Simeon addressed Mary (Lk 2:34-2:34)

“Then Simeon

Blessed them.

He said to Mary,

His mother,

‘This child

Is destined

For the falling

And rising

Of many

In Israel.

He will be a sign

That will be opposed.”

 

καὶ εὐλόγησεν αὐτοὺς Συμεὼν καὶ εἶπεν πρὸς Μαριὰμ τὴν μητέρα αὐτοῦ Ἰδοὺ οὗτος κεῖται εἰς πτῶσιν καὶ ἀνάστασιν πολλῶν ἐν τῷ Ἰσραὴλ καὶ εἰς σημεῖον ἀντιλεγόμενον

 

Luke said that this holy and devout Simeon turned to Mary and her family.  Simeon blessed them (καὶ εὐλόγησεν αὐτοὺς Συμεὼν), presumably Mary, Joseph, and Jesus.  Was this a priestly blessing?  There was no indication that Simeon was a priest, but only an old devout righteous man, but he could have been a old Levite priest also.  Then he said to Mary (καὶ εἶπεν πρὸς Μαριὰμ), the mother of Jesus (τὴν μητέρα αὐτοῦ) that this child would be destined for the falling and rising of many in Israel (Ἰδοὺ οὗτος κεῖται εἰς πτῶσιν καὶ ἀνάστασιν πολλῶν ἐν τῷ Ἰσραὴλ).  He would be a sign that would be a contraction, as some would oppose him (καὶ εἰς σημεῖον ἀντιλεγόμενον).  Everything would not be smooth sailing for her and this child.  However, this was not as bad as what Matthew, chapter 2:13-18, had Joseph suffer.  There the intention of King Herod was to destroy all the young children in Bethlehem that led him to flee into Egypt.  Luke had none of that here.  Instead, Joseph and Mary are law abiding Jewish parents active in the Jerusalem Temple, where a holy man came and told them how wonderful Jesus was.  There were no Magi here, just shepherds visiting the baby child.  King Herod was not even in the picture here in Luke.

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King Nebuchadnezzar will come to Egypt (Jer 43:11-43:13)

“‘King Nebuchadnezzar

Shall come.

He shall ravage

The land of Egypt.

Giving those who are doomed

For pestilence,

To pestilence.

Giving those who are destined

For captivity.

To captivity.

Giving those who are doomed

For the sword

To the sword.

He shall kindle a fire

In the temples

Of the gods of Egypt.

He shall burn them.

He shall carry them away captive.

He shall pick clean

The land of Egypt,

As a shepherd picks

His cloaks clean of vermin.

He shall depart

From there safely.

He shall break

The obelisks of Heliopolis

That is in the land of Egypt.

He shall break the temples

Of the gods of Egypt.

He shall burn them with fire.’”

Jeremiah described what was going to happen when King Nebuchadnezzar would come to Egypt, which he did around 568 BCE. The Babylonian king was going to ravage the land of Egypt. Those who were destined for pestilence got pestilence. Those destined for the sword, got the sword. Those destined for famine, got a famine. This was real simple, but who decided who was destined for what? King Nebuchadnezzar was going to burn down the Egyptian temples and make the Judeans captives. He was going to pick the land clean in the same way that shepherds pluck bugs off their cloaks or coats. He would come and go safely. However, he would also break the ornate pillars or obelisks in the town of Heliopolis, the city of the sun worshipers, which was about 25 miles east of Memphis, 6 mile northeast of Cairo. He would also burn down the Egyptian temples and their gods, as well as tear down other pillars throughout the land of Egypt.

Yahweh against all nations (Isa 34:1-34:4)

“Draw near!

O nations!

Hear!

O people!

Give heed!

Let the earth hear

With all that fills it!

Let the world hear

With all that comes from it!

Yahweh is enraged

Against all the nations.

He is furious

Against all their hoards.

He has doomed them.

He has given them over for slaughter.

Their slain shall be cast out.

The stench of their corpses shall rise.

The mountains shall flow with their blood.

All the host of heaven shall rot away.

The skies shall roll up like a scroll.

All their host shall wither

Like a leaf withering on a vine,

Like fruit withering on a fig tree.”

