The Magi arrive (Mt 2:1-2:1)

“Magi

From the East

Came to Jerusalem.”

 

ἰδοὺ μάγοι ἀπὸ ἀνατολῶν παρεγένοντο εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα

 

Now we have some magi (μάγοι) arrive (παρεγένοντο) from an eastern area (ἀπὸ ἀνατολῶν) into Jerusalem (εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα), the capital, where Herod would have been living.  Who were these wise guys or magi?  The word “μάγοι” appears in both the Old and New Testament.  Ordinarily this word is translated as a magician or sorcerer in the sense of illusionist or fortune-teller, except for here in the Gospel of Matthew.  Magi originally were the followers of the Persian Zoroastrianism or Zoroaster.  These priests paid particular attention to the stars and gained an international reputation for astrology, which was regarded as a science.  Their religious practices and use of astrology caused derivatives of the term magi to be applied to the occult in general.  Obviously, this led to the later English term magic or magicians.  These magi also had an interest in astrology and other esoteric studies.  However, the more common use of magi was to describe magicians, or practitioners of magic.  Thus, the magicians have come to town.  These magi have been popularly referred to as wise men or kings, but there is nothing in this account that implies that they were rulers of any kind.  This story of the magi only appears in Matthew and not in the Luke infancy story.

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An oracle against Aram (Zech 9:1-9:2)

“An oracle.

The word of Yahweh is

Against the land of Hadrach.

It will rest upon Damascus.

The capital of Aram,

With Hamath

That borders on Damascus,

As do all the tribes of Israel,

Belong to Yahweh.”

This second part of this book of Zechariah is a series of oracles that presume something like the conquest of Alexander the Great in 333 BCE.  Apparently, Yahweh was on the side of the Greeks in their conquest.  Thus, Yahweh was against Aram, present day Syria, as well as the cities of Hadrach, Hamath, and Damascus, the capital of Aram.  All of these places belonged to Yahweh, just as all the tribes of Israel also belonged to Yahweh.

No children for Ephraim (Hos 9:11-9:14)

“Ephraim’s glory

Shall fly away,

Like a bird.

There will be

No birth,

No pregnancy,

No conception!

Even if they bring up children,

I will bereave them

Until no one is left.

Woe to them indeed!

I will depart from them!

Once I saw Ephraim

As a young palm

Planted in a lovely meadow.

But now Ephraim

Must lead out

His children for slaughter.

Give them!

O Yahweh!

What will you give them?

Give them

A miscarrying womb,

With dry breasts.”

Ephraim was singled out, since it was where the capital of northern Israel was. Their glory would simply fly away like a bird. There would be no more births, pregnancies, or even conceptions in Ephraim. If they would bring up children, they would mourn for them, until no one was left. Yahweh was going to leave Ephraim. They would be cursed and on their own. Thus, this young palm tree in a lovely meadow would cease to grow. Ephraim would lead out its children for slaughter. What should you give the people of Ephraim? Yahweh, in very descriptive language, was going to give them miscarrying wombs and dry breasts. No more children for Ephraim.

The alarming situation in Benjamin (Hos 5:8-5:8)

“Blow the horn

In Gibeah!

Blow the trumpet

In Ramah!

Sound the alarm

At Beth-aven!

Tremble!

O Benjamin!”

Yahweh, via Hosea, wanted them to blow the horn in Gibeah, a hill about 5 miles north of Jerusalem. They were to blow the horn at Ramah, a place near Mizpah. Then they were to sound the alarm at Beth-aven, Bethel, the capital of the northern Israelite kingdom. Benjamin should also tremble, because it was between Ephraim and Judah.

The northern border (Ezek 47:15-47:17)

“This shall be the boundary

Of the land.

On the north side,

From the Great Sea

By way of Hethlon

To Lebo-hamath

of Hamath,

On to Zedad,

Berothah,

Sibraim.

Sibraim lies between

The border of Damascus

With Hamath.

It shall go as far

As Hazer-hatticon,

That is on the border

Of Hauran.

So,

The boundary shall run

From the sea

To Hazar-enon,

That is north of the border

Of Damascus,

With the border of Hamath

To the north.

This shall be the north side.”

Ezekiel started with a longer description of the northern border than what was found in Numbers, chapter 34. Obviously, this northern border started with the sea, the Mediterranean Sea on the northwest side. However, it extends further north into Syria on the north side of Damascus. There was no indication where the Sea and the land met in the north, just the listing of a series of towns like Hethlon, Lebo-hamath, Zedad, Berothah, and Sibraim that are difficult to determine exactly where they are. The northeastern border was Hazar-enon, as in Numbers. Hamath was the capital of upper Syria, while Damascus as the capital of lower Syria. Thus, this northern Israelite boundary was between these 2 Syrian cities.

The destruction of the various Egyptian city idols (Ezek 30:13-30:16)

“Thus says Yahweh God!

‘I will destroy

The idols.

I will put an end

To the images

In Memphis.

There shall no longer

Be a prince

In the land of Egypt.

Thus I will put fear

Into the land of Egypt.

I will make Pathros

A desolation.

I will set fire

To Zoan.

I will execute

Acts of judgment

On Thebes.

I will pour my wrath

Upon Pelusium,

The stronghold of Egypt.

I will cut off

The hordes of Thebes.

I will set fire

To Egypt.

Pelusium shall be

In great agony.

Thebes shall be

Breached.

Memphis will face

Adversaries by day.”

Yahweh, via Ezekiel, said that he was going to destroy the idols and images of the city of Memphis, the capital of lower Egypt. They would face daily adversaries. There would be no longer a prince in Egypt. Yahweh was going to put fear into the people of Egypt. He was going to decimate Pathros and set a fire in Zoan, that later became known as Tanis, in the northeast Delta area. He was going to execute his judgment on Thebes, current day Karnak, by getting rid of the multitude of people there, when the walls would be broken down. He was going to pour out his wrath on the stronghold of Pelusium that was east of Zoan, so that it would be in great agony.

 

Israel the slave (Jer 2:14-2:16)

“Is Israel a slave?

Is he a home born servant?

Why then has he become plunder?

The lions have roared against him.

They have roared loudly.

They have made his land a waste.

His cities are in ruins.

They are without inhabitants.

Moreover,

The men of Memphis

Have broken the crown of your head.

The men of Tahpanhes

Have broken the crown of your head.”

Jeremiah points out, via the oracle of Yahweh, that the Israelites have become slaves or house servants to Egypt and Assyria. The lions roar loudly against them. People plunder them as the land has been laid waste. The cities are in ruins without anybody living in them. Moreover the Egyptian cities of Memphis, the capital, and Tahpanhes, the border town, have broken the Israelite crowns.