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Ashes & sackcloth in the Bible – Expressions of extreme grief or great injustice : Article

sackcloth_ashes

Sackcloth and ashes were worn/used by people in the Bible to signify times when they were undergoing extreme grief – this was punctuated by some great injustice that had occurred. It was also used to signify repentance and humbling of oneself. The following is a comprehensive list of people in the Bible who wore sackcloth when they were undergoing troubling times or were asked by God or the prophets to put on sackcloth and mourn their coming destruction which they had bought on themselves by their sinful ways

Jacob

The first instance we see of sackcloth in the Bible is when Jacob tears his clothes and puts on sackcloth when he hears the news that his son Joseph was potentially killed by wild beasts. Joseph’s jealous brothers after getting rid of him, dipped Joseph’s coat of many colors in goat blood and tricked their father Jacob into believing that he was killed by wild beasts. Jacob in sorrow and shock tears his clothes and dons sackcloth. He goes into mourning and refused to be comforted by his sons or daughters – Jacob was consumed with so much sorrow that he says that he will go down to his grave mourning for his son Joseph

Genesis 37:31-35
31 And they took Joseph’s coat, and killed a kid of the goats, and dipped the coat in the blood;
32 And they sent the coat of many colors, and they brought it to their father; and said, This have we found: know now whether it be your son’s coat or no.
33 And he knew it, and said, It is my son’s coat; an evil beast has devoured him; Joseph is without doubt rent in pieces.
34 And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth on his loins, and mourned for his son many days.
35 And all his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted; and he said, For I will go down into the grave to my son mourning. Thus his father wept for him.


David

• King David weeps and mourns for Saul’s army captain Abner who was killed in cold blood by David’s army captain – Joab. Joab tricks Abner who came in peace and kills him in retaliation for Abner killing Joab’s brother Asahel during the battle at Gibeon. David laments that a great man and prince had been killed by his captain Joab. David tells Joab and all the people that were with him to rend their clothes, put on sackcloth and mourn for Abner. At the funeral, the people went to David and asked him to eat meat while it was yet day but David swore, saying, So do God to me, and more also, if I taste bread, or anything else, till the sun be down. The people took notice of this and it pleased them.  That day, seeing David’s sorrowful reaction to Abner’s death and his lamentation and refusal to eat at his funeral, the people and all of Israel understood that it was not king David’s intention to kill Abner.

2 Samuel 3:20-39
20 So Abner came to David to Hebron, and twenty men with him. And David made Abner and the men that were with him a feast.
21 And Abner said to David, I will arise and go, and will gather all Israel to my lord the king, that they may make a league with you, and that you may reign over all that your heart desires. And David sent Abner away; and he went in peace.
22 And, behold, the servants of David and Joab came from pursuing a troop, and brought in a great spoil with them: but Abner was not with David in Hebron; for he had sent him away, and he was gone in peace.
23 When Joab and all the host that was with him were come, they told Joab, saying, Abner the son of Ner came to the king, and he has sent him away, and he is gone in peace.
24 Then Joab came to the king, and said, What have you done? behold, Abner came to you; why is it that you have sent him away, and he is quite gone?
25 You know Abner the son of Ner, that he came to deceive you, and to know your going out and your coming in, and to know all that you do.
26 And when Joab was come out from David, he sent messengers after Abner, which brought him again from the well of Sirah: but David knew it not.
27 And when Abner was returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside in the gate to speak with him quietly, and smote him there under the fifth rib, that he died, for the blood of Asahel his brother.
28 And afterward when David heard it, he said, I and my kingdom are guiltless before the LORD for ever from the blood of Abner the son of Ner:
29 Let it rest on the head of Joab, and on all his father’s house; and let there not fail from the house of Joab one that has an issue, or that is a leper, or that leans on a staff, or that falls on the sword, or that lacks bread.
30 So Joab, and Abishai his brother slew Abner, because he had slain their brother Asahel at Gibeon in the battle.
31 And David said to Joab, and to all the people that were with him, Rend your clothes, and gird you with sackcloth, and mourn before Abner. And king David himself followed the bier.
32 And they buried Abner in Hebron: and the king lifted up his voice, and wept at the grave of Abner; and all the people wept.
33 And the king lamented over Abner, and said, Died Abner as a fool dies?
34 Your hands were not bound, nor your feet put into fetters: as a man falls before wicked men, so fell you. And all the people wept again over him.
35 And when all the people came to cause David to eat meat while it was yet day, David swore, saying, So do God to me, and more also, if I taste bread, or ought else, till the sun be down.
36 And all the people took notice of it, and it pleased them: as whatever the king did pleased all the people.
37 For all the people and all Israel understood that day that it was not of the king to slay Abner the son of Ner.
38 And the king said to his servants, Know you not that there is a prince and a great man fallen this day in Israel?
39 And I am this day weak, though anointed king; and these men the sons of Zeruiah be too hard for me: the LORD shall reward the doer of evil according to his wickedness.

• David sings praises to God in that his mourning has been turned into joy and his sackcloth has been put off in exchange for gladness!

Psalm 30:10-12
10 Hear, O LORD, and have mercy on me: LORD, be you my helper.
11 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing: you have put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness;
12 To the end that my glory may sing praise to you, and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you for ever.

• David is anguished at the people that are turning against him. He wore sackcloth when they were sick, he fasted for these people as though they were his friends, brother and mother. He cries out he is being rewarded evil for the good that he has done towards these people.

Psalm 25:11-14
11 False witnesses did rise up; they laid to my charge things that I knew not.
12 They rewarded me evil for good to the spoiling of my soul.
13 But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth: I humbled my soul with fasting; and my prayer returned into my own bosom.
14 I behaved myself as though he had been my friend or brother: I bowed down heavily, as one that mourns for his mother.

