The terror in Moab (Jer 48:43-48:46)

“‘Terror!

Pit!

Trap!

They are before you!

O inhabitants of Moab!’

Says Yahweh.

‘Everyone

Who flees from the terror

Shall fall into the pit.

Everyone who climbs

Out of the pit

Shall be caught in the trap.

I will bring these things

Upon Moab,

In the year of their punishment.’

Says Yahweh.

In the shadow of Heshbon,

Fugitives stop exhausted.

A fire has gone out

From Heshbon,

A flame from

The house of Sihon.

It has destroyed

The forehead of Moab,

The scalp of the people

Of tumult.

Woe to you!

O Moab!

The people of Chemosh

Have perished.

Your sons

Have been taken captive.

Your daughters

Have been taken into captivity.”

There would be terror to hit Moab, like the terror of the apocalypse judgment day of Isaiah, chapter 24. Terror was all around with pits and snares to catch people. If they fled, they would fall into a pit. Even if they crawled out of the pit, they would be caught in a trap. There was no escape. They tried to flee to Heshbon, the capital of Ammon, the country north of Moab. However, they were surprised to learn that Heshbon was also on fire. This was the capital city of King Sihon, or house of Sihon, dating back to the days of Joshua, chapter 21. The Moabites would have problems with their foreheads and scalps. They would be cursed, and then perish. The people with their god Chemosh would lose their sons and daughters to captivity.

They refuse to accept the words of Jeremiah (Jer 43:1-43:3)

“Thus Jeremiah finished speaking

To all the people

All these words

Of Yahweh their God,

With which Yahweh their God

Had sent him to them.

Then Azariah,

The son of Hoshaiah,

Johanan,

The son of Kareah,

With all the other insolent men,

Said to Jeremiah.

‘You are telling a lie.

Yahweh our God

Did not send you

To say.

‘Do not go to Egypt

To settle there!’

But Baruch,

The son of Neriah,

Is inciting you

Against us.

He wants to hand us over

To the Chaldeans.

Thus they may kill us.

Or they may take us

Into exile in Babylon.’”

During the 10 days that Jeremiah waited for Yahweh, there must have been a change of heart in the camp. Some people think that this section should have been in the preceding chapter. This chapter equivalent in the Greek Septuagint is chapter 50, not chapter 43 as here. So once that Jeremiah had finished speaking the words that Yahweh, their God, gave him, both the leaders of this insolent remnant group, Azariah and Johanan, called into question Jeremiah’s veracity. They said that Jeremiah was lying. Yahweh did not say to him that they should not settle in Egypt. It must have been his secretary Baruch who incited Jeremiah against the main group. They said that Baruch wanted them to be captured or killed by the Chaldeans, if they stayed in this Judean territory. They might he sent into captivity in Babylon, if they were caught there. Basically, it was a fight between the interests of Egypt versus the interests of Babylon.

The flight and capture of King Zedekiah (Jer 39:4-39:5)

“When King Zedekiah

Of Judah,

With all the soldiers

Saw the Babylonians,

They fled.

They went out of the city

At night

By way of the king’s garden

Through the gate

Between the two walls.

They went toward the Arabah.

But the army of the Chaldeans

Pursued them.

They overtook King Zedekiah

In the plains of Jericho.

When they had taken him,

They brought him up

To King Nebuchadnezzar

Of Babylon,

At Riblah,

In the land of Hamath.

He passed sentence on him.”

This is pretty much the same as in 2 Kings, chapter 25. The king and his army escaped through a hole in the wall via the king’s garden. They were headed for Arabah, the Jordan River valley, but the Chaldeans caught them in the plains of Jericho, about 5 miles from Jerusalem. In 2 Kings, chapter 24, the Judean troops scattered and deserted the king, but there is no mention of that here.  They then brought the king and his army officials to King Nebuchadnezzar, who was at Riblah in Hamath, north of Jerusalem, almost on the Syrian border.

The shame of Israel (Jer 2:26-2:28)

“As a thief is shamed when caught,

So the house of Israel shall be shamed.

Their kings shall be shamed.

Their princes shall be shamed.

Their priests shall be shamed.

Their prophets shall be shamed.

Who says to a tree?

‘You are my father.’

Who says to a stone?

‘You gave me birth.’

They have turned their backs to me.

They have not turned their faces to me.

But in the time of their trouble,

They say.

‘Arise!

Save us!’

But where are your gods

That you made for yourself?

Let them come!

See if they can save you

In your time of trouble.

You have as many gods

As you have towns!

O Judah!”

Jeremiah says that the house of Israel should be shamed like a thief who gets caught. This shame includes their kings, officials, priests, and prophets. Think of this, these people were saying to a tree, you are my father. They were saying to a stone that they were born from a stone. They turned their backs on Yahweh, since they would not show their face to him. However, whenever there was a problem, they would come running to Yahweh, asking him to come and save them. Where were their gods that they had made? Let them come and save them. However, they had as many gods as there were towns. Each town in Judah had their own little god image for protection.

