Good things for the Israelites (Jer 32:42-32:42)

“Thus says Yahweh.

‘Just as I have brought

All this great disaster

Upon this people,

So I will bring upon them

All the good fortune

That I now promise them.’”

Just as Yahweh had brought the tough times to his people for their evil ways, he now was going to bring them good fortune. Thus as bad as the past was, the future was going to be that much better.

The God of all Israelites (Jer 31:1-31:1)

“Says Yahweh.

‘At that time,

I will be the God

Of all the families                    

Of Israel.

They shall be my people.’”

Yahweh, via Jeremiah, speaks about a time in the future when he will be the God of all the families of Israel, not just the families of Judah and Jerusalem as he had often spoken about. Very clearly, all of Israel would be his people. This is a more universal outlook. Like the preceding chapter, this is a different numbered chapter in the Greek translation of the Septuagint, chapter 38, not chapter 31 as here.

Yahweh predicts the invader from the north (Isa 41:25-41:29)

“I stirred up one from the north.

He has come.

From the rising of the sun,

He was summoned by name.

He shall trample on rulers

Like on mortar,

Like the potter treads clay.

Who declared it from the beginning?

We might know before time.

We might say.

‘He is right!’

There was none

Who declared it.

None who proclaimed it.

None who heard your words.

I first have declared it to Zion.

I give to Jerusalem

A herald of good tidings.

But when I look

There is no one.

Among these,

There is no counselor.

When I ask,

Who gives an answer?

No!

They are all a delusion.

Their works are nothing.

Their images are empty wind.”

Although most interpret this passage as the predicting the victory of King Cyrus of Persia, his name is never explicitly mentioned. He is an invader from the northeast, which could be Persia. Second Isaiah says that he was summoned by name, but no name is mentioned. This invader was going to trample underfoot the rulers, as if they were like mortar or potter’s clay. This was an indication of things to come. No one else is talking about the future. However, Second Isaiah and Yahweh had declared this herald of good tidings in Jerusalem. There was no one with advice, no one to give an answer. Their works were all an empty delusion because all their false image idols were like an empty wind.

Can you read the book? (Isa 29:11-29:12)

The vision of all this

Has become for you

Like the words of a sealed document.

If it is given to those

Who can read,

With the command.

‘Read this!’

They say.

‘We cannot.

Because it is sealed.’

If it is given to those

Who cannot read,

Saying.

‘Read this!’

They say.

‘We cannot read.’”

These few verses seem to be an addition about how revelation is hidden. This vision about the future is like a sealed document or scroll that you cannot read. Even if you are told to read it, you cannot, because it is sealed. In fact, the same thing happens to those who cannot read, whether the document is sealed or not. They still cannot read it, because they do not know how to read. This pertained to the majority of the people, since only about 5-15% of the Israelite people could read.

Idol worshipers (Isa 2:6-2:8)

“You have forsaken

The ways of your people!

O house of Jacob!

You are full of diviners

From the east.

You are full of soothsayers

Like the Philistines.

They clasp hands with foreigners.

Their land is filled with silver.

Their land is filled with gold.

There is no end

To their treasures.

Their land is filled with horses.

There is no end to their chariots.

Their land is filled with idols.

They bow down

To the work of their hands.

They bow down

To what their own fingers have made.”

Isaiah speaks out strongly against idol worship that must have been common among the house of Jacob in eight century BCE. The Israelites have forsaken the ways of their people since they had a lot of eastern diviners, like priestly prophets who foretold the future in the name of some god, roughly the equivalent of a Yahweh prophet among the non-Israelites. There were also the fortune tellers or soothsayers from Philistine, from along the shore of the Mediterranean Sea. There must have been some kind of magic handshake with foreigners that was also forbidden. Why were they doing this? Their land was full of silver, gold, many treasures, horses, and chariots. What else did they want? Despite all this, they still bowed down in worship to the idol gods that they had made with their own hands and fingers. Why were they worshiping these false idol statutes that they themselves had made?

The Lord’s knowledge (Sir 42:18-42:20)

“The Lord searches out the abyss.

He searches out the human heart.

He understands their innermost secrets.

The Most High knows

All that may be known.

He sees from old

The things that are to come.

He sees the signs of the age.

He discloses what has been.

He discloses what is to be.

He reveals the traces of hidden things.

No thought escapes him.

Nothing is hidden from him.”

The Lord knows the depths of everything. He knows the secrets of the human heart. The Most High God knows all that can be known since he knows about the past and the things to come. He understands the signs of the ages. He can tell you about the past and the future. He knows all about the hidden things, since nothing escapes him. Nothing is hidden from him because the Lord is all-knowing.

Almsgiving (Sir 3:29-3:31)

“The mind of the intelligent appreciates proverbs.

An attentive ear is the desire of the wise.

Just as water extinguishes a blazing fire,

So almsgiving atones for sins.

Whoever repays favors

Gives thought to the future.

When they fall,

They will find support.”

Intelligent people appreciate proverbs. You should be wise. You should pay attention with your ears. Like water on a fire, almsgiving, can atone for sins. If you repay people for favors, your reward will go into the future. If anything happens to you, you will find support.

God’s role (Eccl 3:14-3:15)

“I know that whatever God does,

Endures forever.

Nothing can be added to it.

Nothing can be taken from it.

God has done this,

Thus all should stand in awe before him.

That which is,

Already has been.

That which is to be,

Already is.

God seeks out

What has gone by.”

Whatever God does, it will last forever. Nothing can be added or taken away from his creation. God has done all this. All us humans can do is stand in awe before him. The things of the past exist today, while the future things already exist for God. He seeks out everything that has happened.

The human task (Eccl 3:9-3:11)

“What gain have the workers received

From their toil?

I have seen the business

That God has given to everyone

To be busy with.

He has made everything suitable

For its time.

Moreover,

He has put a sense of past and future

Into human minds.

Yet they cannot find out

What God has done

From the beginning to the end.”

God has given workers things to busy themselves with, but they do not know their gain or profit. Everything, however, is suitable for its time. Humans have a sense of past and future, not just the present. Despite this, they do not know what God has done from the beginning until now or what he will do in the future.

The future (2 Chr 36:22-36:23)

“In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, in fulfillment of the word of Yahweh spoken by Jeremiah, Yahweh stirred up the spirit of King Cyrus of Persia. Thus he sent a herald throughout his entire kingdom. He also declared it in a written edict. ‘Thus says King Cyrus of Persia. Yahweh, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth. He has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may Yahweh his God be with him! Let him go up!’”

This ending to 2 Chronicles is the same as the beginning of the Book of Ezra. This has led some to believe that it is the same author. It certainly fits in better there since this was considered the last book of the Hebrew bible. In fact, 2 Kings end on an unhappy note. This story seems to indicate that Cyrus was a nice guy. Immediately on taking over the Persian Empire he wanted a Temple built in Jerusalem. Actually, he is doing this because Yahweh stirred up the spirit of King Cyrus so that he would fulfill the words of the prophet Jeremiah. Thus King Cyrus issued an oral and written decree that Yahweh had given him all his power. Therefore Yahweh wanted a house in Jerusalem in Judah.   Anyone who wanted to go build the house for Yahweh in Jerusalem should be let go. This seems strange that the Persian King Cyrus should care about a Temple in Jerusalem.