The crushing defeat of Zion (Lam 1:15-1:15)

Samek

“Yahweh has rejected

All my warriors

In the midst of me.

He proclaimed a time

Against me

To crush

My young men.

Yahweh has trodden

As in a wine press

The virgin daughter,

Judah.”

This lament continued with Jerusalem speaking in the first person. Yahweh has rejected all the warriors from Jerusalem and Judah. Yahweh, not the king of Babylon, has crushed the young men of Judah and Jerusalem. He has trodden and stomped over his virgin daughter, Judah, like a wine press. This verse starts with the Hebrew consonant letter Samek. Each verse after this will use the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet in this acrostic poem.

The bad situation of Jeremiah (Jer 23:9-23:10)

“My heart is crushed

Within me

Concerning the prophets.

All my bones shake.

I have become

Like a drunken man

Because of Yahweh.

I have become

Like one overcome by wine

Because of his holy words.

The land is full of adulterers.

Because of the curse,

The land mourns.

The pastures of the wilderness

Are dried up.

Their course has been evil.

Their might is not right.”

Jeremiah complains about the terrible situation he is in. His heart is crushed. His bones shake. He has become like a drunkard, overcome with wine, because of Yahweh and his words. His land is full of adulterers. His land itself mourns as the pastures have dried up. There is evil all around. No one does the right thing. Jeremiah is worried.

The Lebanon lamentation (Jer 22:20-22:23)

“Go up to Lebanon!

Cry out!

Lift up your voice

On Bashan!

Cry out

From Abarim!

All your lovers

Are crushed!

I spoke to you

In your prosperity.

But you said.

‘I will not listen.’

This has been your way

From your youth.

You have not obeyed

My voice.

The wind shall shepherd

All your shepherds.

Your lovers shall go

Into captivity.

Then you will be ashamed.

You will be dismayed

Because of all your wickedness.

O inhabitant of Lebanon!

Nested among the cedars!

How you will groan

When pangs come upon you!

You will have the pain

Of a woman in labor!”

Apparently, Jeremiah wanted the people in the high mountains of Lebanon, on the Bashan mountains in the south, as well as on the Abarim mountains in the north to cry out for their lost lovers. These would have been the various allies that they thought that they had, but were now all crushed. The prosperous people had not listened or obeyed Yahweh from their youth. Their shepherd leaders and their lover friends will all be sent into captivity, ashamed and dismayed because of their wickedness. The people of Lebanon, those living among the built cedars in the palace, will feel the pain of a woman in labor about to give birth.

Day of vengeance (Isa 63:4-63:6)

“‘The day of vengeance was in my heart.

The year of my redeeming work had come.

I looked!

But there was no helper.

I stared!

But there was no one to sustain me.

So my own arm brought me victory.

My wrath sustained me.

I trampled down people in my anger.

I crushed them in my wrath.

I poured out their lifeblood on the earth.’”

This had been the day of vengeance and the year of redemption of Yahweh. No one was there to help. No one was there to sustain him. Only his own arm brought victory. His wrath and anger sustained him as he trampled down people. He crushed them, as he poured out their blood on the earth. This was the day of revenge when the angry God alone crushed people.

The servant of Yahweh suffers for us (Isa 53:4-53:6)

“Surely he has borne our infirmities.

He has carried our diseases.

Yet we accounted him stricken.

He was struck down by God.

He was afflicted.

But he was wounded for our transgressions.

He was crushed for our iniquities.

Upon him

Was the punishment

That made us whole.

By his bruises

We are healed.

All of us

Like sheep

Have gone astray.

We have turned

To our own way.

Yahweh has laid on him

The iniquity of us all.”

According to Second Isaiah, this suffering servant has become a scapegoat for all of us, at least the Israelites. He bears their infirmities and diseases. He suffers their illness for them. God has stricken and afflicted him. He was wounded for their transgressions and crushed for their sins. His punishment made them whole. His bruises healed them. They were like sheep that had gone astray. He carries the iniquity of all of them. Who is this servant? How can it be Israel saving Israel? You can see why the early Christian writers applied these same ideas about this suffering servant in Second Isaiah to Jesus Christ in a more universal appeal.

Description of the servant of Yahweh (Isa 42:2-42:4)

“The servant will not cry.

He will not lift up his voice.

He will not make it heard in the street.

He will not break a bruised reed.

He will not quench a dimly burning wick.

He will faithfully bring forth justice.

He will not grow faint.

He will not be crushed,

Until he has established justice on the earth.

The coastlands wait for his teaching.”

