Against Elam (Jer 49:34-49:35)

“The word of Yahweh

Came to the prophet Jeremiah

Concerning Elam,

At the beginning

Of the reign

Of King Zedekiah

Of Judah.

Thus says Yahweh of hosts!

‘I am going to break

The bow of Elam,

The mainstay of their might.’”

Elam was an ancient pre-Persian society, east of Babylon, in what is now present day Iran. There is very little mention of Elam in the biblical works. From the text, this oracle can be dated to the beginning of the reign of King Zedekiah (598-597 BCE) of Judah. Whether this was an attack of the king of Babylon or a hint at the later Persian attack is not clear. Yahweh was going to break the bow of Elam because the Elamites were famous for their strong use of the bow and arrow. Although most of the preceding parts of this chapter were translated as chapter 30 in the Greek Septuagint, this section on Elam was translated as chapter 25, not chapter 30 or chapter 49 as here.

The Assyrian area (Jer 25:25-25:25)

“I went to

All the kings of Zimri,

All the kings of Elam,

All the kings of Media.”

Zimri were the people in northeast Assyria. Elam was a province of the Assyrian Empire. Media may be a reference to Medes, an old Persian province.

The day of confusion (Isa 22:5-22:8)

Yahweh,

The God of hosts,

Has a day Of tumult,

Of trampling,

Of confusion

In the valley of Hinnom.

There is

A battering down of walls.

There is

A cry for help in the mountains.

Elam bore the quiver

With chariots,

With cavalry.

Kir uncovered the shield.

Your choicest valleys

Were full of chariots.

The cavalry

Took their stand

At the gates.

He has taken away

The covering of Judah.”

A lot of the action took place in the valley of Hinnom, outside the walls of Jerusalem on this invasion day, where there was tumult, trampling, and confusion. The walls of Jerusalem came tumbling down. There was a cry for help that went out from the mountains, but it was not good enough. Elam, the Assyrians, used their bows and arrows. They had chariots and cavalry, while the Moabite mercenary men from Kir had shields. The beautiful valleys of Judah were full of these foreign chariots. Meanwhile, the Assyrian cavalry stood at the gates as Judah was no longer protecting Jerusalem.

The vision of the attack against Babylon (Isa 21:2-21:5)

“A stern vision

Is told to me.

The betrayer betrays.

The destroyer destroys.

Go up!

O Elam!

Lay siege!

O Media!

All the sighing

She has caused

I bring to an end.

Therefore my loins are

Filled with anguish.

Pangs have seized me,

Like the pangs of a woman in labor.

I am bowed down,

So that I cannot hear.

I am dismayed

So that I cannot see.

My mind reels.

Horror has appalled me.

The twilight I longed for

Has been turned for me

Into trembling.

They prepare the table.

They spread the rugs.

They eat.

They drink.

Rise up!

Commanders!

Oil the shield!”

Isaiah has this stern vision from Yahweh. The betrayer and the destroyer act out together. Elam and Medes, the Persians and the Medes were about to attack Babylon. Since the Israelites were in Babylon, they were afraid but hopeful, like a woman experiencing labor before the birth of a child. Isaiah, in the first person singular, was not quite able to hear or see what was going on. He knew that horror was about to happen. Instead of a happy twilight there was trembling. However, they continued as normal, eating and drinking at tables with rugs. Nevertheless, the cry came to the commanders to rise up and get ready. They had to oil the straps on their shields as they prepared to do battle.

The return of the remnant (Isa 11:11-11:11)

“On that day,

Yahweh will extend his hand

Yet a second time.

He wanted to recover

The remnant that is left

Of his people,

From Assyria,

From Egypt,

From Pathros,

From Ethiopia,

From Elam,

From Shinar,

From Hamath,

And from the coastlands of the sea.”

In this ideal time, all the scattered Israelites would return from their Exile. Yahweh was going to extend his hand for a second time. The first time was the Exodus from Egypt. This time it is a call to recover the remnant from all over the place. Some of these places are easy to figure out. Assyria (present day Iraq), Egypt, and Ethiopia are easy to understand. Pathros was in upper Egypt. Elam is where current day Iran is. Shinar was in Babylon. Hamath was in Syria. The coastlands may have been the Aegean islands around present day Greece. Obviously, this was during the Exile or after it. It is interesting to note how many different places the Israelites were in Diaspora, so early in their history.

Nehemiah leads the other group (Neh 12:38-12:43)

“The other company of those who gave thanks went to the left. I followed them with half of the people, upon the wall. We walked to the Tower of the Ovens, to the Broad Wall, and above the Gate of Ephraim, and by the Old Gate. We walked by the Fish Gate and the Tower of Hananel and the Tower of the Hundred, to the Sheep Gate. They came to a halt at the Gate of the Guard. So both companies of those who gave thanks stood in the house of God. I and half of the officials were with me. The priests Eliakim, Maaseiah, Miniamin, Micaiah, Elioenai, Zechariah, and Hananiah were with trumpets. Maaseiah, Shemaiah, Eleazar, Uzzi, Jehohanan, Malchijah, Elam, and Ezer were there also. The singers sang with Jezrahiah as their leader. They offered great sacrifices that day. They rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy. The women and children also rejoiced. The joy of Jerusalem was heard far away.”

Nehemiah led the other group on the wall going around the west and north side of the wall. They passed by the Tower of Ovens, the Broad Wall, the Gate of Ephraim, the Old Gate, the Fish Gate, the Tower of Hananel and the Tower of the Hundred. Finally they came to the Sheep Gate and the Gate of the Guard. There they met at the house of God with the first group. Nehemiah’s group met Ezra’s first group at the Temple. Nehemiah’s priests had trumpets. These singers were led by Jezrahiah, who is only mentioned here and nowhere else. They offered great sacrifices, without being specific how much and what kind. They also rejoiced with all their families including women and children. They made such a noise that they could be heard far away.

The leaders of the people (Neh 10:14-10:27)

“The leaders of the people were Parosh, Pahath-moab, Elam, Zattu, Bani, Bunni, Azgad, Bebai, Adonijah, Bigvai, Adin, Ater, Hezekiah, Azzur, Hodiah, Hashum, Bezai, Hariph, Anathoth, Nebai, Magpiash, Meshullam, Hezir, Meshezabel, Zadok, Jaddua, Pelatiah, Hanan, Anaiah, Hoshea, Hananiah, Hasshub, Hallohesh, Pilha, Shobek, Rehum, Hashabnah, Maaseiah, Ahiah, Hanan, Anan, Malluch, Harim, and Baanah.”

Unlike the 2 other groups, like the priests and Levites that are mentioned often in this book, 25% of these named leaders only appear here rather than elsewhere in this book, Adonijah, Azzur, Nebai, Magpiash, Hezir, Pelatiah, Hoshea, Pilha, Shobek, Hashabnah, Ahiah, and Anan. However, the other 30 of the 44 are common names mentioned often in this book, since they are ancestral leaders.