210 BC to 190 BC, Psalm 37: The wicked will not prevail.

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Stich, Abbildung, gravure, engraving : 1881This generation is from the years between 210 BC and 190 BC.

This generation is mainly marked by the shift of Jerusalem in the Seleucid empire and thus the end of the dependence on Lagide power. It is particularly Antiochos III that will mark this generation, his reign begins in 223 BC, but its influence on Jerusalem will be marked only for this generation. The adverse outcome of the battle of Raphia prevented the previous generation from taking power in Jerusalem. Antiochos III dies in 187 BC.

Tetradrachm_Ptolemy_VThe fifth « Syrian war » that begins in 201 BC, installs the Seleucid power in Palestine. In 205 BC, a new pharaoh, Ptolemy V Epiphanius, aged five, ascended the throne, Antiochos III think his time arrived and allied with Philip V of Macedonia. The two accomplices negotiate a dismantling of the kingdom Lagide.

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The hostilities begin in 201 BC: Antiochos invades Palestine. The lagid reaction is insufficient to recover the province. The defeat Lagide is final, when in 200 BC, the Syrians, led by Antiochos, take Palestine after the defeat of Panion. The new occupants are greeted with good grace by Jews who expect the new regime to improve their lot. Ballasted from one camp to another, ravaged by the soldiery, the region comes out exhausted from the Seleuco-lagid confrontation. Peace returns with the conquest of Palestine by Antiochos III. The time of reconstruction has come.
Antiochus decided to repopulate Jerusalem by reminding the scattered elders of the city, to give money to finance the Temple sacrifices, not to collect taxes on the materials needed for the Temple, to exempt all those who wish to live in Jerusalem in order to repopulate it. It also forbids the access of Jerusalem to any unpurified Jew, to introduce any impure meat. It also allowed nearly two thousand Jews from Babylon to settle in Jerusalem.

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However, during this change of power of prime importance to Jerusalem, another upheaval that will have much wider effects on Jerusalem and the world is being prepared. Until then Rome was a significant power but did not frighten the Greek world. The Punic wars between Rome and Carthage will change the game, the confrontation will have to be born a giant, it is Rome who wins.

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In fact Antiochos III had targeted the Lagide empire leaving Hannibal alone to fight against Rome. Rome prevents the latter from reorganizing Carthage by exiling him after the battle of Zama in 202 BC which puts an end to the second Punic war for the benefit of Rome. Rome can then build his empire. The Greeks will learn it at their expense.
Thus King Philip V of Macedon, who had benefited more from the clash between Rome and Carthage than brought an ally’s help to the latter, would resist only a few years when Rome decided to conquer the ancient Greek possessions. After being defeated in 197 BC at Cynocéphales, he will be forced to peace in 196 BC. Thus the beneficial contribution of the Seleucids to Jerusalem is only temporary and illusory.
After his victory over the Lagides, the reign of Antiochus III, could have unfolded as a long calm river and end in security.
Las! The sovereign wanted to interfere in the affairs of Greece. Evil took him. The case is important because it leads the Seleucid dynasties to their end and the establishment of power in Rome in the East. Antiochos III intervenes in Greece and clashes with Rome, the great power on the rise. The Romans had defeated Philip V, in 197 BC, and proclaimed a year later the « freedom of the Hellenes ». Antiochos III, by his intervention calls into question this freedom of the Greek cities. This Seleucid refusal provokes a terrible Roman reaction.

Ingres_Scipion_Antiochus_1800Antiochos, defeated at Magnesia in 189 BC, must then comply with the very strict terms of the Apamea peace treaty, signed in 188 BC. Antiochos III lost all his possessions in Asia Minor, as well as his elephants – a formidable weapon – and his fleet, he must pay 12,000 talents and deliver his son, future Antiochos IV, as hostage in Rome.

To pay its debt, the Seleucid state tries to get money by all means, including the most fraudulent. He will even go so far as to sell the office of high priest of Jerusalem to the highest bidder! Already we see the causes of the revolt of the Maccabees appearing.
In 187 BC, in search of money, Antiochos III went to Elymaid to plunder the temple of God Bel, a temple that was filled with gold and silver. He finds death there like a vulgar bandit, in this shameful bag.
The Seleucids, at the beginning of their reign over Jerusalem, behaved rather well towards the Jewish people. it is probable that they were already cultivating what will provoke the revolt of the Maccabees: an import of Greek culture into Jewish populations to the detriment of traditional worship.
The new Lagide power through its apparent opening and the population movements it orchestrated will directly oppose traditional Jews who remained in Jerusalem to Jews open to the new Greek culture from the Seleucid provinces. The latter will not consider Greek culture as a culture that can be associated with traditional Jewish culture but as a culture to supplant it.
We find ourselves at a pivotal generation, the Lagide empire is nearing its end, the Seleucid Empire is taking its place at the level of Jerusalem’s rule, Rome is beginning to appear in the near horizon of Jerusalem.
A first warning shot will be brought to the next generation by Antiochus IV Epiphanius who is « being formed in Rome » and soon to be followed by Rome’s direct rule over the land of Israel. This domination will lead to the destruction of the second Temple to the exile of the Jews of the land of Israel who will not cease to live since under the control of the sons of Esau, the heirs of Rome.
It is all the complexity of this generation with all the seeds of what will be the fate of the Jews during the rest of the generations of the night that David portrays in his psalm:

