Jeremiah curses the day he was born (Jer 20:14-20:18)

“Cursed be the day

On which I was born!

The day

When my mother bore me,

Let it not be blessed!

Cursed be the man

Who brought the news to my father!

‘A child is born to you,

A son.’

This made him very glad.

Let that man be

Like the cities

That Yahweh overthrew without pity!

Let him hear a cry in the morning!

Let him hear an alarm at noon!

Because he did not kill me

In the womb.

Thus my mother would have been

My grave.

Her womb would be forever great.

Why did I come forth

From the womb?

To see toil?

To see sorrow?

Why do I spend my days in shame?”

It is an unusual idea to curse one’s own existence. The only comparable thought would have been in Job, chapter 3, where he cursed the day he was conceived and the day he was born. This is a lament about the personal problems in the life of the prophet Jeremiah. He wanted the day of his birth not to be a celebration or blessing, but a cursed day. He even wanted the man who told his father about the birth of his son to be cursed also. Jeremiah wanted that man to be like Yahweh’s destroyed cities. He wanted him to hear cries in the morning and at noon. They should have killed him in the womb so that his mother’s womb would have been his grave. This is an interesting thought for many anti-abortionists. Jeremiah wondered why he had come forth from the womb only to have a life of toils and sorrow, filled with shame. This is a very depressing idea, much like the poor depressed Job.

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Prayer of suffering (Isa 38:12-38:15)

“My dwelling is plucked up.

My dwelling is removed from me

Like a shepherd’s tent.

Like a weaver,

I have rolled up my life.

He cuts me off from the loom.

From day to night,

You bring me to an end.

I cry for help

Until morning.

Like a lion,

He breaks all my bones.

From day to night,

You bring me to an end.

I clamor

Like a swallow,

Like a crane.

I moan

Like a dove.

My eyes are weary

With looking upward.

O Lord!

I am oppressed!

Be my security!

But what can I say?

He has spoken to me.

He himself has done it.

All my sleep has fled.

Because of the bitterness of my soul.”

Second Isaiah has King Hezekiah suffering a lot. He has lost his dwelling so that all he has is a tent, like a shepherd. His life has been rolled up so that he is like a weaver who cannot get to his loom. He suffers both day and night as he cries all night. His bones are broken as if from a lion’s attack. He clamors like a swallow or a crane and moans like a dove. He is weary from looking up. He wanted Yahweh to be his security because he was oppressed. What can he say? Yahweh has told him about what he has done to him. He cannot sleep because of his bitter soul. This king is depressed.

Job’s troubles give him no rest (Job 3:24-3:26)

“For my sighing comes as my bread.

My groanings are poured out like water.

Truly, the thing that I fear comes upon me.

What I dread befalls me.

I am not at ease.

I am not quiet.

I have no rest.

But trouble comes.”

His bread or sustenance is his own sighs. His water is his own groaning. Everything he dreads actually happens to him. He is not at ease. He is not quiet. He has no rest. All he has is trouble that keeps on coming. This is not a happy person. Job is severely depressed. His life is in a shambles. This is not the happy patient Job that folklore attributes to him.

The providential meaning of the persecution (2 Macc 6:12-6:17)

“Now I urge those who read this book not to be depressed by such calamities. You ought to recognize that these punishments were designed not to destroy but to discipline our people. In fact, it is a sign of great kindness not to let the impious alone for long, but to punish them immediately. In the case of the other nations, the Lord waits patiently to punish them until they have reached the full measure of their sins. However, he does not deal in this way with us. So that he may not take vengeance on us afterward when our sins have reached their height, he never withdraws his mercy from us. Although he disciplines us with calamities, he does not forsake his own people. Let what we have said serve as a reminder. We must go on briefly with the story.”

Here is a little editorial note of the biblical writer. In fact, he used the first person singular “I.” He did not want the reader to be depressed by these incidents. These punishments came to the Jewish people in order to discipline them, not to destroy them. With other nations, the Lord waited until they were totally sinful before he punished them. God’s mercy was always with the Jews, even when they were sinful. Although he disciplines the Jews, he never abandons them. Now that the author has put in this little reminder, he was going to continue on with the story. This is a rare look at the perspective of this biblical author. The Jews were unique in that God was merciful, no matter what.