Second Isaiah describes this servant of Yahweh. He will not cry. He will not lift up his voice or cry in the streets. He will not break the bruised reeds nor put out a dimly burning wick on a candle. In other words, he will be a very quiet person. However, he will fight for justice. He will not faint or be crushed until he has established justice on the whole earth. Apparently the Mediterranean cities were waiting for this just teaching.

Jacob will be forgiven (Isa 27:6-27:9)

“In days to come,

Jacob shall take root.

Israel shall blossom.

Israel shall put forth shoots.

They will fill the whole world

With fruit.

Has he struck them down

As he struck those

Who struck them?

Or have they been killed

As their killers

Were killed?

By expulsion,

By exile,

You struggled against them.

He removed them

With his fierce blast

In the day of the east wind.

Therefore by this

The guilt of Jacob will be expiated.

This will be the full fruit

Of the removal of his sin.

When he makes all the stones of the altars

Like chalkstones

Crushed to pieces.

No sacred poles will remain standing.

No incense altars will remain standing.”

In some future date, not specified, Jacob or Israel will take root and blossom with many sprouts so that its fruits will be all over the world. Yahweh has struck down and killed those who had struck and killed the Israelites. Thus this appears to be a post-exilic comment. However, the punishment for Israel had been merely banishment or exile via the powerful wind of the Near Eastern powers. That punishment was enough for them to remove the guilt of their sins. Now, however, he was going to remove all those sacred poles and stone altars of incense to the false idol gods. These worship places were to be crushed to pieces like stones or chalk.

The victory chant (Isa 26:1-26:6)

“On that day,

This song will be sung

In the land of Judah.

‘We have a strong city.

He sets up victory,

Like walls,

Like bulwarks.

Open the gates!

Thus the righteous nation

That keeps faith

May enter in.

You keep them in peace

Those of a steadfast mind.

You keep them in peace

Because they trust you.

Trust in Yahweh forever!

Trust in Yahweh God!

You have an everlasting rock.

He has brought low

The inhabitants of the heights.

He lays low the lofty city.

He lays it low to the ground.

He casts it to dust.

The foot tramples it.

The feet of the poor

Trample it.

The steps of the needy

Trample it.’”

Isaiah presents this victory song or chant that may have used in processions into Jerusalem, since this text says that it should be sung in Judah. There is an emphasis on a strong city like Jerusalem because of its protective walls. In typical fashion, the high people are brought low. The gates are open so that everyone in the righteous nation might enter. They have peace because they trusted the Lord, Yahweh, who is their eternal rock. However, the lofty city was laid low. He has crushed the mighty into the ground so that they are like dust. Now all can trample on them. Both the needy and the poor trample away.

Against the Moabites (Isa 25:10-25:12)

“Moab shall be trodden down

In their place,

As straw is trodden down

In a dung-pit.            

Though they spread out their hands

In the midst of it,

As swimmers spread out their hands

To swim,

Their pride will be laid low,

Despite the struggle of their hands.

The high fortifications of his walls

Will be brought down.

They will be laid low.

They will be cast to the ground,

Even to the dust.”

This work of Isaiah has a strange turn against the Moabites, perhaps due to the anti-Moabite feelings in the post-exilic era. The Moabites will be trampled down like straw in a dung-pit. There was no mincing of words here. Even though they might spread their hands as if swimming, their pride will be put down. Despite their struggles and highly fortified walls, they will be crushed to the ground just like dust.

The prayer for deliverance from foreign countries (Sir 36:1-36:12)

“Have mercy upon us!

O Lord!

God of all!

Put all the nations

In fear of you!

Lift up your hand

Against foreign nations!

Let them see your might!

As you have used us

To show your holiness to them,

So use them

To show your glory to us.

Then they will know,

As we have known,

That there is no God but you.

O Lord!

Give new signs!

Work other wonders!

Make your hand glorious!

Make your right arm glorious!

Rouse your anger!

Pour out your wrath!

Destroy the adversary!

Wipe out the enemy!

Hasten the day!

Remember the appointed time!

Let people recount

Your mighty deeds!

Let survivors be consumed

In the fiery wrath!

May those who harm your people

Meet destruction!

Crush the heads of hostile rulers

Who say.

‘There is no one but ourselves.’”

Sirach directs his prayer for deliverance directly to God, the Lord of all. He wanted God to put his fear into all the nations of the world, but especially those foreign nations. Thus they might understand the might, the holiness, and the glory of the Lord, just as they had known the Lord. He wanted new signs and wonders so that others could see the glorious arm and hand of the Lord. He wanted the Lord to get angry and show his wrath against his enemies. They should be wiped out and destroyed. He wanted this to happen soon. He wanted his enemies crushed, especially those proud rulers who thought that they could exist by themselves without God.