Yahweh and the battle in Babylon (Jer 51:11-51:14)

“Sharpen the arrows!

Fill the quivers!

Yahweh has stirred up

The spirit of the kings

Of the Medes.

His purpose concerning Babylon

Is to destroy it.

That is the vengeance of Yahweh,

That is the vengeance

For his temple.

Raise a standard

Against the walls of Babylon!

Make the watch strong!

Post sentinels!

Prepare the ambushes!

Yahweh has both planned

As well as done

What he spoke

Concerning the inhabitants

Of Babylon.

You who live

By mighty waters,

Rich in treasures,

Your end has come.

The thread of your life

Is cut.

Yahweh of hosts

Has sworn by himself.

Surely I will fill you

With troops,

Like a swarm of locusts.

They shall raise

A shout of victory

Over you.”

Here there is a serious of commands from Yahweh, via Jeremiah. The warriors were to have their quivers ready full of arrows. Yahweh has stirred up the Medes, the people to the north of Babylon with the Persians. They were going to destroy Babylon because of Yahweh’s vengeance for what the Babylonians had done to his temple in Jerusalem. There was going to be an invasion of Babylon with wise watchmen and sentinels as well as strong ambushes. Yahweh had planned and carried out his word against Babylon, the land of mighty waters such as the Euphrates and the Tigris, with all their treasures. Their end has come. The thread of their life has been cut. There will be troops in Babylon, like swarms of locusts, shouting about victory.

The ruined linen loincloth (Jer 13:6-13:7)

“After many days,

Yahweh said to me.

‘Go now to the Euphrates!

Take from there the loincloth

That I commanded you to hide there.’

Then I went to the Euphrates.

I dug it up.

I took the loincloth

From the place where I had hidden it.

But now the loincloth was ruined.

It was good for nothing.”

After many days, Yahweh came to Jeremiah. Once again, he told Jeremiah to go to the Euphrates or Parah to get the loincloth that he had hidden there. So Jeremiah willing went there to dig up the hidden loincloth. He then found it. He noticed that it was ruined and good for nothing. What did he expect? This was probably a symbolic way of talking about the corrupt practices of King Jehoiakim, as well as the people of Judah and Jerusalem, that were good for nothing.

King Nebuchadnezzar’s army (Jdt 1:5-1:6)

“Then King Nebuchadnezzar made war against King Arphaxad in the great plain that is on the borders of Ragau. There rallied to him all the people of the hill country. All those who lived along the Euphrates and the Tigris River were with him. The people along the Hydaspes River and on the plain were with him also. Arioch, the king of the Elymaeans was on his side. Thus many nations joined the forces of the Chaldeans.”

King Nebuchadnezzar was not alone. He had a lot of allies. The battle was to be on the plains next to Ragau, a city in northeastern Media, about 5 miles southeast of Teheran, near the Caspian Sea, about 200 miles northeast of Ecbatana. The Hydaspes River is either near the Tigris and Euphrates or somewhere in India. The Elymaeans may refer to the people of Elam or the Elamites. They could be from Elam also, near the Persian Gulf or part of Media. Obviously, King Nebuchadnezzar had a lot of people on his side.

Dwelling places for Joel (1 Chr 5:7-5:10)

“Joel’s kindred by their families, when the genealogy of their generations was reckoned were the chiefs, Jeiel, with Zechariah and Bela the son of Azaz, son of Shema, son of Joel, who dwelt in Aroer, as far as Nebo and Baal-meon. Joel also lived to the east as far as the entrance of the desert, this side of the Euphrates, because their cattle had multiplied in the land of Gilead. In the days of Saul they made war on the Hagrites, who fell by their hand. They dwelt in their tents throughout the whole region east of Gilead.”

