Thursday, February 28, 2013

Middle Management in 2 Esdras

In 2 Esdras 16 (= Nehemiah 6) we see the effects of middle management in the Persian Empire.

The Persian rulers had allowed the Jews to rebuild the temple at Jerusalem. The Jews at Jerusalem wanted to build the temple. Even though those on the top and those on the bottom wanted the same thing, the middle management had other ideas. In this case, the middle management was the governors located in Samaria. They accused those who were building the temple:
It is rumored among the Gentiles that you and the Jews are considered apostate . . . and you have set up prophets for yourself (2 Esdras 16:6-7).
Nehemiah and those building the temple were not apostate, just rumored to be among the Gentiles. Nehemiah did not really care what the Gentiles thought. The middle management did not care that Nehemiah was carrying out the orders of the Persian emperors; they did not care that Nehemiah was following the dictates of his own conscience. They did not care to find out what was actually going on. They only wanted to listen to the Gentiles and declare Nehemiah in the wrong. Nehemiah said as much:
It did not happen according to this account, which you are claiming, because after your own heart you are lying to them (2 Esdras 16:8).
The middle management, however, got an ecclesiastical leader to denounce Nehemiah, but Nehemiah
 recognized that God had not sent him, because the prophecy was directed against me, and [the middle management] bribed him to set the crowd against me so that I would be afraid and would act this way and I would sin and get an evil reputation among them so that I could be censured (2 Esdras 16:12-13).
Nehemiah had previously done two things to protect himself:
We prayed to our God and we set a watch against them day and night (2 Esdras 14:3).
I sent them messengers (angels) saying. I am doing a great work and I cannot come down lest the work cease (2 Esdras 16:3).
At least in 2 Esdras (Nehemiah), middle management is likely to try to further their own petty self interest and thwart the work of the Lord.