The value of myths

Myths are not lies, but stories.  Story telling is an important human activity and essential to the life of any society.  Myths awaken and maintain an experience of awe in the face of the ultimate religious mystery.  Myths explain where the world came from and where it is going.  Myths promote virtues and a certain social ethical order.  Myths give individuals a role and identity much like our modern psychology.  Joseph Campbell (1904-1987) and Mircea Eliade (1907-1986) have shown that myth is not a negative, but a positive part of life.  If we did not have religious myths, people would create their own secular myths, like in sports, such as baseball and football.

 

The enemies (Lam 3:46-3:48)

Phe

“All our enemies

Have opened

Their mouths

Against us.

Panic has come

Upon us.

Pitfall has come

Upon us.

There is devastation.

There is destruction.

My eyes flow

With rivers of tears

Because of the destruction

Of my people.”

Once again, this author personalizes his experiences. He turned to his enemies who have railed against him and his friends. Panic, pitfalls, devastation, and destruction have come upon them. He had so many tears flowing that he could create a river, since he was crying about the destruction of his people. These three verses start with the Hebrew consonant letter Phe in this acrostic poem.

The God of creation (Jer 51:15-51:16)

“He made

The earth

By his power.

He established

The world

By his wisdom.

By his understanding,

He stretched out the heavens.

When he utters

His voice

There is a tumult of waters

In the heavens.

He makes the mist rise

From the ends of the earth.

He makes lightning

For the rain.

He brings forth

The wind

From his storehouses.”

This is exactly the same, word for word from chapter 10 about the power of Yahweh. Jeremiah proclaimed that Yahweh was all powerful. He made the earth by his power. Thus he established the world by his wisdom. He stretched out the heavens by his understanding, so that when he uttered his voice, the waters in the heaven could create a mist from the ends of the earth. He made lightning in the rain. He also brought wind from his various wind storehouses. Thus you can see this author’s cosmology about the powerful God, Yahweh, who has control of the world and its climate.

 

The new covenant (Jer 31:33-31:34)

“‘But this is the covenant

That I will make

With the house of Israel,

After those days.’

Says Yahweh.

‘I will put my law

Within them.

I will write it

On their hearts.

I will be their God.

They shall be my people.

No longer shall they teach

One another.

‘Know Yahweh!’

They shall all know me,

From the least of them

To the greatest.’

Says Yahweh.

‘I will forgive

Their iniquity.

I will remember their sin

No more.’”

Yahweh says that the new covenant will be written in the hearts of the people of Israel. It will be within them, so that they will not have to teach each other to know Yahweh. Yahweh was going to be their God. They were to be his people, plain and simple. There was no great need for any kind of education. From the least to the greatest, they would all know Yahweh, since he was going to forget their iniquity. He was not going to remember their sins anymore. There would be a clean slate with this new covenant of interior knowledge and love. God, Yahweh, has taken the imitative to create this new spiritual personal covenant of the heart. He was going to take away retribution for past sins but wanted personal responsibility for here on out. The law was no longer imposed from outside but came from within.

The call to return to Israel (Jer 31:21-31:22)

“Set up road markers

For yourself!

Make yourself guideposts!

Consider well the highway!

Consider the road

By which you went.

Return!

O virgin Israel!

Return to these your cities!

How long will you waver?

O faithless daughter!

Yahweh has created

A new thing on the earth.

A woman encompasses a man.”

Yahweh, via Jeremiah, seems to invite the Israelites to return home. He wants them to set up road markers and guideposts. He wants them to remember the highway road that they took, when they went away. He cries out to virgin Israel to return. They were to return to their cities. Yet, he wonders how long they would wait. After all, they were his faithless daughters. Somehow Yahweh was going to create a new thing where women would have more responsibility with men, perhaps woo the man rather than the other way around.

The power of Yahweh (Jer 10:12-10:13)

“It is he who made the earth

By his power.

He established the world

By his wisdom.

By his understanding,

He stretched out the heavens.

When he utters his voice

There is a tumult of waters

In the heavens.

He makes the mist rise

From the ends of the earth.

He makes lightning for the rain.

He brings forth the wind

From his storehouses.”

Jeremiah proclaims that Yahweh is all powerful. He made the earth by his power and thus established the world by his wisdom. He stretched out the heavens by his understanding, so that when he utters his voice, the waters in the heaven can create a mist from the ends of the earth. He makes lightning in the rain. He also brings wind from his various wind storehouses. Thus you can see this author’s cosmology about the powerful God, Yahweh, who has control of the world and its climate.

The destruction from the north (Jer 4:6-4:8)

“I am bringing evil

From the north.

I am bringing great destruction.

A lion has gone up from its thicket.

A destroyer of nations has set out.

He has gone forth from his place

To make your land a waste.

Your cities will be in ruins

Without inhabitants.

Because of this

Put on sackcloth!

Lament!

Wail!’

The fierce anger of Yahweh

Has not turned away from us.”

Now Jeremiah says that Yahweh was going to bring this evil and great destruction from the north, without indicating whether it was the Assyrians or the Babylonians. However, this lion and destroyer of nations has set out from his den in order to create a wasteland. He would reduce their cities to ruins by decimating its inhabitants. They were to put on sackcloth, wail, and lament because the fierce anger of Yahweh was against them. They are in the line of fire of this destroyer.