The Babylonian god Bel (Dan 14:3-14:4)

“Now the Babylonians

Had an idol

Called Bel.

Every day,

They provided for it

Twelve bushels

Of choice flour,

Forty sheep,

Six measures

Of wine.

The king revered it.

He went every day

To worship it.

But Daniel worshiped

His own God.”

This god Bel was Bel Marduk, the great god of the Babylonians, mentioned by Jeremiah and Isaiah. Every day, the people provided this idol 12 bushels of choice flour, 40 sheep, and 6 measures or about 50 gallons of wine. The king Cyrus revered Bel, as he worshipped this god on a daily basis. Bel may have been popular in Persia also. However, Daniel worshipped his own God, but there is no indication where he did this.

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Jerusalem’s renowned beauty (Ezek 16:13-16:14)

“‘Your clothing was

Of fine linen.

Your clothing was

Rich fabrics.

Your clothing was

Embroidered cloth.

You had choice flour.

You had honey.

You had oil.

You grew

Exceedingly beautiful.

You were fit

To be a queen.

Your fame spread

Among the nations

On account

Of your beauty.

It was perfect

Because of my splendor

That I had bestowed

On you.’

Says Yahweh God.”

Yahweh made sure that young Jerusalem had wonderful clothing to wear, such as fine linens, rich fabrics, and embroidered clothes. She also had fine foods to eat. She had choice flour, honey, and oil. Thus she grew exceedingly beautiful. She was fit to be a queen. Her fame spread far and wide because of her perfect beauty. Why was she so beautiful? Well, Yahweh gave her his perfect splendor. So ends the story of the young maiden Jerusalem growing up to become very beautiful.

Sickness (Sir 38:9-38:15)

“My child!

When you are ill,

Do not delay!

But pray to the Lord!

He will heal you.

Give up your faults!

Direct your hands rightly!

Cleanse your heart

From all sin!

Offer a sweet-smelling sacrifice!

Offer a memorial portion

Of choice flour!

Pour oil on your offering,

As much as you can afford.

Then give the physician his place.

The Lord has created him.

Do not let him leave you!

You need him.

There may come a time

When recovery lies

In the hands of this physician.

They too pray to the Lord.

Thus the Lord may grant him

Success in his diagnosis.

Thus he may grant him

Success in healing.

This is done

For the sake of preserving life.

He who sins

Against his Maker,

Will be defiant

Toward his physician.”

Sirach explains the connection between sickness and sin. However, the new twist is that you must do more than simply praying for forgiveness. You must also see a physician. Although the first thing that you do when you are sick is pray to the Lord, but that is not sufficient. You should confess your sins and cleanse your heart. You should also make a sweet smelling sacrifice to the Lord with choice flour and as much oil as you can. After that, you then turn to a physician who was created by the Lord. Do not let the physician leave you because your recovery will depend on him. He too prays for a successful diagnosis of your illness. He heals for the sake of preserving life. The physician takes the place of your maker God, since if you have sinned, you will be defiant to this physician also. Here we see the need for human remediation to help in sickness instead of a total reliance on God.

 

The duties of the Levites (1 Chr 23:24-23:32)

“These were the sons of Levi by their ancestral houses. These were the heads of fathers as they were enrolled according to the number of the names of the individuals from twenty years old and upward who were to do the work for the service of the house of Yahweh. King David said. ‘Yahweh, the God of Israel, has given rest to his people. He resides in Jerusalem forever. Thus the Levites no longer need to carry the tabernacle or any of the things for its service.’ According to the last words of King David, these were the number of the Levites from twenty years old and upward. However, their new duty shall be to assist the descendents of Aaron in the service of the house of Yahweh, having the care of the courts and the chambers, the cleansing of all that is holy, and any work for the service of the house of God. They were to assist also with the rows of bread, the choice flour for the grain offering, the wafers of unleavened bread, the baked offering, the offering mixed with oil, and all measures of quantity or size. They shall stand every morning, thanking and praising Yahweh, and likewise at evening. They shall do likewise whenever burnt offerings are offered to Yahweh on the Sabbath, new moons, and appointed festivals, according to the number required of them, regularly before Yahweh. Thus they shall keep charge of the tent of meeting and the sanctuary. They shall attend the descendents of Aaron, their kindred, for the service of the house of Yahweh.”

Here are the specific duties of the Levites. King David took some kind of census among the Levites. This is something that Yahweh frowned upon earlier in chapter 21. At the beginning of this chapter the number of Levites was 36,000 over the age of 30. Here the Levites are only 20 years old instead of 30. The duties in Numbers are no longer required because the Ark of the Covenant of Yahweh will be permanently in Jerusalem. The Levites have new duties to assist the descendents of Aaron. They were to take care of the courts and the chambers around the house of God. They were to clean the holy vessels. There were many specific duties. They were to be like the bakers of the Temple, preparing the breads, the flour, the use of oil, and the grain offerings. They were in charge of measuring the correct quantity. Every morning and every evening, they would thank and praise Yahweh. They will praise and thank Yahweh whenever burnt offerings are sacrificed. Whenever there is a festival, the Sabbath, or a new moon, they are the ones to thank and praise Yahweh. They were in charge of the tent and the sanctuary. This kind of work for many Christians is still being done by nuns and monks or priests, who do the praying for the rest of the community.