The Epiphany (Mt 2:11-2:11)

“The Magi

Knelt down.

They paid homage

To the child.

They worshiped him.

Then,

Opening their treasures,

They offered him gifts

Of gold,

Of frankincense,

Of myrrh.”

 

καὶ πεσόντες προσεκύνησαν αὐτῷ, καὶ ἀνοίξαντες τοὺς θησαυροὺς αὐτῶν προσήνεγκαν αὐτῷ δῶρα, χρυσὸν καὶ λίβανον καὶ σμύρναν

 

This is the classic scene of the Epiphany of Jesus, with the magi, the 3 kings, the wise men adoring and worshiping the new born infant Jesus.  The magi entered the house.  They knelt down and worshipped the new child (πεσόντες προσεκύνησαν αὐτῷ).  Then they opened their treasures (ἀνοίξαντες τοὺς θησαυροὺς αὐτῶν).  They offered him gifts (προσήνεγκαν αὐτῷ δῶρα) of gold (χρυσὸν), frankincense (λίβανον), and myrrh (σμύρναν).  These were the same traditional gifts mentioned in Isaiah, chapter 60:6, gold and frankincense, an expensive spice.  Myrrh was a perfume.  So too, Epiphany, ἐπιφάνεια, means manifestation or appearance.  In classical Greek, it was a manifestation of a deity to a worshiper.  Thus, Jesus manifests himself to these worshipping magi.  The earliest references to the Christian feast of Epiphany come from the 4th century CE.  In the Latin-speaking Western Christianity, this holiday emphasized the visit of the magi, who represented the non-Jewish people of the world.  Thus, this child Jesus was considered a revelation to the gentiles.  In the middle ages, these biblical magi or magicians became the 3 kings, as a whole story developed around them.  Balthasar was the youngest one, bearing frankincense that symbolized the divinity of Jesus, representing Africa.  Caspar was middle-aged one bearing gold that symbolized the royalty of Jesus, representing Asia.  Melchior the oldest one, bearing myrrh symbolized the passion of Jesus, representing Europe.  For many years, and still in some non-English speaking countries today, Epiphany was and is a bigger feast day than Christmas, celebrating the birth of Jesus and his revelation to the world.

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The distressed city of Nineveh (Nah 2:6-2:9)

“The river gates

Are opened.

The palace trembles.

It is decreed

That the city

Be exiled.

Its slave women were

Led away,

Moaning

Like doves,

Beating their breasts.

Nineveh is

Like a pool

Whose waters

Run away.

‘Halt!

Halt!’

They cry.

But no one turns back.

Plunder the silver!

Plunder the gold!

There is no end

Of treasure.

There is an abundance

Of every precious thing.

Devastation!

Desolation!

Destruction!

Hearts faint!

Knees tremble!

All loins quake!

All faces grow pale!”

Nahum painted this picture of chaos in Nineveh.  He said that the river gates were opened, so that the palace and the people in it were trembling.  The people of this city were going to go into exile.  The slave women were led away, moaning like doves and beating their breasts.  The whole city of Nineveh had become like an overflowing pool.  People were saying stop, but no one was listening.  No one turned back as they keep on fleeing.  Meanwhile, there was a great plunder of their treasures of gold, silver, and the other abundant precious things.  Everywhere there was devastation, desolation, and destruction in this great city.  Hearts were fainting, while kneels were trembling.  Their faces grew pale as their loins shook.

The lack of food (Lam 1:11-1:11)

Kaph

“All her people groan.

They search for bread.

They trade

Their treasures

For food

To revive

Their strength.

‘Look!

Yahweh!

See!

How worthless

I have become!’”

Once again, we have the shift from a third person description about Jerusalem to a first person singular Jerusalem itself praying directly to Yahweh, the God of Israel. All the people were groaning due to the lack of bread or nourishment. They were trading their treasures for food, which makes sense. They wanted to revive their strength. This verse ends with the first person singular plea to Yahweh. Jerusalem laments how worthless she has become. This verse starts with the Hebrew consonant letter Kaph. Each verse after this will use the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet in this acrostic poem.

Yahweh and the battle in Babylon (Jer 51:11-51:14)

“Sharpen the arrows!

Fill the quivers!

Yahweh has stirred up

The spirit of the kings

Of the Medes.

His purpose concerning Babylon

Is to destroy it.

That is the vengeance of Yahweh,

That is the vengeance

For his temple.

Raise a standard

Against the walls of Babylon!

Make the watch strong!

Post sentinels!

Prepare the ambushes!

Yahweh has both planned

As well as done

What he spoke

Concerning the inhabitants

Of Babylon.

You who live

By mighty waters,

Rich in treasures,

Your end has come.

The thread of your life

Is cut.

Yahweh of hosts

Has sworn by himself.

Surely I will fill you

With troops,

Like a swarm of locusts.

They shall raise

A shout of victory

Over you.”

Here there is a serious of commands from Yahweh, via Jeremiah. The warriors were to have their quivers ready full of arrows. Yahweh has stirred up the Medes, the people to the north of Babylon with the Persians. They were going to destroy Babylon because of Yahweh’s vengeance for what the Babylonians had done to his temple in Jerusalem. There was going to be an invasion of Babylon with wise watchmen and sentinels as well as strong ambushes. Yahweh had planned and carried out his word against Babylon, the land of mighty waters such as the Euphrates and the Tigris, with all their treasures. Their end has come. The thread of their life has been cut. There will be troops in Babylon, like swarms of locusts, shouting about victory.

The coming terror against Ammon (Jer 49:4-49:5)

“‘Why do you boast

In your strength?

Your strength is ebbing.

O faithless daughter!

You trusted

In your treasures.

Saying,

‘Who will attack me?’

Says Yahweh

God of hosts.

‘I am going to bring terror

Upon you

From your neighbors.

You will be scattered,

Each headlong,

With no one

To gather the fugitives.’”

Yahweh, via Jeremiah, was clear. The Ammonites were going to suffer in terror. Why had they boasted about their strength, when they were actually losing strength. They had trusted in their treasures, thinking that no one would be able to attack them. Yahweh had other plans for them, although he also called them faithless daughters as if they were like the northern Israelites. They were going to be attacked by their neighbors, scattered headlong against each other. There would be no one left to gather all those who were fleeing Ammon.

Flee Moab (Jer 48:6-48:9)

“Flee!

Save yourselves!

Be like a wild ass

In the desert!

Because you trusted

In your strongholds,

With your treasures,

You also shall be taken.

Chemosh shall

Go out into exile,

With his priests,

With his attendants.

The destroyer shall come

Upon every town.

No town shall escape.

The valley shall perish.

The plain shall be destroyed.

As Yahweh has spoken.

Set aside salt for Moab.

She will surely fall.

Her towns shall become

A desolation,

With no inhabitants in them.”

Jeremiah warns the Moabites to flee and save themselves. They should take off like a wild donkey in the desert. They had trusted in their treasures and fortresses, but to no avail. The local god of Moab, Chemosh, was going to be exiled along with his priests and attendants. Every town would be destroyed, since none would escape. Both the valleys and the plains would be destroyed. All the towns of Moab would fall and become a desolation with nobody living in them. Prepare some salt for Moab to help with her wounds.

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.