The fight over Palestine (Dan 11:15-11:17)

“Then the king of the north

Shall come.

He shall throw up

Siege works.

He shall take

A well-fortified city.

The forces of the south

Shall not stand.

Not even his picked troops

Shall stand.

There shall be

No strength to resist.

But he who comes

Against him

Shall take the actions

He pleases.

No one shall withstand him.

He shall take a position

In the beautiful land.

All of it shall be

In his power.

He shall set his mind

To come

With the strength

Of his whole kingdom.

He shall bring terms of peace.

He shall perform them.

In order to destroy the kingdom,

He shall give him

A woman in marriage.

But it shall not succeed.

It shall not be to his advantage.”

Then the king of the north, King Antiochus III (222-187 BCE), took possession of the beautiful land of Israel or Judah. He would set up a siege against the fortified city. The southern forces from Egypt would not be able to stand up against him, even their special troops were not good enough. No one had the strength to resist. He set his mind to it and he was able to do it. Then he arranged a peace treaty. King Antiochus gave his daughter Cleopatra to the young King Ptolemy V (204-181 BCE) in marriage in 194 BCE, but it did not work.

The divided mixed kingdom (Dan 2:41-2:43)

“As you saw

The feet

With the toes,

Partly of potter’s clay,

Partly of iron,

It shall be a divided kingdom.

Some of the strength

Of iron

Shall be in it,

Just as you saw

The iron mixed

With the clay.

As the toes

Of the feet were

Partly iron,

Partly clay,

Thus,

The kingdom shall be

Partly strong,

Partly brittle.

As you saw the iron

Mixed with clay,

Thus,

They will mix

With one another

In marriage.

But they will not

Hold together,

Just as iron

Does not mix

With clay.”

This appears to be a veiled reference to the future Greek iron kingdom with its problems between the different ruling parties of the Seleucids (312-63 BCE) and the Ptolemies (305-30 BCE). They each inherited parts of the Greek empire of Alexander the Great (356-323 BCE). They tried to join together through marriage, but that failed. Daniel here used the example of the feet made of iron and clay, the strength of the iron mixed with the weak clay. However, as the toes and feet became weak, so too this kingdom would be partly strong and partly brittle. Even a marriage could not hold it together, because iron and clay simply do not mix.

The letter suggests that they assimilate into Babylon (Jer 29:4-29:7)

“The letter said.

‘Thus says Yahweh of hosts!

The God of Israel!

To all the exiles

Whom I have sent

Into exile

From Jerusalem

To Babylon.

Build houses!

Live in them!

Plant gardens!

Eat what they produce!

Take wives!

Have sons!

Have daughters!

Take wives for your sons!

Give your daughters

In marriage!

Thus they may bear sons.

Thus they may bear daughters.

Multiply there!

Do not decrease!

But seek the welfare

Of the city

Where I have sent you

Into exile.

Pray to Yahweh

On its behalf.

In its welfare

You will find your welfare.’”

Interesting enough, this letter is very favorable to the Babylonians. After all, it was going to the king of Babylon. Once again it is the classical Jeremiah oracle with Yahweh of hosts, the God of Israel, as the source of this letter. They were to build houses, live in them, plant gardens, and eat from their produce. They were to have wives and children. They were to take wives for their sons and give their daughters in marriage, so that they could become grandparents. They should multiply there, not decrease. In fact, they were to get involved in the city there by praying to Yahweh for its welfare. After all, if the city did well, so would they. This seems like a clear attempt to assimilate into the Babylonian culture and society.

New name and status (Isa 62:2-62:5)

“You shall be called

By a new name.

The mouth of Yahweh

Will give you this name.

You shall be a crown of beauty

In the hand of Yahweh.

You shall be a royal diadem

In the hand of your God.

You shall no more

Be termed ‘Forsaken’.

Your land shall no more

Be termed ‘Desolate’.

But you shall be called

‘My delight is in her’.

Your land is ‘Married’.

Yahweh delights in you.

Your land shall be married.

As a young man

Marries a young woman,

So shall your builder

Marry you.

As the bridegroom rejoices

Over the bride,

So shall your God rejoice

Over you.”

Yahweh will give Jerusalem a new name. Zion will be a crown of beauty in Yahweh’s hand. Jerusalem will be like a royal crown in the hand of their God. They will no longer be called forsaken and desolate. They will be called delightful and married because Yahweh delights in them. This marriage is like that of a groom and his new wife. God the builder will marry the land. Just as the groom rejoices over his new bride, so too God will rejoice over his land and its people.

The good wife (Sir 26:1-26:4)

“Happy is the husband

Of a good wife.

The number of his days

Will be doubled.

A loyal wife brings joy

To her husband.

He will complete

His years in peace.

A good wife is

A great blessing.

She will be granted

Among the blessings

Of the man who fears the Lord.

Whether rich or poor,

His heart is content.

