The power of the voice of Yahweh (Ps 29:5-29:8)

“The voice of Yahweh breaks the cedars.

Yahweh breaks the cedars of Lebanon.

He makes Lebanon to skip like a calf.

He makes Sirion like a young wild ox.

The voice of Yahweh flashes forth flames of fire.

The voice of Yahweh shakes the wilderness.

Yahweh shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.”

The thunderous voice of Yahweh broke open the great cedars of Lebanon that had been part of the wood that made up the Temple in Jerusalem. Lebanon and its mountain area north of Israel had been friendly to David. However, Yahweh had control of them like a young calf. He also had Sirion acting like a young wild ox or a buffalo. Sirion was a Phoenician name for Mount Hermon. They also knew that the thunder usually accompanied lightning which set off flash fires. The thunderous storm even caused the earth to vibrate so that the wilderness land even shook. The wilderness of Kadesh, which was in the northern Syrian area where some battles had taken place, was also vulnerable to the thunderous voice of Yahweh.

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Jonathan and the battle at Hazor (1 Macc 11:67-11:74)

“Jonathan and his army encamped by the waters of Gennesaret. Early in the morning they marched to the plain of Hazor. There in the plain, the army of the foreigners met him. They had set an ambush against him in the mountains, but they themselves met him face to face. Then the men in ambush emerged from their places and joined battle. All the men with Jonathan fled. Not one of them was left except Mattathias son of Absalom and Judas son of Chalphi, commanders of the forces of the army. Jonathan tore his clothes. He put dust on his head, and prayed. Then he turned back to the battle against the enemy and routed them. They fled. When his men who were fleeing saw this, they returned to him. They joined him in the pursuit as far as Kadesh, to their camp. There they encamped. As many as three thousand of the foreigners fell that day. Jonathan returned to Jerusalem.”

Jonathan and his army rested at the Sea of Galilee, Gennesaret. They went out into the plains of Hazor where they met the foreign troops who were the followers of the deposed King Demetrius II. Another set of these troops ambushed them from the hills. However, Jonathan’s troops all fled. Only two officers were left, Mattathias and Judas, not his dead father or dead brother, but people with the same name. Then Jonathan went into mourning by ripping his clothes, putting ashes on his head, and praying. Suddenly he returned to battle and defeated the foreign troops as they fled. When his own army saw the others fleeing, they rejoined the battle. They chased them as far as Kadesh as they killed 3,000 foreigners that day. Then Jonathan returned to Jerusalem.

Jonathan meets the officers of the deposed King Demetrius II (1 Macc 11:63-11:66)

“Then Jonathan heard that the officers of King Demetrius had come to Kadesh in Galilee with a large army, intending to remove him from office. He went to meet them, but he left his brother Simon in the country. Simon encamped before Beth-zur. He fought against the town for many days until he had hemmed it in. Then they asked him to grant them terms of peace. He did so, but he removed them from there. He took possession of the town and set a garrison over it.”

While Jonathan set out to meet the officers of the army of the deposed King Demetrius II at Kedesh in the Galilee area, his brother Simon was left in the country. Simon went to Beth-zur and made the people there settle for a peace treaty when he took possession of the town with a garrison of troops.

The failure of the messengers of King Nebuchadnezzar (Jdt 1:7-1:11)

“Then King Nebuchadnezzar of the Assyrians sent messengers to all who lived in Persia. He sent messengers to all who lived in the west, those who lived in Cilicia, Damascus, Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon. He sent messengers to all who lived along the seacoast. He sent messengers to those nations of Carmel, Gilead, Upper Galilee, the great Plain of Esdraelon, Samaria and its surrounding towns, and beyond the Jordan as far as Jerusalem, Bethany, Chelous, and Kadesh. He even sent messengers to the river of Egypt, Tahpanhes, Raamses, the whole land of Goshen, even beyond Tanis and Memphis, to all who lived in Egypt as far as the borders of Ethiopia. But all who lived in the whole region disregarded the summons of King Nebuchadnezzar of the Assyrians. They refused to join him in the war. They were not afraid of him, but regarded him as only one man. So they sent back his messengers empty-handed and in disgrace.”

