The good future of Israel (Jer 33:23-33:26)

“The word of Yahweh

came to Jeremiah.

‘Have you not observed

How these people say?

‘The two families

That Yahweh chose

Have been rejected

By him.’

They hold my people

In such contempt

That they no longer

Regard them as a nation.’

Thus says Yahweh.

‘Only if I had not established

My covenant

With day and night,

With the ordinances

Of heaven and earth,

Would I reject

The offspring

Of Jacob,

Or my servant David.

Then I would not choose

Any of his descendants

As rulers

Over the offspring

Of Abraham,

Isaac,

Or Jacob.

I will restore their fortunes.

I will have mercy upon them.’”

Yahweh once again uttered an oracle to Jeremiah. People were saying that Yahweh had rejected the two families that he had chosen, Judah and Israel. Thus these people held his people in contempt. They did not consider them to be a nation or a country. Yahweh responded that as long as there was a day and a night, as well as heaven and earth, he would not reject the offspring of David. He has chosen them to be the rulers of the descendents of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He was going to restore their fortunes and have mercy on them.

Advertisements

The oracle about Moab (Isa 15:1-15:1)

“An oracle concerning Moab.”

The kingdom of Moab was east of the Dead Sea, in what is today the country of Jordan. The Moabites and Israelites had been involved in many quarrels and battles since they had a strange biblical relationship. The Moabites were the descendents of Lot’s incest with his daughter in Genesis, chapter 19. Thus the Moabites had an on again, off again, relationships with the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah. In the Book of Ruth, chapter 4, the Moabites are friendly, as Ruth, a Moabite, had a son named Obed, who turned out to be the grandfather of King David via his son Jesse.   For a while, Moab was part of the Kingdom of Israel, until they revolted.

The female lover (Song 1:5-1:6)

Female lover

“I am black.

O daughters of Jerusalem!

I am beautiful,

Like the tents of Kedar,

Like the curtains of Solomon.

Do not gaze at me

Because I am dark.

The sun has gazed on me.

My mother’s sons were angry

With me.

They made me

Keeper of the vineyards.

But my own vineyard

I have not kept.”

This female lover is black but beautiful. Black is beautiful was a major theme of the USA civil rights movement in the 1960s and 1970s. She seems to be taking to the daughters of Jerusalem. These daughters of Jerusalem will be like a Greek chorus in this presentation. Her beauty is like the tents of Kedar. Kedar was the second son of Ishmael, the half brother of Isaac. His descendents known as Kedarites were very strong during the Persian period in the 6th century BCE in the Arabian Peninsula. They were known for their large dark colored tents. Obviously the wonderful curtains of Solomon must have been well known also. She did not want to be stared at. She was dark skinned because her angry brothers made her work in sunlight of the vineyards. However, for some reason, she did not take care of her own vineyard. The allegorical part may be that she, like Israel, had to toil or work other vineyards other than her own, an allusion to the Exile.

The problem of the Ephraimites (Ps 78:9-78:11)

“The Ephraimites,

Armed with the bow,

Turned back on the day of battle.

They did not keep God’s covenant.

They refused to walk according to his law.

They forgot what he had done.

They forgot the miracles

That he had shown them.”

In a strange twist, Asaph, this psalmist, blames the failure of the Israelites on the Ephraimites, the descendents of Joseph. Within the biblical literature there does not appear to be mention of this specific incident. He seems to say that they would not fight. Interesting enough, this hints at the breakup between Judah and Israel, where the northern Israelites slowly became the Samaritans. Ephraim, the son of Joseph was one of the northern tribes that were not part of Judah. They did not keep God’s covenant. They refused to walk according to his laws. They seem to have forgotten all the miracles that God had done for them and the other Israelites.

The fate of the wicked (Job 27:13-27:23)

“This is the portion of the wicked with God.

This is the heritage

Those oppressors receive from the Almighty, Shaddai.

If their children are multiplied,

It is for the sword.

Their offspring have not enough to eat.

Those who survive

The pestilence buries.

Their widows make no lamentation.

Although they heap up silver like dust,

Although they pile up clothing like clay,

They may pile it up.

However, the just will wear it.

The innocent will divide the silver.

They build their houses

Like nests,

Like booths made by sentinels of the vineyard.

They go to bed with wealth.

But they will do so no more.

They open their eyes.