At all times,

His face is cheerful.”

Now we see the opposite, the good wife.   Sirach says that a husband will be happy if he has a good loyal wife. She will bring joy to her husband. He will live twice as long, and complete his years in peace. This good wife is a great blessing, especially for those who fear the Lord. Whether rich or poor, he will be content at all times with the cheerful face of his good wife. It seems that the burden of any marriage falls on the wife rather than the husband.

Make your husband happy (Sir 25:23-25:23)

“A dejected mind,

A gloomy face,

And a wounded heart

Come from an evil wife.

Drooping hands,

Weak knees

Come from the wife

Who does not make

Her husband happy.”

Sirach once again shows his disdain for females. He insists that a major duty of a woman in a marriage is to make her husband happy. This evil wife will produce a man with a dejected mind, a gloomy face, and a wounded heart. He will have drooping hands and weak knees because his wife is not making him happy. Again, there does not seem to be any concern about making the wife happy at all.

The birth of Solomon (Wis 7:1-7:6)

“I also am mortal.

Like everyone else,

I am a descendant

Of the first-formed child of earth.

In the womb of a mother,

I was molded into flesh,

Within the period of ten months,

Compacted with blood,

From the seed of a man,

Within the pleasure of marriage.

When I was born,

I began to breathe the common air.

I fell upon the kindred earth.

My first sound was a cry,

As is true of all.

I was nursed with care

In swaddling clothes.

No king has had a different beginning of existence.

There is for all

One entrance into life.

There is one common way out.”

This author proclaims the human male mortality (ἄνθρωπος) of Solomon in the first person singular (ειμι). He was a mortal child of the earth like everyone else. He became flesh (σὰρξ) in his mother’s womb (κοιλίᾳ μητρὸς), where he had been 10 months since they used the lunar 28 day month calendar. He came from the seed of a man (ἐκ σπέρματος ἀνδρὸς) within a marriage. After birth, he began to breathe the common air (ἀέρα) that we all breathe. He was on the same ground and nursed in the same swaddling clothes like everyone else. A king (βασιλεὺς) does not come to exist in a different kind of way than everyone else. Everyone has the same entrance (εἴσοδος) and the same exit (ἔξοδός) to life.

Little sister (Song 8:8-8:10)

Female lover

“We have a little sister.

She has no breasts.

What shall we do for our sister?

What shall we do

On the day when she is spoken for?

If she is a wall,

We will build

Upon her

A battlement of silver.

But if she is a door,

We will enclose her

With boards of cedar.

I was a wall,

My breasts were like towers.

Then I was in his eyes

As one who brings peace.”

Somehow, there is a problem about a little sister. Probably she was not yet ready for marriage since she had no breasts. She was not spoken for or engaged. What were they to do? They were going to protect her. She either was a wall or a door. If she was a wall, they would add a silver fortification. If she was a door, they would enclose her with cedar boards. This female lover says that she was a wall with large breasts that had brought peace to everyone. It could also be future child, as interpretations abound.

Beautiful daughter (Ps 45:10-45:13)

“Hear!

O daughter!

Consider!

Incline your ear!

Forget your people!

Forget your father’s house!

The king will desire your beauty.

Since he is your lord,

Bow to him.

The people of Tyre will sue your favor with gifts.

The richest of the people,

With all kinds of wealth,

Will come to you.”

This psalmist scribe asks that the daughter listen carefully and consider her words. She was to forget her people and her father’s house. She was to go forward to the king, her new lord. She was to bow to him. She would become powerful and rich with this marriage. These are like the words of encouragement to a reluctant bride before a marriage. Clearly she is to be subject to her new husband, the king. The consequences of this marriage will be enormous power and wealth. There is an interesting note about the new queen coming from Tyre. She may have been a Phoenician or a Philistine, the mortal enemy of David.

The wedding of King Alexander I and Cleopatra (1 Macc 10:57-10:58)

“King Ptolemy set out from Egypt with his daughter Cleopatra. He came to Ptolemais in the one hundred sixty-second year. King Alexander met him. King Ptolemy gave him his daughter Cleopatra in marriage. They celebrated her wedding at Ptolemais with great pomp, as kings do.”

The wedding of Cleopatra, the daughter of King Ptolemy VI of Egypt, and King Alexander I of Syria took place in 150 BCE, the 167th year. So now we have Cleopatra III as part of biblical history. There were a number of women in the Egyptian Ptolemaic dynasty named Cleopatra. William Shakespeare’s play “Anthony and Cleopatra” was about Cleopatra VII, about a century later. King Ptolemy must have been pleased to go to a place named after his family, Ptolemais. He and his family were strong proponents of Greek so that the Septuagint, the Greek Old Testament, was translated in Alexandria, Egypt, a strong Hellenized town as can be seen by its very name. King Ptolemy VI and King Alexander I met. Then he gave his daughter to him in a great big wedding ceremony, as kings normally do.