The future demise of Syria and Ephraim (Isa 7:7-7:9)

“Therefore thus says Yahweh God.

‘It shall not stand.

It shall not come to pass.

The head of Syria is Damascus.

The head of Damascus is King Rezin.

Within sixty-five years,

Ephraim will be shattered.

They will no longer be a people.

The head of Ephraim is Samaria.

The head of Samaria is

The son of Remaliah.

If you do not stand firm in faith,

You shall not stand at all.’”

Yahweh then proclaimed that the 2 invaders from the north would not be successful since they would be wiped out. The capital of Syria was in Damascus where King Rezin (792-732 BCE) ruled. The capital of the northern Israelite kingdom of Ephraim was at Samaria, where the son of Remaliah, King Pekah was in charge. Within 65 years, Ephraim would be wiped out. Syria was also going to fall. All that King Ahaz had to do was to remain strong in his faith. If he did not, he too would fall.

Bad leaders (Isa 3:12-3:12)

“My people!

Children are

Their oppressors.

Women rule

Over them.

O my people!

Your leaders

Mislead you.

They confused

The course of your paths.”

Isaiah rails against the bad leaders in Judah. They mislead his people, the Israelites. They confused them. They led them on the wrong paths. Now however, they are suffering because children are oppressing them. One of the terrible things that happened to them was being ruled by women, since Isaiah considered this an evil thing.

Prayer to obtain wisdom (Wis 9:1-9:4)

“O God of my ancestors!

Lord of mercy!

You have made all things by your word.

By your wisdom

You have formed humankind.

They have dominion

Over the creatures you have made.

You rule the world in holiness.

You rule the world in righteousness.

You pronounce judgment

In uprightness of soul.

Give me the wisdom

That sits by your throne.

Do not reject me

From among your servants.”

This prayer is reminiscent of the prayer of Solomon in 1Kings, chapter 8, and his request for wisdom (σοφίαν) in chapter 3. This author, like Solomon, recognized the creative work (ποιήσας τὰ πάντα) of the merciful Lord (Κύριε τοῦ ἐλέους) and God of his ancestors (θεος πατέρων). Very wisely (τῇ σοφίᾳ), with his words (ἐν λόγῳ σου) God created humans (ἄνθρωπον) to have dominion over all the creatures since he ruled the world with holiness and righteousness (δικαιοσύνῃ).

The persecution of the Israelites (Ps 106:40-106:43)

“Then the anger of Yahweh was kindled against his people.

He abhorred his heritage.

He gave them into the hand of the nations.

Thus those who hated them ruled over them.

Their enemies oppressed them.

They were brought into subjection under their power.

Many times he delivered them.

But they were rebellious in their purposes.

They were brought low through their iniquity.”

Yahweh was angry with his people. He abhorred his heritage. Thus he gave them over to other nations. They were ruled by people who hated them. They were oppressed by their enemies. They were subject to the power of other people. Yahweh had saved them a number of times. However, they were always rebelling against Yahweh. Then once again they would be brought low because of their iniquity and evil ways.

God with his council (Ps 82:1-82:2)

A psalm of Asaph

“God has taken his place in the divine council.

In the midst of the gods he holds judgment.

‘How long will you judge unjustly?

How long will you show partiality to the wicked?’”

Selah

Psalm 82 is simply one in the series of psalms of Asaph, the Temple singer. The ancient Near East believed that the world was ruled by a series of gods, which was also the Greek and Roman concepts of divinity. Here God sits with his council, sometimes referred to as the angels. Speaking in God’s name was the Temple priest or prophet. God’s judgment questions were clear. Why were they judging unjustly? Why were they partial to the wicked ones? This section ends once again with the musical meditative interlude pause of Selah.

Torture the wicked (Ps 59:11-59:13)

“Do not kill them!

My people may forget.

Make them totter

By your power!

Bring them down!

Yahweh!

Our shield!

For the sin of their mouths,

For the words of their lips,

Let them be trapped in their pride!

For the cursing that they utter,

For the lies that they utter,

Consume them in wrath!

