The grieving widow Jerusalem (Bar 4:9-4:12)

“Jerusalem saw

The wrath

That came

Upon you

From God.

She said.

‘Listen!

You neighbors of Zion!

God has brought

Great sorrow

Upon me!

I have seen

The exile

Of my sons.

I have seen

The captivity

Of my daughters,

The Everlasting one

Brought this

Upon them.

With joy,

I nurtured them.

But I sent them away

Weeping

With sorrow.

Let no one rejoice

Over me!

A widow!

I am bereaved of many.

I was left desolate

Because of the sins

Of my children.

Because they turned away

From the law of God.’”

The author of Baruch points out that Jerusalem saw the wrath of God that came upon them first hand. This personified city of Jerusalem said that the neighbors of Zion should listen. God had brought great sorrow on Jerusalem, since her sons and daughters were captured and exiled. The Everlasting One, the name of God used here instead of Yahweh, brought this exile on them. Jerusalem had nurtured them, but she sent them away weeping and in sorrow. No one should rejoice about this situation, since Jerusalem was now a widow, grieving over many people. She had become desolate because of the sins of her children. They had turned away from the law of God.

They would not listen (Jer 44:4-44:6)

“Yet I persistently sent

To you

All my servants,

The prophets,

Saying,

‘I beg you not to do

This abominable thing

That I hate!’

But they did not listen

Or incline their ear.

They did not turn

From their wickedness.

They continued to make

Offerings to other gods.

So my wrath,

With my anger,

Was poured out.

I kindled a fire

In the towns of Judah

As well as in the streets of Jerusalem.

They became a waste.

They became a desolation,

As they still are today.”

Once again, Yahweh reminded these Judeans in Egypt that he had warned them, since he had persistently sent his prophet servants to tell them to stop doing those hated abominable things. However, they never listened to these prophets. They never turned away from their wicked ways of presenting offerings to other gods. Thus Yahweh, the God of Israel, got mad. He poured out his wrath on the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem. They both became a waste and desolation, like they were today, at the time of this oracle.

The curse of Yahweh (Jer 17:5-17:6)

“Thus says Yahweh.

‘Cursed are those

Who trust in mere mortals!

Cursed are those

Who make mere flesh

Their strength!

Cursed are those

Whose hearts turn away

From Yahweh!

They are

Like a shrub in the desert.

They shall not see

When relief comes.

They shall live

In the parched places

Of the wilderness.

They shall live

In an uninhabited salt land.’”

Jeremiah had Yahweh issue a curse, not a blessing. If they trusted in mere mortals, if they made their own flesh their strength, and if their hearts turned away from Yahweh, they would be cursed. They are like shrubs in a desert that do not know when help is coming to them. They will live in a wild parched land. They will live in uninhabitable salt lands. Their punishment would be a hard life with bad soil.

The stubborn rebellious heart (Jer 5:22-5:25)

“‘Do you not fear me?’

Says Yahweh.

‘Do you not tremble before me?

I placed the sand

As a boundary for the sea.

This is a perpetual barrier

That it cannot pass.

Though the waves toss,

They cannot prevail.

Though they roar,

They cannot pass over it.

But these people have a stubborn heart.

They have a rebellious heart.

They have turned aside.

They have gone away.

They do not say in their hearts.

‘Let us fear Yahweh our God.

He gives the rain in its season.

He gives the autumn rain.

He gives the spring rain.

He keeps for us

The weeks appointed for the harvest.’

Your iniquities have turned these away.

Your sins have deprived you of good.”

Why don’t they fear Yahweh? Why don’t they tremble before him? Yahweh has placed sand as a perpetual barrier against the sea so that the sea cannot pass over it. Even though the waves toss and roar, they still were not able to prevail and pass over the sand. They have a stubborn and rebellious heart. They have turned away and gone astray. They do not fear Yahweh their God. Yahweh gives the perfect rain for every season with autumn and spring rains. Yet they have sunshine for the harvest time. Yahweh, via Jeremiah reminds them that their iniquities have turned them away from him. Their sins have deprived them of the good things in life.

