Past crimes (Hos 6:7-6:9)

“But like Adam,

They transgressed the covenant.

There they dealt faithlessly

With me.

Gilead is a city

Of evildoers,

Tracked with blood.

As robbers lie in wait

For someone,

So,

The priests

Are banded together.

They murder

On the way to Shechem.

They commit

A monstrous crime.”

Yahweh, via Hosea, compared the sin of Adam with the other later Israelites. They had broken the covenant. Perhaps the “there” mentioned here was the 40 years in the wilderness, when sometimes they were unfaithful to Yahweh. The city of Gilead, on the other side of the Jordan River, was a city of bloody evil people. Just as robbers wait for someone to come by to rob, so the priests have joined together to murder people on their way to the northern shrine at Shechem. They have committed all kinds of monstrous crimes. Perhaps, this northern Israelite Samaritan sanctuary was considered the great monstrosity. Notice the continual anti-clericalism of the prophets.

Eighty pilgrim worshippers arrive at Mizpah (Jer 41:4-41:5)

“On the day after

The murder of Governor Gedaliah,

Before anyone knew of it,

Eighty men arrived

From Shechem,

From Shiloh,

From Samaria.

Their beards were shaved.

Their clothes were torn.

Their bodies were gashed.

They were bringing

Grain offerings

With incense

To present

At the temple of Yahweh.”

The day after the death of Judean governor, 80 pilgrims from the northern areas of Shechem, Shiloh, and Samaria came by. As Mizpah was near Jerusalem, they would want to stop there. Obviously, they knew nothing about the death of Governor Gedaliah the day before, but they might have heard about the good times at Mizpah. These pilgrims had shaved beards, torn clothes, and gashes on their bodies, typical signs of mourning. They may have been on their way to mourn the passing of the Temple in Jerusalem with their grain offerings and incense. However, they might also be on the way to celebrate the feast of Tents.

Numerical proverb (Sir 50:25-50:26)

“Two nations

My soul detests.

The third

Is not even a nation.

They are

Those who live on Mount Seir,

The Philistines,

And the foolish people

That live in Shechem.”

Sirach uses the numerical concept of Proverbs. He detests 2 countries. They appear to be the Edomites of Mount Seir and the Philistines or pagan Hellenists. The third group are the foolish Samaritans who live in Shechem.

Joseph (Sir 49:15-49:15)

“Nor was anyone born

Like Joseph,

The leader of his brothers,

The support of the people.

Even his bones

Were cared for.”

Sirach gives Joseph only one verse, as he seems to have an odd spot here. The story of Joseph and his activity in Egypt can be found in 13 chapters of Genesis, 37-50. Although abandoned by his brothers, he turns out to be their leader and the support of his people. He wanted his bones returned to Canaan, but they were buried in an Egyptian tomb until Moses took them in Exodus, chapter 13. They were finally buried at Shechem in Joshua, chapter 24. Two of his sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, make up part of the 12 territorial tribes since Levi did not get any territory.

King Jeroboam (Sir 47:23-44:25)

“Then Jeroboam son of Nebat

Led Israel into sin.

He started Ephraim

On its sinful ways.

Their sins increased

More and more,

Until they were exiled

From their land.

They sought out

Every kind of wickedness,

Until vengeance came upon them.”

Interesting enough, Sirach talked about the king who led the Israelite northern kingdom, who was not in the Davidic line of kings. Sirach was very harsh in his judgment about the northern rebels. Their kingdom was in fact called Israel, while the southern kingdom was called Judah. Jeroboam the son of Nebat was from Ephraim, just north of Judah and Benjamin. He actually had worked for Solomon in his administration, as indicated in 1 Kings, chapters 11-14. A prophet told Jeroboam that he would be king. After a meeting with Rehoboam, Jeroboam set up a new kingdom at Shechem. His great sin was that he did not want the people to go to Jerusalem to worship. Thus he setup his own worship places. This false worship led to the downfall of the northern Kingdom of Israel (721 BCE) before that of the Kingdom of Judah (587 BCE).  The wickedness of this kingdom deserved the vengeance that came to it.

Thanksgiving for past victories (Ps 108:7-108:9)

“God has promised in his sanctuary.

‘With exultation

I will divide up Shechem.

I will portion out the Vale of Succoth.

Gilead is mine.

Manasseh is mine.

Ephraim is my helmet.

Judah is my scepter.

Moab is my washbasin.

On Edom

I hurl my shoe.

Over Philistia

I shout in triumph.’”

This section is a repeat almost word for word of the same victories mentioned in Psalm 60. God directly promised or spoke in his sanctuary to David. This is one of the few times that this phraseology is used, assuming that the sanctuary of the Temple was completed. This probably was a prophet speaking in the name of God, but there is no specific indication here. He rattled off a series of Israelite victories. Shechem was a former Canaanite city that was now divided up and part of the territory of Manasseh. Succoth was conquered during the time of the Judges. Gilead was on the eastern side of the Jordan River where the tribes of Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh lived. Only 3 Israelite tribes are mentioned here, Manasseh, Ephraim, and Judah. Judah would become the favorite when the split between the north and the south took place as the north became known as Israel. Moab was a mere washbasin on the east side of the Dead Sea. Edom was in the north. The phrase “hurl a shoe” seemed obsolete until some Iraqi journalist hurled his shoe at President George W. Bush to show his contempt. Philistines were on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Thus this is a list of the various victorious Israelite battles.

God helped to defeat enemies (Ps 68:11-68:14)

“Yahweh gives the command.

Great is the company

Of those who bore the tidings.

‘The kings of the armies,

They flee!

They flee!’

The women at home

Divide the spoils.

Although they stayed among the sheepfolds,

They found

The wings of a dove covered with silver,

Its pinions with green gold.

When the almighty Shaddai scattered kings there,

Snow fell on Zalmon.”

When Yahweh gave the command, the armies of the enemy kings were defeated. They fled. The women at home or in the sheepfolds divided the spoils of the fleeing armies. This sounds like a settled people rather than a group in the wilderness. Among these spoils they found a silver dove with green gold feathers. When the almighty Shaddai, as opposed to Yahweh, scattered these kings, snow fell on Mount Zalmon, which was near Shechem. This mountain was mentioned in Judges, chapter 9. Snow would have been rare as this incident was not mentioned elsewhere in the biblical literature.