Praise to Yahweh’s name (Ps 113:2-113:6)

“Blessed be the name of Yahweh

From this time on and forevermore!

From the rising of the sun to its setting

The name of Yahweh is to be praised!

Yahweh is high above all nations.

His glory is above the heavens!

Who is like Yahweh?

Our God is seated on high.

He looks far down

On the heavens and the earth.”

This appears to be the choral response of the people. The name of Yahweh is to be blessed from now and forever. From the rising to the setting of the sun, the name of Yahweh was to be praised, all day long. Yahweh was above all countries as his glory was also above the heavens. No one was like Yahweh. He is seated on high and looks down on us in the heavens and on earth.

The descendants of David (Ps 89:29-89:37)

“I will establish his line forever.

I will establish his throne as long as the heavens endure.

If his children forsake my law,

If they do not walk according to my ordinances,

If they violate my statutes,

If they do not keep my commandments,

Then I will punish their transgression with the rod.

I will punish their iniquity with scourges.

But I will not remove from him my steadfast love.

I will not be false to my faithfulness.

I will not violate my covenant.

I will not alter the word that went forth from my lips.

Once and for all

I have sworn by my holiness.

I will not lie to David.

His line shall continue forever.

His throne shall endure before me like the sun.

It shall be established forever like the moon.

It shall be an enduring witness in the skies.”

Selah

The throne of David is not just for him, but his descendants. His line of descendants will last until the heavens disappear. However, this is not an unconditional gift. There are conditions. If his children do certain things they will receive the rod and be scourged. They should not forsake God’s law. They have to walk according to his ordinances. They cannot violate his statutes. They should keep his commandments. This punishment to those who do not follow the laws and ordinances will not be permanent. They will always have the steadfast love of God and his covenant. God would keep his word that he gave to David. He would not lie. The line of David will continue forever just like the sun and the moon in the skies. This section ends with the musical interlude meditative pause of Selah.

The king and prosperity (Ps 72:15-72:17)

“Long may he live!

May gold of Sheba be given to him!

May prayer be made for him continually!

May blessings be invoked for him all day long!

May there be abundance of grain in the land!

May grain wave on the tops of the mountains!

May its fruit be like Lebanon!

May people blossom in the cities

Like the grass of the field!

May his name endure forever!

May his fame continue as long as the sun!

May all nations be blessed in him!

May they pronounce him happy!”

These are a series of wishes for the king. First, there is the one that he might have a long life. Thus the famous saying, “Long live the King.” Then the wish was for gold from Sheba, where of course, the famous Queen of Sheba had visited King Solomon. Every day in the great Temple prayers should be offered to the king who built the Temple. They also wished for an abundance of grain on the land and in the mountains. They wanted it to be like Lebanon to the north. The cities should also prosper like grass in the field. They wanted his name and his fame to endure as long as there was a sun in the sky. All nations were to be blessed by him in his happiness. Thus the king was like a mini-god in his great power.

The power of God (Ps 50:1-50:6)

A psalm of Asaph

“The Mighty One,

God,

Yahweh,

Speaks.

He summons the earth

From the rising of the sun

To its setting.

Out of Zion,

The perfection of beauty,

God shines forth.

Our God comes.

He does not keep silence.

Before him is a devouring fire.

A mighty tempest is all around him.

He calls to the heavens above.

He calls to the earth.

Thus he may judge his people.

‘Gather to me!

My faithful ones!

You made a covenant with me

By sacrifice!’

The heavens declare his righteousness.

God himself is judge!”

Selah

This Psalm 50 is the first of 12 psalms ascribed to Asaph. Asaph was a transcriber or author of psalms at the time of David and Solomon. This may also refer to the group named after him that were musicians at the Temple. This Asaph is described in 1 Chronicles, chapter 6, as one who could trace his ancestors directly back to Levi. In 2 Chronicles, chapter 5, he is listed as a Temple singer at the time of Solomon during the transport of the Ark of the Covenant. This is a song of praise to the power of God, who is in charge of the earth. He has control of the rising and the setting of the sun. His beauty shines from Mount Zion. He has appeared as a devouring fire and a tempest. He has come to judge the people of earth from on high in heaven. He wanted the faithful ones who had made sacrifices to him to come closer to him. He was coming to judge them. With that it was time for another musical interlude pause, the Selah.

Yahweh and the sun (Ps 19:4-19:6)

“In the heavens,

He has set a tent for the sun.

The sun comes out

Like a bridegroom

From his wedding canopy.

The sun is like a strong man

Who runs his course with joy.

Its rising is from the end of the heavens.

Its circuit is to the end of them.

There is nothing hid from its heat.”

This is almost a hymn to the sun. However, Yahweh is in control of the sun. Clearly this sun is revolving around the earth. The sun comes out like a bridegroom from a wedding canopy. What a description of a sunrise! The sun is like a strong man who cannot be deterred from his course that he runs with joy. The sun rises at one end and does a circuit to the other end of heaven or the sky. Nothing can hide from the heat of the sun.

