“‘If you will not obey
This very great multitude
Will surely turn
Into a small number
Among the nations,
Where I will scatter them.
I know that they will not
They are a stiff-necked people.
But in the land of their exile
They will come to themselves.
They will know
That I am
The Lord their God.
I will give them
I will give them
Ears that hear.’”
This is reminiscent of the end of chapter 28 in Deuteronomy. There was no explicit mention of an exile in that chapter. However in chapter 30, there was a call to return from the scattered countries. The Israelites were to obey the voice of Yahweh. Otherwise this great multitude would become a small number of people among many nations, since they were going to be scattered. Moses and Yahweh knew that the Israelites would not obey the Mosaic Law because they were a stiff-necked people. However, they would discover themselves in the land of their exile. This happens a lot. When separated from their basic culture, people tend to re-discover all the great things of their original culture that they had overlooked. The Israelites would come to realize that Yahweh was their true God. Thus Yahweh would give them an obeying heart and hearing ears so that they would be more attentive to him.
“The law of Yahweh is perfect.
It revives the soul.
The decrees of Yahweh are sure.
They make wise the simple.
The precepts of Yahweh are right.
They rejoice the heart.
The commandment of Yahweh is clear.
It enlightens the eyes.
The fear of Yahweh is pure.
It endures forever.
The ordinances of Yahweh are true.
They are righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold.
They are even much finer than gold.
They are sweeter also than honey.
They are sweeter than the drippings of the honeycomb.”
In order to counteract the preceding almost pagan eulogy to the sun, the Mosaic law of Yahweh gets special mention. It is the law of Yahweh, the decrees of Yahweh, the precepts of Yahweh, the commandments of Yahweh, the ordinances of Yahweh. There can be no mistake. This is the law of Yahweh that begins with the fear of Yahweh. They revive the soul. They make the simple wise. They rejoice the heart. They enlighten the eyes. They set righteous and endure forever. They are finer than gold and sweeter than honey. Clearly the law of Yahweh is central, not the sun.
“However, Mattathias answered in a loud voice.
‘Even if all the nations
That live under the rule of the king obey him,
If everyone has chosen to do his commandments,
If everyone of them abandoning the religion of their ancestors,
I, my sons, and my brothers will continue to live
By the covenant of our ancestors.
Far be it for us to desert the law and the ordinances.
We will not obey the king’s words
By turning aside from our religion to the right hand or to the left.’”
Mattathias shouted out his response. Even if all the nations of the world choose to follow the king’s commandments by abandoning the religion of their ancestors, he, his brothers, and sons would continue to live under the covenant of their ancestors. They were not going to desert the Mosaic Law and ordinances. They would not obey the king’s words by deserting their religion to the right or to the left. There could be no misunderstanding about the words of Mattathias.