Mary goes to Judea (Lk 1:39-1:39

“In those days,

Mary set out.

She went

With haste

Into the hill country,

To a Judean town.”

 

Ἀναστᾶσα δὲ Μαριὰμ ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ταύταις ἐπορεύθη εἰς τὴν ὀρεινὴν μετὰ σπουδῆς εἰς πόλιν Ἰούδα,

 

Luke established a further connection between John and Jesus as he had Mary go to visit Elizabeth.  This was not an easy trip, about 80 miles from Nazareth to Jerusalem.  Luke said that in those days (ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ταύταις), Mary rose up (Ἀναστᾶσα δὲ Μαριὰμ) and went with haste into the hill country (ἐπορεύθη εἰς τὴν ὀρεινὴν μετὰ σπουδῆς), to an unnamed town in Judae (εἰς πόλιν Ἰούδα).  Many believe that this town was Ein Karem, about 5 miles west of Jerusalem, which would make sense since Zechariah would be close to the Temple.  This trip of Mary must have taken at least a week or so, depending on the roads and who went with her.  There was no explanation of who was with her on this trip.

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The restoration of good fields (Jer 32:43-32:44)

“‘Fields shall be bought

In this land

Of which you are saying.

‘It is a desolation!

It is without humans!

It is without animals!

It has been given

Into the hands

Of the Chaldeans.’

Fields shall be bought

For money.

Deeds shall be signed,

Sealed,

As well as witnessed

In the land of Benjamin,

In the places about Jerusalem,

In the towns of Judah,

In the towns of the hill country,

In the towns of the Shephelah,

In the towns of the Negeb.

I will restore their fortunes.’

Says Yahweh.”

Yahweh said, via Jeremiah, that the time of the desolation of the land was over. Fields were going to be bought and sold. It is not clear who owned some of these fields, since they might have changed hands a few times, since the beginning of the exile. However, the land was desolate, since there were no humans or animals on them after the Chaldeans took over. Who was going to sell this land? However, there would be a legal process. Money would exchange hands with deeds signed, sealed, and witnessed. The example of Jeremiah buying a field in the preceding chapter may be an example of how things would operate. Now this restoration would take place in the Benjamin territory, around the city of Jerusalem, and the towns of Judah. However, there are places mentioned, like the towns in the hill country of Judah, the Shephelah, the old Dan territory next to Benjamin, as well as the Negeb, the semi arid land southeast of Jerusalem near the Dead Sea. There was no mention of the northern territory from the old northern Israelite kingdom and their tribal territory.

The future of Jerusalem depends on the Sabbath observance (Jer 17:26-17:27)

“The people shall come

From the towns of Judah,

From the places around Jerusalem,

From the land of Benjamin,

From the Shephelah,

From the hill country,

From the Negeb.

They will bring

Burnt offerings,

Sacrifices,

Grain offerings,

Frankincense,

Thank offerings

To the house of Yahweh.

But if you do not listen to me,

To keep the Sabbath day holy,

To carry no burden

Through the gates of Jerusalem

On the Sabbath day,

Then I will kindle a fire

In its gates.

It shall devour

The palaces of Jerusalem.

It shall not be quenched.’”

Thus the future of Jerusalem rested on whether they observed the Sabbath correctly. Many people would come from the towns in Judah and the places around Jerusalem. However, there would also be people from Benjamin that is just north of Jerusalem, as well as the people from the area around Shephelah, west of Jerusalem, the hill country, north of Jerusalem, and Negeb, the desert area south of Judah. All these people would bring many gifts and sacrifices to the Temple in Jerusalem. These gifts included the many kinds of sacrifice offerings like the burnt offerings, the grain offerings, and the thank offerings, with various sacrificial animals and frankincense. The opposite is true if they did not keep the Sabbath, they would suffer destruction. Yahweh was going to start a unstoppable fire that would devour the gates and the palaces of Jerusalem. The choice was theirs, Sabbath observances and good things, or no Sabbath observances and a big fire.

