Our days are numbered (Lam 4:18-4:18)

Cade

“They dogged

Our steps.

Thus we could

Not walk

In our streets.

Our end

Drew near.

Our days

Were numbered.

Our end

Had come.”

This verse speaks in the first person plural, referring to the people of Jerusalem. Their enemies persisted in watching them walking, so that they could not step out into the streets. Their end was near. Their days were numbered. Their end had come. They would be no more.   This verse starts with the Hebrew consonant letter Cade in this acrostic poem.

King Nebuchadnezzar is going to invade Egypt (Jer 46:13-46:14)

“The word

That Yahweh spoke

To the prophet Jeremiah

About the coming

Of King Nebuchadnezzar

Of Babylon

To attack the land of Egypt.

‘Declare in Egypt!

Proclaim in Migdol!

Proclaim in Memphis!

Proclaim in Tahpanhes!

Say!

‘Take your stations!

Be ready!

The sword shall devour

Those around you.’”

Once again, Yahweh speaks an oracle to Jeremiah. This time it is about the coming of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon to attack Egypt. Exactly when this will take place is not clear. Jeremiah was to declare this attack in Egypt, especially in Migdol, Memphis, and Tahpanhes. They should get ready. Migdol was an island in the Nile River, while Memphis was in the heart of the southern Egyptian delta. Tahpanhes was a northeastern border town, where the migrant Judeans had first gone. All these places should man their stations because the powerful sword of Babylon was going to devour all the people around them.

The God of all Israelites (Jer 31:1-31:1)

“Says Yahweh.

‘At that time,

I will be the God

Of all the families                    

Of Israel.

They shall be my people.’”

Yahweh, via Jeremiah, speaks about a time in the future when he will be the God of all the families of Israel, not just the families of Judah and Jerusalem as he had often spoken about. Very clearly, all of Israel would be his people. This is a more universal outlook. Like the preceding chapter, this is a different numbered chapter in the Greek translation of the Septuagint, chapter 38, not chapter 31 as here.

The failed conspiracy (Jer 11:9-11:11)

“Yahweh said to me.

‘Conspiracy exists

Among the people of Judah,

Among the inhabitants of Jerusalem.

They have turned back

To the iniquities of their ancestors.

They have refused to hear my words.

They have gone after other gods

To serve them.

The house of Israel,

The house of Judah,

Both have broken the covenant

That I made with their ancestors.’

Thus says Yahweh.

‘Therefore,

Assuredly I am going to bring

Disaster upon them.

They cannot escape.

Though they cry out to me,

I will not listen to them.’”

Once again, Yahweh speaks in the first person singular directly to Jeremiah. He said that there was a conspiracy among the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the cities of Judah. This terminology persists throughout Jeremiah with an emphasis on the city of Jerusalem and the other cities of Judah. They are acting like their iniquitous ancestors, because they refuse to listen to the words of Yahweh. Instead they are going after other idol gods to serve them. But this applies both to the northern house of Israel and the southern house of Judah. They have both broken the covenant that was made with their ancestors. Therefore Yahweh was going to bring disaster upon them that they would not be able to escape. Even if they cried out to him, he was not going to listen to them.  The result is set in stone.

A lamentation about the moral corruption of Judah (Jer 9:1-9:3)

“‘O that my head were a spring of water!

O that my eyes were a fountain of tears!

Thus I might weep day and night

For the slain of my poor people!

O that I had in the desert

A traveler’s lodging place!

Thus I might leave my people!

Thus I might go away from them!

They are all adulterers.

They are a band of traitors.

They bend their tongue

Like bows.

They have grown strong in the land

Because of falsehood,

Not because of truth.

They proceed from evil to evil.

They do not know me.’

Says Yahweh.”

Jeremiah has another oracle of Yahweh that speaks out about his lament over the corruption in Judah. Yahweh wished that he had a head with a spring of water or fountain of tears in his eyes, so that he could weep all day and night for the dead people of Judah. He wished that he had a lodging place in the desert so that he could get away from his poor people. They were all adulterers and traitors. They bent their tongues like bows with all their falsehood, instead of truth. They simply went from one evil to another evil. They did not even know Yahweh. It was a terrible scene. There is a slight discrepancy of the verse numbers since this first verse in the Jerusalem Bible is the last of the preceding chapter. However, I will follow the Revised Standard edition numbering for this chapter.

Yahweh the savior (Isa 43:1-43:3)

“But now thus says Yahweh.

‘He who created you!

O Jacob!

He who formed you!

O Israel!

Do not fear!

I have redeemed you.

I have called you by name.

You are mine.

When you pass through the waters,

I will be with you.

When you pass through the rivers,

They shall not overwhelm you.

When you walk through fire,

You shall not be burned.

