Saturday, February 04, 2006

Bo (Haftarah)

“A beautiful heifer is Egypt…. Her soldiers like fatted calves”

The haftarah for Bo, taken from Jeremiah 46:13-28, is somewhat shorter and more concise than those that preceded it. Here, we have a prophecy “on the day that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylonia shall come to smite the land of Egypt”—that is, the defeat of Egypt is already seen as a tangible, concrete reality, and not merely a vision for their future. There is a picture (perhaps a satirical image of the Israelite people from Judah who had sought refuge in Egypt during difficult times and now find themselves trapped in the violence of another people’s wars?) who say “Come, let us return to our people and to our birthplace, because of the sword of the oppressor” (46:16). In any event, the bottom line is one of the utter ruin and destruction of Egypt.

The final verses make a point that is important for the prophet: that, unlike the other nations, God will chastise Israel, but not thoroughly destroy or eradicate them. Because of His covenantal relation with them, God’s aim with Israel is to educate them and return them to the right path, rather than to simply punish them. Hence, the leit motif of this chapter, “Have no fear, O Jacob, for I shall save you from afar” (46:27, 28).


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