The future exile (Mic 4:9-4:10)

“Now why do you cry aloud?

Is there no king in you?

Has your counselor perished?

Have pangs seized you

Like a woman in labor?

O daughter Zion!

Writhe!

Groan!

Like a woman in labor!

Now you shall go forth

From the city.

You shall camp

In the open country.

You shall go to Babylon.

There you shall be rescued.

There Yahweh will redeem you

From the hand of your enemies.”

Yahweh, via Micah, wanted to know why the people were crying.  They had a king and a counselor.  However, they were having labor pains, as if they were pregnant.  Yahweh told them to cry, groan, and contort like a pregnant woman because something bad was going to happen to them.  They were going to have to leave their city to camp in the open country.  They were going to go to Babylon.  There Yahweh would rescue and redeem them from their enemies.

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The pestilence (Am 4:10-4:10)

“‘I sent among you

A pestilence,

After the manner

Of Egypt.

I killed

Your young men

With the sword.

I carried away

Your horses.

I made the stench

Of your camp go up

Into your nostrils.

Yet you did not

Return to me,’

Says Yahweh.”

Amos has another oracle of Yahweh that picked up on the same theme of devastation, but still with no return to Yahweh. He sent a pestilence, like the Egyptian plagues in Exodus, chapters 7-11. Yahweh killed their young men with the sword. He took away their horses. He made them smell the stink of their own camp. Despite all this, the northern kingdom Israelites refused to return to Yahweh.

Oracle after the defeat (Jer 40:1-40:1)

“The word

That came

To Jeremiah

From Yahweh

After Nebuzaradan,

The captain of the guard,

Had let him go

From Ramah.

He had taken him

Bound in fetters

Along with all the captives

Of Jerusalem and Judah.

They were being exiled

To Babylon.”

According to this account, Jeremiah was sent in chains along with all the other captives of Jerusalem and Judah that were about to be exiled to Babylon. While there, Jeremiah had this oracle of Yahweh about leaving Ramah, which was about 6 miles north of Jerusalem in the Benjamin territory. Apparently this Ramah camp was where they made the final disposition of the various prisoners. Perhaps it was here that the captain of the guard, Nebuzaradan, made his final decision about Jeremiah. Like the preceding chapter, this is a different numbered chapter in the Greek translation of the Septuagint, chapters 47 and 48, not chapter 40 as here.

The happy wise person (Sir 14:20-14:27)

“Happy is the person

Who meditates on wisdom,

Who reasons intelligently,

Who reflects in his heart on her ways,

Who ponders her secrets,

Who pursues wisdom like a hunter,

Who lies in wait on her paths,

Who peers through her windows,

Who listens at her doors,

Who encamps near her house,

Who fastens his tent peg to her walls,

Who pitches his tent near her,

Who so occupies an excellent lodging place,

Who places his children under her shelter,

Who lodges under her boughs,

Who is sheltered by her from the heat,

Who dwells in the midst of her glory.”

Sirach describes the happy person who has a relationship to wisdom. These happy people will meditate on wisdom. They will reason intelligently. They will reflect on wisdom. They will ponder the secrets of wisdom. They will pursue wisdom like a hunter who lies in wait for wisdom. They will look through the windows and listen at the doors of wisdom. They will camp near the house of wisdom. They will have tent pegs on the walls of the house of wisdom. They will have pitched a tent next to the house of wisdom, which is an excellent lodging place. They will place their children under the shelter of wisdom. They will live under the branches of wisdom, so that they will be sheltered by wisdom from the midday sun. They will live in the glory of wisdom. These happy people will really like wisdom.

The curse for David’s enemies (Ps 69:22-69:29)

“Let their own table be a trap for them!

Let their own table be a snare for their allies!

Let their eyes be darkened,

So that they cannot see!

Make their loins tremble continually!

Pour out your indignation upon them!

Let our burning anger overtake them!

May their camp be desolation!

Let no one live in their tents!

They persecute those

Whom you have struck down.

They persecute those

Whom you have wounded.

They attack still more.

Add guilt to their guilt!

May they have no acquittal from you!

Let them be blotted out of the book of the living!

Let them not be enrolled among the righteous!

But I am lowly.

I am in pain.

Let your salvation!

O God!

Protect me high!”

These are a series of curses or wishes against the enemies of David. His enemies’ tables should be a trap or snare to them and their friends. He wanted them to lose their sight and to tremble all the time. God’s indignation and anger should be upon them. Their camp should be desolate so that they could not live in their tents. They had persecuted and attacked those who had been wounded. Their guilt pilled on guilt. They should not be acquitted. They should be blotted out of the book of the living. They should not be listed among the righteous. They should die. Then there is the cry of David to protect him and bring him salvation.

The people prepare (2 Macc 15:17-15:19)

“The people were encouraged by the words of Judas Maccabeus. They were so noble and so effective in arousing the valor and awaking the courage in the souls of the young. Thus, they determined not to remain in camp, but to attack bravely. They would decide the matter, by fighting hand to hand with all courage, because the city, the sanctuary, and the temple were in danger. Their concern for their wives and children, and also for their brothers, sisters, and relatives, lay upon them less heavily. Their greatest and first fear was for the consecrated sanctuary. Those who had to remain in the city were in no little distress, being anxious over the encounter in the open country.”

Judas Maccabeus had encouraged the people to have courage, especially the young. Instead of staying in camp, they were willing to attack bravely. They wanted to fight hand to hand with courage. They were more worried about the city, the Temple, and sanctuary rather than their wives, children, brothers, sisters, or other relatives. Their greatest fear was for the consecrated sanctuary. The people who remained in the city were anxious about the battle encounter in the open country.

God’s victory at Modein (2 Macc 13:13-13:17)

“After consulting privately with the elders, he determined to march out and decide the matter by the help of God before the king’s army could enter Judea and get possession of the city. So, committing the decision to the Creator of the world, he exhorted his troops to fight nobly to the death for the laws, the temple, the city, the country, and the commonwealth. He pitched his camp near Modein. He gave his troops the watchword.

‘God’s victory.’

He picked a force of the bravest young men. He attacked the king’s pavilion at night. He killed as many as two thousand men in the camp. He stabbed the leading elephant and its rider. In the end they filled the camp with terror and confusion as they withdrew in triumph. This happened, just as day was dawning, because the Lord’s help protected him.”

Clearly the success of Judas Maccabeus came because of divine intervention on his side. Everything was done with the help of God. He first consulted with the elders, which seems to be a common practice. He committed his decision to the Creator, not the God of Israel. He wanted his troops to defend the laws, the Temple, the city, and the country. This took place near Modein, where his father was from, although there is no mention of his father Mattathias in 2 Maccabees. The key word was ‘God’s victory.’ He picked a few brave young men to lead the attack on the king’s pavilion at night. He killed 2,000 that night as well as the lead elephant. This led to confusion in the camp, another common biblical theme.