“They will plunder
They will loot
They will break down
They will destroy
Your fine houses.
They will cast
Into the water
I will silence
Of your songs.
Of your lyres
Will be heard
I will make you
A bare rock.
You shall be a place
For spreading nets.
You shall never
Says Yahweh God.”
Yahweh, via Ezekiel, said that he was going to have the Babylonians plunder their riches and loot the merchandise of the city of Tyre. These Babylonian invaders were going to break down their walls and destroy the fine houses of Tyre. These invaders were going to throw the local stones, timber, and soil of Tyre into the water. There would be no more music or songs. Yahweh would silence the sounds of the lyres or harps. Tyre would become a bare rock or a place for spreading fishing nets. It would never be rebuilt again. Yahweh, God, had spoken. Actually, the siege of Tyre lasted 12 years and then they settled things. Alexander the Great in 332 BCE also captured Tyre. This ancient Phoenician island city still exists in southern Lebanon today with about 100,000 people.
“I have more on my mind
I am full
Like the full moon.
Listen to me!
My faithful children!
Blossom like a rose!
May it grow
By a stream of water!
Send out fragrance
Put forth blossoms
Like a lily!
Scatter the fragrance!
Sing a hymn of praise!
Bless the Lord
For all his works!
Ascribe majesty to his name!
Give thanks to him
With songs on your lips!
This is what
You shall say in thanksgiving.”
Sirach assumes the first person singular in talking to his children. He has a lot more to tell them because his mind is like a full moon. He wanted his children to be like rose blossoms and grow by a water stream. He wanted the scent of the lily blossoms to be like incense that would be scattered around. He wanted them to sing a hymn of praise to the majestic Lord. The Lord should be blessed for all his works. Praise and thanksgiving should be given to the Lord with songs and harps. He was about to tell them what they should say in their thanksgiving prayer.
“The men who were in the citadel at Jerusalem were prevented from going in and out to the country to buy and sell things. So they were very hungry. Many of them perished from famine. Then they cried to Simon to make peace with them. So he did. He expelled them from there. He cleansed the citadel from its pollutions. On the twenty-third day of the second month, in the one hundred seventy-first year, the Jews entered it with praise and palm branches. They had harps, cymbals, and stringed instruments. They sang hymns and songs because a great enemy had been crushed and removed from Israel. Simon decreed that every year they should celebrate this day with rejoicing. He strengthened the fortifications of the temple hill alongside the citadel. He and his men lived there. Simon saw that his son John had reached manhood, so he made him commander of all the forces. He lived at Gazara.”
The Syrian men who were in the Jerusalem citadel could not go in or out to buy or sell anything. Thus they became hungry like a famine. Finally, they wanted to make peace with Simon. He decided to expel them from the citadel. There was a big celebration with praise and palm branches as the Jews entered the citadel in 141 BCE, about a year after their independence. Before they went in with harps, cymbals, and stringed instruments singing hymns and songs, they had the citadel cleansed from the foreign pollutions. They were going to celebrate this every year on the 23rd day of the 2nd month, that is sometime in May. Simon and his men decided to live in the citadel. He sent his son John to be the commander of the armed forces and live in Gaza. This apparently was his son John Hyrcanus who was the high priest from 134-104 BCE.
“Early in the morning on the twenty-fifth day of the ninth month, which is the month of Chislev, in the one hundred forty-eighth year, they rose and offered sacrifice. As the law directs, they offered this on the new altar of burnt offering that they had built. At the very season and on the very day that the gentiles had profaned it, it was dedicated with songs, harps, lutes, and cymbals. All the people fell on their faces and worshiped. They blessed heaven who had prospered them. So they celebrated the dedication of the altar for eight days. They joyfully offered burnt offerings. They offered a sacrifice of well-being and a thanksgiving offering. They decorated the front of the temple with golden crowns and small shields. They restored the gates and the chambers for the priests. They fitted them with doors. There was very great joy among the people. The disgrace brought by the gentiles was removed.”
Now this took place on the 25th day of Chislev in the 148th year, December of 164 BCE, exactly 3 years after the gentiles had profaned the sanctuary with the worship of Zeus. They were very careful to point out that it was the same day, and same month, only 3 years later. They now sacrificed on their new burnt offering altar. All the people fell on their face as they worshipped. They blessed heaven. It is interesting to note that it is heaven and not explicitly God that they praise. Heaven has become more than a high place, but the place of God himself. There is a personification or divination of heaven. They celebrated for 8 days, as they offered sacrifices of well-being and thanksgiving. They decorated the front of the Temple with golden crowns and shields. They restored the gates and the chambers for the priests with new doors. There was great joy among the people because the disgrace of the gentiles had been removed.
“Now at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought out the Levites in all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem to celebrate the dedication with rejoicing, thanksgivings, and singing, along with cymbals, harps, and lyres. The companions of the singers gathered together from the circuit round Jerusalem and from the villages of the Netophathites. They also came from Beth-Gilgal and from the region of Geba and Azmaveth. The singers had built for themselves villages around Jerusalem. The priests and the Levites purified themselves. They purified the people, the gates, and the wall.”
This probably should have come after chapter 6 in this book, when the wall was completed. In some ways it is reminiscent of the dedication of the Temple that was in Ezra, chapter 6. They wanted all the Levites from every town to come to the celebration with their various musical instruments, cymbals, harp, and lyres. They were to rejoice and given thanksgiving. The singers had made villages around Jerusalem. The priests and Levites purified themselves, the people, the gates, and the wall.