• David humbles himself before God – weeping, fasting and wearing sackcloth, he seeks out God’s mercy to deliver him from those that hate him

Psalms 69:10-14
10 When I wept, and chastened my soul with fasting, that was to my reproach.
11 I made sackcloth also my garment; and I became a proverb to them.
12 They that sit in the gate speak against me; and I was the song of the drunkards.
13 But as for me, my prayer is to you, O LORD, in an acceptable time: O God, in the multitude of your mercy hear me, in the truth of your salvation.
14 Deliver me out of the mire, and let me not sink: let me be delivered from them that hate me, and out of the deep waters.


Tamar

The first instance in the Bible of ashes being thrown on one’s own head to display deep anguish when a calamitous and troublesome event had occurred was done by Tamar. Tamar had been overpowered and forced to lie down with her half-brother Amnon. He had been deeply in love with her, or from the sequence of events that occurred, it looks like more than love, Amnon’s lust for his half-sister had blinded him of all reason and clarity. Once he had forced himself on Tamar and slept with her, he immediately hated her and asked her to get out of his room. When she refused saying that asking her to depart was worse than the shameful act that had just occurred, Amnon asked his servant to throw her out and bolt the door after him. Tamar, the daughter of king David, who was a virgin, now is a ruined woman. In her despair, sorrow, shame and anguish at her plight, she tore her robe of diverse colors, puts ashes on her head and went on crying continuously

2 Samuel 13:1-22
1 And it came to pass after this, that Absalom the son of David had a fair sister, whose name was Tamar; and Amnon the son of David loved her.
2 And Amnon was so vexed, that he fell sick for his sister Tamar; for she was a virgin; and Amnon thought it hard for him to do anything to her.
3 But Amnon had a friend, whose name was Jonadab, the son of Shimeah David’s brother: and Jonadab was a very subtle man.
4 And he said to him, Why are you, being the king’s son, lean from day to day? will you not tell me? And Amnon said to him, I love Tamar, my brother Absalom’s sister.
5 And Jonadab said to him, Lay you down on your bed, and make yourself sick: and when your father comes to see you, say to him, I pray you, let my sister Tamar come, and give me meat, and dress the meat in my sight, that I may see it, and eat it at her hand.
6 So Amnon lay down, and made himself sick: and when the king was come to see him, Amnon said to the king, I pray you, let Tamar my sister come, and make me a couple of cakes in my sight, that I may eat at her hand.
7 Then David sent home to Tamar, saying, Go now to your brother Amnon’s house, and dress him meat.
8 So Tamar went to her brother Amnon’s house; and he was laid down. And she took flour, and kneaded it, and made cakes in his sight, and did bake the cakes.
9 And she took a pan, and poured them out before him; but he refused to eat. And Amnon said, Have out all men from me. And they went out every man from him.
10 And Amnon said to Tamar, Bring the meat into the chamber, that I may eat of your hand. And Tamar took the cakes which she had made, and brought them into the chamber to Amnon her brother.
11 And when she had brought them to him to eat, he took hold of her, and said to her, Come lie with me, my sister.
12 And she answered him, No, my brother, do not force me; for no such thing ought to be done in Israel: do not you this folly.
13 And I, where shall I cause my shame to go? and as for you, you shall be as one of the fools in Israel. Now therefore, I pray you, speak to the king; for he will not withhold me from you.
14 However, he would not listen to her voice: but, being stronger than she, forced her, and lay with her.
15 Then Amnon hated her exceedingly; so that the hatred with which he hated her was greater than the love with which he had loved her. And Amnon said to her, Arise, be gone.
16 And she said to him, There is no cause: this evil in sending me away is greater than the other that you did to me. But he would not listen to her.
17 Then he called his servant that ministered to him, and said, Put now this woman out from me, and bolt the door after her.
18 And she had a garment of divers colors on her: for with such robes were the king’s daughters that were virgins appareled. Then his servant brought her out, and bolted the door after her.
19 And Tamar put ashes on her head, and rent her garment of divers colors that was on her, and laid her hand on her head, and went on crying.
20 And Absalom her brother said to her, Has Amnon your brother been with you? but hold now your peace, my sister: he is your brother; regard not this thing. So Tamar remained desolate in her brother Absalom’s house.
21 But when king David heard of all these things, he was very wroth.
22 And Absalom spoke to his brother Amnon neither good nor bad: for Absalom hated Amnon, because he had forced his sister Tamar.


Rizpah

A widow and a mother stands guard on the open corpses of her sons and Saul’s other grand-children. Israel has had a famine for 3 years and when David inquires God, he comes to know that because of the unjust killing of the Gibeonites by Saul, the famine was in the land. When David asks the Gibeonites what they want in retribution, they ask for seven descendants of Saul to be executed. David gives up two sons of Saul’s concubine Rizpah and 5 sons of Michal – daughter of Saul. They are hung and are laid in the open hill. Rizpah, the grieving mother places sackcloth over the rock to protect the corpses and stands guard day and night not allowing for any birds or beasts to get to the corpses. She did this from the start of harvest until it rained from heaven.

