The darkening of the skies (Ezek 32:7-32:8)

“‘When I blot you out,

I will cover

The heavens.

I will make

Their stars dark.

I will cover

The sun

With a cloud.

The moon shall

Not give its light.

I will darken

Above you

All the bright lights

Of the heavens.

I will put darkness

On your land.’

Says Yahweh God.”

Yahweh God, via Ezekiel, said that he was going to blot out the Pharaoh. He was going to close off the heavens also. He was going to make the stars dark and cover the sun with a cloud. Meanwhile, the moon would not give any light. All the bright lights of the heavens would go dark over the land of Egypt.

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The cherubim in the Temple (Ezek 10:3-10:5)

“Now the cherubim

Were standing

On the south side

Of the house.

When the man went in,

A cloud filled

The inner court.

Then the glory of Yahweh

Rose up from the cherubim

To the threshold

Of the house.

The house was filled

With the cloud.

The court

Was full

Of the brightness

Of the glory

Of Yahweh.

The sound

Of the wings

Of the cherubim

Was heard

As far as the outer court,

Like the voice

Of God Almighty     

When he speaks.”

Once again, this is reminiscent of the vision in chapter 1. The cherubim in the Temple were surrounding the Holy of Holies on the south side of the Temple. The man in linen cloth with the writing case at his side went into the sanctuary as a cloud filled the inner court. Then the glory of Yahweh rose up from the cherubim and moved to the threshold of the Temple as in the last chapter. This glory of Yahweh was the real presence of God. The whole Temple was filled with a cloud, while the court was full of the brightness and glory of Yahweh. The sound of the wings of the cherubim could be heard as far away as the outer court, as in chapter 1. They sounded like the voice of God Almighty when he spoke.

The impenetrable Yahweh (Lam 3:43-3:45)

Samek

“You have wrapped yourself

With anger.

You have pursued us.

You have killed us

Without pity.

You have wrapped yourself

With a cloud.

Thus no prayer

Can pass through.

You have made us filth.

You have made us rubbish.

Among the people.”

This author turns in an unanswered prayer towards Yahweh, addressing him in the second person singular. Yahweh had wrapped himself in anger and a cloud. He had pursued this author and his friends, killing them without pity. Their prayers to Yahweh could not penetrate through the clouds. They had become filth and rubbish among all people as they were forsaken and downtrodden. These three verses start with the Hebrew consonant letter Samek in this acrostic poem.

The future of Jerusalem (Isa 4:4-4:6)

“When Yahweh has washed away

The filth of the daughters of Zion,

When he has cleansed

The bloodstains of Jerusalem

From its midst

By a spirit of judgment,

When the cleansing

By a spirit of burning

Is complete,

Then Yahweh will create

Over the whole site of Mount Zion.

He will create over its places of assembly

A cloud by day with smoke,

By night the shining of a flaming fire.

Indeed over all the glory

There will be a canopy.

It will serve as a pavilion.

It will be a shade by day

From the heat.

It will be a refuge from storms.

It will be a shelter from rain.”

Many of these oracles of Isaiah may come from the period of the exile, when there was the hope for a future Jerusalem. Once all the filth of the daughters of Zion and all the bloodshed in Jerusalem had been cleared out by judgment and burning, then Yahweh could create a whole new site at Zion. This new place for a religious assembly at Jerusalem would have a cloud or smoke during the day. At night, there would be a bright burning flame. Over all this glory, there would be a canopy that would act as a pavilion to provide shade from the heat and shelter from storms and rain. This was obviously a less ostentatious undertaking than a whole new temple.

The repayment of the Lord (Sir 35:22-35:26)

“The Lord will not delay.

Like a warrior,

He will not be patient.

He will crush

The loins of the unmerciful.

He repays vengeance

On the nations.

He will destroy

The multitude of the insolent.

He breaks

The scepters of the unrighteous.

He will repay mortals

According to their deeds.

He will repay the works of all

According to their thoughts.

He will judge

The case of his people.

He will make them rejoice

In his mercy.

His mercy is as welcome

In time of distress,

As clouds of rain

In time of drought.”

According to Sirach, the Lord will not delay in bringing about justice. He will be like a warrior without patience. He will crush the backs of the unmerciful ones. He will take vengeance on the various countries. He will destroy the multitude of insolent people as he will break the scepters of the unrighteous. He will repay mortals according to their deeds and thoughts. He will judge his people so that they will rejoice in his mercy that is like a cloud of rain during a drought. The vengeance of God will come upon the earth.

The flight from Egypt (Ps 78:12-78:16)

“In the sight of their ancestors,

He worked marvels.

In the land of Egypt,

In the fields of Zoan,

He divided the sea.

He let them pass through it.

He made the waters stand like a heap.

In the daytime,

He led them with a cloud.

All night long

He led them with a fiery light.

He split rocks open in the wilderness.

He gave them drink abundantly.

As from the deep,

He made streams come out of a rock.

He caused waters to flow down like rivers.”

Asaph, this psalmist, then laid out the history of God’s activity as the Israelites left Egypt by passing through the Red Sea. The city of Zoan was another name for the Egyptian city of Ramses. God made the waters into a big heap so that the Israelites could pass through the waters. He led then during the day with a cloud and at night, he led them with a fiery light. He gave them water in the desert by making water come from the rocks like streams or rivers. Most of this is based on the stories in Exodus, chapters 14-17.

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

“Remember that my life is a breath.

My eye will never again see good.

The eye that beholds me will see me no more.

While your eyes are upon me,

I shall be gone.

As the cloud fades and vanishes,

So those who go down to Sheol

Do not come up.

They return no more to their houses.

Their places do not know them anymore.”

Job turned to God directly. Job was resigned to die. His life was short like a simple breath. His eyes would never see any good things. Those that saw him would not see him anymore. He would be gone like a cloud that fades and vanishes. He was going down to Sheol and never returning. Those who go there never return as their own home does not know them. He obviously did not believe in eternal life, just death, plain and simple, in Sheol, this eternal dark underworld place of the dead. In Greek translations it is referred to as Hades. In English we usually refer to it as hell.