The death of all (Isa 13:14-13:16)

“Like a hunted gazelle,

Like sheep

With no one to gather them,

All will turn

To their own people.

All will flee

To their own lands.

Whoever is found

Will be thrust through.

Whoever is caught,

Will fall by the sword.

Their infants

Will be dashed to pieces,

Before their eyes.

Their houses will be plundered.

Their wives will be ravished.”

Now Isaiah has the death of all, no questions asked. Humans will be like hunted deer or sheep with no one guiding them. People will return to their own people and lands. However, whoever is caught would by killed by the sword. Their infants would be smashed. Their houses would be robbed and their wives raped. This is not a pretty picture.

The vengeance of Yahweh against Israel (Isa 9:8-9:12)

“Yahweh has sent a word

Against Jacob.

It fell on Israel.

All the people knew it.

Ephraim with the inhabitants of Samaria

In pride with arrogance of heart,

They said.

‘The bricks have fallen.

But we will build

With dressed stones.

The sycamores have been cut down.

But we will put cedars in their place.’

Thus Yahweh raised adversaries

Against them.

He stirred up their enemies.

The Syrians were on the east.

The Philistines were on the west.

They devoured Israel

With an open mouth.

For all this,

His anger has not turned away.

His hand is still stretched out.”

This poem shows how Israel in the north is being devastated by the Philistines on the west coast and Syrians to the northeast. Yahweh sent his word of vengeance on them via these invaders. The people of Samaria and the whole territory of Ephraim knew it was coming. Nevertheless their pride and their arrogance told them not to worry. Although bricks of ordinary houses were falling and sycamores were chopped down, they contended that they would rebuild with fine stones and fine cedar wood in place of them, so that the new houses would be more like palaces. Yahweh, the Lord, stirred up their enemies so that they devoured the northern territory of Israel. Yahweh had stretched out his hand against them and he continued to do so up to the present time. This refrain will be repeated twice more in the next few sections. The various 8th century BCE disputes between Judah and Israel, as well as between Israel with the Syrians can be found in 2 Kings, chapters 14-17, and 2 Chronicles, chapters 25-28.

The response of Yahweh (Isa 6:11-6:13)

“Then I said.

‘How long?

O Lord!’

Yahweh said.

‘Until cities lie waste

Without inhabitants.

Until houses are

Without people.

Until the land is

Utterly desolate.

Until Yahweh sends

Everyone far away.

Until vast is

The emptiness

In the midst of the land.

Even if a tenth part remains in it,

It will be burned again.

It will be like a terebinth.

It will be like an oak

Whose stump remains standing

When it is felled.’

The holy seed is its stump.”

Isaiah wanted to know how long his prophetic work would have to be. Yahweh responded with an indication that the holy land would be destroyed. He would continue until the cities had nobody living in them, until there were houses abandoned, left empty. The land would be desolate. Everybody would be sent away, so that the land itself would be left bare. Probably a tenth of those would remain. Just like when an oak tree or a terebinth bush is burned, the stump still remained until someone came along to dig it up and chop it into pieces. Likewise, the holy seed of Israel is like a stump.

Buildings and sinners (Sir 21:8-21:10)

“Whoever builds his house

With other people’s money is

Like one who gathers stones

For his burial mound.

An assembly of the wicked is

Like a bundle of tow.

Their end is a blazing fire.

The way of sinners is

Paved with smooth stones.

But at its end is

The pit of Hades.”

Building your house with borrowed money is like gathering stones to build a burial mound. This is a fool’s task. You should probably wait until you have your own money to start building. Next Sirach warns us against “tow”, which is a kind of hemp or flax. He compares a bundle of this crop to an assembly of wicked people. They both will end up in a blazing fire. Then we have the expression about the sinner’s path that is paved with smooth stones that lead to hell or Hades, the afterlife underworld.

The righteous (Ps 112:1-112:6)

“Praise Yahweh!

Aleph 

Happy are those who fear Yahweh!

Bet      

Happy are those who greatly delight in his commandments!

Gimel

Their descendants will be mighty in the land.

Dalet  

The generation of the upright will be blessed.

He      

Wealth and riches are in their houses.

Vav     

Their righteousness endures forever.

Zain   

They rise in the darkness as a light for the upright.

Het     

They are gracious, merciful, and righteous.

Tet      

It is well with those who deal generously and lend.

Yod     

They conduct their affairs with justice.

Kaph  

The righteous will never be moved.

Lamed

They will be remembered forever.”

Psalm 112 is a companion psalm to Psalm 111. Even though it is fairly short, it is another line by line acrostic or Hebrew alphabet psalm without any title. Just like the preceding psalm, it also starts with the refrain “Praise Yahweh” or the Alleluia cry, the Hebrew word “Hallelujah.” Although there is a comparison between the righteous and the wicked, the emphasis is mostly on the righteous. The righteous are happy because they fear God. They delight in his commandments. Their descendants will be mighty. The generations of the upright are blessed and happy since their righteousness endures forever. They will have wealth and riches in their houses. They will be the light in the darkness. They are gracious, merciful, and righteous, just like Yahweh. They will be generous and just. They will be remembered because of their righteousness.

 

Eliphaz describes God (Job 22:12-22:20)

“Is not God high in the heavens?

See the highest stars!

How lofty they are!

Therefore you say.

‘What does God know?

Can he judge through the deep darkness?

Thick clouds enwrap him.

Thus he does not see.

He walks on the vault of heaven.’

Will you keep to the old way?

Will you tread the path of wicked men?

They were snatched away before their time.

Their foundation was washed away by a flood.

They said to God.

‘Leave us alone.

What can the Almighty Shaddai do to us?’

Yet he filled their houses with good things.

The plans of the wicked are repugnant to me.

The righteous see it.

The righteous are glad.

