The prayer from the pit (Lam 3:55-3:57)

Qoph

“I called

On your name!

O Yahweh!

From the depths

Of the pit!

You heard my plea!

‘Do not close

Your ear

To my cry

For help!

But give me relief!’

You came near

When I called

On you.

You said.

‘Do not fear!’”

This personalized lament continues with a prayer from the bottom of the pit. This author called out to Yahweh. Yahweh then heard his plea as he did not close his ears. He responded to his cry for relief as he came near to him. Yahweh told him not to fear. There may be a happy ending after all this lamentation. These three verses start with the Hebrew consonant letter Qoph in this acrostic poem.

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Gifts (Sir 18:15-18:18)

“My child!

Do not mix reproach

With your good deeds!

Do not spoil your gift

By harsh words!

Does not the dew give relief

From the scorching heat?

So a word is

Better than a gift.

Indeed,

Does not a word

Surpass a good gift?

Both are to be found

In a gracious man.

A fool is ungracious.

A fool is abusive.

The gift of a grudging giver

Makes the eyes dim.”

Be careful when you are giving gifts that your words and attitude not betray your good deed. Do not criticize when you are doing good deeds. Don’t spoil your gifts with unkind words. Just like the morning dew gives relief from the later noon day heat, so too a nice word might be better than a good gift, and even surpass it. The gracious man offers both good words and good gifts. On the other hand, the fool is both ungracious and insulting. People do not look favorably on a grudging giver.

Elihu is eager to give his opinion (Job 32:15-32:22)

“They are discomfited.

They answer no more.

They have not a word to say.

Am I to wait?

They do not speak.

They stand there.

They answer no more?

I also will give my answer.

I also will declare my opinion.

I am full of words.

The Spirit within me constrains me.

My heart is like wine that has no vent.

My heart is like new wineskins.

My heart is ready to burst.

I must speak!

Then I may find relief.

I must open my lips and answer!

I will not show partiality to any person.

I will not use flattery toward anyone.

I do not know how to flatter.

My Creator would soon put an end to me!”

These men were dismayed since they had no more answers. How much longer should Elihu wait before he spoke? Elihu wanted to speak and give his opinion since he was full of words. He was so eager to speak. His heart was like wine trying to burst out of wineskins. He had to speak to gain relief. He was not going to show partiality not use flattery since he did not know how to use flattery. If he did use flattery then his creator would put an end to him.

Simon wants to contact the deposed King Demetrius II (1 Macc 13:33-13:35)

“Simon built up the strongholds of Judea. He walled them all around, with high towers and great walls, gates, and bolts. He stored food in the strongholds. Simon also chose emissaries and sent them to King Demetrius the king with a request to grant relief to the country. All that Trypho did was to plunder.”

Simon decided to build up the strongholds of Judea. He built walls around them with towers and gates. He stored food in them. He also sent messengers to the deposed King Demetrius II because he said that all King Trypho did was plunder the country. I guess that he was pushing for King Demetrius II to regain the kingship of Syria now that the pretence of the young King Antiochus VI was gone.

The official institution of Purim (Esth 9:20-9:23)

“Mordecai recorded these things. He sent letters to all the Jews who were in all the provinces of King Artaxerxes, both near and far. He enjoined them that they should keep the fourteenth day of the month of Adar and also the fifteenth day of the same month, year by year. These are the days on which the Jews gained relief from their enemies. This is the month that had been turned for them from sorrow into gladness, and from mourning into a holiday. They should make them days of feasting and gladness, days for sending gifts of food to one another, and presents to the poor. Thus the Jews adopted as a custom what they had begun to do, as Mordecai had written to them.”

Mordecai put in a decree for the Jews of the Persian kingdom, a custom that they had already started. This became known as Purim. Each year they should remember what happened to them on the 14th and 15th of Adar. They should exchange food gifts and give to the poor. They were to remember that on this day that they turned from sorrow to gladness and from mourning to feasting. In modern day Judaism, this has become a big holiday eating and drinking for Conservative and Orthodox Jews, much like a Halloween feast. Children dress up and exchange treats. They read the Book of Esther, while booing Haman and cheering Mordecai.

The Jews kill 75,000 people in the provinces (Esth 9:16-9:17)

“Now the other Jews who were in the king’s provinces also gathered to defend their lives. They gained relief from their enemies. They killed seventy-five thousand of those who hated them. However, they laid no hands on the plunder. This was on the thirteenth day of the month of Adar. On the fourteenth day they rested and made that a day of feasting and gladness.”

The Jewish people in the provinces gathered to defend themselves. They gained relief from their enemies by killing 75,000 of those people who hated them. However, they took no plunder. The day after, they celebrated with feasts and gladness as they rested.