The role of the Temple (Jer 7:3-7:4)

“Thus says Yahweh of hosts!

The God of Israel!

Amend your ways!

Amend your doings!

Let me dwell with you

In this place.

Do not trust

In these deceptive words.

‘This is the temple of Yahweh!

The temple of Yahweh!

The temple of Yahweh.’”

The first part of this pericope sounds like the many other times that Yahweh had spoken to his people. He was the God of Israel with his hosts. The Temple visitors were to amend their ways and what they were doing. Yahweh wanted to dwell with them in his Temple. However, the second verse is a little strange. Yahweh told Jeremiah not to trust the deceptive words about the Temple of Yahweh. In fact, the statement is mentioned 3 times, “Temple of Yahweh”. Was this a reminder to enter the Temple 3 times a day? Was this against the false prophets who told them not to worry, since as long as they had the Temple everything would be fine? Is it a rebuke to those who just loved the majesty and beauty of the Temple? This triple cry about the Temple of Yahweh as deceptive words is not really clear.

Rejoice with Jerusalem (Isa 66:10-66:11)

“Rejoice with Jerusalem!

Be glad for her!

All you who love her!

Rejoice with her in joy!

All you who mourn over her!

That you may nurse!

That you be satisfied

From her consoling breasts!

Thus you may drink deeply

With delight

From her glorious bosom!”

Everyone was to rejoice with Jerusalem. Everyone who loved her was to be glad for her, even those who mourned for her. They would all nurse and be satisfied from the consoling breasts and glorious bosom of Jerusalem. They would all drink deeply with great delight.

Against the sexual immorality of idolatry (Isa 57:7-57:8)

“Upon a high lofty mountain

You have set your bed.

There you went up to offer sacrifice.

Behind the door,

Behind the doorpost

You have set up your symbol.

In deserting me,

You have uncovered your bed.

You have gone up to it.

You have made it wide.

You have made a bargain

For yourself with them.

You have loved their bed.

You have gazed on their nakedness.”

Third Isaiah speaks out against the sexual immorality of this idol worship. On a high mountain of worship there would be a bed. With the symbol of the idol behind the door or the doorpost, there they opened their wide bed to others. Thus, they deserted Yahweh when they offered their sacrifices. They made a bargain with their sexual partners, where they loved and gazed on each other’s nakedness. These were the implications of sexual immoral acts of naked bodies in a bed.

The call of Cyrus to fight against the Babylonians (Isa 48:14-48:16)

“Assemble!

All of you!

Hear!

Who among them has declared these things?

Yahweh loves him.

He shall perform his purpose on Babylon.

His arm shall be against the Chaldeans.

I!

Even I have spoken!

I called him!

I have brought him!

He will prosper in his way.

Draw near to me!

Hear this!

From the beginning,

I have not spoken in secret.

From the time it came to be,

I have been there.            

‘Yahweh God has sent me.

He has sent his Spirit.’”

Second Isaiah reveals the new things to happen. Once again, everyone had to assemble and listen to what Yahweh had to say. Thus Yahweh declared that he loved Cyrus who was about to attack Babylon and use his arm against these Chaldeans. Yahweh clearly says that he has called him, but Cyrus will prosper in his own way. Yahweh wanted the Israelites to know that he had not spoken in secret, since he has always existed. Apparently Cyrus, without explicitly mentioning him by name, responded saying that Yahweh had sent his Spirit to him.

The ransom of Israel (Isa 43:3-4:7)

“I give Egypt as your ransom.

I give Ethiopia in exchange for you.

I give Seba in exchange for you.

Because you are precious in my sight,

I honored you.

I love you.

I give people in return for you.

I give nations in exchange for your life.

Do not fear!

I am with you!

I will bring your offspring from the east.

I will gather you from the west.

I will say to the north.

‘Give them up!’

I will say to the south.

‘Do not withhold!’

Bring my sons from far away!

Bring my daughters from the end of the earth!

Bring everyone who is called by my name,

Whom I created for my glory,

Whom I formed,

Whom I made.”

Yahweh God, using the first person singular in Second Isaiah, wants to ransom the Israelites, whether they were in Egypt, Ethiopia, or Arabia Seba. The Israelites were precious in his sight. He loved and honored them. He would give other people up to save their lives. The Israelite offspring shall be from the east, the west, the north, and the south. He would gather his sons and daughters from the ends of the earth. He would have everyone who called on his name and gave him glory ransomed, since he had formed and made them.

Religious hypocrites (Isa 1:13-1:16)

“I cannot endure

Solemn assemblies

With iniquity.

I cannot endure

New moon convocations.

I cannot endure

Sabbath convocations.

My soul hates

Your new moon celebrations.

My soul hates

Your appointed festivals.

They have become a burden to me.

I am weary of bearing them.

When you spread forth your hands,

I will hide my eyes from you.

Even though you make many prayers,

I will not listen.

Your hands are full of blood.

Wash yourselves!

Make yourselves clean!

Remove the evil

Of your doings

From before my eyes.

Cease to do evil!”

Yahweh via Isaiah continues to reject all convocations and assemblies for the new moon and the various festivals, even for the Sabbath because of their iniquity. What a striking turn of events! The kings and priests loved these assemblies for fulfilling the law in the Torah. Isaiah and Yahweh seem to be calling out the hypocrisy of these worship assemblies where evil iniquitous people gathered for these festivals. Yahweh could not endure them any longer. His soul hated them. He was weary of their burden on him.   He was going to hide his eyes and not listen to their prayers. Then in surprisingly priestly language he talks about the unclean bloody hands that need to be washed. Somehow the idea of clean and unclean was acceptable. However, these worshippers had to change their evil habits. They had to cease to do evil. Maybe, this rebuke against offerings and festivals was not absolute.

