The tombs of the prophets (Mt 23:29-23:30)

“Woe to you!

Scribes!

Woe to you!

Pharisees!

Hypocrites!

You build the tombs

Of the prophets.

You decorate the graves

Of the righteous.

You say.

‘If we had lived

In the days

Of our ancestors,

We would not have taken part

With them

In shedding the blood

Of the prophets.’”

 

Οὐαὶ ὑμῖν, γραμματεῖς καὶ Φαρισαῖοι ὑποκριταί, ὅτι οἰκοδομεῖτε τοὺς τάφους τῶν προφητῶν καὶ κοσμεῖτε τὰ μνημεῖα τῶν δικαίων,

καὶ λέγετε Εἰ ἤμεθα ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις τῶν πατέρων ἡμῶν, οὐκ ἂν ἤμεθα αὐτῶν κοινωνοὶ ἐν τῷ αἵματι τῶν προφητῶν.

 

There is something similar in Luke, chapter 11:47-48.  Jesus continued to curse the Pharisees and the Scribes, much like earlier in verses 13, 14, 15, 25, and 27.  The first part of this diatribe is exactly the same as those earlier verses.  Woe to you (Οὐαὶ ὑμῖν)!  Scribes (γραμματεῖς)!  Woe to you!  Pharisees (καὶ Φαρισαῖοι)!  Hypocrites (ὑποκριταί)!  This time it was how they and their ancestors had treated the prophets of Israel.  They built the tombs of the prophets (ὅτι οἰκοδομεῖτε τοὺς τάφους τῶν προφητῶν) and decorated the graves or tombs of the righteous (καὶ κοσμεῖτε τὰ μνημεῖα τῶν δικαίων).  These Pharisees said that if they had lived in the days of their ancestors or fathers (καὶ λέγετε Εἰ ἤμεθα ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις τῶν πατέρων ἡμῶν), they would not have participated in the shedding of the blood of these prophets (οὐκ ἂν ἤμεθα αὐτῶν κοινωνοὶ ἐν τῷ αἵματι τῶν προφητῶν).  The problem is that there were not that many prophets murdered.

The problem of Jerusalem (Zech 12:2-12:3)

“See!

I am about to make Jerusalem

A cup of trembling

For all the surrounding people.

It will be against Judah also

In the siege against Jerusalem.

On that day,

I will make Jerusalem

A heavy stone

For all the people.

Anyone who lifts it

Shall grievously hurt themselves.

All the nations of the earth

Shall come together against it.”

Zechariah pointed out that Jerusalem was going to have a special place.  They were going to be like a cup of trembling or reeling, perhaps an allusion to the cup, bowl, or basin that caught the blood of the Passover lamb.  The neighboring people should be aware that Jerusalem was under siege.  Thus, Jerusalem was to become a heavy stone that few people could lift.  Apparently, there was a practice of lifting stones to show one’s strength among young men, like weight lifting.  Thus, anyone who tried to lift the heavy stone of Jerusalem would hurt themselves.  All the various countries in the world would come against Jerusalem, but at their own risk.

No more just people (Mic 7:1-7:2)

“Woe is me!

I have become

Like one

After the summer fruit

Has been gathered.

I have become

Like one

After the vintage

Has been gleaned.

There is no cluster to eat.

There is no first-ripe fig

For which I hunger.

The faithful have disappeared

From the land.

There is no one left

Who is upright.

They all lie in wait

For blood.

They hunt each other

With nets.”

Micah started this lament with a woeful thought about himself.  He was lonely, because the late summer fruits had been harvested.  All the vineyards had been picked and gleaned.  There was nothing left to eat.  It did not make any difference, because Micah had no appetite for fig clusters or anything.  All the faithful people had disappeared from the land.  There was not even one good upright person left.  They were all waiting to steal from each other.  They were hungry for the blood of others, so that they were hunting each other with nets.

Purify the sanctuary (Ezek 45:18-45:20)

“Thus says Yahweh God!

‘In the first month,

On the first day

Of the month,

You shall take a young bull

Without blemish.

