“All your children
Shall be taught
Great shall be the prosperity
Of your children.
You shall be established.
You shall be far from oppression.
You shall not fear.
Terror shall not come near you.
If anyone stirs up strife,
It is not from me.
Whoever stirs up strife
Because of you.”
Second Isaiah says the children at the new Jerusalem will be taught directly by Yahweh. They will have great prosperity. Righteousness shall prevail. There will be no oppression, fear, or terror because of the established righteousness of this city and its people. However, there is a caution. If anyone stirs up strife, it is their own fault. Yahweh will not stir up any arguments. If they are not righteous, they will have to take care of it themselves.
“Refrain from strife.
Your sins will be fewer.
The hot tempered kindle strife.
The sinner disrupts friendships.
The sinner sows discord
Among those who are at peace.
In proportion to the fuel,
So will the fire burn.
In proportion to the obstinacy,
So will strife increase.
In proportion to a person’s strength,
So will be his anger.
In proportion to his wealth,
So he will increase his wrath.
A hasty quarrel kindles a fire.
A hasty dispute sheds blood.
If you blow on a spark,
It will glow.
If you spit on it,
It will be put out.
Yet both come out of your mouth.”
Sirach reminds us of the problems with quarrels and arguments. If you refrain from conflicts, your sins will be less. Usually it is the hot tempered people who start disputes. Sinners disrupt friendships. They sow discord among peacemakers. Then Sirach has a number of proportional examples. The more fuel you have, the more the fire burns. The more stubborn you are, the more disagreements you create. The stronger you are, the more you will be angry. The more wealth that you have, the more fury you will have. Sometimes it is a hasty quarrel that starts a fire that leads to bloodshed. However, you have control with your mouth. You can either blow on the spark to increase the flame or spit on the spark to put it out. The choice is yours, spit or blow on the spark of a fire to increase or decrease the argument.
“The conversation of the godly
Is always wise.
But the fool changes
Like the moon.
Among stupid people,
Limit your time.
But among thoughtful people
The talk of fools
Is wantonly sinful.
Their cursing or swearing
Makes one’s hair stand on end.
Their quarrels make
Others stop their ears.
The strife of the proud
Leads to bloodshed.
Is grievous to hear.”
Sirach talks about the conversations of fools. Certainly, the conversations of the godly are always wise. However, the fools change their mind like the changes in the moon. You should stay away from stupid people, but linger with thoughtful people. If you listen to the talk of fools, you will see that it is offensive, with their random sinful cursing and swearing that will make your hair stand on end. You should not listen to their quarrels. The arguments of these proud fools will lead to bloodshed. It is very difficult to listen to these foolish conversations.
“Who has woe?
Who has sorrow?
Who has strife?
Who has complaining?
Who has wounds without cause?
Who has redness of eyes?
The answer is
Those who linger late over wine,
Those who keep trying mixed wine.
Do not look at wine when it is red.
Do not look at it when it sparkles in the cup.
Do not look at it when it goes down smoothly.
At the last it bites like a serpent.
It stings like an adder.
Your eyes will see strange things.
Your mind will utter perverse things.
You will be like
One who lies down in the midst of the sea.
You will be like
One who lies on the top of a mast.
You will say.
‘They struck me.
But I was not hurt.
They beat me.
But I did not feel it.
When shall I awake?
I will seek another drink.’”
This is a stinging rebuke against drunkenness. What are some of the characteristics of a drunkard or an alcoholic? They are full of woe and sorrow. They are always in arguments complaining. They have wounds on their body that they do not know where they came from. Of course, they have redness in their eyes. There is a lure to excessive wine drinking. They stay up late drinking and talking. This red wine sparkles in the cup and goes down so smoothly. However, this wine has a bite like a snake or viper adder. That is when you hallucinate. You see strange things and image even stranger things. You think that you are in the middle of the sea or at the top of a ship’s mast. You complain that you got hit, but it didn’t hurt. People beat you, but you do not feel it. All you think about when you wake up is when I will get my next drink. These are the true symptoms of an alcoholic. You need to get help.