Once again Isaiah has this important call to listen. This time it is not merely to the people of Israel who should listen, but this is a more universal call to all the nations, all the people, the whole world, and the earth itself. Yahweh is mad at the whole world, everybody, all the countries. He has destined and doomed them for slaughter. There will be so many killed that the stench of their dead bodies will rise up, while the mountains will flow with blood. This is quite a gruesome scene. On top of that, all the hosts of heaven or the false gods will dry up and wither away like a leaf on a vine or a fruit on a tree.

Declaration of Isaiah to his disciples (Isa 8:16-8:20)

“Bind up the testimony!

Seal the teaching

Among my disciples!

I will wait for Yahweh,

Who is hiding his face

From the house of Jacob.

I will hope in him.

See!

I am a sign.

The children

Whom Yahweh has given me

Are portents in Israel

From Yahweh of hosts.

He dwells on Mount Zion.

Now if people say to you.

‘Consult the wizard ghosts!

Consult with the familiar spirits

Who chirp and mutter!’

Should not a people consult their gods?

Should they not consult the dead

On behalf of the living

For teaching,

For instruction?

Surely those who speak like this

Will have no dawn.”

Isaiah wanted his disciples to have and keep his testimony. He wanted his teachings to be put aside and bound up his works. This is probably why we have so many oracles of Isaiah. He was waiting on Yahweh, the Lord, who was hiding his face from the house of Jacob. However, Isaiah had hope because he and his children were signs or omens of good things to come. He knew that Yahweh lived on Mount Zion. He then warned his disciples not to be fooled when people told them to consult with various idol gods, ghosts, mediums, wizards, or spirits to find out what to do. Why would you want to consult with the dead to find out instructions on how to live? As he points out, people like this probably will not see the dawn, since they are destined for death.

The dichotomies of life

“A good name is better

Than precious ointment.

The day of death is better

Than the day of birth.

It is better to go to the house of mourning

Than to go to the house of feasting.

This is the end of everyone.

The living will lay it to heart.

Sorrow is better

Than laughter.

By sadness of countenance,

The heart is made glad.

The heart of the wise

Is in the house of mourning.

But the heart of fools is

In the house of mirth.

It is better for a man

To hear the rebuke of the wise

Than to hear the song of fools.

Like the crackling of thorns under a pot

So is the laughter of fools.

This also is vanity.

Surely oppression makes the wise foolish.

A bribe corrupts the heart.”

Qoheleth presents a reflection on life and death, like the modern philosopher Martin Heidegger (1889-1976). With his phrase Sein zum Tode, from his book Being and Time, Heidegger meant that all human beings were destined to die. It is our purpose in life to die. Therefore we must live our life now in authenticity. Qoheleth starts off by saying how important a good name is, more prized than precious ointment. Also the day of death is more important than the day of your birth. It is better to mourn than to feast. As usual, he points out that everyone will die, so that the living must be aware of that. Sorrow was better than laughter, rather than the other way around. The heart was made glad through a sad face. The truly wise mourn, while the fools live a life of mirth. Listen to the criticisms of the wise rather than the songs of fools. Foolish laughter is like burning thorns crackling on a fire since it is pure vanity and useless. Oppression makes us wiser, but bribes corrupt the heart.

Eliphaz instructs Job about the wicked ones (Job 15:20-15:27)

“The wicked men writhe in pain all their days.

All the years are laid up for the ruthless.

Terrifying sounds are in their ears.

In prosperity the destroyer will come upon them.

They despair of returning from darkness.

They are destined for the sword.

They wander abroad for bread, saying,

‘Where is it?’

They know that a day of darkness is ready at hand.

Distress and anguish terrify them.

Distress and anguish prevail against them.

They are like a king prepared for battle.

Because they stretched out their hands against God,

They bid defiance to the Almighty Shaddai.

They run stubbornly against him with a thick-bossed shield.

They have covered their faces with their fat,

They have gathered fat upon their loins.”

The wicked people are in pain all the time, just like Job. Terrifying sounds are in their ears. They live in darkness and are destined for death by the sword. They wander about looking for bread. Distress and anguish are part of their lives. They like getting ready for battle against God Shaddai, the Almighty one. They run stubbornly against shields with their fat faces and fat loins.