The terrible punishment (Am 6:12-6:14)

“Do horses run

On rocks?

Does one plow the sea

With oxen?

But you have turned

Justice

Into poison.

You have turned

The fruit of righteousness

Into wormwood.

You who rejoice

In Lo-debar!

You who say,

‘Have we not

By our own strength

Taken Karnaim

For ourselves?’

Indeed,

I am raising up

Against you

A nation.

O house of Israel!’

Says Yahweh!

The God of hosts!

They shall oppress you

From Lebo-Hamath

To the Wadi Arabah.”

Amos asked whether horses could run on rocks? Do you send oxen to plow the sea? While this may seem stupid, it is not sillier than turning justice into poison or the sweetness of righteousness into the bitterness of wormwood, which the Israelites had done. While the Israelite King Jeroboam II (783-743 BCE) had captured Lo-debar and Karnaim on the west side of the Jordan, that happiness would come to an end. They thought that they had done it by themselves. Now Yahweh, the God of heavenly armies, was going to send the Assyrians to wipe out the northern kingdom of the house of Israel, from its northern border in Syria at Lebo-Hamath to the southern border of the Wadi Arabah. Yahweh, the God of heavenly hosts, would put an end to the northern kingdom of Israel.

The Rechabites (Jer 35:2-35:2)

“Go to the house

Of the Rechabites!

Speak with them!

Bring them

To the house of Yahweh,

Into one of the chambers!

Then offer them wine

To drink!’”

This short chapter is all about the Rechabites. They get their name from Rechab, who was mentioned in 1 Chronicles, chapter 2, listed under the descendants of Hur. They seem to be descendants of Hammath, a northern city, or Hemath, a Kenite, who was also called Hobab. The Rechabites were not descendants of Jacob, but Kenites, a people originally settled in that part of Arabia called the land of Midian. They may have been the descendants of Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, who was a Kenite. Thus these Rechabites were not true Israelites, but were friendly to the Israelites. They were generally nomads in the desert, living in tents. The most prominent Rechabite may have been Jehonadab or Jonadab, the son of Rechab, in 2 Kings, chapter 10, where he joined with King Jehu of Israel (841-814 BCE) in helping wipe out the family of King Ahab of Israel (874-853 BCE). Yahweh told Jeremiah to go to their house, talk to them, and bring them back to the Temple in Jerusalem. There he was to find a chamber in the Temple and offer these Rechabites some wine. This seems like a simple task.

Lysias was put in charge of half the Syrian army (1 Macc 3:32-3:37)

“King Antiochus left Lysias, a distinguished man of royal lineage, in charge of the king’s affairs from the Euphrates River to the borders of Egypt.  Lysias was also to take care of his son Antiochus until he returned.  He turned over to Lysias half of his forces and the elephants.  He gave him orders about all that he wanted done.  As for the residents of Judea and Jerusalem, Lysias was to send a force against them to wipe out and destroy the strength of Israel and the remnant of Jerusalem.  He was to banish the memory of them from that place, settle aliens in all their territory, and distribute their land.  Then the king took the remaining half of his troops.  He left from his capital Antioch in the one hundred forty-seventh year.  He crossed the Euphrates River as he went through the upper provinces.”

Lysias was a Syrian nobleman who took over half the Seleucid army, the so-called western district from the Euphrates River to Egypt, what used to be called, the Province Beyond the River.  King Antiochus IV also put Lysias in charge of his son who was to become King Antiochus V.  Lysias’ half of the army was to destroy Judea and Jerusalem.  He was to reestablish that area with other people so that the memory of Judea would be forgotten, much like the Assyrians and Babylonians had done in the 7th and 6th century BCE.  King Antiochus IV would leave the capital of Antioch and take the other half of the army to Persia, the eastern side of the Euphrates River.  This all took place in the 147th year since the beginning of the Greek Seleucid reign, about 165 BCE.