The time and place of Ezekiel’s vision (Ezek 8:1-8:1)

“In the sixth year,

In the sixth month,

On the fifth day

Of the month,

I sat in my house,

With the elders

Of Judah

Sitting before me.

The hand

Of Yahweh God

Fell upon me there.”

This book of Ezekiel seems to be very precise about when a vision of Yahweh appears to the prophet, as in chapter 1 of this work. This is no exception, since these so-called Temple visions took place in 592 BCE while Ezekiel was in his house in Babylon with the elders of Judah sitting in front of him. This was the 6th year of the reign of King Zedekiah of Judah, on the 5th day of the 6th month. There the hand of Yahweh came upon Ezekiel.

Historical Introduction (Bar 1:1-1:2)

“These are the words

Of the book

That Baruch,

The son of Neriah,

The son of Mahseiah,

The son of Zedekiah,

The son of Hasadiah,

The son of Hilkiah,

Wrote in Babylon.

This was

In the fifth year,

On the seventh day

Of the month,

At the time

When the Chaldeans

Took Jerusalem.

They burned it

With fire.”

This is a historical introduction to this book that gives a name and specific date with a reference to a book, not merely a scroll. The author is Baruch, the same Baruch that was mentioned in the Book of Jeremiah, chapters 32, 36, 43, and 45. This Baruch was a scribe, friend, and follower of Jeremiah. He was clearly identified with a long genealogy. His father was Neriah. His brother Seraiah worked with King Zedekiah. He traced his family back to Hilkiah. Mahseiah, his grandfather was mentioned in Jeremiah also. There were many people with the name of Zedekiah, including the king so that it is hard to pinpoint one. Hasadiah was another common name, while over 30 biblical people have the name Hilkiah. Baruch was in Babylon. However, the last time he was mentioned in Jeremiah, he was with Jeremiah in Egypt. Perhaps, he may have left Jeremiah there. This book is placed 5 years after the fall of Jerusalem and the burning of Jerusalem, around 582 BCE on the 7th day of the month that Jerusalem was destroyed.

Write a scroll or book (Jer 36:2-36:2)

“Take a scroll!

Write on it

All the words

That I have spoken

To you

Against Israel,

Against Judah,

Against all the nations,

From the day

I spoke to you,

From the days

Of King Josiah

Until today.”

Yahweh tells Jeremiah to write down all the oracles that he told him since the beginning of his prophetic work to the present. He was to get a scroll to write all these oracles that Yahweh had delivered to him against Israel, Judah, and all the nations. He was to go back to the beginning under King Josiah in 626 BCE. Thus this would have been about 20 years worth of Yahweh oracles, with most of it coming when King Josiah was king, since King Jehoiakim had been king for only 4 years. Thus we have some idea about what is in this Book of Jeremiah.

The book of Jeremiah (Jer 30:1-30:2)

“The word that came

To Jeremiah

From Yahweh.

‘Thus says Yahweh!

The God of Israel!

Write in a book

All the words

That I have spoken

To you!”

Yahweh told Jeremiah to write his oracles down in a book. Thus we have the book of Jeremiah, the prophet. These writings are a series of oracles addressed to those in captivity about a future return. Some of the early ones are even addressed to the Northern Israelites who were in Assyrian captivity from 721 BCE. This was to give consolation to the people in exile. Like the preceding chapter, this is a different numbered chapter in the Greek translation of the Septuagint, chapter 37, not chapter 30 as here.

Preserve the oracles of Isaiah (Isa 30:8-30:8)

“Go now!

Write it before them on a tablet!

Inscribe it in a book!

Thus it may be for the time to come.

Let this be a witness forever!”

Isaiah wanted them to preserve his oracles. He wanted them to write these oracles on a tablet. Then they were to keep them on a scroll in some kind of book. Thus they would become a lasting witness about things to come in the future. Apparently, this was done.

Samuel (Sir 46:13-46:20)

“Samuel was beloved by his Lord.

He was a prophet of the Lord.

He established the kingdom.

He anointed rulers over his people.

By the law of the Lord

He judged the congregation.

The Lord watched over Jacob.

By his faithfulness,

He proved to be a prophet.

By his words,

He became known as a trustworthy seer.

He called upon the Lord,

The Mighty One,

When his enemies

Pressed him on every side.

He offered in sacrifice

A sucking lamb.

Then the Lord thundered from heaven.

He made his voice heard

With a mighty sound.

He subdued the leaders of the enemy

In Tyre.

He subdued all the rulers of the Philistines.

Before the time of his eternal sleep,

Samuel bore witness before the Lord.

Samuel bore witness before his anointed.

‘No property,

Not so much as a pair of shoes,

Have I taken from anyone!’

No one accused him.

Even after he had fallen asleep,

He prophesied.

He made known to the king his death.

He lifted up his voice from the ground.

In prophecy,

He wanted to blot out

The wickedness of the people.”

Next Sirach praises Samuel, the prophet who was a judge and founder of the monarchy. There is a Hebrew biblical book called Samuel that was later divided into 2 parts. He was a beloved trustworthy faithful prophet. He called upon the Lord when the enemies surrounded him. He offered a sacrifice of a lamb. He defeated the enemies at Tyre and the Philistines. Samuel anointed 2 kings, Saul and David. He never took any property from anyone, not even a pair of shoes. Even after his death, prophecies from the grave came to the king. He continually wanted to blot out the wickedness of his people.

Qoheleth (Eccl 12:9-12:10)

“Besides being wise,

Qoheleth also taught the people knowledge.

He weighed many proverbs.

He studied many proverbs.

He arranged many proverbs.

Qoheleth sought to find pleasing words.

He wrote words of truth plainly.”

Now we have a description, eulogy, or explanation of Qoheleth by another author in this epilogue. Qoheleth was wise. He taught the people knowledge. He studied and arranged many of the proverbs in this book. He weighted their value. But as we have seen most were useless vanity. He wanted to find pleasing words as he had a good literary Hebrew style. He spoke plain truth. There was nothing fancy about his work.

Vanity (Eccl 12:8-12:8)

“Vanity of vanities,

Says Qoheleth

All is vanity.”

This book ends where it began. All is vanity. Qoheleth repeats the opening lines of this book. We have come full cycle. The life and death of humans is useless, vanity. Everything is useless. This is a kind of cynicism and depression. However, there still was the hope of the human spirit or breath returning to God. Other than that, all the rest was must plain vapor, vanity of vanities.

Vanity of vanities (Eccl 1:2-1:3)

“‘Vanity of vanities!’

Says Qoheleth.

‘Vanity of vanities!

All is vanity!

What do people gain

From all the toil

At which they toil

Under the sun?’”

This book starts with a poem to vanity. This is the superlative Hebrew usage of hebel. What is the worst vanity? This hebel is vapor or something unsubstantial, futile or vain. This term “vanity” occurs over 38 times here in this biblical book that shows the futility of humans. Is everything vain and futile? What is the reward for hard work? If all you do is work hard under the sun, what is your reward. This is somewhat reminiscent of Job and his laments.

Praise Yahweh (Ps 106:48-106:48)

“Blessed be Yahweh!

The God of Israel!

From everlasting to everlasting!

Let all the people say.

‘Amen!’

Praise Yahweh!”

This 4th book of psalms ends with a rousing Alleluia, praise to Yahweh, the Hebrew “Hallelujah.” This doxology praise is an addition to this psalm since it probably belonged at the end of Psalm 105. However, it seems a fitting end to this book of psalms with this everlasting praise to Yahweh with the great “Amen.”