The false alliance with Assyria (Hos 5:13-5:14)

“Ephraim saw

His sickness.

Judah saw

His wound.

Then Ephraim

Went to Assyria.

He sent

To the great king.

But he is not able

To cure you.

He was not able

To heal your wound.

I will be

Like a lion

To Ephraim.

I will be

Like a young lion

To the house of Judah.

I myself

Will tear.

I will go away.

I will carry off.

None shall rescue.”

Ephraim and Judah saw that they were not in a good place, since they were sick and wounded. King Tiglath-pileser III of Assyria had taken over the northern half of Israel. Then the king of Israel, King Pekah (737-732 BCE) made an alliance with the king of Aram, the area around Damascus, or southern Syria. However, this did not help. Therefore, Yahweh was going to be a lion against Ephraim, and a young lion against Judah. Meanwhile, Yahweh was going to tear himself away. He was not going to rescue them.

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The king of Judah broke Yahweh’s oath (Ezek 17:19-17:21)

“Therefore thus says

Yahweh God!

‘As I live,

I will surely return

Upon his head

My oath

That he despised.

He broke

My covenant.

I will spread

My net

Over him.

He shall be caught

In my snare.

I will bring him

To Babylon.

I will enter

Into judgment

With him there

For the treason

That he has committed

Against me.

The entire pick

Of his troops

Shall fall

By the sword.

The survivors

Shall be scattered

To every wind.

You shall know

That I,

Yahweh,

Have spoken.’”

It is interesting to note that the covenant and oath that King Zedekiah had sworn to the King of Babylon was interpreted by Yahweh as an oath and alliance with Yahweh, himself. Yahweh was going to return the oath on the king’s head because he had despised this oath. He had broken Yahweh’s covenant when he broke his agreement with the king of Babylon. Yahweh was going to spread his net over him, so that he was going to be caught in his snare. Yahweh was going to bring the king to Babylon to enter judgment on him there for the treason that he had committed against Yahweh. All the king’s best troops would fall by the sword in battle. The survivors would be scattered to every wind. They would know that it was Yahweh who had delivered this judgment.

The old broken covenant (Jer 31:32-31:32)

“‘It will not be

Like the covenant

That I made

With their ancestors.

I took them

By the hand

To bring them out

Of the land of Egypt.

They broke

This covenant,

Even though I was

Their husband.’

Says Yahweh.”

Yahweh was clear. Their ancestors had broken the old covenant when he brought them out of Egypt. He had taken them by the hand to lead them out like a husband helping his wife. Yet they still broke the covenant or alliance with Yahweh.

Egypt brings gifts to Yahweh at Jerusalem (Isa 18:7-18:7)

“At that time,

Gifts will be brought

To Yahweh of hosts

From a tall people,

From a smooth people,

From a people

Feared near and far,

From a mighty nation,

From a conquering nation.

The river divides its land.

They will bring it

To Mount Zion,

The place of the name

Of Yahweh of hosts.”

Next Isaiah talks about gifts being brought to Yahweh. Strangely enough, they are from a tall, smooth, and feared people.   They were from the nation that was mighty and conquering, where the rivers divide it. This is exactly the same description of Egypt as at the beginning of this chapter. This mighty nation was going to bring its gifts to Mount Zion, the place for the name of Yahweh. Perhaps this was done because the people of Judah were in alliance with Egypt against the Assyrians at this time, as indicated in 2 Kings, chapter 18-19.

Birth of a son to Isaiah (Isa 8:1-8:4)

“Then Yahweh said to me.

‘Take a large tablet.

Write on it

In common characters,

‘Belonging to Maher-shalal-hash-baz.’

‘The spoil speeds.

The prey hastens.’

Have it attested for me

By reliable witnesses,

The priest Uriah,

And Zechariah

Son of Jeberechiah.’

I went to the prophetess.

She conceived.

She bore a son.

Then Yahweh said to me.

‘Name him

Maher-shalal-hash-baz.

