The anger of Yahweh (Nah 1:2-1:3)

Aleph

“Yahweh is

A jealous God.

Yahweh is

An avenging God.

Yahweh is

Avenging.

Yahweh is

Wrathful.

Yahweh takes vengeance

On his adversaries.

He rages

Against his enemies.

Yahweh is

Slow to anger.

But Yahweh is

Great in power.

Yahweh will

By no means

Clear the guilty.”

This book opens with an incomplete acrostic psalm, as it only gets to the letter Kaph.  However, this opening letter Aleph is very clear.  Yahweh was a jealous, avenging, and wrathful God.  He took out his vengeance and raged against his adversaries and enemies.  However, Yahweh was slow to anger, but he was very powerful.  Thus, he would not clear the guilty ones very easily.

The vicious request of Jeremiah (Jer 18:21-18:23)

“Therefore give their children

Over to famine!

Hurl them out

To the power of the sword!

Let their wives become childless!

Let their wives become widowed!

May their men meet death

By pestilence!

May their youths be slain

By the sword in battle!

May a cry be heard

From their houses,

When you bring the marauder

Suddenly upon them.

They have dug a pit

To catch me.

They laid snares

For my feet.

Yet you!

Yahweh!

Know all their plotting

To kill me.

Do not forgive their iniquity!

Do not blot out their sin

From your sight!

Let them be tripped up before you!

Deal with them

While you are angry!”

Jeremiah does not hold back his contempt for his adversaries. He is vicious in this lament to Yahweh. First, he wanted their children to die whether by famine or by the sword. He wanted their wives to be childless and widows. He hoped that they might die from a pestilence. He wanted their young men killed in battle. He wanted a marauder to suddenly attack them. They had plotted to catch him and kill him in a pit, as they laid snares for his feet. He told Yahweh not to forgive their iniquity, not to blot out their sins. They should be tripped up. He wanted Yahweh to deal with them while he was angry, so that they would receive a worse sentence. There was no sense of Jeremiah’s mercy or compassion here. He wanted his enemies completely destroyed.

Prayer to God for his presence (Isa 64:1-64:5)

“O that you would tear open the heavens!

O that you would come down!

Thus the mountains would quake

At your presence!

Fire kindles brushwood.

Fire causes water to boil.

I want to make your name

Known to your adversaries.

Thus the nations might tremble

At your presence!

When you did awesome deeds

That we did not expect

You came down.

The mountains quaked

At your presence!

From ages past,

No one has heard,

No ear has perceived,

No eye has seen any God

Besides you.

You work for those

Who wait for you.

You meet those

Who gladly do right.

You meet those

Who remember you in your ways.”

This prophet wants Yahweh to be present among his people by tearing open the heavens to come down to earth. He wanted to see the mountains quake at his presence. He wanted Yahweh to be kindling wood in a brush that would start a fire or have that same fire make water boil. He wanted Yahweh’s name known to his adversaries. He wanted the nations to tremble at the sight of Yahweh. He wanted something unexpected to happen, like the mountains shake in his presence. He wanted something that no one had ever heard of or seen before. Only God could do this awesome deed. No one besides him. God would appear to those who waited for him. He would meet those who gladly did the right thing by remembering God’s ways.

God will vindicate the servant of Yahweh (Isa 50:7-50:9)

“Yahweh God helps me.

Therefore I have not been disgraced.

Therefore I have set my face

Like a flint.

I know that I shall not be put to shame.

He who vindicates me is near.

Who will contend with me?

Let us stand up together.

Who are my adversaries?

Let them confront me.

It is Yahweh God who helps me.

Who will declare me guilty?

All of them will wear out

Like a garment.

The moth will eat them up.”

Second Isaiah says that this suffering servant will be vindicated. God would help him, so that he can suffer for God’s sake. This servant had a hard flint like face, because he knew that he would not be put to shame. Yahweh was near to him. Who was going to contend with this servant? Where were his adversaries? He would stand together with Yahweh. Let them try to confront him, because God would help him. No one will declare him guilty.   All of them will wear out like a moth eaten old garment. Thus this is suffering for God with a clear purpose.

Prayer for life (Sir 23:1-23:3)

“O Lord!

Father!

Ruler of my life!

Do not abandon me

To their designs!

Do not let me fall

Because of them!

Who will set whips

Over my thoughts?

Who will set

The discipline of wisdom

Over my mind?

Do not spare me

In my errors!

Do not overlook my sins!

Otherwise my mistakes

May be multiplied.

My sins may abound.

I may fall

Before my adversaries.

My enemy may rejoice

Over me.

From them,

The hope of your mercy

Is remote.”

Sirach prays to the Lord, the Father, the ruler of his life. He did not want to fall into the hands of his enemies. He wanted to be disciplined with wisdom. He did not want to be spared from his errors and sins. If these sins and errors were not corrected now, they would multiply. His sins would increase exponentially. He would fall before his adversaries. Then his enemies would rejoice over him. He knew that he had no chance of mercy from them, unlike the mercy of God that protected his life.

The test of the righteous one (Wis 2:17-2:20)

“‘Let us see if his words are true.

Let us test what will happen

At the end of his life.

If the righteous man is God’s son,

He will help him.

He will deliver him

From the hand of his adversaries.

Let us test him with insult.

Let us test him with torture.

Thus we may find out how gentle he is.

Let us make trial of his forbearance.

Let us condemn him to a shameful death.

According to what he says,

He will be protected.’”

They were going to test this righteous one to see if his words were true (λόγοι αὐτοῦ ἀληθεῖς). If he is a true righteous son of God (ὁ δίκαιος υἱὸς Θεοῦ), God will help him. He will deliver him from the hands of his adversaries. They were going to test him with insults and torture to see how gentle he really was. They wanted to condemn him to a shameful death (θανάτῳ ἀσχήμονι). Then they would see if he was protected. Interesting enough, this is some of the same things that were said about Jesus of Nazareth, about a couple of hundred years later.

Preserve my life (Ps 143:11-143:12)

“Yahweh!

For your name’s sake,

Preserve my life!

In your righteousness,

Bring me out of trouble!

In your steadfast love

Cut off my enemies!

Destroy all my adversaries!

I am your servant.”

This psalm ends with a request to save the life of David. In his righteous and steadfast love, Yahweh was to bring him out of trouble by cutting off his adversaries. In fact, he wanted Yahweh to destroy all his adversaries because he was the true servant of Yahweh.