“Those who are generous are blessed.
They share their bread with the poor.
Drive out a scoffer!
Then strife also goes out.
Quarreling and abuse will cease.
Whoever loves a pure heart,
Will have the king as a friend.
Whoever is gracious in speech,
Will have the king as his friend.
The eyes of Yahweh keep watch over knowledge.
But he overthrows the words of the faithless.
The lazy person says.
‘There is a lion outside!
I shall be killed in the streets!’”
The generous people are blessed because they share their bread with the poor. Get rid of the scoffers, the mockers, and strife will go away. Arguments and abuse will cease if the mockers are gone. If you have a pure heart and gracious speech you will have the king as a friend. Yahweh watches over knowledge, but he overthrows the words of the faithless. The lazy person is afraid to go outside because he says that he is scared of being killed by a lion.
“It is honorable to refrain from strife.
But every fool is quick to quarrel.
The lazy person does not plow in the autumn season.
There is nothing to be found.
The purposes in the human mind are like deep water.
But the intelligent will draw them out.
Many proclaim themselves loyal.
But who can find one worthy of trust?”
The honorable people stay away from arguments and strife, but the fools are quick to start an argument. The lazy person does not plow in the correct season so that when harvest comes, they have nothing to harvest. The human mind is deep, but the intelligent people can draw out the purposes of humans. Many people maintain that they are loyal, but it is hard to find a trustworthy person.
“Casting the lot puts an end to disputes.
Casting lots decides between powerful contenders.
An ally offended is stronger than a city.
Such quarreling is like the bars of a castle.
From the fruit of the mouth,
One’s stomach is satisfied.
The yield of the lips
Death and life
Are in the power of the tongue.
Those who love it
Will eat its fruits.”
Casting lots was a way of finding out God’s will. This is how you put an end to disputes and arguments between powerful people. If you offend your ally he will become stronger than a city. This kind of quarreling is like the bars on a castle that cannot be torn down or bring about reconciliation. You satisfy your stomach through your mouth. So too the words of your lips will bring satisfaction. Life and death are in power of the tongue. When you love something, you will eat its fruits or enjoy the results.
“Then Job answered.
‘Today also my complaint is bitter.
His hand is heavy,
Despite my groaning.
O that I knew where I might find him!
O that I might come even to his dwelling!
I would lay my case before him.
I would fill my mouth with arguments.
I would learn what he would answer me.
I would understand what he would say to me.
Would he contend with me in the greatness of his power?
But he would give heed to me.
There an upright man could reason with him.
I should be acquitted forever by my judge.’”
Job was still bitter. Despite all his complaints, he still wanted to find God. He wanted to meet him face to face in his house. Then he would lay out his cause with many arguments. However, he would learn and understand by listening. He believed that he, the upright man, would get a fair hearing. In the end, he would be acquitted by God, if only he could present his case.
“Now, O Lord God and King,
God of Abraham,
Spare your people!
The eyes of our foes are upon us
To annihilate us.
They desire to destroy the inheritance
That has been yours from the beginning.
Do not neglect your portion.
You redeemed us for yourself
Out of the land of Egypt.
Hear my prayer!
Have mercy upon your inheritance!
Turn our mourning into feasting,
That we may live and sing praise to your name,
Do not destroy the lips of those who praise you.
All Israel cried out mightily!
Their death was before their eyes.”
Once again the Greek text prayer of Mordecai asked for God’s intervention to save Israel. Here he called God lord and king, the God of Abraham. He pleaded for God to save his people. He used some of the arguments of Moses in Exodus that their foes were trying to eliminate his people. Mordecai said that God had saved them from Egypt. He wanted God to hear his prayer so as to have mercy on his own inheritance. He wanted to turn mourning into feasting so that all Israel could live and sing his praises. He did not want God to destroy the very lips that praised him. All of Israel was crying because death was before their eyes.