The priests should mourn (Joel 1:13-1:13)

“Put on sackcloth!

Lament!

You priests!

Wail!

You ministers

Of the altar!

Come!

Pass the night

In sackcloth!

You ministers

Of my God!

Grain offerings,

Drink offerings,

Are withheld

From the house

Of your God.”

The priests of the Temple should lament and wail. These ministers of the altar should spend their night in the Temple in sackcloth. There was no grain or drink offerings in the house of God.

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Mourn for your lost fields (Joel 1:8-1:10)

“Lament!

Like a virgin

Dressed in sackcloth

For the husband

Of her youth!

The grain offering,

The drink offering,

Are cut off

From the house

Of Yahweh.

The priests mourn.

The ministers of Yahweh

Mourn.

The fields are devastated.

The ground mourns.

The grain is destroyed.

The wine dries up.

The oil fails.”

The people should go into mourning. They should lament like a virgin who had lost the husband of her youth, dressed in sackcloth. There was not going to be any grain or drink offerings in the house of Yahweh. The priests and the ministers should mourn because the fields were devastated. The ground itself mourned because the grain was destroyed. The wine had dried up. The oil had failed. There was good reason to go into mourning.

The useless sacrifices (Hos 9:4-9:4)

“They shall not pour

Drink offerings

Of wine

To Yahweh.

Their sacrifices

Shall not please him.

Such sacrifices shall be

Like mourners’ bread.

All who eat of it

Shall be defiled.

Their bread

Shall be

For their hunger only.

It shall not come

To the house

Of Yahweh.”

Hosea told them that in their captivity, they will not be able to pour out drink offerings of wine to Yahweh. Their sacrifices would not please God. These sacrifices would be like the defiled bread of mourners who have had contact with the dead. The only reason to eat this bread would be because they were hungry. There will be no more symbolic bread, since they will no longer have contact with the house of Yahweh.

The idol sacrifices in high places (Ezek 20:28-20:29)

“I had brought them

Into the land

That I swore

To give them.

Then wherever they saw

Any high hill

Or any leafy tree,

There they offered

Their sacrifices.

They presented

The provocation

Of their offering.

There they sent up

Their pleasing odors.

There they poured out

Their drink offerings.

I said to them.

What is the high place

To which you go?

It is called Bamah

To this day.”

Now Yahweh reminded them, via Ezekiel, that when he brought them into the land that he swore to give to their ancestors, they ran to every high hill or leafy tree. There they set up altars of sacrifice. They provoked Yahweh with their sacrifices. They presented their offerings with sweet smelling incense and drink offerings. This may have been some sort of Canaanite or Egyptian fertility rite, since they had not given up their old ways. There is a play on words as Yahweh wanted to know what this high place was called. Bamah meant a high place of worship that had been used by the Canaanites, but still existed at the time of Ezekiel.

They provoke Yahweh’s anger (Jer 7:17-7:20)

“‘Do you not see

What they are doing

In the towns of Judah,

In the streets of Jerusalem?

The children gather wood.

The fathers kindle fire.

The women knead dough.

They make cakes

For the queen of heaven.

They pour out drink offerings

To other gods.

They provoke me to anger.

Is it I whom they provoke?’

Says Yahweh.

‘Is it not themselves?

Do they not hurt themselves?’

Therefore thus says Yahweh God.

‘My anger shall be poured out

On this place.

My wrath will be poured out

On this place.

It will be poured out

On human beings,

On animals,

On the trees of the field,

On the fruit of the ground.

It will burn.

It will not be quenched.’”

Yahweh pointed out, via Jeremiah, what the people in the towns of Judah and on the streets of Jerusalem were doing. The children gathered wood, while their fathers started fires. The women made cakes for the queen of heaven that was the Babylonian goddess Ishtar, or the Canaanite goddess Astarte, the goddess of Venice. They prepared their drink offerings for these gods. Yahweh was provoked to anger and wrath by these actions. Thus Yahweh was going to pour out his anger on all the people, animals, trees, and fruit in Judah and Jerusalem. They would all burn and be consumed with this fire.

Against fertility cults (Isa 57:5-57:6)

“You burn with lust

Among the oak trees,

Under every green tree.

You slaughter your children

In the valleys

Under the clefts of the rocks.

Among the smooth stones of the valley

Is your portion.

They are your lot.

You have poured out a drink offering

To them.

You have brought a cereal offering

To them.

Shall I be appeased for these things?”

Third Isaiah strongly speaks out against the persistent fertility cults among the Israelites. They lusted among the green oak trees that were considered fertility oak trees. They killed their children among the valley gods under the caves in the rocks. They brought drink offerings and cereal offerings to the altar of these gods of the hills and the valleys. What was Yahweh to do with them? How would he be appeased?

The unification of the kingdom (1 Macc 1:41-1:50)

“Then King Antiochus wrote to his whole kingdom that all should be one people. Everyone should give up their particular customs. All the gentiles accepted the command of the king. Many even from Israel gladly adopted his religion. They sacrificed to idols and profaned the Sabbath. The king sent letters by messengers to Jerusalem and the towns of Judah. He directed them to follow customs strange to the land. He forbade burnt offerings, sacrifices, and drink offerings in the sanctuary. He wanted them to profane the Sabbath and the feasts. He wanted them to defile the sanctuary and the priests. He wanted them to build altars and sacred precincts with shrines for idols. He wanted them to sacrifice swine and unclean animals. He wanted them to leave their sons uncircumcised. They were to make themselves abominable by everything unclean and profane. Thus they should forget the law and change all the ordinances. He added.

‘Whoever does not obey the command of the king shall die.’’’

King Antiochus IV wanted his whole kingdom unified, which included Syria, Palestine, Mesopotamia, Persia, and Asia Minor, quite a large kingdom. This might be difficult to enforce. It was later rescinded by King Antiochus V (172-161 BCE) since he was only 9 when he became king and died at the age of 11. Sometimes it is not good to be the king. King Antiochus IV was not as tolerant as his father King Antiochus III (223-187 BCE), who allowed the Israelites to follow the Mosaic Law. The Persian kings had also been tolerant towards following the Mosaic Law. King Antiochus IV wanted everyone to give up their particular customs, not a good idea in a large kingdom. The gentiles and some Israelites said okay, no big deal. He said that anyone who did not comply would be killed. He wanted them to sacrifice to idols, by building altars and shrines for his idols. He wanted them to profane the Sabbath and their own festivals. He wanted them to do away with their sanctuaries and priests. He wanted them to sacrifice swine and other unclean animals. He wanted them not to have their sons circumcised. Basically, he wanted them to forget about their own laws and just follow his ordinances.