The return from exile (Jer 30:3-30:3)

“Yahweh says.

‘The days are surely coming

When I will restore

The fortunes

Of my people,

Israel,

Along with Judah.’

Says Yahweh.

‘I will bring them back

To the land

That I gave

To their ancestors.

They shall take possession of it.’”

Yahweh says, via Jeremiah, that the days are coming when his people’s fortunes will be restored. This is not just for Judah but also Israel, the northern kingdom that went into exile in 721 BCE, over 100 years earlier. Yahweh promised to bring both of them back to the land of their ancestors so that they could take possession of it.

Abraham (Sir 44:19-44:21)

“Abraham was the great father

Of a multitude of nations.

No one has been found

Like him in glory.

He kept the law

Of the Most High.

He entered into

A covenant with him.

He certified the covenant

In his flesh.

When he was tested,

He was found faithful.

Therefore the Lord assured him

With an oath.

The nations would be blessed

Through his offspring.

He would make them

As numerous as

The dust of the earth.

He would exalt his posterity

Like the stars.

He would give them

An inheritance

From sea to sea,

From the Euphrates River

To the ends of the earth.”

It is obvious why Abraham should show up as one of the famous holy men as indicated in the stories of Genesis, chapters 12-25. Abraham was considered to be the father of many nations, not just Israel. His glory was beyond anyone else. He kept the law of the Most High God, although it was not written anywhere. There is no mention of Yahweh. However Abraham entered into a covenant with the Most High God that was sealed with his flesh, the circumcision of the foreskin of his penis. Then there was his test about obeying God, when he was asked to kill his son. Abraham proved faithful to God. Thus the Lord, or Yahweh, assured him with an oath that he would have many blessed descendants as numerous as the dust on the earth. He also promised them an inheritance of the land from the Euphrates River to the Mediterranean Sea to the ends of the earth. Wow! This was a big chunk of land.

The failure of the Egyptian magicians (Wis 17:7-17:10)

“The delusions of their magic art lay humbled.

Their boasted wisdom was scornfully rebuked.

Those who promised to drive off

The fears of a sick soul,

Those who promised to drive off

The disorders of a sick soul,

Were sick themselves

With ridiculous fear.

Even if nothing disturbing frightened them,

Yet scared by the passing of wild animals,

Scared by the hissing of serpents,

They perished in trembling fear.

They refused to look even at the air,

though it nowhere could be avoided.”

Here we have a specific reference to the magicians (μαγικῆς) in Egypt as in Exodus, chapters 7-9. These magicians were humbled. They had promised to drive away the fears and ills of the Egyptians, who remain unnamed here. These magicians were sick with a ridiculous fear themselves. They were afraid of the wild animals and the serpents. They perished in their own fear. Once again we have an embellishing of the original story to add a more dramatic effect.

Rescue me (Ps 119:153-119:160)

Resh

“Look on my misery!

Rescue me!

I do not forget your law.

Plead my cause!

Redeem me!

Give me life

According to your promise!

Salvation is far from the wicked.

They do not seek your statutes.

Great is your mercy!

Yahweh!

Give me life

According to your justice!

Many are my persecutors.

Many are my adversaries.

Yet I do not swerve from your decrees.

I look at the faithless with disgust.

Because they do not keep your commands.

Consider how I love your precepts!

Preserve my life

According to your steadfast love!

The sum of your word is truth.

Every one of your righteous ordinances endures forever.”

This psalmist wanted to be rescued from his misery because he had not forgotten the law. He wanted a defense attorney and a redeemer. He wanted his life as Yahweh had promised. The wicked would not be saved because they did not seek Yahweh’s statutes. Yahweh’s mercy was great so that his justice would also help him. Although he had many persecutors and adversaries the psalmist did not swerve from Yahweh’s decrees. He looked at the unfaithful in disgust because they did not keep Yahweh’s commands. He, on the other hand, loved Yahweh’s precepts. He wanted his life preserved because of Yahweh’s love. The word of Yahweh is truth so that every one of his just ordinances would endure forever. So ends this section on the twentieth consonant letter of the Hebrew alphabet, Resh.

 

Steady my steps (Ps 119:129-119:136)

Phe

“Your decrees are wonderful.

Therefore my soul keeps them.

The unfolding of your words gives light.

It imparts understanding to the simple.

With open mouth I pant.

Because I long for your commandments.

Turn to me!

Be gracious to me!

It is your custom toward those who love your name.

Keep my steps steady

According to your promise!

Never let iniquity have dominion over me!

Redeem me from human oppression!

Thus I may keep your precepts.

Make your face shine upon your servant.

Teach me your statutes!

My eyes shed streams of tears.

Because your law is not kept.”

The psalmist wanted to remain steady in his steps that were following the law, since Yahweh’s decrees are wonderful. The unfolding of his words gives light so that he has a simple understanding. He longed and panted for Yahweh’s commandments. He wanted Yahweh to be gracious to him because Yahweh loved him. He wanted his steps kept steady just as Yahweh had promised. He did not want iniquity to have dominion over him. He wanted to be redeemed from human oppression. He would then be able to keep the precepts of Yahweh because his face shines on him. He wanted to learn the statutes. He cried when he learned that some people did not keep the law. So ends this section on the seventeenth consonant letter of the Hebrew alphabet, Phe.

The comfort of love (Ps 119:73-119:80)

Yod

“Your hands have made me.

You have fashioned me.

Give me understanding!

Thus I may learn your commandments.

Those who fear you

Shall see me.

They shall rejoice,

Because I have hoped in your word.

Yahweh!

I know that your judgments are right.

In faithfulness,

You have humbled me.

