Brought to him
A blind man.
They begged him
To touch him.”
Καὶ ἔρχονται εἰς Βηθσαϊδάν. Καὶ φέρουσιν αὐτῷ τυφλὸν, καὶ παρακαλοῦσιν αὐτὸν ἵνα αὐτοῦ ἅψηται.
This story of the healing of the blind man at Bethsaida was unique to Mark, who said that Jesus and his disciples came to Bethsaida (Καὶ ἔρχονται εἰς Βηθσαϊδάν) that was at the upper northern end of the Sea of Galilee. Then some people brought a blind man to Jesus (Καὶ φέρουσιν αὐτῷ τυφλὸν). They begged, implored, exhorted, or encouraged Jesus to touch this blind man (καὶ παρακαλοῦσιν αὐτὸν ἵνα αὐτοῦ ἅψηται). Once again, there was an emphasis on a physical healing that included the touching of Jesus.
“You have heard
That it was said.
‘You shall love
You shall hate
But I say to you.
Love your enemies!
Pray for those
Who persecute you!’”
Ἠκούσατε ὅτι ἐρρέθη Ἀγαπήσεις τὸν πλησίον σου καὶ μισήσεις τὸν ἐχθρόν σου.
ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν, ἀγαπᾶτε τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑμῶν καὶ προσεύχεσθε ὑπὲρ τῶν διωκόντων ὑμᾶς·
Luke has something similar to this in chapter 6:33, but Matthew is more forceful here. Once again, Matthew begins by asking them to recall what they have heard said (Ἠκούσατε ὅτι ἐρρέθη) about loving their neighbors (Ἀγαπήσεις τὸν πλησίον σου), based on the holiness code in Leviticus, chapter 19:18. However, the next phrase, about hating your enemies (καὶ μισήσεις τὸν ἐχθρόν σου), cannot be found in any Hebrew biblical texts. However, the reading of the psalms, and the general attitude prior to the exile indicates that the Israelites did not generally wish well on their enemies. They often asked Yahweh to come and destroy their enemies. Hate was not encouraged, it was just there. Then Matthew has this solemn strong announcement from Jesus (ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν), without ambiguity. They were to love their enemies (ἀγαπᾶτε τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑμῶν) and even pray for those who were persecuting them (καὶ προσεύχεσθε ὑπὲρ τῶν διωκόντων ὑμᾶς). Perhaps, many of the followers of Jesus at the time of Matthew’s writing were actually being persecuted. In fact, the Byzantine text added here a couple of phrases to elaborate on this. These followers of Jesus were asked to bless those cursing them (εὐλογεῖτε τοὺς καταρωμένους ὑμᾶς). They were to do good to those who were spitefully accusing them, hating them, and persecuting them (καλῶς ποιεῖτε τοῖς μισοῦσιν ὑμᾶς, καὶ προσεύχεσθε ὑπὲρ τῶν ἐπηρεαζόντων ὑμᾶς, καὶ διωκόντων ὑμᾶς). These early Christians were asked to be generous to their enemies and persecutors.
“Because you have disheartened
The righteous falsely,
Although I have not
You have encouraged
Not to turn from
Their wicked ways.
You have encouraged
Not to save their lives.
Therefore you shall no longer
See false visions.
You shall no longer
I will save my people
From your hand.
Then you will know
That I am Yahweh.”
Ezekiel concludes this little section on the false prophetesses with Yahweh condemning them. Strangely enough, it is not a death sentence. He merely chastised them for disheartening the righteous ones falsely. These prophetesses had not encouraged the wicked to turn away from their wicked ways. They made no attempt to save the lives of the wicked ones. Their punishment was rather simple. They would no longer have any visions or be allowed to practice divination. By the way, who would stop them? Yahweh would save his people from them. Once again, they would know that he was Yahweh, the God of Israel.
The one who named you
Will comfort you.
Wretched will be
Those who mistreated you!
They rejoiced at your fall.
Wretched will be
That your children
Served as slaves!
Wretched will be
That received your offspring!
At your fall.
She was glad
For your ruin.
Now she will be grieved
At her own desolation.
I will take away her pride
In her great population.
Will be turned to grief.
Fire will come upon her
from the Everlasting One
For many days.
For a long time,
She will be inhabited
Now there is a turn, as this author speaks directly to Jerusalem instead of Jerusalem herself complaining. Jerusalem was encouraged to be courageous. She would be comforted. However, those who mistreated her and rejoiced at her fall will be miserable. The cities where the children of Jerusalem served as slaves would be miserable also. The city of Babylon, that received the children of Jerusalem, rejoiced and was glad at the downfall and ruin of Jerusalem. Now they will be grieved at their own desolation. The pride of those people and their insolence will be turned to grief. The Everlasting One, not Yahweh, will bring fire upon it for many days. For a long time it will be inhabited by demons.
