Job is not a sinner (Job 1:22-1:22)

“In all this, Job did not sin or charge God with wrongdoing.”

This is the great Job. He never sinned. He never charged God with any wrongdoing. He accepted what God had given and what God had taken away. This was not an angry man, nor a man upset at things in his life. We shall see as things go along what happens to him.

Job prays to Yahweh (Job 1:20-1:21)

“Then Job arose. He tore his robe. He shaved his head. He fell upon the ground. He worshiped. He said.

‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb.

Naked shall I return.

Yahweh gave.

Yahweh has taken away.

Blessed be the name of Yahweh.’”

Job tore his clothes and shaved his head, as these actions were the rituals of mourning.  He fell on the ground and prayed to Yahweh, even though he was not an Israelite. As an upright man in this story, he would have worshipped Yahweh, if he knew about him. Nevertheless, the author of this work has him refer to God as Yahweh. He came into the world naked and so he would leave this earth without anything. He seemed to make a parallel between his mother’s womb and mother earth, where he came from and where he is going. Thus the earth was both womb and tomb. Yahweh gave him wealth and now Yahweh has taken it away. Blessed be Yahweh, with or without wealth. This is the great wisdom thought, that wealth was not that important. However wisdom was important.

The problems of Job (Job 1:13-1:19)

“One day Job’s sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in the eldest brother’s house. A messenger came to Job and said.

‘The oxen were plowing.

The donkeys were feeding beside them.

The Sabeans fell upon them.

They carried them off.

They killed the servants with the edge of the sword.

I alone have escaped to tell you.’

While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said.

‘The fire of God fell from heaven.

It burned up the sheep and the servants.

It consumed them.

I alone have escaped to tell you.’

While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said.

‘The Chaldeans formed three columns.

They made a raid upon the camels.

They carried them off.

They killed the servants with the edge of the sword.

I alone have escaped to tell you.’

While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said.

‘Your sons and daughters were eating

And drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house.

Suddenly a great wind came across the desert.

It struck the four corners of the house.

It fell on the young people.

They are dead.

I alone have escaped to tell you.’”

Once again, we begin with the once upon a time concept of “one day” back here on earth. The 10 children of Job were eating and drinking wine together. In a very oral stylistic format, 4 messengers, one after another come to tell him the bad news about his estate and his family. The repetition of lines for each group indicates an oral tradition that made it easy to remember. First, the Sabeans, a southern Arab tribe or traders where present day Yemen is, stole his 500 oxen and 500 donkeys. They also killed all the servants except one. The queen of Sheba may have been from Sheba and part of the Semitic Sabeans, somehow a descendent of Shem, the son of Noah. Secondly, lightning from heaven, the fire of God, destroyed and burned the 7,000 sheep as well as the servants watching them, except for one. Thirdly, the Chaldeans, a predominant Semitic tribe near the Persian Gulf that was taken over by the Babylonians around 600 BCE, stole all his 3,000 camels. They killed all his servants watching them except one. Finally, all his 10 children died when their house fell on them during a great wind storm. The servants all died, except one. Disaster has hit Job on many fronts. Foreigners stole his livestock. Lightning and windstorms destroyed his family and sheep.

The dialogue of Yahweh and Satan (Job 1:6-1:12)

“One day the heavenly beings came to present themselves before Yahweh. Satan also came among them. Yahweh said to Satan.

‘Where have you come from?’

Satan answered Yahweh.

‘From going to and fro on the earth,

I am walking up and down on it.’

Yahweh said to Satan.

‘Have you considered my servant Job?

There is no one like him on the earth.

He is a blameless and upright man.

He fears God.

He turns away from evil.’

Then Satan answered Yahweh.

‘Does Job fear God for nothing?

Have you not put a fence around him?

Have you not put a fence around his house and all that he has?

The fence is on every side.

You have blessed the work of his hands.

His possessions have increased in the land.

But stretch out your hand now.

Touch all that he has.

He will curse you to your face.’

Yahweh said to Satan.

‘Very well,

All that he has is in your power.

Only do not stretch out your hand against him!’

Satan then went out from the presence of Yahweh.”