(extract of the psalm 37 associated to this generation, verses 1 to 40 )

  • Of David. Do not compete with the evildoers; do not envy those who commit injustice.
  • For they will be speedily cut off like grass and wither like green vegetation.
  • Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and be nourished by faith. 
    • Jews should not be seduced by the lark mirror of Greek culture. Whatever its attractions and the wisdom of the Greek philosophers, the true salvation comes from the sacred texts already held by the Jewish people.
  • So shall you delight in the Lord, and He will give you what your heart desires.
  • Commit your way to the Lord, and trust in Him and He will act.
  • And He will reveal your righteousness like the light, and your judgments like noon.
  • Wait for the Lord and hope for Him; do not compete with one whose way prospers, with a man who executes malicious plans.
  • Desist from anger and forsake wrath; do not compete only to do evil.
  • For evildoers shall be cut off, and those who hope for the Lord-they will inherit the land.
    • By remaining faithful to the Lord, even if adversaries temporarily take over, the Lord always returns to His people. So even if the Seleucids go, in a short time, to defile the Temple, this one will return to the people of Israel. The miracle of Chanukah (the light) will then reaffirm the legitimacy of the people of Israel on their land and vis-à-vis the Temple of Jerusalem. 
  • A short while longer and the wicked man is not here, and you shall look at his place and he is not there.
    • This is obviously true for the last Lagide ruler who disappears from the horizon for Jerusalem at the beginning of this generation, but this will be true for all generations. Every « wicked » who will rise up against the people of Israel will eventually disappear leaving the way open to the Jewish people until they are completely free from the tutelage of the people.
  • But the humble shall inherit the land, and they shall delight in much peace.
  • The wicked man plots against the righteous and gnashes his teeth at him.
  • The Lord will scoff at him because He saw that his day will come.
  • The wicked initiated war and bent their bow to cast down the poor and the needy, to slay those who walk on a straight path.
  • Their sword shall enter their heart, and their bows shall be broken.
  • The few of the righteous are better than the multitude of many wicked men.
  • For the arms of the wicked shall be broken, but the Lord supports the righteous.
  • The Lord knows the days of the innocent, and their inheritance will be forever.
  • They will not be ashamed in time of calamity, and in days of famine they shall still be satisfied.
  • For the wicked will perish, and the enemies of the Lord are like disappearing light on the plains; they are consumed in smoke, yea they are consumed.
  • A wicked man borrows and does not pay, but the Righteous one is gracious and gives.
  • For those blessed by Him will inherit the land, and those cursed by Him will be cut off. 
    • David reminds us that it is not in the short term that one can judge the divine action. God counts the acts of each one and will do justice to the end of times when the people of Israel who will have passed through the night will find their place with God. While those who have benefited from its apparent vulnerability throughout the twilight will have a fair reward for their actions.
  • From the Lord a mighty man’s steps are established, for He delights in his way.
  • If he falls, he will not be cast down, for the Lord supports his hand.
  • I was young, I also aged, and I have not seen a righteous man forsaken and his seed seeking bread.
  • All day long he is gracious and lends, and his seed is due for a blessing.
  • Shun evil and do good, and dwell forever.
  • For the Lord loves justice, and He shall not forsake His pious ones; they will be guarded forever, but the seed of the wicked shall be cut off. 
    • David has seen the future of his people unfold for nearly three thousand years and knows that despite the many misfortunes that will befall the people of Israel, the reward is at the end of the road for those of his people who remain faithful to the divine covenant. This is what he says in his passage: « I was young, I also aged« , this expresses this long journey that followed David. And David knows that at the end of this period the Jews who have remained faithful will regain sovereignty over their land with God. It is therefore not necessary that the Jews of this generation, among others, be attracted by the sirens of the Greek world that will lead only to destruction.
  • The righteous shall inherit the land and dwell forever in it.
  • The righteous man’s mouth utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks judgment.
  • The law of his God is in his heart; his feet do not falter.
  • The wicked man watches for the righteous man and seeks to put him to death.
  • The Lord shall not leave him in his hands, and He shall not condemn him [the righteous] when he [the wicked] is judged.
  • Hope to the Lord and keep His way; He will exalt you to inherit the land, and you will witness the destruction of the wicked.
    • David confirms the final fate that awaits the righteous at the end of time, and that the only true value of this world is that which the Lord has transmitted.
  • I saw a wicked man, powerful, well-rooted as a native who is fresh.
  • And he passed away and behold! he is not here, and I sought him and he was not found.
  • Observe the innocent and see the upright, for there is a future for the man of peace.
  • But transgressors were destroyed together; the future of the wicked was cut off.
  • But the salvation of the righteous is from the Lord, their stronghold in time of distress.
  • The Lord helped them and rescued them; He rescued them from the wicked and saved them because they took refuge in Him. 
    • David concludes this psalm by witnessing who is waiting for the world at the end of time. To ensure that his people retain the lesson of not being seduced by values contrary to divine values.

 

 

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