General Holofernes sets the plan in action (Jdt 7:16-7:18)

“These words pleased General Holofernes and all his servants. He gave orders to do as they had said. So the army of the Ammonites moved forward, together with five thousand Assyrians. They encamped in the valley. They seized the water supply and the springs of the Israelites. The Edomites and the Ammonites went up and encamped in the hill country opposite Dothan. They sent some of their men toward the south and the east, toward Egrebeh, which is near Chusi beside the Wadi Mochmur. The rest of the Assyrian army encamped in the plain. They covered the whole face of the land. Their tents and supply trains spread out in great number. They formed a vast multitude.”

General Holofernes thought that seizing the water supply was a good idea. He gave orders to his army. The Ammonites with 5,000 Assyrian troops seized the water supply and the water springs. The Edomites and Ammonites encamped in the in the hill country opposite Dothan. Some went south and east to Egrebeh, Chusi, and Mochmur. All of these places are near Shechem, which would put this place further north in Manasseh territory. Meanwhile, the Assyrian army camped in the valley plain area so that they nearly covered the whole face of the earth. They had lots of tents and supplies spread out like a great large blanket.

 

The exploits of Holofernes (Jdt 2:21-2:28)

“They marched for three days from Nineveh to the plain of Bectileth. There they camped opposite Bectileth, near the mountain that is to the north of Upper Cilicia. From there Holofernes took his whole army, his infantry, cavalry, and chariots, and went up into the hill country. He ravaged Put and Lud. He plundered all the Rassisites and the Ishmaelites on the border of the desert, south of the country of the Chelleans. Then he followed the Euphrates River and passed through Mesopotamia. He destroyed all the hilltop cities along the brook Abron, as far as the sea. He also seized the territory of Cilicia. He killed every one who resisted him. Then he came to the southern borders of Japheth, fronting toward Arabia. He surrounded all the Midianites. He burned their tents and plundered their sheepfolds. Then he went down into the plain of Damascus during the wheat harvest. He burned all their fields. He destroyed their flocks and herds. He sacked their towns. He ravaged their lands. He put to death all their young men with the edge of the sword. Fear and dread of him fell upon all the people who lived along the seacoast. This included those at Sidon and Tyre, as well as those who lived in Sur, Ocina, and all who lived in Jamnia. Those who lived in Azotus and Ascalon feared him greatly.”

The geography here is a little muddled. It is about 600 miles from Nineveh to Damascus, but here it seems like just a few days. No one seems to know where this Bectileth was. Cilicia was on the Mediterranean Sea in Asia Minor, part of modern day Turkey. It, too, was about 500-600 miles from Nineveh, a difficult trip in 3 days, even in our modern times. Lud maybe the Syrian Lydia, but it is difficult to find Put. It is also difficult to know much about the Rassisites, the Ishmaelites, or the Chelleans. Generally, Ishmaelites usually referred to Arabs.   It is also difficult to pinpoint the Abron brook. Obviously, he traveled south along the Euphrates River, which is about 300 miles east of the seacoast. Japheth was near Arabia, which would be south of where he was. He also attacked the Midianites, on his way to Damascus. Holofernes burned down the wheat fields, destroyed the flocks and herds, sacked and ravaged the land. He killed their young men. He then turned further south towards the coast. Thus there was great fear in Sidon and Tyre, as well as all along the coastal towns of   Sur, Ocina, Jamnia, Azotus, and Ascalon near Tyre, in the Asher tribe territory.

King Nebuchadnezzar’s army (Jdt 1:5-1:6)

“Then King Nebuchadnezzar made war against King Arphaxad in the great plain that is on the borders of Ragau. There rallied to him all the people of the hill country. All those who lived along the Euphrates and the Tigris River were with him. The people along the Hydaspes River and on the plain were with him also. Arioch, the king of the Elymaeans was on his side. Thus many nations joined the forces of the Chaldeans.”

King Nebuchadnezzar was not alone. He had a lot of allies. The battle was to be on the plains next to Ragau, a city in northeastern Media, about 5 miles southeast of Teheran, near the Caspian Sea, about 200 miles northeast of Ecbatana. The Hydaspes River is either near the Tigris and Euphrates or somewhere in India. The Elymaeans may refer to the people of Elam or the Elamites. They could be from Elam also, near the Persian Gulf or part of Media. Obviously, King Nebuchadnezzar had a lot of people on his side.