A vision of the day of Yahweh (Joel 2:10-2:11)

“The earth quakes

Before them.

The heavens tremble.

The sun is darkened.

The moon is darkened.

The stars

Withdraw their shining.

Yahweh utters

His voice

Before his army.

How vast is his host!

Numberless are

Those who obey

His command.

Truly,

The day of Yahweh

Is great.

It is so terrible!

Who can endure it?”

Thus, there is a fusion of the swarm of locusts with the day of Yahweh. The earth would quake. The heavens would tremble. The sun and the moon would become dark. The stars would not shine. Yahweh would utter his strong voice before this vast numberless army. They all would obey his command. The day of Yahweh would be a terrible, but great day. Who would be able to endure this?

Nature obeys (Bar 6:60-6:65)

“The sun,

The moon,

The stars

Are bright.

When sent

To do a service,

They are obedient.

So also the lightning.

When it flashes,

It is widely seen.

The wind likewise blows

In every land.

When God commands

The clouds to go

Over the whole world,

They carry out

His command.

The fire sent from above

To consume mountains

Or woods

Does what it is ordered.

But these idols

Are not to be

Compared with them

In appearance

Or power.

Therefore anyone

Must not think

That they are gods.

They are not called gods.

They are not able

Either to decide a case

Or to do good to anyone.

Since you know then

That they are not gods,

Do not fear them!”

This author notes that the sun, the moon, and the stars are bright. However, they do what they are told to do. The same is true about lightning flashes and the wind. It blows wherever God commands it. The clouds go all over the whole world as they carry out God’s commands also. Fire does what it is ordered to do. How can you compare these great works of obedient nature to these false idol gods, since they have no power. They cannot solve cases or do good for any humans. How can you call them gods, since you know that they are not gods? Thus there is no need to fear them.

The fixed order and Israel (Jer 31:35-31:37)

“Thus says Yahweh.

‘Who gives the sun

For light by day?

Who has the fixed order

Of the moon

With the stars

For light by night?

Who stirs up the sea

So that its waves roar?

Yahweh of hosts

Is his name.

If this fixed order

Were ever to cease

From my presence,

Then also the descendants

Of Israel

Would cease

To be a nation

Before me forever.’

Says Yahweh.

Thus says Yahweh.

‘If the heavens above

Can be measured,

If the foundations

Of the earth below

Can be explored,

Then I will reject

All the offspring of Israel

Because of all

That they have done.’

Says Yahweh.”

Yahweh says that he makes sure that there is a sun for daylight with the moon and the stars for light at night. Yahweh stirs up the seas so that they roar. It is Yahweh who keeps all this in a fixed order. If these things ceased to exist, then the descendants of Israel would cease to be a nation forever before him. In other words, as long as there is a sun, a moon, stars, and a roaring sea, Israel will be a nation, according to Yahweh.  Yahweh then said that if they could measure the heights of the heavens or the depths of the earth’s foundations, then he would reject the offspring of Israel, because they must have done something wrong.

No more pity for Jerusalem (Jer 15:6-15:9)

“Says Yahweh.

‘You have rejected me!

You are going backward.

I have stretched out my hand

Against you.

I destroyed you.

I am weary of relenting.

I have winnowed them

With a winnowing fork

In the gates of the land.

I have bereaved them.

I have destroyed my people.

They did not turn from their ways.

I have made their widows

More numerous than the sand of the seas.

I have brought

Against the mothers of young men

A destroyer at noonday.

I have made anguish fall on her suddenly.

I have made terror fall on her suddenly.

She who bore seven has languished.

She has swooned away.

Her sun went down

While it was yet day.

She has been shamed.

She has been disgraced.

The rest of them

I will give to the sword

Before their enemies.’

Says Yahweh.”

Yahweh, via Jeremiah, says that they have rejected and turned against him. Thus Yahweh stretched out his hand and destroyed them. He was tired of forgiving them. He tried to winnow them out to find the good ones. He made them sad by destroying them. They would not turn away from their evil ways. Thus they may have more widows than all the sand in the seas. That is quite a big hyperbolic number. The destroyer came at noon against young mothers. Even strong women who had 7 children were fainting. The sun was setting before the day was done since they were ashamed and disgraced. Anyone left over would suffer the hardship of the deadly sword.

The good times to come (Isa 30:23-30:26)

“Yahweh will give rain for the seed

With which you sow the ground.

Grain will be the produce of the ground.

It will be rich

It will be plentiful.

On that day,

Your cattle will graze in broad pastures.

The oxen will till the ground.

The donkey will eat silage

That has been winnowed

With shovels and forks.

On every lofty mountain,

On every high hill,

There will be brooks running with water.

On this day of the great slaughter,

The towers will fall.

The light of the moon will be

Like the light of the sun.

The light of the sun

Will be sevenfold,

Like the light of seven days.

On the day

When Yahweh binds up

The hurt of his people,

He will heal the wounds

Inflicted by his own blows.”

In this future time, things will be good. Yahweh will send rain to make the seed grains grow rich and plentiful. The cattle will graze in large pastures. There will be plenty of winnowed silage for the working oxen and donkeys so that they can till the ground. All the mountains and the hills will have flowing brooks. The towers will fall on the day of slaughter. However, the light from the moon will be like that of the sun, while the light from the sun will be like the light of a week of sunlight. Yahweh will heal the wounds that people have suffered even from his own blows.

