The worthless sacrifices (Hos 12:11-12:11)

“In Gilead,

There is iniquity.

They shall surely come to nothing.

In Gilgal,

They sacrifice bulls.

Thus,

Their altars shall be

Like stone heaps

On the furrows

Of the field.”

The various idol worship places in Gilead and Gilgal will become useless. Their iniquity will amount to nothing. The altars where they sacrificed bulls in Gilgal will become like heaps of stone in a furrowed field.

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Against the false exterior cult (Hos 8:11-8:13)

“When Ephraim

Multiplied altars

To expiate sin,

They became to him

Altars for sinning.

Although I write

For him

The multitude

Of my instructions,

They are regarded

As a strange thing.

Although they offer

Choice sacrifices,

Yahweh does not accept them.

Although they eat

Sacrificed offerings,

Yahweh does not accept them.

Now he will remember

Their iniquity.

He will punish

Their sins.

They shall return

To Egypt.”

The territory of Ephraim, in the northern Israelite kingdom, multiplied the number of altars to ask for forgiveness of sins. In the eyes of Yahweh, they were actually altars of sinning. Yahweh had given them plenty of instructions, but they regarded them as strange sayings, ignoring them. They tried to offer choice sacrifice offerings and eat them. However, Yahweh would not accept them. Instead, he remembered their iniquity. He wanted to punish them for their sins. One of the punishments was to send them back to Egypt.

The engraved worship sins of Judah (Jer 17:1-17:3)

“The sin of Judah

Is written

With a pen of iron.

With a diamond point,

It is engraved

On the tablet

Of their hearts.

It is engraved

On the horns

Of their altars.

Their children remember

Their altars.

They remember

Their sacred poles,

Beside every green tree,

On the high hills,

On the mountains

In the open country.”

Yahweh told Jeremiah that the sins of Judah were written all over the place.   An iron pen stylus with a diamond point made this indelible mark. Where would you find the sins of Judah? They were engraved in their hearts, but also on the altar corners or horns where sins were written. What was the main sin? Their children were going to altars and sacred totem poles by almost every green tree on the high hills, on the mountains, and in the open country. Everyone could openly see what they were doing.

Against Molech (Isa 57:9-57:10)

“You journeyed to Molech

With oil.

You multiplied your perfumes.

You sent your envoys far away.

You sent them down even to Sheol.

You grew weary

From your many wanderings.

But you did not say.

‘It is useless.’

You found your desire rekindled.

Thus you did not weaken.”

Third Isaiah was also against Molech, a local Canaanite god that must have had a lot of Israelite worshippers. Apparently, many worshippers of Molech brought oils and perfumes to offer to Molech, who was sometimes associated with the Baal temples and altars. They sent messengers that were willing to go to Sheol, the afterlife underworld. However, they grew weary from their many trips. However, they were not able to say that it was useless. In fact, they rekindled their desire for Molech, instead of weakening it.

The home of Yahweh (Ps 84:3-84:4)

“Even the sparrow finds a home.

The swallow has a nest for itself.

There it may lay its young.

They are at your altars.

Yahweh of hosts!

My King!

My God!

Happy are those who live in your house!

They are ever singing your praise!”

Selah

In a special nod to the birds, it is mentioned that the sparrows and the swallows live in the Temple. In fact, they have nests there so that their young can be protected. They are at the altars of Yahweh, who is king and God. Happy are those who live in the house of God. They can sing praises to God all the time. This section ends with the musical interlude meditative pause of Selah.

The further adventures of Judas Maccabeus (1 Macc 5:65-5:68)

“Then Judas and his brothers went out and fought the descendents of Esau in the land to the south. He struck Hebron and its villages. He tore down its strongholds and burned its towers on all sides. Then he marched off to go into the land of the Philistines. He passed through Marisa. On that day some priests, who wished to do a brave deed, fell in battle, for they went out to battle unwisely. But Judas turned aside to Azotus in the land of the Philistines. He tore down their altars. He burned with fire the carved images of their gods. He plundered the towns. Finally, he returned to the land of Judah.”

Judas and his brothers decided to attack south in Edom, the land of the descendents of Esau. It is not clear why they struck down Hebron, which had been a capital of Israel at the time of David. Perhaps, more gentiles had taken over there. Hebron was only about 20 miles south of Jerusalem. Then he went west to the land of the Philistines. I guess that those Philistine just never die out. For some reason, a few unwise priests went out to do battle and were killed. Then Judas attacked Azotus in the Philistine territory. Once again, he tore down their altars and burned their idols. There is no mention of killing the males, but he did plunder the Philistine towns, before he returned to Judea. He never really got to Edom since he went southwest instead of southeast.

The unification of the kingdom (1 Macc 1:41-1:50)

“Then King Antiochus wrote to his whole kingdom that all should be one people. Everyone should give up their particular customs. All the gentiles accepted the command of the king. Many even from Israel gladly adopted his religion. They sacrificed to idols and profaned the Sabbath. The king sent letters by messengers to Jerusalem and the towns of Judah. He directed them to follow customs strange to the land. He forbade burnt offerings, sacrifices, and drink offerings in the sanctuary. He wanted them to profane the Sabbath and the feasts. He wanted them to defile the sanctuary and the priests. He wanted them to build altars and sacred precincts with shrines for idols. He wanted them to sacrifice swine and unclean animals. He wanted them to leave their sons uncircumcised. They were to make themselves abominable by everything unclean and profane. Thus they should forget the law and change all the ordinances. He added.

‘Whoever does not obey the command of the king shall die.’’’

King Antiochus IV wanted his whole kingdom unified, which included Syria, Palestine, Mesopotamia, Persia, and Asia Minor, quite a large kingdom. This might be difficult to enforce. It was later rescinded by King Antiochus V (172-161 BCE) since he was only 9 when he became king and died at the age of 11. Sometimes it is not good to be the king. King Antiochus IV was not as tolerant as his father King Antiochus III (223-187 BCE), who allowed the Israelites to follow the Mosaic Law. The Persian kings had also been tolerant towards following the Mosaic Law. King Antiochus IV wanted everyone to give up their particular customs, not a good idea in a large kingdom. The gentiles and some Israelites said okay, no big deal. He said that anyone who did not comply would be killed. He wanted them to sacrifice to idols, by building altars and shrines for his idols. He wanted them to profane the Sabbath and their own festivals. He wanted them to do away with their sanctuaries and priests. He wanted them to sacrifice swine and other unclean animals. He wanted them not to have their sons circumcised. Basically, he wanted them to forget about their own laws and just follow his ordinances.