Personal distress (Lam 3:4-3:6)

Beth

“Yahweh has made

my flesh waste away.

He has made

My skin waste away.

He has broken

My bones.

He has besieged me.

With bitterness.

He has enveloped me

With tribulation.

He has made me

Sit in darkness

Like the dead

Of long ago.”

Almost like the sufferings of Job, this author complains about his own personal suffering. His flesh and his skin are wasting away, since his bones are broken. He has been besieged and enveloped in bitterness and tribulation, sitting in darkness like a person dead for a long time. Throughout this poem, these three verses start with the Hebrew consonant letter Beth. Each three verse section after this will use the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet in this personal acrostic poem.

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Abraham (Sir 44:19-44:21)

“Abraham was the great father

Of a multitude of nations.

No one has been found

Like him in glory.

He kept the law

Of the Most High.

He entered into

A covenant with him.

He certified the covenant

In his flesh.

When he was tested,

He was found faithful.

Therefore the Lord assured him

With an oath.

The nations would be blessed

Through his offspring.

He would make them

As numerous as

The dust of the earth.

He would exalt his posterity

Like the stars.

He would give them

An inheritance

From sea to sea,

From the Euphrates River

To the ends of the earth.”

It is obvious why Abraham should show up as one of the famous holy men as indicated in the stories of Genesis, chapters 12-25. Abraham was considered to be the father of many nations, not just Israel. His glory was beyond anyone else. He kept the law of the Most High God, although it was not written anywhere. There is no mention of Yahweh. However Abraham entered into a covenant with the Most High God that was sealed with his flesh, the circumcision of the foreskin of his penis. Then there was his test about obeying God, when he was asked to kill his son. Abraham proved faithful to God. Thus the Lord, or Yahweh, assured him with an oath that he would have many blessed descendants as numerous as the dust on the earth. He also promised them an inheritance of the land from the Euphrates River to the Mediterranean Sea to the ends of the earth. Wow! This was a big chunk of land.

The thirst for God (Ps 63:1-63:4)

A psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah

“O God!

You are my God!

I seek you!

My soul thirsts for you!

My flesh faints for you!

I am like in a dry and weary land.

There is no water.

So I have looked upon you

In the sanctuary.

I behold your power and glory.

Because your steadfast love

Is better than life,

My lips will praise you.

So I will bless you

As long as I live.

I will lift up my hands.

I will call on your name.”

This Psalm 63 refers to the time that David was in the wilderness with his outlaw band of warriors against King Saul. There is no indication of any choral element in this psalm. David was seeking God. His soul was thirsty for God, like in Psalm 42. His flesh was faint without God. He was like in a dry and weary land without water. He wanted to look on the sanctuary of God, but it did not exist at this time. He wanted to behold the power and glory of God. He realized the steadfast love of God was better than life itself. His lips would praise and bless God as long as he lived. He was going to lift up his hands and call upon the name of God.

The evildoers will stumble (Ps 27:2-27:2)

“When evildoers assail me,

When they try to devour my flesh,

My adversaries and foes,

They shall stumble and fall.”

Straightforward, if the evildoers tried to attack David, they would stumble and fall. Even when his adversaries and foes tried to devour his flesh, they would fail. They had no chance of success.

The redeemer (Job 19:25-19:27)

“I know that my redeemer lives.

Then at the last he will stand upon the earth.

After my skin has been thus destroyed,

Then in my flesh I shall see God.

I shall see him on my side.

My eyes shall behold.

Not another shall behold.

My heart faints within me!”

This passage has a different translation in the Greek, Syriac, and Latin. It is often referred to as a precursor of Jesus the redeemer, or the Messianic savior who came to earth. Redeemer could also mean defender or vindicator. The Hebrew word of ‘goel’ or redeemer means a member of the family who avenged your honor, despite debts. Job believed that someone would help him. Whether this is God or not is not clear. However, even more controversial is the idea that his flesh will see God after his skin has been destroyed. Is this a hint at a resurrection, since throughout this work he talked about Sheol as a dead end place? His eyes will see even though he was faint.

The cruel painful illness of King Antiochus IV (2 Macc 9:5-9:10)

“But the all-seeing Lord, the God of Israel, struck him an incurable and unseen blow. As soon as he stopped speaking he was seized with a pain in his bowels with sharp internal tortures, for which there was no relief. That was very just, for he had tortured the bowels of others with many and strange inflictions. Yet he did not in any way stop his insolence. He was even more filled with arrogance, breathing fire in his rage against the Jews. He gave orders to drive even faster. So it came about that he fell out of his chariot as it was rushing along. The fall was so hard as to torture every limb of his body. Thus only a little while before, he had thought in his super human arrogance that he could command the waves of the sea. He imagined that he could weigh the high mountains in a balance. Finally, he was brought down to earth. He was carried in a litter, making the power of God manifest to all. Worms swarmed all over the ungodly man’s body. While he was still living in anguish and pain, his flesh rotted away. Because of the stench, the whole army felt revulsion at his decay. Because of his intolerable stench, no one was able to carry the man who a little while before had thought that he could touch the stars of heaven.”

Here the cause of the illness of King Antiochus IV was not depression but the God of Israel who struck him down. Notice that it is the God of Israel not the almighty Shaddai God who struck him down. This biblical author went into great detail about his illness. The king had a bowel problem because he had tortured others with infliction of various stomach disorders. He still wanted to get to Jerusalem so he asked his chariot to go faster. However, then he fell out of the chariot causing him even more pain. King Antiochus IV had been arrogant so that he thought that he could command the sea waves, measure the height of mountains, and touch the stars. However, his body swarmed with worms as it rotted away. There was a terrible smell about him that kept people away from him. The great king was reduced to a smelly sick pain filled old man.