Against pagan practices (Isa 66:17-66:17)

“‘Those who sanctify themselves,

Those who purify themselves

In order to go into the gardens,

Follow the one in the center.

They eat the flesh of pigs.

They eat vermin.

They eat rodents.

They shall come to an end together.’

Says Yahweh.”

This probably should have followed the earlier remarks about pig’s blood. Yahweh once again points out that he is against these people who follow pagan practices. They sanctify and purify themselves to go into their gardens with the idols in the center. They end up eating pork, vermin, and rodents. They will all come to an end together.

Oracle about Kedar (Isa 21:16-21:17)

“Thus Yahweh said to me.

‘Within a year,

According to the years of a hired worker,

All the glory of Kedar

Will come to an end.

The remaining bows of Kedar’s warriors

Will be few.’

Yahweh,

The God of Israel,

Has spoken.”

Kedar was another wandering northern Arab tribe. This time Yahweh spoke the oracle to Isaiah. Apparently, the Kedar tribe was more aggressive, since within a hired worker’s year, their glory would come to an end. Their warriors and their bows would be few. This clearly was a spoken oracle by Yahweh, the God of Israel.

The announcement of the ruin (Isa 10:22-10:23)

“Though your people Israel were

Like the sand of the sea,

Only a remnant of them

Will return.

Destruction is decreed,

overflowing with righteousness.

Yahweh,

God of hosts,

Will make a full end,

As decreed,

In all the earth.”

The answer is simple. Although Israel would have been as numerous as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will return from the Exile. Yahweh has decreed destruction in his righteousness. The God of many armies will put an end here on earth. The ruin of Israel is coming. Perhaps it already had come by the time of this writing. In fact, the Israelites were never a large amount of people like the sands of the seas.

Elijah (Sir 48:1-48:3)

“Then Elijah arose.

He was a prophet,

Like a fire.

His word burned

Like a torch.

He brought a famine

Upon them.

By his zeal

He made them

Few in number.

By the word of the Lord

He shut up the heavens.

Three times also

He brought down fire.”

Sirach seems to be relying on the Elijah cycle of stories from 1 Kings, chapters 17-18. This 9th century BCE northern prophet, Elijah, from the east side of the Jordan River in the town of Tishbe, the Gilead, went to the king of Northern Israel, King Ahab (874-853 BCE). Elijah was like a fire as his words were like a flaming torch. He foretold the famine that reduced the number of people in Israel. He foretold this famine, not brought as Sirach said. Elijah was able to control the heavens with his prayers, so that he could bring an end to this drought. He also had a faceoff with the 450 Baal priests or Jezebel’s prophets when he confronted the practices of King Ahab and his wife. Elijah then had Yahweh send down fire on his wet wood. Although the original story did not mention how many times the fire came down, Sirach mentions that it was 3 times.

The impending death of old age (Eccl 12:3-12:7)

“In the day

When the guards of the house tremble,

The strong men are bent.

The women who grind cease working

Because they are few.

Those who look through the windows see dimly.

The doors on the street are shut.

The sound of the grinding is low.

One rises up at the sound of a bird.

All the daughters of song are brought low.

When one is afraid of heights,

The terrors are in the road.

The almond tree blossoms.

The grasshopper drags itself along.

Desire fails.

Because all must go to their eternal home.

The mourners will go about the streets.

The silver cord is snapped.

The golden bowl is broken.

The pitcher is broken at the fountain.

The wheel is broken at the cistern.

The dust returns to the earth as it was.

The spirit returns to God who gave it.”

This is an ode to old age. The dying old man, with his many servants and guards, comes to an end. The guards tremble. The strong men bend over. The women grinders stop their dancing. They can only see dimly out the window. Everyone has shut their doors. The grinders have ceased. Morning comes early with the first sound of a bird. There are no more singing young girls. The old man is afraid of heights. He dreads going out on the road because of the fear of attack. The old people tend to walk awkwardly like a grasshopper. Their desires fail maybe due to incompetence. The trees still blossom, but the mourners are out on the streets. The signs of death, the snapped silver cord, the broken gold bowl, and the broken pitcher at the fountain all take place. The wheel was broken at the cistern. They return to dust, but their spirit or breath returns to God. This is a depressing description of old age, just before death, along with the symbolic actions that go with death.

God is near (Ps 73:27-73:28)

“Indeed those who are far from you will perish.

You put an end to those who are false to you.

But for me,

It is good to be near God.

I have made Yahweh God

My refuge.

Thus I may tell of all your works.”

This psalm concludes with the familiar praise of God as a refuge. Those who are far away from God will perish. God will put an end to those who are false to him. However, Asaph the psalmist was glad to be near God. Yahweh had become his refuge. Thus he was able to tell everyone about all his good works.

God is my helper (Ps 54:4-54:5)

“But surely,

God is my helper.

Yahweh is the upholder of my life.

He will repay my enemies for their evil.

In your faithfulness

Put an end to them!”

The response of David is to call God to help him. Yahweh was the one who sustained him in his life. He believed that Yahweh would repay his enemies for what they have done. They had not been faithful to Yahweh. He wanted them eliminated, an end to them.

Let their own nets trap them (Ps 35:7-35:8)

“Without cause

They hid their net for me.

Without cause

They dug a pit for my life.

Let ruin come upon them unawares!

Let the net that they hid

Ensnare them!

Let them fall in!

Let it be to their ruin!”

David noted that these things were done to him without a good cause. They hid a net to trap him. They dug a pit to put an end to his life. David wanted them to get caught in their own nets. He wanted them to fall into the pits that they had dug out to get him. This was to be their ruin. Clearly David was vindictive here because he believed that he was right because they did not have a good cause against him.