“Thus says Yahweh of hosts.
Call for the mourning women to come!
Send for the skilful women to come!
Let them quickly raise a dirge over us!
Thus our eyes may run down with tears.
Thus our eyelids flow with water.
A sound of wailing is heard from Zion.
‘How we are ruined!
We are utterly shamed!
We have left the land!
They have cast down our dwellings.’”
Yahweh seems to be calling for professional mourners for the people of Judah and Jerusalem. He wanted these skilful mourning women to recreate a funeral like atmosphere. Thus the others would be encouraged to cry with water and tears running from their eyes. They should wail in Jerusalem about how they were ruined and ashamed. They were going to lose their land and all its dwellings.
“The people were encouraged by the words of Judas Maccabeus. They were so noble and so effective in arousing the valor and awaking the courage in the souls of the young. Thus, they determined not to remain in camp, but to attack bravely. They would decide the matter, by fighting hand to hand with all courage, because the city, the sanctuary, and the temple were in danger. Their concern for their wives and children, and also for their brothers, sisters, and relatives, lay upon them less heavily. Their greatest and first fear was for the consecrated sanctuary. Those who had to remain in the city were in no little distress, being anxious over the encounter in the open country.”
Judas Maccabeus had encouraged the people to have courage, especially the young. Instead of staying in camp, they were willing to attack bravely. They wanted to fight hand to hand with courage. They were more worried about the city, the Temple, and sanctuary rather than their wives, children, brothers, sisters, or other relatives. Their greatest fear was for the consecrated sanctuary. The people who remained in the city were anxious about the battle encounter in the open country.
“The mother was especially admirable. She was worthy of an honorable memory. Although she saw her seven sons perish within a single day, she bore it with good courage because of her hope in the Lord. She encouraged each of them in the language of their ancestors. Filled with a noble spirit, she reinforced her woman’s reasoning with a man’s courage. She said to them.
‘I do not know how you came into being in my womb.
It was not I who gave you life and breath.
It was not I who set in order the elements within each of you.
Therefore the Creator of the world,
The Creator shaped the beginning of humankind,
The Creator devised the origin of all things.
The Creator will in his mercy give life and breath back to you again,
Since you now forget yourselves for the sake of his laws.’”
The mother was a brave woman. There is no mention of the father of these 7 sons, just the mother who was admirable and honorable. She saw her 7 sons die in 1 day. She had hope in the Lord and the courage of a man. She was not sure how they got into her womb or where they got their life from. She believed that it was the creator of the world who shaped the beginning of all humans and devised the origin of all things. This creator would be merciful and bring life back to them because he would not forget what they did for the sake of the Mosaic laws. Clearly, this is a strong theological formulation of the creator of all things, God, as in Genesis, chapter 1.
“The king fell into a rage. He gave orders to have pans and caldrons heated. These were heated immediately. He commanded that the tongue of their spokesman be cut out. They were to scalp him. Then they were to cut off his hands and feet, while the rest of the brothers and the mother looked on. When he was utterly helpless, the king ordered them to take him to the fire, still breathing, and to fry him in a pan. The smoke from the pan spread widely, but the brothers and their mother encouraged one another to die nobly. They said.
‘The Lord God is watching over us.
In truth he has compassion on us.
As Moses declared in his song
That bore witness against the people to their faces,
When he said,
He will have compassion on his servants.’”
The king seems to be personally present at this torture, even though his representatives carry out the action, either in Jerusalem or Antioch. This story of the 7 sons was the principal subject of the later 4 Maccabees, but there was no mention of it 1 Maccabees. This is a particularly brutal story. First they heated up the pans. Then they cut the tongue, the scalp, the hands, and the feet of the spokesperson, while the others looked on. They then fried him on the heated pan while he was still breathing. However, the brothers encouraged each other. They knew the Lord would have compassion on them, based on the Canticle of Moses in Deuteronomy, chapter 32.
“Then Trypho sent troops and cavalry into Galilee and the Great Plain to destroy all Jonathan’s soldiers. However, they realized that Jonathan had been seized and had perished along with his men. They then encouraged one another and kept marching in close formation, ready for battle. When their pursuers saw that they would fight for their lives, they turned back. So they all reached the land of Judah safely. They mourned for Jonathan and his companions. They were in great fear. All Israel mourned deeply. All the nations around about them tried to destroy them. They said.
‘They have no leader or helper.
Now therefore let us make war on them.
Let us blot out the memory of them from humankind.’”
Trypho wanted to defeat the Jewish troops of Jonathan. He sent his cavalry into Galilee and the great plain. However, the troops realized what had happened to Jonathan, so they decided to march in close formation as if they were ready for battle. When the Syrian troops saw this, they turned back and let them reach the land of Judah safely. Now they all mourned for Jonathan and his companions, as did all Israel. They feared that their neighbors would attack them since they had no leader. They might be annihilated.