The return of the Chaldeans (Jer 37:8-37:10)

“‘The Chaldeans

Shall return.

They shall fight

Against this city.

They shall take it.

They shall burn it

With fire.’

Thus says Yahweh.

‘Do not deceive yourselves!

Saying.

‘The Chaldeans will surely

Go away from us.’

They will not go away.

Even if you defeated

The whole army of Chaldeans

Who are fighting

Against you,

The remaining wounded men,

In their tents,

Would rise up.

They would burn this city

With fire.’”

Jeremiah reminded his two visitors that the Babylonian Chaldeans would return to fight against Jerusalem. In fact, they were going to capture the city and burn it. They should not be deceived, thinking that the Chaldeans have left for good. Even if they defeated the whole Chaldean army, the remaining wounded men would still be able to burn the city down.

The Egyptian intervention (Jer 37:5-37:5)

“Meanwhile the army of Pharaoh

Had come out of Egypt.

When the Chaldeans,

Who were besieging Jerusalem,

Heard news of them,

They withdrew from Jerusalem.”

The army of Pharaoh, King Hophra or Apries (590-571 BCE), had come out of Egypt to do battle with the Babylonians, probably around 588 BCE. When the Chaldean Babylonian soldiers heard this, they stopped their siege of Jerusalem. Did King Zedekiah have some sort of agreement with the Egyptian king? Did the Chaldeans fight against the Egyptians? Anyway, things looked good for Jerusalem at least for the time being.

The punishment for the king of Judah (Jer 34:21-34:22)

“‘As for King Zedekiah

Of Judah,

With his officials,

I will hand them over

To their enemies,

To those who seek their lives,

To the army

Of the king of Babylon

That has withdrawn

From you.’

Says Yahweh.

‘I am going

To command them.

I will bring them

Back to this city.

They will fight against it.

They will take it.

They will burn it

With fire.

I will make the towns

Of Judah

A desolation

Without inhabitants.’”

Yahweh says that King Zedekiah of Judah and his officials would also be punished. They were to be handed over to the army of King Nebuchadnezzar, without any indication as to whether they would be killed or taken in captivity. The king of Babylon with his army had left Jerusalem to take on another town in Judah, but Yahweh was going to call them back to fight against the towns of Judah and Jerusalem itself. Eventually, the king of Babylon would take the city of Jerusalem. Then he would burn it, along with the other towns of Judah, until there was complete desolation without anyone living there.

The message of Yahweh for King Ahaz (Isa 7:4-7:6)

“Say to King Ahaz.

‘Take heed!

Be quiet!

Do not fear!

Do not let your heart be faint               

Because of these

Two smoldering stumps of firebrands,

Because of the fierce anger

Of King Rezin from Syria,

Because of the son of Remaliah.

Syria with Ephraim,

The son of Remaliah,

Has plotted evil

Against you.

Saying.

‘Let us go up against Judah!

Let us cut off Jerusalem!

Let us conquer it for ourselves!

Let us make the son of Tabeel king in it.’”

The message of Yahweh for King Ahaz via Isaiah was to take heed and be quiet. King Ahaz had nothing to fear, so that he should not be faint hearted. Two firebrands from Syria and Ephraim had plotted together. King Rezin of Syria (792-732 BCE) and the son of Remaliah from Ephraim or northern Israel were coming after him. The unnamed Ephraim son of Remaliah was King Pekah (742-432 BCE), who had been a captain in the king’s army before he killed King Pekahiah and took over. The two of them were going to attack Judah and isolate Jerusalem. They were going to conquer this territory and put their own king of Judah in charge, who was the son of Tabeel. Actually Tabeel is a region on the other northern side of the Jordan River. We do not know much else about this king that never took the throne. Nevertheless, Yahweh via Isaiah wanted to let the King of Judah know what was happening.

The Canaanites (Wis 12:8-12:11)

“But even these you spared,

Since they were but mortals.

You sent wasps

As forerunners of your army.

They were to destroy them

Little by little.

You were not unable

To give the ungodly

Into the hands of the righteous in battle.

You were able to destroy them

With one blow

By dread wild beasts.

You were also able to destroy them

With your stern word.

But judging them

Little by little

You gave them an opportunity to repent.

You were not unaware

That their origin was evil.

You were not unaware

That their wickedness was inborn.

You were not unaware

That their way of thinking

Would never change.

They were an accursed race

From the beginning.

It was not through fear of any one

That you left them unpunished

For their sins.”

This section on the Canaanites is loosely based on Exodus, chapter 23 and applied to all the inhabitants prior to the Israelite takeover, not just the Canaanites. The Israelites are called the righteous (δικαίοις), while the original inhabitants of this land are called the ungodly (ἀσεβεῖς). Some people were spared since they were fellow human beings. However, he had sent wasps, hornets, or pestilence before the Israelite army attacked in order to destroy them, little by little. Not all the ungodly were handed over to the Israelites in battle, even though God had the ability to destroy them with one blow or one word. Instead he gave them time to repent (μετανοίας) with this gradual takeover. These ungodly inhabitants were evil with inborn wickedness. They would never change or repent since they were an accursed seed or race. God did not let their sins go unpunished because of fear of anyone. There is a definite prejudice against the former inhabitants of the Promised Land, before the Israelites arrived. Yahweh wanted them all destroyed, but some persisted.

Description of the female lover (Song 6:4-6:7)

Male lover

“You are as beautiful as Tirzah.

My love!

You are as comely as Jerusalem.

You are as awesome

As an army with banners.

Turn away your eyes from me.

They disturb me.

Your hair is

Like a flock of goats,

Moving down the slopes of Gilead.

Your teeth are

Like a flock of shorn ewes,

That has come up from the washing.

They all bear twins.

Not one among them is bereaved.

Your cheeks are                               

Like halves of a pomegranate,

Behind your veil.”

Once again we have another poem that is pretty much a repeat of the opening of chapter 4. Here the male lover also proclaims the beauty of his lover. However, he compares her to the two capital cities of Judah and Israel, Tirzah in northern Israel, Jerusalem in southern Judah. In fact, he says that she is awesome like an army with banners. Instead of commending her eyes that were like doves, he wants her to turn her eyes away because they disturb him. He repeats what was in chapter 4 about her hair, teeth, and cheeks. However, he does not repeat what he said earlier in chapter 4 about her lips, mouth, neck, and breasts. Once again he talks about her hair being like a flock of goats coming down the mountain of Gilead. These goats were happy twins, while Gilead was east of the Jordan River. Her teeth were like a flock of young sheep that had just been washed. Her cheeks, although covered with the veil, were like half pomegranates, a fruit that was popular in Babylon.

Four small animals (Prov 30:24-30:28)

“Four things on earth are small.

Yet they are exceedingly wise.

The ants are a people without strength.

Yet they provide their food in the summer.

The badgers are a people without power.

Yet they make their homes in the rocks.

The locusts have no king.

Yet all of them march in rank.

The lizard can be grasped in the hand.

Yet it is found in kings’ palaces.”

The next mention is about 4 wise small animals: 1) ants, 2) badgers, 3) locusts, and 4) lizards. There are 2 that are actually insects, ants and locusts. The ants and the badgers are called people. There seems to have been a preoccupation with ants since they were able to get their food in the summer. The badgers make their homes in rocks even though they are not powerful. The locusts obviously do not have a king, but they march like in army ranks. In fact, the ants are also organized. Finally, the small lizards can be found in the palaces of kings. All of these small animals and insects can teach us humans a lesson about working together without much individual strength.