The signs (Lk 21:25-21:25)

“There will be signs

In the sun,

The moon,

And the stars.

On the earth,

There will be

Anxious distress

Among the nations

With the roaring noise

Of the sea

And the swelling waves.”

 

Καὶ ἔσονται σημεῖα ἐν ἡλίῳ καὶ σελήνῃ καὶ ἄστροις, καὶ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς συνοχὴ ἐθνῶν ἐν ἀπορίᾳ ἤχους θαλάσσης καὶ σάλου,

 

Luke indicated that Jesus said that there would be signs (Καὶ ἔσονται σημεῖα) in the sun (ἐν ἡλίῳ), in the moon (αὶ σελήνῃ), and in the stars (καὶ ἄστροις).  On the earth (καὶ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς), there would be anxious distress among the gentile nations (συνοχὴ ἐθνῶν ἐν ἀπορίᾳ) because of the roaring noise of the sea (ἤχους θαλάσσης) and the swelling waves (καὶ σάλου).  This was a unique use of the term ἀπορίᾳ that means perplexity, anxiety, or doubt, not found elsewhere in the Greek biblical literature.  This Jesus saying is similar to Matthew, chapter 24:29, that is actually closer to Mark, chapter 13:24-25.  Mark indicated that Jesus said that in those days (Ἀλλὰ ἐν ἐκείναις ταῖς ἡμέραις), after the sufferings (μετὰ τὴν θλῖψιν), there would be a cosmic upheaval.  The sun would be darkened (ὁ ἥλιος σκοτισθήσεται).  The moon would not give its light (καὶ ἡ σελήνη οὐ δώσει τὸ φέγγος αὐτῆς).  The assumption was that the moon had its own source of light, not merely a reflection of the sun.  The stars would fall from the skies (καὶ οἱ ἀστέρες ἔσονται ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ πίπτοντες).  Matthew indicated that Jesus said that immediately after the sufferings mentioned earlier in those days (Εὐθέως δὲ μετὰ τὴν θλῖψιν τῶν ἡμερῶν ἐκείνων), there would be a cosmic upheaval.  The sun would be darkened (ὁ ἥλιος σκοτισθήσεται).  The moon would not give its light (καὶ ἡ σελήνη οὐ δώσει τὸ φέγγος αὐτῆς).  The stars would fall from the skies (καὶ οἱ ἀστέρες πεσοῦνται ἀπὸ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ).  This is fully in line with the great Israelite prophetic tradition of the Day of Yahweh, like Ezekiel, chapter 32:7, Joel, chapter 2:10, Amos, chapter 8:9, and Zephaniah, chapter 1:15.  Luke did not have the details that were in Mark and Matthew.  What kind of cosmic upheaval do you expect at the end times?

Jesus wept over the city (Lk 19:41-19:41)

“As Jesus came near

He saw the city.

He wept over it.”

 

Καὶ ὡς ἤγγισεν, ἰδὼν τὴν πόλιν ἔκλαυσεν ἐπ’ αὐτήν,

 

Luke uniquely said that as Jesus came near (Καὶ ὡς ἤγγισεν) to Jerusalem, he saw the city (ἰδὼν τὴν πόλιν) and wept over it (ἔκλαυσεν ἐπ’ αὐτήν).  However, this was the second time that he lamented about the situation in Jerusalem as he had earlier in chapter 13:33-34 about Jerusalem killing its prophets.  Jesus sadly entered the city after the rousing entrance in the preceding verses.  He was acutely aware of the sufferings and problems to come for himself, the city, and its people.  Have you ever wept over a city?

The darkness in the skies (Mt 24:29-24:29)

“Immediately

After the sufferings

Of those days,

The sun

Will be darkened.

The moon

Will not give its light.

The stars

Will fall

From heaven.

The powers

Of the heavens

Will be shaken.”

 

Εὐθέως δὲ μετὰ τὴν θλῖψιν τῶν ἡμερῶν ἐκείνων ὁ ἥλιος σκοτισθήσεται, καὶ ἡ σελήνη οὐ δώσει τὸ φέγγος αὐτῆς, καὶ οἱ ἀστέρες πεσοῦνται ἀπὸ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ, καὶ αἱ δυνάμεις τῶν οὐρανῶν σαλευθήσονται.

 

This is exactly the same, almost word for word, in Mark, chapter 13:24-25, with a vague reference to this in Luke, chapter 21:25.  Jesus said that immediately after the sufferings mentioned earlier in those days (Εὐθέως δὲ μετὰ τὴν θλῖψιν τῶν ἡμερῶν ἐκείνων), there would be a cosmic upheaval.  The sun would be darkened (ὁ ἥλιος σκοτισθήσεται).  The moon would not give its light (καὶ ἡ σελήνη οὐ δώσει τὸ φέγγος αὐτῆς).  The stars would fall from the skies (καὶ οἱ ἀστέρες πεσοῦνται ἀπὸ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ).  The powers of the heavens would be shaken or stirred up (καὶ αἱ δυνάμεις τῶν οὐρανῶν σαλευθήσονται) in this time of complete darkness, during this celestial disturbance.  This is fully in line with the great Israelite prophetic tradition of the Day of Yahweh, like Ezekiel, chapter 32:7, Joel, chapter 2:10, Amos, chapter 8:9, and Zephaniah, chapter 1:15

Against Gog (Ezek 38:1-38:2)

“The word of Yahweh

Came to me.

