Like the grasshopper locusts (Nah 3:15-3:17)

“There the fire

Will devour you.

The sword

Will cut you off.

It will devour you

Like the locusts.

Multiply yourselves

Like the locusts!

Multiply yourselves

Like the grasshoppers!

You increased

Your merchants

More than the stars

Of the heavens.

The locust sheds its skin.

Then it flies away.

Your guards are

Like grasshoppers.

Your scribes are

Like swarms of locusts,

Settling on the fences,

On a day of cold,

When the sun rises,

They fly away.

No one knows

Where they have gone.”

A fire would destroy Nineveh, while the sword would chase people away.  The city would be decimated, as if a swarm of locusts had come through there.  They would have to multiply themselves like grasshoppers or locusts, as their merchants had done in the past.  These commercial envoys of Nineveh were as numerous as the stars.  Just as the locust sheds its skin, so that it can fly away, the guards at Nineveh would be like grasshoppers, hip hopping away.  Their scribes were like swarms of locusts sitting on a fence on a cold day.  However, when the sun came up the next day, these scribes would fly off, where no one would know where they went.  As this was going to happen to Nineveh, no one would know where in the world they went.

The prostitution of Israel (Hos 4:10-4:12)

“They shall eat,

But not be satisfied.

They shall play the prostitute,

But not multiply.

They have forsaken

Yahweh

To cherish prostitution.

Wine,

With new wine,

Takes away

Understanding.

My people consult

A piece of wood.

Their divining rod

Gives them oracles.

A spirit of prostitution

Has led them astray.

They have left

Their God

To play the prostitute.”

These northern Israelites would eat, but not be satisfied or full. They played the prostitute. They did not increase or multiply. They have cherished prostitution rather than Yahweh. All kinds of wine, new and old, take away understanding. Thus, the Israelite people consult with pieces of wood, the wooden idol gods. Their oracles or sayings come from their magical divining rods or sticks. This concept of prostitution has led them astray. They have left God to be prostitutes to other gods. Obviously, this was an allusion to the prostitution fertility rites and the fact that they were turning to other wooden idol gods, rather than being faithful to Yahweh.

The call for mercy (Dan 3:10-3:13)

“Now your servants!

We cannot

Open our mouths!

We cannot

Worship you!

We have become

A shame!

We have become

A reproach!

For your name’s sake,

Do not give us up forever!

Do not annul your covenant!

Do not withdraw

Your mercy

From us!

For the sake of Abraham,

Your beloved,

For the sake of Isaac,

Your servant,

For the sake of Israel,

Your holy one,

Do not withdraw

Your mercy!

You promised

To multiply their descendants

Like the stars of heaven,

Like the sand on the shore

Of the sea.”

Azariah made a plea to God to have mercy on him and his friends. They were not able to open their mouths to worship God. They had become a shame and a reproach for the sake of God’s name. He wanted God not to give up on them or annul the covenant that he had made with Israel. He did not want God to withdraw his mercy from them. He reminded God about Abraham, the beloved one, Isaac, his servant, and Israel, the holy one. God had promised to multiply their descendants, like the stars in heaven or like the sand on the sea shore.

 

The eternal covenant of peace (Ezek 37:26-37:28)

“I will make

A covenant

Of peace

With the Israelites.

It shall be

An everlasting covenant

With them.

I will bless them.

I will multiply them.

I will set my sanctuary

Among them

Forever.

My dwelling place

Shall be with them.

I will be their God.

They shall be my people.

Then the nations

Shall know

That I,

Yahweh,

Sanctify Israel,

When my sanctuary is

Among them

Forever.”

Yahweh, via Ezekiel, was going to make an eternal covenant of peace with the Israelites. He was going to bless and multiply them. He was going to set his sanctuary among them, living with them forever. He was going to be their God. Thus, they would be his people. All the various countries would know that Yahweh had personally sanctified the land of Israel forever. There was a major emphasis on forever, which is a very long time.

The restoration in Israel (Ezek 36:9-36:12)

“See now,

I am for you.

I will turn to you.

You shall be tilled.

You shall be sown.

I will multiply

Your population,

The whole house

Of Israel,

All of it.

The towns

Shall be inhabited.

The waste places

Rebuilt.

I will multiply

Human beings,

As well as animals

Among you.

They shall increase.

They shall be fruitful.

I will cause you

To be inhabited,

As in your former times.

I will do more good

To you

Than ever before.

Then you will know

That I am Yahweh.

