No lamenting for King Jehoiakim (Jer 22:18-22:19)

“Therefore thus says Yahweh

Concerning King Jehoiakim,

The son of King Josiah

Of Judah.

‘They shall not lament for him.

Saying.

‘O my brother!’

Or

‘O sister!’

They shall not lament for him,

Saying.

‘O lord!’

Or

‘O his majesty!’

With the burial of a donkey,

He shall be buried.

He shall be dragged off.

He shall be thrown out

Beyond the gates of Jerusalem.’”

Yahweh, via Jeremiah, was very clear. No one should lament for King Jehoiakim (609-598 BCE), the son of King Josiah (640-609 BCE) of Judah. Do not even mention he was a brother or a sister, or a majestic person. He should be given a burial like a donkey. They should drag him through the streets and throw him out beyond the gates of Jerusalem. He was to have an inglorious end. Obvious Yahweh, via Jeremiah did not like this king that was put on the throne by the Egyptians.

Rebuke against rebellion (Isa 1:2-1:3)

“Hear!

O heavens!

Listen!

O earth!

Yahweh has spoken.

‘I reared children.

I brought them up.

But they have rebelled

Against me.

The ox knows its owner.

The donkey knows its master’s crib.

But Israel does not know.

My people do not understand.’”

Isaiah begins with an oracle that comes from Yahweh. He asks heaven and earth to listen to him. Yahweh says that he reared and brought up his children. However, these children have rebelled against him. As an ox knows its owner and a donkey knows where his home is, the people of Israel are just the opposite. They do not know or understand anything. This is the tone to many of the oracles of Yahweh via Isaiah. It is not clear whether this oracle is against just the northern Israelites or also includes the people of Judah. Sometimes the term “Israel” is used for both and sometimes just for the northern Israelites.

The treatment of slaves (Sir 33:24-33:29)

“Fodder is for a donkey.

A stick is for a donkey.

A burden is for a donkey.

Bread is for a slave.

Discipline is for a slave.

Work is for a slave.

Set your slave to work.

You will find rest.

If you leave his hands idle,

He will seek liberty.

A yoke will bow his neck.

A thong will bow his neck.

A wicked servant should have

Rack and tortures.

Put him to work.

Thus he may not be idle.

Idleness teaches much evil.

Set him to work,

As is fitting for him.

If he does not obey,

Make his fetters heavy.

Do not be overbearing

Toward anybody.

Do nothing unjust.”

Sirach accepts slavery as a fact of life, not to be disputed. This was a common biblical theme, so that the slave owners who cited the Bible could not be faulted. Slaves were slaves, so what? There was no sense of the idea of an equal fellow human being. In fact, it was clear that they should work hard as there was a comparison of a slave to a donkey. Just as the donkey was fed, whipped, and burdened, so too the slave should be fed with bread, disciplined, and worked hard. If your slave worked hard, you could get some restful idleness time for yourself. You should put a yoke and thong around your slave’s neck. If he was bad, you could beat him up. The slave should never be idle because that would lead to evil and his possible escape. If the slave did not obey, he should be punished. However, there was a limit to this brutality. You should not be overbearing or unjust. Of course, it was your decision to evaluate the situation.

Useless actions (Prov 26:1-26:3)

“Like snow in summer,

Like rain in harvest,

So honor is not fitting for a fool.

Like a sparrow in it’s flitting,

Like a swallow in its flying,

An undeserved curse goes nowhere.

Thus we have

A whip for the horse,

A bridle for the donkey,

A rod for the back of fools.”

Honor should not be given to fools because it is out of place, like snow in summer or rain at harvest time. Just like a sparrow or a swallow flitting and flying, an undeserved curse is useless. What works is a whip for a horse, a bridle for a donkey, and a whip for the back of fools. Fools are just slightly more valuable and tolerable than horses and donkeys.