‘Son of man!

Set your face

Toward Gog,

Of the land of Magog.

The chief prince

Of Meshech

With Tubal.

Prophesy against him!’”

This section represents an example of apocalyptic literature. The emphasis in this type of literature is on a future that would be better compared to the sufferings of the present time. This thinking predominated in Second Temple Judaism after the return from the exile. This Messianic hope prefigured a future victory of good over evil. The prophet Daniel and the Book of Revelation or the Apocalypse are better examples of this apocalyptic literature. As usual, the word of God came to Ezekiel, the son of man. However, this time he was to prophesize against Gog. Who is this Gog? This is the first mention of Gog in the biblical literature, who clearly was an enemy of Yahweh. There appears to be no historical basis for this Gog from Magog. According to Genesis, chapter 10, Magog was descended from Japheth, the son of Noah. Here Gog is a person and Magog is the land where he comes from. However, in later literature they were usually combined into ‘Gog and Magog,’ perhaps due to the Septuagint Greek translation. Magog might have been a code name for Babylon. There were also other legends about Gog and Magog in the later Greek and Roman times. Both are mentioned in later Jewish and Muslim writings. Meshech and Tubal were 7th century BCE kingdoms in Asia Minor or present day Turkey. Gog appears to be the chief prince of these two kingdoms also.

I do not forget the law (Ps 119:105-119:112)

Nun

“Your word is a lamp to my feet.

Your word is a light to my path.

I have sworn an oath.

I have confirmed it.

I will observe your righteous ordinances.

I am severely afflicted.

Give me life!

Yahweh!

According to your word!

Accept my offerings of praise!

Yahweh!

Teach me your ordinances!

I hold my life in my hand continually.

But I do not forget your law.

The wicked have laid a snare for me.

But I do not stray from your precepts.

Your decrees are my heritage forever.

They are the joy of my heart.

I incline my heart to perform your statutes,

Forever,

To the end.”

The word of Yahweh is a lamp and a light so that the psalmist might walk in the right path. He had sworn an oath to observe the righteous ordinances. Despite his sufferings, he would continue to offer praise. He wanted to be taught about the ordinances since he never forgot the law. Even when the wicked set a snare for him, he never forgot the law. He never strayed from the precepts of Yahweh. They were his heritage forever, the joy of his heart. He would follow the statutes of Yahweh forever, even to the bitter end. Thus this section on the fourteenth consonant letter of the Hebrew alphabet, Nun, came to an end.

The final plea to Yahweh (Ps 88:13-88:18)

“I cry out to you!

Yahweh!

In the morning

My prayer comes before you.

Yahweh!

Why do you cast me off?

Why do you hide your face from me?

Wretched and close to death from my youth on,

I suffer your terrors.

I am desperate.

Your wrath has swept over me.

Your dread assaults destroy me.

They surround me

Like a flood

All day long.

From all sides,

They close in on me.

You have caused friends

To shun me.

You have caused neighbors

To shun me.  

My companions are in darkness.”

Just like Job, the psalmist remains faithful despite all his sufferings. Thus this psalm ends with a direct appeal to Yahweh, over and over again. He cried out in the morning to God. Why was he cast off? Why couldn’t he see the face of God? He believed that his physical suffering was related to his spiritual sufferings. His whole life he has been close to death with his physical afflictions. He felt like he was surrounded with waves of water all around him. More than that was the fact that his friends and neighbors were now shunning him. The only friend that he had left was darkness itself. Wow! This is a dreary bleak psalm of agony.

Job’s days are numbered (Job 9:25-9:35)

“My days are swifter than a runner.

They flee away.

They see no good.

They go by like skiffs of reed.

They go by like an eagle swooping on the prey.

If I say.

‘I will forget my complaint.

I will put off my sad countenance

I will be of good cheer.’

I become afraid of all my suffering.

I know that you will not hold me innocent.

I shall be condemned.

Why then do I labor in vain?

If I wash myself with snow,

And cleanse my hands with lye,

Yet you will plunge me into filth.

My own clothes will abhor me.

God is not a mortal,

As I am.

I cannot answer him.

We cannot come to trial together.

There is no umpire between us.

There is no one who might lay his hand upon us both.

Let him take his rod away from me.

Let not dread of him terrify me.

Then I would speak without fear of him,

I know that I am not what I am thought to be.”

Job believes that his days are numbered since they go quicker than a runner, a reed, or an eagle. Was he supposed to forget the complaint and all his sufferings? He would still suffer and be considered guilty. Why should he labor in vain, by washing with snow and lye? He will be sent back into filth, so that his own clothes will still dislike him? God is not a mortal like him. They are not equals. There is no umpire to say who is right. Just let God take his stick away from him. He wanted this dread to leave him so that he could speak freely. He realized that he was not perfect. Job could not forget about his circumstances. He could not cleanse himself. He could not call in a fair referee to solve his problems.