The prayer of Elizabeth (Lk 1:25-1:25)

“Elizabeth said.

‘This is what

The Lord

Has done to me.

He looked on me.

He took away

The disgrace

That I have endured

Among my people.’”

 

λέγουσα

ὅτι Οὕτως μοι πεποίηκεν Κύριος ἐν ἡμέραις αἷς ἐπεῖδεν ἀφελεῖν ὄνειδός μου ἐν ἀνθρώποις.

 

Luke has this prayer of Elizabeth.  She said that the Lord had done this to her (ὅτι Οὕτως μοι πεποίηκεν Κύριος).  Many believed that only God could help people get pregnant, since he controlled the opening and closing of the womb, as indicated in Genesis, chapter 16:2, about Sarah and being barren.  That was the reason that there were so many pagan fertility gods, rites, and rituals, since giving birth was considered to be some kind of magical or divine action.  Also, contemporary political gesturing around reproductive rights has its basis in religious beliefs.  Elizabeth said that in those days (ἐν ἡμέραις), the Lord had looked on her (αἷς ἐπεῖδεν), since he took away her disgrace or reproach (ἀφελεῖν ὄνειδός) that she had endured among her people or other men (ἐν ἀνθρώποις).  Being barren or sterile was considered a punishment from God.  The prime example of a happiness at birth would have been in Genesis, chapter 29:31-30:23, where Rachel finally had a son, Joseph.  Elizabeth understood her pregnancy as a personal vindication or reward for her righteousness.  She did not seem to understand the wider consequences of her pregnancy.

 

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The fulfillment of the prophecy of Jeremiah (Mt 2:17-2:18)

“Then was fulfilled

What had been spoken

Through the prophet Jeremiah.

‘A voice is heard

In Ramah.

Wailing

With loud lamentation.

Rachel is weeping

For her children.

She refuses to be consoled,

Because they are no more.’”

 

τότε ἐπληρώθη τὸ ῥηθὲν διὰ Ἰερεμίου τοῦ προφήτου λέγοντος

Φωνὴ ἐν Ῥαμὰ ἠκούσθη, κλαυθμὸς καὶ ὀδυρμὸς πολύς·

Ῥαχὴλ κλαίουσα τὰ τέκνα αὐτῆς, καὶ οὐκ ἤθελεν παρακληθῆναι ὅτι οὐκ εἰσίν.

 

Matthew once again has a prophetic citation, but this time explicitly from the prophet Jeremiah, chapter 31:15. He said that the prophecy of Jeremiah was fulfilled here (τότε ἐπληρώθη τὸ ῥηθὲν διὰ Ἰερεμίου τοῦ προφήτου λέγοντος). In the Jeremiah prophecy, Yahweh talked about Rachel, one of the wives of Jacob and the mother of Joseph and Benjamin. At the time of Jeremiah, Rachel had been dead and buried for a long time at Ramah, about 6 miles north of Jerusalem in the former Benjamin territory. Thus, Rachel (Ῥαχὴλ) was loudly lamenting from her grave. Jeremiah said that a voice from Ramah was heard (Φωνὴ ἐν Ῥαμὰ ἠκούσθη). She was weeping bitterly and mourning (κλαυθμὸς καὶ ὀδυρμὸς πολύς) for her lost children (κλαίουσα τὰ τέκνα αὐτῆς). She refused to be comforted (οὐκ ἤθελεν παρακληθῆναι), because they were dead and gone. They were no more (ὅτι οὐκ εἰσίν). Here Matthew, used this saying to apply to the innocent male children that Herod had killed. In the follow up to the Rachel story in Jeremiah, Yahweh told her to stop weeping and dry her tears, because she was going to be rewarded with descendants. There is no indication of that here in this text.

The wider meaning of prophet

The term prophet had a wide meaning among the Israelites, since it also included people like Abraham, Moses, and Miriam.  That is why some so-called historical books are often called the early prophets.  Jewish traditions hold that there were 48 male prophets, and seven female prophets, Sarah, Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Abigail, Huldah, and Esther.  Others have recognized Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah as female prophets also.  Thus, there is a wide range of written prophetic books in the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament.  The Hebrew prophetic dominant message was a return to Yahweh and his laws.  They were to protect the poor, the orphans, and the widows.  Justice and righteousness dominate in their messages.  Yahweh would judge them.  Although some Israelites were sinners, they would have a bright future if they turned from their evil ways to Yahweh.

