How could God pardon them? (Jer 5:7-5:9)

“How can I pardon you?

Your children have forsaken me.

They have sworn by those

Who are not gods.

When I fed them to the full,

They committed adultery.

They trooped to the houses of prostitutes.

They were well-fed lusty stallions.

Each was neighing for his neighbor’s wife.

Shall I not punish them for these things?

Shall I not bring retribution

On a nation such as this?’

Says Yahweh.”

Yahweh wanted to know from Jeremiah how he could pardon the people of Jerusalem. Their children had given up on Yahweh. They were swearing to things that were not gods at all. Even after he had fed them to the full, they went and committed adultery. They ran off to the houses of prostitution with their full bellies, like lusty stallions. They were always seeking their neighbor’s wife, like a horse neighing after them. Should they not be punished for such things? This nation deserves retribution.

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Looking for the just man (Jer 5:1-5:2)

“Run to and fro!

Go through

The streets of Jerusalem!

Look around!

Take note!

Search its squares!

See!

Can you find one person

Who acts justly?

Can you find one person

Who seeks the truth?

Thus I may then pardon Jerusalem.

Although they say,

‘As Yahweh lives!’

Yet they swear falsely.”

Yahweh tells Jeremiah to run around the streets of Jerusalem to find a just man. He was to take notes and search the various squares. He was looking for one just man, which is similar to the search of Abraham in Genesis, chapter 18. Here Yahweh says that he will pardon Jerusalem, if they could find merely one just person who was seeking the truth. Most of them, however, were swearing to God falsely.

Pillar of fire for the holy ones (Wis 18:1-18:4)

“But for your holy ones

There was very great light.

Their enemies heard their voices.

But they did not see their forms.

They counted them happy

For not having suffered.

They were thankful

That your holy ones,

Though previously wronged,

Were doing them no injury.

They begged their pardon

For having been at variance with them.

Therefore you provided a flaming pillar of fire.

This was a guide for your people’s unknown journey.

This was also a harmless sun

For their glorious wandering.

Their enemies deserved to be deprived of light.

They deserved to be imprisoned in darkness.

They had kept your children imprisoned,

Through whom the imperishable light of the law

Was to be given to the world.”

The pillar of fire (πυριφλεγῆ στῦλον) can be found in Exodus, chapter 13. Here it seems like the Egyptians repented when they were in darkness. The Israelites were heard but not seen. The Egyptians, continually named as the enemies, were happy that these Israelites were going to leave them alone. After all, they had wronged them. Thus they asked for forgiveness and pardon for their deeds. God then provided the pillar of fire to help the Israelites on their wanderings. The enemies deserved their darkness (σκότει). They had imprisoned the children of God through whom the light of the world in the form of the law (νόμου φῶς) would be given to the world. There was this persistent theme of light and darkness. Israel was in the light. Egypt was in darkness.

The judgment of God (Wis 6:4-6:8)

“Because as servants of his kingdom,

You did not rule rightly.

You did not keep the law.

You did not walk

According to the purpose of God.

He will come upon you terribly.

He will come upon you swiftly.

Because severe judgment falls

On those in high places.

The lowliest may be pardoned in mercy.

But the mighty will be mightily tested.

The Lord of all

Will not stand in awe of any one.

He will not show deference to greatness.

Because he himself made

Both small and great.

He takes thought for all alike.

But a strict inquiry is in store for the mighty.”

Severe judgment will come upon those who are in high places that did not rule rightly. They did not keep the law (νόμον) or walk according to God’s purposes (κατὰ τὴν βουλὴν τοῦ Θεοῦ ἐπορεύθητε). God will come upon them terribly and swiftly. God might pardon the lowly with mercy, but the mighty are tested mightily. The Lord of all will not be awed by anyone. He does not show deference, whether they are small or great. He does a strict inquiry into all, especially the mighty ones.

Job bitterly complains (Job 7:11-7:21)

“Therefore I will not restrain my mouth.

I will speak in the anguish of my spirit.

I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.

Am I the sea?

Am I a dragon?

Am I a sea monster?

Do you set a guard over me?

When I say,

‘My bed will comfort me.

My couch will ease my complaint.’

Then you scare me with dreams.

You terrify me with visions.

Thus I would choose strangling and death

Rather than this body.

I loathe my life.

I would not live forever.

Let me alone!

My days are a breath.

What are human beings?

Why do you make so much of them?

Why do you set your mind upon them?

Why do you visit them every morning?

Why do you test them every moment?

Will you not look away from me for a while?

Will you not let me alone until I swallow my spittle?

If I sin,

What do I do to you?

You are the watcher of humanity.

Why have you made me your target?

Why have I become a burden to you?

Why do you not pardon my transgression?

Why do you not take away my iniquity?

For now I shall lie in the earth.

You will seek me,

But I shall not be.”

Job would not restrain himself. He was bitter. Was he like the chaotic sea, a sea monster, a dragon or Leviathan? When he sought rest on his bed or couch, God sent him dreams and visions.   He would rather die strangled than have this terrible body. He hated his life as he did not want to live any longer. He did not want to live forever since he realized that he was like a breath. Why does God care about humans anyway? Why is he the watcher visiting them in the morning, and every moment of their lives? Job wanted God to look away for a while, so he could swallow his spittle. Why was he the target? What burden was he to God? If he had sinned, why not pardon him. Job said that God might come after him, but he would not find him, because he was no more.