Purify the sanctuary (Ezek 45:18-45:20)

“Thus says Yahweh God!

‘In the first month,

On the first day

Of the month,

You shall take a young bull

Without blemish.

Purify the sanctuary!

The priest shall take

Some of the blood

Of the sin offering.

He shall put it

On the doorposts

Of the temple.

He shall put it

On the four corners

Of the ledge

Of the altar.

He shall put it

On the posts

Of the gate

Of the inner court.

You shall do the same

On the seventh day

Of the month

For any one

Who has sinned

Through error

Or ignorance.

Thus,

You shall make atonement

For the temple.”

Yahweh, via Ezekiel, wanted them to purify the sanctuary on the 1st day of the 1st month. In other words, this would be a New Year’s Day activity. They were to take an unblemished bull and use him to cleanse the sanctuary at the start of the new year. The priest should take some of the blood from the sin offering and put it on the doorposts of the Temple, as well as the four corners of the altar ledge and the posts of the gate of the inner court. The priest was also supposed to do this same ritual on the 7th day of the month for anyone who sinned inadvertently by error or ignorance. This purification ritual of the first day of the first month of the year would make an atonement for the Temple, so that it would be purified.

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The Creator (Isa 40:21-40:24)

“Have you not known?

Have you not heard?

Has it not been told you

From the beginning?

Have you not understood

From the foundations of the earth?

It is he

Who sits above the circle of the earth.

Its inhabitants are like grasshoppers.

He stretches out the heavens

Like a curtain.

He spreads them

Like a tent to live in.

He brings princes to naught.

He makes the rulers of the earth

As nothing.

Scarcely are they planted,

Scarcely sown,

Scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth,

When he blows upon them,

They wither.

The tempest carries them off

Like stubble.”

Second Isaiah continues to use the questioning style to make his point. He seems to call attention to the ignorance of the people. Do they not understand that God created them? God sits on top of the dome over the earth in the heavens, As Second Isaiah was expressing the cosmology of his day. God has stretched out the heavens like a curtain or a tent. All humans are like grasshoppers since he has such a lofty view. He controls the earthly princes and rulers. As soon as someone plants something and it begins to take roots, he blows on it and it withers. Then he sends a tempest storm to carry it off as stubble. Clearly God is in control as the creator of this world and the things in it.

Human conduct (Sir 4:20-4:28)

“Watch for the opportune time!

Beware of evil! 

Do not be ashamed to be yourself!

There is a shame that leads to sin.

There is also a shame that is glory

There is a shame that is favor.

Do not show partiality to your own harm!

Do not show deference to your downfall!

Do not refrain from speaking at the proper moment!

Do not hide your wisdom!

Wisdom becomes known through speech.

Education becomes known

Through the words of the tongue.

Never speak against the truth.

But be ashamed of your ignorance.

Do not be ashamed to confess your sins!

Do not try to stop the current of a river!

Do not subject yourself to a fool!

Do not show partiality to a ruler!

Fight to the death for truth!

The Lord God will fight for you.”

Here we have a series of reprimands about human conduct. You should be aware of evil. You should not be ashamed of yourself. There is a shame that leads to sin, but also a shame that leads to glory and favors. Watch out for your own harm and downfall. Speak out at the proper moment. You should not hide your wisdom. People know you are wise and educated by your speech and the words of your tongue. Never go against the truth. You should be ashamed of your ignorance, but not be ashamed to confess your sins. Do not go against the river current or subject yourself to a fool. Do not show partiality to a ruler, but fight to the death for truth. God will then fight for you.

Wickedness (Wis 17:11-17:14)

“Wickedness is a cowardly thing.

It is condemned

By its own testimony.

Distressed by conscience,

It has always exaggerated the difficulties.

Fear is nothing but a giving up of the helps

That come from reason.

Fear gives up hope.

It is defeated

By this inward weakness.

It prefers ignorance of what causes the torment.

Throughout the night,

That was really powerless,

Which came upon them

From the recesses of powerless Hades.

They all slept the same sleep.”

Wickedness (πονηρία) is cowardly. Its own witness (μαρτυρεῖ) condemns it. Wickedness always exaggerates difficulties so that it fears (φόβος) everything that comes from reason (λογισμοῦ). The wicked give up hope. They are defeated by their own inner weakness. They prefer ignorance of what causes problems. They are powerless throughout the night, like a powerless hell or Hades (ἀδυνάτου ᾅδου). However, everyone sleeps the same sleep, no matter what.

The letter of King Antiochus V to the Jewish senate (2 Macc 11:27-11:33)

“To the nation the king’s letter was as follows.

‘King Antiochus,

To the senate of the Jews and to the other Jews,

Greetings!

If you are well,

It is as we desire.

We also are in good health.

Menelaus has informed us

That you wish to return home.

You wish to look after your own affairs.

Therefore those who go home

By the thirtieth day of Xanthicus

Will have our pledge of friendship and full permission.

The Jews will enjoy their own food and laws,

Just as formerly,

None of them shall be molested in any way

For what he may have done in ignorance.

I have also sent Menelaus to encourage you.

Farewell.

The one hundred forty-eighth year,

Xanthicus fifteenth.’”

The king once again, like Lysias, ignored Judas Maccabeus. The letter was addressed to the Jewish Senate and all the Jews. In fact, Menelaus, the high priest, is the real intermediary. The king sent his good will through Menelaus, during the 13th day of the month of Xanthicus, March or April, of 164 BCE. He understood that they wanted to take care of their own affairs. He hoped that they were in good health as he was. They could now enjoy their own food and laws without any bother. They could also return to their own lands in the next 2 weeks. He still held out the possibility of further harassment because they might disobey out of ignorance.