Offerings Matter: Revisiting the Sabbath Transgression in Nehemiah 13 and the So-Called Sabbath Reform

Check out this new article from GDR Ph.D. student Ludwig Noya:

Abstract: Recent interpretations of the Sabbath rest concept in the Hebrew Bible tend to highlight its humanitarian aspect. However, in this paper, I aim to nuance this claim by attending to a rarely discussed Sabbath text in Nehemiah 13. I will argue that the Sabbath rest motif in Nehemiah is less concerned about the humanitarian aspect than the temple’s maintenance while at the same time fulfilling the imperial tax obligation. The Sabbath rest motif supports Nehemiah’s demand for the temple’s communal funding through tithes and offerings. To support this argument, I begin by reviewing the discussion about the Achaemenid imperial rule over the Jerusalem temple and its tax obligation. Scholars differ on how significant the Jerusalem temple was for the imperial administration, but some sort of obligation to the empire is generally accepted. After that, I analyze how the Sabbath concept is manifested in Neh. 13.15–22 in relation to its literary contexts. Along with clearing the temple storeroom, maintaining temple resources, and restricting exogamy, the Sabbath concept facilitates the temple’s maintenance and the meeting of the imperial tax obligation.

Read the full article here.

Ludwig is a doctorate student in the Hebrew Bible and Ancient Near Eastern Studies at the Graduate Department of Religion.

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