“From my adversaries
Who are at your right hand!
Guard me as the apple of your eye!
Hide me in the shadow of your wings!
Hide me from the wicked who despoil me!
Hide me from my deadly enemies who surround me!
They close their hearts to pity.
With their mouths
They speak arrogantly.
They track me down.
Now they surround me!
They want to cast me to the ground.
They are like a lion eager to tear.
They are like a young lion lurking in ambush.”
Now the psalmist is explicit. He wanted to be the apple of God’s eye. He wanted to be hidden in the shadow of his wings. He wanted protection from the wicked and deadly enemies who surrounded him. The enemies had no pity as they were arrogant. They had tracked him down and surrounded him. They were about to leap at him like a young lion lurking in an ambush.
“I lie down and sleep.
I wake again.
Yahweh sustains me.
I am not afraid of
Ten thousands of people.
I am not afraid of
Those who have set themselves against me all around.”
David was not afraid to sleep because he would awake. Yahweh was like his body guard and sustained him in all things. He was not afraid of 10,000 people even if they had him surrounded. He would still trust in Yahweh. There was no “Selah” or pause here as in the preceding verses.
“A certain Razis, one of the elders of Jerusalem, was denounced to Nicanor as a man who loved his compatriots. He was very well thought of. For his good will, he was called father of the Jews. In former times, when there was no mingling with the gentiles, he had been accused of Judaism. He had most zealously risked body and life for Judaism. Nicanor, wishing to exhibit the enmity which he had for the Jews, sent more than five hundred soldiers to arrest him. He thought that by arresting him, he would do them an injury. When the troops were about to capture the tower, they forced the door of the courtyard. They ordered that fire be brought and the doors burned. Being surrounded, Razis fell upon his own sword. He preferred to die nobly rather than to fall into the hands of sinners and suffer outrages unworthy of his noble birth. But in the heat of the struggle he did not hit exactly. The crowd was now rushing in through the doors. He courageously ran up on the wall. He bravely threw himself down into the crowd. But as they quickly drew back, a space opened and he fell in the middle of the empty space. Still alive and aflame with anger, he rose up. Although his blood gushed forth and his wounds were severe, he ran through the crowd. Standing upon a steep rock, with his blood now completely drained from him, he tore out his entrails. He took them with both hands and hurled them at the crowd, calling upon the Lord of life and spirit to give them back to him again. This was the manner of his death.”
Wow, what a gruesome description of the death of Razis! Razis was a well respected Jewish elder, sometimes referred to as the father of the Jews. He was accused of Judaism because he would not mingle with the gentiles. Nicanor wanted to make an example of him so he sent 500 troops to arrest him. So far this does not sound outlandish. Then when they got to his house, they decided to set fire to his door to get in. Then Razis was surrounded and decided to kill himself with a sword, a common Roman practice, rather than die in disgrace. However, in the heat of the excitement with the 500 troops running at him, he somehow missed killing himself but merely cut himself. So Razis ran to the top of the wall. He wanted to hurl himself into the crowd, but they stepped back and he fell into an empty space. Now as he was angry and still alive, he ran through the crowd of troops until he got to a sharp rock. The blood was gushing out all over the place. Somehow he tore out his own intestines and threw them at the crowd. This was some weird scene. Here then is the main point. He cried to the Lord of life to give them back to him. Of course, he died. Somehow this father of Judaism believed that his intestines would be restored in some kind of afterlife, a resurrection. This is one of the few times that we have a Jewish attempted suicide.
“In the one hundred seventy-fourth year, Antiochus set out and invaded the land of his ancestors. All the troops rallied to him, so that there were only a few with Trypho. Antiochus pursued him. He came in his flight to Dor, which is by the sea. He knew that troubles had converged upon him, since his troops had deserted him. So Antiochus encamped against Dor, and with him were one hundred twenty thousand warriors and eight thousand cavalry. He surrounded the town since the ships had joined battle from the sea. He pressed the town hard from land and sea. He permitted no one to leave or enter it.”
In 138 BCE, or the 167th year of the Greek Empire, King Antiochus VII invaded the land of his ancestors. That sounds strange to invade your own country. He was trying to take back the throne from King Trypho. King Trypho fled to Dor, a sea port south of Carmel, miles north of Caesarea. Most of the troops of King Trypho had abandoned him. King Antiochus VII followed him to Dor with 120,000 warriors and 8,000 cavalry. Once again, these numbers seem high. He then surrounded the city since he had ships in the port so that no one could leave or enter the city.
“In those days Simon encamped against Gazara. He surrounded it with troops. He made a siege engine. He brought it up to the city so that he battered and captured one tower. The men in the siege engine leaped out into the city as a great tumult arose in the city. The men in the city, with their wives and children, went up on the wall with their clothes torn. They cried out with a loud voice, asking Simon to make peace with them. They said.
‘Do not treat us according to our wicked acts
But according to your mercy.’
So Simon reached an agreement with them. He stopped fighting against them. However, he expelled them from the city. He cleansed the houses in which the idols were located. He then entered it with hymns and praise. He removed all the wickedness from it. He settled in it men who observed the law. He also strengthened its fortifications. He then built in it a house for himself.”
Apparently this Gazara was Gaza. Simon surrounded it with his troops. The siege war engine was like a tower on wheels with catapults and battering rams that could break fortifications. As the people in Gaza saw this, they tore their clothes and asked for mercy. Simon decided not to kill them, but to expel them from the Gaza strip. He then put law abiding Jewish people there and built a house for himself. Does that sound familiar? Before he entered the city of Gaza, he cleansed the houses that had idols so that all the wicked things were gone when he entered the town singing hymns.
“The Israelites cried out to the Lord their God. Their courage failed. All their enemies had surrounded them. There was no way of escape from them. The whole Assyrian army, their infantry, chariots, and cavalry, surrounded them for thirty-four days. All the water containers of every inhabitant of Bethulia were empty. Their cisterns were going dry. On no day did they have enough water to drink because their drinking water was rationed. Their children were listless. The women and young men fainted from thirst. They were collapsing in the streets of the town and in the gateways. They no longer had any strength left in them.”
The Israelites cried out to God. Their courage was failing. Their enemies, the great Assyrian army, surrounded them with no way to escape during 34 days. All the water containers were empty. What water they had was rationed. The children were listless. People were fainting all over the place, collapsing in the streets. They had no strength left. This is somewhat similar to the story in 2 Kings, chapters 6-7, where the prophet Elisha and King Jehoram (852-842 BCE) were surrounded by the Arameans in Samaria.