Herod feared John (Mk 6:20-6:20)

“Herod feared John.

He knew

That John

Was a righteous

And holy man.

He protected John.

When he heard him,

He was greatly perplexed.

Yet he liked

To listen

To him.”

 

ὁ γὰρ Ἡρῴδης ἐφοβεῖτο τὸν Ἰωάνην, εἰδὼς αὐτὸν ἄνδρα δίκαιον καὶ ἅγιον, καὶ συνετήρει αὐτόν, καὶ ἀκούσας αὐτοῦ πολλὰ ἠπόρει, καὶ ἡδέως αὐτοῦ ἤκουεν.

 

This mention of Herod being afraid of John the Baptist can be found in Matthew, chapter 14:5, and here.  In Matthew, Herod was afraid of the large crowds that regarded John as a prophet.  Here, however, King Herod is more seriously confused.  Mark said that Herod also feared John (ὁ γὰρ Ἡρῴδης ἐφοβεῖτο τὸν Ἰωάνην).  However, he was not afraid of the crowds, but because he knew that John was a righteous and holy man (εἰδὼς αὐτὸν ἄνδρα δίκαιον καὶ ἅγιον).  Herod was protecting or keeping John safe (καὶ συνετήρει αὐτόν).  When he heard John (καὶ ἀκούσας αὐτοῦ), he was greatly perplexed or in doubt (πολλὰ ἠπόρει).  Yet he liked to gladly listen to him (καὶ ἡδέως αὐτοῦ ἤκουεν).

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The example of Thebes (Nah 3:8-3:10)

“Are you better

Than Thebes?

They sat by the Nile,

With water around her.

Her rampart was a sea.

Water was her wall.

Ethiopia was her strength.

Egypt too was her strength,

Without any limit.

Put

With the Libyans

Were her helpers.

Yet Egypt became an exile.

She went into captivity.

Even her infants were

Dashed into pieces

At the head

Of every street.

Lots were cast

For her nobles.

All her dignitaries

Were bound in chains.”

The Assyrians had captured Thebes, the capital of Egypt in 663 BCE.  Thus, Nahum pointed out that the Assyrians were no better than the Egyptian capital town of Themes on the Nile River.  Even though they were on the Nile River and protected by water all around them, they still fell to these Assyrians.  All their neighbors, including the other people of Egypt, and the surrounding counties of Ethiopia and Libya, were not able to help her.  Thus, Nahum pointed out that Egypt went into exile and captivity.  Even their children and infants were dashed to pieces on the street corners.  They held a lottery for their noble men.  All the important dignitaries of the city of Thebes were bound in chains.  So too, it would be the same for Nineveh and Assyria.

The destruction of the Amorites (Am 2:9-2:10)

“Yet I destroyed

The Amorites

Before them.

Their height was

Like the height of cedar trees.

They were

As strong

As the oak trees.

I destroyed

His fruit above.

I destroyed

His roots beneath.

I brought you up

Out of the land of Egypt.

I led you forty years

In the wilderness.

Thus,

You possess

The land of the Amorites’”

The literary tone changed, as Yahweh, via Amos, reminded the people of Israel on how he had destroyed the Amorites, the people who lived in the Promise Land before the Israelites arrived. These Amorites or Canaanites were very tall like cedar trees and very strong like oak trees. However, Yahweh completely destroyed them including the fruit of their trees above ground as well as the roots of their trees beneath ground, a complete annihilation. After all, he had brought the Israelites out of Egypt. He had protected them for 40 years, while they were in the wilderness or desert. Finally, Yahweh let the Israelites possess the land of the Amorites.

Jeremiah stays in Judah (Jer 40:5-40:6)

“‘If you remain,

Then return to Gedaliah,

The son of Ahikam,

The son of Shaphan.

The king of Babylon

Has appointed him governor

Of the towns of Judah.

Stay with him

Among the people!

Or go wherever

You think it right to go.’

So the captain of the guard

Gave him an allowance

Of food

With a present.

He let him go.

Then Jeremiah went

To Gedaliah,

The son of Ahikam,

At Mizpah.

