250 AD to 270 AD, Psalm 60: Nehardea.

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    Summary

This generation is from the years 250 AD to 270 AD.

According to our count, this generation is the 60th generation associated with Psalm 60. It is in this Psalm 60 that we therefore find an illustration of the facts of this generation.

Babylonian Judaism takes up the torch from Palestinian Judaism. The struggle between the two empires of the time, Rome and Persia, calls into question a situation favorable to the development of Babylonian Judaism.

Palmyra, ally of Rome, made the Jews pay for their support to the Persians. They raze the town of Nehardea and especially the rabbinical academy located there. The destruction of the Babylonian academy will not prevent the sages from continuing their work and finishing writing the Babylonian Talmud which will keep the Jewish people together for many centuries.

Talk

Hamath

Before turning to the psalm itself, one should try to analyze again its title or rather its introduction.

(extract of the psalm 60 associated to this generation, verses 1 and 2 )

  • For the conductor, on shushan eduth, a michtam of David, to teach.
  • When he fought with Aram-Naharaim and with Aram-Zobah, and Joab returned and smote twelve thousand of Edom in the valley of salt.

The episode mentioned is recounted in Samuel (and more briefly in I Chronicles, Chapter 18). It comes after David had finally closed the succession disputes with Saul’s clan. Also after God assured him the kingship in the house of David forever:

  • But[2] My mercy shall not depart from him (the Lord evokes David’s successor: Solomon) as I withdrew it from Saul, whom I removed from before you.
  • And your house and your kingdom shall be confirmed forever before you; your throne shall be established forever.”

Following this promise, David fights the enemies of Israel. It is this fight that is recalled in the introduction to the psalm:

  • And[3] it came to pass after this, that David smote the Philistines and he subdued them; and David took Metheg-ammah from the hands of the Philistines.
  • And he smote Moab, and measured them off with a line, making them lie down on the ground; and he measured two cord-lengths to put to death, and one full cord-length to keep alive. And the Moabites became as servants to David, bringing presents.
  • And David smote Hadadezer the son of Rehob, king of Zobah, as he went to extend his dominion to the Euphrates River.
  • And David captured from him, one thousand and seven hundred horsemen, and twenty thousand footmen; and David houghed all the chariots [horses] and left over of them for a hundred chariots.
  • And Aram of Damascus came to aid Hadadezer, king of Zobah; and David smote of Aram, twenty-two thousand men.
  • And David placed governors in Aram of Damascus; and the Arameans became servants to David, paying tribute to him. And the Lord helped David wherever he went.
  • And David took the quivers of gold that were on the servants of Hadadezer and brought them to Jerusalem.
  • And from Betah, and from Berotai, the cities of Hadadezer, King David took huge quantities of copper.
  • And Toi, the king of Hamath heard that David had defeated all the army of Hadadezer.
  • And Toi sent Joram, his son, to King David to greet him and to bless him, because he had fought against Hadadezer and defeated him: for Hadadezer had been Toi’s opponent in war, and in his possession were vessels of silver and vessels of gold and vessels of copper.
  • These also the king David dedicated to the Lord, [along] with the silver and the gold that he dedicated from all the nations that he had conquered.
  • From Aram, and from Moab, and from the children of Ammon, and from the Philistines, and from Amalek, and from the spoils of Hadadezer, the son of Rehob, king of Zobah.
  • And David made for himself a name when he returned from smiting the Arameans in the Valley of Salt, eighteen thousand men.
  • And he placed governors in Edom; throughout all of Edom he placed governors, and all of Edom became servants to David. And the Lord saved David wherever he went.

On the surface, if all is not perfect for David’s enemies, all seems for the best for David and therefore for the people of Israel, which contrasts with the psalm which is relatively negative.

In fact, David’s victory is not complete. Hamat, whose king made a pact with David, will be the symbol of the exile of the two future kingdoms of Israel. During the exile of Samaria, it is the inhabitants of Hamat who will come to replace the Jews of this kingdom. After the fall of Jerusalem, part of the Jews of the kingdom of Judah will be deported to Hamat. In David’s victory there are already signs of the future exiles of the people of Israel. Condemned to search each time for a new land in which to settle until history forces them into a new exile.

Moreover[4], the signs of the fall of the kingdom or kingdoms of Israel will not be long in coming, for David will be forced to fight against the Ammonites and will send his best soldiers to battle. While one of them, Uriah the Hittite, will be on the battlefield, David will be at fault with Bathsheba, Uriah’s wife, bringing about the slow but certain fall of the kingdom.