David comes to hear of the act of Rizpah, he takes action to correct the injustice that has gone on – where the dead had not been given a proper burial. He gathers the bones of both Saul and Jonathan from the men of Jabeshgilead, these men had stolen Saul and Jonathans’ corpses from the street of Bethshan, where the Philistines had hung them. David buries them in the sepulcher of Kish, Saul’s father. He also gives the seven executed men a proper burial. Only after this was God entreated for the land

2 Samuel 21:1-14
1 Then there was a famine in the days of David three years, year after year; and David inquired of the LORD. And the LORD answered, It is for Saul, and for his bloody house, because he slew the Gibeonites.
2 And the king called the Gibeonites, and said to them; (now the Gibeonites were not of the children of Israel, but of the remnant of the Amorites; and the children of Israel had sworn to them: and Saul sought to slay them in his zeal to the children of Israel and Judah.)
3 Why David said to the Gibeonites, What shall I do for you? and with which shall I make the atonement, that you may bless the inheritance of the LORD?
4 And the Gibeonites said to him, We will have no silver nor gold of Saul, nor of his house; neither for us shall you kill any man in Israel. And he said, What you shall say, that will I do for you.
5 And they answered the king, The man that consumed us, and that devised against us that we should be destroyed from remaining in any of the coasts of Israel,
6 Let seven men of his sons be delivered to us, and we will hang them up to the LORD in Gibeah of Saul, whom the LORD did choose. And the king said, I will give them.
7 But the king spared Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan the son of Saul, because of the LORD’s oath that was between them, between David and Jonathan the son of Saul.
8 But the king took the two sons of Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, whom she bore to Saul, Armoni and Mephibosheth; and the five sons of Michal the daughter of Saul, whom she brought up for Adriel the son of Barzillai the Meholathite:
9 And he delivered them into the hands of the Gibeonites, and they hanged them in the hill before the LORD: and they fell all seven together, and were put to death in the days of harvest, in the first days, in the beginning of barley harvest.
10 And Rizpah the daughter of Aiah took sackcloth, and spread it for her on the rock, from the beginning of harvest until water dropped on them out of heaven, and suffered neither the birds of the air to rest on them by day, nor the beasts of the field by night.
11 And it was told David what Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, the concubine of Saul, had done.
12 And David went and took the bones of Saul and the bones of Jonathan his son from the men of Jabeshgilead, which had stolen them from the street of Bethshan, where the Philistines had hanged them, when the Philistines had slain Saul in Gilboa:
13 And he brought up from there the bones of Saul and the bones of Jonathan his son; and they gathered the bones of them that were hanged.
14 And the bones of Saul and Jonathan his son buried they in the country of Benjamin in Zelah, in the sepulcher of Kish his father: and they performed all that the king commanded. And after that God was entreated for the land.


Mordecai

Mordecai was a Jew who sat in the king’s gate (most likely an official) at Shushan. His niece Esther was made queen by the Persian king Ahasuerus, and as per Mordecai’s commandment, Esther did not reveal to anyone that she was a a Jew. The Jews at Shushan had been carried away captive from Jerusalem during the time of Nebuchadnezzer, king of Babylon. Haman, an Agagite was set above all the other princes by king Ahasuerus and all the people at the gate bowed and reverenced Haman except for Mordecai who did not bow down to Haman. When this was told to Haman and he came to know that Mordecai was a Jew, he sought to destroy all the Jews throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus. Haman brings the request to exterminate the Jews before king Ahaseurus saying that the Jew’s laws were different from all the people and they did not keep the king’s laws. The king agrees, provides his seal and the order to destroy all the Jews in the land gets sent out.

Mordecai when he comes to hear all that was done, he tears his clothes and puts on ashes and sackcloth and goes into the middle of the city and cries with a loud and bitter cry at the plight that awaits his people. He even goes before the king’s gate wearing sackcloth even though no one was to enter the king’s gate wearing sackcloth. All the Jews in all the provinces of the king mourned greatly when they heard the decree, there was weeping, wailing, fasting and many lay in ashes and sackcloth. Esther who was unaware of the decree hears from her maids that Mordecai was wearing sackcloth. She was extremely grieved when she heard this and she sends clothes to Mordecai so that he will take away his sackcloth, but he would not accept the clothes that Esther sent. Then Esther calls for Hatach, one of the king’s chamberlains to go to Mordecai and enquire why he was wearing sackcloth. Mordecai tells Hatach all the details of the plan to destroy all the Jews in the land and gives him a copy of the decree and tells Hatach that Esther should go in to the king, to make supplication to him and to make request before him for her people.

Esther 3:5-15
5 And when Haman saw that Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence, then was Haman full of wrath.
6 And he thought scorn to lay hands on Mordecai alone; for they had showed him the people of Mordecai: why Haman sought to destroy all the Jews that were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus, even the people of Mordecai.
7 In the first month, that is, the month Nisan, in the twelfth year of king Ahasuerus, they cast Pur, that is, the lot, before Haman from day to day, and from month to month, to the twelfth month, that is, the month Adar.
8 And Haman said to king Ahasuerus, There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of your kingdom; and their laws are diverse from all people; neither keep they the king’s laws: therefore it is not for the king’s profit to suffer them.
9 If it please the king, let it be written that they may be destroyed: and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver to the hands of those that have the charge of the business, to bring it into the king’s treasuries.
10 And the king took his ring from his hand, and gave it to Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the Jews’ enemy.
11 And the king said to Haman, The silver is given to you, the people also, to do with them as it seems good to you.
12 Then were the king’s scribes called on the thirteenth day of the first month, and there was written according to all that Haman had commanded to the king’s lieutenants, and to the governors that were over every province, and to the rulers of every people of every province according to the writing thereof, and to every people after their language; in the name of king Ahasuerus was it written, and sealed with the king’s ring.
13 And the letters were sent by posts into all the king’s provinces, to destroy, to kill, and to cause to perish, all Jews, both young and old, little children and women, in one day, even on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month Adar, and to take the spoil of them for a prey.
14 The copy of the writing for a commandment to be given in every province was published to all people, that they should be ready against that day.
15 The posts went out, being hastened by the king’s commandment, and the decree was given in Shushan the palace. And the king and Haman sat down to drink; but the city Shushan was perplexed.

