Yahweh will rescue Jerusalem (Isa 29:5-29:8)

“But the multitude of your foes

Shall be like small dust.

The multitude of tyrants

Shall be like passing chaff.

In an instant,

Suddenly,

You will be visited by Yahweh of hosts.

He will come with thunder.

He will come with an earthquake.

He will come with a great noise.

He will come with a whirlwind.

He will come with a tempest.

He will come with the flame of a devouring fire.

The multitude of all the nations that fight against Ariel,

All that fight against her,

All that had a stronghold,

All that distress her

Shall be like a dream.

They shall be like a vision of the night.

Just as when a hungry man dreams of eating,

Yet wakes up still hungry.

Or when a thirsty man dreams he is drinking,

Yet wakes up faint,

Still thirsty.

So shall the multitude of all the nations be.

All those that fight against Mount Zion

Shall be like that.”

Despite the earlier warnings, Yahweh will rescue Jerusalem, as her many enemies will become like dust. The tyrants against her will be like passing chaff. Suddenly, there will a visit from Yahweh with thunder, earthquakes, strong storms, and devouring flames. All her enemies who distressed Jerusalem will be like a bad dream. All those nations fighting against Jerusalem will be faint and weak. They will be like those who dream of food and drink, yet wake up still hungry and thirsty.

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Some proverbs (Sir 40:12-40:17)

“All bribery

Will be blotted out.

All injustice

Will be blotted out.

But good faith

Will last forever.

The wealth of the unjust

Will dry up like a river.

The wealth of the unjust

Will crash like a loud clap

Of thunder in a storm.

A generous person

Has cause to rejoice.

Lawbreakers

Will utterly fail.

The children of the ungodly

Put out few branches.

They are unhealthy roots

On sheer rock.

The reeds by any water

Or river bank

Are plucked up

Before any grass.

Kindness is

Like a garden of blessings.

Almsgiving endures forever.”

Sirach utters some proverbs or sayings about injustice and life. Bribery and injustice will be blotted out, but good faith will last forever. The wealth of the unjust will disappear like a dried up river or thunder in a storm, here today, but gone tomorrow. Generous people should rejoice, while the lawbreakers will fail. The children of the ungodly will have few branches because their unhealthy roots are on solid rocks so they will have no yield. They are like reeds near water that is plucked before the grass. Kindness, on the other hand, grows into a garden of blessings. Then too almsgiving endures forever.

When to leave a banquet (Sir 32:10-32:13)

“Lightning travels

Ahead of thunder.

Approval precedes

A modest person.

Leave in good time!

Do not be the last!

Go home quickly!

Do not linger!

Amuse yourself there,

To your heart’s content.

But do not sin

Through proud speech.

But above all,

Bless your Maker

Who fills you With his good gifts.”

Sirach thinks that there is a proper time to leave a banquet. Just as lightening precedes thunder by a few seconds, so too does approval precede a modest person. Do not be the last one to leave a banquet. Do not hang around, but go home quickly. While you are there at the banquet, amuse yourself to your heart’s content, but do not use sinful proud speech. More than anything else, bless your creator who has given you all his good gifts and graces.

Yahweh as the creator of earth (Ps 104:5-104:9)

“You set the earth on its foundations.

Thus it shall never be shaken.

You cover it with the deep

As with a garment.

The waters stood above the mountains.

At your rebuke

They fled.

At the sound of your thunder

They took to flight.

They rose up to the mountains.

They ran down to the valleys.

They all went to the place that you appointed for them.

You set a boundary.

They may not pass this boundary.

Thus the waters might not again cover the earth.”

The earth had foundations like any building in a very static way. There was no hint of a round world in this flat world concept of the earth. However, they did seem to understand that the solid earth came from the waters. At the command of Yahweh, the waters receded, much like at the time of Noah in Genesis, chapters 6-10. The thunder served as the voice of Yahweh telling the waters to recede, which they did. Then the earth was formed as the mountains rose and the valley sunk, all due to the water that had been there. Everything took its place as it was appointed by Yahweh. Yahweh put boundaries on the waters so that they would never again cover the earth. This was the victory of Yahweh over the chaos of the waters.

The voice (Ps 81:5-81:7)

“I hear a voice I had not known.

‘I relieved your shoulder of the burden.

Your hands were freed from the basket.

In distress you called.

Then I rescued you.

I answered you in the secret place of thunder.

I tested you at the waters of Meribah.’”

Selah

The psalmist noted that he heard an unknown voice. This voice said that he relieved them of their burdens. He freed their hands from the basket in their distress. He had rescued them. He had answered them with thunder. He had tested them at the waters of Meribah. These are references to the activities found in Exodus, chapters 17-19. This section ends with the musical meditative interlude pause of Selah.

The power of God in Egypt (Ps 78:42-78:51)

“They did not keep in mind his power.

They did not remember

The day when he redeemed them from their foe.

He displayed his signs in Egypt.

He displayed his miracles in the fields of Zoan.

He turned their rivers to blood.

They could not drink of their streams.

He sent swarms of flies among them.

The flies devoured them.

He sent frogs among them,

The frogs destroyed them.

He gave their crops to the caterpillar.

He gave the fruit of their labor to the locust.

He destroyed their vines with hail.

He destroyed their sycamores with frost.

He gave over their cattle to the hail.

He gave their flocks to thunderbolts.

He let loose on them his fierce anger.

He let loose on them his wrath.

He let loose on them his indignation.

He let loose on them his distress.

He let loose a company of destroying angels.

He made a path for his anger.

He did not spare them from death.

He gave their lives over to the plague.

He struck all the first-born in Egypt.

He stuck the first issue of their strength

In the tents of Ham.”

Here the psalmist recalls the powerful acts recorded in Exodus, chapters 7-12, about the great plagues in Egypt. He wanted to recall the great events that God did in Egypt for them against their foes. He lists the various signs or miracles that took place in the Egyptian fields of Zoan or Ramses in order to save them and bring them out of Egypt. First he turned all their streams to blood. Then he let loose swarms of flies, frogs, caterpillars, and locusts that destroyed their crops. Then he let loose with hail and thunder that destroyed their cattle and herds. He then let loose the destroying angels that brought death. They struck down all the first born people and animals that were living in Ham, another word for Egypt based on Genesis. Clearly the plagues of Egypt were part of Israelite folklore built into the Israelite psyche.

God of the whirlwind (Ps 77:16-77:20)

“When the waters saw you!

O God!

When the waters saw you,

They were afraid.

The very deep trembled.

The clouds poured out water.

The skies thundered.

Your arrows flashed on every side.

The crash of your thunder

Was in the whirlwind.

Your lightnings lit up the world.

The earth trembled.

The earth shook.

Your way was through the sea.

Your path was through the mighty waters.

Your footprints were unseen.

You led your people like a flock

By the hand of Moses and Aaron.”

This psalm ends with a remembrance of the power and presence of Yahweh when he was with Moses and Aaron. He recalled the power of God in the storms. He remembered how Yahweh had helped his people get out of Egypt. These themes were captured in this ancient hymn to God. The waters were afraid of God, as if the waters had feelings of trembling before God. The lightnings in the sky were the arrows of Yahweh. The thunder was his voice. The earth trembled, much like the waters. The earth shook. However, he led his people by way of the great sea so that they were no footprints left behind. He led his people like a flock of sheep through the hands of Moses and Aaron. Notice that Aaron is considered the equivalent to Moses here.