Now we have a divine perspective with the 2 main protagonists of the story in a heavenly, other world since Job was not aware of this conversation. Yahweh was the Jewish Israelite God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Satan was the adversary or the powerful evil one, who later became the personification of evil or the devil, just like the serpent in Genesis, chapter 3. The assumption is that everyone knew who they were. Notice that Yahweh and Satan were on good speaking terms with each other. The heavenly beings, or sons of God, are some sort of council with God that is often referred to as the angels of God or some sort of lesser gods, subordinate to the main God. Satan seems to be one of these heavenly subordinate beings or angels. However, he seems more involved with earth. Yahweh started the conversation by asking Satan where he was from. He responded that he had been walking around earth. Yahweh then said that he must have seen his wonderful blameless and upright servant Job, who did no evil. Satan responded that Yahweh had put a fence or hedge all around him. He had blessed his work so that everything increased for him. Satan wanted Yahweh to stretch out his hand and see if he would curse Yahweh. Yahweh said that he would not do that, but he would allow Satan to do whatever he wanted to Job, except personally harm him. So the story begins.

The introduction to Job (Job 1:1-1:5)

“That man was blameless and upright. Job feared God. He had turned away from evil. There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. He had seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred donkeys, and very many servants. This man was the greatest of all the people of the east. His sons used to go and hold feasts in one another’s houses in turn. They would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. When the feast days had run their course, Job would send and sanctify them. He would rise early in the morning. He would offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. Job said.

‘It may be that my children have sinned.

It may be that they cursed God in their hearts.’

This is what Job always did.”

Who is Job? This is not about getting a job. Job was blameless, an upright man. He was a pious man with a strong faith. He feared God and shunned evil. He was not an Israelite since there was no attempt to put him into a genealogy that would connect him with Abraham. He had 10 children, 7 sons and 3 daughters. He had a huge prosperous estate since he had 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 oxen, 500 donkeys, and many servants. He was a rich guy, the greatest man in the east, or east of the Jordan River, or at least in Edom. All the 10 children would gather for a feast every day at a different person’s house. This included the symbolic numbers of 3 sisters with 7 brothers. When the festival days were over, Job would always offer a burnt offering for each one of them, just in case any of them may have sinned and cursed God in their hearts. In other words, he had a sense of sin and a sense of a spiritual relationship to God. So Job was a righteous rich man with 10 children who offered his own burnt offerings for the possible sins of his children.   Thus we have a snapshot picture of a happy prosperous God fearing Job.

In the land of Uz (Job 1:1-1:1)

“There was once a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job.”

He was called Job, a man from Uz, not Oz, although that name may have come from here. It has a fairy tale tone with the once upon a time in a far away country tone in this opening sentence. Uz was probably in Edom, south of Israel. In Genesis, chapter 10, Uz was the first born son of Abram, whose father was Shem, who in turn had Noah as his father. Thus Uz was the great grandson of Noah. There also was a place in southern Syria with this name. Uz was the first born of Nahor and Milcah, the brother of Abraham in Genesis, chapter 22. Uz was also a son of Dishan, who was the son of Seir, the Horite, in Genesis, chapter 36, and also in 1 Chronicles, chapter 1. Thus this country of Uz could have been named after any of these people who were descended from Noah (Shem, Abram) as a great grandson, Abraham (Nahor) as a nephew, or from Seir (Dishan) as a grandson of a Horite. The closet connection to Israel would be as the nephew of Abraham. Definitely, this is not in Israel or a descendent of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, probably northern Arabia or southern Jordan.

Outline of the Book of Job

Outline of the Book of Job

 I. Prologue

In the land of Uz (Job 1:1-1:1)

The introduction to Job (Job 1:1-1:5)

The dialogue of Yahweh and Satan (Job 1:6-1:12)

The problems of Job (Job 1:13-1:19)

Job prays to Yahweh (Job 1:20-1:21)

Job is not a sinner (Job 1:22-1:22)

Yahweh and Satan meet again (Job 2:1-2:6)

Satan afflicts Job with skin sores (Job 2:7-2:8)

Job and his wife (Job 2:9-2:10)

The three friends of Job (Job 2:11-2:13)


II. Dialogues

 1. First cycle of discourses

Job curses the day he was born (Job 3:1-3:1)

Job curses the night he was conceived (Job 3:2-3:10)

Job would prefer the eternal rest in death (Job 3:11-3:19)

Job curses life itself (Job 3:20-3:23)

Job’s troubles give him no rest (Job 3:24-3:26)

Eliphaz speaks to Job (Job 4:1-4:6)

