Yahweh is not listening (Jer 11:14-11:14)

“As for you,

Do not pray for this people!

Do not lift up a cry!

Do not lift up a prayer

On their behalf!

I will not listen

When they call to me

In the time of their trouble.”

Yahweh told Jeremiah not to waste his time praying or crying out for these people. He was not to lift up a prayer for them. Yahweh was not going to listen when they called him if they were in trouble.

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Sacrifices to God are useless without prayer (Ps 50:12-50:15)

“‘If I were hungry,

I would not tell you.

The world and all that is in it is mine.

Do I eat the flesh of bulls?

Do I drink the blood of goats?

Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving!’

Pay your vows to the Most High!

Call on me in the day of trouble!

I will deliver you.

You shall glorify me.”

God is not hungry. Anyway the whole world and everything in it is his. He does not eat the flesh of bulls or the blood of goats. He wanted instead a sacrifice of thanksgiving. He wanted them to pay vows to the Most High God, himself. He wanted them to call on him in their day of trouble. He wanted them to communicate with him by praying. Then he would deliver them because they had glorified him.

The death of Nicanor (2 Macc 15:25-15:28)

“Nicanor and his troops advanced with trumpets and battle songs. Judas Maccabeus and his troops met the enemy in battle with invocations to God and prayers. So, fighting with their hands and praying to God in their hearts, they laid low no less than thirty-five thousand men. They were greatly gladdened by God’s manifestation. When the action was over, they were returning with joy. They recognized Nicanor, lying dead, in full armor.”

Nicanor and his army advanced with trumpets and battle songs. On the other hand, Judas Maccabeus and his troops went to fight with prayers in their hearts to God. Thus they fought and prayed at the same time. This seemed to have worked quite well. They killed 35,000 troops of Nicanor. They were glad because God had manifested his gladness with their actions. After the action was all over, they too were happy. Then they recognized Nicanor in full armor dead. There is something similar to this in 1 Maccabees, chapter 7, where Nicanor was defeated.

The dream about Onias the high priest (2 Macc 15:12-15:16)

“What Judas Maccabeus saw was this. Onias, who had been high priest, was a noble and good man of modest bearing and gentle manner. He spoke fittingly. He had been trained from childhood in all that belongs to excellence. He was praying with outstretched hands for the whole body of the Jews. Then in the same fashion another appeared, distinguished by his gray hair and dignity. He had a marvelous majesty and authority. Onias spoke, saying.

‘This is a man who loves the family of Israel.

He prays much for the people and the holy city.

He is Jeremiah, the prophet of God.’

Jeremiah stretched out his right hand. He gave to Judas Maccabeus a golden sword. As he gave it he addressed him thus.

‘Take this holy sword,

As a gift from God,

With which you will strike down your adversaries.’”

Judas Maccabeus revealed his dream about the noble and good Onias who had been the Jerusalem high priest in the 3rd century BCE. In fact, there were other high priests with the same name related to him. This high priest Onias was a modest and a gentle person, who had been trained since childhood in excellence. He prayed with outstretched hands for the Jews. However, right beside Onias was a distinguished dignified gray haired man. In fact, Onias introduced him as Jeremiah the great prophet of God who loved Israel and prayed for its people and its holy city. Then Jeremiah, this great prophet, extended his hand to Judas Maccabeus to give him a holy golden sword so that he could strike down his adversaries. This was taken as a sign that Judas would be successful.

The dead Jewish soldiers were idolaters (2 Macc 12:39-12:42)

“On the next day, as had now become necessary, Judas Maccabeus and his men went to take up the bodies of the fallen. He wanted to bring them back to lie with their kindred in the sepulchres of their ancestors. Then under the tunic of every one of the dead they found sacred tokens of the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbids the Jews to wear. It became clear to all that this was the reason that these men had fallen. So they all blessed the ways of the Lord, the righteous judge, who reveals the things that are hidden. They turned to supplication, praying that the sin that had been committed might be wholly blotted out. The noble Judas Maccabeus exhorted the people to keep themselves free from sin. They had seen with their own eyes what had happened as the result of the sin of those who had fallen.”

This is one of the few passages where there seems to be respect for the fallen soldiers, other than the leaders. They went out to pick up the bodies of the dead Jewish fighters so that they could be put in the tomb of their ancestors. To their surprise, they found that all the dead Jewish fighters were wearing the sacred tokens of the idols from Jamnia. How and why they had these tokens was not clear. Of course, this was forbidden to all Jewish people. They then prayed that the sins of these fallen men might be blotted out. Judas Maccabeus reminded them to keep themselves from sin. They had seen with their own eyes what happened to sinners.

The intervention of Judith (Jdt 16:5-16:10)

“But the Lord Almighty has foiled them

By the hand of a woman.

For their mighty one did not fall by the hands of the young men.

The sons of the Titans did not strike him down.

The tall giants did not set upon him.

But Judith,

Daughter of Merari,

With the beauty of her countenance,

She undid him.

She put away her widow’s clothing.

To exalt the oppressed in Israel.

She anointed her face with perfume.

She fastened her hair with a tiara.

She put on a linen gown to beguile him.

Her sandal ravished his eyes.

Her beauty captivated his mind.

The sword severed his neck.

The Persians trembled at her boldness,

The Medes were daunted at her daring.”

Suddenly the canticle is about Judith rather than Judith praying to God. The almighty God struck down the enemy with a female, almost to say, even a woman got him because he was so weak. It was not a young strong male soldier, nor some giant that brought him down. No, it was the beautiful widow who put away her widow’s clothing, anointed her face, fastened her hair, and wore a linen gown. She ravished his eyes, captivated his mind, and severed his neck. General Holofernes was not a Persian but an Assyrian. Medes was associated with the Persians, once again indicating some inconsistent details.

The Israelites fasting in sack cloths (Jdt 4:9-4:12)

“Every man of Israel cried out to God with great fervor. They humbled themselves with much fasting. They, their wives, and their children put sackcloth around their waist. Their cattle, every resident alien, every hired laborer, and purchased slaves, all put sackcloth around their waists. All the Israelites, men, women, and children, living at Jerusalem, prostrated themselves before the Temple. They put ashes on their heads. They spread out their sackcloth before the Lord. They even draped the altar with sackcloth. They cried out in unison, praying fervently to the God of Israel not to allow their infants to be carried off and their wives to be taken as booty. They did not want their towns to be destroyed. They did not want the sanctuary to be profaned and desecrated by the malicious joy of the Gentiles.”

The Israelite men cried out to God. They humbled themselves. Fasting was a key element of prayer preparation. Their whole family, including wives and children put on sackcloth. However, the text says that the cattle put on sackcloth, but I do not understand why. They apparently were well to do since they had resident aliens, hired laborers, and slaves working for them. They all prostrated before the Temple with ashes on their heads. They even draped the altar in sackcloth. There was this insistence on sackcloth and ashes. They did not want their children and wives taken as booty. They did not want their so-called inherited towns taken away. They finally did not want their sanctuary desecrated by the Gentiles. All of this prayer sounds post-exilic in tone.