The kindred folk of Joel had as its chief Jeiel. There were 8 different people with this name, mostly Levites. There 28 people with the popular name of Zachariah, with probably the most famous the prophet whose book was Zachariah. Bela was the name of a town, an Edomite king, the eldest son of Benjamin, and this Bela. This, however, is the only mention of Azaz. There are 3 other people with the name Shema. This Shema is the son of Joel, but he is not listed among the 7 sons of Joel above. Aroer was an ancient city on the north side of the Arnon that became the southern border of the tribe of Reuben. Nebo is the mountain from which Moses took his first and last view of the Promised Land in the land of Moab, facing Jericho. Baal-meon was a town built by the children of Reuben along with Nebo as described in Numbers, chapter 32. Eastward they went as far as the desert right before the Euphrates River. They lived mostly in tents in the land of Gilead. The term Gilead appears more than 130 times in the biblical literature, referring to a mountainous region east of Jordan, bounded on the north by Bashan, and on the south by Moab. These people of Reuben also defeated the Hagrites, an Arab tribe, supposedly the descendants, of Ishmael, based on his mother’s name Hagar, Sarah’s slave. They were mentioned in an inscription of King Tiglath-pileser III of Assyria.

The large kingdom of Babylon (2 Kings 24:7-24:7)

“The the king of Egypt did not come again out of his land, for the king of Babylon had taken over all that belonged to the king of Egypt from the Wadi of Egypt to the Euphrates River.”

The kingdom of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon extended from Egypt to the Euphrates River, quite a large space of land that included the already captured Israel and the vassal Judah. He had defeated both the Assyrians and the Egyptians with a famous battle in 605 BCE at Carchemish. Nebuchadnezzar will play an important role in the Jewish prophetic and apocalyptic literature because of the destruction of the temple at Jerusalem. In fact, his influence on Saddam Hussein (1937-2006), fifth president of Iraq (1979-2003), was also eventful since Hussein considered himself a reincarnation of King Nebuchadnezzar.


The promise of a divine alliance (Gen 15:1-15:21)

“After these things the word of Yahweh came to Abram in a vision, ‘Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield.  Your reward shall be very great.’  But Abram said, ‘O Lord Yahweh, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?’  And Abram said, ‘Behold, you have given me no offspring, so that a slave born in my house will be my heir.’ But the word of Yahweh came to him, ‘This man shall not be your heir.  No one but your very own issue shall be your heir.’  He brought him outside and said, ‘Look toward heaven, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’  And he believed Yahweh.  And Yahweh reckoned it to him as righteousness.”

This is the calling of Abram in the Yahweh tradition. Yahweh appeared in a vision to Abram and said to him not to be afraid because Yahweh would be his shield.  Abram said that he was sterile and the inheritor of his estate was to be his household slave, Eliezer of Damascus.  Yahweh said that Abram would have his own heir and that his descendants would be like the stars in the heaven. Abram believed and Yahweh reckoned him as righteous.

“Then he said to him, ‘I am Yahweh who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess.’  But he said, “O Lord Yahweh how am I to know that I shall possess it?’  He said to him, ‘Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.’  He brought him all these, cut them in two, laying each half over against the other.  But he did not cut the birds in two. When birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.”

Yahweh said that he had brought Abram from Ur of the Chaldeans to have this new land. So Yahweh asked for a sacrifice: a heifer, a female goat, and a ram, all each three years old, with a turtledove and a young pigeon.  This is much like the Mosaic Law which came later. Abram cut the big animals in two but left the birds alone.  He then chased off the birds of prey when they came for the animal carcasses.

 “As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram; and a deep and terrifying darkness fell upon him.  Then Yahweh said to Abram, ‘Know this for certain that your offspring will be aliens in a land that is not theirs, and shall be slaves there, and they shall be oppressed for four hundred years.  But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions.  As for yourself, you shall go to your ancestors in peace.  You shall be buried in a good old age.  They shall come back here in the fourth generation.  For the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.’”