“King Hezekiah stationed the Levites in the house of Yahweh. They had cymbals, harps, and lyres, according to the commandment of King David, Gad the king’s seer, and the prophet Nathan. This commandment was from Yahweh through his prophets. The Levites stood with the instruments of David. The priests had the trumpets. Then King Hezekiah commanded that the burnt offering be offered on the altar. When the burnt offering began, the song to Yahweh began also with the trumpets, accompanied by the instruments of King David of Israel. The whole assembly worshiped. The singers sang. The trumpeters sounded. All this continued until the burnt offering was finished. When the offering was finished, the king and all who were present with him bowed down and worshiped. King Hezekiah and the officials commanded the Levites to sing praises to Yahweh with the words of King David and of the seer Asaph. They sang praises with gladness. They bowed down and worshiped.”
During the burning or the cooking of the animal sacrifices, the musical part of the celebration at the Temple began. Here the musicians play a major role, unlike the Spartan sacrifices and feasts that followed the Mosaic Law. However, the justification of the musicians was from the prophets of Yahweh, particularly at the time of King David, Gad and Nathan. The king commanded this organized musical praise of Yahweh with a slight theatrical flair. Throughout the burnt offering, the trumpets blasted, the instruments sounded, the singers sung. All this happened during the burning or cooking of the animals until they were done. When they finished, King Hezekiah and his officials bowed down and worshipped. They then asked the singers to sing the songs of King David and Asaph, which is probably a reference to the psalms.
“When Judah came to the watchtower of the wilderness, they looked toward the multitude. There were corpses lying on the ground. No one had escaped. When King Jehoshaphat and his people came to take the booty from them, they found livestock in great numbers, goods, clothing, and precious things, which they took for themselves until they could carry no more. They spent three days taking the booty, because of its abundance. On the fourth day they assembled in the Valley of Beracah, for there they blessed Yahweh. Therefore that place has been called the Valley of Beracah to this day. Then all the people of Judah and Jerusalem, with King Jehoshaphat at their head, returned to Jerusalem with joy. Yahweh had enabled them to rejoice over their enemies. They came to Jerusalem, with harps, lyres, and trumpets, to the house of Yahweh. The fear of God came on all the kingdoms of the countries when they heard that Yahweh had fought against the enemies of Israel. The realm of King Jehoshaphat was quiet. God gave him rest all around.”
When Judah and its king arrived at the spot where they would do battle with their enemies, they were surprised to see that they were all dead, with bodies all over the place. No one was alive. This was a strange massacre since everyone killed everyone else with no survivors. Thus King Jehoshaphat and his people gathered up all the booty for 3 days. There were livestock, goods, and clothing. After 3 days they could not take any more. On the 4th day they praised Yahweh in the Valley of Beracah. Some have speculated that this was on the road from Hebron to Jerusalem near Tekoa. Therefore they did not have to go far to return home with all their goodies. Moab and Ammon were defeated. When all the other countries heard that Yahweh had defeated the enemies of Judah, they too were in fear of Judah. Thus there was rest all around King Jehoshaphat. So ends the King Jehoshaphat story of this biblical writer.
“Moreover the servants of King Huram and the servants of King Solomon, who brought gold from Ophir, brought algum wood and precious stones. From the algum wood, the king made steps for the house of Yahweh. For the king’s house, he made lyres and harps for the singers. There never was seen the like of them before in the land of Judah.”
Once again, based on 1 Kings, chapter 10, King Solomon, who was an expert in wood, with his cedar and cypress wood planks, also had some almug wood, some kind of hard wood, which came from near the gold mines of Ophir. It is sometimes referred to as sandalwood. He also had some precious stones from his mines. Here he used this almug wood as steps for the Temple, and not as supports in the Temple as in 1 Kings. He also made lyres and harps from this wood. No one has ever seen any wood like this before. There is no mention of the present day as in 1 Kings.
“The sons of Heman were Bukkiah, Mattaniah, Uzziel, Shebuel, and Jerimoth, Hananiah, Hanani, Eliathah, Giddalti, Romamti-ezer, Joshbekashah, Mallothi, Hothir, and Mahazioth. All these were the sons of Heman the king’s seer, according to the promise of God to exalt him. God had given Heman fourteen sons and three daughters. They were all under the direction of their father for the music in the house of Yahweh. They played cymbals, harps, and lyres for the service of the house of God.”
Heman had 14 sons and 3 daughters. Apparently, they all performed music in the house of Yahweh, the Temple, with cymbals, harps, and lyres. Heman was also called a seer or prophet to the king. Of Heman’s 14 listed sons, 8 of them are names that only are mentioned here and in the giving of the lots, but nowhere else in the biblical literature, (1) Bukkiah, (8) Eliathah, (9) Giddalti, (10) Romamti-ezer, (11) Joshbekashah, (12) Mallothi, (13) Hothir, and (14) Mahazioth. There were 9 different people with the name of (2) Mattaniah, but this Mattaniah will be in charge of the 9th group of singers. There were 8 different people with this name of (3) Uzziel. There was only 1 other (4) Shebuel. There were 7 different people with the name of (5) Jerimoth. There were 13 different people with the name of (6) Hananiah. There were 5 different people with the name of (7) Hanani.
“King David and the officers of the army also set apart certain of the sons of Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun for the worship service. They should prophesy with lyres, with harps, and with cymbals.”
As mentioned earlier in chapter 6 of this book, King David was associated with songs, music, and psalms. Thus it does not seem strange that he should appoint Levites to sing songs in the house of Yahweh. The problem is that the house of Yahweh was only established under Solomon. Therefore, this section talks about songs around the tabernacle in the tent of meeting. However, once the temple was complete, they performed there. The 3 people in charge were Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun. Earlier in chapter 6 it was Ethan rather than Jeduthun who was in charge. The other 2 people are the same as the 2 mentioned in chapter 6.