The future of Israel and Judah (Hos 1:10-1:11)

“Yet the number

Of the people of Israel

Shall be

Like the sand of the sea,

Which can be neither measured

Nor numbered.

In the place

Where it was said

To them.

‘You are not my people.’

It shall be said to them.

‘Children of the living God.’

The people of Judah

With the people of Israel

Shall be gathered together.

They shall appoint

For themselves

One head.

They shall take possession

Of the land.

Great shall be

The day of Jezreel.”

For some reason, these two verses are not in the Bible of Jerusalem. However, they are in the Oxford Bible, so I will comment on them. There seems to be an abrupt change of tone. Instead of not being his people, suddenly Israel would be as numerous as the sands of the sea, a common theme. They would once again be known as the children of the living God. On top of that, they would once again join with Judah, having one leader, a theme that was prevalent during the captivity. Further, the idea that they should take possession of the land was a strong captivity idea. Once again, there will be a great day at Jezreel, after the doom and gloom that had preceded this comment.

The anointed prince (Dan 9:25-9:27)

“Know therefore!

Understand!

From the time

That the word

Went out

To restore,

To rebuild

Jerusalem,

Until the time

To the coming

Of an anointed prince,

There shall be seven weeks.

For sixty-two weeks,

It shall be built again

With streets,

With a moat,

But in a troubled time.”

Once again, there is the problem of weeks and years. Clearly the text says weeks. Many have interpreted as years, 7 weeks as 7 times 7 or 49 years, and 62 weeks as 7 times 62 or 434 years. It would take a period of time to rebuild Jerusalem. That was clear and everyone knew and understood that. Who then is this new anointed prince? Is this a messianic expectation? From the time of the announcement of the rebuilding of Jerusalem, it would take 7 weeks (or 49 years) before this new anointed prince would take over. Was this a reference to the rebuilding of Jerusalem after the captivity or the 2nd century BCE Greek takeover of the Temple? Finally, it would take 62 weeks (434 years) to rebuild the city with streets and a moat. However, even this time would be troubled. There are more questions than answers here.

The scattered sheep (Ezek 34:5-34:6)

“The sheep

Were scattered,

Because there was

No shepherd.

Thus,

They became food

For all the wild animals.

My sheep

Were scattered.

They wandered

Over all the mountains.

They wandered

On every high hill.

My sheep

Were scattered

Over all the face

Of the earth.

There was no one

To search

For them.

There was no one

To seek

For them.”

Yahweh, via Ezekiel, said that his sheep were scattered, because there was no shepherd to lead them. Thus, these sheep became food for all the wild animals, perhaps an allusion to the attacks of the Assyrians and the Babylonians. The sheep of Israel and Judah were scattered, so that they wandered into the mountains and the high hills, perhaps an allusion to the high places of idol worship. His sheep were scattered all over all the face of the earth, perhaps an allusion to the captivity. Finally, there was no leader or shepherd to go out to search and look for them. They were the lost sheep of Israel.

Jeremiah (Sir 49:6-49:7)

“They set fire

To the chosen city

Of the sanctuary.

They made its streets desolate,

As Jeremiah had foretold.

They had mistreated him.

Even though in the womb,

He had been consecrated

A prophet.

He was to pluck up.

He was to ruin.

He was to destroy.

Likewise,

He was to build.

He was to plant.”

Once again, Sirach could rely on the biblical Book of Jeremiah, the prophet. The prophet Jeremiah (646-574 BCE) lived around the time of the captivity and fall of the Kingdom of Judah (587 BCE). He had foretold that the Temple sanctuary would be destroyed. He predicted that the streets of Jerusalem would be desolate. He was also mistreated by his fellow Israelites, even though he was a prophet from his birth. He uttered oracles about ruining, destroying, building, and planting. He is considered the 2nd of the great prophets after Isaiah.

King Hezekiah (Sir 48:17-48:22)

“King Hezekiah fortified his city.

He brought water into its midst.

He tunneled the sheer rock

With iron tools.

He built cisterns for the water.

In his days,

Sennacherib invaded the country.

He sent his commander from Lachish.

He departed.

He shook his fist against Zion.

He made great boasts in his arrogance.

Then their hearts were shaken.

Their hands trembled.

They were in anguish,

Like women in labor.

But they called upon the Lord

Who is merciful.

They spread out their hands

Toward him.

The Holy One quickly heard them

From heaven.

He delivered them

Through Isaiah.

The Lord struck down

The camp of the Assyrians.

His angel wiped them out.

King Hezekiah did

What was pleasing to the Lord.

He kept firmly to the ways

Of his ancestor King David.”

Of all the kings from King Solomon to the captivity, Sirach singled out King Hezekiah (716-687 BCE) of Judah, based on the stories in 2 Kings, chapters 18-20, and 2 Chronicles, chapters 29-32. He was the king who followed Yahweh’s commandments, during the time of the prophet Isaiah. Just before his reign, the northern kingdom of Israel at Samaria fell to the Assyrians. During his reign the population grew from 5,000 at the time of King Solomon to about 25,000 people because of the many migrant Israelites from the north. Thus King Hezekiah fortified Jerusalem by building walls around it with tunnels to get water that has been verified by archeological discoveries. Ten years later, King Sennacherib decided to invade Judah. He sent his general Rabshakeh from Lachish to negotiate a deal, but King Hezekiah went to the prophet Isaiah for advice. Despite the fears of the folks in Jerusalem, Isaiah said not to yield. King Hezekiah prayed to Yahweh. King Sennacherib of Assyria decided not to invade the city, but 185,000 of his troops were wiped out by an angel of the Lord. Thus King Hezekiah was pleasing to the Lord like King David.

Infidelity and punishment (Sir 48:15-48:16)

“Despite all this,

The people did not repent.

They did not forsake their sins,

Until they were carried off

As plunder

From their land.

They were scattered

Over all the earth.

The people were left,

Very few in number,

But with a ruler

From the house of David.

Some of them did

What was right,

Pleasing to God.

But others sinned

More and more.”

Despite the warnings of these two great northern prophets of Israel, Elijah and Elisha, the northern Israelites did not repent. They did not give up their sinning ways. Only when they were carried off as plunder in the captivity did they realize how bad they had been. They were scattered all over the earth. Only a few people were left. However, there was a ruler from the house of David in Judah. Some people did what was right and pleased the Lord, but many others continued to multiply their sins.

Help us, Yahweh (Ps 89:49-89:51)

“Yahweh!

Where is your steadfast love of old?

By your faithfulness,

You swore to David.

Remember!

Yahweh!

How your servant is taunted!

I bear in my bosom

The insults of the peoples.

Your enemies taunt us!

Yahweh!

They taunt the footsteps of your anointed!”

The psalmist has a cry to Yahweh to remind him of his famous steadfast love from ancient times. He had sworn to help David. Did Yahweh forget? His servant has been taunted and insulted. They have taunted the footsteps of the anointed one David. This is a final plea to this psalm, probably at the time of the captivity.