Esther 4:1-8
1 When Mordecai perceived all that was done, Mordecai rent his clothes, and put on sackcloth with ashes, and went out into the middle of the city, and cried with a loud and a bitter cry;
2 And came even before the king’s gate: for none might enter into the king’s gate clothed with sackcloth.
3 And in every province, wherever the king’s commandment and his decree came, there was great mourning among the Jews, and fasting, and weeping, and wailing; and many lay in sackcloth and ashes.
4 So Esther’s maids and her chamberlains came and told it her. Then was the queen exceedingly grieved; and she sent raiment to clothe Mordecai, and to take away his sackcloth from him: but he received it not.
5 Then called Esther for Hatach, one of the king’s chamberlains, whom he had appointed to attend on her, and gave him a commandment to Mordecai, to know what it was, and why it was.
6 So Hatach went forth to Mordecai to the street of the city, which was before the king’s gate.
7 And Mordecai told him of all that had happened to him, and of the sum of the money that Haman had promised to pay to the king’s treasuries for the Jews, to destroy them.
8 Also he gave him the copy of the writing of the decree that was given at Shushan to destroy them, to show it to Esther, and to declare it to her, and to charge her that she should go in to the king, to make supplication to him, and to make request before him for her people.


Job

Job in complete and utter desperation and desolation bemoans his plight where God has brought him low – sackcloth has now become his permanent clothing so much so that it has become a second skin for him

Job 16:11-16
11 God has delivered me to the ungodly, and turned me over into the hands of the wicked.
12 I was at ease, but he has broken me asunder: he has also taken me by my neck, and shaken me to pieces, and set me up for his mark.
13 His archers compass me round about, he splits my reins asunder, and does not spare; he pours out my gall on the ground.
14 He breaks me with breach on breach, he runs on me like a giant.
15 I have sewed sackcloth on my skin, and defiled my horn in the dust.
16 My face is foul with weeping, and on my eyelids is the shadow of death;


Israel/Judah/Jerusalem – The judgment of God against these lands and its people

• Judah & Jerusalem : God stands to judge the people of Judah and Jerusalem for their words and actions that they have committed against the LORD. They openly declare their sin as Sodom and have rewarded evil to themselves. The LORD stands up to plead and judge the people because they have oppressed the poor and beat up His people. The daughters of Zion are proud and haughty. A detailed description of all their finery is listed – tinkling ornaments on their feet, their cauls (hairnets), round tires like the moon (a type of pendant shaped like a crescent), the chains, bracelets, the mufflers, bonnets, ornaments of the legs, headbands, tablets, earrings, rings, nose jewels, changeable suits of apparel, mantles, wimples, crisping pins, the glasses, the fine linen, the hoods and the veils. All of this will be taken away and replaced : instead of a sweet smell there shall be stink; instead of a girdle a rent; instead of well set hair baldness and instead of a stomacher a girding of sackcloth and burning instead of beauty. The men shall fall by the sword and the mighty in the war. And her gates shall lament and mourn; and she being desolate shall sit on the ground. A picture is painted of grandeur, luxury, pride and openly being evil by the people of Judah and Jerusalem begin replaced with diseases, desolation, lamentation and mourning by the LORD who has judged them.

Isaiah 3:13-26
13 The LORD stands up to plead, and stands to judge the people.
14 The LORD will enter into judgment with the ancients of his people, and the princes thereof: for you have eaten up the vineyard; the spoil of the poor is in your houses.
15 What mean you that you beat my people to pieces, and grind the faces of the poor? said the Lord GOD of hosts.
16 Moreover the LORD said, Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet:
17 Therefore the LORD will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and the LORD will discover their secret parts.
18 In that day the Lord will take away the bravery of their tinkling ornaments about their feet, and their cauls, and their round tires like the moon,
19 The chains, and the bracelets, and the mufflers,
20 The bonnets, and the ornaments of the legs, and the headbands, and the tablets, and the earrings,
21 The rings, and nose jewels,
22 The changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles, and the wimples, and the crisping pins,
23 The glasses, and the fine linen, and the hoods, and the veils.
24 And it shall come to pass, that instead of sweet smell there shall be stink; and instead of a girdle a rent; and instead of well set hair baldness; and instead of a stomacher a girding of sackcloth; and burning instead of beauty.
25 Your men shall fall by the sword, and your mighty in the war.
26 And her gates shall lament and mourn; and she being desolate shall sit on the ground.

• Jerusalem was under attack. The people started fortifying the city but did not look to the Maker for deliverance. The LORD God called for weeping, mourning, baldness and donning of sackcloth, but the people instead chose to party, eat meat and drink wine because they were anyway going to die. It was revealed to Isaiah by the LORD that this sin would not be purged from them till they die

Isaiah 22:6-14
6 And Elam bore the quiver with chariots of men and horsemen, and Kir uncovered the shield.
7 And it shall come to pass, that your choicest valleys shall be full of chariots, and the horsemen shall set themselves in array at the gate.
8 And he discovered the covering of Judah, and you did look in that day to the armor of the house of the forest.
9 You have seen also the breaches of the city of David, that they are many: and you gathered together the waters of the lower pool.
10 And you have numbered the houses of Jerusalem, and the houses have you broken down to fortify the wall.
11 You made also a ditch between the two walls for the water of the old pool: but you have not looked to the maker thereof, neither had respect to him that fashioned it long ago.
12 And in that day did the Lord GOD of hosts call to weeping, and to mourning, and to baldness, and to girding with sackcloth:
13 And behold joy and gladness, slaying oxen, and killing sheep, eating flesh, and drinking wine: let us eat and drink; for to morrow we shall die.
14 And it was revealed in my ears by the LORD of hosts, Surely this iniquity shall not be purged from you till you die, said the Lord GOD of hosts.

