Compassion for the sheep (Mt 9:36-9:36)

“Jesus saw

The crowds.

He had compassion

For them.

Because they were harassed.

They were helpless,

Like sheep

Without a shepherd.”

 

Ἰδὼν δὲ τοὺς ὄχλους ἐσπλαγχνίσθη περὶ αὐτῶν, ὅτι ἦσαν ἐσκυλμένοι καὶ ἐρριμμένοι ὡσεὶ πρόβατα μὴ ἔχοντα ποιμένα.

 

This section about compassion for the sheep can in found in Mark, chapter 6:34.  Jesus saw the crowds (Ἰδὼν δὲ τοὺς ὄχλους).  He had compassion or pity on them (ἐσπλαγχνίσθη περὶ αὐτῶν).  They were harassed or troubled (ὅτι ἦσαν ἐσκυλμένο).  They were helpless castoffs (καὶ ἐρριμμένοι).  They were like sheep without a shepherd protector (ὡσεὶ πρόβατα μὴ ἔχοντα ποιμένα).

The rescue of Samaria (Am 3:12-3:12)

“Thus says Yahweh.

‘As the shepherd

Rescues

From the mouth

Of the lion

Two legs,

Or a piece of an ear,

So,

Shall the people of Israel

Who live in Samaria

Be rescued,

With the corner

Of a couch

Or with part of a bed.’”

Amos has a cute little saying of Yahweh that compares him to a shepherd. A shepherd would pick up the pieces after a lion has devoured a sheep. So too, Yahweh would do the same for Samaria. As the shepherd took a couple of legs and an ear or a sheep, so Yahweh would save the corner of a couch or a part of a bed of the people in Samaria.

Another personal lament of Jeremiah (Jer 17:14-17:18)

“Heal me!

Yahweh!

Then I shall be healed.

Save me!

Then I shall be saved.

You are my praise!

See how they say to me.

‘Where is the word of Yahweh?

Let it come!’

I have not run away

From being a shepherd

In your service.

I have not desired

The fatal day.

You know

What came from my lips.

It was before your face.

Do not become a terror to me!

You are my refuge

In the day of disaster.

Let my persecutors be shamed!

But do not let me be shamed!

Let them be dismayed!

But do not let me be dismayed!

Bring on them

The day of disaster!

Destroy them

With a double destruction!”

Jeremiah lamented about the fatal day of destruction. He wanted to be healed and saved by Yahweh because he praised him. He was taunted by others for his connection to Yahweh. However, he had not run away from being a shepherd or leader in the service of Yahweh. He had not desired this fatal day of destruction. Yahweh knew what he had said in front of him. He did not want Yahweh to scare him on this future fatal day. Instead, he wanted his persecutors to be ashamed and dismayed, but not him. He wanted to bring on this fatal day to them with a double dose of destruction.

 

Remembering Moses (Isa 63:11-63:14)

“Then he remembered the days of old.

He remembered Moses his servant.

Where is the one

Who brought them up out of the sea?

Where are the shepherds of his flock?

Where is the one

Who put within them His Holy Spirit?

Who caused his glorious arm

To march at the right hand of Moses?

Who divided the waters before them?

Who made for himself an everlasting name?

Who led them through the depths?

Who was like a horse in the desert

So that they did not stumble?

Like cattle that go down into the valley,

The Spirit of Yahweh gave them rest.

Thus you led your people

To make for yourself a glorious name.”

Despite all their unfaithful actions, Yahweh kept his people safe as in the days of his servant Moses. In a series of questions, he reminds them of the good things in the past. He brought them out of the sea depths as he divided the waters with his mighty arms. Yahweh gave them the Holy Spirit to lead his flock like a shepherd. He was like a horse leading in the desert so that they would not stumble. He protected them like cattle in the valleys that finally got rest. He made his name glorious.

Prayer of suffering (Isa 38:12-38:15)

“My dwelling is plucked up.

My dwelling is removed from me

Like a shepherd’s tent.

