This investigation is about the theological perspectives in Ezra and Nehemiah on the concept of ‘Yahweh’s people’ during the early post-exilic period (539-350 BC). The study has utilized literary and historical methods with a theological perspective since the text of the Bible is a literary, historical and theological document (cf Gorman 2001:8; McKenzie&Haynes 1999:20-21). The books of Ezra and Nehemiah formed the primary sources of the research. The Abrahamic and the Mosaic covenants, as well as the Ancient Near Eastern Treaty pattern have also been investigated as a background picture to the discussion in Ezra and Nehemiah. The study reveals that there is both an exclusive and an inclusive perspective in Ezra and Nehemiah. Similar perspectives are found in the Abrahamic/Mosaic covenants. These perspectives concern the conception of ‘Yahweh’s people’ and other nations, foreigners and aliens. On the one hand, the exclusive’ theological perspective in Ezra and Nehemiah looks at those who did not go into exile and essentially, the rest of the other people as ‘foreigners’ or aliens; but primarily as those who are not ‘Yahweh’s people’. Non-exiles were perceived as a threat to the religious, political, economic, social life, and progress of the early returned exiles. On the other hand, the inclusive theological perspective in Ezra and Nehemiah viewed non-exiles or other nations/foreigners with sympathy and appreciation (cf Ezr 1:1-3; 3:7; 4:2; 6:13-14; 10:15; Neh 2:8-9). This group considered the so-called foreigners as partners, friends and human beings who could embrace Yahweh as their God. In view of the dual perspectives, I have argued that the author(s)/editor(s) of the books of Ezra and Nehemiah re-interpreted certain passages from the Pentateuch and from the deuteronomic-deuteronomistic history in a peculiar way to support the exclusive religious and social reforms of Ezra and Nehemiah. Thus, this investigation has shown that Israel and essentially all other nations, races and people could become ‘Yahweh’s people’ through appropriate covenant means. These covenant processes included: -- Yahweh’s promise to become the God of the Patriarchs as well as the God of Israel (cf Gn 17:7-8); --The notion of Abraham as the father of a multitude of nations (cf Gn 17:5); -- Circumcision (cf Gn 17:10-14); -- The blessing of other nations via Abraham and his descendants (cf Gn 12:3; 18:18; 22:18; 26:4; 28:14); -- Food provision (cf Ex 23:10-11; Lv 19:9-10; 23:22; 25:1-7; Dt 14:28-29; 24:19-21; 26:12-15); -- Sabbath keeping (cf Ex 20:8-11; 23:12; Dt 5:12-15); -- Celebration of Passover, feasts of Weeks and Tabernacles (cf Ex 12:17-20, 48-49; Nm 9:14; Dt 16:10-14); -- Equality of both the Israelites and the aliens before the law of Yahweh (cf Ex 12:49; Lv 24:22; Nm 9:14; 15:13-16, 29-30); -- Intermarriage (cf Tamar-Gn 38:6-30; Moses-Nm 12:1-2; Ruth-Rt 1:16-17; 4:13-22; Rahab-Jos 6:22-23 and Bathsheba-2 Sm 11:3, 26-27; 12:24-25); -- Sacrificial offering (cf Lv 22:17-20, 25; Nm 15:13-16) and -- Cities of refuge (cf Nm 35:14-15). The reforms of Ezra and Nehemiah ignored this inclusive perspective of the two covenants. Ezra and Nehemiah adopted the exclusive perspective of both covenants as the basis for their reforms. This is a one-sided understanding of the Abrahamic and the Mosaic covenant perspective on ‘Yahweh’s people’. A close reading of the two covenants reveals the openness of Yahweh, the God of Israel, to all nations, races, peoples and ethnic groups. Yahweh accepted all people who embraced him as their God through appropriate covenant means. Yahweh cannot be confined to a single group of people as presupposed in Ezra and Nehemiah. He cannot be localized!
Thesis (PhD (Old Testament Studies))--University of Pretoria, 2006.