Brueggemann on the Boy King

This section is Brueggemann at his absolute best:

The paragraph on the emancipation of Jehoiachin, as it stands, is a statement of hope. It reminds us that hope is not a property, not a possession, but always a gift given generously and held loosely, always a chance and not an assurance, always a gamble against the staring face of reality. Despair is a disease in the modern world, a sense of closure already enacted against the world. Nostalgia is a pathology that imagines a possible return to the way it never was. Optimism is a sickness that pretends and disregards how it really is. Denial is the stuff of refusal to live the life given us.

Taken all together—despair, nostalgia, optimism, denial—are all fashionable in a technically-ordered world that is thin on memory. But this boy king stands, as placed by the narrative, against all of that disengagement from the reality of exile. Hope, elusive and emancipatory, is a refusal to accept an end, a refusal to give Nebuchadnezzar the final word, a refusal to think that our defeats have in them the defeat of holiness, a refusal as it is more recently said, to give Hitler a posthumous victory. And so the boy king, now middle-aged, eats and waits, not knowing. The scene is so Jewish.

Walter Brueggemann, 1 & 2 Kings, ed. Samuel E. Balentine, Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary (Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys Publishing, Incorporated, 2000), 607–609.

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