The innocent do not perish (Job 4:7-4:11)

The vision of Eliphaz (Job 4:12-4:21)

The troubles with being human (Job 5:1-5:7)

Eliphaz has confidence in an almighty God (Job 5:8-5:16)

Eliphaz explains who the happy man is (Job 5:17-5:27)

Job responds by complaining (Job 6:1-6:7)

Job realizes that he has no help (Job 6:8-6:13)

Job is not happy with his companions (Job 6:14-6:20)

Job says he has asked for nothing (Job 6:21-6:23)

Job wants them to explain themselves (Job 6:24-6:27)

Job challenges them to look at him (Job 6:28-6:30)

Job describes his difficult human life (Job 7:1-7:6)

Job turns to God directly in a prayer (Job 7:7-7:10)

Job bitterly complains (Job 7:11-7:21)

Bildad the Shuhite chimes in (Job 8:1-8:7)

Bildad wants Job to consider his ancestors (Job 8:8-8:10)

Water and vegetation (Job 8:11-8:19)

God never rejects the blameless person (Job 8:20-8:22)

Job responds that God is powerful (Job 9:1-9:12)

Job maintains that he is innocent (Job 9:13-9:24)

Job’s days are numbered (Job 9:25-9:35)

Job complains to God (Job 10:1-10:7)

Job recalls his creation by God (Job 10:8-10:17)

Job wants to know why he was ever born (Job 10:18-10:22)

Zophar chimes in (Job 11:1-11:6)

Mystery of God (Job 11:7-11:12)

Divine justice is correct (Job 11:13-11:20)

Job responds with sarcasm (Job 12:1-12:6)

Learn from the world around you (Job 12:7-12:10)

Where is wisdom? (Job 12:11-12:12)

The power of the wise God (Job 12:13-12:25)

Job attacks his friends (Job 13:1-13:12)

Job wants to plead his case before God (Job 13:13-13:16)

Job wants God to listen to him (Job 13:17-13:28)

Job explains the mortal human condition (Job 14:1-14:6)

Man is not a tree (Job 14:7-14:12)

Job speaks about Sheol (Job 14:13-14:17)

Job knows that death awaits him (Job 14:18-14:22)


 2. Second cycle of discourses

Job is condemned by his own language (Job 15:1-15:6)

Eliphaz ridicules Job (Job 15:7-15:16)

Eliphaz wants to explain things to Job (Job 15:17-15:19)

Eliphaz instructs Job about the wicked ones (Job 15:20-15:27)

The punishment of the wicked ones (Job 15:28-15:35)

Job responds to his accusers (Job 16:1-16:5)

Job is mad at God (Job 16:6-16:11)

Job says that God is punishing him (Job 16:12-16:17)

Job cries out to earth (Job 16:18-16:22)

Job prepares for his death (Job 17:1-17:2)

Job wants assurances from God (Job 17:3-17:5)

Job proclaims his terrible situation (Job 17:6-17:10)

Job considers death (Job 17:11-17:16)

Bildad responded to Job (Job 18:1-18:4)

Bildad describes the life of the wicked (Job 18:5-18:21)

Job responded that God has put him in this situation (Job 19:1-19:12)

The ostracism of Job (Job 19:13-19:22)

Job wants his story and words remembered (Job 19:23-19:24)

The redeemer (Job 19:25-19:27)

The judgment of the sword (Job 19:28-19:29)

Zophar responded about the wicked ones (Job 20:1-20:11)

The fate of the wicked (Job 20:12-20:19)

God punishes the wicked (Job 20:20-20:29)

Job angrily responds (Job 21:1-21:6)

Job maintains that the wicked do not get punished (Job 21:7-21:13)

The wicked see no profit in God (Job 21:14-21:16)

Do the wicked really suffer? (Job 21:17-21:26)

Job calls out his friends for lying (Job 21:27-21:34)


 3. Third cycle of discourses

Eliphaz accuses Job of wrong doing (Job 22:1-22:7)

Eliphaz claims that Job had much and did not share it (Job 22:8-22:11)

Eliphaz describes God (Job 22:12-22:20)

Eliphaz wants Job to reconcile with God (Job 22:21-22:30)

Job wants to meet God (Job 23:1-23:7)

Job cannot find God (Job 23:8-23:17)

Job thought that God was too busy for the poor (Job 24:1-24:8)

The plight of the poor (Job 24:9-24:12)

