“The chief priests
And the Scribes
For a way
To arrest Jesus
To kill him.”
καὶ ἐζήτουν οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς καὶ οἱ γραμματεῖς πῶς αὐτὸν ἐν δόλῳ κρατήσαντες ἀποκτείνωσιν.
There is something similar to this in Matthew, chapter 26:2, where Jesus predicted to his disciples that he would be handed over and crucified, as well as in chapter 26:4, where the chief priests and the elders, not the Scribes, wanted to kill Jesus. In Luke, chapter 22:2, it was the chief priests and the Scribes as here in Mark. For Mark, this was the fulfillment of Psalm 10:8, where they sat in ambush to murder the innocent one. Mark said that these chief priests (οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς) and the Scribes (καὶ οἱ γραμματεῖς) were looking (καὶ ἐζήτουν) for a way to deceitfully or secretly seize Jesus (πῶς αὐτὸν ἐν δόλῳ κρατήσαντες). They wanted to kill him (ἀποκτείνωσιν).
Than the eagles
In the heavens.
They chased us
On the mountains.
They lay in wait
In the wilderness.”
Continuing with the first person plural, the people of Jerusalem and this author believed that they were being pursued by their enemies that were faster than the eagles in the sky. Their foes chased them into the mountains and lay waiting to ambush them in the desert wilderness, since their enemies were all around them. This verse starts with the Hebrew consonant letter Qoph in this acrostic poem.
“Do not kindle the coals of sinners!
You may be burned in their flaming fire.
Do not let the insolent bring you to your feet!
They may lie in ambush against your words.
Do not lend
To one who is stronger than you!
If you do lend anything,
Count it as a loss.
Do not give surety
Beyond your means!
If you give surety,
Be prepared to pay.”
Do not provoke sinners or you may be burned by their flames. Do not get involved with the insolent or they might ambush you. Do not lend money to someone stronger than you. If you do, write it off as a loss. Do not offer surety or guarantees for others. If you do, do not offer more than you can pay. You should be prepared to pay whatever you guarantee.
“The thoughts of the righteous are just.
But the advice of the wicked is treacherous.
The words of the wicked are a deadly ambush.
But the speech of the upright delivers them.
The wicked are overthrown.
They are no more.
But the house of the righteous will stand.
One is commended for good sense.
But a perverse mind is despised.
Better to be a common despised man,
Who works for himself,
Than to be self important,
But lack food.
The righteous know the need of their animals.
But the mercy of the wicked is cruel.
Those who till their land will have plenty of food.
But those who follow worthless pursuits have no sense.”
Here we have a description of the righteous person. The thoughts of the righteous are just. On the other hand, the advice and the words of the wicked are treacherous and set an ambush. The upright speech of the righteous will help them to escape. Even though the wicked will be overthrown, the house of the righteous will continue to stand because they have good sense. The wicked are despised. It is better to work for yourself than pretend to be self important without any good. The righteous take good care of their animals. Even the mercy of the wicked is cruel. If you till the land, you will have plenty of food. However, if you pursuit worthless things, you are senseless.
If sinners entice you,
Do not consent!
If they say.
‘Come with us!
Let us lie in wait for blood!
Let us wantonly ambush the innocent!
Let us swallow them alive and whole!
Like those who go down to the Pit,
We shall find all kinds of costly things.
We shall fill our houses with booty.
Throw in your lot among us!
We will all have one purse.’
Do not walk in their way!
Keep your foot from their paths!
Their feet run to evil.
They hurry to shed blood.
For in vain is a net baited,
While the bird is looking on.
Yet they lie in wait,
To kill themselves.
They set an ambush
For their own lives.
Such is the end
Of all who are greedy for gain.
It takes away the life of its possessors.”
The main parental advice of these proverbs is to stay away from evil people. Do not let sinners entice you! Stay away from those who want to ambush innocent people in order to spill their blood. They seem to think that they can swallow people up like Sheol or the pit, the grave, does. This part appears to not sound enticing, but the kicker enticement was filling up your house with spoils and booty. They would all share together with one purse. Parents should warn their children not to walk in their paths or let their feet walk in their ways. These wicked ones hurry to shed blood. However, they set a net while the birds are watching so that their own ambush will kill them. This is the end for those who are greedy and want to kill others so that they would have their goods.
“From my adversaries
Who are at your right hand!
Guard me as the apple of your eye!
Hide me in the shadow of your wings!
Hide me from the wicked who despoil me!
Hide me from my deadly enemies who surround me!
They close their hearts to pity.
