The plague on Egypt (Zech 14:18-14:19)

“If the family of Egypt

Does not go up,

If they do not

Present themselves,

Then upon them

Shall come

The plague

That Yahweh inflicts

On the nations

That do not go up

To keep the festival of booths.

This shall be the punishment

Of Egypt.

This shall be the punishment

Of all the nations

That do not go up

To keep the festival of booths.”

Egypt would suffer a plague, if they did not present themselves for the festival of booths or tents.  However, this same punishment would be inflicted on other countries that did not show up of this festival of booths.  Suddenly, this festival has become an important universal religious festival for all countries, not just the Israelites.

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Drought for the failure to worship (Zech 14:17-14:17)

“If any of the families

Of the earth

Do not go up to Jerusalem

To worship the king,

Yahweh of hosts,

There will be no rain

Upon them.”

If any of these families or countries do not go to Jerusalem to worship Yahweh of the hosts, the king, at the festival of booths, they will suffer the punishment of no rain or a drought.

The survivors worship Yahweh (Zech 14:16-14:16)

“Then all who survive

Of the nations

That have come

Against Jerusalem

Shall go up,

Year after year,

To worship the king,

Yahweh of hosts.

They will keep

The festival of booths.”

This is a universal appeal to all countries to come to worship Yahweh, with a particular remark about those who had fought against Jerusalem.  Yahweh wanted them to come every year to worship him, the king, Yahweh of hosts, for the festival of Booths, Tabernacles, or Tents.  This was usually in the fall, when there was a renewal of the covenant.  There was no mention of any other Israelite religious festivals.

The song of the vineyard (Isa 5:1-5:2)

“Let me sing

For my beloved.

My love song

Concerns his vineyard.

My beloved had

A vineyard

On a very fertile hill.

He dug it out.

He cleared it of stones.

He planted it

With choice vines.

He built a watchtower

In the midst of it.

He hewed out

A wine vat in it.

He expected it

To yield grapes.

But it yielded wild grapes.”

The allegory about a vineyard can be found among many other biblical prophets and even Jesus Christ himself. Either this was at the beginning of Isaiah’s prophetic career, or it was part of the festival of booths. Certainly it was a song about a friend’s vineyard, a common biblical theme. Isaiah was singing for his beloved friend, who had a vineyard on a fertile hill. This friend of Isaiah’s took great care to get this vineyard ready. He dug out stones and planted choice vines. He put a tower in the middle to look over the vineyard with a carved wine vat there also. He was expecting good grapes, but he only got wild grapes. Clearly, he did not get what he expected.

The festival of fire (2 Macc 1:18-1:18)

“On the twenty-fifth day of Chislev

We shall celebrate the purification of the temple.

We thought it necessary to notify you.

Thus you also may celebrate the feast of booths.

You may celebrate the feast of the fire

That was given when Nehemiah offered sacrifices

When he built the temple and the altar.”

Judas Maccabeus had celebrated the festival of booths in 1 Maccabees, chapter 4, in 164 BCE. They wanted to celebrate the purification of the temple. At the same time, they wanted them to know that the festival of fire was like at the time of Nehemiah, chapter 8. That writing explained what was to take place at the festival of Booths. There they gathered branches to make tents and live around the fire. It could also refer to the reestablishment of the Temple at that time.

The situation of this letter (2 Macc 1:7-1:9)

“In the reign of King Demetrius,

In the one hundred and sixty-ninth year,

We Jews wrote to you.

In the critical distress that came upon us,

In those years

After Jason and his company

Revolted from the holy land and the kingdom.

He burned the gate and shed innocent blood.

We prayed to the Lord.

We were heard.

We offered sacrifice and cereal offering.

We lighted the lamps.

We set out the loaves.

Now see that you keep the festival of booths

In the month of Chislev,

In the one hundred and eighty-eighth year.”

Here is the reason for the letter. They want the Jews in Egypt to celebrate the festival of Booths in 124 BCE in the month of Chislev, the 188th year. Apparently this is not the first letter since there is a reference to an earlier letter around 143 BCE, the 169th year mentioned here, when King Demetrius II was the Seleucid leader. All these calendar dates are from the beginning of this Seleucid Empire in 312 BCE. The distress was the capture and murder of Jonathan Apphus, the son of Mattathias in 143 BCE. Jason was the brother of the high priest Onias, who turned on the Maccabees. The destruction and shedding of innocent blood can be found in 1 Maccabees, chapter 1. However, under Simon, they were able to recover and rebuild the Temple. Thus they were asking the Jews in Egypt to celebrate with them the feast of Booths in Chislev. However, the normal time of festival of Tents or Booths, according to Leviticus, chapter 23, was in the 7th month, 1 week after the Day of Atonement. Clearly this work must have been written after 124 BCE.

The letter of King Alexander to Jonathan (1 Macc 10:17-10:21)

King Alexander wrote a letter and sent it to Jonathan, in the following words.

‘King Alexander to his brother Jonathan,

Greetings!

We have heard about you.

You are a mighty warrior.

You are worthy to be our friend.

So we have appointed you today

To be the high priest of your nation.

You are to be called the king’s friend.

You are to take our side.

You are to keep friendship with us.’

He sent him a purple robe and a golden crown. So Jonathan put on the sacred vestments in the seventh month of the one hundred sixtieth year, at the festival of booths. He recruited troops and equipped them with arms in abundance.”

King Alexander at Ptolemais wrote a letter to Jonathan. He went ever further than King Demetrius I at Antioch. He appointed Jonathan the high priest. I am not sure how or why he had this authority. However, the position of high priest might have been vacant since the death of Alcimus in 159 BCE. Obviously King Alexander had the power to appoint anyone he wanted to be the king’s friend, a special status. In fact, he sent a purple robe and crown, which Jonathan accepted in 152 BCE, during the festival of booths. Then Jonathan went to recruit and arm troops.