The faithful love of Yahweh (Lam 3:22-3:24)

Heth

“The steadfast love

Of Yahweh

Never ceases.

His mercies

Never come

To an end.

They are new

Every morning.

Great is

Your faithfulness.

‘Yahweh

Is my portion.’

Says my soul.

‘Therefore I will hope

In him.’”

This poem or lamentation took a new turn towards the faithful love of Yahweh. The former tone of pessimism turned to hope, since the steadfast love of Yahweh never ceased. His mercy has no end. Every morning the faithfulness of Yahweh re-appeared. This author depended on Yahweh so that he would hope in Yahweh. Suddenly, this despairing author has great hope in Yahweh. These three verses start with the Hebrew consonant letter Heth in this acrostic poem.

The mourning in Jerusalem (Lam 2:10-2:10)

Yod

“The elders

Of daughter Zion

Sit on the ground

In silence.

They have thrown dust

On their heads.

They have put on

Sackcloth.

The young girls

Of Jerusalem

Have bowed

Their heads

To the ground.”

There is a change in tone here. No longer was Yahweh with his anger the main point. The emphasis now shifts to those left in the city of Jerusalem itself. The elders, who were left in Jerusalem, were sitting on the ground in silence. They were grieving, as they threw dust on their heads and put sackcloth on. The young girls of Jerusalem also bowed their heads to the ground. Obliviously not everyone was killed or taken captive. These old men and young women left in Jerusalem were in a state of shock and mourning. This verse starts with the Hebrew consonant letter Yod. Each verse after this will use the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet in this acrostic poem.

Against Babylon (Jer 50:1-50:1)

“The word

That Yahweh spoke

Concerning Babylon,

Concerning the land

Of the Chaldeans,

By the prophet Jeremiah.”

Now there is a switch in tone. Prior to this, Jeremiah and the oracles of Yahweh had said to obey the Babylonian king. Now there are a series of oracles against the Babylonians or the Chaldeans. Eventually Babylon would fall in 539 BCE, long after the death of Jeremiah (582 BCE) and King Nebuchadnezzar (562 BCE). In the Septuagint Greek translation, this is chapter 27, not chapter 50 as here.

Rebuke against rebellion (Isa 1:2-1:3)

“Hear!

O heavens!

Listen!

O earth!

Yahweh has spoken.

‘I reared children.

I brought them up.

But they have rebelled

Against me.

The ox knows its owner.

The donkey knows its master’s crib.

But Israel does not know.

My people do not understand.’”

Isaiah begins with an oracle that comes from Yahweh. He asks heaven and earth to listen to him. Yahweh says that he reared and brought up his children. However, these children have rebelled against him. As an ox knows its owner and a donkey knows where his home is, the people of Israel are just the opposite. They do not know or understand anything. This is the tone to many of the oracles of Yahweh via Isaiah. It is not clear whether this oracle is against just the northern Israelites or also includes the people of Judah. Sometimes the term “Israel” is used for both and sometimes just for the northern Israelites.

The thirty sayings (Prov 22:20-22:21)

“Have I not written for you thirty sayings

Of admonition and knowledge?

They are to show you

What is right and true.

Thus you may give a true answer

To those who sent you.”

These 30 sayings have a certain similarity or loose comparison with the Egyptian Instructions of Amenemope with its 30 chapters from around 1300-1075 BCE. They sayings are about admonitions and knowledge. They intend to show you what is right and true. That way, you can answer anyone who sent you. These sayings are more international in tone.

Title (Prov 1:1-1:1)

“These are

The proverbs of Solomon,

Son of David,

The King of Israel.”

This introduction title to proverbs was a later addition to the main sections on the Proverbs of Solomon. However, it sets the tone for the whole work which is really poetic wisdom. This opening introduction clearly places Solomon, the Son of David, and King of Israel as the author as indicated in the stories about Solomon in 1 Kings, chapters 1-11. This adds value and prestige to these proverbs.

The servant prayer (Ps 123:1-123:2)

A song of ascents

“To you I lift up my eyes.

O you who are enthroned in the heavens!

As the eyes of servants

Look to the hand of their master,

As the eyes of a maid

Look to the hand of her mistress,

So our eyes look to Yahweh our God,

Until he has mercy upon us.”

Psalm 123 is another very short psalm, or song, sung on the ascending way to Jerusalem in a pilgrimage. However, the tone is more somber as there is a cry for help against enemies. Both the male and female servants look to Yahweh to help them. They lift up their eyes to the heavens, like servants looking to the hands of their masters. Their eyes cry for mercy towards Yahweh, their God.

The rejection (Ps 89:38-89:45)

“But now you have spurned him.

You have rejected him.

You are full of wrath against your anointed.

You have renounced the covenant with your servant.

You have defiled his crown in the dust.

You have broken through all his walls.

You have laid his strongholds in ruins.

All who pass by despoil him.

He has become the scorn of his neighbors.

You have exalted the right hand of his foes.

You have made all his enemies rejoice.

Moreover,

You have turned back the edge of his sword.

You have not supported him in battle.

You have removed the scepter from his hand.

You hurled his throne to the ground.

You have cut short the days of his youth.

You have covered him with shame.”

Selah

Now there is a switch in tone in this psalm. Instead of the everlasting dynasty of David, this psalmist complains that God has abandoned David. In a series of complaints directly to God, using the second person “you,” he says that God has spurned and rejected David. His wrath or anger has turned on David. God has renounced the covenant with David. He has thrown his crown on the ground. He has broken down all the walls and ruined his fortresses. His foes now plunder him and scorn him as all the enemies now rejoice. The edge of his sword has turned on himself as he no longer has any support in battles. His scepter is gone as well as his youth. He is full of shame. This could be at the time of the revolt against David or a metaphor for the captivity that came to the descendents of David. The Israelites saw this captivity as a punishment from God. This section also ends with the musical interlude pause of Selah.

The hope of a quick response (Ps 69:16-69:18)

“Answer me!,

Yahweh!

Your steadfast love is good.

According to your abundant mercy,

Turn to me!

Do not hide your face from your servant!

I am in distress!

Make haste to answer me!

Draw near to me!

Redeem me!

Set me free

Because of my enemies!”

Now there is a change in tone. No longer is David waiting for a response. Now he wanted an answer right away. He pleaded to the goodness of God, his love for him, and his great mercy. He was in distress. He did not want God to hide his face from him. He wanted a hasty response. He wanted God close to him. He wanted God to see him so that he could be freed from his enemies. He wanted to be redeemed.

Public worship (Ps 66:1-66:4)

To the choirmaster leader, a song, a psalm

”Make a joyful noise to God!

All the earth!

Sing the glory of his name!

Give glorious praise to him!

Say to God.

‘How awesome are your deeds!

Because of your great power

Your enemies cringe before you.

All the earth worships you.

They sing praises to you.

They sing praises to your name.’”

Selah

Psalm 66 is a public worship thanksgiving song and psalm with a choral leader. It has a strong communitarian rather than individualistic tone. In fact, it is almost cosmic with all the earth asked to chime in with a joyful noise to God. They were to sing glory to his name. God’s deeds were awesome. He had such great power that his enemies would cringe. The whole earth worshipped God. They sang praises to him and his name. This section concludes with a musical interlude meditative pause, the Selah.