610 BC to 590 BC, Psalm 17: End of the Divine Presence.

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Nabuchodonosor_IIThis generation is that of the years between 610 BC and 590 BC.

To this generation succeed the last kings of the kingdom of Judah.
The generation begins with the end of the reign of King Josiah followed by the short reigns of Kings Joachaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin.
The generation ends on the beginning of reign of King Zedekiah, last king of Judah before the destruction of the first Temple and exile to Babylon.
The hope aroused by the reign of King Josiah has been short-lived. The kings who succeed one another in this generation, instead of following the example of the latter, repeat the errors of King Manasseh, condemning thus without appeal the kingdom of Judah.
The fall of the kingdom of Judah is initiated at this seventeenth generation. It ends with the next generation, the eighteenth, by the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.
The first king Joachaz had a short reign since it lasted only three months. Sufficient time, however, for Joachaz to be noticed by his misconduct:
  • And [1] he did what was evil in the eyes of the Lord, like all that his forefathers had done.
  • And Pharaoh-Neco imprisoned him in Riblah in the land of Hamath, to prevent him from reigning in Jerusalem.

This same [2] Pharaoh Nekko imposed Elyakim son of Josiah, whose name he changed into Jehoiakim to rule over Jerusalem. Jehoiakim reigned eleven years doing evil in the sight of the Lord, following the example of his ancestors.

However, Jehoiakim represents the fourth generation compared to Manasseh. By repeating the faults of Manasseh, he condemns himself to the final divine punishment.
However, it does not definitively condemn the people of Israel because in these four generations (Manasseh, Amon, Josiah, Jehoiakim), salvation is brought by the conduct of Josiah.
For the generation that interests us, Nebuchadnezzar appears to bring desolation to the kingdom of Judah, the sentence thus fell:
  • Indeed [3], it was by the order of the Lord against Judah to remove them from before Him, because of the sins of Manasseh (repeated by Jehoiakim ), according to all that he had done.
  • And also [because of] the innocent blood that he had shed, and he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood and the Lord did not want to forgive (– The fourth generation is the last limit to recover from fathers’ faults –).
He succeeds his son Jehoiachin who also reigns only three months. Here again the reign is long enough for Jehoiachin to be noticed for his misconduct:
  • And [4] he ( – Jehoiachin  -) did what was evil in the eyes of the Lord like all that his father ( – Jehoiakim -) had done.

Jehoiachin [5] was banished to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar, who replaced him on the throne of Jerusalem by Zedekiah whose real name was Mataniah.

Mataniah [6] was Jehoiachin’s uncle [6]. The reign of Zedekiah is straddling the seventeenth and eighteenth generation. However his reign interests us more by the destruction of the first Temple which is on the eighteenth generation.

Just as the fall of the kingdom of Israel had been preceded by the appearance of many prophets, this generation the last before the destruction is accompanied again by many prophecies.
First of all, that of Jeremiah which started during the previous generation but which takes its fullness during this generation and its turbulence. These will be supported by the prophecies of Nahum and Habakkuk without forgetting the emergence of Ezekiel at the end of this generation.
The seventeenth generation is the last during which the Jewish people can coexist with the Temple of Solomon and especially with his host, the Lord.
The eighteenth generation will see the destruction of the Temple of Solomon and especially the distance that will then take the Lord with his people who has never since returned to live in the holy mountain of Jerusalem.
If the rebuilding of the Temple will again allow the people of Israel to offer sacrifices to their God, the Lord (or at least his essence, the « Shekinah ») never returned to live in Jerusalem. For seventeen generations the people of Israel lived a certain fullness with the presence of the Lord within them even though these generations were the first of the one hundred and forty-seven curses that the people of Israel will have to undergo before their final redemption .
As we have already indicated, these one hundred and forty-seven curses are to be compared to one hundred and forty-seven years of the life of Jacob, a life which is the mirror of the destiny of the people of Israel since the death of Solomon.
Jacob who could not enjoy the fullness of the presence of his, and Joseph in particular, only over the last seventeen years of his life as shown by his complaint to Pharaoh:
  • So [7] Joseph brought his father Jacob and stood him before Pharaoh, and Jacob greeted Pharaoh.
  • And Pharaoh said to Jacob, « How many are the days of the years of your life? »
  • And Jacob said to Pharaoh, « The days of the years of my sojournings are one hundred thirty years. The days of the years of my life have been few and miserable, and they have not reached the days of the years of the lives of my forefathers in the days of their sojournings. »
The people of Israel, if they have been able to profit from the light of the Lord during these first seventeen generations, will return to the darkness of the eighteenth generation. And this for a hundred and thirty generations in the image of the first thirty-two years of Jacob’s life.
As Jeremiah confirms:
  • Hearken  [8] and give ear, do not be proud, for the Lord has spoken.
  • Give the Lord your God honor before it becomes dark, and before your feet stumble on the dark mountains, and you shall hope for light, but He will make it into darkness, and making it into a thick cloud.
  • And if you do not hearken to it ( – if you do not enjoy these trials to return to the Lord – ), in secret my soul will weep because of your pride and my eye shall weep sore and run down with tears, for the Lord’s flock has been captured.
It is before this dark future that David writes his psalm in preparation for the pangs of the night that await him. The psalm of this generation is, moreover, as its title indicates, « a prayer of David« :

