The sacred vessels (Bar 1:8-1:9)

“At the same time,

On the tenth day

Of Sivan,

Baruch took

The vessels

Of the house

Of the Lord.

They had been carried away

From the temple.

He wanted

To return them

To the land

Of Judah.

These were

The silver vessels

That King Zedekiah,

The son of King Josiah,

King of Judah,

Had made.

This was done

After King Nebuchadnezzar,

The king of Babylon,

Had carried them away

From Jerusalem

With King Jeconiah,

With the princes,

With the prisoners,

With the nobles,

With the people of the land.

He brought them

To Babylon.”

Sivan was the 3rd month of the year, so that this was the 10th of that month. Baruch had somehow gotten hold of the sacred vessels from the Temple in Jerusalem that had been carried away with King Zedekiah (598-587 BCE) in 587 BCE. He had made these sacred vessels after the original sacred vessels had been taken away in 598 BCE when King Jeconiah (598 BCE) was taken captive. King Jeconiah had been taken captive with the princes, prisoners, nobles, and land owners to Babylon. Baruch wanted to return these sacred vessels to Jerusalem. Once again, it is not clear how this was going to happen.

The care of Yahweh (Lam 3:34-3:36)

Lamed

“When all

The prisoners

Of the land

Are crushed

Under foot,

Does Yahweh not see it?

When human rights

Are perverted

In the presence

Of the Most High,

Does Yahweh not see it?

When one’s case

Is subverted,

Does Yahweh not see it?”

In a strange way, this author seems to say that Yahweh sees bad things and lets them happen. Prisoners are being crushed. Human rights are perverted. Cases are subverted. The basic question is why doesn’t Yahweh do something, since he sees all this going on? These three verses start with the Hebrew consonant letter Lamed in this acrostic poem.

The shamed Israelites (Jer 2:33-2:37)

“How well you direct your course

To seek lovers!

So that even to wicked women

You have taught your ways.

Also on your skirts is found

The lifeblood of the innocent poor.

You did not catch them breaking in.

Yet in spite of all these things,

You say.

‘I am innocent.

Surely his anger has turned from me.’

Now I am bringing you to judgment

For saying.

‘I have not sinned.’

How lightly you gad about

Changing your ways!

You shall be put to shame by Egypt

As you were put to shame by Assyria!

From there also

You will come away

With your hands

Upon your head.

Yahweh has rejected those

In whom you trust.

You will not prosper through them.”

The Israelites were seeking new lovers. They were teaching them their ways. They seem not to care about the innocent poor people, since they had their blood on their skirts. Yet they continued to proclaim their innocence. They thought that Yahweh was no longer angry with them. However, Yahweh was going to bring judgment upon them for saying that they had not sinned. They keep gadding about on their frivolous ways.   They were going to be put to shame by Egypt and Assyria so that they would walk out with their hands on their heads as prisoners. Yahweh has rejected them and their leaders so that they would not prosper.

Yahweh is in charge (Isa 42:6-42:9)

“‘I am Yahweh!

I have called you in righteousness!

I have taken you by the hand!

I have kept you!

I have designed you

As a covenant to the people.

I have designed you

As a light to the nations.

You are to open the eyes

That are blind.

You are to bring out the prisoners

From the dungeons.

You are to bring out from the prisons

Those who sit in darkness.

I am Yahweh!

That is my name!

My glory!

I give to no other!

I do not give my praise to idols!

See!

The former things have come to pass.

I now declare the new things.

Before they spring forth

I will tell you of them.’”

In this section of Second Isaiah, Yahweh apparently speaks directly to the people of Israel, rather than to an individual person. He is Yahweh. He has called his people in righteousness. He took them into his hand. He kept them with a covenant. They were to be the light to the nations in order to give sight to the blind as well as bring out prisoners from dungeons and dark prisons. He is Yahweh. That is his name and his glory. He has no other names, nor does he praise any other idols. He has told you about the past, but he will tell you about things to come before they happen.

The satirical questions to the king (Isa 14:16-14:19)

“Those who see you

Will stare at you.

They will ponder over you.

‘Is this the man

Who made the earth tremble?

Is this the man

Who shook kingdoms?

Is this the man

Who made the world

Like a desert?

Is this the man

Who overthrew its cities?

Is this the man

Who would not let his prisoners go home?’

All the kings of the nations

Lie in glory,

Each in their own tomb.

But you are cast out.

You are away from your grave,

Like loathsome carrion.

You are clothed with the dead,

Those pierced by the sword.

You go down to the stones of the Pit,

Like a corpse trampled underfoot.”

Isaiah then has his companions ask this king a series of satirical questions. They were staring at this king as they thought about him. He had made the earth tremble. He had shook up kingdoms. He had made the world a desert. He had overthrown cities. He had never let prisoners go. But look at him now! Is this the same man? Most kings are buried in their own tombs. However, he was cast out of his grave so that he became rotten flesh for birds to eat. He was pierced by the sword so that he was not in a grave, but in a pit, so that his corpse was trampled on as people walked by.

Darkness (Wis 17:1-17:6)

“Great are your judgments.

They are hard to describe.

Therefore uninstructed souls have gone astray.

When lawless people supposed

That they held the holy nation in their power,

They themselves lay as captives of darkness.

They were prisoners of a long night.

They were shut in under their roofs.

They were exiles from eternal providence.

Thinking that in their secret sins

They were unobserved

Behind a dark curtain of forgetfulness,

They were scattered.

They were terribly alarmed.

They were appalled by specters.

Not even the inner chamber

That held them

Protected them from fear.

But terrifying sounds rang out around them.

Dismal phantoms with gloomy faces appeared.

No power of fire was able to give light.

Nor did the brilliant flames of the stars avail

To illumine that hateful night.

Nothing was shining through to them,

Except a dreadful,

Self-kindled fire.

In terror

They deemed the things which

That they saw

To be worse

Than that unseen appearance.”

This is an ode to God’s power, whose great judgment is hard to describe. The uninstructed have gone astray. The lawless (ἄνομοι) refers to Egypt, while the holy nation (ἔθνος ἅγιον) is Israel. These uninstructed lawless ones (Egypt) thought that they had the holy nation in their power. However, they were the captives of darkness. They were prisoners of the long night as they were under their own roof. They were exiles from divine providence. They thought that their secret sins would be forgotten. However, they were scattered, alarmed, and appalled. They were full of fear (ἀφόβως) in this darkness. They heard terrifying sounds and saw visions (φάσματα) of gloomy ghost faces. No fire was able to break this darkness. Nothing was shining on them except their own fear. They actually thought that things were worse than what they appeared to be.

Yahweh protects all (Ps 146:7-146:9)

“Yahweh executes justice for the oppressed.

Yahweh gives food to the hungry.

Yahweh sets the prisoners free.

Yahweh opens the eyes of the blind.

Yahweh lifts up those who are bowed down.

Yahweh loves the righteous.

Yahweh watches over the strangers.

Yahweh upholds the orphan and the widow.

Yahweh brings to ruin the way of the wicked.”

Yahweh makes sure that there is justice for the oppressed. He gives food to the hungry. He sets prisoners free. He opens the eyes of the blind. He lifts up those who are bowed down. He loves the righteous. He watches over strangers. He helps orphans. He holds up widows. However, he brings to ruin those who are pursuing wicked ways.