He stayed with him

Among the people

Who were left in the land.”

Nebuzaradan, the captain of the troops, told Jeremiah that if he stayed in Judah that he would be better off with Gedaliah, the son of Ahikam. The King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had appointed Gedaliah the governor for the towns of Judah, since there was no longer a king. As mentioned in the previous chapter, Gedaliah’s father and grandfather, Ahikam and Shaphan had been loyal to the various prophets. Shaphan went back to the days of King Josiah (640-609 BCE) and his religious reform. Ahikam had protected Jeremiah during the reign of King Jehoiakim (609-598 BCE) as in chapter 26 of this book. His brother Gemariah had helped Jeremiah in chapter 36. Thus Ahikam’s son Gedaliah seemed like the right person to protect Jeremiah. Still Jeremiah was free to go wherever he wanted. The captain of the troops gave Jeremiah some food and a present, maybe some money. Jeremiah then went to Gedaliah, who was at Mizpah, about 6 miles north of Jerusalem, in the Benjamin territory. Thus Jeremiah stayed with all these people who were left in Israel. These were either the so-called poor people or collaborators with the Babylon king and his emissaries.

Jeremiah is sent to Gedaliah (Jer 39:13-39:14)

“So Nebuzaradan,

The captain of the guard,

Nebu-shazban the Rabsaris,

Nergal-sharezer the Rabmag,

With all the chief officers

Of the king of Babylon

Sent for Jeremiah.

They took him

From the court of the guard.

They entrusted him

To Gedaliah,

The son of Ahikam,

The son of Shaphan.

They brought him home.

So he stayed

With his own people.”

Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, and presumably the man in charge on the ground in Jerusalem, gathered the other Babylonian officials together. Two are named here. One is the same as mentioned at the beginning of this chapter, Nergal-sharezer the Rabmag, who was in charge of the Assyrian priests or religious element of Babylon. On the other hand, Nebu-shazban the Rabsaris has the same title as Sarsechim, Rabsaris, earlier in this chapter. The Rabsaris was in charge of the eunuchs, but the name is different here. Are they the same people with different names or two different people? Anyway, they take Jeremiah from the royal prison, presumably before they burn the royal palace down. They hand him over to Gedaliah. His father and grandfather, Ahikam and Shaphan had been loyal to the various prophets. Shaphan went back to the days of King Josiah (640-609 BCE) and his religious reform. Ahikam had protected Jeremiah during the reign of King Jehoiakim (609-598 BCE) as in chapter 26 of this book. His brother Gemariah had helped Jeremiah in chapter 36. Thus Ahikam’s son Gedaliah seemed like the right person to protect Jeremiah.

Jeremiah was protected (Jer 26:24-26:24)

“But the hand of Ahikam,

The son of Shaphan,

Was with Jeremiah.

Thus he was not given over

Into the hand of the people

To be put to death.”

Based on the story of Uriah, Jeremiah was lucky to get away. Ahikam, the son of an important official and friend of Jeremiah, named Shaphan, protected Jeremiah. He then made sure that Jeremiah was not turned over to the people to be killed.

Remembering Moses (Isa 63:11-63:14)

“Then he remembered the days of old.

He remembered Moses his servant.

Where is the one

Who brought them up out of the sea?

Where are the shepherds of his flock?

Where is the one

Who put within them His Holy Spirit?

Who caused his glorious arm

To march at the right hand of Moses?

Who divided the waters before them?

Who made for himself an everlasting name?

Who led them through the depths?

Who was like a horse in the desert

So that they did not stumble?

Like cattle that go down into the valley,

The Spirit of Yahweh gave them rest.

Thus you led your people

To make for yourself a glorious name.”

Despite all their unfaithful actions, Yahweh kept his people safe as in the days of his servant Moses. In a series of questions, he reminds them of the good things in the past. He brought them out of the sea depths as he divided the waters with his mighty arms. Yahweh gave them the Holy Spirit to lead his flock like a shepherd. He was like a horse leading in the desert so that they would not stumble. He protected them like cattle in the valleys that finally got rest. He made his name glorious.