Jerusalem and Judah (Zech 1:12-1:14)

“Then the angel of Yahweh

Said.

‘O Yahweh of hosts!

How long will you

Withhold your mercy

From Jerusalem?

How long will you

Withhold your mercy

From the cities of Judah?

You have been angry

These seventy years.’

Yahweh replied

With gracious words,

With comforting words,

To the angel

Who talked with me.

Then the angel

Who talked with me,

Said to me.

‘Proclaim this message!

Thus says Yahweh of hosts.

I am very jealous

For Jerusalem,

For Zion.’”

Now the angel of Yahweh spoke about the problems of Jerusalem and Judah.  Why had Yahweh been angry at these places for 70 years?  This was approximately the time between the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 BCE and then 520 BCE.  However, Yahweh replied to the angel with gracious and comforting words.  Then the angel of Yahweh turned to Zechariah.  He told him to proclaim a message that Yahweh of hosts was jealous about Jerusalem and Zion.  They were not going to be abandoned.

The restoration of Israel (Ezek 39:25-39:25)

“Therefore,

Thus says Yahweh God!

‘Now I will restore

The fortunes of Jacob.

I will have mercy

On the whole house

Of Israel.

I will be jealous

For my holy name.’”

Yahweh God, via Ezekiel, was clear. He was going to restore the fortunes of Jacob. He was going to have mercy on the whole house of Israel. However, he was still going to be jealous about his holy name.

 

Yahweh will be angry when Gog attacks Israel (Ezek 38:18-38:19)

“Says Yahweh God!

‘On that day,

When Gog comes

Against the land

Of Israel,

My wrath

Will be aroused.

In my jealousy,

In my blazing wrath,

I declare.

‘On that day

There shall be

A great shaking

In the land

Of Israel.’”

The mood of Yahweh changed as Gog actually attacked Israel. Up to this point, Yahweh had been egging Gog on to attack Israel. But now, there was a complete reversal. On the day of the attack, Yahweh would be angry and jealous, as his wrath would be aroused. There would be a great tumult in Israel. Let us see what happens next.

Stay away from these consultants (Sir 37:10-37:11)

“Do not consult anyone

Who regards you with suspicion!

Hide your intentions

From those who are jealous of you!

Do not consult with

A woman about her rival!

Do not consult with

A coward about war!

Do not consult with

A merchant about business!

Do not consult with

A buyer about selling!

Do not consult with

A miser about generosity!

Do not consult with

A merciless person about kindness!

Do not consult with

An idler about any work!

Do not consult with

A seasonal laborer about completing his work!

Do not consult with

A lazy servant about a big task!

Pay no attention

To any advice they give!”

Now Sirach is specific about whom you should avoid as counselors. Avoid anyone who is suspicious or jealous of you. Don’t consult with a woman about her rivals, a coward about war, a merchant or a buyer about business selling, a miser about generosity, a merciless person about kindness, an idler, seasonal laborers, or lazy servants about completing big work tasks. Pay no attention to any of these people and their advice.

Numerical saying (Sir 26:5-26:6)

“Of three things,

My heart is frightened.

I am in great fear of a fourth.

The three are

Slander in the city,

The gathering of a mob,

And false accusations.

All these are worse

Than death.

But it is heartache.

It is a sorrow

When a wife

Is jealous of a rival.

A tongue-lashing

Makes it known to all.”

Sirach once again imitates the numerical sayings of Proverbs. Sirach was frightened of three things, (1) slander in the city, (2) a gathering mob, and (3) false accusations. All of these 3 were worse than death itself. However, the greatest fear was the heartache and sorrow of a wife who was jealous of a rival. This may be a reference to polygamy where one wife was jealous of another wife. Apparently, this became known to everybody when the wife issued a tongue-lashing.

Instructions for men concerning women (Sir 9:1-9:9)

“Do not be jealous of the wife of your bosom!

You will teach her an evil lesson

To your own hurt.

Do not give yourself to a woman!

