming upon this generation. Only God can make that connection. Only God can make the war a matter of vengeance for the persecution of his servants. That is the prophetic interpretation of the predicted historical events. It’s theology, not rhetoric.

Where was YHWH in this? Well, where in the Old Testament or the Gospels or anywhere else in the New Testament does it say that YHWH withdrew and simply allowed history to take its course? Ancient Jews were not Deists! They held to a consistent narrative of divine engagement in their history, for better or for worse.

And how, in any case, is the withdrawal of YHWH not active neglect or abandonment? How is withdrawal any different from YHWH directly inflicting wrath on his people? Where’s the consolation in that for Israel?

Finally, what are we to make of Paul’s words at the end of his sermon in Pisidian Antioch?

Beware, therefore, lest what is said in the Prophets should come about: “‘Look, you scoffers, be astounded and perish; for I am doing a work in your days, a work that you will not believe, even if one tells it to you.’” (Acts 13:40–41)

This is a quotation from Habakkuk 1:5, where the prophet is told that God is raising up a might nation, which will march through the earth to punish unrighteousness in Israel.

Enjoy Kenya!

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