The wicked are against the light (Job 24:13-24:17)

The ways of the wicked (Job 24:18-24:21)

The fate of the wicked (Job 24:22-24:25)

Bildad praises God (Job 25:1-25:6)

The ironic response of Job (Job 26:1-26:4)

The hymn to the all powerful God (Job 26:5-26:14)

Job proclaims his innocence (Job 27:1-27:6)

A description of the wicked enemies (Job 27:7-27:12)

The fate of the wicked (Job 27:13-27:23)


4. The hymn to wisdom

An ode to miners (Job 28:1-28:12)

The hidden place of wisdom (Job 28:7-28:8)

The adventurers cannot find wisdom (Job 28:9-28:11)

Where can you find wisdom? (Job 28:12-28:19)

Where does this wisdom come from? (Job 28:20-28:22)

Only God has wisdom (Job 28:23-28:28)


 5. Conclusion of the dialogue

 Job remembers the good old days (Job 29:1-29:6)

People honored Job in the old days (Job 29:7-29:10)

The good works of Job (Job 29:11-29:17)

Job thought that he was on top of the world (Job 29:18-29:20)

Everyone listened to Job (Job 29:21-29:25)

The present distress of Job (Job 30:1-30:8)

These outcasts now look down on Job (Job 30:9-30:15)

Job turns to his own afflictions (Job 30:16-30:19)

Job’s plea to God (Job 30:20-30:23)

Job’s lament (Job 30:24-30:31)

The apologia of Job (Job 31:1-31:4)

Job maintains that he has not been fraudulent (Job 31:5-31:8)

Job maintains that he has not committed adultery (Job 31:9-31:12)

Job never mistreated his slaves (Job 31:13-31:15)

Job was kind to the needy (Job 31:16-31:23)

Job was not greedy (Job 31:24-31:25)

Job did not follow false religious heavenly cults (Job 31:26-31:28)

Job never gloated over others (Job 31:29-31:34)

God would listen to Job (Job 31:35-31:37)

Job provided for the land (Job 31:38-31:40)


III.      The discourse of Elihu

The intervention of the angry Elihu (Job 32:1-32:5)

Elihu was afraid to speak because of his young age (Job 32:6-32:10)

Elihu points out the failure of the three wise comforters (Job 32:11-32:14)

Elihu is eager to give his opinion (Job 32:15-32:22)

Elihu attacks the presumptions of Job (Job 33:1-33:7)

Elihu reviews Job’s defense (Job 33:8-33:11)

God is greater than any mortal man (Job 33:12-33:22)

God’s mediator is an angel (Job 33:23-33:28)

All the things that God does (Job 33:29-33:33)

Elihu turns on the three wise men (Job 34:1-34:9)

Elihu explains that God is always just (Job 34:10-34:15)

God controls human life (Job 34:16-34:20)

God enacts his justice (Job 34:21-34:26)

The role of the godless ones (Job 34:27-34:30)

The sin of Job is rebellion (Job 34:31-34:37)

Elihu explained the advantage of being a sinner (Job 35:1-35:4)

What effect does Job have on God? (Job 35:5-35:8)

Elihu maintains that Job speaks out of ignorance (Job 35:9-35:16)

Elihu continues to speaks for God (Job 36:1-36:4)

The true sense of God’s justice (Job 36:5-36:12)

The godless ones (Job 36:13-36:16)

The purpose of Job’s suffering (Job 36:17-36:21)

The power of God (Job 36:22-36:23)

The hymn to the divine power over the climate (Job 36:24-36:37)

God controls thunder, lightning, and rain (Job 37:1-37:13)

Elihu addresses Job (37:14-37:20)

God is powerful like the sun (Job 37:21-37:24)


 IV. The discourse of Yahweh

1. First discourse

Yahweh confronts Job directly (Job 38:1-38:3)

Yahweh questions Job about creation (Job 38:4-38:7)

Yahweh questions Job about the seas (Job 38:8-38:11)

Yahweh questions Job about the dawn (Job 38:12-38:15)

Yahweh questions Job about darkness (Job 38:16-38:18)

Yahweh questions Job about light and darkness (Job 38:19-38:21)

Yahweh questions Job about the weather (Job 38:22-38:24)

Yahweh questions Job about rain (Job 38:25-38:27)

Yahweh questions Job about frost (Job 38:28-38:30)

