Fr. James' Lectionary

The Lectionary is both a reading program for completing all of Holy Scripture on a one year schedule, and a daily comment on a portion of the day's reading wedded to a poem to give an added perspective on the theme.

Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Sea Peoples

Daily Readings
Psalm 27 Genesis 23 Isaiah 23 Acts 21

Daily Text: Isaiah 23

The Sea Peoples
In this final chapter of oracles against the nations, the sea peoples are targeted. Note all the lands surrounding Judah—north, east and south—have been highlighted. In each case Judah’s God, YHWH, is all powerful. Now we turn west to the coasts of the Mediterranean Sea. Phoenician cities, particularly Tyre and Sidon, the island of Cypress and Tarshish on the southern Atlantic coast of Spain are all named. The oracles focus on Sidon and Tyre, though there is much confusion between the two for the contemporary reader. At times to substitute Canaan or Phoenicia for one of the named might be helpful.
There is active disagreement about placing these prophecies historically, and disputes range from the 9th century to the 3rd! Without suggesting a solution, the text essentially speaks of the demise of both Tyre and Sidon, powerful and wealthy merchant shipping cultures, though the prophecy explicitly against Tyre, vss. 13-18, is generally thought to be later than the one against Sidon, vss. 1-12. References to Tarshish essentially speak of merchant vessels that originate on the coast of Spain or perhaps vessels with crews that originate there. Their home port, however, is Sidon, and that is destroyed. They can flee back to Cyprus, whence they have sailed when they discover the unhappy news, but if they do they will learn that Cyprus too is either under attack or seriously damaged. There were evidently Phoenician peoples in Cyprus. Isaiah tells the Judeans that it is their God that has brought this on. He has planned it. The command has been given to destroy the fortresses of Canaan or Phoenicia. Tyre, in particular, will not rise for 70 years. Is this while Israel is in exile? And when it does grow back to flourish its wealth will flow to the LORD and his people in Jerusalem. She will essentially be the LORD’s slave.
There is much fear of Moslems in the West these days. It was like that in Isaiah’s time. Not a fear of Moslems, for there were none, but there was fear of Assyria and Chaldea, Egypt and Ethiopia, Moab, Elam, Edom and the coastal peoples. Fear the stranger, fight the alien, but in the end our God is more powerful than their gods they were told. This message Isaiah gives clearly. There is no one you need fear. Serve God and live in peace. Indeed, the active practice of serving God will create peace for ourselves and for the world. Any other practice is not of God by definition. Challenge, always challenge for God’s people.

Edwin Markham

We are all blind until we see
That in the human plan
Nothing is worth the making if
It does not make the man.

Why build these cities glorious
If man unbuilded goes?
In vain we build the work, unless
The builder also grows.

Collect for the Day
I bind unto myself today
the power of God to hold and lead,
his eye to watch, his might to stay,
his ear to hearken to my need;
the wisdom of my God to teach,
his hand to guide, his shield to ward,
the word of God to give me speech,
his heavenly host to be my guard.
[475:498, St. Patrick , 389-461]


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