The bitter wrathful day of Yahweh (Zeph 1:14-1:16)

“The great day of Yahweh

Is near,

Near,

Coming fast.

The sound of

The day of Yahweh

Is bitter.

The warrior

Cries aloud there.

That day will be

A day of wrath,

A day of distress,

A day of anguish,

A day of ruin,

A day of devastation,

A day of darkness,

A day of gloom,

A day of clouds

A day of darkness,

A day of trumpet blast,

A day of battle cry,

Against the fortified cities,

Against the lofty battlements.”

The day of Yahweh was to be a day of wrath and doom, as can be found also in Amos, chapter 5 and Isaiah, chapter 2.  This great day for Yahweh was coming right away, very soon.  This bitter sound was in the air, as the warriors cried out loudly with their battle cry against the fortified cities and their secure fortresses.  This was a day of wrath, distress, anguish, ruin, devastation, darkness, gloom, clouds, and a trumpet blast, certainly not a happy day.  Thus, the natural connection to death formed the inspiration for the medieval funeral hymn, Dies Irae, Latin for the day of wrath.

The dark day of Yahweh (Am 5:18-5:20)

“Woe to you!

You who desire

The day of Yahweh!

Why do you want

The day of Yahweh?

It is darkness,

Not light.

It is like

As if someone fled

From a lion,

But a bear met him.

It is like

Someone went into the house.

They then rested

Their hand

Against the wall.

Then a serpent bit him.

Is not

The day of Yahweh

Darkness,

Not light?

It is gloom

With no brightness in it.”

The day of Yahweh meant many different things to the ancient Israelites. For some, it was a favorable intervention of Yahweh. For others, as here, it was a day of Yahweh’s anger. After the exile, it was considered a day of hope that the anger of Yahweh would turn on Israel’s oppressors. Then this day of Yahweh became a day of judgment, as a triumph for the righteous. Finally, there were cosmic signs that would accompany this day of Yahweh. Here, Amos wanted to know why anyone would want the day of Yahweh to come, because it was a time of darkness, not light. In fact, he wanted to curse them for wishing the day of Yahweh to come. This day of Yahweh was more like a person fleeing from a lion, only to run into a bear. It was like going into a house, and then resting your arm on the wall, only to be bit by a snake. For Amos, the day of Yahweh was a time of darkness, not light, a time of gloom and not brightness.

A description of the day of Yahweh (Joel 2:2-2:2)

“The day of Yahweh

Will be

A day of darkness,

A day of gloom,

A day of clouds,

A day of

Thick darkness!

It will be

Like blackness

Spread

Upon the mountains.

A great,

Powerful army

Comes.

Their like has never been

From of old,

Nor will be again,

After them,

In ages to come.”

Joel described the day of Yahweh. It would be a cloudy day of darkness and gloom. There would be a thick black darkness spread over the mountains. A great powerful army would come. They would be like no other army before or afterwards. This day of Yahweh bears a resemblance to the large swarm of locusts that created the impression of a dark day because of their huge numbers.

The future of Israel and Judah (Hos 1:10-1:11)

“Yet the number

Of the people of Israel

Shall be

Like the sand of the sea,

Which can be neither measured

Nor numbered.

In the place

Where it was said

To them.

‘You are not my people.’

It shall be said to them.

‘Children of the living God.’

The people of Judah

With the people of Israel

Shall be gathered together.

They shall appoint

For themselves

One head.

They shall take possession

Of the land.

Great shall be

The day of Jezreel.”

For some reason, these two verses are not in the Bible of Jerusalem. However, they are in the Oxford Bible, so I will comment on them. There seems to be an abrupt change of tone. Instead of not being his people, suddenly Israel would be as numerous as the sands of the sea, a common theme. They would once again be known as the children of the living God. On top of that, they would once again join with Judah, having one leader, a theme that was prevalent during the captivity. Further, the idea that they should take possession of the land was a strong captivity idea. Once again, there will be a great day at Jezreel, after the doom and gloom that had preceded this comment.

The cedar tree goes down into Sheol (Ezek 31:15-31:15)

“Thus says Yahweh God!

‘On the day

It went down

To Sheol,

I closed the deep

Over it.

I covered it.

I restrained

Its rivers.

It mighty waters

Were checked.

I clothed Lebanon

In gloom

For it.

All the trees

Of the field

Fainted

Because of it.’”

Once again, carrying on the theme that Yahweh was in control of all the trees, Yahweh closed the deep abyss that had given water to this great cedar tree. Yahweh covered over and restrained the deep abyss streams that were now held in check. The cedar tree, like other humans, had gone to Sheol, the shadowy underworld afterlife place. Thus, Lebanon was in gloom and mourning for the lost personified tree. Also, all the other trees of the forest fainted because of this happening.

The great drought (Jer 14:2-14:6)

“Judah mourns.

Her gates languish.

Her people lie in gloom

On the ground.

The cry of Jerusalem goes up.

Her nobles send their servants

For water.

They come to the cisterns.

They find no water.

They return

With their vessels empty.

They are ashamed.

They are dismayed.

They cover their heads.

Because the ground is cracked.

Because there has been no rain

On the land.

The farmers are dismayed.

They cover their heads.

Even the doe in the field

Forsakes her newborn fawn.

Because there is no grass.

The wild asses stand

On the bare heights.

They pant for air

Like jackals.

Their eyes fail.

Because there is no herbage.”

This drought had Judah in mourning. Gloom was all around. The nobles sent their servants for water, but the well cisterns had no water. Thus they returned empty handed, being ashamed and dismayed. They too went into mourning by covering their heads. The dry ground was cracking because there had been no rain in the land. The farmers were dismayed and went into mourning by covering their heads. Even the deer were giving up their young fawns since they could not find any grass. The wild asses on the bare heights had breathing difficulties. Their eyes were failing because they could not find any wild green plants to eat. Everyone was having difficulty in this drought.

The threat of the imminent exile (Jer 13:15-13:17)

“Hear!

Give ear!

Do not be haughty!

Yahweh has spoken.

Give glory to Yahweh!

Your God!

Before he brings darkness.

Give glory to Yahweh!

Your God!

Before your feet stumble

On the mountains at twilight.

While you look for light

He turns it into gloom.

He makes it deep darkness.

But if you will not listen,

My soul will weep in secret

For your pride.

My eyes will weep bitterly.

Tears will run down my cheeks

Because Yahweh’s flock

Has been taken captive.”

Jeremiah talks about an imminent captivity. They seem to have one last chance to listen to the words of Yahweh and not be proud. They would have to give glory to Yahweh, their God. Otherwise their feet would stumble as if they were on a mountain at twilight. The light was soon going to turn to darkness and gloom. If they did not listen to God, then Jeremiah would weep in secret because of their pride. He would weep bitterly with tears running down his cheeks, because they were going to be taken into captivity.