• A warning is given to the women of Jerusalem that are at ease, the careless ones, to give ear to Isaiah’s speech and to listen – to be troubled and tremble for the time of suffering that is coming, to strip themselves and to wear sackcloth. The vintage, the pleasant fields and the fruitful vine shall fail, thorns and briers shall come upon the houses of joy in the joyous city

Isaiah 32:9-10
9 Rise up, you women that are at ease; hear my voice, you careless daughters; give ear to my speech.
10 Many days and years shall you be troubled, you careless women: for the vintage shall fail, the gathering shall not come.
11 Tremble, you women that are at ease; be troubled, you careless ones: strip you, and make you bore, and gird sackcloth on your loins.
12 They shall lament for the teats, for the pleasant fields, for the fruitful vine.
13 On the land of my people shall come up thorns and briers; yes, on all the houses of joy in the joyous city:

• The LORD declares that Jerusalem will be destroyed as they have not turned from their wicked ways and sought the LORD and for this reason the people are to wear sackcloth, lament and howl because there will be great evil coming upon them and their land will become desolate

Jeremiah 4:5-8
5 Declare you in Judah, and publish in Jerusalem; and say, Blow you the trumpet in the land: cry, gather together, and say, Assemble yourselves, and let us go into the defended cities.
6 Set up the standard toward Zion: retire, stay not: for I will bring evil from the north, and a great destruction.
7 The lion is come up from his thicket, and the destroyer of the Gentiles is on his way; he is gone forth from his place to make your land desolate; and your cities shall be laid waste, without an inhabitant.
8 For this gird you with sackcloth, lament and howl: for the fierce anger of the LORD is not turned back from us.

• The people of Jerusalem refuse to listen to God’s words, they have rejected it and His law and yet they continue to offer incense, burnt offerings, sacrifices and sweet cane from distant lands. The LORD says that Zion will be destroyed by people that come from the north country. He asks the daughter of His people to gird sackcloth, wallow in ashes, mourn as if for an only son and take up a bitter lamentation for the spoiler that is coming to destroy them

Jeremiah 6:16-26
16 Thus said the LORD, Stand you in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and you shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.
17 Also I set watchmen over you, saying, Listen to the sound of the trumpet. But they said, We will not listen.
18 Therefore hear, you nations, and know, O congregation, what is among them.
19 Hear, O earth: behold, I will bring evil on this people, even the fruit of their thoughts, because they have not listened to my words, nor to my law, but rejected it.
20 To what purpose comes there to me incense from Sheba, and the sweet cane from a far country? your burnt offerings are not acceptable, nor your sacrifices sweet to me.
21 Therefore thus said the LORD, Behold, I will lay stumbling blocks before this people, and the fathers and the sons together shall fall on them; the neighbor and his friend shall perish.
22 Thus said the LORD, Behold, a people comes from the north country, and a great nation shall be raised from the sides of the earth.
23 They shall lay hold on bow and spear; they are cruel, and have no mercy; their voice roars like the sea; and they ride on horses, set in array as men for war against you, O daughter of Zion.
24 We have heard the fame thereof: our hands wax feeble: anguish has taken hold of us, and pain, as of a woman in travail.
25 Go not forth into the field, nor walk by the way; for the sword of the enemy and fear is on every side.
26 O daughter of my people, gird you with sackcloth, and wallow yourself in ashes: make you mourning, as for an only son, most bitter lamentation: for the spoiler shall suddenly come on us.

• The LORD has purposed to destroy Israel and its people – the elders of the land sit on the ground and keep silence. They have cast dust on their heads and worn sackcloth. The virgins of Jerusalem bow down their heads to the ground. There is immense grief over the coming destruction of the people of Jerusalem

Lamentations 2:8-11
8 The LORD has purposed to destroy the wall of the daughter of Zion: he has stretched out a line, he has not withdrawn his hand from destroying: therefore he made the rampart and the wall to lament; they languished together.
9 Her gates are sunk into the ground; he has destroyed and broken her bars: her king and her princes are among the Gentiles: the law is no more; her prophets also find no vision from the LORD.
10 The elders of the daughter of Zion sit on the ground, and keep silence: they have cast up dust on their heads; they have girded themselves with sackcloth: the virgins of Jerusalem hang down their heads to the ground.
11 My eyes do fail with tears, my bowels are troubled, my liver is poured on the earth, for the destruction of the daughter of my people; because the children and the sucklings swoon in the streets of the city.

• The people are in terror at the coming destruction of the land of Israel by the LORD. The people in the city and the fields die of the sword, pestilence and famine. The ones that do manage to escape are like doves in the mountains – mourning, wearing sackcloth, with shame on their faces and baldness on their heads each person for his own iniquity.

Ezekiel 7:14-18
14 They have blown the trumpet, even to make all ready; but none goes to the battle: for my wrath is on all the multitude thereof.
15 The sword is without, and the pestilence and the famine within: he that is in the field shall die with the sword; and he that is in the city, famine and pestilence shall devour him.
16 But they that escape of them shall escape, and shall be on the mountains like doves of the valleys, all of them mourning, every one for his iniquity.
17 All hands shall be feeble, and all knees shall be weak as water.
18 They shall also gird themselves with sackcloth, and horror shall cover them; and shame shall be on all faces, and baldness on all their heads.

