Help the weak and needy (Ps 82:3-82:4)

“Give justice to the weak.

Give justice to the orphan.

Maintain the right of the lowly.

Maintain the right of the destitute.

Rescue the weak.

Rescue the needy.

Deliver them

From the hand of the wicked.”

The Temple prophet or priest spoke for God, saying that they should give justice to the weak and the orphans, a common theme in Israel. They had to maintain the lowly and the destitute. They had to rescue the weak and the needy from the hands of the wicked, which seemed to take advantage of them.

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Yahweh must bring justice (Ps 10:17-10:18)

“Yahweh!

You will hear the desire of the meek!

You will strengthen their heart!

You will incline your ear!

You will do justice for the orphans and the oppressed!

Thus those from the earth may strike terror no more.”

The psalmist wants Yahweh to hear the meek and strengthen their hearts. Listen to the cries for justice of the orphans and the oppressed. Get rid of the evil doers so that they cannot strike terror any more. The psalmist of David wanted justice for the oppressed. Get rid of the terrorists. That is a cry that we often hear today.

The lament of the poor (Ps 10:14-10:14)

“But you do see!

Indeed,

You note the trouble and the grief!

You may take it into your hands!

The helpless commit themselves to you.

You have been the helper of the orphans.”

However, Yahweh does see what is going on. He notes the trouble and the grief of the poor and the orphans. Yahweh has to take them into his own hands. The helpless rely on Yahweh because he has been a helper of the orphans. Yahweh always seems to help the weak ones.

Job was kind to the needy (Job 31:16-31:23)

“If I have withheld anything that the poor desired,

If I have caused the eyes of the widow to fail,

If I have eaten my morsel alone,

If I have not let the orphan eat from it,

From my youth,

I have reared the orphan like a father.

From my mother’s womb I have guided the widow.

If I have seen any one perish for lack of clothing,

If there was a poor man without covering,

If his loins have not blessed me,

If he was not warmed with the fleece of my sheep,

If I have raised my hand against the orphan,

Because I saw I had supporters at the gate.

Then let my shoulder blade fall from my shoulder!

Let my arm be broken from its socket!

I was in terror of calamity from God.

I could not have faced his majesty.”

Job maintained that that he had always helped the poor, the widows, and orphans. He shared his food. He treated the orphans as if they were like his children. From his childhood he had always been kind to widows. He gave away his clothing, sometimes direct from the sheep. He had helped the orphans in all that they did. If he had not done these things, then his shoulder blades should fall off and the socket of his arm should be broken. He had always feared God and his majesty.

Timothy and Bacchides are defeated (2 Macc 8:30-8:33)

“In encounters with the forces of Timothy and Bacchides, they killed more than twenty thousand of them. They got possession of some exceedingly high strongholds. They divided a very great amount of plunder. They give it to those who had been tortured, to the orphans, widows, and aged, shares equal to their own. They collected the arms of the enemy. They carefully stored them all of them in strategic places. They carried the rest of the spoils to Jerusalem. They killed the commander of Timothy’s forces, a most unholy man, one who had greatly troubled the Jews. While they were celebrating the victory in the city of their ancestors, they burned those who had set fire to the sacred gates, Callisthenes and some others. They had fled into one little house. Thus they received the proper recompense for their impiety.”

This is loosely connected to stories and battles in 1 Maccabees, chapters 5 and 7. Timothy was a leader of the gentiles on the east side of the Jordan River. Bacchides was a governor and general of King Demetrius I. Both of them were considered the enemy. These enemy troops had lost 20,000 men. The spoils had been taken and distributed to the tortured, the widows, the orphans, and the aged. However, they always kept some for themselves as they had done with the spoils from the defeat of Nicanor. Here it says that they had killed the commander of the troops of the unholy man Timothy. When they were celebrating in Jerusalem, they also burned the house of this unknown man named Callisthenes and others because they had been impious. Perhaps these were the Hellenizing Jews in Jerusalem.

The defeat of the army of Nicanor (2 Macc 8:24-8:29)

“With the Almighty as their ally, Judas Maccabeus killed more than nine thousand of the enemy. They wounded and disabled most of Nicanor’s army. They forced them all to flee. They captured the money of those who had come to buy them as slaves. After pursuing them for some distance, they were obliged to return because the hour was late. It was the day before the Sabbath. For that reason they did not continue their pursuit. When they had collected the arms of the enemy and stripped them of their spoils, they kept the Sabbath. They gave great praise and thanks to the Lord, who had preserved them for that day. He allotted it to them as the beginning of mercy. After the Sabbath, they gave some of the spoils to those who had been tortured, the widows, and the orphans. They distributed the rest among themselves and their children. When they had done this, they made common supplication. They implored the merciful Lord to be wholly reconciled with his servants.”

This section is a little like the battles in 1 Maccabees, chapter 4, but not quite the same. The leader of the army is Nicanor and Gorgias. As God Almighty was on their side, Judas and his men killed more than 9,000 of the 20,000 enemy soldiers. They also wounded and disabled most of Nicanor’s army, as those who were able, fled the scene. They even got the money that was going to be used to buy Jewish slaves. They had to stop pursuing them since it was the eve of the Sabbath. They then celebrated the Sabbath with great praise and thanksgiving for the Lord’s mercy to them. Then on the day after the Sabbath, they gave some, but not all, of the spoils to those who had been tortured, as well as the widows and orphans. The rest of the money they distributed it among themselves and their children. They once again prayed to the Lord so that he might be reconciled with his servants. There is no longer any mention of religious sacrifices of any kind.