The attacks on Israel (Jer 50:17-50:17)

“Israel is

A hunted sheep.

It was driven away

By lions.

First,

The king of Assyria

Devoured it.

Now at the end,

King Nebuchadnezzar

Of Babylon

Has gnawed its bones.”

The Israelite hunted sheep were driven away by lions. The king of Assyria attacked the northern kingdom of Israel, as it came to an end in 724 BCE. Then the king of Babylon in 587 gnawed at their bones, since the kingdom was not in existence at that time. Thus both the lions of Assyria and Babylon have scattered the sheep of Israel within a couple hundred years.

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The confession of sins (Isa 59:12-59:15)

“Our transgressions before you are many.

Our sins testify against us.

Our transgressions indeed are with us.

We know our iniquities.

We have transgressed Yahweh.

We have denied Yahweh.

We have turned away

From following our God.

We talk oppression.

We talk revolt.

We conceive lying words.

We utter them from our hearts.

Justice is turned back.

Righteousness stands at a distance.

Truth stumbles in the public square.

Uprightness cannot enter.

Truth is lacking.

Whoever turns from evil is despoiled.”

Third Isaiah seems to have a community confession or acknowledgement of sins. They have committed many transgressions, since their sins will testify against them. They know that they have denied God. They have tried to turn away from him, as they wanted to revolt. They lied from their hearts. They have turned back justice since righteousness is now far away. There is no truth in the public squares, no uprightness. Anyone who turns from evil is attacked.

The inadequate protection (Isa 20:6-20:6)

“In that day,

The inhabitants of this coastland

Will say.

‘See!

This is what has happened

To those in whom we hoped,

To those whom we fled for help,

To be delivered from the king of Assyria.

Now we!

How shall we escape?’”

Thus all the Philistine inhabitants along the Mediterranean coast line would see what had happened at Ashdod. They had hoped that the protection of the Egyptians would have helped them. Instead, the Assyrians came and attacked them so that they all had to flee. They wondered how they would escape because they had inadequate protection from the Egyptians.

False tongue (Sir 28:22-28:26)

“A false tongue

Has no power

Over the godly.

They will not be burned

In its flame.

Whoever forsakes the Lord

Will fall into its power.

It will burn among them.

It will not be put out.

It will be sent out against them

Like a lion.

Like a leopard,

It will mangle them.

As you fence in your property

With thorns,

So make a door.

Make a bolt

For your mouth.

As you lock up your silver,

So make balances

For your words.

As you lock up your gold,

So make scales

For your words.

Take care!

Do not err

With your tongue.

Otherwise you will fall victim

To one lying in wait.”

Sirach says that this false tongue does not have any power over the godly. They will not be burned by its flames. However, those who forsake the Lord will fall under the power of these false tongues. The fire will burn in them so that they will not be able to put out this fire. They will feel like they are being attacked by a lion or mauled by a leopard. You need to put a door and a bolt on your mouth just as you fence in your property with thorn bushes to keep you from false speech. You should weigh what you say and balance your words, just as you protect your silver and gold. Do not make mistakes with your tongue by falling victim to those who are waiting to catch you.

Locusts and flies (Wis 16:8-16:9)

“By this also you convinced our enemies

That it is you

Who delivered them from every evil.

They were killed

By the bites of locusts.

They were killed

By the bites of flies.

No healing was found for them.

Because they deserved

To be punished

By such things.”

Here then is allusion to the plagues in Egypt in Exodus, chapters 6-11, when the locusts and flies attacked and killed the Egyptians. However, they deserved to be punished in this way.

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.

The attacks (Ps 129:1-129:4)

A Song of Ascents

“Often have they attacked me from my youth.

Let Israel now say.

‘Often have they attacked me from my youth.

Yet they have not prevailed against me.

The plowers plowed on my back.

They made their furrows long.’

Yahweh is righteous.

He has cut the cords of the wicked.”

Psalm 129 is another in this series of pilgrimage songs or psalms on the ascent to Jerusalem. In this particular song the psalmist claims to have been attacked since his youth. This youth may be a reference to Israel in its early stages in Canaan as Israel proclaimed the same message. They tried to plow the back of the psalmist. However, his enemies have not succeeded. Yahweh is the righteous one who has cut the cords of the wicked ones.