Consume them

Until they are no more!

Then it will be known

To the ends of the earth

That God rules over Jacob.”

Selah

David did not want his enemies killed, he wanted vengeance. He wanted them to suffer so that his own people would not forget what evil was. The evil ones were to totter and be brought down. Yahweh was the shield and protector of good ones. The evildoers sinned with their words and their lips because they were trapped in pride. Thus they uttered curses and lies. They should be consumed in the wrath of God. In somewhat contradictory terms, David wanted them consumed until they actually died instead of just suffering. At that point, the whole world would know that the God of Jacob ruled the world. At that thought there was the musical interlude meditative pause, Selah.

The righteous win (Ps 58:10-58:11)

“The righteous will rejoice

When they see the vengeance done.

They will bathe their feet

In the blood of the wicked.

People will say.

‘Surely

There is a reward

For the righteous.

Surely

There is a God

Who judges on earth.’”

This psalm concludes with the righteous winning out. They would rejoice when they saw that vengeance against the wicked ones had been carried out. They would bathe their feet in the blood of the wicked ones. What a cruel metaphor. This was the reward for the righteous because God was the true judge who ruled the earth.

Alexander the Great (1 Macc 1:1-1:4)

“After Alexander son of Philip, the Macedonian, who came from the land of Kittim, had defeated King Darius of the Persians and the Medes, he succeeded him as king. He had previously become king of Greece. King Alexander fought many battles. He conquered strongholds. He put to death the kings of the earth. He advanced to the ends of the earth. He plundered many nations. When the earth became quiet before him, he was exalted. His heart was lifted up. He gathered a very strong army. He ruled over countries, nations, and princes. They became tributary to him.”

Once again, we have a book that is not in the Hebrew canon and therefore not in the King James Bible. However, it was part of the Septuagint, and the Vulgate of Jerome. Thus it is part of the Catholic tradition that places these books about the Maccabees as the last books of the so-called historical books of the Bible, as in the Jerusalem Bible that I am following. This is a semi-historical book of the late 2nd century BCE.

It starts out with the real historical figure of Alexander the Great (356-323 BCE), the son of Philip of Macedonia (382-336 BCE). Alexander was the king of Greece who defeated the Persian King Darius III (380-330 BCE). Alexander had gone to the ends of the earth, which meant India in the east. He killed many kings with his strong army. All the nations were beholden to him as he attempted to Hellenize the whole empire with a dominant Greek culture. This Greek culture produced the holy books of the Greek Jewish Old Testament Septuagint and the Greek Christian New Testament. At some point there were more Greek speaking Jews in Alexandria than there were Jews in Jerusalem.

The kingdom of King Artaxerxes (Esth 1:1-1:4)

“It was after this that the following things happened in the days of King Artaxerxes, the same Artaxerxes who ruled over one hundred twenty-seven provinces from India to Ethiopia. In those days, when King Artaxerxes was enthroned in the capital city of Susa, in the third year of his reign, he gave a banquet for all his friends and other persons of various nations, the Persians and the Median nobles, as well as the governors of the provinces. After this, he had displayed to them the wealth of his kingdom and the splendor of his bountiful celebration during the course of one hundred eighty days.”

Now we begin the story of Esther with the Hebrew text. This was the great King Artaxerxes (465-424 BCE) with a huge empire from India to Ethiopia. This Persian king, which is now Iran, had over 127 provinces. So that when we read about Samaria in the Province Beyond the River Euphrates in Nehemiah and Ezra, it was only 1 of 127 provinces. This was the 3rd year of King Artaxerxes’ reign, about 462 BCE. The capital city was Susa, a town that dates back to about 5,000 BCE, about 7, 000 years old. Susa was a major Persian city that went out of favor when it was captured by the Greek Alexander the Great in 331 BCE. King Artaxerxes had invited most of the 127 governors, nobles, and especially the Persian and Median nobles to see the wealth and splendor of his kingdom for about 6 months, 180 days. Persia and Media were old friendly neighboring countries.