Yahweh questions Job about the stellar constellations (Job 38:31-38:33)

Yahweh questions Job about the clouds (Job 38:34-38:38)

Yahweh questions Job about the animals (Job 38:39-38:41)

Yahweh questions Job about mountain goats (Job 39:1-39:4)

Yahweh questions Job about wild asses (Job 39:5-39:8)

Yahweh questions Job about wild oxen (Job 39:9-39:12)

Yahweh questions Job about ostriches (Job 39:13-39:18)

Yahweh questions Job about cavalry horses (Job 39:19-39:25)

Yahweh questions Job about hawks (Job 39:26-39:30)

Yahweh asks Job about his arguments (Job 40:1-40:2)

Job responds (Job 40:3-40:5)


2. Second discourse

Yahweh responds to Job (Job 40:6-40:9)

The power of Yahweh over the proud and wicked (Job 40:10-40:14)

A description of Behemoth (Job 40:15-40:18)

The life of the Behemoth (Job 40:19-40:24)

Leviathan (Job 41:1-41:2)

How to handle the Leviathan (Job 41:3-40:11)

A description of Leviathan (Job 41:12-41:24)

It is hard to kill the Leviathan (Job 41:25-41:29)

The power of Leviathan (Job 41:30-41:34)

The last response of Job (Job 42:1-42:6)


 V. The epilogue

Yahweh blames the three wise men (Job 42:7-42:9)

Yahweh restores the fortune of Job (Job 42:10-42:15)

Job dies as an old man (Job 42:16-42:17)


Thank you – 21

June 28, 2015

Thank you – 21


I just finished blogging the book of 2 Maccabees. Every time I finish a book of the Bible, I send a thank you blog. I usually post five blogs a day covering about a chapter or two of one of the biblical books. So far I have posted 2,720 blogs about the individual paragraphs of the first five books of the Torah, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, as well as the so-called historical books of Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel, 1 Kings and 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles and 2 Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah, Tobit, Judith, Esther, and now 1 Maccabees and 2 Maccabees. This makes the first 21 books of the Bible that are now complete with a commentary for each paragraph. It has taken me nearly two years to get this done.


About a couple of hundred people have emailed me that they are following this project in some form or another. I do not think that I know any of you personally. 98 people receive an email subscription every day. About 10-20 people look at this site every day, but it has reached as high as 363 people on January 19, 2015, which was also the best week with 554 people that week. The best month was February, 2015 with 1,364 people. This past month, June, 2015, only 335 people visited this site. There have been over 6,740 hits on this blog since its inception. I just want to thank all of you.


I realized that 170 of you have left comments, but I have not responded to them. There have been over 6,183 spam comments. Some of you might want to moderate my comments, which is fine with me. If you want to contact me directly, my email is


Since my last thank you note a few weeks ago, the following people have sent me emails about this blog site. Thank you very much. Here is the list below. I would especially like to thank Nora Kleinman, Laura Bree, and PrayThroughHistory who sent me multiple emails.


Nora Kleinman
Laura Bree
the alchemist
Steve Finnell
RD Revilo


Peace – love – joy

Eugene Finnegan

The so-called historical books of the Bible

The Hebrew Bible or the Tanakh does not have any explicitly historical books. There are only three divisions of the Hebrew Bible, into the Torah, Nevi’im, and Ketuvim. Torah, of course, is the first five books of the Bible, the Pentateuch, often called the Law or the Instructions. This Torah includes the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. For the Roman Catholic Church and 16th century Christian reformers this was simply called the Pentateuch. Neither Jews nor Christians have called these books historical, yet people sometimes treat them as if they were scholarly historical books about the beginning of the world, ancient times, as well as the histories of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses. They are clearly inspired stories, very interesting stories with a theological bent. Thus the Hebrew Jewish writers were story tellers and not historians.

However, the later biblical writers often seem to be like historians. So what then is history? History has a Greek origin, from ἱστορία, not a Hebrew origin. History is an investigation or inquiry about things and people in the past and how they might relate to us. History is closely related to story-telling so that history maintains a narrative about events and people. History tries to remember and preserve sources from the past in order to weave a narrative story. So that history is story telling with recognized sources. History and tradition are closely tied to each other. We try to find out why we do things the way that we do by studying how we came to do the things that we do.

