The mighty and the lowly (Lk 1:52-1:52)

“God has brought down

The powerful

From their thrones.

He has lifted up

The lowly.”

 

καθεῖλεν δυνάστας ἀπὸ θρόνων καὶ ὕψωσεν ταπεινούς

 

This canticle of Mary was modeled on that of Hannah in 1 Samuel, chapter 2:4, that praised Yahweh for her son, the prophet Samuel.  Just like here, Hannah said that the mighty and the rich would stumble, but the lowly and the poor would succeed.  Luke indicated that Mary said that God had brought down the powerful (καθεῖλεν δυνάστας) from their thrones (ἀπὸ θρόνων), while he has lifted up the lowly (καὶ ὕψωσεν ταπεινούς).  There is almost an exact equivalency between Hannah and Mary.  Mary had mentioned nothing about lowly people until now.  Luke emphasized this theme of the poor or lowly as important throughout his gospel.

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The princes of the sea (Ezek 26:16-26:16)

“Then all the princes

Of the sea

Will step down

From their thrones.

They will remove

Their robes.

They will strip off

Their embroidered garments.

They will clothe themselves

With trembling.

They will sit

On the ground.

They will tremble

Every moment.

They will be

Appalled at you.”

These princes of the sea were the trading partners of Tyre. Ezekiel said that these princes would be willing to step down from their thrones, remove their robes, and strip off their embroidered garments. Instead, they would tremble and sit on the ground. They would be stunned and appalled at everything that had happened to Tyre.

The lurking disaster in the north (Jer 1:14-1:16)

“Then Yahweh said to me.

‘Out of the north,

Disaster shall break out

Upon all the inhabitants of the land.

For now,

I am calling

All the tribes of the kingdoms of the north.’

Says Yahweh.

‘They shall come.

All of them shall set their thrones

At the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem,

Against all its surrounding walls,

Against all the cities of Judah.

I will utter my judgments against them.

All their wickedness is in forsaking me.

They have burned incense

To other gods.

They have worshiped

The works of their own hands.’”

Once again Jeremiah presents how Yahweh spoke directly to him. Disaster was going to happen in the north, however, it had already happened a century earlier in the 8th century BCE, not the 7th century BCE of Jeremiah. All the kings of the north would leave their thrones at the gates or the walls of Jerusalem. They would leave some in the cities of Judah. They suffered this judgment because they had become wicked in forsaking Yahweh. They had sacrificed with incense to false gods that they had made with their own hands.

The greetings in Sheol (Isa 14:9-14:11)

“Sheol beneath is stirred up.            

They want to meet you

When you come.

They rouse the shades

To greet you.

All who were leaders of the earth

Greet you.

All who were kings of the nations

Rise from their thrones.

All of them will speak.

They will say to you.

‘You too have become

As weak as we!

You have become

Like us!’

Your pomp

Is brought down to Sheol.

The sound of your harps

Is brought down to Sheol.

Maggots are the bed beneath you.

Worms are your covering.”

This haughty king now descends after his death into the shadowy underworld of Sheol. Everyone there wanted to meet this king. All the former leaders and kings of the world were there to greet this newly deceased Babylonian king. They got up from their thrones and greeted him. Then they reminded him that he had become like them, weak. All his self important pomps were gone in Sheol. There was no harp playing in Sheol. In fact, he would sleep on a bed of maggots with worms as his covering, not a pretty picture.

The words of the king of Assyria (Isa 10:13-10:14)

“The king says.

‘By the strength of my hand

I have done it.

By my wisdom,

I have understanding.

I have removed

The boundaries of peoples.

I have plundered

Their treasures.

Like a bull,

I have brought down

Those who sat on thrones.

My hand has found,

Like a nest,

The wealth of the peoples.

As one gather eggs

That have been forsaken,

So I have gathered all the earth.

There was none

That moved a wing,

Or opened its mouth,

Or chirped.’”

Isaiah says that King Tiglath-Pileser III (745-727 BCE) then proclaimed that he had removed the boundaries between the various countries. They were all subservient to him. He had plundered their treasures like a bull and removed their leaders from their thrones. He did this with the strength of his arm and his understanding of wisdom. He found a wealthy nest wherever he went. Thus he picked up the lost eggs, as he gathered people from all over the earth. Nobody objected. No one moved a wing or opened their mouths. There was no chirping about what he was doing.