Isaiah (Sir 48:22-48:25)

“King Hezekiah followed

What the prophet Isaiah

Had commanded.

Isaiah was great.

Isaiah was trustworthy

In his visions.

In Isaiah’s days,

The sun went backward.

He prolonged

The life of the king.

By his dauntless spirit

He saw the future.

He comforted the mourners

In Zion.

He revealed

What was to occur

To the end of time.

He revealed the hidden things

Before they happened.”

Sirach may have had 2 sources for his information about the prophet Isaiah (approximately 772-698 BCE). Besides, the mention of Isaiah in 2 Kings, chapters 17-20, there is a whole biblical Book of Isaiah with 66 chapters about and supposedly from this prophet Isaiah. He consulted with a number of kings, but especially King Hezekiah. He is generally considered one of the most important of the Israelite prophets both for age and time, because he was faithful to Yahweh. He made the sun turn around when he cured King Hezekiah, by lengthening his life. He also was a seer or predicator of things to come, but some of these visions may have been written after the events had already happened. He revealed many hidden things. Suffice it to say, his impact on Judaism and early Christianity was enormous.

The traceless end of the unjust (Wis 5:9-5:13)

“All those things have vanished

Like a shadow.

They have vanished

Like a rumor that passes by.

They are

Like a ship that sails through the billowy water.

When it has passed

No trace can be found.

There is no track of its keel in the waves.

When a bird flies through the air,

No evidence of its passage is found.

The light air,

Lashed by the beat of its pinions,

Pierced by the force of its rushing flight,

Is traversed

By the movement of its wings.

Afterward no sign of its coming is found there.

When an arrow is shot at a target,

The air,

Thus divided,

Comes together at once.

Thus no one knows its pathway.

So we also,

As soon as we were born,

Ceased to be.

We had no sign of virtue to show.

But we were consumed in our wickedness.”

The ungodly and unjust have disappeared like a shadow. Here now, but gone when the sun stops shining. They are like a rumor that vanishes almost instantaneously. They are like a ship going in the sea. Once it is gone, there is no way to trace its path. The same is true on the bird in the air. Once gone, you are never sure of its precise path. The same goes for an arrow shot in the air. No one can tell its path. However, today we do have technology that can trace ships, birds, and arrows. So what? These unjust ones declared that they ceased to exist the day they were born, because they had no virtue. Thus they were consumed with wickedness.

The response of the unjust (Wis 5:3-5:8)

“They will say.

‘These are persons

Whom we once held in derision.

We made them a byword of reproach.

We were fools!

We thought that their lives were madness.

Their end was without honor.

Why have they been numbered

Among the children of God?

Why is their lot among the saints?

So it was we

Who strayed from the way of truth.

The light of righteousness did not shine on us.

The sun did not rise upon us.

We took our fill of the paths of lawlessness.

We took our fill of the paths of destruction.

We journeyed through trackless deserts.

But the way of the Lord

We have not known.

What has our arrogance profited us?

What good has our boasted wealth brought us?’”

The unjust laid out their complaint. They said that they derided and reproached these people. They thought that their lives were madness and without honor. It turns out that they are the fools, because the righteous are numbered among the sons or children of God (υἱοῖς Θεοῦ), the holy ones (ἁγίοις), not them. The unjust suddenly realized that they had strayed from the truth (ἀληθείας). The light of righteousness and the sun were not going to shine on them. They had followed the path of lawlessness and destruction through trackless deserts. They did not know the way of the Lord (ὁδὸν Κυρίου). Their arrogance and wealth became useless.

Loss of the light (Eccl 12:1-12:2)

“Remember also your creator

In the days of your youth,

Before the days of trouble came.

The years draw near

When you will say.

‘I have no pleasure in them.’

Before the sun is darkened,

Before the light is darkened,

Before the moon is darkened,

Before the stars are darkened,

The clouds will return

With the rain.”

After the happy youth, the days of trouble begin. You should remember your creator when your years draw near to an end. No longer will you have the same pleasure. The sun, the moon, and the stars will darken on you. The clouds will come back after the rain. This seems to imply that aging will bring the loss of sight or a growing blindness, what we might call cataracts.

The earth around us (Eccl 1:4-1:7)

“A generation goes.

A generation comes.

But the earth remains forever.

The sun rises.

The sun goes down.

The sun hastens to the place

Where it rises.

The wind blows to the south.

The wind goes around to the north.

Round and round goes the wind.

On its circuits

The wind returns.

All streams run to the sea.

But the sea is not full.

They continue to flow

To the place where the streams flow.

There they continue to flow.”

This is a stunning appreciation of creation. Generations of humans come and go, but the earth remains forever in a static flat world concept. The sun rises and sets every day. There was no thought that the earth was moving around a static sun. The wind blew in from the north to south and then around and around again. The wind, as we know, blows in various directions. The streams do run to the sea, and not vice versa. However, the seas never seem to fill up because there is osmosis. No matter what, the streams continue to flow to where they want to go, usually downhill because of gravity. Thus this poetic expression of creation uses the scientific assumptions of its day, not those of the later scientific age.