I will lead people

Upon you,

My people Israel.

They shall possess you.

You shall be

Their inheritance.

No longer shall you

Bereave their children.”

Yahweh, via Ezekiel, told the mountains of Israel that he was for them. He was going to turn their land into a place that was tilled and sown with crops. He was going to multiply the population of the whole house of Israel. The towns would be inhabited and the ruined places rebuilt. Humans and animals would multiply, as the land would be occupied again. Yahweh was going to do more good than ever before. They would know that he was Yahweh, their God. There would be new leaders in this inherited land, so that they would no longer mourn for their lost children. His land and his people would be reunited again.

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.

The future good shepherds (Jer 23:3-23:4)

“‘Then I myself

Will gather the remnant

Of my flock

Out of all the lands

Where I have driven them.

I will bring them back

To their fold.

They shall be fruitful.

They shall multiply.

I will raise up

Shepherds over them.

They will shepherd them.

They shall not fear any longer.

They shall not be dismayed.

None shall be missing.’

Says Yahweh.”

At some future time, Yahweh will gather the remnant of his flock from all the countries that they were driven into. He is going to bring them back into the fold where they will be fruitful and multiply. Moreover, he will then put good shepherd leaders over them. They will no longer fear or be dismayed. No one will be missing. Thus the future good times would have good leaders.

The return from the Exile (Jer 3:15-3:18)

“‘I will give you shepherds

After my own heart.

They will feed you

With knowledge.

They will feed you

With understanding.

When you have multiplied,

You will have increased in the land.’

Says Yahweh.

‘In those days,

They shall no more say.

‘The ark of the covenant of Yahweh.’

It shall not come to mind.

It will not be remembered.

It will not be missed.

There will not be another one made.

At that time

Jerusalem shall be called

The throne of Yahweh.

All nations shall gather to it.

In the presence of Yahweh,

In Jerusalem,

They shall no more stubbornly follow

Their own evil will.

In those days

The house of Judah shall

Join the house of Israel.

Together they shall come

From the land of the north

To the land that I gave your ancestors

For a heritage.’”

Yahweh speaks via Jeremiah about what was going to happen in the future after they returned from the Exile. They would have good shepherd rulers with knowledge and understanding leading them. They would increase and multiply in the promised land of their ancestors.   In a strange sort of comment, the Ark of the Covenant would be replaced by the city of Jerusalem as the throne of Yahweh. Somehow they were going to forget and not miss the Ark of the Covenant. Many nations would come to Jerusalem. This sounds like it was written at the time of the Exile about a future hope for Jerusalem. The returned Israelites would no longer follow their own evil ways, as the house of Judah would come together with the northern tribes of Israel. They would enjoy the land that was given to them as the heritage of their ancestors.

Infidelity and punishment (Sir 48:15-48:16)

“Despite all this,

The people did not repent.

They did not forsake their sins,

Until they were carried off

As plunder

From their land.

They were scattered

Over all the earth.

The people were left,

Very few in number,

But with a ruler

From the house of David.

Some of them did

What was right,

Pleasing to God.

But others sinned

More and more.”

Despite the warnings of these two great northern prophets of Israel, Elijah and Elisha, the northern Israelites did not repent. They did not give up their sinning ways. Only when they were carried off as plunder in the captivity did they realize how bad they had been. They were scattered all over the earth. Only a few people were left. However, there was a ruler from the house of David in Judah. Some people did what was right and pleased the Lord, but many others continued to multiply their sins.

Sinners until death (Sir 23:16-23:17)

“Two kinds of individuals

Multiply sins.

A third incurs wrath.

Hot passion blazes

Like a burning fire.

Hot passion

Will not be quenched

Until it burns itself out.

Whoever commits fornication

With his near of kin

Will never cease

Until the fire burns him up.

To a fornicator,

All bread is sweet.

He will never cease

Until he dies.”

Here Sirach is like Proverbs with a numerical proverb that is a little unclear. Some sinners multiply their sins, basically those with sins of passion. However, another kind of sinner incurs the wrath of God. Obviously, fornication is wrong. Hot passion blazes like a burning fire until it is quenched and burns itself out. The big sin is sexual fornication with a relative. Sirach believes that this fornicator will not cease until fire burns him up. Each fornicator believes that all bread is sweet, since they make no distinction on who they get involved with. They will only cease their bad habits at death. This is a strong condemnation of the indiscriminate sexual offender, especially those who get sexually involved with their own family members.