The fall of the Babylonian gods (Jer 50:2-50:2)

“Declare!

Among the nations!

Proclaim!

Set up a banner!

Proclaim!

Do not conceal it!

Say!

‘Babylon is taken!

Bel is put to shame!

Merodach is dismayed!

Her images are put to shame!

Her idols are dismayed!’”

This oracle of Yahweh says that Jeremiah should proclaim to the various nations and not conceal the fact that Babylon was taken. However, Jeremiah died in 582 BCE and Babylon was defeated in 539 BCE, over forty years after the death of Jeremiah. Previously, Jeremiah had been very favorable to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. Here he was told to set up a banner that said that Babylon with its false idol gods was put to shame and dismayed, especially two Babylonian gods, Bel and Merodach. Bel was another encompassing word for master or lord as some of the Hebrew words used about Yahweh. It also had some connection to Baal in the Mesopotamian area. Merodach or Marduk was the principal god or patron of the city of Babylon. Thus these two major Babylonian gods would be put to shame and dismayed. Much the same can be found in Isaiah, chapter 46.

The sign from Yahweh about the Egyptian Pharaoh (Jer 44:29-44:30)

“Says Yahweh.

‘This shall be the sign

To you,

That I am going

To punish you

In this place.

Thus you may know

That my words

Against you

Will surely be carried out.’

Thus says Yahweh.

‘I am going to give

Pharaoh Hophra,

The king of Egypt,

Into the hand of his enemies,

Those who seek his life.

Just as I gave

King Zedekiah

Of Judah

Into the hand

Of King Nebuchadnezzar

Of Babylon,

His enemy,

Who sought his life.’”

Yahweh, via Jeremiah, said that he was going to give these Judeans in Egypt a sign that he was going to punish them in Egypt. The sign that he gave them was the fact that Pharaoh Hophra, the king of Egypt, would be overthrown by his enemies. Pharaoh Hophra was also known as King Apries (589-570 BCE), who would have been the ruler during this Judean refugee migration to Egypt. He was favorable to the Judeans, since he had tried unsuccessfully to protect Jerusalem from King Nebuchadnezzar during the siege of that city. He was killed in 570 by the new Pharaoh Amasis, who ruled from 570-526 BCE. Yahweh had done the same to King Zedekiah of Judah. Thus Yahweh wanted to show them that he had control over all kings.

The letter suggests that they assimilate into Babylon (Jer 29:4-29:7)

“The letter said.

‘Thus says Yahweh of hosts!

The God of Israel!

To all the exiles

Whom I have sent

Into exile

From Jerusalem

To Babylon.

Build houses!

Live in them!

Plant gardens!

Eat what they produce!

Take wives!

Have sons!

Have daughters!

Take wives for your sons!

Give your daughters

In marriage!

Thus they may bear sons.

Thus they may bear daughters.

Multiply there!

Do not decrease!

But seek the welfare

Of the city

Where I have sent you

Into exile.

Pray to Yahweh

On its behalf.

In its welfare

You will find your welfare.’”

Interesting enough, this letter is very favorable to the Babylonians. After all, it was going to the king of Babylon. Once again it is the classical Jeremiah oracle with Yahweh of hosts, the God of Israel, as the source of this letter. They were to build houses, live in them, plant gardens, and eat from their produce. They were to have wives and children. They were to take wives for their sons and give their daughters in marriage, so that they could become grandparents. They should multiply there, not decrease. In fact, they were to get involved in the city there by praying to Yahweh for its welfare. After all, if the city did well, so would they. This seems like a clear attempt to assimilate into the Babylonian culture and society.

The stories about David (Ps 109:16-109:19)

“He did not remember to show kindness.

He pursued the poor and needy.

He pursued the brokenhearted to their death.

He loved to curse.

Let curses come on him!

He did not like blessing.

May it be far from him!

He clothed himself with cursing as his coat.

May it soak into his body like water!

May it soak into his bones like oil!

May it be like a garment that he wraps around himself!

May it be like a belt with that he wears everyday!”

This is one of the few descriptions of David that is not favorable. It was an attempt to portray David as some others saw him. Apparently David did not show kindness. He pursued the poor, the needy, and brokenhearted to their death. He loved to curse so that curses should come back on him. He did not like blessings as he clothed himself in cursing. Thus the wish was for him to soak his body like water and his bones like oil. He should wear these garments and belts every day. Somehow he was to wear something like a scarlet letter of disapproval so that all could see it.

A prayer to Yahweh (Ps 85:1-85:2)

To the choirmaster leader, a psalm of the Sons of Korah

“Yahweh!

You were favorable to your land!

You restored the fortunes of Jacob.

You forgave the iniquity of your people.

You pardoned all their sin.”

Selah

Psalm 85 is another in the choral psalms of the Korahites, the Temple singers. This prayer to Yahweh thanks him for being favorable to the land of Jacob. Yahweh had restored the fortunes of Jacob, thus indicating a return from captivity. Yahweh has forgotten their iniquities. He has pardoned their sins. This section ends with the musical interlude meditative pause of Selah.

Has Yahweh forgotten me? (Ps 77:4-77:9)

“You keep my eyelids from closing.

I am so troubled that I cannot speak.

I consider the days of old.

I remember the years long ago.

I commune with my heart in the night.

I meditate and search my spirit.

‘Will Yahweh spurn me forever?

Will Yahweh never again be favorable?

Has his steadfast love ceased forever?

Are his promises at an end for all time?

Has God forgotten to be gracious?

Has he in anger shut up his compassion?’”

Selah

Asaph or this psalmist suffers from mental anguish. He feels that God has forgotten him. He could not close his eyes. He was troubled as he remembered the good old days. He was self reflective, searching his heart. He could hardly speak. He had a series of questions about God. Was he spurned forever? Would Yahweh never be favorable to him again? Had God forgotten his promises? Had God forgotten his steadfast love and graciousness to him? Was God so angry that he could not be compassionate? This is a questioning troubled person. This meditative section ends with the musical interlude pause of Selah.

The power of Yahweh over the proud and wicked (Job 40:10-40:14)

“Deck yourself with majesty and dignity!

Clothe yourself with glory and splendor!

Pour out the over flowing of your anger!

Look on all who are proud!

Abase them!

Look on all who are proud!

Bring him low!

Tread down the wicked where they stand!

Hide them all in the dust together!

Bind their faces in the world below!

Then will I also acknowledge to you.

Your own right hand can give you victory.”

This is a very favorable comment about Job. He was told to put on majesty and dignity. He was to cloth himself with glory and splendor. Yahweh told Job to look at the proud and the wicked people. Job was to humiliate the proud and bring them low. He was to tread on the wicked ones so that they return to dust. He wanted them sent to the underworld. Yahweh would acknowledge Job and give him a victory with his right hand.