King Nebuchadnezzar sent messengers into Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and Egypt to get people to fight with him. These were the people west of Babylon. However, in none of these areas did anybody respond to him because they were not afraid of him. He was just one man living in a faraway place. Thus his messengers returned empty-handed and disgraced.

Abraham at Gerar (Gen 20:1-20:20:18)

“From there Abraham journeyed toward the territory of the Negeb, and lived between Kadesh and Shur.  While residing in Gerar as an alien, Abraham said of his wife Sarah, ‘She is my sister.’ King Abimelech of Gerar sent and took Sarah.  But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, ‘you are about to die because of the woman whom you have taken.  She is a married woman.’  Now Abimelech had not approached her.  So he said, ‘Lord, will you destroy an innocent people?  Did he not himself say to me, `She is my sister’? And she herself said, `He is my brother.’ I did this in the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands.’  Then God said to him in the dream, ‘Yes, I know that you did this in the integrity of your heart.  Furthermore it was I who kept you from sinning against me.  Therefore I did not let you touch her.  Now then, restore the man’s wife.  He is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you shall live. But if you do not restore her, know that you shall surely die, you and all that are yours.’”

Abraham went into the region of the Negeb, which is almost the wilderness, south of Canaan on the way to Egypt.  He stayed between Kadesh, which will become the southeastern border of Palestine, and Shur, which is closer to Egypt.  In this area of Gerar, south of Gaza, they resided as aliens.  Once again Abraham pretended that Sarah was his sister, the second time he has used this lie. Now why would King Abimelech of Gerar think that this 90 year old pregnant woman was attractive?  Obviously this is an Elohist repeat of what happened in Egypt, when she was younger. King Abimelech wants to take Sarah as his wife. However, in a dream, God told him that she was a married woman. Abimelech pleaded that he was innocent since he had been told by her and Abraham that she was Abraham’s sister.  God said that Abimelech had integrity of the heart.  This is strange that it would have been okay to have sex with her if she was not married. He told him to return Sarah to Abraham, since he is a prophet and will pray for you to live.  But if you do not return her, you will die.

“So Abimelech rose early in the morning, and called all his servants, and told them all these things.  The men were very much afraid.  Then Abimelech called Abraham, and said to him, ‘What have you done to us? How have I sinned against you, that you have brought such great guilt on me and my kingdom? You have done things to me that ought not to be done.’ Abimelech said to Abraham, ‘what were you thinking of, that you did this thing?’  Abraham said, ‘I did it because I thought, there is no fear of God at all in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.  Besides, she is indeed my sister, the daughter of my father but not the daughter of my mother.  She became my wife.  When God caused me to wander from my father’s house, I said to her, `This is the kindness you must do me. At every place to which we come, say of me, He is my brother.'”

The next morning Abimelech told his servants and they were afraid.  Then he called Abraham and asked him why he had done this to him.  Abraham responded that he did this trick because there was no fear of God in this place and he feared that they would kill him.  This is the second time he justified this lie.  He pulled out his trump card by saying that Sarah is his half-sister, since they have different mothers but the same father.  This might explain the sterility of Abraham and Sarah. Terah, who had three sons, Abram, Nahor, and Haran, also had a daughter from a different woman, but that is not mentioned in the genealogy of Terah.  Clearly the father of Abram had multiple wives or concubines.

“Then Abimelech took sheep and oxen, and male and female slaves, and gave them to Abraham, and restored his wife Sarah to him.  Abimelech said, ‘My land is before you.  Settle where it pleases you.’  To Sarah he said, ‘Look, I have given your brother a thousand pieces of silver.  It is your exoneration before all who are with you.  You are completely vindicated.’  Then Abraham prayed to God.  Then God healed Abimelech, and also healed his wife and female slaves so that they bore children.  For Yahweh had closed fast all the wombs of the house of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham’s wife.”

