Against the Assyrians (Zeph 2:13-2:14)

“Yahweh will stretch out

His hand

Against the north.

He will destroy

Assyria.

He will make

Nineveh

A desolation,

A dry waste,

Like the desert.

Herds shall lie down in it.

Every wild animal

Shall lie down in it.

The desert owl,

The screech owl

Shall lodge

On its capitals

The owl shall hoot

At the window.

The raven shall croak

On the threshold.

Its cedar works

Will be laid bare.”

Yahweh was going to stretch out his hand to destroy the enemy of Israel to the north, the Assyrians.  He had just punished the people on the west, the Philistines, the people on the east, the Moabites and the Ammonites, and the people to the south, the Ethiopians.  Yahweh was going to make northern Nineveh a desolate wasteland desert.   Every kind of wild animal and various herds would live there.  A variety of owls would nest in their ornate towers.  Owls would hoot at their windows, while ravens would croak at their doorsteps.  All their cedar wood work would be open to the weather.

The failure of Ephraim (Hos 5:5-5:7)

“Israel’s pride

Testifies against him.

Ephraim stumbles

In his guilt.

Judah also shall stumble

With them.

With their flocks,

With their herds,

They shall go

To seek Yahweh.

But they will not find him,

He has withdrawn

From them.

They have dealt faithlessly

With Yahweh.

They have borne

Illegitimate children.

Now the new moon

Shall devour them

With their fields.”

Israel’s pride would testify against them. Ephraim would stumble with guilt. But Judah would also stumble with them. They would go with their flocks and herds seeking Yahweh, but they would not find him. Yahweh has withdrawn from them, because they did not treat Yahweh faithfully. They, thus, bore illegitimate children, so that the new moon festivals would devour them with their fields.

The coming invading destruction (Jer 5:14-5:17)

“Therefore thus says Yahweh!

The God of hosts!

‘Because they have spoken this word,

I am making my words

In your mouth a fire.

This people shall be wood.

The fire shall devour them.

I am going to bring upon you

A nation from far away.

O house of Israel!’

Says Yahweh.

‘It is an enduring nation,

It is an ancient nation,

It is a nation whose language

You do not know.

You cannot understand what they say.

Their quiver is

Like an open tomb.

All of them are mighty warriors.

They shall eat up your harvest.

They shall eat your food.

They shall eat up your sons.

They shall eat up your daughters.

They shall eat up your flocks.

They shall eat up your herds.

They shall eat up your vines.

They shall eat up your fig trees.

They shall destroy with the sword

Your fortified cities

In which you trust.’”

Yahweh tells Jeremiah about the impending destructive invasion. They would be set on fire from their mouths. A nation from far away would come upon the house of Israel. They would not understand the language of this ancient enduring nation. This nation’s mighty warriors had many arrows to hit them. They would come and eat up the food of their harvest. They would devour their sons and daughters. They would eat up their flocks, herds, vines, and fig trees. They would destroy their trusted fortified cities with the sword. Destruction was coming.

The shamed Israelites (Jer 3:24-3:25)

“But from our youth

The shameful thing has

devoured all the things

For which our ancestors had labored,

Their flocks,

Their herds,

Their sons.

Their daughters.

Let us lie down in our shame!

Let our dishonor cover us!

We have sinned

Against Yahweh

Our God,

We,

With our ancestors,

From our youth,

Even to this day.

We have not obeyed

The voice of Yahweh our God.”

Jeremiah remarks that the Israelites were ashamed. Since their youth, they and their ancestors had done shameful things. All the work they had done with their flocks, herds, sons, and daughters has led them to be ashamed. They wanted dishonor to cover them, because they had sinned against Yahweh, their God, from their youth, and even as far back as their ancestors. They have not obeyed the voice of Yahweh, their God.

A good cluster of grapes (Isa 65:8-65:10)

“Thus says Yahweh.

‘As the wine is found in the cluster,

They say.

‘Do not destroy it!

There is a blessing in it!’

So I will do for my servants’ sake.

I will not destroy them all.

I will bring forth descendants

From Jacob.

I will bring from Judah

Inheritors of my mountains.

My chosen ones shall inherit it.

My servants shall settle there.

Sharon shall become

A pasture for flocks.

The Valley of Achor shall become

A place for herds to lie down.

My people have sought me.”

