Jerusalem surrounded (Lk 21:20-21:20)

“When you see Jerusalem

Surrounded

By army camps,

Then know

That its desolation

Has come near.”

 

Ὅταν δὲ ἴδητε κυκλουμένην ὑπὸ στρατοπέδων Ἱερουσαλήμ, τότε γνῶτε ὅτι ἤγγικεν ἡ ἐρήμωσις αὐτῆς.

 

Luke indicated that Jesus said that when they would see Jerusalem (Ἱερουσαλήμ) surrounded by military army camps (Ὅταν δὲ ἴδητε κυκλουμένην ὑπὸ στρατοπέδων), then they should know (τότε γνῶτε) that its desolation was near (ὅτι ἤγγικεν ἡ ἐρήμωσις αὐτῆς).  Luke was the only Greek biblical writer that used the word στρατοπέδων that meant a military camp, an army, or an encamped army.  Perhaps, this was a reference to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE.  There was something similar in Matthew, chapter 24:15, and in Mark, chapter 13:14.  Mark said that Jesus warned them that when they saw the desolating sacrilege or cursed devastation (Ὅταν δὲ ἴδητε τὸ βδέλυγμα τῆς ἐρημώσεως) standing or set up in the place where it should not be (ἑστηκότα ὅπου οὐ δεῖ), those reading this should understand (ὁ ἀναγινώσκων νοείτω) what was happening.  Matthew indicated that Jesus warned that when they saw the desolating sacrilege or cursed devastation (Ὅταν οὖν ἴδητε τὸ βδέλυγμα τῆς ἐρημώσεως) standing in the holy place (ἑστὸς ἐν τόπῳ ἁγίῳ), they would understand (ὁ ἀναγινώσκων νοείτω) what was happening.  Only Matthew explicitly and specifically mentioned the prophet Daniel (τὸ ῥηθὲν διὰ Δανιὴλ τοῦ προφήτου), chapter 9:27 and chapter 11:31, talking about the desolating abomination in the Temple.  In 175 BCE, the prince, King Antiochus IV Epiphanes came to destroy the high priest Onias III, and the city of Jerusalem with its sanctuary during the war against the Maccabees uprising.  During that time, the sacrifices and offerings ceased in the Temple.  Instead, they had these terrible abominations and desolations of the false idols.  Thus, the reference to Daniel is both eschatological, about the end times, as well as a reference to the political religious revolt of the Maccabees nearly two centuries earlier.  Have you ever seen a religious shrine or church destroyed?

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The importance of Daniel (Mt 24:15-24:15)

“When you see

The desolating sacrilege

Standing in the holy place,

As was spoken of

By the prophet Daniel,

Let the reader understand!”

 

Ὅταν οὖν ἴδητε τὸ βδέλυγμα τῆς ἐρημώσεως τὸ ῥηθὲν διὰ Δανιὴλ τοῦ προφήτου ἑστὸς ἐν τόπῳ ἁγίῳ, ὁ ἀναγινώσκων νοείτω,

 

There is something similar in Mark, chapter 13:14, and in Luke, chapter 21:20, but only Matthew specifically mentioned the prophet Daniel.  Jesus warned that when they saw the desolating sacrilege or cursed devastation (Ὅταν οὖν ἴδητε τὸ βδέλυγμα τῆς ἐρημώσεως) standing in the holy place (ἑστὸς ἐν τόπῳ ἁγίῳ), they would understand (ὁ ἀναγινώσκων νοείτω) what was happening.  Matthew explicitly named the prophet Daniel (τὸ ῥηθὲν διὰ Δανιὴλ τοῦ προφήτου), chapter 9:27 and chapter 11:31, talking about the desolating abomination in the Temple.  In 175 BCE, the prince coming to destroy the high priest Onias III was probably King Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who came to destroy the city of Jerusalem and the sanctuary during the war against the Maccabees uprising.  During this time, the sacrifices and offerings ceased in the Temple.  Instead, they had these terrible abominations and desolations of the false idols.  Thus, the reference to Daniel is both eschatological about the end times as well as a reference to the political religious revolt of the Maccabees nearly 2 centuries earlier.

The anointed one was cut off (Dan 9:26-9:27)

“After the sixty-two weeks,

An anointed one

Shall be cut off.

