Freedom for Jeremiah (Jer 40:2-40:4)

“The captain of the guard

Took Jeremiah.

He said to him.

‘Yahweh your God

Threatened this place

With this disaster.

Now Yahweh

Has brought it about.

He has done

As he said.

Because all of you

Sinned against Yahweh.

You did not obey his voice.

Therefore this thing

Has come upon you.

Now look!

I have just released you today

From the fetters

On your hands.

If you wish

To come with me

To Babylon,

Come!

I will take good care of you.

But if you do not wish

To come with me

To Babylon,

You need not come!

See!

The whole land is before you.

Go wherever

You think it good

Or right to go!’”

Jeremiah is finally recognized by Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, who took him aside. He said to Jeremiah that his God Yahweh had threatened this place and made that threat come true. This happened because they were sinning in Jerusalem and Judah. They had not obeyed their God. This Babylonian captain then released Jeremiah from the chains around his hands. Here is where it gets interesting. He offers Jeremiah a choice. He could go to Babylon, where he would be taken care of, or he could stay in Judah, where the whole land would be his. The captain of the guard told Jeremiah to decide on what was right and good for him. The choice was up to Jeremiah, but it seemed obvious that Jeremiah would stay.

The power of Yahweh is like a potter (Jer 18:7-18:10)

“At any moment,

I may declare

Concerning a nation

Or a kingdom,

That I will pluck it up.

I will break it down.

I will destroy it.

But if that nation,

Concerning which I have spoken,

Turns from its evil,

I will change my mind

About the disaster

That I intended to bring on it.

At another moment,

I may declare

Concerning a nation

Or a kingdom

That I will build it up.

I will plant it.

But if it does evil in my sight,

Not listening to my voice,

Then I will change my mind

About the good

That I had intended to do to it.”

Yahweh proclaimed, via Jeremiah, that at any time he could pluck up, break down, and destroy any nation or kingdom that he wanted to, since he was like the clay potter. All the countries in the world were like clay in his hands. If a country changed from its evil ways, he could change his mind about their impending disaster. Yahweh could also do the same for any nation or kingdom that he was trying to build up or plant. If they did evil in his sight by not listening to him, then Yahweh could change his mind about the good that he had intended to do for them. Thus Yahweh was like a potter who could destroy or mold as he saw fit the various countries and their people.

The righteous people (Isa 60:21-60:22)

“Your people shall all be righteous.

They shall possess the land forever.

They are the shoot

That I planted.

They are the work of my hands.

Thus I might be glorified.

The least of them

Shall become a clan.

The smallest one

Shall become a mighty nation.

I am Yahweh.

In its time,

I will accomplish it quickly.”

Yahweh, in the first person singular, says that all his people will be righteous and possess the land forever. They are the shoots that he has planted, the work of his hands, so that he could be glorified. The least of them will become a clan and the smallest a mighty nation. Yahweh ends by saying it will take time, but it will be done quickly.

Yahweh will not forget Zion (Isa 49:14-49:16)

“But Zion said.

‘Yahweh has forsaken me.

My Lord has forgotten me.’

‘Can a woman forget her nursing child?

Can she show no compassion

For the child of her womb?

Even these may forget.

Yet I will not forget you.

See!

I have inscribed you

On the palms of my hands.

Your walls are continually before me.’”

Second Isaiah has Zion complain that Yahweh, the Lord, had forgotten and forsaken them. Yahweh, however, responded very forcefully. How could a woman forget her nursing child? How could anyone forget what came out of her womb? Even if these women would forget, Yahweh would never forget about the Israelites, since he had their names inscribed on the palms of his hands like a tattoo. This was an anthropomorphic attempt to show that Yahweh really cared for them, since their walls were always before him.

The blessing of the high priest Simon (Sir 50:20-50:21)

“Then Simon came down.

He raised his hands

Over the whole congregation

Of Israelites.

He pronounced

The blessing of the Lord

With his lips.

He gave glory in his name.

They bowed down

In worship

A second time.

They received

The blessing

From the Most High.”