The flame shall not consume you.

For I am Yahweh!

Your God!

The Holy One of Israel!

Your Savior!’”

Here in Second Isaiah, Yahweh speaks directly to the Israelites. He has created and formed them. They are not to be afraid, because Yahweh has redeemed them also. He has also called them by name, Israel and Jacob. They are his. If they pass through waters, he will be with them. If they go through rivers, it will not overtake them. If they are in fire, they will not get burned with a consuming fire. They only have to remember that Yahweh is their God. He is the Holy One of Israel and their savior. Otherwise there is nothing to worry about.

The intervention of Yahweh (Isa 42:14-42:17)

“For a long time,

I have held my peace.

I have kept still.

I have restrained myself.

Now I will cry out

Like a woman in labor.

I will gasp.

I will pant.

I will lay waste mountains.

I will lay waste hills.

I will dry up all their herbage.

I will turn the rivers into islands.

I will dry up the pools.

I will lead the blind

By a road that they do not know.

I will lead the blind

In paths that they have not known.

I will guide them.

I will turn

The darkness before them into light.

I will turn

The rough places into level ground.

These are the things I will do.

I will not forsake them.

They shall be turned back.

They shall be utterly put to shame.

All those who trust in craved images,

All those who say to cast images,

‘You are our gods.’”

Once again, we have the first person singular, as Yahweh speaks directly in Second Isaiah. Yahweh had been quiet, still, and restrained. Now, however, Yahweh was going to yell out with gasps and pants, like a woman in labor about to give birth. He was going to tear down the mountains and the hills, dry up vegetation and pools, as well as turn rivers into islands. He was going to lead the blind on unknown roads with unlevel ground. He would turn their darkness into light and level the rough ground. He was not going to give up on the blind, perhaps a reference to the Israelites being led blindly in the desert wilderness during the Exodus. However, he was going to shame those who relied on carved and cast images as their gods. This was a strong plea for monotheism among the Israelites.

Comfort for the people (Isa 40:1-40:2)

“‘Comfort!

Comfort my people!’

Says your God.

‘Speak tenderly to Jerusalem!

Cry to her!

She has served her term.

Her penalty is paid

That she has received

From Yahweh’s hand,

Double for all her sins.’”

This section of Isaiah is often referred to as the Book of Consolation. Sometimes people refer to this section as Deutero-Isaiah or Second Isaiah because it is separated from the preceding chapters by style and setting. There is a more universal outlook, perhaps from a disciple of Isaiah, some few hundred years later. However, even some parts of the preceding chapters may have been from this time also. Apparently this time setting is near the end of the Babylonian exile in the 6th century BCE. God speaks and comforts the Israelites because they have served their punishment time. They have paid the double penalty that they received from Yahweh’s hand.

Yahweh’s army (Isa 13:2-13:3)

“On a bare hill

Raise a signal.

Cry aloud to them.

Wave the hand

For them to enter

The gates of the nobles.

I myself have commanded

My consecrated ones.

I have summoned

My warriors,

My proudly exulting ones,

To execute my anger.”

Now Yahweh speaks to Isaiah in his vision. Yahweh was on a hill. He gave a signal to give a loud cry. He waved his hand for them to enter through the gates of the nobles. Interesting enough, the name of Babylon was derived from the term “gate of God.” Yahweh commanded his consecrated ones, his proud exulting warriors, to execute his anger. This appears to be a reference to the Persian soldiers in the 6th century BCE when they were to enter into Babylon through one of the gates. This was not an Israelite army, but a foreign army that Yahweh sent to attack Babylon.

Idol worshipers (Isa 2:6-2:8)

“You have forsaken

The ways of your people!

O house of Jacob!

You are full of diviners

From the east.

You are full of soothsayers

Like the Philistines.

They clasp hands with foreigners.

Their land is filled with silver.

Their land is filled with gold.

There is no end

To their treasures.

Their land is filled with horses.

There is no end to their chariots.

Their land is filled with idols.

They bow down

To the work of their hands.

They bow down

To what their own fingers have made.”

Isaiah speaks out strongly against idol worship that must have been common among the house of Jacob in eight century BCE. The Israelites have forsaken the ways of their people since they had a lot of eastern diviners, like priestly prophets who foretold the future in the name of some god, roughly the equivalent of a Yahweh prophet among the non-Israelites. There were also the fortune tellers or soothsayers from Philistine, from along the shore of the Mediterranean Sea. There must have been some kind of magic handshake with foreigners that was also forbidden. Why were they doing this? Their land was full of silver, gold, many treasures, horses, and chariots. What else did they want? Despite all this, they still bowed down in worship to the idol gods that they had made with their own hands and fingers. Why were they worshiping these false idol statutes that they themselves had made?