The Biblical books are themselves the documents of history. They were written at least 2,000 years ago or more. These historical story tellers were themselves relying on other sources that we no longer have, whether they be oral or written. Thus the biblical books are historical documents that tell us more about the people writing them than the story they are trying to relate to us about the past. It is their understanding of the past. No matter what you say about the biblical books, they represent the thinking of religious people from 2,000 to 3,000 years ago in the area of Israel. Thus we really do know what they thought about and believed in. It is their story or their history. Whether the events happened as portrayed is not the main objective of the biblical writer. He was expressing his own beliefs about various stories that he had heard or read about. Certain stories were put it and other stories were left out. It was the perspective of the biblical author, writing under divine inspiration, that we really know about today.

Then there is the problem of single narrative versus competing narratives. This also brings up the question of historical methodology. While the biblical narratives were quite comfortable inserting divine influence into human activities, there is a school of historical method that only looks at human causality, nothing else. Thus we end up with various philosophical concepts about history.

The dilemma of history comes with the classifications by the Christians about the Hebrew Bible. Instead of the Law, the prophets, and the writings of the Hebrew Bible, Christians have divided the Bible into the Pentateuch, the histories, the prophets, and the wisdom books. They have added a category not in the original Jewish Hebrew Bible, historical works, to the already existing prophets and writings of the Hebrew Bible.

It is the Christians who have made these stories into histories. The Torah remains the Pentateuch. However, many Christians consider the stories in the Pentateuch to be historically accurate, not merely stories. To show how these are historical, the stories of Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, and Leviticus have become the history itself and not the sources of history.

This places the so-called Christian historical works of the Hebrew Bible in a new light. Instead of being called the former prophets as in the Jewish Hebrew Bible, the books of Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, and 1 and 2 Kings, are now called historical books. Suddenly a whole new category has been created out of these four prophetic Hebrew books with interesting stories. The Book of Samuel and the Book of Kings have now become two books each, 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings instead of one book. Thus four or the six books of the Hebrew prophetic tradition have become Christian historical biblical works.

On top of that, six books that were considered writings in the Hebrew Bible have now become part of the Christian Bible so-called histories. This would include Ruth, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther. Thus twelve books of the Hebrew Bible have been taken from the prophets and the writings now form a whole new category called histories of the Bible.

However, there is much more to the histories from a Catholic perspective. There are four more books added to the histories that were not in the Hebrew Bible, but were in the Greek Septuagint Bible. They are often referred to as deutero-canonical, Tobit, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees.

Thus the Christian, more specifically Catholic perspective has now sixteen books that are called histories, a completely foreign concept to the Jewish Hebrew Bible. As I am following the Catholic Jerusalem Bible, I have now completed my commentaries on these sixteen so-called historical books plus the five books of the Pentateuch.

The value of these so-called historical books is that I now have a greater sense of what the Israelite or Jewish people thought about themselves from the 8th    century BCE to the 1st century BCE. These so-called histories show the Jewish thought and beliefs in the centuries that were leading up to the Common Era around Jesus of Nazareth. I now have a background or context to help understand the writings or the wisdom writings and the prophets.

My Understanding of 2 Maccabees

Unlike 1 Maccabeees, 2 Maccabees does not attempt to provide a complete account of all the events of the second century BCE. 2 Maccabees covers only about twenty years, from the high priest Onias III and King Seleucus IV, around 180 BCE, to the defeat of Nicanor in 161 BCE. In general, the chronology of the book coheres with that of 1 Maccabees. However, it does not show any dependence on 1 Maccabees, or vice versa. Thus it has some historical value in supplementing 1 Maccabees, principally in providing a few apparent historical documents. This biblical author seems primarily interested in providing a theological interpretation of the events that led up to the independence of Jerusalem. God’s interventions direct the course of the events, punishing the wicked and restoring the Tempel to his people. Some of the numbers cited for the sizes of the armies appear to be exaggerated, but that was common throughout all the biblical works.

Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians regard 2 Maccabees as a canonical Biblical work because it was in the Septuagint. 2 Maccabees, along with 1 and 3 Maccabees, appeared in this Greek Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Bible completed in the 1st century BCE.  Jewish people and the 16th century Christian Reformers do not have this work in their Bible because it was not in the Hebrew Bible.