Like a weaver,

I have rolled up my life.

He cuts me off from the loom.

From day to night,

You bring me to an end.

I cry for help

Until morning.

Like a lion,

He breaks all my bones.

From day to night,

You bring me to an end.

I clamor

Like a swallow,

Like a crane.

I moan

Like a dove.

My eyes are weary

With looking upward.

O Lord!

I am oppressed!

Be my security!

But what can I say?

He has spoken to me.

He himself has done it.

All my sleep has fled.

Because of the bitterness of my soul.”

Second Isaiah has King Hezekiah suffering a lot. He has lost his dwelling so that all he has is a tent, like a shepherd. His life has been rolled up so that he is like a weaver who cannot get to his loom. He suffers both day and night as he cries all night. His bones are broken as if from a lion’s attack. He clamors like a swallow or a crane and moans like a dove. He is weary from looking up. He wanted Yahweh to be his security because he was oppressed. What can he say? Yahweh has told him about what he has done to him. He cannot sleep because of his bitter soul. This king is depressed.

The nothingness of humans (Sir 18:8-18:14)

“What are human beings?

What use are they?

What is good about them?

What is evil about them?

The number of days in their life is great,

If they reach one hundred years.

The death of each one

Is beyond the calculation of all.

Like a drop of water from the sea,

Like a grain of sand,

So are these few years

Among the days of eternity.

Therefore the Lord is patient with them.

He pours out his mercy upon them.

He sees them.

He recognizes

That their end is miserable.

Therefore he grants them forgiveness all the more.

The compassion of human beings

Is for their neighbors.

But the compassion of the Lord

Is for every living thing.

He rebukes them.

He trains them.

He teaches them.

He turns them back,

As a shepherd his flock.

He has compassion on those

Who accept his discipline.

He has compassion on those

Who are eager for his precepts.”

Sirach points out that human beings, in contrast to the greatness of God, are useless, like a later 20th century existential 1943 Jean Paul Sartre work, Being and Nothingness. They have a little good and little evil in them, but they have a short unpredictable life, at best 100 years long. Their lives are like a drop of water in the sea or a grain of sand on the shore compared to divine eternity. That is why the Lord is patient and merciful with them. He knows that they will come to a miserable end, so that he grants them forgiveness. While the compassion of humans is for their neighbors, the compassion of the Lord is for all living things. Like a theme later attributed to Jesus, Sirach sees the Lord as a shepherd who rebukes, trains, teaches, and takes his sheep back and forth. The Lord has compassion for those who accept his discipline and precepts.

A description of the beautiful lady (Song 4:1-4:5)

Male lover

“How beautiful you are!

My love!

How very beautiful!

Your eyes are doves

Behind your veil.

Your hair is

Like a flock of goats,

Moving down the slopes of Gilead.

Your teeth are

Like a flock of shorn ewes,

That was come up from the washing.

They all bear twins.

Not one among them is bereaved.

Your lips are

Like a crimson thread.

Your mouth is lovely.

Your cheeks are                               

Like halves of a pomegranate,

Behind your veil.

Your neck is

Like the tower of David,

Built in courses.

On it hang a thousand bucklers.

All of them are shields of warriors.

Your two breasts are

Like two fawns.

There are twins of a gazelle,

That feed among the lilies.”

This male lover, either a shepherd or a king, describes his female lover by starting out saying how beautiful she is. Then he goes into a vivid description of her starting with her eyes that are hidden behind the veil that was common for unmarried women. They were like doves. Her hair was like a flock of goats coming down the mountain of Gilead. I am not sure how this was a complement. These goats were happy unblemished twins, while Gilead was east of the Jordan River. Her teeth were like a flock of young sheep that had just been washed. Her cheeks, although covered with the veil, were like half pomegranates, a fruit tree that was planted for domestic usage in Babylon. Her neck was like the tower of David since it had over 1,000 little shields on it. It is hard to image that many little trinkets around her neck. Her breasts were like twin young gazelles. I am not sure how he was able to make that comparison.