Let your steadfast love become my comfort,

According to your promise

To your servant.

Let your mercy come to me.

Thus I may live.

Your law is my delight.

Let the arrogant be put to shame.

They have subverted me with guile.

As for me,

I will meditate on your precepts.

Let those who fear you

Turn to me.

Thus they may know your decrees.

May my heart be blameless in your statutes.

Thus I may not be put to shame.”

Once again, the steadfast love of Yahweh sustains the psalmist’s love for the law. He recognized that Yahweh had made him. He wanted to gain an understanding of the commandments. Those who fear Yahweh would rejoice. He had hoped in the word of God. Yahweh was faithful. His judgments were right. His steadfast love had become a comfort to this psalmist as he had promised. The psalmist delighted in the law as he expected the mercy of God. The arrogant were to be put to shame because the psalmist was going to meditate on the precepts of Yahweh. In fact, he was going to teach others because his heart was blameless. He was not going to be put to shame. So ends this section on the tenth consonant letter of the Hebrew alphabet, Yod.

I observe your commandments (Ps 119:57-119:64)

Het

“Yahweh is my portion.

I promise to keep your words.

I implore your favor with all my heart.

Be gracious to me according to your promise.

When I think of your ways,

I turn my feet to your decrees.

I hasten.

I do not delay

To keep your commandments.

Even though the cords of the wicked ensnare me,

I do not forget your law.

At midnight,

I rise to praise you,

Because of your righteous ordinances.

I am a companion of all

Who fear you.

I am a companion of

Those who keep your precepts.

Yahweh!

The earth is full of your steadfast love.

Teach me your statutes!”

This psalmist promised to keep the words of Yahweh. He wanted Yahweh to continue with his gracious promise. When he thought about Yahweh, he turned his feet to Yahweh’s decrees. He hurried to keep all the commandments of God. Even though the wicked ones tried to ensnarl him, he did not forget the law. In fact, he rose at midnight to praise Yahweh and his righteous ordinances. He was a companion to those who fear God and keep his precepts. The earth is full of the steadfast love of Yahweh. This psalmist wanted to learn more about the statutes of Yahweh. So ends this section on the eighth consonant letter of the Hebrew alphabet, Het.

Your precepts are my song (Ps 119:49-119:56)

Zain

“Remember your word to your servant!

You have made me hope.

This is my comfort in my distress.

Your promise gives me life.

The arrogant utterly deride me.

But I do not turn away from your law.

When I think of your ordinances from of old,

I take comfort.

Yahweh!

Hot indignation seizes me

Because of the wicked.

They forsake your law.

Your statutes have been my songs,

Wherever I make my home.

I remember your name in the night.

Yahweh!

I keep your law.

This blessing has fallen to me.

I have kept your precepts.”

This psalmist wanted Yahweh to remember what he promised. His promises gave hope to him when he was in distress. Even though arrogant people made fun of him, he did not turn away from the laws of Yahweh. He was comforted by remembering the ordinances of Yahweh. He really was mad about those who had not followed Yahweh’s precepts. This psalmist was putting the commandments of Yahweh to song. He remembered them when he lay in bed at night. He considered the precepts of the law to be a blessing. So ends this section on the seventh consonant letter of the Hebrew alphabet, Zain.

Steadfast love (Ps 119:41-119:48)

Vav

“Let your steadfast love come to me!

Yahweh!

Let your salvation come to me according to your promise!

Then I shall have an answer for those who taunt me.

I trust in your word.

Do not take the word of truth utterly out of my mouth.

My hope is in your ordinances.

I will keep your law continually,

Forever and ever.

I shall walk at liberty.

I have sought your precepts.

I will also speak of your decrees before kings.

I shall not be put to shame.

I find my delight in your commandments.

I love them!

I revere your commandments.

I love them!

I will meditate on your statutes.”

The psalmist wants the steadfast love of Yahweh to be with him. He wanted to be saved as Yahweh had promised. He trusted in the word of Yahweh. He did not want to be taunted. He had hope in the ordinances and laws of Yahweh. He wanted to continually walk in the liberty that God’s ordinances brought him. He wanted to tell kings about his God’s decrees. He delighted and loved the commandments of God. He wanted to meditate on all God’s statutes. So ends this section on the sixth consonant of the Hebrew alphabet, Vav.

Thanksgiving for past victories (Ps 108:7-108:9)

“God has promised in his sanctuary.

‘With exultation

I will divide up Shechem.

I will portion out the Vale of Succoth.

Gilead is mine.

Manasseh is mine.

Ephraim is my helmet.

Judah is my scepter.

Moab is my washbasin.

On Edom

I hurl my shoe.

Over Philistia

I shout in triumph.’”

This section is a repeat almost word for word of the same victories mentioned in Psalm 60. God directly promised or spoke in his sanctuary to David. This is one of the few times that this phraseology is used, assuming that the sanctuary of the Temple was completed. This probably was a prophet speaking in the name of God, but there is no specific indication here. He rattled off a series of Israelite victories. Shechem was a former Canaanite city that was now divided up and part of the territory of Manasseh. Succoth was conquered during the time of the Judges. Gilead was on the eastern side of the Jordan River where the tribes of Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh lived. Only 3 Israelite tribes are mentioned here, Manasseh, Ephraim, and Judah. Judah would become the favorite when the split between the north and the south took place as the north became known as Israel. Moab was a mere washbasin on the east side of the Dead Sea. Edom was in the north. The phrase “hurl a shoe” seemed obsolete until some Iraqi journalist hurled his shoe at President George W. Bush to show his contempt. Philistines were on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Thus this is a list of the various victorious Israelite battles.