The problem of Jerusalem (Zech 12:2-12:3)

“See!

I am about to make Jerusalem

A cup of trembling

For all the surrounding people.

It will be against Judah also

In the siege against Jerusalem.

On that day,

I will make Jerusalem

A heavy stone

For all the people.

Anyone who lifts it

Shall grievously hurt themselves.

All the nations of the earth

Shall come together against it.”

Zechariah pointed out that Jerusalem was going to have a special place.  They were going to be like a cup of trembling or reeling, perhaps an allusion to the cup, bowl, or basin that caught the blood of the Passover lamb.  The neighboring people should be aware that Jerusalem was under siege.  Thus, Jerusalem was to become a heavy stone that few people could lift.  Apparently, there was a practice of lifting stones to show one’s strength among young men, like weight lifting.  Thus, anyone who tried to lift the heavy stone of Jerusalem would hurt themselves.  All the various countries in the world would come against Jerusalem, but at their own risk.

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The fight over Palestine (Dan 11:15-11:17)

“Then the king of the north

Shall come.

He shall throw up

Siege works.

He shall take

A well-fortified city.

The forces of the south

Shall not stand.

Not even his picked troops

Shall stand.

There shall be

No strength to resist.

But he who comes

Against him

Shall take the actions

He pleases.

No one shall withstand him.

He shall take a position

In the beautiful land.

All of it shall be

In his power.

He shall set his mind

To come

With the strength

Of his whole kingdom.

He shall bring terms of peace.

He shall perform them.

In order to destroy the kingdom,

He shall give him

A woman in marriage.

But it shall not succeed.

It shall not be to his advantage.”

Then the king of the north, King Antiochus III (222-187 BCE), took possession of the beautiful land of Israel or Judah. He would set up a siege against the fortified city. The southern forces from Egypt would not be able to stand up against him, even their special troops were not good enough. No one had the strength to resist. He set his mind to it and he was able to do it. Then he arranged a peace treaty. King Antiochus gave his daughter Cleopatra to the young King Ptolemy V (204-181 BCE) in marriage in 194 BCE, but it did not work.

The plunder of the city of Tyre (Ezek 26:12-26:14)

“They will plunder

Your riches.

They will loot

Your merchandise.

They will break down

Your walls.

They will destroy

Your fine houses.

They will cast

Into the water

Your stones,

Your timber,

Your soil.

I will silence

The music

Of your songs.

The sound

Of your lyres

Will be heard

No more.

I will make you

A bare rock.

You shall be a place

For spreading nets.

You shall never

Be rebuilt.

I!

Yahweh!

Have spoken!’

Says Yahweh God.”

Yahweh, via Ezekiel, said that he was going to have the Babylonians plunder their riches and loot the merchandise of the city of Tyre. These Babylonian invaders were going to break down their walls and destroy the fine houses of Tyre. These invaders were going to throw the local stones, timber, and soil of Tyre into the water. There would be no more music or songs. Yahweh would silence the sounds of the lyres or harps. Tyre would become a bare rock or a place for spreading fishing nets. It would never be rebuilt again. Yahweh, God, had spoken.  Actually, the siege of Tyre lasted 12 years and then they settled things. Alexander the Great in 332 BCE also captured Tyre. This ancient Phoenician island city still exists in southern Lebanon today with about 100,000 people.

The lack of food and drink in Jerusalem (Ezek 4:16-4:17)

“Then he said to me.

‘Son of man!

I am going to break

The staff of bread

In Jerusalem.

They shall eat bread

By weight

With fearfulness.

They shall drink water

By measure

In dismay.

Lacking bread,

Lacking water,

They will look

At one another

In dismay.

They will waste away

Under their punishment.”

Meanwhile in Jerusalem, the siege meant a famine. Yahweh reminded Ezekiel, the son of man, of their plight. Those in Jerusalem were going to eat bread with fear. Their bread and water would be measured by weight. They would lack bread and water, as they would look at each other in great dismay. They were going to waste away under their punishment.

The punishment (Lam 4:6-4:6)

Vav

“The chastisement

Of my people

Has been greater

Than the punishment

Of Sodom.

It was overthrown

In a moment,

Even though

No hand

Was laid on it.”

This author compares the punishment of Jerusalem to that of the city of Sodom in Genesis, chapter 19, which seemed to resonate in the Israelite imagination. In fact, the punishment to the people of Jerusalem during this siege was worse than that of Sodom, because this punishment was lingering and not quick. This verse starts with the Hebrew consonant letter Vav in this acrostic poem.

The sign from Yahweh about the Egyptian Pharaoh (Jer 44:29-44:30)

“Says Yahweh.

‘This shall be the sign

To you,

That I am going

To punish you

In this place.

Thus you may know

That my words

Against you

Will surely be carried out.’

Thus says Yahweh.

‘I am going to give

Pharaoh Hophra,

The king of Egypt,

Into the hand of his enemies,

Those who seek his life.

Just as I gave

King Zedekiah

Of Judah

Into the hand

Of King Nebuchadnezzar

Of Babylon,

His enemy,

Who sought his life.’”

Yahweh, via Jeremiah, said that he was going to give these Judeans in Egypt a sign that he was going to punish them in Egypt. The sign that he gave them was the fact that Pharaoh Hophra, the king of Egypt, would be overthrown by his enemies. Pharaoh Hophra was also known as King Apries (589-570 BCE), who would have been the ruler during this Judean refugee migration to Egypt. He was favorable to the Judeans, since he had tried unsuccessfully to protect Jerusalem from King Nebuchadnezzar during the siege of that city. He was killed in 570 by the new Pharaoh Amasis, who ruled from 570-526 BCE. Yahweh had done the same to King Zedekiah of Judah. Thus Yahweh wanted to show them that he had control over all kings.

Jeremiah sets out for the Benjamin territory (Jer 37:11-37:12)

“Now when the Chaldean army

Had withdrawn

From Jerusalem

At the approach

Of Pharaoh’s army,

Jeremiah set out

From Jerusalem

To go to

The land of Benjamin

To receive

His share of the property

Among the people there.”

After the conversation with the two envoys of King Zedekiah, Jeremiah set out to go to the Benjamin territory, right next to Jerusalem. As the Chaldean army siege had been lifted with the approach of the Egyptian army, people were free to come and go from Jerusalem. Perhaps Jeremiah was going to see and get his land that he had purchased in chapter 32. It may have been just to see what was going on. Certainly he was going to see the people there.