The Greek style of the writer is erudite, since he seems well-informed about Greek customs. The author of 2 Maccabees was not identified, but he claimed to be abridging a 5-volume work by Jason of Cyrein. This longer work has not been preserved. It is uncertain how much of the present text of 2 Maccabees is simply copied from that work. This Jewish author wrote in Greek, as there is no particular evidence of an earlier Hebrew version. A few sections of this book, such as the Preface, Epilogue, and some reflections on morality are generally assumed to come from the author, not from Jason. Jason’s work was apparently written sometime around 100 BCE and most likely ended with the defeat of Nicanor. However, that work is not available to us.

The action follows a very simple plan. After the death of King Antichous IV Epiphanes,  the feast of the Dedication of the Temple was instituted. The newly dedicated Temple was threatened by Governor and General Nicanor. After his death, the festivities for the dedication came to be a special day dedicated to commemorate the Jewish victory. Each year this feast was to be celebrated two days before “Mordecai Day” that came from the Book of Esther called Purim.

The beginning of this book includes two letters sent by the Jews in Jerusalem to the Jews of the Diaspora in Egypt concerning the feast day to celebrate the purification of the Temple and the feast to celebrate the defeat of Nicanor. If the author of the book inserted these letters, the book would have to have been written after 124 BCE, the date of the second letter. Some commentators hold that these letters were a later addition, while others consider them the basis for the work. Some scholars tend toward dating this in the last years of the 2nd century BCE, while the consensus among Jewish scholars place it in the second half of the 1st century BCE, so that somewhere between 104-63 BCE seems acceptable.

The first letter greeted and blessed the Jews in Egypt as they explained their situation in Jerusalem. The second letter, which was probably the first sent, addressed the Jews of Egypt also. They gave thanksgiving for the punishment that King Antiochus IV suffered with his death. They wanted a festival of fire as there was a stress on the importance of fire, including a prayer to God over the fire. Somehow naphtha had become sacred. The Jerusalem Jews reminded the Egyptian Jews of the admonition of the prophet Jeremiah and how he had hidden religious cult materials. This letter pointed out the importance of fire to Moses and Solomon, as well as the library of Nehemiah. They were inviting the Egyptian Jews to celebrate this dedication festival.

This biblical author had a preface to his story about Judas Maccabeus. This was only about Judas Maccabeus, not about all his father and brothers as in 1 Maccabees. He maintained that he was presenting a condensed story of a larger work. He considered that the role of a historian was to tell a story. In the epilogue he even used the first person “I” which was rare, while here he used the plural first person, “we.”

This author talked about the good old days before Simon went to Apollonius of Tarsus. Thus Heliodorus came to Jerusalem to inspect the situation and usage of the Temple funds. This distressed the priests in Jerusalem and the women of Jerusalem. However, the divine punishment of Heliodorus left him nearly dead. There was a prayer of thanksgiving, as the high priest Onias prayed for the life of Heliodorus, who then had a conversion.

There was more intrigue between Simon and the high priest Onias as Jason, the high priest took over. He sent representatives to the king at the Olympics in Tyre. King Antiochus IV was welcomed at Jerusalem as Menelaus became the high priest. The murder of the high priest Onias also led to the death of Andronicus. Lysimachus was convicted and killed, while Menelaus was acquitted of this murder.

There was some kind of apparition over Jerusalem. Then the deposed high priest Jason led an unsuccessful uprising. At that point, King Antiochus IV despoiled the Temple. King Antiochus IV thought that he was on top of the world as he set up governors to rule the various provinces. There was a second attack on Jerusalem, but Judas Maccabeus escaped.

This time King Antiochus IV introduced the Greek god Zeus into Jerusalem as the gentiles were in charge of the Jewish Temple. They installed the various pagan cults. They punished those who were circumcising and the keeping the Sabbath. God seemed to allow this persecution because of the sins of the people of Jerusalem.

However, there were a few people who refused to eat the unclean swine food. The old man Eleazar was urged to eat this unclean meat or at least pretend to do so. He replied that he could not even give a hint that he was worshiping false gods. He then gave an inspirational speech that also turned out to be his last words before he was killed.

The more interesting story is the mother with her seven sons who refused to eat unclean meat and worship Zeus or the other gods. All of them were arrested. First the king mutilated and killed the spokesman for theses seven sons. Then one after another, they mutilated and killed each one of the sons, but not before each one was able to give a last minute testimony to their faith in the God of Israel. Finally the mother of the seven was also killed after encouraging her sons to stand up to the wicked men of the king.

