The tents and curtains (Hab 3:7-3:7)

“I saw the tents

Of Cushan

Under affliction.

I saw the curtains

Of the land of Midian

Tremble.”

Habakkuk said that he saw the afflicted tents of Cushan.  Where is this Cushan?  It is probably not Cush in Ethiopia.  However, it could be a tribe next to the Midians in the Sinai area.  In Midian, the curtains on their tents were shaking or trembling.  This might be a vague allusion to the route from Egypt to the promised land.

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Against Edom (Am 1:11-1:12)

“Thus says Yahweh.

‘For three transgressions

Of Edom,

And for four,

I will not revoke

The punishment.

Because he pursued

His brother

With the sword.

He cast off all pity.

He maintained

His anger perpetually.

He kept his wrath forever.

So,

I will send a fire

On Teman.

It shall devour

The strongholds of Bozrah.’”

Edom was southeast of Judah and south of the Dead Sea. Yahweh, via Amos, invoked the same language as he had used against Damascus, the Philistines, and Tyre. He used the same numeric formula of 3 and 4, like in Proverbs, chapter 30. Edom was considered a brother of Israel, because its founder was Esau, the twin brother of Jacob. Edom had tried to kill the Israelites with a sword. They had no pity, since they were perpetually angry. Thus, Yahweh was going to send fire down on Teman, either a tribe or small village in Edom. He was also going to devour the fortress in Bozrah, the capital city of Edom, in present day Jordan.

Oracle about Kedar (Isa 21:16-21:17)

“Thus Yahweh said to me.

‘Within a year,

According to the years of a hired worker,

All the glory of Kedar

Will come to an end.

The remaining bows of Kedar’s warriors

Will be few.’

Yahweh,

The God of Israel,

Has spoken.”

Kedar was another wandering northern Arab tribe. This time Yahweh spoke the oracle to Isaiah. Apparently, the Kedar tribe was more aggressive, since within a hired worker’s year, their glory would come to an end. Their warriors and their bows would be few. This clearly was a spoken oracle by Yahweh, the God of Israel.

Mordecai and Esther (Esth 2:5-2:7)

“Now there was a Jew in Susa the capital, whose name was Mordecai, son of Jair, son of Shimei, son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin. The family of Kish had been carried away from Jerusalem, among the captives carried away with King Jeconiah of Judah, whom King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had captured. Mordecai had brought up Hadassah, that is Esther, his cousin. She did not have a father or mother. She was the daughter of his uncle, Aminadab. Esther was fair and beautiful in appearance. When her parents died, he brought her up to womanhood as his own daughter.”

Mordecai was a Benjaminite, the same as King Saul, and thus part of Judah. His family was brought into captivity by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon with the sitting king of Judah in 587 BCE. Things turned better for the captured Jews under the Persian kings, especially after King Cyrus in 539 BCE. This is about 50 years after that. Anyway, Mordecai’s uncle Aminadab and his wife had died, so that he took care of their young daughter Esther, who was his first cousin. He was either her foster father or adopted father, but really was a first cousin, since their father’s were brothers. Once again, there are slight differences between the Hebrew and Greek text. Aminadab was not mentioned in the Hebrew text, only in the Greek text. Also the Jewish name of Esther is only found in the Hebrew text as Hadassah, but not in the Greek text.

 

Mordecai (Greek text only)

“In the second year of the reign of King Artaxerxes the Great, on the first day of Nisan, Mordecai son of Jair, son of Shimei, son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, had a dream. He was a Jew, living in the city of Susa, a great man, serving in the court of the king. He was one of the captives whom King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had brought from Jerusalem with King Jeconiah of Judea.”

First you will notice there is no chapter and verse. To be honest, that was a medieval concept. The idea of chapter divisions began in the 9th century CE, but was codified in the 13th century CE with Stephan Langton. Finally in the 16th century, with the widespread use of printing, chapter and verse numbers became common. However, the problem here is that these additions are only in the Greek Septuagint edition of this work, while the official Hebrew version has chapter and verse numbers. The Jerusalem Bible puts these verses in italics, while the Oxford Bible calls them additions. I have decided to use the pre-medieval technique of using neither chapters nor verses, just simply the phrase “Greek text only.” I have inserted these texts where they are found in these 2 biblical additions.