King Abimelech said okay and gave Abraham his wife back with slaves, sheep and oxen, and a 1000 pieces of silver.  He told him that he can settle anywhere he wanted to live in Gerar.  Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech as well as his wife and all the female slaves so that they were able to bear children, because their wombs had been closed.

The battle of the four great kings (Gen 14:1-14:16)

“In the days of King Amraphel of Shinar, King Arioch of Ellasar, King Chedorlaomer of Elam, and King Tidal of Goiim, these kings made war with King Bera of Sodom, King Birsha of Gomorrah, King Shinab of Admah, King Shemeber of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela, that is, Zoar.  And all these joined forces in the Valley of Siddim, that is, the Dead Sea area.  Twelve years they had served Chedorlaomer, but in the thirteenth year they rebelled.  In the fourteenth year Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him came and subdued the Rephaim in Ashteroth-karnaim, the Zuzim in Ham, the Emim in Shaveh-kiriathaim,  and the Horites in the hill country of Seir as far as El-paran on the border of the wilderness.  Then they turned back and came to En-mishpat, that is, Kadesh, and subdued all the country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites who lived in Hazazon-tamar.  Then the king of Sodom, the king of Gomorrah, the king of Admah, the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela, that is, Zoar, went out, and they joined battle in the Valley of Siddim with King Chedorlaomer of Elam, King Tidal of Goiim, King Amraphel of Shinar, and King Arioch of Ellasar, four kings against five.  Now the Valley of Siddim was full of bitumen pits.  As the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, some fell into them, and the rest fled to the hill country. So the enemy took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their provisions, and went their way.  They also took Lot, the son of Abram’s brother, who lived in Sodom, and his goods, and departed.”

Who are these guys?  It is four kings against five. Apparently Chedorlaomer of Elam, perhaps a place in Persia, was the chief ruler for twelve years, when a rebellion occurred. He got his three friendly kings, Amraphel of Shinar, which may have been in Babylonia, Arioch of Ellasar, and Tidal of Goiim, and defeated the Rephaim, who were the tall warrior people, at Ashteroth-karnaim, the Zuzim, some kind of stout warriors, at Ham, the Emim, tall warriors, at Shaveh-kiriathaim, and the Horites, the cave dwellers of Seir. Then they turned back and subdued the Amalekites, the tent dwellers, and the Amorites, the hill people. This was an invasion from the east on the plains around the Jordan River.  Most of those defeated were considered to be large tall warriors.

The four kings then had a war with five other kings, King Bera of Sodom, King Birsha of Gomorrah, King Shinab of Admah, King Shemeber of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela, that is Zoar, that took place in Siddim by the Dead Sea.  This is the only mention of these five kings, who were the local leaders around this Dead Sea area.  The four kings won the battle as the defeated ones fell into the bitumen tar pits or fled.  The victors took the possessions of Lot and the land around Sodom and Gomorrah.

 “Then one who had escaped came and told Abram the Hebrew, who was living by the oaks of Mamre the Amorite, the brother of Eshcol and  Aner.  These were allies of Abram.  When Abram heard that his nephew had been taken captive, he led forth his trained men, born in his house, three hundred eighteen of them, and went in pursuit as far as Dan.  He divided his forces against them by night, he and his servants, and routed them and pursued them to Hobah, north of Damascus.  Then he brought back all the goods, and also brought back his nephew Lot with his goods, and the women and the people.”

Somehow, Abram gets involved in some fighting, which seems to be out of character for him.   Here is first time that Abram is called a Hebrew.  One of the Amorites, who was an ally of Abram, went to Abram to tell him what had happened. Both Eschol and Aner had places named after them.  So Abram got 318 trained men who were born in his house, probably slaves, and went after them as far as Dan, but Dan did not exist until after the conquest of Canaan.  He then pursued them and routed them at Hobah, north of Damascus.  That was a long way to go.  He brought back his nephew Lot, all his people and all his goods.  Abram had a large household and was quite a fighter to defeat the four kings. Anyway, this is the strange story of Abram the warrior.