In particular, the long descriptions of the martyrdoms of Eleazar and of a mother with her seven sons caught the imagination of medieval Christians. Several churches were dedicated to these Maccabeean martyrs. They were among the few pre-Christian figures to appear in the Roman Catholic calendar of saints’ days. This section of the book of 1 Maccabees was considered a model for the medieval stories about martyrs and saints.

Then Judas Maccabeus with his men took center stage. They prayed to God as they created an army to fight against the Jewish persecution. King Antiochus IV had decided to wipe out the Jews. However, Judas Maccabeus heard about the invasion and rallied his troops. He told them to remember their ancestors and how God had helped them. Then he divided his army into four with each one of his brothers in charge of a quarter of the troops.

This army of Judas Maccabeus was extremely successful against the armies of Nicanor, Timothy, and Bacchides. Nicanor fled to Antioch like a runaway slave. When King Antiochus IV heard about this news, he was very angry. He wanted to wipe out the Jews. However, he was struck with a cruel painful illness. Then he accepted God and reversed his position about the Jews. King Antiochus IV sent a letter to the Jews where he appointed his son King Antiochus V as his successor before he died. Judas Maccabeus, in the meantime, set about to purify the Temple. When he had completed the job two years after its desecration, there was a big celebration in Jerusalem.

King Antiochus V, known as the Eupator was only nine years old when he took over as king. Meanwhile a man named Ptolemy who had been kind to the Jews took poison to kill himself after he was accused of being a traitor. After this disgrace, Gorgias succeeded Ptolemy. Judas Maccabeus had a war with the southern Idumeans also. However, some of the forces of his brother Simon took bribes to let several of the enemy people get away. Judas Maccabeus then prayed for success against Timothy since he had always relied on the Lord. Heavenly horsemen came to help him bring about the death of Timothy.

Then he began the campaign against Lysias, who was the guardian of the young King Antiochus V in charge of the government. Once again there was a divine intervention at Beth-zur. Finally there was a peace treaty with Lysias, who sent a letter to the Jews. King Antiochus V then sent letters to Lysias and to the Jewish senate. Finally there was a letter of the Romans to the Jews confirming this peace treaty.

The Jews had other problems. The people at Joppa drowned some Jews so that Judas Maccabeus attacked both Joppa and Jamnia along the seacoast. Then he had a run in with some nomads which led to the attack of Judas Maccabeus on Caspin. There was a battle at Carnaim with the guileful Timothy, who got away. Judas Maccabeus then took the temple at Carnaim and had a battle at Ephron. However, there was a happy visit to Scythopolis, where the Jews were treated well.

The campaign against Gorgias led to his defeat. Judas Maccabeus and his troops kept the Sabbath at Adullam. After a battle, they found out that all the dead Jewish soldiers were idolaters wearing token idols. However, Judas and his troops made a sacrifice for the dead in the hope of their resurrection.

King Antiochus V and Lysias with their army again came after Judas Maccabeus. However, they realized that part of the cause of the problem was the high priest Menelaus, so that he was killed. Judas Maccabeus asked for prayers before God’s victory at Modein. Once again, King Antiochus V attacked the Jews. However, they came to a stand-off so that they had a strange peace treaty with Lysias who defended this peace treaty in Ptolemais.

Then King Demetrius I showed up as the king since he was the uncle of King Antiochus V. He eliminated his nephew. The high priest Alcimus gave a speech before King Demetrius I. The king then made Nicanor the governor of Judea. There was a battle with Nicanor and Judas Maccabeus that came to a standstill. Nicanor sent friendly emissaries so that they ended up with a peace treaty again. After the consultation of Judas Maccabeus and Nicanor, they became friends. Then Alcimus claimed that Nicanor was disloyal to the king that led to the split between Nicanor and Judas Maccabeus.

The priests in Jerusalem prayed that the temple would be safe. Then there was the strange tragic suicide death of Razis. Nicanor planned to attack Judas Maccabeus who also prepared to attack also. Judas had a dream about Onias the high priest and Jeremiah the prophet. The people and Judas Maccabeus made final preparations for the battle. The prayer of Judas Maccabeus asked for God to send an angel of God to protect him. They were successful as Nicanor died. They cut off his head, his arm, and his tongue at a big celebration in Jerusalem. This victory celebration was to be commemorated yearly near the time of Purim. So the story ended at this point.