Wakeup call to Jerusalem (Isa 51:17-51:20)

“Rouse yourself!

Rouse yourself!

Stand up!

O Jerusalem!

You have drunk

At the hand of Yahweh

The cup of his wrath.

You have drunk to the dregs

The bowl of staggering.

There is no one to guide her

Among all the children

She has borne.

There is no one to take her

By the hand

Among all the children

She has brought up.

These two things have befallen you.

Who will grieve with you

In this devastation with destruction?

Who will grieve with you

In this famine?

Who will grieve with you

Because of the sword?

Who will comfort you?

Your children have fainted.

They lie at the head of every street

Like an antelope in a net.

They are full of the wrath of Yahweh.

They are full of the rebuke of your God.”

Second Isaiah has a wakeup call for Jerusalem. They had suffered enough, since they were drunk from the cup of Yahweh’s wrath. They drank so much wrath that they were staggering around. No one was guiding them. No one was taking them by the hand, among all the children of Israel. They had been struck by more than two things, devastation, destruction, famine, and the sword. Who would comfort them? Their children have fainted on the streets, like they were antelopes caught in nets. They were filled with Yahweh’s anger and rebuke. They were in bad shape.

The violent treacherous ones (Isa 24:16-24:18)

“But I say.

‘I pine away!

I pine away!

Woe is me!

The treacherous deal treacherously.

The treacherous deal very treacherously.’

Terror,

The pit,

The snare

Are upon you!

O inhabitant of the earth!

Whoever flees at the sound of the terror

Shall fall into the pit.

Whoever climbs out of the pit

Shall be caught in the snare.”

The mood changes quickly, as Isaiah pines away because he is worried about the violent treacherous people who deal very treacherously, just like we have today. They create terror as they set pits and snares to catch people. If you flee, you will fall into a pit. Even if you crawl out of the pit, you will be caught in a snare trap. There is no escape.

The death of all (Isa 13:14-13:16)

“Like a hunted gazelle,

Like sheep

With no one to gather them,

All will turn

To their own people.

All will flee

To their own lands.

Whoever is found

Will be thrust through.

Whoever is caught,

Will fall by the sword.

Their infants

Will be dashed to pieces,

Before their eyes.

Their houses will be plundered.

Their wives will be ravished.”

Now Isaiah has the death of all, no questions asked. Humans will be like hunted deer or sheep with no one guiding them. People will return to their own people and lands. However, whoever is caught would by killed by the sword. Their infants would be smashed. Their houses would be robbed and their wives raped. This is not a pretty picture.

Yahweh as a stumbling stone (Isa 8:11-8:15)

“Yahweh spoke thus to me.

His hand was strong upon me.

He warned me

Not to walk

In the way of this people.

He said.

‘Do not call conspiracy

All that this people call conspiracy!

Do not fear

What they fear!

Do not be in dread!

You shall regard as holy

Yahweh of hosts!

Let him be your fear!

Let him be your dread!

He will become a sanctuary.

He will become a stone

That one strikes against.

For both houses of Israel,

He will become a rock

That one stumbles over.

He will become a trap.

He will become a snare

For the inhabitants of Jerusalem.

Many among them shall stumble.

They shall fall.

They shall be broken.

They shall be snared.

They shall be taken.’”

Once again, we have an oracle from Yahweh directly to Isaiah. This time Yahweh also puts his hand on him with a warning not to fall into conspiracy theories. Does that sound familiar? Isaiah was not to fear what most people feared and dreaded. Only Yahweh, the Lord of hosts, is holy. He is the only one that you should fear and dread. Yahweh can, however, become either a sanctuary or a stumbling block. Both houses of Israel, north and south, find that Yahweh is a stumbling block, a trap and a snare. Many of the inhabitants of Jerusalem will stumble and fall. They will be taken and broken, as they will get caught in this trap or snare.

Vengeance (Sir 27:28-27:29)

“Mockery issues

From the proud.

Abuse issues

From the proud.

But vengeance

Lies in wait

For them

Like a lion.

Whoever rejoices

In the fall of the godly

Will be caught in a snare.

Pain will consume them

Before their death.”

The proud mock and abuse people. However, Sirach reminds us that vengeance, like that of a lion, is not far off. Anyone who is happy about the fall of the godly righteous person will be caught in a trap that will lead to a lot of pain before they die.

Paradoxes (Sir 27:25-27:27)

Whoever throws a stone straight up

Throws it on his own head.

A treacherous blow

Opens up many wounds.

Whoever digs a pit

Will fall into it.

Whoever sets a snare

Will be caught in it.

If a person does evil,

It will roll back upon him.

He will not know

Where it came from.”

Sirach then has a series of paradoxes. If you throw a stone straight up in the air, it will land on your head. A treacherous blow opens many wounds. If you dig a pit, you will fall into it. If you set a snare, you will be caught in it. Whenever you do evil, it will roll back on you. However, you will have no idea where it came from.