Purify the sanctuary!

The priest shall take

Some of the blood

Of the sin offering.

He shall put it

On the doorposts

Of the temple.

He shall put it

On the four corners

Of the ledge

Of the altar.

He shall put it

On the posts

Of the gate

Of the inner court.

You shall do the same

On the seventh day

Of the month

For any one

Who has sinned

Through error

Or ignorance.

Thus,

You shall make atonement

For the temple.”

Yahweh, via Ezekiel, wanted them to purify the sanctuary on the 1st day of the 1st month. In other words, this would be a New Year’s Day activity. They were to take an unblemished bull and use him to cleanse the sanctuary at the start of the new year. The priest should take some of the blood from the sin offering and put it on the doorposts of the Temple, as well as the four corners of the altar ledge and the posts of the gate of the inner court. The priest was also supposed to do this same ritual on the 7th day of the month for anyone who sinned inadvertently by error or ignorance. This purification ritual of the first day of the first month of the year would make an atonement for the Temple, so that it would be purified.

The Zadok Levitical priests (Ezek 44:15-44:16)

“‘But the Levitical priests,

The descendants of Zadok,

Who kept the charge

Of my sanctuary,

When the people of Israel

Went astray

From me,

Shall come near

To me

To minister

To me.

They shall attend me

To offer me

The fat

With the blood.’

Says Yahweh God.

‘They shall enter

My sanctuary.

They shall approach

My table.

They shall

Minister

To me.

They shall

Keep my charge.’”

It was a different story for the Zadok Levitical priests, as mentioned in the previous chapter. These Levitical priests from the family of Zadok came from a righteous priest, who was descended from Eleazar, the son of Aaron. This Zadok aided King David during the revolt of his son Absalom in 2 Samuel, chapters 13-22. Then this Zadok helped bring King Solomon to the throne in 1 Kings, chapters 1-2. After Solomon’s building of The First Temple in Jerusalem, this Zadok was the first High Priest to serve there in 1 Kings, chapter 4. Thus, the house of Zadok occupied the high priesthood throughout much of the Second Temple period. These Zadok Levitical priests had been loyal to Yahweh, when the other Levites went astray. They were the ones who could come near to Yahweh to minister to him. They would offer the fat and the blood. They would enter Yahweh’s sanctuary and approach his table. They would be in charge and directly minister to Yahweh.

The open bloodshed (Ezek 24:7-24:8)

“The blood

That she shed

Is inside it.

She placed it

On a bare rock.

She did not pour it out

On the ground

To cover it

With earth.

To rouse my wrath!

To take vengeance!

I have placed

The blood

That she shed

On a bare rock.

Thus this blood

May not be covered.”

Yahweh was upset about the blood being shed in Jerusalem since it was being placed on a bare rock. No one was pouring the blood out on the ground or covering it up. Was this an attempt to get Yahweh’s wrath aroused? Did someone need to take vengeance? Thus Yahweh also agreed to leave the blood in the city on the bare rocks instead of covering it up.

The punishment for the city (Ezek 22:3-22:5)

“You shall say!

Thus says Yahweh God!

‘A city!

It sheds blood

Within itself!

Its time has come!

It is making idols.

It defiles itself.

You have become guilty

By the blood

That you have shed.

You have become defiled

By the idols

That you have made.

You have brought

Your day near.

The appointed time

Of your years

Has come.

Therefore,

I have made you

A disgrace

Before the nations.

I have made you

A mockery

To all the countries.

Those who are near,

Those who are far

From you,

Will mock you.

You infamous one!

You are

Full of tumult!’”

Yahweh told Ezekiel to speak to the city of Jerusalem because it was shedding blood within itself. Its time has come. It had been making idols and defiling itself. They have become guilty by the blood that they have shed. They have brought their day of punishment nearer. The appointed time of their years has come to an end. Yahweh was going to make them a disgrace and a mockery among the various nations and countries, whether they were near or far. Everyone would mock them as the infamous place full of tumult.