The wicked (Isa 26:10-26:11)

“If favor is shown

To the wicked,

They still do not learn righteousness.

In the land of uprightness,

They deal perversely.

They do not see

The majesty of Yahweh.

O Yahweh!

Your hand is lifted up.

But they do not see it.

Let them see your zeal

For your people!

Let them be ashamed!

Let the fire

For your adversaries

Consume them!”

Isaiah says that you cannot favor the wicked because they never learned righteousness. They are the perverse ones in the land of the upright people, since they do not see the majesty of Yahweh. Turning directly to Yahweh, Isaiah says that Yahweh’s hand is lifted up in judgment. However, the wicked ones do not even see it. They should see the zeal that Yahweh has for his people and be ashamed. These wicked adversaries should be consumed with God’s fire.

Oracle against Tyre (Isa 23:1-23:1)

“The oracle concerning Tyre.

Wail!

O ships of Tarshish!

Your fortress is destroyed.

When they came in

From Cyprus

They learned of it.”

Tyre was a Phoenician costal island city that still exists in southern Lebanon. Known for its maritime trade and purple dye, it was actually in the Israelite territory of Asher. The ships of Tarshish are mentioned 24 times in the biblical books, most notably when speaking about the wealth of King Solomon, in 1 Kings, chapter 10. Tarnish must have been someplace where there was a lot of metal, such as silver, probably some distance away, since speculation continues as to its exact location. The fortress or the houses of Tyre would be destroyed. Apparently these Phoenician sailors from Tyre were coming back from the island of Cyprus in the Mediterranean Sea, when they learned about this destruction.

The plague on the righteous (Wis 18:20-18:25)

“The experience of death

Touched also the righteous.

A plague came upon the multitude

In the desert.

But the wrath did not long continue.

A blameless man was quick

To act as their champion.

He brought forward the shield of his ministry.

He brought forth prayer.

He brought forward propitiation by incense.

He withstood the anger.

He put an end to the disaster.

He showed that he was your servant.

He conquered the wrath

Not by strength of body,

Not by force of arms,

But by his word

He subdued the avenger.

He appealed to the oaths given to our ancestors.

He appealed to the covenants given to our ancestors.

When the dead had already fallen on one another in heaps,

He intervened.

He held back the wrath.

He cut off its way to the living.

On his long robe

The whole world was depicted.

The glories of the ancestors

Were engraved on the four rows of stones.

Your majesty was on the diadem upon his head.

The destroyer yielded to these.

The destroyer feared these.

Merely to test the wrath was enough.”

This section takes part of the Exodus story in chapters 32 and the Numbers presentation in chapter 17 and combines them into one episode. In other words, the righteous (δικαίων) were not free from the wrath of God. A plague came upon them in the desert (ἐν ἐρήμῳ) that nearly killed 15,000 of them because the Israelites had rebelled against Moses and Aaron. However, Moses instructed Aaron to make reparation by prayer (προσευχὴν) and incense. The blameless man was Aaron, and not Moses, but there is no indication of his explicit name here since in the Exodus story Aaron had rebelled also. This blameless man subdued the avenger by his prayerful sacrificial actions. He remembered the oaths and covenants that his ancestors had made. The use of the robe is definitely the Levitical robe of Aaron from Exodus, chapter 28. His lovely robe had 4 rows of stones. He also had a diadem on his head (διαδήματος κεφαλῆς αὐτοῦ). Obviously, this is from the time of the settled Israelites, but it was enough to scare off this destroyer. The Israelites learned from this episode.

Stupidity (Prov 30:2-30:3)

“Surely I am too stupid to be human.

I do not have human understanding.

I have not learned wisdom.

I do not have knowledge of the Holy One.”

In a rare expression of humility, this Agur proclaims that he is too stupid to even be a human. He admits his human limitations since he does not even have human understanding. He has never learned about wisdom. He does not even know the holy one.

My cry for help (Ps 119:145-119:152)

Qoph

“With my whole heart

I cry.

Answer me!

Yahweh!

I will keep your statutes.

I cry to you.

Save me!

Thus I may observe your decrees.

I rise before dawn.

I cry for help.                                                                              

I put my hope in your words.

My eyes are awake before each watch of the night.

Thus I may meditate on your promise.

In your steadfast love,

Hear my voice!

Yahweh!

In your justice,

Preserve my life!

Those who persecute me with evil purpose,

Draw near.

