Yahweh’s response (Mic 2:3-2:4)

“Therefore thus,

Says Yahweh.

‘Now!

I am devising

Against this family

An evil,

From which you cannot

Remove your necks.

You shall not walk haughtily!

It will be an evil time!

On that day,

They shall take up

A taunt song

Against you.

They will wail

With bitter lamentation.

They will say.

‘We are utterly ruined.

Yahweh alters

The inheritance

Of my people.

He removes it from me!

Among our captors,

He divides our fields.’”

Yahweh responded that he was devising some evil against these wicked people.  They would wear a yoke on their necks, so that they could not walk around in a haughty manner.  There would be an evil time for them on Yahweh’s appointed day.  People would sing a taunting song against them as they would be wailing in a lamentation.  They would admit that they would be ruined, because Yahweh had altered their inheritance.  He had sent them off as captives, so that their fields would be divided up among other people.  Yahweh’s response to these evil doers was an exile captivity with the loss of their land.

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The yoke of sin (Lam 1:14-1:14)

Nun

“My transgressions

Were bound

Into a yoke.

By his hand

They were

Fastened together.

They were

A weight

On my neck.

They were

Sapping

My strength.

Yahweh handed me over

To those whom

I cannot withstand.”

Once again, Jerusalem spoke in the first person in this personal lament. Jerusalem claimed that her own transgressions were like a yoke around her neck. Yahweh had fashioned this yoke by his hand. He then put this weight on Jerusalem so that her strength was sapped. Finally, Jerusalem was handed over to people that it could not defeat, the Babylonians. This verse starts with the Hebrew consonant letter Nun. Each verse after this will use the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet in this acrostic poem.

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.