The biblical passage of the Gospel today is the Temptation of Jesus (Matthew 4:1-11). While Maureen Doherty, the pastor here at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church at Waverly, preached, I deeply meddiated on the last one among three temptations:
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he siadh to him. “Alll these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Jesis said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him'” (vv. 8-10).
What does the author of Matthew make by this? What pops into my mind when I heard this last temptation is a similiarity of this idol worship to the ancient Near Eastern kingship, which is a political propaganda for the kinship. Muhammad Dandamayev attests this issue as follows:
In the first millennum B.C.E., with the exception of the pharaohs, kings in the Near East were not deified. They considered themselves only earthly representatives of the gods (Dandamayev 1996, 36).
As an example, the Cyrus Cylinder, a famous Persian loyal decree, repeats this political propaganda that “Marduk called out Cyrus” and “Marduk caused the magnanimous people Babylon to me and I [Cyrus] daily attended to his [Markduk] worship” (COS 2.124).
As we know very well, th last word of Jesus to this last temptation came from the Dueteronomistic theology: “Worship the Lord your God and serve only him” (v. 10). Thus, the historical baground of this temptation is surely either pre-exilic or post-exilic, which is a period of poilitcal and religious struggles of the people of YHWH with the other gods and thier politics.
Dandamayev, Muhammad. 1996. State Gods and Private Religion in the Near East in the First Millennum B.C.E. in Religion and Politics in the Ancient Near East, ed. Adele Berlin, 35-45. University of Maryland.
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