Before the child knows how to cry

‘My father’ or

‘My mother,’

The wealth of Damascus

With the spoil of Samaria

Will be carried away

By the king of Assyria.’”

Once again, we have a conversation between Yahweh and Isaiah directly. Yahweh told him to write down on a large wooden tablet, the letters Maher-shalal-hash-bar, which means spoil spreads and prey hastens. Then Isaiah had to go to the priest Uriah, mentioned in 2 Kings, chapter 16, as well as Zechariah, probably the father of the wife of Ahaz, to have it attested. Next he went to the prophetess, probably his wife, who then conceived and bore a son that was to be named after the word on the large tablet. Before this boy would be able to utter the words father or mother, the wealth of Damascus in Syria and the spoils of Samaria in Ephraim would be carried away by the king of Assyria. This alliance of King Ahaz of Judah with the King of Assyria can also be found in 2 Kings, chapter 16. Thus the name of the child was really talking about what was about to happen to Syria and Ephraim.

The actions of Jason, the high priest (2 Macc 4:11-4:17)

“Jason set aside the existing royal concessions to the Jews, secured through John the father of Eupolemus, who went on the mission to establish friendship and alliance with the Romans. Jason destroyed the lawful ways of living. He introduced new customs contrary to the law. He took delight in establishing a gymnasium right under the citadel. He induced the noblest of the young men to wear the Greek hat. There was such an extreme Hellenization. There was an increase in the adoption of foreign ways because of the surpassing wickedness of Jason. He was ungodly and no true high priest. The priests were no longer intent upon their service at the altar. Despising the sanctuary and neglecting the sacrifices, they hurried to take part in the unlawful proceedings in the wrestling arena after the signal for the discus-throwing. They disdained the honors prized by their ancestors. They put the highest value upon Greek forms of prestige. For this reason heavy disaster overtook them. Those whose ways of living they admired and wished to imitate completely became their enemies and punished them. It is no light thing to show irreverence to the divine laws, a fact that later events will make clear.”

Jason set aside the royal concessions of the former King Seleucus IV. This had been part of the mission of John the father of Eupolemu who went to Rome.  Jason introduced new customs, always a dangerous thing to do. He was delighted with the new Greek gymnasium. He had the young men wear the Greek hat, which would be a symbol of the Greek god Hermes, somewhat like a loyalty gang symbol. This Hellenization was bringing in Greek religion and customs. Besides, Jason was not a worthy true high priest. He had a bad influence on the other priests, as they were more interested in sports than their priestly sacrificial duties. They too preferred the Greek ways. However, this biblical author reminds them that things can change quickly. Your friends could become your enemies. Disaster was on the way for those who showed irreverence to the divine laws.

The letter from Rome to the Egyptian king (1 Macc 15:15-15:21)

“The following was written.

‘Lucius, consul of the Romans,

To King Ptolemy,

Greetings!

The envoys of the Jews

Have come to us as our friends and allies.

They have come to renew our ancient friendship and alliance.

They had been sent by the high priest Simon and the Jewish people.

They have brought a gold shield weighing one thousand minas.

We therefore have decided to write

To the kings and the countries

So that they should not seek their harm.

They should not make war against them.

They should not make war against their cities and their country.

That they should not make alliances with those who war against them.

It has seemed good to us to accept the shield from them.

Therefore if any scoundrels have fled to you from their country,

Hand them over to Simon the high priest,

So that he may punish them according to their law.’”

This Roman letter is from Lucius Calpurnius Piso the Roman Consul of the Roman Senate from 140-139 BCE. He seems to be sending this letter to King Ptolemy VII who ruled in Egypt from 145-116 BCE, so this is the right time frame. Envoys had been sent by Simon and the Jews to Rome to renew their alliance and friendship. They brought with them a gold shield that was mentioned in the previous chapter. The Romans accepted this shield. Lucius then decided to write to the kings and countries that no one should invade their cities, fight a war with them, or form an alliance against them. If there were any problems with scoundrels fleeing, see Simon the high priest, although he was not called a king or even an ethnarch.