Flee Moab (Jer 48:6-48:9)

“Flee!

Save yourselves!

Be like a wild ass

In the desert!

Because you trusted

In your strongholds,

With your treasures,

You also shall be taken.

Chemosh shall

Go out into exile,

With his priests,

With his attendants.

The destroyer shall come

Upon every town.

No town shall escape.

The valley shall perish.

The plain shall be destroyed.

As Yahweh has spoken.

Set aside salt for Moab.

She will surely fall.

Her towns shall become

A desolation,

With no inhabitants in them.”

Jeremiah warns the Moabites to flee and save themselves. They should take off like a wild donkey in the desert. They had trusted in their treasures and fortresses, but to no avail. The local god of Moab, Chemosh, was going to be exiled along with his priests and attendants. Every town would be destroyed, since none would escape. Both the valleys and the plains would be destroyed. All the towns of Moab would fall and become a desolation with nobody living in them. Prepare some salt for Moab to help with her wounds.

Oracle after the defeat (Jer 40:1-40:1)

“The word

That came

To Jeremiah

From Yahweh

After Nebuzaradan,

The captain of the guard,

Had let him go

From Ramah.

He had taken him

Bound in fetters

Along with all the captives

Of Jerusalem and Judah.

They were being exiled

To Babylon.”

According to this account, Jeremiah was sent in chains along with all the other captives of Jerusalem and Judah that were about to be exiled to Babylon. While there, Jeremiah had this oracle of Yahweh about leaving Ramah, which was about 6 miles north of Jerusalem in the Benjamin territory. Apparently this Ramah camp was where they made the final disposition of the various prisoners. Perhaps it was here that the captain of the guard, Nebuzaradan, made his final decision about Jeremiah. Like the preceding chapter, this is a different numbered chapter in the Greek translation of the Septuagint, chapters 47 and 48, not chapter 40 as here.

The prophet Hananiah speaks (Jer 28:2-28:4)

“Thus says Yahweh of hosts!

The God of Israel!

‘I have broken the yoke

Of the king of Babylon.

Within two years,

I will bring back

To this place

All the vessels

Of Yahweh’s house

That King Nebuchadnezzar

Of Babylon

Took away from this place.

He carried them

To Babylon.

I will also bring back

To this place

King Jeconiah,

The son of King Jehoiakim

Of Judah,

With all the exiles

From Judah

Who went to Babylon.

I will break

The yoke

Of the king of Babylon.’

Says Yahweh.”

Hananiah, the prophet from Gibeon, then uttered an oracle of Yahweh, the God of Israel, much like Jeremiah had done. He claimed that he had broken the yoke of the king of Babylon. He said that within 2 years all the vessels from the Temple sanctuary would be returned to Jerusalem. He was also going to bring back the deposed King Jeconiah or King Jehoiachin or King Coniah as he was known as, who had been king for only a couple of months in 598 BCE after his father King Jehoiakim or King Eliakim (609-598 BCE) had been killed. In the meantime, King Nebuchadnezzar had put King Jeconiah’s uncle on the throne, King Zedekiah or King Mattaniah (598-587 BCE). The exiled King Jeconiah was in Babylon in captivity. He was part of the first captivity of 598 BCE, when the sacred vessels and the other exiles also went to Babylon. Clearly, Hananiah the prophet said that Yahweh wanted to break the yoke of the king of Babylon. However, Jeremiah the prophet had said that Yahweh was in favor of this yoke. Let’s see what happens as these 2 prophets interpret the will of Yahweh as regards Babylon.

The reluctant returning children to an overcrowded land (Isa 49:19-49:21)

“Surely your waste land

Will now be too crowded

For your inhabitants.

Your desolate places

Will surely now be too crowded

For your inhabitants.

Your devastated land

Will surely now be too crowded

For your inhabitants.

Those who swallowed you up

Will be far away.

The children born

In the time of your bereavement

Will yet say in your hearing?

‘The place is too crowded for me.

Make room for me to settle.’

Then you will say in your heart.

‘Who has borne me these?

I was bereaved.

I was barren.

I was exiled.

I was put away.

So who has reared these?

I was left all alone.

Where then have these come from?’”

Second Isaiah raises the question about overcrowding if all the exiles returned. There would be a special problem for those born in exile that had never lived in Israel. Why would they want to return there? The land was wasted, desolate, and devastated, why would anyone want to live in overcrowded conditions there? Their captives were gone. However, what would entice those who had spent their entire life elsewhere to move to a place that they had never known. There was nothing there to attract them. In fact, the mothers were upset at their children. They had spent their life bereaved, barren, alone, and exiled in a far away land. Who had reared these kids? Where did they come from? Why didn’t they want to go back to Israel? Was the influence of this new country too much for their own children?

The problems of surety (Sir 29:14-29:20)

“A good person

Will be surety

For his neighbor.

But the one who has lost

All sense of shame

Will fail him.

Do not forget

The kindness of your guarantor.

He has given his life for you.

A sinner wastes

The property of his guarantor.

The ungrateful person

Abandons his rescuer.

Being surety

Has ruined many

Who were prosperous.

It has tossed them about

Like waves on the sea.

It has driven the influential

Into exile.

They have wandered

Among foreign nations.

The sinner comes to grief

Through surety.

His pursuit of gain

Involves him in lawsuits.

Assist your neighbor

To the best of your ability.

But be careful

Not to fall yourself.”

Surety is guaranteeing of a loan or the collateral for a loan. Obviously, a good kind person will guarantee a loan for his neighbor. However, there are shameful people out there who will take advantage of this generous guarantee. A sinner and an ungrateful person will waste this guarantee. They will abandon their rescuer. Sirach says that guaranteeing loans for others has led many a prosperous person to be ruined and tossed about like waves on the sea. Some have been exiled and wander from country to country. Quite often the sinner and his actions lead to law suits. Sirach then ends with this cautionary note that you should try to help your neighbor as much as possible, but be careful and not fall yourself.