This ambiguous situation reflects the generation that interests us.

Palmyra

While Babylonian Judaism was able to take the torch of Palestinian Judaism and the new king of Persia Shahpuhr I is more lenient than his predecessor to the Jews of Persia, the struggle between the two empires of the time, Rome and the Persia calls into question this situation favorable to the development of Babylonian Judaism:

  • Shahpuhr [1] 1st (241-272 AD) needed money to fight against Rome, so he spared Jews and all religious minorities. The Emperor Valerian was defeated and taken prisoner (260 AD), but this Persian victory was made vain by Odenath and Zenobia, rulers of Palmyra allied with Rome, who twice repelled the Persians as far as Ctesiphon (in 263 AD and 265 AD). ) and occupied the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire from 260 AD to 272 AD. The Jews had, with particular perseverance, fought against the Romans and the Palmyrenians; As a result, the invaders took revenge by cutting down the town of Nehardea, including the rabbinical academy there (260).
1024px-Palmyre_-_théâtre_pano

The kingdom of Palmyra former fief of Ammonites hinders the expansion of Babylonian Judaism.

It is this event, the fall of Nehardea, that David evokes at the beginning of the psalm of this generation:

(extract of the psalm 60 associated to this generation, verses 3 to 6 )

  • O God, You have forsaken us; You have breached us; You were angry with us. You shall restore us. 
    • Nehardea, along with Soura was the heart of Babylonian Judaism who goes through the Babylonian Talmud to construct the Jewish identity in exile necessary for its survival. The destruction of this academy could have had the same effect on this construction as the breach opened by the Romans in the defenses of Jerusalem. Just as the Temple, the material identity of Judaism, was destroyed following the opening of this breach, spiritual identity might not have survived the destruction of Nehardea. David’s petition will be heard by the next generation with the foundation of Poumbedita.
  • You caused the land to quake; You split it; heal its breaches for it has faltered.  
    • The destruction of Nehardea completes that of the Temple and that following the revolt of Bar Kokhba and threatens the edifice of Judaism.
  • You have shown Your people harshness; You have given us to drink wine of bewilderment.
  • You have given those who fear You trials with which to be tested, in order to beautify [Your behavior] forever.
    • The banner will soon be established with the Talmud of Babylon.

Babylonian Talmud

But as the fall of the Davidic dynasty and the exile of the land of Israel were not enough to remove the Jewish people, the destruction of the Babylonian Academy will not prevent the wise to continue their work and to finish to write the Babylonian Talmud which has been the cement of the Jewish people for many centuries.

Neither the spirit of David nor that of the Babylonian sages will leave the Jewish people who, with their help, can regain their sovereignty and place with God at the end of time.

This is what David evokes in the sequel of the psalm where the quotation of Gilead (Border of the Ammonites, Palmyra), Moab (Persian Area) and Edom (Rome) at the sight of the events of this generation is not fortuitous:

(extract of the psalm 60 associated to this generation, verses 7 to 14 )

  • In order that Your beloved ones should be rescued, save Your right hand and answer me.
  • God spoke in His Sanctuary; I will exult, I will divide a portion, and I will measure the valley of Succoth.
  • Gilead is mine, and Manasseh is mine, and Ephraim is the strength of my head; Judah is my lawgiver.
  • Moab is my washbasin; on Edom I will throw my lock; Philistia, join me.
  • Who will bring me to a fortified city?-He Who led me to Edom?
  • Is it not You, O God, Who has forsaken us, and [Who] does not go forth, O God, with our hosts?
  • Give us aid against the adversary, but the salvation of man is futile.
  • Through God we shall gather might, and He will trample our adversaries.

[1] Encyclopedic Dictionary of Judaism / Sketch of the history of the Jewish people- The ancient and medieval world: Babylon (the Sassanid period) (French: Dictionnaire Encyclopédique du Judaïsme/Cerf-Laffont/Esquisse de l’histoire du peuple Juif- Le monde antique et médiéval : Babylone (la période des Sassanides) p1138 ).

[2] Shmuel II – II Samuel – Chapter 7, verses 15 and 16

[3] Shmuel II – II Samuel – Chapter 8, verses 1 to 14

[4] Shmuel II – II Samuel – Chapters 10 and 11