The Bible is the record of the Hebrew people and the early Christians. Thus, we have two kinds of testaments or covenants. The historically older belief system of the people of Israel, was written from around 1,000 BCE to around 150 BCE. On the other hand, the newer testament or covenant was written between 50 CE and 125 CE. However, both testaments or covenants have a common base in the Hebrew Scripture.
“The experience of death
Touched also the righteous.
A plague came upon the multitude
In the desert.
But the wrath did not long continue.
A blameless man was quick
To act as their champion.
He brought forward the shield of his ministry.
He brought forth prayer.
He brought forward propitiation by incense.
He withstood the anger.
He put an end to the disaster.
He showed that he was your servant.
He conquered the wrath
Not by strength of body,
Not by force of arms,
But by his word
He subdued the avenger.
He appealed to the oaths given to our ancestors.
He appealed to the covenants given to our ancestors.
When the dead had already fallen on one another in heaps,
He held back the wrath.
He cut off its way to the living.
On his long robe
The whole world was depicted.
The glories of the ancestors
Were engraved on the four rows of stones.
Your majesty was on the diadem upon his head.
The destroyer yielded to these.
The destroyer feared these.
Merely to test the wrath was enough.”
This section takes part of the Exodus story in chapters 32 and the Numbers presentation in chapter 17 and combines them into one episode. In other words, the righteous (δικαίων) were not free from the wrath of God. A plague came upon them in the desert (ἐν ἐρήμῳ) that nearly killed 15,000 of them because the Israelites had rebelled against Moses and Aaron. However, Moses instructed Aaron to make reparation by prayer (προσευχὴν) and incense. The blameless man was Aaron, and not Moses, but there is no indication of his explicit name here since in the Exodus story Aaron had rebelled also. This blameless man subdued the avenger by his prayerful sacrificial actions. He remembered the oaths and covenants that his ancestors had made. The use of the robe is definitely the Levitical robe of Aaron from Exodus, chapter 28. His lovely robe had 4 rows of stones. He also had a diadem on his head (διαδήματος κεφαλῆς αὐτοῦ). Obviously, this is from the time of the settled Israelites, but it was enough to scare off this destroyer. The Israelites learned from this episode.
“Through such works,
You have taught your people.
The righteous man must be kind.
You filled your children with good hope.
Because you give repentance for sins.
If you punish with such great care,
If you punish with such great indulgence,
The enemies of your servants,
As well as those deserving of death,
You grant them time to give up their wickedness.
You grant them the opportunity to give up their wickedness.
With what strictness
You have judged your children.
Our ancestors gave oaths.
They gave covenants full of good promises!
While chastening us,
You scourge our enemies
Ten thousand times more.
Thus when we judge,
We may meditate upon your goodness.
When we are judged,
We may expect mercy.”
We have to learn something from the actions of God. We learn that the righteous person (τὸν δίκαιον) must be kind (φιλάνθρωπον), just like God. We need to have hope for repentance (μετάνοιαν) just like our sons or children (τοὺς υἱούς σου), when we punish them with care and indulgence. Our enemies deserve death, but we should grant them an opportunity in a time and place (χρόνους καὶ τόπον) to give up their wickedness, just like our children. Our ancestors gave oaths, promises, and covenants. Thus God punishes us, but he punishes our enemies 10,000 times more. When we judge others, we should remember the goodness of God. When we are judged, we expect mercy (ἔλεος).
“Word came to Judas Maccabeus concerning Nicanor’s invasion. When he told his companions of the arrival of the army, those who were cowardly and distrustful of God’s justice ran off and got away. Others sold all their remaining property. At the same time, they implored the Lord to rescue those who had been sold by the ungodly Nicanor before he ever met them. If not for their own sake, then for the sake of the covenants made with their ancestors, because he had called them by his holy and glorious name.”
This incident can be found in 1 Maccabees, chapter 3. Here, however, there is more fear among the men of Judas Maccabeus than in 1 Maccabees, where they begin to pray. Some just run away. Others sold their goods so that they would not be sold into slavery. They wanted the Lord to rescue them, not for their own sakes, but for the sake of their ancestors. They had called the Lord by his holy and glorious name.