“Have you not heard
That I determined it long ago?
I planned from days of old,
What now I bring to pass.
You should make fortified cities.
You should crash into heaps of ruins,
While their inhabitants,
Shorn of strength,
Are dismayed as well as confounded.
They have become
Like plants of the field,
Like tender grass,
Like grass on the housetops,
Blighted before it is grown.”
Once again, this is almost word for word from 2 Kings, chapter 19. Yahweh reminded King Sennacherib that he had allowed him to capture fortified cities, create ruins, and confuse and confound people. These people have become like plants in the field, tender grass or grass thatched houses.
‘Just as my servant Isaiah
Has walked naked and barefoot
For three years,
As a sign against Egypt,
As a portent against Ethiopia,
So shall the king of Assyria
Lead away the Egyptians as captives.
The Ethiopians also will be exiles,
Both the young and the old,
The naked and the barefoot,
With buttocks uncovered,
To the shame of Egypt.
They shall be dismayed.
They shall be confounded
Because of Ethiopia,
As well as Egypt
Now we have the oracle of Yahweh, via Isaiah. The prophet Isaiah had been naked for 3 years, as a sign against Egypt and Ethiopia. Now, the Assyrian king would capture Egypt and Ethiopia. They will be lead away as captives and exiles. No one will be saved. The young and the old will all be captured naked and barefooted. Thus the symbolism of Isaiah will actually happen to the Egyptians and Ethiopians as their naked butts will bring them shame. They will be dismayed and confused. Their hope and their boast about Egypt and Ethiopia will come to an end.
“O the thunder of many people!
Like the thundering of the sea!
O the roar of nations!
Like the roaring of mighty waters!
The nations roar
Like the roaring of many waters.
But he will rebuke them.
They will flee far away.
They will be chased
Like chaff on the mountains
Before the wind.
They will be chased
Like whirling dust
Before the storm.
At evening time,
They are no more.
This is the fate
Of those who despoil us.
This is the lot
Of those who plunder us.”
Here Isaiah warns of a coming thundering water deluge. Many people will come like thunder. They will roar like roaring mighty waters of the sea. However, Yahweh will rebuke them. They will flee like chaff in front of a mountain wind or like whirling dust before a storm. At night, they will say that terror is coming. But by morning, they will be gone. They will be no more since those who wanted to plunder and destroy them will disappear. This could be an allusion to the Assyrians attempt to capture Jerusalem around 701 BCE as told in 2 Kings, chapters 18-19.
“The King of Assyria says.
‘Are not my commanders all kings?
Is not Calno
Is not Hamath
Is not Samaria
As my hand has reached
To the kingdoms of the idols
Were greater than those of Jerusalem.
They were greater than those of Samaria.
Shall I not do to Jerusalem
As I have done to Samaria?
Shall I not do to her idols
As I have done to the Samarian images?’”
King Tiglath-Pileser III (745-727 BCE), the king of Assyria said that he had commanders in his army that could become kings. He cited the examples of his capture of various towns or cities like Calno in 742 BCE and Carchemish, which is now on the border between Turkey and Syria, but was part of the Syrian empire that was lost in 738 BCE. There also was the capture of other western Syrian town of Hama or Hamath and Arpad that were in this same area that Tiglath-Pileser III captured in 741 BCE. Finally there was Damascus, also in Syria, that was captured in 732 BCE. King Menahem of Samaria was the king of northern Israel from 743-738 BCE, who paid tribute to the King of Assyria, as mentioned in 2 Chronicles, chapter 26, and 2 Kings, chapter 15. Now King Tiglath-Pileser III was thinking of attacking Jerusalem. What he had done to Samaria, he would the same to Judah by destroying their images, since he thought that Yahweh was just another idol god.
To the choirmaster leader, a Maskil of the Korahites
“We have heard with our ears!
Our ancestors have told us.
What deeds you performed in their days,
In the days of old,
You with your own hand
Drove out the nations.
But then you planted them.
You afflicted the peoples,
But you set them free.
Not by their own sword
Did they win the land.
Their own arm did not give them victory.
But your right hand,
Your arm led them.
The light of your countenance shone
Because you delighted in them.”
Just like Psalm 42, Psalm 44, is one of the 11 Korahite Maskil psalms, that reference the sons of Korah, who were first mentioned in 1 Chronicles, chapter 9. These present psalmists had heard with their ears the stories of their ancestors about the good old days. God had been good to their ancestors. With his own hand he drove out the various nations and planted his favorite afflicted people. They did not accomplish this with their own swords. They did not capture the land with their own hands. God gave them victory with his right hand, his arm and the light of his face because he delighted in them.
