Moral sense of the Bible

Others read the biblical texts looking for a moral sense or meaning.  What am I to do?  What is God calling me to do?  The answer can be found in reading the Bible.  By reading the Bible, I may find out how I should act.  The Bible is an aid in helping me to make decisions.  The Bible is my guide book in life, as it tells me what to do in difficult situations.  It has the moral standards by which I want to lead my life.

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The restoration of a smaller Egypt (Ezek 29:13-29:16)

“Thus says Yahweh God!

‘At the end of forty years,

I will gather

The Egyptians

From the people

Among whom

They were scattered.

I will restore

The fortunes of Egypt.

I will bring them back

To the land of Pathros,

The land of their origin.

There they shall be

A lowly kingdom.

It shall be the lowliest

Of the kingdoms.

It shall never again

Exalt itself

Above the nations.

I will make them

So small

That they will never again

Rule over the nations.

The Egyptians shall never again

Be the reliance

Of the house of Israel.

They will recall

Their iniquity,

When they turned

To them

For aid.

Then they will know

That I am Yahweh God!’”

Yahweh told Ezekiel that at end of forty years, he would gather the Egyptians from wherever they were scattered. He was going to restore the fortunes of Egypt. He was going to bring them back to Pathros, the southern part of Egypt near Thebes, where they originally came from. However, this would be a low kingdom that would not exalt itself among the various nations. They would be so small that they would never again rule over other countries. Israel would not rely on Egypt again. They would recall their iniquity when they turned to them for aid. They would all know that Yahweh was God.

Your sister Sodom (Ezek 16:48-16:50)

“As I live,

Says Yahweh God.

‘Your sister Sodom,

With her daughters,

Has not done

As you

With your daughters

Have done.

This was the guilt

Of your sister Sodom.

She,

With her daughters,

Had pride,

Excess of food,

A prosperous ease.

But they did not

Aid the poor.

They did not

Aid the needy.

They were haughty.

They did abominable things

Before me.

Therefore I removed them,

When I saw it.”

The story of Sodom was based on Genesis, chapter 19.   Sodom was a city in the plains, south of Jerusalem, near the Dead Sea. Jerusalem was like the city of Sodom because Jerusalem had done the same things as they had done. Sodom with her daughters was guilty of pride, too much food, and too easy of a life style. Sodom did not aid the poor and the needy. There was no explanation here of all the abominable things mentioned in Genesis. However, Yahweh had removed them. He had destroyed them, when he found out about their behavior.

The Egyptian retreat (Jer 37:6-37:7)

“Then the word of Yahweh

Came to the prophet Jeremiah.

‘Thus says Yahweh!

God of Israel!

This is what

The two of you

Shall say

To the king of Judah,

Who sent you to me,

To inquire of me.

‘Pharaoh’s army,

That set out

To help you,

Is going to return

To its own land,            

Egypt.’”

Now Yahweh has Jeremiah speak to Jehucal and Zephaniah directly. Jeremiah reminded them that this was an oracle from the God of Israel. They were to tell the king who had sent them that Pharaoh’s army was not going to help them, since the Egyptians were returning to their own land. The Egyptian aid was not going to materialize.

The siege of Jerusalem (Jer 32:2-32:2)

“At that time,

The army of

The king of Babylon

Was besieging Jerusalem.

The prophet Jeremiah

Was confined

In the court of the guard

That was in the palace

Of the king of Judah.

King Zedekiah of Judah

Had confined him.”

The time frame is clearly the time of the siege of Jerusalem by the Babylonian army. However, Jeremiah was imprisoned in the palace jail by King Zedekiah of Judah. King Zedekiah had been installed as king by King Nebuchadnezzar in 598 BCE. However, he revolted against him and sought the aid of King Hophra or Pharaoh Apries (589-570 BCE) of Egypt. This led to the siege that lasted almost 2 years as the Egyptians tried to help King Zedekiah. Eventually, the Babylonians were successful. Meanwhile, King Zedekiah had Jeremiah confined to prison because, as always, Jeremiah was pro-Babylonian.

Travel to Egypt (Sir 0:27-0:36)

“When I came to Egypt

In the thirty-eighth year of the reign of Euergetes,

I stayed for some time.

I found an opportunity for no little instruction.

It seemed highly necessary

That I should myself

Devote some diligence,

Devote some labor to the translation of this book.

During that time,

I applied my skill

Day and night.

Thus I was able to complete this translation.

I was able to publish the book

For those living abroad

Who wished to gain learning.

That is those

Disposed to live according to the Law.”

Now we learn about this translator.   He states that he came to Egypt in the thirty-eighth year of the reign of Euergetes. This must mean the Egyptian King Ptolemy VIII, Euergetes. He ascended the throne in the year 170 BCE, together with his brother Philometor, but he soon became sole ruler from 146 to 117 BCE. Thus this translator must have gone to Egypt in 132 BCE, 38 years after 170 BCE. So now we have an exact date. He stayed there for some time. There he labored to translate this book, day and night. He finally completed his translations and published this book as an aid for anyone seeking to live according to the Law.

The praying to false idols (Wis 13:17-13:19)

“When he prays

About possessions,

His marriage,

His children,

He is not ashamed

To address a lifeless thing.

For health,

He appeals to a thing that is weak.

For life

He prays to a thing that is dead.

For aid

He entreats a thing that is utterly inexperienced.

For a prosperous journey,

He asks a thing that cannot take a step.

For money-making,

For work,

For success with his hands,

He asks strength of a thing

Whose hands have no strength.”

Now what seems ridiculous happens. This carpenter now turns to worship the image that he just created. In fact, he prays (προσευχόμενος) to this image for protection of his possessions, his marriage, and his children. He is not ashamed to speak to this lifeless image that he himself created. The author then points out the incredulity of this picture. The woodcutter prays for health to a weak piece of wood. He prays for life and asks for aid from a dead (νεκρὸν) piece of wood. He asks for help on his journey from something that cannot even walk. He asks for money and success in his work from a weak piece of wood with no strength. The irony is evident.