Jacob in Aram (Hos 12:12-12:12)

“Jacob fled

To the land of Aram.

There Israel served

For a wife.

He guarded sheep

For a wife.”

This incident about Jacob or Israel can be found in Genesis, chapter 29. Jacob went east and found his cousin Rachel, whom he wanted to marry. He was tricked into marring her sister Leah. However, he stayed on to take care of the sheep of his uncle Laban, so that he would have Rachel as his wife also.

Rachel laments her children (Jer 31:15-31:17)

“Thus says Yahweh.       

‘A voice is heard in Ramah.

There is lamentation.

There is bitter weeping.

Rachel is weeping

For her children.

She refuses to be comforted

For her children.

Because they are no more.’

Thus says Yahweh.

‘Keep your voice

From weeping!

Keep your eyes

From tears!

There is a reward

For your work.’

Says Yahweh.

‘They shall come back

From the land of the enemy.

There is hope for your future.’

Says Yahweh.

‘Your children shall come back

To their own country.’”

Jeremiah seems to have a dialogue with Rachel, the mother of Joseph and Benjamin, and Yahweh. Rachel has been dead and buried for a long time at Ramah, during the time of Jacob as in Genesis, chapter 35. However, there the resting place was called Bethlehem. Here it is Ramah, someplace in Benjamin that makes more sense. The prophet Samuel may have lived in this place as in 1 Samuel, chapter 25. However, here Rachel is lamenting from her grave. She is weeping bitterly for her lost children. She refuses to be comforted because they too are dead and gone. This passage had an influence on the later Gospel of Matthew, chapter 2, where he used this saying to apply to the innocent children killed by Herod. However, Yahweh tells her to stop weeping and dry her tears, because she was going to be rewarded. The descendants of her children were going to come back to their country from the land of their enemies. Thus the northern tribes would be restored.

The righteous Jacob (Wis 10:9-10:12)

“Wisdom rescued from troubles

Those who served her.

When a righteous man fled

From his brother’s wrath,

She guided him on straight paths.

She showed him the kingdom of God.

She gave him knowledge of holy things.

She prospered him in his labors.

She increased the fruit of his toil.

When his oppressors were covetous,

She stood by him.

She made him rich.

She protected him from his enemies.

She kept him safe

From those who lay in wait for him.

In his arduous contest

She gave him the victory.

Thus he might learn

That godliness is more powerful

Than anything else.”

Wisdom also helped the righteous Jacob as we have a condensed version of the story of Jacob in Genesis, chapters 25-32. Of course, the unnamed Jacob is called a just man (δίκαιον) who served wisdom (σοφία). He fled from his brother’s anger after he had tricked Esau out of his birthright. Jacob had dreams that told him about the kingdom of God (βασιλείαν Θεοῦ) and the heavenly angels. Jacob went to live with Laban, the brother of his mother, or his uncle. He then married his 2 first cousins, Rachel and Leah, while he worked for his uncle. He then became rich before he got into a fight with his uncle Laban. For some reason, Jacob was considered righteous as opposed to Esau and Laban in their various disputes.

The birth of Benjamin and the death of Rachel (Gen 35:16-35:21)

Then they journeyed from Bethel.  When they were still some distance from Ephrath, Rachel was in childbirth. She had hard labor. When she was in her hard labor, the midwife said to her, ‘Do not be afraid.  For now you will have another son.’  As her soul was departing, for she died, she named him Ben-oni.  But his father called him Benjamin.  So Rachel died, and she was buried on the way to Ephrath, that is, Bethlehem, and Jacob set up a pillar at her grave.  It is the pillar of Rachel’s tomb, which is there to this day.  Israel journeyed on, and pitched his tent beyond the tower of Eder.”

I am not sure why they did not stay in Bethel.  On her way to Ephrath, that is, Bethlehem, south of Jerusalem, Rachel gave birth to a son named Benjamin.  This was a very difficult childbirth so that Rachel died. Israel, that is Jacob, buried her near Bethlehem and set a pillar on her grave. This is the only occurrence of Ben-oni, son of sorrow, because Jacob calls him Benjamin, as the twelfth child is born. Israel/Jacob moved to near the tower of Eder, which is further south near Edom.