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 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.

The list of men by towns returning (Neh 7:25-7:38)

“The men of Gibeon were ninety-five. The men of Bethlehem and Netophah were one hundred eighty-eight. The men of Anathoth were one hundred twenty-eight. The men of Beth-Azmaveth were forty-two. The men of Kiriath-jearim, Chephirah, and Beeroth were seven hundred forty-three. The men of Ramah and Geba were six hundred twenty-one. The men of Michmas were one hundred twenty-two. The men of Bethel and Ai were one hundred twenty-three. The men of the other Nebo were fifty-two. The descendents of the other Elam were one thousand two hundred fifty-four. The descendents of Harim were three hundred twenty. The men of Jericho were three hundred forty-five. The men of Lod, Hadid, and Ono were seven hundred twenty-one. The men of Senaah were three thousand nine hundred thirty.”

Once again, we have a very close similarity with Ezra, chapter 2, almost word for word. This list refers to the towns that they had come from in Judah, but also a lot from the Benjamin territory. These were the leaders there that had been taken into captivity. Gibbar or the town of Gibeon had a mere 95 people, the same as Ezra. Bethlehem had 188 not 123 people. Here it is combined with Netophah, a small town near Bethlehem that only had 56 people, so that the net change is only 9 more people here. Anathoth, another small town in Benjamin, had exactly the same amount of 128 people. Beth-Azmaveth or just Azmaveth, a town near Jerusalem, had 42 people, the smallest amount, but exactly the same as in Ezra. There was a group of 3 towns near Jerusalem in the Benjamin territory of Kiriath-jearim, Chephirah, and Beeroth with exactly the same amount of 743 people. Ramah and Geba were northern towns in Benjamin with exactly the same amount of 621 people. Michmas was another Benjamin town with exactly the same amount of 122 people. Bethel and Ai were 2 northern Benjaminite towns with 123 instead of 223 people as in Ezra. This Nebo was a small town near Bethel and Ai with exactly the same amount of 52 people. There was no mention here of Magbish, a small town in Benjamin with 156 people as there was in Ezra. This other Elam had 1,254 people, but that is the exact amount as mentioned in the previous paragraph and in Ezra. Harim with 320 people was exactly the same as in Ezra. Lod, Hadid, and Ono were 3 Benjaminite towns with 721 instead of 725 people. Jericho had exactly the same amount of 345 people. Senaah, a town in northern Benjamin had the largest group with 3,930 instead of 3,630 people as in Ezra. Thus there were only minor discrepancies between this account and the one in Ezra.

The number of people by ancestral families returning (Neh 7:8-7:24)

“The number of the Israelite people was as follows. The descendents of Parosh were two thousand one hundred seventy-two. The descendents of Shephatiah were three hundred seventy-two. The descendents of Arah were six hundred fifty-two. The descendents of Pahath-moab, namely the descendents of Jeshua and Joab, were two thousand eight hundred eighteen. The descendents of Elam were one thousand two hundred fifty-four. The descendents of Zattu were eight hundred forty-five. The descendents of Zaccai were seven hundred sixty. The descendents of Binnui were six hundred forty-eight. The descendents of Bebai were six hundred twenty-eight. The descendents of Azgad were two thousand three hundred twenty-two. The descendents of Adonikam were six hundred sixty-seven. The descendents of Bigvai were two thousand sixty-seven. The descendents of Adin were six hundred fifty-five. The descendents of Ater, namely of Hezekiah, were ninety-eight. The descendents of Hashum were three hundred twenty-eight. The descendents of Bezai were three hundred twenty-four. The descendents of Hariph were one hundred twelve.”

Here we have a listing of the heads of the families with the number of people that were returning with them. There was a similar list in Ezra, chapter 2. There were some minor differences, but nothing substantially different. Once again, these were the well to do leaders, not the poor who had stayed. They were listed by their important ancestors with very exact numbers, not rounded off. These groupings were large enough to form small towns or at least neighborhoods in cities. The Parosh folks had 2,172 people, exactly the same as in Ezra. The Shephatiah folks had exactly the same number, 372. However, the Arah folks had 652 instead of 775 people. The Pahath-moab folks were 2,818 instead of 2,812 people. The Elam group had 1,254 people, the same as in Ezra. The Zattu group had 845 and not 945 people. There was exactly the same amount of the Zaccai people, 760. The descendents of Binnui were 648 instead of the 642 descendents of Bani in Ezra. The Bebai people had 5more people, 628 instead of 623. There was a major difference with Azgad people, 2,322 instead of 1,222. Adonikam had 667 people here instead of the infamous number 666 people in Ezra. There were a lot of Bigvai people, 2,067 instead of 2,056. The descendents of Adin were 655 not 454. The Ater group was exactly the same, only 98 gatekeepers. The Hashum people had 328 instead of 223 people. 324 was 1 more than the 323 of Bezai people who returned in Ezra. The descendents of Hariph were 112, the same number of 112 descendents of Jorah in Ezra.

The list of the guilty Israelites by family (Ezra 10:25-10:44)

“The descendents of Parosh were Ramiah, Izziah, Malchijah, Mijamin, Eleazar, Hashabiah, and Benaiah. The descendents of Elam were Mattaniah, Zechariah, Jehiel, Abdi, Jeremoth, and Elijah. The descendents of Zattu were Elioenai, Eliashib, Mattaniah, Jeremoth, Zabad, and Aziza. The descendents of Bebai were Jehohanan, Hananiah, Zabbai, and Athlai. The descendents of Bani were Meshullam, Malluch, Adaiah, Jashub, Sheal, and Jeremoth. The descendents of Pahath-moab were Adna, Chelal, Benaiah, Maaseiah, Mattaniah, Bezalel, Binnui, and Manasseh. The descendents of Harim were Eliezer, Isshijah, Malchijah, Shemaiah, Shimeon, Benjamin, Malluch, and Shemariah. The descendents of Hashum were Mattenai, Mattattah, Zabad, Eliphelet, Jeremai, Manasseh, and Shimei. The descendents of Bani were Maadai, Amram, Uel, Benaiah, Bedeiah, Cheluhi, Vaniah, Meremoth, Eliashib, Mattaniah, Mattenai, and Jaasu. The descendents of Binnui were Shimei, Shelemiah, Nathan, Adaiah, Machnadebai, Shashai, Sharai, Azarel, Shelemiah, Shemariah, Shallum, Amariah, and Joseph. The descendents of Nebo were Jeiel, Mattithiah, Zabad, Zebina, Jaddai, Joel, and Benaiah. All these had married foreign women. They sent them away with their children.”

This list reads like the list of people who came with Ezra with the heads of the families. There were 11 different families with 83 people sending their wives away. 7 of these families came with Ezra from Babylon. Only 4 families did not come with him, Harim, Hashum, Binnui, and Nebo. The Bani family is listed twice. Some of these names more than once, while other names only appear here and nowhere else in biblical literature. This means that 109 people were listed as haven given up their foreign wives. In fact, it does not seem like a lot of people if this list includes everyone. This list is interesting in that these people will become known as sinners. The assumption is that they were dead at the time of this writing. Why should we remember their names? They sacrificed their families for Yahweh by divorcing their wives and sending away their children.