The plague on the righteous (Wis 18:20-18:25)

“The experience of death

Touched also the righteous.

A plague came upon the multitude

In the desert.

But the wrath did not long continue.

A blameless man was quick

To act as their champion.

He brought forward the shield of his ministry.

He brought forth prayer.

He brought forward propitiation by incense.

He withstood the anger.

He put an end to the disaster.

He showed that he was your servant.

He conquered the wrath

Not by strength of body,

Not by force of arms,

But by his word

He subdued the avenger.

He appealed to the oaths given to our ancestors.

He appealed to the covenants given to our ancestors.

When the dead had already fallen on one another in heaps,

He intervened.

He held back the wrath.

He cut off its way to the living.

On his long robe

The whole world was depicted.

The glories of the ancestors

Were engraved on the four rows of stones.

Your majesty was on the diadem upon his head.

The destroyer yielded to these.

The destroyer feared these.

Merely to test the wrath was enough.”

This section takes part of the Exodus story in chapters 32 and the Numbers presentation in chapter 17 and combines them into one episode. In other words, the righteous (δικαίων) were not free from the wrath of God. A plague came upon them in the desert (ἐν ἐρήμῳ) that nearly killed 15,000 of them because the Israelites had rebelled against Moses and Aaron. However, Moses instructed Aaron to make reparation by prayer (προσευχὴν) and incense. The blameless man was Aaron, and not Moses, but there is no indication of his explicit name here since in the Exodus story Aaron had rebelled also. This blameless man subdued the avenger by his prayerful sacrificial actions. He remembered the oaths and covenants that his ancestors had made. The use of the robe is definitely the Levitical robe of Aaron from Exodus, chapter 28. His lovely robe had 4 rows of stones. He also had a diadem on his head (διαδήματος κεφαλῆς αὐτοῦ). Obviously, this is from the time of the settled Israelites, but it was enough to scare off this destroyer. The Israelites learned from this episode.

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No one is listening (Ps 81:11-81:16)

“‘But my people did not listen to my voice.

Israel would not submit to me.

So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts.

They followed their own counsels.

O that my people would listen to me!

O that Israel would walk in my ways!

Then I would quickly subdue their enemies.

I would turn my hand against their foes.

Those who hate Yahweh

Would cringe toward him.

Their fate would last forever.

I would feed you with the finest of the wheat.

I would feed you with honey from the rock.

I would satisfy you.’”

This psalm ends with the Temple prophet speaking in the name of Yahweh. They would not listen to the voice of Yahweh. Israel did not submit to Yahweh because of their stubborn hearts. They followed their own counsel. They would not listen to Yahweh and walk in his ways. If they had, Yahweh could have quickly subdued their enemies. He would have turned against their foes. Those who hated Yahweh would cringe. Yahweh would have feed them with the finest wheat and honey that would have satisfied them.

Description of the devastation (Ps 74:4-74:8)

“Your foes have roared

Within your holy place.

They set up their emblems there.

At the upper entrance

They hacked the wooden trellis with axes.

Then they smashed all its carved work

With hatchets and hammers.

They set your sanctuary on fire.

They desecrated the dwelling place of your name.

They said to themselves.

‘We will utterly subdue them.’

They burned

All the meeting places of God

In the land.”

Asaph then presented a detailed description of the destruction that took place. The enemies of God roared in God’s holy place. They set up their own emblems within the Temple. At the entrance to the Temple they hacked down the wooden trellis with axes. They smashed all the carved works with hatchets and hammers. Then they set the sanctuary on fire. They manually smashed and hacked away until they set it ablaze. They said to themselves that they had subdued the Israelites because they had burned their Temple and all the other meeting places of God. This might be later since originally there was only one Temple.

Yahweh is king (Ps 47:1-47:4)

To the choirmaster leader, a psalm of the Korahites

“Clap your hands!

All you peoples!

Shout to God!

Shout with loud songs of joy!

Yahweh!

The Most High is awesome!

He is a great king over all the earth.