The high priest Simon then came down and raised his hands over the whole congregation of Israelites. He then pronounced the blessings of the Lord with his lips, as he gave glory to the name of the Lord, Yahweh. This Day of Atonement was one of the few times that the high priest was able to say the name of the Lord, Yahweh, although it is not explicitly stated here. They all bowed down in worship a second time in order to receive the blessing of the Most High God.

The greatness of God (Sir 18:1-18:7)

“He who lives forever

Created the whole universe.

The Lord alone is just.

There is no other beside him.

He steers the world

With the span of his hand.

All things obey his will.

He is king of all things

By his power.

He separates the holy things

From the profane.

To none has he given power

To proclaim his works.

Who can search out his mighty deeds?

Who can measure his majestic power?

Who can fully recount his mercies?

It is not possible to diminish or increase them.

It is not possible to fathom the wonders of the Lord.

When human beings have finished,

They are just beginning.

When they stop,

They are still perplexed.”

The eternal God has created the whole universe. The Lord alone is just since there is no one beside him. He steers the world with his hands. Everything obeys his will, since he is the king of all things. The Lord separates the sacred from the profane. No one can proclaim his works, search out his mighty deeds, measure his majestic power, or tell all about his mercy. You cannot increase or decrease his power. You cannot imagine all the wonders of the Lord. Humans think that they are finishing things, but they are only beginning, since they are still perplexed. The Lord is the great creator of this wonderful world.

The power of fire (Wis 16:15-16:19)

“To escape from your hand

Is impossible.

The ungodly,

Refusing to know you,

Were flogged

By the strength of your arm.

They were pursued

By unusual rains.

They were pursued

By hail.

They were pursued

By relentless storms.

They were utterly consumed

By fire.

Most incredible of all,

In water,

Which quenches all things,

The fire had still greater effect.

The universe defends the righteous.

At one time,

The flame was restrained.

Thus it might not consume the creatures

Sent against the ungodly.

But seeing this,

They might know

That they were being pursued

By the judgment of God.

At another time,

Even in the midst of water

It burned more intensely than fire.

Thus they destroyed the crops

Of the unrighteous land.”

It is impossible to escape from the hand of God (σὴν χεῖρα), so that the ungodly (ἀσεβεῖς) were flogged with his hands. God pursued them with unusual rains, hail, and storms. However, they were consumed by fire. The water was not able to put out the powerful fire (δύναμιν φλέγει). In fact, the righteous and the creatures against the ungodly were saved. The ungodly, however, were to learn that they were pursued by the judgment of God (Θεοῦ κρίσει). Even in the middle of water the fires destroyed the crops of the unrighteous.

The great gift of God (Wis 7:15-7:16)

“May God grant me

To speak with judgment!

May I have thoughts worthy

Of what I have received.

He is the guide

Even of wisdom.

He is the corrector of the wise.

We are in his hands.

Our words are in his hands.

All our understanding is in his hands.

All our skill in crafts is in his hands.”

This author speaks about wisdom as a gift from God (δὲ δῴη ὁ Θεὸς) given to him, King Solomon, based on 1 Kings, chapter 5. God would grant him the gift to speak with judgment. He wanted to be worthy of this received gift of wisdom (σοφίας). God is the corrector of the wise. We and our words (οἱ λόγοι) are in his hands. All our understanding and skill are in his hands.

Prayer before the battle (Ps 144:1-144:2)

A psalm of David

“Blessed be Yahweh!

My rock!

He trains my hands for war.

He trains my fingers for battle.

My rock!

My fortress!

My stronghold!

My deliverer!

My shield!

I take refuge in him.

He subdues the peoples under me.”

Psalm 144 is a psalm of David as he prepared for a battle in a war. Yahweh was to be blessed because he was the rock of David. He trained his hands and fingers for war and its battles. Yahweh was his fortress, his stronghold, his deliverer, his shield, and his refuge. Yahweh would subdue the various people for David.

Remembering the good old days (Ps 143:5-143:6)

“I remember the days of old.

I think about all your deeds.

I meditate on the works of your hands.

I stretch out my hands to you.

My soul thirsts for you

Like a parched land.”

Selah

David remembered the good old days when Yahweh had done so much. He meditated on the works of Yahweh. He stretched out his hands to Yahweh.  His soul was thirsting for Yahweh like a parched land seeking water. This section ends with the musical interlude meditative pause of Selah.