Their wealth is gone.

Terrors overtake them like a flood.

In the night,

A whirlwind carries them off.

The east wind lifts them up.

They are gone.

It sweeps them out of their place.

It hurls at them without pity.

They flee from its power in headlong flight.

It claps its hands at them.

It hisses at them from its place.”

This section is either from Job or Zophar. However, it fits more with Zophar’s beliefs about the wicked that that of Job. He believed that the wicked would be cursed in this life or in their descendant’s lifetime. Thus this probably is the curse of Zophar, one of Job’s friends, about the fate of the wicked. This seems to explain what is going to happen to the wicked ones. If they have many children, they would die by the sword. Their children would not have food to eat and so probably die of pestilence. Their widows would not grieve for them. Their silver and clothing would disappear. Their houses would be as fragile bird’s nests and flimsy vineyard tents. They would go to bed wealthy and wake up broke. Terrors would come upon them like a whirlwind and sweep them out of their homes. They would flee the wind itself. This paints a bleak picture of the future for the wicked ones.

Bildad describes the life of the wicked (Job 18:5-18:21)

“Surely the light of the wicked is put out.

The flame of their fire does not shine.

The light is dark in their tent.

The lamp above them is put out.

Their strong steps are shortened.

Their own schemes throw him down.

They are thrust into a net by their own feet.

They walk into a pitfall.

A trap seizes them by the heel.

A snare lays hold of them.

A rope is hid for them in the ground.

A trap for them is in the path.

Terrors frighten them on every side.

They chase them at their heels.

Their strength is consumed by hunger.

Calamity is ready for their stumbling.

By disease their skin is consumed.

The firstborn of death consumes their limbs.

They are torn from the tent in which they trusted.

They are brought to the king of terrors.

In their tents nothing remains.

Sulfur is scattered upon their habitations.

Their roots dry up beneath.

Their branches wither above.

Their memory perishes from the earth.

They have no name in the street.

They are thrust from light into darkness.

They are driven out of the world.

They have no offspring.

They have no descendants among their people.

There are no survivors where they used to live.

They of the west are appalled at their fate.

Horror seizes those of the east.

Surely such are the dwellings of the ungodly.

Such is the place of those who do not know God.”

Bildad described the life of the wicked. There was no light or flame for the wicked. They could only take short steps. They would get caught in their own scheming nets and traps that were hidden in the ground. They were stumbling with hunger as trouble was all around them. Their skin was diseased. They had the worst disease, the first born of death, leprosy or a plague. The ancient people always believed that the worse illness was one of the skin or the bowels. They were torn from their tents to meet the king of terrors, death itself. Nothing was left of them, like a dead tree, as the memory of them perished from this earth. They had no name, no children, and no descendents. This was the dwelling of the ungodly, who did not know God in their terrible existence.

The importance of fire (2 Macc 1:19-1:23)

“When our ancestors were being led captive to Persia,

The pious priests of that time took

Some of the fire of the altar.

They secretly hid it in the hollow of a dry cistern.

They took such precautions

That the place was unknown to anyone.

But after many years had passed,

When it pleased God,

Nehemiah, having been commissioned by the king of Persia,

Sent the descendants of the priests

Who had hidden the fire to get it.

When they reported to us

That they had not found fire

But only a thick liquid,

He ordered them to dip it out and bring it.

When the materials for the sacrifices were presented,

Nehemiah ordered the priests

To sprinkle the liquid on the wood

And on the things laid upon it.

When this was done,

Some time had passed.

The sun, which had been clouded over,

Shone out,

A great fire blazed up,

So that all marveled.

While the sacrifice was being consumed,

The priests offered prayer.

The priests and everyone,

Jonathan led.

The rest responded,

As did Nehemiah.”

There is nothing in the book of Nehemiah about this fire incident. If anything it is a reference to the cult of fire among the Persians. Somehow the captured Israelite priests hid a fire that had been on an altar in a dry cistern that no one knew about. How could a fire keep going it no feeds it? When Nehemiah asked the descendents of these priests to get the fire, they told him that they only had a thick liquid that could have been naphtha or petro-chemical oil, which of course, was found in the Persian area. They put wood on it. When the sun shone it, it burst into flames so that it consumed the sacrifice. Obviously, the priests and everyone offered sacrifices. A certain Jonathan seemed to be the priest leader of this ceremony.