Skullduggery in the Silences: Five Shadowy Time Gaps Related to Ezra-Nehemiah -- By: A. Boyd Luter

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 21:1 (Fall 2003)
Article: Skullduggery in the Silences: Five Shadowy Time Gaps Related to Ezra-Nehemiah
Author: A. Boyd Luter

Skullduggery in the Silences:
Five Shadowy Time Gaps Related to Ezra-Nehemiah

A. Boyd Luter

Professor of Biblical Studies
The Criswell College
4010 Gaston Ave.
Dallas, Texas 75246

I. Introduction: When Silence Is Anything but “Golden”

When there is much being said, or there is constant or grating noise, and it has been that way for some time, it is indeed true that “silence is golden,” a very welcome relief from the clamor. But, when there is little being said, or an otherwise eerie silence dominates, that kind of silence seems “loud,” even deafening—anything but “golden.”

In addition, almost everyone has experienced the sensation that “in spite of the silence, I know something (usually not good) is going on.” For example, I remember with a smile those times as a child when my mother would stick her head into a room where either my siblings and I, or my friends and I, were playing, and ask suspiciously, “What are you kids up to? It’s way too quiet in here. The only time it gets this quiet is when you’re into something that you’re not supposed to be doing.” Usually, I must admit, Mom’s instincts were right.

In regard to Ezra-Nehemiah,1 there are five lengthy2 periods of silence that clearly relate to the narrative as cause (what took place during the periods of silence) to effect (the state of affairs when the narrative commences or resumes). Significantly, in each case, the narration barely begins before substantial new (or renewed) problems—caused by someone’s “skullduggery” (i.e., dishonorable proceedings)—among God’s people grab the spotlight. Thus, although it is fully recognized that selectivity in regard to events is a classic characteristic of narrative,3 it appears that, when one attempts to understand what was involved during these five periods of narrative, “silence” may be disproportionately important in grasping both the practical lessons and the theological message of Ezra-Nehemiah.

Based on that preliminary observation, the breakdown of this study will be as follows: 1) A “big picture” overview of the entire relevant period of time (i.e., the Exilic and Post-Exilic/early Second Temple era; 2) a brief biblical/historical4 discussion of each of the five periods of “silence” before or between the narrative of Ezra-Nehemiah, seeking to understand what can be reasonably

ascertained as to origin of the “skulldu...

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