The taking up of Elijah (Sir 48:9-48:11)

“You who were taken up

By a whirlwind of fire.

You were taken up

In a chariot

With horses of fire.

At the appointed time,

It is written,

That you are destined

To calm the wrath of God

Before it breaks out in fury.

You are destined

To turn the hearts of parents

To their children.

You are destined

To restore the tribes of Jacob.

Blessed are those

Who saw you.

Happy are those

Who were adorned

With your love.

We also shall surely live.”

The story of the taking up of Elijah is recorded 2 Kings, chapter 2, in the so-called Elisha cycle. Elijah, like Enoch, was taken up to heaven without dying, being the only 2 in all these biblical stories. Not even Moses, Aaron, David, or any other of the patriarchs, prophets, or kings had this privilege. Thus near the Jordan River, the chariots of fire came and took Elijah away in a whirlwind of fire. Elisha took Elijah’s place, as he was able to part the waters of the Jordan River. Other prophets went looking for Elijah, but to no avail. However, it is not clear where the idea of the second coming of Elijah comes from at some appointed hour. For many Christians, Jesus was the Messiah of the Second Coming. However, some believe it was John the Baptist, or as the Mormons believe with Joseph Smith in 1836. At the appointed hour, Elijah will calm the wrath of God, turn parents to their children, and restore the tribes of Jacob. Happy and blessed are those who saw and loved Elijah for they will live on.

The glory of King David (Sir 47:6-47:11)

“They glorified him

For the tens of thousands that he conquered.

They praised him

For the blessings bestowed

By the Lord.

The glorious diadem was given to him.

He wiped out his enemies on every side.

He annihilated his adversaries,

The Philistines.

He crushed their power even to our own day.

In all that he did

He gave thanks to the Holy One,

The Most High,

Proclaiming his glory.

He sang praise

With all his heart.

He loved his Maker.

He placed singers before the altar.

They made sweet melody with their voices.

Daily they sing his praises.

He gave beauty to the festivals.

He arranged their times

Throughout the year.

They praised God’s holy name.

The sanctuary resounded from early morning.

The Lord took away his sins.

He exalted his power forever.

He gave him a covenant of kingship.

He gave him a glorious throne in Israel.”

Sirach told of the glory of King David who had killed thousands of his enemies. He was praised for the Lord’s blessings that he had received. He was given a glorious diadem crown to wear, after an unmentioned dispute with King Saul. David wiped out his enemies, especially the Philistines, but they kept coming back for more. However, David gave thanks to the Holy One, the Most High God. He loved his creator. He sang praises to him. He had singers at the altar as well as set up wonderful festivals throughout the year. Although there is mention of a sanctuary, the Temple was not built until his son King Solomon built it. The Lord took away the sins of David and established a covenant of kingship with him on the throne in Israel. In light of what was to come, there was no eternal covenant of kingship.

Moses (Sir 45:1-45:5)

“From Jacob’s descendants,

The Lord brought forth a godly man.

He found favor in the sight of all.

He was beloved by God.

He was beloved by the people.

Moses’ memory is blessed.

The Lord made him equal in glory

To the holy ones.

The Lord made him great.

Mosses brought terror to his enemies

By his words.

He performed swift miracles.

The Lord glorified him

In the presence of kings.

The Lord gave him commandments

For his people.

The Lord revealed to him his glory.

The Lord consecrated him for his faithfulness.

He sanctified him for his meekness.

He chose him out of all humans.

He allowed him to hear his voice.

He led him into the dark cloud.

He gave him the commandments

Face to face.

He gave him the law of life.

He gave him knowledge.

Thus Moses

Might teach Jacob the covenant.

He might teach Israel his decrees.”

Obviously, Sirach has Moses as one of these blessed famous godly men, who found favor in the sight of all people. He surely was a holy one as described in practically all the first part of Exodus, chapters 2-24. Moses was a later descendant of Jacob who was loved both by God and the people. However, Moses was a terror to his enemies, yet glorified in the presence of kings. He performed great miracles. The Lord gave him commandments face to face, as he was chosen and consecrated from all the people, because he was faithful and meek. He heard the voice of God in the dark cloud. He received the law of life and knowledge from God. Thus he was able to teach the covenant and the decrees to Jacob and Israel.

The foolish giver (Sir 20:13-20:17)

“The wise make themselves beloved

By only a few words.

But the courtesies of fools are wasted.

A fool’s gift will profit nothing.

So it is with the envious

Who give under compulsion.

He looks for recompense sevenfold.

He has many eyes instead of one.

He gives little.

He upbraids much.

He opens his mouth

Like a town crier.

Today he lends.

Tomorrow he asks it back.

Such a one is a hateful man.

Such a one is hateful to God.

Such a one is hateful to humans.

The fool says.

‘I have no friends.

I get no thanks for my good deeds.

Those who eat my bread

Are evil-tongued.’

How many will ridicule him!

How often will they ridicule him!”

Wise people can make themselves loved with a few words. However, fools have a difficult time. Courtesies and gifts do not bring them any gain. The same is true of the envious people that are forced to give a gift. They are looking for a reward. These fools are looking to be compensated. They are looking all over with their many eyes. They give little. They are always criticizing. They are like town criers, shouting all the time. One day they lend things. Then the next day, they want them back again. These fools are hateful people to God and their fellow humans. These foolish people think that they have no friends. They get no thanks for their good deeds. They think that the people who eat with them are evil people. Thus they are often ridiculed by many people.