The prophet Isaiah (Mt 4:14-4:16)

“Thus,

What had been spoken

Through the prophet Isaiah

Might be fulfilled.

‘The land of Zebulun,

The land of Naphtali,

On the road by the sea,

Across the Jordan,

Galilee of the Gentiles!

The people

Who sat in darkness

Have seen a great light.

Light has dawned

For those who sat

In the region,

In the shadow of death.’”

 

ἵνα πληρωθῇ τὸ ῥηθὲν διὰ Ἠσαΐου τοῦ προφήτου λέγοντος

Γῆ Ζαβουλὼν καὶ γῆ Νεφθαλείμ, ὁδὸν θαλάσσης, πέραν τοῦ Ἰορδάνου, Γαλιλαία τῶν ἐθνῶν,

ὁ λαὸς ὁ καθήμενος ἐν σκοτίᾳ φῶς εἶδεν μέγα, καὶ τοῖς καθημένοις ἐν χώρᾳ καὶ σκιᾷ θανάτου φῶς ἀνέτειλεν αὐτοῖς.

 

Matthew was unique in using this citation from Isaiah, chapter 9:1-5, where Isaiah was describing a defeat of the northern territories of Zebulun and Naphtali (Γῆ Ζαβουλὼν καὶ γῆ Νεφθαλείμ), near the Syrian border in the 8th century BCE. They were on the road near the sea, across the Jordan (ὁδὸν θαλάσσης, πέραν τοῦ Ἰορδάνου). Thus, this area became known as the Galilee of the gentles or the other nations or non-Jewish people (Γαλιλαία τῶν ἐθνῶν). Matthew used Isaiah, even though at the time of Jesus, there were a lot of Jewish people in Galilee. Using Isaiah, Matthew said that these people were sitting in darkness (ὁ λαὸς ὁ καθήμενος ἐν σκοτίᾳ), but the good news was that a great light would come to them (φῶς εἶδεν μέγα) to shine on their darkness. This dawning light (φῶς ἀνέτειλεν αὐτοῖς) would save those who were sitting in the shadowy land of death (καὶ τοῖς καθημένοις ἐν χώρᾳ καὶ σκιᾷ θανάτου). Matthew saw that this as a fulfillment of the prophetic words of Isaiah (ἵνα πληρωθῇ τὸ ῥηθὲν διὰ Ἠσαΐου τοῦ προφήτου λέγοντος). This saying from Isaiah preceded his saying about a child being born.

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Yahweh’s reaction (Ezek 20:8-20:10)

“Then I thought

That I would pour out

My wrath

Upon them.

I would spend

My anger

Against them

In the midst

Of the land

Of Egypt.

But I acted

For the sake

Of my name.

It should not be

Profaned

In the sight

Of the nations

Among whom

They lived,

In whose sight

I have made

Myself known

To them.

I will bring them

Out of the land

Of Egypt.

So I led them

Out of the land

Of Egypt.

I brought them

Into the wilderness.”

Yahweh wanted to pour out his wrath on them right there and then in the land of Egypt, because he was angry with them. However, he acted for the sake of his name. He did not want to profane his name in the sight of other nations among whom the Israelites had lived. He did not want to embarrass his name among those who had heard that Yahweh was bringing them out of the land of Egypt. So he ended up leading them out of the land of Egypt into the wilderness.

Listen to God (Jer 10:1-10:2)

“Hear the word

That Yahweh speaks to you!

O house of Israel!

Thus says Yahweh.

‘Do not learn

The ways of the nations!

Do not be dismayed

At the signs of the heavens!

The nations

Are dismayed at them.’”

Jeremiah and the house of Israel were told to listen to the word of Yahweh, God. They were not to learn the ways of other nations that followed the heavenly signs, a reference to the worship of stars, the moon, the sun, and comets. Many nations are dismayed by them, and thus worship them.

Request for Yahweh to punish (Ps 59:4-59:5)

“Rouse yourself!

Come to my help!

See!

You!

Yahweh!

God of hosts!

God of Israel!

Awake!

Punish all the nations!

Spare none of those

Who treacherously plot evil!”

Selah

David wanted to wake up Yahweh. This is a direct appeal for help. He wanted the God of hosts, the God of Israel, to see and punish all the other nations. None were to be spared. Anyone who was treacherously plotting evil should be punished without exception. This section ends with a melodic musical interlude meditative pause, Selah.

The providential meaning of the persecution (2 Macc 6:12-6:17)

“Now I urge those who read this book not to be depressed by such calamities. You ought to recognize that these punishments were designed not to destroy but to discipline our people. In fact, it is a sign of great kindness not to let the impious alone for long, but to punish them immediately. In the case of the other nations, the Lord waits patiently to punish them until they have reached the full measure of their sins. However, he does not deal in this way with us. So that he may not take vengeance on us afterward when our sins have reached their height, he never withdraws his mercy from us. Although he disciplines us with calamities, he does not forsake his own people. Let what we have said serve as a reminder. We must go on briefly with the story.”

Here is a little editorial note of the biblical writer. In fact, he used the first person singular “I.” He did not want the reader to be depressed by these incidents. These punishments came to the Jewish people in order to discipline them, not to destroy them. With other nations, the Lord waited until they were totally sinful before he punished them. God’s mercy was always with the Jews, even when they were sinful. Although he disciplines the Jews, he never abandons them. Now that the author has put in this little reminder, he was going to continue on with the story. This is a rare look at the perspective of this biblical author. The Jews were unique in that God was merciful, no matter what.

The death of Andronicus (2 Macc 4:35-4:38)

“For this reason, not only Jews, but many also of other nations, were grieved and displeased at the unjust murder of Onias. When the king returned from the region of Cilicia, the Jews in the city appealed to him with regard to the unreasonable murder of Onias. The Greeks shared their hatred of the crime. Therefore King Antiochus was grieved at heart and filled with pity. He wept because of the moderation and good conduct of the deceased. Inflamed with anger, he immediately stripped off the purple robe from Andronicus. He tore off his garments. He led him around the whole city to that very place where he had committed the outrage against Onias. There he dispatched the bloodthirsty fellow. The Lord thus repaid him with the punishment he deserved.”

The killing of the deposed high priest Onias was a semi-official act of the king. The Jews and many other nations were upset about this murder of Onias. After all, Andronicus had tricked Onias into coming out of a pagan sanctuary Temple. When King Antiochus IV returned from Cilicia, the southern coastal region of Asia Minor, he was upset and angry. He too wept for the good man. He immediately stripped Andronicus of his purple robes, the robes of authority. He tore his garments and brought him to the place where the outrage had taken place. Then he killed him so that he was given the punishment that the Lord said that he deserved. Here the king of Syria implements the will of God and brings justice to the death of the former Jerusalem high priest.