Daniel‘s sets to seek out God’s mercy for Israel and its people. He enters into a period of fasting, wearing sackcloth and ashes and offers prayers and supplications to God. The verses that follow from v4 to v20 in Daniel 9 is one of the most heartfelt, humble and sincere prayers of man to God

Daniel 9:1-3
1 In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, which was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans;
2 In the first year of his reign I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would
accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.
3 And I set my face to the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes:

• Joy and gladness is sucked out from the people of the land, everything is laid waste – the vine, the field, the land, the corm the oil, the wheat, the barley, the harvest of the field, the fig tree, the pomegranate tree, the palm tree, the apple tree and all the trees of the field are perished and withered. The people are asked to lament and cry over their plight – to cry out like a virgin wearing sackcloth mourning for the husband of her youth, the priests are asked to howl and cry out to God, to wear sackcloth the whole night. They are asked to call for a fast, to gather all the elders and inhabitants into the house of the LORD and to cry unto God for the day of the LORD is at hand, the destruction of the Almighty is coming

Joel 1:5-15
5 Awake, you drunkards, and weep; and howl, all you drinkers of wine, because of the new wine; for it is cut off from your mouth.
6 For a nation is come up on my land, strong, and without number, whose teeth are the teeth of a lion, and he has the cheek teeth of a great lion.
7 He has laid my vine waste, and barked my fig tree: he has made it clean bore, and cast it away; the branches thereof are made white.
8 Lament like a virgin girded with sackcloth for the husband of her youth.
9 The meat offering and the drink offering is cut off from the house of the LORD; the priests, the LORD’s ministers, mourn.
10 The field is wasted, the land mourns; for the corn is wasted: the new wine is dried up, the oil languishes.
11 Be you ashamed, O you farmers; howl, O you vinedressers, for the wheat and for the barley; because the harvest of the field is perished.
12 The vine is dried up, and the fig tree languishes; the pomegranate tree, the palm tree also, and the apple tree, even all the trees of the field, are withered: because joy is withered away from the sons of men.
13 Gird yourselves, and lament, you priests: howl, you ministers of the altar: come, lie all night in sackcloth, you ministers of my God: for the meat offering and the drink offering is withheld from the house of your God.
14 Sanctify you a fast, call a solemn assembly, gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the LORD your God, and cry to the LORD,
15 Alas for the day! for the day of the LORD is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come.

• The people do the works that are entirely unpleasing in the sight of God. They have swallowed up the needy making the poor of the land to fail. They wait for the sabbath to be over so they can quickly get back to doing their business of selling, they manipulate money and follow false practices in business. They buy the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of shoes and they even sell the waste that comes out of wheat. The LORD has sworn that he will not forget this their works, he will cast them out and will turn the feasts into mourning, songs into lamentation, will bring about the wearing of sackcloth on all people and baldness of every head. The people will mourn like they have lost their only son, their end will be a bitter day. The days will come when there will be a famine in the land, not a scarcity of bread or water, but hearing of the words of the LORD. They will run to and fro and from coast to coast to seek the word of the LORD and they will not find it

Amos 8:4-12
4 Hear this, O you that swallow up the needy, even to make the poor of the land to fail,
5 Saying, When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn? and the sabbath, that we may set forth wheat, making the ephah small, and the shekel great, and falsifying the balances by deceit?
6 That we may buy the poor for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes; yes, and sell the refuse of the wheat?
7 The LORD has sworn by the excellency of Jacob, Surely I will never forget any of their works.
8 Shall not the land tremble for this, and every one mourn that dwells therein? and it shall rise up wholly as a flood; and it shall be cast out and drowned, as by the flood of Egypt.
9 And it shall come to pass in that day, said the Lord GOD, that I will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in the clear day:
10 And I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation; and I will bring up sackcloth on all loins, and baldness on every head; and I will make it as the mourning of an only son, and the end thereof as a bitter day.
11 Behold, the days come, said the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD:
12 And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it.

Jesus bemoans the cities where he performed his mighty miracles where the people did not repent seeing the miracles. He proclaims that if the same miracles had been performed in Tyre, Sidon or Sodom which were performed in Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum, then the people of Tyre and Sidon would have repented long ago donning sackcloth and ashes and it would be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgement that it would be or Chorazin and Bethsaida. Jesus says that Sodom would have remained until this day if the miracles that were done in Capernaum had been done in Sodom and that it would be more tolerable for the land of Sodom on the day of judgement than it would be for Capernaum which exalts itself to heaven but shall be brought down to hell

Matthew 11:20-24
20 Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not:
21 Woe to you, Chorazin! woe to you, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.
22 But I say to you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you.
23 And you, Capernaum, which are exalted to heaven, shall be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in you, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.
24 But I say to you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.

Luke 10:10-16
10 But into whatever city you enter, and they receive you not, go your ways out into the streets of the same, and say,
11 Even the very dust of your city, which sticks on us, we do wipe off against you: notwithstanding be you sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come near to you.
12 But I say to you, that it shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city.
13 Woe to you, Chorazin! woe to you, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon, which have been done in you, they had a great while ago repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.
14 But it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment, than for you.
15 And you, Capernaum, which are exalted to heaven, shall be thrust down to hell. 16 He that hears you hears me; and he that despises you despises me; and he that despises me despises him that sent me.


