'Rise, YAHWEH, Awake!'
The People of YAHWEH were plunged in thick darkness
Sorrowful appeal, O my strength, come quickly to my help
There existed in Yerusalem a very small cell of resistance, determined to carry on. Some of the most heartrending tehillim (psalms) probably date from this period, particularly the sorrowful appeal that YAHSHUA was to repeat from the stake: "MY YAHWEH, MY YAHWEH, why have YOU deserted ME?"
The inspired writer explains his position; he describes the contempt in which he is held by his fellow-citizens who have gone over to the new gods:
All who see me jeer at me
they toss their heads and sneer,
“He relied on YAHWEH, let YAHWEH save him
If YAHWEH is his
friend, let Him rescue him!”.
Do not stand aside, YAHWEH.
O my strength, come quickly to my help;
rescue my soul from the sword
my dear life from the paw of the dog,
save me from the lion's mouth,
my poor soul
from the wild bulls' horns! (Tehillim 22)
The grief of the faithful was the more profound since at this period Yahwist theology, still in a primitive stage, was confined to the exclusive notion of reward or punishment on this earth; any reward after death was for the time being excluded. Such an idea only appeared in Jewish thought towards the end of the Old Covenant period (third or second century B.C.).
In any case a small group of Yahwist faithful still lived
in hope, deriving from events the lofty moral lesson which had hitherto been
unknown to man:
The little the virtuous possesses
outweighs all the wealth of the wicked. (Tehillim 37:16)
Manasseh certainly put an end to the prophetical campaigns which had broken out during the reign of his predecessor Hezekiah. The whole of this opposition party, too turbulent for the new king, was firmly muzzled. The silence of the prophets is sure evidence of this. The voice of Micaiah (Micah) alone was raised from time to time. Manasseh, the Second Book of Melechim (21: 16) tells us, shed innocent blood too, in such great quantity that he flooded Yerusalem from end to end. The metaphor shows that it was a severe persecution. Rabbinical tradition has it that on the occasion of one of these persecutions the prophet YeshaYahu was sawn in two in a hollow tree. It is not unlikely and is well in tune with the general atmosphere of the period.
A Gloomy Future For The Faithful Yahwist
Although for the time being YAHWEH seemed to be unready to act, from one moment to the next HIS faithful followers expected to see an exemplary punishment, as befitted their blasphemy, fall upon the faithless people. YAHWEH's plans were already known and commented on: 'YAHWEH, the Mighty One of Yisrael, says this: "Look, I will bring such disaster as to make the ears of all who hear it tingle. I will stretch over Yerusalem the same measuring line as over Samaria I will scour Yerusalem as a man scours a dish and, having scoured it turns it upside down. I will cast away the remnant of MY inheritance, 18 delivering them into the power of their enemies, and making them serve as prey and booty to all their enemies, because they have done what is displeasing to ME and have provoked MY anger' (2 Melechim 21 :13-15). These were hardly comforting predictions.
18 The 'remnant': the Judaeans, the only survivors of the Twelve Tribes after the destruction of Samaria.
Amon (642-640): Another Wicked Shepherd Of Yahudah
Amon was as wicked a king as his father. Fortunately he only reigned for two years. He pursued the same policy as his predecessor. Increasingly the official idolatry and sexual cults were flaunted abroad. In the centres of Yahwism (which scarcely deserved the name) there was no concern but for external ritual: the People of YAHWEH were plunged in thick darkness. The dialogue between YAHWEH and HIS prophet Micah reveals the heart of the matter:
With what gift shall I come into YAHWEH's presence
and bow down before the Almighty on high?
Shall I come with holocausts
with calves one year old?
Will he be pleased with rams by the thousand,
with libations of oil in torrents?
Must I give my first-born for what I have done wrong
the fruit of my
body for my own sin?
The answer is clear and forceful:
What is good has been explained to you, man;
this is what YAHWEH asks of you:
only this, to act justly,
to love tenderly
and to walk humbly with YAHWEH your Almighty.
The moral Law, the heartfelt appeals, proclaimed by the prophets remained a dead letter. Was it then so hard to follow this way? Obviously the flock needed a good shepherd, one worthy of the NAME, to lead them. With Josiah, the great reforming king, he appeared on the scene.