He shall have nothing.

The troops

Of the prince,

Who is to come,

Shall destroy

The city.

He shall destroy

The sanctuary.

Its end shall come

With a flood.

To the end,

There shall be war.

Desolations are decreed.

He shall make

A strong covenant

With many

For one week.

For half

Of the week,

He shall make

Sacrifices cease.

He shall make

Offerings cease.

In their places,

There shall be an abomination

That desolates,

Until the decreed end

Is poured out

On the desolator.”

Well, that was a simple explanation by Gabriel! After 62 weeks, the anointed one would be cut off. In fact, there is some agreement that this anointed one was the high priest Onias III, who was deposed in 175 BCE. The prince coming to destroy him was probably King Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who came to destroy the city of Jerusalem and the sanctuary. It is unclear what the flood was about. Obviously, there was a war and the Maccabees uprising. The covenant for one week might mean 7 years, and ½ a week might mean 3 ½ years, the time when the sacrifices and offerings ceased in the Temple. Instead, they had the terrible abominations and desolations of the false idols. Finally, this all came to an end.

The warning from Yahweh (Ezek 8:12-8:13)

“Then Yahweh said to me.

‘Son of man!

Have you seen

What the elders

Of the house

Of Israel

Are doing

In the dark?

Each was in

His room of pictures.

They say.

‘Yahweh does not see us.

Yahweh has forsaken

The land.’

He said also to me.

‘You will see

Still greater abominations

That they are committing.’”

Yahweh warned Ezekiel, the son of man. Yahweh wanted to remind him of what he had just seen. The elders of Israel were worshipping false idols in the dark. Each of them had their own personal gods with their own little hidden rooms. These elders thought that Yahweh did not see what was going on, since Yahweh had left the land of Israel in the first captivity. Yahweh warned Ezekiel that he would see even greater abominations that the people of Israel were involved with.

The weak idols compared to the heavenly bodies (Bar 6:66-6:67)

“These weak idols

Can neither curse

Nor bless kings.

They cannot show signs

In the heavens

For the nations.

They cannot shine

Like the sun.

They cannot give light

Like the moon.”

Once again, this shows the weakness of these false idols, since they can neither curse nor bless kings. They cannot show signs in the heavens for the various nations. They cannot shine like the sun. They cannot give light like the moon. Instead of berating the nature gods of the sun or the moon, this author praises them. His emphasis was on those weak wooden man made false idols. Notice that this author believes that the moon gives light. In fact, we often still speak of moonlight. When in fact, the light from the moon is really a reflection of the sun.

The temple prostitutes (Bar 6:42-6:44)

“The women,

With cords around them,

Sit along the passageways.

The burn bran

For incense.

When one of them

Is led off

By one of the passers-by,

They are taken to bed

By him.

She then derides

The woman next to her,

Because she was not

As attractive

As herself.

Her cord

Was not broken.

Whatever is done

For these idols

Is false.

Why then must anyone think

That they are gods?

Why call them gods?”

Here there is a description of the temple prostitutes and their behavior. These women, with cords around them, would sit in the passageways at the temple, burning bran for incense. Then a passer-by would invite them or take them off to sleep with them. Strangely enough, when the woman would return, she would make fun of the other women who were not chosen to have sex with these passer-bys, because they were not as attractive as she was. These other women had no one to break their cords. Thus these false idols bring about all kinds of strange behaviors. That is why people might doubt that these were true gods. How could you call them gods?

These gods have no feeling (Bar 6:24-6:26)

“As for the gold

That these idol gods wear

For beauty,

It will not shine

Unless someone

Wipes off the tarnish.

Even when

They were being cast,

They had no feeling.

They are bought

Without regard to cost.

But there is no breath

In them.

Having no feet,

They are carried

On the shoulders of others.

They reveal

To all humans

Their worthlessness.”

This author’s diatribe against the false idols continues with an accusation that these idols have no feelings. They wear gold for beauty, but it will not shine unless someone else wipes off its tarnish. As these idols were cast in an iron furnace, they had no feelings while this was going on. However, money is not a problem with creating these idols. Even so, these expensive idol images have no breath and no feet. They have to be carried on the shoulders of others. Thus they reveal to everyone that they are worthless.