Abram fell asleep and darkness descended upon him. Yahweh said to Abram that your offspring will be aliens and slaves in a land that is not theirs for 400 years.  This is a prediction after the fact.  However, they shall come out of there and return here with great possessions.  Abram, like many others, was to die in a good old age.  The Amorites were in for some trouble.

“When the sun had gone down and it was dark, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces.  On that day Yahweh made a covenant with Abram, saying, ‘To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites.”

There was a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch that passed by.  Then the Yahweh covenant with Abram took place.  Yahweh gave him the land from the Nile to the Euphrates for him and his descendents.  The enemies list is very clear.  The land owning enemies are the Kenites, a nomad tribe; the Kenizzites, a group that integrates with the Canaanites; the Kadmonites, a group only mentioned here; the Hittites, the descendents of Heth; the Perizzites, like the Canaanites; the Rephaim, the tall ones; the Amorites; the Canaanites; the Girgashites; and the Jebusites.  Wow, this is a lot of land and a lot of people who are going to be disappointed when they find out that Abram’s descendants are claiming their land.

The second story of creation: paradise (Gen 2:4b-2:25)

“In the day that Yahweh God made the earth and the heavens, when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up, because  Yahweh God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no one to till the ground. But a stream would rise from the earth and water the whole face of the ground.  Then Yahweh God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.  Man became a living being.  And Yahweh God planted a garden in Eden, in the east.  There he put the man whom he had formed.  Out of the ground Yahweh God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”

This chapter has the older Yahweh traditional story of creation where God is called Yahweh.  This written document probably dates from around 700-800 BCE.  Yahweh is like a gardener, over seeing his wonderful paradise in the Garden of Eden.  In this story, God created heaven and earth, but there is no evolutionary daily concept, as Yahweh formed a human man (Adam) from the dust on the ground (admah) and breathed into his nostrils to give him life.  We have an eternal destiny to be with God. What a beautiful thought, our happiness comes from God and sharing eternal life with him.

“A river flows out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it divides and becomes four branches. The name of the first is Pishon.  It is the one which flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold.  The gold of that land is good.  Bdellium and onyx stone are there.  The name of the second river is Gihon.  It is the one which flows around the whole land of Cush.  The name of the third river is Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.”

This is the first mention of a geological place, the mythical Garden of Eden.  There are many ancient eastern stories about paradise gardens.  Of the four rivers that flow from this garden, two are well known, the Tigris River and the Euphrates River, once again an indication of a Mesopotamian background.  However, no one has been able to exactly locate the Pishon River and Gihon River, since they may have been mountain streams.  Apparently these rivers were in rich areas that had gold stones.  They also had bdellium, a gum like substance that comes from trees like myrrh, and onyx, a precious colorful stone.  Despite many attempts, no one has been able to exactly ascertain the geographical site of this mythical garden.

“Yahweh God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to till it and keep it.  Yahweh God commanded the man, ‘You may freely eat of every tree of the garden.  But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.’”

This man is placed in the Garden of Eden to have all that he wants to eat.  However, he is forbidden to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the middle of the garden.  If he eats this he will die.  Legends abound about magic trees. General tradition has portrayed this tree as an apple tree, although there is no such indication in the text itself.

“Then Yahweh God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone.  I will make him a helper as his partner.’  So out of the ground Yahweh God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them.  Whatever the man called every living creature that was its name. The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field.  But for the man there was not found a helper as his partner.  So Yahweh God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept. Then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.  The rib that Yahweh God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.  Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.  She shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’ Therefore, a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.  And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.”

Yahweh said that it was not good for this man to be alone.  Like a potter, he formed the animals and birds from the earth, not from seeds.  The man got to name all these animals and birds. However, none of these were suitable partners. Then the patriarchal attitude is reinforced as the man went to sleep, and Yahweh toke one of the ribs from the man (ish) and he made into a woman (ishah).  Thus we have male and female humans who are unashamedly naked partners.  She is already his wife and can “become one flesh” in this idyllic garden.