The four destroyers (Jer 15:3-15:4)

“‘I will appoint over them

Four kinds of destroyers.’

Says Yahweh.

‘The sword is to kill.

The dogs are to drag away.

The birds of the air are to devour.

The animals of the earth are to destroy.

I will make them a horror

To all the kingdoms of the earth,

Because of what King Manasseh,

Son of King Hezekiah of Judah,

Did in Jerusalem.’”

Yahweh once again spoke about 4 different ways that he would destroy the people. While the sword was the only common one from the preceding verses, famine, pestilence, and captivity have given way to dogs, birds, and animals. The sword would kill. The dogs would drag them away. The birds of the air would devour them, while the other earth animals would destroy them. They would become a horror to the all countries on earth. This was all done because of what King Manasseh (687-642 BCE), the son of King Hezekiah (716-687 BCE) had done in Judah and Jerusalem. However, this captivity was nearly a century later in 587 BCE. Why did Yahweh wait so long? The son of King Manasseh was the good king Josiah (640-609 BCE) who led a religious reform. All this is based on 2 Kings, chapters 21-23.

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Topheth (Jer 7:31-7:34)

“‘They go on building

The high place of Topheth.

That is in the valley of the son of Hinnom.

They burn their sons in the fire.

They burn their daughters in the fire.

I did not command this.

It did not come into my mind.

Thus the days are surely coming.’

Says Yahweh.

‘It will no more be called Topheth.

It will no more be called

The valley of the son of Hinnom.

But it will be called

The valley of Slaughter.

They will bury in Topheth,

Until there is no room.

The corpses of this people

Will be food

For the birds of the air,

For the animals of the earth.

No one will frighten them away.

I will bring to an end

The sound of mirth with gladness.

I will bring to an end

The voice of the bridegroom

From the cities of Judah.

I will bring to an end

The voice of the bride

From the streets of Jerusalem.

The land shall become a waste.’”

Topheth was a place in Jerusalem where the ancient Canaanites worshipped. Human sacrifices and children were offered to the god Moloch or Baal by burning them alive. It was in the Gehinnom area that later became Gehenna or even a symbol for hell itself. It may have been a place for the burning of rubbish, although there is no archeological evidence of this. King Josiah (640-609 BCE) in his religious reform may have ended the practice of sacrificing and burning children. However, Yahweh says that he never commanded or thought about this sacrificing of children. Thus this Topheth would not exist any longer, because it will become known for dead bodies after slaughters, where the birds and animals would feed on them. There will be no more mirth or gladness for the bride or bridegroom in the cities of Judah or on the streets of Jerusalem.

King Josiah (Sir 49:1-49:3)

“The memory of King Josiah is

Like a blending of incense.

This was prepared

By the skilful art of the perfumer.

His memory is

As sweet as honey

To every mouth.

His memory is

Like music

At a banquet of wine.

He did what was right

By reforming the people.

He removed the wicked abominations.

He kept his heart

On the Lord.

In lawless times,

He made

Godliness prevail.”

Now Sirach takes on the memory of the long reign of Judah King Josiah (640-609 BCE) as found in 2 Kings, chapters 22-23, and 2 Chronicles, chapters 34-35. He was a substantial king for over 30 years, so his impact was great. His memory was like the beautiful aroma of incense and sweeter than honey. His memory was like music at a wine banquet because he did what was right. He refurnished the Jerusalem Temple by collecting money to repair it. During this remodeling, they discovered the book of the law, probably Deuteronomy. After reading this book, he called for a religious reform in Judah, apparently reinstating monotheism. He then set out to destroy all the other religious shrines or wicked abominations that were not in Jerusalem. He kept his heart fixed on the Lord. He changed the lawless times into the times of godliness. What a great king!