The traceless end of the unjust (Wis 5:9-5:13)

“All those things have vanished

Like a shadow.

They have vanished

Like a rumor that passes by.

They are

Like a ship that sails through the billowy water.

When it has passed

No trace can be found.

There is no track of its keel in the waves.

When a bird flies through the air,

No evidence of its passage is found.

The light air,

Lashed by the beat of its pinions,

Pierced by the force of its rushing flight,

Is traversed

By the movement of its wings.

Afterward no sign of its coming is found there.

When an arrow is shot at a target,

The air,

Thus divided,

Comes together at once.

Thus no one knows its pathway.

So we also,

As soon as we were born,

Ceased to be.

We had no sign of virtue to show.

But we were consumed in our wickedness.”

The ungodly and unjust have disappeared like a shadow. Here now, but gone when the sun stops shining. They are like a rumor that vanishes almost instantaneously. They are like a ship going in the sea. Once it is gone, there is no way to trace its path. The same is true on the bird in the air. Once gone, you are never sure of its precise path. The same goes for an arrow shot in the air. No one can tell its path. However, today we do have technology that can trace ships, birds, and arrows. So what? These unjust ones declared that they ceased to exist the day they were born, because they had no virtue. Thus they were consumed with wickedness.

The impending death of old age (Eccl 12:3-12:7)

“In the day

When the guards of the house tremble,

The strong men are bent.

The women who grind cease working

Because they are few.

Those who look through the windows see dimly.

The doors on the street are shut.

The sound of the grinding is low.

One rises up at the sound of a bird.

All the daughters of song are brought low.

When one is afraid of heights,

The terrors are in the road.

The almond tree blossoms.

The grasshopper drags itself along.

Desire fails.

Because all must go to their eternal home.

The mourners will go about the streets.

The silver cord is snapped.

The golden bowl is broken.

The pitcher is broken at the fountain.

The wheel is broken at the cistern.

The dust returns to the earth as it was.

The spirit returns to God who gave it.”

This is an ode to old age. The dying old man, with his many servants and guards, comes to an end. The guards tremble. The strong men bend over. The women grinders stop their dancing. They can only see dimly out the window. Everyone has shut their doors. The grinders have ceased. Morning comes early with the first sound of a bird. There are no more singing young girls. The old man is afraid of heights. He dreads going out on the road because of the fear of attack. The old people tend to walk awkwardly like a grasshopper. Their desires fail maybe due to incompetence. The trees still blossom, but the mourners are out on the streets. The signs of death, the snapped silver cord, the broken gold bowl, and the broken pitcher at the fountain all take place. The wheel was broken at the cistern. They return to dust, but their spirit or breath returns to God. This is a depressing description of old age, just before death, along with the symbolic actions that go with death.

The peaceful ending (Ps 46:8-46:11)

“Come!

Behold the works of Yahweh!

See what desolations

He has brought on the earth!

He makes wars cease to the end of the earth.

He breaks the bow.

He shatters the spear.

He burns the shields with fire.

‘Be still!

Know that I am God!

I am exalted among the nations!

I am exalted in the earth!’

Yahweh of hosts is with us.

The God of Jacob is our refuge.”

Selah

The psalmist wants you to come and see the work of Yahweh. He has brought a peaceful desolation to earth. Wars have ceased. All the bows and spears have been broken. The shields have been burned. Everyone should know that Yahweh is truly God since he is exalted among the nations and on earth. Then this psalm ends with the refrain of Yahweh, the God of Jacob, as his refuge. Like in the preceding section, there is the Selah, the musical interlude pause.

The intervention of the angry Elihu (Job 32:1-32:5)

“So these three men ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes. Then Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, became angry. He was angry at Job because he justified himself rather than God. He was angry also at Job’s three friends because they had found no answer, although they had declared Job to be in the wrong. Elihu had waited to speak to Job because they were older than him. When Elihu saw that there was no answer in the mouths of these three men, he became angry.”

Now this author goes back to prose. This discourse of Elihu is often seen as an insertion in this book because it has a different style with many Aramaic words. On the other hand, it may be an answer to Job, before God answered him later. Who was this Elihu? One of Samuel’s ancestors in 1 Samuel, chapter 1, had the same name. This Elihu was a Buzite, someone from Buz, which was the name of the son of Nahor in Genesis, chapter 22. Thus Buz was the nephew of Abraham. His family probably migrated to Edom. As he is from the family of Ram he maybe an Aramean. He was angry at Job because he had spent too much time self-justifying himself rather than God. He was angry at the 3 friends since they had no solution to the problem of Job. As he was younger than the others, he waited his turn to speak until they were all done. Whether he observed all this, or just happened by is not clear from the text. He seems to imply that suffering can teach us things about God.

Jonathan and the peace treaty (1 Macc 9:70-9:73)

“When Jonathan learned of this, he sent ambassadors to Bacchides to make peace with him and obtain release of the captives. Bacchides agreed and he did as Jonathan said. He swore to Jonathan that he would not try to harm him as long as he lived. He restored to him the captives whom he had previously taken from the land of Judah. Then he turned and departed to his own land. He never came back into their territory. Thus the sword ceased from Israel. Jonathan settled in Michmash. He began to judge the people. He destroyed the godless out of Israel.”

When Jonathan heard that General Bacchides was leaving, he sent messengers to him to make peace and exchange prisoners. General Bacchides agreed with Jonathan. He swore that he would not harm Jonathan as long as he lived. They then exchanged prisoners or captives. General Bacchides left for his own land and never came back again. Thus there was peace in Israel. For someone unknown reason, Jonathan did not go to Jerusalem. Instead he settled in Michmash, about 8 miles northeast of Jerusalem and about 9 miles south of Bethel, where Saul had his fight with the Philistines. Jonathan was more like the early Israelite judges and Samuel than a king. However, he did destroy the godless renegades.

Triumph of the pro-Syrian party (1 Macc 9:23-9:27)

“After the death of Judas, the renegades emerged in all parts of Israel. All wrongdoers reappeared. In those days a very great famine occurred. The country went over to their side. Bacchides chose the godless renegades. He put them in charge of the country. They made inquiries and searched for the friends of Judas. They brought them to Bacchides. He took vengeance on them. He made sport of them. Thus there was great distress in Israel, such as had not been since the time that the prophets ceased to appear among them.”

Once Judas Maccabeus was gone, the renegade pro-Syrians Hellenized Jews emerged in all parts of Israel. However, a famine also occurred so that most of the people went to the side of the Hellenizing Syrians since there was no resistance. Bacchides, the Syrian general and governor, put these godless renegades in charge of the country. They sought out all of Judas’ old comrades in order to take vengeance on them by making sport of them. There was great distress in Israel, something like the time when the prophets ceased to exist in Israel, probably referring to the 5th century BCE.

The payer of the Israelites (1 Macc 3:44-3:45)

“The congregation assembled to be ready for battle.  They assembled to pray and ask for mercy and compassion.

‘Jerusalem was uninhabited like a wilderness.

Not one of her children went in or out.

The sanctuary was trampled down.

The sons of aliens held the citadel.

It was a lodging place for the gentiles.

Joy was taken from Jacob,

The flute and the harp ceased to play.’”

The Israelites gathered to pray.  As they readied for the battle, they prayed for mercy and compassion.  They lamented the situation in Jerusalem which had become a wilderness.  No one went in or out as the sanctuary was trampled.  The sons of aliens were in the citadel in Jerusalem.  There no longer was joy from the land of Jacob as the flute and the harp ceased to play, just like the day the music stopped.