The terrible punishment (Am 6:12-6:14)

“Do horses run

On rocks?

Does one plow the sea

With oxen?

But you have turned

Justice

Into poison.

You have turned

The fruit of righteousness

Into wormwood.

You who rejoice

In Lo-debar!

You who say,

‘Have we not

By our own strength

Taken Karnaim

For ourselves?’

Indeed,

I am raising up

Against you

A nation.

O house of Israel!’

Says Yahweh!

The God of hosts!

They shall oppress you

From Lebo-Hamath

To the Wadi Arabah.”

Amos asked whether horses could run on rocks? Do you send oxen to plow the sea? While this may seem stupid, it is not sillier than turning justice into poison or the sweetness of righteousness into the bitterness of wormwood, which the Israelites had done. While the Israelite King Jeroboam II (783-743 BCE) had captured Lo-debar and Karnaim on the west side of the Jordan, that happiness would come to an end. They thought that they had done it by themselves. Now Yahweh, the God of heavenly armies, was going to send the Assyrians to wipe out the northern kingdom of the house of Israel, from its northern border in Syria at Lebo-Hamath to the southern border of the Wadi Arabah. Yahweh, the God of heavenly hosts, would put an end to the northern kingdom of Israel.

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Immortality (Wis 1:12-1:15)

“Do not invite death

By the error of your life.

Do not bring on destruction

By the works of your hands.

God did not make death.

He does not delight

In the death of the living.

He created all things

So that they might exist.

The generative forces of the world

Are wholesome.

There is no destructive poison in them.

The dominion of Hades is not on earth.

Righteousness is immortal.”

This author states clearly that God did not create death (θάνατον). Man has created death that leads to hell, Sheol, or Hades (Άδης). You invite death by the error of your life. You bring on destruction by your own hands. God does not delight in death. God created living things as a generative wholesome force with no destructive poison in them so that they might exist. The kingdom or dominion of Hades is not on earth. Righteousness, or those who act justly, will make you immortal (δικαιοσύνη γὰρ ἀθάνατός ἐστιν), the opposite of death, not dying. Thus this is a vague immortality, somewhat like the Greek immortality of the soul that comes from a good life.

Deliver me from evil men (Ps 140:1-140:3)

To the choirmaster leader, a psalm of David

“Deliver me!

Yahweh!

From evil men.

Protect me

From those who are violent.

Protect me

From those who plan evil things in their minds.

Protect me

From those who stir up wars continually.

They make their tongue sharp as a snake’s tongue.

Under their lips is the poison of vipers.”

Selah

Psalm 140 is another in this series of deliverance choral psalms of David. This is a lament against evil men. David wants to be protected from violent people, evil minds, and war mongers. These evil men have tongues like snakes.   Their lips were like the poison of vipers. This section ends with the musical interlude meditative pause of Selah.

Shameful situation (Ps 69:19-69:21)

“You know

The insults that I receive.

You know

My shame.

You know

My dishonor.

My foes are all known to you.

Insults have broken my heart.

I am in despair.

I looked for pity,

But there was none.

I look for comforters,

But I found none.

They gave me poison for food.

For my thirst

They gave me vinegar to drink.”

David goes on to let God know his situation. He begins by reminding him that God knows all the things that were happening to him and who was doing it. God knew about the insults, the shame, and the dishonor. He had a broken heart and was in despair. There was no one to pity him or comfort him. Instead they gave him poison to eat and vinegar to drink. He was in bad shape. Obviously he was not in jail, but somehow persecuted.

Job responds by complaining (Job 6:1-6:7)

“Then Job answered.

‘O that my distresses were weighed.

May my entire calamity be laid in the balances!

For then it would be heavier than the sand of the sea.

Therefore my words have been rash.

For the arrows of the Almighty Shaddai are planted in me.

My spirit drinks their poison.

The terrors of God are arrayed against me.

Does the wild ass bray over its grass?

Does the ox bellow over its fodder?

Can that which is tasteless be eaten without salt?

Is there any flavor in egg white?

My appetite refuses to touch them.

They are like food that is loathsome to me.’”

Job was not consoled by the remarks of Eliphaz. Job felt that his calamity outweighed anything that had happened to anyone, heavier than the sands of the sea. The arrows of the Almighty Shaddai were in him. He felt like he had drunk poison. The terrors of God were against him. Just as the animals do not complain when they have food, however, all his food was tasteless. Without salt, there was no flavor in his food. He had no appetite because all food was disgusting to him. It was not that he could not eat, but everything was tasteless.

The disgrace of Ptolemy (2 Macc 10:12-10:13)

“Ptolemy, who was called Macron, took the lead in showing justice to the Jews because of the wrong that had been done to them. He attempted to maintain peaceful relations with them. As a result he was accused before Eupator by the king’s friends. He heard himself called a traitor at every turn, because he had abandoned Cyprus, which Philometor had entrusted to him. He had gone over to Antiochus Epiphanes. Unable to command the respect due his office, he took poison and ended his life.”

Ptolemy Macron had been in charge of Cyprus under the Egyptian King Ptolemy VI Philometor, who ruled from 180-145 BCE. King Ptolemy VI was the young king defeated by the Seleucid King Antiochus IV, who then outlived him. Ptolemy switched his allegiance from the Egyptian king to the King Antiochus IV so that he became the governor of Coele-syria and Phoenicia. He treated the Jews fairly so that there were complaints that he was a traitor to the young King Antiochus V. Everyone said that he could not be trusted. He poisoned himself and died. This is a strange story that seems to indicate that anyone who was kind to the Jews was not favored by the new king. However, he did commit suicide.