Yahweh here makes an exception. He would not destroy all of them. Just like a good cluster of grapes should be saved for wine, so too, he would save the good Israelites. No one wants to destroy a good cluster of grapes because it was considered a blessing. Yahweh was going to bring descendants from the people of Jacob. The people from Judah would inherit the mountains. These chosen servants of Yahweh would inherit this land and live there. Sharon, the northern coastal plain area, would become a place for flocks to pasture, while the arid valley of Achor, west of the Dead Sea, would also be a great place for herds to rest. Yahweh is doing this because some of his people had sought him out.

The power of God in Egypt (Ps 78:42-78:51)

“They did not keep in mind his power.

They did not remember

The day when he redeemed them from their foe.

He displayed his signs in Egypt.

He displayed his miracles in the fields of Zoan.

He turned their rivers to blood.

They could not drink of their streams.

He sent swarms of flies among them.

The flies devoured them.

He sent frogs among them,

The frogs destroyed them.

He gave their crops to the caterpillar.

He gave the fruit of their labor to the locust.

He destroyed their vines with hail.

He destroyed their sycamores with frost.

He gave over their cattle to the hail.

He gave their flocks to thunderbolts.

He let loose on them his fierce anger.

He let loose on them his wrath.

He let loose on them his indignation.

He let loose on them his distress.

He let loose a company of destroying angels.

He made a path for his anger.

He did not spare them from death.

He gave their lives over to the plague.

He struck all the first-born in Egypt.

He stuck the first issue of their strength

In the tents of Ham.”

Here the psalmist recalls the powerful acts recorded in Exodus, chapters 7-12, about the great plagues in Egypt. He wanted to recall the great events that God did in Egypt for them against their foes. He lists the various signs or miracles that took place in the Egyptian fields of Zoan or Ramses in order to save them and bring them out of Egypt. First he turned all their streams to blood. Then he let loose swarms of flies, frogs, caterpillars, and locusts that destroyed their crops. Then he let loose with hail and thunder that destroyed their cattle and herds. He then let loose the destroying angels that brought death. They struck down all the first born people and animals that were living in Ham, another word for Egypt based on Genesis. Clearly the plagues of Egypt were part of Israelite folklore built into the Israelite psyche.

The exploits of Holofernes (Jdt 2:21-2:28)

“They marched for three days from Nineveh to the plain of Bectileth. There they camped opposite Bectileth, near the mountain that is to the north of Upper Cilicia. From there Holofernes took his whole army, his infantry, cavalry, and chariots, and went up into the hill country. He ravaged Put and Lud. He plundered all the Rassisites and the Ishmaelites on the border of the desert, south of the country of the Chelleans. Then he followed the Euphrates River and passed through Mesopotamia. He destroyed all the hilltop cities along the brook Abron, as far as the sea. He also seized the territory of Cilicia. He killed every one who resisted him. Then he came to the southern borders of Japheth, fronting toward Arabia. He surrounded all the Midianites. He burned their tents and plundered their sheepfolds. Then he went down into the plain of Damascus during the wheat harvest. He burned all their fields. He destroyed their flocks and herds. He sacked their towns. He ravaged their lands. He put to death all their young men with the edge of the sword. Fear and dread of him fell upon all the people who lived along the seacoast. This included those at Sidon and Tyre, as well as those who lived in Sur, Ocina, and all who lived in Jamnia. Those who lived in Azotus and Ascalon feared him greatly.”

The geography here is a little muddled. It is about 600 miles from Nineveh to Damascus, but here it seems like just a few days. No one seems to know where this Bectileth was. Cilicia was on the Mediterranean Sea in Asia Minor, part of modern day Turkey. It, too, was about 500-600 miles from Nineveh, a difficult trip in 3 days, even in our modern times. Lud maybe the Syrian Lydia, but it is difficult to find Put. It is also difficult to know much about the Rassisites, the Ishmaelites, or the Chelleans. Generally, Ishmaelites usually referred to Arabs.   It is also difficult to pinpoint the Abron brook. Obviously, he traveled south along the Euphrates River, which is about 300 miles east of the seacoast. Japheth was near Arabia, which would be south of where he was. He also attacked the Midianites, on his way to Damascus. Holofernes burned down the wheat fields, destroyed the flocks and herds, sacked and ravaged the land. He killed their young men. He then turned further south towards the coast. Thus there was great fear in Sidon and Tyre, as well as all along the coastal towns of   Sur, Ocina, Jamnia, Azotus, and Ascalon near Tyre, in the Asher tribe territory.