Among the nations!
Set up a banner!
Do not conceal it!
‘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.
‘This shall be the sign
That I am going
To punish you
In this place.
Thus you may know
That my words
Will surely be carried out.’
Thus says Yahweh.
‘I am going to give
The king of Egypt,
Into the hand of his enemies,
Those who seek his life.
Just as I gave
Into the hand
Of King Nebuchadnezzar
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 said.
‘Thus says Yahweh of hosts!
The God of Israel!
To all the exiles
Whom I have sent
Live in them!
Eat what they produce!
Take wives for your sons!
Give your daughters
Thus they may bear sons.
Thus they may bear daughters.
Do not decrease!
But seek the welfare
Of the city
Where I have sent you
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.
“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.
To the choirmaster leader, a psalm of the Sons of Korah
You were favorable to your land!
You restored the fortunes of Jacob.
You forgave the iniquity of your people.
You pardoned all their sin.”
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.
“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?’”
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.
“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!
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.
“Now when Jonathan saw that the time was favorable for him, he chose men and sent them to Rome to confirm and renew the friendship with them. He also sent letters to the same effect to the Spartans and to other places. So they went to Rome. They entered the senate chamber and said.
‘The high priest Jonathan
And the Jewish nation
Have sent us to renew the former friendship
And alliance with them.’
The Romans gave them letters to the people in every place. They asked them to provide for the envoys safe conduct to the land of Judah.”
Jonathan seemed to think that things were quiet enough in Judah for him to send messengers to the Roman Senate, as well as the Spartans. The Spartans were people from Sparta or Lacedaemonians, who were somehow related to the Jews. The Jewish message to the Roman Senate was that they wanted to renew their former friendship and alliance. The alliance that his dead brother had made with Rome was in chapter 8 of this book. All they needed was safe passage.