The fierce successful attack on Babylon (Jer 50:14-50:16)

“Take up your positions

Around Babylon!

All you that bend the bow!

Shoot at her!

Spare no arrows!

She has sinned

Against Yahweh.

Raise a shout

Against her

From all sides!

She has surrendered!

Her bulwarks have fallen!

Her walls are thrown down!

This is the vengeance

Of Yahweh.

Take vengeance on her!

Do to her

As she has done!

Cut off from Babylon

The sower with

The wielder of the sickle

In the time of harvest.

Because of the destroying sword,

All of them shall return

To their own people.

All of them shall flee

To their own land.”

The attack on Babylon would be successful. The archers with their great arrows would take their positions and shoot at the Babylonians. They would raise great shouts of joy from all sides. Babylon had sinned against Yahweh. Finally, Babylon would surrender. The fortresses and the walls would come tumbling down, because this was the vengeance of Yahweh at work. Babylon was done. There would be nobody to plant. No one would be there to cut down the harvest, since there would be no harvest. Everyone would return and flee to their own lands. Thus the destruction of Babylon in 539 BCE was described here some 60 years previous to the event. Is that an indication of a later composition?

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The choice (Jer 38:18-38:20)

“‘However,

If you do not surrender

To the officials

Of the king of Babylon,

Then this city

Shall be handed over                                                          

To the Chaldeans.

They shall burn it

With fire.

You yourself

Shall not escape

From their hand.’

King Zedekiah said

To Jeremiah.

‘I am afraid

Of the Judeans

Who have deserted

To the Chaldeans.

I might be handed over

To them.

They would abuse me.’

Jeremiah said.

‘That will not happen.

Just obey

The voice of Yahweh

In what I say to you.

It shall go well

With you.

Your life shall be spared.’”

Jeremiah reminded King Zedekiah that if he did not surrender to the Babylonians, the Chaldeans would capture the city of Jerusalem and burn it. The king would not escape from them either. However, the king was afraid that some of the Judeans had gone over to the Chaldeans. They might want to attack him if he surrendered. Once again, Jeremiah reassured him. He said that Yahweh would not let that happen. Everything would go well with him, if he surrendered. However, if he was captured after a battle, all bets were off.

Jeremiah says that the king will live (Jer 38:17-38:17)

“Then Jeremiah said

To King Zedekiah.

‘Thus says Yahweh!

The God of hosts!

The God of Israel!

If you will surrender

To the officials

Of the king of Babylon,

Then your life

Shall be spared.

This city

Shall not be burned

With fire.

You

With your house

Shall live.’”

Jeremiah told King Zedekiah what Yahweh, the God of hosts, the God of  Israel, had said. If he surrendered to the officials of the Babylonian king, then his life would be spared. Jerusalem would not be burned down. He and his whole household would be able to live. In other words, Jeremiah was telling the king of Judah to surrender to the king of Babylon.

The non-response of the messengers (Isa 36:21-36:22)

“But they were silent.

They answered him not a word.

The king’s command was.

‘Do not answer him.’

Then Eliakim son of Hilkiah,

Who was in charge of the palace,

Shebnah the secretary,

With Joah son of Asaph,

The recorder,

Came to King Hezekiah

With their clothes torn.

They told him the words of Rabshakeh.”

Once again in the same words as 2 Kings, chapter 18, there was no response to Rabshakeh, after his Hebrew presentation on why they should surrender rather than rely on their own God, Yahweh. King Hezekiah had told his messengers not to respond. These 3 officials from Judah, Eliakim, Shebnah, and Joah went with torn clothes to King Hezekiah. They told him what Rabshakeh had said.

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.

Judith responds (Jdt 8:32-8:34)

“Judith said to them.

‘Listen to me.

I am about to do something

That will go down through all generations of our descendants.

Stand at the town gate tonight.

I will go out with my maid.

Within the days after

That you have promised to surrender the town to our enemies,

The Lord will deliver Israel by my hand.

Only, do not try to find out what I am doing.

I will not tell you,

Until I have finished what I am about to do.’”

Judith told them to listen carefully. She was about to do something daring that would be remembered for generations to come. She wanted to make sure that she could get out that night through the gate with her maid servant. If she was not able to get the problem solved within 5 days, Uzziah could surrender. However, she believed that God was on her side to help deliver Israel. She was not going to tell them what she was about to do, until she had completed the task. This sounds mysterious and intriguing.

 

Judith calls for a meeting (Jdt 8:9-8:10)

“Judith heard the harsh words spoken by the people against the ruler, because they were faint for lack of water. She heard all that Uzziah said to them. He had promised them under oath to surrender the city to the Assyrians after five days. Then she sent her maid, who was in charge of all she possessed, to summon Chabris and Charmis, the elders of her town.”

Judith was aware of all that was going on. She may have more water than some of the others. She did not like the harsh words that the people had spoken to their leaders. She, also, did not care for the response of Uzziah that he was going to surrender in 5 days. Thus, she sent her maid to the other leaders, Chabris and Charmis, and not Uzziah, as she wanted to summon all the elders of the town.