Serving strangers in a foreign land (Jer 5:18-5:19)

“But even in those days

Says Yahweh.

‘I will not make a full end of you.

When your people say,

‘Why has Yahweh our God

Done all these things to us?’

You shall say to them.

‘As you have forsaken me,

As you served foreign gods

In your land,

So you shall serve strangers

In a land that is not yours.’”

Yahweh explained to Jeremiah what he was to say to those people who complained about the actions of Yahweh. First, Yahweh was not going to completely eliminate them. However, they were being punished for serving gods in the land that their God, Yahweh, gave them. They had turned away from Yahweh. Thus they now would have to serve strangers in a land that is not their own.

False justice (Isa 10:1-10:4)

“Woe to you

Who make iniquitous decrees!

Woe to you

Who write oppressive statutes!

You turn aside

The needy from justice!

You rob the poor of my people

Of their right!

Widows may be your spoil!

You make the orphans your prey!

What will you do

On the day of punishment?

What will you do

In the calamity

That will come from afar?

To whom will you flee for help?

Where will you leave your wealth?

Will you crouch among the prisoners?

Will you fall among the slain?

For all this

His anger has not turned away.

His hand is still stretched out.”

Isaiah then curses those who practice injustice, those who make evil decrees and oppressive statutes. He was against those who took away justice and robbed the poor people of their rights. These unjust people took stuff from the widows and the orphans as if they were taking spoil after a war or prey for an animal. What were they going to do on the punishment day? In troubles, who would help them? Where were they going to leave their wealth? They might end up as a prisoner or get killed. Once again, this little section ends with the refrain that the angry hand of Yahweh has not turned away, since it is still stretched out today.

Going to get the Ark of the Covenant (Ps 132:8-132:10)

“Rise up!

Yahweh!

Go to your resting place,

You and the Ark of your might.

Let your priests be clothed with righteousness.

Let your faithful shout for joy.

For your servant David’s sake

Do not turn away

The face of your anointed one.”

The psalmist wanted Yahweh to rise up and go to his resting place. He wanted Yahweh and the Ark of the Covenant to go to Jerusalem. He wanted the priests to be clothed with righteousness and the faithful people to shout for joy. He wanted David, Yahweh’s servant and anointed one, not to be turned away. The trip of the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem can be found in 2 Samuel, chapter 6.

The golden calf (Ps 106:19-106:23)

“They made a calf in Horeb.

They worshiped a cast image.

They exchanged the glory of God

For the image of an ox that eats grass.

They forgot God!

Their Savior!

He had done great things in Egypt.

He had done wondrous works in the land of Ham.

He had done awesome things by the Red Sea.

Therefore he said

That he would destroy them.

But Moses,

His chosen one,

Stood in the breach before him.

He wanted God

To turn away his wrath

From destroying them.”

This is a sanitized version of the story in Exodus, chapter 32. While Moses was at the top of the Sinai Mountain with Yahweh, Aaron and the Israelites built a golden calf at Horeb or Sinai as it is called. They then worshipped this golden ox as they turned away from Yahweh. They forgot how he had saved them in Egypt and the all the deeds that he done for them in the land of Ham, Egypt, and the Red Sea. Yahweh wanted to destroy them all. However, Moses interceded with God to turn his anger away so that he did not destroy them.

King Antiochus got the bad news about Judah (1 Macc 6:5-6:7)

“Then someone came to King Antiochus in Persia. He reported that the armies which had gone into the land of Judah had been routed. Lysias had gone out with a strong force, but had been turned away. He fled before the Jews. The Jews had grown strong from the arms, supplies, and abundant spoils which they had taken from the armies they had cut down. They had torn down the abomination that he had erected upon the altar in Jerusalem. They had surrounded the sanctuary with high walls as before, and also Beth-zur, his town.”

King Antiochus IV was in Persia, probably Ecbatana the former capital when he got word about the failure of Lysias in Judah. The Jews had taken the spoils from his army and grew stronger. They had taken down his statue of a god in Jerusalem. The biblical author calls it an abomination. They had taken back the town of Jerusalem.