Water and vegetation (Job 8:11-8:19)

“Can papyrus grow where there is no marsh?

Can reeds flourish where there is no water?

While yet in flower and not cut down,

They wither before any other plant.

Such are the paths of all who forget God.

The hope of the godless shall perish.

Their confidence is gossamer.

Their trust is a spider’s web.

If one leans against its house,

It will not stand.

If one lays hold of it,

It will not endure.

The wicked thrive before the sun,

Their shoots spread over the garden.

Their roots twine about the stone heap.

They live among the rocks.

If they are destroyed from their place,

Then it will deny them, saying,

‘I have never seen you.’

See!

These are their happy ways.

Out of the earth still others will spring.”

Here the power of God is seen in the growth of vegetation. Without water nothing will happen. Water your plants! If you forget God you are like a plant without water. Your hope will disappear. Your confidence will be delicate. Your trust will be like that in a spider web. If you lean on a house, it will fall. The wicked seem to be fine in the sun, but their roots are stuck in stone. They will be destroyed from their place. They will say that I have no idea who they are. However, others will sprout from the earth who are not wicked.

The sacredness of naphtha (2 Macc 1:30-1:36)

“Then the priests sang the hymns.

After the materials of the sacrifice had been consumed,

Nehemiah ordered that the liquid that was left

Should be poured upon large stones.

When this was done,

A flame blazed up.

But when the light from the altar shone back,

It went out.

When this matter became known,

It was reported to the king of the Persians.

The place where the exiled priests had hidden the fire,

The liquid had appeared

With which Nehemiah and his associates

Had burned the materials of the sacrifice.

The king investigated the matter.

He enclosed the place.

He made it sacred.

With those persons whom the king favored

He exchanged many excellent gifts.

Nehemiah and his associates called this nephthar.

This means purification.

However, by most people it is called naphtha.”

After the priests had sung their hymns and the sacrifice had been consumed, Nehemiah ordered that the left over liquid be poured on large stones. A blaze started when the sun was shining brightly. However, when the sun was not out, there was no flame. This was reported to the king of Persia. Nehemiah was a trusted cupbearer for King Artaxerxes who investigated this material. He then called the place where it was found to be sacred. In fact, he gave this as gifts. Thus naphtha, nephthar, or oil gained its importance.

The importance of fire (2 Macc 1:19-1:23)

“When our ancestors were being led captive to Persia,

The pious priests of that time took

Some of the fire of the altar.

They secretly hid it in the hollow of a dry cistern.

They took such precautions

That the place was unknown to anyone.

But after many years had passed,

When it pleased God,

Nehemiah, having been commissioned by the king of Persia,

Sent the descendants of the priests

Who had hidden the fire to get it.

When they reported to us

That they had not found fire

But only a thick liquid,

He ordered them to dip it out and bring it.

When the materials for the sacrifices were presented,

Nehemiah ordered the priests

To sprinkle the liquid on the wood

And on the things laid upon it.

When this was done,

Some time had passed.

The sun, which had been clouded over,

Shone out,

A great fire blazed up,

So that all marveled.

While the sacrifice was being consumed,

The priests offered prayer.

The priests and everyone,

Jonathan led.

The rest responded,

As did Nehemiah.”

There is nothing in the book of Nehemiah about this fire incident. If anything it is a reference to the cult of fire among the Persians. Somehow the captured Israelite priests hid a fire that had been on an altar in a dry cistern that no one knew about. How could a fire keep going it no feeds it? When Nehemiah asked the descendents of these priests to get the fire, they told him that they only had a thick liquid that could have been naphtha or petro-chemical oil, which of course, was found in the Persian area. They put wood on it. When the sun shone it, it burst into flames so that it consumed the sacrifice. Obviously, the priests and everyone offered sacrifices. A certain Jonathan seemed to be the priest leader of this ceremony.

The dream of Mordecai (Greek text only)

“This was the dream of Mordecai. Noise and confusion, thunders and earthquake, tumult upon the earth! Then two great dragons came forward, both ready to fight. They roared terribly! At their roaring every nation prepared for war, to fight against the righteous nation. It was a day of darkness and gloom, of tribulation and distress, affliction and great tumult upon the earth! The whole righteous nation was troubled. They feared the evils that threatened them. They were ready to perish. Then they cried out to God. At their outcry, as though from a tiny spring, there came a great river, with abundant water. Light came. The sun rose. The lowly were exalted. They devoured those held in honor.”

This Jewish Persian court official Mordecai had a dream. Would it be like the dream of Martin Luther King? This dream is about a time of confusion, thunder, earthquakes, and tumult on the earth. 2 great dragons came forward and roared. With these 2 dragons, everyone got together to fight a righteous nation. It was a dark gloomy day as the righteous nation was troubled and afraid of these threats. However, they cried out with a great cry to God. Suddenly, there was a spring of water than became a great river with abundant water. The sunrise brought great light so that the lowly were exalted. They then devoured those who were held in honor. Obviously, this is some kind of parable about a righteous nation.