With their mouths
They speak arrogantly.
They track me down.
Now they surround me!
They want to cast me to the ground.
They are like a lion eager to tear.
They are like a young lion lurking in ambush.”
Now the psalmist is explicit. He wanted to be the apple of God’s eye. He wanted to be hidden in the shadow of his wings. He wanted protection from the wicked and deadly enemies who surrounded him. The enemies had no pity as they were arrogant. They had tracked him down and surrounded him. They were about to leap at him like a young lion lurking in an ambush.
“Their mouths are filled with cursing.
Their mouths are filled with deceit.
Their mouths are filled with oppression.
Under their tongues are mischief and iniquity.
They sit in ambush in the villages.
In hiding places,
They murder the innocent.
Their eyes stealthily watch for the helpless.
They lurk in secret,
Like a lion in its covert.
So that they may seize the poor.
They seize the poor.
They drag them off in their net.”
The wicked people curse. They are deceitful. They oppress the poor. There is mischief and iniquity in their mouth. They sit in ambush, in hiding places to murder the innocent. They carefully watch the helpless. They lurk in secret like a lion about to catch its prey. They seize the poor and drag them off in nets.
“When Apollonius heard of Joppa, he mustered three thousand cavalry and a large army. He went to Azotus as though he were going farther. At the same time he advanced into the plain. He had a large troop of cavalry and put confidence in it. Jonathan pursued him to Azotus. There the armies engaged in battle. Now Apollonius had secretly left a thousand cavalry behind them. Jonathan learned that there was an ambush behind him. They surrounded his army. They shot arrows at his men from early morning until late afternoon. His men stood fast, as Jonathan had commanded, but the enemy’s horses grew tired.”
Apollonius heard about what was going on at Joppa. He took his 3,000 cavalry and his large army to Azotus, which apparently is the old Philistine city of Ashdod between Gaza and Joppa. However, when Jonathan followed Apollonius, Apollonius had 1,000 cavalry behind him that put Jonathan into an ambush. However, Jonathan and his group fought all day as the horses got tired.
“The citadel became an ambush against the sanctuary.
The citadel was an evil adversary of Israel at all times.
On every side of the sanctuary they shed innocent blood.
They even defiled the sanctuary.
Because of them the residents of Jerusalem fled.
She became a dwelling of strangers.
She became strange to her offspring.
Her children forsook her.
Her sanctuary became desolate like a desert.
Her feasts were turned into mourning.
Her Sabbath turned into a reproach.
Her honor turned into contempt.
Her dishonor now grew as great as her glory.
Her exaltation was turned into mourning.”
Once again, we have the poem about the terrible situation in Jerusalem. This new Syrian citadel was an ambush to the sanctuary and an adversary to Israel. There was innocent blood everywhere. The residents of Jerusalem had fled. Only the strangers remained. The sanctuary was like a desert. The feasts were now times of mourning. The Sabbath and honor had now turned to reproach and contempt. The joy had turned to mourning.
“Joshua and all the fighting men set out to go up against Ai. Joshua chose thirty thousand warriors. He sent them out by night, with the command. ‘You shall lie in ambush against the city, behind it. Do not go very far from the city, but all of you stay alert. I and all the people who are with me will approach the city. When they come out against us like before, we shall flee from them. They will come out after us until we have drawn them away from the city. They will say. ‘They are fleeing from us, as before.’ While we flee from them, you shall rise up from the ambush and seize the city. Yahweh your God will give it into your hand. When you have taken the city, you shall set the city on fire, doing as Yahweh has ordered. See, I have commanded you.’”
This is a great plan. Get the people of Ai out of the city and then burn it from the backside. The Israelites with Joshua will pretend to be defeated like the first time and start to flee. In the meantime, 30,000 troops from the back of the town will enter the city, seize it, and burn it.
“So Joshua sent them out. They went to the place of the ambush. They were between Bethel and Ai, to the west of Ai. But Joshua spent that night in the camp. In the morning, Joshua arose early. He mustered the people. He went up, with the elders of Israel, before the people to Ai. All the fighting men who were with him went up. They drew near before the city. They camped on the north side of Ai with a ravine between them and Ai. Taking about five thousand men, he set them in ambush between Bethel and Ai, to the west of the city. So they stationed the forces, the main encampment that was north of the city and its rear guard west of the city. But Joshua spent that night in the valley.”
The plan seems to be working without any divine intervention, since there is no mention of the Ark of the Covenant or the Levite priests, just old fashioned warfare tactics. The Israelites seem to be on the west and north side of the city of Ai.