The scattering (Ezek 22:14-22:16)

“Can your courage

Endure?

Can your hands

Remain strong,

In the days

When I shall deal

With you?

I,

Yahweh,

Have spoken.

I will do it.

I will scatter you

Among the nations.

I will disperse you

Throughout the countries.

I will purge

Your filthiness

Out of you.

I shall be profaned

Through you                         

In the sight

Of the nations.

You shall know

That I am Yahweh.”

Yahweh was going to scatter the people of Jerusalem into many other countries. He wanted to know if they had enough courage to endure this. Were their hands strong enough? He was going to deal with them. Yahweh was clear about what he was going to do. He was going to scatter and disperse them among the various nations and countries. He was going to purge the filthiness out of Jerusalem. Yahweh would be embarrassed that this scattering would take place in the sight of these other nations. They would all know that he was Yahweh, their God.

A reminder for Israel (Bar 4:5-4:8)

“Take courage!

My people!

You perpetuate

Israel’s name!

It was not

For destruction

That you were sold

To the nations.

But you were handed over

To your enemies

Because you angered

God.

You provoked the one

Who made you!

You sacrificed to demons,

Not to God!

You forgot

The everlasting God,

Who brought you up!

You grieved Jerusalem,

Who reared you.”

This reminder for Israel was for the people to have courage, since they were going to perpetuate the name of Israel. These Israelites had been sold to various nations, not to destroy them, but to punish them. They had been handed over to their enemies, because they had angered God. They had provoked their creator by sacrificing to demons, and not God. They had forgotten their everlasting God who brought them up. There was no mention of the name of Yahweh here. They had grieved Jerusalem, the city that had reared them. Once again there is a personification of Jerusalem that can feel pain.

The weeping Jerusalem (Lam 1:16-1:16)

Ayin

“I weep

For these things.

My eyes

Flow with tears.

A comforter is

Far from me.

There is no one

To revive

My courage.

My children are

Desolate.

The enemy has

Prevailed.”

Once again, we have Jerusalem speaking in the first person singular, weeping and crying with eyes filled with tears. There is no one to comfort or revive her courage. They all seem so far away. Her children are desolate because the enemy has won. This verse starts with the Hebrew consonant letter Ayin. Each verse after this will use the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet in this acrostic poem.

Wisdom is greater than any good (Wis 8:5-8:8)

“If riches are a desirable possession in life,

What is richer than wisdom?

Wisdom is the active cause

Of all things.

If understanding is effective,

Who more than she

Is the fashioner of what exists?

If any one loves righteousness,

Her labors are virtues.

She teaches self-control.

She teaches prudence.

She teaches justice.

She teaches courage.

Nothing in life

Is more profitable

For mortals than these.

If anyone longs for wide experience,

She knows the things of old.

She infers the things to come.

She understands turns of speech.

She understands the solutions of riddles.

She has foreknowledge of signs.

She has foreknowledge of wonders.

She has foreknowledge of the outcome of seasons.

She has foreknowledge of the outcome of times.”

Wisdom is greater than any good there is, not only material things, but spiritual or conceptual values also. Everyone wants riches (πλοῦτός) so that the most desirable possession in life is wisdom (σοφίας), the cause of all things. If you want understanding (φρόνησις), then you need wisdom. If you love righteousness (δικαιοσύνην ἀγαπᾷ), you need wisdom. Wisdom teaches the four great Greek cardinal virtues of self-control, prudence, justice, and courage. Wisdom knows about the past and the future. She can solve riddles. She also has foreknowledge of signs and wonders, as well as the outcome of the seasons and the times to come.

Wait for Yahweh (Ps 27:13-27:14)

“I believe

That I shall see the goodness of Yahweh

In the land of the living!

Wait for Yahweh!

Be strong!

Let your heart take courage!

Wait for Yahweh!”

David would see the goodness of Yahweh during his lifetime in the land of the living. He only had to wait for Yahweh. He had to be strong and take courage. He needed the patience to wait for the coming of Yahweh.