Interesting enough, the setting is slightly earlier than Nehemiah and Ezra, but during the reign of King Artaxerxes the Great (465-424 BCE). It also takes place at the capital of Persia, Susa. Mordecai, like Nehemiah, was a Jewish court official. Apparently some of the captive Jews served the royal family in various positions. Once again, it is the Persians who are tolerant of the Jews. The text says that Mordecai was a captive taken in the Babylonian captivity of King Nebuchadnezzar, but that would put Mordecai over a 100 years old. He may have been a member of a Jewish family that was taken captive in 587 BCE. Unlike Tobit, who was a northern Israelite, Mordecai was a Benjaminite which puts him closer to Saul than David.

The Israelites have no false gods (Jdt 8:18-8:20)

“For never in our generation,

Nor in these present days,

Has there been any tribe, family, people, or town of ours

That worshiped gods made with hands,

As was done in days gone by.

That was why our ancestors were handed over to the sword.

They were plundered.

They suffered a great catastrophe before our enemies.

But we know no other god but him.

We hope that he will not disdain us or any of our nation.”

Unlike times past, when their ancestors strayed, the Israelites today in this generation have never worshipped gods made with human hands. Our tribe, our family, our people, and our towns have never worshipped human gods. Our ancestors did and they suffered the consequences of death, plundering, and catastrophes. We know no other god except our God. We can only hope that he will not disdain us or anyone of our country.

Judith (Jdt 8:1-8:8)

“Now in those days, Judith heard about these things. She was the daughter of Merari son of Ox, son of Joseph, son of Oziel, son of Elkiah, son of Ananias, son of Gideon, son of Raphaim, son of Ahitub, son of Elijah, son of Hilkiah, son of Eliab, son of Nathanael, son of Salamiel, son of Sarasadai, son of Israel. Her husband Manasseh, who belonged to her tribe and family, had died during the barley harvest. As he stood overseeing those who were binding sheaves in the field, he was overcome by the burning heat. He took to his bed and died in his town Bethulia. So they buried him with his ancestors in the field between Dothan and Balamon. Judith had remained as a widow for three years and four months at home where she set up a tent for herself on the roof of her house. She put sackcloth about her waist and dressed in widow’s clothing. She fasted all the days of her widowhood, except the day before the Sabbath and the Sabbath itself, the day before the new moon and the day of the new moon, and the festivals and days of rejoicing of the house of Israel. She was beautiful in appearance. She was very lovely to behold. Her husband Manasseh had left her gold and silver, men and women slaves, livestock, and fields. She maintained this estate. No one spoke ill of her. She feared God with great devotion.”

Now the main protagonist of this book appears on the scene, almost half way through this book. We learn about Judith’s rich genealogical background that includes many important people. What can we tell from her genealogy? She was the daughter of Merari, which is a Levite name. Joseph was a common name also. The names of Oziel and Elkiah are unique to her. The other names associated with famous people were Gideon, Elijah, and Hilkiah, but there was no attempt to associate those men with these men mentioned here. Many of the other names are hard to connect with anyone. Her husband, of the same tribe and family, died of sunstroke overseeing his workers. I wonder what happened to the workers. She was a well to do widow for over 3 years. She was very upright in all that she did.   Her name, Judith, literally means female Jew. She had a tent on her roof and wore sackcloth. She fasted all the time except for the Sabbath eve, the Sabbath, the new moons, and the other Jewish festivals. New moons keep appearing as a day to celebrate. She was beautiful, of course. On top of that, she was rich, inheriting her husband’s estate of gold, silver, slaves, livestock, and fields. There is no mention of her children if there were any. No one spoke ill of her because she feared God with a great devotion. This is the kind of description that many medieval female Christian saints enjoyed. She heard about what was going on in town.