He subdued peoples under us.

He subdued nations under our feet.

He chose our heritage for us.

We are the pride of Jacob.

He loves us.”

Selah

Psalm 47 is another in the string of Korahite choral songs that proclaims Yahweh as king. They were to clap their hands and shout for joy because Yahweh was awesome. He was and is the king of the earth. He has subdued peoples and nations under the pride of Jacob, the Israelites. Yahweh has chosen Jacob and his descendants as his heritage because he loves them. This section ends with the musical interlude pause of the Selah.

The trust worthy Roman Senate (1 Macc 8:12-8:16)

“The Romans kept their friendship with their friends and those who relied on them. They subdued kings far and near. As many as have heard of their fame, they have feared them. Those whom they wish to help and to make kings, they make kings. Those whom they wish, they depose. They have been greatly exalted. However, even with all this power, not one of them has put on a crown or worn purple as a mark of pride. They built for themselves a senate chamber. Every day, three hundred twenty senators constantly deliberate concerning the people, to govern them well. They trust one man each year to rule over them and to control all their land. They all heed the one man. There is no envy or jealousy among them.”

This biblical author explains that the Romans were a republic and not an empire. They were good friends to those who are friends and relied on them. They had the power to make or break kings. However, not one of them put on a crown or wore purple. This biblical author stated that they had a senate chamber, where 320 senators deliberated to govern their land and people every day. In fact, they met 3 times a month. They let one man rule for a year so that there was no jealously among them. Obviously, there was some jealously as Roman history seems to indicate. This biblical author had a very favorable view of the Romans.

The importance of the Romans (1 Macc 8:1-8:11)

“Judas heard of the fame of the Romans since they were very strong. They were well-disposed toward all who made an alliance with them. They pledged friendship to those who came to them since they were very strong. He had been told of their wars and of the brave deeds which they were doing among the Gauls. They had defeated them and forced them to pay tribute. He learned what they had done in the land of Spain to get control of the silver and gold mines there. They had gained control of the whole region by their planning and patience, even though the place was far distant from them. They also subdued the kings who came against them from the ends of the earth, until they crushed them. They inflicted great disaster upon them. The rest paid them tribute every year. They had crushed in battle and conquered Philip, King Perseus of the Macedonians, and the others who rose up against them. They also had defeated King Antiochus the Great, king of Asia, who went to fight against them with one hundred twenty elephants, cavalry, chariots, and a very large army. He was crushed by them. They took him alive. They decreed that he and those who should rule after him should pay a heavy tribute, give hostages, and surrender some of their best provinces, the countries of India, Media, and Lydia. These they took from him and gave to King Eumenes. The Greeks planned to come and destroy them. However, this became known to them. Then they sent a general against the Greeks who attacked them. Many of them were wounded and fell. The Romans took captive their wives and children. They plundered them, conquered the land, tore down their strongholds, and enslaved them to this day. The remaining kingdoms and islands, as many as ever opposed them, they destroyed and enslaved.”

For some reason, the Romans made a big impression on Judas Maccabeus as they were beginning their ascendancy in the Mediterranean world. He knew that the Romans were strong and faithful in their alliances. Then this biblical author presented the great feats of the Romans. First they had conquered the Gauls and the Spaniards, these western territories around 190 BCE and the Punic wars with Carthage in North Africa from the 3rd century BCE. Prior to this time the only thing west was Egypt and Greece. Now Rome and the west made an impression. These Romans had gone and subdued kings from the ends of the earth. The Romans had defeated the last of the Macedonian kings, King Perseus in 168 BCE, the son of King Philip who had had been defeated in 179 BCE. Obviously this author had some sense of history. As noted, King Antiochus V was not killed, but had to give hostages to Rome, one of which was this King Demetrius I. However, he kept Medes, but did give up Lydia and other parts of Asia Minor. King Eumenes was a Cappadocian ruler. The Romans also defeated the Greeks. Although the Roman Empire did not come to its full height for a few centuries, it was well on its way in the 2nd century BCE.