At the end of Revelation 9, we are informed that even the three plagues of fire, smoke, and brimstone did not drive men to repentance. Instead, they clung to their idols. Once idols are mentioned, they are described in terms of both materials and their threefold inability. They are constructed from five different substances here, arranged in descending value, from metals to wood. Their threefold inability: They cannot see, hear, or walk.
This polemic has a couple of sources in the Old Testament.
The claim that idols are the works of men’s hands, made of inanimate materials, and incapable of sense or movement, is a normal part of idol polemics (Psalm 115; 135; Isaiah 44).
But the places in the Old Testament where these three materials are spoken of together are typically in passages that deal with the tabernacle and temple (cf. Exodus 25:3; 31:4-5, 32; 1 Chronicles 29:2, 7; 2 Chronicles 2:6). This supports James Jordan’s notion that the statue of Daniel 2 is an image of the temple. In Revelation, the polemic is not just against idols in general, but against the idolatry of the temple.
This is the chief idolatry that is committed by the men of the land in the first century. Especially after the living temple arrived, continued prostration before the works of their hands, the grand temple of Herod, was a paralyzing idolatry. Jews cling idolatrously to the temple, hoping that they can be preserved in the land. But their very idolatry of the temple is what makes the land expel them.
posted by Peter J. Leithart on Thursday, September 27, 2012 at 1:48 pm
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