Unacceptable sacrifices (Sir 34:21-34:27)

“If one sacrifices ill-gotten goods,

The offering is blemished.

The gifts of the lawless

Are not acceptable.

The Most High is not pleased

With the offerings of the ungodly.

He does not forgive sins

For a multitude of sacrifices.

Like one who kills a son,

Before his father’s eyes,

Is the person

Who offers a sacrifice

From the property of the poor.

The bread of the needy

Is the life of the poor.

Whoever deprives them of it

Is a murderer.

To take away a neighbor’s living

Is to commit murder.

To deprive an employee of his wages

Is to shed blood.”

There are some sacrifices that are not acceptable to the Lord. Sirach points out that stolen or ill-gotten goods sacrificed are blemished and thus unacceptable. Even good gifts from the lawless and the ungodly will not be acceptable. A lot of sacrifices do not forgive sins. If you sacrifice the property of the poor, you are like a person killing a son before his own father. The bread of the poor is needed for their life. You are a murderer when you take bread from the poor. If you take away the living of your neighbor, you are a murderer. To deprive anyone of their wages is like shedding their blood. In other words, to steal from the poor or take away their livelihood is like murdering them.

The problem of bribery (2 Macc 10:18-10:23)

“At least nine thousand people took refuge in two very strong towers well equipped to withstand a siege. Judas Maccabeus left Simon and Joseph, as well as Zacchaeus and his troops, a force sufficient to besiege them. He himself set off for places where he was more urgently needed. But those with Simon, who were money-hungry, were bribed by some of those who were in the towers. On receiving seventy thousand drachmas, they let some of people slip away. When word of what had happened came to Judas Maccabeus, he gathered the leaders of the people. He accused these men of having sold their kindred for money by setting their enemies free to fight against them. Then he killed these men who had turned traitor. He then immediately captured the two towers. Having success at arms in everything he undertook, he destroyed more than twenty thousand in the two strongholds.”

This incident was not found in 1 Maccabees. Judas Maccabeus set up a siege around 2 towers. He left his brothers Simon and Joseph in charge with Zacchaeus and his troops to keep up the siege. However, some money-hungry men with Simon, his brother, were bribed by people in the tower. A drachma was a Greek coin probably worth about $25.00 USA. 70,000 of these would be about a little less than 2 million ($2,000,000.00) dollars, a handsome sum. I do not know what they were going to do with this money. Anyway, Judas Maccabeus found out that many had escaped by paying this bribe. Apparently there were only a few people under Simon who were doing this so he had them killed. Then they captured the strongholds and killed the rest of them, some 20,000 people.

Jonathan and Trypho meet (1 Macc 12:41-12:45)

“Jonathan went out to meet Trypho with forty thousand picked warriors. He came to Beth-shan. When Trypho saw that he had come with a large army, he was afraid to raise his hand against him. So he received him with honor and commended him to all his friends. He gave him gifts. He commanded his friends and his troops to obey him as they would himself. Then he said to Jonathan.

‘Why have you put all these people

To such trouble

When we are not at war?

Dismiss them now to their homes.

Choose for yourself a few men to stay with you.

Come with me to Ptolemais.

I will hand it over to you

As well as the other strongholds

And the remaining troops

And all the officials.

I will turn around and go home.

That is why I am here.’”

Jonathan now had a large force of 40,000 warriors. When he met Trypho at Beth-shan, Trypho was actually afraid. He did not want to fight such a large army. Instead, he said that he wanted to honor Jonathan as he gave him gifts. He told his whole army to listen and obey whatever Jonathan said. He wanted Jonathan to take a few troops to Ptolemais, where he would give him that city. He told Jonathan to dismiss most of his troops since they were not needed. They were not at war. He was going to hand everything over to Jonathan so that he could go home. He said that was the reason that he had come to this place. It is hard to tell whether Jonathan believed him or not, but we shall see.

Mordecai tells Queen Esther not to be silent (Esth 4:12-4:14)

“When Hachratheus delivered her entire message to Mordecai, then Mordecai told him to go back and say to her.

‘Queen Esther,

Do not say to yourself

That you alone among all the Jews will escape alive.

If you keep quiet at such a time as this,

Help and protection will come to the Jews from another quarter.

You and your father’s family will perish.

Who knows whether it was not for such a time as this?

Was this why you were made queen?’”

After Hachratheus delivered Queen Esther’s message to Mordecai, he responded that she was not safe. She would be destroyed with all the other Jews. If she kept quiet at this time, divine help for other quarters would be needed. She and her whole family would perish. There was no mention of any children here since they would be half Persian and half Jewish. Mordecai hinted that perhaps this is why she was made queen, to intervene at this critical time.

The king searches for a new queen (Esth 2:1-2:5)

“After these things, the anger of King Artaxerxes abated. He remembered Queen Vashti. He remembered what she had done, and what had been decreed against her. Then the king’s servants said.

‘Let beautiful and virtuous girls be sought out for the king.

Let the king appoint officers in all the provinces of his kingdom.

They shall select beautiful young virgins.

Let them be brought to the harem in Susa the capital.

Let them be entrusted to the king’s eunuch.

He is in charge of the women.

Let ointments be given them.

Let whatever else they need be given to them.

Let the woman who pleases the king

Let her be queen instead of Queen Vashti.’

This pleased the king. Thus he did so.”

Now we get to the practical problem. King Artaxerxes is no longer upset. He had condemned Queen Vashti, without saying what her punishment was. King Henry VIII of England started beheading his queens that he did not like. Nothing is mentioned here by way of punishment except that she will be dethroned. The king’s servants or advisors came up with an idea. Like Donald Trump, they would have a Miss Universe pageant. He appointed officers in all the provinces to select beautiful young women to send to the capital city of Susa. They would then be in the king’s harem, under the supervision of a eunuch, a castrated man. There they would be given perfume and whatever else they needed. Finally, the king would be a panel of one, like “The Bachelor” to decide who should take the place of Queen Vashti. The king as usual said that this was a good idea.