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.

Judas Maccabeus prepares to attack (2 Macc 15:6-15:11)

“Thus Nicanor in his utter boastfulness and arrogance had determined to erect a public monument of victory over Judas and his forces. But Judas Maccabeus did not cease to trust with all confidence that he would get help from the Lord. He exhorted his troops not to fear the attack of the gentiles. Rather, they should keep in mind the former times when help had come to them from heaven. They were now to look for the victory which the All powerful would give them. Encouraging them from the law and the prophets, he reminded them also of the struggles they had won. He made them the more eager. When he had aroused their courage, he issued his orders. At the same time he pointed out the perfidy of the gentiles and their violation of oaths. He armed each of them not so much with confidence in shields and spears as with the inspiration of brave words. He cheered them all by relating a dream, a sort of vision, which was worthy of belief.”

Nicanor was so confident that he wanted to create a public monument of his victory over Judas Maccabeus that not yet happened. On the other hand, Judas Maccabeus was confident that his help would come from the Lord. He told his troops not to feat the attack of the gentiles. They should remember the former times when help came from heaven. Victory would come from the all powerful God. He encouraged them by reading from the Law and the prophets and all their struggles. The troops became more eager to fight as their courage was aroused. Judas also pointed out the lying and the violations of the gentiles. They had confidence in their shields and spears, but his troops would have confidence in the inspired words of God. He cheered them all by talking about a visionary dream.

Nicanor sends friendly emissaries (2 Macc 14:18-14:19)

“Nevertheless Nicanor heard about the valor of Judas Maccabeus and his troops as well as their courage in battle for their country. He shrank from deciding the issue by bloodshed. Therefore he sent Posidonius, Theodotus, and Mattathias to give and receive pledges of friendship.”

Nicanor realized that Judas Maccabeus and his troops were courageous. He decided not to solve the issue by war. In 1 Maccabees, chapter 7, it clearly said that Nicanor was trying to deceive Judas Maccabeus. Here that is not said as 3 Seleucid military leaders, who were not mentioned in 1 Maccabees, were sent as friendly emissaries to Judas Maccabeus. One of them even has the name of Judas’ father, Mattathias.

Judas Maccabeus gives his brothers assignments (2 Macc 8:21-8:23)

“With these words Judas Maccabeus filled them with good courage. He made them ready to die for their laws and their country. Then he divided his army into four parts. He appointed his brothers also, Simon, Joseph, and Jonathan, each to command a division, putting fifteen hundred men under each. Besides, he appointed Eleazar to read aloud from the holy book. He gave the watchword.

‘God’s help!’

Then, leading the first division himself, he joined battle with Nicanor.”

Judas Maccabeus had filled his 6,000 troops with courage as they were ready to die for their laws and their country. He divided his army into 4 parts among his brothers. There was Simon, who will become the high priest from 142-134 BCE. Then there was Joseph or as he was called in 1 Maccabees, chapter 2, John. This John died in 1 Maccabees, chapter 9, at the hands of the Nabateans. Jonathan is perhaps the next most famous as he succeeded Judas and was the high priest from 160-142 BCE.   Eleazar here is asked to read the holy book of scripture. There might have been an attempt to put this Eleazar with the Eleazar of chapter 6 of this book. However, in 1 Maccabees, chapter 6, Eleazar died at the battle of Beth-zechariah, killing an elephant. Interesting enough, the cry “God’s Help!” was found in one of the 1st century Qumran War Scrolls for those returning from war. There might be a connection here.

The death of Eleazar (2 Macc 6:31-6:31)

“So in this way he died. He left in his death an example of nobility and a memorial of courage, not only to the young but to the great body of his nation.”

Thus Eleazar was a true Jewish martyr. He set an example of nobility and courage for all to see. For many Christians, he was one of the first martyrs before Christ. For the philosophers, he was a man like Socrates who died for his ideas or beliefs.