The value of the law (Ps 119:65-119:72)

Tet

“Yahweh!

You have dealt well with your servant,

According to your word.

Teach me good judgment.

Teach me knowledge.

I believe in your commandments.

Before I was humbled,

I went astray.

But now I keep your word.

You are good.

You do good.

Teach me your statutes!

The arrogant smear me with lies.

But with my whole heart

I keep your precepts.

Their hearts are fat.

Their hearts are gross.

But I delight in your law.

It is good for me that I was humbled.

Thus I might learn your statutes.

The law of your mouth is better to me

Than thousands of gold and silver pieces.”

This psalmist says that Yahweh has dealt with him according to his word. He wanted to learn good judgment and knowledge. He believed in Yahweh’s commandments. Before he was humbled, he had gone astray. Now, however, he keeps the word of Yahweh. After all Yahweh, God is good and does good. Remember removing the “o” in good can become God. He wanted, as usual throughout this psalm, to learn more about the statutes of God. Once again, the arrogant were smearing his name. The arrogant ones had a fat and gross heart. However, he kept the precepts of Yahweh with his whole heart as he delighted in the law. He had been humbled so that he might learn about the statutes of Yahweh. These laws in his mouth were worth more than thousands of gold and silver pieces. The spiritual value of the law was so much greater than any gold or silver. So ends this section on the ninth consonant letter of the Hebrew alphabet, Tet.

The flight of Nicanor (2 Macc 8:34-8:36)

“The thrice-accursed Nicanor had brought one thousand merchants to buy the Jews. He was now humbled with the help of the Lord by opponents whom he regarded as of the least account. He took off his splendid uniform. He made his way alone like a runaway slave across the country until he reached Antioch. He had succeeded chiefly in the destruction of his own army! Thus he who had undertaken to secure tribute for the Romans by the capture of the people of Jerusalem proclaimed that the Jews had a Defender. Therefore the Jews were invulnerable, because they followed the laws ordained by him.”

Nicanor comes in for a heavy dismissal since he was cursed 3 times. He was the one who brought 1,000 merchants to buy the Jews for slavery. He was humbled by his opponents with the help of the Lord. However, he took off his wonderful uniform, and fled across the countryside like a runaway slave until he reached Antioch. His only success was that he had destroyed his own army. He now claimed that the Jews were invulnerable as long as they followed the laws of their almighty defender. Nicanor will appear again later in this book.

Judas Maccabeus against Idumea (1 Macc 5:3-5:5)

“Judas made war on the descendents of Esau in Idumea, at Akrabattene, because they kept lying in wait for Israel. He dealt them a heavy blow. He humbled them and despoiled them. He also remembered the wickedness of the sons of Baean, who were a trap and a snare to the people as they ambushed them on the highways. They were shut up by him in their towers. He encamped against them. He vowed their complete destruction. He burned with fire their towers and all who were in them.”

The descendents of Esau are not exactly gentiles since Esau was the brother of Jacob. In fact they were all Semites, not gentiles, since they were all related. Nevertheless, Judas Maccabeus attacked them in Idumea in Akrabattene, which was on the border of Judea and Idumea, south of Judea. They were wicked people who would attack people on the highways like highway robbers. He burned them in their towers.

The Israelites fasting in sack cloths (Jdt 4:9-4:12)

“Every man of Israel cried out to God with great fervor. They humbled themselves with much fasting. They, their wives, and their children put sackcloth around their waist. Their cattle, every resident alien, every hired laborer, and purchased slaves, all put sackcloth around their waists. All the Israelites, men, women, and children, living at Jerusalem, prostrated themselves before the Temple. They put ashes on their heads. They spread out their sackcloth before the Lord. They even draped the altar with sackcloth. They cried out in unison, praying fervently to the God of Israel not to allow their infants to be carried off and their wives to be taken as booty. They did not want their towns to be destroyed. They did not want the sanctuary to be profaned and desecrated by the malicious joy of the Gentiles.”

The Israelite men cried out to God. They humbled themselves. Fasting was a key element of prayer preparation. Their whole family, including wives and children put on sackcloth. However, the text says that the cattle put on sackcloth, but I do not understand why. They apparently were well to do since they had resident aliens, hired laborers, and slaves working for them. They all prostrated before the Temple with ashes on their heads. They even draped the altar in sackcloth. There was this insistence on sackcloth and ashes. They did not want their children and wives taken as booty. They did not want their so-called inherited towns taken away. They finally did not want their sanctuary desecrated by the Gentiles. All of this prayer sounds post-exilic in tone.