War in captivity (Ps 120:5-120:7)

“Woe to me!

I am an alien in Meshech!

I must live among the tents of Kedar!

Too long have I had my dwelling

Among those who hate peace.

I am for peace.

When I speak,

They are for war!”

This short psalm ends with the psalmist lamenting that he was in some far off place where everyone is warring against him. He was a stranger or alien in Meshech and Kedar, either some place in Asia Minor or northern Arabia. These two places are kind of synonyms for some barbarous place where all people wanted to do was to make war. This psalmist, on the other hand, only wanted peace not war.

Purification of the Temple (2 Macc 10:1-10:4)

“Now Judas Maccabeus and his followers, the Lord leading them on, recovered the temple and the city. They tore down the altars which that had been built in the public square by the foreigners. They also destroyed the sacred precincts. They purified the sanctuary. They made another altar of sacrifice. Then, striking fire out of flint, they offered sacrifices. After a lapse of two years, they burned incense. They lighted lamps. They set out the bread of the Presence. When they had done this, they fell prostrate. They implored the Lord that they might never again fall into such misfortunes. If they should ever sin, they might be disciplined by him with forbearance and not be handed over to blasphemous and barbarous nations.”

This purification of the Temple by Judas Maccabeus took place earlier in 1 Maccabees, chapter 4, about a year before the death of King Antiochus IV. Here it is 2 years after the desecration of the Temple. In fact, the description in 1 Maccabees was more elaborate, but pretty much the same as here. There was no lamentation and mourning for the city and the Temple here. The Lord led them on here as the altars were in the public square. In 1 Maccabees, they saved the old stones. Here they just made another altar. They offered sacrifices, burned incense, lighted lamps, and set out the bread of Presence as in 1 Maccabees. Here there is a prayer to be more lenient next time if they do sin.

The governors of King Antiochus IV (2 Macc 5:21-5:23)

“King Antiochus carried off eighteen hundred talents from the temple. He hurried away to Antioch, thinking in his arrogance that he could sail on the land and walk on the sea. His mind was elated. He left governors to oppress the people. At Jerusalem, he left Philip, by birth a Phrygian and in character more barbarous than the man who appointed him. At Gerizim, he left Andronicus. Besides these, he left Menelaus, who lorded it over his compatriots worse than the others did.”

King Antiochus IV was very happy with his haul of loot. He thought that he could walk on water or fly in the air. He appointed governors to further suppress the Israelites. In Jerusalem he had the brutal Philip and the friendly high priest Menelaus to carry out his orders. Apparently, the king thought that Samaria was still part of Israel. Andronicus was the governor at Gerizim, a sacred site for the Samaritans. Samaria had played a role as the city of a governor in the Persian Empire.