The judgment of God against Moab and its people

• The fate of Moab is described – cities are laid waste, the people weep and howl over their plight, their heads shall be bald and beards cut off, they will wear sackcloth and everywhere there is weeping and crying

Isaiah 15:1-3
1 The burden of Moab. Because in the night Ar of Moab is laid waste, and brought to silence; because in the night Kir of Moab is laid waste, and brought to silence;
2 He is gone up to Bajith, and to Dibon, the high places, to weep: Moab shall howl over Nebo, and over Medeba: on all their heads shall be baldness, and every beard cut off.
3 In their streets they shall gird themselves with sackcloth: on the tops of their houses, and in their streets, every one shall howl, weeping abundantly.
4 And Heshbon shall cry, and Elealeh: their voice shall be heard even to Jahaz: therefore the armed soldiers of Moab shall cry out; his life shall be grievous to him.

• The destruction of Moab, there shall be great lamentation and fear amongst the people. Every head will be bald, every beard clipped, on all the hands shall be cuttings, and on the loins sackcloth. Moab shall be destroyed from being a people because they magnified themselves against the LORD

Jeremiah 48:35-44
35 Moreover I will cause to cease in Moab, said the LORD, him that offers in the high places, and him that burns incense to his gods.
36 Therefore my heart shall sound for Moab like pipes, and my heart shall sound like pipes for the men of Kirheres: because the riches that he has gotten are perished.
37 For every head shall be bald, and every beard clipped: on all the hands shall be cuttings, and on the loins sackcloth.
38 There shall be lamentation generally on all the housetops of Moab, and in the streets thereof: for I have broken Moab like a vessel wherein is no pleasure, said the LORD.
39 They shall howl, saying, How is it broken down! how has Moab turned the back with shame! so shall Moab be a derision and a dismaying to all them about him.
40 For thus said the LORD; Behold, he shall fly as an eagle, and shall spread his wings over Moab.
41 Kerioth is taken, and the strong holds are surprised, and the mighty men’s hearts in Moab at that day shall be as the heart of a woman in her pangs.
42 And Moab shall be destroyed from being a people, because he has magnified himself against the LORD.
43 Fear, and the pit, and the snare, shall be on you, O inhabitant of Moab, said the LORD.
44 He that flees from the fear shall fall into the pit; and he that gets up out of the pit shall be taken in the snare: for I will bring on it, even on Moab, the year of their visitation, said the LORD.


The judgment of God against Egypt and its people

The LORD speaks to Isaiah to put off his sackcloth and his shoes and to go walking naked and barefoot. He tells him to do this as a sign and wonder against Egypt and Ethiopia. The king of Assyria would lead away the Egyptians and Ethiopians as captives, both young and old, and they would walk naked and barefoot, with their backsides uncovered.

Isaiah 20:1-6
1 In the year that Tartan came to Ashdod, (when Sargon the king of Assyria sent him,) and fought against Ashdod, and took it;
2 At the same time spoke the LORD by Isaiah the son of Amoz, saying, Go and loose the sackcloth from off your loins, and put off your shoe from your foot. And he did so, walking naked and barefoot.
3 And the LORD said, Like as my servant Isaiah has walked naked and barefoot three years for a sign and wonder on Egypt and on Ethiopia;
4 So shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptians prisoners, and the Ethiopians captives, young and old, naked and barefoot, even with their buttocks uncovered, to the shame of Egypt.
5 And they shall be afraid and ashamed of Ethiopia their expectation, and of Egypt their glory.
6 And the inhabitant of this isle shall say in that day, Behold, such is our expectation, where we flee for help to be delivered from the king of Assyria: and how shall we escape?


The judgment of God against Ammon and its people

The captivity of the children of Ammon is forthcoming and the it shall become a desolate heap and there will be war. The king, the princes and priests will go into captivity. The daughters of Rabbah will cry and lament and gird themselves with sackcloth at the coming fall of their city and its people

Jeremiah 49:1-6
1 Concerning the Ammonites, thus said the LORD; Has Israel no sons? has he no heir? why then does their king inherit Gad, and his people dwell in his cities?
2 Therefore, behold, the days come, said the LORD, that I will cause an alarm of war to be heard in Rabbah of the Ammonites; and it shall be a desolate heap, and her daughters shall be burned with fire: then shall Israel be heir to them that were his heirs, said the LORD.
3 Howl, O Heshbon, for Ai is spoiled: cry, you daughters of Rabbah, gird you with sackcloth; lament, and run to and fro by the hedges; for their king shall go into captivity, and his priests and his princes together.
4 Why glory you in the valleys, your flowing valley, O backsliding daughter? that trusted in her treasures, saying, Who shall come to me?
5 Behold, I will bring a fear on you, said the Lord GOD of hosts, from all those that be about you; and you shall be driven out every man right forth; and none shall gather up him that wanders.
6 And afterward I will bring again the captivity of the children of Ammon, said the LORD.


The judgment of God against Tyrus and its people

All the sea faring workmen and captains shall come down from their ships onto the land and they will cry against the city Tyrus – they cry bitterly casting dust on their heads, wallowing in ashes, making themselves bald, wearing sackcloth and weeping with bitterness of heart and taking up a bitter wailing. They shall lament over Tyrus saying what city is like Tyrus that is destroyed in the middle of the sea. It will be broken up by the seas and all its merchandise and its company of men will fall

Ezekiel 27:29-36
29 And all that handle the oar, the mariners, and all the pilots of the sea, shall come down from their ships, they shall stand on the land;
30 And shall cause their voice to be heard against you, and shall cry bitterly, and shall cast up dust on their heads, they shall wallow themselves in the ashes:
31 And they shall make themselves utterly bald for you, and gird them with sackcloth, and they shall weep for you with bitterness of heart and bitter wailing.
32 And in their wailing they shall take up a lamentation for you, and lament over you, saying, What city is like Tyrus, like the destroyed in the middle of the sea?
33 When your wares went forth out of the seas, you filled many people; you did enrich the kings of the earth with the multitude of your riches and of your merchandise.
34 In the time when you shall be broken by the seas in the depths of the waters your merchandise and all your company in the middle of you shall fall.
35 All the inhabitants of the isles shall be astonished at you, and their kings shall be sore afraid, they shall be troubled in their countenance.
36 The merchants among the people shall hiss at you; you shall be a terror, and never shall be any more.