Do not let her trample down your strength!

Do not go near a loose woman!

You will fall into her snares.

Do not associate with a singing girl!

You will be caught by her tricks.

Do not look intently at a virgin!

You may stumble.

You may incur penalties for her.

Do not give yourself to prostitutes!

You may lose your inheritance.

Do not look around in the streets of a city!

Do not wander about in its deserted sections!

Turn away your eyes from a shapely woman!

Do not gaze at beauty belonging to another!

Many have been seduced by a woman’s beauty.

By beauty

Passion is kindled

Like a fire.

Never dine with another man’s wife!

Never revel with her at wine!

Your heart may turn aside to her.

In blood,

You may be plunged into destruction.”

In a series of reprimands for men concerning women, Sirach says that men should not be jealous of their wife. Your jealousy might teach her an evil lesson that you might regret since she might be jealous of you. Do not let women take away your strength. Stay away from loose women and singing women because they might trick you. Don’t stare at virgins. Obviously, don’t go to prostitutes because you could lose all your money. Do not go wandering around deserted parts of the city. Don’t let your eyes be caught looking at a beautiful shapely women. Beauty quickly seduces into passion. Don’t eat or drink with another man’s wife. Your heart could turn towards her. You might be plunged into destruction. Thus we see the proper and improper conduct of men towards women in the 2nd century BCE.

Sinners in revolt in the wilderness (Ps 106:13-106:18)

“However they soon forgot his works.

They did not wait for his counsel.

But they had a wanton craving in the wilderness.

They put God to the test in the desert.

He gave them what they asked.

But he sent a wasting disease among them.

They were jealous of Moses in the camp.

They were jealous of Aaron,

The holy one of Yahweh.

The earth opened.

It swallowed up Dathan.

It covered the faction of Abiram.

Fire also broke out in their company.

The flame burned up the wicked.”

This psalmist points out that they soon forgot about Yahweh’s works in Egypt and the Red Sea. They did not wait for his counsel. Instead they had a wanton carving while in the wilderness. They put God to the test. Nevertheless, he gave them what they asked for, food and drink. However, after the revolt against Moses and Aaron, he also sent a disease among them. This story and the one about Dathan and Abiram can be found in Numbers, chapter 16. They were jealous of Moses and Aaron who believed that they were becoming holier than the others. They had a test with censors that favored Moses and Aaron. The punishment for the 250 rebellious men was death. The earth opened up and swallowed Dathan. Then a fire burned the people with Abiram. This ended this unhappy tale of the revolt in the desert.

The hymn to the divine power over the climate (Job 36:24-36:37)

“Remember to extol his work!

Men have sung to his work.

All people have looked on it.

Everyone watches it from far away.

Surely God is great!

We do not know him.

The number of his years is unsearchable.

He draws up the drops of water.

He distils his mist in rain.

The skies pour down rain.

Rain drops upon mortals abundantly.

Can anyone understand the spreading of the clouds?

Can anyone understand the thundering of his pavilion?

See!

He scatters his lightning around him.

He covers the roots of the sea.

For by these he judges peoples.

He gives food in abundance.

He covers his hands with the lightning.

He commands it to strike the mark.

Its crashing tells about him.

He is jealous with anger against iniquity.”

Elihu wanted Job to understand and extol the power of God over the climate we live in. Interesting enough I began working on this the day that Pope Francis I issued his encyclical on the climate “Laudato Si.” Yet here, Elihu in his hymn clearly sees God as the controller of the climate. God controls the rain, so that quite often we pray to God for more or less rain. This is especially true in strong farming communities. They also pray for good harvests from the land. We have seen both drought and over flooding this year in the USA. God has control over thunder and lightning as well as the seas.   God is jealous and angry against the wicked. Perhaps we do not pray to God enough about the climate. Just as we have moved from the poetic flat world concept of sunrise and sunset to the earth moving around the sun, so too we might see climate as not the poetic unique concern of God alone, but see the impact of human actions on the climate also.