“A certain Razis, one of the elders of Jerusalem, was denounced to Nicanor as a man who loved his compatriots. He was very well thought of. For his good will, he was called father of the Jews. In former times, when there was no mingling with the gentiles, he had been accused of Judaism. He had most zealously risked body and life for Judaism. Nicanor, wishing to exhibit the enmity which he had for the Jews, sent more than five hundred soldiers to arrest him. He thought that by arresting him, he would do them an injury. When the troops were about to capture the tower, they forced the door of the courtyard. They ordered that fire be brought and the doors burned. Being surrounded, Razis fell upon his own sword. He preferred to die nobly rather than to fall into the hands of sinners and suffer outrages unworthy of his noble birth. But in the heat of the struggle he did not hit exactly. The crowd was now rushing in through the doors. He courageously ran up on the wall. He bravely threw himself down into the crowd. But as they quickly drew back, a space opened and he fell in the middle of the empty space. Still alive and aflame with anger, he rose up. Although his blood gushed forth and his wounds were severe, he ran through the crowd. Standing upon a steep rock, with his blood now completely drained from him, he tore out his entrails. He took them with both hands and hurled them at the crowd, calling upon the Lord of life and spirit to give them back to him again. This was the manner of his death.”
Wow, what a gruesome description of the death of Razis! Razis was a well respected Jewish elder, sometimes referred to as the father of the Jews. He was accused of Judaism because he would not mingle with the gentiles. Nicanor wanted to make an example of him so he sent 500 troops to arrest him. So far this does not sound outlandish. Then when they got to his house, they decided to set fire to his door to get in. Then Razis was surrounded and decided to kill himself with a sword, a common Roman practice, rather than die in disgrace. However, in the heat of the excitement with the 500 troops running at him, he somehow missed killing himself but merely cut himself. So Razis ran to the top of the wall. He wanted to hurl himself into the crowd, but they stepped back and he fell into an empty space. Now as he was angry and still alive, he ran through the crowd of troops until he got to a sharp rock. The blood was gushing out all over the place. Somehow he tore out his own intestines and threw them at the crowd. This was some weird scene. Here then is the main point. He cried to the Lord of life to give them back to him. Of course, he died. Somehow this father of Judaism believed that his intestines would be restored in some kind of afterlife, a resurrection. This is one of the few times that we have a Jewish attempted suicide.
“The thrice-accursed Nicanor had brought one thousand merchants to buy the Jews. He was now humbled with the help of the Lord by opponents whom he regarded as of the least account. He took off his splendid uniform. He made his way alone like a runaway slave across the country until he reached Antioch. He had succeeded chiefly in the destruction of his own army! Thus he who had undertaken to secure tribute for the Romans by the capture of the people of Jerusalem proclaimed that the Jews had a Defender. Therefore the Jews were invulnerable, because they followed the laws ordained by him.”
Nicanor comes in for a heavy dismissal since he was cursed 3 times. He was the one who brought 1,000 merchants to buy the Jews for slavery. He was humbled by his opponents with the help of the Lord. However, he took off his wonderful uniform, and fled across the countryside like a runaway slave until he reached Antioch. His only success was that he had destroyed his own army. He now claimed that the Jews were invulnerable as long as they followed the laws of their almighty defender. Nicanor will appear again later in this book.
“Then all the renegade lawless people plotted and said.
Jonathan and his men are living in quiet and confidence.
Now let us bring Bacchides back.
He will capture them all in one night.’
They went and consulted with him. Bacchides started to come with a large force. He secretly sent letters to all his allies in Judea. He told them to seize Jonathan and his men. However, they were unable to do it, because their plan became known. Jonathan’s men seized about fifty of the men of the country who were leaders in this treachery, and killed them.”
Once again, we see the lawless Hellenistic renegade Jews plotting against Jonathan. Jonathan seemed to have been left alone. They wanted to bring back General Bacchides and capture him in one night. This once again emphasizes the civil war aspect of his uprising. After they consulted with General Bacchides, he started out with a large force. He sent letters to his allies to tell them to seize Jonathan. However, the opposite happened. Jonathan seized about 50 men who were against him and killed them.
“They went all the way to the stronghold of Dathema. At dawn, they looked out and saw a large company that could not be counted, carrying ladders and engines of war to capture the stronghold. They were attacking the Jews within it. Judas saw that the battle had begun. The cry of the town went up to heaven with trumpets and loud shouts. Judas said to the men of his forces.
‘Fight today for your kindred’
Then he came up behind them in three companies. They sounded their trumpets. They cried aloud in prayer. When the army of Timothy realized that it was Maccabeus, they fled before him. He had dealt them a heavy blow. As many as eight thousand of them fell that day.”
Next Judas Maccabeus and his men went back to the stronghold of Dathema, where many of the Jews were at as was indicated earlier in this chapter. It must not have been that far from Bozrah since it only took one night to get there. However, when they arrived, the place was under attack by that wicked Timothy and his army. Judas Maccabeus called his troops to fight for their relatives. When Timothy and his group realized that Judas Maccabeus was attacking them, they fled with a loss of about 8,000 men.