The preparations for the wedding feast (Tob 8:18-8:21)

“Then Raguel ordered his servants to fill in the grave before daybreak. After this, he asked his wife to bake many loaves of bread. He went out to the herd. He brought in two steers and four rams. He ordered them to be slaughtered. So they began to make preparations. Then he called for Tobias. He swore an oath to him in these words. ‘You shall not leave here for fourteen days, but shall stay here eating and drinking with me. You shall cheer up my daughter, who has been depressed. Take at once half of what I own. Return in safety to your father. The other half will be yours when my wife and I die. Take courage, my child. I am your father and Edna is your mother. We belong to you as well as your wife, now and forever. Take courage, my child.’”

Raguel had his servants fill up the grave that he had dug before morning. He did not know that Tobias had chased away the evil spirit. He asked his wife to bake many loaves of bread. He took 2 steers and 4 rams from his herd and had them slaughtered. The he asked Tobias to take an oath. Tobias had to stay for a 14 day wedding festival, where he would eat and drink. This was twice as long as the usual 7 day wedding festival. This is somewhat reminiscent of the marriage of Rebecca and Isaac in Genesis, chapter 24. Tobias was to cheer up his new wife Sarah because she was depressed. In fact, Raguel was giving half his possessions to Tobias now and he would inherit the rest at the death of himself and his wife Edna. He asked him to take courage and return safely to his father.

The distress of Sarah (Tob 3:10-3:10)

“On that day, she was grieved in spirit and wept. When she had gone up to her father’s upper room, she intended to hang herself. But she thought it over and said.

‘Never shall they reproach my father, saying to him.

‘You had only one beloved daughter

But she hanged herself because of her distress.’

I shall bring my father in his old age down in sorrow to Hades.

It is better for me not to hang myself.

Rather I will pray to the Lord that I may die,

So that I will not listen to these reproaches anymore.’”

Like Tobit, she is distressed and depressed. She even thought of hanging herself. However, she was an only child and did not want to disgrace her father. She did not want to make him sad in his old age and thus send him to Hades. She decided that she would pray to the Lord instead of listening to these reproaches. This work has a lot of talk about the afterlife, eternal life, and Hades.

The prayer of Tobit (Tob 3:1-3:6)

“Then with much grief and anguish of heart, I wept. With groaning I began to pray.

‘You are righteous, O Lord

All your deeds are just.

All your ways are mercy and truth.

You judge the world.

Now, O Lord, remember me.

Look favorably upon me.

Do not punish me for my sins.

Do not punish me for my unwitting offences.

Do not punish me for those offences

That my ancestors committed before you.

They sinned against you.

They disobeyed your commandments.

So you gave us over to plunder, exile, and death.

We became the talk, the byword, an object of reproach,

Among all the nations,

Among whom you have dispersed us.

Now your many judgments are true

In exacting penalty from me for my sins.

We have not kept your commandments.

We have not walked in accordance with truth before you.

Now deal with me as you will.

Command my spirit to be taken from me.

So that I may be released from the face of the earth and become dust.

For it is better for me to die than to live,

Because I have had to listen to undeserved insults.

Great is the sorrow within me.

Command, O Lord,

That I be released from this distress.

Release me to go to the eternal home.

Do not, O Lord,

Turn your face away from me.

For it is better to die

Than to see so much distress in my life

And to listen to insults.”

This is a prayer of despair and distress, yet a hope for eternal life. Tobit admitted that he was a sinner and that his ancestors have sinned. He believed that God was just, truthful, and merciful. He and his people were in exile, plundered, and dying because they had failed to keep the commandments of God. They were an object of reproach scattered among the various countries. After admitting that God is just, Tobit then wanted out of this life with its undeserved insults. He said the words of despair that it is better to die than to live. He wanted his eternal home, not this life of sorrow and distress. Better to die than continue all this distress and insults. Suddenly this righteous man is now depressed.