“All who heard it
καὶ πάντες οἱ ἀκούσαντες ἐθαύμασαν περὶ τῶν λαληθέντων ὑπὸ τῶν ποιμένων πρὸς αὐτούς·
Luke indicated that everyone who heard the news (καὶ πάντες οἱ ἀκούσαντες) from the shepherds were amazed or marveled (ἐθαύμασαν) at what these shepherds had told them (περὶ τῶν λαληθέντων ὑπὸ τῶν ποιμένων πρὸς αὐτούς). This is the opposite of Mark, who did not want people to know that Jesus was the Messiah. Here everyone was amazed about this new messianic child. Mark had people amazed by the actions and words of Jesus, but Luke has them amazed at Jesus’ very presence.
“At that time,
Herod the tetrarch
Ἐν ἐκείνῳ τῷ καιρῷ ἤκουσεν Ἡρῴδης ὁ τετραάρχης τὴν ἀκοὴν Ἰησοῦ,
This mention of Herod can be found in all 3 synoptic gospels, Mark, chapter 6:14, and Luke, chapter 9:7, and here. The Roman educated Herod, was the ruler or tetrarch of Galilee and Perea from 4 BCE-39 CE, as a client part of the Roman Empire. This Herod Antipas was the son of Herod the Great. He built the capital city of Galilee Tiberias, as he was a favorite of the Roman Emperor Tiberius (14-37 CE.). Mathew has his traditional transition phrase, “At that time (Ἐν ἐκείνῳ τῷ καιρῷ).” Herod the tetrarch heard reports, news or rumors about Jesus (ἤκουσεν Ἡρῴδης ὁ τετραάρχης τὴν ἀκοὴν Ἰησοῦ). Thus, we have the intersection of the Galilean official of the Roman Empire, Herod, and Jesus.
“In the twelfth year
Of our exile,
In the tenth month,
On the fifth day
Of the month,
Who had escaped
Came to me.
‘The city has fallen.’”
Once again, there is an exact date, the 5th day of the 10th month in the 12th year of his captivity, probably January, 586 BCE. On that day, a man who had escaped from Jerusalem came to him, perhaps a month or two after the fall of Jerusalem. This time it was not Yahweh who came to Ezekiel, but this straggler. However, the news was not good, since he said that the city of Jerusalem had fallen.
“When the house of David heard
That Aram had allied itself
The heart of King Ahaz shook.
The heart of his people shook,
As the trees of the forest
Shake before the wind.”
King Ahaz had barely become king of Judah when this news that the King of Aram and Syria had joined with the King of Israel at Ephraim to come against him. Both he and his people of Judah were afraid. They were like shaking trees in a forest all shook up by the wind.
“A word fitly spoken
Is like apples of gold
In a setting of silver.
Like a gold ring,
Like an ornament of gold,
Is a wise rebuke to a listening ear.
Like the cold of snow,
In the time of harvest,
Are faithful messengers
To those who send them.
They refresh the spirit of their masters.”
A fit correct word spoken at the right time is like a golden setting in silver, like a golden ring, or an ornament of gold. In other words, to say the right word at the right time is important. This can be like a wise rebuke to someone who will take it to heart, if they are listening. The right word sent at the right time is like a cold snow at harvest time or like a faithful messenger. Both refresh the spirit of the one working in the field or the one expecting some news.
“About that time, as it happened, King Antiochus had retreated in disorder from the region of Persia. He had entered the city called Persepolis. He attempted to rob the temples and control the city. Therefore the people rushed to the rescue with arms. King Antiochus and his army were defeated. The result was that he was put to flight by the inhabitants as he beat a shameful retreat. While he was in Ecbatana, news came to him of what had happened to Nicanor and the forces of Timothy. Transported with rage, he conceived the idea of turning upon the Jews the injury done by those who had put him to flight. He ordered his charioteer to drive without stopping until he completed the journey. But the judgment of heaven rode with him! In his arrogance he said.
‘When I get there,
I will make Jerusalem a cemetery of Jews.’”
A similar story can be found in 1 Maccabees, chapter 6, where the beginning of the story is the same. Some of the details are different. The town with the temple was called Elymais in 1 Maccabees, but magnificent former capital Persepolis here. Instead of returning to Babylon in 1 Maccabees, here it is the summer capital of Persia, Ecbatana. In 1 Maccabees, it is Lysias who seemed to be in charge, while here it appears to be Nicanor and Timothy. However, there is a major difference in the reaction of King Antiochus IV. In 1 Maccabees, when King Antiochus IV heard the news about the Jewish victory, he was depressed and fell sick. He then had deathbed repentance for all that he had done to the Jews. Here instead of that, he got angry and wanted to make Jerusalem a Jewish cemetery. However, it is later in this chapter that he has his deathbed repentance. On top of that, there are more details about his illness here.
“When news of what had happened reached the king, he took it to mean that Judea was in revolt. So, raging inwardly, he left Egypt. He took the city by storm. He commanded his soldiers to cut down relentlessly every one they met. They were to kill those who went into the houses. Then there was a massacre of young and old, destruction of boys, women, and children, with the slaughter of young girls and infants. Within the total of three days eighty thousand were destroyed, forty thousand in hand-to-hand fighting. Almost as many were sold into slavery as were killed. Not content with this, King Antiochus dared to enter the most holy temple in the whole world, guided by Menelaus, who had become a traitor both to the laws and to his country. He took the holy vessels with his polluted hands. He swept away with profane hands the votive offerings that other kings had made to enhance the glory and honor of the place.”
Up until now this author has spent a lot of time explaining what was happening with the high priests in Jerusalem. Now he picks up the part of the story that can be found in 1 Maccabees, chapter 1. King Antiochus IV heard about the uprising of the former high priest Jason against the present high priest Menelaus. He believed that this was a revolt against him. He left Egypt because the Romans told him to do so. There was no mention of the massive slaughter of the people in Jerusalem in 1 Maccabees. Here 80,000 people were killed, 40,000 in hand to hand fighting. Nearly 40,000 were sold into slavery. The emphasis in 1 Maccabees was on the despoiling of the Temple, not the destruction of the people since they simply said that he shed blood and spoke with arrogance in 169 BCE. Here the king pollutes the Temple with his profane hands also. There is no mention of the specifics of what he took as in 1 Maccabees.