They are far from your law.

You are near.

Yahweh!

All your commandments are true.

Long ago

I learned from your decrees.

You have established them forever.”

This psalmist cried for help to Yahweh from his heart. He wanted to be saved because he kept the statutes of Yahweh. He rose before dawn with his crying prayer to Yahweh. In the middle of the night, he would get up and meditate on the promises of Yahweh. He wanted the steadfast love of Yahweh in his justice to preserve his life. He was being persecuted with an evil purpose by those who were far from Yahweh’s law. He wanted Yahweh near him because his commandments were true. He had long ago learned from Yahweh’s decrees that had been established forever. So ends this section on the nineteenth consonant letter of the Hebrew alphabet, Qoph.

God has the power (Ps 62:11-62:12)

“Once God has spoken.

Twice have I heard this.

That power belongs to God.

Yahweh!

Steadfast love belongs to you!

You repay to all

According to their work.”

This psalm ends with the stress on the power of God. There is a two part conversation with God. First David speaks and then he listens. David had learned that power belonged to God. Once again, there is an emphasis on the steadfast love of Yahweh. However, Yahweh is a fair God since he repays all according to their work with the concept of retribution.

Jonathan in the wilderness (1 Macc 9:32-9:34)

“When Bacchides learned of this, he tried to kill him. But Jonathan and his brother Simon, and all who were with him, heard of it. They fled into the wilderness of Tekoa and camped by the water of the pool of Asphar. Bacchides found this out on the Sabbath day. He with all his army crossed the Jordan.”

The Syrian General Bacchides heard about Jonathan and tried to kill him. Jonathan was joined by his brother Simon as they fled to the wilderness of Tekoa, which was about 16 miles southeast of Jerusalem. The pool of Asphar was about 3 miles further south of Tekoa. General Bacchides found them on the Sabbath as he crossed the Jordan River with his army.

The defeat of Apollonius (1 Macc 3:10-3:12)

“Apollonius now gathered together gentiles and a large force from Samaria to fight against Israel. When Judas learned of it, he went out to meet him. He defeated and killed him. Many were wounded and fell. The rest fled. Then they seized their spoils. Judas took the sword of Apollonius. He used it in battle the rest of his life.”

Apparently this Apollonius was the governor of Samaria. He gathered a group of gentiles in Samaria, which normally did not like Judea anyway. Judas Maccabeus then out to battle, defeated, and killed him. He seized the spoils of the group around Apollonius including his sword, which he seems to like so much that he used in future battles.

Haman is in charge (Esth 3:1-3:6)

“After these events, King Artaxerxes promoted Haman son of Hammedatha, a Bugean. He advanced Haman. He granted him precedence over all the king’s officials. He set his seat above all the princes who were with him. All who were at court used to do obeisance to Haman. The king had so commanded this to be done. Mordecai, however, did not do obeisance. Then the king’s courtiers said to Mordecai.

‘Mordecai, why do you disobey the king’s command?’

Day after day, they spoke to him, but he would not listen to them. Then they informed Haman that Mordecai was resisting the king’s command. Mordecai had told them that he was a Jew. When Haman learned that Mordecai was not doing obeisance to him, he was infuriated. However, he thought it beneath him to lay hands on Mordecai alone. Having been told who Mordecai’s people were, Haman plotted to destroy all the Jews, the people of Mordecai, throughout the whole kingdom of King Artaxerxes.”

It was not clear why Haman was promoted to this important role at the royal court. He was a Bugean or Agagite that probably refers to an Amalekite or an Assyrian, but it is not clear. This group may have been traditional enemies of the Jews. Since he was in charge of the other officials, it was only right that they obeyed him and offered obeisance. Judith did this to General Holofernes in chapter 10 of that work. This was a common courtesy. Mordecai gave his reason for not doing obeisance to Haman because he was a Jew. Day after day, the others told Mordecai to do it. When Haman found out about this he was furious. However, he did not want to single out Mordecai since that might look pompous. Instead he decided to destroy Mordecai’s people, all the Jews. Some have referred to this as the original genocide. Once again, it is hard to conceive of why he should have made such a jump from one person to his whole ethnic background unless it was just old fashioned stereotyping. Anti-Semitism has a long history and can be found here in the Bible itself. The European experience of anti-Semitism from Italy, France, England, Spain, Portugal, and Holland reached its apex in Germany in the 20th century.