The coming battle against Edom (Jer 49:14-49:16)

“‘I have heard tidings

From Yahweh.

A messenger has been sent

Among the nations.

‘Gather yourselves together!

Come against her!

Rise up for battle!’

I will make you least

Among the nations.

You will be

Despised by humankind.

The horror you inspire,

The pride of your heart,

Has deceived you.

You live

In the clefts

Of the rock.

You hold the height

Of the hill.

You make your nest

As high as the eagle’s.

I will bring you down

From there.’

Says Yahweh.”

Yahweh sent a messenger to all the countries. They were to gather together to do battle against Edom, so that Edom would become the least of all the countries in the world. The Edomites would be despised by all since they inspired terrorism. Their pride had deceived them. Even though they lived in rocks in high places, like eagles nesting, Yahweh was going to bring them 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 vicious request of Jeremiah (Jer 18:21-18:23)

“Therefore give their children

Over to famine!

Hurl them out

To the power of the sword!

Let their wives become childless!

Let their wives become widowed!

May their men meet death

By pestilence!

May their youths be slain

By the sword in battle!

May a cry be heard

From their houses,

When you bring the marauder

Suddenly upon them.

They have dug a pit

To catch me.

They laid snares

For my feet.

Yet you!

Yahweh!

Know all their plotting

To kill me.

Do not forgive their iniquity!

Do not blot out their sin

From your sight!

Let them be tripped up before you!

Deal with them

While you are angry!”

Jeremiah does not hold back his contempt for his adversaries. He is vicious in this lament to Yahweh. First, he wanted their children to die whether by famine or by the sword. He wanted their wives to be childless and widows. He hoped that they might die from a pestilence. He wanted their young men killed in battle. He wanted a marauder to suddenly attack them. They had plotted to catch him and kill him in a pit, as they laid snares for his feet. He told Yahweh not to forgive their iniquity, not to blot out their sins. They should be tripped up. He wanted Yahweh to deal with them while he was angry, so that they would receive a worse sentence. There was no sense of Jeremiah’s mercy or compassion here. He wanted his enemies completely destroyed.

The invaders from the north (Jer 6:22-6:23)

“Thus says Yahweh.

‘See!

A people is coming

From the north country.

A great nation is stirring

From the farthest parts of the earth.

They grasp the bow.

They grasp the javelin spear.

They are cruel.

They have no mercy.

Their sound is

Like the roaring sea.

They ride on horses.

They are equipped

Like a warrior for battle,

Against you,

O daughter Zion!’”

Yahweh, via Jeremiah, tells them of the invasion coming from the north country. This invader was a great nation coming from far away that had bows and arrows along with spears. They were a cruel merciless group that made the sounds of a roaring sea. These well equipped warriors would be riding on their horses in battle against Zion.

The vision of the attack against Babylon (Isa 21:2-21:5)

“A stern vision

Is told to me.

The betrayer betrays.

The destroyer destroys.

Go up!

O Elam!

Lay siege!

O Media!

All the sighing

She has caused

I bring to an end.

Therefore my loins are

Filled with anguish.

Pangs have seized me,

Like the pangs of a woman in labor.

I am bowed down,

So that I cannot hear.

I am dismayed

So that I cannot see.

My mind reels.

Horror has appalled me.

The twilight I longed for

Has been turned for me

Into trembling.

They prepare the table.

They spread the rugs.

They eat.

They drink.

Rise up!

Commanders!

Oil the shield!”

Isaiah has this stern vision from Yahweh. The betrayer and the destroyer act out together. Elam and Medes, the Persians and the Medes were about to attack Babylon. Since the Israelites were in Babylon, they were afraid but hopeful, like a woman experiencing labor before the birth of a child. Isaiah, in the first person singular, was not quite able to hear or see what was going on. He knew that horror was about to happen. Instead of a happy twilight there was trembling. However, they continued as normal, eating and drinking at tables with rugs. Nevertheless, the cry came to the commanders to rise up and get ready. They had to oil the straps on their shields as they prepared to do battle.

False friends (Sir 37:1-37:6)

“Every friend says.

‘I too am a friend.’

But some friends

Are friends only in name.

Is it not a sorrow

Like death itself?

A dear friend

Turns into an enmity.

O inclination to evil!

Why were you formed?

Why do you cover the land

With deceit?

Some companions rejoice

In the happiness of a friend.

But in times of trouble,

They are against him.

Some companions help a friend

For their stomach’s sake.

Yet in battle

They will carry his shield.

Do not forget a friend

In your heart

During the battle.

Do not be unmindful of him

When you distribute your spoils.”

Sirach reminds us about false friends. Some friends are such in name only. Sometimes a friend turns into an enemy. Sirach wondered why there was this inclination to evil. Why was the land covered with deceit? Some companions are happy when you are happy. However, in troubled times, they may be against you. Some people help for the sake of a good meal, while others will go to battle with you. You should not forget the friends who went out to battle with you, especially when you distribute the rewards or spoils of victory.

The good and bad wife (Sir 26:22-26:27)

“A prostitute is regarded as spittle.

A married woman

Is a tower of death to her lovers.

A godless wife is given as a portion

To a lawless man.

But a pious wife is given

To a man who fears the Lord.

A shameless woman constantly

Acts disgracefully.

A modest daughter will even

Be embarrassed before her husband.

A headstrong wife is regarded as a dog.

But one who has a sense of shame

Will fear the Lord.

A wife honoring her husband

Will seem wise to all.

But if she dishonors him

In her pride,

She will be known to all

As ungodly.

Happy is the husband

Of a good wife.

The number of his years

Will be doubled.

A loud voiced wife is

Like a trumpet sound.

A garrulous wife is

Like a trumpet sounding the charge.

Every person like this,

Lives in the anarchy of war.”

This section, like the preceding, does not appear in some editions. Sirach once again distinguishes between the good and the bad wife. Of course, prostitutes are like spit. A married wife who has lovers is like the tower of death to them. These godless wives belong with lawless husbands. On the other hand, a pious wife is a gift to a husband who fears the Lord. The shameless wife consistently acts disgraceful, so that even her daughter is embarrassed when her husband is around. A headstrong wife is a like a dog. She needs to be brought under control. The wife who has a sense of shame fears the Lord. Wives who honor their husbands are seen as wise. However, the ungodly wives dishonor their husbands. If a man has a good wife, as above, his life span will be doubled. A loud and talky wife is like a trumpet sound in battle. They deserve to live in a war of anarchy. Thus the humble wife is the ideal.

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.

Life is a game of chance (Eccl 9:11-9:12)

“Again I saw that under the sun.

The race is not to the swift.

Nor is the battle to the strong.

Nor is bread to the wise.

Nor is riches to the intelligent.

Nor is favor to the skillful.

But time happens to them all.

Chance happens to them all.

No one can anticipate

The time of disaster.

Like fish taken in a cruel net,

Like birds caught in a snare,

So mortals are snared

At a time of calamity.

When it suddenly falls upon them.”

Qoheleth sees human life under the sun like a game of chance. The swiftest runner does not always win the race. The strongest do not always win the battle. The wise do not always have the best food. The intelligent are not always rich. The skillful do not always succeed. Time and chance play a role. No one can predict when disaster will come. Just as fish and birds get stuck in nets and snares, so too mortals get caught when calamity suddenly happens to them.