(extract of the psalm 17 associated to this generation, verses 1  to  3 )

  • A prayer of David; Hearken, O Lord, to righteousness, listen to my cry, lend an ear to my prayer, [which is] without deceitful lips.
  • May my judgment come forth from before You; may Your eyes see [my] upright acts.
  • You have tried my heart; You have visited [upon me] at night. You have refined me and not found; If I think, let it not pass my mouth.
What Jeremiah responds to:
  • And [9] you ( this injunction seems well suited to respond to David’s supplication – ), pray not on behalf of this people, neither lift up cry nor prayer, and entreat Me ( – Jeremiah expresses himself by speaking in the name of the Lord -) not for I will not hear you.
  • Do you not see what they are doing in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem?
  • The sons are gathering wood, the fathers are kindling fire, and the women are kneading dough to make starshaped cakes for the queen of the heaven and to pour libations to other gods, in order to provoke Me.
  • Are they provoking Me? says the Lord. Are [they] not [provoking] themselves for the shame of their faces?
  • Therefore, so says the Lord God: Behold, My wrath and My fury reaches this place, upon man and upon beast, upon the trees of the field and upon the produce of the soil, and it shall burn and not be quenched.
And also :
  • And you [10], do not pray for this people, neither shall you lift up cry nor prayer, for I do not hearken at the time they call out to Me because of their misfortune.
In the face of divine determination, David resigns himself and at least asks that his people do not disappear completely as indicated in the following psalm (– prayer –) of this generation:

(extract of the psalm 17 associated to this generation, verses 4  to  14 )

  • As for man’s deeds, because of the word of Your lips, I kept [myself] from the ways of the profligate.
  • To support my feet in Your paths, lest my feet falter.
  • I called to You because You shall answer me, O God. Bend Your ear to me; hearken to my saying.
  • Distinguish Your kind acts to save, with Your right hand, those who take refuge [in You] from those who rise up [against them].
  • Guard me as the apple of the eye; in the shadow of Your wings You shall hide me.
  • Because of the wicked who have robbed me; my mortal enemies who encompass me.
  • [With] their fat, they closed themselves up; their mouths spoke with haughtiness.
  • [By] our footsteps they surround us now, they set their eyes roaming over the land.
  • His likeness is like a lion, which yearns for prey, and as a young lion, which lurks in hidden places.
  • Arise, O Lord, confront him; bring him down to his knees; rescue my soul from the wicked, Your sword.
  • Of those who die by Your hand, O Lord, of those who die of old age, whose share is in life, and whose belly You will fill with Your hidden treasure, who have children in plenty and leave their abundance to their babes.
Request that Jeremiah echoes again:
  • You [11] know, O Lord, remember me and think of me, and avenge me of my pursuers. Take me not to Your long suffering, know, I bore disgrace for Your sake.
  • Your words were found and I ate them, and Your word was to me a joy and a rejoicing of my heart, for Your name was called upon me, O Lord God of Hosts.
  • I did not sit in the council of merrymakers, nor did I rejoice; because of Your hand I sat in seclusion, for You filled me with fury.
  • Why was my pain perpetual, and my wound grievous? It has refused to heal; you are to me as a failing spring, water that is not faithful.
  • Therefore, so said the Lord: If you return, I will return you, you will stand before Me, and if you take the precious out of the vile, you shall be as My mouth. Let them return to you, but you shall not return to them.
  • And I will make you for this nation into a fortified copper wall, and they shall fight against you but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you to redeem you and to save you, says the Lord.
  • And I will save you from the hand of the wicked, and I will redeem you from the hand of the terrible.
On this, David takes note and hopes that the people of Israel will rise to the challenge to resist all night and survive until dawn. Image of the redemption of the people of Israel as indicated by the conclusion of the psalm:

(extract of the psalm 17 associated to this generation, verse  15 )

  • I will see Your face with righteousness; I will be satisfied with Your image upon the awakening.
Hope shared by Jeremiah:
  • Behold [12], days are coming, says the Lord, when I will set up of David ( – the author of the psalms – ) a righteous shoot, and he shall reign a king and prosper, and he shall perform judgment and righteousness in the land.
  • In his days, Judah shall be saved and Israel shall dwell safely, and this is his name that he shall be called, The Lord is our righteousness.

 

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[1] Melachim II – II Kings – Chapter 23, verses 32 and 33

[2] See:  Melachim II – II Kings – Chapter 23, verses 34 and following.

[3] Melachim II – II Kings – Chapter 24, verses 3 and 4

[4] Melachim II – II Kings – Chapter 24, verse 9

[5] See:  Melachim II – II Kings – Chapter 24, verses 8 and following.

[6] See: Divrei Hayamim II – II Chronicles – Chapter 36, verse 10. (Zedekiah is Jehoiachin‘s brother).

[7] Bereishit – Genesis – Chapter 47, verses 7 to 9

[8] Yirmiyahu – Jeremiah – Chapter 13, verses 15 to 17

[9] Yirmiyahu – Jeremiah – Chapter 7, verses 16 to 20

[10] Yirmiyahu – Jeremiah – Chapter 11, verse 14

[11] Yirmiyahu – Jeremiah – Chapter 15, verses 15 to 21

[12] Yirmiyahu – Jeremiah – Chapter 23, verses 5 and 6