The innocent laugh them to scorn, saying.

‘Surely our adversaries are cut off.

What they have left,

The fire has consumed.’”

Eliphaz described God as a distant unknowable God. He was high in heaven above the stars. How then can this faraway God know and judge what is going on here on earth with all the dark clouds around him? Once again, he referred to the wicked as wanting to be left alone by God. Why would they want the almighty Shaddai since they had everything they wanted? However, the righteous see that the wicked fill their houses with good things. The righteous think that bad things will happen to the wicked. The distant God seemed unconcerned about what was happening here on earth.

Job maintains that the wicked do not get punished (Job 21:7-21:13)

“Why do the wicked live on?

Why do they reach old age?

Why do they grow mighty in power?

Their children are established in their presence.

Their offspring are established before their eyes.

Their houses are safe from fear.

No rod of God is upon them.

Their bull breeds without fail.

Their cow calves.

Their cows never miscarry.

They send out their little ones like a flock.

Their children dance around.

They sing to the tambourine and the lyre.

They rejoice to the sound of the pipe.

They spend their days in prosperity.

In peace they go down to Sheol.”

Job was very clear. The wicked live to reach old age. They actually grow stronger. They have many children. Their houses are safe. He did not see any punishment from God coming to them. In fact, their livestock are able to multiply without problems. The little children grew, danced, and sang to musical instruments. They seemed like very happy people. They spent their days in prosperity before they had a peaceful death and entered Sheol. Thus he was refuting the claim of Bildad that the wicked would not have children and not prosper. He maintained the opposite since the wicked seem to do quite well.

The punishment of the wicked ones (Job 15:28-15:35)

“They will live in desolate cities.

They will live in houses that no one should inhabit.

They will live in houses destined to become heaps of ruins.

They will not be rich.

Their wealth will not endure.

They will not strike root in the earth.

They will not escape from darkness.

The flame will dry up their shoots.

Their blossoms will be swept away by the wind.

Let them not trust in emptiness by deceiving themselves.

Emptiness will be their recompense.

It will be paid in full before their time.

Their branch will not be green.

They will shake off their unripe grape on the vine.

They will cast off their blossoms,

Like the olive tree.

The company of the godless is barren.

Fire consumes the tents of bribery.

They conceive mischief.

They bring forth evil.

Their heart prepares deceit.”

The wicked ones are punished, just like Job has been punished. They will live in desolate cities, where the houses are not fit to be lived in. They will not be rich. What wealth they have will not endure. They will not be able to plant anything. They will not escape darkness. Their shoots will go up in flames. Their blossoms will be blown away. Emptiness is their reward. Their branches will not turn green. They will pick the grapes before they are ripe. Everyone will be barren in their family. Fire will consume their living tents. They conceive and bring forth evil and iniquity because they have deceitful hearts.

The introduction to Job (Job 1:1-1:5)

“That man was blameless and upright. Job feared God. He had turned away from evil. There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. He had seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred donkeys, and very many servants. This man was the greatest of all the people of the east. His sons used to go and hold feasts in one another’s houses in turn. They would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. When the feast days had run their course, Job would send and sanctify them. He would rise early in the morning. He would offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. Job said.

‘It may be that my children have sinned.

It may be that they cursed God in their hearts.’

This is what Job always did.”

Who is Job? This is not about getting a job. Job was blameless, an upright man. He was a pious man with a strong faith. He feared God and shunned evil. He was not an Israelite since there was no attempt to put him into a genealogy that would connect him with Abraham. He had 10 children, 7 sons and 3 daughters. He had a huge prosperous estate since he had 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 oxen, 500 donkeys, and many servants. He was a rich guy, the greatest man in the east, or east of the Jordan River, or at least in Edom. All the 10 children would gather for a feast every day at a different person’s house. This included the symbolic numbers of 3 sisters with 7 brothers. When the festival days were over, Job would always offer a burnt offering for each one of them, just in case any of them may have sinned and cursed God in their hearts. In other words, he had a sense of sin and a sense of a spiritual relationship to God. So Job was a righteous rich man with 10 children who offered his own burnt offerings for the possible sins of his children.   Thus we have a snapshot picture of a happy prosperous God fearing Job.

King Antiochus IV despoils the Temple (2 Macc 5:11-5:16)

“When news of what had happened reached the king, he took it to mean that Judea was in revolt. So, raging inwardly, he left Egypt. He took the city by storm. He commanded his soldiers to cut down relentlessly every one they met. They were to kill those who went into the houses. Then there was a massacre of young and old, destruction of boys, women, and children, with the slaughter of young girls and infants. Within the total of three days eighty thousand were destroyed, forty thousand in hand-to-hand fighting. Almost as many were sold into slavery as were killed. Not content with this, King Antiochus dared to enter the most holy temple in the whole world, guided by Menelaus, who had become a traitor both to the laws and to his country. He took the holy vessels with his polluted hands. He swept away with profane hands the votive offerings that other kings had made to enhance the glory and honor of the place.”

Up until now this author has spent a lot of time explaining what was happening with the high priests in Jerusalem. Now he picks up the part of the story that can be found in 1 Maccabees, chapter 1. King Antiochus IV heard about the uprising of the former high priest Jason against the present high priest Menelaus. He believed that this was a revolt against him. He left Egypt because the Romans told him to do so. There was no mention of the massive slaughter of the people in Jerusalem in 1 Maccabees. Here 80,000 people were killed, 40,000 in hand to hand fighting. Nearly 40,000 were sold into slavery. The emphasis in 1 Maccabees was on the despoiling of the Temple, not the destruction of the people since they simply said that he shed blood and spoke with arrogance in 169 BCE. Here the king pollutes the Temple with his profane hands also. There is no mention of the specifics of what he took as in 1 Maccabees.