“Look at the land of the Chaldeans!
This is the people.
It was not Assyria.
They destined Tyre
For wild animals.
They erected their siege towers.
They tore down her palaces.
They made her a ruin.
O ships of Tarshish!
Your fortress is destroyed!”
Isaiah proclaims that the Chaldeans, not the Assyrians had over run Tyre. The land of the Chaldeans was southern Mesopotamia or southern Assyria. They were a distinct Semitic group that later blended into the Assyrian population. Technically, they were not Assyria itself, because they fought for the Assyrians. They wanted Tyre to become a place for wild animals. They erected towers and tore down their palaces as they ruined the city of Tyre. Therefore those rich ships from Tarshish had no place to dock. Their cargo would be laid waste, without a place to unload and sell it.
Remember against the Edomites.
Remember the day of Jerusalem’s fall.
How they said.
‘Tear it down!
Tear it down!
Tear it down to its foundations!’
O daughter Babylon!
Happy shall they be
Those who pay you back
What you have done to us!
Happy shall they be
Those who take your little ones.
They shall dash them against the rock.”
This psalm ends by asking for the destruction of Babylon and its young people. The psalmist wanted to recall the day that the Edomites attacked Jerusalem. They tore down the walls in Jerusalem to its foundations. Now they were wishing evil to the devastated daughters of Babylon, the Babylonian people. They would be happy people when they paid them back for what they had done. In fact, in one of the cruelest curses, this psalmist wanted them to take the Babylonian little children and dash their heads against the rocks. With that somber image, this captivity psalm ends.
“Now Judas Maccabeus and his followers, the Lord leading them on, recovered the temple and the city. They tore down the altars which that had been built in the public square by the foreigners. They also destroyed the sacred precincts. They purified the sanctuary. They made another altar of sacrifice. Then, striking fire out of flint, they offered sacrifices. After a lapse of two years, they burned incense. They lighted lamps. They set out the bread of the Presence. When they had done this, they fell prostrate. They implored the Lord that they might never again fall into such misfortunes. If they should ever sin, they might be disciplined by him with forbearance and not be handed over to blasphemous and barbarous nations.”
This purification of the Temple by Judas Maccabeus took place earlier in 1 Maccabees, chapter 4, about a year before the death of King Antiochus IV. Here it is 2 years after the desecration of the Temple. In fact, the description in 1 Maccabees was more elaborate, but pretty much the same as here. There was no lamentation and mourning for the city and the Temple here. The Lord led them on here as the altars were in the public square. In 1 Maccabees, they saved the old stones. Here they just made another altar. They offered sacrifices, burned incense, lighted lamps, and set out the bread of Presence as in 1 Maccabees. Here there is a prayer to be more lenient next time if they do sin.
“Then there united with them a company of Hasideans, the mighty warriors of Israel. All offered themselves willingly for the law. All who became fugitives to escape their troubles joined them and reinforced them. They organized an army. They struck down sinners in their anger. They struck down renegades in their wrath. The survivors fled to the gentiles for safety. Mattathias and his friends went around and tore down the altars. They forcibly circumcised all the uncircumcised boys that they found within the borders of Israel. They hunted down the arrogant men. This work prospered in their hands. They rescued the law out of the hands of the gentiles and the kings. They never let the sinner gain the upper hand.”
Mattathias was joined by the Hasideans. These were “the pious ones,” the saints, the holy ones, the religious ascetics. They were strict followers of the Mosaic Law. They may have come out of the Nazarene movement of earlier times. These Hasideans may have merged into the Essences of the first century CE. Perhaps the Pharisees with their emphasis on the letter of the law may have developed from these Hasideans also. They were the mighty warriors of Israel, clearly against the creeping Hellenism of the 2nd century BCE. Anyone who had trouble with the law also joined Mattathias just as David had gathered around him those who had trouble with King Saul in 1 Samuel, chapter 22. This rugged group attacked Jewish sinners and renegades, those mentioned in chapter 1 of this book, who did not follow the Mosaic Law. They went around tearing down the pagan gentile altars. They forcibly circumcised any boy they found in Israel. They were like a righteous terrorist bully group that punished those who disagreed with them. However, they seem to have been succeeding.
“When Mattathias had finished speaking these words, a Jew came forward in the sight of all to offer sacrifice upon the altar in Modein, according to the king’s command. When Mattathias saw it, he burned with zeal. His heart was stirred. He gave vent to righteous anger. He ran and killed him on the altar. At the same time he killed the king’s officer who was forcing them to sacrifice. He tore down the altar. Thus he burned with zeal for the law, as Phinehas did against Zimri the son of Salu.”
I guess that I did not see this coming. This is real dramatic. This Jew, Israelite, or Judean was willing to offer the sacrifice to the idol. Mattathias was filled with righteous anger. Wow! What would unrighteous anger be like? He killed the man offering the sacrifice and the Syrian inspector official. Then he tore up the whole altar. The reference to Phinehas is to Numbers, chapter 25. In Numbers, Moses said that God wanted them to kill anyone who had sex with the women of Peor who were Baal worshippers. Phinehas saw an Israelite with a Median woman, so he killed both of them. Somehow that killing stopped a plague. Maybe he thought that this killing would stop the Syrians.
“Two years later, the king sent to the cities of Judah a chief collector of tribute. He came to Jerusalem with a large force. Deceitfully, he spoke peaceable words to them so that they believed him. However, he suddenly fell upon the city as he dealt it a severe blow. He destroyed many people of Israel. He plundered the city as he burned it with fire. He tore down its houses and its surrounding walls. They took captive the women and children. They seized the cattle. Then they fortified the city of David with a great strong wall and strong towers as it became their citadel. They stationed there a sinful people, men who were renegades. These strengthened their position. They stored up arms and food. They collected the spoils of Jerusalem and stored them there. They became a great menace.”
Around 167 BCE, King Antiochus IV again attacked Jerusalem. This time he sent mercenaries with a leader who was to collect tribute for the king. Instead of just collecting the tribute, he and his men attacked the city of Jerusalem. They killed people and plundered the city. They destroyed the houses and walls. They took the women, children, and cattle. Somehow, then they rebuilt the wall around the city of David and made it a citadel or fortress. Here they put those renegades, those terrible Jews who sided with Syria. They collected the spoils of Jerusalem and stored them there. This citadel will become the home of the army garrison for controlling Judea.