Hezekiah

Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the defended cities of Judah, and took them. And Sennacherib the king of Assyria sends Rabshakeh from Lachish to Jerusalem to deliver a message to the Jews and to their king Hezekiah. Rabshakeh speaks in the Jews’ language even when requested to speak in the Syrian language and he goes on to deliver a disparaging and terrifying message against king Hezekiah and the LORD in whom they trust. He speaks in the Jews’ language so that the men that guard the gates could also hear and he wants them to quake in fear at what’s coming at them. He mocks the God of Jerusalem saying the gods of other nations were not able to deliver the people out of Sennacherib’s hands and how then would the God of the Jews deliver them? The emissaries of Jerusalem do not reply back to Rabshakeh for king Hezekiah had ordered them not to answer back. The emissaries Eliakim, Shebna and Joah come to Hezekiah with their clothes torn and tell him the words of Rabshakeh. When Hezekiah hears everything, he rents his clothes and covered himself in sackcloth and goes into the house of the LORD. He sends Eliakim, Shebna and the elders of the priests all donning sackcloth to take the news to Isaiah the prophet

Isaiah 36:11-22, Isaiah 37:1-2
11 Then said Eliakim and Shebna and Joah to Rabshakeh, Speak, I pray you, to your servants in the Syrian language; for we understand it: and speak not to us in the Jews’ language, in the ears of the people that are on the wall.
12 But Rabshakeh said, Has my master sent me to your master and to you to speak these words? has he not sent me to the men that sit on the wall, that they may eat their own dung, and drink their own urine with you?
13 Then Rabshakeh stood, and cried with a loud voice in the Jews’ language, and said, Hear you the words of the great king, the king of Assyria.
14 Thus said the king, Let not Hezekiah deceive you: for he shall not be able to deliver you. 15 Neither let Hezekiah make you trust in the LORD, saying, The LORD will surely deliver us: this city shall not be delivered into the hand of the king of Assyria.
16 Listen not to Hezekiah: for thus said the king of Assyria, Make an agreement with me by a present, and come out to me: and eat you every one of his vine, and every ne of his fig tree, and drink you every one the waters of his own cistern;
17 Until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of corn and wine, a land of bread and vineyards.
18 Beware lest Hezekiah persuade you, saying, the LORD will deliver us. Has any of the gods of the nations delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria?
19 Where are the gods of Hamath and Arphad? where are the gods of Sepharvaim? and have they delivered Samaria out of my hand?
20 Who are they among all the gods of these lands, that have delivered their land out of my hand, that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?
21 But they held their peace, and answered him not a word: for the king’s commandment was, saying, Answer him not.
22 Then came Eliakim, the son of Hilkiah, that was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and Joah, the son of Asaph, the recorder, to Hezekiah with their clothes rent, and told him the words of Rabshakeh.
1 And it came to pass, when king Hezekiah heard it, that he rent his clothes, and covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of the LORD.
2 And he sent Eliakim, who was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and the elders of the priests covered with sackcloth, to Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz.


Nineveh

The LORD sends Jonah to Nineveh bearing the news that in forty days Nineveh shall be overthrown. The people of the land believed God and proclaimed a fast putting on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them. When the king heard of this, he rose up from his thrown, put away his royal robe and donned sackcloth and sat in ashes. He proclaimed throughout Nineveh that a fast should be undertaken by man and beast, that they should not eat nor drink water. Both man and beast should be covered in sackcloth and cry mightily to God. Every man should turn away from his evil ways and from violence. They hoped that God would repent and turn away the fierce anger and that they would not perish. When God sees their works and that they turned away from their evil ways, God also repented that he would destroy Nineveh and that the great city would fall

Jonah 3:1-10
1 And the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying,
2 Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the preaching that I bid you.
3 So Jonah arose, and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days’ journey.
4 And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.
5 So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.
6 For word came to the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.
7 And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water:
8 But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God: yes, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands.
9 Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?
10 And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do to them; and he did it not.


Fasting

The LORD makes a comparison of the type of fast the people have undertaken and the type of fast that He requires. The people fast but yet follow after their own pleasures and do all types of work, they fast to gain the upperhand in strifes and debates, to smite with the fist of wickedness and to make their voices heard on high. This is not the type of fast the LORD has chosen – the fasting which makes a man to afflict his soul, to bow down his head as a bulrush, to spread sackcloth and ashes under him. The LORD does not call this a fast or an acceptable day to the LORD.

The type of fast that the LORD requires is to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, to break the burden of any yokes, to deal bread to the hungry, to bring the poor to their house, to clothe those that are naked and to not hide from helping your own kin

Isaiah 58:3-7
3 Why have we fasted, say they, and you see not? why have we afflicted our soul, and you take no knowledge? Behold, in the day of your fast you find pleasure, and exact all your labors.
4 Behold, you fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: you shall not fast as you do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high.
5 Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? will you call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD?
6 Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke?
7 Is it not to deal your bread to the hungry, and that you bring the poor that are cast out to your house? when you see the naked, that you cover him; and that you hide not yourself from your own flesh?


Two Witnesses

Two witnesses clothed in sackcloth prophesy for a thousand two hundred and three score days

Revelation 11:3-4
3 And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and three score days, clothed in sackcloth.
4 These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.

– By SAP for almondtreerod.com

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