The happy people in Jerusalem (Isa 65:21-65:23)

“They shall build houses.

They shall inhabit them.

They shall plant vineyards.

They shall eat their fruit.

They shall not build

With another inhabit it.

They shall not plant

With another eat it.

Like the days of a tree

Shall the days of my people be.

My chosen ones shall long enjoy

The work of their hands.

They shall not labor in vain.

They shall not bear children for calamity.

They shall be offspring

Blessed by Yahweh.

Their descendants shall be blessed

With them.”

Everyone will be happy in this new Jerusalem. When they build a house, they will live there, since no one else will live there. If they plant vineyards, they will enjoy their fruit, since no one else will enjoy their crop. Their lives will be long like the days of a large tree. They will benefit from their own work. They will not labor in vain. Their children will not have misfortunes because they and their children will be blessed by Yahweh.

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A cry to Yahweh (Ps 35:22-35:24)

“You have seen!

Yahweh!

Do not be silent!

Yahweh!

Do not be far from me!

Wake up!

Bestir yourself for my defense!

For my cause,

My God!

My Lord!

Vindicate me!

Yahweh!

My God!

According to your righteousness,

Do not let them rejoice over me!”

David’s cry to Yahweh wants Yahweh to wake up and see what is going on. Yahweh had seen what was happening to David, and yet he was silent. David wanted Yahweh close to him as his defense. He wanted his righteousness to be vindicated. He did not want others to rejoice over his misfortunes.

Nicanor as the governor of Judea (2 Macc 14:11-14:14)

“When Alcimus had said this, the rest of the king’s friends, who were hostile to Judas Maccabeus, quickly inflamed King Demetrius still more. He immediately chose Nicanor, who had been in command of the elephants. He appointed him governor of Judea. He sent him off with orders to kill Judas Maccabeus and scatter his troops. He was to install Alcimus as high priest of the great temple. The gentiles throughout Judea, who had fled before Judas Maccabeus, flocked to join Nicanor. They thought that the misfortunes and calamities of the Jews would mean prosperity for themselves.”

Once again, this is similar but not quite the same as 1 Maccabees, chapter 7. There is no mention of Bacchides here. Instead the leader of the troops and the governor of Judea was Nicanor. Apparently, Nicanor had been in charge of the elephants that seem to have been a big deal in the Syrian army. He may also have been with King Demetrius I when he was in jail in Rome. Now this meant that there was a separate governor for Judea whose sole purpose was to kill Judas Maccabees and disperse his troops. Alcimus was officially made the high priest. The gentiles in the area were happy so that they eagerly joined with Nicanor. The assumption of the gentiles was a zero sum game that if the Jews were in trouble, it would be better for them.

Purification of the Temple (2 Macc 10:1-10:4)

“Now Judas Maccabeus and his followers, the Lord leading them on, recovered the temple and the city. They tore down the altars which that had been built in the public square by the foreigners. They also destroyed the sacred precincts. They purified the sanctuary. They made another altar of sacrifice. Then, striking fire out of flint, they offered sacrifices. After a lapse of two years, they burned incense. They lighted lamps. They set out the bread of the Presence. When they had done this, they fell prostrate. They implored the Lord that they might never again fall into such misfortunes. If they should ever sin, they might be disciplined by him with forbearance and not be handed over to blasphemous and barbarous nations.”

This purification of the Temple by Judas Maccabeus took place earlier in 1 Maccabees, chapter 4, about a year before the death of King Antiochus IV. Here it is 2 years after the desecration of the Temple. In fact, the description in 1 Maccabees was more elaborate, but pretty much the same as here. There was no lamentation and mourning for the city and the Temple here. The Lord led them on here as the altars were in the public square. In 1 Maccabees, they saved the old stones. Here they just made another altar. They offered sacrifices, burned incense, lighted lamps, and set out the bread of Presence as in 1 Maccabees. Here there is a prayer to be more lenient next time if they do sin.

The happiness of King Antiochus IV (2 Macc 5:17-5:20)

“King Antiochus was elated in spirit. He did not perceive that the Lord was angered for a little while because of the sins of those who dwelt in the city. This was the reason that the Lord was disregarding the holy place. But if it had not happened that they were involved in many sins, this man would have been flogged and turned back from his rash act as soon as he came forward. Remember what happened to Heliodorus, whom King Seleucus sent to inspect the treasury. But the Lord did not choose the nation for the sake of the holy place, but the place for the sake of the nation. Therefore the place itself shared in the misfortunes that befell the nation and afterward participated in its benefits. What was forsaken in the wrath of the Almighty was restored again in all its glory when the great Lord became reconciled.”

The Lord let King Antiochus IV succeed because of the sins of the people of Jerusalem. He could have had the king flogged, but the people of Jerusalem were so involved in sin. This is an attempt to explain why this Seleucid king got away with his actions, when the Lord was so severe with Heliodorus unde King Seleucus IV in chapter 3 of this work. This author reminded the people that the people were not chosen because of the place, but the reverse is true. The place was chosen for the people. The place of Jerusalem suffered the wrath of God for the sins of the people, but it would enjoy the glory of the people at its restoration. Clearly this biblical author was not afraid to express his opinion and belief.

The death bed repentance of King Antiochus (1 Macc 6:8-6:13)

“When King Antiochus king heard this news, he was astounded and badly shaken. He took to his bed. He became sick from grief because things had not turned out for him as he had planned. He lay there for many days because deep disappointment continually gripped him. He concluded that he was dying. So he called all his friends. He said to them.

‘Sleep has departed from my eyes.

I am downhearted with worry.

I said to myself.

‘To what distress I have come!

Into what a great flood I now am plunged!

For I was kind and beloved in my power.’

But now I remember the wrong I did in Jerusalem.

I seized all her vessels of silver and gold.

I sent to destroy the inhabitants of Judah without good reason.

I know that it is because of this

That these misfortunes have come upon me.

Here I am perishing of bitter disappointment in a strange land.’”

King Antiochus IV was astonished and shaken by the news that he heard about Judah. In quite a melodramatic way, he took to his bed because things had not turned out the way that he had planned them. He was very despondent. Thinking that he was dying, he called his friends. He tried to clear his soul with a confession to his friends. He could no longer sleep because he was so worried. He was in great distress that he himself had caused. He had been a kind and beloved king, until he went to Jerusalem. There he took the silver and gold vessels and destroyed the people of Jerusalem for no reason. He believed that all his misfortunes stemmed from that incident. Now he was going to die disappointed in a strange land, Persia.

The pep talk of Judas Maccabeus (1 Macc 3:58-3:60)

“Judas said.

‘Arm yourselves!

Be courageous!

Be ready early in the morning to fight with these gentiles.

They have assembled against us to destroy us and our sanctuary.

It is better for us to die in battle

Than to see the misfortunes of our nation and of the sanctuary.

But as his will in heaven may be,

So he will do.’”

The pep talk of Judas Maccabeus told the troops to arm themselves and be courageous. They had to be ready in the morning to fight the gentiles who were out to destroy them and their sanctuary. They had already sacked the Temple in Jerusalem. Judas reminded them that it was better to die in battle than to see the misfortunes of their country and Temple. However, he would abide by the will of the God in heaven.